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Title: Works of Martin Luther - With Introductions and Notes (Volume II)
Author: Luther, Martin, 1483-1546
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

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Internet Archive




A. J. HOLMAN Company

Copyright, 1915, by
A. J. HOLMAN Company



        Introduction (J. J. Schindel)
        Translation (J. J. Schindel)
        Introduction (J. J. Schindel)
        Translation (J. J. Schindel)
        Introduction (C. M. Jacobs)
        Translation (C. M. Jacobs)
        Introduction (A. T. W. Steinhaeuser)
        Translation (A. T. W. Steinhaeuser)
        Introduction (W. A. Lambert)
        Translation (W. A. Lambert)
          THE CREED, AND THE LORD'S PRAYER (1520).
        Introduction (C. M. Jacobs)
        Translation (C. M. Jacobs)
        Introduction (A. Steimle)
        Translation (A. Steimle)
        Introduction (W. A. Lambert)
        Translation (W. A. Lambert)




This treatise belongs to a series of four which appeared in the latter
half of the year 1519, the others treating of the Ban, Penance, and
Baptism. The latter two with our treatise form a trilogy which Luther
dedicates to the Duchess Margaret of Braunschweig and Lüneburg.

He undertakes the work, as he says, "because there are so many
troubled and distressed ones--and I myself have had the
experience--who do not know what the holy sacraments, full of all
grace, are, nor how to use them, but, alas! presume upon quieting
their consciences with their works, instead of seeking peace in God's
grace through the holy sacrament; so completely are the holy
sacraments obscured and withdrawn from us by the teaching of men."[1]

In a letter to Spalatin[2] of December 18, 1519, he says that no one
need expect treatises from him on the other sacraments, since he
cannot acknowledge them as such.

A copy from the press of John Grünenberg of Wittenberg reached Duke
George of Saxony by December 24, 1519, who on December 27th already
entered his protest against it with the Elector Frederick and the
Bishops of Meissen and Merseburg[3]. Duke George took exception
particularly to Luther's advocacy of the two kinds in the
Communion[4]. This statement of Luther, however, was but incidental to
his broad and rich treatment of the subject of the treatise.

It was Luther's first extended statement of his view of the Lord's
Supper. As such it is very significant, not only because of what he
says, but also because of what he does not say. There is no reference
at all to that which was then distinctive of the Church's doctrine,
the sacrifice of the mass. Luther has already abandoned this position,
but is either too loyal a church-man to attack it or has not as yet
found an evangelical interpretation of the idea of sacrifice in the
mass, such as he gives us in the later treatise on the New
Testament[5]. However, already in this treatise he gives us the
antidote for the false doctrine of sacrifice in the emphasis laid upon
faith, on which all depends[6]. The object of this faith, however, is
not yet stated to be the promise of the forgiveness of sins contained
in the Words of Institution, which are a new and eternal testament[7].

The treatise shows the influence of the German mystics[8] on Luther's
thought, but much more of the Scriptures which furnish him with
argument and illustration for his mystical conceptions. Christ's
natural body is made of less importance than the spiritual body[9],
the communion of saints; just as in the later treatise on the New
Testament the stress is placed on the Words of Institution with their
promise of the forgiveness of sins. Luther does not try to explain
philosophically what is inexplicable, but is content to accept on
faith the act of the presence of Christ in the sacrament, "how and
where,--we leave to Him."[10]

Of interest is the emphasis on the spiritual body, the communion of
saints. Luther knows that although excommunication is exclusion from
external communion, it is not necessarily exclusion from real
spiritual communion with Christ and His saints[11]. No wonder, then,
that he can later treat the papal bull with so much indifference; it
cannot exclude him from the communion of saints.

The treatise consists of three main divisions: sections 1 to 3
treating of the outward sign of the sacrament; sections 4 to 16, of
the inner significance; sections 17 to 22, of faith. Added to this is
the appendix on the subject of the brotherhoods or sodalities,
associations of laymen or charitable and devotional purposes. Of these
there were many at this time, Wittenberg alone being reported as
having twenty-one. Luther objects not only to their immoral conduct,
but also to the spiritual pride which they engendered. He finds in the
communion of saints the fundamental brotherhood instituted in the holy
sacrament, the common brotherhood of all saints.

The modern world needs to have these truths driven home anew, and,
barring a few scholastic phrases here and there, cannot find them
better expressed than in the remarkably elevated and devotional
language of Luther in this treatise.

The text of the treatise is found in the following editions: Weimar
Ed., vol. ii, 742; Erlangen Ed., vol. xxvii, 28; Walch Ed., Vol. xix,
522; St. Louis Ed., xix, 426; Clemen, vol. i, 196; Berlin Ed., vol.
iii, 259.

Literature besides that mentioned:

Tschackert, _Enstehung der lutherischen und reformierten
Kirchenlehre_, 1910, pp. 174-176.

K. Thieme, _Entwicklung und Bedeutung der Sakramentslehre Luthers_,
Neueu Kirchl. Zeitschrift, XII (1901), Nos. 10 and 11.

F. Graebke, _Die Konstruktion der Abendmahlslehre Luthers in ihre
Entwicklung dargestellt_, Leipzig 1908.

        J. J. SCHINDEL.

Allentown, PA.


[1] See Clemen, 1, p. 175.

[2] Enders, II, no. 254. Smith, _Luther's Correspondence_, I, no.

[3] Gess, _Akten und Briefe zur Kirchenpolitik Herzog Georgs von
Sachsen_, Leipzig, 1905.

[4] See below, p. 9.

[5] In this edition, Vol. I, pp. 294-336. See especially pp. 312 ff.

[6] See below, pp. 19, 25.

[7] _Treatise on the New Testament_, Vol. I, pp. 297 ff.

[8] See Köstlin, _Luther's Theologie_, I, 292 f.; also Hering, _Die
Mystik Luthers_, Leipzig, 1879, pp. 171-174.

[9] See below, p. 23.

[10] See below, p.20.

[11] See _Treatise concerning the Ban_, below, p. 37.



1. Like the sacrament of holy baptism[1] the holy sacrament of the
altar, or of the holy and true body of Christ, has three parts which
it is necessary or us to know. The first is the sacrament, or sign,
the second is the significance of this sacrament, the third is the
faith required by both of these; the three parts which must be found
in every sacrament. The sacrament must be external and visible, and
have some material form; the significance must be internal and
spiritual, within the spirit of man; faith must apply and use both

[Sidenote: The First Part of the Sacrament: the Sign]

2. The sacrament, or outward sign, is in the form of bread and wine,
just as baptism has as its sign water; although the sign is not simply
the form of bread and wine, but the use of the bread and wine in
eating and drinking, just as the water of baptism is used by immersion
or by pouring. For the sacrament, or sign, must be received, or must
at least be desired, if it is to work a blessing. Although at present
the two kinds are not given the people daily, as of old,--nor is this
necessary,--yet the priesthood partakes of it daily in the sight of
the people, and it is enough that the people desire it daily and
receive one kind at the proper time, as the Christian Church ordains
and offers[2].

3. I deem it well, however, that the Church in a general council
should again decree[3] that all persons, as well as the priests, be
given both kinds. Not that one kind were insufficient, since indeed
the simple desire of faith suffices, as St. Augustine says: "Why
preparest thou stomach and teeth? Only believe and thou hast already
partaken of the sacrament";[4] but because it would be meet and right
that the form, or sign, of the sacrament be given not in part only,
but in its entirety, just as I have said of baptism[5] that it were
more fitting to immerse than to pour the water, for the sake of the
completeness and perfection of the sign. For this sacrament signifies
the complete union and the undivided fellowship of the saints, as we
shall see, and this is poorly and unfittingly indicated by only one
part of the sacrament. Nor is there as great a danger in the use of
the cup as is supposed, since the people seldom go to this sacrament,
and Christ was well aware of all future dangers[6], and yet saw it to
institute both kinds or the use of all His Christians.

[Sidenote: The Second Part of the Sacrament: the Significance]

4. The significance or purpose of this sacrament is the fellowship of
all saints, whence it derives its common name _synaxis_ or _communio_,
that is, fellowship; and _communicare_ means to take part in this
fellowship, or as we say, to go to the sacrament, because Christ and
all saints are one spiritual body, just as the inhabitants of a city
are one community and body, each citizen being a member of the other
and a member of the entire city. All the saints, therefore, are
members of Christ and of the Church, which is a spiritual and eternal
city of God, and whoever is taken into this city is said to be
received into the community of saints, and to be incorporated into
Christ's spiritual body and made a member of Him. On the other hand,
_excommunicare_ means to put out of the community and to sever a
member from this body, and that is called in our language "putting one
under the ban"; yet there is a difference, as I shall show in the
following treatise, concerning the ban[4].

To receive the bread and wine of this sacrament, then, is nothing else
than to receive a sure sign of this fellowship and incorporation with
Christ and all saints. As though a citizen were given a sign, a
document, or some other token as a proof that he is a citizen of the
city, a member of the community. Even so St. Paul says: "We are all
one bread and one body, for we are all partakers of one bread and of
one cup." [1 Cor. 10:17]

5. This fellowship is of such a nature that all the spiritual
possessions of Christ and His saints[8] are imparted and communicated
to him who receives this sacrament; again, all his sufferings and sins
are communicated to them, and thus love engenders love and unites all.
To carry out our homely figure: it is like a city where every citizen
shares with all the others the name, honor, freedom, trade, customs,
usages, help, support, protection and the like, of that city, and on
the other hand shares all the danger of fire and flood, enemies and
death, losses, imposts and the like. For he who would have part in the
common profits must also share in the losses, and ever recompense love
with love. Here we see that whoever wrongs a citizen wrongs the entire
city and all the citizens; whoever benefits one deserves favor and
thanks from all the others. So, too, in our natural body, as St. Paul
says in i Corinthians xii, where this sacrament is given a spiritual
explanation: the members have a care one or another; whether one
member suffer, all the members suffer with it; whether one member be
honored, all the members rejoice with it. [1 Cor. 12:25 f.] It is
apparent then that if any one's foot hurts him, nay, even the smallest
toe, the eye at once looks toward it, the fingers grasp it, the face
frowns, the whole body bends to it, and all are concerned with this
small member; on the other hand, if it is cared for, all the other
members rejoice. This figure must be well weighed if one wishes to
understand this sacrament; for the Scriptures employ it or the sake of
the unlearned.

6. In this sacrament, therefore, God Himself gives through the priest
a sure sign to man, to show that, in like manner, he shall be united
with Christ and His saints and have all things in common with them;
that Christ's sufferings and life shall be his own, together with the
lives and sufferings of all the saints, so that whoever does him an
injury does injury to Christ and all the saints, as He says by the
prophet, "He that toucheth you toucheth the apple of My eye" [Zech.
2:8]; on the other hand, whoever does him a kindness does it to Christ
and all His saints, as He says, "What ye have done unto one of the
least of My brethren, that ye have done unto Me." [Matt. 25:40] Again,
he must be willing to share all the burdens and misfortunes of Christ
and His saints, their sorrow and joy. These two sides of the
fellowship we shall consider more fully.

7. Now, adversity assails us in more than one form. There is, in the
first place, the sin remaining in our flesh after baptism, the
inclination to anger, hatred, pride and unchastity, and so forth,
which assails us as long as we live. Against this we not only need the
help of the congregation and of Christ, in order that they may fight
with us against it, but it is also necessary that Christ and His
saints intercede or us before God, that sin may not be accounted to us
according to God's strict judgment. Therefore, in order to give us
strength and courage against these sins, God gives us this sacrament,
as though He said: "Behold, many kinds of sin assail thee; take this
sign by which I give thee My pledge that sin assails not only thee but
My Son Christ, and all His saints in heaven and on earth. Therefore,
be bold and confident; thou fightest not alone; great help and support
are round about thee." King David, also, says of this bread: "The
bread strengtheneth man's heart" [Ps. 104:15]; and the Scriptures in
other places characterize this sacrament as a strengthening. So in
Acts ix it is written of St. Paul that he was baptised and when he had
received meat, he was strengthened. [Acts 9:19] In the second place,
the evil spirit assails us unceasingly with many sins and afflictions.
In the third place, the world is full of wickedness and entices and
persecutes us and is altogether bad. Finally, our own guilty
conscience assails us with our past sins, with the fear of death, and
with the pains of hell. All of these afflictions make us weary and
weaken us, unless we seek and find strength in this fellowship.

8. If any one be in despair, if he be distressed by his sinful
conscience or terrified by death, or have any other burden on his
heart, and desire to be rid of them all, let him go joyfully to the
sacrament of the altar and lay down his grief in the midst of the
congregation and seek help from the entire company of the spiritual
body; just as when a citizen whose property has suffered injury or
misfortune at the hands of his enemies makes complaint to his town
council and fellow citizens and asks them for help. Therefore, the
immeasurable grace and mercy of God are given us in this sacrament,
that we may there lay down all misery and tribulation and put it on
the congregation, and especially on Christ, and may joyfully
strengthen and comfort ourselves and say: "Though I am a sinner and
have fallen, though this or that misfortune has befallen me, I will go
to the sacrament to receive a sign from God that I have on my side
Christ's righteousness, He and sufferings, with all holy angels and
all the blessed in heaven, and all pious men on earth. If I die, I am
not alone in death; if I suffer, they suffer with me. I have shared
all my misfortune with Christ and the saints, since I have a sure sign
of their love toward me." Lo, this is the benefit to be derived from
this sacrament, this is the use we should make of it; then the heart
cannot but rejoice and be comforted.

9. When you have partaken of this sacrament, therefore, or desire to
partake of it, you must in turn also share the misfortunes of the
congregation, as was said[9]. But what are these? Christ in heaven and
the angels together with all the saints have no misfortunes of their
own, save when injury is done to the truth and to God's Word; yea, as
we said, every bane and blessing of all the saints on earth affects
them. There your heart must go out in love and devotion and learn that
this sacrament is a sacrament of love, and that love and service are
given you and you again must render love and service to Christ and His
needy ones. You must feel with sorrow all the dishonor done to Christ
in His holy Word, all the misery of Christendom, all the unjust
suffering of the innocent, with which the world is everywhere filled
to overflowing: you must fight, work, pray, and, if you cannot do
more, have heartfelt sympathy. That is bearing in your turn the
misfortune and adversity of Christ and His saints. Here the saying of
Paul applies. "Bear ye one another's burdens, and so fulfil the law of
Christ." [Gal. 6:2] Lo, thus you uphold them all, thus they all again
in turn uphold you, and all things are in common, both good and evil.
Then all things become easy, and the evil spirit cannot prevail
against such a community. When Christ instituted the sacrament He
said: "This is My body which is given for you, this is My blood which
is shed for you; as oft as ye do this, remember Me." [Luke 22:19 f.]
As though He said: "I am the Head, I will first give Myself for you,
will make your suffering and misfortune Mine own and bear it for you,
that you in your turn may do the same or Me and for one another, have
all things in common in Me and with Me, and let this sacrament be unto
you a sure token of this all, that you may not forget Me, but daily
call to mind and admonish one another by what I have done or you and
still am doing, that you may be strengthened thereby, and also bear
with one another."

10. This is also a reason, indeed the chief reason, why this sacrament
is received many times, while baptism is administered but once.
Baptism is the beginning and entrance to a new life, in the course of
which boundless adversities assail us through sins and suffering, our
own and those of others. The devil, the world and our own flesh and
conscience, as was said[10] never cease to pursue us and oppress us.
Therefore we need the strength, support and help of Christ and of His
saints, which are pledged us in this sacrament as by a sure token, by
which we are made one with them and are incorporated with them, and
all our suffering is laid down in the midst of the congregation.
Therefore, this holy sacrament is of little or no benefit to those who
have no misfortune or anxiety or do not feel their adversity. For it
is given only to those who need strength and comfort, who have timid
hearts and terrified consciences, and who are assailed by sin, or have
even fallen into sin. What could it do or untroubled and falsely
secure spirits, which neither need nor desire it? For the Mother of
God[11] says, "He filleth only the hungry, and comforteth them that
are distressed." [Luke 1:53]

11. That the disciples, therefore, might by all means be worthy and
well prepared for this sacrament He first made them sorrowful, held
before them His departure and death, by which they were exceeding
troubled. And then He greatly terrified them when He said that one of
them should betray Him. [Matt. 25:21 ff.] When they were thus full of
sorrow and anxiety and were concerned about the sorrow and sin of
betrayal, then they were worthy, and He gave them His holy Body to
strengthen them. By which He teaches us that this sacrament is
strength and comfort for those whom sin and evil trouble and distress;
as St. Augustine also says[12], "This food demands only hungry souls
and is shunned by none so greatly as by a sated soul which does not
need it." Just as the Jews were required to eat the Passover with
bitter herbs, standing and in haste, which also signifies that this
sacrament demands souls that are desirous, needy and sorrowful. Now if
one will make the afflictions of Christ and of all Christians his own,
will defend the truth, oppose unrighteousness, help bear the need of
the innocent and the sufferings of all Christians, he will find
affliction and adversity enough, besides that which his evil nature,
the world, the devil and sin daily inflict upon him. And it is God's
will and purpose to set so many hounds upon us and drive us, and
everywhere provide us bitter herbs, that we may long for this strength
and take delight in the holy sacrament, and thus be worthy of it, that
is, desire it.

12. It is His will, then, that we partake of it frequently, in order
that we may remember Him and exercise ourselves in this fellowship
according to His example. For if His example were no longer kept
before us, the fellowship also would soon be forgotten. So we at
present see to our sorrow that many masses are held and yet the
Christian fellowship which should be preached, practiced and kept
before us by Christ's example has quite perished; so that we hardly
know what purpose this sacrament serves, or how it should be used,
nay, with our masses we frequently destroy this fellowship and pervert
everything. This is the fault of the preachers who do not preach the
Gospel nor the sacraments, but their humanly devised fables concerning
the many works[13] to be done and the ways to live aright.

But in times past this sacrament was so properly used, and the people
were taught to understand this fellowship so well, that they even
gathered material food and goods[14] in the church and there
distributed them among those who were in need, as St. Paul writes [1
Cor. 11:21]. Of this we have a relic in the word "collect,"[15] which
still remains in the mass, and means a general collection, just as a
common fund is gathered to be given to the poor. That was the time
when so many became martyrs and saints. There were fewer masses, but
much strength and blessing resulted from the masses; Christians cared
for one another, assisted one another, sympathized with one another,
bore one another's burden and affliction. This has all disappeared,
and there remain only the many masses and the many who receive this
sacrament without in the least understanding or practicing what it

13. There are those, indeed, who would share the benefits but not the
cost, that is, who gladly hear in this sacrament that the help,
fellowship and assistance of all the saints are promised and given to
them, but who, because they fear the world, are unwilling in their
turn to contribute to this fellowship, to help the poor, to endure
sins, to care for the sick, to suffer with the suffering, to intercede
for others, to defend the truth, to seek the reformation of the Church
and of all Christians at the risk of life, property and honor. They
are unwilling to suffer disfavor, harm, shame or death, although it is
God's will that they be driven, for the sake of the truth and their
neighbors, to desire the great grace and strength of this sacrament.
They are self-seeking persons, whom this sacrament does not benefit.
Just as we could not endure a citizen who wanted to be helped,
protected and made free by the community, and yet in his turn would do
nothing for it nor serve it. No, we on our part must make others' evil
our own, if we desire Christ and His saints to make our evil their
own; then will the fellowship be complete and justice be done to the
sacrament. For the sacrament has no blessing and significance unless
love grows daily and so changes a man that he is made one with all

14. To symbolize this fellowship, God has appointed such signs of the
sacrament as in every way serve this purpose and by their very form
incite and move us to this fellowship. Just as the bread is made out
of many grains which have been ground and mixed together, and out of
the many bodies of grain there comes the one body of the bread, in
which each grain loses its form and body and acquires the common body
of the bread, and as the drops of wine losing their own form become
the body of one wine: so should it be with us, and is, indeed, if we
use this sacrament aright. Christ with all saints, by His love, takes
upon Himself our form, fights with us against sin, death and all evil
[Phil. 2:7]; this enkindles in us such love that we take His form,
rely upon His righteousness, life and blessedness, and through the
interchange of His blessings and our misfortunes are one loaf, one
bread, one body, one drink, and have all things in common. This is a
great sacrament,[Eph. 5:32][16] says Paul, that Christ and the Church
are one flesh and bone [Eph. 5:31]. Again, through this same love are
to be changed and to make the infirmities of all other Christians our
own, take upon ourselves their form and their necessity and make
theirs all the good that is within our power, that they may enjoy it
[Judg. 9:2]. That is a real fellowship, and that is the true
significance of this sacrament. In this way we are changed into one
another and are brought into fellowship with one another by love,
without which there can be no such change.

15. He appointed this twofold form, bread and wine, rather than any
other, as a further indication of the union and fellowship in this
sacrament. For there is no more intimate, deep and inseparable union
than the union of the food with him who partakes of it, since the food
enters into and is assimilated with his very nature and becomes one
with his being. Other unions, effected by means of nails, glue, cords
and the like, do not make one indivisible substance of the objects
joined together. In the sacrament we become united with Christ, and
are made one body with all the saints, so that He concerns Himself for
us, acts in our behalf, as though He were what we are--what concerns
us concerns Him as much as us, and even more than us; and, on the
other hand, that we also concern ourselves or Him, as though we were
what He is, as indeed we shall finally be, when we are conformed to
His likeness, as St. John says, "We know that when He shall appear we
shall be like Him" [1 John 3:2]; so complete is the fellowship of
Christ and all the saints with us. Our sins assail Him, His
righteousness protects us; for the union makes all things common,
until at last He completely destroys sin in us and makes us like unto
Himself, at the last day. In like manner, by the same love we are to
be united with our neighbors, we in them and they in us.

16. In addition to this, He did not appoint this twofold form by
itself, but gave His true natural flesh, in the bread, and His natural
and true blood, in the wine, that He might give us a really perfect
sacrament or sign. For just as the bread is changed[17] into His true
natural body and the wine into His true natural blood, so truly are we
also drawn and changed into the spiritual body, that is, into the
fellowship of Christ and all saints, and put by this sacrament in
possession of all the virtues and mercies of Christ and His saints; as
was said above[18] of a citizen who is taken and incorporated into the
city and the protection and freedom of the entire community.
Therefore He instituted not simply the one form, but the two separate
forms, His flesh under the bread, His blood under the wine, to
indicate that not only His life and good works, which are represented
by His flesh and which He accomplished in His flesh, but also His
passion and martyrdom, which are represented by His blood and in which
He shed His blood, are all our own, and by being drawn into this
fellowship we may use and enjoy them.

17. All this makes it clear that this holy sacrament is naught else
than a divine sign, in which Christ and all saints are pledged,
granted and imparted, with all their works, sufferings, merits,
mercies and possessions, or the comfort and strengthening of all who
are in anxiety and sorrow, and are persecuted by the devil, sin, the
world, the flesh and every evil; and that to receive the sacrament is
nothing else than to desire all this and firmly to believe that it
shall be done.

[Sidenote: The Third part of the Sacrament: Faith]

There follows the third part of the sacrament, that is faith, on which
all depends. For it is not enough to know what the sacrament is and
signifies. It is not enough that you know it is a fellowship and a
gracious exchange or blending of our sin and suffering with the
righteousness of Christ and His saints; you must also desire it and
firmly believe that you have received it. Here the devil and our own
nature wage their fiercest fight, that faith may by no means stand
firm. There are those who practice their arts and subtleties to such
an extent that they ask where the bread remains when it is changed
into Christ's flesh, and the wine when it is changed into His blood;
also in what manner the whole Christ, His flesh and His blood, can be
comprehended in so small a portion of bread and wine. What does it
matter? It is enough to know that it is a divine sign, in which
Christ's flesh and blood are truly present--how and where, we leave to

18. See to it that you exercise and strengthen your faith, so that
when you are sorrowful or your sins afflict you and you go to the
sacrament or hear mass, you do so with a hearty desire for this
sacrament and for what it means, and doubt not that you have what the
sacrament signifies, that is, that you are certain Christ and all His
saints come to you bringing all their virtues, sufferings and mercies,
to live, work, suffer and die with you, and be wholly yours, to have
all things in common with you. If you will exercise and strengthen this
faith, you will experience what a rich and joyous wedding-supper and
festival your God has prepared upon the altar or you. Then you will
understand what the great feast of King Ahasuerus signifies [Esth.
1:5], you will see what that wedding is for which God has slain His
oxen and fatlings, as it is written in the Gospel [Matt. 22:2 ff.],
and your heart will grow right free and confident, strong and
courageous, against all enemies. For who will fear any calamity if he
is sure that Christ and all His saints are with Him and share all
things, evil or good, in common with him? So we read that the
disciples of Christ broke this bread and ate with great gladness of
heart. Since, then, this work is so great that our insignificant
souls dare not desire it, to say nothing of hoping for or expecting it,
it is necessary and profitable to go often to the sacrament, or at
least in the daily mass to exercise and strengthen this faith, on
which all depends and or the sake of which it was instituted. For if
you doubt[20] you do God the greatest dishonor and regard Him as
unfaithful and a liar. If you cannot believe, pray for faith, as was
said above in the other treatise[21].

19. See to it also that you make yourself a fellow of every man and by
no means exclude any one in hatred or anger; for this sacrament of
fellowship, love and unity cannot tolerate discord and dissension. You
must let the infirmities and needs of others burden your heart, as
though they were your own, and offer them your strength, as though it
were their own, as Christ does for you in the sacrament. That is what
we mean by being changed into one another through love, out of many
particles becoming one bread and drink, giving up one's own form and
taking one that belongs to all.[22]

For this reason slanderers and those who wickedly judge and despise
others cannot but receive death in the sacrament, as St. Paul writes
[1 Cor. 11:29]. For they do not unto their neighbor what they seek
from Christ and what the sacrament indicates; they wish them no good,
have no sympathy with them, do not receive them as they desire to be
received by Christ, and then all into such blindness that they do not
know what else to do in this sacrament except to fear and honor Christ
in the sacrament with their prayers and devotion. When they have done
this they think they have done their whole duty, although Christ has
given His body for this purpose, that the significance of the
sacrament, that is, fellowship and mutual love, may be put into
practice, and His own natural body be less regarded than His spiritual
body,[23] which is the fellowship of His saints. What concerns Him
most, especially in this sacrament, is that faith in the fellowship
with Him and with His saints may be rightly exercised and become
strong in us, and that we, in accordance with it, may rightly exercise
our fellowship with one another. This purpose of Christ they do not
perceive and, in their devoutness, they daily say and hear mass, and
remain every day the same; nay, become worse daily, and mark it not.

Therefore take heed; it is more needful that you discern the spiritual
than that you discern the natural body of Christ, and faith in the
spiritual is more needful than faith in the natural. For the natural
without the spiritual profiteth us nothing in this sacrament; a
change[24] must occur and manifest itself through love.

20. There are many who, regardless of this change of love and faith,
rely upon the fact that the mass or the sacrament is, as they say,
_opus gratum opere operato_, that is, a work which of itself pleases
God, even though they who perform it do not please Him. From this they
conclude that, however unworthily masses are said, it is none the less
a good thing to have many masses, since the harm comes to those who
say or use them unworthily. I grant every one his opinion, but such
fables please me not. For, if you desire to speak thus, there is no
creature nor work that does not of itself please God, as is written,
"God saw all His works and they pleased Him." [Gen. 1:31] What good
can result therefrom, if one misuse bread, wine, gold, and every good
creature, though of themselves they are pleasing to God? Nay,
condemnation is the result. So too, here: the more precious the
sacrament, the greater the harm which comes upon the whole
congregation from its misuse. For it was not instituted or its own
sake, that it might please God, but for our sake, that we might use it
rightly, exercise our faith by it, and by it become pleasing to God.
If it is merely an _opus operatum_[25], it works only harm; it must
become an _opus operantis_[26]. Just as bread and wine work only harm
if they are not used, no matter how much they please God of
themselves; so it is not enough that the sacrament be prepared (that
is, _opus operatum_), it must also be used in faith (that is, _opus
operantis_). And we must take heed lest with such dangerous glosses
our minds be turned away from the sacrament's power and virtue, and
faith perish entirely through such false security in the outwardly
completed sacrament. All this results because they give heed in this
sacrament to Christ's natural body more than to the fellowship, the
spiritual body. Christ on the cross was also a completed work[27],
which was well-pleasing to God; but the Jews unto this day have found
it a stumbling block, for the reason that they did not make of it a
work that must be used in faith[28]. See to it, then, that the
sacrament be or you an _opus operantis_, that is, a work that is made
use of, and that it be well-pleasing to God, not because of what it is
in itself, but because of your faith and your right use of it. The
Word of God is also of itself pleasing to God, but it is harmful to me
when it does not please God also within me. In short, such expressions
as _opus operatum_ and _opus operantis_ are nothing but useless words
of men, more of a hindrance than a help. And who could tell all the
abominable abuses and misbeliefs which daily multiply about this
blessed sacrament, although some of them are so spiritual and holy
that they might almost lead an angel astray? Briefly, whoever would
understand the abuses need only keep before him the aforesaid use and
faith of this sacrament; namely, that there must be a sorrowing,
hungry soul, desiring heartily the love, help, and support of the
entire communion of Christ and of all saints, doubting not that in
faith it obtains them, and then, on the other hand, making itself one
with everyone. Whoever does not thus direct and order the hearing or
reading of masses and the reception of the sacrament, errs and does
not use this sacrament to his salvation. For this reason also the
world is overwhelmed with pestilences, wars and other horrible
plagues[29], since with our many masses we only call upon us the more

21. We see now how necessary this sacrament is for those who must face
death, or other dangers of body and soul, since they are not let alone
in them, but are strengthened in the communion of Christ and all
saints. Therefore also Christ instituted it and gave it to His
disciples in their extreme need and danger. Since we are all daily
surrounded by all kinds of danger, and must at last die, we should
humbly and heartily and with all our powers thank the God of all mercy
for giving us a gracious sign, by which, if we hold fast thereto by
faith. He leads and draws us through death and every danger to
Himself, to Christ, and to all saints.

Therefore it is also profitable and necessary that the love and
fellowship of Christ and all saints be hidden, invisible and
spiritual, and that only a bodily, visible and outward sign of it be
given us. For were this love, fellowship and help known to all, like
the temporal fellowship of men, we should not be strengthened nor
trained thereby to put our trust in the invisible and eternal things,
or to desire them, but should much rather be trained to put our trust
only in the temporal, visible things and to become so accustomed to
them as to be unwilling to let them go and to follow God onward; we
should thus be prevented from ever coming to Him, if we followed God
only so far as visible and tangible things led us. For everything of
time and sense must fall away, and we must learn to do without them,
if we are to come to God.

Therefore the mass and this sacrament are a sign by which we train and
accustom ourselves to let go all visible love, help, and comfort, and
to trust in Christ and in the invisible love, help, and comfort of His
saints. For death takes away everything visible, and separates us from
men and temporal things; hence, to meet death, we must have the help
of the invisible and eternal things; and these are indicated to us in
the sacrament and sign, to which we cling by faith, until we attain to
them also by sight. Thus the sacrament is or us a ford, a bridge, a
door, a ship, and a litter, in which and by which we pass from this
world into eternal life. Therefore all depends on faith. He who does
not believe is like one who must cross the sea, but is so timid that
he does not trust the ship; and so he must remain and never be saved,
because he does not embark and cross over. This is due to our
dependence on the senses and to our untried faith which shrinks from
the passage across the Jordan of death--the devil also cruelly helps
toward this.

22. This was indicated of old in Joshua iii [Josh. 3:7 ff.]. After the
children of Israel had gone dry-shod through the Red Sea, a type of
baptism, they went through Jordan in like manner; but the priests
stood with the ark in Jordan, and the water below them lowed by, while
that above them stood upon a heap, a type of this sacrament. The
priests carry and uphold the ark in Jordan when in the hour of our
death or peril they preach and administer to us this sacrament,
Christ, and the fellowship of all saints. I we believe, the waters
below us depart, that is, the temporal, visible things harm us not,
but flee from us. And those above us stand up high, as though they
would overwhelm us; these are the horrors and apparitions of the other
world, which at the hour of death terrify us. If, however, we pay no
heed to them, and pass on with a firm faith, we shall enter into
eternal life dry-shod and unharmed.

We have, therefore, two principal sacraments in the church, baptism
and the bread. Baptism leads us into a new life on earth; the bread
guides us through death into eternal life. And the two are typified by
the Red Sea and the Jordan, and by the two lands, one beyond and one
on this side the Jordan. Therefore our Lord said at the Last Supper:
"I will not drink henceforth of this fruit of the vine, until that day
when I drink it new with you in My Father's kingdom." [Matt. 26:29] So
entirely is this sacrament intended and ordained to strengthen us
against death, and to give us entrance into eternal life.

Finally, the blessing of this sacrament is fellowship and love, by
which we are strengthened against death and all evil. This fellowship
is twofold: on the one hand we partake of Christ and all saints, on
the other hand we permit all Christians to be partakers of us, in
whatever way they and we are able; so that by this sacrament all
self-seeking love is uprooted and gives place to love which seeks the
common good of all, and through this mutual love there is one bread,
one drink, one body, one community,--that is the true union of
Christian brethren. Now let us see how the pretentious brotherhoods,
of which there are now so many, measure up to this and resemble it.


1. First, let us consider the evil practices of the brotherhoods. One
of these is their gluttony and drunkenness,--one or more masses are
held[31], afterward the entire day and night, and other days besides,
are given over to the devil, and they do only what displeases God.
Such mad reveling has been introduced by the evil spirit, and is
called a brotherhood, whereas it is rather a debauch and altogether a
heathenish, nay, swinish mode of life. There would far better be no
brotherhoods in the world than that such an abomination should be
permitted. Temporal lords and cities should unite with the clergy in
abolishing it. For God, the saints, and all Christians are greatly
dishonored thereby, and the divine services and feast-days made a
sport for the devil. Saints' days should be kept and hallowed with
good works; and the brotherhood should also be a special treasury of
good works; instead it has become a treasury of beer money. What have
the names of Our Lady, of St. Anne, St. Sebastian[32], or other saints
to do with your brotherhoods, in which you have nothing but gluttony,
drunkenness, squandering of money, howling, yelling, chattering,
dancing and wasting of time? If a sow were made the patron saint of
such a brotherhood she would not consent. Why then do they afflict the
dear saints so sorely by taking their names in vain in such shameful
practices and sins, and by dishonoring and blaspheming the
brotherhoods named after them with such evil practices? Woe unto them
who do and permit this!

2. If men desire to maintain a brotherhood, they should gather
provisions, and feed and serve a tableful or two of poor people, for
the sake of God; the day previous they should fast, and on the
feast-day remain sober, and pass the time in prayer and other good
works. Then God and His saints would be truly honored; this would lead
to better conditions, and a good example would be given others. Or
they should gather the money which they intended to squander or drink
and form a common treasury, each trade[33] by itself, so that needy
fellow-workmen might be assisted, or be lent money, or a young couple
of that trade might be fitted out respectably from the common
treasury: these would be true works of brotherhood, which would make
God and His saints look with pleasure upon the brotherhoods, of which
they would then gladly be the patrons. But where they are unwilling to
do this, and follow after the old mummery, I admonish that it be not
done on the saints' day's, nor in the name of the saints or of the
brotherhood. Let them take some other weekday and leave off the names
of the saints and of their brotherhoods, lest the saints at some time
mark it with disapproval. Although there is no day which is not
dishonored by such doings, at least the festivals and the names of the
saints should be spared. For such brotherhoods call themselves
brotherhoods of the saints while they do the work of the devil.

3. Another evil feature of the brotherhoods is of a spiritual nature;
it is a false opinion of themselves, in that they think their
brotherhood is to be a benefit to no one but to themselves,--to those
who are members and are on the roll or contribute. This damnably
wicked opinion is an even worse evil than the first, and is one of the
reasons why God has brought it about that the brotherhoods are
becoming such a mockery and blasphemy of God through gluttony,
drunkenness and the like. For there they learn to seek their own good,
to love themselves, to be faithful only to one another, to despise
others, to think themselves better than others and presume to stand
higher before God than others. And thus perishes the communion of
saints, the Christian love, and the true brotherhood, established in
the holy sacrament. Thus a selfish love grows in them; that is, by
these many external work-brotherhoods they oppose and destroy the one,
inner, spiritual, essential, common brotherhood of all saints.

When God sees this perverted state of affairs, He perverts it still
more, as is written in Psalm xviii[34], "With the perverse thou wilt
be perverted" [Ps. 18:26]; and He brings it to pass that they make
themselves and their brotherhoods a mockery and a disgrace, and He
casts them out from the common brotherhood of saints, which they
oppose and do not make common cause with, into their brotherhood of
gluttony, drunkenness and unchastity, so that they, who have neither
sought nor thought of anything more than their own, may find their
own; and then He blinds them that they do not recognize it as an
abomination and disgrace, but adorn their unseemliness with the names
of saints, as though they were doing right; beyond this He lets some
fall into so deep an abyss that they openly boast and say whoever is
in their brotherhood cannot be condemned, as though baptism and the
sacrament, instituted by God Himself, were of less worth and were less
certain than that which they have thought out with their darkened
minds. Therefore their God will dishonor and blind those who, with
their mad conduct and the swinish practices of their brotherhoods,
mock and blaspheme His easts, His name, and His saints, to the injury
of the common Christian brotherhood, which flowed from the wounds of

4. Therefore, for the right understanding and use of the brotherhoods,
one must learn to distinguish rightly between brotherhoods. The first
is the divine, the heavenly, the noblest, which surpasses all others,
as gold surpasses copper or lead--the fellowship of all saints, of
which we spoke above[35]. In this we are all brothers and sisters, so
closely united that a closer relationship cannot be conceived, for
here we have one baptism, one Christ, one sacrament, one food, one
Gospel, one faith, one Spirit, one spiritual body, and each is a
member of the other; no other brotherhood is so close. For natural
brothers are, to be sure, brothers of one flesh and blood, of one
heritage and home, but they must separate and join themselves to
others' blood and heritage[36]. Organized brotherhoods have one roll,
one mass, one kind of good works, one festival day, one treasury, and,
as things are now, their common beer, common feast and common debauch,
but none of these binds men so closely together as to produce one
spirit, for that is done by Christ's brotherhood alone.

Since, then, the greater, broader and more embracing Christ's
brotherhood is, the better it is, therefore all other brotherhoods
should be so conducted as to keep this first and noblest brotherhood
constantly before their eyes, to regard it alone as great, and with
all their works to seek nothing for themselves, but do them for God's
sake, to entreat God that He keep and prosper this Christian
fellowship and brotherhood from day to day. Hence, when a brotherhood
is formed, they should let it be seen that its members outstrip other
persons in order to do Christianity some special service with their
prayers, fastings, alms and good works, and not in order to seek
selfish profit or reward, nor to exclude others, but to serve as the
free servants of the whole community of Christians.

If men had such a correct conception, God would restore good order, so
that the brotherhoods might not be brought to shame by debauchery.
Then God's blessing would follow, so that a general fund might be
gathered, with which other men also might be given material aid; then
the spiritual and bodily works of the brotherhoods would be done in
their proper order. Whoever will not follow this method in his
brotherhood I advise to flee from it and let the brotherhood alone; it
will do him harm in body and soul.

But if you say, If the brotherhood is not to give me some special
advantage, of what use is it to me? I answer: If you are seeking some
special advantage, how can the brotherhood or sisterhood help you?
Serve the community and other men by it, as is the nature of love, and
you will have your reward for this love without any effort and desire
on your part. But if you deem the service and reward of love too
small, it is evidence that yours is a perverted brotherhood. Love
serves freely and for nothing, therefore God also gives again to it
every blessing freely and or nothing. Since, then, everything must be
done in love, if it is to please God at all, the brotherhood must also
be a brotherhood in love. It is the nature, however, of that which is
done in love not to seek its own, nor its own profit, but that of
others, and, above all, that of the community.

5. To return once more to the sacrament; since the Christian
fellowship also is at present in a bad way, as never before, and daily
grows worse, especially among the rulers, and all places are full of
sin and shame, you should not consider how many masses are said, or
how often the sacrament is celebrated, or this will make things worse
rather than better,--but how much you and others increase in that
which the sacrament signifies and in the faith it demands,--for
therein alone lies improvement; and the more you find yourself being
incorporated into Christ and into the fellowship of His saints, the
better it is with you,--that is, if you find that you are becoming
strong in the confidence of Christ and of His dear saints, and are
certain that they love you and stand by you in all the trials of life
and in death, and that you in turn take to heart the shortcomings and
lapses of all Christians and of the whole Church, that your love goes
out to everyone, and that you desire to help everyone, to hate no one,
to suffer with all and pray or them: then will the work of the
sacrament proceed aright, then you will often weep, lament and mourn
or the wretched condition of Christendom to-day. If, however, you find
no such confidence in Christ and His saints, and the needs of the
Church and of every fellowman do not trouble or move you, then beware
of all other good works, if in doing them you think you are godly and
will be saved. Be assured they are only hypocrisy, sham and deceit, or
they are without love and fellowship, and without these nothing is
good. For the sum of it all is, _Plenitudo legis est dilectio_, "Love
is the fulfilling of the law." [Rom. 13:10] Amen.


[1] See _Treatise on Baptism_, Vol. I, pp. 56 ff.

[2] Note the advance in _The Babylonian Captivity_, below, pp. 178

[3] Cf. _Babylonian Captivity_, below, p. 186.

[4] Cf. _Sermo_, 112, cap. 5 (Migne, xxxviii, 615).

[5] See Vol. I, p. 56.

[6] E. g., the danger of spilling the wine.

[7] See p. 37.

[8] Used here and above in the New Testament sense of true Christians,
living or dead, cf. 1 Cor. 1:2.

[9] See p. 11.

[10] See above, pp. 12, 13, and Vol. I, pp. 59 ff.

[11] The virgin Mary.

[12] Cf. _Enarratio in Ps. XXI_ (Migne, xxxvi, 178).

[13] Penitential works.

[14] Cf. Acts 2:46.

[15] See Vol. I, p. 310.

[16] In the Vulgate the Greek word "mystery" is translated by
_sacramentum_. See below, p. 258.

[17] Luther still adheres to the doctrine of transubstantiation. But
see below, pp. 187 ff.

[18] See p. 11.

[19] Cf. below, p. 192.

[20] See Luther's explanation of the First Commandment in the
Catechisms. Also the answer to the last question in Part V, Small

[21] _Treatise on Penance_ (_Weimer Ed._, II, 721), where Luther
exhorts the troubled conscience to pray with the father of the lunatic
boy, "Lord, I believe, help Thou mine unbelief," and with the
Apostles, "Lord, increase our faith."

[22] Cf. above, p. 17.

[23] The Church.

[24] A transubstantiation in the communicant.

[25] A work that is done without reference to the doer of it.

[26] A work considered with reference to the doer of it.

[27] An _opus operatum_.

[28] An _opus operantis_.

[29] Cf. 1 Cor. 11:30.

[30] Sodalities; see Introduction, p. 8, and below, pp. 137 f.

[31] On festival days of the order and on saints' days.

[32] The Carmelites are supposed to have been the first to organize
sodalities, having organized in the fourteenth century the Sodality of
Our Lady of Carmel. St. Anne was the mother of the Holy Virgin. Her
sodalities were, as Kolde says, epidemic in 1520. Luther's appeal to
St. Anne in the thunderstorm is well known (Comp. Köstlin-Kawerau, I,
55). There was a sodality of St. Anne, besides one of St. Augustine
and one of St. Catherine, in the monastery at Erfurt in Luther's day.
St. Sebastian was a martyr of the fourteenth century. His day is
January 20. Comp. Arts. _Anna_, _Sebastian_ and _Bruderschaten_ in
_Prot. Realencyk_., I, SS2; II, 534 l.

[33] A trades' guild brotherhood.

[34] Douay Version, based on Vulgate, from which Luther quotes.

[35] See above, p. 10.

[36] I. e., in marriage.




The ban, or excommunication, is the correlative of communion. Our
conception of excommunication depends then, of course, upon our view
of what constitutes communion. Luther gives us his view of communion
in the preceding _Treatise concerning the Blessed Sacrament_. From the
premise there laid down it follows that excommunication, or the ban,
excludes only from external membership in the Church, but cannot
really separate a man from the Church if he is in personal fellowship
with his Lord[1]. Sin and unbelief cause this separation from Him, and
the real ban, therefore, is put into effect not by the Church, but by
the man himself when he sins against God. The ban of the Church cannot
even deprive one of the Sacrament, but only of the outward use of it,
for it can still be partaken of spiritually. This whole position, of
course, is fatal to the Roman Catholic conception of the Church, and
we do not wonder that it was vigorously opposed by the hierarchy.

Of like significance is Luther's advocacy of the separation of the
temporal and spiritual powers, practically of Church and State,--the
position which he develops later in the _Open Letter to the Nobility_.
But in this treatise, again, Luther shows himself to be anything but
the immoral monster his vilifiers have tried to make of him. He is
again the man of conscience--will his critics say, "of oversensitive
conscience"? Thank God that there were some sensitive consciences in
an almost conscienceless age! Luther fears sin more than the ban, and
sin has for him more than an ecclesiastical meaning. Sin is not
primarily an act against the Church, but an offence against God. This
the ban is to teach; it is to be the symbol of God's wrath against sin
and it is to be used by the Church only remedially and in love. When
so used it becomes the chastening rod of the dear Mother Church,
provided it be accepted and borne in this spirit.

Why, then, did not Luther bear his own ban in this way? The
justification for his subsequent conduct is to be found in two brief
but important conditional clauses in this treatise. "God," he says,
"cannot and will not permit authority to be wantonly and impudently
resisted, _when it does not force us to do what is against God or His
commandments_."[2] Again he says, "When unjustly put under the ban we
should be very careful not to do, omit, say or withhold that on
account of which we are under the ban, _unless we cannot do so without
sin and without injury to our neighbor_."[3] God and his neighbor were
for Luther the actors which made it necessary for him to speak and
act, when for selfish reasons he would often rather have remained

The inception of our treatise is to be found in a sermon preached in
Wittenberg in the spring of 1518. Luther's pastoral concern for his
people made it necessary for him to speak on this subject in order to
quiet the consciences both embittered and distressed by the wanton and
unjust use of the power of excommunication. Added to this must have
been his own personal interest in the ban certain to fall on him. In a
letter to Link[4], dated July 10, 1518, he speaks of having preached a
sermon on the power of the ban which produced general consternation
and fear that the ire enkindled by the XCV Theses would start afresh.
He had desired a public disputation on the subject, but the Bishop of
Brandenburg persuaded him to defer the matter. Under date of September
1st, Luther writes Staupitz[5] that because his sermon had been
misrepresented and spread by unfriendly spies it became necessary for
him to publish it. It appeared in August after Luther's summons to
Rome, under the title _De Virtute Excommunicationis_. Our treatise is
an elaboration in popular form of this Latin treatise of 1515.

The Grünberg text given in Clemen, Vol. I, which we have followed in
most cases, is dated 1520, and must have appeared in its original
edition at the end of 1519 or the beginning of 1520.

The text of the treatise is found in the following editions: Weimar
Ed., vol. vi, 63; Erlangen Ed., vol. xxvii, 51; Walch Ed., vol. xix,
1089; St. Louis Ed., vol. .xix, 884; Clemen, vol. i, 213; Berlin Ed.,
vol. iii, 291.

        J. J. SCHINDEL.

Allentown, PA.


[1] See below, p. 37.

[2] See below, p. 50.

[3] See below, p. 51.

[4] See Enders, I, No. 84. Smith. _Luther's Correspondence_, I, No.

[5] See Enders, I, No. 90. Smith, _Luther's Correspondence_, I, No.




1. We have seen[1] that the sacrament of the holy body of Christ is a
sign of the communion of all saints, therefore it becomes necessary to
know also what the ban is which is employed in the Church by the power
of the spiritual estate. For its chief and peculiar function and power
is to deprive guilty Christians of the holy sacrament and forbid it to
them. Therefore the one cannot be understood apart from the other,
because the one is the opposite of the other; for the Latin word
_communio_ means fellowship, and thus do the learned designate the
Holy Sacrament. Its opposite is the word _excommunicatio_, which means
exclusion from this fellowship, and so the learned term the ban.

2. There is a twofold fellowship, corresponding to the two things in
the sacrament, the sign and the thing signified, as was said in the
treatise[2]. The first is an inner, spiritual and invisible fellowship
of the heart, by which one is incorporated by true faith, hope and
love in the fellowship of Christ and of all the saints, signified and
bestowed in the sacrament; and this is the effect and virtue of the
sacrament. This fellowship can neither be given nor taken away by any
one, be he bishop, pope, or angel or any creature. God alone through
His Holy Spirit must pour it into the heart of the one who believes in
the sacrament, as was said in the treatise[3]. This fellowship no ban
can touch or affect, but only the unbelief or sin of the person
himself; by these he can excommunicate himself, and thus separate
himself from the grace, the and salvation of the fellowship. This St.
Paul proves in Romans viii: "Who shall separate us from the God? Can
anguish or need, or hunger or poverty, or danger or persecution, or
shedding of blood? Nay, I am convinced that neither death nor life,
neither angels nor principalities nor angelic hosts, neither things
present nor things to come, naught that is mighty on the earth,
neither height nor depth nor any other creature can separate us from
the love of God which is ours in Christ Jesus our Lord." [Rom. 8:35,
38] And St. Peter says: "And who is he that will harm you, if ye be
followers of that which is good?" [1 Peter 3:13]

3. The second kind of fellowship is an outward, bodily and visible
fellowship, by which one is admitted to the Holy Sacrament and
receives and partakes of it together with others. From this fellowship
or communion bishop and pope can exclude one, and forbid it to him on
account of his sin, and that is called putting him under the ban. This
ban was much in vogue of old, and is now known as the lesser ban. For
the ban goes beyond this and forbids even burial, selling, trading,
all association and fellowship with men, finally, as they say, even
fire and water[4], and this is known as the greater ban.

Not satisfied with this, there are some who go still farther and use
the temporal powers against those under the ban, to coerce them with
sword, fire, and war[5]. These, however, are new inventions, rather
than the real meaning of Scripture. To wield the temporal sword
belongs to the emperor, to kings, to princes, and to the rulers of
this world, and by no means to the spiritual estate[6], whose sword is
not to be of iron, but the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word and
commandment of God, as St. Paul says. [Eph. 6:17]

4. This external ban, both the lesser and the greater, was instituted
by Christ when He said in Matthew xviii: "If thy brother shall
trespass against thee, go and tell him his fault between thee and him
alone: if he shall hear thee, thou hast gained thy brother. If he will
not hear thee, then take with thee one or two more, that in the mouth
of two or three witnesses every word or transaction may be
established. If he will not hear them, then tell it unto the whole
congregation, the Church. If he neglect to hear the Church, let him be
unto thee a heathen man and a publican." [Matt. 18:15 ff.]

Likewise St. Paul says in I Corinthians v: "If any man among you be a
fornicator, or covetous, or an idolator, or a railer, or a drunkard,
or an extortioner, with such an one keep not company, neither eat with
him." [1. Cor. 5:11] Again he says in II Thessalonians iii: "If any
man obey not our word by this epistle, note that man and have no
company with him, that he may be ashamed." [2 Thess. 3:14] Again, John
says in his second Epistle: "If any one come unto you, and bring not
this doctrine, receive him not into your house, neither bid him God
speed, and he that biddeth him God speed is partaker of his evil
deeds." [2 John 10]

From all these sayings we learn how the ban is to be used. First, we
should seek neither vengeance nor our own profit, as is at present the
disgraceful practice everywhere, but only the correction of our
neighbor. Second, the penalty should stop short of his death or
destruction; or St. Paul limits the purpose of the ban to the
correction of our neighbor, that he be put to shame when no one
associates with him, and he adds in 11 Thessalonians iii: "Count him
not as an enemy, but admonish him as a brother." [2 Thess. 3:15] But
now the ruthless tyrants deal with men as though they would cast them
down to hell, and do not in any wise seek their correction.

5. It may often happen that a person under the ban is deprived of the
holy sacrament, and also of burial, and is nevertheless inwardly[7]
secure and blessed in the fellowship of Christ and of all saints,
signified in the sacrament. On the other hand, there are many who are
not under the outward ban and who freely partake of the sacrament, but
are nevertheless inwardly quite estranged and excommunicated from the
fellowship of Christ; even though they be buried under the high altar
in a golden pall with much pomp and singing and tolling of bells.
Therefore, no one is to be judged, even if he be under the ban,
especially if he has not been put under the ban for heresy or sin, but
for the purpose of correction. For to put men under the ban for the
sake of money or other temporal considerations is a new invention, of
which the apostles and Christ knew nothing.

6. To put under the ban is not, as some think, to deliver a soul to
Satan and deprive it of the intercession and of all the good works[8]
of the Church. For where the true faith and love of God remain in the
heart, there remains a real participation in all the possessions and
intercessions of the Church, together with all the benefits of the
sacrament, since the ban is and can be nothing else than exclusion
from the external sacrament or from association with men. If I were
cast into prison I would, of course, be deprived of the outward
companionship of my friends, and yet not be deprived of their favor
and friendship; so he that is put under the ban must relinquish the
sacrament and association with men, but is not on that account cut off
from their love, intercession and good works.

7. It is true that the ban, when it is rightly and deservedly applied,
is a sign, an admonition and a chastisement, whereby the one under the
ban should recognize that he himself has delivered his soul unto Satan
by his transgression and sin, and has deprived himself of the
fellowship of all the saints and of Christ. For by the penalty of the
ban our mother, the holy Church, would show her dear son the awful
consequences of sin and thereby bring him back from the devil to God.
When an earthly mother rebukes and chastises her erring son, she does
not give him over to the hangman or to the wolves, nor make a knave of
him, but she restrains him and shows him by her chastisement that he
is in danger of the hangman, and thus keeps him at home in his
father's house. In the same way, when the spiritual power puts any one
under the ban, it should be in this spirit: "Behold, thou has done
this or that, whereby thou hast delivered thy soul unto the devil,
deserved God's wrath, and deprived thyself of all Christian
fellowship; thou art fallen under the inward spiritual ban in the
sight of God and art unwilling to cease or to return. So then, I put
thee also outwardly under the ban in the sight of men, and to thy
shame I deprive thee of the sacrament and of fellowship with men,
until thou come to thyself and bring back thy soul."

8. Let every bishop, provost or official[9], who uses the ban for any
other purpose, take heed lest he put himself under the everlasting ban
from which neither God nor any creature shall deliver him. There are
none to whom the ban is more harmful and dangerous than those who
apply it, even though it be laid quite justly and only on account of
wrongdoing, for the reason that they seldom if ever have this object
in view. Besides they go about it without fear and do not consider how
perchance they themselves may be more worthy of a hundred bans in the
sight of God, as the Gospel records of the servant who owed his Lord
ten thousand pounds and yet would not have patience with his fellow
servant who owed him a hundred pence. What will become of these
miserable taskmasters, who for the sake of money have brought things
to such a pass with their bans, often violently and unjustly imposed,
that Turks and heathen have an easier life than Christians? It is very
evident that many of them are under the ban in the sight of God, and
are deprived of the blessing of the sacrament and of inward, spiritual
fellowship, although they do nothing day and night but cite others to
appear, harass them and put them under the ban, and deprive of the
external sacrament those who are a thousandfold better inwardly and in
the sight of God and are living in the spiritual fellowship of the
sacrament. O miserable business! O terrible existence maintained by
this abominable trade! I am not sure whether such publicans and
officials were wolves before becoming officials or whether they are on
the way to becoming wolves; their work is certainly wolves' work.

9. From this there follows the truth that the ban of itself ruins,
condemns or harms no one, but seeks and finds the ruined and condemned
soul for the purpose of bringing it back. For all chastisement is for
the correction of sin; the ban is simply a chastisement and motherly
correction; therefore it makes no one worse or more sinful, but is
ordained solely to restore the inward spiritual fellowship when justly
laid, or to deepen it when unjustly imposed. This is proved by St.
Paul when he says in II Corinthians xiii: This I write to you
according to the power which the Lord hath given me, to edification
and not to destruction," [2 Cor. 13:10] And thus, when he rebukes him
who had taken his step-mother to wife, he says in I Corinthians v: "I
together with you deliver him unto the devil for the destruction of the
flesh, that the spirit may be saved at the last day." [1 Cor. 5:5]
Thus also in the passage quoted above he said: "We should not count
him who is under the ban as an enemy, but admonish him as a brother,
in order that he may be put to shame and not be lost." [2 Thess. 3:15]
Nay, even Christ Himself, as man, had not the power to cut off and
deliver a single soul to the devil, as He says in John vi: "Him that
cometh to Me I will in no wise cast out, and this is the will of My
Father Who sent Me, that I should not destroy or lose what He giveth
Me." [John 6:37, 39] Again He says: "The Son of Man is not come to
destroy, but to save men's souls." [Luke 9:56] If Christ Himself and
all the apostles had no other power than to help souls, and have let
behind them no other power in the Church, how dare the blind tyrants
presume and boast in their presumption that they have power to curse,
to condemn and to destroy, which power is even denied them by their
own canon law; for in the Liber Sextus[10], which treats of the
sentence of excommunication, we read: "Since the ban is a medicine and
not a poison, only a discipline, not a destructive uprooting, in so
far as the one subjected to it does not despise it: therefore let
every spiritual judge give diligence to prove himself one who seeks by
the ban naught but to correct and to cure."

10. From the above passage it is evident that the ban, when it is not
despised, is wholesome and harmless, and not fatal to the soul, as
certain timid and dejected consciences, frightened by the outrageous
abuses of some, imagine; although in apostolic times it was able to
deliver the body to the devil and to death[11], as indeed it might
still be, if the judges would wield the ban, not in the abuse of
power, but in humble faith and love, for the correction of their
neighbor. It follows further that the ban brings greater danger and
terror to those who apply it and are not careful to seek only the
correction and salvation of those under the ban, according to the
words of the above passage[12]. For the ban can be nothing else than a
kind, motherly scourge applied to the body and temporal possessions,
by which no one is cast into hell, but rather drawn out of it, and
freed from condemnation unto salvation. Therefore we should not only
endure it without impatience, but receive it with all joy and
reverence. But for the tyrants, who seek therein nothing else than
power, awe and gain for themselves, the ban must be a terrible injury,
because they pervert it and its purpose, turn the medicine into a
poison, and seek only to become a terror to a frightened people; of
correction they never think. For this they will have to give an awful
reckoning--woe unto them!

11. They have devised a saying, to wit: "Our ban must be feared, right
or wrong." With this saying they insolently comfort themselves, swell
their chests and puff themselves up like adders, and almost dare to
defy heaven and to threaten the whole world; with this bugaboo they
have made a deep and mighty impression, imagining that there is more
in these words than there really is. Therefore we would explain them
more fully and prick this bladder, which with its three peas makes
such a rightful noise.

Now, it is true, the ban must be feared and not be despised, whether
it be just or unjust. But why apply this only to the ban, which is a
motherly chastening, and not to all the other and greater penalties
and tribulations as well? For what great thing have you done or the
ban by saying it must be feared? Must we not also fear when we are
sick, poor, slandered, despised, or deprived of goods, income or
justice, nay, when the Turk and other enemies attack or afflict us?
For all these and other adversities, whether deserved or undeserved,
we should fear, suffer and endure, and in all things conduct ourselves
as though we but received our deserts, as the Lord teaches: "O him
that taketh away thy goods ask them not again." [Luke 6:30] Why are
you not also afraid, dear tyrant, when you suffer injustice, when your
income is refused, your property stolen, your rights denied, and why
do you not think that you should endure these things in fear, whether
they be right or wrong? Do you think that others are commanded to
endure your power in ear, whether right or wrong, and that you are
free from this commandment and need not endure violence or wrong in
fear? You will learn that you also are human and under the same law
with which you threaten others, puffing yourself up in your folly.

12. What perversity! The spiritual powers come along with their ban
and say it should be eared and endured, whether right or wrong. But if
they are subjected to violence and injustice they will not endure it
to the extent of a single heller, but without any fear at all, cast up
the accounts in their favor and demand what is theirs. Thus they
withdraw themselves from God's commandment, in keeping which they,
most of all, should be an example to others. For if it is true that
pope, bishop and the whole spiritual estate may without fear resist
injustice, injury and contempt in their own interest, then it is also
true that the ban may be resisted and be repelled, as vigorously as
they seek their interest. There is no distinction in God's
commandment, it concerns every one alike. But may God forbid that! We
are to bear both the ban and whatever tribulation may befall us in
fear, as the Gospel teaches. Therefore, if any one wrong you or take
your income, and you do not endure it in fear, but would frighten him
with the ban[13], especially when you are seeking not his improvement,
but your own benefit or self-will, take heed, you are already worse
than he. For you intend to draw yourself out of fear and to draw him
in, which you have no right to do, and compel him to keep the Gospel
which you tear to pieces. How will you be able to stand before God?
Therefore when they say, "Our ban must be feared, right or wrong," we
reply: "Yes, that is true, but it is also true that your unjust ban
harms no one but yourselves, and harms you in body and soul. And the
just ban harms you more than it harms me. Therefore you should also
endure your injury in fear, be it right or wrong, and if you glory
over me because of the ban I will glory over you because of your
suffering. If a criminal took my coat and said: 'You should endure it
in fear and humility,' I would say, 'I will; not for the sake of your
theft, which harms me not, but for the sake of Christ's commandment
[Matt. 5:40].' Just so I fear your ban, not for the ban's sake (it
does not harm me, but rather yourself), but for the sake of Christ's

13. Though it is true that the ban must be feared, whether it be right
or wrong, yet those who lay the ban are always in greater danger than
those on whom it is laid. He who is banned is in no danger but that of
despising the ban and not bearing it, whether it be right or wrong.
But he who bans is in danger, in the first place, of not enduring
injustice in fear; in the second place, of avenging himself through
the ban without any fear; in the third place, of not seeking, with
singleness of purpose, his sinful neighbor's correction by means of
the ban. This is evident because he despises his own sin and that of
others, and only attacks the man who injures him, all of which is
contrary to the Gospel. Hence it comes that by means of their dreadful
perverseness those who use the ban nowadays pick up the spoon and
tread in the dish[14]; they put others under the external ban and put
themselves under condemnation inwardly; in addition, they become so
blinded that they boast how greatly their external ban is to be
feared, and inwardly they condemn themselves, and rejoice boldly and
without fear like fools and madmen. For this reason I am sure that the
Holy Spirit did not invent the saying, Our ban must be feared, right
or wrong. It does not become a Christian, not to say one in the
spiritual estate[15], to wrong another, much less to lord it over him
and boast that this injustice must be feared. It behooves me to say,
Thy injustice makes me tremble; it behooves thee much more to take
heed and be in fear lest thou do me wrong and threaten me besides,
saying that I must endure it in fear; or thy injustice can harm me
only in time, but thee it harms to all eternity. So evil and
lamentable are these present times, in which such furious tyrants
shamelessly and openly boast of their sin and everlasting hurt (which
would be horrible even in Turks and heathen), in order that they may
be defiant now and mock at the misfortunes of those who suffer, whom
they do not seek to correct, but only to inspire with fear and false

In a word, the higher estate is always, with all its works, in greater
danger than the lower estate, and where the lower estate must needs be
in fear once, there the higher estate needs be in fear ten times over.
On this account those who exercise the ban have no reason to lord it
over those who are under the ban or to deal arrogantly with them, but
all the more reason to weep or themselves. For God's judgment will not
be pronounced on the lowly, but on the mighty, as Wisdom the wise man
says [Wisdom 6:8 f.].

14. It were indeed better if Christians were taught to love the ban
rather than to fear it[16], as we are taught by Christ to love
chastisement, pain and even death, and not to fear them. But these
prattlers speak only of fear in the ban, though they teach that all
other chastisements and misfortunes are to be borne cheerfully.
Whereby they betray their blind and cursed purpose, which is to rule
by force over the people of Christ, and as it were to take the free
Christian Church captive in fear. Therefore let us learn what is our
chief duty with respect to the ban, namely, not to despise it or bear
it impatiently, and this for two reasons. First, because the authority
of the ban was given by Christ to the holy mother, the Christian
Church, that is, to the community of all Christians. Therefore, in
this matter we should honor and submit to our dear mother Church and
to Christ. For what Christ and the Church do should have our approval,
our love and our filial fear. Secondly, because the effect and purpose
of the ban is beneficial and salutary and never injurious, if one
endures it and does not despise it. To use a homely illustration: When
a mother punishes her beloved son, whether he has deserved it or not,
she certainly does not do it with evil intent, but it is a maternal,
harmless and salutary punishment, if the son bears it patiently. Only
when he becomes impatient, and is not influenced by it to leave the
wrong or to do the good for the sake of which he is punished, but
turns against his mother and despises her, does the punishment begin
to do him harm; or then he offends against God, Who has commanded:
"Thou shalt honor thy father and mother" [Ex. 20:12]; and out of a
light, harmless, yea even beneficial chastisement he makes a terrible
wrong and sin, to his everlasting pain and punishment.

15. Thus it happens in our day that certain officials[17] and their
associates are murdered, beaten and bound, or are in constant fear of
death. Doubtless this would not occur at all, or at least much less
frequently, if the people did not hold the wrong opinion that the ban
is more harmful than profitable. For this reason they venture
everything, and commit such crimes as it were in despair. Although
this is terrible, yet by God's dispensation the tyrants get what they
deserve, because they conceal the real benefit of the ban from the
people, and misuse it, making no effort toward correction, but aiming
simply to increase their own power. For although every one ought to
endure the ban, they too ought not to despise a poor human being, be
he guilty or innocent, as Christ says: "Take heed that ye despise not
one of these little ones that believe on Me, for I say unto you that
their angels do always behold the face of My Father which is in
heaven." [Matt. 18:10] Why should they wonder if, in the providence of
God, at times their heads are broken and their commands despised,
because of the unjust tyrannical ban, since without ceasing they act
so insolently against God's commandment? True, there is great wrong on
both sides. Yet if the people were taught that the power of the ban is
wholesome and necessary and that it is not ordained nor used to their
hurt, but to their benefit, the officials would be in less danger, and
find greater and readier obedience, nay, greater love, good will and
honor among all the people.

16. Therefore the people should be taught in some such way as this: My
dear people, let not those who have and use the power of the ban drive
you to despair, whether they be pious or evil, whether they do you
justice or injustice. The power of the ban cannot harm you, but must
always be beneficial to the soul, if only you bear and endure it
aright; their abuse of the ban does not hinder its virtue. Or if you
cannot endure it, then try to escape from it with meekness, not with
revenge and retaliation by word or deed. And in all things look not to
them, but to the dear mother Church. What difference does it make to
you whether she lays her rods of chastisement upon you through pious
or through wicked rulers? It is and remains, nevertheless, your
dearest mother's most salutary rod. From the beginning of the world it
has been so, and will ever remain, that spiritual and temporal power
is more often given to the Pilates, Herods, Annases and Caiaphases
than to the pious Peters, Pauls and the like, and as in all other
estates so in that of government there are always more of the wicked
than of the pious. It is not to be supposed or hoped that we shall
ever have an entirely pious government, nay, it must come as a pure
git of grace or by special prayer and merit, if good government or a
right use of power is to be had at all. For God punishes wicked
subjects by wicked rulers, as He says: "I will give children to be
their prelates and their rulers shall be childish men, I will take
from them every mighty man, the wise, the prudent and the man of war,"
[Isa. 3:4] etc. Since, then, incapable or evil rulers are God's
chastisement, and there are so many among us who deserve such
chastisement, we must not be surprised if the government wrongs us and
abuses its power toward us, nay, we must wonder and thank God when it
does not wrong us and do us injustice.

17. Wherefore, since the world is at present overburdened, as it has
abundantly deserved to be because of its heinous sins, with young,
imprudent and inexperienced rulers, especially in the spiritual
estate, so that this age of ours is extraordinarily perilous, we must
act very prudently and by all means see to it that we hold the
government and all authority in the highest honor, even as Christ
honors the authority of Pilate, Herod, Annas, Caiaphas, and of the
temporal rulers of His time we must not permit such grievous abuses
and the childish rule of the prelates to move us to despise all
authority, so that despite those unworthy persons who bear rule we may
not at the same time despise their authority, but cheerfully bear what
it imposes, or reuse to bear it at least with humility and proper
respect. For God cannot and will not permit authority to be wantonly
and impudently resisted when it does not force us to do what is
against God or His commandments[18], though they themselves do as much
as they can against God, or injure us as much as they will. There are
some whom He Himself would judge and condemn, and such are those great
and powerful tyrants; so too, there are those whom He would help, and
such are the oppressed sufferers. Therefore we should yield to this
His will and leave the mighty to His sword and judgment, and allow Him
to help us, as St. Paul says: "O dearly beloved brethren, neither
avenge nor defend yourselves, but rather give place unto the wrath of
God, because it is written. Vengeance belongs to Me alone and I will
repay each one [Deut. 32:35]." [Rom. 12:19]

And yet we should humbly tell these prelates (especially should the
preachers rebuke them, yet only by showing them from the Word of God)
that they are acting against God and show them what He would have them
do, and in addition diligently and earnestly pray to God or them; even
as Jeremiah wrote to the children of Israel in Babylon that they
should zealously pray or the king of Babylon, or his son and for his
kingdom, although he had taken them captive, had troubled and slain
them and done them all manner of evil.

And we can easily do this if we remember that the ban and all
unrighteous authority cannot harm our souls, provided we submit to
them, and they must ever be of profit, unless they are despised. So
also are the authorities a thousandfold worse in the sight of God than
we, and are therefore to be pitied rather than wickedly to be
despised. For this reason we are also commanded in the law of Moses
that no one shall revile the rulers, be they good or evil, even though
they give great occasion. In short, we must have evil or childish
rulers,--if it is not the Turk, then it must needs be the Christians.
The world is far too wicked to be worthy of good and pious lords, it
must have princes who go to war, levy taxes and shed blood, and it
must have spiritual tyrants who impoverish and burden it with bulls
and letters[19] and laws. This and other chastisements are rather what
it has deserved, and to resist them is nothing else than to resist
God's chastisement. As humbly as I conduct myself when God sends me a
sickness, so humbly should I conduct myself toward the evil
government, which the same God also sends me.

18. When we are justly and deservedly put under the ban our chief
concern should be to correct the sins of commission and omission which
caused the ban, since the ban always is imposed on account of sin
(which is far worse than the ban itself), and yet here as elsewhere
things are perverted, so that we only consider how much the rod hurts
and not why we are punished. Where can you find men to-day who are as
much in fear of sinning and provoking God as they are in fear of the
ban? Thus it happens that we are more in fear of the wholesome
chastisement than of the heinous sins. We must let men think and act
thus, because the natural man does not see the spiritual harm in sin
as he feels the smarts of chastisement; although the fear of the ban
has also been exaggerated by the tyrannous methods and threatenings of
the spiritual judges who drive the people to fear punishment more than

When, however, we are unjustly put under the ban, we should be very
careful that we in no way do, omit, say or withhold that on account of
which we are under the ban (unless we cannot do so without sin and
without injury to our neighbor)[20], but rather should we endure the
ban in humility, die happily under it, if it cannot be otherwise, and
not be terrified, even though we do not receive the sacrament and are
buried in unconsecrated ground. The reason is this: Truth and
righteousness belong to the inner, spiritual fellowship[21] and may
not be abandoned under penalty of falling under God's eternal ban.
Therefore they dare not be surrendered for the sake of the external
fellowship, which is immeasurably inferior, nor because of the ban. To
receive the sacrament and to be buried in consecrated ground are of
too little consequence that or their sake truth and righteousness be
neglected. And that no one may think this strange I will go further
and say that even he who dies under a just ban is not damned, unless
indeed he did not repent of his sin or despised the ban. For sorrow
and repentance make all things right, even though his body be exhumed
or his ashes cast into the water[22].

19. The unjust ban then is much more to be desired than either the
just ban or the external fellowship. It is a very precious merit in
the sight of God, and blessed is he who dies under an unjust ban. God
will grant him an eternal crown for the truth's sake, on account of
which he is under the ban. Then let him sing in the words of Psalm
cix, "They have cursed me, but Thou hast blessed me." [Ps. 109:28]
Only let us beware of despising the authorities, and humbly declare
our innocence; if this does not avail, then we are free and without
guilt in the sight of God. For if we are in duty bound by the
commandment of Christ to agree with our adversary [Matt. 5:25]; how
much more should we agree with the authority of the Christian Church,
be it exercised justly or unjustly, by worthy or unworthy rulers.

An obedient child, though it does not deserve the punishment it
receives from its mother, suffers no harm from the unjust
chastisement, nay, by its very patience it becomes much dearer and
more pleasing to the mother; how much more do we become lovable in
God's sight, if at the hands of evil rulers we endure the unmerited
punishment of the Church, as our spiritual mother. For the Church
remains our mother because Christ remains Christ, and she is not
changed into a step-mother simply because of our evil rulers.
Nevertheless, the prelates and bishops and their officials should be
temperate and not hastily use the ban, for many bans means nothing
else than many laws and commandments, and prescribing many laws is to
set many snares for poor souls. And so by numerous ill-advised bans
nothing more results than great offence and an occasion or sin, by
which the wrath of God is provoked, although the ban was ordained to
reconcile Him. And although we are truly bound to obey them, still
more are they bound to direct, change and regulate their decree and
authority according to our ability and need and for our correction and
salvation; for we have shown from St. Paul[23] that power is given not
for destruction but for edification [2 Cor. 13:10].

20. The ban should be applied not only to heretics and schismatics,
but to all who are guilty of open sin, as we have shown above from St.
Paul, who commands that the railer, extortioner, fornicator and
drunkard be put under the ban [1 Cor. 5:11]. But in our day such
sinners are let in peace, especially if they are bigwigs; and to the
disgrace of this noble form of authority, the ban is used only for the
collection of debts of money, often so insignificant that the costs
amount to more than the original debt. In order to gloss this over
they have hit upon a new device, saying they put under the ban not
because of debt but because of disobedience, because the summons was
not respected; were it not for debt, however, they would forget the
disobedience, as we see when many other sins, even their own, escape
the ban. A poor man must often be disobedient if he is cited to go so
many miles, lose time and money and neglect his trade. It is utter
tyranny to summon a man to come such a distance across country to

And I commend the temporal princes[24] who will not permit the ban and
the abuses connected with it in their lands and among their people.
What are princes and counsellors for if they do not concern themselves
with and judge such temporal matters as debts, each in their city and
province and among their subjects? The spiritual powers should be
concerned with the Word of God, with sin, and with the devil, in order
to bring souls to God, and should relinquish temporal cases to the
temporal judges, as Paul writes[25][1 Cor. 6:1]. Indeed, as things are
now, it is almost necessary to use the ban in order to drive the
people into the Church and not out of it.

21. Whether one be justly or unjustly under the ban, no one may
exclude him from the Church until the Gospel has been read or the
sermon preached[26]. For from the hearing of the Gospel and the sermon
no one shall or can exclude or be excluded. The hearing of the Word of
God should remain free to every one[27]. Nay, those who are under a
just ban ought most of all to hear it, that they may perchance be
moved by it to acknowledge their sin and to reform. We read that it
was the ancient practice of the Church to dismiss those under the ban
after the sermon, and if a whole congregation were under the ban the
sermon must be allowed to proceed just as though there were no ban. In
addition, even though he who is under the ban may not remain for the
mass after the sermon, nor come to the sacrament[28], nevertheless he
should not neglect it, but spiritually come to the sacrament, that is,
he should heartily desire it and believe that he can spiritually
receive it, as was said in the treatise on the sacrament[29].


[1] In the preceding treatise on the _Blessed Sacrament_.

[2] See above, p. 10.

[3] See above, p. 18.

[4] I. e., the necessaries of life.

[5] E. g., the crusades against heretics, and the inquisition of the
thirteenth century. Luther's statement that to burn heretics is
contrary to the will of the Holy Spirit was condemned in the Bull
_Exsurge Domine_, of July 15, 1520.

[6] Cf. p. 53.

[7] Cf. p. 10.

[8] See Vol. I, pp. 53, 163 ff.

[9] The officials were officers of the bishops' courts; see also
below, p. 103.

[10] In Vito, lib. V, tit. xi, c. I,_Cum medicinalis_.

[11] According to Luther's interpretation of 1 Cor. 5:5. Cf. also Acts

[12] The passage quoted from the canon law.

[13] For instances see the _Gravamina of the German Nation_ (1521),
Wrede, _Deutsche Reichstagsakten_, II, 685.

[14] Thiele, _Luthers Sprichwörtersammlung_, No. 276.

[15] I. e., a cleric.

[16] This statement also was condemned in the papal bull.

[17] The "officials" were the administrators of this discipline, see
above, p. 41.

[18] A very important limitation for Luther's position.

[19] See Open Letter to the Nobility, below, p. 98.

[20] Again an important limitation.

[21] See above, p. 41.

[22] The ashes of Hus were cast into the Rhine (1415), and the body of
Wycliff was exhumed and cremated and the ashes cast into the water

[23] See above, p. 42.

[24] In 1518 both George and Frederick of Saxony took the position
that spiritual jurisdiction should be limited to spiritual matters.
Gess, _Akten und Briefe zur Kirchen politik Georgs_ 1, 44.

[25] Luther puts a peculiar construction upon this passage.

[26] The ancient service was divided into the service of the Word
(_missa catechumenorum_) and the celebration of the sacrament (_missa
fidelium_); before the second, those under the ban as well as the
catechumens were required to withdraw.

[27] The "great ban" excluded from all services.

[28] According to Roman Catholic usage there is a distinction between
hearing mass and receiving the sacrament.

[29] Compare Treatise Concerning the Blessed Sacrament, above, p. 25.




The _Open Letter to the Christian Nobility of the German Nation_ is
closely related to the tract on _The Papacy at Rome: A Reply to the
Celebrated Romanist at Leipzig_[1]. In a letter to Spalatin[2] dated
before June 8, 1520, Luther says: "I shall assail that ass of an
Alveld in such wise as not to forget the Roman pontiff, and neither of
them will be pleased." In the same letter he writes, "I am minded to
issue a broadside to Charles and the nobility of Germany against the
tyranny and baseness of the Roman curia." The attack upon Alveld is
the tract on _The Papacy at Rome_; the _scheda publica_ grew into the
_Open Letter_. At the time when the letter to Spalatin was written,
the work on _The Papacy at Rome_ must have been already in press, for
it appeared in print on the 26th of the month[3], and the composition
of the Open Letter had evidently not yet begun. On the 23d Luther sent
the manuscript of the _Open Letter_ to Amsdorf[4], with the request
that he read it and suggest changes. The two weeks immediately
preceding the publication of the work _On the Papacy_ must, therefore,
have been the time when the Open Letter was composed.

In the conclusion to the earlier work Luther had said: "Moreover, I
should 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? 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 let on earth except in the temporal
authorities. Of this I will say more anon, if this Romanist comes
again; let this suffice for a beginning. May God help us at length to
open our eyes. Amen."

This passage may fairly be regarded as the germ of the _Open Letter_.
The ideas of the latter work are suggested with sufficient clearness
to show that its materials are already at hand, and its plan already
in the author's mind. The threat to write it is scarcely veiled. That
Luther did not wait for that particular Romanist to "come again" may
have been due to the intervention of another Romanist, none other than
his old opponent, Sylvester Prierias. Before the 7th of June[5] Luther
had received a copy of Prierias' _Epitome of a Reply to Martin
Luther_[6], which is the boldest and baldest possible assertion of the
very theory of papal power which Luther had sought to demolish in his
tract on the Papacy. In the preface to his reprint of the Epitome,
Luther bids farewell to Rome: "Farewell, unhappy, hopeless,
blasphemous Rome! The wrath of God hath come upon thee, as thou hast
deserved! We have cared for Babylon, and she is not healed; let us,
then, leave her, that she may be the habitation of dragons, spectres
and witches, and true to her name of Babel, an everlasting confusion,
a new pantheon of wickedness."[7]

These words were written while the _Open Letter_ was in course of
composition. The _Open Letter_ is, therefore, Luther's first
publication after the time when he recognized that the breach between
him and the papal church was complete, and likely to be permanent.
Meanwhile, the opposing party had come to the same conclusion. The
verdict of the pope upon Luther had been long delayed, but on the 15th
of June, midway between the letter to Spalatin, above mentioned, and
the completion of the _Open Letter_, Leo X signed the bull of
excommunication, though it was not published in Germany until later.
Thus the _Open Letter_ shows us the mind of Luther in the weeks when
the permanent separation between him and Rome took place.

It was also the time when he had the highest hopes from the promised
support of the German knights[8], who formed the patriotic party in
Germany and are included in the "nobility" to whom the Open Letter is

The first edition of 4000 copies came off the press of Melchior
Lotther in Wittenberg before the 18th of August[10]. It is
surmised[11] that the earlier portion[12] of the work was not
contained in the original manuscript, but was added while it was in
the printer's hands; perhaps it was added at the suggestion of
Amsdorf. Less than a week later a second edition was in course of
preparation[13]. This "enlarged and revised edition"[14] contained
three passages not included in the first[15]. They are indicated in
the notes to the present edition.

He who would know the true Luther must read more than one of his
writings; he must not by any chance omit to read the _Open Letter to
the Christian Nobility of the German Nation_. In his other works we
learn to know him as the man of God, or the prophet, or the
theologian; in this treatise we meet Luther the German. His heart is
full of grief for the affliction of his people, and grief turns to
wrath as he observes that this affliction is put upon them by the
tyranny and greed of the pope and the cardinals and the "Roman
vermin." The situation is desperate; appeals and protests have been
all in vain; and so, as a last resort, he turns to the temporal
authorities,--to Charles V, newly elected, but as yet uncrowned; to
the territorial lords, great and small, who have a voice in the
imperial diet and powers of jurisdiction in their own
domains,--reciting the abuses of "Roman tyranny," and pleading with
them to intervene in behalf of the souls that are going to destruction
"through the devilish rule of Rome." It is a cry out of the heart of
Germany, a nation whose bent is all religious, but which, from that
very circumstance, is all the more open to the insults and wrongs and
deceptions of the Roman curia.

Yet it is no formless and incoherent cry, but an orderly recital of
the ills of Germany. There are times when we feel in reading it that
the writer is laying violent hands on his own wrath in the effort to
be calm. For all its scathing quality, it is a sane arraignment of
those who "under the holy name of Christ and St. Peter" are
responsible for the nation's woes, and the remedies that are proposed
are, many of them, practicable as well as reasonable.

The materials of the work are drawn from many sources,--from hearsay,
from personal observation, from such histories as Luther had at his
command, from the proceedings of councils and of diets; there are
passages which would seem to bear more than an accidental resemblance
to similar passages in Hutten's _Vadiscus_. All was grist that came to
Luther's mill. But the spirit of the work is Luther's own.

For the general historian, who is concerned more with the practical
than with the theoretical or theological aspects of the Reformation,
the _Open Letter_ is undoubtedly Luther's greatest work. Its rank
outspokenness about the true condition of Germany, the number and
variety of the subjects that it treats, the multiplicity of the
sources from which the subject-matter is drawn, and the point of view
from which the whole is discussed make it a work of absorbing interest
and priceless historical value. It shows, as does no other single work
of the Reformation time, the things that were in men's minds and the
variety of motives which led them to espouse the cause of the
Protestant party. Doctrine, ethics, history, politics, economics, all
have their place in the treatise. It is not only "a blast on the
war-trumpet,"[16] but a connecting link between the thought of the
Middle Ages and that of modern times, prophetic of the new age, but
showing how closely the new is bound up with the old.

The text of the _Open Letter_ is found in _Weimar Ed_., VI, 404-469;
_Erl. Ed._, XXI, 277-360; _Walch Ed._, X, 296-399; _St. Louis Ed._, X,
266-351; _Berlin Ed._, I, 203-290; _Clemen_ I, 363-425. The text of
the Berlin Ed._ is modernized and annotated by E. Schneider. The
editions of _K. Benrath_ (Halle, 1883) and E. Lemme (_Die 3 grossen
Reformationsschriften L's vom J. 1520_; Gotha, 1884) contain a
modernized text and extensive notes. A previous English translation in
_Wace_ and _Buchheim_, _Luther's Primary Works_ (London and
Philadelphia, 1896). The present translation is based on the text of

For full discussion of the contents of the work, especially its
sources, see _Weimar Ed._, VI, 381-391; _Schäfer, Luther als
Kirchenhistoriker_, Gütersloh, 1897; Kohler, _L's Schrift an den Adel
. . . im Spiegel der Kulturgeschichte_, Halle, 1895, and _Luther und
die Kirchengeschichte_, Erlangen, 1900. Extensive comment in all the
biographies, especially Köstlin-Kawerau I, 315 ff.


Lutheran Theological Seminary,

    Mount Airy, Philadelphia.


[1] In this edition, I, 337 ff.

[2] Enders, II, 414; Smith, _L.'s Correspondence_, I, No. 266.

[3] Enders, II, 424.

[4] See below, p. 62.

[5] See letter of June 7th to John Hess, Enders, II, 411; Smith, I,
No. 265.

[6] Published at Rome 1519; printed with Luther's preface and notes,
Weimar Ed., VI, 328ff.; Erl. Ed., op. var. arg., II, 79 ff.

[7] _Weimar Ed._, VI, 329.

[8] See Enders, II, 415, 443; Smith, Nos. 269, 279, and documents in
_St. Louis Ed._, XV, 1630 ff.

[9] See Köstlin-Kawerau, _Martin Luther_, I, 308 ff., and _Weimar
Ed._, VI, 381 ff.

[10] See Luther's letters to Lang and Staupitz, who wished to have the
publication withheld (Enders, II, 461, 463).

[11] _Clemen_, I. 362.

[12] Below, pp. 65-99.

[13] See _Weimar Ed._, VI, 397.

[14] See title _B_, _ibid_., 398.

[15] Printed as an appendix in _Clemen_, I, 421-425.

[16] So it was called by Johann Lang (Enders, II, 461).



To the

Esteemed and Reverend Master


Licentiate of Holy Scripture and Canon at Wittenberg, my special and
kind friend;

Doctor Martin Luther.

The grace and peace of God be with thee, esteemed and reverend dear
sir and friend.

The time to keep silence has passed and the time to speak is come, as
saith Ecclesiastes [Eccl. 3:7]. I have followed out our intention[1]
and brought together some matters touching the reform of the Christian
Estate, to be laid before the Christian Nobility of the German Nation,
in the hope that God may deign to help His Church through the efforts
of the laity, since the clergy, to whom this task more properly
belongs, have grown quite indifferent. I am sending the whole thing to
your Reverence, that you may pass judgment on it and, if necessary,
improve it.

I know full well that I shall not escape the charge of presumption in
that I, a despised monk, venture to address such high and great
Estates on matters of such moment, and to give advice to people of
such high intelligence. I shall offer no apologies, no matter who may
chide me. Perchance I owe my God and the world another piece of folly,
and I have now made up my mind honestly to pay that debt, if I can do
so, and for once to become court-jester; if I fail, I still have one
advantage,--no one need buy me a cap or cut me my comb[2]. It is a
question which one will put the bells on the other[3]. I must fulfil
the proverb, "Whatever the world does, a monk must be in it, even if
he has to be painted in."[4] More than once a fool has spoken wisely,
and wise men often have been arrant fools, as Paul says, "If any one
will be wise, let him become a fool." [1 Cor. 3:18] Moreover since I
am not only a fool, but also a sworn doctor of Holy Scripture, I am
glad for the chance to fulfil my doctor's oath in this fool's way.

I pray you, make my excuses to the moderately intelligent, for I know
not how to earn the grace and favor of the immoderately intelligent,
though I have often sought to do so with great pains. Henceforth I
neither desire nor regard their favor. God help us to seek not our own
glory, but His alone! Amen.

Wittenberg, in the house of the Augustinians, on the Eve of St. John
the Baptist (June 23d), in the year fifteen hundred and twenty.


His Most Illustrious and Mighty Imperial Majesty,

and to

the Christian Nobility of the German Nation,

Doctor Martin Luther.

Grace and power from God, Most Illustrious Majesty, and most gracious
and dear Lords.

It is not out of sheer frowardness or rashness that I, a single, poor
man, have undertaken to address your worships. The distress and
oppression which weigh down all the Estates of Christendom, especially
of Germany, and which move not me alone, but everyone to cry out time
and again, and to pray for help[5], have forced me even now to cry
aloud that God may inspire some one with His Spirit to lend this
suffering nation a helping hand. Ofttimes the councils[6] have made
some pretence at reformation, but their attempts have been cleverly
hindered by the guile of certain men and things have gone from bad to
worse. I now intend, by the help of God, to throw some light upon the
wiles and wickedness of these men, to the end that when they are
known, they may not henceforth be so hurtful and so great a hindrance.
God has given us a noble youth to be our head and thereby has awakened
great hopes of good in many hearts[7]; wherefore it is meet that we
should do our part and profitably use this time of grace.

In this whole matter the first and most important thing is that we
take earnest heed not to enter on it trusting in great might or in
human reason, even though all power in the world were ours; for God
cannot and will not suffer a good work to be begun with trust in our
own power or reason. Such works He crushes ruthlessly to earth, as it
is written in the xxxiii. Psalm, "There is no king saved by the
multitude of an host: a mighty man is not delivered by much strength."
[Ps. 33:16] On this account, I fear, it came to pass of old that the
good Emperors Frederick I[8] and II[9], and many other German emperors
were shamefully oppressed and trodden under foot by the popes,
although all the world feared them. It may be that they relied on
their own might more than on God, and therefore they had to all. In
our own times, too, what was it that raised the bloodthirsty Julius
II[10] to such heights? Nothing else, I fear, except that France, the
Germans and Venice relied upon themselves. The children of Benjamin
slew 42,000 Israelites[11] because the latter relied on their own

That it may not so fare with us and our noble young Emperor Charles,
we must be sure that in this matter we are dealing not with men, but
with the princes of hell, who can fill the world with war and
bloodshed, but whom war and bloodshed do not overcome. We must go at
this work despairing of physical force and humbly trusting God; we
must seek God's help with earnest prayer, and fix our minds on nothing
else than the misery and distress of suffering Christendom, without
regard to the deserts of evil men. Otherwise we may start the game
with great prospect of success, but when we get well into it the evil
spirits will stir up such confusion that the whole world will swim in
blood, and yet nothing will come of it. Let us act wisely, therefore,
and in the fear of God. The more force we use, the greater our
disaster if we do not act humbly and in God's fear. The popes and the
Romans have hitherto been, able, by the devil's help, to set kings at
odds with one another, and they may well be able to do it again, if we
proceed by our own might and cunning, without God's help.


[Sidenote: The Three Walls Described]

The Romanists[12], with great adroitness, have built three walls about
them, behind which they have hitherto defended themselves in such wise
that no one has been able to reform them; and this has been the cause
of terrible corruption throughout all Christendom.

_First_, when pressed by the temporal power, they have made decrees
and said that the temporal power has no jurisdiction over them, but,
on the other hand, that the spiritual is above the temporal power.
_Second_, when the attempt is made to reprove them out of the
Scriptures, they raise the objection that the interpretation of the
Scriptures belongs to no one except the pope. Third, if threatened
with a council, they answer with the fable that no one can call a
council but the pope.

In this wise they have slyly stolen from us our three rods[13], that
they may go unpunished, and have ensconced themselves within the safe
stronghold of these three walls, that they may practise all the
knavery and wickedness which we now see. Even when they have been
compelled to hold a council they have weakened its power in advance by
previously binding the princes with an oath to let them remain as they
are. Moreover, they have given the pope full authority over all the
decisions of the council, so that it is all one whether there are many
councils or no councils,--except that they deceive us with
puppet-shows and sham-battles. So terribly do they fear for their skin
in a really free council! And they have intimidated kings and princes
by making them believe it would be an offence against God not to obey
them in all these knavish, crafty deceptions[14]. Now God help us, and
give us one of the trumpets with which the walls of Jericho were
overthrown [Josh. 6:20], that we may blow down these walls of straw
and paper, and may set free the Christian rods or the punishment of
sin, bringing to light the craft and deceit of the devil, to the end
that through punishment we may reform ourselves, and once more attain
God's favor.

Against the first wall we will direct our first attack.

[Sidenote: The First Wall--the Spiritual Estate above the Temporal]

It is pure invention that pope, bishops, priests and monks are to be
called the "spiritual estate"; princes, lords, artisans, and farmers
the temporal estate. That is indeed a fine bit of lying and hypocrisy.
Yet no one should be frightened by it; and for this reason--viz., that
all Christians are truly of the "spiritual estate," and there is among
them no difference at all but that of office, as Paul says in I
Corinthians xii. We are all one body, yet every member has its own
work, whereby it serves every other, all because we have one baptism,
one Gospel, one faith, and are all alike Christians [1 Cor. 12:12
ff.]; for baptism, Gospel and faith alone make us "spiritual" and a
Christian people.

[Sidenote: The Priesthood of Believers]

But that a pope or a bishop anoints, confers tonsures, ordains,
consecrates, or prescribes dress unlike that of the laity,--this may
make hypocrites and graven images[15], but it never makes a Christian
or "spiritual" man. Through baptism all of us are consecrated to the
priesthood, as St. Peter says in I Peter ii, "Ye are a royal
priesthood, a priestly kingdom," [1 Pet. 2:9] and the book of
Revelation says, "Thou hast made us by Thy blood to be priests and
kings." [Rev. 5:10] For if we had no higher consecration than pope or
bishop gives, the consecration by pope or bishop would never make a
priest, nor might anyone either say mass or preach a sermon or give
absolution. Therefore when the bishop consecrates it is the same thing
as if he, in the place and stead of the whole congregation, all of
whom have like power, were to take one out of their number and charge
him to use this power for the others; just as though ten brothers, all
king's sons and equal heirs, were to choose one of themselves to rule
the inheritance or them all,--they would all be kings and equal in
power, though one of them would be charged with the duty of ruling.

To make it still clearer. If a little group of pious Christian laymen
were taken captive and set down in a wilderness, and had among them no
priest consecrated by a bishop, and if there in the wilderness they
were to agree in choosing one of themselves, married or unmarried, and
were to charge him with the office of baptising, saying mass,
absolving and preaching, such a man would be as truly a priest as
though all bishops and popes had consecrated him. That is why in cases
of necessity any one can baptise and give absolution[16], which would
be impossible unless we were all priests. This great grace and power
of baptism and of the Christian Estate they have well-nigh destroyed
and caused us to forget through the canon law[17]. It was in the
manner aforesaid that Christians in olden days chose from their number
bishops and priests, who were afterwards confirmed by other bishops,
without all the show which now obtains. It was thus that Sts.
Augustine[18], Ambrose[19] and Cyprian[20] became bishops.

[Sidenote: The Temporal Rulers, Priests]

[Sidenote: The Priest an Office-holder]

Since, then, the temporal authorities are baptised with same baptism
and have the same faith and Gospel as we, we must grant that they are
priests and bishops, and count their office one which has a proper and
a useful place in the Christian community. For whoever comes out of
the water of baptism[21] can boast that he is already consecrated
priest, bishop and pope, though it is not seemly that every one should
exercise the office. Nay, just because we are all in like manner
priests, no one must put himself forward and undertake, without our
consent and election, to do what is in the power of all of us. For
what is common to all, no one dare take upon himself without the will
and the command of the community; and should it happen that one chosen
for such an office were deposed for malfeasance, he would then be just
what he was before he held office. Therefore a priest in Christendom
is nothing else than an office-holder. While he is in office, he has
precedence; holder when deposed, he is a peasant or a townsman like
the rest. Beyond all doubt, then, a priest is no longer a priest when
he is deposed. But now they have invented _characteres
indelebiles_[22], and prate that a deposed priest is nevertheless
something different from a mere layman. They even dream that a priest
can never become a layman, or be anything else than a priest. All this
is mere talk and man-made law.

From all this it follows that there is really no difference between
laymen and priests, princes and bishops, "spirituals" and "temporals,"
as they call them, except that of office and work, but not of
"estate"; or they are all of the same estate[23],--true priests,
bishops and popes,--though they are not all engaged in the same work,
just as all priests and monks have not the same work. This is the
teaching of St. Paul in Romans xii [Rom. 12:4 ff.] and I Corinthians
xii [1 Cor. 12:12 ff.], and of St. Peter in I Peter ii [1 Pet. 2:9],
as I have said above, viz., that we are all one body of Christ, the
Head, all members one of another. Christ has not two different bodies,
one "temporal," the other "spiritual." He is one Head, and He has one

Therefore, just as those who are now called "spiritual"--priests,
bishops or popes--are neither different from other Christians nor
superior to them, except that they are charged with the administration
of the Word of God and the sacraments, which is their work and office,
so it is with the temporal authorities,--they bear sword and rod with
which to punish the evil and to protect the good [Rom. 13:4]. A
cobbler, a smith, a farmer, each has the work and office of his trade,
and yet they are all alike consecrated priests and bishops, and every
one by means of his own work or office must benefit and serve every
other, that in this way many kinds of work may be done for the bodily
and spiritual welfare of the community, even as all the members of the
body serve one another.

See, now, how Christian is the decree which says that the temporal
power is not above the "spiritual estate" and may not punish it[24].
That is as much as to say that the hand shall lend no aid when the eye
is suffering. Is it not unnatural, not to say unchristian, that one
member should not help another and prevent its destruction? Verily,
the more honorable the member, the more should the others help. I say
then, since the temporal power is ordained of God to punish evil-doers
and to protect them that do well [Rom. 13], it should therefore be
left free to perform its office without hindrance through the whole
body of Christendom without respect of persons, whether it affect
pope, bishops, priests, monks, nuns or anybody else. For if the mere
act that the temporal power has a smaller place among the Christian
offices than has the office of preachers or confessors, or of the
clergy, then the tailors, cobblers, masons, carpenters, pot-boys,
tapsters, farmers, and all the secular tradesmen, should also be
prevented from providing pope, bishops, priests and monks with shoes,
clothing, houses, meat and drink, and from paying them tribute. But if
these laymen are allowed to do their work unhindered, what do the
Roman scribes mean by their laws, with which they withdraw themselves
from the jurisdiction of the temporal Christian power, only so that
they may be free to do evil and to fulfil what St. Peter has said:
"There shall be false teachers among you, and through covetousness
shall they with feigned words make merchandise of you." [2 Pet. 2:1

On this account the Christian temporal power should exercise its
office without let or hindrance, regardless whether it be pope, bishop
or priest whom it affects; whoever is guilty, let him suffer. All that
the canon law has said to the contrary is sheer invention of Roman
presumption. For thus saith St. Paul to all Christians: "Let every
soul (I take that to mean the pope's soul also) be subject unto the
higher powers; for they bear not the sword in vain, but are the
ministers of God for the punishment of evil-doers, and for the praise
of them that do well." [Rom. 13:1, 4] St. Peter also says: "Submit
yourselves unto every ordinance of man for the Lord's sake, for so is
the will of God." [1 Pet. 2:13, 15] He has also prophesied that such
men shall come as will despise the temporal authorities [1 Pet. 2:10];
and this has come to pass through the canon law.

So then, I think this first paper-wall is overthrown, since the
temporal power has become a member of the body of Christendom, and is
of the "spiritual estate," though its work is of a temporal nature.
Therefore its work should extend freely and without hindrance to all
the members of the whole body; it should punish and use force whenever
guilt deserves or necessity demands, without regard to pope, bishops
and priests,--let them hurl threats and bans as much as they will.

This is why guilty priests, if they are surrendered to the temporal
law[25], are first deprived of their priestly dignities, which would
not be right unless the temporal sword had previously had authority
over them by divine right. Again, it is intolerable that in the canon
law so much importance is attached to the freedom, life and property
of the clergy, as though the laity were not also as spiritual and as
good Christians as they, or did not belong to the Church. Why are your
life and limb, your property and honor so free, and mine not? We are
all alike Christians, and have baptism, faith, Spirit and all things
alike. If a priest is killed, the land is laid under
interdict,[26]--why not when a peasant is killed? Whence comes this
great distinction between those who are equally Christians? Only from
human laws and inventions!

Moreover, it can be no good spirit who has invented such exceptions
and granted to sin such license and impunity. For if we are bound to
strive against the works and words of the evil spirit, and to drive
him out in whatever way we can, as Christ commands and His Apostles,
ought we, then, to suffer it in silence when the pope or his
satellites are bent on devilish words and works? Ought we for the sake
of men to allow the suppression of divine commandments and truths
which we have sworn in baptism to support with life and limb? Of a
truth we should then have to answer for all the souls that would
thereby be abandoned and led astray.

It must therefore have been the very prince of devils who said what is
written in the canon law: "If the pope were so scandalously bad as to
lead souls in crowds to the devil, yet he could not be deposed."[27]
On this accursed and devilish foundation they build at Rome, and think
that we should let all the world go to the devil, rather than resist
their knavery. If the act that one man is set over others were
sufficient reason why he should escape punishment, then no Christian
could punish another, since Christ commands that every man shall
esteem himself the lowliest and the least. [Matt. 18:4]

Where sin is, there is no escape from punishment; as St. Gregory[28]
also writes that we are indeed all equal, but guilt puts us in
subjection one to another. Now we see how they whom God and the
Apostles have made subject to the temporal sword deal with
Christendom, depriving it of its liberty by their own wickedness,
without warrant of Scripture. It is to be feared that this is a game
of Anti-christ[29] or a sign that he is close at hand.

[Sidenote: The Second Wall--The Pope the Interpreter of Scripture;
Papal Infallibility]

The second wall is still more flimsy and worthless. They wish to be
the only Masters of the Holy Scriptures[31] even though in all their
lives they learn nothing from them. They assume for themselves sole
authority, and with insolent juggling of words they would persuade us
that the pope, whether he be a bad man or a good man, cannot err in
matters of faith[32]; and yet they cannot prove a single letter of it.
Hence it comes that so many heretical and unchristian, nay, even
unnatural ordinances have a place in the canon law, of which, however,
there is no present need to speak. For since they think that the Holy
Spirit never leaves them, be they never so unlearned and wicked, they
make bold to decree whatever they will. And if it were true, where
would be the need or use of the Holy Scriptures? Let us burn them, and
be satisfied with the unlearned lords at Rome, who are possessed of
the Holy Spirit,--although He can possess only pious hearts! Unless I
had read it myself[33], I could not have believed that the devil would
make such clumsy pretensions at Rome, and find a following.

But not to fight them with mere words, we will quote the Scriptures.
St. Paul says in I Corinthians xiv: anyone something better is
revealed, though he be sitting and listening to another in God's Word,
then the first, who is speaking, shall hold his peace and give place."
[1 Cor. 14:30] What would be the use of this commandment, if we were
only to believe him who does the talking or who has the highest seat?
[John 6:45] Christ also says in John vi, that all Christians shall be
taught of God. Thus it may well happen that the pope and his followers
are wicked men, and no true Christians, not taught of God, not having
true understanding. On the other hand, an ordinary man may have true
understanding; why then should we not follow him? Has not the pope
erred many times? Who would help Christendom when the pope errs, if we
were not to believe another, who had the Scriptures on his side, more
than the pope?

Therefore it is a wickedly invented fable, and they cannot produce a
letter in defence of it, that the interpretation of Scripture or the
confirmation of its interpretation belongs to the pope alone. They
have themselves usurped this power; and although they allege that this
power was given to Peter when the keys were given to him, it is plain
enough that the keys were not given to Peter alone, but to the whole
community[34]. Moreover, the keys were not ordained for doctrine or
government, but only for the binding and loosing of sin [John 20:22
ff.], and whatever further power of the keys they arrogate to
themselves is mere invention. But Christ's word to Peter, "I have
prayed for thee that thy faith fail not," [Luke 22:32] cannot be
applied to the pope, since the majority of the popes have been without
faith, as they must themselves confess. Besides, it is not only for
Peter that Christ prayed, but also or all Apostles and Christians, as
he says in John xvii: "Father, I pray for those whom Thou hast given
Me, and not for these only, but for all who believe on Me through
their word." [John 17:9, 20] Is not this clear enough?

Only think of it yourself! They must confess that there are pious
Christians among us, who have the true faith, Spirit, understanding,
word and mind of Christ. Why, then, should we reject their word and
understanding and follow the pope, who has neither faith nor Spirit?
That would be to deny the whole faith and the Christian Church.
Moreover, it is not the pope alone who is always in the right, if the
article of the Creed is correct: "I believe one holy Christian
Church"; otherwise the prayer must run: "I believe in the pope at
Rome," and so reduce the Christian Church to one man,--which would be
nothing else than a devilish and hellish error.

Besides, if we are all priests, as was said above[35], and all have
one faith, one Gospel, one sacrament, why should we not also have the
power to test and judge what is correct or incorrect in matters of
faith? What becomes of the words of Paul in I Corinthians ii: "He that
is spiritual judgeth all things, yet he himself is judged of no man,"
[1 Cor. 2:15] and II Corinthians iv: "We have all the same Spirit of
faith"? [2 Cor. 4:13] Why, then, should not we perceive what squares
with faith and what does not, as well as does an unbelieving pope?

All these and many other texts should make us bold and free, and we
should not allow the Spirit of liberty, as Paul calls Him [2 Cor.
3:17], to be frightened off by the fabrications of the popes, but we
ought to go boldly forward to test all that they do or leave undone,
according to our interpretation of the Scriptures, which rests on
faith, and compel them to follow not their own interpretation, but the
one that is better. In the olden days Abraham had to listen to his
Sarah, although she was in more complete subjection to him than we are
to anyone on earth [Gen. 21:12]. Balaam's ass, also, was wiser than
the prophet himself [Num. 22:28]. If God then spoke by an ass against
a prophet, why should He not be able even now to speak by a righteous
man against the pope? In like manner St. Paul rebukes St. Peter as a
man in error [Gal. 2:11 ff.]. Therefore it behooves every Christian to
espouse the cause of the faith, to understand and defend it, and to
rebuke all errors.

[Sidenote: The Third Wall--Pope and Council]

The _third wall_ falls of itself when the first two are down. For when
the pope acts contrary to the Pope and Scriptures, it is our duty to
stand by the Scriptures, to reprove him, and to constrain him,
according to the word of Christ in Matthew xviii: "If thy brother sin
against thee, go and tell it him between thee and him alone; if he
hear thee not, then take with thee one or two more; if he hear them
not, tell it to the Church; if he hear not the Church, consider him a
heathen." [Matt. 18:15] Here every member is commanded to care for
every other. How much rather should we do this when the member that
does evil is a ruling member, and by his evil-doing is the cause of
much harm and offence to the rest! But if I am to accuse him before
the Church, I must bring the Church together.

They have no basis in Scripture or their contention that it belongs to
the pope alone to call a council or confirm its actions[36]; for this
is based merely upon their own laws, which are valid only in so far as
they are not injurious to Christendom or contrary to the laws of God.
When the pope deserves punishment, such laws go out of force, since it
is injurious to Christendom not to punish him by means of a council.

Thus we read in Acts xv. that it was not St. Peter who called the
Apostolic Council, but the Apostles and elders [Acts 15:6]. If, then,
that right had belonged to St. Peter alone, the council would not have
been a Christian council, but an heretical _conciliabulum_[37]. Even
the Council of Nicæa--the most famous of all--was neither called nor
confirmed by the Bishop of Rome, but by the Emperor Constantine[38],
and many other emperors after him did the like, yet these councils
were the most Christian of all[39]. But if the pope alone had the
right to call councils, then all these councils must have been
heretical. Moreover, if I consider the councils which the pope has
created, I find that they have done nothing of special importance.

Therefore, when necessity demands, and the pope is an offence to
Christendom, the first man who is able should, as a faithful member of
the whole body, do what he can to bring about a truly free
council[40]. No one can do this so well as the temporal authorities,
especially since now they also are fellow-Christians, fellow-priests,
"fellow-spirituals,"[41] fellow-lords over all things, and whenever it
is needful or profitable, they should give free course to the office
and work in which God has put them above every man. Would it not be an
unnatural thing, if a fire broke out in a city, and everybody were to
stand by and let it burn on and on and consume everything that could
burn, for the sole reason that nobody had the authority of the
burgomaster, or because, perhaps, the fire broke out in the
burgomaster's house? In such case is it not the duty of every citizen
to arouse and call the rest? How much more should this be done in the
spiritual city of Christ, if a fire of offence breaks out, whether in
the papal government, or anywhere else? In the same way, if the enemy
attacks a city, he who first rouses the others deserves honor and
thanks; why then should he not deserve honor who makes known the
presence of the enemy from hell, and awakens the Christians, and calls
them together?

But all their boasts of an authority which dare not be opposed amount
to nothing after all. No one in Christendom has authority to do
injury, or to forbid the resisting of injury. There is no authority in
the Church save for edification. Therefore, if the pope were to use
his authority to prevent the calling of a free council, and thus
became a hindrance to the edification of the Church, we should have
regard neither or him nor or his authority; and if he were to hurl his
bans and thunderbolts, we should despise his conduct as that of a
madman, and relying on God, hurl back the ban on him, and coerce him
as best we could. For this presumptuous authority of his is nothing;
he has no such authority, and he is quickly overthrown by a text of
Scripture; for Paul says to the Corinthians, "God has given us
authority not for the destruction, but for the edification of
Christendom." [2 Cor. 10:8] Who is ready to overleap this text? It is
only the power of the devil and of Antichrist which resists the things
that serve or the edification of Christendom; it is, therefore, in no
wise to be obeyed, but is to be opposed with life and goods and all
our strength.

Even though a miracle were to be done in the pope's behalf against the
temporal powers, or though someone were to be stricken with a
plague--which they boast has sometimes happened--it should be
considered only the work of the devil, because of the weakness of our
faith in God. Christ Himself prophesied in Matthew xxiv: "There shall
come in My Name false Christs and false prophets, and do signs and
wonders, so as to deceive even the elect," [Matt. 24:24] and Paul says
in II Thessalonians ii, that Antichrist shall, through the power of
Satan, be mighty in lying wonders [2 Thess. 2:9]. Let us, therefore,
hold fast to this: No Christian authority can do anything against
Christ; as St. Paul says, "We can do nothing against Christ, but for
Christ." [2 Cor. 13:8] Whatever does aught against Christ is the power
of Antichrist and of the devil, even though it were to rain and hail
wonders and plagues. Wonders and plagues prove nothing, especially in
these last evil times, for which all the Scriptures prophesy false
wonders [2 Thess. 2:9 f.]. Therefore we must cling with firm faith to
the words of God, and then the devil will cease from wonders.

Thus I hope that the false, lying terror with which the Romans have
this long time made our conscience timid and stupid, has been allayed.
They, like all of us, are subject to the temporal sword; they have no
power to interpret the Scriptures by mere authority, without learning;
they have no authority to prevent a council or, in sheer wantonness,
to pledge it, bind it, or take away its liberty; but if they do this,
they are in truth the communion of Antichrist and of the devil, and
have nothing at all of Christ except the name.


We shall now look at the matters which should be discussed in the
councils, and with which popes, cardinals, bishops and all the
scholars ought properly to be occupied day and night if they loved
Christ and His Church. But if they neglect this duty, then let the
laity[42] and the temporal authorities see to it, regardless of bans
and thunders; for an unjust ban is better than ten just releases, and
an unjust release worse than ten just bans. Let us, therefore, awake,
dear Germans, and fear God rather than men [Acts 5:29], that we may
not share the fate of all the poor souls who are so lamentably lost
through the shameful and devilish rule of the Romans, in which the
devil daily takes a larger and larger place,--if, indeed, it were
possible that such a hellish rule could grow worse, a thing I can
neither conceive nor believe.

[Sidenote: Worldliness of the pope]

1. It is a horrible and frightful thing that the ruler of Christendom,
who boasts himself vicar of Christ and successor of St. Peter, lives
in such worldly splendor that in this regard no king nor emperor can
equal or approach him, and that he who claims the title of "most holy"
and "most spiritual" is more worldly than the world itself. He wears a
triple crown, when the greatest kings wear but a single crown[43]; if
that is like the poverty of Christ and of St. Peter, then it is a new
kind of likeness. When a word is said against it, they cry out
"Heresy!" but that is because they do not wish to hear how unchristian
and ungodly such a practice is. I think, however, that if the pope
were with tears to pray to God, he would have to lay aside these
crowns, for our God can suffer no pride; and his office is nothing
else than this,--daily to weep and pray or Christendom, and to set an
example of all humility.

However that may be, this splendor of his is an offence, and the pope
is bound on his soul's salvation to lay it aside, because St. Paul
says, "Abstain from all outward shows, which give offence," [1 Thess.
5:21] and in Rom. xii, "We should provide good, not only in the sight
of God, but also in the sight of all men." [Rom. 12:17] An ordinary
bishop's crown would be enough for the pope; he should be greater than
others in wisdom and holiness, and leave the crown of pride to
Antichrist, as did his predecessors several centuries ago. They say he
is a lord of the world; that is a lie; for Christ, Whose vicar and
officer he boasts himself to be, said before Pilate, "My kingdom is
not of this world," [John 17:36] and no vicar's rule can go beyond his
lord's. Moreover he is not the vicar of the glorified, but of the
crucified Christ, as Paul says, "I was willing to know nothing among
you save Christ, and Him only as the Crucified" [1 Cor. 2:2]; and in
Philippians ii, "So think of yourselves as ye see in Christ, Who
emptied Himself and took upon Him the appearance of a servant" [Phil.
2:5]; and again in I Corinthians i, "We preach Christ, the Crucified."
[1 Cor. 1:23] Now they make the pope a vicar of the glorified Christ
in heaven, and some of them have allowed the devil to rule them so
completely that they have maintained that the pope is above the angels
in heaven and has authority over them[44]. These are indeed the very
works of the very Antichrist.

[Sidenote: The Cardinals]

2. What is the use in Christendom of those people who are called the
cardinals? I shall tell you. Italy and Germany have many rich
monasteries, foundations, benefices, and livings. No better way has
been discovered to bring all these to Rome than by creating cardinals
and giving them the bishoprics, monasteries and prelacies, and so
overthrowing the worship of God. For this reason we now see Italy a
very wilderness--monasteries in ruins, bishoprics devoured, the
prelacies and the revenues of all the churches drawn to Rome, cities
decayed, land and people laid waste, because there is no more worship
or preaching. Why? The cardinals must have the income[45]. No Turk
could have so devastated Italy and suppressed the worship of God.

Now that Italy is sucked dry, they come into Germany[46], and begin
oh, so gently. But let us beware, for Germany will soon become like
Italy. Already we have some cardinals; what the Romans seek by that
the "drunken Germans" are not to understand until we have not a
bishopric, a monastery, a living, a benefice, a _heller_ or a
_pfennig_ left. Antichrist must take the treasures of the earth, as it
was prophesied [Dan. 11:39, 43]. So it goes on. They skim the cream of
the bishoprics, monasteries and benefices, and because they do not yet
venture to turn them all to shameful use, as they have done in Italy,
they only practise for the present the sacred trickery of coupling
together ten or twenty prelacies and taking a yearly portion from each
of them, so as to make a tidy sum after all. The priory of Würzburg
yields a thousand _gulden_; that of Bamberg, something; Mainz, Trier
and the others, something more; and so from one to ten thousand gulden
might be got together, in order that a cardinal might live at Rome
like a rich king.

"After they are used to this, we will create thirty or forty cardinals
in a day[47], and give to one Mount St. Michael at Bamberg[48] and the
bishopric of Würzburg to boot, hang on to these a few rich livings,
until churches and cities are waste, and after that we will say, 'We
are Christ's vicars and shepherds of Christ's sheep; the mad, drunken
Germans must put up with it.'"

I advise, however, that the number of the cardinals be reduced, or
that the pope be made to keep them at his own expense. Twelve of them
would be more than enough, and each of them might have an income of a
thousand gulden a year[49]. How comes it that we Germans must put up
with such robbery and such extortion of our property, at the hands of
the pope? If the Kingdom of France has prevented it[50], why do we
Germans let them make such fools and apes of us? It would all be more
bearable if in this way they only stole our property; but they lay
waste the churches and rob Christ's sheep of their pious shepherds,
and destroy the worship and the Word of God. Even if there were not a
single cardinal, the Church would not go under. As it is they do
nothing for the good of Christendom; they only wrangle about the
incomes of bishoprics and prelacies, and that any robber could do.

[Sidenote: The Curia]

3. If ninety-nine parts of the papal court[51] were done away and only
the hundredth part allowed to remain, it would still be large enough
to give decisions in matters of faith. Now, however, there is such a
swarm of vermin yonder in Rome, all boasting that they are "papal,"
that there was nothing like it in Babylon. There are more than three
thousand papal secretaries alone; who will count the other offices,
when they are so many that they scarcely can be counted? And they all
lie in wait for the prebends and benefices of Germany as wolves lie in
wait for the sheep. I believe that Germany now gives much more to the
pope at Rome than it gave in former times to the emperors. Indeed,
some estimate that every year more than three hundred thousand gulden
find their way from Germany to Rome, quite uselessly and fruitlessly;
we get nothing for it but scorn and contempt. And yet we wonder that
princes, nobles, cities, endowments, land and people are impoverished!
We should rather wonder that we still have anything to eat!

Since we here come to the heart of the matter, we will pause a little,
and let it be seen that the Germans are not quite such gross fools as
not to note or understand the sharp practices of the Romans. I do not
now complain that at Rome God's command and Christian law are
despised; for such is the state of Christendom, and particularly of
Rome, that we may not now complain of such high matters. Nor do I
complain that natural or temporal law and reason count for nothing.
The case is worse even than that. I complain that they do not keep
their own self-devised canon law, though it is, to be sure, mere
tyranny, avarice and temporal splendor, rather than law. Let us see!

[Sidenote: The Annates]

In former times German emperors and princes permitted the pope to
receive the _annates_ from all the benefices of the German nation, i.
e., the half of the first year's revenues from each benefice[52]. This
permission was given, however, in order that by means of these large
sums of money, the pope might accumulate a treasure for fighting
against the Turks and infidels in defence of Christendom, so that the
burden of the war might not rest too heavily upon the nobility, but
that the clergy also should contribute something toward it. This
single-hearted devotion of the German nation the popes have so used,
that they have received this money for more than a hundred years, have
now made of it a binding tax and tribute, and have not only
accumulated no treasure, but have used the money to endow many orders
and offices at Rome, and to provide these offices with salaries, as
though the annates were a fixed rent.

[Sidenote: Saracen-tax]

When they pretend that they are about to fight against the Turks, they
send out emissaries to gather money. Ofttimes they issue an indulgence
on this same pretext of fighting the Turks[53], for they think the mad
Germans are forever to remain utter and arrant fools, give them money
without end, and satisfy their unspeakable greed; though we clearly
see that not a _heller_ of the annates or of the indulgence-money or
of all the rest, is used against the Turks, but all of it goes into
the bottomless bag. They lie and deceive, make laws and make
agreements with us, and they do not intend to keep any of them. All
this must be counted the work of Christ and St. Peter!

Now, in this matter the German nation, bishops and princes, should
consider that they too are Christians, and should protect the people,
whom they are set to rule and guard in things temporal and spiritual,
against these ravening wolves who, in sheep's clothing, pretend to be
shepherds and rulers; and, since the annates are so shamefully abused
and the stipulated conditions are not fulfilled, they should not
permit their land and people to be so sadly robbed and ruined, against
all justice; but by a law of the emperor or of the whole nation, they
should either keep the annates at home or else abolish them again[54].
For since the Romans do not keep the terms of the agreement, they have
no right to the annates. Therefore the bishops and princes are bound
to punish or prevent such thievery and robbery, as the law requires.

In this they should aid the pope and support him, or he is perchance
too weak to prevent such an abuse all by himself; or if he were to
undertake to defend and maintain this practice, they ought resist him
and fight against him as against a wolf and a tyrant, for he has no
authority to do or to defend evil. Moreover, if it were ever desired
to accumulate such a treasure against the Turks, we ought in the
future to have sense enough to see that the German nation would be a
better custodian or it than the pope; for the German nation has people
enough or the fighting, if only the money is forthcoming. It is with
the annates as it has been with many another Roman pretence.

[Sidenote: Papal Months]

Again, the year has been so divided between the pope and the ruling
bishops and canons[55], that the pope has six months in the
year--every other month--in which to bestow the benefices which all
vacant in his months[56]. In this way almost all the benefices are
absorbed by Rome, especially the very best livings and dignities[57],
and when once they fall into the hands of Rome, they never come out of
them again, though a vacancy may never again occur in the pope's
month. Thus the canons are cheated. This is a genuine robbery, which
intends to let nothing escape. Therefore it is high time that the
"papal months" be altogether abolished, and that everything which they
have brought to Rome be taken back again. For the princes and nobles
should take measures that the stolen goods be returned, the thieves
punished, and those who have abused privilege be deprived of
privilege. If it is binding and valid when the pope on the day after
his election makes, in his chancery, rules and laws whereby our
foundations and livings are robbed,--a thing which he has no right to
do; then it should be still more valid if the Emperor Charles on the
day after his coronation[58] were to make rules and laws that not
another benefice or living in all Germany shall be allowed to come
into the hands of Rome by means of the "papal months," and that the
livings which have already fallen into its hands shall be released,
and redeemed from the Roman robbers; for he has this right by virtue
of his office and his sword.

But now the Roman See of Avarice and Robbery has not been able to
await the time when all the benefices, one after another, would, by
the "papal months," come into its power, but hastens, with insatiable
appetite, to get possession of them all as speedily as possible; and
so besides the annates and the "months" it has hit upon a device by
which benefices and livings all to Rome in three ways:

_First_, If any one who holds a free[59] living dies at Rome or on the
way to Rome, his living must forever belong to the Roman--I should
rather say the robbing--See[60]; and yet they will not be called
robbers, though they are guilty of such robbery as no one has ever
heard or read about.

_Second_, In case any one who belongs to the household of the pope or
of the cardinals[61] holds or takes over a benefice, or in case one
who already holds a benefice afterwards enters the "household" of the
pope or of a cardinal. But who can count the "household" of the pope
and of the cardinals, when the pope, if he only goes on a
pleasure-ride, takes with him three or our thousand mule-riders,
eclipsing all emperors and kings? Christ and St. Peter went on foot in
order that their vicars might have the more pomp and splendor. Now
avarice has cleverly thought out another scheme, and brings it to pass
that even here many have the name of "papal servant," just as though
they were in Rome; all in order that in every place the mere rascally
little word "papal servant" may bring all benefices to Rome and tie
them fast there forever. Are not these vexatious and devilish
inventions? Let us beware! Soon Mainz, Madgeburg and Halberstadt will
gently pass into the hands of Rome, and the cardinalate will be paid
for dearly enough[62]. "Afterwards we will make all the German bishops
cardinals so that there will be nothing let outside."

_Third_, When a contest has started at Rome over a benefice[63]. This
I hold to be almost the commonest and widest road or bringing livings
to Rome. For when there is no contest at home, unnumbered knaves will
be found at Rome to dig up contests out of the earth and assail
livings at their will. Thus many a good priest has to lose his living,
or settle the contest for a time by the payment of a sum of money[64].
Such a living rightly or wrongly contested must also belong forever to
the Roman See. It would be no wonder if God were to rain from heaven
fire and brimstone and to sink Rome in the abyss, as He did Sodom and
Gomorrah of old [Gen. 19:24]. Why should there be a pope in
Christendom, if his power is used or nothing else than such
archknavery, and if he protects and practices it? O noble princes and
lords, how long will ye leave your lands and people naked to these
ravening wolves!

[Sidenote: The Pallium]

Since even these practices were not enough, and Avarice grew impatient
at the long time it took to get hold of all the bishoprics, therefore
my Lord Avarice devised the fiction that the bishoprics should be
nominally abroad, but that their land and soil should be at Rome, and
no bishop can be confirmed unless with a great sum of money he buy the
_pallium_[65], and bind himself with terrible oaths to be the pope's
servant[66]. This is the reason that no bishop ventures to act against
the pope. That, too, is what the Romans were seeking when they imposed
the oath, and thus the very richest bishoprics have fallen into debt
and ruin. Mainz pays, as I hear, 20,000 gulden. These be your Romans!
To be sure they decreed of old in the canon law that the _pallium_
should be bestowed gratis, the number of papal servants diminished,
the contests lessened, the chapters[67] and bishops allowed their
liberty. But this did not bring in money, and so they turned over a
new leaf, and all authority was taken from the bishops and chapters;
they are made ciphers, and have no office nor authority nor work, but
everything is ruled by the archknaves at Rome; soon they will have in
hand even the office of sexton and bell-ringer in all the churches.
All contests are brought to Rome, and by authority of the pope
everyone does as he likes.

What happened this very year? The Bishop of Strassburg[68] wished to
govern his chapter properly and to institute reforms in worship, and
with this end in view made certain godly and Christian regulations.
But my dear Lord Pope and the Holy Roman See, at the instigation of
the priests, overthrew and altogether condemned this holy and
spiritual ordinance. This is called "feeding the sheep of Christ!"
[John 20:15-17] Thus priests are to be encouraged against their own
bishop, and their disobedience to divine law is to be protected!
Antichrist himself, I hope, will not dare to put God to such open
shame! There you have your pope after your own heart! Why did he do
this? Ah! if one church were reformed, it would be a dangerous
departure; Rome's turn too might come! Therefore it were better that
no priest should be let at peace with another, that kings and princes
should be set at odds, as has been the custom heretofore, and the
world filled with the blood of Christians, only so the concord of
Christians should not trouble the Holy Roman See with a reformation.

So far we have been getting an idea of how they deal with livings
which become vacant. But for tender-hearted Avarice the vacancies are
too few, and so he brings his foresight to bear upon the benefices
which are still occupied by their incumbents, so that they must be
unfilled, even though they are not unfilled[69]. And this he does in
many ways, as follows:

[Sidenote: Coadjutorships]

_First_, He lies in wait for fat prebends or bishoprics which are held
by an old or a sick man, or by one with an alleged disability. To such
an incumbent, without his desire or consent, the Holy See gives a
coadjutor, i. e., an "assistant," or the coadjutor's benefit, because
he is a "papal servant," or has paid for the position, or has earned
it by some other ignoble service to Rome. In this case the rights of
the chapter or the rights of him who has the bestowal of the
living[70] must be surrendered, and the whole thing all into the hands
of Rome.

[Sidenote: Commendations]

_Second_, There is a little word _commend_[71], by which the pope
entrusts the keeping of a rich, fat monastery or church to a cardinal
or to another of his people, just as though I were to give you a
hundred gulden to keep. This is not called the giving or bestowing of
the monastery nor even its destruction, or the abolition of the
worship of God, but only "giving it into keeping"; not that he to whom
it is entrusted is to care or it, or build it up, but he is to drive
out the incumbent, to receive the goods and revenues, and to install
some apostate, renegade monk[72], who accepts five or six gulden a
year and sits in the church all day selling pictures and images to the
pilgrims, so that henceforth neither prayers nor masses are said
there. If this were to be called destroying monasteries and abolishing
the worship of God, then the pope would have to be called a destroyer
of Christendom and an abolisher of God's worship, because this is his
constant practice. That would be a hard saying at Rome, and so we must
call it a commend or a "command to take charge" of the monastery. The
pope can every year make commends out of our or more of these
monasteries, a single one of which may have an income of more than six
thousand gulden. This is the way the Romans increase the worship of
God and preserve the monasteries. The Germans also are beginning to
find it out.

[Sidenote: Incorporation]

[Sidenote: Union]

_Third_, There are some benefices which they call
_incompatibilia_[73], and which, according to the ordinances of the
canon law, cannot be held by one man at the same time, as for
instance, two parishes, two bishoprics and the like. In these cases
the Holy Roman See of Avarice evades the canon law by making
"glosses,"[74] called _unio_ and _incorporatio_, i. e., by
"incorporating" many _incompatibilia_, so that each becomes a part of
every other and all of them together are looked upon as though they
were one living. They are then no longer "incompatible," and the holy
canon law is satisfied, in that it is no longer binding, except upon
those who do not buy these "glosses"[75] from the pope or his
_datarius_[76]. The _unio_, i. e., "uniting," is of the same nature.
The pope binds many such benefices together like a bundle of sticks,
and by virtue of this bond they are all regarded as one benefice. So
there is at Rome one courtesan[77] who holds, for himself alone, 22
parishes, 7 priories and 44 canonries besides,--all by the help of
that masterly "gloss," which holds that this is not illegal. What
cardinals and other prelates have, everyone may imagine or himself. In
this way the Germans are to have their purses eased and their itch

[Sidenote: Administration]

Another of the "glosses" is the _administratio_, i. e., a man may have
beside his bishopric, an abbacy or a dignity[78], and possess all the
property which goes with it, only he has no other title than that of
"administrator."[79] For at Rome it is sufficient that words are
changed and not the things they stand for; as though I were to teach
that a bawdy-house keeper should have the name of "burgomaster's
wife," and yet continue to ply her trade. This kind of Roman rule St.
Peter foretold when he said, in II Peter ii: "There shall come false
teachers, who in covetousness, with feigned words, shall make
merchandise of you, to get their gains." [2 Pet. 2:3]

[Sidenote: Regression]

Again, dear Roman Avarice has invented the custom of selling and
bestowing livings to such advantage that the seller or disposer
retains reversionary rights[80] upon them: to wit, if the incumbent
dies, the benefice freely reverts to him who previously sold, bestowed
or surrendered it. In this way they have made livings hereditary
property, so that henceforth no one can come into possession of them,
except the man to whom the seller is willing to dispose of them, or to
whom he bequeaths his rights at death. Besides, there are many who
transfer to others the mere title to a benefice from which those who
get the title derive not a _heller_ of income. It is now an old
custom, too, to give another man a benefice and to reserve a certain
part out of the annual revenue[81]. In olden times this was
simony[82]. Of these things there are so many more that they cannot
all be counted. They treat livings more shamefully than the heathen
beneath the cross treated the garments of Christ. [Matt. 27:35]

[Sidenote: Reservation in pectore]

Yet all that has hitherto been said is ancient history and an
every-day occurrence at Rome. Avarice has devised one thing more,
which may, I hope, be his last morsel, and choke him. The pope has a
noble little device called _pectoralis reservatio_, i. e., his "mental
reservation," and _proprius motus_, i. e., the "arbitrary will of his
authority."[83] It goes like this. When one man has gotten a benefice
at Rome, and the appointment has been regularly signed and sealed,
according to custom, and there comes another, who brings money, or has
laid the pope under obligation in some other way, of which we will not
speak, and desires of the pope the same benefice, then the pope takes
it from the first man and gives it to the second[84]. If it is said
that this is unjust, then the Most Holy Father must make some excuse,
that he may not be reproved or doing such open violence to the law,
and says that in his mind and heart he had reserved that benefice to
himself and his own plenary disposal, although he had never before in
his whole life either thought or heard of it. Thus he has now found a
little "gloss" by which he can, in his own person, lie and deceive,
and make a fool and an ape of anybody--all this he does brazenly and
openly, and yet he wishes to be the head of Christendom, though with
his open lies he lets the Evil Spirit rule him.

This arbitrary will and lying "reservation" of the pope creates in
Rome a state of affairs which is unspeakable. There is buying,
selling, bartering, trading, trafficking, lying, deceiving, robbing,
stealing, luxury, harlotry, knavery, and every sort of contempt of
God, and even the rule of Antichrist could not be more scandalous.
Venice, Antwerp, Cairo[85] are nothing compared to this fair which is
held at Rome and the business which is done there, except that in
those other places they still observe right and reason. At Rome
everything goes as the devil wills, and out of this ocean like virtue
flows into all the world. Is it a wonder that such people fear a
reformation and a free council, and prefer to set all kings and
princes at enmity rather than have them unite and bring about a
council? Who could bear to have such knavery exposed if it were his

[Sidenote: The Dataria]

Finally, for all this noble commerce the pope has built a warehouse,
namely, the house of the datarius[86], in Rome. Thither all must come
who deal after this fashion in benefices and livings. From him they
must buy their "glosses"[87] and get the power to practice such
archknavery. In former times Rome was generous, and then justice had
either to be bought or else suppressed with money, but now she has
become exorbitant, and no one dare be a knave unless with a great sum
he has first bought the right. If that is not a brothel above all the
brothels one can imagine, then I do not know what brothel means.

If you have money in this house, then you can come by all the things I
have said; and not only these, but all sorts of usury[88] are here
made honest, Phil. 2:5 for a consideration, and the possession of all
property acquired by theft or robbery is legalised. Here vows are
dissolved; here monks are granted liberty to leave their orders; here
marriage is on sale to the clergy; here bastards can become
legitimate; here all dishonor and shame can come to honor; all
ill-repute and stigma of evil are here knighted and ennobled; here is
permitted the marriage which is within the forbidden degrees or has
some other defect[89].  Oh! what a taxing and a robbing rules there!
It looks as though all the laws of the Church were made for one
purpose only--to be nothing but so many money-snares, from which a man
must extricate himself[90] if he would be a Christian. Yea, here the
devil becomes a saint, and a god to boot. What heaven and earth
cannot, that this house can do!  They call them _compositiones_[91]!
"Compositions" indeed! rather "confusions"! Oh, what a modest tax is
the Rhine-toll[92], compared with the tribute taken by this holy

Let no one accuse me of exaggeration! It is all so open that even at
Rome they must confess the evil to be greater and more terrible than
any one can say. I have not yet stirred up the hell-broth of personal
vices, nor do I intend to do so. I speak of things which are common
talk, and yet I have not words to tell them all. The bishops, the
priests and, above all, the doctors in the universities, who draw
their salaries or this purpose, should have done their duty and with
common consent have written and cried out against these things; but
they have done the very opposite[93].

[Sidenote: The Fuggers]

There remains one last word, and I must say that too. Since boundless
Avarice has not been satisfied with all these treasures, which three
great kings might well think sufficient, he now begins to transfer
this trade and sell it to Fugger of Augsburg[94], so that the lending
and trading and buying of bishoprics and benefices, and the driving of
bargains in spiritual goods has now come to the right place, and
spiritual and temporal goods have become one business. And now I would
fain hear of a mind so lofty that it could imagine what this Roman
Avarice might yet be able to do and has not already done; unless
Fugger were to transfer or sell this combination of two lines of
business to somebody else. I believe we have reached the limit.

As for what they have stolen in all lands and still steal and extort,
by means of indulgences, bulls, letters of confession[95],
"butter-letters"[96] and other _confessionalia_[97],--all this I
consider mere patch-work, and like casting a single devil more into
hell[98]. Not that they bring in little, for a mighty king could well
support himself on their returns, but they are not to be compared with
the streams of treasure above mentioned. I shall also say nothing at
present of how this indulgence money has been applied. Another time I
shall inquire about that, for Campoflore[99] and Belvidere[100] and
certain other places probably know something about it.

Since, then, such devilish rule is not only open robbery and deceit,
and the tyranny of the gates of hell, but also ruins Christendom in
body and soul, it is our duty to use all diligence in protecting
Christendom against such misery and destruction. If we would fight the
Turks, let us make a beginning here, where they are at their worst. If
we justly hang thieves and behead robbers, why should we let Roman
Avarice go free? For he is the greatest thief and robber that has come
or can come into the world, and all in the holy Name of Christ and of
St. Peter! Who can longer endure it or keep silence? Almost everything
he owns has been gotten by theft and robbery; that is the truth, and
all history shows it. The pope never got by purchase such great
properties that from his _officia_[101] alone he can raise about a
million ducats, not to mention the mines of treasure named above and
the income of his lands. Nor did it come to him by inheritance from
Christ or from St. Peter; no one ever loaned it or gave it to him; it
has not become his by virtue of immemorial use and enjoyment. Tell me,
then, whence he can have it? Learn from this what they have in mind
when they send out legates to collect money or use against the Turks.


Now, although I am too small a man to make propositions which might
effect a reform in this dreadful state of things, nevertheless I may
as well sing my fool's song to the end, and say, so far as I am able,
what could and should be done by the temporal authorities or by a
general council.

[Sidenote: Abolition of Annates]

1. Every prince, nobleman and city should boldly forbid their subjects
to pay the annates to Rome and should abolish them entirely[102]; for
the pope has broken the compact, and made the annates a robbery, to
the injury and shame of the whole German nation. He gives them to his
friends, sells them for large amounts of money, and uses them to endow
offices. He has thus lost his right to them, and deserves punishment.
It is therefore the duty of the temporal authorities to protect the
innocent and prevent injustice, as Paul teaches in Romans xiii [Rom.
13:4], and St. Peter in I Peter ii [1 Pet. 2:14], Rom. and even the
canon law in Case 16, Question 7, _de filiis_[103]. Thus it has come
about that men are saying to the pope and his followers, _Tu ora_,
"Thou shalt pray"; to the emperor and his followers, _Tu protege_,
"Thou shalt guard"; to the common man, _Tu labora_, "Thou shalt work."
Not, however, as though everyone were not to pray, guard and work; for
the man who is diligent in his calling is praying, guarding and
working in all that he does, but everyone should have his own especial

[Sidenote: Prohibition of Roman Appointments]

2. Since the pope with his Roman practices--his commends[104],
adjutories[105], reservations[106], _gratiae expectativae_[107], papal
months[108], incorporations[109], unions[110], _pallia_[111], rules in
chancery[112], and such like knavery--usurps all the German
foundations without authority and right, and gives and sells them to
foreigners at Rome, who do nothing in German lands to earn them; and
since he thereby robs the ordinaries[113] of their rights, makes the
bishops mere ciphers and figure-heads, and acts against his own canon
law, against nature and against reason, until it has finally gone so
far that out of sheer avarice the livings and benefices are sold to
gross, ignorant asses and knaves at Rome, while pious and learned folk
have no profit of their wisdom and merit, so that the poor people of
the German nation have to go without good and learned prelates and
thus go to ruin:

Therefore, the Christian nobility should set itself against the pope
as against a common enemy and destroyer of Christendom, and should do
this for the salvation of the poor souls who must go to ruin through
his tyranny. They should ordain, order, and decree, that henceforth no
benefice shall be drawn into the hands of Rome, and that hereafter no
appointment shall be obtained there in any manner whatsoever, but that
the benefices shall be brought out and kept out from under this
tyrannical authority; and they should restore to the ordinaries the
right and office of ordering these benefices in the German nation as
best they may. And if a "courtesan" were to come from Rome, he should
receive a strict command either to keep his distance, or else to jump
into the Rhine or the nearest river, and take the Roman ban, with its
seals and letters, to a cold bath. They would then take note at Rome
that the Germans are not always mad and drunken, but that they have
really become Christians, and intend to permit no longer the mockery
and scorn of the holy name of Christ, under which all this knavery and
destruction of souls goes on, but have more regard to God and His
glory than to the authority of men.

[Sidenote: Restoration of Local Church Rights]

3. An imperial law should be issued, that no bishop's cloak[114] and
no confirmation of any dignity[115] whatsoever shall henceforth be
secured from Rome, but that the Church ordinance of the most holy and
most famous Council of Nicaea[116] shall be restored, in which it is
decreed that a bishop shall be confirmed by the two nearest bishops or
by the archbishop. If the pope will break the statutes of this and of
all other councils, what is the use of holding councils; or who has
given him the authority thus to despise and break the rules of

If he has this power then we should depose all bishops, archbishops
and primates[117] and make them mere parish-priests, so that the pope
alone may be over them, as he now is. He leaves to bishops,
archbishops and primates no regular authority or office, usurps
everything for himself, and lets them keep only the name and empty
title. It has gone so far that by his "exemptions"[118] the
monasteries, the abbots and the prelates are withdrawn from the
regular authority of the bishops, so that there is no longer any order
in Christendom. From this must follow what has followed--relaxation of
discipline and license to do evil everywhere--so that I verily fear
the pope can be called the "man of sin." [2 Thess. 2:3] There is in
Christendom no discipline, no rule, no order; and who is to blame
except the pope? This usurped authority of his he applies strictly to
all the prelates, and takes away their rods; and he is generous to all
subjects, giving them or selling them their liberty.

Nevertheless, for fear he may complain that he is robbed of his
authority, it should be decreed that when the primates or archbishops
are unable to settle a case, or when a controversy arises among
themselves, such a case must be laid before the pope, but not every
little matter[120]. Thus it was done in olden times, and thus the
famous Council of Nicaea decreed[121]. If a case can be settled
without the pope, then his Holiness should not be troubled with such
minor matters, but give himself to that prayer, meditation and care
for all Christendom, of which he boasts. This is what the Apostles
did. They said, "It is not meet that we should leave the Word of God
and serve tables, but we will keep to preaching and prayer and set
others over the work." [Acts 6:2] But now Rome stands or nothing else
than the despising of the Gospel and of prayer, and for the serving of
"tables," i. e., of temporal affairs, and the rule of the Apostles and
of the pope agree as Christ agrees with Lucifer, heaven with hell,
night with day; yet he is called "Vicar of Christ and Successor of the

[Sidenote: Exclusion of Temporal Matters from the Papal Court]

4. It should be decreed that no temporal matter shall be taken to
Rome[122], but that all such cases shall be left to the temporal
authorities, as the Romans themselves decree in that canon law of
theirs, which they do not keep. For it should be the duty of the pope,
as the man most learned in Papal the Scriptures and most Holy, not in
name only, but in truth, to administer affairs which concern the faith
and holy life of Christians, to hold the primates and archbishops to
these things, and to help them in dealing with and caring for these
matters. So St. Paul teaches in I Corinthians vi, and takes the
Corinthians severely to task or their concern with worldly things [1
Cor. 6:7]. For it works intolerable injury to all lands that such
cases are tried at Rome. It increases the costs, and moreover the
judges do not know the manners, laws and customs of the various
countries, so that they often do violence to the acts and base their
decisions on their own laws and opinions, and thus injustice is
inevitably done the contestants.

[Sidenote: and from the Bishops' Courts]

Moreover, the outrageous extortion practised by the _officiales_[123]
must be forbidden in all the dioceses, courts so that they may attend
to nothing else than matters of faith and good morals, and leave to
the temporal judges the things that concern money, property, life and
honor. The temporal authorities, therefore, should not permit
sentences of ban or exile when faith or right life is not concerned.
Spiritual authorities should have rule over spiritual goods, as reason
teaches; but spiritual goods are not money, nor anything pertaining to
the body, but they are faith and good works.

[Sidenote: A German Church Organization]

Nevertheless it might be granted that cases which concern benefices or
livings should be tried before bishops, archbishops and primates.
Therefore, in order to decide contests and contentions, it might be
possible for the Primate of Germany to maintain a general consistory,
with auditors and chancellors, which should have control over the
_signaturae gratiae_ and _signaturae justitiae_[124], that are now
controlled at Rome, and which should be the final court of appeal for
German cases. The officers of this consistory must not, however, be
paid, as at Rome, by chance presents and gifts, and thereby acquire
the habit of selling justice and injustice, which they now have to do
at Rome because the pope gives them no remuneration, but allows them
to fatten themselves on presents. For at Rome no one cares what is
right or not right, but only what is money or not money. This court
might, however, be paid out of the annates, or some other way might
easily be devised, by those who are more intelligent and who have more
experience in these matters than I. All I wish to do is to arouse and
set to thinking those who have the ability and the inclination to help
the German nation become once more free and Christian, after the
wretched, heathenish and unchristian rule of the pope.

[Sidenote: Abolition of Reservations]

5. No more reservations should be valid, and no more benefices should
be seized by Rome, even if the incumbent dies, or there is a contest,
or the incumbent is a "servant" of a cardinal or of the pope[125]; and
it should be strictly forbidden and prevented that any
"courtesan"[126] should institute a contest over any benefice, so as
to cite pious priests to Rome, harass them and drive them into
lawsuits. If, in consequence of this prohibition, there should come
from Rome a ban or an ecclesiastical censure, it should be
disregarded, just as though a thief were to lay a man under the ban
because he would not let him steal. Indeed they should be severely
punished because they so blasphemously misuse the ban and the name of
God to support their robbery, and with falsely devised threats would
drive us to endure and to praise such blasphemy of God's name and such
abuse of Christian authority, and thus to become, in the sight of God,
partakers in their rascality; it is our duty before God to resist it,
or St. Paul, in Romans i, reproves as guilty of death not only "those
who do such things," but also those who consent to such things and
allow them to be done [Rom. 1:32]. Most unbearable of all is the lying
_reservatio pectoralis_[127], whereby Christendom is so scandalously
and openly put to shame and scorn, because its head deals in open
lies, and out of love for the accursed money, shamelessly deceives and
fools everybody.

[Sidenote: Abolition of Reserved Cases]

6. The _casus reservati_[128], the "reserved cases," should also be
abolished, for not only are they the means of served extorting much
money from the people, but by means of them the ravening tyrants
ensnare and confuse many poor consciences, to the intolerable injury
of their faith in God. This is especially true of the ridiculous and
childish cases about which they make so much ado in the Bull _Coena
Domini_[129], and which are not worth calling daily sins, still less
cases so grave that the pope may not remit them by any indulgence; as
for example, hindering a pilgrim on his way to Rome, furnishing
weapons to the Turks, or tampering with papal letters. With such
gross, crazy, clumsy things do they make fools of us! Sodom and
Gomorrah, and all the sins which are committed and can be committed
against the commandments of God are not reserved cases; but sins
against what God has never commanded and what they have themselves
devised, these must be reserved cases, solely that no one be hindered
in bringing money to Rome, in order that, safe from the Turks, they
may live in luxury and keep the world under their tyranny with their
wanton, useless bulls and breves[130].

All priests ought rightly to know, or else there should be a public
ordinance to that effect, that no secret sin, of which a man has not
been publicly accused, is a reserved case, and that every priest has
the power to remit all sorts of sins, however they may be called, so
long as they are secret; moreover that no abbot, bishop or pope has
the power to reserve any such case to himself[131]. If they attempt
it, their reservation does not hold and is not valid, and they should
be reproved, as men who without authority interfere in God's judgment,
and without cause ensnare and burden poor, ignorant consciences. But
if great public sins are committed, especially sins against God's
commandments, then there is indeed a reason for reserved cases, but
even then there should not be too many of them, and they should not be
reserved arbitrarily and without cause; for Christ has set in His
Church not tyrants, but shepherds, as saith St. Peter [1 Pet. 5:3].

[Sidenote: Diminution of the Papal Household]

7. The Roman See should also do away with the _officia_[132], and
diminish the swarm of vermin at Rome, so that the pope's household can
be supported by the pope's own purse. The pope should not allow his
court to surpass in pomp and extravagance the courts of all kings,
seeing that such a condition not only has never been serviceable to
the cause of Christian faith, but the courtiers have been kept thereby
from study and prayer, until they are scarce able to speak about the
faith at all. This they proved quite plainly at the last Roman
Council[133], in which, amongst many other childish and frivolous
things, they decreed that the soul of man is immortal and that every
priest must say his prayers once a month on pain of losing his
benefice. How shall matters which concern faith and the Church be
decided by people so hardened and blinded by great avarice, wealth and
worldly splendor, that they have only now decreed that the soul is
immortal? It is no small shame to all Christians that at Rome they
deal so disgracefully with the faith. If they had less wealth and
pomp, they could pray and study better, and so become worthy and able
to deal with matters of faith, as was the case in olden times when
they were bishops, and did not presume to be kings over all kings.

[Sidenote: Bishops' Oaths]

8. The hard and terrible oaths should be abolished, which the bishops
are wrongfully compelled to render to the pope[134], and by which they
are bound like servants, as that worthless and unlearned chapter,
_Significasti_[135], arbitrarily and most stupidly decrees. It is not
enough that they burden us in body, soul and property with their many
mad laws, by which faith is weakened and Christendom ruined; but they
seize upon the person and office and work of the bishops, and now upon
the investiture[136] also, which was in olden times the right of the
German emperors, and in France and other kingdoms still belongs to the
kings. On this point they had great wars and disputes with the
emperors[137] until at last, with impudent authority, they took the
right and have kept it until now; just as though the Germans, above
all the Christians on earth, had to be the puppets of the pope and the
Roman See and do and suffer what no one else will do and suffer.
Since, then, this is sheer violence and robbery, hindering the regular
authority of the bishops and injuring poor souls, therefore the
emperor and his nobles are in duty bound to prevent and punish such

[Sidenote: Pope and Emperor]

9. The pope should have no authority over the emperor, except that he
anoints and crowns him at the altar, just as a bishop anoints and
crowns a king[138]; and we should not henceforth yield to that
devilish pride which compels the emperor to kiss the pope's feet or
sit at his feet, or, as they claim, hold his stirrup or the bridle of
his mule when he mounts for a ride; still less should he do homage and
swear faithful allegiance to the pope, as the popes have shamelessly
ventured to demand as if they possessed that right. The chapter
_Solite_[139], in which the papal authority is raised above the
imperial authority, is not worth a heller, nor are any of those who
rest upon it or fear it; for it does nothing else than force the holy
words of God out of their true meaning, and wrest them to human
dreams, as I have showed in a Latin treatise[140].

Such extravagant, over-presumptuous, and more than wicked doings of
the pope have been devised by the devil, in order that under their
cover he may in time bring in Antichrist, and raise the pope above
God, as many are already doing and have done. It is not proper for the
pope to exalt himself above the temporal authorities, save only in
spiritual offices such as preaching and absolving. In other things he
is to be subject, as Paul and Peter teach, in Romans xiii [Rom. 13:1],
and I Peter iii [1 Pet. 2:13 f.], and as I have said above.

He is not vicar of Christ in heaven, but of Christ as He walked on
earth [Phil. 2:7][142]. For Christ in heaven, in the form of a ruler,
needs no vicar, but He sits and sees, does, and knows all things, and
has all power. But He needs a vicar in the form of a servant, in which
He walked on earth, toiling, preaching, suffering and dying. Now they
turn it around, take from Christ the heavenly form of ruler and give
it to the pope, leaving the form of a servant to perish utterly. He
might almost be the "Counter-christ" whom the Scriptures call
Antichrist, for all his nature, work and doings are against Christ,
for the destruction of Christ's nature and work.

It is also ridiculous and childish that the pope, with such perverted
and deluded reasoning, boasts in his decretal _Pastoralis_[143], that
he is rightful heir to the Empire, in case of a vacancy. Who has given
him this right? Did Christ, when He said, "The princes of the Gentiles
are lords, but ye shall not be so" [Luke 22:25 f.]? Did St. Peter will
it to him? It vexes me that we must read and learn such shameless,
gross, crazy lies in the canon law, and must even hold them for
Christian doctrine, when they are devilish lies. Of the same sort is
also that unheard-of lie about the "Donation of Constantine."[144] It
must have been some special plague of God that so many people of
understanding have let themselves be talked into accepting such lies
as these, which are so manifest and clumsy that I should think any
drunken peasant could lie more adroitly and skilfully. How can a man
rule an empire and at the same time continue to preach, pray, study
and care for the poor? Yet these are the duties which properly and
peculiarly belong to the pope, and they were imposed by Christ in such
earnest that He even forbade His disciples to take with them cloak or
money [Matt. 10:10], since these duties can scarcely be performed by
one who has to rule even a single household. Yet the pope would rule
an empire and continue to be pope! This is a device of the knaves who
would like, under the pope's name, to be lords of the world, and by
means of the pope and the name of Christ, to restore the Roman Empire
to its former state.

[Sidenote: Temporal Power--the Kingdom of Naples]

10. The pope should restrain himself, take his fingers out of the pie,
and claim no title to the Kingdom of Naples the and Sicily[145]. He
has exactly as much right to that kingdom as I have, and yet he wishes
to be its overlord. It is plunder got by violence, like almost all his
other possessions. The emperor, therefore, should not grant him this
fief, and if it has been granted, he should no longer give his consent
to it, and should point him instead to the Bible and the prayer-books,
so that he may preach and pray, and leave to temporal lords the ruling
of lands and peoples, especially when no one has given them to him.

[Sidenote: The States of the Church]

The same opinion should hold as regards Bologna, Imola, Vicenza,
Ravenna and all the territories in the Mark of Ancona, in Romagna, and
in other Italian lands, which the pope has taken by force and
possesses without right[146]. Moreover, he has meddled in these things
against all the commands of Christ and of St. Paul. For thus saith St.
Paul, "No one entangleth himself with worldly affairs, whose business
it is to wait upon the divine knighthood."[147][2 Tim. 2:3] Now the
pope should be the head and front of this knighthood, yet he meddles
in worldly affairs more than any emperor or king. Why then he must be
helped out of them and allowed to attend to his knighthood. Christ
also, Whose vicar he boasts himself to be, was never willing to have
aught to do with temporal rule; indeed, to one who asked of him a
decision respecting his brother. He said, "Who made Me a judge over
you?" [Luke 12:14] But the pope rushes in unbidden, and boldly takes
hold of everything as though he were a god, until he no longer knows
what Christ is, Whose vicar he pretends to be.

[Sidenote: Papal Homage]

11. The kissing of the pope's feet[148] should take place no more. It
is an unchristian, nay, an antichristian thing for a poor sinful man
to let his feet be kissed by one who is a hundred times better than
himself. If it is done in honor of his authority, why does not the
pope do the same to others in honor of their holiness? Compare the
two--Christ and the pope! Christ washed His disciples' feet and dried
them [John 13:1 ff.], and the disciples never washed His feet; the
pope, as though he were higher than Christ, turns things around and,
as a great favor, allows people to kiss his feet, though he ought
properly to use all his power to prevent it, if anyone wished to do
it; like Paul and Barnabas, who would not let the people of Lystra pay
them divine honor, but said, "We are men like you." [Acts 14:11-16]
But our sycophants have gone so far as to make for us an idol, and now
no one ears God so much as he fears the pope, no one pays Him such
ceremonious honor. That they can endure! What they cannot endure is
that a hair's-breadth should be taken away from the proud estate of
the pope. Now if they were Christians, and held God's honor above
their own, the pope would never be happy while he knew that God's
honor was despised and his own exalted, and he would let no man pay
him honor until he saw that God's honor was again exalted and was
greater than his own.

[149][It is another piece of the same scandalous pride, that the pope
is not satisfied to ride or to be driven in a vehicle, but although he
is strong and in good health, he has himself borne by men, with
unheard-of splendor, like an idol. How, pray, does such satanic pride
agree with the example of Christ, Who went on foot, as did all His
disciples? Where has there ever been a worldly monarch who went about
in such worldly glory as he who wishes to be the head of all those who
are to despise and lee worldly glory, i. e., of Christians? Not that
this in itself should give us very much concern, but we should rightly
fear the wrath of God, if we flatter this kind of pride and do not
show our indignation. It is enough that the pope should rant and play
the fool in this wise; but that we should approve it and tolerate
it,--this is too much.

For what Christian heart can or ought to take pleasure in seeing that
when the pope wishes to receive the communion, he sits quiet, like a
gracious lord, and has the sacrament passed to him on a golden rod by
a bowing cardinal on bended knee? As though the holy sacrament were
not worthy that a pope, a poor stinking sinner, should rise to show
God honor, when all other Christians, who are much more holy than the
Most Holy Father, the pope, receive it with all reverence! Would it be
a wonder if God were to send a plague upon us all because we suffer
such dishonor to be done Him by our prelates, and approve it, and by
our silence or our flattery make ourselves partakers of such damnable

It is the same way when he carries the sacrament in procession. He
must be carried, but the sacrament is set before him, like a can of
wine on the table. In short, at Rome Christ counts for nothing, the
pope counts for everything; and yet they would compel us with threats
to approve, and praise and honor such antichristian sins, though this
is against God and against all Christian doctrine. Now God help a free
Council to teach the pope that he too is a man, and is not more than
God, as he presumes to be.]

[Sidenote: Abolition of Pilgrimages to Rome]

12. Pilgrimages to Rome[150] should either be abolished, or else no
one should be allowed to make such a pilgrimage out of curiosity or
because of a pious impulse, unless it is first recognized by his
parish-priest, his town authorities or his overlord, that he has good
and sufficient reason for it. I say this not because pilgrimages are
bad, but because they are at this time ill-advised. For men see at
Rome no good example, but only that which offends; and they have
themselves made the proverb, "The nearer Rome, the worse
Christians."[151] Men bring back with them contempt or God and His
commandments. It is said: "The first time one goes to Rome he seeks a
rascal, the second time he finds him, the third time he brings him
home with him."[152] Now, however, they have become so clever that
they make the three journeys at once, and they have verily brought
back from Rome such pretty things that it were better never to have
seen or known Rome.

Even if this reason did not exist, there is still another and a
better: to wit, that by these pilgrimages men are led away into a
false conceit and a misunderstanding of the divine commandments; or
they think that this going on pilgrimage is a precious, good work, and
this is not true. It is a very small good work, oftentimes an evil,
delusive work, for God has not commanded it. But He has commanded that
a man shall care for his wife and children, and look after such other
duties as belong to the married state, and besides this, to serve and
help his neighbor. Now it comes to pass that a man makes a pilgrimage
to Rome when no one has commanded him to do so, spends fifty or a
hundred gulden, more or less, and leaves his wife and child, or at
least his neighbor, at home to suffer want. Yet the foolish fellow
thinks to gloss over such disobedience and contempt of the divine
commandments with his self-willed pilgriming, when it is really only
curiosity or devilish delusion which leads him to it. The popes have
helped this along with their false, feigned, foolish, "golden
years,"[153] by which the people are excited, stirred up, torn away
from God's commandments, and drawn toward their own deluded
undertakings. Thus they have accomplished the very thing they should
have forbidden; but it has brought in money and strengthened false
authority, therefore it has had to continue, though it is against God
and the salvation of souls.

In order to destroy in simple Christians this false, seductive faith,
and to restore a true understanding of good works, all pilgrimages
should be given up; for there is in them nothing good--no commandment,
no obedience--but, on the contrary, numberless occasions for sin and
for the despising of God's commandments. Hence come the many beggars,
who by this pilgriming carry on endless knaveries and learn the habit
of begging when they are not in want. Hence, too, come vagabondage,
and many other ills which I shall not now recount.

If any one, now, wishes to go on pilgrimage or take a pilgrim's vow,
he should first show his reasons to his parish-priest or to his lord.
If it turns out that he wishes to do it for the sake of the good work,
the priest or lord should boldly tread the vow and good work under
foot, as though it were a lure of the devil, and show him how to apply
the money and labor necessary for the pilgrimage to the keeping of
God's commandments and to works a thousandfold better, viz., by
spending it on his own family or on his poor neighbors. But if he
wishes to make the pilgrimage out of curiosity, to see new lands and
cities, he may be allowed to do as he likes. If, however, he has made
the vow while ill, then such vows ought to be forbidden and canceled,
and the commandments of God exalted, and he ought to be shown that he
should henceforth be satisfied with the vow he made in baptism[154],
to keep the commandments of God. And yet, in order to quiet his
conscience, he may be allowed this once to perform his foolish vow. No
one wants to walk in the straight and common path of God's
commandments; everyone makes himself new roads and new vows, as though
he had fulfilled all the commandments of God.

[Sidenote: Reform of the Mendicant Orders]

13. Next we come to that great crowd who vow much and keep little. Be
not angry, dear lords! Truly, I mean it well. It is the truth, and
bitter-sweet, and it is this,--the building of mendicant-houses[155]
should no more be permitted. God help us, there are already far too
many of them! Would to God they were all done away, or at least given
over to two or three orders! Wandering about the land has never
brought any good, and never will bring any good. It is my advice,
therefore, to put together ten of these houses, or as many as may be
necessary, and out of them all to make one house, which will be well
provided and need no more begging. It is much more important to
consider what the common people need for their salvation, than what
St. Francis, St. Dominic, St. Augustine[156] or any other man has
decreed; especially since things have not turned out as they expected.

The mendicants should also be relieved of preaching and hearing
confession, except when they are called to this work by the express
desire of bishops, parishes, congregations or the temporal
authorities. Out of their preaching and shriving there has come
nothing but hatred and envy between priests and monks, and great
offence and hindrance to the common people. For this reason it should
properly and deservedly cease, because it can well be dispensed
with[157]. It looks suspiciously as though it were not for nothing
that the Holy Roman See has increased this army, so that the priests
and bishops, tired of its tyranny, might not some time become too
strong or it and begin a reformation which would not be to the liking
of his Holiness.

At the same time the manifold divisions and differences within one and
the same order should be abolished. These divisions have at times
arisen for small reason and maintained themselves for still smaller,
combatting one another with unspeakable hatred and envy[158].
Nevertheless the Christian faith, which can well exist without any of
these distinctions, is lost by both sides, and a good Christian life
is valued and sought after only in outward laws, works and forms; and
this results only in the devising of hypocrisy and the destruction of
souls, as everyone may see with his own eyes.

The pope must also be forbidden to found and confirm any more of these
orders; nay, he must be commanded to abolish some of them and reduce
their number, since the faith of Christ, which is alone the highest
good and which exists without any orders, is in no small danger,
because these many different works and forms easily mislead men into
living for them instead of giving heed to the faith. Unless there are
in the monasteries wise prelates, who preach and who concern
themselves with faith more than with the rules of the orders, the
order cannot but harm and delude simple souls who think only of works.

In our days, however, the prelates who have had faith and who founded
the orders have almost all passed away. Just as in olden days among
the children of Israel, when the fathers, who knew God's works and
wonders, had passed away, the children, from ignorance of God's works
and of faith, immediately became idolatrous and set up their own human
works; so now, alas! these orders have lost the understanding of God's
works and of faith, and only torture themselves pitifully, with labor
and sorrow, in their own rules, laws and customs, and withal never
come to a right understanding of a good spiritual life, as the Apostle
declared when he said, in II Timothy iii: "They have the appearance of
a spiritual life, yet there is nothing back of it; they are ever and
ever learning, but they never come to a knowledge of what a true
spiritual life is." [2 Tim. 3:5, 7] There should be no monastery
unless there were a spiritual prelate, learned in the Christian faith,
to rule it, for no other kind of prelate can rule without injury and
ruin, and the holier and better he appears to be in his outward works
and life, the more injury and ruin he causes.

To my way of thinking it would be a necessary measure, especially in
these perilous times of ours, that all foundations and monasteries
should be re-established as they were at the first, in the days of the
Apostles and for a long time afterwards, when they were all open to
every man, and every man might remain in them as long as he pleased.
For what were the foundations and monasteries except Christian schools
in which the Scriptures and Christian living were taught, and people
were trained to rule and to preach? So we read that St. Agnes[159]
went to school, and we still see the same practice in some of the
nunneries, like that at Quedlinburg[160] and others elsewhere. And in
truth all monasteries and convents ought to be so free that God is
served in them with free will and not with forced avarice. Afterward,
however, they hedged them about with vows and turned them into a
lifelong prison, so that these vows are thought to be of more account
than the vows of baptism. What sort of fruit this has borne, we see,
hear, read and learn more and more every day.

I suppose this advice of mine will be regarded as the height of
foolishness; but I am not concerned about that just now. I advise what
I think best; let him reject it who will! I see how the vows are kept,
especially the vow of chastity, which has become so universal through
these monasteries and yet is not commanded by Christ; on the contrary,
it is given to very few to keep it, as He himself says [Matt. 19:11
ff.], and St. Paul [1 Cor. 7:7, Col. 2:20]. I would have all men to be
helped, and not have Christian souls caught in human, self-devised
customs and laws.

[Sidenote: Marriage of the Clergy]

14. We also see how the priesthood has fallen, and how many a poor
priest is overburdened with wife and child, and his conscience
troubled, yet no one does anything to help him though he might easily
be helped. Though pope and bishops may let things go as they go, and
let them go to ruin if they will, I will save my conscience and open
my mouth freely, whether it vex pope, bishops or any one else.
Wherefore I say that according to the institution of Christ and the
Apostles every city should have a priest or bishop, as St. Paul
clearly says in Titus i [Tit. 1:6]; and this priest should not be
compelled to live without a wedded wife, but should be permitted to
have one, as St. Paul says in I Timothy iii, and Titus i, "A bishop
should be a man who is blameless, and the husband of but one wedded
wife, whose children are obedient and virtuous," etc. [1 Tim. 3:2,
Tit. 1:6] For with St. Paul a bishop and a priest are one and the same
thing, as witness also St. Jerome[161]. But of bishops as they now
are, the Scriptures know nothing; they have been appointed by the
ordinance of the Christian Church, that one of them may rule over many

So then we clearly learn from the Apostle that it should be the custom
for every town to choose out of the congregation[162] a learned and
pious citizen, entrust to him the office of the ministry, and support
him at the expense of the community, leaving him free choice to marry
or not. He should have with him several priests or deacons, who might
also be married or not, as they chose, to help him rule the people of
the community[163] by means of preaching and the sacraments, as is
still the practice in the Greek Church. At a later time[164], when
there were so many persecutions and controversies with heretics, there
were many holy fathers who of their own accord abstained from
matrimony, to the end that they might the better devote themselves to
study and be prepared at any time for death or for controversy. Then
the Roman See interfered, out of sheer wantonness, and made a
universal commandment forbidding priests to marry[165]. This was done
at the bidding of the devil, as St. Paul declares in I Timothy iv,
"There shall come teachers who bring doctrines of devils, and forbid
to marry." From this has arisen so much untold misery, occasion was
given for the withdrawal of the Greek Church[166], and division, sin,
shame and scandal were increased without end,--which is the result of
everything the devil does.

What, then, shall we do about it? My advice is that matrimony be again
made free[167], and that every one be let free choice to marry or not
to marry. In that case, however, there must be a very different
government and administration of Church property, the whole canon law
must go to pieces and not many benefices find their way to Rome[168].
I fear that greed has been a cause of this wretched unchaste chastity,
and as a result of greed every man has wished to become a priest and
everyone wants his son to study for the priesthood, not with the idea
of living in chastity, for that could be done outside the priesthood,
but of being supported in temporal things without care or labor,
contrary to the command of God in Genesis iii, "In the sweat of thy
face shat thou eat thy bread." [Gen. 3:19] They have construed this to
mean that their labor was to pray and say mass.

I am not referring here to popes, bishops, canons and monks. God has
not instituted these offices. They have taken burdens on themselves;
let them bear them. I would speak only of the ministry which God has
instituted[169] and which is to rule a congregation by means of
preaching and sacraments, whose incumbents are to live and be at home
among the people. Such ministers should be granted liberty by a
Christian council to marry, for the avoidance of temptation and sin.
For since God has not bound them, no one else ought to bind them or
can bind them, even though he were an angel from heaven [Gal. 1:8],
still less if he be only a pope; and everything that the canon law
decrees to the contrary is mere fable and idle talk.

Furthermore, I advise that henceforth neither at his consecration to
the priesthood nor at any other time shall any one under any
circumstances promise the bishop to live in celibacy, but shall
declare to the bishop that he has no authority to demand such a vow,
and that to demand it is the devil's own tyranny.

But if anyone is compelled to say or wishes to say, as do some, "so
far as human frailty permits,"[170] let everyone frankly interpret
these words negatively, to mean "I do not promise chastity."[171] For
human frailty does not permit a chaste life[172], but only angelic
power and celestial might[2 Pet. 2:11][173] Thus he should keep his
conscience free from all vows.

On the question whether those who are not yet married should marry or
remain unmarried, I do not care to give advice either way. I leave
that to common Christian order and to everyone's better judgment. But
as regards the wretched multitude who now sit in shame and heaviness
of conscience because their wives are called "priests' harlots" and
their children "priests' children" I will not withhold my faithful
counsel nor deprive them of the comfort which is their due. I say this
boldly by my jester's right[174]. You will find many a pious priest
against whom no one has anything to say except that he is weak and has
come to shame with a woman, though both parties may be minded with all
their heart to live always together in wedded love and troth, if only
they could do it with a clear conscience, even though they might have
to bear public shame. Two such persons are certainly married before
God. And I say that where they are thus minded, and so come to live
together, they should boldly save their consciences; let him take and
keep her as his wedded wife, and live honestly with her as her
husband, caring nothing whether the pope will have it so or not,
whether it be against canon law or human law. The salvation of your
soul is of more importance than tyrannical, arbitrary, wicked laws,
which are not necessary for salvation and are not commanded by God.
You should do like the children of Israel, who stole from the
Egyptians the hire they had earned [Ex. 12:35 f.], or like a servant
who steals from his wicked master the wages he has earned. In like
manner steal thou from the pope thy wife and child! Let the man who
has faith enough to venture this, boldly follow me; I shall not lead
him astray. Though I have not the authority of a pope, I have the
authority of a Christian to advise and help my neighbor against sins
and temptations; and that not without cause and reason.

_First_, Not every priest can do without a woman, not only on account
of the weakness of the flesh, but much more because of the necessities
of the household. If he, then, may have a woman, and the pope grants
him that, and yet may not have her in marriage,--what is that but
leaving a man and a woman alone and forbidding them to fall? It is as
though one were to put fire and straw together and command that it
shall neither smoke nor burn.

_Second_, The pope has as little power to command this, as he has to
forbid eating, drinking, the natural movement of the bowels or growing
fat. No one, therefore, is bound to keep it, but the pope is
responsible for all the sins which are committed against this
ordinance, for all the souls which are lost thereby, for all the
consciences which are thereby confused and tortured; and therefore he
has long deserved that some one should drive him out of the world, so
many wretched souls has he strangled with this devil's snare; though I
hope that there are many to whom God has been more gracious at their
last hour than the pope has been in their life. Nothing good has ever
come out of the papacy and its laws, nor ever will.

_Third_, Although the law of the pope is against it, nevertheless,
when the estate of matrimony has been entered against the pope's law,
then his law is at an end, and is no longer valid; for the commandment
of God, which decrees that no one shall put man and wife asunder
[Matt. 19:6], takes precedence of the law of the pope; and the
commandments of God must not be broken and neglected for the sake of
the pope's commandment, though many mad jurists, in the papal
interest, have devised "impediments"[175] and have prevented,
destroyed and confused the estate of matrimony, until by their means
God's commandment has been altogether destroyed. To make a long story
short, there are not in the whole "spiritual" law of the pope two
lines which could be instructive to a pious Christian, and there are,
alas! so many mistaken and dangerous laws that the best thing would be
to make a bonfire of it[176].

But if you say that this[177] would give offence, and the pope must
first grant dispensation, I reply that whatever offence is in it, is
the fault of the Roman See, which has established such laws without
right and against God; before God and the Scriptures it is no offence.
Moreover, if the pope can grant dispensations from his avaricious and
tyrannical laws for money's sake, then every Christian can grant
dispensations from them--for the sake of God and the salvation of
souls. For Christ has set us free from all human laws, especially when
they are opposed to God and the salvation of souls, as St. Paul
teaches in Galatians v [Gal. 5:1] and I Corinthians xi [1 Cor. 9:4
ff.; 10:23].

[Sidenote: Abolition of Reserved Cases in the Monasteries]

15. Nor must I forget the poor convents! The evil spirit, who by human
laws now confuses all estates in life, and has made them unbearable,
has taken possession of in certain abbots, abbesses and prelates also,
and causes them so to govern their brethren and sisters as to send
them the more speedily to hell, and make them lead a wretched life
even here; for such is the lot of all the devil's martyrs. That is to
say, they have reserved to themselves in confession, all, or at least
some, of the mortal sins which are secret, so that no brother, on his
obedience and on pain of the ban, can absolve another from these
sins[178]. Now we do not always find angels everywhere, but we find
also flesh and blood, which suffers all bannings and threatenings
rather than confess secret sins to the prelates and the appointed
confessors. Thus they go to the sacrament with such consciences that
they become "irregular"[179] and all sorts of other terrible things. O
blind shepherds! O mad prelates! O ravening wolves!

To this I say: If a sin is public or notorious, then it is proper that
the prelate alone should punish it, and of these sins only and no
others he may make exceptions, and reserve them to himself; over
secret sins he has no authority, even though they were the worst sins
that are or ever can be found, and if the prelate makes exceptions of
these sins, he is a tyrant, for he has no such right and is
interfering in the judgment of God.

And so I advise these children, brethren and sisters: If your
superiors are unwilling to grant you permission to confess your secret
sins to whomever you wish, then take them to whatever brother or
sister you will and confess them, receive absolution, and then go and
do whatever you wish and ought to do; only believe firmly that you are
absolved, and nothing more is needed. And do not allow yourself to be
troubled by ban, "irregularity," or any of the other things they
threaten; these things are valid only in the case of public or
notorious sins which one is unwilling to confess; they do not affect
you at all. Why do you try by your threatenings, O blind prelate, to
prevent secret sins? Let go what you cannot publicly prove, so that
God's judgment and grace may also have its work in your subjects! He
did not give them so entirely into your hands as to let them go
entirely out of His own! Nay, what you have under your rule is but the
smaller part. Let your statutes be statutes, but do not exalt them to
heaven, to the judgment-seat of God.

[Sidenote: Abolition of Mortuary Masses]

16. It were also necessary to abolish all anniversary, mortuary and
"soul" masses[180], or at least to diminish their number, since we
plainly see that they have become nothing but a mockery, by which God
is deeply angered, and that their only purpose is money-getting,
gorging and drunkenness. What kind of pleasure should God have in such
a miserable gabbling of wretched vigils and masses, which is neither
reading nor praying, and even when prayed[181], they are performed not
for God's sake and out of willing love, but for money's sake and
because they are a bounden duty. Now it is not possible that any work
not done out of willing love can please God or obtain anything from
Him. And so it is altogether Christian to abolish, or at least
diminish, everything which we see growing into an abuse, and which
angers rather than reconciles God. It would please me more--nay, it
would be more acceptable to God and far better--that a foundation,
church or monastery should put all its anniversary masses and vigils
together, and on one day, with hearty sincerity, devotion and faith,
hold a true vigil and mass for all its benefactors, rather than hold
them by the thousand every year, for each benefactor a special mass,
without this devotion and faith. O dear Christians! God cares not for
much praying, but for true praying! Nay, He condemns the many and long
prayers, and says in Matthew vi, they will only earn more punishment
thereby [Matt. 67:7; 23:14]. But avarice, which cannot trust God,
brings such things to pass, earing that otherwise it must die of

[Sidenote: Abolition of the Interdict]

17. Certain of the penalties or punishments of the canon law should
also be abolished, especially the interdict[182], which is, beyond all
doubt, an invention of the evil Spirit. Is it not a devil's work to
try to atone for one sin with many greater sins? And yet, to put God's
Word and worship to silence, or to do away with them, is a greater sin
than strangling twenty popes at once, and far greater than killing a
priest or keeping back some Church property. This is another of the
tender virtues taught in the "spiritual law." For one of the reasons
why this law is called "spiritual" is because it comes from the
Spirit; not, however, from the Holy Spirit, but from the evil spirit.

The ban[183] is to be used in no case except where the Scriptures
prescribe its use, i. e., against those who do not hold the true
faith, or who live in open sin; it is not to be used for the sake of
temporal possessions. But now it is the other way around. Everyone
believes and lives as he pleases, most of all those who use the ban to
plunder and defame other people, and all the bans are now laid only on
account of temporal possessions, or which we have no one to thank but
the holy "spiritual lawlessness."[184] Of this I have previously said
more in the Discourse[185].

The other punishments and penalties,--suspension, irregularity,
aggravation, reaggravation, deposition, lightnings, thunderings,
cursings, damnings and the rest of these devices,--should be buried
ten fathoms deep in the earth, so that there should be neither name
nor memory of them left on earth. The evil spirit, who has been let
loose by the "spiritual law" has brought this terrible plague and
misery into the heavenly kingdom of the holy Church, and has
accomplished by it nothing else than the destruction and hindrance of
souls, so that the word of Christ may well be applied to them[186]:
"Woe unto you scribes! Ye have taken upon you the authority to teach,
and ye shut up the kingdom of heaven against men. Ye go not in
yourselves, and ye suffer not them that are entering." [Matt. 23:13]

[Sidenote: Abolition of Saints'-Days]

18. All festivals[187] should be abolished, and Sunday alone retained.
If it were desired, however, to retain the festivals of Our Lady and
of the greater saints, they should be transferred to Sunday, or
observed only by a morning mass, after which all the rest of the day
should be a working-day. The reason is this: The feast-days are now
abused by drinking, gaming, idleness and all manner of sins, so that
on the holy days we anger God more than on other days, and have
altogether turned things around; the holy days are not holy and the
working days are holy, and not only is no service done to God and His
saints by the many holy days, but rather great dishonor. There are,
indeed, some mad prelates who think they are doing a good work if they
make a festival in honor of St. Ottilia or St. Barbara or some other
saint, according to the promptings of their blind devotion; but they
would be doing a far better work if they honored the saint by turning
a saint's-day into a working day.

Over and above the spiritual injury, the common man receives two
material injuries from this practice, i. e., he neglects his work and
he spends more than at other times; nay, he also weakens his body and
unfits it for work. We see this every day, yet no one thinks to make
it better. We ought not to consider whether or not the pope has
instituted the feasts, and whether we must have dispensation and
permission to omit them. If a thing is opposed to God, and harmful to
man in body and soul, any community[188], council[189] or government
has not only the right to abolish it and put a stop to it, without the
will or knowledge of pope or bishop, but they are bound on their
souls' salvation to prevent it, even against the will of pope and
bishop, though these ought to be themselves the first to forbid it.

Above all, we ought utterly to abolish the consecration days[190],
since they have become nothing else than taverns, airs and gaming
places[191], and serve only to the increase of God's dishonor and to
the damnation of souls. All the pretence about the custom having had a
good beginning and being a good work is of no avail. Did not God
Himself set aside His own law, which He had given from heaven, when it
was perverted and abused? And does He not still daily overturn what He
has appointed and destroy what He has made, because of such perversion
and abuse? As it is written of Him in Psalm xviii, "With the perverted
Thou wilt show Thyself perverse." [Ps. 18:27]

[Sidenote: Extension of Right of Dispensation]

19. The grades or degrees within which marriage is forbidden should be
changed, as, for instance, the sponsorships and the third and fourth
degrees; and if the pope can grant dispensation in these matters or
money and for the sake of his shameful traffic[192], then every parish
priest may give the same dispensations gratis and or the salvation of
souls. Yea, would to God that all the things which we must buy at Rome
to free ourselves from that money-snare, the canon law,--such things
as indulgences, letters of indulgence, "butter-letters,"[193]
"mass-letters,"[194] and all the rest of the _confessionalia_[195] and
knaveries for sale at Rome, with which the poor folk are deceived and
robbed of their money; would to God, I say, that any priest could,
without payment, do and omit all these things!  For if the pope has
the authority to sell his snares for money and his spiritual nets (I
should say laws)[196], surely any priest has much more authority to
rend his nets and for God's sake to tread them under foot. But if he
has not this right, neither has the pope the right to sell them at his
shameful fair[196].

This is the place to say too that the fasts should be matters of
liberty, and all sorts of food made free, as the Gospel makes them
[Matt. 15:11]. For at Rome they themselves laugh at the fasts, making
us foreigners eat the oil with which they would not grease their
shoes, and afterwards selling us liberty to eat butter and all sorts
of other things; yet the holy Apostle says that in all these things we
already have liberty through the Gospel [1 Cor. 10:25 ff.]. But they
have caught us with their canon law and stolen our rights from us, so
that we may have to buy them back with money. Thus they have made our
consciences so timid and shy that it is no longer easy to preach about
this liberty because the common people take such great offence,
thinking it a greater sin to eat butter than to lie, to swear, or even
to live unchastely. Nevertheless, what men have decreed, that is the
work of man; put it where you will[198], nothing good ever comes out
of it.

[Sidenote: Prohibition of Pilgrimages]

20. The forest chapels and rustic churches[199] must be utterly
destroyed,--those, namely, to which the recent pilgrimages have been
directed,--Wilsnack[200], Sternberg[201], Trier[202], the
Grimmenthal[203], and now Regensburg[204] and a goodly number of
others. Oh, what a terrible and heavy account will the bishops have to
render, who permit this devilish deceit and receive its profits![205]
They should be the first to forbid it, and yet they think it a divine
and holy thing, and do not see that it is the devil's doing, to
strengthen avarice, to create a false, feigned faith, to weaken the
parish churches, to multiply taverns and harlotry, to waste money and
labor, and to lead the poor folk by the nose. If they had only read
the Scriptures to as good purpose as they have read their damnable
canon law, they would know well how to deal with this matter.

That miracles are done at these places does not help things, for the
evil spirit can do miracles, as Christ has told us in Matthew xxiv
[Matt. 24:24]. If they took the matter seriously and forbade this sort
of thing, the miracles would quickly come to an end; on the other
hand, if the thing were of God their prohibition would not hinder it
[Acts 5:39]. And if there were no other evidence that it is not of
God, this would be enough,--that people run to these places in excited
crowds, as though they had lost their reason, like herds of cattle;
for this cannot possibly be of God. Moreover, God has commanded
nothing of all this; there is neither obedience nor merit in it; the
bishops, therefore, should boldly step in and keep the folk away. For
what is not commanded--and is concerned for self rather than for the
commands of God--that is surely the devil himself. Then, too, the
parish churches receive injury, because they are held in smaller
honor. In short, these things are signs of great unbelief among the
people; if they truly believed, they would have all that they need in
their own churches, for to them they are commanded to go.

[Sidenote: Canonisations to be Prohibited]

But what shall I say? Every one[206] plans only how he may establish
and maintain such a place of pilgrimage in his diocese and is not at
all concerned to have the people believe and live aright; the rulers
are like the people; one blind man leads another [Matt. 13:14]. Nay,
where pilgrimages are not successful, they begin to canonise
saints[207], not in honor of the saints--for they are sufficiently
honored without canonisation--but in order to draw crowds and bring in
money. Pope and bishop help along; it rains indulgences; there is
always money enough for that. But for what God has commanded no one
provides; no one runs after these things; there is no money or them.
Alas, that we should be so blind! We not only give the devil his own
way in his tricks, but we even strengthen him in his wantonness and
increase his pranks. I would that the dear saints were let in peace,
and the poor folk not led astray! What spirit has given the pope the
authority to canonise the saints? Who tells him whether they are
saints or not? Are there not already sins enough on earth, that we too
must tempt God, interfere in His judgment and set up the dear saints
as lures for money?

Therefore I advise that the saints be left to canonise themselves.
Yea, it is God alone who should canonise them. And let every man stay
in his own parish, where he finds more than in all the shrines of
pilgrimage, even though all the shrines were one. Here we find baptism,
the sacrament, preaching and our neighbor, and these are greater
things than all the saints in heaven, for it is by God's Word and
sacrament that they have all been made saints. So long as we despise
such great things God is just in the wrathful judgment by which He
appoints the devil to lead us hither and thither, to establish
pilgrimages, to found churches and chapels, to secure the canonisation
of saints, and to do other such fool's-works, by which we depart from
true faith into new, false misbelief. This is what he did in olden
times to the people of Israel, when he led them away from the temple
at Jerusalem to countless other places, though he did it in the name
of God and under the plausible guise of holiness, though all the
prophets preached against it and were persecuted or so doing. But now
no one preaches against it, perhaps or fear that pope, priests and
monks would persecute him also. In this way St. Antoninus of
Florence[208] and certain others must now be made saints and
canonised, that their holiness, which would otherwise have served only
for the glory of God and as a good example, may serve to bring in fame
and money.

Although the canonising of saints may have been good in olden times,
it is not good now; just as many other things were good in olden times
and are now scandalous and injurious, such as feast-days,
church-treasures and church-adornment. For it is evident that through
the canonising of saints neither God's glory nor the improvement of
Christians is sought, but only money and glory, in that one church
wants to be something more and have something more than others, and
would be sorry if another had the same thing and its advantage were
common property. So entirely, in these last, evil days, have spiritual
goods been misused and applied to the gaining of temporal goods, that
everything, even God Himself, has been forced into the service of
avarice. And even these special advantages lead only to dissensions,
divisions and pride, in that the churches, differing from one another,
hold each other in contempt, and exalt themselves one above another,
though all the gifts which God bestows are the common and equal
property of all churches and should only serve the cause of unity. The
pope, too, is glad or the present state of affairs; he would be sorry
if all Christians were equal and were at one.

[Sidenote: Prohibition of Special Privileges]

pThis is the place to speak of the church licenses, bulls and other
things which the pope sells at his laying-place in Rome. We should
either abolish them or disregard them, or at least make them the
common property of all churches. For if he sells or gives away
licenses and privileges, indulgences, graces, advantages,
faculties[209] to Wittenberg, to Halle, to Venice and, above, all to
his own Rome, why does he not give these things to all churches alike?
Is he not bound to do for all Christians, gratis and for God's sake,
everything that he can, and even to shed his blood for them? Tell me,
then, why he gives or sells to one church and not to another? Or must
the accursed money make, in the eyes of His Holiness, so great a
difference among Christians, who all have the same baptism, Word,
faith, Christ, God and all things? [Eph. 4:4 f.] Are we to be blind
while we have eyes to see, fools while we have our reason, that they
expect us to worship such greed, knavery and humbug? He is a
shepherd,--yes, so long as you have money, and no longer! And yet they
are not ashamed of their knavery, leading us hither and yon with their
bulls! Their one concern is the accursed money, and nothing else!

My advice is this: If such fool's-work cannot be abolished, then every
pious Christian man should open his eyes, and not be misled by the
hypocritical Roman bulls and seals, stay at home in his own church and
be content with his baptism, his Gospel, his faith, his Christ and
with God, Who is everywhere the same; and let the pope remain a blind
leader of the blind. Neither angel nor pope can give you as much as
God gives you in your parish-church. Nay, the pope leads you away from
the gifts of God, which you have without pay, to his gifts, which you
must buy; and he gives you lead[210] for gold, hide for meat, the
string for the purse, wax for honey, words for goods, the letter for
the spirit. You see this before your very eyes, but you are unwilling
to notice it. If you are to ride to heaven on his wax and parchment,
your chariot will soon go to pieces, and you will fall into hell, not
in God's name!

Let this be your fixed rule: What you must buy from the pope is
neither good nor of God; for what is from God, to wit, the Gospel and
the works of God, is not only given without money, but the whole world
is punished and damned because it has not been willing to receive it
as a free gift. We have deserved of God that we should be so deceived,
because we have despised His holy Word and the grace of baptism, as
St. Paul says: "God shall send a strong delusion upon all those who
have not received the truth to their salvation, to the end that they
may believe and follow after lies and knavery," [2 Thess. 2:11 f.]
which serves them right.

[Sidenote: Mendicancy to be Prohibited, and the Poor to be Cared for]

21. One of our greatest necessities is the abolition of all begging
throughout Christendom. Among Christians no one ought to go begging!
It would also be easy to make a law, if only we had the courage and
the serious intention, to the effect that every city should provide
for its own poor, and admit no foreign beggars by whatever name they
might be called, whether pilgrims or mendicant monks. Every city could
support its own poor, and if it were too small, the people in the
surrounding villages also should be exhorted to contribute, since in
any case they have to feed so many vagabonds and knaves in the guise
of mendicants. In this way, too, it could be known who were really
poor and who not.

There would have to be an overseer or warden who knew all the poor and
informed the city council or the priests what they needed; or some
other better arrangement might be made. In my judgment there is no
other business in which so much knavery and deceit are practised as in
begging, and yet it could all be easily abolished. Moreover, this free
and universal begging hurts the common people. I have considered that
each of the five or six mendicant orders[211] visits the same place
more than six or seven times every year; besides these there are the
common beggars, the "stationaries"[212] and the palmers[213], so that
it has been reckoned that every town is laid under tribute about sixty
times a year, not counting what is given to the government in taxes,
imposts and assessments, what is stolen by the Roman See with its
wares, and what is uselessly consumed. Thus it seems to me one of
God's greatest miracles that we can continue to support ourselves.

To be sure, some think that in this way[214] the poor would not be so
well provided for and that not so many great stone houses and
monasteries would be built. This I can well believe. Nor is it
necessary. He who wishes to be poor should not be rich; and if he
wishes to be rich, let him put his hand to the plow and seek his
riches in the earth! It is enough if the poor are decently cared for,
so that they do not die of hunger or of cold. It is not fitting that
one man should live in idleness on another's labor, or be rich and
live comfortably at the cost of another's discomfort, according to the
present perverted custom; for St. Paul says, "If a man will not work,
neither shall he eat." [2 Thess. 3:10] God has not decreed that any
man shall live from another's goods save only the priests, who rule
and preach, and these because of their spiritual labor, as Paul says
in I Corinthians ix [1 Cor. 9:14], and Christ also says to the
Apostles, "Every laborer is worthy of his hire." [Luke 10:7]

[Sidenote: Prohibition of Endowed Masses]

22. It is also to be feared that the many masses[215] which are
endowed in the foundations and monasteries are not only of little use,
but greatly arouse the wrath of God. It would therefore be profitable
not to endow any more, but rather Masses to abolish many that are
already endowed, since we see that they are regarded only as
sacrifices and good works[216], though they are really sacraments,
just like baptism and penance[217], which profit only those who
receive them, and no others. But now the custom has crept in, that
masses are said for the living and the dead, and all hopes are built
upon them; for this reason so many of them have been founded and the
present state of affairs has come about.

My proposal is perhaps too novel and daring, especially for those who
fear that through the discontinuance of these masses their trade and
livelihood may be destroyed, and so I must refrain from saying more
about it until we have come back to a correct understanding of what
the mass is and what it is good for. These many years, alas, it has
been made a trade practised for a temporal livelihood, so that I would
henceforth advise a man to become a shepherd or to seek some other
trade rather than become a priest or a monk, unless he first knows
well what it is to celebrate mass. I am not speaking, however, of the
old foundations and cathedrals, which were doubtless established in
order that the children of the nobility (since, according to the
customs of the German nation not all of them can become heirs or
rulers), might be provided for in these foundations, and there be free
to serve God, to study, to become scholars and to make scholars. But I
am speaking of the new foundations, which have been established only
for the saying of prayers and masses; for after their example, even
the old foundations have been burdened with like prayers and masses,
so that they are of little or no profit; though it is also of God's
grace that they too come at last, as they deserve, to the dregs, i.
e., to the wailing of organs and of choral singers, and to dead, cold
masses, by which the incomes of the worldly endowments are gotten and
spent.  Such things pope, bishops and doctors should examine and
proscribe; but now it is they who are most given to them. They let
everything pass, if only it brings in money; one blind man is always
leading another. This is the work of avarice and of the spiritual law.

Again, no one person should be allowed any longer to hold more than
one canonry or prebend. He must be content with a modest position,
that some one else may also have something. This would do away with
the excuses of those who say that they must hold more than one such
office to "maintain a proper station." A "proper station" might be so
broadly interpreted that a whole land would not be enough to maintain
it! Moreover avarice and veiled distrust of God assuredly go with it,
so that what is alleged to be the need of "a proper station" is often
nothing else than avarice and distrust.

[Sidenote: Sodalities and Indulgences]

23. Sodalities[218], indulgences, letters of indulgence,
"butter-letters,"[219] mass-letters[220], dispensations, and
everything else of the sort, are to be drowned and destroyed. There is
nothing good in them. If the pope has the power to grant you
dispensation to eat butter and to absent yourself from mass, then he
ought also be able to leave this power to the priests, from whom,
indeed, he has no right to take it. I speak especially of those
fraternities in which indulgences, masses and good works are portioned
out. Dear friend, in your baptism you entered into a fraternity with
Christ, all the angels, saints and Christians on earth. Hold to this
fraternity and live up to its demands, and you have fraternities
enough. The others--let them glitter as they will--are but as counters
compared with _guldens_. But if there were a fraternity which
contributed money to feed the poor or to help somebody in some other
way, such a one would be good, and would have its indulgence and its
merit in heaven. Now, however, they have become excuses or gluttony
and drunkenness[221].

Above all, we should drive out of German lands the papal legates with
their "faculties,"[222] which they sell us for large sums of money,
though that is sheer knavery. For example, in return for money they
legalize unjust gains, dissolve oaths, vows and agreements, break and
teach men to break the faith and fealty which they have pledged to one
another; and they say the pope has the authority to do this. It is the
evil Spirit who bids them say this. Thus they sell us a doctrine of
devils, and take money or teaching us sin and leading us to hell.

If there were no other evil wiles to prove the pope the true
Antichrist, yet this one thing were enough to prove it. Hearest thou
this, pope, not most holy, but most sinful? O that God from heaven
would soon destroy thy throne and sink it in the abyss of hell! Who
hath given thee authority to exalt thyself above thy God, to break and
to loose His commandments, and to teach Christians, especially the
German nation, praised in all history for its nobility, its constancy
and fidelity, to be inconstant, perjurers, traitors, profligates,
faithless? God hath commanded to keep oath and faith even with an
enemy, and thou undertakest to loose this His commandment, and
ordainest in thine heretical, antichristian decretals that thou hast
His power. Thus through thy throat and through thy pen the wicked
Satan doth lie as he hath never lied before. Thou dost force and wrest
the Scriptures to thy fancy. O Christ, my Lord, look down, let the day
of thy judgment break, and destroy the devil's nest at Rome! Here
sitteth the man of whom St. Paul hath said that he shall exalt himself
above Thee, sit in Thy Church and set himself up as God [2 Thess. 2:3
f.],--the man of sin and the son of perdition! What else is the papal
power than only the teaching and increasing of sin and evil, the
leading of souls to damnation under Thy name and guise?

In olden times the children of Israel had to keep the oath which they
had unwittingly been deceived into giving to their enemies, the
Gibeonites [Josh. 9:19 ff.], and King Zedekiah was miserably lost,
with all his people, because he broke this oath to the King of Babylon
[2 Kings 24:20; 25:4 ff.]. Even among us, a hundred years ago, that
fine king of Hungary and Poland, Wladislav[223], was slain by the
Turk, with so many noble people, because he allowed himself to be
deceived by the papal legate and cardinal, and broke the good and
advantageous treaty which he had sworn with the Turk. The pious
Emperor Sigismund had no good fortune after the Council of Constance,
when he allowed the knaves to break the safe-conduct which had been
given to John Hus and Jerome[224] and all the trouble between us and
the Bohemians was the consequence. Even in our own times, God help us!
how much Christian blood has been shed over the oath and alliance
which Pope Julius made between the Emperor Maximilian and King Louis
of France[225], and afterwards broke? How could I tell all the
troubles which the popes have stirred up by the devilish presumption
with which they annul oaths and vows which have been made between
great princes, making a jest of these things, and taking money for it.
I have hopes that the judgment day is at the door; nothing can
possibly be worse than the Roman See. He suppresses God's commandment,
he exalts his own commandment over it; if he is not Antichrist, then
let some one else tell who he can be! But more of this another time,
and better.

24. It is high time that we seriously and honestly consider the case
of the Bohemians[224], and come into union with them so that the
terrible slander, hatred and envy on both sides may cease. As befits
my folly, I shall be the first to submit an opinion on this subject,
with due deference to every one who may understand the case better
than I.

_First_, We must honestly confess the truth, stop justifying
ourselves, and grant the Bohemians that John Hus and Jerome of Prague
were burned at Constance in violation of the papal, Christian,
imperial safe-conduct and oath; whereby God's commandment was sinned
against and the Bohemians were given ample cause for bitterness; and
although they ought to have been perfect and to have patiently endured
this great injustice and disobedience of God on our part, nevertheless
they were not bound to approve of it and to acknowledge that it was
well done. Nay, even to-day they should give up life and limb rather
than confess that it is right to violate an imperial, papal, Christian
safe-conduct, and faithlessly to act contrary to it. So then, although
it is the impatience of the Bohemians which is at fault, yet the pope
and his followers are still more to blame for all the trouble, error
and loss of souls that have followed upon that council.

I have no desire to pass judgment at this time upon John Hus's
articles or to defend his errors, though I have not yet found any
errors in his writings, and I am quite prepared to believe that it was
neither fair judgment nor honest condemnation which was passed by
those who, in their faithless dealing, violated a Christian
safe-conduct and a commandment of God. Beyond doubt they were
possessed rather by the evil spirit than by the Holy Spirit. No one
will doubt that the Holy Spirit does not act contrary to the
commandment of God; and no one is so ignorant as not to know that the
violation of faith and of a safe-conduct is contrary to the
commandment of God, even though they had been promised to the devil
himself, still more when the promise was made to a mere heretic. It is
also quite evident that such a promise was made to John Hus and the
Bohemians and was not kept, but that he was burned in spite of it. I
do not wish, however, to make John Hus a saint or a martyr, as do some
of the Bohemians, though I confess that injustice was done him, and
that his books and doctrines were unjustly condemned; for the
judgments of God are secret and terrible, and no one save God alone
should undertake to reveal or utter them. All I wish to say is this:
though he were never so wicked a heretic, nevertheless he was burned
unjustly and against God's commandment, and the Bohemians should not
be forced to approve of such conduct, or else we shall never come into
unity. Not obstinacy but the open admission of truth must make us one.
It is useless to pretend, as was done at that time, that a
safe-conduct given to a heretic need not be kept[227]. That is as much
as to say that God's commandments are not to be kept to the end that
God's commandments may be kept. The devil made them mad and foolish,
so that they did not know what they were saying or doing. God has
commanded that a safe-conduct shall be kept. This commandment we
should keep though the world all. How much more, when it is only a
question of freeing a heretic! We should vanquish heretics with books,
not with burning; for so the ancient fathers did. If it were a science
to vanquish the heretics with fire, then the hang-men would be the
most learned doctors on earth; we should no longer need to study, but
he who overcame another by force might burn him at the stake.

_Second_, The emperor and the princes should send to the Bohemians
some pious and sensible bishops and scholars; but by no means a
cardinal or papal legate or inquisitor, for those people are utter
ignoramuses as regards things Christian; they seek not the welfare of
souls, but, like all the pope's hypocrites, only their own power,
profit and glory; indeed, they were the prime movers in this miserable
business at Constance. The men thus sent into Bohemia should inform
themselves about the faith of the Bohemians, and whether it be
possible to unite all their sects. Then the pope should, for their
souls' sake, lay aside his supremacy for the time being, and,
according to the decree of the most Christian Council of Nicaea[228],
allow the Bohemians to choose one of their number to be Archbishop of
Prague[229], and he should be confirmed by the bishop of Olmütz in
Moravia, or the bishop of Gran in Hungary, or the bishop of Gnesen in
Poland, or the bishop of Magdeburg in Germany[230]. It will be enough
if he is confirmed by one or two of these, as was the custom in the
time of St. Cyprian[231]. The pope has no right to oppose such an
arrangement, and if he does oppose it, he becomes a wolf and a tyrant;
no one should follow him and his ban should be met with a counter-ban.

If, however, it were desired, in honor of the See of St. Peter, to do
this with the pope's consent, I should be satisfied, provided it does
not cost the Bohemians a _heller_ and the pope does not bind them at
all nor make them subject to his tyrannies by oaths and obligations,
as he does all other bishops, in despite of God and of justice. If he
will not be satisfied with the honor of having his consent asked, then
let them not bother any more about him[232] and his rights, laws and
tyrannies; let the election suffice, and let the blood of all the
souls which are endangered cry out against him, for no one should
consent to injustice; it is enough to have offered tyranny an honor.
If it cannot be otherwise, then an election and approval by the common
people can even now be quite as valid as a confirmation by a tyrant;
but I hope this will not be necessary. Some of the Romans or the good
bishops and scholars will sometime mark and oppose papal tyranny.

I would also advise against compelling them to abolish both kinds in
the sacrament[233], since that is neither unchristian nor heretical,
but they should be allowed to retain their own practice, if they wish.
Yet the new bishop should be careful that no discord arise because of
such a practice, but should kindly instruct them that neither practice
is wrong[234]; just as it ought not to cause dissension that the
clergy differ from the laity in manner of life and in dress. In like
manner if they were unwilling to receive the Roman canon law, they
should not be forced to do so, but we should first make sure that they
live in accordance with faith and with the Scriptures. For Christian
faith and life can well exist without the intolerable laws of the
pope, nay, they cannot well exist unless there be fewer of these Roman
laws, or none at all. In baptism we have become free and have been
made subject to God's Word only; why should any man ensnare us in his
words? As St.  Paul says, "Ye have become free, be not servants of
men," [1 Cor.  7:23; Gal. 5:1] i. e. of those who rule with man-made

If I knew that the Picards[235] held no other error touching the
sacrament of the altar except that they believe that the bread and
wine are present in their true nature, but that the body and blood of
Christ are truly present under them, then I would not condemn them,
but would let them enter the obedience of the bishop of Prague. For it
is not an article of faith that bread and wine are not essentially and
naturally in the sacrament, but this is an opinion of St. Thomas[236]
and the pope. On the other hand, it is an article of faith that in the
natural bread and wine the true natural body and blood of Christ are
present[237]. And so we should tolerate the opinions of both sides
until they come to an agreement, because there is no danger in
believing that bread is there or is not there. For we have to endure
many practices and ordinances so long as they are not harmful to
faith. On the other hand, if they had a different faith[238], I would
rather have them outside the Church; yet I would teach them the truth.

Whatever other errors and schisms might be discovered in Bohemia
should be tolerated until the archbishop had been restored and had
gradually brought all the people together again in one common
doctrine. They will assuredly never be united by force, nor by
defiance, nor by haste; it will take time and forbearance. Had not
even Christ to tarry with His disciples a long while and bear with
their unbelief, until they believed His resurrection? If they but had
again a regular bishop and church order, without Roman tyranny, I
could hope that things would soon be better.

The restoration of the temporal goods which formerly belonged to the
Church should not be too strictly demanded, but since we are
Christians and each is bound to help the rest, it is in our power, for
the sake of unity, to give them these things and let them keep them in
the sight of God and men. For Christ says, "Where two are at one with
each other on earth, there am I in the midst of them." [Matt. 18:19
f.] Would to God that on both sides we were working toward this unity,
offering our hands to one another in brotherly humility, and not
standing stubbornly on our powers or rights! Love is greater and more
necessary than the papacy at Rome, or there can be papacy without love
and love without papacy.

With this counsel I shall have done what I could. If the pope or his
followers hinder it, they shall render an account for seeking their
own things rather than the things of their neighbor, contrary to the
love of God [Phil. 2:4]. The pope ought to give up his papacy and all
his possessions and honors, if he could by that means save one soul;
but now he would let the world go to destruction rather than yield a
hair's-breadth of his presumptuous authority. And yet he would be the
"most holy"! Here my responsibility ends.

[Sidenote: The Universities]

[Sidenote: Aristotle]

25. The universities also need a good, thorough reformation--I must
say it no matter whom it vexes--for everything which the papacy has
instituted and ordered is directed only towards the increasing of sin
and error. What else are the universities, if their present condition
remains unchanged, than as the book of Maccabees says, _Gymnasia
Epheborum et Graecae gloriae_[239][2 Macc. 4:9, 12], in which loose
living prevails, the Holy Scriptures and the Christian faith are
little taught, and the blind, heathen Aristotle master Aristotle[240]
rules alone, even more than Christ. In this regard my advice would be
that Aristotle's _Physics_, _Metaphysics_, _On the Soul_, _Ethics_,
which have hitherto been thought his best books, should be altogether
discarded, together with all the rest of his books which boast of
treating the things of nature, although nothing can be learned from
them either of the things of nature or the things of the Spirit.
Moreover no one has so far understood his meaning, and many souls have
been burdened with profitless labor and study, at the cost of much
precious time. I venture to say that any potter has more knowledge of
nature than is written in these books. It grieves me to the heart that
this damned, conceited, rascally heathen has with his false words
deluded and made fools of so many of the best Christians. God has sent
him as a plague upon us for our sins.

Why, this wretched man, in his best book, _On the Soul_, teaches that
the soul dies with the body, although many have tried with vain words
to save his reputation. As though we had not the Holy Scriptures, in
which we are abundantly instructed about all things, and of them
Aristotle had not the faintest inkling! And yet this dead heathen has
conquered and obstructed and almost suppressed the books of the living
God, so that when I think of this miserable business I can believe
nothing else than that the evil spirit has introduced the study of
Aristotle. Again, his book on _Ethics_ is the worst of all books. It
flatly opposes divine grace and all Christian virtues, and yet it is
considered one of his best works. Away with such books! Keep them away
from all Christians! Let no one accuse me of exaggeration, or of
condemning what I do not understand! My dear friend, I know well
whereof I speak. I know my Aristotle as well as you or the likes of
you. I have lectured on him[241] and heard lectures on him, and I
understand him better than do St. Thomas or Scotus[242]. This I can
say without pride, and if necessary I can prove it. I care not that so
many great minds have wearied themselves over him for so many hundred
years. Such objections do not disturb me as once they did; for it is
plain as day that other errors have remained or even more centuries in
the world and in the universities.

I should be glad to see Aristotle's books on _Logic_, _Rhetoric_ and
_Poetics_ retained or used in an abridged form; as text-books for the
profitable training of young people in speaking and preaching. But the
commentaries and notes should be abolished, and as Cicero's _Rhetoric_
is read without commentaries and notes, so Aristotle's _Logic_ should
be read as it is, without such a mass of comments. But now neither
speaking nor preaching is learned from it, and it has become nothing
but a disputing and a weariness to the flesh. Besides this there are
the languages--Latin, Greek and Hebrew--the mathematical disciplines
and history. But all this I give over to the specialists, and, indeed,
the reform would come of itself, if we were only seriously bent upon
it. In truth, much depends upon it; for it is here[243] that the
Christian youth and the best of our people, with whom the future of
Christendom lies, are to be educated and trained. Therefore I consider
that there is no work more worthy of pope or emperor than a thorough
reformation of the universities, and there is nothing worse or more
worthy of the devil than unreformed universities.

[Sidenote: The Canon Law]

The medical men I leave to reform their own faculties; the jurists and
theologians I take as my share, and I say, in the first place, that it
were well if the canon law, from the first letter to the last, and
especially the decretals, were utterly blotted out. The Bible contains
more than enough directions for all our living, and so the study of
the canon law only stands in the way of the study of the Holy
Scriptures; moreover, it smacks for the most part of mere avarice and
pride. Even though there were much in it that is good, it might as
well be destroyed, for the pope has taken the whole canon law captive
and imprisoned it in the "chamber of his heart,"[244] so that the
study of it is henceorth a waste of time and a farce. At present the
canon law is not what is in the books, but what is in the sweet will
of the pope and his flatterers. Your cause may be thoroughly
established in the canon law; still the pope has his _scrinium
pectoris_[245], and all law and the whole world must be guided by
that. Now it is ofttimes a knave, and even the devil himself, who
rules this _scrinium_, and they boast that it is ruled by the Holy
Spirit! Thus they deal with Christ's unfortunate people. They give
them many laws and themselves keep none of them, but others they
compel either to keep them or else to buy release.

Since, then, the pope and his followers have suspended the whole canon
law, and since they pay no heed to it, but regard their own wanton
will as a law exalting them above all the world, we should follow
their example and for our part also reject these books. Why should we
waste our time studying them? We could never discover the whole
arbitrary will of the pope, which has now become the canon law. The
canon law has arisen in the devil's name, let it all in the name of
God, and let there be no more _doctores decretorum_[246] in the world,
but only _doctores scrinii papalis_, that is, "hypocrites of the
pope"! It is said that there is no better temporal rule anywhere than
among the Turks, who have neither spiritual nor temporal law, but only
their Koran; and we must confess that there is no more shameful rule
than among us, with our spiritual and temporal law, so that there is
no estate which lives according to the light of nature, still less
according to Holy Scripture.

[Sidenote: Secular Law]

The temporal law,--God help us! what a wilderness it has become![247]
Though it is much better, wiser and more rational than the "spiritual
law" which has nothing good about it except the name, still there is
far too much of it. Surely the Holy Scriptures and good rulers would
be law enough; as St. Paul says in I Corinthians vi, "Is there no one
among you can judge his neighbor's cause, that ye must go to law
before heathen courts?" [1 Cor. 6:1] It seems just to me that
territorial laws and territorial customs should take precedence of the
general imperial laws, and the imperial laws be used only in case of
necessity. Would to God that as every land has its own peculiar
character, so it were ruled by its own brief laws, as the lands were
ruled before these imperial laws were invented, and many lands are
still ruled without them! These diffuse and far-etched laws are only a
burden to the people, and hinder causes more than they help them. I
hope, however, that others have given this matter more thought and
attention than I am able to do.

[Sidenote: Theology]

My friends the theologians have spared themselves pains and labor;
they leave the Bible in peace and read the Sentences. I should think
that the Sentences[248] ought to be the first study of young students
in theology and the Bible ought to be the study for the doctors. But
now it is turned around; the Bible comes first, and is put aside when
the bachelor's degree is reached, and the Sentences come last. They
are attached forever to the doctorate, and that with such a solemn
obligation that a man who is not a priest may indeed read the Bible,
but the Sentences a priest must read. A married man, I observe, could
be a Doctor of the Bible, but under no circumstances a Doctor of the
Sentences. What good fortune can we expect if we act so perversely and
in this way put the Bible, the holy Word of God, so far to the rear?
Moreover the pope commands, with many severe words, that his laws are
to be read and used in the schools and the courts, but little is said
of the Gospel. Thus it is the custom that in the schools and the
courts the Gospel lies idle in the dust under the bench[249], to the
end that the pope's harmful laws may rule alone.

If we are called by the title of teachers[250] of Holy Scripture, then
we ought to be compelled, in accordance with our name, to teach the
Holy Scriptures and nothing else, although even this title is too
proud and boastful and no one ought to be proclaimed and crowned
teacher of Holy Scripture. Yet it might be suffered, if the work
justified the name; but now, under the despotism of the Sentences, we
find among the theologians more of heathen and human opinion than of
the holy and certain doctrine of Scripture. What, then, are we to do?
I know of no other way than humbly to pray God to give us Doctors of
Theology, Pope, emperor and universities may make Doctors of Arts, of
Medicine, of Laws, of the Sentences; but be assured that no one will
make a Doctor of Holy Scripture, save only the Holy Ghost from heaven,
as Christ says in John vi, "They must all be taught of God Himself."
[John 6:45] Now the Holy Ghost does not concern Himself about red or
brown birettas[251] or other decorations, nor does He ask whether one
is old or young, layman or priest, monk or secular, virgin or married;
nay He spake of old by an ass, against the prophet who rode upon it
[Num. 22:28]. Would God that we were worthy to have such doctors given
us, whether they were layman or priests, married or virgin. True, they
now try to force the Holy Ghost into pope, bishops and doctors,
although there is no sign or indication whatever that He is in them.

[Sidenote: Theological Textbooks]

The number of theological books must also be lessened, and a selection
made of the best of them. For it is not many books or much reading
that makes men learned; but it is good things, however little of them,
often read, that make men learned in the Scriptures, and make them
godly, too. Indeed the writings of all the holy fathers should be read
only for a time, in order that through them we may be led to the Holy
Scriptures. As it is, however, we read them only to be absorbed in
them and never come to the Scriptures. We are like men who study the
sign-posts and never travel the road. The dear fathers wished, by
their writings, to lead us to the Scriptures, but we so use them as to
be led away from the Scriptures, though the Scriptures alone are our
vineyard in which we ought all to work and toil.

[Sidenote: Schools]

Above all, the foremost and most general subject of study, both in the
higher and the lower schools, should be the Holy Scriptures, and for
the young boys the Gospel. And would to God that every town had a
girls' school also, in which the girls were taught the Gospel for an
hour each day either in German or Latin. Indeed the schools,
monasteries and nunneries began long ago with that end in view, and it
was a praiseworthy and Christian purpose, as we learn from the story
of St. Agnes[252] and other of the saints. That was the time of holy
virgins and martyrs, and then it was well with Christendom; but now
they[253] have come to nothing but praying and singing. Ought not
every Christian at his ninth or tenth year to know the entire holy
Gospel from which he derives his name[254] and his life? A spinner or
a seamstress teaches her daughter the trade in her early years; but
now even the great, learned prelates and bishops themselves do not
know the Gospel.

O how unjustly we deal with these poor young people who are committed
to us for direction and instruction! We must give a terrible accounting
or our neglect to set the Word of God before them. They are as
Jeremiah says in Lamentations ii: "Mine eyes are grown weary with
weeping, my bowels are terrified, my liver is poured out upon the
ground, because of the destruction of the daughter of my people, or
the youth and the children perish in all the streets of the whole
city; they said to their mothers, Where is bread and wine? and they
swooned as the wounded in the streets of the city and gave up the
ghost in their mothers' bosom." [Lam. 2:11 ff.] This pitiful evil we
do not see,--how even now the young folk in the midst of Christendom
languish and perish miserably for want of the Gospel, in which we
ought to be giving them constant instruction and training.

[Sidenote: Restriction of Number of Students]

Moreover, if the universities were diligent in the study of Holy
Scripture, we should not send everybody there, as we do when all we
ask is numbers, and everyone wishes to have a doctor's degree; but we
should send only the best qualified students, who have previously been
well trained in the lower schools. A prince or city council ought to
see to this, and permit only the well qualified to be sent. But where
the Holy Scriptures do not rule, there I advise no one to send his
son. Everyone not unceasingly busy with the Word of God must become
corrupt; that is why the people who are in the universities and who
are trained there are the kind of people they are. For this no one is
to blame but the pope, the bishops and the prelates, who are charged
with the training of the youth. For the universities ought to turn out
only men who are experts in the Holy Scriptures, who can become
bishops and priests, leaders in the fight against heretics, the devil
and all the world. But where do you find this true? I greatly fear that
the universities are wide gates of hell, if they do not diligently
teach the Holy Scriptures and impress them on the youth.

[Sidenote: The Pope and the Holy Roman Empire]

26.[255] I know full well that the Roman crowd will make pretensions
and great boasts about how the pope took the Holy Roman Empire from
the Greek Emperor[256] and bestowed it on the Germans, for which honor
and benevolence he is said to have justly deserved and obtained from
the Germans submission and thanks and all good things. For this reason
they will, perhaps, undertake to throw to the winds all attempts to
reform them, and will not allow us to think about anything but the
bestowal of the Roman Empire. For this cause they have heretofore
persecuted and oppressed many a worthy emperor so arbitrarily and
arrogantly that it is pity to tell of it, and with the same adroitness
they have made themselves overlords of all the temporal powers and
authorities, contrary to the Holy Gospel. Of this too I must therefore

There is no doubt that the true Roman Empire, which the writings of
the prophets foretold in Numbers xxiv [Num. 24:24] and in Daniel [Dan.
2:39 ff.], has long since been overthrown and brought to an end, as
Balaam clearly prophesied in Numbers xxiv, when he said: "The Romans
shall come and overthrow the Jews; and afterwards they also shall be
destroyed." That was brought to pass by the Goths[257], but especially
when the Turkish Empire arose almost a thousand years ago[258]; then
in time Asia and Africa fell away, and finally Venice arose, and there
remained to Rome nothing of its former power.

Now when the pope could not subdue to his arrogant will the Greeks and
the emperor at Constantinople, who was hereditary Roman Emperor, he
bethought himself of this device, viz., to rob him of his empire and
his title and turn it over to the Germans, who were at that time
warlike and of good repute, so as to bring the power of the Roman
Empire under his control and give it away as a fief. So too it turned
out. It was taken away from the emperor at Constantinople and its name
and title were given to us Germans. Thereby we became the servants of
the pope, and there is now a second Roman Empire, which the pope has
built upon the Germans; for the other, which was first, has long since
fallen, as I have said.

So then the Roman See has its will. It has taken possession of Rome,
driven out the German Emperor and bound him with oaths not to dwell at
Rome. He is to be Roman Emperor, and yet he is not to have possession
of Rome, and besides he is at all times to be dependent upon the
caprice of the pope and his followers, so that we have the name and
they have the land and cities. They have always abused our simplicity
to serve their own arrogance and tyranny, and they call us mad
Germans, who let ourselves be made apes and fools at their bidding.

Ah well! For God the Lord it is a small thing to toss empires and
principalities to and fro! He is so generous with them that once in a
while He gives a kingdom to a knave and takes it from a good man,
sometimes by the treachery of wicked, faithless men and sometimes by
heredity, as we read of the Kingdoms of Persia and Greece, and of
almost all kingdoms; and Daniel ii and iv says: "He Who ruleth over
all things dwelleth in heaven, and it is He alone Who changeth
kingdoms, tosseth them to and fro, and maketh them." [Dan. 2:21; 4:14]
Since, therefore, no one can think it a great thing to have a kingdom
given him, especially if he is a Christian, we Germans too cannot be
puffed up because a new Roman Empire is bestowed on us; for in His
eyes it is a trifling gift, which He often gives to the most unworthy,
as Daniel iv says: "All who dwell upon the earth are in His eyes as
nothing, and He has power in all the kingdoms of men, to give them to
whomsoever He will." [Dan. 4:35]

But although the pope unjustly and by violence robbed the true emperor
of his Roman Empire, or of its name, and gave it to us Germans, it is
certain, nevertheless, that in this matter God has used the pope's
wickedness to give such an empire to the German nation, and after the
all of the first Roman Empire, to set up another, which still exists.
And although we gave no occasion to this wickedness of the popes, and
did not understand their false aims and purposes, nevertheless,
through this papal trickery and roguery, we have already paid too
dearly for our empire, with incalculable bloodshed, with the
suppression of our liberty, with the risk and robbery of all our
goods, especially the goods of the churches and canonries, and with
the suffering of unspeakable deception and insult. We have the name of
the empire, but the pope has our wealth, honor, body, life, soul and
all that is ours. So we Germans are to be cheated in the trade[259].
What the popes sought was to be emperors, and since they could not
manage that, they at least succeeded in setting themselves over the

Because then, the empire has been given us without our fault, by the
providence of God and the plotting of evil men, I would not advise
that we give it up, but rather that we rule it wisely and in the fear
of God, so long as it shall please Him. For, as has been said, it
matters not to Him where an empire comes from; it is His will that it
shall be ruled. Though the popes took it dishonestly from others,
nevertheless we did not get it dishonestly. It is given us by the will
of God through evil-minded men; and we have more regard for God's will
than for the treacherous purpose of the popes, who, in bestowing it,
wished to be emperors themselves, and more than emperors, and only to
fool and mock us with the name. The King of Babylon also seized his
empire by robbery and force; yet it was God's will that it should be
ruled by the holy princes, Daniel, Hananiah, Azariah and Mishael [Dan
3:30; 5:29]; much more then is it His will that this empire be ruled
by the Christian princes of Germany, regardless whether the pope stole
it, or got it by robbery, or made it anew. It is all God's ordering,
which came to pass before we knew of it.

Therefore the pope and his followers may not boast that they have done
a great favor to the German nation by the bestowal of this Roman
Empire. _First_, because they did not mean it for our good, but were
rather taking advantage of our simplicity in order to strengthen
themselves in their proud designs against the Roman Emperor at
Constantinople, from whom the pope godlessly and lawlessly took this
empire, a thing which he had no right to do. _Second_, because the
pope's intention was not to give us the empire, but to get it for
himself, that he might bring all our power, our freedom, wealth, body
and soul into subjection to himself and use us (if God had not
prevented) to subdue all the world. He clearly says so himself in his
decretals, and he has attempted it, by many evil wiles, with a number
of the German emperors. How beautifully we Germans have been taught
our German! When we thought to be lords, we became slaves of the most
deceitful tyrants; we have the name, title and insignia of the empire,
but the pope has its treasures, its authority, its law and its
liberty. So the pope gobbles the kernel, and we play with the empty

Now may God, Who by the wiles of tyrants has tossed this empire into
our lap, and charged us with the ruling of it, help us to live up to
the name, title and insignia, to rescue our liberty, and to show the
Romans, for once, what it is that we, through them, have received from
God! They boast that they have bestowed on us an empire. So be it,
then! If it is true, then let the pope give us Rome and everything
else which he has got from the empire; let him free our land from his
intolerable taxing and robbing, and give us back our liberty,
authority, wealth, honor, body and soul; let the empire be what an
empire should be, and let his words and pretensions be fulfilled!

If he will not do that, then why all this shamming, these false and
lying words and juggler's tricks? Is he not satisfied with having so
rudely led this noble nation by the nose these many hundred years
without ceasing? It does not follow that the pope must be above an
emperor because he makes or crowns him. The prophet Samuel at God's
command anointed and crowned Kings Saul and David, and yet he was
their subject; and the prophet Nathan anointed King Solomon, but was
not set over him on that account [1 Sam. 16:1; 16:13]; Elisha too had
one of his servants anoint Jehu King of Israel [1 Kings 1:38 f.], and
yet they remained obedient and subject to him [2 Kings 9:1 ff.].
Except in the case of the pope, it has never happened in all the
world's history that he who consecrated or crowned the king was over
the king. He lets himself be crowned pope by three cardinals, who are
under him, and he is nevertheless their superior. Why then should he,
contrary to the example which he himself sets, and contrary to the
custom and teaching of all the world and of the Scriptures, exalt
himself above temporal authorities, or the empire, simply because he
crowns or consecrates the emperor? It is enough that he should be the
emperor's superior in divine things, to wit, in preaching, teaching
and administering the sacraments, in which things, indeed, any bishop
or priest is over every other man, as St. Ambrose in his See was over
the emperor Theodosius[260], and the prophet Nathan over David, and
Samuel over Saul. Therefore, let the German Emperor be really and
truly emperor, and let not his authority or his sword be put down by
this blind pretension of papal hypocrites, as though they were to be
excepted from his dominion and themselves direct the temporal sword in
all things.]

[Sidenote: Economic and Social Reforms]

27. Enough has now been said about the failings of the clergy, though
more of them can and will be found if these are properly considered.
We would say something too about the failings of the temporal estate.

[Sidenote: Luxury in Dress]

1. There is great need of a general law and decree of the German
nation against the extravagance and excess in dress, by which so many
nobles and rich men are impoverished[251]. God has given to us, as to
other lands, enough wool, hair, lax and every thing else which
properly serves or the seemly and honorable dress of every rank, so
that we do not need to spend and waste such enormous sums or silk and
velvet and golden ornaments and other foreign wares. I believe that
even if the pope had not robbed us Germans with his intolerable
exactions, we should still have our hands more than full with these
domestic robbers, the silk and velvet merchants[262]. In the matter of
clothes, as we see, everybody wants to be equal to everybody else, and
pride and envy are aroused and increased among us, as we deserve. All
this and much more misery would be avoided if our curiosity would only
let us be thankful, and be satisfied with the goods which God has
given us.

[Sidenote: The Spice Trade]

2. In like manner it is also necessary to restrict the
spice-traffic[263] which is another of the great ships in which money
is carried out of German lands. There grows among us, by God's grace,
more to eat and drink than in any other land, and just as choice and
good. Perhaps the proposals that I make may seem foolish and
impossible and give the impression that I want to suppress the
greatest of all trades, that of commerce; but I am doing what I can. I
reforms are not generally introduced, then let every one who is
willing reform himself. I do not see that many good customs have ever
come to a land through commerce, and in ancient times God made His
people of Israel dwell away from the sea on this account, and did not
let them engage much in commerce.

[Sidenote: The Traffic in Annuities]

3. But the greatest misfortune of the German nation is certainly the
traffic in annuities[264]. If that did not exist many a man would have
to leave unbought his silks, velvets, golden ties ornaments, spices
and ornaments of every sort. It has not existed much over a hundred
years, and has already brought almost all princes, cities, endowed
institutions, nobles and their heirs to poverty, misery and ruin; if
it shall continue or another hundred years Germany cannot possibly
have a _pfennig_ left and we shall certainly have to devour one
another.  The devil invented the practice, and the pope, by confirming
it[265], has injured the whole world. Therefore I ask and pray that
everyone open his eyes to see the ruin of himself, his children and
his heirs, which not only stands before the door, but already haunts
the house, and that emperor, princes, lords and cities do their part
that this trade be condemned as speedily as possible, and henceforth
prevented, regardless whether or not the pope, with all his law and
unlaw, is opposed to it, and whether or not benefices or church
foundations are based upon it. It is better that there should be in a
city one living based on an honest freehold or revenue, than a hundred
based on an annuity; indeed a living based on an annuity is worse and
more grievous than twenty based on freeholds. In truth this traffic in
rents must be a sign and symbol that the world, for its grievous sins,
has been sold to the devil, so that both temporal and spiritual
possessions must fail us, and yet we do not notice it at all.

Here, too, we must put a bit in the mouth of the Fuggers and similar
corporations[266]. How is it possible that in the lifetime of a single
man such great possessions, worthy of a king, can be piled up, and yet
everything be done legally and according to God's will? I am not a
mathematician, but I do not understand how a man with a hundred gulden
can make a profit of twenty gulden in one year, nay, how with one
gulden he can make another[267]; and that, too, by another way than
agriculture or cattle-raising, in which increase of wealth depends not
on human wits, but on God's blessing. I commend this to the men of
affairs. I am a theologian, and find nothing to blame in it except its
evil and offending appearance, of which St. Paul says, "Avoid every
appearance or show of evil." [1 Thess. 5:22] This I know well, that it
would be much more pleasing to God if we increased agriculture and
diminished commerce, and that they do much better who, according to
the Scriptures, till the soil and seek their living from it, as was
said to us and to all men in Adam, "Accursed be the earth when thou
laborest therein, it shall bear thee thistles and thorns, and in the
sweat of thy face shalt thou eat thy bread." [Gen. 3:17 ff.] There is
still much land lying untilled.

[Sidenote: Excesses in Eating and Drinking]

4. Next comes the abuse of eating and drinking[268] which gives us
Germans a bad reputation in foreign lands, as though it were our
special vice. Preaching cannot stop it; it has become too common, and
has got too firmly the upper hand. The waste of money which it causes
would be a small thing, were it not followed by other sins,--murder,
adultery, stealing, irreverence and all the vices. The temporal sword
can do something to prevent it; or else it will be as Christ says:
"The last day shall come like a secret snare, when they shall be
eating and drinking, marrying and wooing, building and planting,
buying and selling." [Luke 21:34 f.] It is so much like that now that
I verily believe the judgment day is at the door, though men are
thinking least of all about it.

[Sidenote: The Social Evil]

5. Finally, is it not a pitiful thing that we Christians should
maintain among us open and common houses of prostitution, though all
of us are baptised unto chastity? I know very well what some say to
this, to wit, that it is not the custom of any one people, that it is
hard to break up, that it is better that there should be such houses
than that married women, or maidens, or those of more honorable estate
should be outraged. But should not the temporal, Christian government
consider that in this heathen way the evil is not to be controlled? I
the people of Israel could exist without such an abomination, why
could not Christian people do as much? Nay, how do many cities, towns
and villages exist without such houses? Why should not great cities
also exist without them?

In this, and in the other matters above mentioned, I have tried to
point out how many good works the temporal government could do, and
what should be the duty of every government, to the end that every one
may learn what an awful responsibility it is to rule, and to have high
station. What good would it do that an overlord were in his own life
as holy as St. Peter, if he have not the purpose diligently to help
his subjects in these matters? His very authority will condemn him!
For it is the duty of the authorities to seek the highest good of
their subjects. But if the authorities were to consider how the young
people might be brought together in marriage, the hope of entering the
married state would greatly help every one to endure and to resist

[Sidenote: Celibacy and Its Abuses]

But now every man is drawn to the priesthood or the monastic life, and
among them, I fear, there is not one in a hundred who has any other
reason than that he seeks a living, and doubts that he will ever be
able to support himself in the estate of matrimony. Therefore they
live wildly enough beforehand, and wish, as they say, to "wear out
their lust," but rather wear it in[269], as experience shows. I find
the proverb true, "Despair makes most of the monks and priests"[270];
and so things are as we see them.

My faithful counsel is that, in order to avoid many sins which have
become very common, neither boy nor maid should take the vow of
chastity, or of the "spiritual life," before the age of thirty
years[271]. It is, as St. Paul says, a peculiar gift [1 Cor. 7].
Therefore let him whom God does not constrain, put off becoming a
cleric and taking the vows. Nay, I will go farther and say, If you
trust God so little that you are not willing to support yourself as a
married man, and wish to become a cleric only because of this
distrust, then for the sake of your own soul, I beg of you not to
become a cleric, but rather a farmer, or whatever else you please. For
if to obtain your temporal support you must have one measure of trust
in God, you must have ten measures of trust to continue in the life of
a cleric. If you do not trust God to support you in the world, how
will you trust him to support you in the Church? Alas, unbelief and
distrust spoil everything and lead us into all misery, as we see in
every estate of life!

Much could be said of this miserable condition. The young people have
no one to care for them. They all do as they please, and the
government is of as much use to them as if it did not exist; and yet
this should be the chief concern of pope, bishops, lords and councils.
They wish to rule far and wide, and yet to help no one. O, what a rare
bird will a lord and ruler be in heaven just on this account, even
though he build a hundred churches or God and raise up all the dead!

[Sidenote: Conclusion]

[Let this suffice for this time! Of what the temporal powers and the
nobility ought to do, I think I have said enough in the little book.
_On Good Works_[272]. There is room for improvement in their lives and
in their rule, and yet the abuses of the temporal power are not to be
compared with those of the spiritual power, as I have there

I think too that I have pitched my song in a high key, have made many
propositions which will be thought impossible and have attacked many
things too sharply. But what am I to do? I am in duty bound to speak.
If I were able, these are the things I should wish to do. I prefer the
wrath of the world to the wrath of God; they can do no more than take
my life[274]. Many times heretofore I have made overtures of peace to
my opponents; but as I now see, God has through them compelled me to
open my mouth wider and wider and give them enough to say, bark, shout
and write, since they have nothing else to do. Ah well, I know another
little song about Rome and about them if I their ears itch for it I
will sing them that song too, and pitch the notes to the top of the
scale. Understandest thou, dear Rome, what I mean?

I have many times offered my writings for investigation and judgment,
but it has been of no use. To be sure, I know that if my cause is
just, it must be condemned on earth, and approved only by Christ in
heaven; or all the Scriptures show that the cause of Christians and of
Christendom must be judged by God alone. Such a cause has never yet
been approved by men on earth, but the opposition has always been too
great and strong. It is my greatest care and fear that my cause may
remain uncondemned, by which I should know or certain that it was not
yet pleasing to God.

Therefore let them boldly go to work,--pope, bishop, priest, monk and
scholar! They are the right people to persecute the truth, as they
have ever done.

God give us all a Christian mind, and especially to the Christian
nobility of the German nation a right spiritual courage to do the best
that can be done for the poor Church. Amen.

Wittenberg, 1520.


[1] _Unserm furnchmen nach_. See Introduction, p. 57.

[2] An ironical comparison of the monks' cowl and tonsure with the
headgear of the jester.

[3] i. e., Which one turns out to be the real fool.

[4] The proverb ran, _Monachus semper praesens_, "a monk is always
there." See Wander, _Deutsches Sprichwörterlexicon_, under Mönch, No.

[5] Evidently a reference to the _Gravamina of the German Nation_; see
Gebhardt, _Die Grav. der Deutschen Nation_, Breslau, 1895.

[6] Councils of the Church, especially those of Constance (1414-18),
and of Basel (1431-39).

[7] Charles V. was elected Emperor in 1519, when but twenty years of
age. Hutten expresses his "hopes of good" from Charles in _Vadiscus_
(Böcking, IV, 156).

[8] Frederick Barbarossa (1152-1100).

[9] Frederick II (1212-1250), grandson of Barbarossa and last of the
great Hohenstaufen Emperors. He died under excommunication.

[10] Pope Julius II (1503-1513). Notorious among the popes for his
unscrupulous pursuit of political power, he was continually involved
in war with one and another of the European powers over the possession
of territories in Italy.

[11] Luther's recollection of the figures was faulty.

[12] The term "Romanist" is applied by Luther to the champions of the
extreme form of papal supremacy. C. Vol. I, p. 343 f.

[13] i. e., The three rods for the punishment of an evil pope.

[14] _Spuknisse_, literally "ghosts." The gist of the sentence is,
"the Romanists have frightened the world with ghost-stories."

[15] _Olegötze_--"an image anointed with holy oil to make it sacred";
in modern German, "a blockhead."

[16] Lay-baptism in view of imminent death is a practice as old as the
Christian Church. The right of the laity to administer baptism in such
cases was expressly recognized by the Council of Elvira, in the year
306, and the decree of that Council became a part of the law of the
Church. The right of the laity to give absolution in such cases rests
on the principle that in the absence of the appointed official of the
Church any Christian can do for any other Christian the things that
are absolutely necessary or salvation, for "necessity knows no law."
Cf. Vol. I, p. 30, note 2.

[17] The canon law, called by Luther throughout this treatise and
elsewhere, the "spiritual law," is a general name for the decrees of
councils ("canons" in the strict sense) and decisions of the popes
("decretals," "constitutions," etc.), promulgated by authority of the
popes, and collected in the so-called _Corpus juris canonici_. It
comprised the whole body of Church law, and embodied in legal forms
the mediæval theory of papal absolutism, which accounts for the
bitterness with which Luther speaks of it, especially in this
treatise. The Corpus includes the following collections of canons and
decretals: The _Decretum of Gratian_ (1142), the _Liber Extra_ (1234),
the _Liber Sextus_ (1298), the _Constitutiones Clementinae_ (1318 or
1317), and the two books of _Extravagantes_ ,--the _Extravagantes of
John XXII_, and the _Extravagantes communes_. The last pope whose
decrees are included is Sixtus IV (died 1484). See _Catholic
Encyclop._,IV, pp. 391 ff.

[18] Augustine, the master-theologian of the Ancient Church, bishop of
Hippo in Africa from 395-430.

[19] Ambrose, bishop of Milan from 374-397, had not yet been baptised
at the time of his election to the episcopate, which was forced upon
him by the unanimous voice of the people of the city.

[20] Cyprian, bishop of Carthage, 247-258, is said to have consented
to accept the office only when the congregation surrounded his house
and besought him to yield to their entreaties.

[21] _Was ausz der Tauff krochen ist_.

[22] The _character indelebilis_, or "indelible mark," received
authoritative statement in the bull _Exultate Deo_ (1439). Eugenius
IV, summing up the Decrees of the Council of Florence, says: "Among
these sacraments there are three--baptism, confirmation, and
orders--which indelibly impress upon the soul a character, i. e., a
certain spiritual mark which distinguishes them from the rest" (Mirbt,
_Quellen_, 2d ed., No. 150). The Council of Trent in its XXIII.
Session, July 15, 1563 (Mirbt, No. 312), defined the correct Roman
teaching as follows: "Since in the sacrament of orders, as in baptism
and confirmation, a character is impressed which cannot be destroyed
or taken away, the Holy Synod justly condemns the opinion of those who
assert that the priests of the New Testament have only temporary
power, and that those once rightly ordained can again be made laymen,
if they do not exercise the ministry of the Word of God."

[23] i. e., They are all Christians, among whom there can be no
essential difference.

[24] The sharp distinction which the Roman Church drew between clergy
and laity found practical application in the contention that the
clergy should be exempt from the jurisdiction of the civil courts,
This is the so-called _privilegium fori_, "benefit of clergy." It was
further claimed that the government of the clergy and the
administration of Church property must be entirely in the hands of the
Church authorities, and that no lay rulers might either make or
enforce laws which in any way affected the Church. See Lea, _Studies
in Church History_, 169-219 and _Prot. Realencyk._, VI, 594.

[25] It was the contention of the Church authorities that priests
charged with infraction of the laws of the state should first be tried
in the ecclesiastical courts. If found guilty, they were degraded from
the priesthood and handed over to the state authorities for
punishment.  Formula for degradation in the canon law, C. 2 in VI, _de
poen._ (V, 9). See _Prot. Realencyk._, VI, 589.

[26] The interdict is the prohibition of the administration of the
sacraments and of the other rites of the Church within the territory
upon which the interdict is laid (_Realencyk._, IX, 208 f.). Its use
was not uncommon in the Middle Ages, and during the time that the
power of the popes was at its height it proved an effective means of
bringing refractory rulers to terms. A famous instance is the
interdict laid upon the Kingdom of England by Innocent III in 1208.
Interdicts of more limited local extent were quite frequent. The use
of the interdict as punishment for trifling infractions of church law
was a subject of complaint at the diets of Worms (1521) and Nürnberg
(1524). See A. Wrede, _Deutsche Reichstagsakten unter Kaiser Karl V._,
II, pp. 685 f, III, 665.

[27] The statement of which Luther here complains is found in the
Decretum of Gratian, _Dist. XL, c. 6, Si papa_. In his _Epitome_ (see
Introduction, p. 58), Prierias had quoted this canon against Luther,
as follows: "_A Pontifex indubitatus_ (i. e., a pope who is not
accused of heresy or schism) cannot lawfully be deposed or judged
either by a council or by the whole world, even if he is so scandalous
as to lead people with him by crowds into the possession of hell."
Luther's comment is: "Be astonished, O heaven; shudder, O earth!
Behold, O Christians, what Rome is!" (_Weimar Ed._, VI, 336).

[28] Gregory the Great, pope 590-604. The passage is found in Migne,
LXXVI, 203; LXXVII, 34.

[29] Antichrist, the incarnation of all that is hostile to Christ and
His Kingdom. His appearance is prophesied in 2 Thess. 2:3-10 (the "man
of sin, sitting in the temple of God"); 1 John 2:18, 22; 4:3, and Rev.
13. In the early Church the Fathers sometimes thought the prophecies
fulfilled in the person of some especially pestilent heretic. Wyclif
applied the term to the pope,--"the pope would seem to be not the
vicar of Christ, but the vicar of Antichrist" (see Loos,
_Dogmengeschichte_, 4th ed., p. 649). On Dec. 11, 1518, Luther wrote
to Link: "You can see whether my suspicion is correct that at the
Roman court the true Antichrist rules of whom St. Paul speaks"; and
March 13, 1519, he wrote to Spalatin: "I am not sure but that the pope
is Antichrist or his apostle." It was the worldly pretensions of the
papacy which suggested the idea both to Wyclif and to Luther. By the
year 1520 Luther had come to the definite conclusion that the pope was
the "man of sin, sitting in the temple of God," and this opinion he
never surrendered.

[30] See above, p. 65.

[31] According to academic usage, the holder of a Master's degree was
authorised to expound the subject named in the degree.

[32] The doctrine of papal infallibility was never officially
sanctioned in the Middle Ages, but the claim of infallibility was
repeatedly made by the champions of the more extreme view of papal
power, e. g., Augustinus Triumphus (died 1328) in his _Summa de
potestate Papae_. In his attack upon the XCV Theses (_Dialogus de
potestate Papae_, Dec, 1517) Prierias had asserted, "The supreme
pontiff (i. e., the pope) cannot err when giving a decision as
pontiff, i. e., speaking officially (_ex officio_), and doing what in
him lies to learn the truth"; and again, "Whoever does not rest upon
the teaching of the Roman Church and the supreme pontiff as an
infallible rule of faith, from which even Holy Scripture draws its
vigor and authority, is a heretic" (_Erl. Ed., op. var. arg._, I,
348). In the _Epitome_ he had said: "Even though the pope as an
individual (_singularis persona_) can do wrong and hold a wrong faith,
nevertheless as pope he cannot give a wrong decision" (_Weimar Ed._,
VI, 337).

[33] Most recently in Prierias's _Epitome_. See preceding note.

[34] Luther had discussed the whole subject of the power of the keys
in a Latin treatise, _Resolutio super propositione xiii. de potestate
papae_, of 1519 (_Weimar Ed._, II, pp. 185 ff.), and in the German
treatise _The Papacy at Rome_ (Vol. I, pp. 337-394).

[35] Pp. 66 ff.

[36] Another contention of Prierias. In 1518 (Nov. 25th) Luther had
appealed his cause from the decision of the pope, which he foresaw
would be adverse, to the decision of a council to be held at some
future time. In the _Epitome_ Prierias discusses this appeal,
asserting, among other things, that "when there is one undisputed
pontiff, it belongs to him alone to call a council," and that "the
decrees of councils neither bind nor hold (_nullum ligant vel
astringunt_) unless they are confirmed by authority of the Roman
pontiff" (_Weimar Ed._, VI, 335).

[37] i. e., A mere gathering of people.

[38] The Council of Nicæa, the first of the great councils of the
Church, assembled in 325 for the settlement of the Arian controversy.
Luther's statement that it was called by the Emperor Constantine, and
that its decisions did not derive their validity from any papal
confirmation, is historically correct. On Luther's statements about
this council, see _Schäffer, _Luther als Kirchenhistoriker_, pp. 291
ff.; Kohler, Luther und die Kg., pp. 148 ff.

[39] Luther is here referring to the earlier so-called "ecumenical"

[40] i. e., A council which will not be subject to the pope. Cf.
_Erl. Ed._, xxvi, 112.

[41] i. e., They belong to the "spiritual estate"; see above, p. 69.

[42] _Der Haufe_, i. e. Christians considered _en masse_, without
regard to official position in the Church.

[43] The papal crown dates from the XI Century; the triple crown, or
tiara, from the beginning of the XIV. It was intended to signify that
very superiority of the pope to the rulers of this world, of which
Luther here complains. See _Realencyk._, X, 532, and literature there

[44] A statement made by Augustinus Triumphus. See above, p. 73, note
5; and below, p. 246.

[45] The Cardinal della Rovere, afterwards Pope Julius II, held at one
time the archbishopric of Avignon, the bishoprics of Bologna,
Lausanne, Coutances, Viviers, Mende, Ostia and Velletri, and the
abbacies of Nonantola and Grottaferrata. This is but one illustration
of the scandalous pluralism practised by the cardinals. Cf. Lea, in
_Cambridge Mod. Hist._, I, pp. 650 f.

[46] The complaint that the cardinals were provided with incomes by
appointment to German benefices goes back to the Council of Constance
(1415). C. Benrath, p. 87, note 17.

[47] The creation of new cardinals was a lucrative proceeding for the
popes. On July 31, 1517, Leo X created thirty-one cardinals, and is
said to have received from the new appointees about 300,000 ducats.
Needless to say, the cardinals expected to make up the fees out of the
income of their livings. See _Weimar Ed._, VI, 417, note I, and
Pastor, _Gesch. der Papste_ IV, I, 137. C. Hutten's _Vadiscus_
(Bocking IV, 188).

[48] The famous Benedictine monastery just outside the city of

[49] The proposal made at Constance (see above, p. 82, note 2) was
more generous. It suggested a salary of three to four thousand gulden.

[50] As early as the XIV Century both England and France had enacted
laws prohibiting the very practices of which Luther here complains. It
should be noted, however, that these laws were enforced only
occasionally, and never very strictly.

[51] The papal court or curia consisted of all the officials of
various sorts who were employed in the transaction of papal business,
including those who were in immediate attendance upon the person of
the pope, the so-called "papal family." On the number of such
officials in the XVI Century, see Benrath, p. 88, note 18, where
reference is made to 949 offices, exclusive of those which had to do
with the administration of the city of Rome and of the States of the
Church, and not including the members of the pope's "family." The
_Gravamina_ of 1521 complain that the increase of these offices in
recent years has added greatly to the financial burdens of the German
Church (Wrede, _Deutsche Reichstagsakten unter Kaiser Karl V_, II,

[52] On the annates, see Vol. I, p. 383, note 1. Early in their
history, which dates from the beginning of the XIV. Century, the
annates (_fructus medii temporis_) had become a fixed tax on all
Church offices which fell vacant, and the complaint of extortion in
their appraisement and collection was frequently raised. The Council
of Constance restricted the obligation to bishoprics and abbacies, and
such other benefices as had a yearly income of more than 24 gulden.
The Council of Basel (1430) resolved to abolish them entirely, but the
resolution of the Council was inoperative, and in the Concordat of
Vienna (1448) the German nation agreed to abide by the decision of
Constance. On the use of the term "annates" to include other payments
to the curia, especially the _servitia_, see Catholic Encyclopedia, I,
pp. 537 f.

Luther here alleges that the annates are not applied to their
ostensible purpose, viz., the Crusade. This charge is repeated in the
_Gravamina_ of the German Nation presented to the Diet of Worms
(1521), with the additional allegation that the amount demanded in the
way of annates has materially increased (A. Wrede, _Deutsche
Reichstagsakten unter Kaiser Karl V._, II, pp. 675 f.). Similar
complaints had been made at the Diet of Augsburg (1518), and were
repeated at the Diet of Nürnberg (Wrede, _op. cit._, III, 660).
Hutten calls the annates "a good at robbery" (_Ed._ Böcking, IV, 207).
In England the annates were abolished by Act of Parliament (April 10,

[53] On the crusading-indulgences, see Vol. I, p. 18.

[54] i. e., As was done by the Council of Basel. See above, p. 84,
note i.

[55] The canons are the clergy attached to a cathedral church who
constituted the "chapter" of that cathedral, and to whom the right to
elect the bishop normally belonged.

[56] This whole section deals with the abuse of the "right of
reservation," i. e., the alleged right of the pope to appoint directly
to vacant church positions. According to papal theory the right of
appointment belonged absolutely to the pope, who graciously yielded
the right to others under certain circumstances, reserving it to
himself in other cases. The practice of reserving the appointments
seems to date from the XII Century, and was originally an arbitrary
exercise of papal authority. The rules which came to govern the
reservation of appointments were regarded as limitations upon the
authority of the pope, The rule of the "papal months," as it obtained
in Germany in Luther's time, is found in the Concordat of Vienna of
1448 (Mirbt, _Quellen_, 2d ed., No. 261, pp. 167 f.). It provides that
livings, with the exception of the higher dignities in the cathedrals
and the chief posts in the monasteries, which all vacant in the months
of February, April, June, August, October and December, shall be
filled by the ordinary method--election, presentation, appointment by
the bishop, etc.--but that vacancies occurring in the other months
shall be filled by appointment of the pope.

[57] i. e., Church offices which carried with them certain rights of
jurisdiction and gave their possessors a certain honorary precedence
over other officials of the Church. See Meyer in _Realencyk._, IV,

[58] Charles V, though elected emperor, was not crowned until October

[59] i. e., A living which has not hitherto been filled by papal

[60] This rule, like that of the "papal months," is found in the
Concordat of Vienna. Luther's complaint is reiterated in the
_Gravamina_ of 1521. (Wrede, _Deutsche Reichstagsakten_, etc., II,

[61] _Des Papstes und der Cardinale Gesinde_, i. e., all those who
were counted members of the "family" or "household" (called
_Dienstverwandte_ in the Gravamina of 1521) of the pope or of any of
the cardinals. The term included those who were in immediate
attendance upon the pope or the cardinals, and all those to whom, by
virtue of any special connection with the curia, the name "papal
servant" could be made to apply. These are the "courtesans" to whom
Luther afterwards refers.

[62] In 1513 Albrecht of Brandenburg was made Archbishop of Magdeburg
and later in the same year Administrator of Halberstadt; in 1514 he
became Archbishop of Mainz as well. In 1518 he was made cardinal.

[63] This rule, like the others mentioned above, is contained in the
Concordat of Vienna.

[64] Cf. The _Gravamina_ of 1521, No. 20, _Von anfechtung der
cordissanen_ (see above, p. 88, note 3), where the name _cordissei_ is
applied to the practice of attacking titles to benefices. (Wrede, _op.
cit._, II, pp. 677 f.)

[65] The _pallium_ is a woolen shoulder-cape which is the emblem of
the archbishop's office, and which must be secured from Rome. The
bestowal of the _pallium_ by the pope is a very ancient custom.
Gregory I (590-604) mentions it as _prisca consuetudo_ (_Dist._, C.c.
3). The canon law prescribes (_Dist. C. c. I_) that the
archbishop-elect must secure the _pallium_ from Rome within three
months of his election; otherwise he is forbidden to discharge any of
the duties of his office. It is regarded as the necessary complement
of his election and consecration, conferring the "plenitude of the
pontifical office," and the name of archbishop. Luther's charge that
it had to be purchased "with a great sum of money" is substantiated by
similar complaints from the XII Century on, though the language of the
canon law makes it evident that Luther's other contention is also
correct, viz., that the _pallium_ was originally bestowed gratis. The
sum required from the different archbishops varied with the wealth of
their sees, and was a fixed sum in each case. The _Gravamina_ of 1521
complain that the price has been raised: "Although according to
ancient ordinance the bishoprics of Mainz, Cologne, Salzburg, etc.,
were bound to pay or the _pallium_ about 10,000 gulden and no more,
they can now scarcely get a _pallium_ from Rome for 20 or 24 thousand
gulden." (Wrede, _op. cit._, II, 675.)

[66] The oath of allegiance to the pope was required before the
pallium could be bestowed (_Dist. C, c._ I). The canon law describes
this oath as one "of allegiance, obedience and unity" (X, I, 6, c. 4).

[67] See above, p. 86, note 2.

[68] cf. Luther to Spalatin, June 25, 1520 (Enders, II, 424; Smith,
No. 271).

[69] i. e., The benefices are treated as though they were vacant.

[70] In the case of certain endowed benefices the right to nominate
the incumbent was vested in individuals, usually of the nobility, and
was hereditary in their family, This is the so-called _jus patronum_,
or "right of patronage." The complaint that this right is disregarded
is frequent in the _Gravamina_ of 1521.

[71] _Commendation_ was one of the practices by which the pope evaded
the provision of the canon law which prescribed that the same man
should not hold two livings with the cure of souls. The man who
received an office in _commendam_ was not required to fulfil the
duties attached to the position and when a living or an abbacy was
granted in this way during the incumbency of another, the recipient
received its entire income during a subsequent vacancy. The practice
was most common in the case of abbacies. At the Diet of Worms (1521),
Duke George of Saxony, an outspoken opponent of Luther, was as
emphatic in his protest against this practice as Luther himself
(Wrede, _op. cit._, II, 665); his protest was incorporated in the
_Gravamina_ (_ibid._, 672), and reappears in the Appendix (_ibid._,

[72] A monk who deserted his monastery was known as an "apostate."

[73] i. e., Offices which cannot be united in the hands of one man.
See e. g., note 3, p. 91.

[74] A gloss is a note explanatory of a word or passage of doubtful
meaning. The glosses are the earliest form of commentary on the Bible.
The glosses of the canon law are the more or less authoritative
comments of the teachers, and date from the time when the study of the
canon law became a part of the theological curriculum. Their aim is
chiefly to show how the law applies to practical cases which may
arise. The so-called _glossa ordinaria_ had in Luther's time an
authority almost equal to that of the _corpus juris_ itself. Cf.
_Cath. Encyc._, VI, pp. 588 f.

[75] The thing which was bought was, of course, the dispensation, or
permission to avail oneself of the gloss.

[76] _Dataria_ is the name for that department of the curia which had
to deal with the granting of dispensations and the disposal of
benefices. _Datarius_ is the title of the official who presided over
this department.

[77] See above, p. 88, note 2. For a catalogue of papal appointments
bestowed upon two "courtesans," Johannes Zink und Johannes
Ingenwinkel, see Schulte, _Die Fugger in Rom_, I, pp. 282, 291 ff.
Between 1513 and 1521, Zink received 56 appointments, and Ingenwinkel
received, between 1496 and 1521, no fewer than 106.

[78] See above, p. 87, note 1.

[79] So Albrecht of Mainz bore the title of "administrator" of

[80] The name of this practice was "regression" (_regressus_).

[81] The complaint was made at Worms (1521) that it was impossible for
a German to secure a clear title to a benefice at Rome unless he
applied for it in the name of an Italian, to whom he was obliged to
pay a percentage of the income, a yearly pension, for a fixed sum of
money for the use of his name (Wrede, _op. cit._, II, 712).

[82] _Simony_--the sin of Simon Magus (Acts 8:18-20)--the sin
committed by the sale or the purchase of an office or position which
is normally conferred by a ritual act of the Church. In the ancient
and earlier mediæval Church the use of money to secure preferment was
held to invalidate the title of the guilty party to the position thus
secured, and the acceptance of money for such a purpose was an offence
punishable by deposition and degradation. The "heresy of Simon" was
conceived to be the greatest of all heresies. The traffic in Church
offices, which became a flagrant abuse from the time of John XXII
(1316-1334), would have been regarded in earlier days as the most
atrocious simony.

[83] The _reservatio mentalis_ or _in pectore_ is the natural
consequence of the papal theory that the right of appointment to all
Church offices of every grade belongs to the pope (see above, p. 86,
note 3). According to the theory of the canonists (Lancelotti,
_Institutiones juris canonici. Lib. I, Tit._ XXVII) this right is
exercised either _per petitionem alterius_, i. e., by confirmation of
the election, appointment, etc., of others, or _proprio motu_, i. e.,
"on his own motion." In ordinary cases the exercise of the appointing
power was limited by rules, which though bitterly complained of (see
above, pp. 86 ff, and notes), were generally understood, but the
theory allowed any given case to be made an exception to the rules. Of
such a case it was said that it was "reserved in the heart of the
Pope," and the appointment was then made "on his own motion." Hutten
says of this _reservatio in pectore_ that "it is an easy, agile and
slippery thing, and bears no comparison to any other form of cheating"
(Ed. Booking, IV, 215).

[84] For a similar instance quoted at Worms (1521), see Wrede, _op.
cit._, II, 710.

[85] The three chief centers of foreign commerce in the XV and the
early XVI Century. The annual fairs (_Jahrmarkt_), held at stated
times in various cities, brought great numbers of merchants together
from widely distant points, and were the times when the greater part
of the wholesale business for the year was done.;

[86] Built by Innocent VIII (1454-1490).

[87] See above, p. 93, note 2.

[88] The Church law forbade the taking of interest on loans of money.

[89] During the Middle Ages all questions touching marriage and
divorce, including, therefore, the question of the legitimacy of
children, were governed by the laws of the Church, on the theory that
marriage was a sacrament.

[90] i. e., By buying dispensations.

[91] The sums paid or special dispensations were so called.

[92] The toll which the "robber-barons" of the Rhine levied upon
merchants passing through their domains.

[93] _Ja wend das blat umb szo indistu es_--The translators have
adopted the interpretation of O. Clemen, _L's. Werke_, I, 383.

[94] The Fuggers of Augsburg were the greatest of the German
capitalists in the XVI Century. They were international bankers, "the
Rothschilds of the XVI Century." Their control of large capital
enabled them to advance large sums of money to the territorial rulers,
who were in a chronic state of need. In return for these favors they
received monopolistic concessions by which their capital was further
increased. The spiritual, as well as the temporal lords, availed
themselves regularly of the services of this accommodating firm. They
were the pope's financial representatives in Germany. On their
connection with the indulgence against which Luther protested, see
Vol. I, p. 21; on their relations with the papacy, see Schulte, _Die
Fugger in Rom_, 2 Vols., Leipzig, 1904.

[95] Certificates entitling the holder to choose his own confessor and
authorizing the confessor to absolve him from certain classes of
"reserved" sins; referred to in the XCV Theses as _confessionalia_.
Cf.  Vol. I, p. 22.

[96] Certificates granting their possessor permission to eat milk,
eggs, butter and cheese on fast days.

[97] The word is used here in the broad sense, and means dispensations
of all sorts, including those just mentioned, relating to penance.

[98] Equivalent to "carrying coals to Newcastle."

[99] The _Campo di Fiore_, a Roman market-place, restored and adorned
at great expense by Eugenius IV (1431-1447), and his successors.

[100] A part of the Vatican palace notorious as the banqueting-hall of
Alexander VI (1402-1503), turned by Julius II (1503-1513) into a
museum for the housing of his wonderful and expensive collection of
ancient works of art. Luther is hinting that the indulgence money has
been spent on these objects rather than on the maintenance of the
Church. Cf. Clemen, I, 384, note 15.

[101] i. e., The offices and positions in Rome which were for sale.
See Benrath, p. 88, note 18; p. 95, note 36.

[102] See above, p. 84, note 1.

[103] The passage is chapter 31, _Filiis vel nepotibus_. It provides
that in case the income of endowments bequeathed to the Church is
misused, and appeals to the bishop and archbishop fail to correct the
misuse, the heirs of the testator may appeal to the royal courts.
Luther wishes this principle applied to the annates.

[104] See above, pp. 91 f.

[105] See above, p. 91.

[106] See above, p. 94.

[107] i. e.. Promises to bestow on certain persons livings not yet
vacant. Complaint of the evils arising out of the practice was
continually heard from the year 1416. For the complaints made at Worms
(1521), see Wrede, _op. cit._, II, 710.

[108] See above, pp. 86 f.

[109] See above, pp. 92 f.

[110] See above, p. 93.

[111] See above, p. 89.

[112] Rules for the transaction of papal business, including such
matters as appointments and the like. At Worms (1521) the Estates
complain that these rules are made to the advantage of the
"courtesans" and the disadvantage of the Germans. (Wrede, _op. cit._,
II, pp. 675 f.)

[113] The local Church authorities, here equivalent to "the bishops."
On use of term see _Realencyk._, XIV, 424.

[114] The sign of the episcopal office; as regards archbishops, the
_pallium_; see above, p. 8q, and note.

[115] See above, p. 87, note 1.

[116] The first of the ecumenical councils (A. D. 325). The decree to
which Luther here refers is canon IV of that Council. Cf. Köhler, _L.
und die Kg._, pp. 139 ff.

[117] The primate is the ranking archbishop of a country.

[118] "Exemption" was the practice by which monastic houses were
withdrawn from the jurisdiction of the bishops and made directly
subject to the pope. The practice seems to have originated in the X
Century with the famous monastery of Cluny (918), but it was almost
universal in the case of the houses of the mendicant orders. The
bishops made it a constant subject of complaint, and the Lateran
Council (Dec. 19, 1516) passed a decree abolishing all monastic
exemptions, though the decree does not seem to have been effective.
See _Creighton_, History of the Papacy, V, 266.

[119] i. e., Antichrist. See above, p. 73, note 2.

[120] The papal interference in the conduct of the local Church courts
was as flagrant as in the appointments, of which Luther has heretofore
spoken. At Worms (1521) it was complained that cases were cited to
Rome as a court of first instance, and the demand was made that a
regular course of appeals should be re-established. Wrede, _op. cit._,
II, 672, 718.

[121] The reference is Canon V of the Council of Sardica (A. D. 343),
incorporated in the canon law as a canon of Nicaea (_Pt. II, qu. 6, c.
5_). See Köhler, _L. und die Kg._, 151.

[122] i. e., Appealed to Rome for decision. This is the subject of the
first of the 102 _Gravamina_ of 1521 (Wrede, _op. cit._, II, 672).

[123] The judges in the bishops' courts. The complaint is that they
interfere with the administration of justice by citing into their
courts cases which properly belong in the lay courts, and enforce
their verdicts (usually fines) by means of ecclesiastical censures.
The charges against these courts are specified in the _Gravamina_ of
1521, Nos. 73-100 (Wrede, _op. cit._, II, 694-703).

[124] The _signatura gratiae_ and the _signatura justitiae_ were the
bureaus through which the pope regulated those matters of
administration which belonged to his own special prerogative.

[125] See above, pp. 88 f.

[126] See above, p. 88, note 3.

[127] See above, p. 94.

[128] i. e., The cases in which a priest was forbidden to give
absolution. The reference here is to cases in which only the pope
could absolve. Cf. _The XCV Theses_, Vol. I, p. 30.

[129] A papal bull published annually at Rome on Holy Thursday. It was
directed against heretics, but to the condemnation of the heretics and
their heresies was added a list of offences which could receive
absolution only from the pope, or by his authorisation. In 1522 Luther
translated this bull into German as a New Year present for the pope
(_Weimar Ed._, VIII, 691). On Luther's earlier utterances concerning
it, see Kohler, _L. u. die Kg._, pp. 59 2.

[130] The breve is a papal decree, of equal authority with the bull,
but differing from it in form, and usually dealing with matters of
smaller importance.

[131] Cf. Luther's earlier statement to the same effect in _A
Discussion of Confession_, Vol. I, pp. 96 f.

[132] See above, p. 99.

[133] The Fifth Lateran Council (1512-17).

[134] See above, p. 90, note 1.

[135] In the canon law, _Decretal. Greg. lib. i, tit. 6, cap. 4_. The
decretal forbids the bestowing of the pallium (see above, p. 89, note
3) on an archbishop elect, until he shall first have sworn allegiance
to the Holy See.

[136] The induction of Church officials into office. The term was used
particularly of the greater offices--those of bishop and abbot. These
offices carried with them the enjoyment of certain incomes, and the
possession of certain temporal powers. For this reason the right of
investiture was a bone of contention between popes and emperors during
the Middle Ages.

[137] Especially in the time of the Emperors Henry IV and V

[138] The German Empire was regarded during the Middle Ages as a
continuation of the Roman Empire. (See below, p. 153.) The right to
crown an emperor was held to be the prerogative of the pope; until the
pope bestowed the imperial crown, the emperor bore the title, "King of
the Romans."

[139] In the canon law, _Decretal. Greg. lib. i, tit. 33, cap. 6._

[140] In the treatise, _Resolutio Lutheriana super propositione XIII,
de potestate papae_ (1520). _Weimar Ed._, II, pp. 217 ff.; _Erl. Ed.,
op. var. arg._, Ill, pp. 293 ff.

[141] See p. 70.

[142] cf. _The Papacy at Rome_, Vol. I, pp. 357 f.

[143] A decree of Pope Clement V of 1313, incorporated subsequently in
the canon law, _Clement, lib. ii, tit. 11, cap. 2._

[144] A forged document of the VIII Century, professing to come from
the hand of the Emperor Constantine (306-337). The Donation conveyed
to the pope title to the city of Rome (the capital had been removed to
Constantinople), certain lands in Italy and "the islands of the sea."
It was used by the popes of the Middle Ages to support their claims to
worldly power, and its genuineness was not disputed. In 1440, however,
Laurentius Valla, an Italian humanist, published a work in which he
proved that the Donation was a forgery. This work was republished in
Germany by Ulrich von Hutten in 1517, and seems to have come to
Luther's attention in the early part of 1520, just before the
composition of the present treatise (C. Enders II, 332). Luther
subsequently (1537) issued an annotated translation of the text of the
Donation (_Erl. Ed._, XXV, pp. 176 ff.).

[145] The papal claim to temporal sovereignty over this little
kingdom, which comprised the island of Sicily and certain territories
in Southern Italy, goes back to the XI Century, and was steadily
asserted during the whole of the later Middle Ages. It was one of the
questions at issue in the conflict between the Emperor Frederick II
(1200-1260) and the popes, and played an important part in the history
of the stormy times which followed the all of the Hohenstaufen. The
popes claimed the right to award the kingdom to a ruler who would
swear allegiance to the Holy See. The right to the kingdom was at this
time contested between the royal houses of France and of Spain, of
which latter house the Emperor Charles V was the head.

[146] The popes claimed temporal sovereignty over a strip of territory
in Italy, beginning at Rome and stretching in a northeasterly
direction across the peninsula to a point on the Adriatic south of
Venice, including the cities and lands which Luther mentions. This
formed the so-called "States of the Church." The attempt to
consolidate the States and make the papal sovereignty effective
involved Popes Alexander VI (1492-1503) and Julius II (1503-1513) in
war and entangled them in political alliances with the European powers
and petty Italian states. It resulted at last in actual war between
Pope Clement VII and the Emperor Charles V (1526-1527). See Cambridge
_Modern History_, I, 104-143; 219-252, and literature cited pp.
706-713; 727 f.

[147] A free translation of the Vulgate, _Nemo militans Deo_.

[148] The kissing of the pope's feet was a part of the "adoration"
which he claimed as his right. See above, p. 108.

[149] The three paragraphs enclosed in brackets were added by Luther
to the 2d edition; see Introduction, p. 59.

[150] The holy places of Rome had long been favorite objects of
pilgrimage, and the practice had been zealously fostered by the popes
through the institution of the "golden" or "jubilee years." Cf. Vol.
I, p. 18, and below, p. 114.

[151] Cf. the Italian proverb, "God is everywhere except at Rome;
there He has a vicar."

[152] Cf. Hutten's saying in _Vadiscus_: "Three things there are which
those who go to Rome usually bring home with them, a bad conscience, a
ruined stomach and an empty purse." (Ed. Böcking, IV, p. 169.)

[153] The "golden" or "jubilee years" were the years when special
rewards were attached to worship at the shrines of Rome. The custom
was instituted by Boniface VIII in 1300, and it was the intention to
make every hundredth year a jubilee. In 1343 the interval between
jubilees was fixed at fifty, in 1389 at thirty-three, in 1473 at
twenty-five years. Cf. Vol. I, p. 18.

[154] Cf. the statements in the _Treatise on Baptism_ and the
_Discussion of Confession_, Vol. I, pp. 68 ff., 98.

[155] The houses, or monasteries, of the mendicant or "begging"
orders--the "friars." The members of these orders were sworn to
support themselves on the alms of the faithful.

[156] The three leading mendicant orders were the Franciscan (the
Minorites, or "little brothers"), founded by St. Francis of Assisi
(died 1226), the Dominican (the "preaching brothers"), founded by St.
Dominic (died 1221), and the Augustinian Hermits, to which Luther
himself belonged, and which claimed foundation by St. Augustine (died

[157] The interference of the friars in the duties of the parish
clergy was a continual subject of complaint through this period.

[158] By the middle of the XV Century there were eight distinct sects
within the Franciscan order alone (See _Realencyk._, VI, pp. 212 ff.),
and Luther had himself taken part in a vigorous dispute between two
parties in the Augustinian order.

[159] St. Agnes the Martyr, put to death in the beginning of the IV
Century, one of the favorite saints of the Middle Ages. See Schäfer,
_L. als Kirchenhistoriker_, p. 235.

[160] One of the most famous of the German convents, founded in 936.

[161] The celebrated Church Father (died 420). The passages referred
to are in _Migne_, XXII, 656, and XXVI, 562.

[162] Or "community" (_Gemeine_). Cf. _The Papacy at Rome_, Vol. I.
p. 345, note 4. See also _Dass eine christl. Gemeine Recht und Macht
habe_, etc. _Weimar Ed._ XI, pp. 408 ff.

[163] Or "congregation." See note 2.

[164] i. e.. At a time later than that of the Apostles.

[165] The first absolute prohibition of marriage to the clergy is
contained in a decree of Pope Siricius and dated 385. See H. C. Lea,
_History of Sacerdotal Celibacy_, 3d ed. (1907), I, pp. 59 ff.

[166] The priests of the Greek Church are required to marry, and the
controversy over celibacy was involved in the division between the
Greek and Roman Churches.

[167] Cf. Hutten's _Vadiscus_ (Böcking, IV, 199).

[168] i. e., Lie in Roman appointment.

[169] i. e., The ministry in the congregation. See above, p. 119.

[170] _Quantum ragilitas humana permittit_. A qualification of the

[171] i. e., Celibacy. _Non promitto castitatem_.

[172] _Fragilitas humana non permittit caste vivere_.

[173] _Angelica fortitudo at coelestis virtus_.

[174] The court-jester was allowed unusual freedom of speech. See
Prefatory Letter above, p. 62.

[175] The laws governing marriage were entirely the laws of the
Church. The canon law prohibited marriage of blood-relatives as far as
the seventh degree of consanguinity. In 1204 the prohibition was
restricted to the first our degrees; lawful marriage within these
degrees was possible only by dispensation, which was not all too
difficult to secure, especially by those who were willing to pay for
it (see above, p. 96). The relation of god-parents to god-children was
also held to establish a "spiritual consanguinity" which might serve
as a bar to lawful marriage. See Benrath, p. 103, note 74, and in the
Babylonian Captivity, below, p. 265.

[176] This Luther actually did. When he burned the papal bull of
excommunication (Dec. 10, 1520) a copy of the canon law was also given
to the flames.

[177] i. e., The marriage of the clergy.

[178] On this sort of reserved cases see Discussion of Confession,
Vol. I, pp. 96 ff.

[179] "Irregularity" is the condition of any member of a monastic
order who has violated the prescriptions of the order and been
deprived, in consequence, of the benefits enjoyed by those who live
under the _regula_, viz., the rule of the order.

[180] The three kinds of masses are really but one thing, viz., masses
for the dead, celebrated on certain fixed days in each year, in
consideration of the enjoyment of certain incomes, received either out
of bequeathed endowments or from the heirs of the supposed

[181] i. e., Even when the mass is decently said.

[182] See above, p. 72, note 1.

[183] See above, p. 104.

[184] _Das geistliche Unrecht_.

[185] The _Treatise concerning the Ban_, above, pp. 33 ff.

[186] i. e., To those who teach and enforce the canon law.

[187] Luther means the saint's-days and minor religious holidays. See
also the _Discourse on Good Works_, Vol. I, pp. 240 f.

[188] Or "congregation."

[189] i. e., City-council.

[190] _Kirchweihen_, i. e., the anniversary celebration of the
consecration of a church. These days had become  feast days for the
parish, and were observed in anything but a spiritual fashion.

[191] i. e., Occasions for drunkenness, gain and gambling.

[192] See above, pp. 96 f.

[193] See above, p. 98, note 2.

[194] Letters entitling their holder to the benefits of the masses
founded by the sodalities or confraternities. See Benrath, p. 103.

[195] See above, p. 98, and Vol. I, p. 22.

[196] The pun is untranslatable,--_Netz, Gesetz solt ich sagen_.

[197] What the pope sold was release from the "snares" and "nets,"
viz., dispensation.

[198] i. e., Even into the law of the church.

[199] _Die wilden Kapellen und Feldkirchen_, i. e., churches which are
built in the country, where there are no congregations.

[200] A little town in East Prussia, where was displayed a sacramental
wafer, said to have been miraculously preserved from a fire which
destroyed the church in 1383. It was alleged that at certain times
this wafer exuded drops of blood, reverenced as the blood of Christ,
and many miracles were said to have been performed by it. Wilsnack
early became a favorite resort for pilgrims. In 1412 the archbishop of
Prague, at the instigation of John Hus, forbade the Bohemians to go
there. Despite the protests of the Universities of Leipzig and Erfurt,
Pope Eugenius IV in 1446 granted special indulgences for this
pilgrimage, and the popularity of the shrine was undiminished until
the time of the Reformation. Cf. _Realencyk_, xxi, pp. 347 ff.

[201] In Mecklenburg, where another relic of "the Holy Blood" was
displayed after 1491. C. Benrath, pp. 104 f.

[202] The "Holy Coat of Trier" was believed by the credulous to be the
seamless coat of Christ, which the soldiers did not rend. It was first
exhibited in 1512, but was said to have been presented to the
cathedral church of Trier by the Empress Helena, mother of Constantine
the Great.

[203] Pilgrimage to the Grimmenthal in Meiningen began in 1499. An
image of the Virgin, declared to have been miraculously created, was
displayed there, and was alleged to work wonderful cures, especially
of syphilis.

[204] The "Fair Virgin (_die schöne Maria_) of Regensburg" was an
image of the Virgin similar to that exhibited in the Grimmenthal. The
shrine was opened March 25, 1519, and within a month 50,000 pilgrims
are said to have worshipped there. (_Weimar Ed._, VI, 447, note 1).
For another explanation see Benrath, p. 105.

[205] The pilgrimages were a source of large revenue, derived from the
sale of medals which were worn as amulets, the fees for masses at the
shrines, and the free-will offerings of the pilgrims. A large part of
this revenue accrued to the bishop of the diocese, though the popes
never overlooked the profits which the sale of indulgences or worship
at these shrines could produce. In the _Gravamina_ of 1521 complaint
is made that the bishops demand at least 25 to 33 per cent, of the
offerings made at shrines of pilgrimage (Wrede, _op. cit._, II, 687).

[206] i. e., Every bishop.

[207] The possession of a saint gave a church a certain reputation and
distinction, which was sufficiently coveted to make local Church
authorities willing to pay roundly for the canonisation of a departed
bishop or other local dignitary. Cf. Hutten's _Vadiscus_ (Böcking, IV,

[208] Archbishop of Florence (died 1450). He was canonised, May 31,
1523, by Pope Hadrian VI. When Luther wrote this the process of
canonisation had already begun.

[209] _Indulta_, i. e., grants of special privilege.

[210] "Lead," the leaden seal attached to the bull; "hide", the
parchment on which it is written; "the string," the ribbon or silken
cord from which the seals depend; "wax," the seal holding the cord to
the parchment.

[211] Franciscans, Dominicans, Augustinians, Carmelites and Servites.

[212] _Botschaten_, interpreted by _Benrath_ (p. 105), Clemen (I, 406,
note) and Weimar Ed. (VI, 406, note 1) as a reference to the
_stationarii_. They were wandering beggars who, for an alms, would
enroll the contributor in the list of beneficiaries of their patron
saint, an alleged insurance against disease, accident, etc. They were
classified according to the names of their patron saints, St. Anthony,
St. Hubert, St. Valentine, etc. Protests against their operations were
raised at the Diets of Worms (1521) and Nürnberg (1523). Included in
these protests are the _terminarii_, i.e., the collectors of alms sent
out by the mendicant orders. See Wrede, _op. cit._, II, 678, 688, III,
651, and Benrath, loc. cit.

[213] _Wallbrüder_, the professional pilgrims who spent their lives in
wandering from one place of pilgrimage to another and subsisted on the
alms of the faithful.

[214] i. e., If the plan above proposed were adopted.

[215] See above, p. 129, note 1.

[216] See _Treatise on the New Testament_, Vol. I, pp. 308 ff.

[217] In the _Babylonian Captivity_ (below, pp. 291 f.) Luther
definitely excludes penance from the number of sacraments, but see
also p. 177.

[218] The sodalities ("fraternities," "confraternities"), still an
important institution in the Roman Church, flourished especially in
the XVI Century. They are associations for devotional purposes. The
members of the sodalities are obligated to the recitation of certain
prayers and the attendance upon certain masses at stipulated times. By
virtue of membership in the association each member is believed to
participate in the benefits accruing from these "good works" of all
the members. In the case of most of the sodalities membership entitled
the member to the enjoyment of certain indulgences. In 1520 Wittenberg
boasted of 20 such fraternities, Cologne of 80, Hamburg of more than
100 (Realencyk., Ill, 437). In 1519 Degenhard Peffinger, of
Wittenberg, was a member of 8 such fraternities in his home city, and
of 27 in other places. For Luther's view of the sodalities see above,
pp. 8, 26 ff. On the whole subject see Benrath, pp. 106 f.; Kolde in
_Realencyk._, III, pp. 434 ff.; Lea, _Hist. of Conf. and Indulg_, III,
pp. 470 ff.

[219] See above, p. 98, note 2.

[220] See above, p. 128, note 5.

[221] The excesses committed at the feasts of the religious societies
were often a public scandal. See Lea, _Hist, of Conf. and Indulg_,
III, pp. 437 ff.

[222] "Faculties" were extraordinary powers, usually for the granting
of indulgences and of absolution in "reserved cases" (see above, p.
105, note 3). They were bestowed by the pope and could be revoked by
him at any time. Sometimes they were given to local Church officials,
but were usually held by the legates or commissaries sent from Rome.
Complaints were made at the Diets of Worms (1520) and Nürnberg (1523)
that the papal commissaries and legates interfered with the ordinary
methods of ecclesiastical jurisdiction and appointment. See Weede,
_op. cit._, II, 673, III, 653.

[223] Wladislav I forced the Sultan to sue for peace in 1443. At the
instigation of the papal legate, Cardinal Caesarini, who represented
that the treaty had not been approved by the pope, and absolved the
king from the fulfilment of its conditions, he renewed the war in
1444. At the battle of Varna, Nov. 10th, 1444, the Hungarians were
decisively defeated, and Wladislav and Caesarini both killed. See
Creighton, _Hist. of the Papacy_, III, 67.

[224] John Hus and Jerome of Prague were convicted of heresy by the
Council of Constance and burned at the stake, the former July 6th,
1415, the latter May 30th, 1416. Hus had come to Constance under the
safe-conduct of the Emperor Sigismund. Luther is in error when he
assumes that Jerome had a similar safe-conduct. In September, 1415,
the Council passed a decree which asserted that "neither by natural,
divine or human law was any promise to be observed to the prejudice of
the catholic faith." On the whole matter of the safe-conduct and its
violation see Lea, _Hist. of the Inquisition in the M.A._, II, pp. 453

[225] The League of Cambray, negotiated in 1508 for war against
Venice. In 1510 Venice made terms with the pope and detached him from
the alliance, and the result was war between the pope and the King of
France. See Cambridge _Modern History_, I, pp. 130 ii., and literature
there cited.

[226] i. e. The Hussites. After the martyrdom of Hus his followers
maintained for a time a strong organisation in Bohemia, and resisted
with arms all attempts to force them into conformity with the Roman
Church. The Council of Basel succeeded (1434) in reconciling the more
moderate party among the Bohemians (the Calixtines) by allowing the
administration of the cup to the laity. The more extreme party,
however, refused to subscribe the _Compactata_ of Basel. Though they
soon ceased to be a actor in the political situation, they remained
outside the Church and perpetuated the teachings of Hus in sectarian
organisations. The most important of these, the so-called Bohemian
Brethren, had extended into Poland and Prussia before Luther's time.
See _Realencyk._, Ill, 465-467.

[227] See above, p. 140, note 1.

[228] See Kohler, _L. und die Kirchengesch._, 139, 151.

[229] The Archbishop of Prague was primate of the Church in Bohemia.

[230] The dioceses of these bishops were contiguous to that of the
Archbishop of Prague.

[231] Bishop of Carthage, 240-258 A. D.

[232] _Lass man ihn ein gut jar ha ben_, literally, "Bid him

[233] One of the chief points of controversy between the Roman Church
and the Hussites. The Roman Church administered to the laity only the
bread, the Hussites used both elements. See below, pp. 178 f.

[234] Luther had not yet reached the conviction that the
administration of the cup to the laity was a necessity, but see the
argument in _the Babylonian Captivity_, below, pp. 178 ff.

[235] The Bohemian Brethren, who are here distinguished from the
Hussites, Cf. _Realencyk._, Ill, 452, 49.

[236] St. Thomas Aquinas, the great Dominican theologian of the XIII.
Century (1225-74), whose influence is still dominant in Roman

[237] The view of the sacramental presence adopted by William of
Occam. For Luther's own view at this time, see below, pp. 187 ff.

[238] i. e., If they did not believe in the real presence of the body
and blood of Christ in the Lord's Supper.

[239] Places for training youths in Greek glory.

[240] The philosophy of Aristotle dominated the mediæval universities.
It not only provided the forms in which theological and religious
truth came to expression, but it was the basis of all scientific study
in every department. The man who did not know Aristotle was an

[241] Or, "I have read him." Luther's _lesen_ allows of either

[242] Duns Scotus, died 1308. In the XV and XVI Centuries he was
regarded as the rival of Thomas Aquinas for first place among the
theological teachers of the Church.

[243] i. e., In the universities.

[244] See above, pp. 94 f.

[245] i. e., "The chamber of his heart." Boniface VIII (1294-1303) had
decreed, _Romanus pontiex jura omnia in scrinio pectoris sui censetur
habere_, "the Roman pontiff has all laws in the chamber of his heart."
This decree was received into the canon law (_c._ I, de const. In VIto
(I, 2)).

[246] _Doctores decretorum_, "Doctor of Decrees," an academic degree
occasionally given to professors of Canon Law; _doctor scrinii
papalis_, "Doctor of the Papal Heart."

[247] The introduction of Roman law into Germany, as the accepted law
of the empire, had begun in the XII Century. With the decay of the
feudal system and the increasing desire of the rulers to provide their
government with some effective legal system, its application became
more widespread, until by the end of the XV Century it was the
accepted system of the empire. The attempt to apply this ancient law
to conditions utterly different from those of the time when it was
formulated, and the continual conflict between the Roman law, the
feudal customs and the remnants of Germanic legal ideas, naturally
gave rise to a state of affairs which Luther could justly speak of as
"a wilderness."

[248] "Sentences" (_Sententiae, libri sententiarum_) was the title of
the text-books in theology. Theological instruction was largely by way
of comment on the most famous book of Sentences, that of Peter

[249] Cf. Vol. I, p. 7.

[250] i. e., Doctors.

[251] The head-dress of the doctors.

[252] See above, p. 118, note 2.

[253] i. e., The monasteries and nunneries.

[254] i. e.. The name of Christian.

[255] This section did not appear in the first edition; see
Introduction, p. 59.

[256] Charles the Great, King of the Franks, was crowned Roman Emperor
by Pope Leo III in the year 800 A. D. He was a German, but regarded
himself successor to the line of emperors who had ruled at Rome. The
fiction was fostered by the popes, and the German kings, after
receiving the papal coronation, were called Roman Emperors. From this
came the name of the German Empire of the Middle Ages, "the Holy Roman
Empire of the German Nation." The popes of the later Middle Ages
claimed that the bestowal of the imperial dignity lay in the power of
the pope, and Pope Clement V (1313) even claimed that in the event of
a vacancy the pope was the possessor of the imperial power (cf. above,
p. 109). On the whole subject see Bryce, _Holy Roman Empire_, 2d ed.
(1904), and literature there cited.

[257] The city of Rome was sacked by the Visigoths in 410.

[258] Luther is characteristically careless about his chronology. By
the "Turkish Empire" he means the Mohammedan power.

[259] _So sol man die Deutschen teuschen und mit teuschen teuschenn_,
i.e., made Germans (_Deutsche_) by cheating (_teuschen_) them.

[260] See _Cambridge Mediæval History_, I (1911), pp. 244 f.

[261] Such a law as Luther here suggests was proposed to the Diet of
Worms (1521). Text in Wrede, _Reischstagsakten_, II, 335-341.

[262] Cf. Luther's _Sermon von Kaubandlung und Wucher_, of 1524.
(_Weim. Ed. XV_, pp. 293)

[263] Spices were one of the chief articles of foreign commerce in the
XVI Century. The discovery of the cape-route to India had given the
Portuguese a practical monopoly of this trade. A comparative statement
of the cost of spices for a period of years was reported to the Diet
of Nürnberg (1523). See Wrede, _op. cit._, III, 576.

[264] The _Zinskauf_ or _Rentenkauf_ was a means or evading the
prohibition of usury. The buyer purchased an annuity, but the purchase
price was not regarded as a loan, or it could not be recalled, and the
annual payments could not therefore be called interest.

[265] The practice was legalised by the Lateran Council, 1512.

[266] The XVI Century was the hey-day of the great trading-companies,
among which the Fuggers of Augsburg (see above, p. 97, note 5) easily
took first place. The effort of these companies was directed toward
securing monopolies in the staple articles of commerce, and their
ability to finance large enterprises made it possible for them to gain
practical control of the home markets. The sharp rise in the cost of
living which took place on the first half of the XVI Century was laid
at their door. The Diet of Cologne (1512) had passed a stringent law
against monopolies which had, however, failed to suppress them. The
Diet of Worms (1521) debated the subject (Wrede, _Reichstagsakten_ II,
pp. 355 iff.) "in somewhat heated language" (_ibid._, 842), but failed
to agree upon methods of suppression. The subject was discussed again
at the Diet of Nürnberg (1523) and various remedies were proposed
(ibid., Ill, 556-599).

[267] The profits of the trading-companies were enormous. The 9 per
cent, annually of the Welser (Ehrenberg, _Zeitalter der Fugger_, I,
195), pales into insignificance beside the 1634 per cent, by which the
fortune of the Fuggers grew in twenty-one years (Schulte, _Die Fugger
in Rom_, I, 3). In 1511 a certain Bartholomew Rem invested 900 gulden
in the Hochstetter company of Augsburg; by 1517 he claimed 33,000
gulden profit. The company was willing to settle at 26,000, and the
resulting litigation caused the figures to become public (Wrede, _op.
cit._, II, 842, note 4; III, pp. 574 ff.). On Luther's view of
capitalism see Eck, _Introduction to the Sermon von Kaushandlungund
Wucher_, in _Berl. Ed._, VII, 494-513.

[268] The Diets of Augsburg (1500) and Cologne (1512) had passed
edicts against drunkenness. A committee of the Diet of Worms (1521)
recommended that these earlier edicts be reaffirmed (Wrede, _op.
cit._, II, pp. 343 f.), but the Diet adjourned without acting on the
recommendation (ibid., 737)

[269] _Sie wollen ausbuben, so sich's vielmehr hineinbubt_.

[270] Cf. Müller, _Luther's theol. Quellen_, 1912, ch. I.

[271] In the _Confitendi Ratio_ Luther had set the age for men at
eighteen to twenty, or women at fifteen to sixteen years. See Vol. I,
p. 100.

[272] Translated in this edition, Vol. I, pp. 184 ff; see especially
pp. 266 ff.

[273] These sentences did not appear in the first edition.

[274] See _Letter to Staupitz_, Vol. I, p. 43.

[275] This "little song" is the _Prelude on the Babylonian Captivity
of the Church_. See below, pp. 170 ff.




In the _Open Letter to the Christian Nobility_ Luther overthrew the
three walls behind which Rome sat entrenched in her spiritual-temporal
power; in the _Babylonian Captivity of the Church_ he enters and takes
her central stronghold and sanctuary--the sacramental system by which
she accompanied and controlled her members from the cradle to the
grave; only then could he set forth, in language of almost lyrical
rapture, the _Liberty of a Christian Man_.

The first of these three great reformatory treatises of the year 1520,
as they have been called, closed with the words: "I know another
little song about Rome, and if their ears itch to hear it I will sing
it for them, and pitch it in a high key. Dost thou take my meaning,
beloved Rome?" (See above, p. 164.) That some ears were itching to
hear his little song was brought home to Luther especially by two
writings, the one appearing in the summer of 1520, the other published
in the previous autumn, but not reaching Wittenberg until some months

The former came from the pen of Augustin Alveld, that "celebrated
Romanist of Leipzig," against whom Luther had culminated in _The
Papacy at Rome_, promising further disclosures if Alveld "came again."
(See Vol. I, p. 393.) He came again, this time with a _Tractatus de
communione sub utraque specie_,--date of dedication, June 23, 1520.
"The Leipzig ass has set up a fresh braying against me, full of
blasphemies"; thus Luther describes it in a letter to Spalatin, July
22, 1520. (Enders, _Luther's Briewechsel_, II, no. 328.)

The other work was the anonymous tract of a "certain Italian friar of
Cremona," who has only recently been identified as Isidore Isolani, a
Dominican hailing from Milan, who taught theology in various Italian
cities, wrote a number of controversial works and died in 1528. (See
Fr. Lauchert, _Die italienischen literarischen Gegner Luthers_,
Freiburg, 1912.) The title of his tract is, _Revocatio Martini Lutheri
Augustiniani ad sanctam Sedem_; its date, Cremona, November 20, 1520,
according to Enders, which is a mistake for November 22,1519. Its
beginning and close, which have epistolary character, are printed in
Enders, II, no. 366, and one paragraph from each is translated in
Smith, _Luther's Correspondence_, I, no. 199.

These two treatises may be regarded as the immediate occasion for the
writing of the _Babylonian Captivity_, which is, however, in no sense
a direct reply to either of them. "I will not reply to Alveld," Luther
writes on August 5 to Spalatin, "but he will be the occasion of my
publishing something by which the vipers will be more irritated than
ever." (Enders, II, no. 335; Smith, I, no. 283.) Indeed, he had
promised some such work more than half a year before, in a letter to
Spalatin of December 18, 1519: "There is no reason why you or any one
else should expect from me a treatise on the other sacraments [besides
baptism, the Lord's supper, and penance] until I am taught by what
text I can prove that they are sacraments. I regard none of the others
as a sacrament, for there is no sacrament save where there is a direct
divine promise, exercising our faith. We can have no intercourse with
God except by the word of Him promising, and by the faith of man
receiving the promise. _At another time you shall hear more about
their fables of the seven sacraments._" (Enders, II, no. 254; Smith,
I, no. 206.)

Thus the _Prelude_ grows under his hand and assumes the form of an
elaborate examination of the whole sacramental system of the Church.
He makes short work of his two opponents, and after a few pages of
delicious irony, of which Erasmus was suspected in some quarters of
being the author, he turns his back on them and addresses himself to a
positive and constructive treatment of his larger theme, lenient
toward all non-essentials, but inexorable with respect to everything
truly essential, that is, scriptural. The _Captivity_ thus represents
the culmination of Luther's reformatory thinking on the theological
side, as the _Nobility_ does on the national, and the _Liberty_ on the
religious side. It sums up and carries forward all of his previous
writings on the sacraments, just as, nine years later, the
_Catechisms_ gathered up and moulded into classic form his writings on
catechetical subjects. Passage after passage, often whole pages, from
the _Resolutiones disp._, the _Treatise on Baptism_, the _Conitendi
Ratio_, the _Treatise on the New Testament_, the _Treatise on the
Blessed Sacrament_, are transferred bodily to this new and definitive
work, and find in it the goal toward which they had been consciously
or unconsciously tending. The reader is referred to a fine comparative
study in Köstlin's _Theology of Luther_ (English trans.), I, 388-409.
The title is a reminiscence from the _Resolutiones super prop, xiii._,
of 1519,--"absit ista plus quam babylonica captivitas!" The sense in
which the work is called a "prelude" is explained on page 176; the
theologian in Luther could not deny the musician, he goes into battle
singing and comes back with the stanza of a hymn upon his lips.

The _Captivity_ marks Luther's final and irreparable break with the
Church of Rome, and it is not without a peculiar significance that in
the same letter to Spalatin, of October 3d, in which he mentions the
arrival in Leipzig of Eck armed with the papal bull, he announces the
publication of his book on the _Babylonian Captivity of the Church_
for the following Saturday--October 6th. (Enders, II, no. 350; Smith,
I, no. 303.)

While the _Nobility_, addressed to the German nation as such, was
written in the language of the people, the _Captivity_, as becomes a
theological treatise, is composed in Latin, just as later the Liberty,
affecting the religious life of the individual, whether layman or
theologian, is sent out in both German and Latin.

A translation into German appeared in the following year--the work of
the Franciscan, Thomas Murner (on whom see Theod. v. Liebenau, _Der
Franziskaner Thomas Murner_, Freiburg, 1913). Luther calls the
Franciscan his "venomous foe" and accuses him of making the
translation in order to bring him into disrepute. This charge Luther
makes in his answer to Henry VIII's _Assertio septem sacramentorum
adversus Mart. Lutherum_ (1521), the royal theologian's reply to the
_Babylonian Captivity_, for which he won from the pope the proud title
of "Defender of the Faith."

The translation which follows is based on the Latin text as given in
Clemen's "student-edition"--_Luthers Werke in Auswahl_ (Bonn, 1912-3),
I, 426-512, which reproduces, though by no means slavishly, the text
of the _Weimar Edition_ (Vol. VI), which, together with the _Erlangen
Edition_ (_opera var. arg., V_), has been compared. The German _St.
Louis Edition_ (Vol. XIX) has been consulted, and especially the
admirable German rendering of Kawerau in the Berlin Edition (Vol. II)
as well as the careful literal translation of Lemme, _Die drei grossen
Reormationsschriten Luthers vom Jahre 1520_, 2. ed. (Gotha, 1884).
Like the last mentioned, Wace and Buchheim's English translation
(London, 1896) is incomplete, and besides is not always accurate; the
_Captivity_ is not contained in Cole's _Select Works_. The catalogue
of the British Museum notes no early English translation.
Köstlin-Kawerau's (1903) and Berger's (1895) lives should be
consulted; the former for the historical setting and full analysis,
the latter for a fine appreciation of this as of the other two
reformatory treatises of this year. For the theological development,
beside Köstlin's work mentioned above, and Tschackert, _Entstehung der
luth. und re. Kirchenlehre_ (1910), compare the exhaustive article
Sakramente, by Kattenbusch, in _Prot. Realencyklopadie_, 3. ed., XVII,
349-81. The treatise is here Englished in its entirety, including
those portions of the section on marriage which are frequently
omitted. The homeless paragraph on page 260, whose proper location is
not found even in the _Weimar Edition_ nor in Clemen, we have placed
in a foot-note, following the example of Kawerau.


Allentown. PA.




Martin Luther, Augustinian,

to his friend,

Herman Tulich[1],


Willy nilly, I am compelled to become every day more learned, with so
many and such able masters vying with one another to improve my mind.
Some two years ago I wrote a little book on indulgences[2], which I
now deeply regret having published; for at the time I was still sunk
in a mighty superstitious veneration for the Roman tyranny and held
that indulgences should not be altogether rejected, seeing they were
approved by the common consent of men. Nor was this to be wondered at,
for I was then engaged single-handed in my Sisyphean task. Since then,
however, through the kindness of Sylvester and the friars[3], who so
strenuously defended indulgences, I have come to see that they are
nothing but an imposture of the Roman sycophants by which they play
havoc with men's faith and fortunes. Would to God I might prevail upon
the book-sellers and upon all my readers to burn up the whole of my
writings on indulgences and to substitute for them this proposition:

Next, Eck and Emser, with their fellows, undertook to instruct me
concerning the primacy of the pope. Here too, not to prove ungrateful
to such learned folk, I acknowledge how greatly I have profited by
their labors. For, while denying the divine authority of the papacy, I
had yet admitted its human authority[4]. But after hearing and reading
the subtle subtleties of these coxcombs with which they adroitly prop
their idol--for in these matters my mind is not altogether
unteachable--I now know of a certainty that the papacy is the kingdom
of Babylon[5] and the power of Nimrod the mighty hunter[6]. Once more,
therefore, that all may all out to my friends' advantage, I beg both
booksellers and readers to burn what I have published on that subject
and to hold to this proposition: THE PAPACY IS THE MIGHTY HUNTING OF
THE ROMAN BISHOP. This follows from the arguments of Eck, Emser and
the Leipzig lecturer[7] on the Holy Scriptures.

Now they are putting me to school again and teaching me about
communion in both kinds and other weighty subjects. And I must all to
with might and main, so as not to hear these my pedagogues without
profit. A certain Italian friar of Cremona[8] has written a
"Revocation of Martin Luther to the Holy See"--that is, a revocation
in which not I revoke anything (as the words declare) but he revokes
me. That is the kind of Latin the Italians are now beginning to
write[9]. Another friar, a German of Leipzig, that same lecturer, you
know, on the whole canon of the Scriptures, has written a book against
me concerning the sacrament in both kinds, and is planning, I
understand, still greater and more marvelous things. The Italian was
canny enough not to set down his name, fearing perhaps the fate of
Cajetan and Sylvester[10]. But the Leipzig man, as becomes a fierce
and valiant German, boasts on his ample title-page of his name, his
career, his saintliness, his scholarship, his office, glory, honor,
ay, almost of his very clogs[11]. Here I shall doubtless gain no
little information, since indeed his dedicatory epistle is addressed
to the Son of God Himself. On so familiar a footing are these saints
with Christ Who reigns in heaven! Moreover, methinks I hear three
magpies chattering in this book; the first in good Latin, the second
in better Greek, the third in purest Hebrew[12]. What think you, my
Herman, is there for me to do but to prick up my ears? The thing
emanates from Leipzig, from the Observance of the Holy Cross[13].

Fool that I was, I had hitherto thought it would be well if a general
council decided that the sacrament be administered to the laity in
both kinds[14]. The more than learned friar would set me right, and
declares that neither Christ nor the apostles commanded or commended
the administration of both kinds to the laity; it was, therefore, left
to the judgment of the Church what to do or not to do in this matter,
and the Church must be obeyed. These are his words.

You will perhaps ask, what madness has entered into the man, or
against whom he is writing, since I have not condemned the use of one
kind, but have left the decision about the use of both kinds to the
judgment of the Church--the very thing he attempts to assert and which
he turns against me. My answer is, that this sort of argument is
common to all those who write against Luther; they assert the very
things they assail, for they set up a man of straw whom they may
attack. Thus Sylvester and Eck and Emser, thus the theologians of
Cologne and Louvain[15]; and if this friar had not been of the same
kidney he would never have written against Luther.

Yet in one respect this man has been happier than his fellows. For in
undertaking to prove that the use of both kinds is neither commanded
nor commended, but left to the will of the Church, he brings forward
passages of Scripture to prove that by the command of Christ one kind
only was appointed for the laity. So that it is true, according to
this new interpreter of the Scriptures, that one kind was not
commanded, and at the same time was commanded, by Christ! This novel
sort of argument is, as you know, the particular forte of the Leipzig
dialecticians. Did not Emser in his earlier book[16] profess to write
of me in a friendly spirit, and then, after I had convicted him of
filthy envy and foul lying, did he not openly acknowledge in his later
book[17], written to refute my arguments, that he had written in both
a friendly and an unfriendly spirit? A sweet fellow, forsooth, as you

But hearken to our distinguished distinguisher of "kinds," for whom
the will of the Church and a command of Christ, and a command of
Christ and no command of Christ, are all one and the same! How
ingeniously he proves that only one kind is to be given to the laity,
by the command of Christ, that is, by the will of the Church. He puts
it in capital letters, thus: THE INFALLIBLE FOUNDATION. Thereupon he
treats John vi with incredible wisdom, in which passage Christ speaks
of the bread from heaven and the bread of life, which is He Himself.
The learned fellow not only refers these words to the sacrament of the
altar, but because Christ says, "I am the living bread," [John 6:35,
41, 51] and not, "I am the living cup," he actually concludes that we
have in this passage the institution of the sacrament in only one kind
for the laity. But there follow the words,--"My flesh is meat indeed,
and my blood is drink indeed," [John 6:55] and, "Except ye eat the
flesh of the Son of man, and drink his blood" [John 6:53]; and when it
dawned upon the good friar that these words speak undeniably or both
kinds and against one kind--presto! how happily and learnedly he slips
out of the quandary by asserting that in these words Christ means to
say only that whoever receives the one kind receives under it both
flesh and blood. This he puts or the "infallible foundation" of a
structure well worthy of the holy and heavenly Observance.

Now prithee, herefrom learn with me that Christ, in John vi, enjoins
the sacrament in one kind, yet in such wise that His commanding it
means leaving it to the will of the Church; and further, that Christ
is speaking in this chapter only of the laity and not of the priests.
For to the latter the living bread from heaven does not pertain, but
presumably the deadly bread from hell! And how is it with the deacons
and subdeacons, who are neither laymen nor priests?[18] According to
this brilliant writer, they ought to use neither the one kind nor both
kinds! You see, dear Tulich, this novel and observant method of
treating Scripture.

But learn this, too,--that Christ is speaking in John vi of the
sacrament of the altar; although He Himself teaches that His words
refer to faith in the Word made flesh, for He says, "This is the work
of God, that ye believe on him whom he hath sent." [John 6:29] But our
Leipzig professor of the Scriptures must be permitted to prove
anything he pleases from any Scripture passage whatsoever. For he is
an Anaxagorian, or rather an Aristotelian[19] theologian, for whom
nouns and verbs, interchanged, mean the same thing and any thing. So
aptly does he cite Scripture proof-texts throughout the whole of his
book, that if he set out to prove the presence of Christ in the
sacrament, he would not hesitate to commence thus: "Here beginneth the
book of the Revelation of St. John the Divine." All his quotations are
as apt as this one would be, and the wiseacre imagines he is adorning
his drivel with the multitude of his quotations. The rest I pass over,
lest you should smother in the filth of this vile cloaca.

In conclusion, he brings forward I Corinthians xi, where Paul says he
received from the Lord, and delivered to the Corinthians, the use of
both the bread and the cup [1 Cor. 11:23]. Here again our
distinguisher of kinds, treating the Scriptures with his usual
brilliance, teaches that Paul did not deliver, but permitted both
kinds. Do you ask where he gets his proof? Out of his own head, as he
did in the case of John vi. For it does not behoove this lecturer to
give a reason for his assertions; he belongs to the order of those who
teach and prove all things by their visions[20]. Accordingly we are
here taught that the Apostle, in this passage, addressed not the whole
Corinthian congregation, but the laity alone--but then he "permitted"
nothing at all to the clergy, and they are deprived of the sacrament
altogether!--and further, that, according to a new kind of grammar, "I
have received from the Lord" means "It is permitted by the Lord," and
"I have delivered it to you" means "I have permitted it to you." I
pray you, mark this well. For by this method, not only the Church, but
every passing knave will be at liberty, according to this magister, to
turn all the commands, institutions and ordinances of Christ and the
apostles into a mere "permission."

I perceive, therefore, that this man is driven by an angel of Satan,
and that he and his partners seek but to make a name or themselves
through me, as men who were worthy to cross swords with Luther. But
their hopes shall be dashed: I shall ignore them and not mention their
names from henceforth even for ever. This one reply shall suffice me
for all their books. If they be worthy of it, I pray Christ in His
mercy to bring them to a sound mind; if not, I pray that they may
never leave off writing such books, and that the enemies of the truth
may never deserve to read any other. It is a popular and true saying,

    This I know of a truth--whenever with filth I contended,
    Victor or vanquished, alike, came I defiled from the fray.

And, since I perceive that they have an abundance of leisure and of
writing-paper, I shall see to it that they may have ample opportunity
for writing. I shall run on before, and while they are celebrating a
glorious victory over one of my so-called heresies, I shall be
meanwhile devising a new one. For I too am desirous that these gallant
leaders in battle should win to themselves many titles and
decorations. Therefore, while they complain that I laud communion in
both kinds, and are happily engrossed in this most important and
worthy matter, I will go yet one step farther and undertake to show
that all those who deny communion in both kinds to the laity are
wicked men. And the more conveniently to do this, I will compose a
prelude on the captivity of the Roman Church. In due time I shall have
a great deal more to say, when the learned papists have disposed of
this book.

I take this course, lest any pious reader who may chance upon this
book, should be offended at my dealing with such filthy matters, and
should justly complain of finding in it nothing to cultivate and
instruct his mind or even to furnish good or learned thought. For you
know how impatient my friends are because I waste my time on the
sordid fictions of these men, which, they say, are amply refuted in
the reading; they look for greater things from me, which Satan seeks
in this way to hinder. I have at length resolved to follow their
counsel and to leave to those hornets the pleasant business of
wrangling and hurling invectives.

Of that friar of Cremona I will say nothing. He is an unlearned man
and a simpleton, who attempts with a few rhetorical passages to recall
me to the Holy See, from which I am not as yet aware of having
departed, nor has any one proved it to me. He is chiefly concerned in
those silly passages with showing that I ought to be moved by the vow
of my order and by the act that the empire has been transferred to us
Germans[21]. He seems thus to have set out to write, not my
"revocation," but rather the praises of the French people and the
Roman pontiff. Let him attest his loyalty in his little book; it is
the best he could do. He does not deserve to be harshly treated, for
methinks he was not prompted by malice; nor yet to be learnedly
refuted, for all his chatter is sheer ignorance and simplicity[22].

At the outset I must deny that there are seven sacraments, and hold
for the present[23] to but three--baptism, penance and the bread[24].
These three have been subjected to a miserable captivity by the Roman
curia, and the Church has been deprived of all her liberty. To be
sure, if I desired to use the term in its scriptural sense, I should
allow but a single sacrament[25], with three sacramental signs; but of
this I shall treat more fully at the proper time.


Let me tell you what progress I have made in my studies on the
administration of this sacrament. For when I published my treatise on
the Eucharist[26], I clung to the common usage, being in no wise
concerned with the question of the right or wrong of the papacy. But
now, challenged and attacked, nay, forcibly thrust into the arena, I
shall freely speak my mind, let all the papists laugh or weep

[Sidenote: The First Captivity: the Withholding of the Cup from the

In the first place, John vi is to be entirely excluded from this
discussion, since it does not refer in a single syllable to the
sacrament. For not only was the sacrament not yet instituted, but the
whole context plainly shows that Christ is speaking of faith in the
Word made flesh, as I have said above[27]. For He says, "My words are
spirit, and they are life," [John 6:63] which shows that He is
speaking of a spiritual eating, whereby whoever eats has life, whereas
the Jews understood Him to be speaking of bodily eating and therefore
disputed with Him. But no eating can give life save the eating which
is by faith, for that is the truly spiritual and living eating. As
Augustine also says: "Why make ready teeth and stomach? Believe, and
thou hast eaten."[28] For the sacramental eating does not give life,
since many eat unworthily. Therefore, He cannot be understood as
speaking of the sacrament in this passage.

These words have indeed been wrongly applied to the sacrament, as in
the decretal _Dudum_[29] and often elsewhere. But it is one thing to
misapply the Scriptures, it is quite another to understand them in
their proper meaning. But if Christ in this passage enjoined the
sacramental eating, then by saying, "Except ye eat my flesh and drink
my blood, ye have no life in you," [John 6:53] He would condemn all
infants, invalids and those absent or in any wise hindered from the
sacramental eating, however strong their faith might be. Thus
Augustine, in the second book of his _Contra Julianum_[30], proves
from Innocent that even infants eat the flesh and drink the blood of
Christ, without the sacrament; that is, they partake of them through
the faith of the Church. Let this then be accepted as proved,--John vi
does not belong here. For this reason I have elsewhere[31] written
that the Bohemians have no right to rely on this passage in support of
their use of the sacrament in both kinds.

Now there are two passages that do clearly bear upon this matter--the
Gospel narratives of the institution of the Lord's Supper, and Paul in
I Corinthians xi. These let us examine.

Matthew, Mark and Luke agree that Christ gave the whole sacrament to
all the disciples [Matt. 26, Mark 14, Luke 22], and it is certain that
Paul delivered both kinds [1 Cor. 11]. No one has ever had the
temerity to assert the contrary. Further, Matthew reports that Christ
said not of the bread, "Eat ye all of it," [Matt. 26:27] but of the
cup, "Drink ye all of it"; and Mark likewise says not, "They all ate
of it," but, "They all drank of it." [Mark 14:23] Both Matthew and
Mark attach the note of universality to the cup, not to the bread; as
though the Spirit saw this schism coming, by which some would be
forbidden to partake of the cup, which Christ desired should be common
to all. How furiously, think you, would they rave against us, if they
had found the word "all" attached to the bread instead of the cup!
They would not leave us a loophole to escape, they would cry out upon
us and set us down as heretics, they would damn us or schismatics. But
now, since it stands on our side and against them, they will not be
bound by any force of logic--these men of the most free will[32], who
change and change again even the things that be God's, and throw
everything into confusion.

But imagine me standing over against them and interrogating my lords
the papists. In the Lord's Supper, I say, the whole sacrament, or
communion in both kinds, is given only to the priests or else it is
given also to the laity. If it is given only to the priests, as they
would have it, then it is not right to give it to the laity in either
kind; for it must not be rashly given to any to whom Christ did not
give it when He instituted it. For if we permit one institution of
Christ to be changed, we make all of His laws invalid, and every one
will boldly claim that he is not bound by any law or institution of
His. For a single exception, especially in the Scriptures, invalidates
the whole. But if it is given also to the laity, then it inevitably
follows that it ought not to be withheld from them in either form.
And if any do withhold it from them when they desire it, they act
impiously and contrary to the work, example and institution of Christ.

I confess that I am conquered by this to me unanswerable argument, and
that I have neither read nor heard nor found anything to advance
against it. For here the word and example of Christ stand firm, when
He says, not by way of permission but of command, "Drink ye all of
it." [Matt.26:27] For if all are to drink, and the words cannot be
understood as addressed to the priests alone, then it is certainly an
impious act to withhold the cup from laymen who desire it, even though
an angel from heaven were to do it. For when they say that the
distribution of both kinds was left to the judgment of the Church,
they make this assertion without giving any reason or it and put it
forth without any authority; it is ignored just as readily as it is
proved, and does not hold against an opponent who confronts us[33]
with the word and work of Christ. Such an one must be refuted with a
word of Christ, but this we[34] do not possess.

But if one kind may be withheld from the laity, then with equal right
and reason a portion of baptism and penance might also be taken from
them by this same authority of the Church. Therefore, just as baptism
and absolution must be administered in their entirety, so the
sacrament of the bread must be given in its entirety to all laymen, if
they desire it. I am amazed to find them asserting that the priests
may never receive only the one kind, in the mass, on pain of
committing a mortal sin; and that for no other reason, as they
unanimously say, than that both kinds constitute the one complete
sacrament, which may not be divided. I pray them to tell me why it may
be divided in the case of the laity, and why to them alone the whole
sacrament may not be given. Do they not acknowledge, by their own
testimony, either that both kinds are to be given to the laity, or
that it is not a valid sacrament when only one kind is given to them?
How can the one kind be a complete sacrament or the laity and not a
complete sacrament for the priests? Why do they flaunt the authority
of the Church and the power of the pope in my face? These do not make
void the Word of God and the testimony of the truth.

But further, if the Church can withhold the wine from the laity, it
can also withhold the bread from them; it could, therefore, withhold
the entire sacrament of the altar from the laity and completely annul
Christ's institution so far as they are concerned. I ask, by what
authority? But if the Church cannot withhold the bread, or both kinds,
neither can it withhold the wine. This cannot possibly be gainsaid;
for the Church's power must be the same over either kind as over both
kinds, and if she has no power over both kinds, she has none over
either kind. I am curious to hear what the Roman sycophants will have
to say to this.

What carries most weight with me, however, and quite decides me is
this. Christ says: "This is my blood, which is shed for you and for
many for the remission of sins." [Matt. 26:28] Here we see very
plainly that the blood is given to all those for whose sins it was
shed. But who will dare to say it was not shed for the laity? Do you
not see whom He addresses when He gives the cup? Does He not give it
to all?  Does He not say that it is shed or all? "For you," He
says--well: we will let these be the priests--"and for many"--these
cannot be priests; and yet He says, "Drink ye all of it." [Matt.
26:27] I too could easily trifle here and with my words make a mockery
of Christ's words, as my dear trifler[34] does; but they who rely on
the Scriptures in opposing us, must be refuted by the Scriptures. This
is what has prevented me from condemning the Bohemians, who, be they
wicked men or good, certainly have the word and act of Christ on their
side, while we have neither, but only that hollow device of men--"the
Church has appointed it." It was not the Church that appointed these
things, but the tyrants of the churches, without the consent of the
Church, which is the people of God.

But where in all the world is the necessity, where the religious duty,
where the practical use, of denying both kinds, i. e., the visible
sign, to the laity, when every one concedes to them the grace[35] of
the sacrament without the sign? If they concede the grace, which is
the greater, why not the sign, which is the lesser? For in every
sacrament the sign as such is of far less importance than the thing
signified.  What then is to prevent them from conceding the lesser,
when they concede the greater? I can see but one reason; it has come
about by the permission of an angry God in order to give occasion for
a schism in the Church, to bring home to us how, having long ago lost
the grace of the sacrament, we contend for the sign, which is the
lesser, against that which is the most important and the chief thing;
just as some men for the sake of ceremonies contend against love. Nay,
this monstrous perversion seems to date from the time when we began
for the sake of the riches of this world to rage against Christian
love. Thus God would show us, by this terrible sign, how we esteem
signs more than the things they signify. How preposterous would it be
to admit that the faith of baptism is granted the candidate or
baptism, and yet to deny him the sign of this faith, namely, the

Finally, Paul stands invincible and stops every mouth, when he says in
I Corinthians xi, "I have received from the Lord what I also delivered
unto you." [1 Cor. 11:23] He does not say, "I permitted unto you," as
that friar lyingly asserts[36]. Nor is it true that Paul delivered
both kinds on account of the contention in the Corinthian
congregation. For, first, the text shows that their contention was not
about both kinds, but about the contempt and envy among rich and poor,
as it is clearly stated: "One is hungry, and another is drunken, and
ye put to shame them that have not." [1 Cor. 11:21] Again, Paul is not
speaking of the time when he first delivered the sacrament to them,
for he says not, "I _receive_ of the Lord and _give_ unto you," but,
"I received and delivered"--namely, when he first began to preach
among them, a long while before this contention. This shows that he
delivered both kinds to them; and "delivered" means the same as
"commanded," for elsewhere he uses the word in this sense.
Consequently there is nothing in the friar's fuming about permission;
it is a hotch-potch without Scripture, reason or sense. His opponents
do not ask what he has dreamed, but what the Scriptures decree in this
matter; and out of the Scriptures he cannot adduce one jot or tittle
in support of his dreams, while they can bring forward mighty
thunderbolts in support of their faith.

Come hither then, ye popish flatterers, one and all! Fall to and
defend yourselves against the charge of godlessness, tyranny,
lese-majesty against the Gospel, and the crime of slandering your
brethren,--ye that decry as heretics those who will not be wise after
the vaporings of your own brains, in the face of such patent and
potent words of Scripture. If any are to be called heretics and
schismatics, it is not the Bohemians nor the Greeks, for they take
their stand upon the Gospel; but you Romans are the heretics and
godless schismatics, for you presume upon your own fictions and fly in
the face of the clear Scriptures of God. Parry that stroke, if you

But what could be more ridiculous, and more worthy of this friar's
brain, than his saying that the Apostle wrote these words and gave
this permission, not to the Church universal, but to a particular
church, that is, the Corinthian? Where does he get his proof? Out of
his one storehouse, his own impious head. If the Church universal
receives, reads and follows this epistle in all points as written for
itself, why should it not do the same with this portion of it? If we
admit that any epistle, or any part of any epistle, of Paul does not
apply to the Church universal, then the whole authority of Paul falls
to the ground. Then the Corinthians will say that what he teaches
about faith in the epistle to the Romans does not apply to them. What
greater blasphemy and madness can be imagined than this! God forbid
that there should be one jot or tittle in all of Paul which the whole
Church universal is not bound to follow and keep! Not so did the
Fathers hold, down to these perilous times, in which Paul foretold
there should be blasphemers and blind and insensate men [2 Tim. 3:2],
of whom this friar is one, nay the chief.

However, suppose we grant the truth of this intolerable madness. If
Paul gave his permission to a particular church, then, even from your
own point of view, the Greeks and Bohemians are in the right, for they
are particular churches; hence it is sufficient that they do not act
contrary to Paul, who at least gave permission. Moreover, Paul could
not permit anything contrary to Christ's institution. Therefore I cast
in thy teeth, O Rome, and in the teeth of all thy sycophants, these
sayings of Christ and Paul, on behalf of the Greeks and the Bohemians.
Nor canst thou prove that thou hast received any authority to change
them, much less to accuse others of heresy or disregarding thy
arrogance; rather dost thou deserve to be charged with the crime of
godlessness and despotism.

Furthermore, Cyprian, who alone is strong enough to hold all the
Romanists at bay, bears witness, in the fifth book of his treatise _Of
the Fallen_, that it was a wide-spread custom in his church to
administer both kinds to the laity, and even to children[37], yea to
give the body of the Lord into their hands; of which he cites many
instances. He inveighs, or example, against certain members of the
congregation as follows: "The sacrilegious man is angered at the
priests because he does not forthwith receive the body of the Lord
with unclean hands, or drink the blood of the Lord with defiled lips."
He is speaking, as you see, of laymen, and irreverent laymen, who
desired to receive the body and the blood from the priests. Dost thou
find anything to snarl at here, thou wretched flatterer? Say that even
this holy martyr, a Church Father preeminent for his apostolic spirit,
was a heretic and used that permission in a particular church.

In the same place, Cyprian narrates an incident that came under his
own observation. He describes at length how a deacon was administering
the cup to a little girl, who drew away from him, whereupon he poured
the blood of the Lord into her mouth. We read the same of St. Donatus,
whose broken chalice this wretched flatterer so lightly disposes of.
"I read of a broken chalice," he says, "but I do not read that the
blood was given."[38] It is no wonder! He that finds what he pleases
in the Scriptures will also read what he pleases in the histories. But
will the authority of the Church be established, or will heretics be
refuted, in this way? Enough of this! I did not undertake this work to
reply to him who is not worth replying to, but to bring the truth of
the matter to light.

I conclude, then, that it is wicked and despotic to deny both kinds to
the laity, and that this is not in the power of any angel, much less
of any pope or council. Nor does the Council of Constance give me
pause, for if its authority carries weight, why does not that of the
Council of Basel also carry weight? For the latter council decided, on
the contrary, after much disputing, that the Bohemians might use both
kinds, as the extant records and documents of the council prove. And
to that council this ignorant flatterer refers in support of his
dream; in such wisdom does his whole treatise abound[39].

The first captivity of this sacrament, therefore, concerns its
substance or completeness, of which we have been deprived by the
despotism of Rome. Not that they sin against Christ, who use the one
kind, for Christ did not command the use of either kind, but let it to
every one's free will, when He said: "As oft as ye do this, do it in
remembrance of me." [1 Cor. 11:25] But they sin who forbid the giving
of both kinds to such as desire to exercise this free will. The fault
lies not with the laity, but with the priests. The sacrament does not
belong to the priests, but to all, and the priests are not lords but
ministers, in duty bound to administer both kinds to those who desire
them, and as oft as they desire them. If they wrest this right from
the laity and forcibly withhold it, they are tyrants; but the laity
are without fault, whether they lack one kind or both kinds; they must
meanwhile be sustained by their faith and by their desire for the
complete sacrament. Just as the priests, being ministers, are bound to
administer baptism and absolution to whoever seeks them, because he
has a right to them; but if they do not administer them, he that seeks
them has at least the full merit of his faith, while they will be
accused before Christ as wicked servants. In like manner the holy
Fathers of old who dwelt in the desert did not receive the sacrament
in any form for many years together[40].

Therefore I do not urge that both kinds be seized by force, as though
we were bound to this form by a rigorous command; but I instruct men's
consciences that they may endure the Roman tyranny, well knowing they
have been deprived of their rightful share in the sacrament because of
their own sin. This only do I desire,--that no one justify the tyranny
of Rome, as though it did well to forbid one of the two kinds to the
laity; we ought rather to abhor it, withhold our consent, and endure
it just as we should do if we were held captive by the Turk and not
permitted to use either kind. That is what I meant by saying[41] it
seemed well to me that this captivity should be ended by the decree of
a general council, our Christian liberty restored to us out of the
hands of the Roman tyrant, and every one let free to seek and receive
this sacrament, just as he is free to receive baptism and penance. But
now they compel us, by the same tyranny, to receive the one kind year
after year; so utterly lost is the liberty which Christ has given us.
This is but the due reward of our godless ingratitude.

[Sidenote: The Second Captivity: Transubstantiation]

The second captivity of this sacrament is less grievous so far as the
conscience is concerned, yet the very gravest danger threatens the man
who would attack it, to say nothing of condemning it. Here I shall be
called a Wyclifite[42] and a heretic a thousand times over. But what
of that? Since the Roman bishop has ceased to be a bishop and become a
tyrant, I fear none of his decrees, for I know that it is not in his
power, nor even in that of a general council, to make new articles of

Years ago, when I was delving into scholastic theology, the Cardinal
of Cambray[43] gave me food for thought, in his comments on the fourth
book of the Sentences[44], where he argues with great acumen that to
hold that real bread and real wine, and not their accidents only[45],
are present on the altar, is much more probable and requires fewer
unnecessary miracles--if only the Church had not decreed otherwise.
When I learned later what church it was that had decreed this--namely,
the Church of Thomas[46], i. e., of Aristotle--I waxed bolder, and
after floating in a sea of doubt, at last found rest for my conscience
in the above view--namely, that it is real bread and real wine, in
which Christ's real flesh and blood are present, not otherwise and not
less really than they assume to be the case under their accidents. I
reached this conclusion because I saw that the opinions of the
Thomists, though approved by pope and council, remain but opinions and
do not become articles of faith, even though an angel from heaven were
to decree otherwise [Gal. 1:8]. For what is asserted without Scripture
for an approved revelation, may be held as an opinion, but need not be
believed. But this opinion of Thomas hangs so completely in the air,
devoid of Scripture and reason, that he seems here to have forgotten
both his philosophy and his logic. For Aristotle treats so very
differently from St. Thomas of subject and accidents, that methinks
this great man is to be pitied, not only for drawing his opinions in
matters of faith from Aristotle, but for attempting to base them on
him without understanding his meaning--an unfortunate superstructure
upon an unfortunate foundation.

I therefore permit every man to hold either of these views, as he
chooses. My one concern at present is to remove all scruples of
conscience, so that no one may fear to become guilty of heresy if he
should believe in the presence of real bread and real wine on the
altar, and that every one may feel at liberty to ponder, hold and
believe either one view or the other, without endangering his
salvation. However, I shall now more fully set forth my own view.

In the first place, I do not intend to listen or attach the least
importance to those who will cry out that this teaching of mine is
Wyclifite, Hussite, heretical, and contrary to the decision of the
Church, for they are the very persons whom I have convicted of
manifold heresies in the matter of indulgences, the freedom of the
will and the grace of God, good works and sin, etc. If Wyclif was once
a heretic, they are heretics ten times over, and it is a pleasure to
be suspected and accused by such heretics and perverse sophists, whom
to please were the height of godlessness. Besides, the only way in
which they can prove their opinions and disprove those of others, is
by saying, "That is Wyclifite, Hussite, heretical!" They have this
feeble retort always on their tongue, and they have nothing else. If
you demand a Scripture passage, they say, "This is our opinion, and
the decision of the Church--that is, of ourselves!" Thus these men,
"reprobate concerning the faith" [2 Tim. 3:8] and untrustworthy, have
the effrontery to set their own fancies before us in the name of the
Church as articles of faith.

But there are good grounds for my view, and this above all,--no
violence is to be done to the words of God, whether by man or angel;
but they are to be retained in their simplest meaning wherever
possible, and to be understood in by their grammatical and literal
sense unless the context plainly forbids; lest we give our adversaries
occasion to make a mockery of all the Scriptures. Thus Origen was
repudiated, in olden times, because he despised the grammatical sense
and turned the trees, and all things else written concerning Paradise,
into allegories; for it might therefrom be concluded that God did not
create trees. Even so here, when the Evangelists plainly write that
Christ took bread and brake it [Matt. 26:26; Mark 14:22; Luke 22:19;
Acts 2:46; 1 Cor. 11:23], and the book of Acts and Paul, in their
turn, call it bread, we have to think of real bread, and real wine,
just as we do of a real cup; or even they do not maintain that the cup
is transubstantiated. But since it is not necessary to assume a
transubstantiation wrought by Divine power, it is to be regarded as a
figment of the human mind, or it rests neither on Scripture nor on
reason, as we shall see.

Therefore it is an absurd and unheard-of juggling with words, to
understand "bread" to mean "the form, or accidents of bread," and
"wine" to mean "the form, or accidents of wine." Why do they not also
understand all other things to mean their forms, or accidents? And
even if this might be done with all other things, it would yet not be
right thus to emasculate the words of God and arbitrarily to empty
them of their meaning.

Moreover, the Church had the true faith for more than twelve hundred
years, during which time the holy Fathers never once mentioned this
transubstantiation--forsooth, a monstrous word for a monstrous
idea!--until the pseudophilosophy of Aristotle became rampant in the
Church, these last three hundred years, during which many other things
have been wrongly defined; as for example, that the Divine essence
neither is begotten nor begets; that the soul is the substantial form
of the human body, and the like assertions, which are made without
reason or sense, as the Cardinal of Cambray himself admits.

Perhaps they will say that the danger of idolatry demands that bread
and wine be not really present. How ridiculous! The laymen have never
become familiar with their fine-spun philosophy of substance and
accidents, and could not grasp it if it were taught them. Besides,
there is the same danger in the case of the accidents which remain and
which they see, as in the case of the substance which they do not see.
For if they do not adore the accidents, but Christ hidden under them,
why should they adore the bread, which they do not see?

But why could not Christ include His body in the substance of the
bread just as well as in the accidents? The two substances of fire and
iron are so mingled in the heated iron that every part is both iron
and fire. Why could not much rather Christ's body be thus contained in
every part of the substance of the bread?

What will they say? We believe that in His birth Christ came forth out
of the unopened womb of His mother. Let them say here too that the
flesh of the Virgin was meanwhile annihilated, or as they would more
aptly say, transubstantiated, so that Christ, after being enfolded in
its accidents, finally came forth through the accidents! The same
thing will have to be said of the shut door and of the closed mouth of
the sepulchre, through which He went in and out without disturbing
them. Hence has risen that hotch-potch of a philosophy of constant
quantity distinct from the substance, until it has come to such a pass
that they themselves no longer know what are accidents and what is
substance. For who has ever proved beyond the shadow of a doubt that
heat, color, cold, light, weight or shape are mere accidents? Finally,
they have been driven to the fancy that a new substance is created by
God or their accidents on the altar--all on account of Aristotle, who
says, "It is the essence of an accident to be in something," and
endless other monstrosities, of all which they would be rid if they
simply permitted real bread to be present. And I rejoice greatly that
the simple faith of this sacrament is still to be found at least among
the common people; for as they do not understand, neither do they
dispute, whether accidents are present or substance[47] but believe
with a simple faith that Christ's body and blood are truly contained
in whatever is there, and leave to those who have nothing else to do
the business of disputing about that which contains them.

But perhaps they will say: From Aristotle we learn that in an
affirmative proposition subject and predicate must be identical, or,
to set down the beast's own words, in the sixth book of his
_Metaphysics_: "An affirmative proposition demands the agreement of
subject and predicate," which they interpret as above. Hence, when it
is said, "This is my body," the subject cannot be identical with the
bread, but must be identical with the body of Christ. What shall we
say when Aristotle and the doctrines of men are made to be the
arbiters of these lofty and divine matters? Why do we not put by such
curiosity, and cling simply to the word of Christ, willing to remain
in ignorance of what here takes place, and content with this, that the
real body of Christ is present by virtue of the words?[48] Or is it
necessary to comprehend the manner of the divine working in every

But what do they say to Aristotle's assigning a subject to whatever is
predicated of the attributes, although he holds that the substance is
the chief subject? Hence for him, "this white," "this large," etc.,
are subjects of which something is predicated. If that is correct, I
ask: If a transubstantiation must be assumed in order that Christ's
body be not predicated of the bread, why not also a transaccidentation
in order that it be not predicated of the accidents? For the same
danger remains if one understands the subject to be "this white" or
"this round"[49] is my body, and for the same reason that a
transubstantiation is assumed, a transaccidentation must also be
assumed, because of this identity of subject and predicate.

Let us not, however, dabble too much in philosophy. Does not Christ
appear to have admirably anticipated such curiosity by saying of the
wine, not, "_Hoc est sanguis meus_," but "_Hie est sanguis mens_"
[Matt. 26:28]? And yet more clearly, by bringing in the word "cup,"
when He said, "This cup is the new testament in my blood." [1 Cor.
11:25] Does it not seem as though He desired to keep us in a simple
faith, so that we might but believe His blood to be in the cup?  For
my part, if I cannot fathom how the bread is the body of Christ, I
will take my reason captive to the obedience of Christ [2 Cor. 10:5],
and clinging simply to His word, firmly believe not only that the body
of Christ is in the bread, but that the bread is the body of Christ.
For in this I am borne out by the words, "He took bread, and giving
thanks, He brake it and said, Take, eat; this [i. e., this bread which
He took and brake] is my body." [1 Cor. 11:23] And Paul says: "The
bread which we break, is it not the communion of the body of Christ?"
[1 Cor. 10:16] He says not, in the bread, but the bread itself, is the
communion of the body of Christ. What matters it if philosophy cannot
fathom this? The Holy Spirit is greater than Aristotle. Does
philosophy fathom that transubstantiation of theirs, of which they
themselves admit that here all philosophy breaks down? But the
agreement of the pronoun "this" with "body," in Greek and Latin, is
owing to the fact that in these languages the two words are of the
same gender. But in the Hebrew language, which has no neuter gender,
"this" agrees with "bread," so that it would be proper to say, "_Hie
est corpus meum_." This is proved also by the use of language and by
common sense; the subject, forsooth, points to the bread, not to the
body, when He says, "_Hoc est corpus meum_," "_Das ist mein
Leib_,"--i. e., This bread is my body.

Therefore it is with the sacrament even as it is with Christ. In order
that the Godhead may dwell in Him, it is not necessary that the human
nature be transubstantiated and the Godhead be contained under its
accidents; but both natures are there in their entirety, and it is
truly said, "This man is God," and "This God is man." Even though
philosophy cannot grasp this, faith grasps it, and the authority of
God's Word is greater than the grasp of our intellect. Even so, in
order that the real body and the real blood of Christ may be present
in the sacrament, it is not necessary that the bread and wine be
transubstantiated and Christ be contained under their accidents; but
both remain there together, and it is truly said, "This bread is my
body, this wine is my blood," [Matt. 26:26] and _vice versa_. Thus I
will for the nonce understand it, or the honor of the holy words of
God, which I will not suffer any petty human arguments to override or
wrest to meanings foreign to them. At the same time, I permit other
men to follow the other opinion, which is laid down in the decree
_Firmiter_[50]; only let them not press us to accept their opinions as
articles of faith, as I said above.

[Sidenote: The Third Captivity: The Mass a Good Work and a Sacrifice]

The third captivity of this sacrament is that most wicked abuse of
all, in consequence of which there is to-day no more generally
accepted and firmly believed opinion in the Church than this,--that
the mass is a good work and a sacrifice. And this abuse has brought an
endless host of others in its train, so that the faith of this
sacrament has Sacrifice become utterly extinct and the holy sacrament
has been turned into a veritable air, tavern, and place of
merchandise. Hence participations[51], brotherhoods[52],
intercessions, merits, anniversaries, memorial days, and the like
wares are bought and sold, traded and bartered in the Church, and from
this priests and monks derive their whole living.

I am attacking a difficult matter, and one perhaps impossible to
abate, since it has become so firmly entrenched through century-long
custom and the common consent of men that it would be necessary to
abolish most of the books now in vogue, to alter well-nigh the whole
external form of the churches, and to introduce, or rather
re-introduce, a totally different kind of ceremonies. But my Christ
lives; and we must be careful to give more heed to the Word of God
than to all the thoughts of men and of angels. I will perform the
duties of my office, and uncover the acts in the case; I will give the
truth as I have received it, freely and without malice [Matt. 10:8].
For the rest let every man look to his own salvation; I will
faithfully do my part that none may cast on me the blame for his lack
of faith and knowledge of the truth, when we appear before the
judgment-seat of Christ.

[Sidenote: The Word of Christ, which is the Testament]

In the first place, in order to attain safely and fortunately to a
true and unbiased knowledge of this sacrament, we must above all else
be careful to put aside whatever has been added by the zeal and
devotion of men to the original, simple institution of this
sacrament,--such things as vestments, ornaments, chants, prayers,
organs, candles, and the whole pageantry of outward things[53]; we
must turn our eyes and hearts simply to the institution of Christ and
to this alone, and set naught before us but the very word of Christ by
which He instituted this sacrament, made it perfect, and committed it
to us. For in that word, and in that word alone, reside the power, the
nature, and the whole substance of the mass. All else is the work of
man, added to the word of Christ; and the mass can be held and remain
a mass just as well without it. Now the words of Christ, in which He
instituted this sacrament, are these:

"And whilst they were at supper, Jesus took bread, and blessed, and
brake: and gave to His disciples, and said: Take ye and eat. This is
my body, which shall be given for you. And taking the chalice. He gave
thanks, and gave to them, saying: Drink ye all of this. This is the
chalice, the new testament in my blood, which shall be shed for you
and for many unto remission of sins. This do for the commemoration of
me." [Matt. 26:26; 1 Cor. 11:24 f.; Luke 22:20]

These words the Apostle also delivers and more fully expounds in i
Cor. xi [1 Cor. 11:23 ff.]. On them we must lean and build as on a
firm foundation, if we would not be carried about with every wind of
doctrine, even as we have hitherto been carried about by the wicked
doctrines of men, who turn aside the truth [Titus 1:14]. For in these
words nothing is omitted that pertains to the completeness, the use
and the blessing of this sacrament; and nothing is included that is
superfluous and not necessary for us to know. Whoever sets them aside
and meditates or teaches concerning the mass, will teach monstrous and
wicked doctrines, as they have done who made of the sacrament an _opus
operatum_[56] and a sacrifice.

Therefore let this stand at the outset as our infallibly certain
proposition,--the mass, or sacrament of the altar, is Christ's
testament which He left behind Him at His death, to be distributed
among His believers. For that is the meaning of His word,--"This is
the chalice, the new testament in my blood." [Luke 22:20] Let this
truth stand, I say, as the immovable foundation on which we shall base
all that we have to say, or we are going to overthrow, as you will
see, all the godless opinions of men imported into this most precious
sacrament. Christ, Who is the Truth, saith truly that this is the new
testament in His blood, which is shed for us. Not without reason do I
dwell on this sentence; the matter is of no small moment, and must be
most deeply impressed upon us.

Let us enquire, therefore, what a testament is, and we shall learn at
the same time what the mass is, what its use and blessing, and what
its abuse. A testament, as every one knows, is a promise made by one
about to die, in which he designates his bequest and appoints his
heirs. Therefore a testament involves, first, the death of the
testator, and secondly, the promise of the bequest and the naming of
the heir. Thus St. Paul discusses at length the nature of a testament
in Romans iv, Galatians iii and iv, and Hebrews ix. The same thing is
also clearly seen in these words of Christ. Christ testifies
concerning His death when He says: "This is my body, which shall be
given; this is my blood, which shall be shed." [Luke 22:19 f.] He
designates the bequest when He says: "Unto remission of sins." And He
appoints the heirs when He says: "For you, and for many"--i. e., for
such as accept and believe the promise of the testator; or here it is
faith that makes men heirs, as we shall see.

You see, therefore, that what we call the mass is the promise of
remission of sins made to us by God; and such a promise as has been
confirmed by the death of the Son of God. For the one difference
between a promise and a testament is that a testament is a promise
which implies the death of him who makes it. A testator is a man
making a promise who is about to die; whilst he that makes a promise
is, if I may so put it, a testator who is not about to die. This
testament of Christ was forshadowed in all the promises of God from
the beginning of the world; nay, whatever value those olden promises
possessed was altogether derived from this new promise that was to
come in Christ. Hence the words "covenant" and "testament of the Lord"
occur so frequently in the Scriptures, which words signified that God
would one day die. For where there is a testament, the death of the
testator must needs follow (Hebrews ix). Now God made a testament:
therefore it was necessary that He should die [Heb. 9:16]. But God
could not die unless He became man. Thus both the incarnation and the
death of Christ are briefly comprehended in this one word "testament."

From the above it will at once be seen what is the right and what the
wrong use of the mass, what is the worthy and what the unworthy
preparation for it. If the mass is a promise, as has been said, it is
to be approached, not with any work or strength or merit, but with
faith alone. For where there is the word of God Who makes the promise,
there must be the faith of man who takes it. It is plain, therefore,
that the first step in our salvation is faith, which clings to the
word of the promise made by God, Who without any effort on our part,
in free and unmerited mercy makes a beginning and offers us the word
of His promise. For He sent His Word, and by it healed them [Ps.
107:20]. He did not accept our work and thus heal us. God's Word is
the beginning of all; on it follows faith, and on faith charity; then
charity works every good work, for it worketh no ill, nay, it is the
fulfilling of the law [Rom. 13:10]. In no other way can man come to
God and deal with Him than through faith; that is, not man, by any
work of his, but God, by His promise, is the author of salvation, so
that all things depend on the word of His power, and are upheld and
preserved by it [Heb. 1:3], with which word He begat us, that we
should be a kind of firstfruits of His creatures [Jas. 1:18].

Thus, in order to raise up Adam after the all, God gave him this
promise, addressing the serpent: "I will put enmities between thee and
the woman, and thy seed and her seed: she shall crush thy head, and
thou shalt lie in wait for her heel." [Gen. 3:15] In this word of
promise Adam, with them that were his, was carried as it were in God's
bosom, and by faith in it he was preserved, patiently waiting for the
woman who should crush the serpent's head, as God had promised. And in
that faith and expectation he died, not knowing when or in what guise
she would come, yet never doubting that she would come. For such a
promise, being the truth of God, preserves, even in hell, those who
believe it and wait for it. After this came another promise, made to
Noah--to last until the time of Abraham--when a bow was set as a sign
in the clouds [Gen. 9:12], by faith in which Noah and his descendants
found a gracious God. After that He promised Abraham that all nations
should be blessed in his seed [Gen. 12:3]; and this is Abraham's
bosom, into which his posterity was carried [Luke 16:22]. Then to
Moses and the children of Israel, and especially to David, He gave the
plain promise of Christ [Deut. 18:18], thereby at last making clear
what was meant by the promise to them of old time [2 Sam. 7:6]. And so
it came finally to the most complete promise of the new testament, in
which with plain words life and salvation are freely promised, and
granted to such as believe the promise. And He distinguished this
testament by a particular mark from the old, calling it the "new
testament." [Luke 22:20] For the old testament, which He gave by
Moses, was a promise not of remission of sins or of eternal things,
but of temporal,--namely, the land of Canaan,--by which no man was
renewed in his spirit, to lay hold on the heavenly inheritance.
Therefore it was also necessary that dumb beasts should be slain, as
types of Christ, that by their blood the testament might be confirmed;
so that the testament was even as the blood, and the promise even as
the sacrifice. But here He says: "The new testament in my blood" [Luke
22:20]--not in another's, but in His own, and by this blood grace is
promised, through the Spirit, unto the remission of sins, that we may
obtain the inheritance.

The mass, according to its substance, is, therefore, nothing else than
the aforesaid words of Christ--"Take and eat" [1 Cor. 11:24]; as if He
said: "Behold, O sinful man and condemned, out of pure and unmerited
love wherewith I love thee, and by the will of the Father of all
mercies, I promise thee in these words, or ever thou canst desire or
deserve them, the forgiveness of all thy sins and life everlasting.
And, that thou mayest be most certainly assured of this my irrevocable
promise, I give my body and shed my blood, thus by my very death
confirming this promise, and leaving thee my body and blood as a sign
and memorial of this same promise. As oft, therefore, as thou
partakest of them, remember me, and praise, magnify, and give thanks
or my love and largess toward thee."

Herefrom you will see that nothing else is needed for a worthy holding
of mass than a faith that confidently relies on this promise, believes
Christ to be true in these words of His, and doubts not that these
infinite blessings have been bestowed upon it. Hard on this faith
there follows, of itself, a most sweet stirring of the heart, whereby
the spirit of man is enlarged and waxes at--that is love, given by the
Holy Spirit through faith in Christ--so that he is drawn unto Christ,
that gracious and good Testator, and made quite another and a new man.
Who would not shed tears of gladness, nay well-nigh faint for the joy
he hath toward Christ, if he believed with unshaken faith that this
inestimable promise of Christ belonged to him! How could one help
loving so great a Benefactor, who offers, promises and grants, all
unbidden, such great riches, and this eternal inheritance, to one
unworthy and deserving of somewhat far different?

Therefore, it is our one misfortune, that we have many masses in the
world, and yet none or but the fewest of us recognize, consider and
receive these promises and riches that are offered, although verily we
should do nothing else in the mass with greater zeal (yea, it demands
all our zeal) than set before our eyes, meditate, and ponder these
words, these promises of Christ, which truly are the mass itself, in
order to exercise, nourish, increase, and strengthen our faith by such
daily remembrance. For this is what He commands, saying, "This do in
remembrance of me." [1 Cor. 11:24]

This should be done by the preachers of the Gospel, in order that this
promise might be faithfully impressed upon the people and commended to
them, to the awakening of faith in the same. But how many are there
now who know that the mass is the promise of Christ? I will say
nothing of those godless preachers of fables, who teach human
traditions instead of this promise. And even if they teach these words
of Christ, they do not teach them as a promise or testament, and,
therefore, not to the awakening of faith.

O the pity of it! Under this captivity, they take every precaution
that no layman should hear these words of Christ, as if they were too
sacred to be delivered to the common people. So mad are we[57] priests
that we arrogantly claim that the so-called words of consecration may
be said by ourselves alone, as secret words, yet so that they do not
profit even us, or we too fail to regard them as promises or as a
testament, for the strengthening of faith. Instead of believing them,
we reverence them with I know not what superstitious and godless
fancies. This misery of ours, what is it but a device of Satan to
remove every trace of the mass out of the Church? although he is
meanwhile at work filing every nook and corner on earth with masses,
that is, abuses and mockeries of God's testament, and burdening the
world more and more heavily with grievous sins of idolatry, to its
deeper condemnation. For what worse idolatry can there be than to
abuse God's promises with perverse opinions and to neglect or
extinguish faith in them?

For God does not deal, nor has He ever dealt, with man otherwise than
through a word of promise, as I have said[58]; again, we cannot deal
with God otherwise than through faith in the word of His promise. He
does not desire works, nor has He need of them; we deal with men and
with ourselves on the basis of works. But He has need of this,--that
we deem Him true to His promises, wait patiently for Him, and thus
worship Him with faith, hope and love. Thus He obtains His glory among
us, since it is not of ourselves who run, but of Him who showeth mercy
[Ps. 115:1], promiseth and giveth, that we have and hold every
blessing [Rom. 9:16]. That is the true worship and service of God
which we must perform in the mass. But if the words of promise are not
proclaimed, what exercise of faith can there be? And without faith,
who can have hope or love? Without faith, hope and love, what service
can there be? There is no doubt, therefore, that in our day all
priests and monks, together with all their bishops and superiors, are
idolaters and in a most perilous state, by reason of this ignorance,
abuse and mockery of the mass, or sacrament, or testament of God.

For any one can easily see that these two--the promise and faith--must
go together. For without the promise there is nothing to believe,
while without faith the promise, remains without effect; for it is
established and fulfilled through faith. From this every one will
readily gather that the mass, which is nothing else than the promise,
is approached and observed only in this faith, without which whatever
prayers, preparations, works, signs of the cross, or genuflections are
brought to it, are incitements to impiety rather than exercises of
piety; for they who come thus prepared are wont to imagine themselves
on that account justly entitled to approach the altar, when in reality
they are less prepared than at any other time and in any other work,
by reason of the unbelief which they bring with them. How many priests
will you find every day offering the sacrifice of the mass, who accuse
themselves of a horrible crime if they--wretched men!--commit a
trifling, blunder, such as putting on the wrong robe or forgetting to
wash their hands or stumbling over their prayers; but that they
neither regard nor believe the mass itself, namely, the divine
promise--this causes them not the slightest qualms of conscience. O
worthless religion of this our age, the most godless and thankless of
all ages!

Hence the only worthy preparation and proper use of the mass is faith
in the mass, that is to say, in the divine promise. Whoever,
therefore, is minded to approach the altar and to receive the
sacrament, let him beware of appearing empty before the Lord God [Ex.
23:15; 34:20]. But he will appear empty unless he has faith in the
mass, or this new testament. What godless work that he could commit
would be a more grievous crime against the truth of God, than this
unbelief of his, by which, as much as in him lies, he convicts God of
being a liar and a maker of empty promises? The safest course,
therefore, will be to go to mass in the same spirit in which you would
go to hear any other promise of God; that is, not to be ready to
perform and bring many works, but to believe and receive all that is
there promised, or proclaimed by the priest as having been promised to
you. If you do not go in this spirit, beware of going at all; you will
surely go to your condemnation.

I was right then in saying[59] that the whole power of the mass
consists in the words of Christ, in which He testifies that the
remission of sins is bestowed on all those who believe that His body
is given and His blood shed for them. For this reason nothing is more
important for those who go to hear mass than diligently and in full
faith to ponder these words. Unless they do this, all else that they
do is in vain.

[Sidenote: The External Sign, which is the Sacrament]

But while the mass is the word of Christ, it is also true that God is
wont to add to well-nigh every promise of His a certain sign as a mark
or memorial of His promise, so that we may thereby the more faithfully
hold to His promise and be the more forcibly admonished by it. Thus,
to his promise to Noah that He would not again destroy the world by a
flood, He added His bow in the clouds, to show that He would be
mindful of His covenant [Gen. 9:13]. And after promising Abraham the
inheritance in his seed, He gave him the sign of circumcision as the
seal of his righteousness by faith. Thus, to Gideon He granted the
sign of the dry and the wet fleece, to confirm His promise of victory
over the Midianites [Judges 6:36 ff.]. And to Ahaz He offered a sign
through Isaiah concerning his victory over the kings of Syria and
Samaria, to strengthen his faith in the promise [Isa. 7:10 ff.]. And
many such signs of the promises of God do we find in the Scriptures.

Thus also to the mass, that crown of all His promises. He adds His
body and blood in the bread and wine, as a memorial sign of this great
promise; as He says, "This do in remembrance of me." [1 Cor. 11:24]
Even so in baptism He adds to the words of the promise, the sign of
immersion in water. We learn from this that in every promise of God
two things are presented to us--the word and the sign--so that we are
to understand the word to be the testament, but the sign to be the
sacrament. Thus, in the mass, the word of Christ is the testament, and
the bread and wine are the sacrament. And as there is greater power in
the word than in the sign, so there is greater power in the testament
than in the sacrament; for a man can have and use the word, or
testament, apart from the sign, or sacrament. "Believe," says
Augustine, "and thou hast eaten."[60] But what does one believe save
the word of promise? Therefore I can hold mass every day, yea, every
hour, for I can set the words of Christ before me, and with them
refresh and strengthen my faith, as often as I choose. That is a truly
spiritual eating and drinking.[61]

Here you may see what great things our theologians of the
Sentences[62] have produced. That which is the principal and chief
thing, namely, the testament and word of promise, is not treated by
one of them; thus they have obliterated faith and the whole power of
the mass. But the second part of the mass,--the sign, or
sacrament,[63]--this alone do they discuss, yet in such a manner that
here too they teach not faith but their preparations and _opera
operata_, participations and fruits[64], as though these were the
mass, until they have fallen to babbling of transubstantiation and
endless other metaphysical quibbles, and have destroyed the proper
understanding and use of both sacrament and testament, altogether
abolished faith, and caused Christ's people to forget their God, as
the prophet says, days without number [Jer. 2:32]. But do you let the
others tell over the manifold fruits of hearing mass, and turn hither
your mind, and say and believe with the prophet, that God here
prepares a table before you, against all those that afflict you, at
which your soul may eat and grow fat [Ps. 23:5]. But your faith is fed
only with the word of divine promise, for "not in bread alone doth man
live, but in every word that proceedeth from the mouth of God." [Deut.
8:3; Matt. 4:4] Hence, in the mass you must above all things pay
closest heed to the word of promise, as to your rich banquet, green
pasture, and sacred refreshment; you must esteem this word higher than
all else, trust in it above all things, and cling firmly to it even
through the midst of death and all sins. By thus doing you will attain
not merely to those tiny drops and crumbs of "fruits of the mass,"
which some have superstitiously imagined, but to the very fountainhead
of life, which is faith in the word, from which every blessing flows;
as it is said in John iv: "He that believeth in me, out of his belly
shall flow rivers of living water" [John 7:38]; and again: "He that
shall drink of the water that I will give him, it shall become in him
a fountain of living water, springing up into life everlasting." [John

Now there are two things that commonly tempt us to lose the fruits of
the mass: first, the fact that we are sinners and unworthy of such
great things because of our exceeding vileness; and, secondly, the act
that, even if we were worthy, these things are so high that our
faint-hearted nature dare not aspire to them or ever hope to attain to
them. For to have God for our Father, to be His sons and heirs of all
His goods--these are the great blessings that come to us through the
forgiveness of sins and life everlasting. And who that regarded them
aright must not rather stand aghast before them than desire to possess
them? Against this twofold faintness of ours we must lay hold on the
word of Christ and fix our gaze on it much more firmly than on those
thoughts of our weakness. For "great are the works of the Lord [Ps.
111:2]; wrought out according to all His wills, who is able to do
exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think." [Eph. 3:20] If
they did not surpass our worthiness, our grasp and all our thoughts,
they would not be divine. Thus Christ also encourages us when He says:
"Fear not, little flock, for it hath pleased your Father to give you a
kingdom." [Luke 17:32] For it is just this overflowing goodness of the
incomprehensible God, lavished upon us through Christ, that moves us
to love Him again with our whole heart above all things, to be drawn
to Him with all confidence, to despise all things else, and be ready
to suffer all things for Him; wherefore this sacrament is well styled
"a fount of love."

Let us take an illustration of this from every day life[66]. If a
thousand _gulden_ were bequeathed by a rich lord to a beggar or an
unworthy and wicked servant, it is certain that he would boldly claim
and take them regardless of his unworthiness and the greatness of the
bequest. And if any one should seek to oppose him by casting in his
teeth his unworthiness and the large amount of the legacy, what do you
suppose he would say? He would say, forsooth: "What is that to you?
What I accept, I accept not on my merits or by any right that I may
personally have to it; I know that I am unworthy and receive more than
I have deserved, nay, I have deserved the very opposite. But I claim
it because it is so written in the will, and on the score of another's
goodness. If it was not an unworthy thing for him to bequeath so great
a sum to an unworthy person, why should I reuse to accept it because
of my unworthiness? Nay, the more unworthy I am, the more reason have
I to accept this other man's gracious gift." With such thoughts we
need to fortify the consciences of men against all qualms and
scruples, that they may lay hold on the promise of Christ with
unwavering faith, and take the greatest care to approach the
sacrament, not trusting in their confession, prayer and preparation,
but rather despairing of these and with a proud confidence in Christ
Who gives the promise.  For, as we have said again and again, the word
of promise must here reign supreme in a pure and unalloyed faith, and
such faith is the one and all-sufficient preparation.

[Sidenote: The Mass Converted into a Good Work]

Hence we see how angry God is with us, in that he has permitted
godless teachers to conceal the words of this testament from us, and
thereby, as much as in them lay, to extinguish faith. And the
inevitable result of this extinguishing of faith is even now plainly
to be seen--namely, the most godless superstition of works. For when
faith dies and the word of faith is silent, works and the traditions
of works immediately crowd into their place. By them we have been
carried away out of our own land, as in a Babylonian captivity, and
despoiled of all our precious possessions. This has been the fate of
the mass; it has been converted by the teaching of godless men into a
good work, which they themselves call an _opus operatum_[67] and by
which they presumptuously imagine themselves all-powerful with God.
Thereupon they proceeded to the very height of madness, and having
invented the lie that the mass works _ex opere operate_[68], they
asserted further that it is none the less profitable to others, even
if it be harmful to the wicked priest celebrating it. On such a
foundation of sand they base their applications, participations,
sodalities, anniversaries and numberless other money-making schemes.

These lures are so powerful, widespread and firmly entrenched that you
will scarcely be able to prevail against them unless you keep before
you with unremitting care the real meaning of the mass, and bear well
in mind what has been said above. We have seen that the mass is
nothing else than the divine promise or testament of Christ, sealed
with the sacrament of His body and blood. If that is true, you will
understand that it cannot possibly be a work, and that there is
nothing to do in it, nor can it be dealt with in any other way than by
faith alone. And faith is not a work, but the mistress and the life of
all works[69]. Where in all the world is there a man so foolish as to
regard a promise made to him, or a testament given to him, as a good
work which by his acceptance of it he renders to the testator? What
heir will imagine he is doing his departed father a kindness by
accepting the terms of the will and the inheritance bequeathed to him?
What godless audacity is it, therefore, when we who are to receive the
testament of God come as those who would perform a good work or Him!
This ignorance of the testament, this captivity of the sacrament--are
they not too sad for tears? When we ought to be grateful for benefits
received, we come in our pride to give that which we ought to take,
mocking with unheard-of perversity the mercy of the Giver by giving as
a work the thing we receive as a gift; so that the testator, instead
of being the dispenser of His own goods, becomes the recipient of
ours. Out upon such godless doings!

Who has ever been so mad as to regard baptism as a good work, or to
believe that by being baptised he was performing a work which he might
offer to God or himself and communicate to others? I, therefore, there
is no good work that can be communicated to others in this one
sacrament or testament, neither will there be any in the mass, since
it too is nothing else than a testament and sacrament. Hence it is a
manifest and wicked error to offer or apply masses for sins, or
satisfactions, for the dead, or for any necessity whatsoever of one's
own or of others. You will readily see the obvious truth of this if
you but hold firmly that the mass is a divine promise, which can
profit no one, be applied to no one, intercede or no one, and be
communicated to no one, save him alone who believes with a faith of
his own. Who can receive or apply, in behalf of another, the promise
of God, which demands the personal faith of every individual? Can I
give to another what God has promised, even if he does not believe?
Can I believe for another, or cause another to believe? But this is
what I must do if I am able to apply and communicate the mass to
others; for there are but two things in the mass--the promise of God,
and the faith of man which takes that which the promise offers. But if
it is true that I can do this, then I can also hear and believe the
Gospel for others, I can be baptised for another, I can be absolved
from sins for another, I can also partake of the sacrament of the
altar for another, and--to run the gamut of their sacraments also--I
can marry a wife for another, be ordained for another, receive
confirmation and extreme unction for another! In fine, why did not
Abraham believe for all the Jews? Why was faith in the promise made to
Abraham demanded of every individual Jew?

Therefore, let this irrefutable truth stand fast. Where there is a
divine promise every one must stand upon his own feet, every one's
personal faith is demanded, every one will give an account for himself
and will bear his own burden [Gal. 6:5], as it is said in the last
chapter of Mark: "He that believeth and is baptised, shall be saved;
but he that believeth not, shall be damned." [Mark 16:16] Even so
every one may derive a blessing from the mass for himself alone and
only by his own faith, and no one can commune for any other; just as
the priest cannot administer the sacrament to any one in another's
stead, but administers the same sacrament to each individual by
himself. For in consecrating and administering, the priests are our
ministers, through whom we do not offer a good work or commune (in the
active), but receive the promises and the sign and are communed (in
the passive). That has remained to this day the custom among the
laity, for they are not said to do good, but to receive it. But the
priests have departed into godless ways; out of the sacrament and
testament of God, the source of blessings to be received, they have
made a good work which they may communicate and offer to others.

But you will say: How is this? Will you not overturn the practice and
teaching of all the churches and monasteries, by virtue of which they
have flourished these many centuries? For the mass is the foundation
of their anniversaries, intercessions, applications, communications,
etc.--that is to say, of their at income. I answer: This is the very
thing that has constrained me to write of the captivity of the Church,
for in this manner the adorable testament of God has been subjected to
the bondage of a godless traffic, through the opinions and traditions
of wicked men, who, passing over the Word of God, have put forth the
thoughts of their own hearts and misled the whole world. What do I
care for the number and influence of those who are in this error? The
truth is mightier than they all. If you are able to gainsay Christ,
according to Whom the mass is a testament and sacrament, then I will
admit that they are in the right. Or if you can bring yourself to say
that that man is doing a good work, who receives the benefit of the
testament, or who uses this sacrament of promise in order to receive
it, then I will gladly condemn my teachings. But since you can do
neither, why do you hesitate to turn your back on the multitude who go
after evil, and to give God the glory and confess His truth? Which is,
indeed, that all priests today are perversely mistaken, who regard the
mass as a work whereby they may relieve their own necessities and
those of others, dead or alive. I am uttering unheard-of and startling
things; but if you will consider the meaning of the mass, you will
realize that I have spoken the truth. The fault lies with our utter
supineness, in which we have become blind to the wrath of God that is
raging against us.

[Sidenote: The Prayers Distinguished from the Mass]

I am ready, however, to admit that the prayers which we pour out
before God when we are gathered together to partake of the mass, are
good works or benefits, which we impart, apply and communicate to one
another, and which we offer for one another; as James teaches us to
pray for one another that we may be saved [Jas. 5:16], and as Paul, in
I Timothy ii, commands that supplications, prayers and intercessions
be made for all men, for kings, and for all that are in high station
[1 Tim. 2:1 f.]. These are not the mass, but works of the mass--if the
prayers of heart and lips may be called works--for they flow from the
faith that is kindled or increased in the sacrament. For the mass,
being the promise of God, is not fulfilled by praying, but only by
believing; but when we believe, we shall also pray and perform every
good work. But what priest of them all offers the sacrifice of the
mass in this sense and believes that he is offering up naught but the
prayers? They all imagine themselves to be offering up Christ Himself,
as all-sufficient sacrifice, to God the Father, and to be performing a
good work for all whom they have the intention to benefit. For they
put their trust in the work which the mass accomplishes, and they do
not ascribe this work to prayer. Thus, gradually, the error has grown,
until they have come to ascribe to the sacrament what belongs to the
prayers, and to offer to God what should be received as a benefit.

It is necessary, therefore, to make a sharp distinction between the
testament or sacrament itself and the prayers which are there offered;
and no less necessary to bear in mind that the prayers avail nothing,
either for him who offers them or for those for whom they are offered,
unless the sacrament be first received in faith, so that it is faith
that offers the prayers, for it alone is heard, as James teaches in
his first chapter [Jas. 1:6 f.]. So great is the difference between
prayer and the mass. The prayer may be extended to as many persons as
one desires; but the mass is received by none but the person who
believes for himself, and only in proportion to his faith. It cannot
be given either to God or to men; but God alone gives it, by the
ministration of the priest, to such men as receive it by faith alone,
without any works or merits. For no one would dare to make the mad
assertion that a ragged beggar does a good work when he comes to
receive a gift from a rich man. But the mass is, as has been said[70],
the gift and promise of God, offered to all men by the hand of the
priest. It is certain, therefore, that the mass is not a work which
may be communicated to others, but it is the object, as it is called,
of faith, for the strengthening and nourishing of the personal faith
of each individual.

[Sidenote: The Most Dangerous Error of All: the Mass a Sacrifice]

But there is yet another stumbling-block that must be removed, and
this is much greater and the most dangerous of all. It is the common
belief that the mass is a sacrifice, which is offered to God. Even the
words of the canon[71] tend in this direction, when they speak of
"these gifts," "these offerings," "this holy sacrifice," and farther
on, of "this oblation." Prayer also is made, in so many words, "that
the sacrifice may be accepted even as the sacrifice of Abel," etc.,
and hence Christ is termed the "Sacrifice of the altar." In addition
to this there are the sayings of the holy Fathers, the great number of
examples, and the constant usage and custom of all the world.

To all of this, firmly entrenched as it is, we must resolutely oppose
the words and example of Christ. For unless we hold fast to the truth,
that the mass is the promise or testament of Christ, as the words
clearly say, we shall lose the whole Gospel and all our comfort. Let
us permit nothing to prevail against these words, even though an angel
from heaven should teach otherwise [Gal. 1:8]. For there is nothing
said in them of a work or a sacrifice. Moreover, we have also the
example of Christ on our side. For at the Last Supper, when He
instituted this sacrament and established this testament, Christ did
not offer Himself to God the Father, nor did He perform a good work on
behalf of others, but He set this testament before each of them that
sat at table with Him and offered him the sign. Now, the more closely
our mass resembles that first mass of all, which Christ performed at
the Last Supper, the more Christian will it be. But Christ's mass was
most simple, without the pageantry of vestments, genuflections, chants
and other ceremonies. Indeed, if it were necessary to offer the mass
as a sacrifice, then Christ's institution of it was not complete.

Not that any one should revile the Church universal for embellishing
and amplifying the mass with many additional rites and ceremonies. But
this is what we contend for; no one should be deceived by the glamour
of the ceremonies and entangled in the multitude of pompous forms, and
thus lose the simplicity of the mass itself, and indeed practice a
sort of transubstantiation--losing sight of the simple substance of
the mass and clinging to the manifold accidents of outward pomp. For
whatever has been added to the word and example of Christ, is an
accident of the mass, and ought to be regarded just as we regard the
so-called monstrances and corporal cloths in which the host itself is
contained[72]. Therefore, as distributing a testament, or accepting a
promise, differs diametrically from offering a sacrifice, so it is a
contradiction in terms to call the mass a sacrifice; for the former is
something that we receive, while the latter is something that we
offer. The same thing cannot be received and offered at the same time,
nor can it be both given and taken by the same person; just as little
as our prayer can be the same as that which our prayer obtains, or the
act of praying the same as the act of receiving the answer to our

What shall we say, then, of the canon of the mass[73] and the sayings
of the Fathers? First of all, if there were nothing at all to be said
against them, it would yet be the safer course to reject them all
rather than admit that the mass is a work or a sacrifice, lest we deny
the word of Christ and overthrow faith together with the mass.
Nevertheless, not to reject altogether the canons and the Fathers, we
shall say the following: The Apostle instructs us in I Corinthians xi
that it was customary for Christ's believers, when they came together
to mass, to bring with them meat and drink, which they called
"collections" and distributed among all who were in want [1 Cor. 11:20
ff.], after the example of the apostles in Acts iv [Acts 4:34 f.].
From this store was Acts taken the portion of bread and wine that was
consecrated for use in the sacrament[74]. And since all this store of
meat and drink was sanctified by the word and by prayer [1 Tim. 4:5],
being "lifted up" according to the Hebrew rite of which we read in
Moses [Lev. 8:27], the words and the rite of this lifting up, or for
offering, have come down to us, although the custom of collecting that
which was offered, or lifted up, has fallen long since into disuse.
Thus, in Isaiah xxxvii, Hezekiah commanded Isaiah to lift up his
prayer in the sight of God for the remnant [Isa. 37:4]. The Psalmist
sings: "Lift up your hands to the holy places" [Ps. 134:2]; and: "To
Thee will I lift up my hands." [Ps. 63:4] And in I Timothy ii we read:
"Lifting up pure hands in every place." [1 Tim. 2:8] For this reason
the words "sacrifice" and "oblation" must be taken to refer, not to
the sacrament and testament, but to these collections, whence also the
word "collect" has come down to us, as meaning the prayers said in the

The same thing is indicated when the priest elevates the bread and the
chalice immediately after the consecration, whereby he shows that he
is not offering anything to God, for he does not say a single word
here about a victim or an oblation. But this elevation is either a
survival of that Hebrew rite of lifting up what was received with
thanksgiving and returned to God, or else it is an admonition to us,
to provoke us to faith in this testament which the priest has set
forth and exhibited in the words of Christ, so that now he shows us
also the sign of the testament. Thus the oblation of the bread
properly accompanies the demonstrative this in the words, "This is my
body," by which sign the priest addresses us gathered about him; and
in like manner the oblation of the chalice accompanies the
demonstrative this in the words, "This chalice is the new testament,
etc." For it is faith that the priest ought to awaken in us by this
act of elevation. And would to God that, as he elevates the sign, or
sacrament, openly before our eyes, he might also sound in our ears the
words of the testament with a loud, clear voice, and in the language
of the people, whatever it may be, in order that faith may be the more
effectively awakened. For why may mass be said in Greek and Latin and
Hebrew, and not also in German or in any other language?[75]

[Sidenote: Fraternal Advice to the Priests]

Let the priests, therefore, who in these corrupt and perilous times
offer the sacrifice of the mass, take heed, first, that the words of
the greater and the lesser canon[76] together with the collects, which
smack too strongly of sacrifice, be not referred by them to the
sacrament, but to the bread and wine which they consecrate, or to the
prayers which they say. For the bread and wine are offered at the
first, in order that they may be blessed and thus sanctified by the
Word and by prayer; but after they have been blessed and consecrated,
they are no longer offered, but received as a gift from God. And let
the priest bear in mind that the Gospel is to be set above all canons
and collects devised by men; and the Gospel does not sanction the
calling of the mass a sacrifice, as has been shown.

Further, when a priest celebrates a public mass, he should determine
to do naught else through the mass than to commune himself and others;
yet he may at the same time offer prayers for himself and for others,
but he must beware lest he presume to offer the mass. But let him that
holds a private mass[77] determine to commune himself. The private
mass does not differ in the least from the ordinary communion which
any layman receives at the hand of the priest, and has no greater
effect, apart from the special prayers and the act that the priest
consecrates the elements for himself and administers them to himself.
So far as the blessing[78] of the mass and sacrament is concerned, we
are all of us on an equal footing, whether we be priests or laymen.

If a priest be requested by others to celebrate so-called votive
masses[79], let him beware of accepting a reward for the mass, or of
presuming to offer a votive sacrifice; he should be at pains to refer
all to the prayers which he offers for the dead or the living, saying
within himself, "I will go and partake of the sacrament for myself
alone, and while partaking I will say a prayer for this one and that."
Thus he will take his reward--to buy him food and clothing--not for
the mass, but for the prayers. And let him not be disturbed because
all the world holds and practices the contrary. You have the most sure
Gospel, and relying on this you may well despise the opinions of men.
But if you despise me and insist upon offering the mass and not the
prayers alone, know that I have faithfully warned you and will be
without blame on the day of judgment; you will have to bear your sin
alone. I have said what I was bound to say as brother to brother for
his soul's salvation; yours will be the gain if you observe it, yours
the loss if you neglect it. And if some should even condemn what I
have said, I reply in the words of Paul: "But evil men and seducers
shall grow worse and worse: erring and driving into error." [2 Tim.

From the above every one will readily understand what there is in that
oft quoted saying of Gregory's[80]: "A mass celebrated by a wicked
priest is not to be considered of less effect than one celebrated by
any godly priest, and St. Peter's mass would not have been better than
Judas the traitor's, if they had offered the sacrifice of the mass."
Which saying has served many as a cloak to cover their godless doings,
and because of it they have invented the distinction between _opus
operati_ and _opus operantis_[81], so as to be free to lead wicked
lives themselves and yet to benefit other men. But Gregory speaks
truth; only they misunderstand and pervert his words. For it is true
beyond a question, that the testament or sacrament is given and
received through the ministration of wicked priests no less completely
than through the ministration of the most saintly. For who has any
doubt that the Gospel is preached by the ungodly? Now the mass is part
of the Gospel, nay, its sum and substance; for what is the whole
Gospel but the good tidings of the forgiveness of sins? But whatever
can be said of the forgiveness of sins and the mercy of God, is all
briefly comprehended in the word of this testament. Wherefore the
popular sermons ought to be naught else than expositions of the mass,
that is, a setting forth of the divine promise of this testament; that
would be to teach faith and truly to edify the Church. But in our day
the expounders of the mass play with the allegories of human rites and
play the fool with the people.

Therefore, just as a wicked priest may baptise, that is, apply the
word of promise and the sign of the water to a candidate for baptism,
so he may also set forth the promise of this sacrament and administer
it to those who partake, and even himself partake, like Judas the
traitor, at the Lord's Supper. It still remains always the same
sacrament and testament, which works in the believer its own work, in
the unbeliever a "strange work." [Isa. 28:21] But when it comes to
offering a sacrifice the case is quite different. For not the mass but
the prayers are offered to God, and therefore it is as plain as day
that the offerings of a wicked priest avail nothing, but, as Gregory
says again, when an unworthy intercessor is chosen, the heart of the
judge is moved to greater displeasure. We must, therefore, not
confound these two--the mass and the prayers, the sacrament and the
work, the testament and the sacrifice; for the one comes from God to
us, through the ministration of the priest, and demands our faith, the
other proceeds from our faith to God, through the priest, and demands
His answer. The former descends, the latter ascends. Therefore the
former does not necessarily require a worthy and godly minister, but
the latter does indeed require such an one, because God heareth not
sinners [John 9:31]. He knows how to send down blessings through
evildoers, but He does not accept the work of any evildoer, as He
showed in the case of Cain [Gen. 4:5], and as it is said in Proverbs
xv, "The victims of the wicked are abominable to the Lord" [Prov.
15:8]; and in Romans xiv, "All that is not of faith is sin." [Rom.

[Sidenote: Worthy Communicants]

But in order to make an end of this first part, we must take up one
remaining point against which an opponent might arise. From all that
has been said we conclude that the mass was provided only for such as
have a sad, afflicted, disturbed, perplexed and erring conscience, and
that they alone commune worthily. For, since the word of divine
promise in this sacrament sets forth the remission of sins, that man
may fearlessly draw near, whoever he be, whose sins distress him,
either with remorse or past or with temptation to future wrongdoing.
For this testament of Christ is the one remedy against sins, past,
present and future, if you but cling to it with unwavering faith and
believe that what the words of the testament declare is freely granted
to you. But if you do not believe this, you will never, nowhere, and
by no works or efforts of your own, find peace of conscience. For
faith alone sets the conscience at peace, and unbelief alone keeps the
conscience troubled.


Blessed be God and the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, Who according
to the riches of His mercy hath preserved in His Church this sacrament
at least, untouched and untainted by the ordinances of men, and hath
made it free unto all nations and every estate of mankind, nor
suffered it to be oppressed by the filthy and godless monsters of
greed and superstition. For He desired that by it little children,
incapable of greed and superstition, might be initiated and sanctified
in the simple faith of His Word; for whom even to-day baptism hath its
chief blessing. But if this sacrament were to be given to such as had
arrived at man's estate, methinks it could not possibly have retained
its power and its glory against the tyranny of greed and superstition
which has everywhere laid waste things divine. Doubtless the wisdom of
the flesh would here too have devised its preparations and
worthinesses, its reservations, restrictions, and I know not what
other snares for taking money, until water fetched as high a price as
parchment[82] does now.

But Satan, though he could not quench the power of baptism in little
children, nevertheless succeeded in quenching it in all adults, so
that there are scarce any who call to mind their baptism and still
fewer who glory in it; so many other ways have they discovered of
ridding themselves of their sins and of reaching heaven. The source of
these false opinions is that dangerous saying of St.
Jerome's[83]--either unhappily phrased or wrongly interpreted--in
which he terms penance "the second plank" after the shipwreck; as if
baptism were not penance. Accordingly, when men fall into sin, they
despair of "the first plank," which is the ship, as though it had gone
under, and fasten all their faith on the second plank, that is,
penance. This has produced those endless burdens of vows, religious
works, satisfactions, pilgrimages, indulgences, and sects[84], whence
has arisen that flood of books, questions, opinions and human
traditions, which the world cannot contain; so that this tyranny plays
worse havoc with the Church of God than any tyrant ever did with the
Jewish people or with any other nation under heaven.

It was the duty of the pontiffs to abate this evil, and with all
diligence to lead Christians to the true understanding of baptism, so
that they might know what manner of men they are and how it becomes
Christians to live. But instead of this, their work is now to lead the
people as far astray as possible from their baptism, to immerse all
men in the flood of their oppression, and to cause the people of
Christ, as the prophet says, to forget Him days without number [Jer.
2:32]. O unhappy, all who bear the name of priest to-day! They not
only do not know nor do what becometh priests, but they are ignorant
of what they ought to know and do. They fulfil the saying in Isaiah
lvi: "His watch-men are all blind, they are all ignorant: the
shepherds themselves knew no understanding; all have declined into
their own way, every one after his own gain." [Isa. 56:10]

[Sidenote: The First Part of Baptism: The Divine Promise]

Now, the first thing in baptism to be considered is the divine
promise, which says: "He that believeth and is baptised shall be
saved." This promise must be set far above all the glitter of works,
vows, religious orders, and whatever man has added thereto; for on it
all our salvation depends [Mark 16:16]. But we must so consider it as
to exercise our faith therein and in nowise doubt that we are saved
when we are baptised. For unless this faith be present or be conferred
in baptism, baptism will profit us nothing, nay, it becomes a
hindrance to us, not only in the moment of its reception, but all the
days of our life; for such unbelief accuses God's promise of being a
lie, and this is the blackest of all sins. If we set ourselves to this
exercise of faith, we shall at once perceive how difficult it is to
believe this promise of God. For our human weakness, conscious of its
sins, finds nothing more difficult to believe than that it is saved or
will be saved; and yet unless it does believe this, it cannot be
saved, because it does not believe the truth of God that promiseth

This message should have been untiringly impressed upon the people and
this promise dinned without ceasing in their ears; their baptism
should have been called again and again to their mind, and faith
constantly awakened and nourished. For, just as the truth of this
divine promise, once pronounced over us, continues unto death, so our
faith in the same ought never to cease, but to be nourished and
strengthened until death, by the continual remembrance of this promise
made to us in baptism. Therefore, when we rise from sins, or repent,
we do but return to the power and the faith of baptism from whence we
fell, and find our way back to the promise then made to us, from which
we departed when we sinned. For the truth of the promise once made
remains steadfast, ever ready to receive us back with open arms when
we return. This, if I mistake not, is the real meaning of the obscure
saying, that baptism is the beginning and foundation of all the
sacraments, without which none of the others may be received.

It will, therefore, be no small gain or a penitent to lay hold before
all else on the memory of his baptism, confidently to call to mind the
promise of God, which he has forsaken, and to plead it with His Lord,
rejoicing that he is baptised and therefore is yet within the fortress
of salvation, and abhorring his wicked ingratitude in falling away
from its faith and truth. His soul will find wondrous comfort, and
will be encouraged to hope or mercy, when he considers that the divine
promise which God made to him and which cannot possibly lie, still
stands unbroken and unchanged, yea, unchangeable by any sins; as Paul
says in 1I Timothy ii, "If we believe not. He continueth faithful, He
cannot deny Himself." [2 Tim. 2:13] Ay, this truth of God will sustain
him, so that if all else should sink in ruins, this truth, if he
believe it, will not ail him. For in it he has a shield against all
assaults of the enemy, an answer to the sins that disturb his
conscience, an antidote for the dread of death and judgment, and a
comfort in every temptation,--namely, this one truth,--and he can say,
"God is faithful that promised [Heb. 10:23], Whose sign I have
received in my baptism. If God be for me, who is against me?" [Rom.

The children of Israel, whenever they repented of their sins, turned
their thoughts first of all to the exodus from Egypt, and, remembering
this, returned to God Who had brought them out. This memory and this
refuge were many times impressed upon them by Moses, and afterward
repeated by David. How much rather ought we to call to mind our exodus
from Egypt, and, remembering, turn back again to Him Who led us forth
through the washing of regeneration [Titus 3:5], which we are bidden
remember for this very purpose. And this we can do most fittingly in
the sacrament of bread and wine. Indeed, in olden times these three
sacraments--penance, baptism and the bread--were all celebrated at the
same service, and one supplemented and assisted the other. We read
also of a certain holy virgin who in every time of temptation made
baptism her sole defence, saying simply, "I am a Christian"; and
straight-way the adversary led from her, or he knew the power of her
baptism and of her faith which clung to the truth of God's

Lo, how rich therefore is a Christian, or one who is baptised! Even if
he would, he cannot lose his salvation, however much he sin, unless he
will not believe. For no sin can condemn him save unbelief alone. All
other sins,--if faith in God's promise made in baptism return or
remain,--all other sins, I say, are immediately blotted out through
that same faith, or rather through the truth of God, because He cannot
deny Himself if you but confess Him and cling believing to Him that
promises. But as for contrition, confession of sins, and
satisfaction[86],--with all those carefully thought-out exercises of
men,--if you turn your attention to them and neglect this truth of
God, they will suddenly fail you and leave you more wretched than
before. For whatever is done without faith in the truth of God, is
vanity of vanities and vexation of spirit [Eccl. 1:2, 14].

Again, how perilous, nay, how false it is to suppose that penance is
the second plank after the shipwreck! How harmful an error it is to
believe that the power of baptism is broken, and the ship has
foundered, because we have sinned! Nay; that one, solid and unsinkable
ship remains, and is never broken up into floating timbers; it carries
all those who are brought to the harbor of salvation; it is the truth
of God giving us its promise in the sacraments. Many, indeed, rashly
leap overboard and perish in the waves; these are they who depart from
faith in the promise and plunge into sin. But the ship herself remains
intact and holds her steady course; and if one be able somehow to
return to the ship, it is not on any plank but in the good ship
herself that he is borne to life. Such an one is he who through faith
returns to the sure promise of God that abideth forever. Therefore
Peter, in his second epistle, rebukes them that sin, because they have
forgotten that they were purged from their old sins [2 Peter 1:9]; in
which words he doubtless chides their ingratitude or the baptism they
had received and their wicked unbelief.

What is the good, then, of making many books on baptism and yet not
teaching this faith in the promise? All the sacraments were instituted
for the purpose of nourishing faith, but these godless men so
completely pass over this faith that they even assert a man dare not
be certain of the forgiveness of sins, that is, of the grace of the
sacraments. With such wicked teachings they delude the world, and not
only take captive but altogether destroy the sacrament of baptism, in
which the chief glory of our conscience consists. Meanwhile they madly
rage against the miserable souls of men with their contritions,
anxious confessions, circumstances[87], satisfactions, works and
endless other absurdities. Read, therefore, with great caution the
Master of the Sentences[88] in his fourth book, or, better yet,
despise him together with all his commentators, who at their best
write only of the material and form[87] of the sacraments, that is,
they treat of the dead and death-dealing letter of the sacraments, but
pass over in utter silence the spirit, life and use, that is, the
truth of the divine promise and our faith.

Beware, therefore, lest the external pomp of works and the deceits of
human traditions mislead you, so that you may not wrong the divine
truth and your faith. If you would be saved, you must begin with the
faith of the sacraments, without any works whatever; but on faith the
works will follow: only do not think lightly of faith, which is a
work, and of all works the most excellent and the most difficult to
do. Through it alone you will be saved, even if you should be
compelled to do without any other works. For it is a work of God, not
of man, as Paul teaches [Eph. 2:8]. The other works He works through
us and with our help, but this one He works in us and without our

From this we can clearly see the difference, in baptism, between man
the minister and God the Doer. For man baptises and does not baptise:
he baptises, for he performs the work, immersing the person to be
baptised; he does not baptise, for in that act he officiates not by
his own authority, but in the stead of God. Hence, we ought to receive
baptism at the hands of a man just as if Christ Himself, nay, God
Himself, were baptising us with His own hands. For it is not man's
baptism, but Christ's and God's baptism, which we receive by the hand
of a man; just as every other created thing that we make use of by the
hand of another, is God's alone. Therefore beware of dividing baptism
in such a way as to ascribe the outward part to man and the inward
part to God. Ascribe both to God alone, and look upon the person
administering it as the instrument in God's hands, by which the Lord
sitting in heaven thrusts you under the water with His own hands, and
speaking by the mouth of His minister promises you, on earth with a
human voice, the forgiveness of your sins.

This the words themselves indicate, when the priest says: "I baptise
thee in the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost.
Amen"--and not: "I baptise thee in my own name." It is as though he
said: "What I do, I do not by my own authority, but in the name and
stead of God, so that you should regard it just as if our Lord Himself
had done it in a visible manner. The Doer and the minister are
different persons, but the work of both is the same work, or, rather,
it is the work of the Doer alone, through my ministry." For I hold
that "in the name of" refers to the person of the Doer, so that the
name of the Lord is not only to be uttered and invoked while the work
is being done, but the work itself is to be done not as one's own
work, but in the name and stead of another. In this sense Christ says,
"Many shall come in my name," [Matt. 24:5] and in Romans i it is said,
"By whom we have received grace and apostleship for obedience to the
faith, in all nations, for His name." [Rom. 1:5]

This view I heartily endorse; for there is much of comfort and a mighty
aid to faith in the knowledge that one has been baptised not by man,
but by the Triune God Himself through a man acting among us in His
name. This will dispose of that fruitless quarrel about the "form"[90]
of baptism, as these words are called. The Greeks say: "May the
servant of Christ be baptised," while the Latins say: "I baptise."
Others again, pedantic triflers, condemn the use of the words, "I
baptise thee in the name of Jesus Christ"[91]--although it is certain
that the Apostles used this formula in baptising, as we read in the
Acts of the Apostles--and would allow no other form to be valid than
this: "I baptise thee in the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and
of the Holy Ghost." But their contention is in vain, for they bring no
proof, but merely assert their own dreams. Baptism truly saves in
whatever way it is administered, if only it be not administered in the
name of man but of God. Nay, I have no doubt that if one received
baptism in the name of the Lord, even though the wicked minister
should not give it in the name of the Lord, he would yet be truly
baptised in the name of the Lord. For the effect of baptism depends
not so much on the faith or use of him that confers it as on the faith
or use of him that receives it; of which we have an illustration in
the case of the play-actor who was baptised in jest[92]. Such anxious
disputings and questionings are aroused in us by those who ascribe
nothing to faith and everything to works and forms, whereas we owe
everything to faith alone and nothing to forms, and faith makes us
free in spirit from all those scruples and fancies.

[Sidenote: The Second Part of Baptism: The Sign, or Sacrament]

The second part of baptism is the sign, or sacrament, which is that
immersion into water whence also it derives its name; for the Greek
_baptizo_ means I immerse, and _baptisma_ means immersion. For, as has
been said[93], signs are added to the divine promises to represent
that which the words signify, for, as they now say, that which the
sacrament "effectively signifies." We shall see how much of truth
there is in this. The great majority have supposed that there is some
hidden spiritual power in the word or in the water, which works the
grace of God in the soul of the recipient. Others deny this and hold
that there is no power in the sacraments, but that grace is given by
God alone, Who according to His covenant aids the sacraments He has
instituted[94]. Yet all are agreed that the sacraments are effective
signs of grace, and they reach this conclusion by this one argument:
If the sacraments of the New Law merely "signified," it would not be
apparent in what respect they surpassed the sacraments of the Old Law.
Hence they have been driven to attribute such great power to the
sacraments of the New Law that in their opinion they benefit even such
men as are in mortal sins, and that they do not require faith or
grace; it is sufficient not to oppose a "bar," that is, an actual
intention to sin again.

But these views must be carefully avoided and shunned, because they
are godless and infidel, being contrary to faith and to the nature of
the sacraments. For it is an error to hold that the sacraments of the
New Law differ from those of the Old Law in the efficacy of their
"signifying." The "signifying" of both is equally efficacious. The
same God Who now saves me by baptism saved Abel by his sacrifice, Noah
by the bow, Abraham by circumcision, and all the others by their
respective signs. So far as the "signifying" is concerned, there is no
difference between a sacrament of the Old Law and one of the New;
provided that by the Old Law you mean that which God wrought among the
patriarchs and other fathers in the days of the law. But those signs
which were given to the patriarchs and fathers must be sharply
distinguished from the legal types which Moses instituted in his law,
such as the priestly rites concerning robes, vessels, meats,
dwellings, and the like. Between these and the sacraments of the New
Law there is a vast difference, but no less between them and those
signs that God from time to time gave to the fathers living judges
under the law, such as the sign of Gideon's fleece [Judges 6:36],
Manoah's sacrifice [Judges 13:19], or the sign which Isaiah offered to
Ahaz, in Isaiah vii [Isa. 7:10]; for to these signs God attached a
certain promise which required faith in Him.

This, then, is the difference between the legal types and the new and
old signs--the former have not attached to them any word of promise
requiring faith. Hence they are not signs of justification, for they
are not sacraments of the faith that alone justifies, but only
sacraments of works; their whole power and nature consisted in works,
not in faith, and he that observed them fulfilled them, even if he did
it without faith. But our signs, or sacraments, as well as those of
the fathers, have attached to them a word of promise, which requires
faith, and they cannot be fulfilled by any other work. Hence they are
signs or sacraments of justification, for they are the sacraments of
justifying faith and not of works. Their whole efficacy, therefore,
consists in faith itself, not in the doing of a work; for whoever
believes them fulfils them, even if he should not do a single work.
Whence has arisen the saying, "Not the sacrament but the faith of the
sacrament justifies." Thus circumcision did not justify Abraham and
his seed, and yet the Apostle calls it the seal of the righteousness
of faith [Rom. 4:11], because faith in the promise, to which
circumcision was added, justified him and fulfilled that which
circumcision signified. For faith was the spiritual circumcision of
the foreskin of the heart [Deut. 10:16; Jer. 4:4], which was
symbolised by the literal circumcision of the flesh. And in the same
manner it was obviously not Abel's sacrifice that justified him, but
it was his faith, by which he offered himself wholly to God and which
was symbolised by the outward sacrifice.

Even so it is not baptism that justifies or benefits anyone, but it is
faith in the word of promise, to which baptism is added. This faith
justifies, and fulfils that which baptism signifies. For faith is the
submersion of the old man and the emerging of the new. Therefore it
cannot be that the new sacraments differ from the old, for both have
the divine promise and the same spirit of faith; although they do
differ vastly from the olden types on account of the word of promise,
which is the one decisive point of difference. Even so, to-day, the
outward show of vestments, holy places, meats and of all the endless
ceremonies has doubtless a fine symbolical meaning, which is to be
spiritually fulfilled; and yet because there is no word of divine
promise attached to these things, they can in nowise be compared with
the signs of baptism and of the bread, nor do they in any way justify
or benefit one, since they are fulfilled in the very observance, apart
from faith. For while they are taking place or are being performed,
they are being fulfilled; as the Apostle says of them, in Colossians
ii, "Which are all to perish with the using, after the commandments
and doctrines of men." [Col. 2:22] The sacraments, on the contrary,
are not fulfilled when they are observed, but when they are believed.

It cannot be true, therefore, that there is in the sacraments a power
efficacious for justification, or that they are effective signs of
grace[95]. All such assertions tend to destroy faith, and arise from
ignorance of the divine promise. Unless you should call them effective
in the sense that they certainly and efficaciously impart grace, where
faith is unmistakably present. But it is not in this sense that
efficacy is now ascribed to them; as witness the act that they are
said to benefit all men, even the godless and unbelieving, provided
they do not oppose a "bar"--as if such unbelief were not in itself the
most obstinate and hostile of all bars to grace. So firmly bent are
they on turning the sacrament into a command, and faith into a work.
For if the sacrament confers grace on me because I receive it, then
indeed I obtain grace by virtue of my work and not of faith; I lay
hold not on the promise in the sacrament, but on the sign instituted
and commanded by God. Do you not see, then, how completely the
sacraments have been misunderstood by our sententious theologians?[96]
They have taken no account, in their discussions on the sacraments, of
either faith or the promise, but cling only to the sign and the use of
the sign, and draw us away from faith to the work, from the word to
the sign. Thus they have not only carried the sacraments captive (as I
have said)[97], but have completely destroyed them, as far as they
were able.

Therefore, let us open our eyes and learn to give more heed to the
word than to the sign[98], and to faith than to the work, for the use
of the sign, remembering that wherever there is a divine promise there
faith is required, and that these two are so necessary to each other
that neither can be efficacious apart from the other. For it is not
possible to believe unless there be a promise, and the promise is not
established unless it be believed. But where these two meet, they give
a real and most certain efficacy to the sacraments. Hence, to seek the
efficacy of the sacrament apart from the promise and apart from faith,
is to labor in vain and to ind damnation. Thus Christ says: "He that
believeth and is baptised, shall be saved; he that believe not shall
be damned." [Mark 16:16] He shows us in this word that faith is so
necessary a part of the sacrament that it can save even without the
sacrament; for which reason He did not see it to say: "He that
believeth not, _and is not baptised_. . ."

Baptism, then, signifies two things--death and resurrection; that is,
full and complete justification. The minister's immersing the child in
the water signifies death; his drawing it forth again signifies life.
Thus Paul expounds it in Romans vi, "We are buried together with
Christ by baptism into death; that as Christ is risen from the dead by
the glory of the Father, so we also may walk in newness of life."
[Rom. 6:4] This death and resurrection we call the new creation,
regeneration, and the spiritual birth. And this must not be understood
only in a figurative sense, of the death of sin and the life of grace,
as many understand it, but of actual death and resurrection. The
significance of baptism is not an imaginary significance, and sin does
not completely die, nor does grace completely rise, until the body of
sin that we carry about in this life is destroyed; as the Apostle
teaches in the same chapter [Rom. 6:6]. For as long as we are in the
flesh, the desires of the flesh stir and are stirred. Wherefore, as
soon as ever we begin to believe, we also begin to die to this world
and to live unto God in the life to come; so that faith is truly a
death and a resurrection, that is, it is that spiritual baptism in
which we go under and come forth.

Hence it is indeed correct to say that baptism is a washing from sins,
but that expression is too weak and mild to bring out the full
significance of baptism, which is rather a symbol of death and
resurrection. For this reason I would have the candidates for baptism
completely immersed in the water, as the word[99] says and as the
sacrament signifies. Not that I deem this necessary, but it were well
to give to so perfect and complete a things a perfect and complete
sign; thus it was also doubtless instituted by Christ. The sinner does
not so much need to be washed as he needs to die, in order to be
wholly renewed and made another creature, and to be conformed to the
death and resurrection of Christ, with Whom, through baptism, he dies
and rises again. Although you may properly say that Christ was washed
clean of mortality when He died and rose again, yet that is a weaker
way of putting it than if you said He was completely changed and
renewed. In the same way it is far more forceful to say that baptism
signifies our utter dying and rising to eternal life, than to say that
it signifies merely our being washed clean from sins.

Here, again, you see that the sacrament of baptism, even in respect to
its sign, is not the matter of a moment, but continues for all time.
Although its administration is soon over, yet the thing it
signifies[100] continues until we die, nay, until we rise at the last
day. For as long as we live we are continually doing that which our
baptism signifies,--we die and rise again. We die, that is, not only
spiritually and in our affections, by renouncing the sins and vanities
of this world, but we die in very truth, we begin to leave this bodily
life and to lay hold on the life to come; so that there is, as they
say, a real and even a bodily going out of this world to the Father.

We must, therefore, beware of those who have reduced the power of
baptism to such a vanishing point as to say that the grace of God is
indeed inpoured in baptism, but afterwards poured out again through
sin, and that thereupon one must reach heaven by another way; as if
baptism had then become entirely useless. Do not you hold to such a
view, but know that baptism signifies your dying and living again, and
therefore, whether it be by penance or by any other way, you can but
return to the power of your baptism, and do afresh that which you were
baptised to do and which your baptism signified. Never does baptism
lose its power, unless you despair and refuse to return to its
salvation. You may, indeed, or a season wander away from the sign, but
that does not make the sign of none effect. You have, thus, been
baptised once in the sacrament, but you must be constantly baptised
again through faith, you must constantly die, you must constantly live
again. Baptism swallowed up your whole body, and gave it forth again;
even so that which baptism signifies[101] should swallow up your whole
life in body and soul, and give it forth again at the last day, clad
in robes of glory and immortality. We are, therefore, never without
the sign of baptism nor yet without the thing it signifies; nay, we
must be baptised ever more and more completely, until we perfectly
fulfil the sign, at the last day.

Therefore, whatever we do in this life that avails for the mortifying
of the flesh and the giving life to the spirit, belongs to baptism;
and the sooner we depart this life the sooner do we fulfil our
baptism, and the greater our sufferings the more closely do we conform
to our baptism. Hence those were the Church's halcyon days, when the
martyrs were being killed every day and accounted as sheep for the
slaughter [Ps. 44:22; Rom. 8:36]; for then the power of baptism
reigned supreme in the Church, which power we have to-day lost sight
of amid the multitude of works and doctrines of men. For all our life
should be baptism, and the fulfilling of the sign, or sacrament, of
baptism; we have been set free from all else and wholly given over to
baptism alone, that is, to death and resurrection.

[Sidenote: The Glorious Liberty of the Baptised]

This glorious liberty of ours, and this understanding of baptism have
been carried captive in our day; and whom have we to thank for this
but the Roman pontiff with his despotism? More than all others, it was
his first duty, as chief shepherd, to preach and defend this liberty
and this knowledge, as Paul says in I Corinthians: "Let a man so
account of us as of the ministers of Christ, and the dispensers of the
mysteries, or sacraments[101], of God." [1 Cor. 4:1] Instead of this,
he seeks only to oppress us with his decrees and his laws, and to
enslave and ensnare us in the tyranny of his power. By what right, in
God's name, does the pope impose his laws upon us? to say nothing of
his wicked and damnable neglect to teach these mysteries. Who gave him
power to despoil us of this liberty, granted us in baptism? One thing
only (as I have said)[103] has been enjoined upon us all the days of
our life,--to be baptised; that is, to be put to death and to live
again, through faith in Christ; and this faith alone should have been
taught, especially by the chief shepherd. But now there is not a word
said about faith, and the Church is laid waste with endless laws
concerning works and ceremonies; the power and right understanding of
baptism are put by, and faith in Christ is prevented.

Therefore I say: Neither pope nor bishop nor any other man has the
right to impose a single syllable of law upon a Christian man without
his consent; and if he does, it is done in the spirit of tyranny.
Therefore the prayers, fasts, donations, and whatever else the pope
decrees and demands in all of his decretals, as numerous as they are
iniquitous, he demands and decrees without any right whatever; and he
sins against the liberty of the Church whenever he attempts any such
thing. Hence it has come to pass that the churchmen of our day are
indeed such vigorous defenders of the liberty of the Church, that is,
of wood and stone, of land and rents--for "churchly" is nowadays the
same as "spiritual"--yet with such fictions they not only take captive
but utterly destroy the true liberty of the Church, and deal with us
far worse than the Turk, in opposition to the word of the Apostle, "Be
not made the bondslaves of men." [1 Cor. 7:23] For, verily, to be
subjected to their statutes and tyrannical laws is to be made the
bondslaves of men.

This impious and desperate tyranny is fostered by the pope's
disciples, who here drag in and pervert that saying of Christ, "He
that heareth you heareth me." [Luke 10:16] With puffed cheeks they
blow up this saying to a great size in support of their traditions.
Though Christ spake it to the apostles when they went forth to preach
the Gospel, and though it applies solely to the Gospel, they pass over
the Gospel and apply it only to their fables. He says in John x: "My
sheep hear my voice, but the voice of a stranger they hear not" [John
10:27]; and to this end He left us the Gospel, that His voice might be
uttered by the pontiffs. But they utter their own voice, and
themselves desire to be heard. Moreover, the Apostle says that he was
not sent to baptise but to preach the Gospel [1 Cor. 1:17]. Therefore,
no one is bound to the traditions of the pope, nor does he need to
give ear to him unless he teaches the Gospel and Christ, and the pope
should teach nothing but faith without any restrictions. But since
Christ says, "He that heareth you heareth me," [Luke 10:16] and does
not say to Peter only, "He that heareth thee"; why does not the pope
also hear others? In fine, where there is true faith, there must also
be the word of faith. Why then does not an unbelieving pope now and
then hear a believing servant of his, who has the word of faith? It is
blindness, sheer blindness, that holds the popes in its power.

But others, more shameless still, arrogantly ascribe to the pope the
power to make laws, on the basis of Matthew xvi, "Whatsoever thou
shalt bind," [Matt. 16:19] etc., though Christ treats in this passage
of binding and loosing sins, not of taking the whole Church captive
and oppressing it with laws. So this tyranny treats everything with
its own lying words and violently wrests and perverts the words of
God. I admit indeed that Christians ought to bear this accursed
tyranny just as they would bear any other violence of this world,
according to Christ's word: "If one strike thee on thy right cheek,
turn to him also the other." [Matt. 5:39] But this is my
complaint,--that the godless pontiffs boastfully claim the right to do
this, that they pretend to be seeking the Church's welfare with this
Babylon of theirs, and that they foist this fiction upon all mankind.
For if they did these things, and we suffered their violence, well
knowing, both of us, that it was godlessness and tyranny, then we
might number it among the things that tend to the mortifying of this
life and the fulfilling of our baptism, and might with a good
conscience glory in the inflicted injury. But now they seek to deprive
us of this consciousness of our liberty, and would have us believe
that what they do is well done, and must not be censured or complained
of as wrongdoing. Being wolves, they masquerade as shepherds; being
anti-christs, they would be honored as Christ.

Solely in behalf of this freedom of conscience, I lift my voice and
confidently cry: No laws may by any right be laid upon Christians,
whether by men or angels, without their consent; for we are free from
all things. And if any laws are laid upon us, we must bear them in
such a way as to preserve the consciousness of our liberty, and know
and certainly affirm that the making of such laws is an injustice,
which we will bear and glory in, giving heed not to justify the tyrant
nor yet to rebel against his tyranny.  "For who is he," says Peter,
"that will harm you, if ye be followers of that which is good?" [1
Pet. 3:13] "All things work together or good to the elect." [Rom.

Nevertheless, since but few know this glory of baptism and the
blessedness of Christian liberty, and cannot know them because of the
tyranny of the pope, I for one will clear my skirts and salve my
conscience by bringing this charge against the pope and all his
papists: Unless they will abolish their laws and traditions, and
restore to Christ's churches their liberty and have it taught among
them, they are guilty of all the souls that perish under this
miserable captivity, and the papacy is of a truth the kingdom of
Babylon, yea, of very Antichrist! For who is "the man of sin" and "the
son of perdition" [2 Thess. 2:3 f.] but he that with his doctrines and
his laws increases sins and the perdition of souls in the Church,
while he sitteth in the Church as if he were God? All this the papal
tyranny has fulfilled, and more than fulfilled, these many centuries;
it has extinguished faith, obscured the sacraments and oppressed the
Gospel; but its own laws, which are not only impious and sacrilegious,
but even barbarous and foolish, it has enjoined and multiplied world
without end.

Behold, then, our miserable captivity; how the city doth sit solitary
that was full of people! How the mistress of the Gentiles is become as
a widow: the princess of provinces made tributary! There is none to
comfort her, all her friends have despised her. [Lament. 1:1 f.] So
many orders, so many rites, so many sects, so many professions,
exertions and works, in which Christians are engaged, until they lose
sight of their baptism, and for this swarm of locusts, cankerworms and
caterpillars [Joel 1:4] not one of them is able to remember that he is
baptised or what blessings his baptism brought him. We should be even
as little children, newly baptised, who are engaged in no efforts and
no works, but are free in every way, secure and saved solely through
the glory of their baptism. For we are indeed little children,
continually baptised anew in Christ.

[Sidenote: Infant Baptism]

In contradiction of what has been said, some will perhaps point to the
baptism of infants, who do not grasp the promise of God and cannot
have the faith of baptism; so that either faith is not necessary or
else infant baptism is without effect. Here I say what all say:
Infants are aided by the faith of others, namely, those who bring them
to baptism[104]. For the Word of God is powerful, when it is uttered,
to change even a godless heart, which is no less deaf and helpless
than any infant. Even so the infant is changed, cleansed and renewed
by inpoured faith, through the prayer of the Church that presents it
for baptism and believes, to which prayer all things are possible
[Mark 9:23]. Nor should I doubt that even a godless adult might be
changed, in any of the sacraments, if the same Church prayed and
presented him; as we read in the Gospel of the man sick of the palsy,
who was healed through the faith of others [Matt. 9:1 ff.]. I should
be ready to admit that in this sense the sacraments of the New Law are
efficacious to confer grace, not only to those who do not, but even to
those who do most obstinately, oppose a bar[105]. What obstacle will
not the faith of the Church and the prayer of faith remove? Do we not
believe that Stephen by this powerful means converted Paul the
Apostle? But then the sacraments accomplish what they do not by their
own power, but by the power of faith, without which they accomplish
nothing at all, as has been said[106].

There remains the question, whether it is right to baptise an infant
not yet born, with only a hand or a foot presenting. Here I will
decide nothing hastily, and confess my ignorance. I am not sure
whether the reason given by some is sufficient,--that the soul resides
in its entirety in every part of the body; or it is not the soul but
the body that is externally baptised with water. Nor do I share the
view of others, that he who is not yet born cannot be born again, even
though it has considerable force. I leave these matters to the
teaching of the Spirit, and meanwhile permit every one to abound in
his own sense [Rom. 14:15 (Vulg.)].

[Sidenote: Vows and the Baptismal Vow]

One thing I will add--and would to God I might persuade all to do
it!--viz., completely to abolish or avoid all vows, be they vows to
enter religious orders, to make pilgrimages or to do any works
whatsoever, that we may remain in the liberty of our baptism, which is
the most religious and rich in works. It is impossible to say how
greatly that widespread delusion of vows lowers baptism and obscures
the knowledge of Christian liberty; to say nothing now of the
unspeakable and infinite peril of souls which that mania for making
vows and that ill-advised rashness daily increase. O most godless
pontiffs and unhappy pastors, who slumber on unheeding and indulge
your evil lusts, without pity or this "affliction of Joseph," [Amos
6:4-6] so dreadful and fraught with peril!

Vows should either be abolished by a general edict, particularly such
as are taken for life, and all men diligently recalled to the vows of
baptism, or else everyone should be warned not to take a vow rashly,
and no one encouraged to do so, nay, permission be given only with
difficulty and reluctance. For we have vowed enough in baptism, nay,
more than we can ever fulfil; if we give ourselves to the keeping of
this one vow, we shall have all we can do. But now we compass earth
and sea to make many proselytes [Matt. 23:15]; we fill the world with
priests, monks and nuns, and imprison them all in life-long vows. You
will find those who argue and decide that a work done in fulfilment of
a vow ranks higher than one done without a vow, and is to be rewarded
with I know not what great rewards in heaven. Blind and godless
Pharisees, who measure righteousness and holiness by the greatness,
number or other quality of the works! But God measures them by faith
alone, and with Him there is no difference between works except that
which is wrought by faith.

With such bombast these wicked men advertise their inventions and puff
up human works, to lure on the unthinking populace, who are almost
always led by the glitter of works to make shipwreck of their faith,
to forget their baptism and do despite to their Christian liberty. For
a vow is a kind of law or requirement; therefore, when vows are
multiplied, laws and works are necessarily multiplied, and when this
is done, faith is extinguished and the liberty of baptism taken
captive. Others, not content with these wicked allurements, add yet
this and say that entrance into a religious order is a new
baptism[107], as it were, which may afterward be repeated as often as
the purpose to live the religious life is renewed. Thus these
"votaries" have appropriated to themselves all righteousness,
salvation and glory, and let to those who are merely baptised nothing
to compare with them. Nay, the Roman pontiff, that fountain and source
of all superstitions, confirms, approves and adorns this mode of life
with high-sounding bulls and dispensations, while no one deems baptism
worthy of even a thought. And with such glittering pomp (as we have
said)[108] they drive the easily led people of Christ into certain
disaster, so that in their ingratitude toward baptism they presume to
achieve greater things by their works than others achieve by their

Therefore, God again shows Himself froward to the froward [Ps. 18:26],
and to repay the makers of vows for their ingratitude and pride,
causes them to break their vows or to keep them only with prodigious
labor; to remain sunk in them, never coming to the knowledge of the
grace of faith and baptism; to continue in their hypocrisy unto the
end--since their spirit is not approved of God--and at last to become
a laughing-stock to the whole world, ever ensuing righteousness and
never attaining unto righteousness; so that they fulfil the word of
Isaiah: "The land is full of idols." [Isa. 2:8]

I am indeed far from forbidding or discouraging any one who may desire
to take a vow privately and of his own free choice; for I would not
altogether despise and condemn vows. But I would most strongly advise
against setting up and sanctioning the making of vows as a public mode
of life. It is enough that every one should have the private right to
take a vow at his peril; but to commend the vowing of vows as a public
mode of life--this I hold to be most harmful to the Church and to
simple souls. And I hold this, first, because it runs directly counter
to the Christian life; for a vow is a certain ceremonial law and a
human tradition or presumption, and from these the Christian has been
set free through baptism. For a Christian is subject to no laws but
the law of God. Again, there is no instance in Scripture of such a
vow, especially of life-long chastity, obedience and poverty[109]. But
whatever is without warrant of Scripture is hazardous and should by no
means be commended to any one, much less established as a common and
public mode of life, although whoever will must be permitted to make
the venture at his own peril. For certain works are wrought by the
Spirit in a few men, but they must not be made an example or a mode of
life or all.

Moreover, I greatly fear that these modes of life of the religious
orders belong to those things which the Apostle foretold: "They shall
teach a life in hypocrisy, forbidding to marry, to abstain from meats,
which God hath created to be received with thanksgiving." [1 Tim. 4:2
f.] Let no one retort by pointing to Sts. Bernard, Francis, Dominic
and others, who founded or fostered monastic orders. Terrible and
marvelous is God in His counsels toward the sons of men. He could keep
Daniel, Ananias, Azarias and Misael holy at the court of the king of
Babylon [Dan 1:6 ff.], that is, in the midst of godlessness; why could
He not sanctify those men also in their perilous mode of living or
guide them by the special operation of His Spirit, yet without
desiring it to be an example to others? Besides, it is certain that
none of them was saved through his vows and his "religious" life; they
were saved through faith alone, by which all men are saved, and with
which that splendid slavery of vows is more than anything else in

But every one may hold to his own view of this [Rom. 14:5]. I will
return to my argument. Speaking now in behalf of the Church's liberty
and the glory of baptism, I feel myself in duty bound publicly to set
forth the counsel I have learned under the Spirit's guidance. I
therefore counsel the magnates of the churches, first of all, to
abolish all those vows, or at least not to approve and extol them. If
they will not do this, then I counsel all men who would be assured of
their salvation, to abstain from all vows, above all from the great
and life-long vows; I give this counsel especially to all growing boys
and youths. This I do, first, because this manner of life has no
witness or warrant in the Scriptures, as I have said, but is puffed up
solely by the bulls (and they truly are "bulls")[110] of human popes.
And, secondly, because it greatly tends to hypocrisy, by reason of its
outward show and its unusual character, which engender conceit and a
contempt of the common Christian life. And if there were no other
reason for abolishing these vows, this one were reason enough, namely,
that through them, faith and baptism are slighted and works are
exalted, which cannot be done without harmful results. For in the
religious orders there is scarce one in many thousands, who is not
more concerned about works than about faith, and on the basis of this
madness they have even made distinctions among themselves, such as
"the more strict" and "the more lax," as they call them[111].

Therefore I advise no one to enter any religious order or the
priesthood--nay, I dissuade everyone--unless he be forearmed with this
knowledge and understand that the works of monks and priests, be they
never so holy and arduous, differ no whit in the sight of God from the
works of the rustic toiling in the field or the woman going about her
household tasks, but that all works are measured before Him by faith
alone; as Jeremiah says: "O Lord, thine eyes are upon faith" [Jer.
5:3]; and Ecclesiasticus: "In every work of thine regard thy soul in
faith: for this is the keeping of the commandments." [Eccles. 32:27]
Nay, he should know that the menial housework of a maidservant or
manservant is ofttimes more acceptable to God than all the fastings
and other works of a monk or a priest, because the latter lacks faith.
Since, therefore, vows seem to tend nowadays only to the glorification
of works and to pride, it is to be feared that there is nowhere less
of faith and of the Church than among the priests, monks and bishops,
and that these men are in truth heathen or hypocrites, who imagine
themselves to be the Church or the heart of the Church, and
"spiritual," and the Church's leaders, when they are everything else
but that. And it is to be feared that this is indeed "the people of
the captivity," [Ps. 64:1 (Vulg.)] among whom all things freely given
us in baptism are held captive, while "the people of the earth" are
left behind in poverty and in small numbers, and, as is the lot of
married folk, appear vile in their eyes[112].

[Sidenote: Papal Dispensations and their Inconsistency]

From what has been said we learn that the Roman pontiff is guilty of
two glaring errors. In the first place, he grants dispensations from
vows[113], and does it as though he alone of all Christians possessed
this authority; such is the temerity and audacity of wicked men. If it
be possible to grant a dispensation from a vow, then any brother may
grant one to his neighbor or even to himself. But if one's neighbor
cannot grant a dispensation, neither can the pope by any right. For
whence has he his authority? From the power of the keys? But the keys
belong to all, and avail only for sins (Matthew xviii) [Matt. 18:15
ff.][114]. Now they themselves claim that vows are "of divine right."
Why then does the pope deceive and destroy the poor souls of men by
granting dispensations in matters of divine right, in which no
dispensations can be granted? He babbles indeed, in the section "Of
vows and their redemption,"[115] of having the power to change vows,
just as in the law the firstborn of an ass was changed or a sheep
[Ex.13:13]--as if the firstborn of an ass, and the vow he commands to
be everywhere and always offered, were one and the same thing, or as
if when God decrees in His law that a sheep shall be changed or an
ass, the pope, a mere man, may straightway claim the same power, not
in his own law but in God's! It was not a pope, but an ass changed for
a pope[116], that made this decretal; so egregiously senseless and
godless is it.

The other error is this. The pope decrees, on the other hand, that
marriage is dissolved if one party enter a monastery even without the
consent of the other, provided the marriage be not yet consummated.
Gramercy, what devil puts such monstrous things into the pope's mind!
God commands men to keep faith and not break their word to one
another, and again, to do good with that which is their own; for He
hates "robbery in a holocaust," [Isa. 61:8] as he says by the mouth of
Isaiah. But one spouse is bound by the marriage contract to keep faith
with the other, and he is not his own. He cannot break his faith by
any right, and whatever he does with himself is robbery if it be
without the other's consent. Why does not one who is burdened with
debts follow this same rule and obtain admission to an order, so as to
be released from his debts and be free to break his word? O more than
blind! Which is greater; the faith commanded by God or a vow devised
and chosen by man? Thou art a shepherd of souls, O pope? And ye that
teach such things are doctors of sacred theology? Why then do ye teach
them? Because, forsooth, ye have decked out your vow as a better work
than marriage, and do not exalt faith, which alone exalts all things,
but ye exalt works, which are naught in the sight of God, or which are
all alike so far as any merit is concerned[117].

I have no doubt, therefore, that neither men nor angels can grant a
dispensation from vows, if they be proper vows. But I am not fully
clear in my own mind whether all the things that men nowadays vow come
under the head of vows. For instance, it is simply foolish and stupid
for parents to dedicate their children, before birth or in early
infancy, to "the religious life," or to perpetual chastity; nay, it is
certain that this can by no means be termed a vow. It seems a mockery
of God to vow things which it is not at all in one's power to keep. As
to the triple vow of the monastic orders, the longer I consider it,
the less I comprehend it, and I marvel whence the custom of exacting
this vow has arisen. Still less do I understand at what age vows may
be taken in order to be legal and valid. I am pleased to find them
unanimously agreed that vows taken before the age of puberty are not
valid. Nevertheless, they deceive many young children who are ignorant
both of their age and of what they are vowing; they do not observe the
age of puberty in receiving such children, who after making their
profession are held captive and devoured by a troubled conscience, as
though they had afterward given their consent. As if a vow which was
invalid could afterward become valid with the lapse of time.

It seems absurd to me that the terms of a legal vow should be
prescribed to others by those who cannot prescribe them for
themselves. Nor do I see why a vow taken at eighteen years of age
should be valid, and not one taken at ten or twelve years. It will not
do to say that at eighteen a man feels his carnal desires. How is it
when he scarcely feels them at twenty or thirty, or when he feels them
more keenly at thirty than at twenty? Why do they not also set a
certain age-limit or the vows of poverty and obedience? But at what
age will you say a man should feel his greed and pride? Even the most
spiritual hardly become aware of these emotions. Therefore, no vow
will ever become binding and valid until we have become spiritual, and
no longer have any need of vows. You see, these are uncertain and
perilous matters, and it would therefore be a wholesome counsel to
leave such lofty modes of living, unhampered by vows, to the Spirit
alone, as they were of old, and by no means to change them into a rule
binding or life. But let this suffice for the present concerning
baptism and its liberty; in due time[118] I may treat of the vows at
greater length. Of a truth they stand sorely in need of it.


We come in the third place to the sacrament of penance. On this
subject I have already given no little offence by my published
treatises and disputations[119], in which I have amply set forth my
views. These I must now briefly rehearse, in order to unmask the
tyranny that is rampant here no less than in the sacrament of the
bread. For because these two sacraments furnish opportunity for gain
and profit, the greed of the shepherds rages in them with incredible
zeal against the flock of Christ; although baptism, too, has sadly
declined among adults and become the servant of avarice, as we have
just seen in our discussion of vows.

[Sidenote: The Abuse of Penance]

This is the first and chief abuse of this sacrament: They have utterly
abolished the sacrament itself, so that there penance is not a vestige
of it left. For they have overthrown both the word of divine promise
and our faith, in which this as well as other sacraments consists.
They have applied to their tyranny the word of promise which Christ
spake in Matthew xvi, "Whatsoever thou shalt bind," etc. [Matt.
16:19], in Matthew xviii, "Whatsoever ye shall bind," [Matt. 18:18]
etc., and in John, the last chapter, "Whose soever sins ye remit, they
are remitted unto them," [John 20:23] etc. In these words the faith of
penitents is aroused, to the obtaining of remission of sins. But in
all their writing, teaching and preaching their sole concern has been,
not to teach Christians what is promised in these words or what they
ought to believe and what great comfort they might find in them, but
only to extend their own tyranny far and wide through force and
violence, until it has come to such a pass that some of them have
begun to command the very angels in heaven[120] and to boast in
incredible mad wickedness of having in these words obtained the right
to a heavenly and an earthly rule, and of possessing the power to bind
even in heaven. Thus they say nothing of the saving faith of the
people, but babble only of the despotic power of the pontiffs, whereas
Christ speaks not at all of power, but only of faith.

For Christ hath not ordained principalities or powers or lordships,
but ministries, in the Church; as we learn from the Apostle, who says:
"Let a man so account of us as of the ministers of Christ, and the
dispensers of the mysteries of God." [1 Cor. 4:1] Now when He said:
"He that believeth and is baptised shall be saved," [Mark 16:16] He
called forth the faith of those to be baptised, so that by this word
of promise a man might be certain of being saved if he believed and
was baptised. In that word there is no impartation of any power
whatever, but only the institution of the ministry of those who
baptise. Similarly, when He says here: "Whatsoever thou shalt bind,"
etc. [Matt. 16:19], He calls forth the faith of the penitent, so that
by this word of promise he may be certain of being truly absolved in
heaven, if he be absolved and believe. Here there is no mention at all
of power, but of the ministry of him that absolves. It is a wonder
these blind and overbearing men missed the opportunity of arrogating a
despotic power to themselves from the promise of baptism. But if they
do not do this in the case of baptism, why should they have presumed
to do it in the case of the promise of penance? For in both there is a
like ministry, a similar promise, and the same kind of sacrament. So
that, if baptism does not belong to Peter alone, it is undeniably a
wicked usurpation of power to claim the keys for the pope alone.
Again, when Christ says: "Take, eat; this is my body, which is given
or you. Take, drink; this is the chalice in my blood," etc. [1 Cor.
11:24 f.], He calls forth the faith of those who eat, so that through
these words their conscience may be strengthened by faith and they may
rest assured of receiving the forgiveness of sins, if they have eaten.
Here, too, He says nothing of power, but only of a ministry.

Thus the promise of baptism remains in some sort, at least to infants;
the promise of bread and the cup has been destroyed and made
subservient to greed, faith becoming a work and the testament a
sacrifice; while the promise of penance has fallen prey to the most
oppressive despotism of all and serves to establish a more than
temporal rule.

Not content with these things, this Babylon of ours has so completely
extinguished faith that it insolently denies its necessity in this
sacrament; nay, with the wickedness of Antichrist it calls it heresy
if any one should assert its necessity. What more could this tyranny
do that it has not done? [Isa. 5:4] Verily, by the rivers of Babylon
we sit and weep, when we remember thee, O Zion. We hang our harps upon
the willows in the midst thereof. [Ps. 137:1, 2] The Lord curse the
barren willows of those streams! Amen.

Now let us see what they have put in the place of the promise and the
faith which they have blotted out and overthrown. Three parts have
they made of penance,--contrition, confession, and satisfaction; yet
so as to destroy whatever of good there might be in any of them and to
establish here also their covetousness and tyranny.

[Sidenote: I. Contrition.]

In the first place, they teach that contrition precedes faith in the
promise; they hold it much too cheap[121], making it not a work of
faith, but a merit; nay, they do not mention it at all. So deep are
they sunk in works and in those instances of Scripture that show how
many obtained grace by reason of their contrition and humility of
heart; but they take no account of the faith which wrought such
contrition and sorrow of heart, as it is written of the men of Nineveh
in Jonah iii, "And the men of Nineveh believed in God: and they
proclaimed a fast," [Jonah 3:5] etc. Others, again, more bold and
wicked, have invented a so-called "attrition," which is converted into
contrition by virtue of the power of the keys, of which they know
nothing[122]. This attrition they grant to the wicked and unbelieving
and thus abolish contrition altogether. O the intolerable wrath of
God, that such things should be taught in the Church of Christ! Thus,
with both faith and its work destroyed, we go on secure in the
doctrines and opinions of men--yea, we go on to our destruction. A
contrite heart is a precious thing, but it is found only where there
is a lively faith in the promises and the threats of God. Such faith,
intent on the immutable truth of God, startles and terrifies the
conscience and thus renders it contrite, and afterwards, when it is
contrite, raises it up, consoles and preserves it; so that the truth
of God's threatening is the cause of contrition, and the truth of His
promise the cause of consolation, if it be believed. By such faith a
man merits the forgiveness of sins. Therefore faith should be taught
and aroused before all else; and when faith is obtained, contrition
and consolation will follow inevitably and of themselves.

Therefore, although there is something of truth in their teaching that
contrition is to be attained by what they call the recollection and
contemplation of sins, yet their teaching is perilous and perverse so
long as they do not teach first of all the beginning and cause of
contrition,--the immutable truth of God's threatening and promise, to
the awakening of faith,--so that men may learn to pay more heed to the
truth of God, whereby they are cast down and lifted up, than to the
multitude of their sins, which will rather irritate and increase the
sinful desires than lead to contrition, if they be regarded apart from
the truth of God. I will say nothing now of the intolerable burden
they have bound upon us with their demand that we should frame a
contrition for every sin. That is impossible; we can know only the
smaller part of our sins, and even our good works are found to be
sins, according to Psalm cxliii, "Enter not into judgment with thy
servant; for in thy sight shall no man living be justified." [Ps.
143:2] It is enough to lament the sins which at the present moment
distress our conscience, as well as those which we can readily call to
mind. Whoever is in this frame of mind is without doubt ready to
grieve and fear for all his sins, and will do so whenever they are
brought to his knowledge in the future.

Beware, then, of putting your trust in your own contrition and of
ascribing the forgiveness of sins to your own sorrow. God does not
have respect to you because of that, but because of the faith by which
you have believed His threatenings and promises, and which wrought
such sorrow within you. Thus we owe whatever of good there may be in
our penance, not to our scrupulous enumeration of sins, but to the
truth of God and to our faith. All other things are the works and
fruits of this, which follow of their own accord, and do not make a
man good, but are done by a man already made good through faith in the
truth of God. Even so, "a smoke goeth up in His wrath, because He is
angry and troubleth the mountains and kindleth them," [Ps. 18:8] as it
is said in Psalm xviii. First comes the terror of His threatening,
which burns up the wicked, then faith, accepting this, sends up the
cloud of contrition, etc.

[Sidenote: 2. Confession]

Contrition, however, is less exposed to tyranny and gain than wholly
given over to wickedness and pestilent teaching. But confession and
satisfaction have become the chief workshop of greed and violence. Let
us first take up confession. There is no doubt that confession is
necessary and commanded of God. Thus we read in Matthew iii: "They
were baptised of John in Jordan, confessing their sins." [Matt. 3:6]
And in I John i: "If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to
forgive us our sins. If we say that we have not sinned, we make him a
liar, and his word is not in us." [1 John 1:9 f.] If the saints may
not deny their sin, how much more ought those who are guilty of open
and great sins[123] to make confession! But most effectively of all
does Matthew xviii prove the institution of confession, in which
passage Christ teaches that a sinning brother should be rebuked, haled
before the Church, accused and, if he will not hear, excommunicated.
But he hears when, heeding the rebuke, he acknowledges and confesses
his sin. [Matt. 18:15]

[Sidenote: Private Confession]

[Sidenote: "Reserved Cases"]

Of private confession, which is now observed, I am heartily in favor,
even though it cannot be proved from the Scriptures; it is useful and
necessary, nor would I have it abolished--nay, I rejoice that it
exists in the Church of Christ, for it is a cure without an equal for
distressed consciences. For when we have laid bare our conscience to
our brother and privately made known to him the evil that lurked
within, we receive from our brother's lips the word of comfort spoken
by God Himself; and, if we accept it in faith, we find peace in the
mercy of God speaking to us through our brother. This alone do I
abominate,--that this confession has been subjected to the despotism
and extortion of the pontiffs. They reserve[124] to themselves even
hidden sins, and command that they be made known to confessors named
by them, only to trouble the consciences of men. They merely play the
pontiff, while they utterly despise the true duties of pontiffs, which
are to preach the Gospel and to care for the poor. Yea, the godless
despots leave the great sins to the plain priests, and reserve to
themselves those sins only which are of less consequence, such as
those ridiculous and fictitious things in the bull _Coena
domini_[125]. Nay, to make the wickedness of their error the more
apparent, they not only do not reserve, but actually teach and
approve, the sins against the service of God, against faith and the
chief commandments; such as their running on pilgrimages, the perverse
worship of the saints, the lying saints' legends, the various forms of
trust in works and ceremonies, and the practicing of them, by all of
which faith in God is extinguished and idolatry encouraged, as we see
in our day. We have the same kind of priests to-day as Jereboam
ordained of old in Dan and Beersheba [1 Kings 12:26 ff.],--ministers
of the golden calves, men who are ignorant of the law of God, of faith
and of whatever pertains to the feeding of Christ's sheep, and who
inculcate in the people nothing but their own inventions with terror
and violence.

Although my advice is that we bear this outrage of reserved cases,
even as Christ bids us bear all the tyranny of men, and teaches us
that we must obey these extortioners; nevertheless I deny that they
have the right to make such reservations, nor do I believe they can
bring one jot or tittle of proof that they have it. But I am going to
prove the contrary. In the first place, Christ, speaking in Matthew
xviii of open sins, says that if our brother shall hear us when we
rebuke him, we have saved the soul of our brother, and that he is to
be brought before the Church only if he refuse to hear us; so that his
sin may be corrected among brethren. How much more will it be true of
hidden sins, that they are forgiven if one brother freely makes
confession to another? So that it is not necessary to tell it to the
Church, that is, as these babblers interpret it, the prelate or
priest. We have another proof of this in Christ's words in the same
chapter: "Whatsoever you shall bind on earth, shall be bound also in
heaven; and whatsoever you shall loose on earth, shall be loosed in
heaven." [Matt. 18:18] For this is said to each and every Christian.
Again, He says in the same place: "Again I say to you, that if two of
you shall consent upon earth, concerning anything whatsoever that they
shall ask, it shall be done to them by my Father who is in heaven."
[Matt 18:19] Now, the brother who lays his hidden sins before his
brother and craves pardon, certainly consents with his brother upon
earth in the truth, which is Christ. Of which Christ says yet more
clearly, confirming His preceding words: "Verily I say unto you, where
two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst
of them." [Matt. 18:20]

Hence, I have no doubt but that every one is absolved from his hidden
sins when he has made confession, either of his own accord or after
being rebuked, has sought pardon and amended his ways, privately
before any brother, however much the violence of the pontiffs may rage
against it; for Christ has given to every one of His believers the
power to absolve even open sins. Add yet this little point: If any
reservation of hidden sins were valid, so that one could not be saved
unless they were forgiven, then a man's salvation would be prevented
most of all by those aforementioned good works and idolatries, which
are nowadays taught by the popes. But if these most grievous sins do
not prevent one's salvation, how foolish it is to reserve those
lighter sins! Verily, it is the foolishness and blindness of the
pastors that produce these monstrous things in the Church. Therefore I
would admonish these princes of Babylon and bishops of Bethaven [Hosea
4:15; 10:5] to refrain from reserving any cases whatsoever. Let them,
moreover, permit all brothers and sisters freely to hear the
confession of hidden sins, so that the sinner may make his sins known
to whomever he will and seek pardon and comfort, that is, the word of
Christ, by the mouth of his neighbor. For with these presumptions of
theirs they only ensnare the consciences of the weak without
necessity, establish their wicked despotism, and fatten their avarice
on the sins and ruin of their brethren. Thus they stain their hands
with the blood of souls, sons are devoured by their parents, Ephraim
devours Juda, and Syria Israel with open mouth, as Isaiah saith [Isa

[Sidenote: "Circumstances"]

To these evils they have added the "circumstances,"[126] and also the
mothers, daughters, sisters, brothers- and sisters-in-law, branches
and fruits of sins; since, forsooth, astute and idle men have worked
out a kind of family tree of relationships and affinities even among
sins--so prolific is wickedness coupled with ignorance. For this
conceit, whatever rogue be its author, has like many another become a
public law. Thus do the shepherds keep watch over the Church of
Christ; whatever new work or superstition those stupid devotees may
have dreamed of, they straightway drag to the light of day, deck out
with indulgences and safeguard with bulls; so far are they from
suppressing it and preserving to God's people the true faith and
liberty. For what has our liberty to do with the tyranny of Babylon?
My advice would be to ignore all circumstances utterly. With
Christians there is only one circumstance,--that a brother has sinned.
For there is no person to be compared with a Christian brother. And
the observance of places, times, days, persons, and all other
superstitious moonshine, only magnifies the things that are nothing,
to the injury of those which are everything; as if aught could be
greater or of more importance than the glory of Christian brotherhood!
Thus they bind us to places, days and persons, that the name of
brother may be lightly esteemed, and we may serve in bondage instead
of being free--we to whom all days, places, persons, and all external
things are one and the same.

[Sidenote: 3. Satisfaction]

How unworthily they have dealt with satisfaction, I have abundantly
shown in the controversies concerning indulgences[127]. They have
grossly abused it, to the ruin of Christians in body and soul. To
begin with, they taught it in such a manner that the people never
learned what satisfaction really is, namely, the renewal of a man's
life. Then, they so continually harp on it and emphasize its
necessity, that they leave no room for faith in Christ. With these
scruples they torture poor consciences to death, and one runs to Rome,
one to this place, another to that, this one to Chartreuse, that one
to some other place, one scourges himself with rods, another ruins his
body with fasts and vigils, and all cry with the same mad zeal, "Lo
here is Christ! lo there!" [Luke 17:20 f.] believing that the kingdom
of heaven, which is within us, will come with observation[128].

For these monstrous things we are indebted to thee, O Roman See, and
thy murderous laws and ceremonies, with which thou hast corrupted all
mankind, so that they think by works to make satisfaction or sin to
God, Who can be satisfied only by the faith of a contrite heart! This
faith thou not only keepest silent with this uproar of thine, but even
oppressest, only so thy insatiable horseleech have those to whom it
may say, "Bring, bring!" [Prov. 30:15] and may traffic in sins.

Some have gone even farther and have constructed those instruments for
driving souls to despair,--their decrees that the penitent must
rehearse all sins anew for which he neglected to make the imposed
satisfaction. Yea, what would not they venture to do, who were born
for the sole purpose of carrying all things into a tenfold captivity?
Moreover, how many are possessed with the notion that they are in a
saved state and are making satisfaction for their sins, if they but
mumble over, word for word, the prayers the priest has imposed, even
though they give never a thought meanwhile to amending their life!
They believe that their life is changed in the one moment of
contrition and confession, and it remains only to make satisfaction
for their past sins. How should they know better, when they are not
taught otherwise? No thought is given here to the mortifying of the
flesh, no value is attached to the example of Christ, Who absolved the
woman taken in adultery and said to her, "Go, and sin no more!" [John
8:11] thereby laying upon her the cross--the mortifying of her flesh.
This perverse error is greatly encouraged by our absolving sinners
before the satisfaction has been completed, so that they are more
concerned about completing the satisfaction which lies before them,
than they are about contrition, which they suppose to be past and over
when they have made confession. Absolution ought rather to follow on
the completion of satisfaction, as it did in the ancient Church, with
the result that, after completing the work, penitents gave themselves
with greater diligence to faith and the living of a new life.

But this must suffice in repetition of what I have more fully said on
indulgences, and in general this must suffice for the present
concerning the three sacraments, which have been treated, and yet not
treated, in so many harmful books, theological as well as juristic. It
remains to attempt some discussion of the other sacraments also, lest
I seem to have rejected them without cause.


I wonder what could have possessed them to make a sacrament of
confirmation out of the laying on of hands, which Christ employed when
He blessed young children [Mark 10:16], and the apostles when they
imparted the Holy Spirit [Acts 8:17; Acts 19:6; Acts 6:6; Mark 16:18],
ordained elders and cured the sick, as the Apostle writes to Timothy,
"Lay hands suddenly on no man." [1 Tim. 5:22] Why have they not also
turned the sacrament of the bread into confirmation? For it is written
in Acts ix, "And when he had taken meat he was strengthened,"[129] and
in Psalm civ, "And that bread may cheer[130] man's heart." [Ps.
104:15] Confirmation would thus include three sacraments--the bread,
ordination, and confirmation itself. But if everything the apostles
did is a sacrament, why have they not rather made preaching a

I do not say this because I condemn the seven sacraments, but because
I deny that they can be proved from the Scriptures. Would to God we
had in the Church such a laying on of hands as there was in apostolic
times, whether we called it confirmation or healing! But there is
nothing left of it now but what we ourselves have invented to adorn
the office of the bishops, that they may have at least something to do
in the Church. For after they relinquished to their inferiors those
arduous sacraments together with the Word, as being too common for
themselves,--since, forsooth, whatever the divine Majesty has
instituted must needs be despised of men!--it was no more than right
that we should discover something easy and not too burdensome for such
delicate and great heroes to do, and should by no means entrust it to
the lower clergy as something common--for whatever human wisdom has
decreed must needs be held in honor among men! Therefore, as are the
priests, so let their ministry and duty be. For a bishop who does not
preach the Gospel or care for souls [1 Cor. 8:4], what is he but an
idol in the world, having but the name and appearance of a bishop?

But we seek, instead of this, sacraments that have been divinely
instituted, among which we see no reason for numbering confirmation.
For, in order that there be a sacrament, there is required above all
things a word of divine promise, whereby faith may be trained. But we
read nowhere that Christ ever gave a promise concerning confirmation,
although He laid hands on many and included the laying on of hands
among the signs in Mark xvi: "They shall lay their hands on the sick,
and they shall recover." [Mark 16:18] Yet no one referred this to a
sacrament, nor can this be done. Hence it is sufficient to regard
confirmation as a certain churchly rite or sacramental ceremony,
similar to other ceremonies, such as the blessing of holy water and
the like. For if every other creature is sanctified by the word and by
prayer [1 Tim. 4:4 f.], why should not much rather man be sanctified
by the same means? Still, these things cannot be called sacraments of
faith, because there is no divine promise connected with them, neither
do they save; but sacraments do save those who believe the divine


Not only is marriage regarded as a sacrament without the least warrant
of Scripture, but the very traditions which extol it as a sacrament
have turned it into a farce. Let me explain.

We said[131] that there is in every sacrament a word of divine
promise, to be believed by whoever receives the sign, and that the
sign alone cannot be a sacrament. Now we read nowhere that the man who
marries a wife receives any grace of God. Nay, there is not even a
divinely instituted sign in marriage, for nowhere do we read that
marriage was instituted by God to be a sign of anything. To be sure,
whatever takes place in a visible manner may be regarded as a type or
figure of something invisible; but types and figures are not
sacraments in the sense in which we use this term. Furthermore, since
marriage existed from the beginning of the world and is still found
among unbelievers, it cannot possibly be called a sacrament of the New
Law and the exclusive possession of the Church. The marriages of the
ancients were no less sacred than are ours, nor are those of
unbelievers less true marriages than those of believers, and yet they
are not regarded as sacraments. Besides, there are even among
believers married folk who are wicked and worse than any heathen; why
should marriage be called a sacrament in their case and not among the
heathen? Or are we going to prate so foolishly of baptism and the
Church as to hold that marriage is a sacrament only in the Church,
just as some make the mad claim that temporal power exists only in the
Church? That is childish and foolish talk, by which we expose our
ignorance and our arrogance to the ridicule of unbelievers.

But they will say: The Apostle writes in Ephesians v, "They shall be
two in one flesh. This is a great sacrament." [Eph. 5:31 f.] Surely
you are not going to contradict so plain a statement of the Apostle! I
reply: This argument, like the others, betrays great shallowness and a
negligent and thoughtless reading of Scripture. Nowhere in Holy
Scripture is this word sacrament employed in the meaning to which we
are accustomed; it has an entirely different meaning. For wherever it
occurs it signifies not the sign of a sacred thing, but a sacred,
secret, hidden thing. Thus Paul writes in i Corinthians iv, "Let a man
so account of us as the ministers of Christ, and dispensers of the
mysteries[132]--i. e., sacraments--of God." [1 Cor. 4:1] Where we have
the word _sacrament_ the Greek text reads _mystery_, which word our
version sometimes translates and sometimes retains in its Greek form.
Thus our verse reads in the Greek: "They shall be two in one flesh;
this is a great _mystery_." [Eph. 5:31] This explains how they came to
find a sacrament of the New Law here--a thing they would never have
done if they had read the word _mystery_, as it is in the Greek[133].
Thus Christ Himself is called a sacrament in I Timothy iii, "And
evidently great is the sacrament--i. e., mystery--of godliness, which
was manifested in the flesh, was justified in the spirit, appeared
unto angels, hath been preached unto the Gentiles, is believed by the
world, is taken up in glory."[1 Tim. 3:16][134] Why have they not
drawn out of this passage an eighth sacrament of the New Law, since
they have the clear authority of Paul? But if they restrained
themselves here, where they had a most excellent opportunity to
unearth a new sacrament, why are they so wanton in the former passage?
It was their ignorance, forsooth, of both words and things; they clung
to the mere sound of the words, nay, to their own fancies. For, having
once arbitrarily taken the word sacrament to mean a sign, they
straightway, without thought or scruple, made a sign of it every time
they came upon it in the Sacred Scriptures. Such new meanings of words
and such human customs they have also elsewhere dragged into Holy
Writ, and conformed it to their dreams, making anything out of any
passage whatsoever. Thus they continually chatter nonsense about the
terms: good and evil works, sin, grace, righteousness, virtue, and
wellnigh every one of the fundamental words and things. For they
employ them all after their own arbitrary judgment, learned from the
writings of men, to the detriment both of the truth of God and of our

Therefore, _sacrament_, or _mystery_, in Paul's writings, is that
wisdom of the Spirit, hidden in a mystery [1 Cor. 2:7 ff.], as he says
in i Corinthians ii, which is Christ, Who is for this very reason not
known to the princes of this world, wherefore they also crucified Him,
and Who still is to them foolishness, an offense, a stone of stumbling
[1 Cor. 1:23; Rom. 9:33], and a sign which is spoken against [Luke
2:34]. The preachers he calls dispensers of these mysteries because
they preach Christ, the power and the wisdom of God [1 Cor. 1:23 f.;
4:1], yet so that one cannot receive this unless one believe.
Therefore, a sacrament is a mystery, or secret thing, which is set
forth in words and is received by the faith of the heart. Such a
sacrament is spoken of in the verse before us--"They shall be two in
one flesh. This is a great sacrament"[Eph 5:31]--which they understand
as spoken of marriage, whereas Paul wrote these words of Christ and
the Church, and clearly explained his meaning by adding, "But I speak
in Christ and in the Church." Ay, how well they agree with Paul! He
declares he is setting forth a great sacrament in Christ and the
Church, but they set it forth in a man and a woman! If such wantonness
be permitted in the Sacred Scriptures, it is small wonder if one find
there anything one please, even a hundred sacraments.

Christ and the Church are, therefore, a mystery, that is, a great and
secret thing, which it was possible and proper[135] to represent by
marriage as by a certain outward allegory, but that was no reason for
their calling marriage a sacrament. The heavens are a type of the
apostles, as Psalm xix declares; the sun is a type of Christ; the
waters, of the peoples [Ps. 19:1 ff.]; but that does not make those
things sacraments, for in every case there are lacking both the divine
institution and the divine promise, which constitute a sacrament.
Hence Paul, in Ephesians v, following his own mind[136], applies to
Christ these words in Genesis ii about marriage, or else, following
the general view,[136] he teaches that the spiritual marriage of
Christ is also contained therein, saying: "As Christ cherisheth the
Church: because we are members of his body, of his flesh and of his
bones. For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother, and
shall cleave to his wife, and they shall be two in one flesh. This is
a great sacrament; I speak in Christ and in the Church." [Eph. 5:29
ff.] You see, he would have the whole passage apply to Christ, and is
at pains to admonish the reader to find the sacrament in Christ and
the Church, and not in marriage.[137]

Therefore we grant that marriage is a type of Christ and the Church,
and a sacrament, yet not divinely instituted, but invented by men in
the Church, carried away by their ignorance both of the word and of
the thing. Which ignorance, since it does not conflict with the faith,
is to be charitably borne with, just as many other practices of human
weakness and ignorance are borne with in the Church, so long as they
do not conflict with the faith and with the Word of God. But we are
now dealing with the certainty and purity of the faith and the
Scriptures; so that our faith be not exposed to ridicule, when after
affirming that a certain thing is contained in the Sacred Scriptures
and in the articles of our faith, we are refuted and shown that it is
not contained therein, and, being found ignorant of our own affairs,
become a stumbling-block to our opponents and to the weak; nay, that
we destroy not the authority of the Holy Scriptures. For those things
which have been delivered to us by God in the Sacred Scriptures must
be sharply distinguished from those that have been invented by men in
the Church, it matters not how eminent they be for saintliness and

[Sidenote: Hindrances to Marriage]

So far concerning marriage itself. But what shall we say of the wicked
laws of men by which this divinely ordained manner of life is ensnared
and tossed to and fro? Good God! it is dreadful to contemplate the
audacity of the Roman despots, who wantonly tear marriages asunder and
again force them together. Prithee, is mankind given over to the
wantonness of these men, for them to mock and in every way abuse and
make of them whatever they please, for filthy lucre's sake?

There is circulating far and wide and enjoying a great reputation, a
book whose contents have been poured together out of the cesspool of
all human traditions, and whose title is "The Angelic Sum,[138]"
though it ought rather to be "The More than Devilish Sum." Among
endless other monstrosities, which are supposed to instruct the
confessors, while they most mischievously confuse them, there are
enumerated in this book eighteen hindrances to marriage[139]. If you
will examine these with the just and unprejudiced eye of faith, you
will see that they belong to those things which the Apostle foretold:
"There shall be those that give heed to spirits of devils, speaking
lies in hypocrisy, forbidding to marry." [1 Tim. 4:1 ff.] What is
forbidding to marry if it is not this--to invent all those hindrances
and set those snares, in order to prevent men from marrying or, if
they be married, to annul their marriage? Who gave this power to men?
Granted that they were holy men and impelled by godly zeal, why should
another's holiness disturb my liberty? why should another's zeal take
me captive? Let whoever will, be a saint and a zealot, and to his
heart's content; only let him not bring harm upon another, and let him
not rob me of my liberty!

Yet I am glad that those shameful laws have at length attained to
their full measure of glory, which is this: the Romanists of our day
have through them become merchants. What is it they sell? The shame of
men and women--merchandise, forsooth, most worthy of such merchants,
grown altogether filthy and obscene through greed and godlessness. For
there is nowadays no hindrance that may not be legalised upon the
intercession of mammon, so that these laws of men seem to have sprung
into existence for the sole purpose of serving those grasping and
robbing Nimrods as snares for taking money and as nets for catching
souls, and in order that that "abomination" might stand "in the holy
place," [Matt. 24:15] the Church of God, and openly sell to men the
shame of either sex, or as the Scriptures say, "shame and nakedness,"
[Lev. 13:6 ff.] of which they had previously robbed them by means of
their laws. O worthy trade for our pontiffs to ply, instead of the
ministry of the Gospel, which in their greed and pride they despise,
being delivered up to a reprobate sense with utter shame and infamy.
[Rom. 1:28]

But what shall I say or do? If I enter into details, the treatise will
grow to inordinate length, for everything is in such dire confusion
one does not know where to begin, whither to go on, or where to leave
off. I know that no state is well governed by means of laws. If the
magistrate be wise, he will rule more prosperously by natural bent
than by laws. If he be not wise, he will but further the evil by means
of laws; for he will not know what use to make of the laws nor how to
adapt them to the individual case. More stress ought, therefore, to be
laid, in civil affairs, on putting good and wise men in office than on
making laws; for such men will themselves be the very best laws, and
will judge every variety of case with lively justice. And if there be
knowledge of the divine law combined with natural wisdom, then written
laws will be entirely superfluous and harmful. Above all, love needs
no laws whatever[140].

Nevertheless I will say and do what I can. I admonish and pray all
priests and brethren[141], when they encounter any hindrance from
which the pope can grant dispensation and which is not expressly
contained in the Scriptures, by all means to confirm[142] any marriage
that may have been contracted[143] in any way contrary to the
ecclesiastical or pontifical laws. But let them arm themselves with
the divine law, which says, "What God hath joined together, let no man
put asunder." [Matt. 19:6] For the joining together of a man and a
woman is of divine law and is binding, however it may conflict with
the laws of men; the laws of men must give way before it without
hesitation. For if a man leaves father and mother and cleaves to his
wife, how much more will he tread underfoot the silly and wicked laws
of men[144] in order to cleave to his wife! And if pope, bishop or
official[145] annul any marriage because it was contracted contrary to
the laws of men, he is antichrist, he does violence to nature, and is
guilty of lese-majesty toward God, because this word stands,--"What
God hath joined together, let no man put asunder." [Matt. 19:6]

Besides this, no man had the right to frame such laws, and Christ has
granted to Christians a liberty which is above all laws of men,
especially where a law of God conflicts with them. Thus it is said in
Mark ii, "The Son of man is lord also of the sabbath," [Mark 2:28]
and, "The sabbath was made for man, not man for the sabbath." [Mark
2:27] Moreover, such laws were condemned beforehand by Paul, when he
foretold that there would be men forbidding to marry [1 Tim. 4:3].
Here, therefore, those cruel hindrances arising from affinity,
spiritual or legal relationship[146], and consanguinity must give way,
so far as the Scriptures permit, in which the second degree of
consanguinity alone is prohibited. Thus it is written in Leviticus
xviii, in which chapter there are twelve persons a man is prohibited
from marrying; namely, his mother, his mother-in-law, his full sister,
his half-sister by either parent, his granddaughter, his father's or
mother's sister, his daughter-in-law, his brother's wife, his wife's
sister, his stepdaughter, and his uncle's wife. [Lev. 18:6 ff.] Here
only the first degree of affinity and the second degree of
consanguinity are forbidden; yet not without exception, as will appear
on closer examination, for the brother's or sister's daughter, or the
niece, is not included in the prohibition, although she is in the
second degree. Therefore, if a marriage has been contracted outside of
these degrees, it should by no means be annulled on account of the
laws of men, since it is nowhere written in the Bible that any other
degrees were prohibited by God. Marriage itself, as of divine
institution, is incomparably superior to any laws; so that marriage
should not be annulled for the sake of the laws, rather should the
laws be broken for the sake of marriage.

That nonsense about conpaternities, conmaternities, confraternities,
consororities, and confilieties must therefore be altogether
abolished, when a marriage has been contracted. What was it but the
superstition of men that invented those spiritual relationships?[147]
If one may not marry the person one has baptised or stood sponsor for,
what right has any Christian to marry any other Christian? Is the
relationship that grows out of the external rite, or the sign, of the
sacrament more intimate that that which grows out of the blessing[148]
of the sacrament itself? Is not a Christian man brother to a Christian
woman, and is not she his sister? Is not a baptised man the spiritual
brother of a baptised woman? How foolish we are! If a man instruct his
wife in the Gospel and in faith in Christ and thus become truly her
father in Christ, would it not be right for her to remain his wife?
Would not Paul have had the right to marry a maiden out of the
Corinthian congregation, of whom he boasts that he has begotton them
all in Christ? [1 Cor. 4:15] Lo, thus has Christian liberty been
suppressed through the blindness of human superstition.

There is even less in the legal relationship[149], and yet they have
set it above the divine right of marriage. Nor would I recognise that
hindrance which they term "disparity of religion,"[150] and which
forbids one to marry any unbaptised person, even on condition that she
become converted to the faith. Who made this prohibition? God or man?
Who gave to men the power to prohibit such a marriage? The spirits,
forsooth, that speak lies in hypocrisy, as Paul says [1 Tim 4:1]. Of
them it must be said: "The wicked have told me fables; but not as thy
law." [Ps. 119:85] The heathen Patricius married the Christian Monica,
the mother of St. Augustine; why should not the same be permitted

The same stupid, nay, wicked cruelty is seen in "the hindrance of
crime,"[151]--as when a man has married a woman with whom he had lived
in adultery, or when he plotted to bring about the death of a woman's
husband in order to be able to wed the widow. I pray you, whence comes
this cruelty of man toward man, which even God never demanded? Do they
pretend not to know that Bathsheba, the wife of Uriah, was wed by
David, a most saintly man, after the double crime of adultery and
murder? If the divine law did this, what do these despotic men to
their fellowservants?

Another hindrance is that which they call "the hindrance of a
tie,"[152]--as when a man is bound by being betrothed to another
woman. Here they decide that, if he has had carnal knowledge of the
second, the betrothal with the first becomes null and void. This I do
not understand at all. I hold that he who has betrothed himself to one
woman belongs no longer to himself, and because of this act, by the
prohibition of the divine law, he belongs to the first, though he has
not known her, even if he has known the second. For it was not in his
power to give the latter what was no longer his own; he deceived her
and actually committed adultery. But they regard the matter
differently because they pay more heed to the carnal union than to the
divine command, according to which the man, having plighted his troth
to the first, is bound to keep it for ever. For whoever would give
anything must give of that which is his own. And God forbids a man to
overreach or circumvent his brother in any matter [1 Thess. 4:6]. This
prohibition must be kept, over and above all the traditions of all
men. Therefore, the man in the above case cannot with a good
conscience live in marriage with the second woman, and this hindrance
should be completely overthrown. For if a monastic vow make a man to
be no longer his own, why does not a promise of betrothal given and
received do the same?--since this[153] is one of the precepts and
fruits of the Spirit (Galatians v) [Gal. 5:22 f.; Eph. 5:9], while a
monastic vow is of human invention. And if a wife may claim her
husband despite the act that he has taken a monastic vow, why may not
a bride claim her betrothed, even though he has known another? But we
said above[154] that he who has plighted his troth to a maiden ought
not to take a monastic vow, but is in duty bound to keep faith with
her, which faith he cannot break for any tradition of men, because it
is commanded by God. Much more should the man here keep faith with his
first bride, since he could not plight his troth to a second save with
a lying heart, and therefore did not really plight it, but deceived
her, his neighbor, against God's command. Therefore, the "hindrance of
error"[155] enters in here, by which his marriage to the second woman
is rendered null and void.

The "hindrance of ordination"[156] also is a lying invention of men,
especially since they prate that even a contracted marriage is
annulled by it. Thus they constantly exalt their traditions above the
commands of God. I do not indeed sit in judgment on the present state
of the priestly order, but I observe that Paul charges a bishop to be
the husband of one wife [1 Tim. 3:2]; hence no marriage of deacon,
priest, bishop or any other order can be annulled,--although it is
true that Paul knew nothing of this species of priests, and of the
orders that we have to-day. Perish those cursed human traditions,
which have crept into the Church only to multiply perils, sins and
evils! There exists, therefore, between a priest and his wife a true
and indissoluble marriage, approved by the divine commandment. But
what if wicked men in sheer despotism prohibit or annul it? So be it!
Let it be wrong among men; it is nevertheless right before God, Whose
command must needs take precedence if it conflicts with the commands
of men.

An equally lying invention is that "hindrance of public decency,"[157]
by which contracted marriages are annulled. I am incensed at that
barefaced wickedness which is so ready to put asunder what God hath
joined together that one may well scent antichrist in it, for it
opposes all that Christ has done and taught. What earthly reason is
there for holding that no relative of a deceased husband, even to the
fourth degree, may marry the latter's widow? That is not a
judgment[158] of public decency, but ignorance[158] of public decency.
Why was not this judgment of public decency found among the people of
Israel, who were endowed with the best laws, the laws of God? On the
contrary, the next of kin was even compelled by the law of God to
marry the widow of his relative [Deut. 25:5]. Must the people of
Christian liberty be burdened with severer laws than the people of
legal bondage? But, to make an end of these figments, rather than
hindrances--thus far there seem to me to be no hindrances that may
justly annul a contracted marriage save these: impotence of the
husband, ignorance of a previously contracted marriage, and a vow of
chastity. Still, concerning the last, I am to this day so far from
certain that I do not know at what age such a vow is to be regarded as
binding; as I also said above in discussing the sacrament of
baptism[159]. Thus you may learn, from this one question of marriage,
how wretchedly and desperately all the activities of the Church have
been confused, hindered, ensnared, and subjected to danger through the
pestilent, ignorant and wicked traditions of men, so that there is no
hope of betterment unless we abolish at one stroke all the laws of all
men, restore the Gospel of liberty, and by it judge and rule all
things. Amen.

[Sidenote: Impotence]

We have to speak, then, of sexual impotence, that we may the more
readily advise the souls that are in peril.[160] But first I wish to
state that what I have said of hindrances is intended to apply after a
marriage has been contracted; no marriage should be annulled by any
such hindrance. But as to marriages which are to be contracted, I
would briefly repeat what I said above[161]. Under the stress of
youthful passion or of any other necessity for which the pope grants
dispensation, any brother may grant a dispensation to another or even
to himself, and following that counsel snatch his wife out of the
power of the tyrannical laws as best he can. For with what right am I
deprived of my liberty by another's superstition and ignorance? If the
pope grants a dispensation for money, why should not I, for my soul's
salvation, grant a dispensation to myself or to my brother? Does the
pope set up laws? Let him set them up or himself, and keep hands off
my liberty; else I will take it by stealth! Now let us discuss the
matter of impotence.

Take the following case. A woman, wed to an impotent man, is unable to
prove her husband's impotence before court, or perhaps she is
unwilling to do so with the mass of evidence and all the notoriety
which the law demands; yet she is desirous of having children or is
unable to remain continent. Now suppose I had counseled her to demand
a divorce from her husband in order to marry another, satisfied that
her own and her husband's conscience and their experience were ample
testimony of his impotence; but the husband refused his consent to
this. Then suppose I should further counsel her, with the consent of
the man (who is not really her husband, but merely a dweller under the
same roof with her), to give herself to another, say her husband's
brother, but to keep this marriage secret and to ascribe the children
to the so-called putative father. The question is: Is such a woman in
a saved state? I answer, Certainly. Because in this case the error and
ignorance of the man's impotence are a hindrance to the marriage; the
tyranny of the laws permits no divorce; the woman is free through the
divine law, and cannot be compelled to remain continent. Therefore the
man ought to yield her this right, and let another man have her as
wife whom he has only in outward appearance.

Moreover, if the man will not give his consent, or agree to this
division,--rather than allow the woman to burn or to commit adultery,
I should counsel her to contract a marriage with another and flee to
distant parts unknown. What other counsel could be given to one
constantly in danger from lust? Now I know that some are troubled by
the act that then the children of this secret marriage are not the
rightful heirs of their putative father. But if it was done with the
consent of the husband, then the children will be the rightful heirs.
If, however, it was done without his knowledge or against his will,
then let unbiased Christian reason, nay, let Christian charity, decide
which of the two has done the greater injury to the other. The wife
alienates the inheritance, but the husband has deceived his wife and
is completely defrauding her of her body and her life. Is not the sin
of the man who wastes his wife's body and life a greater sin than that
of the woman who merely alienates the temporal goods of her husband?
Let him, therefore, agree to a divorce, or else be satisfied with
strange heirs; for by his own fault he deceived the innocence of a
maiden and defrauded her of the proper use of her body, besides giving
her a wellnigh irresistible opportunity to commit adultery. Let both
be weighed in the same scales. Certainly, by every right, deceit
should all back on the deceiver, and whoever has done an injury must
make it good. What is the difference between such a husband and the
man who holds another's wife captive together with her husband? Is not
such a tyrant compelled to support wife and children and husband, or
else to set them free? Why should not the same hold here? Therefore I
maintain that the man should be compelled either to submit to a
divorce or to support the other man's child as his heir. Doubtless
this would be the judgment of charity. In that case, the impotent man,
who is not really the husband, should support the heirs of his wife in
the same spirit in which he would at great cost wait on his wife if
she fell sick or suffered some other ill; for it is by his fault and
not by his wife's that she suffers this ill. This have I set forth to
the best of my ability, for the strengthening of anxious consciences,
being desirous to bring my afflicted brethren in this captivity what
little comfort I can.[162]

[Sidenote: Divorce]

As to divorce, it is still a moot question whether it be allowable.
For my part I so greatly detest divorce that I should prefer bigamy to
it,[163] but whether it be allowable, I do not venture to decide.
Christ Himself, the Chief Pastor[164], says in Matthew v, "Whosoever
shall put away his wife, excepting for the cause of fornication,
maketh her commit adultery; and he that shall marry her that is put
away, committeth adultery." [Matt. 5:32] Christ, then, permits
divorce, but for the cause of fornication only. The pope must,
therefore, be in error whenever he grants a divorce for any other
cause, and no one should feel safe who has obtained a dispensation by
this temerity (not authority) of the pope. Yet it is a still greater
wonder to me, why they compel a man to remain unmarried after being
separated from his wife, and why they will not permit him to remarry.
For if Christ permits divorce for the cause of fornication and compels
no one to remain unmarried, and if Paul would rather have one marry
than burn [1 Cor. 7:9], then He certainly seems to permit a man to
marry another woman in the stead of the one who has been put away.
Would to God this matter were thoroughly threshed out and decided, so
that counsel might be given in the infinite perils of those who,
without any fault of their own, are nowadays compelled to remain
unmarried, that is, of those whose wives or husbands have run away and
deserted them, to come back perhaps after ten years, perhaps never.
This matter troubles and distresses me; I meet cases of it every day,
whether it happen by the special malice of Satan or because of our
neglect of the word of God.

I, indeed, who, alone against all, can decide nothing in this matter,
would yet greatly desire at least the passage in I Corinthians vii to
be applied here,--"But if the unbeliever depart, let him depart. For a
brother or sister is not under servitude in such cases." [1 Cor. 7:15]
Here the Apostle gives permission to put away the unbeliever who
departs and to set the believing spouse free to marry again. Why
should not the same hold true when a believer--that is, a believer in
name, but in truth as much an unbeliever as the one Paul speaks
of--deserts his wife, especially if he never intends to return? I
certainly can see no difference between the two. But I believe that if
in the Apostle's day an unbelieving deserter had returned and had
become a believer or had promised to live again with his believing
wife, he would not have been taken back, but he too would have been
given the right to marry again. Nevertheless, in these matters I
decide nothing, as I have said,"[165] although there is nothing I
would rather see decided, since nothing at present more grievously
perplexes me and many more with me. I would have nothing decided here
on the mere authority of the pope or the bishops; but if two learned
and pious men agreed in the name of Christ and published their opinion
in the spirit of Christ [Matt. 18:19 f.], I should prefer their
judgment even to such councils as are nowadays assembled, famous only
for numbers and authority, not for scholarship and saintliness.
Herewith I hang up my harp[166][Ps. 137:2], until another and a better
man shall take up this matter with me.


Of this sacrament the Church of Christ knows nothing; it is an
invention of the church of the pope. Not only is there nowhere any
promise of grace attached to it, but there is not the least mention of
it in the whole New Testament. Now it is ridiculous to put forth as a
sacrament of God that which cannot be proved to have been instituted
by God. I do not hold that this rite, which has been observed for so
many centuries, should be condemned; but in sacred things I am opposed
to the invention of human fictions, nor is it right to give out as
divinely instituted what was not divinely instituted, lest we become a
laughing-stock to our opponents. We ought to see to it that every
article of faith of which we boast be certain, pure, and based on
clear passages of Scripture. But that we are utterly unable to do in
the case of the sacrament under consideration.

[Sidenote: The Church Cannot Institute Sacraments]

The Church has no power to make new divine promises, as some prate,
who hold that what is decreed by the Church is of no less authority
than what is decreed by God, since the Church is under the guidance of
the Holy Spirit. But the Church owes its life to the word of promise
through faith, and is nourished and preserved by this same word. That
is to say, the promises of God make the Church, not the Church the
promise of God. For the Word of God is incomparably superior to the
Church, and in this Word the Church, being a creature, has nothing to
decree, ordain or make, but only to be decreed, ordained and made. For
who begets his own parent? Who first brings forth his own maker? This
one thing indeed the Church can do--it can distinguish the Word of God
from the words of men; as Augustine confesses that he believed the
Gospel, moved thereto by the authority of the Church, which
proclaimed, this is the Gospel.[167] Not that the Church is,
therefore, above the Gospel; if that were true, she would also be
above God, in Whom we believe because she proclaims that He is God.
But, as Augustine elsewhere says,[168] the truth itself lays hold on
the soul and thus renders it able to judge most certainly of all
things; but the truth it cannot judge, but is forced to say with
unerring certainty that it is the truth. For example, our reason
declares with unerring certainty that three and seven are ten, and yet
it cannot give a reason why this is true, although it cannot deny that
it is true; it is taken captive by the truth and does not so much
judge the truth as it is judged by the truth. Thus it is also with the
mind of the Church [1 Cor. 2:16], when under the enlightenment of the
Spirit she judges and approves doctrines; she is unable to prove it,
and yet is most certain of having it. For as in philosophy no one
judges general conceptions, but all are judged by them, so it is in
the Church with the mind of the Spirit, that judgeth all things and is
judged by none, as the Apostle says [1 Cor. 2:15]. But of this another

[Sidenote: Ordination not a Sacrament]

Let this then stand fast,--the Church can give no promises of grace;
that is the work of God alone. Therefore she cannot institute a
sacrament. But even if she could, it yet would not follow that
ordination is a sacrament. For who knows which is the Church that has
the Spirit? since when such decisions are made there are usually only
a few bishops or scholars present; it is possible that these may not
be really of the Church, and that all may err, as councils have
repeatedly erred, particularly the Council of Constance[170], which
fell into the most wicked error of all. Only that which has the
approval of the Church universal, and not of the Roman church alone,
rests on a trustworthy foundation. I therefore admit that ordination
is a certain churchly rite, on a par with many others introduced by
the Church Fathers, such as the blessing of vases, houses, vestments,
water, salt, candles, herbs, wine, and the like. No one calls any of
these a sacrament, nor is there in them any promise. In the same
manner, to anoint a man's hands with oil, or to shave his head, and
the like, is not to administer a sacrament, since there is no promise
given to those things; he is simply prepared, like a vessel or an
instrument, for a certain work.

But you will reply: "What do you say to Dionysius,[171] who in his
_Ecclesiastical Hierarchy_ enumerates six sacraments, among which he
also includes orders?" I answer: I am well aware that this is the one
writer of antiquity who is cited in support of the seven sacraments,
although he omits marriage and thus has only six. We read simply
nothing about these "sacraments" in the other Fathers, nor do they
ever refer to them as sacraments; for the invention of sacraments is
of recent date. Indeed, to speak more boldly, the setting so great
store by this Dionysius, whoever he may have been, greatly displeases
me, for there is scarce a line of sound scholarship in him. Prithee,
by what authority and with what reasons does he establish his
hotch-potch about the angels, in his _Celestial Hierarchy_?--a book
over which many curious and superstitious spirits have cudgeled their
brains. If one were to read and judge fairly, is not all shaken out of
his sleeve and very like a dream? But in his _Mystic Theology_, which
certain most ignorant theologians greatly puff, he is downright
dangerous, being more of a Platonist than a Christian; so that, if I
had my way, no believing mind would give the least attention to these
books. So far from learning Christ in them, you will lose even what
you know of Him. I know whereof I speak. Let us rather hear Paul, that
we may learn Jesus Christ and Him crucified [1 Cor. 2:2]. He is the
way, the life and the truth; He is the ladder by which we come unto
the Father, as He saith: "No man cometh unto the Father but by me."
[John 14:6]

[Sidenote: Allegories]

And in the _Ecclesiastical Hierarchy_, what does this Dionysius do but
describe certain churchly rites and play round them with his
allegories without proving them? just as among us the author of the
book entitled _Rationale divinorum_.[172] Such allegorical studies are
the work of idle men. Think you I should find it difficult to play
with allegories round anything in creation? Did not Bonaventure[173]
by allegory draw the liberal arts into theology? And Gerson even
converted the smaller Donatus into a mystic theologian.[173] It would
not be a difficult task for me to compose a better hierarchy than that
of Dionysius, for he knew nothing of pope, cardinals and archbishops,
and put the bishop at the top. Nay, who has so weak a mind as not to
be able to launch into allegories? I would not have a theologian give
himself to allegorizing until he has perfected himself in the
grammatical and literal interpretation of the Scriptures; otherwise
his theology will bring him into danger, as Origen discovered.[175]

Therefore a thing does not need to be a sacrament simply because
Dionysius describes it. Otherwise, why not also make a sacrament of
the processions, which he describes in his book, and which continue to
this day? There will then be as many sacraments as there have been
rites and ceremonies multiplied in the Church. Standing on so unsteady
a foundation, they have nevertheless invented "characters"[176] which
they attribute to this sacrament of theirs and which are indelibly
impressed on those who are ordained. Whence do such ideas come? By
what authority, with what reasons, are they established? We do not
object to their being free to invent, say and give out whatever they
please; but we also insist on our liberty and demand that they shall
not arrogate to themselves the right to turn their ideas into articles
of faith, as they have hitherto presumed to do. It is enough that we
accommodate ourselves to their rites and ceremonies for the sake of
peace; but we reuse to be bound by such things as though they were
necessary to salvation, when they are not. Let them put by their
despotic demands, and we shall yield free obedience to their opinions,
and thus live at peace with them. It is a shameful and wicked slavery
for a Christian man, who is free, to be subject to any but heavenly
and divine traditions.

[Sidenote: The Alleged Scriptural Basis of Ordination]

We come now to their strongest argument. It is this: Christ said at
the Last Supper: "Do this in remembrance of me." [1 Cor. 11:24] Here,
they say, Christ ordained the apostles to the priesthood. From this
passage they also concluded, among other things, that both kinds are
to be administered to the priests alone.[177] In fine, they have drawn
out of this passage whatever they pleased, as men who might arrogate
to themselves the free will to prove anything whatever from any words
of Christ, no matter where found. But is that interpreting the words
of God? Pray, answer me! Christ gives us no promise here, but only
commands that this be done in remembrance of Him. Why do they not
conclude that He also ordained priests when He laid upon them the
office of the Word and of baptism, saying, "Go ye into all the world,
and preach the Gospel to every creature, baptising them in the name,"
[Mark 16:15; Matt. 28:19] etc.? For it is the proper duty of priests
to preach and to baptise. Or, since it is nowadays the chief and, as
they say, indispensable duty of priests to read the canonical
hours,[178] why have they not discovered the sacrament of ordination
in those passages in which Christ, in many places and particularly in
the garden, commanded them to pray that they might not enter into
temptation? [Matt. 26:41] But perhaps they will evade this argument by
saying that it is not commanded to _pray_; it is enough to _read_ the
canonical hours. Then it follows that this priestly work can be proved
nowhere in the Scriptures, and thus their praying priesthood is not of
God, as, indeed, it is not.

But which of the ancient Fathers claimed that in this passage priests
were ordained? Whence comes this novel interpretation? I will tell
you. They have sought by this device to set up a nursery of implacable
discord, whereby clerics and laymen should be separated from each
other farther than heaven from earth, to the incredible injury of the
grace of baptism and the confusion of our fellowship in the Gospel.
Here, indeed, are the roots of that detestable tyranny of the clergy
over the laity; trusting in the external anointing by which their
hands are consecrated, in the tonsure and in vestments, they not only
exalt themselves above lay Christians, who are only anointed with the
Holy Spirit, but regard them almost as dogs and unworthy to be
included with them in the Church. Hence they are bold to demand, to
exact, to threaten, to urge, to oppress, as much as they please. In
short, the sacrament of ordination has been and is a most approved
device for the establishing of all the horrible things that have been
wrought hitherto and will yet be wrought in the Church. Here Christian
brotherhood has perished, here shepherds have been turned into wolves,
servants into tyrants, churchmen into worse than worldlings.

[Sidenote: The Priesthood of All Christians]

If they were forced to grant that as many of us as have been baptised
are all priests without distinction, as indeed we are, and that to
them was committed the ministry only, yet with our consent, they would
presently learn that they have no right to rule over us except in so
far as we freely concede it. For thus it is written in i Peter ii, "Ye
are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, and a priestly kingdom."
[1 Peter 2:9] Therefore we are all priests, as many of us as are
Christians.[179] But the priests, as we call them, are ministers
chosen from among us, who do all that they do in our name. And the
priesthood is nothing but a ministry, as we learn from I Corinthians
iv, "Let a man so account of us as of the ministers of Christ, and the
dispensers of the mysteries of God." [1 Cor. 4:1]

It follows herefrom that whoever does not preach the Word, called by
the Church to this very thing, is no priest at all. And further, that
the sacrament of ordination can be nothing else than a certain rite of
choosing preachers in the Church. For thus is a priest defined in
Malachi ii, "The lips of the priest shall keep knowledge, and they
shall seek the law at his mouth: because he is the angel of the Lord
of hosts." [Mal. 2:7] You may be certain, then, that whoever is not an
angel of the Lord of hosts, or whoever is called to anything else than
such angelic service--if I may so term it--is never a priest; as Hosea
says, "Because thou hast rejected knowledge, I will reject thee, that
thou shalt not do the office of priesthood to me." [Hosea 4:6] They
are also called pastors because they are to pasture, that is, to
teach. Therefore, they who are ordained only to read the canonical
hours and to offer masses are indeed papist, but not Christian,
priests, because they not only do not preach, but are not called to
preach; nay, it comes to this, that such a priesthood is a different
estate altogether from the office of preaching. Thus they are
hour-priests and mass-priests, that is, a sort of living idol, having
the name of priest, while they are in reality such priests as Jeroboam
ordained, in Bethaven, of the off-scouring of the people, and not of
the tribe of Levi.[180][1 Kings 12:31]

Lo, whither hath the glory of the Church departed! The whole earth is
filled with priests, bishops, cardinals and clerics, and yet not one
of them preaches by virtue of his office, unless he be called to do so
by another and a different call besides his sacramental ordination.
Every one thinks he is doing full justice to his sacrament by mumbling
the vain repetitions of his prescribed prayers and by celebrating
masses; moreover, by never really praying those hours[181], or if he
does pray them, by praying them for himself, and by offering his
masses as a sacrifice--which is the height of perversity!--whereas the
mass consists in the use of the sacrament. It is clear, therefore,
that the ordination which, as a sacrament, makes clerics of this sort
of men, is in truth nothing but a mere fiction, devised by men who
understand nothing about the Church, the priesthood, the ministry of
the Word, or the sacraments. And as is the sacrament, so are the
priests it makes. To such errors and such blindness has come a still
worse captivity; in order to separate themselves still farther from
other Christians, whom they deem profane, they have unmanned
themselves, like the priests of Cybele, and taken upon them the burden
of a pretended celibacy.

It was not enough for this hypocrisy and error to forbid bigamy, viz.,
the having of two wives at the same time, as it was forbidden in the
law, and as is the accepted meaning of the term; but they have called
it bigamy if a man married two virgins, one after the other, or if he
married a widow. Nay, so holy is the holiness of this most holy
sacrament, that no married man can become a priest as long as his wife
lives. And--here we reach the very summit of holiness--even he is
prevented from entering the priesthood, who without his knowledge or
by an unfortunate chance married a fallen woman. But if one have
defiled a thousand harlots, or ravished countless matrons and virgins,
or even kept numerous Ganymedes, that would be no hindrance to his
becoming bishop or cardinal or pope. Moreover, the Apostle's word,
"the husband of one wife," [1 Tim. 3:2] must be interpreted to mean,
"the prelate of one church," and this has given rise to the
"incompatible benefices."[182] At the same time the pope, that
munificent dispenser, may join to one man three, twenty, one hundred
wives--I should say churches--if he be bribed with money or power--I
should say, moved by godly charity and constrained by the care of the

O pontiffs worthy of this holy sacrament of ordination! O princes, not
of the catholic churches, but of the synagogues, nay, the black dens,
of Satan! [Rev. 2:9] I would cry out with Isaiah: "Ye scornful men,
who rule over my people that is in Jerusalem" [Isa. 28:14]; and with
Amos: "Woe to you that are wealthy in Sion, and to you that have
confidence in the mountain of Samaria: ye great men, heads of the
people, that go in with state into the house of Israel." [Amos 6:1] O
the reproach that such monstrous priests bring upon the Church of God!
Where are there any bishops or priests who know the Gospel, not to
speak of preaching it? Why then do they boast of being priests? Why do
they desire to be regarded as holier and better and mightier than
other Christians, who are merely laymen? To read the hours--what
unlearned men, or, as the Apostle says, what men speaking with
tongues, cannot do that? [1 Cor. 14:23] But to _pray_ the hours--that
belongs to monks, hermits, and men in private life, all of them
laymen. The duty of the priest is to preach, and if he does not preach
he is as much a priest as a painted man is a man. Does ordaining such
babbling priests make one a bishop? Or blessing churches and bells? Or
confirming boys? Certainly not. Any deacon or layman could do as much.
The ministry of the Word makes the priest and the bishop.

[Sidenote: Ordination, the Rite of Choosing Preachers]

Therefore my advice is: Flee, all ye that would live in safety;
begone, young men, and do not enter upon this holy estate, unless you
are determined to preach the Gospel, and are able to believe that you
are not made one whit better than the laity through this sacrament of
ordination! For to read the hours is nothing, and to offer mass is to
receive the sacrament.[183] What then is there left to you that every
layman does not have? Tonsure and vestments? A sorry priest, forsooth,
who consists of tonsure and vestment! Or the oil poured on your
fingers? But every Christian is anointed and sanctified with the oil
of the Holy Spirit, both in body and soul, and in ancient times
touched the sacrament with his hands no less than the priests do
now.[184] But to-day our superstition counts it a great crime if the
laity touch either the bare chalice or the _corporale_;[185] not even
a nun who is a pure virgin would be permitted to wash the palls[186]
and sacred linens of the altar. O God! how the sacrosanct sanctity of
this sacrament of ordination has grown and grown. I anticipate that
ere long the laity will not be permitted to touch the altar except
when they offer their money. I can scarce contain myself when I
contemplate the wicked tyrannies of these desperate men, who with
their farcical and childish fancies mock and overthrow the liberty and
the glory of the Christian religion.

Let every one, therefore, who knows himself to be a Christian be
assured of this, and apply it to himself,--that we are all priests,
and there is no difference between us; that is to say, we have the
same power in respect to the Word and all the sacraments. However, no
one may make use of this power except by the consent of the community
or by the call of a superior. For what is the common property of all,
no individual may arrogate to himself, unless he be called. And
therefore this sacrament of ordination, if it have any meaning at all,
is nothing else than a certain rite whereby one is called to the
ministry of the Church. Furthermore, the priesthood is properly
nothing but the ministry of the Word, mark you, of the Word--not of
the law, but of the Gospel. And the diaconate is not the ministry of
reading the Gospel or the Epistle, as is the present practice, but the
ministry of distributing the Church's alms to the poor, so that the
priests may be relieved of the burden of temporal matters and may give
themselves more freely to prayer and the Word. For this was the
purpose of the institution of the diaconate, as we read in Acts vi.
[Acts 6:4] Whoever, therefore, does not know or preach the Gospel, is
not only not a priest or bishop, but he is a plague of the Church, who
under the false title of priest or bishop--in sheep's clothing,
forsooth--oppresses the Gospel and plays the wolf in the Church.
Therefore, unless those priests and bishops with whom the Church is
now filled work out their salvation in some other way, that is,
realise that they are not priests or bishops and bemoan the act that
they bear the name of an office whose duties they either do not know
or cannot fulfil, and thus with prayers and tears lament their
wretched hypocritical life--unless they do this, they are truly the
people of eternal perdition, and the words of Isaiah are fulfilled in
them: "Therefore is my people led away captive, because they had not
knowledge, and their nobles have perished with famine, and their
multitude were dried up with thirst. Therefore hath hell enlarged her
soul and opened her mouth without any bounds, and their strong ones,
and their people, and their high and generous ones shall go down into
it." [Isa. 5:13 f.] What a dreadful word for our age, in which
Christians are sucked down into so deep an abyss!

Since, therefore, what we call the priesthood is a ministry, so far as
we can learn from the Scriptures, I cannot understand why one who has
been made a priest cannot again become a layman; for the sole
difference between him and a layman is his ministry. But to depose a
man from the ministry is so far from impossible that it is even now
the usual penalty imposed upon guilty priests; they are either
suspended for a season or permanently deprived of their office. For
that lying "indelible character" has long since become a
laughing-stock. I admit that the pope imparts this character, but
Christ knows nothing of it; and a priest who is consecrated with it
becomes thereby the life-long servant and captive, not of Christ, but
of the pope; as it is in our day. Moreover, unless I am greatly
mistaken, if this sacrament and this life all, the papacy itself with
its characters will scarcely survive; our joyous liberty will be
restored to us; we shall realize that we are all equal by every right,
and having cast of the yoke of tyranny, shall know that he who is a
Christian has Christ, and that he who has Christ has all things that
are Christ's and is able to do all things [Phil. 4:13]. Of this I will
write more, and more tellingly, as soon as I perceive that the above
has displeased my friends the papists.[187]


[Sidenote: The Authority of James]

To the rite of anointing the sick our theologians have made two
additions which are worthy of them; first, the call it a sacrament,
and secondly, they make it the last sacrament. So that it is now the
sacrament of extreme unction, which may be administered only to such
as are at the point of death. Being such subtle dialecticians,
perchance they have done this in order to relate it to the first
unction of baptism and the two succeeding unctions of confirmation and
ordination. But here they are able to cast in my teeth, that in the
case of this sacrament there are, on the authority of James the
Apostle, both promise and sign, which, as I have all along maintained,
constitute a sacrament. For does not James say: "Is any man sick among
you? Let him bring in the priests of the church, and let them pray
over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord. And the
prayer of faith shall raise him up: and if he be in sins, they shall
be forgiven him." [James 5:14 f.] There, say they, you have the
promise of the forgiveness of sins, and the sign of the oil.

But I reply: If ever there was a mad conceit, here is one indeed. I
will say nothing of the act that many assert with much probability
that this Epistle is not by James the Apostle,[188] nor worthy of an
apostolic spirit, although, whoever be its author, it has come to be
esteemed as authoritative. But even if the Apostle James did write it,
I yet should say, no Apostle has the right on his own authority to
institute a sacrament, that is, to give a divine promise with a sign
attached; for this belongs to Christ alone. Thus Paul says that he
received from the Lord the sacrament of the Eucharist, and that he was
not sent to baptise but to preach the Gospel [1 Cor. 11:23; 1 Cor.
1:17]. And we read nowhere in the Gospel of this sacrament of extreme
unction. But let us also waive that point. Let us examine the words of
the Apostle, or whoever was the author of the Epistle, and we shall at
once see how little heed these multipliers of sacraments have given to

[Sidenote: The Unction Not Extreme]

In the first place, then, if they believe the Apostle's words to be
true and binding, by what right do they change and contradict them?
Why do they make an extreme and a particular kind of unction of that
which the Apostle wished to be general? For he did not desire it to be
an extreme unction or administered only to the dying; but he says
quite generally: "If any man be sick"--not, "If any man be dying." I
care not what learned discussions Dionysius has on this point in his
_Ecclesiastical Hierarchy_;[189] the Apostle's words are clear enough,
on which words he as well as they rely, without, however, following
them. It is evident, therefore, that they have arbitrarily and without
any authority made a sacrament and an extreme unction out of the
misunderstood words of the Apostle, to the detriment of all other sick
persons, whom they have deprived of the benefit of the unction which
the Apostle enjoined.

[Sidenote: The Unction Medicinal]

But what follows is still better. The Apostle's promise expressly
declares that the prayer of faith shall save the sick man, and the
Lord shall raise him up. The Apostle commands us to anoint the sick
man and to pray, in order that he may be healed and raised up; that
is, that he may not die, and that it may not be an extreme unction.
This is proved also by the prayers which are said, during the
anointing, or the recovery of the one who is sick. But they say, on
the contrary, that the unction must be administered to none but the
dying; that is, that they may not be healed and raised up. If it were
not so serious a matter, who could help laughing at this beautiful,
apt and sound exposition of the Apostle's words? Is not the folly of
the sophists here shown in its true colors? As here, so in many other
places, they affirm what the Scriptures deny, and deny what they
affirm. Why should we not give thanks to these excellent magisters of
ours?[190] I therefore spoke truth when I said they never conceived a
crazier notion than this.[191]

Furthermore, if this unction is a sacrament it must necessarily be, as
they say, an effective sign[192] of that which it signifies and
promises. Now it promises health and recovery to the sick, as the
words plainly say: "The prayer of faith shall save the sick man, and
the Lord shall raise him up." But who does not see that this promise
is seldom if ever fulfilled? Scarce one in a thousand is restored to
health, and when one is restored nobody believes that it came about
through the sacrament, but through the working of nature or the
medicine; or to the sacrament they ascribe the opposite power. What
shall we say then? Either the Apostle lies in making this promise or
else this unction is no sacrament. For the sacramental promise is
certain; but this promise deceives in the majority of cases.
Indeed--and here again we recognize the shrewdness and foresight of
these theologians--for this very reason they would have it to be
extreme unction, that the promise should not stand; in other words,
that the sacrament should be no sacrament. For if it is extreme
unction, it does not heal, but gives way to the disease; but if it
heals, it cannot be extreme unction. Thus, by the interpretation of
these magisters, James is shown to have contradicted himself, and to
have instituted a sacrament in order not to institute one; for they
must have an extreme unction just to make untrue what the Apostle
intends, namely, the healing of the sick. If that is not madness, pray
what is?

[Sidenote: Priests and Elders]

These people exemplify the word of the Apostle in i Timothy i,
"Desiring to be teachers of the law, understanding neither the things
they say, nor whereof they affirm." [1 Tim. 1:7] Thus they read and
follow all things without judgment. With the same thoughtlessness they
have also found auricular confession in our Apostle's words,--"Confess
your sins one to another." [James 5:16] But they do not observe the
command of the Apostle, that the priests of the church be called, and
prayer be made for the sick. Scarce a single priestling is sent
nowadays, although the Apostle would have many present, not because of
the unction but of the prayer. Wherefore he says: "The prayer of faith
shall save the sick man," etc. I have my doubts, however, whether he
would have us understand priests when he says presbyters, that is,
elders. For one who is an elder is not therefore a priest or minister;
so that the suspicion is justified that the Apostle desired the older
and graver men in the Church to visit the sick; these should perform a
work of mercy and pray in faith and thus heal him. Still it cannot be
denied that the ancient churches were ruled by elders, chosen for this
purpose, without these ordinations and consecrations, solely on
account of their age and their long experience.

Therefore, I take it, this unction is the same as that which the
Apostles practised, in Mark vi, "They anointed with oil many that were
sick, and healed them." [Mark 6:13] It was a ceremony of the early
Church, by which they wrought miracles on the sick, and which has long
since ceased; even as Christ, in the last chapter of Mark, gave them
that believe the power to take up serpents, to lay hands on the sick,
etc. [Mark 16:17] It is a wonder that they have not made sacraments
also of these things; for they have the same power and promise as the
words of James. Therefore, this extreme--that is, this
fictitious--unction is not a sacrament, but a counsel of James, which
whoever will may use, and it is derived from Mark vi, as I have shown.
I do not believe it was a counsel given to all sick persons, for the
Church's infirmity is her glory and death is gain [Rom. 5:3; Phil.
1:21]; but it was given only to such as might bear their sickness
impatiently and with little faith. These the Lord allowed to remain in
the Church, in order that miracles and the power of faith might be
manifest in them.

[Sidenote: Prayer the Chief Part of Unction]

For this very contingency James provided with care and foresight by
attaching the promise of healing and the forgiveness of sins not to
the unction, but to the prayer of faith. For he says: "And the prayer
of faith shall save the sick man, and the Lord shall raise him up: and
if he be in sins, they shall be forgiven him." A sacrament does not
demand prayer or faith on the part of the minister, since even a
wicked person may baptise and consecrate without prayer; a sacrament
depends solely on the promise and institution of God, and requires
faith on the part of him who receives it. But where is the prayer of
faith in our present use of extreme unction? Who prays over the sick
one in such faith as not to doubt that he will recover? Such a prayer
of faith James here describes, of which he said in the beginning of
his Epistle: "But let him ask in faith, nothing wavering." [James 1:6]
And Christ says of it: "Whatsoever you ask, believe that you shall
receive; and it shall be done unto you." [Mark 11:24]

[Sidenote: The Unction and Faith]

If such prayer were made, even to-day, over a sick man--that is,
prayer made in full faith by older, grave and saintly men--it is
beyond all doubt that we could heal as many sick as we would. For what
could not faith do? But we neglect this faith, which the authority of
the Apostle demands above all else. By presbyters--that is, men
preeminent by reason of their age and their faith--we understand the
common herd of priests. Moreover, we turn the daily or voluntary
unction into an extreme unction, and finally, we not only do not
effect the result promised by the Apostle, namely, the healing of the
sick, but we make it of none effect by striving after the very
opposite. And yet we boast that our sacrament, nay, our figment, is
established and proved by this saying of the Apostle, which is
diametrically opposed to it. What theologians we are! Now I do not
condemn this our sacrament of extreme unction, but I firmly deny that
it is what the Apostle James prescribes; for his unction agrees with
ours neither in form, use, power nor purpose. Nevertheless we shall
number it among those sacraments which we have instituted, such as the
blessing and sprinkling of salt and holy water[193]. For we cannot
deny that every creature is sanctified by the word and by prayer, as
the Apostle Paul teaches us [1 Tim. 4:4 f.]. We do not deny,
therefore, that forgiveness of sins and peace are granted through
extreme unction; not because it is a sacrament divinely instituted,
but because he who receives it believes that these blessings are
granted to him. For the faith of the recipient does not err, however
much the minister may err. For one who baptises or absolves in
jest[194], that is, does not absolve so far as the minister is
concerned, does yet truly absolve and baptise if the person he
baptises or absolves believe. How much more will one who administers
extreme unction confer peace, even though he does not really confer
peace, so far as his ministry is concerned, since there is no
sacrament there. The faith of the one anointed receives even that
which the minister either could not or did not intend to give; it is
sufficient for him to hear and believe the Word. For whatever we
believe we shall receive, that we do really receive, it matters not
what the minister may do or not do, or whether he dissemble or jest.
The Saying of Christ stands fast,--"All things are possible to him
that believeth," [Mark 9:23] and, "Be it unto thee even as thou hast
believed." [Matt. 8:13] But in treating the sacraments our sophists
say nothing at all of this faith, but only babble with all their might
of the virtues of the sacraments themselves--"ever learning, and never
attaining to the knowledge of the truth." [2 Tim. 3:7]

Still it was a good thing that this unction was made extreme unction,
or, thanks to that, it has been disturbed and subjected least of all
the sacraments by tyranny and greed. This one last mercy, forsooth,
has been let to the dying,--they may freely be anointed, even without
confession and communion. If it had remained a practice of daily
occurrence, especially if it had conferred health on the sick, even
without taking away sins, how many worlds would not the pontiffs have
under their control to-day? For through the one sacrament of penance
and through the power of the keys, as well as through the sacrament of
ordination, they have become such mighty emperors and princes. But now
it is a fortunate thing that they despise the prayer of faith, and
therefore do not heal any sick, and that they have made or themselves,
out of an ancient ceremony, a brand-new sacrament.

Let this suffice now for these four sacraments. I know how it will
displease those who believe that the number and use of the sacraments
are to be learned not from the sacred Scriptures, but from the Roman
See. As though the Roman See had given those sacraments and had not
rather got them from the lecture halls of the universities, to which
it is unquestionably indebted or whatever it has. The papal despotism
would not have attained its present position, had it not taken over so
many things from the universities. For there was scarce another of the
celebrated bishoprics that had so few learned pontiffs; only in
violence, intrigue, and superstition has it hitherto surpassed the
rest. For the men who occupied the Roman See a thousand years ago
differ so vastly from those who have since come into power, that one
is compelled to refuse the name of Roman pontiff either to the former
or to the latter.

[Sidenote: Other Possible Sacraments]

There are yet a few other things it might seem possible to regard as
sacraments; namely, all those to which a divine promise has been
given, such as prayer, the Word, and the cross. Christ promised, in
many places, that those who pray should be heard; especially in Luke
xi, where He invites us in many parables to pray [Luke 11:5 ff.]. Of
the Word He says: "Blessed are they that hear the word of God, and
keep it." [Luke 11:28] And who will tell how often He promises aid and
glory to such as are afflicted, suffer, and are cast down? Nay, who
will recount all the promises of God? The whole Scripture is concerned
with provoking us to faith; now driving us with precepts and threats,
now drawing us with promises and consolations. Indeed, whatever things
are written are either precepts or promises; the precepts humble the
proud with their demands, the promises exalt the humble with their

[Sidenote: Baptism and Bread the Only Sufficient Sacraments]

Nevertheless, it has seemed best to restrict the name of sacrament to
such promises as have signs attached to them. The remainder, not being
bound to signs, are bare promises. Hence there are, strictly speaking,
but two sacraments in the Church of God--baptism and bread; for only
in these two do we find both the divinely instituted sign and the
promise of forgiveness of sins. The sacrament of penance, which I
added to these two[195] lacks the divinely instituted visible sign,
and is, as I have said[196], nothing but a return to baptism. Nor can
the scholastics say that their definition fits penance, for they too
ascribe to the sacrament a visible sign, which is to impress upon the
senses the form of that which it effects invisibly. But penance, or
absolution, has no such sign; wherefore they are constrained by their
own definition, either to admit that penance is not a sacrament, and
thus to reduce the number of sacraments, or else to bring forward
another definition.

Baptism, however, which we have applied to the whole of life, will
truly be a sufficient substitute for all the sacraments we might need
as long as we live. And the bread is truly the sacrament of the dying;
for in it we commemorate the passing of Christ out of this world, that
we may imitate Him. Thus we may apportion these two sacraments as
follows: baptism belongs to the beginning and the entire course of
life, the bread belongs to the end and to death. And the Christian
should use them both as long as he is in this poor body, until, fully
baptised and strengthened, he passes out of this world and is born
unto the new life of eternity, to eat with Christ in the Kingdom of
His Father, as He promised at the Last Supper,--"Amen I say to you, I
will not drink from henceforth of this fruit of the vine, until it is
fulfilled in the kingdom of God." [Matt. 26:29] Thus He seems clearly
to have instituted the sacrament of the bread with a view to our
entrance into the life to come. Then, when the meaning[197] of both
sacraments is fulfilled, baptism and bread will cease.

[Sidenote: Conclusion]

Herewith I conclude this prelude, and freely and gladly offer it to
all pious souls who desire to know the genuine sense of the Scriptures
and the proper use of the sacraments. For it is a gift of no mean
importance, to know the things that are given us, as it is said in I
Corinthians ii [1 Cor. 2:12], and what use we ought to make of them.
Endowed with this spiritual judgment, we shall not mistakenly rely on
that which does not belong here. These two things our theologians
never taught us, nay, methinks they took particular pains to conceal
them from us. If I have not taught them, I certainly did not conceal
them, and have given occasion to others to think out something better.
It has at least been my endeavor to set forth these two things.
Nevertheless, not all can do all things[198]. To the godless, on the
other hand, and those who in obstinate tyranny force on us their own
teachings instead of God's, I confidently and freely oppose these
pages, utterly indifferent to their senseless fury. Yet I wish even
them a sound mind, and do not despise their efforts, but only
distinguish them from such as are sound and truly Christian.

I hear a rumor of new bulls and papal maledictions sent out against
me, in which I am urged to recant or be declared a heretic[199]. If
that is true, I desire this book to be a portion of the recantation I
shall make; so that these tyrants may not complain of having had their
pains for nothing. The remainder I will publish ere long, and it will,
please Christ, be such as the Roman See has hitherto neither seen nor
heard. I shall give ample proof of my obedience[200]. In the name of
our Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.

    Why doth that impious Herod fear
    When told that Christ the King is near?
    He takes not earthly realms away,
    Who gives the realms that ne'er decay.[201]


[1] Born at Steinheim, near Paderborn, in Westphalia; a proofreader in
Melchior Lotter's printing-house at Leipzig, with whose oldest son he
went to Wittenberg in 1519; professor of poetry at the university;
rector of the same, 1525; one of Luther's staunchest supporters;
rector of the school at Lünenberg, 1532 until his death in 1540.
Compare Enders, _Luther's Briewechsel_, II, 490; Tschackert, _op.
cit._, 203, and literature in Clemen, I, 426.

[2] _Resolutiones disputatio num de indulgentiarum Virtute_, 1518;
others think he refers to the Sermon _von Ablass und Gnade_, of the
same year.

[3] Sylvester Prierias and the Dominicans. Comp. Köstlin-Kawerau,
Luther, I, 189 ff.

[4] _Resolutiones super prop, xiii._, 1519.

[5] Comp. The Papacy at Rome, Vol. I, p. 392.

[6] Comp. Fr. Lepp, _Schlagworter des Ref. zeitalters_ (Leipzig,
1908), p. 62.

[7] The Franciscan Augustin Alveld. See Introduction, and compare
Lemmens, _Pater Aug. v. Alveld_ (Freiburg, 1599).

[8] Isidore Isolani. See Introduction.

[9] Luther pokes fun at the use of _revocatio_ with an objective

[10] See above, p. 58, and compare Preserved Smith, _Luther's
Correspondence_, Vol. I, letter no. 265.

[11] Cf. _The Papacy at Rome_, Vol. I, p. 337. The title-page of
Alveld's treatise contained twenty-six lines.

[12] A satiric reference to a section in Alveld's treatise, on the
name of Jesus, which he spells IHSVH and brings proofs for this form
from the three languages, mentioned. See Seckendor, _Hist. Luth._,
lib.  I, sect. 27, § lxx, add. ii.

[13] Alveld calls himself, on his title-page, _Franciscanus regularis
observantiae Sanctae Crucis_. The Observantines were Franciscan monks
of the stricter rule, who separated from the Conventuals in the XV.
Century. See _Prot. Realencyklopädie^3, VI, 213 ff.

[14] In the _Treatise on the Blessed Sacrament_; see above, p. 9.

[15] The universities of Cologne and Louvain had ratified Eck's
"victory" over Luther at the Leipzig Disputation. See Köstlin-Kawerau,
I, 266, 298.

[16] _De disputatione Lipsicensi_, 1519.

[17] _A venatione Luteriana Aegocerotis assertio_, 1519.

[18] Some theologians--e. g., Cajetan and Durandus--doubted whether
the Sacrament of Order was received by deacons; the Council of Trent
decided against them.--_Cath. Encyclop._, IV, 650.

[19] For Luther's opinion of Aristotle see above, pp. 146 f.

[20] The Franciscans are meant. The allusion may be to the seraphic
vision of St. Francis.

[21] See above, pp. 153 ff.

[22] A less lenient view was taken by Boniface Amerbach, writing to
his brother Basil at Basle, October 20, 1520: "The good man (Luther)
was not a little injured by the libel of a poor impostor, who, by
pretending that Martin had recanted, brought back even those who had
entered upon the way of truth to their former errors." See Smith, _op.
cit._, I, no. 316.

[23] The present did not last very long; see below, p. 292.

[24] So called because of the withholding of the wine from the laity.

[25] Cf. 1 Tim. 3:16. See Köstlin, _Theology of Luther_ (E. Tr.), I,
403; and below, pp. 258 f.

[26] The _Treatise on the Blessed Sacrament_, 1519.

[27] See page 174.

[28] See above, p. 10, note 1.

[29] _Decretal. Greg., lib. Ill, tit. xli, cap. 17_.

[30] Migne, XLIV, 699 f.

[31] _Verklärung etlicher Artikel_, 1520. _Weimer Ed._, VI, 80 11 ff.

[32] An allusion to his opponents' doctrine of the complete freedom of
the will, which Luther denied. Compare his _De servo arbitrio_ (1525).
_Weimar Ed._, XVIII, 600 ff. He finds in their treatment of Scripture
and of logic a practical expression of this doctrine of theirs.

[33] Luther humbly identifies himself with the erring priesthood,

[34] Alveld.

[35] _The res sacramenti_. The sacrament consisted of these two
parts--(1) the _sacramentum_, or external sign, and (2) the _res
sacramenti_, or the thing signified, the sacramental grace. Another
distinction is that between (1) _materia_, or the external sign, and
(2) _forma_, or the words of institution or administration. See below,
p. 223.

[36] Cf. _Weimar Ed._, VI, 505, note 1.

[37] Cf. Vol. I, p. 325, and _Realencyklopädie_, X, 289, pp. 11 ff.

[38] Cf. _Weimar Ed._, VI, 506, note 2.

[39] Cf. W. Kohler, _Luther unci die Kirchengeschichte_ (Erlangen,
1900), chap. viii.

[40] On the spiritual reception of the sacrament see H. Hering, _Die
Mystik Luthers_ (1879), pp. 173 f. Cf. above, p. 40.

[41] See above, p. 172.

[42] John Wyclif (†1384), the keenest of the mediæval critics of the
doctrine of transubstantiation.

[43] Pierre d'Ailly (†1425), who, with his master Occam, greatly
influenced Luther.

[44] The Sentences of Peter Lombard, the text-book of medieval

[45] In the dogma of transubstantiation (Fourth Lateran Council, 1215)
the Church taught that the substance of bread and wine was changed
into the substance of Christ's body and blood, while the accidents of
the former--i. e., their attributes, such as form, color, taste,

[46] Aquinas.

[47] Thus the _Erlangen Ed._; the _Weimar Ed._ reads: _an accidentia
ibi sint sine substantia_.

[48] See above, p. 20.

[49] i. e., the host, or wafer.

[50] _Decretal. Greg. lib. I, tit. i, cap. I, §3_.

[51] See above, pp. 26 ff.

[52] See above, p. 137.

[54] Comp. Vol. I, pp. 295 ff.

[55] The Douay Version has here been followed.

[56] See Luther's own definition above, pp. 22 ff.

[57] See above, p. 181, note.

[58] See above, p. 198.

[59] See above, p. 195.

[60] See above, p. 10.

[61] See above, p. 187, note 1.

[62] See above, p. 188.

[63] See above, p. 182, note 2.

[64] On "fruits of the mass" compare Seeberg, _Dogmengesch._., III, p.

[65] Comp. Vol. I, p. 307.

[66] Comp. Vol. I, pp. 302 f.

[67] See above, pp. 22 f.

[68] See p. 23.

[69] See Vol. I, pp. 187 ff.

[70] See above, p. 196.

[71] That portion of the mass included between the Sanctus and the
Lord's Prayer.

[72] See Vol. I, p. 312, and _Prot. Realencyklop._, XIV, 679, 41 ff.

[73] See above, p. 211, note 2.

[74] See above, p. 16.

[75] See Vol. I, p. 306.

[76] The offertory prayers in the mass. _C. Prot. Realencyklopädie_,
XII, 720, 46 ff.

[77] The private mass does not require the presence of a congregation.
Besides the celebrant there need be present only a ministrant. There
is no music, the mass is only read. See _Realencyklopädie_, XII, 723.

[78] The _res sacramenti_. See above, p. 182.

[79] Masses celebrated by special request or in honor of certain
mysteries (e. g., of the Holy Trinity, of the Holy Spirit, or of
angels). _Realencyklopädie_, XII, 722.

[80] Pope Gregory I. See Realencyklopädie, XII, 681 f.

[81] See above, p. 196, note, and comp. Seeberg, _Dogmengesch._, Ill,
461 f.

[82] For letters of indulgence.

[83] _E p_. 130, 9 (Migne, XXII, 1115).

[84] Factions in the monastic orders.

[85] The reference may be to Blandina, who suffered martyrdom under
Marcus Aurelius.

[86] The three parts of penance; see below, p. 247.

[87] See Vol. I, p. 91.

[88] Peter Lombard, the fourth book of whose Sentences treats of the
sacraments; see above, p. 188.

[89] See p. 182, note 2.

[90] The scholastics distinguished between the "material" and the
"form" of a sacrament. In baptism, the material was the water; the
form, the words, "I baptise thee in the name of the Father, and of the
Son, and of the Holy Ghost."

[91] Alexander, of Hales, denied the validity of baptism "in the name
of Jesus," which Peter Lombard defended. Cf. _Realencyklopädie_, XIX,

[92] Cf. _Weimar Ed._, I, 544, and _Erlangen Ed._, XLIV, 114 ff.

[93] See above, p. 203.

[94] A point at issue between Thomists and Franciscans. The former
held that the grace of the sacrament was contained in the sacramental
sign and directly imparted through it; thus Aquinas. The Franciscans
contended that the sign was merely a symbol, but that God, according
to a _pactio_, or agreement, imparted the grace of the sacrament when
the sign was being used; thus Bonaventura, and especially Duns Scotus.
See Seeberg, DC, III, 455 ff., and in _Realencyklopädie_, V, 73.

[95] The conclusion of the investigation begun on p. 226.

[96] See above, p. 204.

[97] See above, p. 223.

[98] See above, p. 226.

[99] _Baptisma_; see above, p. 226, and compare Vol. I, p. 56.

[100] _Res_. See above, p. 182, note 2.

[101] _Res baptismi_. See above, p. 231.

[102] Cf. below, pp, 258 ff.

[103] See above, p. 231.

[104] The position of Thomas Aquinas, going back to Augustine, and
ratified by Clement V at the Council of Vienna, 1311-12.

[105] See above, p. 227.

[106] See above, pp. 227 ff.

[107] For a full discussion of this "baptism," see Scheel, in the
_Berlin Edition_ of Luther's works, _Ergänzungsband_ II, pp. 134-157.

[108] See above, p. 238.

[109] The threefold vow of the mendicant orders.

[110] _Bulla_ means both a papal bull and a bubble.

[111] Compare above, p. 172, note 4.

[112] An obscure allegorical reference to the Babylonian captivity of
the Jews. "The people of the captivity" (comp. Ps. 64:1 and 1 Kings
24:14, Vulgate) are the better portion of the people who were carried
captive, together with their possessions, to Babylon; "the people of
the earth," _am haarez_, the common people, were left behind and
became the nucleus of the hybrid Samaritan nation.

[113] See above, p. 123.

[114] See above, p. 75.

[115] See _Decretal. Greg., lib. Ill, tit. xxxiv, cap. 7_.

[116] Cf. Köhler, _Luther und die KG._, pp. 222 ff.

[117] Comp. below, p. 248.

[118] This time came during Luther's sojourn at the Wartburg, when he
wrote _De votis monasticis_, 1521. See Vol. IV.

[119] The XCV Theses, the _Resolutiones_, the _Sermon von Ablass und
Gnade_, the _Confitendi Ratio_; the first and last of these in Vol. I.

[120] Reference to a probably spurious bull of Clement VI. In his
_Grund u. Ursach aller Artikel D. Martin Luthers, so durch röm. Bulle
unrechtlich verdammt sind_ (1521), Luther writes: "Thus it happened in
the days of John Hus that the pope commanded the angels of heaven to
conduct to heaven the souls of the Roman pilgrims who died en route.
Against this dreadful blasphemy and more than devilish presumption Hus
raised his voice, and though he lost his life therefor, yet forced the
pope to pipe a different tune and in future to refrain from such
blasphemy."--Compare Köhler, _Luther u. die Kirchengeschichte_, p.
206. See also above, p. 81.

[121] _Longe viliorem_; the _Jena Ed._, followed by Lemme and Kawerau,
reads, _longe meliorem_.

[122] Comp. Vol. I, p. 20.

[123] Comp. Vol. I, p. 86.

[124] See above, pp. 105 f.

[125] See above, p. 105, note 4.

[126] See above, p. 223, note 1,

[127] See above, p. 245, note 2.

[128] A play on the word _observantia_, which means both observation
and observance. A scriptural fling at the _Observantines_. Comp.
above, p. 172, note 4.

[129] Luther quotes correctly, _confortatus_, but thinks

[130] Vulgate: _confirmet_.

[131] Above, pp. 203 f.

[132] Vulgate: _sacramenta_.

[133] Erasmus edited the first published Greek New Testament in March,
1516 (Basle: John Froben), the Complutensian Polyglot being the first
printed edition (1514). Luther used Erasmus' work as soon as it came
out, as may be seen in his lectures on Romans, 1515-16 (cf. Picker,
_Luthers Vorlesung über den Romerbrie_; also Preserved Smith,
_Luther's Correspondence_, etc., I, nos. 21 and 65). In an interesting
letter to Luther of Feb. 14, 1519, Froben announces the second edition
of Erasmus' New Testament, which Luther used in making his
translation. Cf. Smith, op. cit., 00.125.

[134] See above, p. 177.

[135] Namely, for Paul.

[136] The precise meaning is not clear. The Latin is: _vel proprio
spiritu vel general! sententia_.

[137] Here follows a passage that clearly breaks into the context and
belongs elsewhere. See Introduction, p. 169.

"I admit that the sacrament of penance existed also in the Old Law,
yea, from the beginning of the world. But the new promise of penance
and the gift of the keys are peculiar to the New Law. For as we now
have baptism instead of circumcision, so we have the keys instead of
the sacrifices and other signs of penance. We said above that the same
God at divers times gave divers promises and signs for the remission
of sins and the salvation of men, but that all nevertheless received
the same grace. Thus it is said in II Corinthians iv, 'Having the same
spirit of faith, we also believe, or which cause we speak also'; and
in i Corinthians x, 'Our fathers did all eat the same spiritual food,
and all drank the same spiritual drink; and they drank of the
spiritual rock that followed them, and the rock was Christ.' Thus also
in Hebrews xi, 'These all died, not receiving the promise; God
providing some better thing or us, that they should not be perfected
without us.' For Christ Himself is, yesterday and to-day and forever,
the Head of His Church, from the beginning even to the end of the
world. Therefore there are divers signs, but the faith of all is the
same. Indeed, without faith it is impossible to please God, by which
faith even Abel pleased Him (Hebrews xi)."

[138] The _Summa angelica_ of Angelus de Clavassio of Genoa (died
about 1495), published 1486, one of the favorite handbooks of
casuistry, in which all possible cases of conscience were treated in
alphabetical order. Cf. _Zeitschrit für Kirchengesch._, XXVII, 296 ff.
The _Summa angelica_ was among the papal books burned by Luther,
together with the bull, December 10, 1520. Cf. Smith, _Luther's
Correspondence_, I, no. 355.

[139] For a full discussion of the hindrances see article Eherecht, by
Sehung, in _Prot. Realencyklopädie_, V.

[140] On this whole paragraph compare Vol. I, p. 294.

[141] It is to be borne in mind that all that follows is in the nature
of advice to confessors in dealing with difficult cases of conscience,
and is parallel to the closing paragraphs of the section on The
Sacrament of the Bread.

[142] Namely, by officiating at the marriage ceremony.

[143] Namely, by betrothal (_sponsalia de praesenti_).

[144] Lemme pertinently reminds the reader that by "laws of men"
Luther here understands the man-made laws of the Church of Rome.

[145] See above, p. 103, note 2.

[146] Relationship arising from sponsorship and legal adoption. Cf.
above, p. 128.

[147] _Cognatio spiritualis_.

[148] _The res sacramenti_. See above, p. 182.

[149] _Cognatio legalis_.

[150] _Disparilitas religionis_.

[151] _Impedimentum criminis_.

[152] _Impedimentum ligamiais_.

[153] The _fides data et accepta_, which Luther finds in the _fides_
(faith) of Gal. 5:22

[154] Page 243.

[155] _Impedimentum erroris_. With fine sarcasm Luther here plays of
one hindrance against another.

[156] _Impedimentum ordinis_.

[157] _Impedimentum publicae honestatis_.

[158] An untranslatable pun: _non iustitia sed inscitia_.

[159] Page 244.

[160] See p. 263, note 2.

[161] Page 242.

[162] The following points need to be borne in mind in order to a fair
evaluation of this much criticized section: (1) What is here given is
in the nature of advice to confessors, and the one guiding principle
is the relief of souls in peril. (2) It must not be forgotten that
Luther wrote the treatise in Latin, and not for the general public.
There is without doubt a certain betrayal in turning into the
vernacular a passage written in the language of the learned. Yet we
have done this, being unwilling to all under the charge of giving a
garbled version. (3) The hindrance Luther is here discussing was one
recognized and provided or by the Church of Rome, and the remedy
suggested by him was prescribed by the German _Volksrecht_ in many
localities. (4) Divorce was absolutely forbidden.  (5) Luther's error
grew out of an unhistorical interpretation of the Old Testament, and
consisted in his undervaluing the importance of the public law. "To
make the individual conscience the sole arbiter in matters belonging
to public law, leads to dangerous consequences." (See Kawarau, _Berlin
Ed._, II, 482 f., where references are given.)

[163] As he actually did in the case of Henry VIII and Philip of

[164] See above, p. 269, note 1.

[165] Page 271.

[166] An allusion to the act that what he is writing is a "Prelude."
See Introduction, p. 168.

[167] _Contra epistolam Manichaei_, 5, 6 (Migne, XLII, 176). Cf.
below, p. 451.

[168] _De trinitate_, 9, 6, 10 (Migne, VIII, 966).

[169] See below, pp. 451 ff.

[170] The council that condemned and burned John Hus (1414-1418).

[171] Dionysius Areopagita, the pseudonym (cf. Acts 17:54) of the
unknown author (about 500, in Syria?) of the neoplatonic writings, _Of
the Celestial_, and _Of the Ecclesiastical Hierarchy_, etc.

[172] William Durandus the elder, died 1296.

[173] The Franciscan Bonaventura (†1274) in his _De reductione artium
ad theologiara_.

[174] Donatus (ab. 350 A.D.), a famous Latin grammarian, whose _Ars
minor_ was a favorite mediæval text-book. The chancellor of the
University of Paris, John Gerson († 1429), published a _Donatus
moralisatus seu per allegoriam traductus_--a mystical grammar, in
which the noun was compared to man, the pronoun to man's sinful state,
the verb to the divine command to love, the _adverb_ to the fulfilment
of the divine law, etc.

[175] See above, p. 190.

[176] The so-called _character indelebilis_, the peculiar gift of
ordination, so that "once a priest, always a priest." See above, p.
68, note 5.

[177] See above, pp. 178 ff.

[178] The stated daily prayers, fixed by canon, of the clergy. The
seven hours are respectively: matins (including noctums and lauds),
prime, tierce, sext, nones, vespers, and compline.

[179] Comp. above, p. 69. The fullest development of Luther's doctrine
of the spiritual priesthood of believers is to be found in his
writings against Emser, especially _Auf das überchristliche,
übergeistliche und überkünstliche Buch Bock Emsers Antwort_, 1521.

[180] On the last sentence see above, pp. 251 f.

[181] See p. 278, note 1.

[182] See above, p. 92.

[183] See above, p. 280.

[184] See above, p. 185.

[185] See above, p. 213.

[186] Covers for the chalice.

[187] This promise was fulfilled in the Liberty of a Christian Man.

[188] Thus Erasmus: _Fieri potest ut nomen commune cum apostolo
praebuerit occasionem ut haec epistola lacobo apostolo ascriberetur,
cum uerit alterius cuiusdam Iacobi._--Moffatt, _Introduction to the
Lit. of the N. T._, p. 472.

[189] See above, p. 275.

[190] Comp. above, p. 171.

[191] See above, p. 285.

[192] See above, p. 226.

[193] See above, p. 275.

[194] See above, p. 226.

[195] See above, p. 177.

[196] See above, pp. 220 f.

[197] The _res sacramenti_. See above, p. 182, note 2.

[198] Vergil's _Eclogues_, VIII, 63.

[199] See Introduction, p. 168.

[200] The remainder of Luther's "recantation" was the _De libertate_.
In the letter to the pope, which accompanied it, he gave ample proof
of his obedience.

[201] The eighth stanza of Coehus Sedulius' _Hymnus acrostichis totam
vitam Christi continens_ (beginning, _A solis ortus cardine_), of the
fifth century. Stanzas 8, 9, 11 and 13 were used as an Epiphany hymn,
which Luther translated on December 12, 1541,--"Was fürchtst du, Feind
Herodes, sehr." The above translation is taken from _Hymns Ancient and
Modern_, No. 60.




The Letter to the Pope, like an earlier letter dated March 3, 1519,
was written at the suggestion of Carl von Miltitz. Sent to Germany to
bring Luther to Rome, this German diplomat knew German conditions and
to some extent sympathized with Luther's denunciation of Tetzel and
the sellers of indulgences. He preferred, therefore, to try to settle
the controversy and to leave Luther in Germany. Although the pope
insisted that Luther must come to Rome and recant, Miltitz arranged
for a hearing of the case before a German bishop. Evidently Miltitz
was far too optimistic in his representations both to Luther and to
the pope. The pope, in a writing dated March 29, 1519, spoke in
friendly terms to Luther, and urged him to come to Rome immediately
and to make his recantation there. Luther, in the letter dated March
3, 1519, writes in most humble language to the pope, but declares it
impossible for him to recant what he had written in the XCV Theses.
The pope's letter did not reach Luther; Luther's letter was not
forwarded to the pope.

Luther had promised to keep silent if his opponents would do the same,
and had devoted himself to the study of the Scriptures. John Eck,
however, had no such occupation to keep him from controversy, and
Luther was not averse to a debate. At the Leipzig disputation, June
27-July 15, 1519, Luther learned more of the logical implications of
his position. The plan of Miltitz had failed, but he would not be

When Miltitz went to Germany, it was under the pretence of a mission
"to deliver to his elector the papal golden rose, which the latter had
coveted in vain for two years."[1] Now he decided to go in person to
Augsburg, where it had been deposited with the Fuggers, and present it
to Frederick. This also gave an opportunity for a second meeting with
Luther at Liebwierde, October 9, 1519. Luther, although placing little
confidence in Miltitz, consented to argue his case before the
archbishop of Treves. The plan failed, partly because there was no
citation for Luther to appear, partly because the Elector would not
allow Luther to go without proper safe-conduct, and partly because
Miltitz had not tried to prevent Luther's opponents from challenging

In spite of the evident lack of confidence on both sides, and in spite
of Luther's constant progress in opposition to the Roman Church,
Miltitz insisted that "the case is not as black as we priests make
it," even when a papal bull was issued against Luther on June 15,
1520. On August 28th Miltitz attended a meeting of the Augustinian
monks in Eisleben, and obtained their promise that Luther should be
requested to write a letter to the pope assuring him that he had never
attacked the pope's person. On September 11th Luther reported to
Spalatin what he had done, and said that, although neither he nor his
fellow-monks had any confidence in the plan, he would do Miltitz the
favor of writing such a letter. This promise seemed meaningless to him
after the bull against him had been published. The papal bull had been
obtained by Eck, whom Miltitz now considered to be substituted for
himself in dealing with Luther, in spite of the authority he had
received. That the bull was ignored in some places and despised in
others, pleased him and gave him new courage. There might, after all,
be some chance for him to make use of his diplomatic skill.

Again he invited Luther to meet him in Lichtenberg. They met in the
monastery of St. Anthony on October 12th, and Luther renewed his
promise to write to the pope, to send the letter within twelve days,
and to date it back to September 6th, that the appearance of
intimidation by the papal bull might be avoided. It was agreed that
Luther should send with the letter an historical account of his
difficulties with the Roman Church which would show that Eck was the
chief instigator, and that Luther had been forced to take the
positions he defended. In writing, however, the historical review
became a part of the letter, and a treatise of far different tone was
sent as a gift to the pope, and as an evidence of the kind of work
Luther would prefer to do if his opponents permitted him to
choose--the Treatise on Christian Liberty.

It is again a question whether the pope received this letter. It has
been an interesting speculation for more than one writer, what the
thoughts and feelings of Leo the Tenth might have been if he did
receive and read it. Schaff traces the progress of Luther in the three
letters he wrote to the pope: "In his first letter to the pope, 1518,
Luther had thrown himself at his feet as an obedient son of the vicar
of Christ; in his second letter, 1519, he still had addressed him as a
humble subject, yet refusing to recant his conscientious convictions;
in his third and last letter he addressed him as an equal, speaking to
him with great respect for his personal character even beyond his
deserts, but denouncing in the severest terms the Roman See, and
comparing him to a lamb among wolves, and to Daniel in the den of
lions."[2] If the pope ever read it, "it must have filled him with
mingled feelings of indignation and disgust."

We may go even farther. Luther thinks of St. Bernard's attitude toward
Pope Eugene, and Bernard was Eugene's superior in the Cistercian order
and had been looked up to as "father." Luther writes as a father
confessor to a friend in trouble, and might have quoted Bernard's
words: "I grieve with you. I should say, I grieve with you if, indeed,
you also grieve. Otherwise I should have rather said, I grieve for
you; because that is not grieving with another when there is none who
grieves. Therefore if you grieve, I grieve with you; if not, still I
grieve, and then most of all, knowing that the member which is without
feeling is the farther removed from health and that the sick man who
does not feel his sickness is in the greater danger."[3]

The pope was a humanist, not a spiritually minded priest; we may,
therefore, believe that Charles Beard is not far wrong in his estimate
of the possible effect of this letter upon him: "If Giovanni de
Medici, the head of a house which had long come to consider itself
princely, and the occupant of the Fisherman's chair, when it claimed
to be the highest of earthly thrones, read this bold apostrophe,
addressed to him by a 'peasant and a peasant's son,' he must have
thought him mad with conceit and vanity. He was incapable of being
touched by the moral nobleness of the appeal, and so audacious a
contempt of merely social distinctions the world has rarely seen."[4]

After the mighty thunder of the Address to the Christian Nobility and
the Babylonian Captivity of the Church, the Treatise on the Liberty of
a Christian Man is, indeed, like a still, small voice. Luther himself
says: "Unless I am deceived, it is the whole of Christian living in a
brief form." Perhaps we may trace here also the influence of St.
Bernard's _De Consideratione_, which was written as a devotional book
for the pope and was a manual of Christian living for the pope, as
this is a manual of Christian living or all Christians.

It has been rather difficult for the enemies of Luther to find much
fault with this book. The Catholic historians, Janssen and
Hergenröther, do not mention it. Grisar characteristically devotes a
little space to each of the three great writings of 1520, and
considers the book on Christian Liberty as the most mischievous of
them all. "It does, indeed, frequently bring its false thoughts in the
form of that mystical, heart-searching style which Luther learned from
older German models."[5] The French Catholic, Leon Cristiani, is far
more generous in his estimate: "A truly religious spirit breathes in
these pages. Provoking polemic is almost entirely avoided. Here one
finds again the inspiration of the great mystics of the Middle Ages.
Does not the 'Imitation' continually describe the powerlessness of man
when left to himself, the infinite mercy of God, the great benefit of
the redemption of Christ? Does it not preach the necessity of doing
all things through love, nothing of necessity? He is not a true
Christian who would venture to disapprove the passages in which Luther
speaks so eloquently of the goodness of God, of the gratitude which it
should inspire in us, of the spontaneity which should mark our
obedience, of the desire of imitating Christ which should inspire

Protestants consider this book "perhaps the most beautiful of Luther's
writings, the result of religious contemplation rather than of
theological labor."[7] "It takes rank with the best books of Luther,
and rises far above the angry controversies of his age, during which
he composed it, in the full possession of the positive truth and peace
of the religion of Christ."[8] The clear presentation of the thought
of the liberty of a Christian man occurs at the close of the
Tessaradecas.[9] In the Babylonian Captivity Luther had promised to
publish a treatise on the subject after he had seen the effect of that
treatise.[10] But the promise to send a treatise to the pope gave him
an earlier opportunity, so that barely a month and a half intervened
between the publication of the Captivity, October 6th, and that of the
Liberty, middle of November. The German, although a translation in
part and in part an abbreviation and rewriting of the Latin, appeared
first, before November 16th. The publisher, seeing his opportunity,
had, however, issued the Letter to the Pope in German separately
before November 4th,[11] so that a new dedicatory letter, addressed to
Hieronymus Mülphordt (Mühlpfort), of Zwickau, was prefixed to the
German edition.

Our translation is made from the Latin, although the German has been
compared wherever it is a real translation.

Two translations into English appeared in the sixteenth century: one
printed by John Byddell before 1544, the translation being, according
to Preserved Smith,[12] by John Tewkesbury; the other, prepared by
James Bell and printed by Ralph Newbery and H. Bynneman, in 1579.
Unfortunately, neither of these was accessible to the present
translators. Modern translations, into English by Wace and Buchheim,
and into German by Lemme, have been consulted.

    W. A. LAMBERT.

South Bethlehem, PA.


[1] _Catholic Encyclopedia_, x, 318.

[2] _Church History_, vi, 224 f.

[3] _De consideratione_, i, I.

[4] _Martin Luther and the Reformation in Germany_, London, 1889, p.

[5] _Luther_, I, 351.

[6] _Du Luthéranisme au Protestantisme_, 1911, p. 199.

[7] Kolde, _Luther_, 1, 274.

[8] Schaff, VI, 224.

[9] Vol. I, p. 170.

[10] See above, page 284.

[11] Enders, II, p. 496, gives as the date when the letter was
written, "after Oct. 13th"; Smith, _Life and Letters of Martin
Luther_, p. 91, dates it Oct. 20th.

[12] _Nation_, May 29, 1913.



To Leo the Tenth, Pope at Rome: Martin Luther wishes thee salvation in
Christ Jesus our Lord. Amen.

[Sidenote: The Pope's Person]

In the midst of the monsters of this age with whom I am now for the
third year waging war, I am compelled at times to look up also to
thee, Leo, most blessed Father, and to think of thee; nay, since thou
art now and again regarded as the sole cause of my warfare, I cannot
but think of thee always. And although the causeless raging of thy
godless flatterers against me has compelled me to appeal from thy See
to a future council, despite those most empty decrees of thy
predecessors Pius and Julius, who with a foolish tyranny forbade such
an appeal, yet I have never so estranged my mind from thy Blessedness
as not with all my heart to wish thee and thy See every blessing, for
which I have, as much as lay in me, besought God with earnest prayers.
It is true, I have made bold almost to despise and to triumph over
those who have tried to righten me with the majesty of thy name and
authority. But there is one thing which I cannot despise, and that is
my excuse for writing once more to thy Blessedness. I understand that
I am accused of great rashness, and that this rashness is said to be
my great fault, in which, they say, I have not spared even thy person.

For my part, I will openly confess that I know I have only spoken good
and honorable things of thee whenever I have made mention of thy name.
And if I had done otherwise, I myself could by no means approve of it,
but would entirely approve the judgment others have formed of me, and
do nothing more gladly than recant such rashness and impiety on my
part. I have called thee a Daniel in Babylon,[1] and every one who
reads knows with what zeal I defended thy notable innocence against
thy dreamer, Sylvester.[2] Indeed, thy reputation and the fame of thy
blameless life, sung as they are throughout the world by the writings
of so many great men, are too well known and too high to be assailed
in any way by any one man, however great he may be. I am not so
foolish as to attack him whom every one praises: it has rather been,
and always will be, my endeavor not to attack even those whom public
report decries; for I take no pleasure in the crimes of any man, since
I am conscious enough of the great beam in my own eye [Matt. 7:3], nor
could I be he that should cast the first stone at the adulteress [John

[Sidenote: Luther's Enemies]

I have indeed sharply inveighed against ungodly teachings in general,
and I have not been slow to bite my adversaries, not because of their
immorality, but because of their ungodliness. And of this I repent so
little that I have determined to persevere in that fervent zeal, and
to despise the judgment of men, following the example of Christ, Who
in His zeal called His adversaries a generation of vipers, blind,
hypocrites, children of the devil [Matt. 23:13, 17, 33]. And Paul
arraigned the sorcerer as a child of the devil full of all subtilty
and mischief [Acts 13:10], and brands others as dogs, deceivers and
adulterers [Phil. 3:2; 2 Cor. 11:13; 2 Cor. 2:17]. If you will allow
those delicate ears to judge, nothing would be more biting and more
unrestrained than Paul. Who is more biting than the prophets?
Nowadays, it is true, our ears are made so delicate by the mad crowds
of flatterers that as soon as we meet with a disapproving voice we cry
out that we are bitten, and when we cannot ward off the truth with any
other pretext we put it to light by ascribing it to a fierce temper,
impatience and shamelessness. What is the good of salt if it does not
bite? Or of the edge of the sword if it does not kill? Cursed be he
that doeth the work of the Lord deceitfully [Jer. 48:10].

Wherefore, most excellent Leo, I pray thee, after I have by this
letter vindicated myself, give me a hearing, and believe that I have
never thought evil of thy person, but that I am a man who would wish
thee all good things eternally, and that I have no quarrel with any
man concerning his morality, but only concerning the Word of truth. In
all things else I will yield to any man whatsoever: to give up or to
deny the Word I have neither the power nor the will. If any man thinks
otherwise of me, or has understood my words differently, he does not
think aright, nor has he understood what I have really said.

[Sidenote: The Roman Curia]

But thy See, which is called the Roman Curia, and of which neither
thou nor any man can deny that it is more corrupt than any Babylon or
Sodom ever was, and which is, as far as I can see, characterized by a
totally depraved, hopeless and notorious wickedness--that See I have
truly despised, and I have been incensed to think that in thy name and
under the guise of the Roman Church the people of Christ are mocked.
And so I have resisted and will resist that See, as long as the spirit
of faith shall live in me. Not that I shall strive after the
impossible or hope that by my lone efforts anything will be
accomplished in that most disordered Babylon, where the rage of so
many sycophants is turned against me; but I acknowledge myself a
debtor to my brethren, whom it is my duty to warn, that fewer of them
may be destroyed by the plagues of Rome, or at least that their
destruction may be less cruel.

For, as thou well knowest, these many years there has flowed forth
from Rome, like a flood covering the world, nothing but a laying waste
of men's bodies and souls and possessions, and the worst possible
examples of the worst possible things. For all this is clearer than
the day to all men, and the Roman Church, once the most holy of all,
become the most licentious den of thieves [Matt. 21:13], the most
shameless of all brothels, the kingdom of sin, death and hell; so that
even Antichrist himself, should he come, could think of nothing to add
to its wickedness.

[Sidenote: The Pope's Helplessness]

Meanwhile thou, Leo, sittest as a lamb in the midst of wolves [Matt.
10:16], like Daniel in the midst of the lions [Dan. 6:16], and, with
Ezekiel, thou dwellest among scorpions [Ezek. 2:6]. What canst thou do
single-handed, against these monsters? Join to thyself three or four
thoroughly learned and thoroughly good cardinals: what are even these
among so many? [John 6:9] You would all be poisoned before you could
undertake to make a single decree to help matters. There is no hope or
the Roman Curia: the wrath of God is come upon it to the end [1 Thess.
2:16]; it hates councils, it fears a reformation, it cannot reduce the
raging of its wickedness, and is meriting the praise bestowed upon its
mother, of whom it is written, "We have cured Babylon, but she is not
healed: let us forsake her."[3][Jer. 51:9] It was thy duty, indeed,
and that of thy cardinals, to remedy these evils, but that gout of
theirs mocks the healing hand, and neither chariot nor horse heeds the
guiding rein.[4] Moved by such sympathy for thee, I have always
grieved, most excellent Leo, that thou hast been made pope in these
times, for thou wert worthy of better days. The Roman Curia has not
deserved to have thee or men like thee, but rather Satan himself; and
in truth it is he more than thou who rules in that Babylon.

O would that thou mightest lay aside what thy most mischievous enemies
boast of as thy glory, and wert living on some small priestly income
of thine own, or on thy family inheritance! To glory in that glory
none are worthy save the Iscariots, the sons of perdition [John
17:12]. For what dost thou accomplish in the Curia, my dear Leo? Only
this: the more criminal and abominable a man is, the more successfully
will he use thy name and authority to destroy the wealth and the souls
of men, to increase crime, to suppress faith and truth and the whole
Church of God. O truly, most unhappy Leo, thou sittest on a most
dangerous throne; for I tell thee the truth, because I wish thee well.
If Bernard pitied his Pope Eugene[5] at a time when the Roman See,
although even then most corrupt, yet ruled with better prospects, why
should not we lament who have for three hundred years had so great an
increase of corruption and worthlessness? Is it not true that under
yon vast expanse of heaven there is nothing more corrupt, more
pestilential, more hateful than the Roman Curia? It surpasses the
godlessness of the Turks beyond all comparison, so that in truth,
whereas it was once a gate of heaven, it is now an open mouth of hell,
and such a mouth as, because of the wrath of God, cannot be shut;
there is only one thing that we can try to do, as I have said:
perchance we may be able to call back a few from that yawning chasm of
Rome and so save them.

Now thou seest, my Father Leo, how and why I have so violently
attacked that pestilential See: for so far have I been from raging
against thy person that I even hoped I might gain thy favor and save
thee, if I should make a strong and sharp assault upon that prison,
nay that hell of thine. For thou and thy salvation and the salvation
of many others with thee will be served by every thing that men of
ability can contribute to the confusion of this wicked Curia. They do
thy work, who bring evil upon it; they glorify Christ, who in every
way curse it. In short, they are Christians who are not Romans.

[Sidenote: Luther's Controversies]

[Sidenote: Eck]

To go yet farther, I never intended to inveigh against the Roman
Curia, or to raise any controversy concerning it. For when I saw that
all efforts to save it were hopeless, I despised it and gave it a bill
of divorcement [Deut. 24:1] and said to it, "He that is filthy, let
him be filthy still, and he that is unclean, let him be unclean
still." [Rev. 22:11] Then I gave myself to the quiet and peaceful
study of holy Scripture, that I might thus be of benefit to my
brethren about me. When I had made some progress in these studies,
Satan opened his eyes and filled his servant John Eck,[6] a notable
enemy of Christ, with an insatiable lust for glory, and thereby
stirred him up to drag me at unawares into a disputation, laying hold
on me by one little word about the primacy of the Roman Church which I
had incidentally let fall. Then that boasting braggart, frothing and
gnashing his teeth, declared that he would venture all for the glory
of God and the honor of the holy Apostolic See, and, puffed up with
the hope of misusing thy power, he looked forward with perfect
confidence to a victory over me. He sought not so much to establish
the primacy of Peter as his own leadership among the theologians of
our time; and to that end he thought it no small help if he should
triumph over Luther. When that debate ended unhappily for the sophist,
an incredible madness overcame the man: for he feels that he alone
must bear the blame of all that I have brought forth to the shame of

[Sidenote: Cajetan]

But permit me, I pray thee, most excellent Leo, this once to plead my
cause and to make charges against thy real enemies. Thou knowest, I
believe, what dealings thy legate, Cardinal of St. Sixtus,[7] an
unwise and unfortunate, or rather, unfaithful man, had with me. When,
because of reverence for thy name, I had put myself and all my case in
his hand, he did not try to establish peace, although with a single
word he could easily have done so, since I at that time promised to
keep silent and to end the controversy, if my opponents were ordered
to do the same. But as he was a man who sought glory, and was not
content with that agreement, he began to justify my opponents, to give
them full freedom and to order me to recant, a thing not included in
his instructions. When the matter was in a fair way, his untimely
arbitrariness brought it into a far worse condition. Therefore, for
what followed later Luther is not to blame; all the blame is
Cajetan's, who did not suffer me to keep silent and to rest, as I then
most earnestly asked him to do. What more should I have done?

[Sidenote: Miltitz]

Next came Carl Miltitz,[8] also a nuncio of thy Blessedness, who after
great and varied efforts and constant going to and fro, although he
omitted nothing that might help to restore that status of the question
which Cajetan had rashly and haughtily disturbed, at last with the
help of the most illustrious prince, Frederick the Elector, barely
managed to arrange several private conferences with me. Again I
yielded to your name, I was prepared to keep silent, and even accepted
as arbiter either the archbishop of Treves or the bishop of Naumburg.
So matters were arranged. But while this plan was being followed with
good prospects of success, lo, that other and greater enemy of thine,
Eck, broke in with the Leipzig Disputation which he had undertaken
against Dr. Carlstadt. When a new question concerning the primacy of
the pope was raised, he suddenly turned his weapons against me and
quite overthrew that counsel of peace. Meanwhile Carl Miltitz waited:
a disputation was held, judges were selected; but here also no
decision was reached, and no wonder: through the lies, the tricks, the
wiles of Eck everything was stirred up, aggravated and confounded
worse than ever, so that whatever decision might have been reached, a
greater conflagration would have resulted. For he sought glory, not
the truth. Here also I let nothing undone that I ought to have

[Sidenote: Eck]

I admit that on this occasion no small amount of corrupt Roman
practices came to light, but whatever wrong was done was the fault of
Eck, who undertook a task beyond his strength, and, while he strove
madly for his own glory, revealed the shame of Rome to all the world.
He is thy enemy, my dear Leo, or rather the enemy of thy Curia. From
the example of this one man thou canst learn that there is no enemy
more injurious than a flatterer. For what did he accomplish with his
flattery but an evil which no king could have accomplished? To-day the
name of the Roman Curia is a stench throughout the world, and papal
authority languishes, ignorance that was once held in honor is evil
spoken of; and of all this we should have heard nothing if Eck had not
upset the counsel of peace planned by Carl and myself, as he himself
now clearly sees, and is angry, too late and to no purpose, that my
books were published. This he should have thought of when, like a
horse that whinnies on the picket-line, he was madly seeking only his
own glory, and sought only his own gain through thee at the greatest
peril to thee. The vainglorious man thought that I would stop and keep
silent at the terror of thy name; for I do not believe that he trusted
entirely to his talents and learning. Now, when he sees that I have
more courage than that and have not been silenced, he repents him too
late of his rashness and understands that there is One in heaven who
resists the proud and humbles the haughty [1 Pet. 5:5; Judith 6:15],
if indeed he does understand it at last.

[Sidenote: The Augustinians]

Since we gained nothing by this disputation except that we brought
greater confusion to the cause of Rome, Carl Miltitz made a third
attempt; he came to the fathers of the Augustinian Order assembled in
their chapter, and asked counsel in settling the controversy which had
now grown most confused and dangerous. Since, by the favor of God,
they had no hope of being able to proceed against me with violence,
some of the most famous of their number were sent to me, and asked me
at least to show honor to the person of thy Blessedness, and in a
humble letter to plead as my excuse thy innocence and mine; they said
that the affair was not yet in the most desperate state if of his
innate goodness Leo the Tenth would take a hand in it. As I have
always both offered and desired peace that I might devote myself to
quieter and more useful studies, and have stormed with so great fury
merely for the purpose of overwhelming by volume and violence of
words, no less than of intellect, those whom I knew to be very unequal
foes: I not only gladly ceased, but also with joy and thankfulness
considered it a most welcome kindness to me if our hope could be

[Sidenote: Appeal to the Pope]

So I come, most blessed Father, and, prostrate before thee, I pray, if
it be possible do thou interpose and hold in check those flatterers,
who are the enemies of peace while they pretend to keep peace. But
that I will recant, most blessed Father, let no one imagine, unless he
prefer to involve the whole question in greater turmoil. Furthermore,
I will accept no rules for the interpretation of the Word of God,
since the Word of God, which teaches the liberty of all things else,
dare not be bound [2 Tim. 2:9]. Grant me these two points, and there
is nothing that I could not or would not most gladly do or endure. I
hate disputations; I will draw out no one; but then I do not wish
others to draw me out; if they do, as Christ is my Teacher, I will not
be speechless. For, when once this controversy has been cited before
thee and settled, thy Blessedness will be able with a small and easy
word to silence both parties and command them to keep the peace, and
that is what I have always wished to hear.

Do not listen, therefore, my dear Leo, to those sirens who make thee
out to be no mere man but a demigod, so that thou mayest command and
require what thou wilt. It will not be done in that fashion, and thou
wilt not succeed. Thou art a servant of servants,[10] and beyond all
other men in a most pitiable and most dangerous position. Be not
deceived by those who pretend that thou art lord of the world and
allow no one to be a Christian unless he accept thy authority; who
prate that thou hast power over heaven, hell and purgatory. These are
thy enemies and seek thy soul to destroy it [1 Kings 19:10]; as Isaiah
says, "O my people, they that call thee blessed, the same deceive
thee." [Isa. 3:12 (Vulgate)] They err who exalt thee above a council
and above the Church universal. They err who ascribe to thee alone the
right of interpreting Scripture; or under cover of thy name they seek
to establish all their own wickedness in the Church, and alas!
through them Satan has already made much headway under thy
predecessors. In short, believe none who exalt thee, believe those who
humble thee. For this is the judgment of God; "He hath put down the
mighty from their seat, and hath exalted the humble." [Luke 1:52] See,
how unlike His successors is Christ, although they all would be His
vicars. And I fear that most of them have indeed been too literally
His vicars. For a vicar is a vicar only when his lord is absent. And
if the pope rules while Christ is absent and does not dwell in his
heart, what else is he but a vicar of Christ? But what is such a
Church except a mass of people without Christ? And what is such a
vicar else than antichrist and an idol? How much more correctly did
the Apostles call themselves servants of the present Christ, and not
vicars of an absent Christ!

[Sidenote: Luther Follows St. Bernard's Example]

Perhaps I am impudent, in that I seem to instruct so great, so exalted
a personage, from whom we ought all to learn, and from whom, as those
plagues of thine boast, the thrones of judges receive their decisions.
But I am following the example of St. Bernard in his book _de
consideratione ad Eugenium_, a book every pope should have by heart.
For what I am doing I do not from an eagerness to teach, but as an
evidence of that pure and faithful solicitude which constrains us to
have regard for the things of our neighbors even when they are safe,
and does not permit us to consider their dignity or lack of dignity,
since it is intent only upon the danger they run for the advantage
they may gain. For when I know that thy Blessedness is driven and
tossed about at Rome, that is, that far out at sea thou art threatened
on all sides with endless dangers, and art laboring hard in that
miserable plight, so that thou dost need even the slightest help of
the least of thy brethren, I do not think it is absurd of me, if for
the time I forget thy high office and do what brotherly love demands.
I have no desire to flatter in so serious and dangerous a matter, but
if men do not understand that I am thy friend and thy most humble
subject, there is One that understandeth and judgeth. [John 8:50]

[Sidenote: Luther's Gift]

Finally, that I may not approach thee empty-handed, blessed Father, I
bring with me this little treatise published under thy name as an omen
of peace and of good hope. From this book thou mayest judge with what
studies I would prefer to be more profitably engaged, as I could be if
your godless flatterers would permit me, and had hitherto permitted
me. It is a small thing if thou regard its bulk, but, unless I am
deceived, it is the whole of Christian living in brief form, if thou
wilt grasp its meaning. I am a poor man, and have no other gift to
offer, and thou hast no need to be made rich by any other than a
spiritual gift. With this I commend myself to thy Fatherhood and
Blessedness. May the Lord Jesus preserve thee forever. Amen.

Wittenberg, September 6, 1520.[11]


[Sidenote: Faith]

Many have thought Christian faith to be an easy thing, and not a few
have given it a place among the virtues. This they do because they
have had no experience of it, and have never tasted what great virtue
there is in faith. For it is impossible that any one should write well
of it or well understand what is correctly written of it, unless he
has at some time tasted the courage faith gives a man when trials
oppress him. But he who has had even a faint taste of it can never
write, speak, meditate or hear enough concerning it. For it is a
living fountain springing up into life everlasting, as Christ calls it
in John iv [John 4:14]. For my part, although I have no wealth of
faith to boast of and know how scant my store is, yet I hope that,
driven about by great and various temptations, I have attained to a
little faith, and that I can speak of it, if not more elegantly,
certainly more to the point, than those literalists and all too
subtile disputants have hitherto done, who have not even understood
what they have written.

[Sidenote: Liberty and Bondage]

That I may make the way easier or the unlearned--for only such do I
serve--I set down first these two propositions concerning the liberty
and the bondage of the spirit:

_A Christian man is a perfectly free lord of all, subject to none._

_A Christian man is a perfectly dutiful servant of all, subject to

Although these two theses seem to contradict each other, yet, if they
should be found to fit together they would serve our purpose
beautifully. For they are both Paul's own, who says, in I Cor. ix,
"Whereas I was free, I made myself the servant of all," [1 Cor. 9:19]
and, Rom. xiii, "Owe no man anything, but to love one another." [Rom.
13:8] Now love by its very nature is ready to serve and to be subject
to him who is loved. So Christ, although Lord of all, was made of a
woman, made under the law [Gal. 4:4], and hence was at the same time
free and a servant, at the same time in the form of God and in the
form of a servant [Phil. 2:6 f.].

[Sidenote: Man's Nature]

Let us start, however, with something more remote from our subject,
but more obvious. Man[12] has a twofold nature, a spiritual and a
bodily. According to the spiritual nature, which men call the soul, he
is called a spiritual, or inner, or new man; according to the bodily
nature, which men call the flesh, he is called a carnal, or outward,
or old man, of whom the Apostle writes, in II Cor. iv, "Though our
outward man is corrupted, yet the inward man is renewed day by day."
[2 Cor. 4:16] Because of this diversity of nature the Scriptures
assert contradictory things of the same man, since these two men in
the same man contradict each other, since the flesh lusteth against
the spirit and the spirit against the flesh (Gal. v) [Gal. 5:17].

[Sidenote: The Inward Man]

_First_, let us contemplate the inward man, to see how a righteous,
free and truly Christian man, that is, a new, spiritual, inward man,
comes into being. It is evident that no external thing, whatsoever it
be, has any influence whatever in producing Christian righteousness or
liberty, nor in producing unrighteousness or bondage. A simple
argument will furnish the proof. What can it profit the soul if the
body are well, be free and active, eat, drink and do as it pleases?
For in these things even the most godless slaves of all the vices are
well. On the other hand, how will ill health or imprisonment or hunger
or thirst or any other external misfortune hurt the soul? With these
things even the most godly men are afflicted, and those who because of
a clear conscience are most free. None of these things touch either
the liberty or the bondage of the soul. The soul receives no benefit
if the body is adorned with the sacred robes of the priesthood, or
dwells in sacred places, or is occupied with sacred duties, or prays,
fasts, abstains from certain kinds of food or does any work whatsoever
that can be done by the body and in the body. The righteousness and
the freedom of the soul demand something far different, since the
things which have been mentioned could be done by any wicked man, and
such works produce nothing but hypocrites. On the other hand, it will
not hurt the soul if the body is clothed in secular dress, dwells in
unconsecrated places, eats and drinks as others do, does not pray
aloud, and neglects to do all the things mentioned above, which
hypocrites can do.

[Sidenote: The Word of God]

Further, to put aside all manner of works, even contemplation,
meditation, and all that the soul can do, avail nothing. One thing and
one only is necessary for Christian life, righteousness and liberty.
That one thing is the most holy Word of God, the Gospel of Christ, as
he says, John xi, "I am the resurrection and the life: he that
believeth in me, shall not die forever" [John 11:25]; and John viii,
"If the Son shall make you free, you shall be free indeed" [John
8:26]; and Matthew iv, "Not in bread alone doth man live; but in every
word that proceedeth from the mouth of God." [Matt. 4:4] Let us then
consider it certain and conclusively established that the soul can do
without all things except the Word of God, and that where this is not
there is no help for the soul in anything else whatever. But if it has
the Word it is rich and lacks nothing, since this Word is the Word of
life, of truth, of light, of peace, of righteousness, of salvation, of
joy, of liberty, of wisdom, of power, of grace, of glory and of every
blessing beyond our power to estimate. This is why the prophet in the
entire cxix Psalm, and in many other places of Scripture, with so many
sighs yearns after the Word of God and applies so many names to it
[Psalm 119]. On the other hand, there is no more terrible plague with
which the wrath of God can smite men than a famine of the hearing of
His Word, as He says in Amos, just as there is no greater mercy than
when He sends forth His Word [Amos 8:11 f.], as we read in Psalm cvii,
"He sent His word and healed them, and delivered them from their
destructions." [Psalm 107:20] Nor was Christ sent into the world for
any other ministry but that of the Word, and the whole spiritual
estate, apostles, bishops and all the priests, has been called and
instituted only or the ministry of the Word.

[Sidenote: The Gospel]

You ask, "What then is this Word of God, and how shall it be used,
since there are so many words of God?" I answer. The Apostle explains
that in Romans i. The Word is the Gospel of God concerning His Son,
Who was made flesh, suffered, rose from the dead, and was glorified
through the Spirit Who sanctifies. For to preach Christ means to feed
the soul, to make it righteous, to set it free and to save it, if it
believe the preaching. For faith alone is the saving and efficacious
use of the Word of God, Romans x, "If thou confess with thy mouth that
Jesus is Lord, and believe with thy heart that God hath raised Him up
from the dead, thou shalt be saved" [Rom. 10:9]; and again, "The end
of the law is Christ, unto righteousness to every one that believeth"
[Rom. 10:4]; and, Romans i, "The just shall live by his faith." [Rom.
1:17] The Word of God cannot be received and cherished by any works
whatever, but only by faith [Hab. 2:4]. Hence it is clear that, as the
soul needs only the Word for its life and righteousness, so it is
justified by faith alone and not by any works; for if it could be
justified by anything else, it would not need the Word, and therefore
it would not need faith. But this faith cannot at all exist in
connection with works, that is to say, if you at the same time claim
to be justified by works, whatever their character; for that would be
to halt between two sides, to worship Baal and to kiss the hand [1
Kings 18:21], which, as Job says, is a very great iniquity [Job 31:27
f.]. Therefore the moment you begin to believe, you learn that all
things in you are altogether blameworthy, sinful and damnable, as
Romans iii says, "For all have sinned and lack the glory of God" [Rom.
3:23]; and again, "There is none just, there is none that doeth good,
all have turned out of the way: they are become unprofitable
together." [Rom. 3:10 ff.] When you have learned this, you will know
that you need Christ, Who suffered and rose again or you, that,
believing in Him, you may through this faith become a new man, in that
all your sins are forgiven, and you are justified by the merits of
another, namely, of Christ alone.

[Sidenote: Justification by Faith]

Since, therefore, this faith can rule only in the inward man, as
Romans x says, "With the heart we believe unto righteousness"; and
since faith alone justifies, it is clear that the inward man cannot be
justified, made free and be saved by any outward work or dealing
whatsoever, and that works, whatever their character, have nothing to
do with this inward man. On the other hand, only ungodliness and
unbelief of heart, and no outward work, make him guilty and a damnable
servant of sin. Wherefore it ought to be the first concern of every
Christian to lay aside all trust in works, and more and more to
strengthen faith alone, and through faith to grow in the knowledge,
not of works, but of Christ Jesus, Who suffered and rose for him, as
Peter teaches, in the last chapter of his first Epistle [1 Pet. 5:10];
since no other work makes a Christian. Thus when the Jews asked
Christ, John vi [John 6:28 f.], what they should do that they might
work the works of God, He brushed aside the multitude of works in
which He saw that they abounded [John 6:27], and enjoined upon them a
single work, saying, "This is the work of God, that you believe in Him
Whom He hath sent. For Him hath God the Father sealed." [John 6:29]

Hence true faith in Christ is a treasure beyond comparison, which
brings with it all salvation and saves from every evil, as Christ says
in the last chapter of Mark, "He that believeth and is baptised, shall
be saved; but he that believeth not, shall be condemned." [Mark 16:16]
This treasure Isaiah beheld and foretold in chapter x, "The Lord shall
make an abridged and consuming word upon the land, and the consumption
abridged shall overflow with righteousness" [Isa. 10:22]; as if he
said, "Faith, which is a brief and perfect fulfilment of the law,
shall fill believers with so great righteousness that they shall need
nothing more for their righteousness." So also Paul says, Romans x,
"With the heart we believe unto righteousness." [Rom. 10:10]

[Sidenote: Faith and Works]

[Sidenote: Commands reveal Weakness]

Should you ask, how it comes that faith alone justifies without works
offers us such a treasury of great benefits, when so many works,
ceremonies and laws are prescribed in the Scriptures, I answer: First
of all, remember what has been said: faith alone, without works,
justifies, makes free and saves, as we shall later make still more
clear. Here we must point out that all the Scriptures of God are
divided into two parts--commands and promises. The commands indeed
teach things that are good, but the things taught reveal are not done
as soon as taught; for the commands show us what we ought to do, but
do not give us the power to do it; they are intended to teach a man to
know himself, that through them he may recognize his inability to do
good and may despair of his powers. That is why they are called and
are the Old Testament. For example: "Thou shalt not covet" [Ex. 20:17]
is a command which convicts us all of being sinners, since no one is
able to avoid coveting, however much he may struggle against it.
Therefore, in order not to covet, and to fulfil the command, a man is
compelled to despair of himself, and to seek elsewhere and from some
one else the help which he does not ind in himself, as is said in
Hosea, "Destruction is thy own, O Israel: thy help is only in Me."
[Hos. 13:9] And as we are with this one command, so we are with all;
or it is equally impossible or us to keep any one of them.

[Sidenote: Promises give Strength]

But when a man through the commands has learned to know his weakness,
and has become troubled as to how he may satisfy the law, since the
law must be fulfilled so that not a jot or tittle shall perish,
otherwise man will be condemned without hope; then, being truly
humbled and reduced to nothing in his own eyes, he finds in himself no
means of justification and salvation. Here the second part of the
Scriptures stands ready--the promises of God, which declare the glory
of God and say, "If you wish to fulfil the law, and not to covet, as
the law demands, come, believe in Christ, in Whom grace,
righteousness, peace, liberty and all things are promised you; if you
believe you shall have all, if you believe not you shall lack all."
For what is impossible for you in all the works of the law, many as
they are, but all useless, you will accomplish in a short and easy way
through faith. For God our Father has made all things depend on faith,
so that whoever has faith, shall have all, and whoever has it not,
shall have nothing. "For He has concluded all under unbelief, that He
might have mercy on all," Romans xi [Rom. 11:32]. Thus the promises of
God give what the commands of God ask, and fulfil what the law
prescribes, that all things may be of God alone, both the commands and
the fulfilling of the commands. He alone commands. He also alone
fulfils. Therefore the promises of God belong to the New Testament,
nay, they are the New Testament.

And since these promises of God are holy, true, righteous, free and
peaceful words, full of all goodness, it comes to pass that the soul
which clings to them with a firm faith, is so united with them, nay,
altogether taken up into them, that it not only shares in all their
power, but is saturated and made drunken with it. For if a touch of
Christ healed, how much more will this most tender touch in the
spirit, rather this absorbing of the Word, communicate to the soul all
things that are the Word's. This, then, is how through faith alone
without works the soul is justified by the Word of God, sanctified,
made true and peaceful and free, filled with every blessing and made
truly a child of God, as John i says, "To them gave He power to become
the sons of God, even to them that believe on His Name." [John 1:12]

[Sidenote: Faith Justifies]

From what has been said it is easily seen whence faith has such great
power, and why no good work nor all good works together can equal it:
no work can cling to the Word of God nor be in the soul; in the soul
faith alone and the Word have sway. As the Word is, so it makes the
soul, as heated iron glows like fire because of the union of fire with
it. It is clear then that a Christian man has in his faith all that he
needs, and needs no works to justify him. And if he has no need of
works, neither does he need the law; and if he has no need of the law,
surely he is free from the law, and it is true, "the law is not made
for a righteous man." [1 Tim. 1:9] And this is that Christian liberty,
even our faith, which does not indeed cause us to live in idleness or
in wickedness, but makes the law and works unnecessary for any man's
righteousness and salvation.

[Sidenote: Faith Fulfils the Commands]

This is the first power of faith. Let us now examine the second also.
For it is a further function of faith, that whom it trusts it also
honors with the most reverent and high regard, since it considers him
truthful and trustworthy. For there is no other honor equal to the
estimate of truthfulness and righteousness with which we honor him
whom we trust. Or could we ascribe to a man anything greater than
truthfulness, and righteousness, and perfect goodness? On the other
hand, there is no way in which we can show greater contempt for a man
than to regard him as false and wicked and to suspect him, as we do
when we do not trust him. So when the soul firmly trusts God's
promises, it regards Him as truthful and righteous, than which nothing
more excellent can be ascribed to God. This is the very highest
worship of God, that we ascribe to Him truthfulness, righteousness and
whatever else ought to be ascribed to one who is trusted. Then the
soul consents to all His will, then it hallows His name and suffers
itself to be dealt with according to God's good pleasure, because,
clinging to God's promises, it does not doubt that He, Who is true,
just and wise, will do, dispose and provide all things well. And is
not such a soul, by this faith, in all things most obedient to God?
What commandment is there that such obedience has not abundantly
fulfilled? What more complete fulfilment is there than obedience in
all things? But this obedience is not rendered by works, but by faith
alone. On the other hand, what greater rebellion against God, what
greater wickedness, what greater contempt of God is there than not
believing His promises? For what is this but to make God a liar or to
doubt that He is truthful?--that is, to ascribe truthfulness to one's
self, but to God lying and vanity? Does not a man who does this deny
God, and in his heart set up himself as his own idol? Then of what
avail are works done in such wickedness, even if they were the works
of angels and apostles? [Rom. 11:32] Rightly, therefore, has God
concluded all--not in anger or lust, but in unbelief; so that they who
imagine that they are fulfilling the law by doing the works of
chastity and mercy required by the law (the civil and human virtues),
might not be confident that they will be saved; they are included
under the sin of unbelief, and must either seek mercy or be justly

But when God sees that we count Him to be true, and by the faith of
our heart pay Him the great honor which is due Him, He in turn does us
the great honor of counting us true and righteous for our faith's
sake.  For faith works truth and righteousness by giving to God what
belongs to Him; therefore, God in turn gives glory to our
righteousness. It is true and just that God is truthful and just, and
to count Him and confess Him, so is to be truthful and just. So in I
Sam. ii, He says, "Them that honor Me, I will honor, and they that
despise Me, shall be lightly esteemed." [1 Sam. 2:30] So Paul says in
Rom. iv, that Abraham's faith was counted unto him or righteousness,
because by it he most perfectly gave glory to God, and that or the
same reason our faith shall be counted unto us or righteousness if we
believe. [Rom. 4:3]

[Sidenote: Faith Unites with Christ]

The third incomparable benefit of faith is this, that it unites the
soul with Christ as a bride is united with her bridegroom. And by this
mystery, as the Apostle teaches, Christ and the soul become one flesh
[Eph. 5:31 f.]. And if they are one flesh and there is between them a
true marriage, nay, by far the most perfect of all marriages, since
human marriages are but frail types of this one true marriage, it
follows that all they have they have in common, the good as well as
the evil, so that the believing soul can boast of and glory in
whatever Christ has as if it were its own, and whatever the soul has
Christ claims as His own. Let us compare these and we shall see things
that cannot be estimated. Christ is full of grace, life and salvation;
the soul is full of sins, death and condemnation. Now let faith come
between them, and it shall come to pass that sins, death and hell are
Christ's, and grace, life and salvation are the soul's. For it
behooves Him, if He is a bridegroom, to take upon Himself the things
which are His bride's, and to bestow upon her the things that are His.
For if He gives her His body and His very self, how shall He not give
her all that is His? And if He takes the body of the bride, how shall
He not take all that is hers?

Lo! here we have a pleasant vision not only of communion, but of a
blessed strife and victory and salvation and redemption. For Christ is
God and man in one person, Who has neither sinned nor died, and is not
condemned, and Who cannot sin, die or be condemned; His righteousness,
life and salvation are unconquerable, eternal, omnipotent; and He by
the wedding-ring of faith shares in the sins, death and pains of hell
which are His bride's, nay, makes them His own, and acts as if they
were His own, and as if He Himself had sinned; He suffered, died and
descended into hell that He might overcome them all. Now since it was
such a one who did all this, and death and hell could not swallow Him
up, they were of necessity swallowed up of Him in a mighty duel. For
His righteousness is greater than the sins of all men, His life
stronger than death. His salvation more invincible than hell. Thus the
believing soul by the pledge of its faith is free in Christ, its
Bridegroom, from all sins, secure against death and against hell, and
is endowed with the eternal righteousness, life and salvation of
Christ, its Bridegroom. So He presents to Himself a glorious bride,
without spot or wrinkle [Eph. 5:27], cleansing her with the washing in
the Word of life, that is, by faith in the Word of life, of
righteousness, and of salvation. Thus He marries her to Himself in
faith, in loving kindness, and in mercies, in righteousness and in
judgment, as Hosea ii says. [Hos. 2:19 f.]

Who, then, can fully appreciate what this royal marriage means? Who
can understand the riches of the glory of this grace? Here this rich
and godly Bridegroom Christ marries this poor, wicked harlot, redeems
her from all her evil and adorns her with all His good. It is now
impossible that her sins should destroy her, since they are laid upon
Christ and swallowed up in Him, and she has that righteousness in
Christ her husband of which she may boast as of her own, and which she
can confidently set against all her sins in the face of death and
hell, and say, "If I have sinned, yet my Christ, in Whom I believe,
has not sinned, and all His is mine, and all mine is His"--as the
bride in the Song of Solomon says, "My beloved is mine, and I am his."
[Song of Sol. 2:16] This is what Paul means when he says, in I Cor.
xv, "Thanks be to God, Which giveth us the victory through our Lord
Jesus Christ,"[1 Co4. 15:57]--that is, the victory over sin and death,
as he there says, "the sting of death is sin, and the strength of sin
is the law." [1 Cor. 15:36]

[Sidenote: Faith the Fulfilment of the Law]

From this you see once more why so much is ascribed to faith, that it
alone may fulfil the law and justify without the Law works. You see
that the First Commandment, which says, "Thou shalt worship one God,"
is fulfilled by faith alone. For though you were nothing but good
works from the sole of your foot to the crown of your head, yet you
would not be righteous, nor worship God, nor fulfil the First
Commandment, since God cannot be worshiped unless you ascribe to Him
the glory of truthfulness and of all goodness, which is due Him. And
this cannot be done by works, but only by the faith of the heart. For
not by the doing of works, but by believing, do we glorify God and
acknowledge that He is truthful. Therefore, faith alone is the
righteousness of a Christian man and the fulfilling of all the
commandments. For he who fulfils the First, has no difficulty in
fulfilling all the rest. But works, being insensate things, cannot
glorify God, although they can, if faith be present, be done to the
glory of God. At present, however, we are not inquiring what works and
what sort of works are done, but who it is that does them, who
glorifies God and brings forth the works. This is faith which dwells
in the heart, and is the head and substance of all our righteousness.
Hence, it is a blind and dangerous doctrine which teaches that the
commandments must be fulfilled by works. The commandments must be
fulfilled before any works can be done, and the works proceed from the
fulfilment of the commandments [Rom. 13:10], as we shall hear.

[Sidenote: Old Testament Types]

But that we may look more deeply into that grace which our inward man
has in Christ, we must consider that in the Old Testament God
sanctified to Himself every first-born male, and the birth-right was
highly prized, having a two-fold honor, that of priesthood, and that
of kingship. For the first-born brother was priest and lord over all
the others, and was a type of Christ, the true and only First-born of
God the Father and of the Virgin Mary, and true King and Priest, not
after the fashion of the flesh and of the world. For His kingdom is
not of this world [John 18:36]. He reigns in heavenly and spiritual
things and consecrates them--such as righteousness, truth, wisdom,
peace, salvation, etc. Not as if all things on earth and in hell were
not also subject to Him--else how could He protect and save us from
them?--but His kingdom consists neither in them nor of them. Nor does
His priesthood consist in the outward splendor of robes and postures,
like that human priesthood of Aaron and of our present-day Church; but
it consists in spiritual things, through which He by an unseen service
intercedes for us in heaven before God, there offers Himself as a
sacrifice and does all things a priest should do, as Paul in the
Epistle to the Hebrews describes him under the type of Melchizedek
[Heb. 6 f.]. Nor does He only pray and intercede for us, but within
our soul He teaches us through the living teaching of His Spirit, thus
performing the two real unctions of a priest, of which the prayers and
the preaching of human priests are visible types.

Now, just as Christ by his birthright obtained these two prerogatives,
so He imparts them to and shares them with every one who believes on
Him according to the law of the aforesaid marriage, by which the wife
owns whatever belongs to the husband. Hence we are all priests and
kings in Christ, as many as believe on Christ, as I Pet. ii says, "Ye
are a chosen generation, a peculiar people, a royal priesthood and
priestly kingdom, that ye should show forth the virtues of Him Who
hath called you out of darkness into His marvelous light." [1 Pet.

[Sidenote: The Kingship of the Christian]

This priesthood and kingship we explain as follows: First, as to the
kingship, every Christian is by faith so exalted above all things that
by a spiritual power he is lord of all things without exception, so
that nothing can do him any harm whatever, nay, all things are made
subject to him and compelled to serve him to his salvation. Thus Paul
says in Rom. viii, "All things work together for good to them who are
called." [Rom. 8:28] And, in I Cor. iii, "All things are yours,
whether life or death, or things present or things to come, and ye are
Christ's." [1 Cor. 3:22 f.] Not as if every Christian were set over
all things, to possess and control them by physical power,--a madness
with which some churchmen are afflicted,--for such power belongs to
kings, princes and men on earth. Our ordinary experience in life shows
us that we are subjected to all, suffer many things and even die; nay,
the more Christian a man is, the more evils, sufferings and deaths is
he made subject to, as we see in Christ the first-born Prince Himself,
and in all His brethren, the saints. The power of which we speak is
spiritual; it rules in the midst of enemies, and is mighty in the
midst of oppression, which means nothing else than that strength is
made perfect in weakness [2 Cor. 12:9], and that in all things I can
find profit unto salvation, so that the cross and death itself are
compelled to serve me and to work together with me for my salvation
[Rom. 8:28]. This is a splendid prerogative and hard to attain, and a
true omnipotent power, a spiritual dominion, in which there is nothing
so good and nothing so evil, but that it shall work together for good
to me, if only I believe. And yet, since faith alone suffices for
salvation, I have need of nothing, except that faith exercise the
power and dominion of its own liberty. Lo, this is the inestimable
power and liberty of Christians.

[Sidenote: The Priesthood of the Christian]

Not only are we the freest of kings, we are also priests forever,
which is far more excellent than being kings, because as priests we
are worthy to appear before God to pray for others and to teach one
another the things of God. For these are the functions of priests, and
cannot be granted to any unbeliever. Thus Christ has obtained for us,
if we believe on Him, that we are not only His brethren, co-heirs and
fellow-kings with Him, but also fellow-priests with Him, who may
boldly come into the presence of God in the spirit of faith and cry,
"Abba, Father!" [Heb. 10:19, 22] pray for one another and do all
things which we see done and prefigured in the outward and visible
works of priests. But he who does not believe is not served by
anything, nor does anything work for good to him, but he himself is a
servant of all, and all things become evils to him, because he
wickedly uses them to his own profit and not to the glory of God. And
so he is no priest, but a profane man, whose prayer becomes sin and
never comes into the presence of God, because God does not hear
sinners [John 9:31]. Who then can comprehend the lofty dignity of the
Christian? Through his kingly power he rules over all things, death,
life and sin, and through his priestly glory is all powerful with God,
because God does the things which he asks and desires, as it is
written, "He will fulfil the desire of them that fear Him; He also
will hear their cry, and will save them." [Phil. 4:13] To this glory a
man attains, surely not by any works of his, but by faith alone.

[Sidenote: Distinctions among Christians]

From this any one can clearly see how a Christian man is free from all
things and over all things, so that he needs no works to make him
righteous and to save him, since faith alone confers all these things
abundantly. But should he grow so foolish as to presume to become
righteous, free, saved and a Christian by means of some good work, he
would on the instant lose faith and all its benefits: a foolishness
aptly illustrated in the fable of the dog who runs along a stream with
a piece of meat in his mouth, and, deceived by the reflection of the
meat in the water, opens his mouth to snap at it, and so loses both
the meat and the reflection. You will ask, "If all who are in the
Church are priests, how do those whom we now call priests differ from
laymen?" I answer: "Injustice is done those words, 'priest,' 'cleric,'
'spiritual,' 'ecclesiastic,' when they are transferred from all other
Christians to those few who are now by a mischievous usage called
'ecclesiastics.' For Holy Scripture makes no distinction between them,
except that it gives the name 'ministers,' 'servants,' 'stewards,' to
those who are now proudly called popes, bishops, and lords and who
should by the ministry of the Word serve others and teach them the
faith of Christ and the liberty of believers. For although we are all
equally priests, yet we cannot all publicly minister and teach, nor
ought we if we could." Thus Paul writes in I Cor. iv, "Let a man so
account of us, as of the ministers of Christ, and stewards of the
mysteries of God." [I Cor. 4:1]

But that stewardship has now been developed into so great a pomp of
power and so terrible a tyranny, that no heathen empire or earthly
power can be compared with it, just as if laymen were not also
Christians. Through this perversion the knowledge of Christian grace,
faith, liberty and of Christ Himself has altogether perished, and its
place has been taken by an unbearable bondage of human words and laws,
until we have become, as the Lamentations of Jeremiah say, servants of
the vilest men on earth, who abuse our misfortune to serve only their
base and shameless will [Lam. 1:11].

[Sidenote: How Christ is to be Preached]

To return to our purpose, I believe it has now become clear that it is
not enough nor is it Christian, to preach the works, life and words of
Christ as historical acts, as if the knowledge of these would suffice
for the conduct of life, although this is the fashion of those who
must to-day be regarded as our best preachers; and far less is it
enough for Christian to say nothing at all about Christ and to teach
instead the laws of men and the decrees of the Fathers. And now there
are not a few who preach Christ and read about Him that they may move
men's affections to sympathy with Christ, to anger against the Jews
and such like childish and womanish nonsense. Rather ought Christ to
be preached to the end that faith in Him may be established, that He
may not only be Christ, but be Christ for thee and for me, and that
what is said of Him and what His Name denotes may be effectual in us.
And such faith is produced and preserved in us by preaching why Christ
came, what He brought and bestowed,[13] what benefit it is to us to
accept Him. This is done when that Christian liberty which He bestows
is rightly taught, and we are told in what way we who are Christians
are all kings and priests and so are lords of all, and may firmly
believe that whatever we have done is pleasing and acceptable in the
sight of God, as I have said.

[Sidenote: Effect of such Preaching]

What man is there whose heart, hearing these things, will not rejoice
to its very core, and in receiving such comfort grow tender so as to
love Christ, as he never could be made to love by any laws or works?
Who would have power to harm such a heart or to make it afraid? If the
knowledge of sin for the fear of death break in upon it is ready to
hope in the Lord; it does not grow afraid when it hears tidings of
evil, nor is it disturbed until it shall look down upon its enemies
[Psalm 112:7 f.]. For it believes that the righteousness of Christ is
its own, and that its sin is not its own, but Christ's; and that all
sin is swallowed up by the righteousness of Christ is, as has been
said above, a necessary consequence of faith in Christ. So the heart
learns to scoff at death and sin, and to say with the Apostle, "Where,
O death, is thy victory? where, O death, is thy sting? The sting of
death is sin, and the strength of sin is the law. But thanks be to
God, which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ." [1
Cor. 15:55 ff.] For death is swallowed up not only in the victory of
Christ, but also by our victory, because through faith His victory has
become ours, and in that faith we also are conquerors.

Let this suffice concerning the inward man, his liberty and its
source, the righteousness of faith,[14] which needs neither laws nor
good works, nay, is rather injured by them, if a man trusts that he is
justified by them.

[Sidenote: The Outward Man]

Now let us turn to the second part, to the outward man. Here we shall
answer all those who, misled by the word "faith" and by all that has
been said, now say: "If faith does all things and is alone sufficient
unto righteousness, why then are good works commanded? We will take
our ease and do no works, and be content with faith." I answer, Not
so, ye wicked men, not so. That would indeed be proper, if we were
wholly inward and perfectly spiritual men; but such we shall be only
at the last day, the day of the resurrection of the dead. As long as
we live in the flesh we only begin and make some progress in that
which shall be perfected in the future life. For this reason the
Apostle, in Romans viii, calls all that we attain in this he "the
first fruits" of the spirit [Rom. 8:23], because, forsooth, we shall
receive the greater portion, even the fulness of the spirit, in the
future. This is the place for that which was said above, that a
Christian man is the servant of all and made subject to all. For in so
far as he is free he does no works, but in so far as he is a servant
he does all manner of works. How this is possible, we shall see.

[Sidenote: Needs to do Works]

Although, as I have said, a man is abundantly justified by faith
inwardly, in his spirit, and so has all that he ought to have, except
in so far as this faith and riches must grow from day to day even unto
the future he: yet he remains in this mortal life on earth, and in
this life he must needs govern his own body and have dealings with
men.  Here the works begin; here a man cannot take his ease; here he
must, indeed, take care to discipline his body by fastings, watchings,
labors and other reasonable discipline, and to make it subject to the
spirit so that it will obey and conform to the inward man and to
faith, and not revolt against faith and hinder the inward man, as it
is the body's nature to do if it be not held in check. For the inward
man, who by faith is created in the likeness of God, is both joyful
and happy because of Christ in Whom so many benefits are conferred
upon him, and therefore it is his one occupation to serve God joyfully
and for naught, in love that is not constrained.

While he is doing this, lo, he meets a contrary will in his own flesh,
which strives to serve the world and to seek its own advantage. This
the spirit of faith cannot tolerate, and with joyful zeal it attempts
to put the body under and to hold it in check, as Paul says in Romans
vii, "I delight in the law of God after the inward man; but I see
another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and
bringing me into captivity to the law of sin" [Rom. 7:22 f.]; and, in
another place, "I keep under my body, and bring it into subjection:
lest by any means, when I have preached to others, I myself should be
a castaway," [1 Cor. 9:27] and in Galatians, "They that are Christ's
have crucified the flesh with its lusts." [Gal. 5:24]

[Sidenote: Works do not Justify]

In doing these works, however, we must not think that a man is
justified before God by them: for that erroneous opinion faith, which
alone is righteousness before God, cannot endure; but we must think
that these works reduce the body to subjection and purity it of its
evil lusts, and our whole purpose is to be directed only toward the
driving out of lusts. For since by faith the soul is cleansed and made
a lover of God, it desires that all things, and especially its own
body, shall be as pure as itself, so that all things may join with it
in loving and praising God. Hence a man cannot be idle, because the
need of his body drives him and he is compelled to do many good works
to reduce it to subjection. Nevertheless the works themselves do not
justify him before God, but he does the works out of spontaneous love
in obedience to God, and considers nothing except the approval of God,
Whom he would in all things most scrupulously obey.

In this way every one will easily be able to learn for himself the
limit and discretion, as they say, of his bodily castigations: for he
will fast, watch and labor as much as he finds sufficient to repress
the lasciviousness and lust of his body. But they who presume to be
justified by works do not regard the mortifying of the lusts, but only
the works themselves, and think that if only they have done as many
and as great works as are possible, they have done well, and have
become righteousness; at times they even addle their brains and
destroy, or at least render useless, their natural strength with their
works. This is the height of folly, and utter ignorance of Christian
life and faith, that a man should seek to be justified and saved by
works and without faith.

[Sidenote: An Analogy]

In order that what we have said may be more easily understood, we will
explain it by analogies. We should think of the works of a Christian
man who is justified and saved by faith because of the pure and free
mercy of God, just as we would think of the works which Adam and Eve
did in Paradise, and all their children would have done if they had
not sinned. We read in Genesis ii, "God put the man whom He had formed
into the garden of Eden to dress it and to keep it." [Gen. 2:15] Now
Adam was created by God righteous and upright and without sin, so that
he had no need of being justified and made upright through his
dressing and keeping the garden, but, that he might not be idle, the
Lord gave him a work to do--to cultivate and to protect the garden.
These would truly have been the freest of works, done only to please
God and not to obtain righteousness, which Adam already had in full
measure, and which would have been the birthright of us all.

Such also are the works of a believer. Through his faith he has been
restored to Paradise and created anew, has no need of works that he
may become or be righteous; but that he may not be idle and may
provide for and keep his body, he must do such works freely only to
please God; only, since we are not wholly re-created, and our faith
and love are not yet perfect, these are to be increased, not by
external works, however, but within themselves.

[Sidenote: A Second Analogy]

Again: A bishop, when he consecrates a Church, confirms children or
performs any other duty belonging to his office, is not made a bishop
by these works; nay, if he had not first been made a bishop, none of
these works would be valid, they would be foolish, childish and a mere
farce. So the Christian, who is consecrated by his faith, does good
works, but the works do not make him more holy or more Christian; for
that is the work of faith alone, and if a man were not first a
believer and a Christian, all his works would amount to nothing at all
and would be truly wicked and damnable sins.

These two sayings, therefore, are true: "Good works do not make a good
man, but a good man does good works; evil works do not make a wicked
man, but a wicked man does evil works"; so that it is always necessary
that the "substance" or person itself be good before there can be any
good works, and that good works follow and proceed from the good
person, as Christ also says, "A corrupt tree does not bring forth good
fruit, a good tree does not bring forth evil fruit." [Matt. 7:18] It
is clear that the fruits do not bear the tree, nor does the tree grow
on the fruits, but, on the contrary, the trees bear the fruits and the
fruits grow on the trees. As it is necessary, therefore, that the
trees must exist before their fruits, and the fruits do not make trees
either good or corrupt, but rather as the trees are so are the fruits
they bear; so the person of a man must needs first be good or wicked
before he does a good or a wicked work, and his works do not make him
good or wicked, but he himself makes his works either good or wicked.

[Sidenote: Illustrations]

Illustrations of the same truth can be seen in all trades, A good or a
bad house does not make a good or a bad builder, but a good or a bad
builder makes a bad or a good house. And in general, the work never
makes the workman like itself, but the workman makes the work like
himself. So it is also with the works of man: as the man is, whether
believer or unbeliever, so also is his work--good, if it was done in
faith; wicked, if it was done in unbelief. But the converse is not
true, that the work makes the man either a believer or an unbeliever.
For as works do not make a man a believer, so also they do not make
him righteous. But as faith makes a man a believer and righteous, so
faith also does good works. Since, then, works justify no one, and a
man must be righteous before he does a good work, it is very evident
that it is faith alone which, because of the pure mercy of God through
Christ and in His Word, worthily and sufficiently justifies and saves
the person, and a Christian man has no need of any work or of any law
in order to be saved, since through faith he is free from every law
and does all that he does out of pure liberty and freely, seeking
neither benefit nor salvation, since he already abounds in all things
and is saved through the grace of God because of his faith, and now
seeks only to please God.

[Sidenote: Works Neither Save nor Damn]

Furthermore, no good work helps an unbeliever, so as to justify or
save him. And, on the other hand, no evil work makes him wicked or
damns him, but the unbelief which makes the person and the tree evil,
does the evil and damnable works. Hence when a man is made good or
evil, this is effected not by the works, but by faith or unbelief, as
the Wise Man says, "This is the beginning of sin, that a man falls
away from God," [Sirach 10:14 f.] which happens when he does not
believe. And Paul, Hebrews xi, says, He that cometh to God must
believe." [Heb. 11:6] And Christ says the same: "Either make the tree
good and his fruit good; or else make the tree corrupt and his fruit
corrupt," [Matt. 12:33] as if He would say, "Let him who would have
good fruit begin by planting a good tree." So let him who would do
good works not begin with the doing of works, but with believing,
which makes the person good. For nothing makes a man good except
faith, nor evil except unbelief.

It is indeed true that in the sight of men a man is made good or evil
by his works, but this being made good or evil is no more than that he
who is good or evil is pointed out and known as such; as Christ says,
in Matthew vii, "By their fruits ye shall know them." [Matt. 7:20] But
all this remains on the surface, and very many have been deceived by
this outward appearance and have presumed to write and teach
concerning good works by which we may be justified, without even
mentioning faith; they go their way, always being deceived and
deceiving, advancing, indeed, but into a worse state, blind leaders of
the blind [2 Tim. 3:13], wearying themselves with many works, and yet
never attaining to true righteousness [Matt. 15:14]. Of such Paul
says, in II Timothy iii, "Having the form of godliness, but denying
its power, always learning and never attaining to the knowledge of the
truth." [2 Tim. 3:5, 7]

He, therefore, who does not wish to go astray with those blind men,
must look beyond works, and laws and doctrines about works; nay,
turning his eyes from works, he must look upon the person, and ask how
that is justified. For the person is justified and saved not by works
nor by laws, but by the Word of God, that is, by the promise of His
grace [Tit. 3:5], and by faith, that the glory may remain God's, Who
saved us not by works of righteousness which we have done, but
according to His mercy by the word of His grace, when we believed. [1
Cor. 1:21]

[Sidenote: The Doctrine of Good Works]

From this it is easy to know in how far good works are to be rejected
or not, and by what standard all the teachings of men concerning works
are to be interpreted. If works are sought after as a means to
righteousness, are burdened with this perverse leviathan[15] and are
done under the false impression that through them you are justified,
they are made necessary and freedom and faith are destroyed; and this
addition to them makes them to be no longer good, but truly damnable
works. For they are not free, and they blaspheme the grace of God,
since to justify and to save by faith belongs to the grace of God
alone. What the works have no power to do, they yet, by a godless
presumption, through this folly of ours, pretend to do, and thus
violently force themselves into the office and the glory of grace. We
do not, therefore, reject good works; on the contrary, we cherish and
teach them as much as possible. We do not condemn them for their own
sake, but because of this godless addition to them and the perverse
idea that righteousness is to be sought through them; for that makes
them appear good outwardly, when in truth they are not good; they
deceive men and lead men to deceive each other, like ravening wolves
in sheep's clothing [Matt. 7:15].

But this leviathan and perverse notion concerning works is insuperable
where sincere faith is wanting. Those work-saints cannot get rid of it
unless faith, its destroyer, come and rule in their hearts. Nature of
itself cannot drive it out, nor even recognize it, but rather regards
it as a mark of the most holy will. And if the influence of custom be
added and confirm this perverseness of nature, as wicked Magisters
have caused it to do, it becomes an incurable evil, and leads astray
and destroys countless men beyond all hope of restoration. Therefore,
although it is good to preach and write about penitence, confession
and satisfaction, if we stop with that and do not go on to teach about
faith, our teaching is unquestionably deceitful and devilish.

[Sidenote: What we are to Preach]

Christ, like His forerunner John, not only said, "Repent ye," [Matt.
3:2] but added the word of faith, saying, "The kingdom of heaven is at
hand." [Matt. 4:17] And we are not to preach only one of these words
of God, but both; we are to bring forth out of our treasure things new
and old [Matt. 13:52], the voice of the law as well as the word of
grace. We must bring forth the voice of the law that men may be made
to fear and to come to a knowledge of their sins, and so be converted
to repentance and a better life. But we must not stop with that. For
that would be only to wound and not to bind up, to smite and not to
heal, to kill and not to make alive, to lead down into hell and not to
bring back again, to humble and not to exalt. Therefore, we must also
preach the word of grace and the promise of forgiveness, by which
faith is taught and strengthened. Without this word of grace the works
of the law, contrition, penitence and all the rest are performed and
taught in vain.

There remain even to our day preachers of repentance and grace, but
they do not so explain God's law and promise that a man might learn
from them the source of repentance and grace. For repentance proceeds
from the law of God, but faith or grace from the promise of God, as
Romans x says, "Faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of
Christ" [Rom. 10:17]; so that a man is consoled and exalted by faith
in the divine promise, after he has been humbled and led to a
knowledge of himself by the threats and the fear of the divine law. So
we read in Psalm xxx, "Weeping may endure for a night, but joy cometh
in the morning." [Ps. 30:6]

[Sidenote: Works of Love]

Let this suffice concerning works in general, and at the same time
concerning the works which a Christian does for his own body. Lastly,
we will also speak of the things which he does toward his neighbor. A
man does not live for himself alone in this mortal body, so as to work
for it alone, but he lives also for all men on earth, nay, rather,
lives only for others and not for himself. And to this end he brings
his body into subjection, that he may the more sincerely and freely
serve others, as Paul says in Romans xiv, "No one lives to himself,
and no man dies to himself. For he that liveth, liveth unto the Lord,
and he that dieth, dieth unto the Lord." [Rom. 14:7 f.] Therefore, it
is impossible that he should ever in this life be idle and without
works toward his neighbors, for of necessity he will speak, deal with
and converse with men, as Christ also, being made in the likeness of
men, was found in form as a man, and conversed with men, as Baruch iii
says [Bar. 3:38].

[Sidenote: Do not Save]

[Sidenote: Grow out of Faith]

But none of these things does a man need for his righteousness and
salvation. Therefore, in all his works he should be guided by this
thought and look to this one thing alone, that he may serve and
benefit others in all that he does, having regard to nothing except
the need and the advantage of his neighbor. Thus, the Apostle commands
us to work with our hands that we may give to him who is in need,
although he might have said that we should work to support ourselves;
he says, however, "that he may have to give to him that needeth."
[Eph. 4:28] And this is what makes it a Christian work to care for the
body, that through its health and comfort we may be able to work, to
acquire and to lay by funds with which to aid those who are in need,
that in this way the strong member may serve the weaker, and we may be
sons of God, each caring for and working for the other, bearing one
another's burdens, and so fulfilling the law of Christ [Gal. 6:2]. Lo,
this is a truly Christian life, here faith is truly out effectual
through love [Gal. 5:6]; that is, it issues in works of the freest
service cheerfully and lovingly done, with which a man willingly
serves another without hope of reward, and for himself is satisfied
with the fulness and wealth of his faith.

So Paul after teaching the Philippians how rich they were made through
faith in Christ, in which they obtained all things, proceeds
immediately to teach them further, saying, "If there be any
consolation in Christ, if any comfort of love, if any fellowship of
the Spirit, fulfil ye my joy, that ye be likeminded, having the same
love, being of one accord, thinking nothing through strife or
vainglory, but in lowliness each esteeming the other better than
themselves; looking not every man on his own things, but on the things
of others." [Phil. 2:1 ff.] Here we see clearly that the Apostle has
prescribed this rule for the life of Christians,--that we should
devote all our works to the welfare of others, since each has such
abundant riches in his faith, that all his other works and his whole
He are a surplus with which he can by voluntary benevolence serve and
do good to his neighbor.

[Sidenote: The Example of Christ]

As an example of such a life the Apostle cites Christ, saying, "Let
this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus, Who, being in the
form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: but made
Himself of no reputation, and took upon Him the form of a servant, and
was made in the likeness of men: and being found in fashion as a man,
He became obedient unto death." [Phil. 2:5 ff.] This salutary word of
the Apostle has been obscured for us by those who have not at all
understood the Apostle's words, "form of God," "form of a servant,"
"fashion," "likeness of men," and have applied them to the divine and
the human nature. Paul means this: Although Christ was filled with the
form of God and rich in all good things, so that He needed no work and
no suffering to make Him righteous and saved (for He had all this
always from the beginning), yet He was not puffed up by them, nor did
He lift Himself up above us and assume power over us, although He
could rightly have done so; but, on the contrary, He so lived,
labored, worked, suffered and died, that He might be like other men,
and in fashion and in actions be nothing else than a man, just as if
He had need of all these things and had nothing of the form of God.
But He did all this for our sake, that He might serve us, and that all
things He accomplished in this form of a servant might become ours.

So a Christian, like Christ, his Head, is filled and made rich by
faith, and should be content with this form of God which he has
obtained by faith; only, as I have said, he ought to increase this
faith until it be made perfect. For this faith is his life, his
righteousness and his salvation: it saves him and makes him
acceptable, and bestows upon him all things that are Christ's, as has
been said above, and as Paul asserts in Gal. ii, when he says, "And
the life which I now live in the flesh, I live by the faith of the Son
of God." [Gal. 2:20] Although the Christian is thus free from all
works, he ought in this liberty to empty himself, to take upon himself
the form of a servant, to be made in the likeness of men, to be found
in fashion as a man, and to serve, help and in every way deal with his
neighbor as he sees that God through Christ has dealt and still deals
with himself. And this he should do freely, having regard to nothing
except the divine approval. He ought to think: "Though I am an
unworthy and condemned man, my God has given me in Christ all the
riches of righteousness and salvation without any merit on my part,
out of pure, free mercy, so that henceforth I need nothing whatever
except faith which believes that this is true. Why should I not
therefore freely, joyfully, with all my heart, and with an eager will,
do all things which I know are pleasing and acceptable to such a
Father, Who has overwhelmed me with His inestimable riches? I will
therefore give myself as a Christ to my neighbor, just as Christ
offered Himself to me; I will do nothing in this life except what I
see is necessary, profitable and salutary to my neighbor, since
through faith I have an abundance of all good things in Christ."

[Sidenote: Faith and Love]

Lo, thus from faith flow forth love and joy in the Lord, and from love
a joyful, willing and free mind that serves one's neighbor willingly
and takes no account of gratitude or ingratitude, of praise or blame,
of gain or loss. For a man does not serve that he may put men under
obligations, he does not distinguish between friends and enemies, nor
does he anticipate their thankfulness or unthankfulness; but most
freely and most willingly he spends himself and all that he has,
whether he waste all on the thankless or whether he gain a reward. For
as his Father does, distributing all things to all men richly and
freely, causing His sun to rise upon the good and upon the evil [Matt.
5:45], so also the son does all things and suffers all things with
that freely bestowing joy which is his delight when through Christ he
sees it in God, the dispenser of such great benefits.

Therefore, if we recognize the great and precious things which are
given us, as Paul says [Rom. 5:5], there will be shed abroad in our
hearts by the Holy Ghost the love which makes us free, joyful,
almighty workers and conquerors over all tribulations, servants of our
neighbors and yet lords of all. But for those who do not recognize the
gifts bestowed upon them through Christ, Christ has been born in vain;
they go their way with their works, and shall never come to taste or
to feel those things. Just as our neighbor is in need and lacks that
in which we abound, so we also have been in need before God and have
lacked His mercy. Hence, as our heavenly Father has in Christ freely
come to our help, we also ought freely to help our neighbor through
our body and its works, and each should become as it were a Christ to
the other, that we may be Christs to one another and Christ may be the
same in all; that is, that we may be truly Christians.

[Sidenote: The Christian Serves Freely]

Who then can comprehend the riches and the glory of the Christian
life? It can do all things, and has all things, and lacks nothing; it
is lord over sin, death and hell, and yet at the same time it serves,
ministers to and benefits all men. But, alas, in our day this life is
unknown throughout the world; it is neither preached about nor sought
after; we are altogether ignorant of our own name and do not know why
we are Christians or bear the name of Christians. Surely we are so
named after Christ, not because He is absent from us, but because He
dwells in us, that is, because we believe on Him and are Christs one
to another and do to our neighbors as Christ does to us. But in our
day we are taught by the doctrine of men to seek naught but merits,
rewards and the things that are ours; of Christ we have made only a
taskmaster far more harsh than Moses.

[Sidenote: Examples: The Virgin]

Of such faith we have a pre-eminent example in the blessed Virgin. As
is written in Luke ii, she was purified according to the law of Moses,
after the custom of all women, although she was not bound by that law,
and needed not to be purified. But out of free and willing love she
submitted to the law, being made like other women, lest she should
offend or despise them. She was not justified by this work, but being
righteous she did it freely and willingly. So our works also should be
done, not that we may be justified by them; since, being justified
beforehand by faith, we ought to do all things freely and joyfully for
the sake of others.

[Sidenote: St. Paul]

St. Paul also circumcised his disciple Timothy, not because
circumcision was necessary for his righteousness, but that he might
not offend or despise the Jews who were weak in the faith and could
not yet grasp the liberty of faith. But on the other hand, when they
despised the liberty of faith and insisted that circumcision was
necessary for righteousness, he withstood them and did not allow Titus
to be circumcised, (Gal. ii) [Gal. 2:3]. For as he was unwilling to
offend for to despise any man's weak faith, and yielded to their will
for the time, so he was also unwilling that the liberty of faith
should be offended against or despised by stubborn work-righteous men.
He chose a middle way, sparing the weak or a time, but always
withstanding the stubborn, that he might convert all to the liberty of
faith. What we do should be done with the same zeal to sustain the
weak in faith, as Romans xiv teaches [Rom. 14:1 ff.]; but we should
firmly withstand the stubborn teachers of works. Of this we will say
more later.

Christ also, in Matthew xvii, when the tribute money was demanded of
His disciples, argued with St. Peter, Christ whether the sons of the
king were not free from the payment of tribute, and Peter affirmed
that they were. None the less Christ commanded Peter to go to the sea,
and said, "Lest we should offend them, go, and take up the fish that
first cometh up; and when thou hast opened his mouth, thou shalt find
a piece of money: that take, and give unto them for me and thee."
[Matt. 17:24 ff.] This incident its beautifully to our subject, since
Christ here calls Himself and those that are His, children and sons of
the King, who need nothing; and yet He freely submits and pays the
tribute. Just as necessary or helpful as this work was to Christ's
righteousness or salvation, just so much do all other works of His or
of His followers avail for righteousness; since they all follow after
righteousness and are free, and are done only to serve others and to
give them an example of good works.

Of the same nature are the precepts which Paul gives, in Romans xiii
[Rom. 13:1 ff.] and Titus iii [Tit. 3:1], that Christians should be
subject to the powers that be, and be ready to do every good work, not
that they shall in this way be justified, since they already are
righteous through faith, but that in the liberty of the Spirit they
shall by so doing serve others and the powers themselves, and obey
their will freely and out of love. Of this nature should be the works
of all colleges, monasteries and priests. Each one should do the works
of his profession and position, not that by them he may strive after
righteousness, but that through them he may keep under his body, be an
example to others, who also need to keep under their bodies, and
finally that by such works he may submit his will to that of others in
the freedom of love. But very great care must always be taken that no
man in a false confidence imagine that by such works he will be
justified, or acquire merit or be saved; for this is the work of faith
alone, as I have repeatedly said.

[Sidenote: Church Precepts]

Any one knowing this could easily and without danger find his way
among those numberless mandates and precepts of pope, bishops,
monasteries, churches, princes and magistrates, upon which some
ignorant pastors insist as if they were necessary to righteousness and
salvation, calling them "precepts of the Church," although they are
nothing of the kind. For a Christian, as a free man, will say, "I will
fast, pray, do this and that as men command, not because it is
necessary to my righteousness or salvation; but that I may show due
respect to the pope, the bishop, the community, some magistrate or my
neighbor, and give them an example, I will do and suffer all things,
just as Christ did and suffered far more for me, although He needed
nothing of it all or Himself, and was made under the law for my sake,
although He was not under the law." And although tyrants do violence
or injustice in making their demands, yet it will do no harm, so long
as they demand nothing contrary to God.

From what has been said, every one can pass a safe judgment on all
works and laws and make a trustworthy distinction between them, and
know who are the blind and ignorant pastors and who are the good and
true. For any work that is not done solely for the purpose of keeping
under the body or of serving one's neighbor, so long as he asks
nothing contrary to God, is not good nor Christian. And for this
reason I mightily fear that few or no colleges, monasteries, altars
and offices of the Church are really Christian in our day: no, nor the
special fasts and prayers on certain saints' days[16] either. I fear,
I say, that in all these we seek only our own profit, thinking that
through them our sins are purged away and that we ind salvation in
them. In this way Christian liberty perishes altogether. And this
comes from our ignorance of Christian faith and of liberty.

[Sidenote: Ignorance of Liberty]

This ignorance and suppression of liberty very many blind pastors take
pains to encourage: they stir up and urge on their people in these
practices by praising such works, puffing them up with their
indulgences, and never teaching faith. But I would counsel you, if you
wish to pray, fast or establish some foundation in the Church, take
heed not to do it in order to obtain some benefit, whether temporal or
eternal. For you would do injury to your faith, which alone offers you
all things, Your one care should be that faith may increase, whether
it be trained by works or by sufferings. Give your gifts freely and
for nothing, that others may profit by them and are well because of
you and your goodness. In this way you shall be truly good and
Christian. For of what benefit to you are the good works which you do
not need for the keeping under of your body? Your faith is sufficient
for you, through which God has given you all things.

See, according to this rule the good things we have from God should
flow from one to the other and be common to all, so that every one
should "put on" his neighbor, and so conduct himself toward him as if
he himself were in the other's place. From Christ they have flowed and
are flowing into us: He has so "put on" us and acted for us as if He
had been what we are. From us they flow on to those who have need of
them, so that I should lay before God my faith and my righteousness
that they may cover and intercede for the sins of my neighbor, which I
take upon myself and so labor and serve in them as if they were my
very own. For that is what Christ did for us. This is true love and
the genuine rule of a Christian life. The love is true and genuine
where there is true and genuine faith. Hence, the Apostle says of love
in I Cor. xiii, that it seeketh not its own. [1 Cor. 13:5]

[Sidenote: Conclusion]

We conclude, therefore, that a Christian man lives not in himself, but
in Christ and in his neighbor. Otherwise he is not a Christian. He
lives in Christ through faith, in his neighbor through love; by faith
he is caught up beyond himself into God, by love he sinks down beneath
himself into his neighbor; yet he always remains in God and in His
love, as Christ says in John i, "Verily, I say unto you, Hereafter ye
shall see heaven open, and the angels of God ascending and descending
upon the Son of man." [John 1:51]

Enough now of liberty. As you see, it is a spiritual and true liberty,
and makes our hearts free from all sins, laws and mandates, as Paul
says, I Tim. i, "The law is not made for a righteous man." [1 Tim.
1:9] It is more excellent than all other liberty which is external, as
heaven is more excellent than earth. This liberty may Christ grant us
both to understand and to preserve. Amen.

[Sidenote: Liberty]

[Sidenote: Neither License]

[Sidenote: Nor Necessity]

Finally, something must be added for the sake of those for whom
nothing can be so well said that they will not spoil it by
misunderstanding it, though it is a question whether they will
understand even what shall here be said. There are very many who, when
they hear of this liberty of faith, immediately turn it into an
occasion for the flesh, and think that now all things are allowed
them. They want to show that they are free men and Christians only by
despising and finding fault with ceremonies, traditions and human
laws; as if they were Christians because on stated days they do not
fast or eat meat when others fast, or because they do not use the
accustomed prayers, and with upturned nose scoff at the precepts of
men, although they utterly disregard all else that pertains to the
Christian religion. The extreme opposite of these are those who rely
for their salvation solely on their reverent observance of ceremonies,
as if they would be saved because on certain days they fast or abstain
from meats, or pray certain prayers; these make a boast of the
precepts of the Church and of the Fathers, and care not a fig or the
things which are of the essence of our faith.  Plainly, both are in
error, because they neglect the weightier things which are necessary
to salvation, and quarrel so noisily about those trifling and
unnecessary matters.

How much better is the teaching of the Apostle Paul, who bids us take
a middle course, and condemns both sides when he says, "Let not him
that eateth despise him that eateth not; and let not him which eateth
not judge him that eateth." [Rom. 14:3] Here you see that they who
neglect and disparage ceremonies, not out of piety, but out of mere
contempt, are reproved, since the Apostle teaches us not to despise
them. Such men are puffed up by knowledge. On the other hand, he
teaches those who insist on the ceremonies not to judge the others, or
neither party acts toward the other according to the love that
edifies. Wherefore, we ought here to listen to the Scriptures, which
teach that we should not go aside to the right nor to the left [Deut.
28:14], but follow the statutes of the Lord which are right, rejoicing
the heart [Ps. 19:8]. For as a man is not righteous because he keeps
and clings to the works and forms of the ceremonies, so also will a
man not be counted righteous merely because he neglects and despises

[Sidenote: freedom from False Opinions]

Our faith in Christ does not free us from works, but from false
opinions concerning works, that is, from the foolish presumption that
justification is acquired by works. For faith redeems, corrects and
preserves our consciences, so that we know that righteousness does not
consist in works, although works neither can nor ought to be wanting;
just as we cannot be without food and drink and all the works of this
mortal body, yet our righteousness is not in them, but in faith; and
yet those works of the body are not to be despised or neglected on
that account. In this world we are bound by the needs of our bodily
life, but we are not righteous because of them. "My kingdom is not of
this world," [John 18:36] says Christ, but He does not say, "My
kingdom is not here, that is, in this world." And Paul says, "Though
we walk in the flesh, we do not war after the flesh," [2 Cor. 10:3]
and in Galatians ii, "The life which I now live in the flesh, I live
in the faith of the Son of God." [Gal. 2:20] Thus what we do, live,
and are in works and in ceremonies, we do because of the necessities
of this life and of the effort to rule our body; nevertheless we are
righteous not in these, but in the faith of the Son of God.

[Sidenote: Opponents]

[Sidenote: Ceremonialists]

[Sidenote: Ignorant Men]

Hence, the Christian must take a middle course and face those two
classes of men. He will meet first the unyielding, stubborn
ceremonialists, who like deaf adders [Ps. 58:4] are not willing to
hear the truth of liberty, but, having no faith, boast of, prescribe
and insist upon their ceremonies as means of justification. Such were
the Jews of old, who were unwilling to learn how to do good. These he
must resist, do the very opposite and offend them boldly, lest by
their impious views they drag many with them into error. In the
presence of such men it is good to eat meat, to break the fasts and
for the sake of the liberty of faith to do other things which they
regard the greatest of sins. Of them we must say, "Let them alone,
they are blind and leaders of the blind." [Matt. 15:14] For on this
principle Paul would not circumcise Titus when the Jews insisted that
he should [Gal. 2:3], and Christ excused the Apostles when they
plucked ears of corn on the sabbath [Matt. 12:1 ff.]; and there are
many similar instances. The other class of men whom a Christian will
meet, are the simple-minded, ignorant men, weak in the faith, as the
Apostle calls them, who cannot yet grasp the liberty of faith, even if
they were willing to do so. These he must take care not to offend; he
must yield to their weakness until they are more fully instructed.
For since these do and think as they do, not because they are
stubbornly wicked, but only because their faith is weak, the fasts and
other things which they think necessary must be observed to avoid
giving them offence. For so love demands, which would harm no one, but
would serve all men. It is not by their fault that they are weak, but
their pastors have taken them captive with the snares of their
traditions and have wickedly used these traditions as rods with which
to beat them. From these pastors they should have been delivered by
the teaching of faith and liberty. So the Apostle teaches us, Romans
xiv, "If my meat cause my brother to offend, I will eat no flesh while
the world standeth" [Rom. 14:14]; and again, "I know that through
Christ nothing is unclean, except to him who esteemeth any thing to be
unclean; but it is evil or the man who eats and is offended."

Wherefore, although we should boldly resist those teachers of
traditions and sharply censure the laws of the popes by means of which
they plunder the people of God, yet we must spare the timid multitude
whom those impious tyrants hold captive by means of these laws, until
they be set free. Fight strenuously therefore against the wolves, but
for the sheep, and not also against the sheep. This you will do if you
inveigh against the laws and the law-givers, and at the same time
observe the laws with the weak, so that they will not be offended,
until they also recognize the tyranny and understand their liberty.
But if you wish to use your liberty, do so in secret, as Paul says,
Romans xiv, "Hast thou the faith? have it to thyself before God" [Rom.
14:22]; but take care not to use your liberty in the sight of the
weak. On the other hand, use your liberty constantly and consistently
in the sight of the tyrants and the stubborn, in despite of them, that
they also may learn that they are impious, that their laws are of no
avail for righteousness, and that they had no right to set them up.

[Sidenote: Ceremonies]

Now, since we cannot live our life without ceremonies and works, and
the froward and untrained youth need to be restrained and saved from
harm by such bonds; and since each one should keep his body under by
means of such works, there is need that the minister of Christ be
far-seeing and faithful; he ought so to govern and teach the people of
Christ in all these matters that their conscience and faith be not
offended, and that there spring not up in them a suspicion and a root
of bitterness, and many be defiled thereby [Heb. 12:15], as Paul
admonishes the Hebrews; that is, that they may not lose faith and
become defiled by the false estimate of the value of works, and think
that they must be justified by works. This happens easily and defiles
very many, unless faith is at the same time constantly taught; it is
impossible to avoid it when faith is not mentioned and only the
devisings of men are taught, as has been done until now through the
pestilent, impious, soul-destroying traditions of our popes and the
opinions of our theologians. By these snares numberless souls have
been dragged down to hell, so that you might see in this the work of

[Sidenote: The Test of Faith]

[Sidenote: Temporary Helps]

In brief, as wealth is the test of poverty, business the test of
faithfulness, honors the test of humility, easts the test of
temperance, pleasures the test of chastity, so ceremonies are the test
of the righteousness of faith. "Can a man," says Solomon, "take fire
in his bosom, and his clothes not be burned?" [Prov. 6:27] Yet, as a
man must live in the midst of wealth, business, honors, pleasures and
easts, so also must he live in the midst of ceremonies, that is, in
the midst of dangers. Nay, as infant boys need beyond all else to be
cherished in the bosoms and by the hands of maidens to keep them from
perishing, and yet when they are grown up their salvation is
endangered if they associate with maidens, so the inexperienced and
froward youth need to be restrained and trained by the iron bars of
ceremonies, lest their unchecked ardor rush headlong into vice after
vice. Yet it would be death or them to be always held in bondage to
ceremonies, thinking that these justify them. They are rather to be
taught that they have been so imprisoned in ceremonies, not that they
should be made righteous or gain great merit by them, but that they
might thus be kept from doing evil, and might be more easily
instructed unto the righteousness of faith. Such instruction they
would not endure if the impulsiveness of their youth were not
restrained. Hence ceremonies are to be given the same place in the
life of a Christian as models and plans have among builders and
artisans. They are prepared not as permanent structures, but because
without them nothing could be built or made. When the structure is
completed they are laid aside. You see, they are not despised, rather,
they are greatly sought after; but what we despise is the false
estimate of them, since no one holds them to be the real and permanent
structure. If any man were so egregiously foolish as to care for
nothing all his life long except the most costly, careful and
persistent preparation of plans and models, and never to think of the
structure itself, and were satisfied with his work in producing such
plans and mere aids to work, and boasted of it, would not all men pity
his insanity, and estimate that with what he has wasted something
great might have been built? Thus we do not despise ceremonies and
works, nay, we set great store by them; but we despise the false
estimate placed upon works, in order that no one may think that they
are true righteousness, as those hypocrites believe who spend and lose
their whole lives in zeal for works, and never reach that for the sake
of which the works are to be done; as the Apostle says, "ever learning
and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth." [2 Tim. 3:7]
For they seem to wish to build, they make their preparations, and yet
they never build, Thus they remain caught in the form of godliness and
do not attain unto its power [2 Tim. 3:5]. Meanwhile they are pleased
with their efforts, and even dare to judge all others whom they do not
see shining with a like show of works. Yet with the gifts of God which
they have spent and abused in vain they might, if they had been filled
with faith, have accomplished great things to the salvation of
themselves and of others.

[Sidenote: Men Need to be Taught of God]

But since human nature and natural reason, as it is called, are by
nature superstitious and ready to imagine, when laws and works are
prescribed, that righteousness must be obtained through them; and
further, since they are trained and confirmed in this opinion by the
practice of all earthly lawgivers, it is impossible that they should
of themselves escape from the slavery of works and come to a knowledge
of the liberty of faith. Therefore there is need of the prayer that
the Lord may give us [John 6:45] and make us _theodidacti_, that is,
taught of God, and Himself, as He has promised, write His law in our
hearts; otherwise there is no hope for us. For if He Himself do not
teach our hearts this wisdom hidden in a mystery [1 Cor. 2:7], nature
can only condemn it and judge it to be heretical, because nature is
offended by it and regards it as foolishness. So we see that it
happened in olden times, in the case of the Apostles and prophets, and
so godless and blind popes and their flatterers do to me and to those
who are like me. May God at last be merciful to them and to us, and
cause His face to shine upon us [Ps. 67:1 f.], that we may know His
way upon earth. His salvation among all nations, God, Who is blessed
forever [2 Cor. 11:31]. Amen.


[1] See below, page 304.

[2] Sylvester Prierias. See Vol. I, p. 338.

[3] Cf. Preface to Prierias' Epitome, _Weimar Ed._, VI, 329.

[4] Virgil, _Georgics_, I, 514.

[5] Pope Eugene III, 1145-1153, for whom Bernard of Clairvaux wrote a
devotional book, _De consideratione_, in which he rehearsed the duties
and the dangers of the pope. See Realencyklopädie II, 632; Kohler,
Luther u. die Kirchengeschichte, 311 f. Cf. Resolutiones disput. de
indulg. virtute, 1518, Clemen, 1, 113.

[6] John Maier, born in Eck an der Günz, and generally known as John
Eck; an ambitious theologian, who first attacked his professor in
Freiburg, then Erasmus' Annotations to the New Testament, and next
wrote against Luther's XCV Theses (see Vol. I, 10, 176, etc.). He was
the opponent of Luther and Carlstadt at the Leipzig Disputation
(1519), to which Luther here refers.

[7] Jacopo de Vio, born in Gaeta, Italy, in 1469, died in 1534. The
name Cajetan he derived from his birthplace, the Latin name of which
is Cajeta. In the Dominican Order he was known as Thomas, so that his
writings are published under the title, _Thomae de Vio Cajetani
opera_. He was made cardinal-presbyter with the title of S. Sisto in
1517, and in the following year was sent as papal legate to the Diet
of Augsburg. Here he met and examined Luther, but accomplished nothing
because he insisted that Luther must recant. See Kolde in
Realencyklopädie 3, 632 ff.

[8] Carl von Miltitz was educated at Cologne, was prebendary at Mainz,
Trier and Meissen, and later went to Rome, where he acted as agent for
Frederick, Elector of Saxony, and Duke George the Bearded. "After the
endeavours of Cardinal Cajetan to silence Luther had failed, Miltitz
appeared to be the person most suited to bring the negotiations to a
successful ending." (_Catholic Encyclopedia_, X, 318, where, however,
the statement that Miltitz was educated at Mainz, Trier and Meissen is
evidently a slip.) It seems that Miltitz returned to Rome for a time,
but in 1522 again came to Germany, where he was drowned in the Main,
November 20, 1529. See Flathe, Art. _Miltitz, in Allgemeine Deutsche
Biographie_, 21, 759 f.

[9] The German reads: "Thus I always did what was required of me, and
neglected nothing which it was my duty to do."

[10] This was the usual title of the pope, with which the bull of
excommunication opened: _Leo Episcopus Servus Servorum Dei_.

[11] See above, pp. 298, 300, and compare the letters of Miltitz to
the elector Frederick in Smith, _Luther's Correspondence_, I, pp. 367

[12] Here the German is more accurate: "Every Christian man."

[13] German: _Wie man sein brauchen und niessen soll_, "how we are to
benefit by and enjoy what He is for us."

[14] German: _der heubt gerechtigkteit._

[15] Possibly a reminiscence of the _Leviathan serpentem tortuosum_ in
Isa. 27:1. Cf. _Erl. Ed._, xxiv, 73; xxvii, 323 f; xviii, 91. Lemme
translates _Teuelswahn_.

[16] German: _die fasten und gepett etiichen heyligen so derlich




The work here presented bears the German title, _Eine kurze Form der
zehn Gebote, eine kurze Form des Glaubens, eine kurze Form des
Vaterunsers_. It is the most important of Luther's catechetical works
prior to the Catechisms of 1529, and deserves the name that has been
given it, "the first evangelical catechism."[1]

To be sure, the name "catechism" was not applied to the _Kurze Form_
at the time. In mediaeval usage "catechism" was the name for oral
instruction in the elements of Christian truth. This instruction had
been based from time immemorial upon the Creed and the Lord's Prayer.
The decalogue held a minor place and was overshadowed by the
commandments of the church. During the later Middle Ages the influence
of the sacrament of penance gave it a higher position. It gradually
became a subject of "catechetical" instruction, but only alongside of
the other standards for the classification of sins.[2] It was the work
of Luther so to expound the Ten Commandments as to give them a
permanent place of their own in Christian instruction, side by side
with the Creed and the Lord's Prayer.

The first manuals of instruction of this kind were prepared for the
use of the priests, to guide them in the questioning of penitents, but
with the discovery of the art of printing popular hand-books for the
use of the laity became more and more common, and with certain of
these manuals Luther was familiar.[3]

From the beginning of his ministry at Wittenberg, Luther had preached
from time to time upon the Ten Commandments and the Lord's Prayer. In
1518 his friend Agricola published a series of sermons on the Lord's
Prayer which Luther had preached in Lent, 1517.[4] In the same year
Luther published his own _Kurze Auslegung der zehn Gebote, ihrer
Erfüllung und Uebertretung_.[5] The year 1519 saw the publication of
the _Kurze Form das Paternoster zu verstehen und zu beten_, and the
_Kurze und gute Auslegung des Vaterunsers vor sich und hinter sich_.[7]
The _Treatise on Good Works_[8], which is essentially an exposition of
the decalogue, was written in the early months of 1520. During the
same period the mind of Luther was frequently occupied with the abuses
of the confessional, as we learn from the _Confitendi Ratio_,[9] and
the _Kurze Unterweisung wie man beichten soil_.[10] All the material
for the first and third parts of the present work was, therefore, in
hand and had appeared in print before 1520.

In 1520 the Kurze Form came from the press.[11] It consists of three
separately composed expositions of the three chief subjects of
catechetical instruction in the Middle Ages. The expositions of the
Commandments and the Lord's Prayer are reproductions of the _Kurze
Auslegung der zehn Gebote_ and the _Kurze Form das Paternoster zu
verstehen und zu beten_. The treatment of the Apostles' Creed is new,
as is also the Introduction, in which Luther sets forth the relation
of the three parts to one another in the unity of the Christian life.

The work is not scientific and theological, but popular and religious.
Its purpose is primarily devotional, not pedagogical. The mediæval
root out of which it grew is not to be denied. The catalogue of
transgressions and fulfilments attached to the explanation of the
decalogue shows that it is intended to be a manual for penitents, but
the spirit in which the Creed and the Lord's Prayer are explained is
not mediæval, and the manner in which the explanations of the
decalogue are simplified and rid of the excrescences of the XV Century
hand-books shows the new evangelical conception of confession to which
Luther had attained. The division of the Creed into three articles
instead of the traditional twelve marks an epoch in the development of
catechetical instruction. The little book contains passages of rare
beauty, clouded at times, we fear, by the new language into which it
has here been put, and seldom has the _Wesen des Christentums_ been
more simply and tellingly set forth than in the treatment of the

In 1522 Luther republished the _Kurze Form_ with a few slight changes
and a number of additions under the title _Betbüchlein_. The
_Betbüchlein_ ran through many editions, and grew in the end to a book
of rather large proportions, a complete manual of devotion.

In its original form and as the chief content of the _Betbüchlein_,
the _Kurze Form_ exercised a profound influence upon the manuals of
Christian doctrine that appeared in ever-increasing number after
1522.[12] Its influence extended to England, where Marshall's _Goodly
Primer_ (1534 and 35) offered to English readers a translation of the
_Betbüchlein_, in which, however, no acknowledgments were made to the
original author.[13]

The _Kurze Form_ is found in _Weimar Ed._, VII, 194 ff.; _Erl. Ed._,
XXII, 3 ff.; _Clemen Ed._, II, 38 ff.; _Walch Ed._, X, 182 ff.; _St.
Louis Ed._, X, 149 ff.


F. Cohrs, _Die evang. Katechismusversuche vor L.'s Enchiridion_
(especially I, 1 ff. and IV, 229 ff.), Arts. _Katechismen L.'s and
Katechismusunterricht_ in _Realencyk._, X, 130 ff., and XXIII, 743
ff., and _Introd. to Betbüchlein_ in _Weimar Ed._, X; O. Albrecht,
_Vorbemerkungen zu den beiden Katechismen von 1529_, in _Weimar Ed._,
XXX', 426 ff. (Further literature cited by all the above.) See also
Gecken, _Bilderkatechismus d. XV Jh_. and von Zezschwitz, _System d.
Katechetik_ (especially II, i).



    Mount Airy, Philadelphia


[1] Cohrs, _Evang. Katechismusversuche_, I, 4.

[2] _von Zezschwitz, Katechetik_, II, 176, 265 ff.

[3] _Weimar Ed._, X', 475.

[4] _Weimar Ed._, IX, 122 ff. The same series was republished by
Luther himself, ibid., IV, 74 ff.

[5] _Weimar Ed._, I, 248 ff.

[6] _Weimar Ed._, VI, 9 ff.

[7] _Weimar Ed._, VI, 20 ff.

[8] Vol. I, pp. 187 ff.

[9] Vol. I, pp. 81-101.

[10] _Weimar Ed._, II, 47 ff.

[11] On the exact date, see _Weimar Ed._, VII, 195; _Clemen_, II, 38.

[12] See Cohrs, IV, 326 ff.

[13] For this information I am indebted to the Rev. J. F. Bornhold, of
Mount Holly, N. J. The act was discovered almost simultaneously by
Pro. M. Reu, of Dubuque, Iowa.




The ordinary Christian, who cannot read the Scriptures, is required to
learn and know the Ten Commandments, the Creed, and the Lord's Prayer;
and this has not come to pass without God's special ordering. For
these three contain fully and completely everything that is in the
Scriptures, everything that ever should be preached, and everything
that a Christian needs to know, all put so briefly and so plainly that
no one can make complaint or excuse, saying that what he needs or his
salvation is too long or too hard to remember.

Three things a man needs to know in order to be saved. _First_, he
must know what he ought to do and what he ought not to do. _Second_,
when he finds that by his own strength he can neither do the things he
ought, nor leave undone the things he ought not to do, he must know
where to seek and find and get the strength he needs. _Third_, he must
know how to seek and find and get this strength.

When a man is ill, he needs to know first what his illness is,--what
he can do and what he cannot do. Then he needs to know where to find
the remedy that will restore his health and help him to do and leave
undone the things he ought. Third, he must ask for this remedy, and
seek it, and get it or have it brought to him. In like manner, the
_Commandments_ teach a man to know his illness, so that he feels and
sees what he can do and what he cannot do, what he can and what he
cannot leave undone, and thus knows himself to be a sinner and a
wicked man. After that the _Creed_ shows him and teaches him where he
may find the remedy,--the grace which helps him to become a good man
and to keep the Commandments; it shows him God, and the mercy which He
has revealed and offered in Christ. In the third place, the _Lord's
Prayer_ teaches him how to ask or this grace, get it, and take it to
himself, to wit, by habitual, humble, comforting prayer; then grace is
given, and by the fulfillment of God's commandments he is saved.

These are the three chief things in all the Scriptures. Therefore we
begin at the beginning, with the Commandments, which are the first
thing, and learn to recognise our sin and wickedness, that is, our
spiritual illness, which prevents us from doing the things we ought to
do and leaving undone the things we ought not to do.


[Sidenote: The First Table]

The _First Table of Moses_--the Table of the Right Hand--contains the
first three Commandments, In these man is taught his duty toward God,
what things he is in duty bound to do, and what to leave undone.

[Sidenote: The First Commandment]

The _First Commandment_ teaches how man shall treat God inwardly, in
the heart, that is, how he ought always to remember Him and think of
Him and esteem Him. To Him, as to a Father and good Friend, man is to
look at all times or all good things, in all trust and faith and love,
with fear; he is not to offend Him, but trust Him as a child its
father. For nature teaches us that there is one God, Who gives all
good and helps against all evil, as even the heathen show us by their
worshiping of idols. This commandment is,

_Thou shalt have no other gods._

[Sidenote: The Second Commandment]

The _Second Commandment_ teaches how man shall act toward God
outwardly, in words, before other men, or even inwardly before his own
self; that is, he shall honor God's Name. For no one can show God
either to himself or to others in His divine nature, but only in His
names. This commandment is,

_Thou shalt not take the Name of the Lord thy God in vain._

[Sidenote: The Third Commandment]

The _Third Commandment_ teaches how man shall act toward God outwardly
in deeds, that is, in the worship of God. It is,

_Thou shalt hallow the holy day._[1]

These three commandments, then, teach how man is to act toward God in
thoughts, words and deeds,--that is, in all his life.

[Sidenote: The Second Table]

The _Second Table of Moses_--the Table of the Left Hand--contains the
other seven Commandments. In these man is taught what he is in duty
bound to do and not to do to other men, that is, to his neighbor,

[Sidenote: The Fourth Commandment]

The _first_ of them teaches how one is to conduct oneself toward all
the authorities who are God's representatives. Therefore, it has its
place before the rest, and immediately after the first three, which
concern God Himself. Such authorities are father and mother, spiritual
and temporal lords, etc. It is,

_Honor thy father and thy mother._

The _second_ teaches how one is to conduct oneself toward one's
neighbor in matters that concern his person,--not to do him injury,
but to benefit and help him when he is in need. It is,

_Thou shalt not kill._

[Sidenote: The Sixth Commandment]

The _third_ teaches how one is to conduct oneself toward the best
possession one's neighbor has next to his person,--that is, toward his
wife, his child, his friend. He is to put no shame upon them, but to
preserve their honor, so far as he is able. It is,

_Thou shalt not commit adultery._

[Sidenote: The Seventh Commandment]

The _fourth_ teaches how one is to conduct oneself toward one's
neighbor's temporal possessions,--not to take them from him or hinder
him in their use, but to aid him in increasing them. It is,

_Thou shalt not steal._

[Sidenote: The Eighth Commandment]

The _fifth_ teaches how one is to conduct oneself toward one's
neighbor's worldly honor and good name,--not to impair them, but to
increase and guard and protect them. It is,

_Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbor._

So, then, it is forbidden to harm one's neighbor in any of his
possessions, and it is commanded to advance his interests. If we
consider the natural law,[2] we find how just and right all these
commandments are; for there is no act here commanded, toward God or
one's neighbor, that each of us would not wish to have done toward
himself, if he were God, or in God's place or his neighbor's.

[Sidenote: The Ninth and Tenth Commandments]

The last two Commandments teach how wicked human nature is, and how
pure we should be from all the desires of the flesh and desires for
this world's goods; but that means struggle and labor as long as we
live here below. They are,

_Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor's house._

_Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor's wife, nor his manservant, nor his
maidservant, nor his cattle, nor anything that is thy neighbor's._


Christ Himself says, "Whatsoever ye would that men should do unto you,
do ye even so to them; this is the whole law and all the prophets."
[Matt. 7:12] Now no one wishes to receive ingratitude for benefits
conferred or to let another take away his good name. No one wishes to
have pride shown toward him. No one wishes to endure disobedience,
wrath, a wife's impurity, robbery, lying, deceit, slander; but every
one wishes to find in his neighbor kindliness, thankfulness,
helpfulness, truth and fidelity. All this the Ten Commandments


_Against the First_

[Sidenote: the First Commandment]

He who in his tribulation seeks the help of sorcery, black art, or

He who uses letters[3], signs, herbs, words[4], charms and the like.

He who uses divining-rods and incantations, and practices
crystal-gazing, cloak-riding, and milk-stealing[5].

He who orders his life and work by lucky days, the signs of the zodiac
and the advice of the fortune-tellers.

He who seeks by charms and incantations to protect himself, his
cattle, his house, his children and all his property against wolves,
iron, fire and water.

He who blames his misfortunes and tribulations on the devil or on
wicked men, and does not accept them with praise and love, as good and
evil which come from God alone, and who does not ascribe them to God
with thanksgiving and willing patience.

He who tempts God, and needlessly puts himself in danger of body or

He who glories in his piety, his wisdom, or other spiritual gifts.

He who honors God and the saints only for the sake of temporal gain,
and is forgetful of his soul's need.

He who does not trust in God at all times, and is not confident of
God's mercy in all he does.

He who doubts concerning the faith or the grace of God.

He who does not keep back others from unbelief and doubt, and does not
help them, so far as in him lies, to believe and trust in God's grace.

Here, too, belong all forms of unbelief, despair, and misbelief.

_Against the Second_

[Sidenote: The Second Commandment]

He who swears needlessly or habitually.

He who perjures himself, or breaks a vow.

He who vows or swears to do evil.

He who curses by God's name.

He who tells foolish tales of God, and frivolously perverts the words
of Scripture.

He who in his tribulation calls not upon God's name, nor blesses Him
in joy and sorrow, in good fortune and in ill.

He who by his piety, wisdom or the like seeks reputation and honor and
a name.

He who calls upon God's name falsely, as do the heretics and all
vainglorious saints.

He who does not praise God's name in all that befalls him.

He who does not resist those that dishonor the name of God, use it
falsely and work evil by it.

Here belong all the sins of vainglory and spiritual pride.

_Against the Third_

[Sidenote: The Third Commandment]

He who is given to gluttony, drunkenness, gambling, dancing, idleness
and unchastity.

He who is lazy, who sleeps when he ought to be at mass, stays away
from mass, goes walking and indulges in idle talk.

He who without special need works and transacts business on the Lord's

He who prays not, meditates not upon Christ's sufferings, repents not
of his sins and asks no grace, and therefore keeps the day only in
outward fashion, by his dress, his food and his actions.

He who in all his works and sufferings is not satisfied that God shall
do with him as He will.

He who does not help others to do this and does not resist them when
they do otherwise.

Here belongs the sin of slothfulness and indifference to worship.

_Against the Fourth_

[Sidenote: The Fourth Commandment]

He who is ashamed of his parents because of their poverty, their
failings or their lowly position.

He who does not provide them with food and clothing in their need.

Much more, he who curses them, speaks evil of them, hates them and
disobeys them.

He who does not from the heart esteem them highly because of God's

He who does not honor them, even though they do wrong and violence.

He who does not keep the commandments of the Christian Church with
respect to fast- and feast-days, etc.

He who dishonors, slanders and insults the priestly office.

He who dost not pay honor, allegiance and obedience to his lords and
those in authority, be they good or bad.

Among the transgressors of this commandment are all heretics,
schismatics, apostates, excommunicates, hardened sinners and the like.

He who does not help men to keep this commandment and resist those who
break it.

Here belong all forms of pride and disobedience.

_Against the Fifth_

[Sidenote: The Fifth Commandment]

He who is angry with his neighbor.

He who sayeth to his neighbor, _Raca_, which stands for all terms of
anger and hatred. [Matt. 5:22]

He who sayeth to his neighbor, _Fatue_, "thou fool," which stands for
every sort of vile language, cursing, slander, evil speaking, judging,
condemning, mockery, etc.

He who scolds about his neighbor's sins or failings, and does not
rather cover and excuse them.

He who forgives not his enemies nor prays for them, is not kindly
disposed toward them and does them no good.

This commandment includes also all the sins of anger and hatred, such
as murder, war, robbery, arson, quarreling, contention, envy of a
neighbor's good fortune and joy over his misfortune.

He who does not practice works of mercy even toward his enemies.

He who sets men at enmity with one another.

He who sows discord between man and man.

He who does not reconcile those who are at enmity.

He who does not hinder or prevent wrath and enmity when he is able.

_Against the Sixth_

[Sidenote: The Sixth Commandment]

He who seduces virgins, commits adultery and is guilty of incest and
like unchastity.

He who uses unnatural means to satisfy his desires--these are the
"mute sins."[6]

He who arouses or displays evil desires with obscene words, songs,
tales or pictures.

He who by looks, touch or thoughts arouses his own desires and defiles

He who does not avoid the causes of unchastity, such as gluttony,
drunkenness, idleness, laziness, oversleeping and intimate association
with men or women.

He who by extravagant dress or demeanor incites others to unchastity.

He who gives house, place, time or help to the commission of this sin.

He who does not by word and deed help others to preserve their

_Against the Seventh_

[Sidenote: The Seventh Commandment]

He who practices thievery, robbery and usury.

He who uses false weights and measures, or sells bad wares for good.

He who receives bequests and incomes dishonestly. He who withholds
wages that have been earned, and repudiates a debt.

He who will not lend to a needy neighbor without taking interest.[7]

All who are avaricious and make haste to be rich, and do any of those
other things by which a neighbor's property is withheld or taken away.

He who does not protect another against loss.

He who does not warn another against loss.

He who places an obstacle in the way of his neighbor's profit and
begrudges his neighbor's gains.

Against the Eighth

[Sidenote: The Eight Commandment]

He who conceals or suppresses the truth in a court of law.

He who lies and deceives to another's hurt.

All hurtful flatterers, whisperers and double-dealers.

He who speaks evil of his neighbor's possessions, lie, words and works
and defames them.

He who gives place to slanderers, helps them on and does not resist

He who does not use his tongue to defend his neighbor's good name.

He who does not rebuke the slanderer.

He who does not say all good of every man and keep silent about all

He who conceals or does not defend the truth.

_Against the Last Two_

[Sidenote: The Ninth and Tenth Commandments]

The last two commandments have no place in confession[8], but are set
as a goal to which we are to attain, and toward which, through
repentance and by the help and grace of God, we are daily to strive;
or wicked inclinations do not wholly die, until the flesh turns to
dust and is new created[9].

The "five senses"[10] are included in the Fifth and Sixth
Commandments; the "six works of mercy," in the Fifth and Seventh; of
the "seven deadly sins," pride is included in the First and Second,
unchastity in the Sixth, anger, and hatred in the Fifth, gluttony in
the Sixth, indolence in the Third, and indeed in all the commandments.
The "alien sins" are included in all the commandments, or it is
possible to sin against all the commandments by bidding, advising and
helping others to sin against them. The "crying sins" and the "mute
sins" are committed against the Fifth, Sixth and Seventh Commandments,

In all these works we see nothing else than self-love, which seeks its
own, takes from God what is His, from men what is theirs, and out of
all it is and all it has and all it can do gives nothing either to God
or men. St. Augustine well says, "The beginning of all sin is the love
of one's own self."[11]

From all this it follows that the commandments command nothing but
love and forbid nothing but love; nothing but love fulfils the
commandments and nothing but love breaks them. Wherefore, St. Paul
says that love is the fulfilling of all commandments; just as evil
love is the transgression of all commandments.

The Fulfilment of the Commandments

Of the First

[Sidenote: The First Commandment]

To fear and love God in true faith, and always, in all our works, to
trust Him firmly, and be wholly, completely, altogether resigned in
all things, whether they be evil or good.

Here belongs whatever is written in all the Scriptures concerning
faith, hope and love of God, all of which is briefly comprehended in
this commandment.

_Of the Second_

[Sidenote: The Second Commandment]

To praise, honor, bless and call upon God's Name, and to count our own
name and honor as altogether nothing, so that God alone may be
praised; for He alone is all things, and worketh all things.

Here belongs all that is taught in the Scripture about rendering
praise and honor and thanks to God, about God's name and about joy in

_Of the Third_

[Sidenote: The Third Commandment]

To prepare oneself for God and to seek His grace by praying, hearing
mass and the Gospel, and meditating on the sufferings of Christ, so
that one goes to the sacrament in a spiritual manner; for this
commandment requires a soul "poor in spirit," [Matt. 5:3.] which
offers its nothingness to God, that He may be its God and receive in
it the honor due His work and Name according to the first two

Here belongs all that is commanded about worship, the hearing of
sermons, and good works by which the body is made subject to the
spirit, so that all our works may be God's and not our own.

_Of the Fourth_

[Sidenote: The Fourth Commandment]

Willing obedience, humility, submission to all authority because it is
God's good-pleasure, as the Apostle St. Peter says, without retort,
complaint or murmuring.

Here belongs all that is written of obedience, humility,
submissiveness and reverence.

_Of the Fifth_

[Sidenote: The Fifth Commandment]

Patience, meekness, kindness, peacefulness, mercy, and a heart in all
things sweet and kindly, without hatred, anger or bitterness toward
any man, even toward enemies. Here belong all the teachings about
patience, meekness, peace and concord.

_Of the Sixth_

Chastity, purity and modesty, in works, words, demeanor and thoughts;
moderation in eating, drinking and sleeping; and everything that
furthers chastity.

Here belong all the teachings about chastity, fasting, sobriety,
moderation, prayer, watching, laboring and everything by which
chastity is preserved.

_Of the Seventh_

[Sidenote: The Seventh Commandment]

Poverty of spirit, charity, willingness to lend and give of one's
possessions, and a life free from greed and avarice. Here belong all
the teachings about avarice, unrighteous wealth, usury, guile, deceit,
injury and hindrance of one's neighbor in temporal things.

_Of the Eighth_

[Sidenote: The Eight Commandment]

A peaceful, wholesome tongue, that injures no one and profits every
one, that reconciles those that are at enmity, apologizes for those
that are slandered and takes their part; in short, truthfulness and
simplicity in speech. Here belong all the teachings about talking and
keeping silent in matters which concern one's neighbor's honor and
rights, his cause and his salvation.

_Of the Last Two_

[Sidenote: The Ninth and Tenth Commandments]

That entire chastity and utter despising of temporal desire and
possessions, which are perfectly attained only in the life to come.

In all these works we see nothing else than the love of others--that
is, of God and of one's neighbor--which seeketh not its own, but what
is God's and its neighbor's [1 Cor. 13:5], and surrendereth itself
freely to every one to be his, to serve him and to do his will.

Thus you see that the Ten Commandments contain, in a very brief and
orderly manner, all the teaching that is needful for man's life; and
if a man desires to keep them, he has good works or every hour of his
life, and has no need to choose him other works, to run hither and
thither, and do what is not commanded[12].

All this is evident from the act that these commandments teach nothing
about what a man shall do or not do or himself, or what he shall ask
of others, but only what he shall do and not do for others--God and
man. From this we are to learn that their fulfilment consists in love
toward others, not toward ourselves; for in his own behalf man already
seeks and does and leaves undone too much. He needs not to be taught
this, but to be kept from it. Therefore he lives best who lives in no
wise for himself, and he who lives for himself, lives worst; for so
the Ten Commandments teach. From them we learn how few men lead good
lives; nay, as man, no one can lead a good life. Knowing this, we must
learn next whence we shall get the power to lead good lives and to
keep the Commandments[13].


[Sidenote: Division of the Creed]

The Creed is divided into three parts[14], according to the Creed
three Persons of the holy and divine Trinity who are therein
mentioned. The first part belongs to the Father, the second to the
Son, the third to the Holy Ghost; for the Trinity is the chief thing
in the Creed, on which everything else depends.

[Sidenote: Two Ways of Believing]

We should note that there are two ways of believing. One way is to
believe about God, as I do when I believe that what is said of God is
true; just as I do when I believe what is said about the Turk, the
devil or hell. This faith is knowledge or observation rather than
faith. The other way is to believe in God, as I do when I not only
believe that what is said about Him is true, but put my trust in Him,
surrender myself to Him and make bold to deal with Him, believing
without doubt that He will be to me and do to me just what is said of
Him. I could not thus believe in the Turk or in any man, however
highly his praises might be sung. For I can readily believe that a man
is good, but I do not venture on that account to build my faith on

[Sidenote: True Faith]

This faith, which in He or death dares to believe that God is what He
is said to be, is the only faith that makes a man a Christian and
obtains from God whatever it will. This faith no false and evil heart
can have, for it is a living faith; and this faith is commanded in the
First Commandment, which says, "I am the Lord thy God, thou shalt have
no other gods." Wherefore the word _in_ is rightly used; and it is
diligently to be noted that we may not say, "I believe God the
Father," or "about the Father," but "_in_ God the Father, _in_ Jesus
Christ, _in_ the Holy Ghost." This faith we should render to no one
but to God. Therefore we confess the divinity of Jesus Christ and of
the Holy Ghost, when we believe in them even as we believe in the
Father; and just as our faith in all three Persons is one and the same
faith, so the three Persons are one and the same God.

The First Part of the Creed

[Sidenote: The First Article]

_I believe in God the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth._

_This means--_

I renounce the evil spirit, all idolatry, all sorcery and misbelief.

I put my trust in no man on earth, nor in myself, my power, my
learning, my wealth, my piety, nor anything that I may have.

I put my trust in no creature in heaven or on earth.

I dare to put my trust only in the one absolute, invisible,
incomprehensible God, Who made heaven and earth, and Who alone is over
all creatures.

On the other hand, I am not afraid of any wickedness of the devil and
his company, or my God is above them all.

Even though I be forsaken or persecuted by all men, I still believe in

I believe, even though I am poor, unwise, unlearned, despised or in
need of everything.

I believe, even though I am a sinner. For this faith of mine must and
shall soar above everything that is and everything that is not--above
sin and virtue and all else--so that it may remain simply and purely a
faith in God, as the First Commandment constrains me.

Nor do I ask of Him a sign, to tempt Him. [Luke 11:16]

I trust constantly in Him, however long He tarry, and do not prescribe
the goal, the time, the measure or the manner of His working, but in
bold, true faith I leave all to His divine will.

If He is almighty, what can I lack that He cannot give me and do for

If He is Creator of heaven and earth and Lord of all things, who will
take anything from me, or harm me? [Rom. 8:28] Nay, how shall not all
things rather serve me and turn out to my good, if He to Whom all
things are obedient and subject wishes me well?

Because He is God, He can do the thing that is best for me, and knows
what that thing is.

Because He is Father, He wills to do what is best for me, and to do it
with all His heart.

Because I do not doubt, but put my trust in Him, I am assuredly His
child. His servant and His heir forever, and as I believe, so will it
be done unto me. [Matt. 8:13]

The Second Part

[Sidenote: The Second Article]

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

_This means--_

I believe not only that Jesus Christ is the true and only Son of God,
begotten from eternity in one eternal, divine nature and substance;
but also that all things are made subject to Him by His Father, and
that in His humanity He is made Lord of me and of all things which, in
His divinity, He, with the Father, has created.

I believe that no one can believe in the Father or come to the Father
by his own learning, works or reason, nor by anything that can be
named in heaven or on earth, save only in and through Jesus Christ,
His only Son--that is, through faith in His name and lordship. [John

I firmly believe that for my sake He was conceived by the Holy Ghost,
without human or fleshly work, without bodily father or seed of man,
to the end that so He might purify my sinful, fleshly, unclean,
damnable conception, and the conception of all who believe in Him, and
make it spiritual through His own and His almighty Father's gracious

I believe that for me He was born of the pure Virgin Mary, without
harm to her bodily and spiritual virginity, in order that, by the
mercy of His Father, He might make my sinful, damnable birth, and the
birth of all who believe in Him, blessed and harmless and pure.

I believe that He bore His cross and passion for my sin and the sin of
all believers, and thereby has consecrated all sufferings and every
cross, and made them not only harmless, but salutary and highly

I believe that He died and was buried to slay entirely and to bury my
sin and the sin of all who believe in Him, and that He has destroyed
bodily death and made it altogether harmless, nay profitable and

I believe that He descended into hell to overthrow and take captive
the devil and all his power, guile and wickedness, for me and for all
who believe in Him, so that henceforth the devil cannot harm me; and
that He has redeemed me from the pains of hell, and made them harmless
and meritorious.

I believe that He rose on the third day from the dead, to give to me
and to all who believe in Him a new life; and that He has thereby
quickened us with Him, in grace and in the Spirit, that we may sin no
more, but serve Him alone in every grace and virtue.

I believe that He ascended into heaven and received from the Father
power and honor above all angels and all creatures, and thus sitteth
on the right hand of God--that is, He is King and Lord over all that
is God's, in heaven and hell and earth. Therefore, He can help me and
all believers in all our necessities against all our adversaries and

I believe that He will come again from heaven at the last day, to
judge those who then are living and those who have died meanwhile, and
all men, all angels and devils must come before His judgment-seat and
see Him in the flesh; that He will come to redeem me and all who
believe in Him from bodily death and all infirmities, to punish our
enemies and adversaries eternally, and to redeem us eternally from
their power.

The Third Part

[Sidenote: The Third Article]

_I believe in the Holy Ghost, a Holy Christian Church, a communion of
saints, a forgiveness of sins, a resurrection of the body, and a life
everlasting. Amen._

_This means--_

I believe not only that the Holy Ghost is one true God, with the
Father and the Son, but that no one can come to the Father through
Christ and His life, sufferings and death, and all that has been said
of Him, nor attain any of His blessings, without the work of the Holy
Ghost, by which the Father and the Son teach, quicken, call, draw me
and all that are His, make us, in and through Christ, alive and holy
and spiritual, and thus bring us to the Father; for it is He by Whom
the Father, through Christ and in Christ, worketh all things and
giveth life to all.

I believe that there is on earth, through the whole wide world, no
more than one holy, common[15], Christian Church, which is nothing
else than the congregation[16], or assembly of the saints, i. e., the
pious, believing men on earth, which is gathered, preserved, and ruled
by the Holy Ghost, and daily increased by means of the sacraments and
the Word of God.

I believe that no one can be saved who is not found in this
congregation, holding with it to one faith, word, sacraments, hope and
love, and that no Jew, heretic, heathen or sinner can be saved along
with it, unless he become reconciled to it, united with it and
conformed to it in all things.

I believe that in this congregation, or Church[17], all things are
common, that everyone's possessions belong to the others and no one
has anything of his own; therefore, all the prayers and good works of
the whole congregation must help, assist and strengthen me and every
believer at all times, in life and death, and thus each bear the
other's burden, as St. Paul teaches. [Gal. 6:2]

I believe that in this congregation, and nowhere else, there is
forgiveness of sins; that outside of it, good works, however great
they be or many, are of no avail for the forgiveness of sins; but that
within it, no matter how much, how greatly or how often men may sin,
nothing can hinder forgiveness of sins, which abides wherever and as
long as this one congregation abides. To this congregation Christ
gives the keys, and says, in Matthew xviii, "Whatsoever ye shall bind
on earth shall be bound in heaven." [Matt. 18:18] In like manner He
says, in Matthew xvi, to the one man Peter, who stands as the
representative of the one and only Church [Matt. 16:19], "Whatsoever
thou shalt loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven."

I believe that there will be a resurrection of the dead, in which, by
the same Holy Ghost, all flesh will be raised again--that is, all men,
in flesh, or body, the good and the wicked; and, therefore, the
self-same flesh which has died, been buried, mouldered and been
destroyed in many ways shall return and become alive.

I believe that after the resurrection there will be an eternal life
for the saints and an eternal death or sinners; and I doubt not that
the Father, through His Son Jesus Christ our Lord, with and in the
Holy Ghost, will bring all this to pass--that is the meaning of
_Amen_, "It is assuredly and certainly true."

Hereupon follows


[Sidenote: The Preface]

The Preface and Preparation for offering the Seven Petitions to God:
_Our Father Who art in heaven_.

_This means--_

O Almighty God, Who in Thy boundless mercy hast not only granted us
permission, but by Thine only beloved Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, hast
bidden and taught us through His merit and mediation to look to Thee
as Father and call Thee Father, though Thou mightest in all justice be
a stern Judge of us sinners, who have sinned so often and so
grievously against Thy divine and gracious will, and thus have angered
Thee: Put in our hearts, by this Thy mercy, a comfortable confidence
in Thy fatherly love, and make us feel and taste the sweetness of
childlike trust, so that we may joyfully name Thee Father, and know
Thee and love Thee, and call upon Thee in all our necessities. Have us
in Thy keeping, that we may remain Thy children, and not be guilty of
making Thee, dear Father, a terrible Judge, and ourselves Thine
enemies, and not Thy children.

It is Thy will that we not only call Thee Father, but that all of us
together call Thee our Father, and thus offer our prayers with one
accord or all: Grant us, therefore, brotherly love and unity, that we
may know and think of one another as true brethren and sisters, and
pray to Thee, our one common Father, or all men and for every man,
even as one child prays or another to its father.

Let no one among us seek his own things or forget before Thee the
things of others; but, all hatred, envy and dissension laid aside
[Phil. 2:4], may we love one another as good and true children of God,
and thus say with one accord not "my Father," but "_our_ Father."

Moreover, since Thou art not a father according to the flesh nor upon
earth, but art in heaven, a spiritual Father, Who diest not and art
not weak, but unlike an earthly father who cannot help himself,
whereby Thou showest us how immeasurably better a Father Thou art, and
teachest us to hold as nothing in comparison with Thee all earthly
fatherhood, fatherland, friends, goods, flesh and blood: Grant us,
therefore, O Father, that we may also be Thy heavenly children; teach
us to think only of our souls and of our heavenly inheritance, that
our temporal fatherland and earthly lot may not deceive and hold and
hinder us, and make us altogether children of this world, so that with
real and true cause we may say, "Of our _heavenly_ Father," and may be
truly Thy heavenly children.

The First Petition: _Hallowed be thy Name_. The

_This means--_

[Sidenote: The First Petition]

O Almighty God, dear heavenly Father, in this wretched vale of sorrows
Thy Holy Name is so much profaned, blasphemed and put to shame, given
to much which is not for Thine honor, abused in many things and made a
cloak for sin, so that even a shameful life may well be called a
shaming and dishonoring of Thy Holy Name:

Grant us, therefore, Thy divine grace, that we may be on our guard
against everything which doth not serve to the praise and honor of Thy
Holy Name. Help us, that all witchcraft and sorcery may be done away.
Help us, that all conjuring of the devil or of creatures by Thy Name
may cease. Help us, that all false beliefs and superstitions may be
rooted out. Help us, that all heresy and false doctrine which disguise
themselves with Thy Name may come to naught. Help us, that no false
pretence of truth and piety and holiness may deceive any man. Help us
that none may swear or lie or deceive by Thy Name.

Protect us against all false confidence pretending to rest upon Thy
Name. Protect us against all spiritual pride and the vainglory of
worldly honor or reputation. Help us in all our necessities and
weaknesses to call upon Thy Holy Name. Help us in anguish of
conscience and in the hour of death not to forget Thy Name. Help us
with all our goods and in all our words and works to praise and honor
Thee alone, and not thereby to make or seek to make a name for
ourselves, but only for Thee, Whose alone are all things. Preserve us
from the shameful vice of ingratitude.

Grant that by our good works and life all other men may be stirred up
to praise, not us, but Thee in us, and to honor Thy Name [Matt. 5:16].
Help us, that our evil works or weaknesses may give no one occasion to
stumble and dishonor Thy Name or to cease from praising Thee. Keep us,
that we may not desire any temporal or eternal blessing which is not
to the honor and praise of Thy Name, and if we pray for such things,
give Thou no ear to our folly. Help us so to live that we may be found
true children of God, that Thy Fathername may not be named upon us
falsely or in vain.

To this petition belong all the psalms and prayers in which we praise,
honor, thank and sing to God, and here belongs the whole Hallelujah.

The Second Petition: _Thy Kingdom come_.

[Sidenote: The Second Petition]

_This means--_

This wretched life is a kingdom of all sin and wickedness, under one
lord, the evil spirit, the source and head of all wickedness and sin;
but Thy kingdom is a kingdom of every grace and virtue under one Lord,
Jesus Christ Thy dear Son, the Head and Source of every grace and
virtue. Therefore help us, dear Father, and be gracious unto us.
Grant us above all things a true and constant faith in Christ, a
fearless hope in Thy mercy despite all the fearfulness of our sinful
conscience, and a thorough love to Thee and to all mankind. Keep us
from unbelief and despair and revengefulness.

Help us against lewdness and unchastity, and give us a love for
virginity and all purity. Help us out of dissension, war and discord,
and let the virtue of Thy kingdom come--peace, and unity, and quiet
rest. Grant that neither wrath nor any other bitterness may set up its
kingdom within us, but that there may rule within us, by Thy grace,
sweet simplicity and brotherly fidelity, and all kindliness, charity
and gentleness. Help us to have within us no undue sorrow or sadness,
but let joy and gladness in Thy grace and mercy come to us. And help
us, finally, that all sin may be turned away from us, so that we may
be filled with Thy grace, and all virtues and good works, and thus
become Thy kingdom, so that all our heart, mind and spirit, with all
our powers of body and soul, may obediently serve Thee, keep Thy
commandments and do Thy will, be ruled by Thee alone, and may not
follow after self or flesh or world or devil.

Grant that this Thy kingdom, now begun in us, may increase, and daily
grow in power; that indifference to God's service--that subtle
wickedness--may not overcome us and make us all away, but give us
rather the power and earnest purpose not only to make a beginning in
righteousness, but boldly to go on unto perfection; as saith the
prophet, "Lighten mine eyes, lest I sleep the sleep of death or grow
idle in the good life I have begun; and lest the enemy again prevail
against us." [Ps. 13:3 f.]

Help us that we may remain constant, and that Thy future kingdom may
finish and complete this Thy kingdom which is here begun. Help us out
of this sinful, perilous life; help us to long for the life to come,
and more and more to hate this life. Help us not to fear death, but
desire it. Take away from us the love of living here, and all
dependence on this present life, that thus Thy kingdom may in us be
made perfect and complete.

To this petition belong all the psalms, versicles and prayers in which
we pray to God or grace and virtue.

The Third Petition: _Thy Will be done on earth as it is in heaven_.

[Sidenote: The Third Petition]

_This means--_

Our will, compared with Thy will, is never good, but always evil; but
Thy will is always best, lovable above all things and most to be
desired. Therefore, be merciful to us, dear Father, and let nothing be
done according to our will. Grant us and teach us to have real and
perfect patience when our will is broken or hindered. Help us, if
anyone speaks or is silent, does or omits anything that is contrary to
our will, that we become not angry or wrathful, neither curse, nor
complain, nor cry out, nor judge, nor condemn, nor accuse. Help us
with all humility to give place to those who oppose or hinder our
will, and letting our own will go, to praise and bless them and do
good to them as those who, against our own will, fulfil Thy divine
will, which is altogether good.

Give us grace willingly to bear illness, poverty, shame, suffering and
adversity, and to know that these are Thy divine will, or the
crucifying of our will. Help us to bear even injustice gladly, and
keep us from avenging ourselves. Suffer us not to render evil or evil
or to resist force with force, but grant us grace to take pleasure in
this will of Thine, which lays these things upon us, and to give Thee
praise and thanks. Suffer us not to lay it to the charge of the devil
or of wicked men when anything befalls us contrary to our will, but
help us to ascribe it only to Thy divine will, which orders all such
things for the hindering of our will and the increasing of our
blessedness in Thy kingdom.

Help us to die willingly and joyfully, and to welcome death as a
manifestation of Thy will, so that impatience and despair may not make
us disobedient toward Thee. Help us that all our members--eyes,
tongue, heart, hands, feet--be not submissive to their own desires or
will, but be taken captive, imprisoned and broken in Thy will.
Preserve us from all evil, rebellious, obstinate, stubborn and
capricious self-will.

Grant us a true obedience, a submissiveness simple and complete in all
things, spiritual and worldly, temporal and eternal. Preserve us from
the cruel vice of aspersion, slander, back-biting, malicious judging,
condemning and accusing of other men. O keep far from us the great
unhappiness and grievous plague of tongues like these; but teach us,
when we see or hear in others things blameworthy and to us
displeasing, to hold our peace, to cover them over, to make complaint
of them to none but Thee, to give them over to Thy will, and thus
heartily to forgive our debtors and have sympathy with them.

Teach us to know that no one can do us any harm, except he first do
himself a thousandfold greater harm in Thine eyes, so that we may be
moved thereby to mercy rather than to anger, to pity rather than
revenge. Help us not to rejoice when it goes ill with those who have
not done our will or have hurt us or otherwise displeased us by their
way of life; help us also not to be disturbed when it goes well with

    To this petition belong all the psalms, versicles and prayers in
    which we pray to be delivered from sin and from our enemies.

The Fourth Petition: _Give us this day our daily Bread_.

[Sidenote: The Fourth Petition]

_This means--_

The bread is our Lord Jesus Christ[19], Who feedeth and comforteth the
soul. Therefore, O heavenly Father, grant us grace, that Christ's life
and words, His works and sufferings be preached, made known and
preserved to us and to all the world. Help us that in all our life we
may have His words and works before us as a powerful example and
mirror of all virtue. Help us in sufferings and adversities to find
strength and comfort in and through His cross and passion. Help us in
firm faith to overcome our own death by His death, and thus boldly to
follow our beloved Leader into the other life.

Give Thy grace to all preachers, that they may preach Thy Word and
Christ, to profit and salvation, in all the world. Help all who hear
the preaching of Thy Word to learn Christ, and honestly to better
their lives thereby. Graciously drive out of the Holy Church all
strange preaching and teaching from which men do not learn Christ.
Have mercy upon all bishops, priests, clergy and all that are in
authority, that they may be enlightened by Thy grace to teach and
govern us aright by precept and example. Preserve all that are weak in
faith, that they may not stumble at the wicked example of their

Preserve us from heretical and apostate teachers, that we may remain
one, partaking of one daily bread--the daily doctrine and word of
Christ. Graciously teach us to regard aright the sufferings of Christ,
receive them into our hearts, and form them in our lives, to our
salvation. Suffer us not at our last hour to be deprived of the true
and holy body of Christ[20]. Help all priests to use and administer
the holy sacrament worthily and savingly, to the edification of the
whole Church. Help us and all Christians to receive the Holy Sacrament
at its proper season, with Thy grace and to our salvation. And _summa
summarum_, "Give us our daily bread," that is, may Christ abide in us
and we in Him forever, and may we worthily bear His name, the name of

    To this petition belong all prayers or psalms which are prayed for
    rulers, and especially those or protection against false teachers,
    those for the Jews, heretics and all that are in error, and also
    those or all distressed and comfortless sufferers.

The Fifth Petition: _And forgive us our Debts, as we forgive our

[Sidenote: The Fifth Petition]

_This means--_

To this petition a condition is attached, viz., that we first forgive
our debtors. When that has been done we may say afterward, "Forgive us
our debts." That we may do this, we have prayed in the Third Petition,
"Thy will be done." It is God's will that we patiently suffer all
things, and not render evil for evil, nor seek revenge; but render
good for evil, as doth our Father in heaven. Who maketh His sun to
rise upon the good and evil, and sendeth rain upon the thankful and
unthankful [Matt. 5:45]. Therefore, we pray: O Father, comfort our
conscience now and in our last hour, for it is now and will be
hereafter in grievous terror because of our sin and Thy judgment. Send
Thy peace into our hearts, that we may with joy await Thy judgment.
Enter not with us into the sharpness of Thy judgment, for then will no
man be found righteous [Ps. 143:2]. Teach us, dear Father, not to rely
on our own good works or merits, or to comfort ourselves therewith;
but boldly to cast ourselves upon Thy boundless mercy alone. In like
manner, suffer us not to despair because of our blameworthy, sinful
life, but to deem Thy mercy higher and broader and stronger than all
our life.

Help all men who in the hour of death or of temptation feel the
anguish of despair, and especially N. or N. Have mercy also upon all
poor souls in purgatory, especially N. and N. Forgive them and all of
us our sins, comfort them and receive them into grace. Render us Thy
good for our evil, as Thou hast commanded us to do to others. Silence
the evil spirit, that cruel slanderer, accuser and magnifier of our
sins now and at our last hour, and in all anguish of conscience, even
as we too refrain from slander, and from magnifying the sins of other
men. Judge us not according to the accusation of the devil and of our
miserable conscience, and hearken not to the voice of our enemies who
accuse us day and night before Thee, even as we too will not give ear
to those who accuse and slander other men. Remove from us the heavy
burden of sin and conscience, that with light and joyous hearts we may
live and die, do and suffer, trusting wholly in Thy mercy.

    To this petition belong all the psalms and prayers which invoke
    God's mercy upon sin.

The Sixth Petition: _And lead us not into Temptation_.

[Sidenote: The Sixth Petition]

_This means--_

We have three temptations or adversaries, the flesh, the world and the
devil. Therefore, we pray:

[Sidenote: The Flesh]

Dear Father, grant us grace that we may have control over the lust of
the flesh. Help us to resist its desire to eat, to drink, to sleep
overmuch, to be idle, to be slothful. Help us by fasting, by
moderation in food and dress and sleep and work, by watching and
labor, to bring the flesh into subjection and it it for good works.
Help us to fasten its evil, unchaste inclinations and all its desires
and incitements with Christ upon the cross, and to slay them, so that
we may not consent to any of its allurements, nor follow after them.
Help us when we see a beautiful person, or image or any other
creature, that it may not be a temptation, but an occasion or love of
chastity and for praising Thee in Thy creatures. When we hear sweet
sounds and feel things that please the senses, help us to seek therein
not lust, but Thy praise and honor.

[Sidenote: The World]

Preserve us from the great vice of avarice and the desire or the
riches of this world. Keep us, that we may not seek this world's honor
and power, nor consent to the desire for them. Preserve us, that the
world's deceit, pretences and false promises may not move us to walk
in its ways. Preserve us, that the wickedness and the adversities of
the world may not lead us to impatience, revenge, wrath or other
vices. Help us to renounce the world's lies and deceits, its promises
and unfaithfulness and all its good and evil (as we have already
promised in baptism to do), to abide firmly in this renunciation and
to grow therein from day to day.

[Sidenote: The Devil]

Preserve us from the suggestions of the devil, that we may not consent
to pride, become self-satisfied, and despise others for the sake of
riches, rank, power, knowledge, beauty or other good gifts of Thine.
Preserve us, that we all not into hatred or envy or any cause.
Preserve us, that we yield not to despair, that great temptation of
our faith, neither now nor at our last hour.

Have in Thy keeping, heavenly Father, all who strive and labor against
these great and manifold temptations. Strengthen those who are yet
standing; raise up all those who have fallen and are overcome; and to
all of us grant Thy grace, that in this miserable and uncertain life,
incessantly surrounded by so many enemies, we may fight with
constancy, and with a firm and knightly faith, and win the everlasting

The Seventh Petition: _Deliver us from evil._

[Sidenote: The Seventh Petition]

_This means--_

This petition is a prayer against all that is evil in pain and
punishment; as the holy Church prays in the litanies: Deliver us, O
Father, from Thine eternal wrath and from the pains of hell. Deliver
us from Thy strict judgment, in death and at the last day. Deliver us
from sudden death. Preserve us from water and fire, from lightning and
hail. Preserve us from famine and scarcity. Preserve us from war and
bloodshed. Preserve us from Thy great plagues, pestilence, the French
sickness, and other grievous diseases. Preserve us from all evils and
necessities of body, yet in such wise that in all these things Thy
Name may be honored, Thy Kingdom increased and Thy divine Will be
done. Amen.


[Sidenote: The Amen]

The God help us, without doubting, to obtain all these petitions, and
suffer us not to doubt that Thou hast heard us and wilt hear us in
them all; that it is "Yea," not "Nay," and not "Perhaps." Therefore we
say with joy, "Amen--it is true and certain." Amen.


[1] For this translation see Vol. I, p. 222, note 1.

[2] The law that we have outside of divine revelation. C.f. Rom. 2:15.

[3] The possessor of these letters (_Himmels-und Teuelsbriefe_) was
thought to be under the special protection of the spirits.

[4] Magical formulas.

[5] Practices popularly ascribed to the witches.

[6] See below, p. 364, note 1.

[7] Luther believed, with the mediæval Church, that the lending of
money at interest was a sin. See above pp. 159 ff., and _Weimar Ed._,
XXV, 293 ff.

[8] i. e., In the confession made to the priest. See Vol. I, p. 285,
and Introduction, above, p. 351.

[9] C. Vol. I, pp. 58, 285.

[10] In the manuals for confession with which Luther was familiar sins
were divided into the various classes mentioned here. C. Vol. I, pp.
90 ff.; Gecken, _Der Bilderkatechismus des XV Jhs._, and especially v.
Zezschwitz, II, 197 ff.

[11] _Serm._, 96, 2; _Migne_, XXVIII, 585.

[12] Cf. Vol. I, p. 187.

[13] See above, p. 355.

[14] Luther has here departed from the customary Roman division of the
Creed into twelve articles.

[15] _Gemein._

[16] _Gemeine._

[17] _Christenheit_, cf. Vol. I, p. 338.

[18] _Kirche._

[19] In the catechisms of 1529 Luther abandons this interpretation of
the bread.

[20] i. e. The sacrament of the Lord's Supper.




After the bold utterance of unshaken conviction at the Diet of Worms
Luther disappeared from the scene of his activities. In the darkness
of night he was taken by the friendly "foe" to the secure hiding-place
where the imperial proscription could not affect him. Thus he entered
the Wartburg on May 4, 1521. But the "crowded canvas of the sixteenth
century," bereft of its central figure, threatened to become mere
portrayal of turbulence and confusion. In Wittenberg and other places
the new life of the soul had burst its ancient fetters and was about
to lose its spiritual value in a destructive lateral movement. The
inability of the hesitating elector and the helpless Melanchthon to
stem the tide, caused Luther, in utter disregard of personal safety,
to return to his beloved city on March 6, 1522, and on Sunday, March
9th, and the seven days following to preach the _Eight Sermons_
herewith given, guiding the turbulent waves of popular uprising into
the channels marked by faith and love.

During his absence others had heeded the clarion call to lead the
Church out of its "Babylonian Captivity," and had put into practice
the measures which would carry out the principles he had uttered. The
mass was abolished[1], monks left the monasteries, some priests took
wives, and communion under both kinds was instituted. With these
measures Luther was in sympathy, which is evident from his letters to
Melanchthon[2] and to Wenceslaus Link, Staupitz's successor as the
Augustinian vicar[3], and the treatises _De votis monasticis_ and _De
abroganda missa privata_[4]. But these treatises also show that Luther
was not fully informed of the disturbances accompanying the new
measures. In so critical a time the absence of a great leader was soon
manifest. Melanchthon, ardent in the beginning, could not hold back
the radical procedure of Carlstadt and Zwilling.

Carlstadt, moderate at first in his conduct, nevertheless had sown the
seeds, in his teaching, which resulted in the bountiful harvest of
disorder Without Luther's clearness of vision and aptness of speech,
he likewise failed to discern the pitfalls which Luther so carefully
avoided. "In my opinion, he who partakes only of the bread, sins."[5]
"In all things of divine appointment, the divine law must be taught
and observed, even if it cause offence."[6] "The Gregorian chant keeps
the spirit away from God. . . . Organs belong to theatrical
exhibitions and princes' palaces."[7] "That we have images in churches
is wrong and contrary to the first commandment. To have carved and
painted idols standing on the altar is even more harmful and
devilish."[8] For his Scripture proof in other places, too,
particularly concerning vows, Carlstadt drew largely from the Old
Testament. On Christmas Day, 1521, he preached a sermon in which he
opposed going to confession before receiving communion. Attired in his
street garb he then proceeded to celebrate an "evangelical" mass by
giving communion in both kinds to the people, placing the elements
directly into their hands. Many of the communicants had not previously
confessed, nor observed the prescribed rule of fasting. From a denial
of any distinction between clergy and laity, Carlstadt finally
progressed to a condemnation of all scholarship and learning as
unnecessary to an understanding of the Divine Word, since it is given
directly from above[9].

Without the theological acumen of Carlstadt, and with less restraint,
the Augustinian monk Gabriel Zwilling labored in season and out of
season for the new order of things. In December the Zwickau prophets,
Niclas Storch, Thomas Drechsel, weavers by trade, and Marcus Stübner,
a former university student, appeared in Wittenberg claiming direct
divine inspiration, and preached the overturn of present conditions.
Earlier in the month (December 3d) some students and citizens had
caused a disturbance in the parish church and driven off the priests
who were saying mass. Soon after a number of citizens crowded into the
council chamber and demanded of the three councillors who presided
over Wittenberg the abolition of the mass by law, the restitution of
the cup, and the release of those in custody for causing the tumult of
December 3d. On Christmas Eve both the parish and the castle churches
witnessed scenes of wild disorder. On January 11th the monks, led by
Zwilling, destroyed all the altars except one in the convent church,
and cast out the images. The city council, in the endeavor to restore
order, on January 24, 1522, in full accord with a commission of the
university, adopted a "Worthy Ordinance for the princely City of
Wittenberg,"[10] in which the popular demands were met and a date was
fixed on which the images should be removed from the parish
church--the only one of the four churches of Wittenberg subject to the
council's control. But the excited populace did not await the day.
Taking the matter into its own hands it invaded the church, tore
images and pictures from the walls and burned them up.

The council and the university turned to Luther. Immediately after his
three-day secret visit to Wittenberg in December, on which he had
sensed the unrest in Wittenberg and elsewhere, he issued his _Faithful
Exhortation for all Christians to shun Riot and Rebellion_[11], in
which he emphasizes the principles reiterated in the _Eight Sermons_,
the sufficiency of the Word and the duty of dealing gently with the
weak. But the time for writing had passed. "Satan had broken into his
sheepfold" and had caused such havoc that he could not meet it "by
writing."[12] In spite of the elector's instruction to remain--the
same whose ineffectual measures had failed to avert the storm--Luther
on March 1st bade farewell to the Wartburg. On his way to Wittenberg,
in Borna on March 5th, he wrote the famous letter to the elector[13]
in which he declared that he desired no protection from the elector.
"I come to Wittenberg under much higher protection." He arrived in
Wittenberg on Thursday, March 6th, and on the following Sunday, March
6th, the first Sunday in Lent, he again ascended the pulpit in the
parish church. In an interesting report of an eye and ear
witness--Johann Kessler--we are told that he first gave an explanation
of the Gospel for the day on the temptation of Christ (Matt. 4:1 ff.),
after which "he dropped the text and took up the present affair."[14]
This earlier portion of the sermon has not come down to us. It may be
that Luther likewise first preached on the Gospel for the day on the
following Sunday, and for that reason it is called "a brief summary"
(see Sermon No. 8) in the early printed editions, when, in reality, it
is longer than that of Saturday (No. 7).

The sermons, delivered in a _vox suavis et sonora_[15], produced
immediate results. In a letter by Schurf, dated March 15th, even
before the last of the sermons had been delivered, it is stated that
"Gabriel [Zwilling] has confessed that he was wrong." Carlstadt was
silenced, the city council made acknowledgment to Luther by
substantial gifts and Wittenberg bowed to law and order.

Luther did not publish these sermons himself. He elaborated the
principles here uttered in the treatise, published a few weeks later,
_The Reception of both Kinds in the Sacrament_[16]. A fragment,
covering the thoughts of sermons 1 to 4, and formerly described as a
pastoral letter to the Wittenberg congregation, is now held to be a
piece of written preparation by Luther for these sermons[17].

The notes of a hearer of these sermons furnished the basis for the
printed editions. The Wednesday sermon (No. 4--On the Images) was
published separately at Augsburg and other places; the eight sermons
were published in Augsburg and Mainz. Seven editions of the former and
six of the latter are known.

Johann Aurifaber, the publisher of Luther's Table-talk, also edited
and published these sermons at Eisleben in 1564. His free
amplification of the older text, in an attempt to modernize it, is not
an improvement. His considerable additions to Luther's Scripture
citations are from Luther's own translation of a later date. Yet for
two centuries this edition remained the standard. The _Walch Edition_
was the first again to pay attention to the original text, however
placing the Aurifaber text first. (_Walch Ed._, XX.) The _Erlangen
Edition_ (XXYHI) observes the same order. O. von Gerlach, _Luthers
Werke_, _Auswahl seiner Hauptschriten_ (Berlin, 1841), gives only the
older text (V); Buchwald, in the Berlin Edition (I), gives only the
Aurifaber text. The Weimar Edition (Xc) places the old text on the
upper half of the page, with the Aurifaber recension immediately
below. The translation which follows is based on the older text as
found in the _Weimar Edition_, with which the other editions have been

For further discussion, see, in addition to the literature mentioned,
the biographies of Luther and the Church Histories. Also

Barge's articles in the _Realencyklopädie_, X, 73 ff. and XXIII, 738
ff.; also Kolde's, IV, 639 ff. and XIII, 556 ff.

Barge, _Frühprotestantisches Gemeindechristentum in Wittenberg und
Orlamiinde_, Leipzig, 1909.

Cristiani, _Du Luthéranisme au Protestantisme_, Paris, 1911.

Boehmer, _Luther im Lichte der neueren Forschung_, third ed., Leipzig,

Vedder, _The Reformation in Germany_. New York, 1914.

            A. STEIMLE.

Allentown, Pa.


[1] The consequent closing of the churches except for preaching
services leads Müller (_Luther und Karlstadt_, p. 52) to see in this
the origin of the Protestant custom of closing churches on weekdays.

[2] August 1, 1521. Enders, _Luthers Briewechsel_, III, 208.

[3] December 20, 1521. Enders, III, 257.

[4] Date of both, November, 1521. Both in _Weimar Ed._, VIII, and in
_Erl. Ed., O; var. arg._, VI. The latter also in German (_Vom
Misbrauch der Messe_), _Erl. Ed._, XXVIII.

[5] 24 Theses (July, 1521). Barge, _Andreas Bodenstein von Karlstadt_,
I, 291. Repeated in _De celebratione missae_ (October), _ibid._, 487.

[6] _De scandalo et missa_ (Oct. or Nov.), _ibid._, 491.

[7] _De cantu gregoriano disputatio_ (1520), _ibid._, 492.

[8] _Von Abthuung der Bilder_ (January, 1522), _ibid._, 367.

[9] See Köstlin-Kawesau, _Martin Luther_, I, 485.

[10] Published by H. Lietzmann in _Kleine Texte_, no. 21; also in
Richter, _Kirchenordnungen_, II, 484.

[11] _Weimar Ed._, VIII, 670 ff. _Erl. Ed._, XXII, 43 ff.

[12] Luther's letter to the elector on March 7th. De Wette, II, 138;
_Weimar Ed._, Xc Introd., xlvii f.

[13] Enders, III, 484.

[14] Kessler, _Sabbata_, _St. Gallen_, 1902. Quoted at length in
_Weimar Ed._, Xc, Introduction, lii.

[15] Letter of Albert Burer, _Briewechsel des Beatus Rhenanus_, 303.
See also Introd., liii, in _Weimar Ed._, Xc.

[16] _Weimar Ed._, Xb; _Erl. Ed._, XXVIII.

[17] See Kawerau, _Luthers Rückkehr von der Wartburg_, 67. Fragment in
full in _Weimar Ed._, Xc, Introduction, lv ff., where see also a
recently discovered short Latin fragment, which served a similar


Preached at Wittenberg in Lent, 1522

Treating Briefly of the Mass, Images, Both Kinds In The Sacrament,
Eating of Meats, Private Confession, etc.



[Sidenote: The Chief Things]

The challenge of death comes to us all, and no one can die for
another. Every one must fight his own battle with death by himself,
alone. We can shout into one another's ears, but every one must be
prepared finally to meet death alone. I will not be with you then, nor
you with me. Therefore every one must know for himself the chief
things in Christianity, and be armed therewith. They are the same
which you, my beloved, have long ago heard from me.

In the first place, We must know that we are the children of wrath,
and all our works, intentions and thoughts are nothing at all. To
prove this point we must have a clear, strong text, and although there
are many such in the Bible I will not overwhelm you with them, but ask
you to note just this one, "We are all the children of wrath." [Eph.
2:3] And pray, do not boast in reply: I have builded an altar, given a
foundation for masses, etc.

Secondly, That God has sent us His only-begotten Son that we may
believe in Him, and whosoever will put his trust in Him, should be
free from sin and a child of God, as John declares in the first
chapter, "He gave them power to become the sons of God, even to them
that believe in his name." [John 1:12] Here we should all be
thoroughly at home in the Bible and be ready with many passages to
confront the devil. In respect to these two points nothing seems to be
lacking or amiss, but they have been rightly preached to you; I should
be very sorry if it were otherwise. Nay, I am well aware and I dare
say, that you are more learned herein than I, and that there are not
only one, two, three, or four, but perhaps ten or more, who have this
wisdom and enlightenment.

[Sidenote: Love]

Thirdly, There must also be love, and through love we must do unto one
another as God has done unto us through faith. For without love faith
is nothing, as St. Paul says, I Cor. ii, "If I could speak with the
tongues of angels, and of the highest things in faith, and have not
love, I am nothing." [1 Cor. 13:1] And here, dear friends, have you
not grievously failed? I see no signs of love among you, and I observe
that you have not been grateful to God for His rich gifts and

Let us beware lest Wittenberg become Capernaum. I notice that you have
a great deal to say of the doctrine which is preached to you, of faith
and of love. This is not surprising; an ass can almost intone the
lessons, and why should you not be able to repeat the doctrines and
formulas? Dear friends, the kingdom of God,--and we are that
kingdom,--consists not in speech or in words, but in deeds, in works
and exercises. God does not want hearers and repeaters of words, but
doers and followers who exercise themselves in the faith that worketh
by love. For a faith without love is not enough--rather it is not
faith at all [1 Cor. 13:12], but a counterfeit of faith, just as a
face seen in a mirror is not a real face, but merely the reflection of
a face.

[Sidenote: Patience]

Fourthly, We likewise need patience. For whoever has faith, trusts in
God and shows love to his neighbor, practicing it day by day, must
needs suffer persecution. For the devil never sleeps, and continually
molests. But patience works and produces hope, which freely yields
itself to God and finds solace in Him [Rom. 5:4]. Thus faith, by much
affliction and persecution, ever increases, and is strengthened day by
day. And the heart which by God's grace has received such virtues must
ever be active and freely expend itself for the benefit and service of
the brethren, even as it has received from God.

[Sidenote: Forbearance]

And here, dear friends, one must not insist upon his rights, but must
see what may be useful and helpful to his brother, as St. Paul says,
_Omnia mihi licent, sed non omnia expediunt_, "All things are lawful
for me, but not all things are expedient." [1 Cor. 6:12] We are not
all equally strong in faith; some of you have a stronger faith than I.
Therefore we must not look upon ourselves, or our strength, or our
rank, but upon our neighbor, for God has said through Moses, "I have
borne and nourished thee, even as a mother her child." [Deut. 1:31]
How does a mother nourish her child? First, she feeds it with milk,
then gruel, then eggs and soft food. If she weaned it and at once gave
it the ordinary, coarse food, the child would never thrive. So we
should also deal with our brother, have patience with him for a time,
suffer his weakness and help him bear it; we should give him milk-food
[1 Peter 2:2], too, as was done with us, until he likewise grows
strong, and thus we do not travel heavenward alone, but bring the
brethren, who are not now on our side, with us. If all mothers were to
abandon their children, where would we have been? Dear brother, if you
have suckled long enough, do not at once cut off the breast, but let
thy brother be nourished also. I would not have gone so far as you
have done, if I had been here. What you did was good, but you have
gone too fast. For there are also brothers and sisters on the other
side who belong to us, and must still be won.

Let me illustrate. The sun has two properties, light and heat. No king
has power enough to bend or guide the light of the sun; it remains
straight in the place where it shines. But the heat may be turned and
guided, and yet is ever about the sun. Thus the faith must always
remain pure and immovable in the heart, never wavering; but love moves
and is guided, according as our neighbors may grasp it or follow us.
There are some who can run, others must walk, still others can hardly
creep. Therefore we must not look upon our own, but upon our brother's
powers, so that he who is weak in faith, and attempts to follow the
strong, may not be destroyed of the devil. Therefore, dear brethren,
obey me. I have never been a destroyer, and I was also the very first
whom God called to this work. Neither can I run away, but must remain
as long as it pleases God. I was the first, too, to whom God revealed
it, to preach His Word to you; moreover, I am sure that you have the
pure Word of God.

[Sidenote: Abolishing the Mass]

Let us, therefore, take up this matter with fear and humility, cast
ourselves at one another's feet, join hands with each other, and help
one another. I will do my part, which is no more than my duty, for I
love you even as I love my own soul. For here we battle not against
pope or bishop, but against the devil [Eph. 6:12], and do you imagine
he is asleep? He sleeps not, but sees the true light rising, and to
keep it from shining into his eyes he would make a flank attack--and
he will succeed, if we are not on our guard. I know him well[1], and I
hope, too, that with the help of God I am his master. But if we yield
him but an inch, we must soon look to it how we may be rid of him.
Therefore all those have erred who have consented and helped to
abolish the mass--in itself a good undertaking, but not accomplished
in an orderly way. You say it was right according to the Scriptures.
I agree, but what becomes of order? For it was done in wantonness,
with no regard to proper order and with offence to your neighbor. If,
beforehand, you had called upon God in earnest prayer, and had
obtained the aid of the authorities, one could be certain that it had
come from God. I, too, would have taken steps toward the same end if
it had been a good thing to do; and if the mass were not so evil a
thing, I would introduce it again. For I cannot defend your action, as
I have just said. To the papists and the blockheads I could defend it,
for I could say: How do you know whether it was done with good or bad
intention, since the work in itself was really a good work? But I can
find nothing to reply to the devil. For if on their deathbeds the
devil reminds those who began this affair of texts like these, "Every
plant, which My father hath not planted, shall be rooted up," [Matt.
15:13] or "I have not sent them, yet they ran," [Jer. 23:21] how will
they be able to withstand?[2] He will cast them into hell. But I have
a weapon to brandish in the devil's face, so that the wide world will
become too small for him: I know that in spite of my reluctance I was
regularly called by the Council to preach in this place. And I would
that you should have the same assurance as I. You could so easily have
consulted me about the matter.

[Sidenote: "Must" and "Free"]

I was not so far away that you could not reach me with a letter,
especially since I did not interfere with you in any way. Did you want
to begin something, and then leave me to shoulder the responsibility?
That is more than I can undertake, and I will not do it. Here one can
see that you have not the Spirit, in spite of your deep knowledge of
the Scriptures. Take note of these two things, "must" and "free." The
"must" is that which necessity requires, and which must ever be
unyielding; as, for instance, the faith, which I shall never permit
any one to take away from me, but which I must always keep in my heart
and freely confess before every one. But "free" is that in which I
have choice, and may use or not, yet in such wise that it profit my
brother and not me. Now do not make a "must" out of what is "free," as
you have done, so that you may not be called to account for those who
were led astray by your exercise of liberty without love. For if you
entice any one to eat meat on Friday, and he is troubled about it on
his deathbed, and thinks, Woe is me, for I have eaten meat and I am
lost! God will call you to account for that soul. I would like to
begin many things, in which but few would follow me; but what is the
use? I know that those who have begun this thing, when it comes to the
point, cannot maintain themselves, and will be the first to retreat.
How would it be, if I brought the people to the point of attack, and
though I had been the foremost to exhort others, I would then flee,
and not face death with courage? How the poor people would be

Let us, therefore, feed others also with the milk which we received,
until they, too, become strong in the faith. For there are many who
are otherwise in accord with us and who would also gladly accept this
one thing, but they do not yet fully understand it--all such we drive
away. Therefore, let us show love to our neighbors, or our work will
not endure. We must have patience with them for a time, and not cast
out him who is weak in the faith; much more should we regulate our
doing and our not doing according to the demands of love, provided no
injury is done to our faith. If we do not earnestly pray to God, and
act circumspectly in this matter, the thing looks to me as if all the
misery which we have begun to cause the papists will all upon us.
Therefore I could no longer remain away, but was compelled to come and
say these things to you.

This is enough about the mass; tomorrow we shall treat of the images.



[Sidenote: Necessity and Choice]

Dear Friends: You heard yesterday the characteristics of a Christian
man, how his whole life is faith and love. Faith is directed toward
God, love toward man and one's neighbor, and consists in such love and
service for him as we have received from God without our work and
merit. Thus there are two things: the one, which is the most needful,
and which must be done in one way and no other; the other, which is a
matter of choice and not of necessity, which may be kept or not,
without endangering faith or incurring hell. In both, love must deal
with our neighbor in the same manner as God has dealt with us; it must
walk the straight road, straying neither to the let nor to the right.
In the things which are "musts" and are matters of necessity, such as
believing in Christ, love nevertheless never uses force or undue
constraint. Thus the mass is an evil thing, and God is displeased with
it, because it is performed as a sacrifice and work of merit.
Therefore it must be abolished. Here there is no room for question,
just as little as if you should ask whether you should pray to God.
Here we are entirely agreed: the private mass must be abolished, as I
have said in my writings[3]. And I heartily wish it would be abolished
everywhere and only the evangelical mass for all the people be
retained. Yet Christian love should not employ harshness here nor
force the matter. It should be preached and taught with tongue and
pen, that to hold mass in such a manner is a sin, but no one should be
dragged away from it by force. The matter should be let to God; His
word should do the work alone, without our work. Why? Because it is
not in my power to fashion the hearts of men as the potter moulds the
clay, and to do with them as I please. I can get no farther than to
men's ears; their hearts I cannot reach. And since I cannot pour faith
into their hearts, I cannot, nor should I, force any one to have
faith. That is God's work alone, who causes faith to live in the
heart. Therefore we should give free course to the Word, and not add
our works to it. We have the _jus verbi_[4], but not the
_executio_[5]; we should preach the Word, but the consequences must be
let to God's own good pleasure.

[Sidenote: Compulsion and Persuasion]

Now if I should rush in and abolish the mass by force, there are many
who would be compelled to consent to it and yet not know their own
minds, but say: I do not know if it is right or wrong, I do not know
where I stand, I was compelled by force to submit to the majority. And
this forcing and commanding results in a mere mockery, an external
show, a fool's play, man-made ordinances, sham-saints and hypocrites.
For where the heart is not good, I care nothing at all for the work.
We must first win the hearts of the people. And that is done when I
teach only the Word of God, preach the Gospel and say: "Dear lords or
pastors, desist from holding the mass, it is not right, you are
sinning when you do it; I cannot refrain from telling you this." But I
would not make it an ordinance for them, nor urge a general law; he
who would follow me could do so, and he who refused would remain
without. In the latter case the Word would sink into the heart and
perform its work. Thus he would become convinced and acknowledge his
error, and all away from the mass; to-morrow another would do the
same, and thus God would accomplish more with His Word than if you and
I would forge into one all power and authority. For if you have won
the heart, you have won the whole man--and the mass must finally fall
of its own weight and come to an end. And if the hearts and minds of
all men are united in the purpose--abolish the mass; but if all are
not heart and soul for its abolishment--leave it in God's hands, I
beseech you, otherwise the result will not be good. Not, indeed, that
I would again set up the mass; I let it live in God's name. Faith must
not be chained and imprisoned, nor bound by an ordinance to any work.
This is the principle by which you must be governed. For I am sure you
will not be able to carry out your plans, and if you should carry them
out with such general laws, then I will recant all the things that I
have written and preached, and I will not support you, and therefore I
ask you plainly: What harm can the mass do to you? You have your
faith, pure and strong, toward God, and the mass cannot hurt you.

[Sidenote: Paul's Method]

Love, therefore, demands that you have compassion on the weak, as all
the apostles had. Once, when Paul came to Athens, a mighty city, he
found in the temple many altars, and he went from one to the other and
looked at them all [Acts 17:16 ff.], but did not touch any one of them
even with his foot. But he stood in the midst of the market-place and
said they were all idolatrous works, and begged the people to forsake
them; yet he did not destroy one of them by force. When the word took
hold of their hearts, they forsook their idols of their own accord,
and in consequence idolatry fell of itself. Now, if I had seen that
they held mass, I would have preached and admonished them concerning
it. Had they heeded my admonition, they would have been won; if not, I
would nevertheless not have torn them from it by the hair or employed
any force, but simply allowed the Word to act, while I prayed for
them. For the Word created heaven and earth and all things; the Word
must do this thing, and not we poor sinners.

[Sidenote: Luther's Method]

[Sidenote: Jerome and Augustine]

In conclusion: I will preach it, teach it, write it, but I will
constrain no man by force, for faith must come freely without
compulsion. Take myself as an example. I have opposed the indulgences
and all the papists, but never by force. I simply taught, preached,
wrote God's Word; otherwise I did nothing. And then while I slept, or
drank Wittenberg beer with my Philip[6] and with Amsdor[7], the Word
so greatly weakened the papacy, that never a prince or emperor
inflicted such damage upon it. I did nothing; the Word did it all. Had
I desired to foment trouble, I could have brought great bloodshed upon
Germany, Yea, I could have started such a little game at Worms that
even the emperor would not have been safe. But what would it have
been? A fool's play. I did nothing; I left it to the Word. What do you
suppose is Satan's thought, when an effort is made to do things by
violence? He sits back in hell and thinks: How fine a game these fools
will make for me! But it brings him distress when we only spread the
Word, and let it alone do the work. For it is almighty and takes
captive the hearts, and if the hearts are captured the evil work will
all of itself. Let me cite an instance. Aforetime there were sects,
too, Jewish and Gentile Christians, differing on the law of Moses in
respect to circumcision. The former would keep it, the latter not [1
Cor. 7:18 ff.]. Then came Paul and preached that it might be kept or
not, it mattered not one way or the other; they should make no "must"
of it, but leave it to the choice of the individual; to keep it or
not, was immaterial. Later came Jerome, who would have made a "must"
out of it, and wanted laws and ordinances to prohibit it. Then came
St. Augustine, who held to the opinion of St. Paul: it might be kept
or not, as one wished; St. Jerome had missed the meaning of St. Paul
by a hundred miles. The two doctors bumped heads rather hard over the
proposition. But when St. Augustine died, St. Jerome accomplished his
purpose. After that came the popes; they would add something of their
own, and they, too, made laws. Thus out of the making of one law grew
a thousand laws, until they have completely buried us under laws. And
so it will be here; one law will soon make two, two will increase to
three, and so forth.

Let this be enough at this time concerning the things that are
necessary, and let us beware lest we lead astray those of weak



We have heard the things most necessary in Christian life, and what is
a necessary result, namely, the doing away with the private mass. For
the works which are necessary are those which God has either commanded
or forbidden, according to the appointment of the Majesty on high. But
no one shall be dragged to them by the hair, or kept from them by
force, for I can drive no man to heaven with a club. I said this
plainly enough, and I believe you understood what I said.

[Sidenote: Nonessentials]

[Sidenote: Marriage of Monks and Nuns]

We shall now consider the things that are not matters of necessity,
but are let to our free choice by God, and which we may keep or not;
for instance, whether one shall marry or not, or whether monks and
nuns shall leave the cloisters. These things are matters of choice and
must not be forbidden by any one, and if they are forbidden, the
forbidding is wrong, since it is contrary to God's appointment. In the
things that are free, such as being married or remaining single, you
should do on this wise: If you can restrain yourself without burdening
your conscience thereby, do so by all means, but there must be no
general law, and every one shall be perfectly free. Any priest, monk
or nun who cannot restrain the desires of the flesh, should marry, and
thus relieve the burden of conscience. But see to it that you be
well-armed and fortified, so that you can stand before God and the
world when you are assailed, and especially when the devil attacks you
in the hour of death. It is not enough to say: This man or that has
done the same, I followed the example of the crowd, according to the
preaching of the provost[8] or Dr. Carlstadt, or Gabriel[9], or
Michael[10]. Not so, but every one must stand on his own feet and be
prepared to give battle to the devil. You must rest upon a strong and
clear text of Scripture if you would stand the test. If you cannot do
that, you will never withstand,--the devil will pluck you like a
withered leaf.  Therefore the priests who have taken wives, and the
nuns who have taken husbands, in order to save their consciences must
stand squarely upon a clear text of Scripture, such as this one by St.
Paul--although there are many more: "In the latter times some shall
depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits and doctrines
of devils (methinks Paul uses plain language here!) forbidding to
marry and commanding to abstain from meats, which God hath created."
This text the devil shall not overthrow nor devour, it shall rather
overthrow and devour him. Therefore any monk or nun who is too weak to
keep the vow of chastity, should conscientiously examine himself; if
heart and conscience are strong, so that he can defend himself with a
good conscience, let him marry. Would to God all monks and nuns could
hear this sermon and properly understood this matter and would all
forsake the cloisters and thus all the cloisters in the world cease to
exist--this is my earnest desire. But now they have no understanding
of the matter (for no one preaches it to them), and hearing that in
other places many are leaving the cloisters, who however are
well-prepared or such a step, they would follow their example, but
have not yet fortified their consciences and do not know that it is a
matter of liberty. This is bad, although it is better that the evil
should be outside than inside[11]. Therefore I say, what God has made
free shall remain free, and you must not obey if some one forbids it,
even as the pope has done, the Antichrist. He who can do so without
harm and or love of his neighbor, may wear a cowl or a tonsure, since
it will not injure his faith; wearing a cowl will not kill him.

[Sidenote: Monks' Vows]

Thus, dear friends, it is plain enough, and I believe you ought to
understand it and not make liberty a law, saying: This priest has
taken a wife, therefore all priests must take wives. Not at all. Or
this monk or that nun has left the cloister, therefore they must all
come out. Not at all. Or this man has broken the images and burnt
them, therefore all images must be burned--not at all, dear brother!
And again, this priest has no wife, therefore no priest dare marry.
Not at all! They who cannot retain their chastity should take wives,
and for others who can be chaste, it is good that they restrain
themselves, as those who live in the spirit and not in the flesh.
Neither should they be troubled about the vows they have made, such as
the monks' vows of obedience, chastity and poverty (though they are
rich enough withal). For we cannot vow anything that is contrary to
God's commands. God has made it a matter of liberty to marry or not to
marry, and thou fool undertakest to turn this liberty into a vow
against the ordinance of God? Therefore you must leave liberty alone
and not make a compulsion out of it; your vow is contrary to God's
liberty. Suppose I should vow to strike my father on the mouth, or to
steal some one's property, do you believe God would be pleased with
such a vow? And as little as I ought to keep a vow to strike my father
on the mouth, so little ought I to abstain from marriage because I am
bound by a vow of chastity, for in both cases God has ordered it
otherwise. God has ordained that I should be free to eat fish or
flesh, and there should be no commandment concerning them. Therefore
all the Carthusians[12] and all monks and nuns forsake the ordinance
and liberty which God has given when they believe that if they eat
meat they are defiled.

[Sidenote: The Images]

[Sidenote: Moses and Images]

But we must come to the images, and concerning them also it is true
that they are unnecessary, and we are free to have them or not,
although it would be much better if we did not have them. I am not
partial to them. A great controversy arose on the subject of images
between the Roman emperor and the pope; the emperor held that he had
the authority to banish the images, but the pope insisted that they
should remain, and both were wrong. Much blood was shed, but the pope
emerged as victor and the emperor lost[13]. What was it all about?
They wished to make a "must" out of that which is free, and that God
cannot tolerate. Do you wish to change the ordering of the Majesty on
high? Not so; you will not do any such thing. You read in the Law,
Exodus xx, "Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any
likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth
beneath, or that is in the water under the earth." [Ex. 20:4] There
you take your stand; that is your ground. Now let us see! When our
adversaries shall say: The first commandment aims at this, that we
should worship one God alone and not any image, even as it is said
immediately following, "Thou shalt not bow down thyself to them nor
serve them," and declare that the worship of images is forbidden and
not the making of them, they disturb and unsettle our foundation for
us. And if you reply: The text says, "Thou shalt not make any images,"
they answer: It also says, "Thou shalt not worship them." In the face
of such uncertainty who would be so bold as to destroy the images? Not
I. But let us go farther. They say: Did not Noah, Abraham, Jacob build
altars? And who will deny that? We must admit it. Again, did not Moses
erect a brazen serpent [Num. 21:9], as we read in his fourth book? How
can you say Moses forbids the making of images when he himself makes
one? It seems to me, such a serpent is an image, too. How shall we
answer that? Again, do we not read that two birds were erected on the
mercy-seat, the very place where God willed that He should be
worshiped? [Ex. 37:7] Here we must admit, that we may make images and
have images but we must not worship them, and when they are worshiped,
they should be put away and destroyed, just as King Hezekiah brake in
pieces the serpent erected by Moses [2 Kings 18:4]. And who will be so
bold as to say, when called to account: They worship the images. They
will answer: Art thou the man who dares to accuse us of worshiping the
images? Do not believe that they will acknowledge it. To be sure it is
true, but we cannot make them admit it. Remember how they acted when I
condemned works without faith. They said: Do you believe that we have
no faith, or that our works are performed without faith? I can do
nothing more than put my lute back in its pocket; give them a hair's
breadth, and they take a hundred miles.

[Sidenote: St. Paul and the Twins]

Therefore it should have been preached that images were nothing and
that God is not served by their erection, and they would have fallen
of themselves. That is what I did; that is what Paul did in Athens,
when he went into their churches and saw all their idols[14]. He did
not strike at any of them, but stood in the market-place and said, "Ye
men of Athens, ye are all idolatrous." [Acts 17;22] He preached
against their idols, but he overthrew none by force. And you would
rush in, create an uproar, break down the altars and overthrow the
images? Do you really believe you can abolish the images on this wise?
Nay, you will only set them up more firmly. Even if you overthrew the
images in this place, do you think you have overthrown those in
Nürnberg and the rest of the world? Not at all, St. Paul, as we read
in the Book of Acts, sat in a ship on whose prow were painted or
carved the Twin Brothers[15]. He went on board and did not bother
about it at all, neither did he break them off. Why must Luke describe
the Twins at this place? Without doubt he wanted to show that outward
things could do no harm to faith, if only the heart does not cleave to
them nor put its trust in them. This is what we must preach and teach,
and let the Word alone do the work, as I said before. The Word must
first capture the hearts of men and enlighten them,--we cannot do it.
Therefore the apostles gloried in their service, _ministerium_, and
not in its effect, _executio_.

We will let this be enough or to-day, and pray God for His grace.


[Sidenote: The Abuse of Images]

Dear Friends: We have heard the things which are necessary, as for
instance, that the mass is regarded as a sacrifice[16]. Then we
considered the things which are left to our liberty, such as marriage,
the monastic life, the abolishing of images. We have treated these
four subjects, and have said that in all these matters love is the
captain.  On the subject of images, in particular, we saw that they
ought to be abolished if they are going to be worshiped, otherwise
not, although I wish they were abolished everywhere because they are
abused,--it is useless to deny it. For whoever places an image in a
church, imagines he has performed a service unto God and a good work,
which is downright idolatry. And this, the greatest, foremost and
highest reason or abolishing the images, you have neglected, and taken
up the very lowest. For I suppose there is scarcely any man who does
not understand that yonder crucifix is not my God, for my God is in
heaven, but that this is simply a sign. But the world is full of the
other abuse, for who would place an image of silver or of wood in a
church, if he did not think that in so doing he was doing God a
service?  Think you that Duke Frederick, the bishop of Halle, and the
others would have placed so many silver images in the churches, if
they thought it counted nothing before God? Nay, they would not do it.
But this is not sufficient reason to abolish, destroy and burn all the
images; and why? Because we must admit that there are still people who
have not the wrong opinion of them, but to whom they may be useful.
Although they are few, yet we cannot and should not condemn anything
which is still useful to the devotions of any man. But you should have
taught that images are nothing, God cares nothing for them, and that
He is not served, nor pleased when we make an image for Him, but that
we would do better to give a poor man a gold-piece than to give God a
golden image, or God has forbidden the latter, but not the former. If
they had heard this teaching, that images count or nothing, they would
have ceased of their own accord, and the images would have fallen
without any uproar or tumult, even as it was already coming to pass.

[Sidenote: The Devil's Game]

We must, therefore, be on our guard, for the devil is after us,
through his apostles, with all his craft and cunning. Now, although it
is true, and no one can deny that the images are evil because they are
abused, nevertheless we must not on that account reject them, nor
condemn anything because it is abused. That would result in utter
confusion. God has commanded us not to lift up our eyes unto the sun,
etc. [Deut. 4:19], that we may not worship them, for they are created
to serve all nations. But there are many people who worship the sun
and the stars. Shall we, therefore, essay to pull the sun and stars
from the skies? Nay, we will not do it. Again, wine and women bring
many a man to misery and make a fool of him. Shall we, therefore, kill
all the women and pour out all the wine? Again, gold and silver cause
much evil, shall we, therefore, condemn them? Nay, if we would drive
away our one worst enemy, who does us the most harm, we would have to
kill ourselves, for we have no greater enemy than our own heart, even
as Jeremiah says, "The heart of man is crooked," [Jer. 17:9] or, as I
take the meaning, "always twisting to one side or the other." And what
good would that do us?

He who would blacken the devil must have good charcoal, for he, too,
wears fine clothes and goes to the fair. But I can catch him by asking
him: Do you not place the images in the churches because you think it
a special service of God? and when he says Yes, as he must, you may
conclude that what was meant as a service of God he has turned into
idolatry by abusing the images; he eagerly sought what God has not
commanded and neglected God's positive command, to help the neighbor.
But I have not yet caught him; he escapes me by saying: I help the
poor, too; cannot I give to my neighbor and at the same time place
images in churches? That is not true,--for who would not rather give
his neighbor a gold-piece, than God a golden image! Nay, he would not
trouble himself about placing images in churches if he believed that
God was not served thereby. Therefore I freely admit, images are
neither here nor there, neither evil nor good, we may have them or
not, as we please. This trouble has been caused by you; the devil
would not have accomplished it with me, for I cannot deny that it is
possible to find some one to whom images are useful. And if I were
asked about it, I would confess that none of these things give offence
to me, and if just one man were found upon earth who used the images
aright, the devil would soon draw the conclusion against me: Why
condemnest thou that which is still useful in worship? This challenge
I could not answer; he would have successfully defied me. He would not
have got nearly so far if I had been here. He played a bold game, and
won, although it does no harm to the Word of God. You wanted to paint
the devil black, but forgot the charcoal and used chalk. If you would
fight the devil, you must be well versed in the Scriptures, and,
besides, use them at the right time.

[Sidenote: Of Meats]

Let us proceed and speak of the eating of meats. It is true that we
are free to eat any manner of food, meats, fish, eggs or butter. This
no one can deny. God has given us this liberty. That is true;
nevertheless we must know how to use our liberty, and treat the weak
brother differently from the stubborn. Observe, then, how you must use
this liberty.

First of all, If you cannot give up meat without harm to yourself, or
if you are sick, you may eat whatever you like, and if any one takes
offence, let him be offended. And if the whole world took offence, yet
you are not committing a sin, for God can excuse you in view of the
liberty He has so graciously bestowed upon you, and of the necessities
of your health, which would be endangered by your abstinence.

[Sidenote: Liberty and Law]

Secondly, If you should be pressed to eat fish instead of meat on
Friday, and to eat fish and abstain from eggs and butter during Lent,
etc., as the pope has done with his fools' laws, then you must in no
wise allow yourself to be drawn away from the liberty in which God has
placed you, but do just the contrary to spite him, and say: Because
you forbid me to eat meat, and presume to turn my liberty into law, I
will eat meat in spite of you. And thus you must do in all other
things which are matters of liberty. To give you an example: If the
pope, or any one else would force me to wear a cowl, just as he
prescribes it, I would take of the cowl just to spite him. But since
it is left to my own free choice, I wear it or take it off, according
to my pleasure.

[Sidenote: Peter and the Gentiles]

Thirdly, There are some who are still weak in faith, who ought to be
instructed, and who would gladly believe as we do. But their ignorance
prevents them, and if this were faithfully preached to them, as it was
to us, they would be one with us. Toward such well-meaning people we
must assume an entirely different attitude from that which we assume
toward the stubborn. We must bear patiently with them and not use our
liberty, since it brings no peril or harm to body or soul, nay, rather
is salutary, and we are doing our brothers and sisters a great service
besides. But if we use our liberty without need, and deliberately
cause offence to our neighbor, we drive away the very one who in time
would come to our faith. Thus St. Paul circumcised Timothy because
simple-minded Jews had taken offence [Acts 16:3]; he thought, What
harm can it do, since they are offended because of their ignorance?
But when, in Antioch, they would insist that he ought and must
circumcise Titus, Paul withstood them all and to spite them would not
have Titus circumcised [Gal. 2:3]. And he held his ground. He did the
same when St. Peter by the exercise of his liberty caused a wrong
conception in the minds of the unlearned [Gal. 2:11 ff.]. It was on
this wise: When Peter was with the Gentiles, he ate pork and sausage
with them, but when the Jews came in, he would not touch this food and
ate no more with them. Then the Gentiles who had become Christians,
thought: Alas! we, too, must be like the Jews, eat no pork and live
according to the law of Moses. But when Paul found that it would
injure the liberty of the Gospel, he reproved Peter publicly and read
him an apostolic lecture, saying: "If thou, being a Jew, livest after
the manner of the Gentiles, why compellest thou the Gentiles to live
as do the Jews?" [Gal. 2:14] Thus we, too, should order our lives and
use our liberty at the proper time, so that Christian liberty may
suffer no injury, and no offence be given to our weak brothers and
sisters who are still without the knowledge of this liberty.


We have heard of the things that are necessary, such as the mass,
which is regarded as a sacrifice[17], and of the unnecessary things,
such as the leaving of monasteries by monks, the marriage of priests,
and the images. We have seen how we must treat these matters, that no
compulsion or law must be made of them, and that no one shall be
dragged from them by the hair, but that we must let the Word of God
alone do the work. Let us now consider how we must observe the blessed

[Sidenote: Foolish Law of the Pope]

You have heard how I preached against the foolish law the Pope of the
pope and opposed his precept[18], that no woman shall wash the
altar-linen on which the body of Christ has lain, even if it be a pure
nun, except it first be washed by a pure priest. Likewise, when any
one touches the body of Christ with the hand, the priests come running
and scrape his fingers, and much more of the same sort. But when a
priest is incontinent, the pope winks at it. If the woman bears a
child, he lets that pass, too. The altar-linen and the sacrament,
however, dare not be touched.

[Sidenote: Handling the Sacrament]

Against such fools' laws we have preached, and set forth that no sin
is involved in these foolish prescriptions of the pope, and that a
layman does not commit sin if he touch the cup or the body of Christ
with his hands. You should give thanks to God that you have come to
such clear knowledge, which many great men have lacked. But now you
have become just as foolish as the pope, with your notion that you
must handle the sacrament; you would prove that you are good
Christians by touching the sacrament with your hands. You have dealt
with the sacrament, our highest treasure, in such a way that it is a
wonder you were not struck down by thunder and lightning. The other
things God would have suffered you to do, but to make this a matter of
compulsion. He can in no wise tolerate. And if you do not recede from
this, neither the emperor nor any one else need drive me from you, I
will go without urging; yea, I dare say, none of my enemies, although
they have caused me much sorrow, have wounded me as you have wounded
me in this matter. If you would show that you are good Christians by
handling the sacrament, and boast of it before everybody, then indeed
Herod and Pilate are the chief and best Christians. Methinks they
handled the body of Christ when they had him nailed to the cross and
put to death.

[Sidenote: What does "Take" mean?]

Nay, my dear friends, the kingdom of God consists not in outward
things, which can be touched or perceived, but in faith [Luke 17:20].
But you may say: We live and should live in accordance with the
Scriptures, and God has instituted the sacrament in such a manner that
we should take it with our hands, for He said: "Take and eat, this is
my body." [Matt. 26:26] Answer: Though I am convinced beyond a doubt
that the disciples of the Lord took it with their hands, and though I
admit that you may do the same without committing sin, nevertheless I
can neither make it compulsory nor prove that it is the only way. And
my reason therefor is this: when the devil, in his seeking after us,
argues, Where have you read in the Scriptures that "take" means
"seizing with the hands"?--how shall I prove or defend it? Nay, how
will I answer him when he cites, from the Scriptures, the very
opposite, and proves that "take" does not mean to receive with the
hands only, but also to convey to ourselves in other ways? "See, my
good fellow," so he says, "how the word 'take' is used by three
Evangelists in describing the taking of gall and vinegar by the Lord
[Matt. 27:34, Mark 15:23, Luke 23:26]. You must admit that the Lord
did not touch or handle it with His hands, for His hands were nailed
to the cross." This verse is a strong argument against me. Again, he
cites the passage: _Et accepit omnes timor_,--"And fear took hold on
all," [Luke 7:16] where again we must admit that fear has no hands.
Thus I am driven into a corner and must concede, even against my will,
that "take" means not only to receive with the hands, but to convey to
myself in any other way in which it can be done. So you see, dear
friends, we must be on firm ground, if we are to withstand the devil's
attack. Although I must acknowledge that you committed no sin when you
touched the sacrament with your hands, nevertheless I must tell you
that it was not a good work, because it caused offence everywhere.
For the universal custom is, to receive the blessed sacrament directly
from the hands of the priest. Why will you not herein also serve those
who are weak in the faith and abstain from your liberty? It does not
help you if you do it, nor harm you if you do it not.

Therefore no new practices should be introduced, unless the Gospel has
first been thoroughly preached and understood, even as it has been
with you. On this account, dear friends, let us deal soberly and
wisely in the things that pertain to God, or God will not be mocked.
You may mock the saints, but with God it is vastly different.
Therefore, I pray you, give up this practice.

[Sidenote: Both Kinds in the Sacrament]

Let us now speak of the two kinds. Although I hold that it is
necessary that the sacrament should be received in both kinds,
according to the institution of the Lord, nevertheless it must not be
made compulsory nor a general law. We must occupy ourselves with the
Word, practice it and preach it. For the result we should look
entirely to the Word, and let every one have his liberty in this
matter. Where that is not done, the sacrament becomes an external
observance and a hypocrisy, which is just what the devil wants. But
when the Word is given free course and is not bound to any observance,
it takes hold of one to-day and falls into his heart, to-morrow it
touches another, and so on. Thus quietly and soberly it will do its
work, and no one will know how it all came about.

I was glad to know when some one wrote me, that some people in this
city had begun to receive the sacrament in both kinds. You should have
allowed it to remain thus and not have forced it into a law. But now
you go at it pell-mell, and headlong force every one to it. Dear
friends, you will not succeed in that way. And if you desire to be
regarded as better Christians than others, by this that you take the
sacrament into your hands and receive it in both kinds, you are really
poor Christians indeed! In this way even a sow could be a Christian,
for she has a big enough snout to receive the sacrament outwardly. We
must deal soberly with such high things. Dear friends, this dare be no
mockery, and if you would heed me, give it up. If you will not heed
me, no one need drive me away from you--I will leave you unbidden, and
I shall regret that I ever preached so much as one sermon in this
place.  The other things could be passed by, but this cannot be passed
by; you have gone so far that men say: "At Wittenberg there are very
good Christians, for they take the sacrament with the hands and handle
the cup, and then they go to their brandy and drink until they are
drunken." Thus are the weak and simple-minded men driven away, who
would come to us if as much instruction had been given to them as was
given to us.

But if there is any one so stupid that he must touch the sacrament
with his hands, let him have it brought home to his house and there
let him handle it to his heart's content. But in public let him
abstain, since that will not bring him harm and the offence will be
avoided which is caused to our brothers, sisters and neighbors, who
are now so angry with us that they are ready to kill us. I may say
that none of the enemies who have opposed me until now have brought so
much grief upon me as you.

This is enough for to-day; we shall continue on the morrow.


[Sidenote: The Reception of the Sacrament]

In our discussion of the chief things we have come to the reception of
the sacrament, which we have not yet finished. To-day we shall see how
we must conduct ourselves here, and also who is worthy to receive the
sacrament and who belongs there.

It is very necessary here that your hearts and consciences be well
instructed, so that you distinguish well between the outward reception
and the inner and spiritual reception. This is the bodily and outward
reception, when a man receives with his mouth the body of Christ and
His blood. Any man can receive the sacrament in this way, for such
reception may be without faith and love. But that reception does not
make a man a Christian, for if it did, even a mouse would be a
Christian, or it can likewise eat the bread and drink out of the cup.
It is such a simple thing to do. But the true, inner, spiritual
reception is a very different thing, for it consists in the right use
of the sacrament and of its fruits.

I would say in the first place that such reception is the true inner
one, and is a reception in faith. We Christians have no other outward
sign by which we may be distinguished from others than this sacrament
and baptism; but a mere outward reception, without faith, amounts to
nothing. There must be faith to make one well prepared or the
reception and acceptable before God, otherwise it is all sham and a
mere external show, which is not Christianity at all. Christianity is
a thing of faith, which is never bound to any external work.

[Sidenote: The One Requisite: Faith]

But faith (which we all must have, if we wish to go to the sacrament
worthily) is a firm trust, that Christ, the Son of God, stands in our
place and has taken all our sins upon Faith His shoulders, that He is
the eternal satisfaction for our sin and reconciles us with God the
Father. He who has this faith belongs to this sacrament, and neither
devil nor hell nor sin can harm him. Do you ask why? Because God is
his protector and defender. And when I have this faith, then I am
certain God is fighting for me; I can defy devil, death, hell and sin,
and all the harm with which they threaten me. This is the great,
inestimable treasure given us in Christ, which the words of man fail
to describe. Only faith can take hold of the heart, and not every one
has such faith. Therefore this sacrament must not be made a law, as
the most holy father, the pope, has done with his fools' commandment:
All Christians must go to the sacrament at the holy Eastertide, and he
who does not go shall not be buried in consecrated ground[19]. Is it
not a foolish law which the pope has set up? You ask why? Because we
are not all alike; we do not all have equal faith; the faith of one is
stronger than that of another. It is therefore impossible that the
sacrament can be made a law, and the greatest sins are committed at
Easter solely on account of this unchristian command, which would
drive everybody to the sacrament. And if all robbery, usury,
unchastity and all the other sins were cast upon one great heap, this
sin would overtop it--even at the time and place of seeming greatest
silliness. And why? Because the pope can look into no one's heart to
see whether he has faith or not.

[Sidenote: The Result: Assurance]

But if you believe that God is with you and stakes all His treasures
and His blood for you, as if He said: Fall in behind Me without fear
or delay, and then let come what may to attempt thy harm, let devil,
death, sin and hell and all creation try it, I shall go before thee,
for I will be thy captain and thy shield, trust Me and rely upon Me
completely--he who believes thus cannot be harmed by devil, hell, sin
or death; if God fights for him, what can you do to him?

[Sidenote: Who are Worthy]

He who has such faith is fit for the altar and receives the sacrament
as an assurance, or seal, or sign to assure him of God's promises and
grace. But such faith we do not all have; would to God one-tenth of
the Christians had it! See, such rich, immeasurable treasures, which
God in His grace showers upon us, cannot be the possession of every
one, but only of those who suffer either bodily or spiritual
adversity: the bodily through the persecution of man, and the
spiritual by despair of conscience; outwardly or inwardly, when the
devil causes your heart to be weak, timid and discouraged, so that you
know not how you stand with God, and when he reproaches you with your
sins. And in such terrified and trembling hearts alone God desires to
dwell, as the prophet Isaiah says [Isa. 66:2]. For he who has not felt
the battle within him, is not distressed by his sins nor has a daily
quarrel with them, and wishes no protector, defender and shield to
stand before him, is not yet ready for this food. This food demands a
hungering and longing man, for it delights to enter a hungering soul,
one that is in constant battle with its sins and eager to be rid of
them. He who is not thus prepared should abstain for a while from this
sacrament, for this food is not for a sated and full heart, and if it
comes to such, it is harmful. Therefore, if we think upon, and feel
within us, such distress of conscience and the fear of a timid heart,
we shall come with all humbleness and reverence, and not rush to it
pell-mell, with insolence and without fear and humility. We are not
always fit for it; to-day I have the grace, and am fit for it, but not
to-morrow, yea, it may be that or six months I have no desire nor
fitness or it.

Therefore are they the most worthy who are constantly vexed by death
and the devil, and they receive it most opportunely, to remind them
and strengthen them in the faith that no harm can come unto them, for
He is now with them, from Whom no one can take them away; let come
death or devil or sin, they cannot do them harm.

This is what Christ did, when He prepared to institute the blessed
sacrament. He brought anguish upon His disciples and trembling to
their hearts when He said that He would go away from them [Matt.
26:2], and again they were tormented when He said: One of you shall
betray me [Matt. 26:21]. Think you not that that cut them to the
heart? Truly, they received the word with all fear, and sat there as
though they were all traitors to God. And after He had made them all
tremble with fear and sorrow, then only did He institute the blessed
sacrament as a comfort, and consoled them again. For this bread is a
comfort for the sorrowing, a healing for the sick, a life for the
dying, a food for all the hungry, and a rich treasure for all the poor
and needy[20].

Let this be enough at this time concerning the proper use of this
sacrament. I commend you to God.


Yesterday we heard of the use of the holy and blessed sacrament and
saw who are worthy to receive it, even those in whom is the fear of
death, who have timid and despairing consciences and who live in fear
of hell. All such come prepared to partake of this food for the
strengthening of their weak faith and the comforting of their
conscience. This is the true and right use of this sacrament, and
whoever does not find himself in this state, let him refrain from
coming until God also takes hold of him and draws him through His

[Sidenote: Fruit of the Sacrament: Love]

We shall now speak of the fruit of this sacrament, which is love; that
is, that we should treat our neighbor even as God has treated us. Now
we have received from God naught but love and favor, for Christ has
pledged and given us His righteousness and everything that He has, has
poured out upon us all His treasures, which no man can measure and no
angel can understand or fathom, for God is a glowing furnace of love,
reaching even from the earth to the heavens.

[Sidenote: The Lack of Love]

Love, I say, is a fruit of this sacrament. But I do not yet perceive
it among you here in Wittenberg, although there is much preaching of
love and you ought to practice it above all other things. This is the
principal thing, and alone is seemly in a Christian. But no one shows
eagerness for this, and you want to do all sorts of unnecessary
things, which are of no account. If you do not want to show yourselves
Christians by your love, then leave the other things undone, too, for
St. Paul says in I Corinthians, "If I speak with the tongues of men
and of angels, and have not love, I am as sounding brass or a tinkling
cymbal." [1 Cor. 13:1] This is a terrible saying of Paul. And further:
"And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries
of God, and all knowledge; and though I have all faith, so that I
could remove mountains, and have not love, I am nothing. And if I
bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and if I give my body to be
burned, but have not love, it profiteth me nothing." [1 Cor. 13:2, 3]
You have not got so far as that, although you have received great and
rich gifts from God, especially a knowledge of the Scriptures. It is
true, you have the pure Gospel and the true Word of God, but no one as
yet has given his goods to the poor, no one has yet been burned, and
even these things would profit nothing without love. You would take
all of God's goods in the sacrament, and yet not pour them forth again
in love. One will not lend the other a helping hand, no one thinks
first of another, but every one looks out or himself and his own gain,
seeks but his own and lets everything else go as it will,--if anybody
is helped, well and good. No one looks after the poor or seeks how to
help them. It is pitiful. You have heard many sermons about it and all
my books are full of it and have the one purpose, to urge you to faith
and love.

And if you will not love one another, God will send a great plague
upon you; let this be a warning to you, for God will not reveal His
Word and have it preached in vain. You are tempting God too far, my
friends. If some one in times past had preached the Word to our
forefathers, they would perchance have acted differently. Or if the
Word were preached to-day to many poor children in the cloisters, they
would receive it with much greater joy than you. You do not heed it at
all, and give yourselves to other things, which are unnecessary and

I commend you to God.



[Sidenote: Confession before the Congregation]

Now we have heard all the things which ought to be considered here,
except confession. Of this we shall speak now. In the first place,
There is a confession which is founded on the Scriptures; namely, when
some one commits a sin publicly, or with other men's knowledge, and is
accused before the congregation. If he abandons his sin, they
intercede for him with God. But if he will not hear the congregation,
he is excluded from the church and cast out, so that no one will have
anything to do with him. And this confession is commanded by God in
Matthew xviii, "If thy brother trespass against thee (so that thou and
others are offended), go and tell him his fault between thee and him
alone." [Matt. 18:15] Of this confession there is no longer even a
trace to be found, and in this particular the Gospel is put aside in
this place. He who could reestablish it would perform a good work.
Here is where you ought to have taken pains and reestablished this
kind of confession, and let the other things go. For by this no one
would have been offended, and it would have been accomplished without
disturbance. It should be done in this way: When you see a usurer,
adulterer, thief or drunkard, you should go to him in secret and
admonish him to give up his sin. If he will not hear, you should take
two others with you and admonish him once more, in a brotherly way, to
give up his sin. But if he scorns that, you should tell the pastor
before the whole congregation, have your witnesses with you, and
accuse him before the pastor in the presence of the people, saying:
"Dear pastor, this man has done this and that, and would not receive
our brotherly admonition to give up his sin. Therefore I accuse him,
together with my witnesses who were present." And then, if he will not
give up and willingly acknowledge his guilt, the pastor should exclude
him and put him under the ban before the whole assembly, for the sake
of the congregation, until he comes to himself and is received back
again. This would be Christian. But I cannot undertake to carry it out

[Sidneote: Confession to God]

Secondly, A confession is necessary for us, when we go away in a corner
by ourselves, and confess to God Himself and pour out before Him all
our faults. And this confession is also commanded. From this comes the
familiar word of Scripture: "_Facite judicium et justitiam_." [Gen.
18:19] _Judicium acere est nos ipsos accusare et damnare; justitiam
autem acere est idere misericordiae Dei_[22]. As it is written,
"Blessed are they that keep judgment and do righteousness at all
times." [Ps. 106:3] The judgment is nothing else than a man's knowing
and judging and condemning himself, and this is true humility and
self-abasement. The righteousness is nothing else than a man's knowing
himself and praying to God or the mercy and help through which God
raises him up again. This is what David means when he says: "I have
sinned; I will confess my transgressions unto the Lord," [Ps. 32:5 f.]
and, "Thou forgavest the iniquity of my sin; for this all Thy saints
shall pray unto Thee."

[Sidenote: Confession to a Brother]

Thirdly, There is also a confession when one takes another aside, and
tells him what troubles him, so that he may hear from him a word of
comfort; and this confession is commanded by the pope. It is this
urging and forcing which I condemned when I wrote concerning
confession[23], and I refuse to go to confession just because the pope
wishes it and has commanded it. For I wish him to keep his hands of
the confession and not make of it a compulsion or command, which he
has not the power to do. Yet I will let no man take private confession
away from me, and I would not give it up for all the treasures in the
world, since I know what comfort and strength it has given me. No one
knows what it can do or him except one who has struggled much with the
devil. Yea, the devil would have slain me long ago, if the confession
had not sustained me. For there are many doubts which a man cannot
resolve by himself, and so he takes a brother aside and tells him his
trouble. What harm is there, if he humbles himself a little before his
neighbor, puts himself to shame, looks or a word of comfort from him,
and takes it to himself and believes it, as if he heard it from God
himself, as we read in Matthew xviii: "If two of you shall agree as
touching anything that they shall ask, it shall be done for them."
[Matt. 18:19]

[Sidenote: Many Absolutions]

And we must have many absolutions, so that we may strengthen our timid
consciences and despairing hearts against the devil and against God.
Therefore no man shall forbid the confession nor keep or drive any one
away from it. And if any one wrestles with his sins, is eager to be
rid of them and looks or some assurance from the Scriptures, let him
go and confess to another in secret, and receive what is said to him
there as if it came directly from God's own lips. Whoever has the
strong and firm faith that his sins are forgiven, may ignore this
confession and confess to God alone. But how many have such a strong
faith? Therefore, as I have said, I will not let this private
confession be taken from me. Yet I would force no one to it, but leave
the matter to every one's free will.

[Sidenote: Five Comforts for the Conscience]

For our God is not so miserly that He has left us with only one
comfort or strengthening for our conscience, or one absolution, but we
have many absolutions in the Gospel, and are showered richly with
them. For instance, we have this in the Gospel: "If ye forgive men
their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you." [Matt.
6:14] Another comfort we have in the Lord's Prayer: "Forgive us our
trespasses," [Matt. 6:12] etc. A third is our baptism, when I reason
thus: See, my Lord, I am baptized in Thy name so that I may be assured
of Thy grace and mercy. After that we have the private confession,
when I go and receive a sure absolution as if God Himself spake it, so
that I may be assured that my sins are forgiven. Finally I take to
myself the blessed sacrament, when I eat His body and drink His blood
as a sign that I am rid of my sins and God has freed me from all my
frailties; and in order to make me sure of this, He gives me His body
to eat and His blood to drink, so that I shall not and cannot despair:
I cannot doubt I have a gracious God. Thus we see that confession must
not be despised, but that it is a true comfort. And since we need many
absolutions and comforts, because we must fight against the devil,
death, hell and sin, we must not allow any of our weapons to be taken
away, but keep intact the whole armor and equipment which God has
given us or use against our enemies. For you do not yet know what work
it is to fight with the devil and to overcome him. I know it well; I
have eaten salt with him once or twice[24]. I know him well, and he
knows me well, too. I only you knew him, you would not in this manner
drive out confession.

I commend you to God. Amen.


[1] Cp. his experiences at the Wartburg. See Köstlin-Kawerau, I, 439

[2] Carlstadt, without authority, preached, administered the sacrament
and brought about the upheaval in the _parish_ church--Luther's own.
He was archdeacon and preacher at the _castle_ church. See Müller,
_Luther und Karlstadt_, 69 and passim.

[3] In the _Open Letter to the Christian Nobility_ and the _Babylonian
Captivity_. See pp. 125 f., 136 f., and 215 f. of this volume.

[4] Right to speak.

[5] Power to do.

[6] Melanchthon.

[7] See above, p. 61.

[8] Justus Jonas, provost at the castle church.

[9] Gabriel Zwilling, an Augustinian, who, next to Carlstadt, was the
leader in forcing the reforms which Luther is here discussing. See
Introduction, p. 388.

[10] Was Luther led by the name of Gabriel to add a last touch by the
mention of the other archangel, in the thought of St. Paul, that even
an angel from heaven cannot change the Gospel, Gal. 1:8. See note in
_Weimar Ed._, Xc, 438. See also a similar outburst in a letter to
Johann Lang in 1516, six years previous, where Gabriel Biel's name
furnished the incitement. Enders, I, 54; Smith, I, 42.

[11] Namely, of the monasteries.

[12] A monastic order, founded 1084, noted or the strictness of its

[13] The Iconoclastic controversy in the Eastern church, which called
forth the Seventh Ecumenical Council at Nice in 787, whose decrees
were favorable to images in the churches. The controversy, which raged
for over a century, was finally settled in 843. Since the promulgation
of this decree the First Sunday in Lent has been celebrated annually
as the "Feast of Orthodoxy." See _Realencyk._, III, 222 ff.

[14] See above, p. 309.

[15] i. e., Castor and Pollux.

[16] Luther's great objection to the mass was its turning of the
Sacrament into a sacrifice. This view of the mass was for him an utter
perversion of the gospel, and, therefore, comes under the category of
essentials. See Vol. I, pp. 309 ff., and above, pp. 211 ff.

[17] See above, p. 407, note 1.

[18] Cf. above, p. 282.

[19] In the canon law, C. 12, X, _de poenitentiis_.

[20] On the last four paragraphs, cf. above, pp. 15 f.

[21] On this title, see Introduction, p. 389.

[22] "Let there be judgment and righteousness." To keep judgment is to
accuse and condemn ourselves; but to do righteousness is to trust in
the mercy of God.

[23] The treatise _Von der Beichte, ob die der Papst Macht habe zu
gebieten_, written during the sojourn on the Wartburg. See _Weimar
Ed._, VIII, 129; _Erl. Ed._, XXVII, 318.

[24] See above, p. 394.





"Silver and gold have I none: but such as I have give I thee."
Somewhat in the spirit of these words Luther had planned to dedicate a
small book to his host of the Wartburg, Hans von Berlepsch. For a time
Luther had thought that von Berlepsch himself was bearing the expense
of his entertainment in that retreat, and that he was being more
royally treated than he deserved. Not only the material comforts with
which he was surrounded appealed to him, however. Von Berlepsch was
interested in Luther and in Luther's work. He talked with him
seriously on religious questions, and expressed a desire to have more
information, particularly concerning the authority of the teachings of
the Roman Church which had no direct warrant in Scripture.

To this desire of von Berlepsch we can trace the origin of our
treatise, That the Doctrines of Men are to be Rejected. There is no
dedication to von Berlepsch, however, and no reference to the months
of companionship on the Wartburg. Luther returned from the Wartburg
early in March, 1522, and on the 28th of March sent the first part of
the treatise to Spalatin, with the request that it be forwarded to von
Berlepsch. The second part, the Reply to Texts Quoted in Defence of
the Doctrines of Men, was added in a second edition.

This was not the only writing forwarded to von Berlepsch in memory of
the pleasant days spent on the Wartburg. Perhaps of even greater
interest was the gift sent on September 25, 1522--one of the first
complete copies of the German New Testament.

Buchwald has called our treatise "a model of sound explanation of the
Scriptures for the purpose of refuting error." We must caution the
reader, however, not to think of Luther's occasional statements
concerning the authority of Scripture as final. Luther is still
largely upon medieval ground, accepting the premise of the Roman
Church, and refuting the practice of the popes, priests and monks from
the fundamental assumption of the authority of the Scriptures. The
succeeding years, the controversies with the leaders of the peasants
and with the heavenly prophets, led him to clearer views. Where in
this treatise he wrote, "The same things which are found in the Books
of Moses are found in the others. For the other books do no more than
show how in the course of history the word of Moses was kept or not
kept," he was thinking of the one Gospel which he found everywhere in
the Scriptures. But he distinguished carefully between the permanent
and the temporary in the Books of Moses and elsewhere, and speaks of
"that which God has decreed" in the Old Testament as having "come to
an end, and no longer binding the consciences of men" (p. 442). That
which is permanent is the Gospel, "for it is beyond question that all
the Scriptures point to Christ alone" (p. 432). Probably the clearest
statement of his views is found in a sermon preached in 1527: "The
Word was given in many ways from the beginning. We must not only ask
whether it is God's Word, whether God spoke it, but much more, to whom
He spoke it, whether it applies to you or to another." "The false
prophets rush in and say, 'Dear people, this is God's Word.' It is
true, and we cannot deny it; but we are not the people to whom He
speaks" (_Erl. Ed._, 33, 16.)

In reading the treatise, therefore, it will be well to consider when
it was written and for whom; and not to think of it as a final
statement of Luther's views on the authority of the Scriptures.

The treatise is found in the original German in Weimar Ed., X2; in
Erlangen, 28, 318-343; in Berlin, 2, 289-314.

                W. A. LAMBERT.

South Bethlehem, PA.



To all who read or hear this little book may God grant grace and
understanding. Amen.

I, Martin Luther, have published this brief book for the comfort and
saving of the poor consciences which are by the law of men held in
bondage in monasteries and convents; that they may be able to arm and
strengthen themselves with the Word of God, so as to be steadfast in
the pains of death and other trials. But those who are overbold and
unruly, who give no other evidence of being Christians except that
they can eat eggs, meat and milk, stay away from confession and break
the images, etc.,--these I warn that I do not wish my words to help
them. For I regard them as the filthy people who defiled the camp of
Israel [Deut. 23:12 f.], although such cleanliness was enjoined upon
the people that a man was required to go outside the camp to ease
himself and to cover up with earth that which came from him. We also
must endure these unclean lapwings in our nest [Deut. 14:18, Lev.
11:19], until God teach them manners. This Christian liberty I would
have preached only to poor, humble, captive consciences, so that poor
children, nuns and monks, who would like to escape from their bondage
may inform their consciences how they may do so with God's approval
and without danger, and use their freedom in an orderly and Christian
way. May God grant His blessing. Amen.

_That the doctrines of men are to be rejected: proof from the


Moses in Deuteronomy iv, 2 says, "Ye shall not add unto the word which
I command you, neither shall ye diminish aught from it," [Deut. 4:2]

But some one will say that Moses speaks only of his word; but to the
books of Moses there have also been added many books of the prophets
and the entire New Testament. I answer: True; but nothing new has been
added: the same things that are found in the books of Moses are found
in the others. For the other books do no more than show how in the
course of history the word of Moses was kept or not kept. It is indeed
stated in different words and the histories are different, but
thoughout there is one and the same teaching. And here we can
challenge them to point out anywhere in all the books added to the
books of Moses a single word that is not found earlier in the books of
Moses. For it is beyond question that all the Scriptures point to
Christ alone. Now Christ says, in John V, 46, "Moses wrote of me."
[John 5:46] Therefore everything that is in the other books is also in
the books of Moses, and these are the original documents.


Isaiah xxix, 13, which the Lord quotes in Matthew xv, 8: "This people
draweth nigh unto me with their mouth, but their heart is far from me.
But in vain do they worship me, teaching the doctrines and
commandments of men." [Isa. 29:13, Matt. 15:8]

Mark the word of Christ, Who calls it vain worship to serve God after
the doctrines of men. For Christ is not drunken or a fool; on His word
we must build in all things rather than on all angels and creatures
[Gal. 1:8].


The same Christ in the same chapter, Matthew xv, 11, says, "Not that
which goeth into the mouth defileth a man; but that which cometh out
of the mouth, this defileth a man." [Matt. 15:11]

This saying must be well understood, for it is powerful and mightily
overthrows all teaching, custom and manner of life that distinguishes
between foods, and it sets all consciences free from all laws
concerning food and drink; so that it is allowable to eat milk,
butter, eggs, cheese and meat every day, whether it be Sunday or
Friday, Lent or Advent; and no one needs to pay butter-money or buy
butter-letters. For this word stands firm and does not deceive: "That
which goeth into the mouth doth not defile a man."

[Sidenote: Fast-days]

From this it follows, first, that it is a lie when they say that St.
Peter instituted the fast-days and that the commandment of the Church
has made it a mortal sin to eat eggs, butter, milk and meat on
fast-days. For neither St. Peter nor the Church institutes or teaches
anything contrary to Christ. And if they did, we must not obey them.
To do what they ask would indeed not be wicked; but it is wicked to
make a necessity and a commandment of that which is free, and to
pretend that something does defile and is sin of which Christ Himself
says that it is no sin and does not defile.

[Sidenote: Dispensation]

It follows, secondly, that it is sheer devil's knavery for the pope to
sell letters and grant permission to eat butter, meat, etc.; for
Christ in this word has already made it a matter of liberty and has
permitted it.

[Sidenote: Special Fast-days]

In the third place, it is an error and a lie to say that goldfasts[1],
banfasts[2], and the fasts on the eve of Apostles' days and saints'
days must be observed and that their non-observance is sin, because
the Church has so commanded. For against everything of the kind stands
this word of Christ: "That which goeth into the mouth doth not defile
the man." Fasting should be free and voluntary, both as to the day and
as to the food, forever.

[Sidenote: The Orders]

Fourthly, the orders of St. Benedict, and of St. Bernard, the
Carthusians, and all others which avoid the use of meat and other food
because they hold that this is necessary and commanded and that not to
do so would be sin, contradict Christ. For their law flatly
contradicts the word of Christ and says: That which goeth into the
mouth defileth. Then they must make Christ a liar when He says: "That
which goeth into the mouth defileth not the man." Thus you see that
this one saying of Christ mightily condemns all orders and spiritual
rules. For if that which goeth into the mouth does not defile, how
much less will that defile which is put on the body? whether it be
cowl, coat, shirt, hose, shoes, cloak, whether green, yellow, blue,
red, white, motley, or whatever one wish. And the same is true of
places, whether churches, cells or the rooms of a house.

It follows that he who regards it a sin for a monk to go without the
dress of his order, and would not leave it a matter of freedom, also
makes Christ a liar and makes that a sin which Christ freed from sin,
and says Yes! where Christ says No! What then are such monks but
people who say to Christ's very ace. Thou liest! there is sin in that
which thou sayest is not sin. It will not help them to quote St.
Bernard, St. Gregory, St. Francis and other saints. We must hear what
Christ says, Who alone has been made our Teacher by the Father, when
on Mount Tabor He said, Matthew xvii, 5, "This is my beloved Son, in
Whom I am well pleased; hear ye Him." [Matt. 17:5] He did not say.
Hear ye St. Bernard, St. Gregory, etc., but, Hear ye Him, Him, Him, my
beloved Son. Who knows how far the saints sinned or did right in this
matter? What they did, they did not of necessity nor by commandment.
Or if they did it as of necessity and by commandment, they erred, and
we must not forsake Christ to follow them.

All this is confirmed by Christ in the words which follow in Matthew
xv, 11, "That which cometh out of the mouth, this defileth a man. For
out of the mouth, coming forth from the heart, come evil thoughts,
adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies, etc.
These defile a man." [Matt. 15:11] Here we ask, If that alone is sin
and defiles a man, which proceeds from the heart, as Christ here so
strongly argues and decides, how then can butter, milk, eggs, cheese
defile, which proceed not from the mouth nor from the heart, but come
from the belies of cows and of hens? Who has ever seen meat, tonsures,
cowls, monasteries, hair-shirts coming out of men's mouths? Then it
must be the cows that sin in giving us milk and butter, and in bearing

Therefore, all the laws of monks and of men concerning food, clothing
and places and all things that are external, are not only blasphemy of
God and lying and deceiving, but the buffoonery of apes. It is true, a
man may have an inordinate desire to eat excessively and to dress
extravagantly; but that proceeds from the heart, and may refer to fish
as well as to meat, to gray homespun as well as to red velvet. In
short, Christ does not lie when He says, "That which goeth into the
mouth defileth not a man, but that which cometh out of the mouth, this
defileth a man."

But if it is true that neglect to do what men command neither defiles
nor is sin, then on the other hand, the keeping and doing of men's
commandments cannot make us clean nor give us merit; since only the
opposite of sin and of the unclean is clean and gives merit.
Therefore, all of the monastic life neither makes clean nor gives
merit. And that is what the Lord Christ means when He says, Matthew
XV, 9, "In vain do they worship me with the commandments of men."
[Matt. 15:9] Why 'in vain'? Because neglecting them is no sin and
keeping them is no merit, but both are free. They deceive themselves,
therefore, and make a merit of that which is no merit, and are afraid
of sinning where there is no sin, as Psalm xiv, 5, says, "There have
they trembled for fear, where there was no fear." [Ps. 14:5]


St. Paul in I Timothy iv, 1-7 says: "Now the Spirit speaketh
expressly, that 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 consciences seared with a hot iron;
forbidding to marry, and commanding to abstain from meats, which God
hath created to be received with thanksgiving of them which believe
and know the truth. For every creature of God is good, and nothing to
be reused, if it be received with thanksgiving: for it is sanctified
by the word of God and prayer. If thou put the brethren in remembrance
of these things, thou shat be a good minister of Jesus Christ,
nourished up in the words of faith and of good doctrine, whereunto
thou hast attained.  But refuse profane and old wives' fables." [1
Tim. 4:1-7]

O how this thunders and storms against all the works, doctrines and
orders of men. First, if they boast that they have derived their
practice from the pope and from holy fathers, what will Christ's
judgment be? Will He not say, "Paul, My Apostle, is My chosen vessel,
as Luke writes. Acts ix, 15: why then have you not ascribed greater
authority to his word than to that of the pope and the fathers, of
whom you do not know whose vessels they are?" [Acts 9:15] How will
they stand before Him?

Next, we ask them whether butter, eggs, meat, milk and all the food
which they avoid on fast-days and in the orders, have not been created
by God, and are not God's good creatures? Then it is certain that they
are the men of whom Paul here says that they forbid the food which God
has created and has given to believers to use. And they also forbid
marriage, so that they cannot escape: this passage its them and is
spoken of them. Let us see what Paul thinks of them and how he
reproves them.

[Sidenote: Departed from the Faith]

I. They have departed from the faith; for they could not have
introduced such doctrines and works if they had not thought the
doctrines and works would make them pious and save them. But such an
opinion is of itself a sure sign that they have fallen away from the
faith, since it is the work of faith alone to do that which they
expect works to do, as has frequently been said.

[Sidenote: Give Heed to Seducing Spirits]

II. They give heed to seducing spirits. He does not say, "to seducing
men," but "to seducing spirits"; and these are they who pretend to be
spiritual and bear the name spiritual, and claim to be of the Spirit
and in the Spirit. But since they are without faith it is impossible
for them not to err in spiritual matters. Hence this is a fitting
succession: they depart from the faith and follow after error in the

[Sidenote: Doctrines of Devils]

III. Their doctrines he calls "doctrines of devils." This also must
follow where faith and the true Spirit are wanting: the devil gives
them the seducing spirit and leads them on with beautifully varnished
doctrines and works, so that they think they are altogether spiritual.
But since the doctrine does not originate in the Scriptures, it can be
the doctrine of no one but the devil.

[Sidenote: Speakers of Lies]

IV. They are speakers of lies. For they at times quote even the
Scriptures and the sayings of the fathers and wrest them to support
their doctrines, as we see them do daily. But this is all false and a
lie, since the Scriptures are altogether against them.

[Sidenote: Hypocrisy]

V. It is sheer hypocrisy. This is true and needs no comment. For all
that they do is only appearance and show, concerned with external
matters of food and clothes.

[Sidenote: Seared Conscience]

VI. They have their conscience seared with a hot iron; that is, they
have an unnatural conscience. For where there is no sin nor matter of
conscience, they make sin and a matter of conscience, as was said
above. Just as a scar caused by searing is an unnatural mark on the

[Sidenote: Forbid to Marry]

VII. They forbid to marry, by creating an estate in which there shall
be no marriage, as we see in the case of both priests and monks.
Wherefore, behold the judgment of God upon such doctrines and estates:
that they are doctrines of devils, seducing doctrines, false
doctrines, faithless doctrines, hypocritical doctrines. God help us!
Who would remain in them when God Himself passes such judgment? What
would it help you, if you had made a thousand vows and oaths on such
doctrines? Nay, the stricter the vow, the more reason to break it,
because it was made after the devil's doctrines and against God.

[Sidenote: The Tatianists]

But see how cleverly they worm themselves out and ward off this text
from themselves, saying that it does not apply to them, but to the
Tatianists[3], the heretics who condemned marriage altogether. Paul,
however, does not speak here of those who condemn marriage, but of
those who forbid it for the sake of appearing spiritual. Let us grant,
however, that Paul speaks against the Tatianists. Then, if the pope
does what the Tatianists did, why does it not apply to him as well? Be
they Tatianists or the pope, this text speaks of those who forbid
marriage. The words of Paul condemn the work, and make no distinction
about the person who does it. He who forbids marriage is the devil's
disciple and apostle, as the words clearly say. And since the pope
does this, he must be the devil's disciple, as must all his followers;
otherwise, St. Paul must be a liar.

[Sidenote: Forbid Food]

VIII. They forbid the food which God has created. Here, again, you see
that the doctrines of man are ascribed to the devil by God Himself
through the mouth of Paul. What greater and more terrible thing would
you wish to hear concerning the doctrines of men, than that they are a
falling away from the faith, seducing, false, devilish, hypocritical?
What will satisfy those whom this text does not satisfy? But if the
doctrine that forbids certain kinds of food is devilish and
unchristian, that which concerns clothes, tonsures, places and
everything external will be just as devilish and unchristian.

[Sidenote: The Manicheans]

But here again they worm themselves out, and say that St. Paul is
speaking of the Manicheans[4]. We are not asking about that. St. Paul
speaks of the forbidding of meats, and, be they Manicheans or
Tatianists, the pope and his followers forbid meats. Paul speaks of
the work which we see that the pope does. Therefore we cannot save him
from this text. If some other man arose today or tomorrow and forbade
meats, would it not apply to him, even if he were no Manichean? If
that way of interpreting Scripture were true, we might boldly do what
Paul here forbids, and say. It does not apply to us, but to the
ancient Manicheans. But that is not the way. Whether the pope with his
monks and priests be not a Manichean, I do not discuss; but I do say,
that in his teaching and works he contradicts the teaching of St. Paul
more than any Manichean.

[Sidenote: Unthankful]

IX. They are unthankful. For God has created meats, says St. Paul, to
be received with thanksgiving. And they refuse to receive them, that
they may have no occasion to be thankful for God's goodness. The
reason for which is, that they have no faith and do not know the
truth. For Paul says, I Tim. iv, 3, "To them which believe and to them
which know the truth, they are given to be used with thanksgiving." [1
Tim. 4:3] But if they are unbelieving and do not know the truth, as
St. Paul here says they are, they are beyond question heathen,
non-Christians, blind and foolish. And this, I suppose, they regard as
praise of the pope, priests and monks!

[Sidenote: Harmful Preachers]

X. Paul rebukes them as wicked, harmful preachers; for he says that
Timothy shall be a good preacher, nourished up in the words of faith
and of good doctrine, if he will put the brethren in remembrance of
these things. It follows that they who teach the contrary must be
wicked preachers and be nourished with words of unbelief and of wicked

[Sidenote: Old Wives' Fables]

XI. He calls such doctrines profane and old wives' fables. Is not that
foolish talk? He says that the great doctors busy themselves with
fables such as old wives chatter about behind the stove, and calls
them profane, unchristian and unholy idle talk, although the doctors
claim that they are the very essence of holiness!

Who has ever heard the doctrines of men so terribly decried in every
way? that they are apostate, unbelieving, unchristian, heathen,
seducing, devilish, false, hypocritical, searing the conscience,
unthankful, that they dishonor God and His creature and are harmful
ables and old wives' chatter. Let him who can, flee from beneath this
judgment of God.


St. Paul in Colossians ii, 16 and the following verses says: "Let no
man burden you in meat or in drink or in respect of certain days which
are holy days, or days of the new moon or sabbaths, which are a shadow
of things to come, but the body is in Christ. Let no one seduce you
who follows his own will in the humility and religion of angels, of
whom he has never seen even one, vainly puffed up by his fleshly mind,
and does not hold fast the Head, from which all the body, by joints
and bands, is supplied with nourishment and is knit together, and so
groweth unto a stature given of God. If then you be dead with Christ
from the elements of this world, why do you burden yourselves with
ordinances as if you were alive? Ordinances which say. This thou shalt
not touch, this thou shalt not eat or drink, this thou shalt not put
on (which all perish in the using), according to the commandments and
doctrines of men, who have a show of wisdom because of their
self-chosen spirituality and humility, and because they do not spare
the body and do not supply its needs." [Col. 2:16 ff.] Is St. Paul
here also speaking of the Manicheans or Tatianists? Or can we find
excuse here for the papists? He speaks against those who take captive
the consciences of men with the doctrines of men and make matters of
conscience of food, drink, clothes, days and everything that is
external. And it cannot be denied that the pope, the chapters and
monasteries with their rules and statutes do this when they forbid the
eating of meat, eggs and butter, and the wearing of ordinary clothes
such as other people wear. And here stands St. Paul, and says:

[Sidenote: Burden the Conscience]

I. "Let no man burden your consciences, or judge or condemn you in
respect of food, drink, clothes or days." What does this mean if not
this: Be not priests nor monks, nor in any way keep the pope's laws;
and believe him not when he says that a certain thing is sin or a
matter of conscience. See, here God through Paul commands us to
despise the laws of the pope and of the monasteries, and to keep them
free, so that they do not take captive the conscience. That is as much
as to say, Do not become monks or priests, and let him who has become
monk or priest turn back, or else retain his position as a matter of
freedom without constraint of conscience.

And although Paul wrote this of the Jews, who did such things
according to the Law (for he says in Colossians ii, 17, that they have
the shadow and type of things to come, but that the body itself is in
Christ [Col. 2:17]), yet it holds much more against the decrees of the
pope and of the monks. For if that which God has decreed comes to an
end and shall no longer bind the consciences of men, how much more
shall men neither decree nor keep anything that would bind the
conscience? And farther on more will be said of the laws of mere men,

[Sidenote: By-paths]

II. He says, "Let no one seduce you or lead you toward paths the prize
in by-paths." What does this mean but to lead men to works and away
from faith, which alone is the one right road by which to gain the
prize of salvation, to strive toward heaven by other ways, and to
claim that this is the way to gain the prize? And this is what the
orders and the pope's doctrines do. And what are the ways they
propose? Listen:

[Sidenote: Humility]

III. He says, "In self-willed humility and the religion of angels."
What words could better it the orders? Is it not true that the pope
and all of them prattle much of their obedience, which is said to be
the noblest virtue, that is, the precious spiritual humility of the
papists? But who has commanded this humility? They themselves have
invented it and sought it out that they might seduce themselves. For
with it they have withdrawn themselves from the common humility and
obedience which God has commanded, namely, that every one shall humble
himself and be subject to his neighbor. But they are subject to no man
on earth, and have withdrawn themselves entirely; they have made an
obedience and a humility of their own after their statutes. Yet they
claim that their obedience is superhuman, perfect and, as it were,
angelic, although there are no more disobedient and less humble people
on earth than they are.

In the same way they also have their vows of chastity and poverty.
They do not work like other people but, like the angels in heaven,
they praise and worship God day and night; in short, their life is
heavenly, although nowhere on earth can you ind more horrible
unchastity, greater wealth, less devotional hearts, or more hardened
people than in the spiritual estate, as every one knows. Yet they
seduce all the world from the true way to the by-path with their
self-willed, beautiful, spiritual and angelic life. All this, it seems
to me, is not spoken of the Jews nor of the Manicheans, but of the
papists; the works prove it.

[Sidenote: Uncertainty]

IV. He says, "He walks in such religion and in that which he has never
seen." This is the very worst feature of the doctrines of men and the
life built upon them, that they are without foundation and without
warrant in the Scriptures, and that men cannot know whether what they
do is good or wicked. For all their life is an uncertain venture. If
you ask them whether they are certain that what they are and do is
pleasing to God, they say, they do not know, they must take the
chances: "the end will show us." And this is all they can say, for
they have no faith, and faith alone makes us certain that all that we
are is well-pleasing to God, not because of our merit, but because of
His mercy. Thus all their humility, obedience and all of their
religion is, at the very best, uncertain and in vain.

[Sidenote: Vainly Puffed Up]

V. "Vainly they puff themselves up," that is, they have no
reason to do so. For although their practices are uncertain,
unbelieving and altogether damnable, yet they make bold to puff
themselves up and to claim that they have the best and the only true
way, so that in comparison with theirs every other manner of living
stinks and is nothing at all. But this puffed-up carnal mind of theirs
they neither see nor feel, so great is their angelic humility and
obedience! O, the fruit of the doctrines of men!

[Sidenote: Against Christ]

VI. "They do not hold fast the Head," which is Christ. For the
doctrines of men and Christ cannot agree; one must destroy the other.
If the conscience finds comfort in Christ, the comfort derived from
works and doctrines must all; if it finds comfort in works, Christ
must fall. The heart cannot build upon a twofold foundation; one must
be forsaken. Now we see that all the comfort of the papists rests upon
their practices; for if it did not rest upon them, they would not
esteem them and would give them up, or else they would use them as
matters of freedom, how and when they pleased.

If there were no other misfortune connected with the doctrines of men,
this were of itself all too great--that for their sake Christ must be
forsaken, the Head must be lost, and the heart must build on such an
abomination. For this reason St. Peter calls the orders abominable and
damnable heresies, which deny Christ, when he says, in the Second
Epistle, ii, I, "There shall arise among you false teachers, who
privily shall bring in damnable heresies, and deny the Lord that
bought them." [2 Pet. 2:1]

[Sidenote: Why Burden the Conscience?]

VII. It is clear enough that he means our spiritual estate when he
says, "If ye be dead with Christ, why do ye burden your consciences
with ordinances, such as: This thou shalt not touch, this thou shalt
not eat, this thou shalt not wear, etc." Who can here deny that God
through St. Paul forbids us to teach and to hear all doctrines of men,
in so far as they constrain the conscience? Who then can with a good
conscience be a monk or a priest, or be subject to the pope? They must
confess that their consciences are taken captive with such laws. Thus
thou seest what a mighty saying this is against all doctrines of men.
It is dreadful to hear that they forsake Christ the Head, deny the
faith and so must needs become heathen, and yet think their holiness
upholds the world.


Paul, in Galatians I, 8., says: "But though we, or an angel from
heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have
preached unto you, let him be accursed[5]. As we said before, so say I
now again, If any man preach any other gospel unto you than that ye
have received, let him be accursed." [Gal. 1:8 f.]

[Sidenote: God's Ban]

In these words you hear a judgment of God against the pope and all
doctrines of men, which says that they are under the ban. And this ban
is not like the pope's ban; it is eternal and separates a man from
God, from Christ, from all salvation and from everything that is good,
and makes him the companion of devils. O what a terrible judgment is
this! Look now, whether the pope, priests and monks do not proclaim
another and a different doctrine than that taught by Christ and His
Apostles. We said above that Christ teaches, "What goeth into the
mouth doth not defile a man." Contrary to this and beyond it the pope,
priests and monks say, "Thou liest, Christ, in so saying; for the
eating of meat defiles a Carthusian and condemns him; and the same is
true of the other orders." Is not this striking Christ on the mouth,
calling Him a liar and blaspheming Him, and teaching other doctrines
than He taught? Therefore it is a just judgment, that they in their
great holiness are condemned like blasphemers of God with an eternal


Paul, in Titus i, 14, says: "Teach them not to give heed Titus to
Jewish fables, and commandments of men, that turn them from the
truth." [Titus 1:14]

[Sidenote: Christ, or Men?]

This is a strong command, that we are not at all to regard the
commandments of men. Is not this clear enough? And Paul gives his
reason: they turn men from the truth, he says. For as has been said
above, the heart cannot trust in Christ and at the same time in the
doctrines or the works of men. Therefore, as soon as a man turns to
the doctrines of men he turns away from the truth, and does not regard
it. On the other hand, he who finds his comfort in Christ cannot
regard the commandments and the works of men. Look now, whose ban you
should fear most! The pope and his followers cast you far beyond hell
if you do not heed their commandments, and Christ commands you not to
heed them on pain of His ban. Consider whom you wish to obey.


II Peter ii, 1-3: "There shall be false teachers among you, who
privily shall bring in damnable heresies, even denying the Lord that
bought them, by reason of whom the way of truth shall be evil spoken
of, and through covetousness shall they with feigned words make
merchandise of you."

[Sidenote: The Orders Damnable Heresies]

So then, the orders and monastic houses are damnable heresies. Why?
Because they deny Christ, and blaspheme the way of faith. How? Christ
says, there is no sin and no righteousness in eating, drinking,
clothes, places and works of men; this they condemn, and teach and
live the opposite, namely, that sin and righteousness are in these
things. Hence Christ must be a liar, He must be denied and blasphemed
together with His teaching and faith. And they make use of feigned
words, and make much of their obedience, chastity and worship; but
only through covetousness, that they may make merchandise of us, until
they have brought all the wealth of the world into their possession,
on the ground that they are the people who by their worship would help
every man to heaven. For this reason they are and remain damnable and
blasphemous heresies.


Christ says, in Matthew xxiv, 23 ff.: "Then if any man shall say unto
you, Lo, here is Christ, or there; believe it not. For there shall
arise false Christs and false prophets, and shall show great signs and
wonders; insomuch that, if it were possible, they shall deceive the
very elect. Behold, I have told you before, Wherefore if they shall
say unto you, Behold, he is in the desert; go not forth: behold, he is
in the secret chambers; believe it not."

Tell me, how can a monk be saved? He binds his salvation to a place
and says, "Here I find Christ; if I did not remain here, I should be
lost." But Christ says, "No, I am not here." Who will reconcile these
two? Therefore, it is clear from this word of Christ that all
doctrines which bind the conscience to places are contrary to Christ.
And if He does not allow the conscience to be bound to places, neither
does He allow it to be bound to meats, clothes, postures or anything
that is external. There is no doubt then that this passage speaks of
the pope and his clergy, and that Christ Himself releases and sets
free all priests and monks, in that He condemns all orders and
monasteries and says, "Believe not, go not out," etc.

He says the same thing also in Luke xvii, 20 f.: "The kingdom of God
cometh not with observation, and men shall not say, Lo here! or, Lo
there! For, behold, the kingdom of God is within you." [Luke 17:20 f.]

Is not this also clear enough? The doctrines of men can command
nothing but external things; and since the kingdom of God is not
external, both teachers and disciples must needs miss the kingdom and
go astray. Nor will it help them to say that the holy fathers
instituted the orders. For Christ has already destroyed this argument,
since He says, that the very elect might be misled, that is, they will
err, but not remain in their error. How else would it be an exceeding
great error, if the elect were not misled? Let the teaching and the
practice of the saints be what it will, the words of Christ are
certain and clear. Him we must follow, and not the saints, whose
teaching and works are uncertain. What He says stands firm, "The
kingdom of God is among[6] you, and not at a distance, either here or


Solomon, in Proverbs xxx, 5 f., says: "Every word of God is purified:
and is a shield unto all them that put their trust in it. Add thou not
unto His words, lest He reprove thee, and thou be found a liar."
[Prov. 30:5 f.]

With this I will end or the present; or there is much more in the
prophets, especially in Jeremiah, of which I have written in the
treatise on Confession. Here then Solomon concludes that he is a liar
who adds aught to the words of God; for the Word of God alone is to
teach us, as Christ says, Matthew xxiii, 8, "Be ye not called masters.
One Master is in you, even Christ." [Matt. 23:8] Amen.


The first is Luke x, 16, where Christ says, "He that heareth you,
heareth Me; and he that despiseth you, despiseth Me." [Luke 10:16] He
spoke similar words in Matthew x, 40 [Matt. 10:40], and in John xiii,
20 [John 13:20]. Here, they claim, Christ demands of us that we accept
their man-made laws.

[Sidenote: The Command of Christ]

I reply: That is not true. For immediately before speaking these
words, Christ says, "Go and say, the kingdom of God is at hand."
[Matt. 10:7, Luke 10:9] With these words Christ stops the mouths of
all the teachers of the doctrines of men, and commands the apostles
what they are to teach, and Himself puts the words in their mouth,
saying that they shall preach the kingdom of God. Now he who does not
preach the kingdom of God is not sent by Christ, and him these words
do not concern. Much rather do these words demand of us that we hear
not the doctrines of men. Now to preach of the kingdom of God is
nothing else than to preach the Gospel, in which the faith of Christ
is taught, by which alone God dwells and rules in us. But the
doctrines of men do not preach about faith, but about eating,
clothing, times, places, persons and about purely external things
which do not profit the soul.

[Sidenote: The Perversion of the Text]

Behold how honestly the pious shepherds and faithful teachers have
dealt with the poor common people. This text, "Who hears you, hears
me," they have in a masterly fashion torn out of its context and have
terrified us with it, until they have made us subject to themselves.
But what precedes, "Preach the kingdom of God," they have taken good
care not to mention, and have bravely leaped over it, that they might
by no means be compelled to preach nothing but the Gospel. The noble,
and most excellent teachers! We ought to thank them for it!

In Mark, the last chapter, we read that He sent out the disciples to
preach. Let us hear what command He gives them, and how He sets a
limit to their teaching and bridles their tongues, saying, "Go ye into
all the world, and preach the Gospel to every creature. He that
believeth, shall be saved," etc., Mark xvi, 15 [Mark 16:15]. He does
not say, Go and preach what you will, or what you think to be good;
but He puts His own word into their mouth, and bids them preach the

In Matthew, the last chapter, He says, "Go and make disciples of all
nations, baptise them in the Name of the Father and of the Son and of
the Holy Ghost; and teach them to observe all things which I have
commanded you." Here, again. He does not say, Teach them to observe
what you devise, but what I have commanded you. Therefore the pope and
his bishops and teachers must be wolves and the apostles of the devil;
it cannot be otherwise, for they teach not the commands of Christ, but
their own words. So also in Matthew xxv, 15, in the parable of the
three servants, the Lord points out that the householder bade the
servants trade not with their own property, but with his, and gave the
first five talents, the second two and the third one. [Matt. 25:15]

Our second text is Matthew xxiii, 2 f., where the Lord says, "The
scribes and Pharisees sit in Moses' seat. All therefore whatsoever
they bid you observe, that observe and do."

Here, here, they say, we have authority to teach what we think to be

[Sidenote: Moses' Seat]

I answer: If that is what Christ means, then we are in a sorry plight.
Every pope might then create more new laws, until the world could no
longer contain all the laws. But they quote this text as they quote
the first. What do the words "sit in Moses' seat" mean? Let us ask,
what did Moses teach? And if he still sat in his seat today, what
would he teach? Beyond a doubt, nothing but what he taught of old,
namely, the commandments and the word of God. He never yet spoke the
doctrines of men, but what God commanded him to speak, as almost every
chapter of his shows. It follows, then, that he who teaches something
else than Moses teaches, does not sit in Moses' seat. For the Lord
calls it Moses' seat, because from it the doctrines of Moses should be
read and taught. The same meaning is contained in the words which
follow, in which the Lord says, "But do not ye after their works, for
they say, and do not; for they bind heavy burdens and grievous to be
borne, and lay them on men's shoulders; but they themselves will not
move them with one of their fingers." [Matt. 23:3 f.]

See, here He reproves their works, because they add many laws to the
doctrines of Moses and lay them on the people, but themselves do not
touch them. And afterward He says, in verse 13, "Woe unto you, scribes
and Pharisees, hypocrites! which say, Whosoever shall swear by the
temple, it is nothing; but whosoever shall swear by the gold of the
temple, he is a debtor! Ye fools and blind; for whether is greater?
the gold, or the temple that sanctifieth the gold?" [Matt. 23:13, 16
f.] Is it not clear that Christ here condemns their doctrines of men?
He can, therefore, not have confirmed them by speaking of sitting in
Moses' seat; else He would have contradicted Himself. Therefore Moses'
seat must mean no more than the Law of Moses, and the sitting in it no
more than the preaching of the Law of Moses.

This is what Moses himself said of his seat and doctrine, Deuteronomy
iv, 2, "Ye shall not add unto the word which I command you." [Deut.
4:2] And in Deuteronomy xii, 32, "What thing soever I command you,
observe to do it; thou shalt not add thereto nor diminish from it."
[Deut. 12:32] These doctrines they were required to teach in Moses'
seat; therefore Moses' seat cannot endure any doctrines of men.

[Sidenote: St. Augustine]

St. Augustine is quoted as having written in _the Book against the
Letter of the Manicheans_[7], "I would not believe the Gospel if I did
not believe the Church."

Here you see, they say, we are to believe the Church more than the

[Sidenote: Authority]

I answer: Even if Augustine had used those words, who gave him
authority, that we must believe what he says? What Scripture does he
quote to prove the statement? What if he erred here, as we know that
he frequently did, as did all the fathers? Should one single sentence
of Augustine be so mighty as to refute all the texts quoted above?
That is not what God wills; St. Augustine must yield to them.

Further, if that were St. Augustine's meaning, he would contradict
himself; for in very many places he exalts the Holy Scriptures above
the opinions of all teachers, above the decrees of all councils and
churches, and will have men judge of him and of the teachings of all
men according to the Scriptures. Why then do the faithful shepherds
pass by those sayings of St. Augustine, plain and clear as they are,
and light on this lonely one, which is so obscure and sounds so unlike
Augustine as we know him from all his writings? It can only be because
they want to bolster up their tyranny with idle, empty words.

[Sidenote: Words Perverted]

Furthermore, they are deceivers, in that they not only ascribe to St.
Augustine an opinion he did not hold, but they also falsify and
pervert his words. For St. Augustine's words really are, "I would not
have believed the Gospel if the authority of the whole Church had not
moved me." Augustine speaks of the whole Church, and says that
throughout the world it with one consent preaches the Gospel and not
the Letter of the Manicheans; and this unanimous authority of the
Church moves him to consider it the true Gospel. But our tyrants apply
this name of the Church to themselves, as if the laymen and the common
people were not also Christians. And what they teach they want men to
consider as the teaching of the Christian Church, although they are a
minority, and we, who are universal Christendom, should also be
consulted about what is to be taught in the name of universal
Christendom. See, so cleverly do they quote the words of St.
Augustine: what he says of the Church throughout all the world, they
would have us understand of the Roman See.

But how does it follow from this saying that the doctrines of men are
also to be observed? What doctrine of men has ever been devised that
has been accepted and preached by all of the universal Church
throughout the world? Not one; the Gospel alone is accepted by all
Christians everywhere.

[Sidenote: Their True Meaning]

But then we must not understand St. Augustine to say that he would not
believe the Gospel unless he were moved thereto by the authority of
the whole Church. For that were false and unchristian. Every man must
believe only because it is God's Word, and because he is convinced in
his heart that it is true, although an angel from heaven and all the
world preached the contrary. His meaning is rather, as he himself
says, that he finds the Gospel nowhere except in the Church, and that
this external proof can be given heretics that their doctrine is not
right, but that that is right which all the world has with one accord
accepted. For the eunuch in Acts viii, 37, believed on the Gospel as
preached by Philip, although he did not know whether many or few
believed on it [Acts 8:37]. So also Abraham believed the promise of
God all by himself, when no man knew of it, Romans iv, 18 [Rom. 4:18].
And Mary, Luke i, 38 [Luke 1:38], believed the message of Gabriel by
herself, and there was no one on earth who believed with her. In this
way Augustine also had to believe, and all the saints, and we too,
every one for himself alone.

For this reason St. Augustine's words cannot bear the interpretation
they put upon them; but they must be understood of the external proof
of faith, by which heretics are refuted and the weak strengthened in
faith, when they see that all the world preaches and regards as Gospel
that which they believe. And if this meaning cannot be found in St.
Augustine's words, it is better to reject the words; for they are
contrary to the Scriptures and to all experience if they have that
other meaning.

[Sidenote: The Apostles Also Men]

Finally, when they are refuted with Scripture so that they cannot
escape, they begin to blaspheme God and say, "But St. Matthew, Paul
and Peter also were men; therefore what they teach is also the
doctrine of men. And if their doctrine is to be observed, let the
pope's doctrine be observed as well!" Such blasphemy is now being
uttered even by some princes and bishops, who count themselves wise.
When you hear such utterly hardened and blinded blasphemers, turn away
from them or stop your ears; they are not worthy that one should talk
with them. If that argument were to hold, then Moses also was a man,
and all the prophets were men. Then let us go our way, and believe
nothing at all, but regard everything as the doctrine of men, and
follow our fancy.

[Sidenote: Answer]

But if you will talk with them, do so, and say, Well, let St. Paul or
Matthew be the doctrine of men; then we ask, Whence comes their
authority? How will they prove that they have authority to teach and
to be bishops? Or how shall we know where the Church is? If they say
that St. Matthew has so asserted in Matthew xvi, 19 [Matt. 16:19], or
St. Paul in some place or other, do you say, But that does not hold:
they are the doctrines of men, as you say; you must have God's Word to
confirm you. And then you will find that these hardened blasphemers
put themselves to shame and confusion with their own folly. They
cannot even distinguish between a man who speaks for himself and one
through whom God speaks. The words of the Apostles were commanded them
by God, and confirmed and proved by great miracles, such as were never
done for the doctrines of men. And if they are certain in themselves,
and will prove it to us, that God has commanded them to teach as they
do, we will believe them as we believe the Apostles. If it is
uncertain whether the words of the Apostles are of God, who will give
us certainty that their doctrines of men are of God? _O furor et
amentia his saeculis digna!_[8]

[Sidenote: Why Doctrines of Men are Condemned]

But we do not condemn the doctrines of men because they are the
doctrines of men, for we would gladly endure them, but because they
are contrary to the Gospel and to the Scriptures. The Scriptures set
the consciences of men free, and forbid that they be taken captive
with the doctrines of men. The doctrines of men take captive the
conscience. This conflict between the Scriptures and the doctrines of
men we cannot reconcile. Hence, because these two forms of doctrine
contradict one another, we allow even young children to judge here
whether we are to give up the Scriptures, in which the one Word of God
is taught from the beginning of the world, or the doctrines of men
which were newly devised yesterday and change daily? And we hope that
every one will agree in the decision that the doctrines of men must be
forsaken and the Scriptures retained. For they cannot be reconciled,
but are by nature opposed to one another, like fire and water, like
heaven and earth; As Isaiah Iv, 8 f. says: "As the heavens are exalted
above the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways." [Isa. 55:8 f.]
Now he who walks on the earth cannot at the same time walk in heaven,
and he who walks in heaven cannot walk on the earth.

Therefore we request the papists that they first reconcile their
doctrines with the Scriptures. If they accomplish that, we will
observe their doctrines. But that they will not do before the Holy
Spirit has become a liar. Therefore we say again. The doctrines of men
we censure not because they are spoken by men, but because they are
lies and blasphemies against the Scriptures. And the Scriptures,
although they also were written by men, are not of men nor from men,
but from God. Now since Scriptures and the doctrines of men are
contrary the one to the other, one must lie and the other be true. Let
us see to which of the two they themselves will ascribe the lie. Let
this suffice.


[1] Goldfasts are the ember-fasts, on the three ember-days of each of
the four seasons of the year; possibly called "goldfasts" because on
these days rents were collected. See _Realencyklopädie_, 5: 780, 9.

[2] The fasts enjoined upon a people by a public edict or ban. The
term "ban" as here used does not denote the Church's excommunication,
but an authoritative proclamation.

[3] The Tatianists, followers of Tatian, who lived in Syria in the
middle of the second century. Tatian, apparently basing his view of
marriage upon 1 Cor. 7:5, ascribes the institution of marriage and the
whole Old Testament Law to the devil. Eusebius held that Tatian was
the founder of a sect known as the _Encratites_, or _Abstainers_.
Modern historians see in the _Encratites_ groups of ascetic Christians
found frequently in the early Church, somewhat similar to the later
monks and nuns, so that Harnack can write that Tatian "joined the
Encratites." _Dogmengeschichte_3, I, 227 n. See _Realencyklopädie_3,
19, 386-394 on Tatian; 5, 392 f. on the Encratites.

[4] The Manicheans, strictly speaking not a Christian sect, but a
rival religious community, which made inroads upon the Christian
Church. Founded by the Babylonian Mani, who was born in the third
century, they taught the inherent evil of all matter, and consequently
had many fasts, averaging seven days in each month, while the
"perfect" among them abstained from meat, wine and marriage. See
_Realencyklopädie_ 3, 12, 193-228; von Orelli, _Religionsgeschichte_,

[5] The Greek _anathema_ Luther here translates _ein Bann_, "let him
be a ban." This explains the reference to the ban below.

[6] _Stehet untereuch_, whereas above Luther writes _ist inwendig in

[7] _Contra Epistolam Manichaei_, vi, _Paris Ed._, 1839, 28: 185: _Ego
vero Evangelic non crederem, nisi me ecclesiae catholicae commoveret
anctoritas_. On the preceding page Augustine had written: "If the
claim of truth be shown to be so evident that it cannot be called into
question, it is to be preferred before all those things by which I am
held in the Catholic faith."

[8] O raging madness, worthy of our age!




    power of
Accident and substance
Agnes, St.
Albrecht of Brandenburg
Alexander of Hales
Alexander VI.
Alien sins
Amen, meaning of
Amerbach, Boniface
Angelic Sum
Angelus de Clavissio
Amie, St.
Anthony, St.
Antonius of Florence
Apostolic Council
Aquinas, Thomas
Articles of faith
Augsburg, Diet of
Augustine, St.
Augustinian fathers
Augustinus Trimnphus

Babylonian captivity
Balaam's ass
    power of
    greater and lesser
    purpose of
    penalty of
Ban, danger of
    harms no one
    a medicine
    to be respected
    to be loved
    unjust, to be desired
    or debt
    abuses of
    does not exclude from Gospel
    grace of
    makes priests
    foundation of sacraments
    a ship
    God's work
    formula of
    by wicked minister
    efficacy of
    significance of
    vows of
    comfort of
Bar to grace
Barbara, St.
Basel, Council of
Belief and faith
Benedict, St.
Benefit of clergy
Berlepsch, Hans von
Bernard, St.
Biel, Gabriel
Bishops' paths
Blandina, St.
Boniace VIII.
Both kinds in the sacrament
Bread, Sacrament of the Altar
    daily, is Christ
Brotherhood, Christian
    perversion of
    kinds of
    proper conduct of
Bull, Coena Domini
Burer, Albrecht

Cæsarini, Cardinal
Cambray, Cardinal of
Canon law
Canon of the mass
Canonical hours
Captivity of the Church
    v. Babylonian Captivity.
Castor and Pollux
Casus reservati
Certainty of salvation
Chancery, rules in
Character indelebilis
Charles the Great
Charles V.
    spiritual body of
    as king and priest
    sacrifice of the altar
    faith in
Christian nobility, duty of
Christian, the name
    what makes
    marks of a
    authority of
    cannot institute sacraments
    community of Christians
    our mother
    and state
Church laws
Clement V.
Clement VI.
Clement VII.
Cognatio legalis and spiritualis
Commandments of God
Commandments, Ten
    in two kinds
    of saints
Complutensian polyglott
Concordat of Vienna
Congregations, power to elect priests,
Consanguinity, spiritual
Constance, Council of
Constantine, Emperor
Contested benefices
Corporal cloths
Corpus juris canonici
Councils can err
Crying sins

    the pope as
    must serve the Christian
Dionysius, Areopagita
Disparihtas religionis
Doctrines of men
Dominic, St.
Donation of Constantine
Donatus, St.
Dress, extravagance in
Dims Scotus

Eck, John
Economic reforms
Edification of the Church
Elevation of the host
Elvira, Council of
Estates of Christendom
Eternal life
Eugenius IV.
Evil spirit
Excesses in eating and drinking
Extreme unction

Fable quoted
    not a work
    and promise
    and works
    alone justifies
    all things depend on
    fulfils commandments
    unites with Christ
    and love
Fathers of the Church
Feast days
Fellowship, twofold
Five senses, sins of
Florence, Council of
Forgiveness of sins
Forma sacramenti
Francis, St.
Frederick, Duke
Frederick, Elector
Frederick I.
Frederick II.
Free will
Fruits of the mass
Fugger of Augsburg

General Council
George of Saxony
German knights
    bishops and princes
Gerson, John
God, faith in
God's bosom
Golden rule
Golden years
Government, good, a gift of grace
Grammatical sense of Scripture
Gratiæ expectivse
Greek Church

Hadrian VI.
Henry IV. and V.
Henry VIII
Hess, John
Hindrance of crime
Holy Ghost, faith in
Hubert, St.
Huss, John
Hutten, Ulrich von
Hymns of praise

Iconoclastic controversy
Impedimentum criminis
Infant baptism
Ingenwinkel, Joh.
Innocent I.
Innocent III.
Innocent VIII.
Irregular monks
Isolani, Isidore

James, St., Epistle of
    of Prague
John XXII.
Jonas, Justus
Jordan, crossing of
Joseph, affliction of
Jubilee years
Judgment day
Julius II.
Jus patronum
Jus verbi
Justification by faith

Kessler, John
Keys, power of
Kingdom of God
Kingship of the Christian

Lang, Johan
Lateran Council
Law, the
Law in the universities
Laws as snares for souls
    of men
        V. Doctrines of men.
Legal relationships
Leo III.
Leo X.
Letters of confession
    not external
    and service
Link, Wenceslaus
Lombard, Peter
Lord's Prayer
Lord's Supper
Lotther, Melchior
Louis, King of France
    pastoral concern
    the German
    as a fool
    knowledge of Aristotle
    not a mathematician
    as a musician
    compelled to speak
    his progress
    his duty
    appeal to a council
    separation from Rome
    appeal to the pope
    friend of the pope
    his faith
    as a reformer
    purpose of writing

Man, nature of
    of sin
Marcus Aurelius
Margaret of Braunschweig
    of the clergy
    forbidden degrees
    a type
    a sacrament
    sacrifice of
Maximilian, Emperor
Medicine in universities
Memorial days
Mendicants orders
Miltitz, Carl von
Missa catechumenorum and fidelium
Monastic life
Moses' seat
Mother of God
Mühlphort, Hieronymus
Murner, Thomas
Mute sins
    and sacrament

Name of God
Naples and Sicily, Kingdom of
Natural law
New Testament
Nicæa, Council of
Nobility, German
Nürnberg, Diet of

Occam, William of
Officia of the pope
Old Testament
Opus operantis
Opus operatum
Order to be observed
Orders, monastic
Ottilia, St.
Our Lady

Papal court
Parents, duty toward
Patron saints
Paul, St.
Penalties to be abolished
    second plank
Peter, St.
Pfeffinger, D.
Philip of Hesse
Pius, Pope
    power of
    can be deposed
    errors of
    an idol
    compared with Christ
    wealth of
    infallibility of
    worldliness of
    vicar of crucified Christ
    vicar of absent Christ
    duty of
    temporal power of
    letter to
Power not to be trusted
Preaching, true
Precepts of the Church
Prierias, Sylvester
Priesthood of believers
    why men seek
    is ministry of the Word
Priests, officeholders
    duty of
Private confession
Privilegium fori
Promise of God
Proprius motus
Proverbs quoted

Quedunburg, convent

Real presence
Reforms suggested
Remission of sins
Res sacramenti
Reservatio pectoralis
Reservation, right of
Reserved cases
Rods, three
Roman curia
Roman Empire
Roman See
Rulers, wicked

Sacrament of the Altar
    institution of
    reception of
    not a law
    not a sacrifice
    daily use of
    significance of
    preparation for
    benefit of
    a sign
    purpose of
    misuse of
    faith of
    right use of
    necessity of
Sacrament, types of
    and the pope
    parts of
    signs of
    two principal
    grace of
    fount of love
    not a good work
    efficacy of
    of Old and New Law
    significance of
    not effective signs of grace
    institution of
Sacramentum is mystery
Safe conduct
Saints' days
Sardica, Council of
Schools, Christian
    for girls
Scrinium pectoris
    commands and promises
Sebastian, St.
Secret sin
Sedulius, Cœlius
Sententious theologians
Signatura gratiæ and justitiæ
Signiicasti, Chapter
    demand punishment
    seven deadly
Siricius, Pope
Sixtus IV.
Social evil
Solite, Chapter
    immortality of
Spice trade
Spiritual, what makes us
States of the Church
Stephen, St.
Students, restriction of
Substance and accident

Teachings of men, v. Doctrines of men.
Temporal estate
Ten Commandments
Testament, words of
Theology in the universities
Theses, XCV
    of communicant
Trent, Council of
Triple crown
Tulich, Herman
    worst in Rome
Tyranny, Roman

Unity of the Church

Valentine, St.
Valla, Laurentius
Varna, Battle of
Vienna, Council, of
Virgin Mary
Votive masses
    of celibacy
    ceremonial laws

Walls, the three, of Rome
Wicked, success of
Will of God
Word of God
    measure of
    good, are sins
    do not justify
Works of love
    six, of mercy
Worms, Diet of
Worship, true
Würzburg, 82

Zink, Johaimes
Zwickau Prophets
Zwilling, Gabriel



    12:8, 11






I. Samuel--

II. Samuel 7:16

I. Kings--

II. Kings--

Esther 1:5

Job 31:27




Song of Solomon 2:16




Ezekiel 2:6



Joel 1:5


Jonah 3:5

Habakkuk 2:4

Zechariah 2:8

Malachi 2:7

    18:24, 28
    19:6 123, 263.
    22:2f 20



    6:35, 41, 51
    6:53, 55
    17:9, 20


    8:35, 3
    13:1, 4

I. Corinthians--

II. Corinthians--





I. Thessalonians--

II. Thessalonians--

I. Timothy--

II. Timothy--


    10:19, 22


I. Peter--
    2:13, 15

II. Peter--

I. John--
    2:18, 22

II. John 10



Judith 6:15

Wisdom 6:8



II. Maccabees 4:8, 12

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