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Title: Luther, Volume 3 (of 6)
Author: Grisar, Hartmann
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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                         TRANSCRIBER’S NOTES:

—Obvious print and punctuation errors were corrected.

—Whereas adequate character is unavalaible, superscripts are rendered
 as word^[sup].


                  C. SCHUT, S.T.D.,
                                      _Censor Deputatus._

                 EDM. CAN. SURMONT,
                    _Vic. Gen._

                    _Westmonasterii, die 10 Julii, 1913._



                         HARTMANN GRISAR, S.J.



                             E. M. LAMOND

                               EDITED BY

                           LUIGI CAPPADELTA

                              VOLUME III

                KEGAN PAUL, TRENCH, TRÜBNER & CO., LTD.
                BROADWAY HOUSE, 68-74 CARTER LANE, E.C.


 “His most elaborate and systematic biography ... is not merely a book
 to be reckoned with; it is one with which we cannot dispense, if only
 for its minute examination of Luther’s theological writings.”—_The

 “There is no room for any sort of question as to the welcome ready
 among English-speaking Roman Catholics for this admirably made
 translation of the first volume of the German monograph by Professor
 Grisar on the protagonist of the Reformation in Europe.... The
 book is so studiously scientific, so careful to base its teaching
 upon documents, and so determined to eschew controversies that are
 only theological, that it cannot but deeply interest Protestant
 readers.”—_The Scotsman._

 “Father Grisar has gained a high reputation in this country through
 the translation of his monumental work on the History of Rome and the
 Popes in the Middle Ages, and this first instalment of his life of
 Luther bears fresh witness to his unwearied industry, wide learning,
 and scrupulous anxiety to be impartial in his judgments as well as
 absolutely accurate in matters of fact.”—_Glasgow Herald._

 “It is impossible to understand the Reformation without understanding
 the life and character of the great German. The man and the work
 are so indissolubly united that we cannot have right judgments
 about either without considering the other. It is one of Father
 Grisar’s many merits that he does not forget for a single moment the
 fundamental importance of this connection. The man and his work come
 before us in these illuminating pages, not as more or less harmonious
 elements, but as a unity, and we cannot analyse either without
 constant reference to the other.”—_Irish Times._

 “Professor Grisar is hard on Luther. Perhaps no Roman Catholic can
 help it. But it is significant that he is hard on the anti-Lutherans
 also.... He shows us, indeed, though not deliberately, that some
 reformation of religion was both imperative and inevitable.... But he
 is far from being overwhelmed with prejudice. He really investigates,
 uses good authorities, and gives reasons for his judgments.”—_The
 Expository Times._

 “This Life of Luther is bound to become standard ... a model of every
 literary, critical, and scholarly virtue.”—_The Month._

 “The most important book on Luther that has appeared since Denifle’s
 epoch-making ‘Luther und Luthertum.’ ... It is an ordered biography,
 ... and is therefore very probably destined to a wider general
 usefulness as a Catholic authority.”—_The Irish Rosary._


    CHURCH                                                 _pages_ 3-108


  The New Church, with its binding formularies of faith and
  its constituted authorities, contrasted with Luther’s
  earlier demands for freedom from all outward bonds. The
  change which occurred in his mind in 1522. What prompted
  the reaction? Did Luther, prior to 1522, ever cherish
  the idea of a “religion minus dogma”? His clear design
  from the beginning to preserve all the Christian elements
  deemed by him essential. His assertion of the freedom
  of the Christian; the negations it logically involved
  pass unperceived. Greater stress laid on the positive
  elements after 1522; the subjective counter-current.
  Ecclesiastical anarchy. Modern Protestants more willing
  than was Luther to push his principles to their
  legitimate consequences. Conclusion: The reaction which
  set in in 1522 implied no real change of view. How Luther
  contrived to conceal from himself and from others the
  incompatibility of his leanings                           _pages_ 3-21


  Previous to espousing the idea of the Congregational
  Church Luther invites the secular authorities to
  interfere; his “An den christlichen Adel”; his hopes
  shattered; Luther’s new ideal: the Evangel not intended
  for all; the assembly of true Christians; the Wittenberg
  congregation and the model one established at Leisnig.
  The Congregational Church proving impracticable, Luther
  advocates a popular Church; its evolution into the
  State Church as it afterwards obtained in Protestant
  Germany. Secularisation of church property in the Saxon
  Electorate. Luther’s view as to the use to which church
  property should be put by the rulers; he complains of
  princely avarice. Secularisation of the marriage-courts;
  matrimonial cases dealt with by secular lawyers; Luther’s
  antipathy for lawyers, how accounted for                 _pages_ 21-43


  Luther casts all reserve to the winds; his resolve to
  proceed regardless of the consequences. His earlier
  opposition to armed resistance; his memoranda on the
  subject clearly evince his hesitation. His change of
  view in 1530; reasons why he veered round; the change
  kept secret; difficulties with the Nurembergers; a
  tell-tale memorandum published by Cochlæus. The League of
  Schmalkalden; Luther’s hopes and fears; a new memorandum.
  Luther’s misgivings regarding Philip of Hesse’s invasion
  of Würtemberg; the expedition turning out successful is
  blessed by Luther. The religious war in Luther’s private
  conversations in later years. Later memoranda. A question
  from Brandenburg. Later attempts to deny the authenticity
  of the document signed by Luther in 1530                 _pages_ 43-76


  The danger looming in the East. Luther’s earlier
  pronouncements (previous to 1524) against any military
  measures being taken to prevent the Turkish inroads;
  attitude of the preachers; imminent danger of the
  Empire after the battle of Mohacz; Luther’s “Vom Kriege
  widder die Türcken” registers a change of front; his
  “Heer-Predigt widder den Türcken” and the approval it
  conveys of warlike measures against the invader; he robs
  his call to arms of most of its force by insisting on his
  pet ideas; his later sayings on the subject; the Turk not
  so dangerous a foe as Popery                             _pages_ 76-93


  Luther’s sayings about the virtues and vices of his
  own countrymen; his teaching sunders the Empire and
  undermines the Imperial authority; his advocacy of
  resistance; the “Prophet of the Germans”; discouragement
  of trade and science; Döllinger on Luther as the typical
  German; the power of the strong man gifted with a facile
  tongue                                                  _pages_ 93-108



  His conviction of his special call and enlightenment;
  his determination to brook no doubt; all his actions
  controlled from on high; finds a confirmation of
  his opinion in the extent of his success and in his
  deliverance from his enemies; his untiring labours and
  disregard for personal advancement; the problem presented
  by the union in him of the fanatic mystic with the
  homely, cheerful man enjoying to the full the good things
  that come his way; his superstitions; his “temptations”
  promote his progress in wisdom. His consciousness of his
  Mission intensified at critical junctures, for instance,
  during his stay at the Wartburg; his letter to Staupitz
  in 1522; his statement: It is God’s Word. Let what cannot
  stand fall                                             _pages_ 109-128


  How Luther describes the Pope and his Court; his call to
  reform Catholics generally; his caricature of Erasmus;
  how later Protestants have taken Luther’s claims.
  Luther’s apocalyptic dreams; his exegesis of Daniel
  viii.; the Papal Antichrist: A system rather than a man;
  Luther’s work on Chronology. The Monk-Calf as a Divine
  sign of the abomination of Popery and monasticism.
  Luther’s “Amen” to Melanchthon’s Pope-Ass              _pages_ 128-153


  Luther on the proofs required to establish an
  extraordinary mission. The distinction between ordinary
  and extraordinary calls. His appeal to the rapid
  diffusion of his doctrine; the real explanation of this
  spread not far to seek. His appeal to his doctorate,
  to his appointment by authority, and, finally, to the
  “Word of Truth” which was the burden of his preaching.
  Luther’s account of the “miracle” of Florentina’s escape
  from her convent. His unwillingness to ask for the
  grace of working miracles; his demand that the fanatics
  should work miracles to substantiate their claims; his
  allusions to the power of his own prayer in restoring
  the sick to health. The gift of prophecy; Luther loath
  to predict anything “lest it should come true.” His own
  so-called predictions. Earlier predictions of mystics and
  astrologers taken by him as referring to himself       _pages_ 153-168

        _pages_ 169-318


  What may rightly be looked for in a reformer of the
  Church. Luther’s contemporaries on his shortcomings: Joh.
  Findling, Erasmus, and Ferreri. The remedy proposed by
  Luther to drive away depression, viz. self-indulgence  _pages_ 169-180


  His contradictory views on sin, and on penance; his
  ideas suited to meet his own case and to relieve his
  own conscience. His attitude towards human endeavour;
  predestination and unfreedom; the devil’s dominion; the
  failings of the Saints. “Be a sinner and sin boldly, but
  believe more boldly still.” Protestant strictures on
  Luther’s doctrine of sin                               _pages_ 180-199


  Luther on the weakness of his own faith, his doubts,
  his utter misery, and the shortcomings of his life. His
  attitude towards prayer; prayer mingled with imprecation;
  his threatened prayer against dishonest brewers.
  Christian joy and peace. Preparation for the sacraments.
  Mortification and self-conquest. Mediocrity as the aim
  of ethics. Lack of zeal for the salvation of all men;
  disregard for missionary work. Luther in his home; minor
  disappointments                                        _pages_ 200-217


  Luther’s evening conversations at Wittenberg recorded
  by his friends; utility of the notes they left;
  Walch, Kroker and others on the authority of these
  notes. Excerpts from the Table-Talk: The pith of the
  new religion, viz. confidence in Christ. Catholic
  practices and institutions described: The Mass, fasting,
  confession, the religious life. Praises heaped on the
  Table-Talk by Luther’s early disciples. Luther himself
  responsible for the foulness of the language. Pommer’s
  way of dealing with the devil. Filthy references to
  the Pope; unseemly comparisons; “_adorabunt nostra
  stercora_.” Such language by no means confined to the
  Table-Talk; a few quotations from Luther’s “Wider das
  Bapstum zu Rom.” An excuse alleged, viz. that such
  language was then quite usual. Sir Thomas More’s protest.
  A modern defender of Luther. The real explanation of
  Luther’s unrestraint                                   _pages_ 217-241


  On the imperative necessity of marriage; the
  irresistibility of the natural impulse; the world full
  of adulterers? The “miracle” of voluntary and chaste
  celibacy. Luther’s animus against Popish celibacy. His
  loosening of the marriage-bond. Cases in which marriage
  is annulled. Meaning of the words “If the wife refuse,
  then let the maid come.” A modern secularist’s appeal
  to Luther’s principles. Polygamy. Luther, after some
  hesitation, comes to tolerate polygamy, but makes it a
  matter of the _forum internum_. The opinions of Catholic
  theologians. “Secret marriages” and concubinage; what
  those have to do who are forbidden by law to contract
  marriage. Denial of the sacramental character of
  matrimony. Luther’s tone in speaking of things sexual; a
  letter to Spalatin; regret expressed for offensive manner
  of speech; odious comparisons contained in his “Vom Schem
  Hamphoras” (against the Jews) and “Wider Hans Worst”
  (against the Catholics); improper anecdotes; Luther, like
  Abraham, “the father of a great people,” viz. of the
  children of all the monks and nuns who discarded their
  vows                                                   _pages_ 241-273


  Simon Lemnius; fanatics and Anabaptists; Catholics:
  Hieronymus Dungersheim, Duke George, Ambrosius
  Catharinus, Hoyer of Mansfeld; Protestants: Melanchthon,
  Leo Judae, Zwingli, Bullinger, Joh. Agricola. How far
  the complaints were grounded. Apocryphal legends to
  Luther’s discredit: Had Luther three children of his
  own apart from those born to him by Bora? His jesting
  letters to his wife not to be taken seriously. Did he
  indulge in the “worst orgies” with the escaped nuns in
  the Black Monastery of Wittenberg? The passages “which
  will not bear repetition.” Whether Luther as a young monk
  declared he would bring things to such a pass as to be
  able to marry a girl; Wolfgang Agricola’s authority for
  this statement and the information he gives concerning
  Spalatin. Luther’s stay as a boy in Cotta’s house at
  Eisenach no ground for a charge of immorality. Did Luther
  describe the lot of the hog as the most enviable goal of
  happiness? Did he allow the validity of marriage between
  brother and sister? Whether he counselled people to pray
  for many wives and few children; variants of an ancient
  rhyme. Did he include wives in the “daily bread” for
  which we pray in the Our Father? Was he the inventor of
  the proverb: “Who loves not woman, wine and song, remains
  a fool his whole life long”?                           _pages_ 273-294


  Need of examining critically the charges made against
  Luther; the number of his literary productions scarcely
  compatible with his having been an habitual drunkard.
  Testimonies of Musculus, the “Dicta Melanchthoniana,”
  Ickelsamer, Lemnius, etc. Opinions of Catholics:
  Catharinus, Hoyer of Mansfeld, Joh. Landau and others.
  Luther’s own statements about his “Good Drink”; his
  reasons for such indulgence; his distinction between
  drinking and drunkenness; his reprobation of habitual
  drunkenness. Melanchthon and Mathesius, two witnesses to
  Luther’s temperance. From the cellar and the tap-room;
  gifts in kind made to Luther; his calls on the cellar of
  the Wittenberg council; the signature “_Doctor plenus_”
  appended to one of his letters to be read as “_Doctor
  Johannes_”; the “old wine” of the Coburg and Luther’s
  indisposition in 1530; beer _versus_ wine              _pages_ 294-318

        _pages_ 319-378


  What Luther owed to his friend. Their earlier relations;
  Luther’s unstinted praise; Melanchthon’s apprehensions;
  his work during the Visitation in 1527; is horrified by
  Luther’s language to Duke George and saddened by the
  “Protest” of the dissidents at Spires. Melanchthon at
  the Diet of Augsburg, 1530. The “Augsburg Confession”
  and its “Apology” characteristic of the writer; his
  admission regarding the use he had made of the name of
  St. Augustine; his letter to Cardinal Campeggio; some
  contemporaries on Melanchthon’s “duplicity”; the Gospel
  proviso; Melanchthon judged by modern historians; Luther
  consoles his friend. The “Erasmian” intermediary       _pages_ 319-346


  Melanchthon first accepts the whole of Luther’s doctrine,
  but afterwards deviates from it even in essentials;
  his antipathy to the denial of freedom and to absolute
  predestination to hell, to faith alone and to the denial
  of the value of works. Penance and the motive of fear.
  Differs from Luther on the question of the Supper and
  gradually approaches the Zwinglian standpoint. Points
  of accord with Luther; he shares Luther’s superstition
  and belief in the Papal Antichrist; has unjustly been
  accused of being more tolerant than his master; his ideal
  a pedagogic one                                        _pages_ 346-360


  His interest in the promotion of studies; his correspondence;
  his intimacy with Luther; his disappointment; what
  he disliked in Luther; he meets with little sympathy in
  Luther’s circle, though Luther’s personal esteem never fails
  him; the rumour that he was disposed to return to the
  Catholic fold; his willingness to find congenial employment
  away from Wittenberg; his tendency to leave religious affairs
  in the hands of the State                              _pages_ 360-378

  BUGENHAGEN AND OTHERS                                  _pages_ 379-416


  Earlier relationship between Zwingli and Luther; their
  divergent opinions on the Eucharist; the Marburg
  Conference between the two; the power behind this
  Conference; Luther on Zwingli’s untimely end           _pages_ 379-385


  Finding Wittenberg too warm, Carlstadt removes to
  Orlamünde; his meeting with Luther in the Black Bear Inn
  at Jena; he goes to Strasburg, and thence to Rothenburg;
  he is driven by want to accept Luther’s conditions; he
  breaks his promise, escapes to Switzerland and receives
  an appointment at Basle. What Luther says of him in the
  Table-Talk and in his “Widder die hymelischen Propheten”:
  The defects of Carlstadt’s mission, his violent
  behaviour, his attachment to the Decalogue, his wrong
  interpretation of the Supper, his stress on the inward
  rather than on the outward Word, his unacquaintance with
  “temptations”                                          _pages_ 385-400


  Luther on Agricola. Schenk and the question of the
  Law; an encounter between Schenk and Luther. Egranus’s
  dissatisfaction with Luther; Luther’s references to the
  “brood of Erasmus”; the burden of Egranus’s complaints _pages_ 400-404


  Luther’s admiration for Amsdorf and Brenz. Bugenhagen, a
  legate “_a facie et a corde_”; his antecedents; becomes
  pastor of Wittenberg; his missionary labours; his
  intimacy with Luther; his letters from Denmark; a female
  demoniac. Friendship between Luther and Jonas as attested
  by the Table-Talk; chief events of Jonas’s life        _pages_ 404-416

  COUNCIL                                                _pages_ 417-449


  The Swiss theologians on Luther and his doctrine. The
  Anabaptists and Luther’s opinion of their doings at
  Münster. Pope Paul III. Efforts of the Protestants to
  reach an understanding among themselves; Martin Bucer;
  the Wittenberg Concord; attempts to secure the adhesion
  of the Swiss; Luther pockets his scruples; collapse of
  the negotiations; Luther’s “Kurtz Bekentnis”           _pages_ 417-424


  Pope Paul III. determines to hold a Council at Mantua
  in 1537. Vergerio dispatched by the Pope to Germany to
  smooth the way; the Legate invites Luther to breakfast
  with him at the Castle of Wittenberg; his description of
  his guest; his own subsequent apostasy                 _pages_ 424-430


  The Schmalkalden League. The league of the Catholic
  Princes. Luther’s “Artickel” for the Schmalkalden
  convention. Melanchthon’s endeavour to arrange matters.
  Luther’s willingness to promote the Council. The
  discussions at Schmalkalden; Melanchthon’s backhanded
  proceedings. Luther, prostrated by an attack of stone,
  desires to be removed so as not to die in a town
  defiled by the presence of a Papal envoy. His parting
  benediction: “_Deus vos impleat odio Papæ_.” The
  agreement subsequently reached at Schmalkalden. Luther
  makes his “First Will”; his recovery; his imprecatory
  Paternoster                                            _pages_ 430-438


  Melanchthon’s sudden change of attitude whilst at
  Schmalkalden; he emulates Luther; reason of the change;
  Melanchthon’s preference for the “needle,” Luther’s for
  the “hog-spear.” Melanchthon’s work for Luther in the
  Antinomian and Osiander controversies; his “_Confessio
  Augustana variata_” tacitly sanctioned by Luther; Bucer
  and Melanchthon and the “Cologne Book of Reform”; Bucer
  is violently taken to task by Luther, but Melanchthon is
  spared. The last joint work of Luther and Melanchthon,
  viz. the “Wittenberg Reformation” (1545)               _pages_ 438-449

                         VOL. III

                     THE REFORMER (I)




1. Luther’s Religious Situation. Was his Reaction a Break with

FROM the date of the presentation of the “Confession” at the Diet
of Augsburg, Lutheranism began to take its place as a new form of
religious belief.

Before this it had ostensibly been merely a question of reforming the
universal Church, though, as a matter of fact, the proposed reform
involved the entire reconstruction of the Church. Now, however,
Lutherans admitted—at least indirectly, by putting forward this
new profession of faith—that it was their intention to constitute
themselves into a distinctive body, in order to impart a permanent
character to the recent innovations in belief and practice. The
Protestants were prepared to see in Germany two forms of faith existing
side by side, unless indeed the Catholic Church should finally consent
to accept the “evangelical” Profession of Faith.

It is true, that, in thus establishing a formula of faith which should
be binding on their followers, the Lutherans were taking up a position
in contradiction with the principle of private judgment in matters
of faith, which, in the beginning, they had loudly advocated. This
was, however, neither an isolated phenomenon, nor, considering the
circumstances, at all difficult to understand. The principles which
Luther had championed in the first part of his career, principles of
which the trend was towards the complete emancipation of the individual
from outward creeds and laws, he had over and again since his first
encounters with the fanatics and Anabaptists honoured in the breach,
and, if he had not altogether discarded them, he had at least come to
explain them very differently.

Hence a certain reaction had taken place in the mind of the originator
of the schism upon which in some sense the Confession of Augsburg set a

The extent of this reaction has been very variously estimated. In
modern times the contrast between the earlier and later Luther has
been so strongly emphasised that we even hear it said that, in the
first period of his career, what he stood for was a mere “religion
of humanity,” that of a resolute “radical,” whereas in the second
he returned to something more positive. Some have even ventured to
speak of the earlier stage of Luther’s career, until, say, 1522, as
“Lutheran,” and of the later as “Protestant.”

In order to appreciate the matter historically it will be necessary for
us to take a survey of the circumstances as a whole which led to the
change in Luther’s attitude, and then to determine the effect of these
factors by a comparison between his earlier and later life.

Amongst the circumstances which influenced Luther one was his tardy
recognition of the fact that the course he had first started on, with
the noisy proclamation of freedom of thought and action in the sphere
of religion, could lead to no other goal than that of universal anarchy
and the destruction of both religion and morality. The Anabaptist
rising served to point out to him the results of his inflammatory
discourses in favour of freedom. He was determined that his work
should not degenerate into social revolution, for one reason because
he was anxious to retain the good-will of the mighty, above all of the
Elector of Saxony. When the Peasant rising, thanks to the ideas he had
himself put forth, began to grow formidable he found himself compelled
to make a more determined stand against all forms of radicalism which
threatened disintegration. This he did indeed more particularly in the
political domain, though his changed attitude here naturally reacted
also on his conception of matters religious.

He treated Andreas Carlstadt and Thomas Münzer as foes, not merely
because they were turbulent and dangerous demagogues, but also because
they were his rivals in the leadership of the movement. The “Spirit,”
which he had formerly represented as the possession of all who opposed
to the old Church their evangelical interpretation of Scripture, he
was now obliged to reserve more and more to himself, in order to put
a stop to the destructive effect of the multiplicity of opinions.
Instead of the “inward word” he now insisted more and more on the
“outward word,” viz. on the Bible preaching, as authorised by the
authorities, i.e. according to his own interpretation. The mysticism,
which had formerly lent a false, idealistic glamour to his advocacy of
freedom, gradually evaporated as years went by. Having once secured
a large following it was no longer necessary for him to excite the
masses by playing to their love of innovation. After the first great
burst of applause was over he became, in the second period of his life,
rather more sober, the urgent task of establishing order in his party,
particularly in the Saxon parishes which adhered to his cause, calling
for prudent and energetic action on his side.

In this respect the Visitation in 1527 played a great part in modifying
those ideas of his which tended to mere arbitrariness and revolution.

Now that the doctrines of the preachers had been made to conform
more and more to the Wittenberg standard; now that the appointment
of pastors had been taken out of the hands of the Congregations and
left to the ruler of the land, it was only natural that when the new
national Church called for a uniform faith, a binding confession of
faith, such as that of Augsburg, should be proclaimed, however much
such a step, such a “constriction and oppression” of freedom, might
conflict with the right of private judgment displayed at the outset on
the banner of the movement.

Such were, broadly stated, the causes which led to the remarkable
change in Luther’s attitude.

On the other hand, those who opine that his ardour had been moderated
by his stay at the Wartburg seem to be completely in the wrong. The
solitude and quiet of the Wartburg neither taught Luther moderation,
nor were responsible for the subsequent reaction. Quite otherwise; at
the Wartburg he firmly believed that all that he had paved the way
for and executed was mystically confirmed from above, and when, after
receiving his “spiritual baptism” within those gloomy walls, he wrote,
as one inspired, to the Elector concerning his mission, there was as
yet in his language absolutely nothing to show the likelihood of his
withdrawing any of the things he had formerly said. Upon his return
to Wittenberg he at once took a vigorous part in the putting down of
the revolt of the fanatics, not, however, because he disapproved of
the changes in themselves—this he expressly disclaims—but because he
considered it imprudent and compromising to proceed in so turbulent a

If, in order to estimate the actual extent of the reaction in Luther’s
mind, we compare his earlier with his later years, we find in the
period previous to 1522 a seething, contradictory mixture of radicalism
and positive elements.

We say a mixture, for it is not in accordance with the historical
sources to say that, in those first stormy years of Luther’s career,
what he stood for was a mere religion of humanity, or that his mode
of thought was quite unchristian. Had this been the case, then the
contrast with his later period would indeed be glaring. As it is,
however, Luther’s statements, as previously given, prove that, in spite
of certain discordant voices, his intention had ever been to preserve
everything in Christianity which he regarded as really positive, i.e.
everything which in his then state of thought and feeling he regarded
as essential.[2] Indeed, he was even disposed to exaggerate the
importance of a positive faith in Christ and man’s dependence upon God
at the expense of man’s natural power of reason. “In spite of all his
calls for freedom and of his pronounced individualism” he preached an
extravagant “dependence upon God.”[3] So far was he from the slightest
tendency to embracing a religion of pure reason that he could not
find terms sufficiently opprobrious to bestow on reason. We also know
that he did not evolve his doctrine of Justification in the second or
so-called reaction period, as has recently been stated in order to
accentuate the contrast, but in the first period and in the quite early
stage of his development.

 His Latin Commentary on Galatians (1519), with the new doctrine of
 Justification,[4] expresses faith in the Redeemer and His Grace in
 terms of startling force; he requires of the children of God the
 fruits of Grace, and attention to every word of Scripture.

 After that year and till 1521, the “_Operationes in Psalmos_” prove
 both his desire for a positive religion and his own earnestness
 in directing others to lead a Christian life;[5] the doctrine of
 Justification therein advocated was admitted by him, even in his old
 age, to have been “faithfully set forth.”[6]

 As other examples which certainly do not go to prove any conscious
 tendency towards theological radicalism, we may mention his work on
 the Ten Commandments and the Our Father, which he published in 1520
 for the unlearned and for children;[7] the sermons, which he continued
 the whole year through; various discourses which he published in 1519,
 such as that on the Twofold Justice,[8] in which he treats of the
 indwelling of Christ in man; that on Preparation for Death, where he
 inculcates the use of Confession, of the Supper and even of Extreme
 Unction, teaching that hope is to be placed in Christ alone, and that
 Saints are to be honoured as followers of Christ;[9] finally, many
 other writings, sermons, letters, already dealt with, dating from the
 time prior to the change.

In view of the statements of this sort with which Luther’s early
works teem we cannot accept the assertion that the words “Christ,
Gospel, Faith and Conscience” were merely intended by Luther to lend
a “semblance of religion” to his negations, and were, on his lips,
mere biblical phrases. Louis Saltet, a Catholic historian of the
Church, is right in his opinion concerning this new theory: “A negative
Lutheranism dominant from 1517 to 1521 is something not vouched for by
history”; that the author of the new teaching “had arrived at something
very much like theological nihilism is a supposition which there is
nothing to prove.”[10]

 As for Luther’s then attitude towards the Bible, he actually
 exaggerates its importance at the expense of reason by asserting that
 reason, whilst well aware of the contradictions and the foolishness
 of the truths of revelation, was nevertheless obliged to accept them.
 The incomprehensibility, ever taught by theologians, of many of the
 mysteries of the faith, for the understanding of which human reason
 alone does not suffice, Luther represents as an open contradiction
 with reason; reason and philosophy, owing to original sin, must
 necessarily be in opposition to God, and hence faith does actual
 violence to reason, forcing it to submit, contrary to its present
 nature and to that of man. Hence, in his estimate of Holy Scripture,
 far from being a rationalist, he was, as a modern Protestant
 theologian puts it, really an “irrationalist,” holding as he did that
 an “unreasonable obedience to Holy Scripture”[11] was required of us.
 According to this same theologian, Luther starts from “an irrational
 conception of God’s veracity,” indeed it is God, Who, according to
 Luther, “by the gift of faith, produces in man the irrational belief
 in the truth of the whole Divine Word.” Thus does Luther reach his
 “altogether irrational, cut-and-dry theology.”[12] If the Wittenberg
 Professor asserts later, that no religion is so foolish and contrary
 to reason as Christianity, and that nevertheless he believes “in
 one Jew, Who is called and is Jesus Christ,”[13] this belief, so
 singularly expressed, was already present to him in his first period,
 and the same may be said, so the authority above referred to declares,
 of his apparent adoption in later years of more positive views,
 “since Luther’s theological convictions never underwent any essential

If from the positive we pass to the negative side of Luther’s teaching,
we do indeed find the latter more predominant during the first period
of his career. An almost revolutionary assertion of religious freedom
is found side by side with the above utterances on faith, so that Adolf
Harnack could with some justice say that “Kant and Fichte both are
concealed in this Luther.”[15]

 “Neither Pope, nor bishop, nor any man,” according to what Luther then
 says, “has a right to dictate even a syllable to the Christian without
 his own consent.”[16] If you have grasped the Word in faith, then “you
 have fulfilled all the commandments and must be free from all things”;
 the believer becomes “spiritually lord of all,” and by virtue of his
 priestly dignity, “he has power over all things.”[17] “No laws can be
 imposed upon Christians by any authority whatsoever, neither by men,
 nor by angels, except with their own consent, for we are free of all
 things.”[18] “What is done otherwise is gross tyranny.... We may not
 become the servants of men.” “But few there are who know the joy of
 Christian liberty.”[19]

 Applying this to faith and the interpretation of Scripture, he
 says, for instance, in 1522: “Formerly we were supposed to have no
 authority to decide,” but, by the Gospel which is now preached, “all
 the Councils have been overthrown and set aside”; no one on earth has
 a right to decree what is to be believed. “If I am to decide what
 is false doctrine, then I must have the right to judge.” Pope and
 Councils may enact what they will, “but I have my own right to judge,
 and I may accept it or not as I please.” At the hour of death, he
 continues, each one must see for himself how he stands; “you must be
 sharp enough to decide for yourself that this is right and that wrong,
 otherwise it is impossible for you to hold your own.” “Your head is in
 danger, your life is at stake; God must speak within your breast and
 say: ‘This is God’s Word,’ otherwise all is uncertain. Thus you must
 be convinced within yourself, independent of all men.”[20]

The individualistic standpoint could scarcely be expressed more
strongly. The appeal to the voice of God “speaking in the heart”
renders it all the more forcible by introducing a pseudo-mystic
element. It is an individualism which might logically be made to
justify every form of unbelief. In such devious paths as these did
Luther lose himself when once he had set aside the doctrinal authority
of the Church.

In his practical instructions and in what he says on the most important
points of the doctrine of salvation, he ever arrogates to himself a
liberty which is in reality mere waywardness.

 If the Sacraments were committed to the Church by her Divine Founder,
 then she must put the faithful under the obligation of making use
 of them in the way Christ intended; she may not, for instance,
 leave her subjects free to bring their children to be baptised or
 not, to confess or not to do so, to receive the Sacrament of the
 Altar or to refrain from receiving it altogether. She may, indeed
 she must, exercise a certain compulsion in this respect by means of
 ecclesiastical penalties. Luther, however, refused to hear of the
 Church and her authority, or of any duty of obedience on the part of
 the faithful, the result being that the freedom which he proclaimed
 nullified every obligation with respect to the Sacraments.

 In the booklet which he composed in the Wartburg, “Von der Beicht ob
 der Bapst Macht habe zu gepieten” (1521), wherein he sets aside the
 duty of Confession, he says of the use of the Sacraments, without
 troubling to exclude even Baptism: “He [man] is at liberty to make
 use of Confession if, as, and where he chooses. If he does not wish
 you may not compel him, for no one has a right to or ought to force
 any man against his will. Absolution is nevertheless a great gift of
 God. In the same way no man can, or ought to, be forced to believe,
 but everyone should be instructed in the Gospel and admonished to
 believe; though he is to be left free to obey or not to obey. All
 the Sacraments should be left optional to everyone. Whoever does not
 wish to be baptised, let him be. Whoever does not wish to receive the
 Sacrament, has a right not to receive; therefore, whoever does not
 wish to confess is free before God not to do so.”[21]

 The receiving of Holy Communion, he declared then and on other
 occasions, was to remain optional, although in later years he was
 most severe in insisting upon it. Concerning this Sacrament, at the
 commencement of 1520 in his “Erklerung etlicher Artickel,” he said
 that Christ had not made the reception of the Sacrament compulsory;
 reception under one kind or under both was not prescribed, although
 “it would be a good thing to receive under both kinds.”[22]

 May we, however, say that Luther made the reception of the Sacrament
 of Baptism entirely optional? Did he go so far as to consider Baptism
 as something not necessary? The passage just quoted, which does away
 so thoroughly with the duty of Confession and instances Baptism as
 a parallel case, is certainly somewhat surprising with regard to
 Baptism. Luther’s train of thought in the passage in question is,
 however, rather confused and obscure. Is he referring to the liberty
 of the unbaptised to receive or not receive the Sacrament of Baptism,
 or to the deferring of Baptism, whether in the case of the adult or in
 that of the children of Christian parents?

 He certainly always held Baptism itself to be absolutely essential
 for salvation;[23] only where it could not be had, was faith able
 to produce its effects. Hence, in the above passage, stress must be
 laid on the words “no one can be forced,” Luther’s meaning being that
 constraint in the case of this Sacrament is as intolerable as in the
 case of the others. He, moreover, declares immediately afterwards that
 Christ demands “Baptism and the Sacrament.” Elsewhere, when again
 advocating freedom in the matter of Confession and defending the work
 above referred to, he says: “I will have no forcing and compelling.
 Faith and baptism I commend; no one, however, may be forced to
 accept it, but only admonished and then left free to choose.”[24]
 Nevertheless he had certainly not been sufficiently careful in his
 choice of words, and had allowed too great play to his boisterous
 desire for freedom, when, at the conclusion of the passage quoted
 from his booklet “On Confession,” he seemingly asserts man’s “freedom
 before God,” not only in the matter of Confession and Communion, but
 also in that of Baptism. Yet the object of the whole tract was to
 show what the result would be, more particularly in the matter of
 Confession and Excommunication, were Christ’s commandments in Holy
 Scripture put in practice, instead of attending only to the man-made
 ordinances of Popes and Councils.[25]

One modern school of Protestant unbelief professes to base itself on
the earlier Luther, and, in almost every particular, justifies itself
by appealing to him.

Such theologians are, however, overstepping the limits of what is
right and fair when they make out the Luther of that earlier period
to have been a true representative of that form of unbelief just
tinged with religion which is their own ideal. As a matter of fact,
Luther, had he been logical, should have arrived at this conclusion,
but he preferred to turn aside, repudiate it, and embrace the profound
contradiction involved in the union of that right of private judgment
he had proclaimed, with the admission of binding dogmas. Freedom in
the interpretation of the sense of Scripture, or more correctly the
setting aside of all ecclesiastical and ostensibly human authority,
has been termed the formal principle of Lutheranism; the doctrine of
Justification, viz. the chief doctrine of Lutheranism, was called by
the older theologians its material principle. Both principles were at
variance with each other in Luther’s mind, just as there can be no
composition between arbitrary judgment and formulæ of faith. History
has to take Luther as he really was; he demanded the fullest freedom
to oppose the Church and her representatives who claimed the right to
enact laws concerning faith and morals, but he most certainly was not
disposed to hear of any such freedom where belief in revelation, or the
acceptance of God’s commandments, was concerned. In the domain of the
State, too, he had no intention of interfering with due subjection to
the authorities, though his hasty, ill-considered utterances seemed to
invite the people to pull down every barrier.

       *       *       *       *       *

In the second period, from 1522 onwards, his tone has changed and he
becomes, so to speak, more conservative and more “religious.”

The principle of freedom of interpretation he now proclaims rather more
cautiously, and no longer appeals in so unqualified a manner to the
universal priesthood and the sovereignty of the Congregation in matters
of religion. Now that the State has come to assume the direction of
the Church, Luther sees fit to make his own some of the conservative
ideas usually dear to those in power. As a preservative against abuse
of freedom he lays great stress on the “office,” and the call to the
work of preaching given by superior authority. “Should a layman so far
forget himself as to correct a preacher,” says Heinrich Böhmer when
dealing with Luther’s attitude at this period, “and speak publicly,
even to a small circle, on the Word of God, it becomes the duty of the
authorities, in the interests of public order, to proceed against him
as a disturber of the peace. How contradictory this was with the great
Reformer’s previous utterances is patent, though very likely he himself
did not clearly perceive it. The change in his convictions on this
point had taken place all unnoticed simultaneously with the change in
the inward and outward situation of the evangelical party.... That his
[earlier] view necessarily called not only for unrestricted freedom to
teach, but also for complete freedom of worship, was indeed never fully
perceived by the Reformer himself.”[26]

The two divergent tendencies, one positive and the other negative, are
apparent throughout Luther’s career.

The positive tendency is, however, more strongly emphasised in the
second period. We shall hear him giving vent to the most bitter
complaints concerning those who interpret Holy Scripture according
to their own ideas and introduce their own notions into the holy and
unchanging Word of God. As exemplifying his own adherence to the truths
of Christianity, the great and solemn profession of faith contained in
the work he wrote in 1528 on the Supper, has been rightly instanced. As
P. Albert Weiss remarks, he makes this “fine profession with an energy
which goes straight to the heart” and “in words which bear honourable
testimony to the depth of his conviction”; it is true that here, too,
the contrast to the Catholic Church, whose belief he so passionately
depreciates, forces itself like a spectre before his mind.[27] “This is
my belief,” he says at the end of the list of Christian dogmas which he
accepts, “for this is what all true Christians believe and what Holy
Scripture teaches. Whatever I may have left unsaid here will be found
in my booklets, more particularly in those published during the last
four or five years.”[28]

Hence when it is asserted by Protestants of rationalist leanings that
Luther recognised only one form of faith, viz. trust in Christ, and
that he reduced all religion to this, it should be pointed out that he
required at the same time a belief in all revealed truths, and that his
doctrine of confident faith in one’s personal salvation and of trust in
a Gracious God and Saviour, was ultimately based on a general act of
faith; “Faith,” he says, in a sermon which was later embodied in his
Church-postils, “really means accepting as true from the bottom of our
heart what the Gospel says concerning Christ, and also all the articles
of faith.”[29] It is true that Luther ever insisted on awakening of
confidence, yet the “_fides fiducialis_” as explained by him always
presupposes the existence of the “_fides historica_.”

 With Luther faith in the whole of Divine revelation comes first, then
 the trusting faith which “trusts all to God.”[30]

 “His whole manner of life,” Otto Ritschl says, “so far as it was
 directed to the attainment of practical aims, was fundamentally
 religious, in the same way as his most important doctrines concerning
 God, Christ, the Law, Sin, Justification, the Forgiveness of Sins and
 Christian Freedom all breathe the spirit of faith, which, as such, was
 confidence.” The Protestant theologian from whom we quote these words
 thinks it necessary to say of the contradictions in Luther which have
 been instanced by Catholics and non-Catholics alike, that “at least in
 Luther’s own way of thinking,” they were not such, for he based his
 faith on the “revelation given by God’s Word in Holy Scripture.”[31]

 In the polemical writings directed against Luther, it was pointed out,
 concerning his faith, that he himself had described faith as a mere
 “fancy and supposition” (_opinio_). We would, however, suggest the
 advisability of considerable caution, for according to other passages
 and from the context, it is plain that what he intends by the word
 “_opinio_” is rather a belief, and, besides, he adds the adjective
 “_firma_” to the word incriminated. It is of course a different
 question whether the absolute certainty of faith can be attributed
 to that faith on which he lays such great stress, viz. the purely
 personal _fides fiducialis_ in one’s salvation through Christ, and,
 further, whether this certainty can be found in the articles, which,
 according to Luther’s teaching, the Christian deduces from the Word of
 God in Scripture by a subjective examination in which he has only his
 own private judgment to depend on.

 However this may be, we find Luther till the very end insisting
 strongly on the submission of reason to the Word of God, so that E.
 Troeltsch, the Heidelberg theologian, could well describe his attitude
 as mediæval on account of the subjection he demands to dogma. For this
 very reason he questions the view, that Luther really “paved the way
 for the modern world.” Troeltsch, nevertheless, is not disinclined to
 see in Luther’s independence of thought a considerable affinity with
 the spirit of modern days.[32] This brings us to the other side of the

Let us follow up the other, the negative, tendency in Luther, from 1522
onwards, which makes for complete religious independence.

Of one doctrine in which it is manifest Harnack says, and his
statement is equally applicable to others: “The universal priesthood
of all the faithful was never relinquished by Luther, but he became
much more cautious in applying it to the congregations actually in
existence.”[33] Luther, according to him, expresses himself “very
variably” concerning the “competency of the individual congregations,
of the congregations as actually existing or as representing the true

The author of the schism, in spite of all the positive elements he
retained during the whole of this period of reaction and till the
very end, had no settled conception of the Church, and the subjective
element, and with it the negative, disintegrating tendency therefore
necessarily predominated in his mind. It is not only Catholics, from
their standpoint, who assert that his whole life’s work was above all
of a destructive character, for many Protestant writers who look below
the surface agree with them, notwithstanding all their appreciation for

 “Wittenberg,” says Friedrich Paulsen, “was the birthplace of the
 revolutionary movement in Germany.... Revolution is the fittest name
 by which to describe it.” The term “Reformation,” is, he declares,
 inexact; a “reformation,” according to Paulsen, was what “the great
 Councils of the fifteenth century sought to bring about.” “Luther’s
 work was not a ‘reformation,’ a re-shaping of the existing Church
 by her own means, but a destruction of the old form; indeed, we may
 say, a thorough-going denial of the Church.” Paulsen points out that,
 in his work addressed to the knights of the Teutonic Order, Luther
 advocates “ecclesiastical anarchy” in seeking to lead them to despise
 all spiritual authority and to break their vow of chastity. The tract
 in question was repeatedly published as a broadside, and passed into
 the Wittenberg and other early collections of his works.[34]

 From the Catholic standpoint, says Gustav Kawerau, “Paulsen was quite
 right in branding Luther as a revolutionary”; Luther’s new wine could
 not, however, so he says, do otherwise than burst the old bottles.[35]

The “wine” which Luther had to offer was certainly in a state of
fermentation, which, with his rejection of all ecclesiastical
authority, made it savour strongly of nihilism. According to Luther
religious truth had been altogether disfigured even in Apostolic
times, owing to the rise of the doctrine of free-will. “For at least
a thousand years,” he repeatedly asserts, truth had been set aside
because, owing to the illegal introduction of external authority in the
Church, “we have been deprived of the right of judging and have been
unjustly forced to accept what the Pope and the Councils decreed”; yet
no one can “determine or decide for others what faith is,” and, since
Christ has warned us against false prophets, “it clearly follows that I
have a right to judge of doctrine.”[36]

One person only has the right—of this he is ever sure—to proclaim
doctrines as undeniable truths come down from heaven. “I am certain
that I have my dogmas from heaven.”[37] “I am enlightened by the
Spirit, He is my teacher.”[38] “We have seen him raised up by God,” so
his friends declared immediately after his death,[39] and, so far as
they were in agreement with him, they claimed a heavenly authority on
his behalf. In spite of all this Luther never saw fit to restrict in
principle the freedom of determining and judging doctrine; the meaning
of Scripture he permits every man to search out, the one indispensable
condition being, that Scripture should be interpreted under the
inspiration of the Spirit from on high, in which case he presumed that
the interpretation would agree with his own. The numerous “clear and
plain” passages from Scripture which were to guide the interpreter,
were to him a guarantee of this; he himself had followed nothing else.
The misfortune is that he never attempted to enumerate or define these
passages, and that many of those very passages which appeared to him
so clear and plain were actually urged against him; for instance, the
words of institution by the Zwinglians and the texts on Justification
by certain of his followers and by the Catholics.

 The fact that freedom in the interpretation of the Bible produced,
 and must necessarily produce, anarchy of opinion, has, by the
 representatives of the Rationalistic school of Protestant theology,
 been urged against the positive elements which Luther chose to retain.
 The tendency which, had he not set himself resolutely against it,
 would have brought Luther even in later years face to face with a
 purely naturalistic view of life, has been clearly and accurately
 pointed out. Paul Wernle, a theologian whose ideal of a renewed
 Christianity is a natural religion clad in religious dress, points
 to the anarchy resulting from the multitude of interpretations, and
 attacks Luther’s Bible faith for the contradictions it involves.
 “The appeal to ‘Bible Christianity,’ and ‘Primitive New Testament
 Christianity,’ produced a whole crop of divergent views of
 Christianity”; “the limitations of this Renascence of Christianity,”
 which was no real Renascence at all, are, he says, very evident;
 Luther had summed up “the theology of Paul in a one-sided fashion,
 purely from the point of view of fear of, and consolation in, sin”;
 his comprehension of Paul was “one-sided, repellent and narrow,”
 and, in favour of Paul, “he depreciated most unjustly the first
 three Gospels”; the new theology “rested exclusively on Romans and
 Galatians,” and, root and branch, is full of contradictions.[40]

 Luther himself invited such criticism by his constant advocacy of
 individualism in his later no less than in his earlier years. “If
 individualism be introduced even into religious life,” writes E.
 Troeltsch, “then the Church loses her significance as an absolute
 and objective authority.” And concerning the “whole crop of views on
 Christianity” which sprang from such individualism, he says with equal
 justice: “A truth which can and must live in so many embodiments, can
 of its very nature never be expressed in one simple and definable
 form. It is in its nature to undergo historical variations and to take
 on different forms at one and the same time.”[41] But this is the
 renunciation of stable truth, in other words: scepticism.

 Denifle put it clearly and concisely when he said: “Luther planted the
 seed of present-day Protestant incredulity.”[42]

 “The tendency of the Reformation,” declares W. Herrmann, a
 representative of ultra-liberal Protestant theology, was in the
 direction of the views he holds, viz. towards a rationalistic
 Christianity, not at all towards “the view of religion dear to
 orthodox theology.” He is convinced, that “it is high time for us
 to resume the work of the Reformers and of Schleiermacher, and to
 consider what we are really to understand by religion.” Religion
 is not an “unreasoning” faith in dogmas, nor a “non-moral” assent
 to alien ideas, “but a personal experience” such as the great
 Reformation doctrine of Justification rightly assumed. Yet, even now,
 theologians still lack that “comprehension of religion common to
 all.” All that is needed is to take Luther’s ideas in real earnest,
 for, according to Herrmann, the “true Christian understanding of what
 faith, i.e. religion [in the above, modern sense], is, was recovered
 at the Reformation. Thus only,” he concludes, “can we escape from
 the hindrances to belief presented by the present development of

 It is with a similar appeal to Luther that another theologian, P.
 Martin Rade, the editor of the “Christliche Welt,” spreads his sails
 to the blast of modern infidelity. According to him Luther was “one
 of the fathers of subjectivism and of modern ways”; Luther, by his
 doctrine of Justification by faith, gave to subjective piety “its
 first clumsy expression”; the faith which Luther taught the world was
 an “individual staking” of all on God’s mercy. Yet, he complains,
 there are people within the Evangelical Church who are still afraid
 of subjectivism. “This fear torments the best, and raises a mighty
 barrier in front of those who struggle onwards.” The barrier is
 composed of the articles of the creed which have remained upstanding
 since Luther’s day. And yet “each scholar can, and may, only represent
 Christianity as it appears to him.” “For us Protestants there is in
 these circumstances only one way. We recognise no external authority
 which could cut the knot for us. Hence we must take our position
 seriously, and embrace and further the cause of subjectivism.” Thanks
 to Luther “religion has been made something subjective; too subjective
 it can never be ... all precautions adopted to guard against religious
 subjectivism are really unevangelical.” We must, on the contrary, say
 with Luther: “God will always prevail and His Word remains for all
 eternity, and His truth for ever and ever.” “Let the Bible speak for
 itself and work of itself” without any “human dogma,” and then you
 have the true spirit of Luther’s Reformation, “the very spirit which
 breathed through it from the day when it first began to play its part
 in the history of the world.” This writer is well acquainted with the
 two great objections to that principle of Luther, which he praises,
 yet he makes no attempt to answer them any more than Luther himself
 did. The first is: “Where is all this to end? Where shall we find
 anything stable and certain?” He simply consoles the questioner by
 stating that “Science provides its own remedy.” The second objection
 is: “But the masses require to be governed, and educated,” in other
 words, religion must be an assured, heaven-sent gift to all men,
 whereas only the few are capable of proving things for themselves and
 following the profession of the learned. “Herein lies the problem,”
 is the resigned answer, “which we do not fail to recognise, and
 with it Protestantism has hitherto proved itself sadly incapable of
 grappling”; “entirely new forces are required” for this purpose.
 Whence these forces are to come, we are not told.[44]

 That all are not determined to follow the course which Luther had
 entered upon is but natural. To many the Wittenberg Professor remains
 simply a guardian of the faith, a bulwark of conservatism, and
 even the safety-valve he opened many would fain see closed again.
 Characteristic of this group is the complaint recently brought forward
 by the Evangelical “Monatskorrespondenz” against Friedrich Nietzsche,
 for having described Luther’s reformation, with scant respect, as the
 “Peasant Revolt of the mind,” and spoken of the “destruction of throne
 and altar” which he had brought about.[45]

If, from the above, we attempt to judge of the range of Luther’s
so-called “reaction” in his second period, we find that it can no more
be regarded as a return to positive beliefs than his first period can
be described as almost wholly Rationalistic. In both cases we should
be guilty of exaggeration; in the one stage as well as in the other
there is a seething mixture of radical principles and tendencies on
the one hand, and of Christian faith and more positive ones on the
other. In his earlier years, however, Luther allows the former, and,
in the second, the latter to predominate. Formerly, at the outset of
the struggle, he had been anxious to emphasise his discovery which
was to be the loosing of imaginary bonds, while the old beliefs he
still shared naturally retreated more or less into the background;
now, owing partly to his calmer mode of thought, partly to insure
greater stability to his work and in order to shake off the troublesome
extremists, Luther was more disposed to display the obverse of the
medal with the symbols of faith and order, without however repudiating
the reverse with the cap of liberty. How he contrived to reconcile
these contradictions in his own mind belongs to the difficult study
of his psychology. On account of these contradictions he must not,
however, be termed a theological nihilist, since he made the warmest
profession of faith in the principles of Christianity; neither may he
be called a hero of positive faith, seeing that he bases everything
on his private acceptance. To describe him rightly we should have to
call him the man of contradictions, for he was in contradiction not
merely with the Church, but even with himself. The only result of the
so-called reaction in Luther during the ‘twenties, and later, was the
bringing into greater prominence of this inner spirit of contradiction.

The startling antagonism between negation and belief within his
mind found expression in his whole action. Though his character,
his vivacity, imaginativeness and rashness concealed to some extent
the rift, his incessant public struggles also doing their part in
preventing him from becoming wholly alive to the contradictions in
his soul, yet in his general behaviour, in his speech, writings and
actions we find that instability, restlessness and inconstancy which
were the results at once of this contrast and of the fierce struggle
going on within him. The vehemence which so frequently carries him
away was a product of this state of ferment. Often we find him
attempting to smother his consciousness of it by recourse to jesting.
His conviviality and his splendid gift of sympathy concealed from his
friends the antagonism he bore within him. All that the public, and
most of his readers, perceived was the mighty force of his eloquence
and personality and the wealth and freshness of his imagery. They
sufficed to hide from the common herd the discrepancies and flaws
inherent in his standpoint.

Wealth and versatility, such are the terms sometimes applied by
Protestants to the frequent contradictions met with in his statements.
In the same way the ambiguity of Kant’s philosophy has been accounted
one of its special advantages, whereas ambiguity really denotes a lack
of sequence and coherence, or at the very least a lack of clearness.
Truth undefiled displays both wealth and beauty without admixture of
obscurity or of ambiguity.

 Luther’s “wealth” was thus described by Adolf Hausrath: “Every word
 Luther utters plays in a hundred lights and every eye meets with a
 different radiance, which it would gladly fix. His personality also
 presents a hundred problems. Of all great men Luther was the most
 paradoxical. The very union, so characteristic of him, of mother-wit
 and melancholy is quite peculiar. His wanton humour seems at times
 to make a plaything of the whole world, yet the next moment this
 seemingly incurable humorist is oppressed with the deepest melancholy,
 so that he knows not what to do with himself.... In one corner of his
 heart lurks a demon of defiance who, when roused, carries away the
 submissive monk to outbursts which he himself recognises as the work
 of some alien force, stronger than his firmest resolutions. He was
 the greatest revolutionary of the age and yet he was a conservative
 theologian, yea, conservative to obstinacy.... He insisted at times
 upon the letter as though the salvation of the entire Church depended
 upon it, and yet we find him rejecting whole books of the Bible and
 denying their Apostolic spirit. Reason appears to him as a temptress
 from the regions of enchantment, intellect as a mere rogue, who proves
 to his own satisfaction just what he is desirous of seeing proved, and
 yet, armed with this same reason and intellect, Luther went out boldly
 into the battle-fields of the prolonged religious war.”[46]

2. From the Congregational to the State Church Secularisations

In the first stage of his revolt against the Church, Luther had
imagined that the new order of things could be brought about amongst
his followers merely by his declaiming against outward forms;
repeatedly he asserted that the Christian life consisted wholly in
faith and charity, that faith would display its power spontaneously
in good works, and that thus everything would arrange itself; a new
and better Church would spring up within the old one, though minus a
hierarchy, minus all false doctrine and holiness-by-works.

Up to the commencement of the ‘twenties his efforts had, in fact,
been directed not to the setting up of new congregations but to the
reconstruction of the existing Church system. Previous to his drafting
of the plan comprised in the writing he sent to Prague, on the
appointment of ecclesiastical ministers (vol. ii., p. 111 f.), in which
we find the congregational organisation proposed as a model for the
German Church, he was as yet merely desirous of paving the way for what
he looked on as a reformation within the already existing Church, and
this by means of the rulers and nobles.

His work “An den christlichen Adel,” to which we must now return in
order to consider it from this particular standpoint, was composed
with this object. By it he sought to rouse the rulers and those in
power who had opened their hearts to the “Christian” faith, i.e. to
the new Evangel, to take in hand the moral and religious reformation
on the lines indicated by himself. Thus he appealed, as almost all
sectarians had instinctively done from the very first, to the secular
authorities and the power of the Princes in order to attain his special
ecclesiastical ends. The secular Estates, already covetous of increased
power and independence, were invited in these fiery pages to take their
stand against the Papacy and the hierarchy, just as they would against
“a destroyer of Christendom,”[47] and “to punish them severely” on
account of divers disorders and “for their abuse of excommunication
and their shocking blasphemies against the name of God,”[48] in short,
“to put an end to the whole affair.”[49] The last words, found in the
writing “On good works,” were addressed to the “King, the Princes,
Nobles, Townships and people generally.”

Thus to force the two powers, secular and ecclesiastical, out of their
spheres, handing over the supervision of the Church to the secular
authorities[50] can only be characterised as an attack upon the whole
Christian and moral order of things, on the whole previous development
of the Church and on the highest principles of religion. It is true
that the Catholic States had already appropriated many of the rights
really appertaining to the Church, but to carry their interference
so far as Luther advised, had never yet occurred to them. Indeed,
the subversion of order planned by Luther was so great, that the
impossibility of carrying out his project must have speedily become
apparent to him. As a matter of fact, the actual number of those whose
hearts had been awakened by the Evangel to the extent of sharing
Luther’s extreme views was not at all considerable.

When anxious friends pointed out to Luther how revolutionary his
undertaking was, his excuse was merely this: “I am blameless, seeing
that my only object is to induce the nobles of Germany to set a limit
to the encroachments of the Romanists by passing resolutions and
edicts, not by means of the sword; for to fight against an unwarlike
clergy would be like fighting against women and children.”[51] Hence,
so long as no blood was shed, the overthrow of the legal status of the
Church met with his full approval.

The torrents of angry abuse which Luther soon afterwards poured forth
upon those in power because they would not follow his call and allow
themselves to be “awakened,” were simply proofs of the futility of his

 No demagogue had ever before filled Germany with such noisy abuse
 of the Princes as Luther now did in works intended for the masses,
 where he declared, for instance, that “God has sent our Rulers mad”;
 that “they command their subjects just what they please”; that they
 are “scamps” and “fools”; that he is forced to resist, “at least by
 word,” these “ungracious Lords and angry squires” on account of their
 “blasphemies against the Divine Majesty.”[52] He denounced them to the
 populace as having heaped together their “gold and goods” unjustly,
 just as “Nimrod had acquired his goods and his gold.”[53] He accuses
 them “of allowing everything to drift, and of hindering one another”;
 “plenty of them even vindicate the cause of Antichrist,”[54] therefore
 the Judgment of God must fall upon our “raving Princes.” “God has
 blinded them and made them stupid that they may run headlong to

 This he wrote on the eve of the fearful events of the Peasant Rising.

Thus his ideal of the future was now shattered, viz. the spiritual
society and new Christendom which he had planned to establish with the
help of the Princes. “This dream passed rapidly away. All that remained
was a deep-seated pessimism.... From that time the persuasion grew on
him that the world will always remain the same, that it can never be
governed according to the Evangel and can never be rendered really
Christian; likewise, that true Christians will always be but few in

Hence these few Christians must become the object of his solicitude.
He is more and more inspired by the fantastic notion that Popery is to
be speedily overthrown by God Himself, by His Word and by the breath
of His Mouth. In the meantime he expects the new Church to develop
spontaneously from the congregations by the power of God, even though
at first it should consist of only a small number of faithful souls.

The congregational ideal, as a passing stage in his theory of Church
formation, absorbed him, as we have already seen, more particularly
from the year 1523. The congregations were to be self-supporting after
once the new teaching had been introduced amongst them. In accordance
with the Evangel, they were to be quite independent and to choose their
own spiritual overseers. From among these, superintendents were to be
selected, to be at the head of the congregations of the country, and as
it were general-bishops, assisted by visitors, of course all laymen, no
less than those from whom they derived their authority and by whom, for
instance for bad doctrine, they might be removed. The above-mentioned
letter sent to Prague, on the appointment of ministers in the Church
(1523), contained further details. Other statements made by Luther
about that same time, and already quoted, supply what is here lacking;
for instance, his ascribing to each member of the congregation the
right of judging of doctrine and of humbly correcting the preacher,
should he err, even before the whole assembly, according to the Spirit
of God which inspires him.[57]

Thus he had relinquished the idea of proceeding by means of the
assistance of the Princes and nobles, and had come to place all his
hopes in the fruitfulness and productive power of the congregational

But here again he met with nothing but disappointment. It was not
encouraging to find, that, on the introduction of the new teaching and
in the struggle against alleged formalism and holiness-by-works, what
Christian spirit previously existed was inclined to take to flight,
whilst an unevangelical spirit obtruded itself everywhere. Hence his
enlargement of his earlier congregational theory by the scheme for
singling out the faithful, i.e. the true Christians, and forming of
them a special community.

Just as his belief in the spontaneous formation of a new state of
things testified to his abnormal idealism, so this new idea of an
assembly within the congregation displays his utter lack of any
practical spirit of organisation. As to how far this perfecting of his
congregational Churches tended to produce a sort of esoteric Church,
will be discussed elsewhere (vol. v., xxix., 8).

 As his starting-point in this later theory he took the proposition,
 which he believed could be reconciled with the Gospel, viz. that the
 Gospel is not for all; it is not intended for the “hard-hearted” who
 “do not accept it and are not amenable to it,” it is not meant for
 “open sinners, steeped in great vices; even though they may listen to
 it and not resist it, yet it does not trouble them much”; still less
 is it for those, “worst of all men, who go so far as to persecute the
 Gospel.” “These three classes have nothing to do with the Gospel, nor
 do we preach to such as these; I only wish we could go further and
 punish them, the unmannerly hogs, who prate much of it but all to no
 purpose, as though it [the Gospel] were a romance of Dietrich of Bern,
 or some such-like tale. If a man wants to be a pig, let him think of
 the things which are a pig’s. Would that I could exclude such men from
 the sermons.”[58]

 In reality, as is evident from passages already quoted and as Luther
 here again goes on to point out, the Gospel was intended for “simple”
 consciences, for those who, “though they may at times stumble, are
 displeased with themselves, feel their malady and would gladly be
 rid of it, and whose hearts are therefore not hardened. These must
 be stirred up and drawn to Christ. To none other than these have we
 ever preached.” The latter assertion is not, of course, to be taken
 quite literally. It is, however, correct that he considered only the
 true believers as real members of the Church, for these alone, viz.
 for people who had been touched by the Spirit of God and recognised
 their sins, was his preaching intended.[59] These too it was whom
 he desired to unite if possible into an ordered body. Side by side
 with this he saw in his mind the great congregational Church, termed
 by him the “masses”; this Church seemed, however, to him, less a
 Church than a field for missionary labour, for its members were yet
 to be converted. The idea of a popular Church was, nevertheless, not
 altogether excluded by the theory of the separate Church of the true

More particularly at Wittenberg he was desirous of seeing this
segregation of the “Christians” carried out, quietly and little by
little. He prudently abstained from exerting his own influence for its
realisation, and preferred to wait for it to develop spontaneously
“under the Spirit of God.” The idea was, as a matter of fact, far
too vague. He also felt that neither he nor the others possessed
the necessary spiritual authority for guiding hearts towards this
goal, for preserving peace within the newly founded communities, or
for defending them against the hostile elements outside. As for his
favourite comparison of his theory of the congregation with that in
vogue in Apostolic times, it was one which could not stand examination.
His congregations lacked everything—the moral foundation, the Spirit
from above, independent spiritual authority and able, God-enlightened
superiors to act as their organs and centres.

At Leisnig in the Saxon Electorate (cf. vol. ii., p. 113) an attempt to
call an ideal evangelical community into existence was made in 1523,
the Church property being illegally confiscated by the magistrates
and members of the parish, and the ancient right of the neighbouring
Cistercian house to appoint the parish-priest being set at nought
by the congregation choosing its own pastor; here the inevitable
dissensions at once broke out within the community and the whole thing
was a failure. The internal confusion to which the congregation would
be exposed through the doctrine of private illumination and “apostolic”
rights, is clear from the very title of the work which Luther composed
for Leisnig: “That a Christian assembly or parish has the right and
power to judge of doctrine and to give the call to, and appoint and
remove, its pastors,” etc.[60]

In spite of the evident impracticability of the scheme, the phantom of
the congregational Church engrossed the author of the ecclesiastical
schism for about ten years. Nor did he ever cease to cherish the idea
of the Church apart. It was this idea which inspired the attacks
contained in his sermons upon the multitude of lazy, indolent and
unbelieving souls to whom it was useless to preach and who, even after
death, were only fit for the flaying-ground because during life they
had infected the invisible, living community. He is heedless of what
must result, in the towns, villages and families, from any division
into Christians and non-Christians, nor does he seem to notice that
the system of the Church apart could only produce spiritual pride,
hypocrisy and all the errors of subjectivism in those singled out by
the Spirit, to say nothing of the obstinacy and wantonness engendered
in those who were excluded.

The popular Church, of which it was necessary to make the best, owing
to the impracticability of the Church apart, apparently embraced all,
yet, within it, according to Luther, the true believers formed an
invisible Church, and this in a twofold manner, first, because they
were themselves not to be recognised, and, secondly, because the Word
and the Sacrament, from which they derived their religious life,
concealed a whole treasure of invisible forces.

With such imperfect elements it was, however, impossible to establish a
new Church system. A new phase was imminent, towards which everything
was gravitating of its own accord; this was the State Church, i.e. the
national Church as a State institution, with the sovereign at its head.
The various congregational churches formed a visible body frequently
impinging on the outward, civil government, and largely dependent on
the support of the authorities; hence their gradual evolution into a
State Church. The local and national character of the new system paved
the way for this development. Luther, whilst at the bottom of his heart
anxious to check it—for his ideal was an independent Church—came,
under pressure of circumstances, to champion it as the best and only
thing. A popular Church or State Church had never been his object,
yet he ultimately welcomed the State Church as the best way to meet
difficulties; this we shall see more clearly further on. In his
efforts to overcome the apathy of the masses he even had recourse to
compulsion by the State, inviting the authorities to force resisters to
attend Divine Worship.[61]

Luther should have asked himself whether the moral grandeur
and strength which, in spite of its favourable appearance, the
congregational Church lacked, would be found in the compulsory State
Church. This question he should have been able to answer in the
negative. It was a radical misfortune that in all the attempts made
to infuse life into the branch torn away by Luther from the universal
Catholic Church the secular power never failed to interfere. The
State had stood sponsor to the new faith on its first appearance and,
whether in Luther’s interest or in its own, the State continued to
intervene in matters pertaining to the Church. This interweaving of
politics with religion failed to insure to the new Church the friendly
assistance of the State, but soon brought it into a position of entire
subservience—in spite of the protests of the originator of the

The jurisdiction of the State within the “Church,” in the case of the
early Lutheran congregations, did not amount to any actual government
of the Church by the sovereign. This, in the appalling form it was to
assume, was a result of the later Consistories. What, with Luther’s
consent, first passed into the hands of the secular authorities was
the jurisdiction in certain external matters which, according to
the earlier Canon Law, really belonged to the Bishop’s court. When
episcopal authority was abolished the Elector of Saxony assumed
this jurisdiction as a sort of bishop _faute-de-mieux_, or, to use
Melanchthon’s expression, as the principal member of the Church
(“_membrum præcipuum ecclesiæ_”).[62] The jurisdiction in question
concerned, above all, matrimonial cases which, according to Luther,
belonged altogether to the secular courts, matters of tithes, certain
offences against ecclesiastical or secular law and points of Church
discipline affecting public order. Luther had declared that the Church
possessed no power to govern, that the only object for which it existed
was to make men pious by means of the Word, that the secular authority
was the only one able to make laws and formally to claim obedience
“whether it does right or wrong.”[63] Hence the State in assuming
jurisdiction in the above matters was doing nobody any injustice, was
merely exercising its right, whilst the authority of which it made use
was not “ecclesiastical,” but merely the common law exercised for the
purpose of preserving “sound doctrine” and the “true Church.”[64]

The next step was the appointment of ecclesiastical superintendents by
the sovereign and, either through these or without them, the nomination
of pastors by the State, the removal of unqualified teachers, the
convening of ecclesiastical synods or “consultations,” the carrying
out of Visitations and the drawing up of Church regulations. Here
again no objection on the point of principle was raised by Luther,
partly because the power of the keys, according to him, included no
coercive authority, partly because the idea of the “_membrum præcipuum
ecclesiæ_” was elastic enough to permit of such encroachments on the
part of the ruler.[65] In the Protestant Canon Law, compiled by R.
Sohm, all the above is described, under appeal to Luther, as coming
under the jurisdiction of the State, the Church being “without
jurisdiction in the legal sense” and its business being “merely the
ministry of the Word.”[66]

The introduction of the Consistories in 1539 was a result of the idea
expressed by Justus Jonas in his memorandum, viz. that if the Church
possesses no legal power of coercion for the maintenance of order,
she is fatally doomed to perish. To many the growing corruption made
an imitation of “episcopal jurisdiction in the Catholic style,” such
as Melanchthon desiderated, appear a real need.[67] In the event
the advice of Jonas was followed, jurisdiction being conferred on
the Consistories directly by the ruler of the land. After a little
hesitation Luther gave his sanction to the new institution, seeing
that, though appointed by the sovereign, it was a mere spiritual
tribunal of the Church. The Consistories, more particularly after his
death, though retaining the name of ecclesiastical courts gradually
became a department of the civil judicature, a good expression of the
complete subservience of Church to State.

 “The setting up of the civil government of the Church was achieved,”
 remarks Sohm, by an arrangement really “in entire opposition to the
 ideas of the Reformation.”[68]

 “The lack of system in Luther’s mode of thought is perhaps nowhere
 so apparent as in his views on the authorities and their demeanour
 towards religion.”[69] The want of unity and sequence in his teaching
 becomes even more apparent when we listen to the very diverse
 opinions of Protestant scholars on the subject. It is no fault of the
 historian’s if the picture presented by the statements of Luther and
 his commentators shows very blurred outlines.

 “The civil government of the Church,” writes Heinrich Böhmer, in
 “Luther im Lichte der neueren Forschung”—speaking from his own
 standpoint—“in so far as it actually represents a ‘government,’
 is utterly at variance with Luther’s own principles in matters of
 religion. Neither can it be brought into direct historical connection
 with the Reformation.... The so-called congregational principle is
 really the only one which agrees with Luther’s religious ideal,
 according to which the decision upon all ecclesiastical matters is
 to be regarded as the right of each individual congregation.... It
 is, however, perfectly true that the attempts to reorganise the
 ecclesiastical constitution on the basis of this idea were a complete
 failure. Neither at Wittenberg, nor at Allstedt, nor at Orlamünde were
 the communities from a moral point of view sufficiently ripe.”[70]

 The civil government of the Church is also in disagreement with
 Luther’s conception of the secular power as expressed in some chief
 passages of his work “Von welltlicher Uberkeytt,” (1523). According to
 Erich Brandenburg’s concise summary, Luther shows in this work, that
 “the task of the State and of society is entirely secular; it is not
 their duty to make men pious. There is no such thing as a Christian
 State; society and the State were called into being by God on account
 of the wicked.”[71] Brandenburg also quotes later statements made by
 Luther concerning the secular authorities, and infers, “that neither
 the civil government of the Church in the sense accepted at a later
 date, nor the quasi-episcopate of the sovereign, is really compatible
 with such views.”[72]

 It is true that in his Commentary on the Gospel of St. John
 (1537-1538), in his annoyance at his unfortunate experiences of State
 encroachments, Luther declares, that “the two governments should
 not be intermingled to the end of the world, as was the case with
 the Jewish nation in Old Testament times, but must remain divided
 and apart, in order that the pure Gospel and the true faith may be
 preserved, for the Kingdom of Christ and the secular government are
 two very different things.”[73] He realises, however, the futility
 of his exhortations: “You will see that the devil will mingle them
 together again ... the sword of the Spirit and the secular sword....
 Our squires, the nobles and the Princes, who now go about equipped
 with authority and desire to teach the preachers what they are to
 preach and to force the people to the sacrament according to their
 pleasure, will cause us much injury; for it is necessary ‘to render
 obedience to the worldly authorities,’ hence ‘what we wish, that you
 must do,’ and thus the secular and spiritual government becomes a
 single establishment.”[74]

 Brandenburg, for his part, is of opinion that “the civil government of
 the Church had come about in opposition to Luther’s wishes, but had to
 be endured like other forms of injustice.... Luther reproached himself
 with strengthening the tyrants by his preaching, with throwing open
 doors and windows to them. But with the unworldly idealism peculiar to
 him, he thereupon replied defiantly: ‘What do I care? If, on account
 of the tyrants, we are to omit the teaching which is so essential a
 matter, then we should have been forced long since to relinquish the
 whole Evangel.’”[75]

 On the other hand another Protestant theologian, H. Hermelink, who
 supports the opposite view, viz. that Luther was a staunch upholder
 of the supremacy of the authorities in matters ecclesiastic, adduces
 plentiful quotations from Luther’s writings in which the latter, even
 from the early days of his struggle, declares that the authorities
 have their say in spiritual matters, that it is their duty to provide
 for uniformity of teaching in each locality and to supervise Christian
 worship. He admits, however, that Luther set certain “bounds to the
 ecclesiastical rights of the authorities.”[76]

 These statements in favour of the authorities cannot be disallowed.
 They arose partly from Luther’s efforts to advance his party with the
 help of the worldly magnates, partly, as will appear immediately, from
 the material difficulties of the Lutheran congregations, due to the
 confiscation of Church property by the secular power.

 In any case it was unexpectedly that Luther found himself confronted
 with all the above problems. When their immediate solution became the
 most urgent task for the new faith, Luther’s principles were still
 far from presenting any well-defined line of action. “To these, and
 similar questions,” remarks Wilhelm Maurenbrecher, the Protestant
 historian of the Reformation, “Luther had given no sufficient answer;
 it would even seem as though he had not considered them at all
 carefully.” Among the questions was, according to Maurenbrecher, the
 fundamental one: “Who is to decide whether this or that person belongs
 to the congregation?” If the congregation, where does the Church come
 in? for, “after all, the congregation is not the Church.”[77] The very
 idea of the Church had still to be determined.[78]

_Confiscation of Church Property._

In the Saxon Electorate, the home of the religious innovation, it had
become imperatively necessary that the parishes which sided with Luther
should be set in order by a strong hand, first, and principally, in the
matter of the use to which the Church lands were to be put. In these
territories, where the civil government of the Church first obtained,
it arose through the robbing and plundering of the churches.

“The parsonages all over the country lie desolate,” Luther wrote
to the Elector Johann of Saxony on October 31, 1525, “no one gives
anything, or pays anything.... The common people pay no attention to
either preacher or parson, so that unless some bold step be taken
and the pastors and preachers receive State aid from your Electoral
Highness, there will shortly be neither parsonages, nor schools, nor
scholars, so that the Word of God and His worship will perish. Your
Electoral Highness must therefore continue to devote yourself to God’s
service and act as His faithful tool.”[79]

Not long afterwards Luther strongly advises the Elector not only to
see to the material condition of the parsonages, but also to examine
by means of visitors the fitness of the parsons for their office,
“in order that the people may be well served in the Evangel and may
contribute to his [the parson’s] support.”[80]

The Order for Visitations (1527), which Luther looked over and which
practically had his approval, was intended in the first place to
better financially the condition of the parishes. Hand in hand with
this, however, went supervision of the preaching by the State and the
repression by force of whatever Catholic elements still survived.[81]
The Electoral Visitors here and there found the utmost indifference
towards the new faith prevailing among the people, whose interests were
all material. They finally proposed that the Elector should provide
for the support of the parsons and assume the right of appointing and
removing all the clergy.

 Luther himself had written as early as 1526: “The complaints of the
 parsons almost everywhere are beyond measure great. The peasants
 refuse to give anything at all, and there is such ingratitude amongst
 the people for the Holy Word of God that there can be no doubt a great
 judgment of God is imminent.... It is the fault of the authorities
 that the young receive no education and that the land is filled with
 wild, dissolute folk, so that not only God’s command but our common
 distress compel us to take some measures.”[82]

 “Common distress” was, in point of fact, compelling recourse to the
 authorities who had confiscated the property of the Church; i.e. the
 heads of the various parishes or the Electoral Court. The magistrates
 had laid hands upon the smaller benefices, which, as a matter of fact,
 were for the most part in their own gift or in that of the families
 of distinction, whilst in case of dispute the Elector himself had
 intervened. The best of the plunder naturally went to the Ruler of the

 Luther addressed the Elector as follows: “Now that an end has
 been made of the Papal and ecclesiastical tyranny throughout your
 Highness’s dominions, and now that all the religious houses and
 endowments have come into the power of your Electoral Highness as the
 supreme head, this involves the duty and burden of setting this matter
 in order, since no one else has taken it up, nor has a right to do
 so.”[83]—Nor was Luther backward in pointing out to the Court, when
 obliged to complain of the meagre support accorded to the churches,
 the great service he had done in enriching it: “Has the Prince ever
 suffered any loss through us?” he asks a person of influence with the
 Elector in 1520. “Have we not, on the contrary, brought him much gain?
 Can it be considered an insignificant matter, that not only your souls
 have been saved by the Evangel, but that also considerable wealth, in
 the shape of property, has begun to flow into the Prince’s coffers, a
 source of revenue which is still daily on the increase?”[84]

 The appropriation of property by the Elector as Ruler of the land
 necessarily entailed far-reaching obligations with regard to the

 Hence, when, on November 22, 1526, Luther represented to the sovereign
 the financial distress of the pastors, he also told him, that a just
 ruler ought to prevail upon his subjects to support the schools,
 pulpits and parsonages.[85] Johann, in his reply, when agreeing to
 intervene for the better ordering of the churches, likewise appeals to
 his rights as sovereign of the country: “Because we judge, and are of
 opinion, that it beseems us as Ruler to attend to them.”[86]

 Luther’s invitation to the Princes to effect by force a reformation
 of the ecclesiastical order had already thrown wide open the doors to
 princely aggression.

 “The secular power,” Luther had said, “has become a member of the
 Christian body, and though its work is of the body, yet it belongs
 to the spiritual estate. Therefore its work shall go forward without
 let or hindrance amongst all the members of the whole body.” The
 Christian secular authority shall exercise its office in all freedom,
 if necessary even against Pope, bishop and priest, for ecclesiastical
 law is nothing but a fond invention of Roman presumption.[87]

 If it was the duty of the rulers to intervene on behalf of the general
 public needs of Christendom, how much more were they bound to provide
 for the proper standing and pure doctrine of the pastors. It is they
 who must assist in bringing about a “real, free Council,” since the
 Pope, whose duty it was to convene it, neglected to do so; “this
 no one can do so effectively as the secular powers, particularly
 now that they have become fellow-Christians, fellow-priests and
 fellow-clergymen, sharing our power in all things; their office and
 work, which they have from God over all men, must be allowed free
 course wherever needful and wholesome.”[88]

Luther was wide-awake to the fact, and reckoned upon it, that the
gain to be derived from the rich ecclesiastical property would act
as a powerful incentive with those in power to induce them to open
their lands to the innovations. What ruler would not be tempted by the
prospect of coming so easily into possession of the Church’s wealth,
that fabulous patrimony accumulated from the gifts previous ages had
made on behalf of the poor, of the service of the altar, of the clergy
and the churches? They heard Luther declare that he was going to tear
Catholic hearts away from “monasteries and clerical mummery”; they
also heard him add: “When they are gone and the churches and convents
lie desolate and forsaken, then the rulers of the land may do with
them what they please. What care we for wood and stone if once we have
captured the hearts?”[89] The taking over of the Church property by the
rulers was, according to him, simply the just and natural result of the
preaching of the Evangel. This was the light in which he wished the
very unspiritual procedure of confiscation to be regarded.

He frequently insisted very urgently that the nobles and unauthorised
laymen were not to seize upon the church buildings, revenues and
real property. He was aware of the danger of countenancing private
interference, and preferred to see the expropriation carried out by the
power of the State and according to law. In this wise he hoped that the
property seized might still, to some extent, be employed in accordance
with its original purpose, though, as was inevitable, he was greatly
disappointed in this hope. It is spiritual property, he repeats
frequently, bestowed for a spiritual purpose, and therefore, even after
the departure of its former occupant, it must be used for the salvation
of souls in accordance with the Evangel. To the Elector Johann, for
instance, he writes: The parsonages must be repaired out of the
revenues of the monasteries, “because such property cannot profit your
Electoral Highness’s Exchequer, for it was dedicated to God’s service
and therefore must be devoted primarily to this object. Whatever is
left after this, your Electoral Highness may make use of for the needs
of the land, or for the poor.”[90]

His demands were, however, very inadequately complied with. If Luther
really anticipated their fulfilment, he was certainly very ignorant
of the ways of the world. Who was to prevent the Princes from seizing
upon the Church lands with greedy hands so soon as they stood vacant,
and employing them for their own purposes, or to enrich the nobles?
Even where everything was done in an orderly manner, who could prevent
ever-impecunious Sovereigns from making use of the revenues for State
purposes and from allotting the first place among the “needs of the
land” of which we just heard Luther speak, to their own everyday

 Luther’s subsequent experiences drew from him such words as the
 following: “This robbing of the monasteries”—he wrote to Spalatin,
 who was still connected with the Court of the new Elector Johann
 (since 1525), concerning the condition of things in the Saxon
 Electorate—“is a very serious matter, which worries me greatly. I
 have set my face against it for a long while past. Not content with
 this, when the Prince was stopping here I actually forced my way into
 his chamber, in spite of the resistance I met with, in order to make
 representations to him privately.” He goes on to complain that there
 was little hope of redress so long as certain selfish intrigues were
 being carried on in the vicinity of the sovereign. Indeed, he does
 not anticipate much help from this Elector Johann, because he lacks
 his father’s firmness, and is much too ready to listen to anyone.
 “A Prince must know how to be angry, a King must be something of
 a tyrant; this the world demands.” As things are, however, we are
 imposed upon in all sorts of ways for “the sake of the spoils”;
 “smoke, fumes and fables” are made to serve, and we do not even know
 who are at work behind the scenes; at any rate they are hostile to the
 Evangel and were its foes even in the time of the pious Elector. “Now
 that they have enriched themselves, they laugh and exult over the fact
 that it is possible in the name of the Evangel to enjoy all sorts of
 evangelical freedom, and at the same time to be the Evangel’s worst
 enemy. This is bitter to me, more bitter than gall.” “I shall have to
 issue a public admonition to the Prince in order to insist upon some
 other administration of the religious houses; perhaps then I shall
 be able to shame those fellows.... I hate Satan’s rage, malice and
 ambushes, everywhere, in all matters, and unceasingly, and it gives me
 pleasure to thwart him and injure him wherever I can.”[91]

 Thus the consequences were more serious than the ex-monk in his
 ignorance of the ways of the world had anticipated. “Satan,” on whose
 shoulders he lays the blame, was not to be so easily expelled. The
 worst acts of violence perpetrated in the name of the Word of God were
 the result of the lust for wealth which he had unchained.

 “How heavily the negligence of our Court presses upon me,” he sighs
 in the last years of his life. Much is undertaken presumptuously,
 and then, after a while, we are left stranded in the mire; they do
 nothing themselves, and we are left to our fate. But I intend to
 pour my grievous complaints into the ears of Dr. Pontanus and the
 Prince himself as soon as I get a chance. I have learnt, to my great
 annoyance, that the nobles are governing in the Prince’s name.[92]

A few days after the letter to Spalatin, quoted above, in another
letter to him, he gives vent to his thoughts on the marriage questions
arising within the domain of the new faith.

_Secularisation of the Matrimonial Courts.
Against the Lawyers._

The secularisation of the marriage courts appears as a very
characteristic subject amongst the questions of jurisdiction arising
between State and Church, side by side with the secularisation of
Church property. The secularising of these courts was the logical
consequence of Luther’s secularising of matrimony, which he
regarded—to forestall his later statements[93]—“as an outward,
secular matter, subject to the authorities, like food and clothing,
house and land.”[94] According to the Confession of Augsburg at the
very most it was a sacrament only in the same way that the authority
of the magistrates appointed by God was a sacrament.[95] The codicil
to the Articles of Schmalkalden required, that the “magistrates shall
establish special marriage courts,” because Canon Law “contains
pitfalls for conscience.”[96]

As the Church had formerly been the sole authority on questions
relating to marriage, and as the custom of referring such matters to
her was deeply rooted in the life of the German people, Luther at the
outset consented to take this into account and to leave the decision
to his preachers; the result of this was, however, that he found
himself overwhelmed amidst his other labours by a mass of unpleasant
and uncongenial work and was accordingly soon moved to throw the whole
burden on the State and the secular lawyers, though here again he met
with distressing experiences.

He wrote to Spalatin in 1527: “We have been plagued by so many
questions concerning marriage, owing to the connivance of the devil,
that we have decided to leave this profane business to the profane
courts. Formerly I was stupid enough to expect from mankind something
more than mere humanity, and to fancy that they could be directed by
the Evangel. Now, facts have shown that they despise the Evangel and
insist on being compelled by the law and the sword.” He shows himself
very much annoyed in this letter at the position taken up by the
jurists with their “law” concerning those marriages which took place
contrary to the will of the parents. The lawyers of the Wittenberg
Faculty agreed with the older Church in recognising the validity
of such unions. Luther, on the other hand, ostensibly on biblical
grounds, wished them to be held as null, because duty to the public
and the respect due to parents required it. In practice, however,
he soon became aware how precarious was this position. “The Gospel
teaches,” he explains to Spalatin, “that the father must be ready to
give his consent when his son asks what is lawful, and that the son
must obey his father; on both sides there must be good-will; this
holds good with the pious. But when godless parents hear that the
Gospel confirms their authority, they become tyrannical [and refuse to
consent to their children’s marriage]. The children, on the other hand,
learn that, according to the law of Pope and Emperor, they have the
necessary permission, and so they abuse this liberty and despise their
parents. Both sides are in the wrong and numerous examples of the same

In the case of such dissensions between parents and children, he says
in an instruction to Spalatin which was printed later, the son “must
be sent to the profane, i.e. Imperial Courts of Justice, under which
we live in the flesh, and thus you will be relieved of the burden.”
Preachers, according to him, as “evangelists,” have nothing to do with
legal questions, but merely with peaceable matters; “where there is
strife and dissension the Kaiser’s tribunal [the secular courts] must
decide.... Should the son get no redress from the secular court, then
there is nothing for him but to submit to his father’s tyranny.”[98]

Naturally neither Luther nor the parties concerned found much
satisfaction in such expedients. The handing over of the marriage
questions to the State was to prove a source of endless and increasing
trouble and vexation to Luther in the ensuing years, particularly in
connection with the “secret” marriages just referred to. Luther even
appealed from the then practice of the lawyers to the law of the old
Roman Empire, which exaggerated the paternal rights to the extent of
making the children’s marriages altogether dependent on the will of the
parents. In the letter to Spalatin, printed in the Wittenberg edition
of Luther’s German works, we find the following marginal note which
expresses Luther’s opinion: “The old Imperial and Christian laws decree
and ordain that children shall marry with the knowledge, consent and
advice of their parents, and this the natural law also teaches. But the
Pope, like the tyrant and Antichrist he is, has determined to be the
only judge in questions of marriage and has abolished the obedience
due by children to their parents.”[99] The truth is, that Canon Law,
whilst strongly urging both sons and daughters to obey and respect
their parents, nevertheless recognised as valid a marriage contract
when concluded under conditions otherwise lawful, and this because it
saw no reason for depriving the contracting parties of the freedom
which was theirs by the natural law.

Luther, greatly incensed by the opposition of the lawyers, at
length, in a sermon preached in 1544, launched forth the most solemn
condemnation possible of the so-called secret unions contracted
without the paternal consent. He declared: “I, Dr. Martinus, command
in the name of the Lord our God, that no one shall enter into a secret
engagement and then, after the event, seek the parents’ ratification
... and, in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Ghost, I condemn to
the abyss of hell all those who assist in furthering such devil’s work
as secret engagements. Amen.”[100]

In the same way he boasted to the Elector, that the jurists had “wanted
to play havoc” with his churches “with their annoying, damnable suits
which, however, I have resolved to expel from my churches as damnable
and accursed to-day and for all eternity.” The principal motive for
his action was the “Divine command” he had received “to preach the
observance of the Fourth Commandment in these matters.”[101]

What Luther, however, was most sensitive to was that some of the
Wittenberg lawyers, conformably with the traditional code, declared
the marriages of priests, and consequently his own, to be invalid in
law, and the children of such unions to be incapable of inheriting. He
keenly felt the blow which was thus directed against himself and his
children. His displeasure he gave vent to in some drastic utterances.
If what the lawyers say is correct, he continues in the writing above
referred to addressed to the Elector, “then I should also be obliged to
forsake the Evangel and crawl back into the frock [the religious habit]
in the devil’s name, by power and virtue of both ecclesiastical and
secular law. Then Your Electoral Highness would have to have my head
chopped off, dealing likewise with all those who have married nuns, as
the Emperor Jovian decreed more than a thousand years ago” [and as the
law still stood in the codes then in use].

Thoughts such as these, on the reprobation of his union with Bora by
the law of the Church and of the Christian Roman Empire, stood in
glaring contrast to the pleasant moods of domestic life to which he
so gladly gave himself up. He sought to find solace from his public
cares and conflicts in his family circle, and some compensation for the
troubles which the great ones of the earth caused him in the domestic
delights in which he would have wished all other fallen priests to
share. He succeeded, to an extent which appeared by no means enviable
to those who followed a different ideal, in forgetting his priestly
state and its demands. In one of the letters just mentioned he writes
as a father to Spalatin, who also had had recourse to marriage: “May
you live happily in the Lord with your rib [i.e. your wife]. My little
Hans sends you greetings; he is now in the month of teething and is
beginning to lisp; it is delightful to see how he will leave no one in
peace about him. My Katey also sends you her best wishes, above all for
a little Spalatin, to teach you what she boasts of having learnt from
her little Hans, i.e. the crown and joy of wedded life, which the Pope
and his world were not worthy of.”[102]

What Canon Law said of the high calling of the priest and religious and
of the depth of the fall of those who proved untrue to it, no longer
made the slightest impression on him. It would have been in vain had
a St. Jerome of olden days, a mediæval St. Bernard or a Geiler of
Kaysersberg championed the cause of Canon Law against Luther and his
nun in the glowing language they knew so well how to use. Luther’s
own words quoted above concerning the death penalty decreed by Jovian
the Christian Emperor against anyone sacrilegiously violating a nun,
illuminate as with a lightning flash the antagonism between antiquity
and Luther’s doings.

He asserts himself proudly because he considers his heavenly calling to
expound the new Evangel, and his Divine mission, had been questioned
by the lawyers who represented the authority of the State. When, in
defiance of their objections against the legitimacy of his family,
he drafted his celebrated will, he was careful to inform them that,
for its validity, he has no need of them or of a notary; he was “Dr.
Martinus Luther, God’s Notary and Witness to His Gospel,” and was
“well known in heaven, on earth and in hell”; that “God had entrusted
him with the Gospel of His Dear Son and had made him faithful and true
to it,” for which reason, “in spite of the fury of all the devils,”
many “in the world regarded him as a teacher of truth.”[103]

3. The Question of the Religious War; Luther’s Vacillating Attitude.
The League of Schmalkalden, 1531

After the Diet of Augsburg, Luther, as we have shown (vol. ii., pp.
391, 395 f.), proclaimed the war of religion much more openly than ever
before. His writings, “Auff das vermeint Keiserlich Edict” and “Widder
den Meuchler zu Dresen,” bear witness to this. The proceedings taken by
the Empire on the ground of the resolutions of Worms, and the attitude
of the Catholic Princes and Estates, appeared to him merely a plot, a
shameful artifice on the part of the “bloodhounds” who opposed him.

In his writing against the Assassin, i.e. Duke George of Saxony, he
expounds his politico-religious standpoint in a way which became his
rule for the future. Cain and Abel, the devil and the righteous, stand
face to face. “The world belongs either to the devil or to the Children
of God. The devil’s realm conceals a murderer and bloodhound, Abel,
a pious and peaceable heart.” Abel stands for the Lutherans, Cain
and the devil for the Papists. It is a “veracious opinion, founded
on Scripture and proved by the fruits of the Papists, that they are
ever on the watch and lie in wait day and night to destroy us and root
us out.”[104] “If the Emperor or the authorities purpose to make war
on God [i.e. Luther’s Evangel], then no one must obey them.” In this
case everyone must resist, for it is no “disobedience, rebellion or
contumacy to refuse to obey and assist in shedding innocent blood.”[105]

Opposition and violent resistance to the lawful authority of the empire
and its legitimate action is here justified by the argument that to
fight for the Evangel is no revolt.

The defiant resolve to proceed to any extreme regardless of others or
of the public weal, finds its strongest expression in Luther’s words
during and after the Diet of Augsburg: “Not one hair’s breadth will I
yield to the foe,” he wrote from the fortress of Coburg, with a hint at
the wavering attitude of Melanchthon and Jonas. This it was which led
up to the statement already quoted: “If war is to come, let it come.”
“God has delivered them up to be slaughtered.”[106]

_Luther on Armed Resistance, until 1530._

If we glance at Luther’s former attitude towards open resistance, we
find that it would be unjust to say that he preferred religious war
to peaceful propaganda. He perceived the danger which it involved.
At an earlier period he several times had occasion to intervene when
warring elements threatened to estrange the German Princes. We find
statements of his where he speaks against armed resistance and points
out (to use his later words) what a “blot upon our teaching” a “breach
or disturbance of the peace of the land would be.”[107] There is no
question that such utterances preponderate with him until 1530. From
the very first years of his public career he was anxious to impress on
all, particularly on his own Sovereign, that the Word alone must work
all; he eliminates as far as possible every prospect of a struggle with
the Emperor or the other rulers, which was what the Elector really
dreaded. He also frequently expounds theoretically, more particularly
in his booklet “Von welltlicher Uberkeytt” (1523), the duty of
Christians not to resist the authorities, because the Kingdom of God
means yielding, humility and submission; every true believer must even
allow himself to be “fleeced and oppressed”; he must indeed confess
the evangelical faith, but be willing to “suffer” under an authority
hostile to the faith (cp. vol. ii., p. 229 f.). When occasion offered
he was ready to quote numerous passages from Holy Scripture in order to
show that violent revolt and armed intervention on behalf of the Gospel
are forbidden, and that the German Princes had nothing to fear from him
in this regard.

None the less, his enterprise was visibly drifting towards the
employment of force and towards war.

 How deeply he felt the premonition of civil war is plain, for
 instance, from the following:

 “There will be no lack of breaches of the peace, and of war only too
 much,” he wrote in 1528 to the Elector Johann.[108] He and Melanchthon
 together also wrote in the same strain to the Crown-Prince of Saxony,
 Johann Frederick, in 1528; “Time will bring enough fighting with it
 which it will be impossible to avoid, so that we should be grateful to
 accept peace where we are able.”[109] As early as 1522 he had given to
 the Elector Frederick one of his reasons for leaving the Wartburg and
 returning to Wittenberg: “I am much afraid and troubled because I am,
 alas, convinced that there will be a great revolt in the German lands,
 by which God will chastise the nation.” The Evangel was well received
 by the common people, but some were desirous of extinguishing the
 light by force. And yet “not only the spiritual, but also the secular
 power, must yield to the Evangel, whether cheerfully or otherwise, as
 all the accounts contained in the Bible sufficiently show.... I am
 only concerned lest the revolt should begin with the Lords, and, like
 a national calamity, engulf the priesthood.”[110]

 Nevertheless he is determined to be of good cheer; even should the
 war ensue, his conscience is “pure, guiltless and untroubled, whereas
 the consciences of the Papists are guilty, anxious and unclean.”
 “Therefore let things take their course and do their worst, whether it
 be war or rebellion according as God’s anger decrees.”[111]

 This gives redoubled weight to his determination to press forward
 relentlessly. “Let justice prevail even though the whole world should
 be reduced to ruin. For I say throw peace into the nethermost hell if
 it is to be purchased at the price of harm to the Evangel and to the

 It has been admitted on the Protestant side that “Luther adhered
 to this view throughout his life, viz.: that his doctrine must be
 preached even though it should lead to the destruction of all.”[113]
 In confirmation of this, another passage taken from Luther’s writings
 is quoted: “It has been said that if the Pope falls Germany will
 perish, be utterly wrecked and ruined; but how can I help that? I
 cannot save it; whose fault is it? Ah, they say, if Luther had not
 come and preached, the Papacy would still be on its legs and we should
 be at peace. I cannot help that.”[114]

 When the same author urges in Luther’s defence that, “he was
 not really indifferent to the evil consequences of his actions
 in ecclesiastical and political matters,”[115] we naturally ask
 whether the author of the schism did not at times feel bitterly his
 heavy responsibility for these results, and whether he should not
 have exerted himself in every possible way to ward off the “evil
 consequences.” His own admissions, to be given elsewhere (see vol.
 v., xxxii.), concerning his inward struggles, disclose how frequently
 he was troubled with such reproaches and what difficulty he had in
 ridding himself of them.

 To the inflammatory invitations already given we may subjoin a few

 “It were better,” Luther says in his Church-postils, “that all the
 churches and foundations throughout the land were uprooted and burnt
 to powder—and the sin would be less even though done out of mere
 wantonness—than that a single soul should be seduced and corrupted
 by this [Papistical] error.”[116] And, further on: “Here you see why
 the lightning commonly strikes the churches rather than any other
 buildings, viz.: because God is more hostile to them than to any
 others, because in no den of robbers, no house of ill-fame is there
 such sin, such blasphemy against God, such murder of the soul and
 destruction of the Church committed as in these houses” [i.e. in the
 churches where the Catholic worship obtained].[117] Elsewhere, at an
 earlier date he had said: “Would it be astonishing if the Princes, the
 nobles and the laity were to hit Pope, bishop, priest and monk on the
 head and drive them out of the land? It has never before been heard of
 in Christendom, and it is abominable to hear now, that the Christian
 people should openly be commanded to deny the truth.”[118]—Besides
 these, we have the fiery words he flung among the people: “Where the
 ecclesiastical Estate does not proceed in the way of faith and charity
 [according to the Evangel], my wish is not merely that my doctrine
 should interfere with the monasteries and foundations, but that they
 were reduced to one great heap of ashes.”[119]—In fine: “A grand
 destruction of all the monasteries and foundations would be the best
 reformation, for they are of no earthly use to Christendom and might
 well be spared.... What is useless and unnecessary and yet does such
 untold mischief, and to boot is beyond reformation, had much better
 be exterminated.”[120] The word here rendered as “destruction” is one
 of which Luther frequently makes use to denote violent annihilation,
 for instance, of the devastation of Jerusalem and its Temple, nor can
 we well explain it away in the above connection; he certainly never
 pictured to himself the “grand destruction of all the monasteries
 and foundations” otherwise than as a general reduction to ruins. The
 excuse brought forward in modern times in extenuation of Luther is a
 very strange one, viz.: that, when giving vent to such expressions,
 he frequently added the qualifying clause “_if_ the Catholics do not
 change their opinions,” then violence will befall them; hence only
 in the event of their final refusal to accept the new teaching was
 the destruction so vividly described to overtake them! Presumably his
 contemporaries should have shown themselves grateful for this saving
 clause. The mitigation conveyed by the clause in question in reality
 amounted to this: Only if the whole world becomes Lutheran will it be
 saved from destruction.[121]

 It is psychologically worth noticing that Luther, in his zeal, seems
 never to have perceived that the argument might just as well be turned
 against himself. The Emperor and the Catholic powers of the Empire,
 with at least as much show of reason, might have urged as he did,
 that no power, without being doomed to “destruction” and to being
 “burnt to ashes,” could stand against the Gospel. The Gospel which
 they defended was that handed down by the Church, whereas Luther’s
 Evangel, to mention only one point, was novel and hitherto unheard
 of by theologians and faithful laity alike. On the one occasion when
 this thought occurred to him, he had the following excuse ready: We
 are sure of our faith, hence we may and must demand that everything
 yield to it; the Emperor and his party on the other hand have no such
 assurance and can never reach it. “We know that the Emperor is not and
 cannot be certain of it, because we know that he errs and seeks to
 oppose the Evangel. We are not obliged to believe that he is certain
 because he does not act in accordance with God’s Word, whereas we
 on the other hand do; for it is his bounden duty to recognise God’s
 Word!” Otherwise, Luther adds, “every murderer and adulterer might
 also plead: ‘I am right, therefore you must approve my act because
 I am certain I am in the right.’”[122]—“It was with arguments like
 these that the Protestant Estates were to justify their overthrow
 of the ancient faith and worship, and to demonstrate the wickedness
 of the Emperor’s efforts to preserve the faith and worship of his

Of the various memoranda which Luther had to draw up for his Sovereign
on the question of armed resistance, that of February 8, 1523, prepared
for the Elector Frederick, must be mentioned first.[124] In this the
Prince’s attention is drawn to the fact, that publicly he had hitherto
preserved an attitude of neutrality concerning religious questions,
and had merely given out that, as a layman, he was waiting for the
triumph of the truth. Hence it was necessary that he should declare
himself for the justice of Luther’s cause if he intended to abandon
his attitude of submission to the Imperial authority. In that case he
might have recourse to arms in the character of a stranger who comes to
the rescue, but not as a sovereign of the Empire. Further, “he must do
this only at the call of a singular spirit and faith, short of which
he must give way to the sword of the higher power and die with his
Christians.”[125] Should he, however, be attacked, not by the Emperor,
but by the Catholic Princes, then, after first attempting to bring
about peace, he must repel force by force.

When, in 1528, the false reports were circulated, of which we hear in
the history of the Pack negotiation, to wit, that the Catholic Princes
of the Empire were on the point of falling upon the Protesters, Luther
sent a letter to Johann, his Elector, regarding the question of law.
What was to be done if the Catholic powers, without the authorisation
of the Emperor, attacked the Lutheran party? Luther’s verdict was that
such an act on the part of “scoundrel-princes” must be resisted by
force of arms “as a real revolt and conspiracy against the Empire and
His Imperial Majesty,” but that “to take the offensive and anticipate
such an action on the part of the Princes was in no wise to be

On this occasion he manifested serious apprehension of the mischief
which might be caused by a precipitate armed attack on the part of his
princely patrons. It was a very different matter to look forward to a
mere possibility of war and to find himself directly confronted with an
outbreak of hostilities. “May God preserve us from such a horror! This
would indeed be to fish with a draw-net and to take might for right. No
greater blame could attach to the Evangel, for this would be no Peasant
Rising but a Rising of the Princes, which would destroy Germany utterly
to the joy of Satan.”[127]

The above memorandum had dealt with the question of an attack by the
Princes of the Empire. But what was to be done if the Emperor himself

The Lutheran Princes and Estates were anxious to exercise the utmost
caution and restraint with regard to the Emperor personally, and in
this Luther agreed with them. At Spires, in 1526, they had decided to
behave “in such a way as to be able to answer for it before God and
the Emperor,” which, however, did not prevent them from establishing
the “evangelical” worship in contravention of the decrees of Worms. It
was hoped that the Emperor, hampered by his foreign policy, would not
take up arms. When, accordingly, the protesting Princes, at the time of
the Pack business, commenced warlike preparations against the Catholic
party in the Empire, they solemnly declared at Rotach, in June, 1528,
that they “excepted” the Emperor. In the same way they desired that
their action at Spires in 1529, where they “protested” against the
Emperor, should be looked upon as an appeal to the Emperor “better
instructed.” When the Emperor, on account of the protest, began to
take a serious view of the matter, any scruples which the sovereigns of
Hesse and the Saxon Electorate may have felt concerning the employment
of armed resistance against him soon evaporated. In Saxony it was held
that a closer alliance of the Princes favourable to the innovations
ought not to be “shorn of its meaning and value” by this “exemption
of the Emperor”; the exemption, it was argued, was only of the person
of the Emperor, not of his mandataries. A Saxon memorandum at the end
of July, 1529, practically made an end of the exemption; “resistance,
even to the Emperor, the most dangerous of our foes, belongs to the
natural law of humanity.”[128] This was the opinion of the Margrave of
Brandenburg, and even more so of the Landgrave of Hesse. At Nuremberg,
however, Lazarus Spengler sought to persuade the Council to negative
this resolution; he was still entirely under the influence of Luther’s
earlier teaching, that the spirit must be ready to endure and suffer
under the secular authorities.

Luther, in spite of his frequent threats and urgings, was not
immediately to be induced to make common cause with the politicians. In
January, 1530, Johann Brenz penned a memorandum in which, in terms of
the utmost decision, he denies the lawfulness of resisting the Emperor,
whereas on Christmas Day, 1529, in a similar memorandum requested
of him by the Elector, Luther expresses himself most ambiguously.
He, indeed, just hints at the unlawfulness of such resistance, but
qualifies this admission by such words as the following: “There must
be no resistance unless actual violence is done, or dire necessity
compels”; “without a Council and without a hearing” there must be no
war against the Emperor; before this, however, much water is likely to
flow under the bridge, and God may easily find means of establishing
peace; “hence my opinion is that the project of taking the field should
be abandoned for the nonce, unless further cause or necessity should

In a letter to George, Margrave of Brandenburg, written on March 6,
1530, with the object of winning him over to the war party, Philip
of Hesse declared that he had seen “in Luther’s own writings to the
Elector, that he sanctioned the latter’s resisting the Emperor.” This
probably refers to the above memorandum which lies to-day in the
Hessian archives at Marburg, the original of which seems to have been
submitted to Philip; it may, however, have been some other letter
since lost, or possibly the 1528 memorandum in which Luther speaks of
the lawfulness of repelling the anticipated attack of the Catholic

To take up arms in the cause of the Evangel was certainly not in
accordance with Luther’s previous teaching, however much he may
himself have occasionally disregarded it. Owing to a certain mystical
confidence in his cause, he could not bring himself to believe that
things would ever come to be settled by force of arms. The Elector
Johann, unlike Philip of Hesse, again began to hesitate. On January
27, 1530, he instructed the Wittenberg Faculty to let him have, within
three weeks, the views of its lawyers. These counsellors declared in
favour of the lawfulness of such a war against the Emperor, basing
their view on two considerations, viz. that as an appeal had been
made to a Council the Emperor could not in the meantime insist upon
submission in matters of religion, and that, on his election at
Frankfurt, it had been agreed that all the Princes and Estates should
retain their customary rights. In spite of this, the lawyers consulted
were not in favour of having forthwith recourse to open resistance,
but suggested the exercise of patience and restraint.[131] Luther and
Melanchthon replied only on March 6, 1530. What strikes one in Luther’s
reply is that “he has nothing personal to say on the relations between
Emperor and Prince; this was a serious omission. All he sees is the
individual Christian—in this case the sovereign—and his fidelity to
the faith.... He is still unable to believe in a coming disaster, for
this his God will surely not permit.”[132]

His categorical declaration, in the memorandum of March 30, 1530,
against the lawfulness of resistance, is of greater importance, for it
is the last of the kind. After this the change already foreseen was to
take place.

With an express appeal to his three advisers, Jonas, Bugenhagen and
Melanchthon, Luther explains to the Elector,[133] that armed resistance
“can in no way be reconciled with Scripture.” Quite candidly he lays
stress on the unfavourable prospects of resistance and the evil
consequences which must attend success. Having taken the step, we
should, he says, “be forced to go further, to drive away the Emperor
and make ourselves Emperor.” “In the confusion and tumult which would
ensue everyone would want to be Emperor, and what horrible bloodshed
and misery would that not cause.”[134]

In principle, it will be observed, the letter left open a loophole
in the event of a more favourable condition of the Protestant cause
supervening, i.e. should it be possible to arrive at the desired result
by some quieter and safer means, and without deposing the Emperor. None
the less noteworthy are, however, the biblical utterances to which
Luther again returns: “A Christian ought to be ready to suffer violence
and injustice, more particularly from his own ruler,” otherwise “there
would be no authority or obedience left in the world.” He would fain
uphold, against all law, “whether secular or Popish,” the truth, that
“authority is of Divine institution.” Hence the Princes must quietly
submit to all the Emperor does; “Each one must answer for himself and
maintain his belief at the risk of life and limb, and not drag the
Princes with him into danger.” “The matter must be committed to God.”
Hence the memorandum culminates in the exhortation to sacrifice “life
and limb,” i.e. to endure martyrdom.[135] This memorandum of Luther’s
was kept secret. At any rate the apparently heroic renunciation of
all recourse to arms, together with the reference—reminiscent of his
earlier mysticism—to the Christian’s vocation to suffer violence
and injustice, make of this memorandum a remarkable document not to
be matched by any other writing of Luther at that time. Though there
is little doubt that the sight of the comparatively helpless and
critical position of the new party had its effect here, yet, beyond
this, there is a psychological connection between the standpoint voiced
in the memorandum and Luther’s attitude after the inward change which
occurred in him whilst yet a monk. His perfectly just injunction not to
withstand the Emperor, he rests partly on the mystic theories he had
imbibed at that time, partly on his early erroneous views concerning
the rights of the authorities as guardians of outward, public order. In
his enthusiasm for his cause he clings to that presumptuous confidence
in a special Divine guidance, which had inspired him from the beginning
of his career. “The call of a singular spirit and faith,” which he
considered necessary in the case of the Elector Frederick (see above,
p. 48), he hears quite clearly within himself, though as yet this
call does not urge him to advocate armed resistance to the Emperor,
but merely inspires him blindly to confide in his cause and to exhort
others to “martyrdom.”

Simultaneously Melanchthon sent to the Elector a memorandum of his
own, which, apart from being clearer in language and thought, closely
resembles Luther’s and betrays the same deficiencies.[136]

_The Change of 1530; Influence of the Courts._

In that same year, 1530, after his return to Wittenberg from the Coburg
on the termination of the Diet of Augsburg, a notable change took place
in Luther’s public attitude towards the question of the employment of
force. This change we can follow step by step.

The fact that the lawyers attached to the Court had, in view of the
circumstances, altered their minds, weighed strongly with Luther.
Confronted with the measures of retaliation announced by the Diet,
and more hopeful regarding the prospects of resistance now that
the Protesters were joining forces, the councillors of the Saxon
Electorate, with Chancellor Brück at their head, were inclined to the
opinion that whatever sentences the Reichsgericht might pronounce in
virtue of the Imperial edict of Augsburg might safely be disregarded,
which, of course, was tantamount to a commencement of resistance.
They were very anxious concerning the consequences of the decrees
of Augsburg, as these involved the restitution of all the property
and rights of the Church, which had been appropriated by the secular
power in the name of religion. Johann, Elector of Saxony, for a while
continued to regard resistance as unlawful. On reaching Nuremberg, on
his return journey from Augsburg, he said to Luther’s friend there,
Wenceslaus Link: “Should one of my neighbours, or anyone else, attack
me on account of the Evangel, I should resist him with all the force at
my command, but should the Emperor come and attack me, he is my liege
lord and I must yield to him, and what were more honourable than to be
exterminated on account of the Word of God?”[137] Gradually, however,
he was brought over to the new standpoint of his councillors. The
example of the Landgrave of Hesse, who belonged to the war party and
was very hopeful of the results of a league, had great weight with him,
and likewise his determination not to surrender to the executors of
the Imperial edict the Church property which had been confiscated. The
innovations which, in the beginning, had seemed a work of high-minded
idealists, were now pushed forward by many of the Princes, for motives
of the very lowest, viz. to avoid making restitution of property which
had been unlawfully distrained. On unevangelical motives such as
these it was that the theory of submission to the secular power, in
particular to the Emperor, announced by Luther in such grandiloquent
language, was to suffer shipwreck.

Philip of Hesse, who was aware of the weak points in Luther’s previous
declarations on the subject, was the first to attempt to bring about a
change in his views.

 He entered into communication with Luther in October, 1530, and sent
 him a “writing,” together with a “Christian admonition,” to encourage
 him and his theologians, in whom, during the Diet, he thought he had
 detected a certain tendency to waver. Luther replied, on October 15,
 in a very devout letter, assuring the Landgrave that he had “received
 both the writing and the admonition with pleasure and gladness.” “I
 beg to thank Your Highness for your good and earnest counsel”; he and
 his, as time went on, were “even less disposed to yield” and reckoned
 on the help of God.[138]

 Philip, in his next letter a week later, came at once to the crucial
 point, the question of resistance. He reminded Luther of the
 memorandum in which he had said, they must indeed not “commence the
 war, but that if they were attacked they might defend themselves” (p.
 50 f.). Philip, without further ado, explains his plans against the
 Emperor. The Emperor, he says with perfect frankness, “took the oath
 to his Princes at his election, just as much as they did to him....
 Hence, if the Emperor does not keep his oath to us, he reduces himself
 to the rank of any other man, and must no longer be regarded as a real
 Emperor, but as a mere breaker of the peace.” The “most important of
 the Electors and Estates” had not agreed to the Reichstagsabschied.
 Hence there was hope of triumphing over the Emperor. In his letter
 to Luther, he even makes use of comparisons from the Bible, just as
 Luther himself was in the habit of doing, and this he did again at
 a later date when seeking Luther’s sanction for his bigamy. “God in
 the Old Testament did not forsake His people or allow the country to
 perish which trusted in Him.” He had come to the aid of the Bohemians
 and of “many other too, against Emperors and such-like, who treated
 their subjects with unjust violence.” This being so, he requests
 Luther for his “advice and opinion” whether force may not be used,
 seeing that “His Majesty is determined to re-establish the devil’s

 Luther now saw himself obliged openly to avow his standpoint, all the
 more as a similar request had reached him from the Elector, in this
 case possibly a verbal one. He left the Landgrave to wait and replied
 first to the Elector, though only by word of mouth, so as not to
 commit himself irretrievably on so delicate a matter. What his reply
 exactly was is not known. At the end of October he had to go to Torgau
 for a conference on the subject with the Elector’s legal advisers and
 possibly those of other Princes. Melanchthon and Jonas accompanied
 him, and the negotiations were protracted and lively.[140]

 During these negotiations Luther replied from Torgau, on October 28,
 to the letter from the Landgrave referred to above, though in general
 and evasive terms. He says, he hopes no blood will be shed, but, in
 the event of things going so far, he had told the Elector his opinion
 on resistance, and of this the Landgrave would hear in due season;
 that it would be dangerous for him, as an ecclesiastic, to put this
 into writing, for many reasons.[141] Hence for the nonce he was
 determined to express himself only verbally on this tiresome question.

 In what direction his thoughts were then turning may be gathered
 from what he says to the Landgrave in the same letter concerning his
 writings; the latter had asked him, he says, for a controversial
 booklet, “as a consolation for the weak”; he intended “in any case
 to publish a booklet shortly ... admonishing all consciences, that
 no subject was bound to render obedience should His Imperial Majesty
 persist”; and in which he will prove that the Emperor’s demands are
 “blasphemous, murderous and diabolical”—still, the booklet was not
 to be termed “seditious.” He here is referring either to the “Auff
 das vermeint Edict” or to the “Warnunge.” We have already spoken of
 the revolutionary character of the language he used in these tracts
 published in the early part of 1531, and, subsequently, in the reply
 “Widder den Meuchler zu Dresen.”[142] What he was there to advocate
 goes far beyond the limits of mere passive resistance.

He was at first unwilling to declare his views at Torgau. Not to
contradict what he had previously said, he protested that the question
did not concern him, since, as a theologian, his business was to
teach Christ only. As regards secular matters, he could only counsel
compliance with the law and, on the matter of forcible resistance
to the Emperor, that any action taken should be conformable to
the “written laws.” “But what these laws were he neither knew nor

The assembled lawyers were, however, loath to leave Torgau without
having reached an understanding, and submitted another statement to
Luther and his colleagues, requesting their opinion on it. In this
document they had sought to prove, from sources almost exclusively
canonical, that it was lawful to resist the Emperor by force, because
“he proceeds and acts contrary to law,” not being a judge in matters
of religion, and that, even if he were such a judge, he had no right
to do anything on account of the appeal to a Council. They urged that
it was necessary to “obey God and evangelical truth rather than men,”
and that the Emperor was “no more than a private individual so far as
the ‘cognition’ and ‘statution’ of this matter went ... nor does the
‘execution’ come within his province.” For the sake of the salvation
of souls the Emperor was not to be regarded as “judge in the matter
of our faith,” for his “injustice is undeniable, manifest, patent and
notorious, yea, more than notorious.”[144]

The councillors chose to deal with the matter chiefly from the point
of view of canon law, as is shown by their misquotations from such
well-known canonists as Panormitanus, Innocent IV., Felinus, Baldus
de Ubaldis and the Archidiaconus (Baisius).[145] In spite of this they
calmly assumed the truth of the proposition, condemned in canon law, of
the subordination of Pope to Council and of the right of appealing from
Pope to Council. They took it for granted that Luther’s doctrines had
not yet been finally rejected by the Church, and, in contradiction with
actual fact, declared that the Augsburg Reichstagsabschied “admitted
and allowed” that Luther’s doctrines, seeing that they were supposed to
have been condemned by previous Councils, should come up for discussion
at the next. As a matter of fact the Reichstagsabschied contained
nothing of the sort “concerning doctrines of faith.”[146]

This document was submitted to the theologians before they left Torgau,
and their embarrassment was reflected in their written reply. Luther
agreed with his friends that the only way out of the difficulty was
to put the whole thing on the shoulders of the lawyers. He and his
party declared that they stood altogether outside the question, since
the councillors had already decided independently of them in favour
of armed resistance, on the ground of the secular, Imperial laws.
As for the reasons alleged from canon law, he refused to take them
into consideration. Later on he was glad to be able to appeal to this
subterfuge, and declared that he “had given no counsel.”[147]

At this time, however, Luther, Melanchthon and Jonas put their
signatures to a memorandum in which they sought to protect themselves
by certain assurances which make a painful impression on the reader.

 It was true that hitherto they had taught, so they say, “that the
 [secular] authorities must on no account be resisted,” but, they
 had been unaware “that the authorities’ own laws, which we have
 always taught must be diligently obeyed, sanctioned this.” They had
 also taught, “that the secular laws must be allowed to take their
 own course, because the Gospel teaches nothing against the worldly
 law.” “Accordingly, now that the doctors and experts in the law have
 proved that our present case is such that it is lawful to resist the
 authorities, we, for our part, ‘cannot disprove this from Scripture,
 when self-defence is called for, even though it should be against the
 Emperor himself.’” They then come to the question of arming. This
 they declare to be distinctly practical and advisable, especially
 as “any day other causes may arise where it would be essential to be
 ready to defend oneself, not merely from worldly motives, but from
 duty and constraint of conscience.” It was necessary “to be ready to
 encounter a power which might suddenly arise.”[148]

 The Landgrave of Hesse was then making great preparations for war,
 with an eye on Würtemberg, where, as he admitted publicly, he wished
 forcibly to re-instate Duke Ulrich, a friend to the religious

 The theologians of the Margraviate of Brandenburg, unlike those of
 Wittenberg, were opposed to resistance. They replied then, or somewhat
 later, concerning the views put forward by the lawyers, that it
 was a question of the supreme secular Majesty, not of a judge who
 was subservient to a higher secular sword, hence that the lawyers’
 suppositions could not stand.[149] Little heed was however paid to
 their objection. On the other hand the proposal made by the legal
 consulters, that further representations should be made to the Emperor
 regarding the execution of the Reichstagsabschied, was described
 by the theologians as “not expedient,” though it might be further
 discussed at the Nuremberg Conference on November 11 (Martinmas).[150]

Instead, it was for November 13 that a summons, dispatched by Saxony on
October 31, invited a conference to meet at Nuremberg to discuss the
matter, and take the steps which eventually led to the formation of the
defensive League of Schmalkalden. At first it was proposed, that, after
the Nuremberg conference, another should be held at Schmalkalden on
November 28, though as a matter of fact the only meeting held commenced
at Schmalkalden on December 22.

Only now did it become apparent that Luther and his theologians had,
at least in the opinion of the Saxon politicians, expressed themselves
privately much more openly in favour of resistance than would appear
from the above memorandum. The envoys from the Saxon Electorate
appealed with great emphasis to the opinion of the Wittenberg divines,
in order to show the lawfulness of the plan of armed resistance and
the expediency of the proposed League. Armed with this authority they
openly “defied our ministers,” wrote Lazarus Spengler of Nuremberg,
to Veit Dietrich on February 20, 1531. Spengler, like the Nuremberg
Councillors and those of Brandenburg, was opposed to resistance and
to the League. He was surprised that “Dr. Martin should so contradict
himself.”[151] The fact is that he was the only person to whom Luther’s
previous memorandum of March, 1530, had been communicated.[152]

The Nuremberg magistrates appealed, among other reasons, to the clear
testimony of Scripture which did not sanction such proceedings against
the supreme secular authority. They feared the consequences of a
religious war for Germany, just as Luther himself had formerly done,
but, in spite of their adherence to the new faith, they were more frank
and courageous in their effort to avert it than he on whose shoulders
the chief responsibility in the war was to rest.

One sentence of Melanchthon’s, written in those eventful days,
singularly misrepresents the true position of affairs. To his friend
Camerarius, on January 1, 1531, he says: “We discountenance all

Melanchthon also writes: “We are now consulted less frequently than
heretofore as to the lawfulness of resistance,” and he repeats much
the same thing on February 15, 1531: “On the matter of the League no
one now questions either Luther or myself.”[154] If we can here detect
a faint note of wonder and regret, we may assuredly ask whether the
very behaviour of the theologians at Torgau was not the reason of their
advice being at a discount; their dissimulation and ambiguity were not
of a nature to inspire the lawyers and statesmen with much respect.

It was some time before this vacillation in official, written
statements came to an end. Some more instances of it are to be met
with in the epistolary communications between Luther and the town of
Nuremberg, which was opposed to the Schmalkalden tendencies.

Prior to November 20, 1530, the Elector of Saxony had addressed himself
to the magistrates of Nuremberg with the request that “they would make
preparations for resisting the unjust and violent measures of the
Emperor.” Of this Veit Dietrich informed Luther from Nuremberg on that
day, adding that the Elector had made a reference to an approval of
the measures of defence secured from his “Councillors and Doctors,”
but had said nothing of the theologians.[155] News was, however,
subsequently received in Nuremberg that the Saxon envoys present at
Schmalkalden had boasted of the support of Luther and his friends.

It was in consequence of this that the Nuremberg preacher, Wenceslaus
Link, enquired of Luther in the beginning of January, 1531, or possibly
earlier, whether the news which had reached Nuremberg by letter was
true, viz. that “they had expressed the opinion that resistance might
be employed against the Emperor.”

Without delay, on January 15, Luther assured him: “We have by no means
given such a counsel” (“_nullo modo consuluimus_”).[156]

 By way of further explanation he adds: “When some said openly that it
 was not necessary to consult the theologians at all, or to trouble
 about them, and that the matter concerned only the lawyers who had
 decided in favour of its lawfulness, I for my part declared: I
 view the matter as a theologian, but if the lawyers can prove its
 permissibility from their laws, I see no reason why they should not
 use their laws; that is altogether their business. If the Emperor
 by virtue of his laws determines the permissibility of resistance
 in such a case, then let him bear the consequences of his law; I,
 however, pronounce no opinion or judgment on this law, but I stick
 to my theology.” It is thus that he expresses himself concerning the
 argument which the lawyers had, as a matter of fact, drawn almost
 exclusively from canon law, the texts of which they misread.

 He then puts forward his own theory in favour of the belligerent
 nobles of his party, according to which a ruler, when he acts
 as a politician, is not acting as a Christian (“_non agit ut
 christianus_”), as though his conscience as a sovereign could be kept
 distinct from his conscience as a Christian. “A Christian is neither
 Prince nor commoner nor anything whatever in the personal world. Hence
 whether resistance is permissible to a ruler as ruler, let them settle
 according to their own judgment and conscience. To a Christian nothing
 [of that sort] is lawful, for he is dead to the world.”

 “The explanations [Luther’s] have proceeded thus far,” he concludes
 this strange justification, “and this much you may tell Lazarus
 [Spengler, the clerk to the Nuremberg Council] concerning my views. I
 see clearly, however, that, even should we oppose their project, they
 are nevertheless resolved to offer resistance and not to draw back, so
 full are they of their own ideas; I preach in vain that God will come
 to our assistance, and that no resistance will be required. God’s
 help is indeed visible in this, that the Diet has led to no result,
 and that our foes have hitherto taken no steps. God will continue
 to afford us His help; but not everyone has faith. I console myself
 with this thought: since the Princes are determined not to accept
 our advice, they sin less, and act with greater interior assurance,
 by proceeding in accordance with the secular law, than were they to
 act altogether against their conscience and directly contrary to Holy
 Scripture. It is true they do not wit that they are acting contrary to
 Scripture, though they are not transgressing the civil law. Therefore
 I let them have their way, I am not concerned.”

 He thus disclaimed all responsibility, and he did so with all the more
 confidence by reason of his sermons to the people, where he continued
 to speak as before of the love of peace which actuated him, ever with
 the words on his lips: “By the Word alone.” “Christ,” he exclaims,
 “will not suffer us to hurt Pope or rebel by so much as a hair.”[157]

 It was easy to foresee that after such replies from Luther, Spengler
 and the magistrates of Nuremberg would not be pleased with him.
 Possibly Link had doubts about making known at Nuremberg a writing
 which was more in the nature of an excuse than a reply, since, on
 such a burning question which involved the future of Germany, a more
 reliable decision might reasonably have been looked for. On February
 20, fresh enquiries and complaints concerning the news which had come
 to Nuremberg of Luther’s approval of organised resistance, reached
 Veit Dietrich, from the Council clerk, Spengler, and were duly
 transmitted to Luther (see above, p. 58 f.). Luther now thought it
 advisable, on account of the charge of having retracted his previous
 opinion, to justify himself to Spengler and the magistrates. In his
 written reply of February 15, he assured the clerk, that he “was not
 conscious of such a retractation.” For, to the antecedent, he still
 adhered as before, viz. that it was necessary to obey the Emperor and
 to keep his laws. As for the conclusion, that the Emperor decrees
 that in such a case he may be resisted, this, he says, “was an
 inference of the jurists, not of our own; should they bring forward
 a proof in support of this conclusion—which as yet they have not
 done—(‘_probationem exspectamus, quam non videmus_’)—we shall be
 forced to admit that the Emperor has renounced his rights in favour
 of a political and Imperial law which supersedes the natural law.” Of
 the Divine law and of the Bible teaching, which Luther had formerly
 advocated with so much warmth, we find here no mention.[158]

 The scruples of the magistrates of Nuremberg were naturally not set
 at rest by such answers, but continued as strong as ever. After the
 League had already been entered into, an unknown Nuremberg councillor
 of Lutheran sympathies, wrote again to the highest theological
 authority in Wittenberg for information as to its legality. In his
 reply Luther again threw off all responsibility, referring him, even
 more categorically than before, to the politicians: “They must take it
 upon their own conscience and see whether they are in the right....
 If they have right on their side, then the League is well justified.”
 Personally he preferred to refrain from pronouncing any opinion,
 and this on religious grounds, because such leagues were frequently
 entered into “in reliance on human aid,” and had also been censured
 by the Prophets of the Old Covenant. Had he chosen, the distinguished
 Nuremberger might have taken these words as equivalent to a doubt as
 to the moral character of the League of Schmalkalden. Furthermore,
 Luther adds: “A good undertaking and a righteous one” must, in order
 to succeed, rely on God rather than on men. “What is undertaken in
 real confidence in God, ends well, even though it should be mistaken
 and sinful,” and the contrary likewise holds good; for God is jealous
 of His honour even in our acts.[159]

The citizens of Nuremberg had, in the meantime, on February 19, sent
to the Saxon envoys their written refusal to join the League of
Schmalkalden. The magistrates therein declared that they were still
convinced (as Luther had been formerly) that resistance to the Emperor
was forbidden by Holy Writ, and that the reasons to the contrary
advanced by the learned men of Saxony were insufficient.[160] George,
Elector of the Franconian part of Brandenburg, who was otherwise one of
the most zealous supporters of the innovations, also refused to join
the League.

The memorandum in which Luther, Jonas, Bugenhagen and Melanchthon had
declared, in March, 1530, that the employment of force in defence of
the Gospel “could not in any way be reconciled with Scripture” (above,
p. 51 f.) was kept a secret. Not even Melanchthon himself was permitted
to send it to his friend Camerarius, though he promised to show it him
on a visit.[161] Myconius, however, sent it from Gotha confidentially
to Lang at Erfurt, on September 19, 1530, and wrote at the same time:
“I am sending you the opinion of Luther and Philip, but on condition
that you show it to no one. For it is not good that Satan’s cohorts
should be informed of all the secrets of Christ; besides, there are
some amongst us too weak to be able to relish such solid food.”[162]

In spite of these precautions copies of the “counsel” came into
circulation. The text reached Cochlæus, who forthwith, in 1531, had it
printed as a document throwing a timely light on the belligerent League
entered into at Schmalkalden in that year. He subjoined a severe,
running criticism, a reply by Paul Bachmann, Abbot of the monastery of
Altenzell, and other writings.[163]

 Cochlæus pointed out, that it was not the Emperor but Luther, who had
 been a persecutor of the Gospel for more than twelve years. Should,
 however, the Emperor persecute the true Gospel of Christ, then the
 exhortation contained in Luther’s memorandum patiently to allow things
 to take their course and even to suffer martyrdom, would be altogether
 inadmissible, because there existed plenty means of obtaining redress;
 in such a case God was certainly more to be obeyed than the Emperor;
 any Prince who should assist the Emperor in such an event must be
 looked upon as a tyrant and ravening wolf; it was, on the contrary,
 the duty of the Princes to risk life and limb should the Gospel and
 true faith of their subjects be menaced; and in the same way the towns
 and all their burghers must offer resistance; this would be no revolt,
 seeing that the Imperial authority would be tyrannously destroying
 the historic ecclesiastical order as handed down, in fact, the Divine
 order. Luther’s desire, Cochlæus writes, that each one should answer
 for himself to the Emperor, was unreasonable and quite impossible for
 the unlearned. Finally, he warmly invites the doctors of the new faith
 to return to Mother Church.[164]

 The author of the other reply to Luther’s secret memorandum dealt more
 severely with it. Abbot Bachmann declares, that it was not inspired by
 charity but by the cunning and malice of the old serpent. “As long as
 Luther had a free hand to carry on his heresies unopposed, he raged
 like a madman, called the Pope Antichrist, the Emperor a bogey, the
 Princes fools, tyrants and jackanapes, worse even than the Turks; but,
 now that he foresees opposition, the old serpent turns round and faces
 his tail, simulating a false humility, patience and reverence for the
 authorities, and says: ‘A Christian must be ready to endure violence
 from his rulers!’ Yet even this assertion is not true always and
 everywhere....” Should a ruler really persecute the Divine teaching,
 then it would be necessary to defend oneself against him. “I should
 have had to write quite a big book,” he concludes, “had I wished to
 reply one by one to all the sophistries which Luther accumulates in
 this his counsel.”[165]

_The League of Schmalkalden and the Religious Peace of Nuremberg._

The League of Schmalkalden was first drawn up and subscribed to by
Johann, Elector of Saxony, and Ernest, Duke of Brunswick, on February
27, 1531. The other members affixed their signatures to the document
at Schmalkalden on March 29. The League comprised, in addition to
the Electorate of Saxony and the Duchy of Brunswick-Lüneburg, the
Landgraviate of Hesse under Philip, the prime mover of the undertaking,
and was also subscribed to by Prince Wolfgang of Anhalt, Counts Gebhard
and Albert of Mansfeld, and the townships of Strasburg, Ulm, Constance,
Reutlingen, Memmingen, Lindau, Biberach, Isny, Lübeck, Magdeburg and

A wedge had been driven into the unity of Germany at the expense of her
internal strength and external development. What had been initiated
at Gotha in 1526 by the armed coalition between Landgrave Philip of
Hesse and the Elector of Saxony, in the interests of the religious
innovations, was now consummated.

The obligation to which the members of the League of Schmalkalden
pledged themselves by oath was as follows: “That where one party is
attacked or suffers violence for the Word of God or for causes arising
from it, or on any other pretext, each one shall treat the matter in no
other way than as though he himself were attacked, and shall therefore,
without even waiting for the others, come to the assistance of the
party suffering violence, and succour him to the utmost of his power.”
The alliance, which was first concluded for six years, was repeatedly
renewed later and strengthened by the accession of new members.

Luther, for his part, had now arrived at the goal whither his steps
had been tending and towards which so many of the statements contained
in his letters and writings had pointed, inspired as they were by a
fiery prepossession in favour of his cause. It suited him admirably,
that, when the iron which had so long been heating came upon the
anvil, he should remain in the background, leaving to the lawyers the
first place and the duty of tendering opinions. In his eyes, however,
the future success of the League, in view of its then weakness, was
still very doubtful. Should the Schmalkalden conference turn out to
be the commencement of a period of misfortune for the innovations,
still, thanks to the restraint which Luther had imposed on himself, in
spite of his being the moving spirit and the religious link between
the allies, his preaching of the Evangel would be less compromised.
The miseries of the Peasant War, which had been laid to his account,
the excesses of the Anabaptists against public order, the unpopularity
which he had earned for himself everywhere on account of the revolts
and disturbance of the peace, were all of a nature to make him more
cautious. There are many things to show, that, instead of promoting
the outbreak of hostilities in the days immediately subsequent to
the Diet of Augsburg, he would very gladly have contented himself
with the assurance, that, for the present, the Reichstagsabschied not
being capable of execution, things might as well take their course. By
this policy he would gain time; he was also anxious for the new faith
quietly to win new ground, so as to demonstrate to the Emperor by
positive proofs the futility of any proceedings against himself.

The wavering attitude of many of the Catholic Estates at Augsburg had
inspired him with great hopes of securing new allies. It there became
apparent that either much had been rotten for a long time past in that
party of the Diet which hitherto had been faithful to the Pope, or that
the example of the Protesters had proved infectious.

Wider prospects were also opening out for Lutheranism. In Würtemberg
Catholicism was menaced by the machinations of the Landgrave of Hesse.
There seemed a chance of the towns of Southern Germany being won back
from Zwinglian influences and making common cause with Wittenberg.
Henry the Eighth’s failure in his divorce proceedings also raised
the hopes of the friends of the new worship that England, too, might
be torn away from the Papal cause. At the conclusion of the Diet,
Bugenhagen had been summoned by the magistrates of Lübeck in order to
introduce the new Church system in that city.

In Bavaria there was danger lest the jealousy of the Dukes at the
growth of the house of Habsburg, and their opposition to the expected
election of Ferdinand as King, should help in the spread of schism.

It is noteworthy that Luther’s letter to Ludwig Senfl, the eminent and
not unfriendly musician and composer, bandmaster to Duke William and
a great favourite at the Court of Bavaria, should have been sent just
at this time. To him Luther was high in his praise of the Court: Since
the Dukes of Bavaria were so devoted to music, he must extol them, and
give them the preference over all other Princes, for friends of music
must necessarily possess a good seed of virtue in their soul. This
connection with Senfl he continued in an indirect fashion.[166]

The best answer to the resolutions passed at Augsburg seemed to the
first leader of the movement to lie in expansion, i.e. in great
conquests, to be achieved in spite of all threats of violence.

Instead of having recourse to violence, the Empire, however, entered
into those negotiations which were ultimately to lead, in 1532, to the
so-called Religious Peace of Nuremberg. At about this time Luther sent
a missive to his Elector in which his readiness for a religious war is
perfectly plain.

 The document, which was composed jointly with the other Wittenberg
 theologians, and for the Latinity of which Melanchthon may have been
 responsible, treats, it would appear, of certain Imperial demands for
 concessions made at the Court of the Elector on September 1, 1531,
 previous to the Schmalkalden conference. These demands manifest the
 utmost readiness on the part of the authorities of the Empire to
 make advances. Yet Luther in his reply refuses to acquiesce even in
 the proposal that people everywhere should be allowed to receive the
 Sacrament under one kind, according to the ritual hitherto in use. We
 are bound to declare openly and at all times, he says, that all those
 who refrain from receiving under both kinds are guilty of sin. He
 continues, referring to the other points under debate: It is true that
 we are told of the terrible consequences which must result should “war
 and rebellion break out, the collapse of all public order fall like a
 scourge upon Germany, and the Turks and other foreign powers subjugate
 the divided nation. To this our reply is: Sooner let the world perish
 than have peace at the expense of the Evangel. We know our teaching is
 certain; not a hair’s breadth may we yield for the sake of the public
 peace. We must commend ourselves to God, Who has hitherto protected
 His Church during the most terrible wars, and Who has helped us beyond
 all expectation.”[167]

 This argument based on the Evangel cuts away the ground from under all
 Luther’s previous more moderate counsels.

The religious peace of Nuremberg was in the end more favourable to
him than he could have anticipated. To his dudgeon, however, he had
to remain idle while the guidance of the movement was assumed almost
entirely by the League of Schmalkalden, the fact that the League was a
military one supplying a pretext for dispossessing him more and more
of its direction. Already, in 1530, he had been forced to look on
while Philip made advances to the sectaries of Zürich and the other
Zwinglian towns of Switzerland, and concluded a treaty with them on
November 16 for mutual armed assistance in the event of an attack on
account of the faith. “This will lead to a great war,” he wrote to the
Elector, “and, as your Electoral Highness well knows, in such a war we
shall be defending the error concerning the Sacrament, which will thus
become our own; from this may Christ, my Lord, preserve your Electoral

His apprehensions, lest the good repute of his cause should be damaged
by unjust bloodshed, grew, when, in 1534, the warlike Landgrave set out
for Würtemberg.

It was a crying piece of injustice and violence when Philip of Hesse,
after having allied himself with France, by means of a lucky campaign,
robbed King Ferdinand of Würtemberg and established the new faith in
that country by reinstating the Lutheran Duke Ulrich.[169]

Before the campaign Luther had declared that it was “contrary to the
Gospel,” and would “bring a stain upon our teaching,” and that “it was
wrong to disturb or violate the peace of the commonwealth.”[170] He
hinted at the same time that he did not believe in a successful issue:
“No wise man,” he said subsequently, “would have risked it.”[171]—Yet,
when the whole country was in the hands of the conqueror, when a
treaty of peace had been signed in which the articles on religion were
purposely framed in obscure and ambiguous terms, while the prospects of
the new faith, in view of Ulrich’s character, seemed excellent, Luther
expressed his joy and congratulations to the Hessian Court through
Justus Menius, a preacher of influence: “We rejoice that the Landgrave
has returned happily after having secured peace. It is plain that this
is God’s work; contrary to the general expectation He has set our fears
to rest! He Who has begun the work will also bring it to a close.

Luther himself tells us later what foreign power it was that had
rendered this civil war in the very heart of Germany possible. “Before
he [the Landgrave] reinstated the Duke of Würtemberg he was in France
with the King, who lent him 200,000 coronati to carry on the war.”[173]

The fear of an impending great war between the religious parties in
Germany was gradually dispelled. The object of the members of the
League of Schmalkalden in seeking assistance from France and England
was to strengthen their position against a possible attack on the part
of the Emperor; at the same time, by refusing to lend any assistance
against the Turks, they rendered him powerless.

Luther now ventured to prophesy an era of peace. We shall have
peace, he said, and there is no need to fear a war on account of
religion. “But questions will arise concerning the bishoprics and the
foundations,” as the Emperor is trying to get the rich bishoprics into
his hands, and the other Princes likewise; “this will lead to quarrels
and blows, for others also want their share.”[174] This confirms the
observation made above: In place of a religious struggle the Princes
preferred to wrangle over ecclesiastical property and rights, of which
they were jealous. Thus Luther’s prediction concerning the character
of the struggle in the years previous to the Schmalkalden and Thirty
Years’ War was not so far wrong.

_Luther and the Religious War in Later Years._

Luther was never afterwards to revert to his original disapproval of
armed resistance to the Emperor.

 In his private conversations we frequently find, on the contrary,
 frank admissions quite in agreement with the above remark on “war and
 rebellion” being justified by the Divine and indestructible Evangel.
 It is not only lawful, he says, but necessary to fight against the
 Emperor in the cause of the Evangel. “Should he begin a war against
 our religion, our worship and our Church, then he is a tyrant. Of
 this there is no question. Is it not lawful to fight in defence of
 piety? Even nature demands that we should take up arms in defence of
 our children and our families. Indeed, I shall, if possible, address
 a writing to the whole world exhorting all to the defence of their

 Other similar statements are met with in his Table-Talk at a later
 date. “It is true a preacher ought not to fight in his own defence,
 for which reason I do not take a sword with me when I mount the
 pulpit, but only on journeys.”[176] “The lawyers,” he said, on
 February 7, 1538, “command us to resist the Emperor, simply desiring
 that a madman should be deprived of his sword.... The natural law
 requires that if one member injure another he be put under restraint,
 made a prisoner and kept in custody. But from the point of view of
 theology, there are doubts (Matt. v., 1 Peter ii.). I reply, however,
 that statecraft permits, nay commands, self-defence, so that whoever
 does not defend himself is regarded as his own murderer,” in spite
 of the fact, that, as a Christian and “believer in the Kingdom of
 Christ, he must suffer all things, and may not in this guise either
 eat or drink or beget children.” In many cases it is necessary to
 put away “the _Christianum_ and bring to the fore the _politicam
 personam_,”[177] just as a man may slay incontinently the violator of
 his wife. “We are fighting, not against Saul, but against Absalom.”
 Besides, the Emperor might not draw the sword without the consent of
 the Seven Electors. “The sword belongs to us, and only at our request
 may he use it.”[178] “Without the seven he has no power; indeed,
 if even one is not for him, his power is nil and he is no longer
 monarch.... I do not deprive the Emperor of the sword, but the Pope,
 who has no business to lord it and act as a tyrant.”[179] “The Emperor
 will not commence a war on his own account but for the sake of the
 Pope, whose vassal he has become; he is only desirous of defending the
 abominations of the Pope, who hates the Gospel and thinks of nothing
 but his own godless power.”[180]

 Luther, in his anger against the Papists and the priests, goes so far
 as to place them on a par with the Turks and to advise their being
 slaughtered;[181] this he did, for instance, in May, 1540. In 1539 he
 says: “Were I the Landgrave, I should set about it, and either perish
 or else slay them because they refuse peace in a good and just cause;
 but as a preacher it does not beseem me to counsel this, much less
 to do it myself.”[182] The Papal Legate, Paolo Vergerio, when with
 Luther in 1535, expressed to him his deep indignation at the deeds of
 King Henry VIII. of England, who had put to death Cardinal John Fisher
 and Sir Thomas More. Luther wrote to Melanchthon of Vergerio’s wrath
 and his threats against the King, but shared his feelings so little
 as actually to say: “Would that there were a few more such kings of
 England to put to death these cardinals, popes and legates, these
 traitors, thieves, robbers, nay, devils incarnate.” Such as they, he
 says, plunder and rob the churches and are worse than a hundred men
 of the stamp of Verres or a thousand of that of Dionysius. “How is it
 that Princes and lords, who are always complaining to us of the injury
 done to the churches, endure it?”[183]

Even in official memoranda Luther soon threw all discretion to
the winds, and ventured to speak most strongly in favour of armed

Such was the memorandum, of January, 1539, addressed to the Elector
Johann Frederick and signed at Weimar by Jonas, Bucer and Melanchthon,
as well as Luther. The Elector had asked for it owing to the dangerous
position of the League of Schmalkalden, now that peace had been
concluded between the Emperor and Francis I. of France. He had also
enquired how far the allies might take advantage of the war with
the Turks; and whether they might make their assistance against the
Turks contingent upon certain concessions being granted to the new
worship. The second question will be dealt with later;[184] as to the
first, whether resistance to the Emperor was allowed, the signatories
replied affirmatively in words which go further than any previous

 They had already, they say, “given their answer and opinion, and
 there was no doubt that this was the Divine truth which we are bound
 to confess even at the hour of death, viz. that not only is defence
 permitted, but a protest is verily, and indeed, incumbent on all.”
 Here it will be observed that Luther no longer says merely that the
 lawyers inferred this from the Imperial law, but that God, “to Whom
 we owe this duty,” commanded that “idolatry and forbidden worship”
 should not be tolerated. Numerous references to the “Word of God”
 regarding the authorities were adduced in support of this contention
 (Ps. lxxxii. 3; Exod. xx. 7; Ps. ii. 10, 11; 1 Tim. i. 9). It is
 pointed out how in the Sacred Books the “Kings of Juda are praised for
 exterminating idolatry.” “Every father is bound to protect his wife
 and child from murder, and there is no difference between a private
 murderer and the Emperor, should he attempt unjust violence outside
 his office.” The case is on all fours with one where the “overlord
 tries to impose on his subjects blasphemy and idolatry,” hence war
 must be waged, just as “Constantine fell upon Licinius, his ally and
 brother-in-law.” David, Ezechias and other holy kings likewise risked
 life and limb for the honour of God. “This is all to be understood as
 referring to defence.” But “where the ban has been proclaimed against
 one or more of the allies,” “discord has already broken out.” Those
 under the ban have lost “position and dignity,” and may commence the
 attack without further ado. Still, “it is not for us to assume that
 hostilities should be commenced at once”; this is the business of
 those actually concerned.

Such was the advice of Luther and those mentioned above to the Elector,
when he was about to attend a meeting of the League of Schmalkalden at
Frankfurt, where another attempt was to be made to prevent the outbreak
of hostilities by negotiations with the Emperor’s ministers. Luther was
apprehensive of war as likely to lead to endless misfortunes, yet his
notion that “idolatry” must be rooted out would allow of no yielding
on his part. “It is almost certain that this memorandum was made use
of at the negotiations preliminary to the Frankfurt conference, seeing
that the Elector in the final opinion he addressed to his councillors
repeats it almost word for word.”[186] The memorandum was probably
drawn up by Melanchthon.

At that very time Luther seems also to have received news from
Brandenburg that Joachim II., the Elector, was about to Protestantise
his lands. Such tidings would naturally make him all the more defiant.

Joachim, in spite of his sympathies for Lutheranism, had hitherto
refrained from formally embracing it, not wishing to come into conflict
with the Emperor. In 1539, however, he publicly apostatised, casting
to the winds all his earlier promises. As Calvin wrote to Farel, in
November, 1539, Joachim had informed the Landgrave Philip of Hesse, his
chief tempter, that he had now made up his mind to “accept the Gospel
and to exterminate Popery,”[187] and this he did with the best will,
though he took no part in the Schmalkalden War against the Emperor. In
his case politics and a disinclination to make war on the Emperor were
the determining factors.

While Joachim was still quietly pursuing his subversive plans in the
March of Brandenburg, the ever-recurring question was already being
discussed anew amongst the Lutherans in that quarter, viz. whether
Luther had not previously, and with greater justice, declared himself
against resistance, and whether he was not therefore hostile to the
spirit of the League of Schmalkalden.

 A nobleman, Caspar von Kokeritz, probably one of Joachim’s advisers,
 requested Luther to furnish the Protestant preacher at Cottbus, Johann
 Ludicke, with a fresh opinion on the lawfulness of resistance. The
 request was justified by the difference between Luther’s earlier
 standpoint—which was well known at Cottbus—and that which he had
 more recently adopted. From the difficulty Luther sought to escape in
 a strongly worded letter to Ludicke, dated February 8, 1539, which is
 in several ways remarkable.[188]

 In this letter the lawyers and the Princes again loom very large.
 They had most emphatically urged the employment of force, and “very
 strong reasons exist against my opposing this desire and plan of
 our party.” In his earlier memorandum[189] he had been thinking of
 the Emperor as Emperor, but now he had come to look on him as what
 he really was, viz. as a mere “hireling” of the Pope. The Pope is
 desirous of carrying out his “diabolical wickedness” with the help
 of the Emperor. “Hence, if it is lawful to fight against the Turks
 and to defend ourselves against them, how much more so against the
 Pope, who is worse?” Still, he was willing to stand by his earlier
 opinion, provided only that Pope, Cardinals and Emperor would admit
 that they were all of them the devil’s own servants; “then my
 advice will be the same as before, viz. that we yield to the heathen
 tyrants.” Other reasons too had led him, so he says, to discard his
 previous opinion, but he is loath to commit them to writing for fear
 lest something might reach the ears of “those abominable ministers of
 Satan.” Instead, he launches out into biblical proofs, urging that the
 “German Princes,” who together with the Emperor governed the realm,
 “_communi consilio_,” had more right to withstand the Emperor than
 the Jewish people when they withstood Saul, or those others who, in
 the Old Testament, resisted the authorities, and yet met with the
 Divine approval. The constitution of the Empire might not be altered
 by the Emperor, “who is not the monarch,” and “least of all in the
 devil’s cause. He may not be aware that it is this cause that he is
 furthering, but we know for certain that it is. Let what I have said
 be enough for you, and leave the rest to the teaching of the Spirit.
 Let your exhortation be to ‘render unto the Kaiser the things that are
 the Kaiser’s.’ _Ceterum secretum meum mihi._”[190]

 It is not difficult from the above to guess the “secret”: it was the
 impending apostasy of the Electorate of Brandenburg.

Luther had already several times come into contact with Joachim II.
The Elector’s mother was friendly with him and came frequently to
Wittenberg. Concerning her foes Luther once wrote to Jonas: “May
the Lord Jesus give me insight and eloquence against the darts of
Satan.”[191] In his letter of congratulation to the Elector on his
apostasy he hints more plainly at the opponents to whom he had
referred darkly in his letter to Ludicke: “I am less concerned about
the subtlety of the serpents than about the growl of the lion, which
perchance, coming from those in high places, may disquiet your
Electoral Highness.”[192]

When the religious war of Schmalkalden at last broke out, the foes
of Wittenberg recalled Luther’s biblical admonitions in 1530 against
the use of arms in the cause of the Gospel, which Cochlæus had
already collected and published. These they caused to be several
times reprinted (1546), with the object of showing the injustice of
the protesters’ attitude by the very words of the Reformer, who had
died just before. The Wittenberg theologians replied (1547), but
their answer only added to the tangle of the network of evasions.
As a counter-blast they printed Luther’s later memoranda, or
“Conclusions,” in favour of the use of force, adding prefaces by
Melanchthon and Bugenhagen; where the prefaces come to deal with the
awkward statement made by Luther in 1530, the writers have recourse
to the device of questioning its authenticity; this Melanchthon
does merely incidentally, Bugenhagen of set purpose.[193] According
to Bugenhagen, who, as a matter of fact, had himself assisted in
drawing up the statement, it deserved to be relegated to the domain
of fiction; Luther’s enemies, he says, had fabricated the document
in order to injure the Evangel. He even asserted that he could quote
Luther’s own assurances in this matter; according to Caspar Cruciger,
Luther had declared in his presence that the memorandum of 1530 had
not “emanated” from him, though “carried the rounds by his enemies.”
Bugenhagen was unable to understand, so he says, how his own name came
to be there, and repeatedly he speaks of the document as the “alleged”
letter. He also tells us that he had repudiated it as early as 1531,
immediately after its publication by Cochlæus; if this be true, then it
is difficult to explain away his denial as due to mere forgetfulness.
His statements are altogether at variance with what we are told by
the physician, Matth. Ratzeberger, Luther’s friend, who was always
opposed to the war, and who, in his tract of 1552, “A Warning against
Unrighteous Ways,” etc., blames Bugenhagen for his repudiation of
Luther’s authority.[194] From the above it is evident that we have
no right to praise Bugenhagen, as has been done in modern days, “for
the fire with which he was wont to advocate the truth.” Regarding
Melanchthon’s love of truth we shall have more to say later.

       *       *       *       *       *

On looking back over the various statements made by Luther concerning
armed resistance, we cannot fail to be struck by their diversity; the
testimony they afford is the reverse of favourable to their author’s
consistency and honesty.

By his very nature Luther felt himself drawn to proclaim the right of
armed resistance in the cause of the Evangel. Of this feeling we have
indications even at an early date in certain unguarded outbursts which
were repeated at intervals in such a way as to leave no doubt as to
his real views. Yet, until 1530, his official and public statements,
particularly to the Princes, speak quite a different language. The
divergence was there and it was impossible to get rid of it either
by explanation or by denial. As soon as things seemed about to lead
inevitably to war, Luther saw that the time had come to cast moderation
to the winds. He was unwilling to sacrifice his whole life-work, and
the protesting Estates had no intention of relinquishing their new
rights and privileges. Formerly it had seemed advisable and serviceable
to the spread of the Evangel to clothe it in the garb of submissiveness
to the supreme authority of the Empire and of patient endurance for the
sake of truth, but, after the Diet of Augsburg such considerations no
longer held good. Overcoming whatever hesitation he still felt, Luther
yielded to the urgings of the secular politicians.

From that time his memoranda assumed a different character. At the
commencement of the change their wording betrays the difficulties with
which Luther found himself faced when called upon to reconcile his
later with his earlier views. It was, however, not long before his
combative temper completely got the better of his scruples in Luther’s
writings and letters.

Nothing is more unhistorical than to imagine that his guiding idea
was “By the Word only,” in the sense of deprecating all recourse to
earthly weapons and desiring that the Word should prevail simply by its
own inherent strength. He had spoken out his real mind when he said,
in 1522: “Every power must yield to the Evangel, whether willingly
or unwillingly,” and again, in 1530, “Let things take their course
... even though it come to war or revolt.” Only on these lines can
we explain his action. His firm conviction of his own Divine mission
(below, xvi.) confirms this assumption.

4. The Turks Without and the Turks [Papists] Within the Empire

The stupendous task of repelling the onslaught of the Turkish power,
which had cost Western Christendom such great sacrifices in the past,
was, at the commencement of the third decade of the sixteenth century,
the most pressing one for both Hungary and the German Empire.

Sultan Suleiman the Second’s lust for conquest had, since 1520, become
a subject of the gravest misgivings in the West. With the help of his
countless warlike hordes he had, in 1521, taken Belgrad, the strong
outpost of the Christian powers, and, after a terrible struggle, on
December 25 of the following year, captured from the Knights of St.
John the strategically so important island of Rhodes. There now seemed
every likelihood of these victories being followed up. The Kingdom of
Hungary, which so long and gloriously had stemmed the inroads of the
infidel into Christendom, now felt itself unable to cope single-handed
with the enemy and accordingly appealed to the Emperor for help.

At the Diet of Nuremberg, in 1524, the Imperial Abschied of April 18
held out a promise of assistance in the near future, and even instanced
tentatively the means to be adopted by the Empire. In the meantime
appeals were to be made to the other Christian powers for help, so that
the final resolutions concerning the plan of defence might be discussed
and settled at the Spires Convention on November 11 of the same year.

Luther thought it his duty to interfere in these preparations.

_Against Assistance for the Turkish War._

The Diet of Nuremberg had re-enacted the Edict of Worms against Luther.
It had requested the Pope to summon a “free, general Council” in
some suitable spot in Germany[195] “in order that good may not be
overborne by evil, and that true believers and subjects of Christ may
be brought to a firm belief in a common faith.” Incensed by the renewal
of the Edict of Worms against his doctrine and person, Luther at once
published an angry work, “Zwey keyserliche uneynige und wydderwertige
Gepott” (1524),[196] in which he declared himself against the granting
of any help whatever against the Turks.

 He begins by saying of the authors of the new decree against
 Lutheranism, that surely even “pigs and donkeys could see how
 blindly and obstinately they were acting; it is abominable that the
 Emperor and the Princes should openly deal in lies.” After a lengthy
 discussion of the decree, he comes to the question of the help which
 was so urgently needed in order to repel the Turks; he says: “Finally
 I beg of you all, dear Christians, that you will join in praying to
 God for those miserable, blinded Princes, whom no doubt God Himself
 has placed over us as a curse, that we may not follow them against the
 Turks, or give money for this undertaking; for the Turks are ten times
 cleverer and more devout than are our Princes. How can such fools, who
 tempt and blaspheme God so greatly, expect to be successful against
 the Turks?”[197]

 His chief reason for refusing help against the Turks was the blasphemy
 against God of which the Princes of the Empire, and the Emperor, had
 rendered themselves guilty by withstanding his Evangel.

 He declares, “I would ten times rather be dead than listen to such
 blasphemy and insolence against the Divine Majesty.... God deliver
 us from them, and give us, in His mercy, other rulers. Amen.”—The
 Emperor himself he charges with presumption for daring—agreeably
 with age-long custom—to style himself the chief Protector of the
 Christian faith. “Shamelessly does the Emperor boast of this, he who
 is after all but a perishable bag of worms, and not sure of his life
 for one moment.” The Divine power of the faith has surely no need of a
 protector, he says; he scoffs at him and at the King of England, who
 styles himself Defender of the Faith; would that all pious Christians
 “would take pity upon such mad, foolish, senseless, raving, witless

Even in the midst of the storm caused by his Indulgence Theses, Luther
had already opposed the lending of any assistance against the Turks.
A sermon preached in the winter of 1518, in which he took this line,
was circulated[199] by his friends. When Spalatin enquired of him in
the Elector’s name whether the Turkish War—for which Cardinal Cajetan
was just then asking for help—could be justified by Holy Scripture,
Luther replied, that the contrary could be proved from many passages;
that the Bible was full of the unhappy results of wars undertaken in
reliance on human means; that those wars alone were successful where
heaven fought for the people; that now it was impossible to count upon
victory in view of the corruption of Christendom and the tyranny and
the hostility to Christ displayed by the Roman Church; on the contrary,
God was fighting against them;[200] He must first be propitiated by
tears, prayer, amendment of life and a pure faith. In the Resolutions
on the Indulgence Theses we find the same antipathy to the war, again
justified on similar mystical and polemical grounds.

His words in the Resolutions were even embodied by Rome in one of
the propositions condemned on the proclamation of the ban: “To fight
against the Turks is to withstand God, Who is using them for the
punishment of our sins.”[201]

 When, later, he came to approve of and advocate the war against the
 Turks, he declared, quite frankly: “I am open to confess that such an
 article was mine, and was advanced and defended by me in the past.”

 He adds that he would be ready to defend it even now were things in
 the same state as then.—But where did he discern any difference?
 According to him, people then, before he had instructed them
 concerning its origin and office, had no idea of what secular
 authority really was. “Princes and lords who desired to be pious,
 looked upon their position and office as of no account, not as being
 the service of God, and became mere priests and monks.” But then he
 had written his “Von welltlicher Uberkeytt” (1523). Having reinstated
 the secular authority, so long “smothered and neglected,” he was loath
 to see it summoned against the Turks by the Pope. Besides, he is quite
 confident that the Pope had never been in earnest about the Turkish
 War; his real aim was to enrich his exchequer.[202]

 Luther also explains that from the first he had been inclined to
 oppose the granting of any aid against the Turks on the theological
 ground embodied in his condemned proposition, viz. that God visits
 our sins upon us by means of the Turks. Here again he will not admit
 himself to have been in the wrong, for Christians must “endure wrong,
 violence or injustice ... not resist evil, but allow and suffer all
 things” as the Gospel teaches. Characteristically enough, he appeals
 to that “piece of Christian doctrine” according to which the Christian
 is to offer his left cheek to him who smites him on the right, and
 leave his cloak to the man who takes away his coat. Now, what our
 Lord taught in His Sermon on the Mount (Matt. v. 39 f.), was not, as
 he had already pointed out, a mere counsel of perfection, but a real
 command; but the “Pope with his schools and convents had made of this
 a counsel which it was permissible not to keep, and which a Christian
 might neglect, and had thus distorted the words of Christ, taught the
 whole world a falsehood, and cheated Christians.”[203] A way out of
 the fatal consequences which must ensue, Luther fancies he is able to
 find in the distinction between the true Christian and mere worldly
 citizen; it was not incumbent on the latter to perform everything that
 was binding on the former.

Previous to writing his “Von welltlicher Uberkeytt,” referred to above,
he had again publicly expressed himself as opposed to the efforts of
the Empire on behalf of the Turkish War; though no longer because the
authorities lacked a right sense of their office, or because Christ’s
counsel made submission a duty, but for quite another reason: Before
taking any steps against the Turks it was necessary to resist the
impious dominion of the Pope, compared with which the danger from the
Turks paled into insignificance. “To what purpose is it,” he wrote in
1522, “to oppose the Turk? What harm does the Turk do? He invades a
country and becomes its secular ruler.... The Turk also leaves each one
free to believe as he pleases.” In both respects the Pope is worse;
his invasions are more extensive, and, at the same time, he slays the
souls, so that “as regards both body and soul the government of the
Pope is ten times worse than that of the Turk.... If ever the Turks
were to be exterminated it would be necessary first to begin with the
Pope.” The Christian method of withstanding the Turks would be to
“preach the Gospel to them.”[204] This paved the way for his warning,
in 1524, against complying with the Emperor’s call for assistance in
fighting the Turks (above, p. 77).

Such exhortations not to wage war against the Turks naturally tended to
confuse the multitude to the last degree.

Incautious Lutheran preachers also did their share in stirring up
high and low against the burden of taxes imposed by the wars. Hence
it was quite commonly alleged against the instigator of the religious
innovations that, mainly owing to his action after the Diet of Spires,
there was a general reluctance to grant the necessary supplies,
though the clouds on the eastern horizon of the Empire were growing
ever blacker. After the horrible disaster at Mohacz, in 1526, Luther
therefore found it necessary to exculpate himself before the public.

_In Favour of Assistance for the Turkish War._

Luther gradually arrived at the decision that it was his duty to put
his pen at the service of the war against the Turks.

A change took place in his attitude similar to that which had occurred
in 1525 at the time of the Peasant Rising, which his words, and those
of the Reformed preachers, had done not a little to further.

 His friends, he says in 1529, “because the Turk was now so near,” had
 insisted on his finishing a writing against them which had already
 been commenced; “more particularly because of some unskilful preachers
 among us Germans, who, I regret to learn, are teaching the people
 that they must not fight against the Turks.” Some, he writes, also
 taught, that “it was not becoming for any Christian to wield the
 sword”; others went so far as to look forward to the coming of the
 Turks and their rule. “And such error and malice amongst the people is
 all placed at Luther’s door, as the fruit of my Evangel; in the same
 way that I had to bear the blame of the revolt [of the peasants]....
 Hence I am under the necessity of writing on the matter and of
 exculpating us, both for my own sake and for that of the Evangel ...
 in order that innocent consciences may not continue to be deceived
 by such calumnies, and be rendered suspicious of me and my teaching,
 or be wrongly led to believe that they must not fight against the

In February, 1528, Suleiman II. was in a position to demand that King
Ferdinand should evacuate Buda-Pesth, the capital; it was already
feared that his threat of visiting Ferdinand in Austria might be all
too speedily fulfilled. The Sultan actually commenced, in the spring
of 1529, his great campaign, which brought him to the very walls of
Vienna. The city, however, defended itself with such heroism that the
enemy was at last compelled to withdraw.

In April, 1529, when the reports of the danger which menaced Austria
had penetrated throughout the length and breadth of Germany, Luther at
last published the writing above referred to, viz. “On the Turkish War.”

 The booklet he dedicated to that zealous patron of the Reformation,
 Landgrave Philip of Hesse. In it his intention is to teach “how to
 fight with a good conscience.” He points out how the Emperor, as a
 secular ruler, must, agreeably with the office conferred on him by
 God, protect his subjects against the Turks, as against murderers
 and robbers, with the secular sword, which, however, has nothing to
 do with the faith. There were two who must wage the war, Christian
 and Charles; but Christian’s duty was merely that of the faithful
 everywhere who would pray for the success of the campaign; this was
 all that the believers, as such, had to do; Charles would fight,
 because the example of Charles the Great would encourage him to
 bear the sword bravely, but only against the Turks as robbers and
 disturbers of the peace; it would be no Crusade, such as had been
 undertaken against the infidel in the foolish days of old. Amongst
 the most powerful pages of the work are those in which, regardless
 of flattery, he impresses on the German Princes the need of union,
 of sacrifice of private interests and of obedience to the guidance
 of the Emperor, without which it was useless to hope for anything
 in the present critical condition of the Empire. He scourges with a
 like severity certain faults into which Germans were prone to fall
 when engaged in warfare, viz. to under-estimate the strength of the
 enemy, and to neglect following up their victories; instead of this,
 they would sit down and tipple until they again found themselves in

 It does not, however, seem that these words of Luther’s on behalf of
 the war against the Turks raised any great enthusiasm among the people.

He again took up his pen, and this time more open-heartedly, when,
on October 14, the hour of Vienna’s deliverance came and the last
assault had been happily repulsed. The result was his “Heer-Predigt
widder den Türcken” addressed to all the Germans. Here he sought to
instruct them from Scripture concerning the Turks and the approaching
Last Day. In stirring, homely words he exhorted them to rise and lend
their assistance, pointing out that whoever fell in the struggle died
a martyr. He fired the enthusiasm of his readers by even quoting the
examples of the women and maidens in olden Germany. He also dwelt on
the need of preserving the faith in captivity should it be the lot of
any of the combatants to be taken prisoner, and even exhorted those who
might be sold as slaves not to prove unfaithful by running away from
their lawful masters. He consoled his readers at the same time with the
thought, to which he ever attached such importance, that, after all, in
Turkey the devil did not rage nearly so furiously against Christians
as the devil at home, i.e. the Pope, who was forcing them to deny

We likewise find attacks on the Catholic fraction of the German nation,
mingled with exhortations to resist the Turks, in a Preface he composed
in 1530, on the occasion of the republication of an older work dating
from Catholic times, “On the Morals and Religion of the Turks.”[208]

The struggle raging in the heart of Germany, and the opposition of the
Protestant Princes and Estates to the Emperor as head of the Realm,
constituted the greatest obstacle to any scheme for united and vigorous
action against the Turks. Hence to some extent Luther was indirectly
responsible for the growth of the Ottoman Empire. On one occasion
Luther gave vent to the following outburst: “Would that we Germans
stood shoulder to shoulder, then it would be easy for us to resist
the Turk. If we had 50,000 foot and 10,000 horse constantly in the
field ... we could well withstand them and defend ourselves.”[209] The
Sultan had, long before, taken into his calculations the dissensions
created by Luther in the Empire.[210] On one occasion, about 1532, as
we know from Luther’s “Talk Table,” Suleiman made enquiries of a German
named Schmaltz, who was attached to an embassy, concerning Luther’s
circumstances, and asked how old he was. To the answer that he was
forty-eight years of age he replied: “I would he were still younger,
for he would find a gracious master in me.” Luther, when this was
reported to him, made the sign of the cross and said: “May God preserve
me from such a gracious master.”[211]

Luther, as we shall see below, had occasion to write against the
Turks even at a later date. His writings had, however, no widespread
influence; they were read only by one portion of the German nation,
being avoided by the rest as works of an arch-heretic. Many marvelled
at his audacity in presuming to teach the whole nation, and at his
speaking as though he had been the leader of the people. Catholics
were inclined, as Luther himself complains, to regard the growth of
the Turkish power as God’s chastisement for the apostasy of a part of
Germany and for the Emperor’s remissness in the matter of heresy.

Even in his very tracts against the Turks, Luther did much to weaken
the force of his call to arms. His aim should have been to inspire the
people with enthusiasm and a readiness to sacrifice themselves, which
might, in turn, have encouraged and fired the nobles; but, as the
experience of earlier ages had already proved, religion alone was able
to produce such a change in the temper of a nation. Protection for the
common, spiritual heritage, defence of the religion and civilisation
of the West, such was the only appeal which could have fired people’s
minds. And it was this banner which the Church unfurled, both before
and after Luther’s day, which had led to victory at the battle of
Lepanto and again at the raising of the siege of Vienna. Luther, on
the contrary, in his writing of 1529, repels so vehemently any idea
of turning the contest with the infidel into a crusade, that he even
has it that, “were I a soldier and descried on the field of battle a
priestly banner, or one bearing a cross, or even a crucifix, I would
turn and run as though the devil were at my heels; and, if, by God’s
Providence, they nevertheless gained the victory, still I should take
no share in the booty or the triumph.”[212]

To insure a favourable issue to the campaign it was also necessary
that the position of the Emperor as head of Christendom should be
recognised, and the feeling of common interest between the sovereigns
and nations be kindled anew. Yet the progress of the innovations, and
Luther’s own menacing attitude towards the Empire and the Catholic
sovereigns, was contributing largely to shatter both the authority
of the Empire and the old European unity, not to speak of the injury
done to the Papal authority, to whose guidance the common welfare of
Christendom had formerly been confided.

Luther allowed his polemics to blunt entirely the effect of his
summons. As, however, what he says affords us an insight into the
working of his mind, it is of interest to the psychologist.

 In the second of the two writings referred to above, the
 “Heer-Predigt,” despite the general excellence of its contents, the
 constant harping on the nearness of the Last Day could not fail
 to exert an influence the reverse of that desired. At the very
 commencement he ventilates his views on the prophecies of Daniel; he
 likewise will have it that the prophecy concerning Gog and Magog in
 Ezechiel also refers to the Turks, and that we even read of them in
 the Apocalypse; their victories portended the end of all things. His
 last warnings run as follows: “In the end it will come about that
 the devil will attack Christendom with all his might and from every
 side.... Therefore let us watch and be valiant in a firm faith in
 Christ, and let each one be obedient to the authorities and see what
 God will do, leaving things to take their course; for there is nothing
 good to be hoped for any more.”[213] Such pessimism was scarcely
 calculated to awaken enthusiasm.

 Nor does he conceal his fears lest a successful campaign against
 the Turks should lead the Emperor and the Catholic Princes to turn
 their arms against the Evangelicals, in order to carry out the Edict
 of Worms. He so frequently betrays this apprehension that we might
 almost be led to think that he regarded the Turkish peril as a welcome
 impediment, did we not know on the other hand how greatly he came to
 dread it as he advanced in years. This anxiety concerning possible
 intentions of the Catholics he felt so keenly in 1529 as to append to
 the second of his tracts on the Turkish War a peculiarly inappropriate
 monition, viz. that Germans “must not allow themselves to be made use
 of against the Evangel, or fight against or persecute Christians;
 for thus they would become guilty of innocent blood and be no better
 than the Turks.... In such a case no subject is in the least bound to
 obey the authorities, in fact, where this occurs, all authority is

 Injudicious considerations such as these are also to be found in
 the earlier tract; here, however, what is most astonishing is his
 obstinacy in re-affirming his earlier doctrine, already condemned by
 Rome, viz. that it was not becoming in Christians, as such, to resist
 the Turk by force of arms, seeing that God was using the Turks for the
 chastisement of Christendom. “As we refuse to learn from Scripture,”
 he says, speaking in his wonted mystical tone, “the Turk must teach
 us with the sword, until we learn by sad experience that Christians
 must not fight or resist evil. Fools’ backs must be dusted with the
 stick.”[215] He also expresses his misgivings because “Christians
 and Princes are so greatly urged, driven and incited to attack the
 Turks and fall upon them, before we have amended our own lives and
 begun to live as true Christians”; on this account “war was not to be
 recommended.”[216] Real amendment would have consisted in accepting
 the Lutheran Evangel. Yet, instead of embracing Lutheranism, “our
 Princes are negotiating how best to molest Luther and the Evangel;
 there, surely, is the real Turk.”[217] Because they had ordered fasts,
 and penitential practices, and Masses of the Holy Ghost, in order to
 implore God’s protection against the Turk, the Catholic Princes drew
 down upon themselves the following rebuke: “Shall God be gracious to
 you, faithless rulers of unfortunate subjects! What devil urges you to
 make such a fuss about spiritual matters, which are not your business,
 but concern God and the conscience alone, and to do the work God has
 committed to you and which does concern you and your poor people,
 so lazily and slothfully even in this time of the direst need, thus
 merely hindering those who would fain give you their help?”[218]

 Here again he was promoting dissension, indeed, generally speaking,
 his exhortations were more a hindrance than a help; again and again
 he insists on entangling himself anew in his polemics against Popery,
 and this in spite of the urgent needs of Germany. Led by the Pope,
 the Catholic Princes have become “our tyrants,” who “imprison us,
 exercise compulsion, banish and burn us, behead and drown us and treat
 us worse than do the Turks.”[219]

 “In short, wherever we go, the devil, our real landlord, is at home.
 If we visit the Turk, we find the devil; if we remain under the rule
 of the Pope, we fall into hell. There is nothing but devils on either
 side and everywhere.” Thus it must be with mankind, he says, referring
 to 2 Timothy iii. 1, when the world reaches its end.[220]

 In “what manner I advise war on the Turk, this my booklet shall be

 Cochlæus, Luther’s opponent, collected the contradictions contained
 in the latter’s statements on the Turkish War, and published them in
 1529 at Leipzig in the form of an amusing Dialogue. In this work one
 of the characters, Lutherus, attacks the war in Luther’s own words,
 the second, Palinodus, defends it, again with Lutheran phrases, whilst
 an ambassador of King Ferdinand plays the part of the interested
 enquirer. The work instances fifteen “contradictions.”[222]

Luther personally acted wisely, for it was of the utmost importance to
him to destroy the impression that he stood in the way of united action
against the Turks. This the Princes and Estates who protested at the
Diet of Spires were far less willing to do. They cast aside all scruple
and openly refused to lend their assistance against the Turks unless
the enactment against the religious innovations were rescinded. It is
true that Vienna was then not yet in any pressing danger, though, on
the other hand, news had been received at Spires that the Turkish fleet
was cruising off the coasts of Sicily. It was only later on in the
year, when the danger of Austria and for the German Princes began to
increase, that the Protesters showed signs of relenting. They also saw
that, just then, their refusal to co-operate would be of no advantage
to the new Church. Landgrave Philip of Hesse nevertheless persisted in
his obstinate refusal to take any part in the defence of the Empire.

Philip made several attempts to induce Brück, the Chancellor of the
Saxon Electorate, and Luther, to bring their influence to bear on the
Elector Johann Frederick so that he might take a similar line. Brück
was sufficiently astute to avoid making any promise. Luther did not
venture openly to refuse, though his position as principal theological
adviser would have qualified him to explain to the Landgrave the error
of his way. In his reply he merely finds fault with the “Priesthood,”
who “are so obstinate and defiant and trust in the Emperor and in human
aid.” God’s assistance against the Turks may be reckoned on, but if
it came to the point, and he were obliged to speak to the Elector, he
would “advise for the best,” and, may God’s Will be done.[223]

When the Turks, in order to avenge the defeat they had suffered before
the walls of Vienna, prepared for further attacks upon the West,
frightful rumours began to spread throughout Germany, adding greatly
to Luther’s trouble of mind. At the Coburg, where he then was, gloomy
forebodings of the coming destruction of Germany at the hand of the
Turk associated themselves with other disquieting considerations.

 In one of his first letters from the Coburg he says to Melanchthon,
 Spalatin and Lindemann, who were then at the Diet of Augsburg: “My
 whole soul begins to revolt against the Turks and Mohammed, for I see
 the intolerable wrath of Satan who rages so proudly against the souls
 and bodies of men. I shall pray and weep and never rest until heaven
 hears my cry. You [at Augsburg] are suffering persecution from our
 monsters at home, but we have been chosen to witness and to suffer
 both woes [viz. Catholicism and the Turks] which are raging together
 and making their final onslaught. The onslaught itself proves and
 foretells their approaching end and our salvation.”[224]—“All we
 now await is the coming of Christ,” so he says on another occasion
 in one of his fits of fear; “verily, I fear the Turk will traverse
 it [Germany] from end to end.... How often do I think of the plight
 of our German land, how often do I sweat, because it will not hear

 Lost in his eschatological dream and misled by his morbid
 apprehension, he wrote his Commentary on Ezechiel xxxviii.-xxxix.,
 which was at once placed in the hands of the printer; here again he
 finds the mischief to be wrought by the Turks at the end of the world
 as plainly foretold as in the prophecy of Daniel, the Commentary on
 which he had published shortly before.[226]

Everywhere anxiety reigned supreme, for there were lacking both
preparedness and unanimity. The Catholic Princes of the Empire were not
much better than the rest. Petty interests and jealousies outweighed in
many instances a sense of the common needs. At Spires, for instance,
Duke George of Saxony stipulated, as a condition of any promise of
assistance, that he should be given precedence over both the Dukes of
Bavaria. While the Catholic Estates agreed, at the Diet of Augsburg, to
the grants for the war against the Turks, the Protestant Estates were
not to be induced to give a favourable decision until the Emperor had
sanctioned the so-called religious Peace of Nuremberg in 1532.[227]

In the summer of that same year Suleiman passed Buda-Pesth with 300,000
men. Thence he continued his march along the Danube with the intention
of taking Vienna, this time at any cost. The Emperor Charles V.
hurried in person to command the great army which was collecting near
Vienna; the Sultan was to be encountered and a decisive battle fought.
Throughout the Empire the greatest enthusiasm for the cause prevailed.
The Electoral Prince, Joachim of Brandenburg, was nominated by the
Emperor to the command of the troops of the Saxon lowlands, since this
country had not been unanimous in the choice of a Captain, probably
owing to the religious dissensions.

The Protestant Prince Joachim requested a pious letter from Luther.
This Luther sent him, promising him his prayers, and saying that “he
would take the field in spirit with his dear Emperor Carol [as he now
calls him], and fight under his banner against Satan and his members.”
He prayed God to bestow on them all “a glad spirit,” granting them not
to trust in their own strength, but to fight with the “fear of God,
trusting in His Grace alone,” and to ascribe the honour to heaven only;
hitherto there had been too much of the “spirit of defiance on both
sides,” and each party had gone into the field “without God,” “which
on every occasion had been worse for the people of God than for the
enemy.” Luther was evidently quite incapable of writing on the subject
without his polemical ideas casting their shadow over his field of

The Turks did not venture to give battle, but, to the joy of the
Christian army, retreated, laying waste Styria on their march. The
Imperial troops were disbanded and an armistice was concluded between
King Ferdinand and Suleiman. But in 1536 the hostilities were renewed
by the Turks; Hungary was as good as lost, and in 1537 Ferdinand’s
army suffered in Slavonia the worst reverse, so at least Luther was
informed, since the battle of Mohacz in 1526. On the strength of a
rumour he attributed the misfortune to the treason of the Christian
generals. In his conversations he set down the defeat to the account
of Ferdinand, his zealous Catholic opponent; he had permitted “such
a great and powerful army to be led miserably into the jaws of the
Turks.”[228] Ferdinand, the Emperor’s brother, was, of course, to
blame for the unfortunate issue of the affair; “hitherto the Turk has
been provoked by Ferdinand and has been victorious; when he comes
unprovoked, then he will succumb and be defeated; if the Papists
commence the war they will be beaten.”[229] “Luther saw in the
misfortune of King Ferdinand a just punishment on him and his friends
who angered God and worshipped lies.”[230] He believed the cause of the
success of the Turks to be the “great blasphemy of the Papists against
God and the abominable sin against one and the other Table of the
Commandments of God”; also “the great contempt of God’s Word amongst
our own people.”[231]

While the Protestant Princes and cities again showed a tendency
to exploit the Turkish peril to the advantage of the religious
innovations, Luther, in view of the needs of the time, pulled himself
together and, when consulted, openly advised the Elector Johann
Frederick to give his assistance against the Turks should this be asked
of him. (May 29, 1538.[232])

 He writes to the Elector: “‘_Necessitas_’ knows no ‘_legem_,’ and
 where there is necessity everything that is termed law, treaty
 or agreement ceases.... We must risk both good and evil with our
 brothers, like good comrades, as man and wife, father and children
 risk all things together.” “Because many pious and honest people will
 also have to suffer,” it was meet that the Prince should, “with a good
 conscience, render assistance in order to help and protect, not the
 tyrants, but the poor little flock.”

 Yet, immediately after, he deprives his counsel of most of its weight
 by declaring in fatalistic language, that there was nevertheless
 little to be hoped for, since God “had fashioned the rod which they
 will not be able to resist.”

 He tells him concerning King Ferdinand, “that there was nothing to be
 anticipated from him, but only trouble and inevitable misfortune”;
 of the Catholics in general he assures him, that their “blasphemy”
 against the Evangel and their resistance to “their conscience and
 the known truth” made it impossible for them to escape a “great
 chastisement,” since “God liveth and reigneth.”

 Again, as though desirous of deterring the Elector on personal
 grounds, he reminds him that they (the “tyrants” as he calls the
 Princes of the Catholic party) “had not so far even requested
 assistance, and had not been willing to agree to peace though the
 need was so great.”[233] He also thoughtfully alludes to the danger
 lest the tyrants, after having secured a victory with the help of the
 Protestants, should make use of their arms to overthrow the Evangel
 by force: “We must be wary lest, should our adversaries vanquish the
 Turks—which I cannot believe they will—they then turn their arms
 against us,” “which they would gladly do”; but, he adds, “it rests in
 God’s hands not in their desire, what they do to us, or what we are to
 suffer, as we have experienced so far,” for instance after the retreat
 of the Turks from Vienna when, “after all, nothing was undertaken
 against us”; for the people would refuse to follow them in any attack
 upon the Evangel.

This letter, which has frequently been appealed to by Protestants as
a proof of Luther’s pure, unselfish patriotism, is a strange mixture
of contradictory thoughts and emotions, the product of a mind not
entirely sure of its ground and influenced by all sorts of political
considerations. Of one thing alone was the writer certain, viz. that
the Turk at Rome must be fought against relentlessly.

Luther’s “Table-Talk” and occasional letters supply various traits
to complete the above picture of his attitude towards the Turkish
War. There we find polemical outbursts interspersed with excellent
admonitions to prayer,[234] confutations of the errors of the Turks,
and lamentations on the judgment of God as displayed in these wars.

_Luther on Turks and Papists._

 “If Germany had a master,” he says very aptly on one occasion, “it
 would be easy for us to withstand the Turk”; but, he continues, “the
 Papists are our worst foes, and would prefer to see Germany laid
 waste, and this the Turk is desirous of doing.”[235] The Papists are
 actually trying to establish the domination of the Turk. “The Pope,”
 so he was informed, “refuses, like the King of France, to grant any
 assistance to the Emperor against the Turks. See the enormities of
 our day! And yet this is the money [which the Pope refused to give]
 that the Popes have been heaping up for so many long ages by means of
 their Indulgences.”[236] “I greatly fear,” he says to his friends,
 “the alliance between the Papists and the Turks by which they intend
 to bring us to ruin. God grant that my prophecy may prove false.... If
 this enters the heads of the Papists, they will do it, for the malice
 of the devil is incredible ... they will plot and scheme how to betray
 us and deliver us over into the hands of the Turk.”[237]

 Meanwhile he believes that God is fighting for his cause by rendering
 the Turks victorious: “See how often the Papists with their hatred of
 the Evangel and their trust in the Emperor have been set at nought”;
 they had reckoned on the destruction of the Lutherans by means of
 Charles the Fifth’s victory over France, but, lo, “a great French army
 marches against the Emperor, Italy falls away and the Turk attacks
 Germany; this mean that God has dispersed the proud. Ah, my good
 God, it is Thou Who hast done this thing!”[238]—On one occasion he
 declared: “In order that it might be discerned and felt that God was
 not with us in the war against the Turks, He has never inspired our
 Princes with sufficient courage and spirit earnestly to set about the
 Turkish War.... Nowhere is anything determined upon or carried out....
 Why is this? In order that my Article, which Pope Leo condemned, may
 remain ever true and uncondemned.”[239]

 When, in the spring of 1532, Rome itself stood in fear of the Turk and
 many even took to flight, a letter reached Wittenberg announcing the
 consternation which prevailed there in the Eternal City. Then probably
 it was that Luther spoke the words which have been transmitted in
 both the Latin and German versions of the “Table-Talk”: “Should the
 Turk advance against Rome, I shall not regret it. For we read in the
 Prophet Daniel: ‘He shall fix his tabernacle between the seas upon
 a glorious and holy mountain.’” The two seas he imagined to be the
 Tyrrhenean and the Adriatic, whilst the holy mountain meant Rome,
 “for Rome is holy on account of the many Saints who are buried there.
 This is true, for the abomination which is the Pope, was [according
 to Daniel ix. 27] to take up its abode in the holy city. If the Turk
 reaches Rome, then the Last Day is certainly not far off.”[240]

 It would even seem that it was his fervent desire to see Antichrist
 ousted by the Turk which allured him into the obscure region of
 biblical prophecy.

 “Accordingly I hope for the end of the world. The Emperor Charles and
 Solimannus represent the last dregs of worldly domination. Christ will
 come, for Scripture knows nothing of any other monarchy, and the signs
 of the end of the world are already visible.”[241] “The rule of the
 Turk was foretold in Daniel and in the Apocalypse that the pious might
 not allow themselves to be terrified at his greatness. The prophecy of
 Daniel gives us a splendid account of what is to happen till the end
 of the world, and describes clearly the reign of Antichrist and of the
 Turk.”[242] Finally, Luther is of opinion that at the end of the world
 both must be united, viz. the Papal Antichrist and the Turk, because
 both had come into being together. About the time of the Emperor
 Phocas († 610) Mohammed appeared on the scene of history, and at that
 very time too the Bishops of Rome arrogated to themselves the primacy
 over the whole Church.[243]

 His pseudo-mysticism and factious temper thus continued to play an
 unmistakable part in his ideas concerning the Turk.[244]

“Against such might and power [the Turkish] we Germans behave like
pot-bellied pigs, we idle about, gorge, tipple and gamble, and commit
all kinds of wantonness and roguery, heedless of all the great and
pitiful slaughters and defeats which our poor German soldiery have
suffered.”[245] “And, because our German people are a wild and unruly
race, half diabolical and half human, some even desire the advent and
rule of the Turk.”[246]

So scathing a description of the German people leads us to enquire into
his attitude to German nationalism.

5. Luther’s Nationalism and Patriotism

In spite of his outspoken criticism of their faults, Luther recognised
and honoured the good qualities of the Germans. His denunciations at
times were certainly rather severe: “We Germans,” he says, “remain
Germans, i.e. pigs and brutes”;[247] and again, “We vile Germans are
horrid swine”; “for the most part such shocking pigs are we hopeless
Germans that neither modesty, discipline nor reason is to be found in
us”;[248] we are a “nation of barbarians,” etc. Germans, according to
him, abuse the gifts of God “worse than would hogs.”[249] He is fond of
using such language when censuring the corruption of morals which had
arisen owing to abuse and disregard of the Evangel which he preached.
Even where he attempts to explain his manner of proceeding, where,
for instance, he tries to justify the delay in forming the “Assembly
of true Christians,” he knows how to display to the worst advantage
the unpleasing side of the German character. “We Germans are a wild,
savage, blustering people with whom it is not easy to do anything
except in case of dire necessity.”[250]

By the side of such spiteful explosions must be set the many kindlier
and not unmerited testimonies Luther gives to the good qualities
peculiar to the nation.[251] In various passages, more particularly
in his “Table-Talk,” he credits the Germans with perseverance and
steadfastness in their undertakings, also with industry, contentment
and disinterestedness; they had not indeed the grace of the Italians,
nor the eloquence of the French, but they were more honest and
straightforward, and had more homely affection for their good old
customs. He also believes that they had formerly been distinguished for
great fidelity, “particularly in marriage,” though unfortunately this
was no longer the case.[252]

Much more instructive than any such expressions of opinion, favourable
or unfavourable, is the attitude Luther adopted towards the political
questions which concerned the existence, the unity and the greatness of
his country.

Here his religious standpoint induced him to take steps which a true
German could only regret. We have already shown how the defence against
the Turks was hampered by his action. He also appreciably degraded
the Empire in the eyes of the Christian nations.[253] He not merely
attacked the authority of the Emperor and thereby the power which held
together the Empire, by his criticism of the edicts of the Diets, by
the spirit of discord and party feeling he aroused amongst those who
shared his opinions, and by his unmeasured and incessant abuse of the
authorities, but, as years went by, he also came even to approve, as we
have seen above (p. 53 ff.), of armed resistance to the Emperor and the
Empire as something lawful, nay, praiseworthy, if undertaken on behalf
of the new Evangel.

“If it is lawful to defend ourselves against the Turk,” he writes,
“then it is still more lawful to do so against the Pope, who is even
worse. Since the Emperor has associated himself with the defenders of
the Pope, he must expect to be treated as his wickedness deserves.”
“Formerly I advised that we should yield to the Emperor [i.e. not
undertake anything against him]; even now I still say that we should
yield to these heathen tyrants when they—Pope, Cardinals, Bishops,
Emperor, etc.—cease to appeal to the name of Christ, but acknowledge
themselves to be what they really are, viz. slaves of Satan; but if, in
the name of Christ, they wish to stone Christians, then their stones
will recoil on their own heads and they will incur the penalty attached
to the Second Commandment.”[254]

He saw “no difference between an assassin and the Emperor,” should the
latter proceed against his party—a course which, as a matter of fact,
was imposed on the Emperor by the very laws of the Empire. How, he
asks, “can a man sacrifice his body and this poor life in a higher and
more praiseworthy cause” “than in such worship [resistance by violence]
for the saving of God’s honour and the protection of poor Christendom,
as David, Ezechias and other holy kings and princes did?”[255]

Countless examples from the Old Testament such as the above were always
at his command for the purpose of illustrating his arguments.

In the “Warnunge an seine lieben Deudschen,” in 1531, he warns the
Imperial power that God, “even though He Himself sit still, may well
raise up a Judas Machabeus” should the Imperial forces have recourse to
arms against the “Evangelicals”; their enemies would learn what their
ancestors had learned in the war with Ziska and the Husites. Resistance
to “bloodhounds” is, after all, mere self-defence. Whoever followed the
Emperor against him and his party became guilty of all the Emperor’s
own “godless abominations.” To instruct “his German people” on this
matter was the object of the writing above referred to.[256]

“As I am the Prophet of the Germans—this high-sounding title I am
obliged to assume to please my asinine Papists—I will act as a
faithful teacher and warn my staunch Germans of the danger in which
they stand.”[257]

By thus coming forward as the divinely commissioned spokesman of the
Germans, as the representative and prophet of the nation, he implicitly
denied to those who did not follow his banner the right of being styled
Germans. He was fond of professing, in his war on Pope and Church,
to be the champion of the Germans against Rome’s oppression. This
enabled him to stir up the national feeling amongst those who followed
him as his allies, and to win over the vacillating by means of the
delusive watchword: “Germany against Italian tyranny.” But, apart from
the absolute want of justification for any such appeal to national
prejudices, the assumption that Germany was wholly on his side was
entirely wrong. He spoke merely in the name of a fraction of the German
nation. To those who remained faithful to the Church and who, often at
great costs to themselves, defended the heritage of their pious German
forefathers, it was a grievous insult that German nationalism should
thus be identified with the new faith and Church.

Even at the present time in the German-speaking world Catholics stand
to Protestants in the relation of two-fifths to three-fifths, and, if
it would be a mistake to-day to regard Teutonism and Protestantism
as synonymous—a mistake only to be met with where deepest prejudice
prevails—still better founded were the complaints of Catholics in
Luther’s own time, that he should identify the new Saxon doctrines
with the German name and the interests of Germany as a whole.[258]

Even in the first years of his public career he appealed to his
readers’ patriotism as against Rome. In 1518, before he had even
thought of his aggressive pamphlet “To the German Nobility,” he
commended the German Princes for coming forward to protect the German
people against the extortions of the Roman Curia; “Prierias, Cajetan
and Co. call us blockheads, simpletons, beasts and barbarians,
and scoff at the patience with which we allow ourselves to be
deceived.”[259] In the following year, when this charge had already
become one of his stock complaints, he summed it up thus: “We Germans,
through our emperors, bestowed power and prestige on the Popes in olden
days and, now, in return, we are forced to submit to being fleeced and
plundered.”[260] In the writing against Alveld, “Von dem Bapstum tzu
Rome,” a year later, he declared in words calculated to excite the
ire of every Teuton, that in Rome they were determined to suck the
last farthing out of the “tipsy Germans,” as they termed them; unless
Princes and nobles defended themselves to the utmost the Italians would
make of Germany a wilderness. “At Rome they even have a saying about
us, viz. ‘We must milk the German fools of their cash the best way we

That Luther should have conducted his attacks on the Papacy on these
lines was due in part to Ulrich von Hutten’s influence. Theodore
Kolde has rightly pointed out, that his acquaintance with Hutten’s
writings largely accounts for the utter virulence of Luther’s assault
on “Romanism.”[262] There is no doubt that the sparks of hate which
emanated from this frivolous and revolutionary humanist contributed to
kindle the somewhat peculiar patriotism of the Wittenberg professor.
All the good that Rome had brought to Germany in the shape of Christian
culture was lost to sight in the whirlwind of revolt heralded by
Hutten; the financial oppression exercised by the Curia, and the
opposition between German and Italian, were grossly exaggerated by the

Specifically German elements played, however, their part in Luther’s
movement. The famous _Gravamina Nationis Germanicæ_ had been formulated
before Luther began to exploit them. Another German element was the
peculiar mysticism, viz. that of Tauler and the “Theologia Deutsch,” on
which, though he misapprehended much of it, Luther at the outset based
his theories. German frankness and love of freedom also appeared to
find their utterance in the plain and vigorous denunciations which the
Monk of Wittenberg addressed to high and low alike; even his uncouth
boldness found a strong echo in the national character. And yet it was
not so much “national fellow-feeling,”[263] to quote the expression of
a Protestant author, which insured him such success, but other far more
deeply seated causes, some of which will be touched upon later, while
others have already been discussed.

It is, however, noteworthy that this “Prophet of the Germans,” when
speaking to the nation he was so fond of calling his own, did not
scruple to predict for it the gloomiest future.

A dark pessimism broods over Luther’s spirit almost constantly whenever
he speaks of the years awaiting Germany; he sees the people, owing to
his innovations, confronted with disastrous civil wars, split up into
endless and perpetually increasing sects and thus brought face to face
with hopeless moral degradation. His cry is, Let the Empire dissolve,
“Let Germany perish.” “Let the world fall into ruins.”[264] He consoles
himself with the reflection that Christ, when founding His Church,
had foreseen and sanctioned the inevitable destruction of all hostile
powers, of Judaism and even of the Roman Empire. It was in the nature
of the Gospel to triumph by the destruction of all that withstood it.
It was certainly a misfortune, Luther admits, that the wickedness of
the Germans, every day growing worse, should be the cause of this
ruin. “I am very hopeless about Germany now that she has harboured
within her walls those real Turks and devils, viz. avarice, usury,
tyranny, dissensions and this Lernean serpent of envy and malice which
has entangled the nobles, the Court, every Rathaus, town and village,
to say nothing of the contempt for the Divine Word and unprecedented
ingratitude [towards the new Evangel].” This is how he wrote to
Lauterbach.[265] Writing to Jonas, he declared: “No improvement need be
looked for in Germany whether the realm be in the hands of the Turk or
in our own, for the only aim of the nobility and Princes is how they
can enslave Germany and suck the people dry and make everything their
very own.”[266]

The lack of any real national feeling among the Princes was another
element which caused him anxiety. Yet he himself had done as much as
any to further the spread of that “particularism” which to a great
extent had replaced the national German ideal; he had unduly exalted
the rights of the petty sovereigns by giving them the spiritual
privileges and property of the Church, and he had confirmed them
in their efforts to render themselves entirely independent of the
Emperor and to establish themselves as despots within their own
territories. Since the unhappy war of 1525 the peasantry and lower
classes were convinced that no remedy was to be found in religion
for the amelioration of their social condition, and had come to hate
both Luther and the lords, because they believed both to have been
instrumental in increasing their burdens. The other classes, instead
of thanking him for furthering the German cause, also complained of
having had to suffer on his account. In this connection we may mention
the grievance of the mercantile community, Luther having deemed it
necessary to denounce as morally dangerous any oversea trade.[267] It
was also a grievous blow to education and learning in Germany, when,
owing to the storm which Luther let loose, the Universities were
condemned to a long period of enforced inactivity.[268] He himself
professed that his particular mission was to awaken interest in the
Bible, not to promote learning; yet Germans owe him small thanks for
opposing as he did the discoveries of the famous German Canon of
Frauenburg, Niklas Koppernigk (Copernicus), and for describing the
founder of modern astronomy as a fool who wished to upset all the
previous science of the heavens.[269]

Whilst showing himself ultra-conservative where good and useful
progress in secular matters was concerned, he, on the other hand,
scrupled not to sacrifice the real and vital interests of his nation
in the question of public ecclesiastical conditions by his want of
conservatism and his revolutionary innovations. True conservatism would
have endeavoured to protect the German commonwealth and to preserve it
from disaster by a strict guard over the good and tried elements on
which it rested, more particularly over unchangeable dogma. The wilful
destruction of the heritage, social, religious and learned, contributed
to by countless generations of devout forebears ever since the time of
St. Boniface, at the expense of untold toil and self-sacrifice, can
certainly not be described as patriotic on the part of a German. At any
rate, it can never have occurred to anyone seriously to expect that
those Germans whose views on religion were not those of Luther should
have taken his view of the duty of a patriot.

The main fact remains that Luther’s action drove a wedge into the
unity of the German nation. Wherever his spirit prevailed—which was
by no means the case in every place which to some extent came under
his influence—there also prevailed prejudice, suspicion and mistrust
against all non-Lutherans, rendering difficult any co-operation for the
welfare of the fatherland.

In discussing a recent work which extols Luther as a “true German” a
learned Protestant gives it as his opinion, that, however much one may
be inclined to exalt his patriotism, it must, nevertheless, be allowed
that Luther cherished a sort of indifference to the vital interests
of his nation; his “religious concentration” made him less mindful of
true patriotism; this our author excuses by the remark: “Justice and
truth were more to him than home and people.” Luther, it is also said,
“did not clearly point out the independent, ethical value of a national
feeling, just as he omitted to insist at all clearly on the reaction of
the ethical upon the religious.”[270]

On the other hand, however, his ways and feelings are often represented
as the “very type and model of the true German.”[271] Nor is this view
to be found among Protestants only, for Ignatius von Döllinger adopted
it in later life, when he saw fit to abandon his previous position.

 Before this, in 1851, in his Sketch of Luther, he had indeed said,
 concerning his patriotism, that, in his handling of the language and
 the use he made of the peculiarities of his countrymen, “he possessed
 a wonderful gift of charming his hearers, and that his power as a
 popular orator was based on an accurate knowledge and appreciation of
 the foibles of the German national character.”[272] In 1861, he wrote
 in another work: “Luther is the most powerful demagogue and the most
 popular character that Germany has ever possessed.” “From the mind
 of this man, the greatest German of his day, sprang the Protestant
 faith. Before the ascendency and creative energy of this mind, the
 more aspiring and vigorous portion of the nation humbly and trustfully
 bent the knee. In him, who so well united in himself intellect and
 force, they recognised their master; in his ideas they lived; to them
 he seemed the hero in whom the nation with all its peculiarities was
 embodied. They admired him, they surrendered themselves to him because
 they believed they had found in him their ideal, and because they
 found in his writings their own most intimate feelings, only expressed
 more clearly, more eloquently and more powerfully than they themselves
 were capable of doing. Thus Luther’s name is to Germany not merely
 that of a distinguished man, but the very embodiment of a pregnant
 period in national life, the centre of a new circle of ideas and the
 most concise expression of those religious and ethical views amidst
 which the German spirit moved, and the powerful influence of which not
 even those who were averse to them could altogether escape.”[273]

 Here special stress is laid on Luther’s power over “the more aspiring
 Germans” who followed him, i.e. over the Protestant portion of the
 nation. Elsewhere, however, in 1872, Döllinger brings under Luther’s
 irresistible spell “his time and his people,” i.e. the whole of
 Germany, quite regardless of the fact that the larger portion still
 remained Catholic. “Luther’s overpowering mind and extraordinary
 versatility made him the man of his time and of his people; there
 never was a German who understood his people so well, or who in turn
 was so thoroughly understood, yea, drunk in, by the people, as this
 Monk of Wittenberg. The mind and spirit of the German people were in
 his hands like a harp in the hands of the musician. For had he not
 bestowed upon them more than ever one man had given to his people
 since the dawn of Christianity? A new language, popular handbooks,
 a German Bible, and his hymns. He alone impressed upon the German
 language and the German spirit alike his own imperishable seal, so
 that even those amongst us who abhor him from the bottom of our hearts
 as the mighty heresiarch who seduced the German nation cannot help
 speaking with his words and thinking with his thoughts. Yet, even
 more powerful than this Titan of the intellectual sphere, was the
 longing of the German nation for freedom from the bonds of a corrupt

 The change in Döllinger’s conception of Luther which is here apparent
 was not simply due to his personal antagonism to the Vatican Council;
 it is closely connected with his then efforts, proclaimed even in the
 very title of the Lectures in question: “Reunion of the Christian
 Churches”; for this reunion Döllinger hoped to be able to pave the
 way without the assistance of, and even in opposition to, the Roman
 Catholic Church. The fact is, however, that in the above passages
 the domination which Luther exercised over those who had fallen away
 with him has been made far too much of, otherwise how can we explain
 Luther’s own incessant complaints regarding the small response to
 the preaching of his new Evangel? The production of a schism by his
 vehement and forceful oratory was one thing; vigorous direction
 and leadership in the task of religious reconstruction was quite a
 different matter.

It is not our intention here to embark upon a controversy on such an
opinion concerning Luther’s German influence as that here advanced by
Döllinger. The present work will, in due course, treat of Luther’s
posthumous influence on German culture and the German language, of
his famous German Bible, and of his hymnological work (see vol. v.,
xxxiv., xxxv.), when we shall have occasion to show the true value to
be accorded to such statements. As they stand, our last quotations from
Döllinger merely constitute a part of the legend which grew up long
since around the memory of the Wittenberg professor.

It must certainly be admitted, that Luther’s powerful language is
grounded on a lively and clear comprehension of German ways of thought
and German modes of expression; his command of language and his power
for trenchant description, which were the result of his character, of
his intercourse with the common people and his talent for noting their
familiar ways of speech, were rare qualities. He left in his writings
much that served as a model to later Germans. Of his translation of the
Bible in particular we may say, with Janssen, that, although Luther
cannot be termed the actual founder of the new High-German, yet “his
deserts as regards the development of the German language are great,”
especially in the matter of “syntax and style. In the last respect
no one of any insight will wish to dispute the service which Luther
rendered.” “The force and expression of the popular speech was hit off
by Luther in a masterly manner in his Bible translations.”[275]

Those Germans, who had been won over to the new faith and had become
Luther’s faithful followers, found in the instructions written in his
own popular vein, particularly in those on the Bible, enlightenment and
edification, in many cases, no doubt, much to their advantage. Writing
for the benefit of this circle, the versatile author, in his ethical
works—his controversial ones are not here under consideration—deals
with countless other subjects outside the range of biblical teaching;
here his manner owes its power to the fact that he speaks in tones
caught from the lips of the people themselves. Thus, for instance, when
he discovers the blots which sully the nation: luxury in dress, the
avarice of the rich, the “miserliness and hoarding” of the peasants.
Or when he tells unpleasant truths to the “great fops,” the nobles,
concerning their despotic and arrogant behaviour. Or, again, when
he raises his voice in condemnation of the neglect of education, or
to reprove excessive drinking, or when, to mention a special case,
he paints in lurid and amusing colours the slothfulness and utter
carelessness of the Germans after having achieved any success in war
against the Turks. His gift of humour always stood him in good stead,
and his love of extravagant phraseology and imagery and of incisive
rhetoric was of the greatest service to him in his dealings with the
people, for both appealed strongly to German taste. Nor must we forget
his proficiency in the effective application of German proverbs—a
collection of proverbs in his own handwriting is still extant and has
recently been published—nor his familiarity with German folk-lore and
ballads, nor finally the wonderful gift which served to tranquillise
many who were still undecided and wavering, viz. the boundless
assurance and unshakable confidence with which he could advance even
the most novel and startling opinions. The Germans of that day loved
weight and power, and a strong man could not fail to impress them,
hence, for those who were not restrained by obedience to the Church,
Luther undoubtedly seemed a real chip off the old German block.

 A single passage, one against usurers, will serve to show with what
 energy this man of the people could raise his voice, to the joy of the
 many who groaned under the burden. “Ah, how securely the usurer lives
 and rages as though he himself were God and Lord of the whole land;
 no one dares to resist him. And now that I write against them these
 saintly usurers scoff at me and say: ‘Luther doesn’t know what usury
 is; let him read his Matthew and his Psalter.’ But I preach Christ and
 my word is the Word of God, and of this I am well assured, that you
 accursed usurers shall be taught either by the Turk or by some other
 tool of God’s wrath, that Luther really knew and understood what usury
 was. At any rate, my warning is worth a sterling gulden.”[276]

 On the very same page he vents his anger against the supreme Imperial
 Court of Justice, because, “in matters pertaining to the Gospel and
 the Church,” its sentences did not accord with his. “I shan’t be a
 hypocrite, but shall speak the truth and say: See what a devil’s
 strumpet reigns in the Imperial Kammergericht, which ought to be a
 heavenly jewel in the German land, the one consolation of all who
 suffer injustice.”

 Particularly effective was his incitement of the people to hate
 Popery. “We Germans must remain Germans and the Pope’s own donkeys and
 victims, even though we are brayed in the mortar like sodden barley,
 as Solomon says (Prov. xxvii. 22); we stick fast in our folly. No
 complaints, no instruction, no beseeching, no imploring, not even our
 own daily experience of how we have been fleeced and devoured opens
 our eyes.”[277]—“The Emperor and the Princes,” he had already said,
 “openly go about telling lies of us”;[278] “pigs and donkeys,” “mad
 and tipsy Princes,” such are the usual epithets with which he spices
 his language here and later.

 “Out of deep sympathy for us poor Germans”[279] it is that he ventures
 to speak thus in the name of all.

 He boldly holds up his Evangel as the German preaching _par
 excellence_. He declares: “I seek the welfare and salvation of you
 Germans.”[280]—“We Germans have heard the true Word of God for many
 years, by which means God, the Father of all Mercy, has enlightened
 us and called us from the horrible abominations of the Papal darkness
 and idolatry into His holy light and Kingdom. But with what gratitude
 and honesty we have accepted and practised it, it is terrible to

 Formerly, he says, we filled every corner with idolatries such as
 Masses, Veneration of the Saints, and good works, but now we persecute
 the dear Word, so that it would not be surprising should God flood
 Germany, not only with Turks, but with real devils; indeed, it is a
 wonder He has not done so already.[281]

 However small the hope was of any improvement resulting from his
 preaching, he fomented the incipient schism by such words as these:
 “They [the Romans] have always abused our simplicity by their
 wantonness and tyranny; they call us mad Germans, who allow themselves
 to be hoaxed and made fools of.... We are supposed to have an Empire,
 but it is the Pope who has our possessions, honour, body, soul and
 everything else.... Thus the Pope feeds on the kernel and we nibble at
 the empty shells.”[282]

Finally, there are some who select certain traits of Luther’s
character in order to represent him as the type of a true German.
Such specifically German characteristics were certainly not lacking
in Luther; it would be strange, indeed, were this not the case in a
man of German stock, hailing from the lower class and who was always
in close touch with his compatriots. Luther was inured to fatigue,
simple in his appearance and habits, persevering and enduring; in
intercourse with his friends he was frank, hearty and unaffected;
with them he was sympathetic, amiable and fond of a joke; he did not,
however, shrink from telling them the truth even when thereby offence
might be given; towards the Princes who were well-disposed to him and
his party he behaved with an easy freedom of manner, not cringingly
or with any exaggerated deference. In a sense all these are German
traits.[283] But many of these qualities, albeit good in themselves,
owing to his public controversy, assumed a very unpleasant character.
His perseverance degenerated into obstinacy and defiance, his laborious
endurance into a passionate activity which overtaxed his powers, and he
became combative and quarrelsome and found his greatest pleasure in the
discomfiture of his opponents; his frankness made way for the coarsest
criticism. The anger against the Church which carried him along found
expression in the worst sorts of insults, and, when his violence had
aroused bitter feelings, he believed, or at least alleged, he was
merely acting in the interests of uprightness and love of truth. Had
he preserved his heritage of good German qualities, perfected them and
devoted them to the service of a better cause, he might have become the
acknowledged spokesman of all Germans everywhere. He could have branded
vice and instilled into the hearts of his countrymen the love of
virtue more strongly and effectively than even Geiler of Kaysersberg;
in seasoned and effective satire on matters of morals he would have
far excelled Sebastian Brant and Thomas Murner; in depth of feeling
and sympathetic expression he could have rivalled Bertold of Ratisbon,
and his homely ways would have qualified him to enforce the Christian
precepts amongst all the grades and conditions of German life even more
effectively than any previous preacher.



1. Growth of Luther’s Idea of his Divine Mission

WHEREAS the most zealous of Luther’s earliest pupils and followers
outvied one another in depicting their master as the messenger of God,
who had come before the world equipped with revelations from on high,
the tendency of later Protestantism has been, more and more, to reduce
Luther, so to speak, to a merely natural level, and to represent him as
a hero indeed, but as one inspired by merely human motives. An earlier
generation exalted him to mystical regions, and, being nearer him in
point of time and therefore knowing him better, grasped the fact that
he was dominated by a certain supernaturalism. Many later and more
recent writers, on the other hand, have preferred to square their
conception of his personality with their own liberal views on religion.
They hail Luther as the champion of free thought and therefore as
the founder of modern intellectual life. What he discovered in his
struggles with himself by reflection and pious meditation, that, they
say, he bequeathed to posterity without insisting upon the immutability
of his ideas or claiming for them any infallibility. His only permanent
work, his real legacy to posterity, was a negative one, viz. the breach
with Popery, which he consummated, thanks to his extraordinary powers.

This is, however, from the religious standpoint, to attenuate Luther’s
figure as it appears in history, notwithstanding the tribute paid to
his talents.

If he is not the “messenger of God,” whose doctrines, inspired from on
high, the world was bound to accept, then he ceases to be Luther, for
it was from his supernatural estimate of himself that he drew all his
strength and defiance. Force him to quit the dim, mystical heights
from which he fancies he exercises his sway, and his claim on the faith
of mankind becomes inexplicable and he himself an enigma.

It has been pointed out above, how Luther gradually reached the
conviction that he had received his doctrine by a special revelation,
with the Divine mission to communicate it to the world and to reform
the Church (vol. ii., p. 92 f.). The conviction, that, as he declares,
“the Holy Ghost had revealed the Scriptures” to him culminated in that
personal assurance of salvation which was suddenly vouchsafed to him in
the Tower.[284]

It will repay us to examine more closely the nature of this idea, and
its manifestations, now that we have the mature man before us.

The founder of the new Church has reached a period when he no longer
scruples to speak of the “revelations” which had been made to him,
and which he is compelled to proclaim. “By His Grace,” he says, “God
has revealed this doctrine to me.”[285]—“I have it by revelation ...
that will I not deny.”[286] Of his mission he assures us: “By God’s
revelation I am called to be a sort of antipope”;[287] of his chief
dogma, he will have it that “the Holy Ghost bestowed it upon me,”[288]
and declares that “under pain of the curse of eternal reprobation”
he had been “instructed (‘_interminatum_’) not to doubt of it in
any way.”[289] Of this he solemnly assured the Elector Frederick in
a letter written in 1522: “Concerning my cause I would say: Your
Electoral Highness is aware, or, if not aware, is hereby apprised of
the fact, that I received the Evangel, not from man, but from heaven
alone through our Lord Jesus Christ, so that I might well subscribe
myself and boast of being a minister and evangelist—as, indeed, I
shall do for the future.”[290]

It is because he has received the Word of God direct from on high that
he is so firm. “God’s Word,” he cries, “is above everything to me; I
have the Divine Majesty on my side, therefore I care not in the least
though a thousand Augustines, or a thousand Harry-Churches [Henry VIII.
of England was then still a Catholic] should be against me; I am quite
certain that the true Church holds fast with me to God’s Word, and
leaves it to the Harry-Churches to depend on the words of men.”[291]

There are many passages in which he merely claims to have been
enlightened in his ruminations and labours and thus led to embrace the
real, saving truth; less frequently do we hear of any actual, sudden
inspiration from above. Where he does claim this most distinctly is
in the matter of the discovery of his chief doctrine, viz. assurance
of salvation by justifying faith, vouchsafed to him in the Tower of
the Wittenberg monastery. The fact that his mode of expression varies
may be explained not merely by his own involuntary wavering, but by
the very difficulty of imparting his favourite doctrine to others. His
frame of mind, outward circumstances and the character of his hearers
or readers were the cause of his choice of words. With his friends,
for instance, more particularly the younger ones, and likewise in his
sermons at Wittenberg, he was fond of laying stress on what he had
once said to the lawyers when they molested him with Canon Law: “They
shall respect our teaching, which is the Word of God spoken by the
Holy Ghost through our lips.”[292] When speaking to larger audiences,
on the other hand, he does not as a rule claim more than a gradual,
inner enlightenment by God, which indeed partakes of the nature of a
revelation, but to which he was led by his work and study and inward
experience. In the presence of the fanatics he became, after 1524, more
cautious in his claims, owing to the similar ones made on their own
behalf by these sectarians.

Yet the idea of an assurance born of God lies at the bottom of all his

He worked himself into this belief until it became part of his
nature.[293] He had to face many doubts and scruples, but he overcame
them, and, in the latter years of his life, we hear little of any such.
His struggle with these doubts, which clearly betray the faulty basis
of his conviction, will be dealt with elsewhere.[294]

“I am certain and am determined to feel so.” Expressions such as this
are not seldom to be met with in Luther’s letters and writings.[295]

An almost appalling strength of will lurks behind such assurances.
Indeed, what impels him seems to savour more of self-suggestion than of
inward experience. To the objections brought forward by his adversaries
he frequently enough merely opposes his “certainty”; behind this he
endeavours to conceal the defects of his proofs from Scripture, and his
inability to reply to the reasons urged against him. His determination
to find conviction constitutes one of Luther’s salient psychological
characteristics; of the Titanic strength at his disposal he made proof
first and foremost in his own case.

       *       *       *       *       *

Luther also succeeded in inducing in himself a pseudo-mystic mood
in which he fancied himself acting in everything conformably with a
Divine mission, everywhere specially guided and protected as beseemed a
messenger of God.

For instance, he says that he wrote the pamphlet against the seditious
peasants in obedience to a Divine command; “therefore my little book is
right and will always be so, though all the world should be incensed at

“It is the Lord Who has done this,” he had declared of the Peasant
Rising when he recognised in it elements favourable to his cause;
“It is the Lord Who has done this and Who conceals these menaces and
dangers from the eyes of the Princes, and will even bring it about
Himself by means of their blindness and violence.” That the Princes
are threatened with destruction, that “I firmly believe the Spirit
proclaims through me.”[297]

Later on he was no less sure that he could foresee in the Spirit the
coming outbreak of a religious war in Germany; only the prayers which
he—who had the Divine interests so much at heart—offered, could avail
to stave off the war; at least the delay was mainly the result of this
prayer: “I am assured that God really hearkens to my prayer, and I know
that so long as I live there will be no war in Germany.”

Never does he tire of declaring that the misfortunes and deaths which
his foes have to deplore are the result of the intervention of heaven
on behalf of his cause.[298] He was convinced that he had repeatedly
been cured in sickness and saved from death by Christ, by Him, as he
says in 1534, “in Whose faith I commenced all this and carried it
through, to the admiration even of my opponents.”[299] He, “one of the
Apostles and Evangelists of Germany, is,” so he proclaims in 1526 in a
pamphlet, “a man delivered over to death and only preserved in life by
a wonder and in defiance of the wrath of the devil and his saints.”[300]

In February, 1520, he speaks of the intimation he has received of a
great storm impending, were God not to place some hindrance in the
way of Satan. “I have seen Satan’s cunning plans for my destruction
and that of many others. Doubtless the Divine Word can never be
administered without confusion, tumult and danger. It is a word of
boundless majesty, it works great things and is wonderful on high.”
This was to be his only guide in his undertaking. He was compelled, so
he declared on the same occasion, “to leave the whole matter to God, to
resign himself to His guidance and to look on while wind and waves make
the ship their plaything.”[301]

He frequently repeats later that his professorship at the University
had been bestowed upon him by a Divine dispensation and against his
will; whereas others were honoured for their academic labours, he
complains to Spalatin of being persecuted; “I teach against my will
and yet I have to endure evil things.” “What I now do and have done,
I was compelled to do.” “I have enough sins on my conscience without
incurring the unpardonable one of being unfaithful to my office, of
refraining from scourging evil and of neglecting the truth to the
detriment of so many thousand souls.”[302]—At the time when the
Disputation at Leipzig was preparing, he tells the same confidant that
the matter must be left to God: “I do not desire that it should happen
according to our designs, otherwise I would prefer to desist from it
altogether.” Spalatin must not desire to see the matter judged and
settled according to human wisdom, but should remember that we know
nothing of “God’s plans.”[303]

Everything had befallen him in accordance with God’s design. It was in
accordance therewith, nay, “at the command of God,” that he had become
a monk, so at least he says later. This, too, was his reason for giving
up the office in choir and the recitation of the Breviary. “Our Lord
God dragged me by force from the canonical hours, anno 1520.”[304]
His marriage likewise was the direct result of God’s plan. “The Lord
suddenly flung me into matrimony in a wonderful way while my thoughts
were set in quite another direction.”[305] At an earlier date he had,
so he said, defended the theses of his Resolutions only “because God
compelled him to advance all these propositions.”[306]

His first encounter with Dr. Eck took place, so he was persuaded,
“at God’s behest.”[307] “God takes good care that I should not be
idle.”[308] It is God Who “calls and compels him” to return to
Wittenberg after his stay at the Wartburg.[309]—It is not surprising,
then, that he also attributes to God’s doing the increase in the number
of his friends and followers.

The success of his efforts to bring about a great falling away from
the Catholic Church he regarded as a clear Divine confirmation of his
mission, so that “no higher proof or miracle was needed.”[310] Even the
disturbance and tumult which resulted bore witness in his favour, since
Christ says: “I am come to send a sword.” All around him prevailed
“discord, revolt and uproar,”[311] because, forsooth, the Gospel was
there at work; the calm, unquestioned sovereignty of Popery within its
own boundaries was a sure sign of its being the devil’s own.[312] “Did
I not meet with curses, I should not believe that my cause was from

It is evident from these and other like statements how greatly his
fame, the increase of his followers and his unexpected success
engrossed and intoxicated him. In judging of him we must not
under-estimate the effect of the din of applause in encouraging him
in his self-suggestion. The cheers of so great a crowd, as Erasmus
remarked in a letter to Melanchthon, might well have turned the head
even of the humblest man. What anchor could have held the bark exposed
to such a storm? Outbursts such as the following, to which Luther
gave vent under the influence of the deafening ovation, were only to
be expected of such a man as he, when he had once cut himself adrift
from the Church: “God has now given judgment ... and, contrary to the
expectation of the whole world, has brought things to such a pass....
The position of the Pope grows daily worse, that we may extol the work
of God herein.”[314] Under the magic influence of the unhoped-for
growth of his movement of revolt, he declared it could only be due
to a higher power, “which so disposed things that even the gates of
hell were unable to prevent them.” Not he, but “another man, drives
the wheel.” It is as clear as day that no man could, single-handed,
have achieved so much, and, by “mere word of mouth,” done more harm
to the Pope, the bishops, priests and monks than all worldly powers
hitherto.[315] Christ was working for him so strenuously, so he
declares in all seriousness, that he might well calmly await His
complete victory over Antichrist; for this reason there was really
no need to trouble about the ecclesiastical organisation of the new
Church, or to think of all the things it would otherwise have been
necessary for him to remember.

His mere success was not the only Divine witness in his favour; Luther
was also of opinion that owing to God’s notable working, signs and
wonders had taken place in plenty in confirmation of the new teaching;
such Divine wonders, however, must not be “thrown to the winds.”[316]
He seems, nevertheless, to have had at one time the intention of
collecting and publishing these miracles.[317]

In short, “the first-fruits of the Grace of God,” he says, have come
upon us; in these he was unwilling that later teachers, who differed
from him, should be allowed to participate.[318]

Was not the guidance of Christ also plainly visible in the fact that
he, the proclaimer of His Word, had been delivered from so many
ambushes on the part of the enemies who lay in wait for him? Such a
thought lay at the root of his words to his pupil Mathesius: There was
no doubt that poison had frequently been administered to him, but “an
important personage had been heard to say, that none had any effect
on him.” On one occasion, however, when an attempt had been made to
poison him, He “Who said, ‘If they drink any deadly thing it shall not
hurt them,’ blessed him, and preserved him then and afterwards from
all mischief.”[319] “I also believe,” Luther once said, according to
Bindseil’s Latin “_Colloquia_,” that “my pulpit-chair and cushion were
frequently poisoned, yet God preserved me.”[320] Similar words are
recorded in the Diary of Cordatus.[321] This accounts for the strange
tales which grew up amongst his pupils and followers of how “God
Almighty had always preserved him in a wonderful manner,” of how He
“had affrighted the knaves” who sought his life, and so forth, of which
the early editions of Luther’s Works have so much to say.

Among the characteristics most highly extolled by his earliest
followers as exemplifying his mission must be instanced, first, his
inflexible courage, amounting frequently to foolhardiness, in the
accomplishment of his set task, viz. the establishing of the Evangel
and the destruction of Popery; secondly, his extraordinary capacity
for work and the perseverance of which he gave such signal proof in
his literary undertakings; thirdly, his entire disregard for temporal
advantages, which he himself held up as an example to those of the
evangelical preachers whose worldliness had become a reproach to the
Lutheran cause.

Very strange and remarkable is the connection between Luther’s
mysticism and the simple and homely view he took of life; the pleasure
with which he welcomed everything good which came in his way—so far
as it was free from any trace of Popery—the kindly, practical turn of
his manner of thinking and acting when among his own people, and that
love for humour and good cheer which so strikingly contrasts with the
puritanical behaviour of his opponents, the Anabaptists and fanatics.

To reconcile his mysticism with habits at first blush so divergent
would present quite a problem in itself were we not to take into
account the fact, that homeliness and humour had been his from the very
beginning, whereas his mysticism was a later growth, always to some
extent alien to his character. His mysticism he carefully confined to
what related to his supposed Divine mission, though at times he does
indeed seem to extend indefinitely the range of this mission. Yet, when
the duties of his office had cost him pain or tried his temper, he was
ever glad to return to the realities of life, and to seek relief in
social intercourse or in his family circle.

When it was a question of the working of miracles by the heaven-sent
messenger, he was of too practical a turn of mind to appeal to anything
but the ostensible tokens of the Divine favour worked around him and
on his behalf in proof of the truth of the new Evangel. He carefully
avoided attributing any miracles to his own powers, even when assisted
by Divine grace, though, occasionally, he seems to imply that, were the
need to arise, he might well work wonders by the power of God, were he
only to ask it of Him. With the question of miracles and predictions
as proofs of Luther’s Divine mission we shall deal later (p. 153 ff.).

While on the one hand Luther’s views of miracles and prophecies witness
to an error which was not without effect on his persuasion of his
Divine mission, on the other his pseudo-mystic notion of his special
calling led him superstitiously to see in chance events of history
either the extraordinary confirmation of his mission or the celestial
condemnation of Popery.

We know that Luther not only shared the superstitions of his
contemporaries, but also defended them with all the weight of his
great name and literary talents.[322] When at Vienna, in January,
1520, something unusual was perceived in the sky, he at once referred
it to “his tragedy,” as he had done even previously in similar cases.
He also expressed the wish that he himself might be favoured with
some such sign. The noisy spirits which had formerly disturbed people
had, he believed, been reduced in number throughout the world solely
owing to his Evangel. The omnipotence of the devil and the evil he
worked on men was, so he thought, to be restrained only by the power
of that Word which had again been made known to the world, thanks to
his preaching.[323] It was his intention to publish an account of
the demoniacal happenings which had taken place in his day and which
confirmed his mission; he was only prevented from doing this by want
of time.[324] To astrology, unlike Melanchthon, he ever showed himself

Another element which loomed large in his persuasion that he was a
prophet was his so-called “temptations,” i.e. the mental troubles,
which, so he thought, were caused by the devil and which, coinciding as
they often did with other sufferings, were sometimes the cause of long
fits of misery and dejection.[325]

These temptations in their most extreme form Luther compared with
the death-agony. His extraordinary experiences, of which he never
understood the pathological cause, were regarded by him as God’s own
testimony to his election. His conviction was that, by imposing on him
these pangs of hell, God was cleansing him for the grand task assigned
to him, even as He had done with other favoured souls in the past. When
plunged in the abyss of such sufferings he felt like St. Paul, the
Apostle of the Gentiles, who likewise was buffeted by Satan (vol. i.,
p. 381 f.), and whom he would fain have emulated in his “revelations”
of the Divine mysteries. Only in the sequel, however, will it be
possible to describe Luther’s pathology for the benefit of those to
whom it may be of interest.

All his troubles, whether due to doubt and sadness or to the fury of
foes stirred up by Satan against him, he utilised, so he tells us, as
an incentive to immerse himself ever more and more in the study of
Holy Scripture, to cultivate the understanding bestowed upon him, and
to seek its practical applications. “My theology was not all learnt
in a day; I was obliged to explore deeper and deeper to acquire it.
My temptations helped me, for it is impossible to understand Holy
Scripture without experience and temptations. This is what the fanatics
and unruly spirits lack, viz. that capital gainsayer the devil, who
alone can teach a man this. St. Paul had a devil, who beat him with
his fists and drove him by the way of temptation diligently to study
Holy Scripture. I have had the Pope, the Universities and all the
scholars, and, behind them all, the devil, hanging round my neck: they
drove me to the Bible and made me read it until at length I reached
the right understanding of it. Unless we have such a devil, we remain
mere speculative theologians, for whose precious imaginings the world
is not much better.”[326] This casual saying of Luther’s gives us a
good glimpse into his customary process of thought when in presence of
troubles and temptations, great or small.

The above passage, moreover, agrees with many similar statements
of his, inasmuch as, far from ascribing his doctrine to any actual
revelation, he makes its discovery to result from effort on his part,
under the guidance of a higher illumination. Luther, less than any
other, could scarcely have been unconscious of the gradual change in
his views, more particularly at the outset of his career as Evangelist
and prophet; at the very least it was clear that, in the earlier period
of his higher mission, he had taught much that was borrowed from Popery
and which he discarded only later; at that time, as he puts it, he was
still “besotted with Popery.”

_Periodic Upheaval of Luther’s Idea of his Divine Mission._

Luther’s consciousness of his Divine mission found expression with
varying degrees of intensity at different periods of his life.

At certain junctures, notably when historic events were impending,
it was apt to burst forth, producing in him effects of a character
almost terrifying. Such was the case, for instance, in the days which
immediately preceded and followed the proclamation of the Bull of
Excommunication. At that time it seemed as though every spirit of
revolt had entered into him to use him as a tool for defying the
authority of the Church. Such was the depth of his persuasion, that
he, the excommunicate, was carried away to proclaim his unassailable
prophetic rights in tones of the utmost conviction.

Towards the end of his stay at the Wartburg and during the first period
of his struggle with the Anabaptists at Wittenberg, we again hear him
insisting on his own exalted mission; owing, however, to the mystic
illumination of which the fanatics boasted, his claims are now based,
not so much on mystical considerations, as on the “outward Word,” whose
authentic representative he had, by his works, proved himself to be.

The loneliness and gloom of the Wartburg and his “diabolical”
experiences there doubtless helped to convince him yet more of the
reality of his mission. The ensuing struggle with those of the
innovators who differed from him and even threatened to oust him, acted
as a further stimulus and aroused his powers of resistance to the
utmost. Nor must we forget the threatening attitude of the Imperial
authorities at Nuremberg, whom he was resolved to oppose with the
greatest determination; only by impressing on his followers that he was
something more than human would it be possible for him successfully
to hold in check the hostility of Emperor and Princes. The supposed
world-wide success of his venture also dazed him at this critical
juncture, a fact which further elucidates the situation.

 Triumphantly he cries: “The Lord has already begun to mock at Satan
 and his slaves. Satan is in truth vanquished, and the Pope, too,
 with all his abominations! Now our only concern is the soap-bubble
 which has swelled to such alarming dimensions [the Nuremberg menace].
 We believe in Christ, the Son of God, believe in His dominion over
 life and death. Whom then shall we fear? The first-fruits of victory
 have already fallen to us; we rejoice at the overthrow of the Papal
 tyranny, whereas formerly Kings and Princes were content to submit to
 its oppression; how much easier will it be to vanquish and despise the
 Princes themselves!”

 “If Christ assures us,” he continues in this same letter, one of
 the first dispatched after his “Patmos” at the Wartburg, “that the
 Father has placed all things under His feet, it is certain that He
 lieth not; ‘all things’ must also comprise the mighty ones assembled
 at Nuremberg, not to speak of that Dresden bubble [Duke George of
 Saxony]. Let them therefore set about deposing Christ. We, however,
 will calmly look on while the Father Almighty preserves His Son at His
 right hand from the face and the tail of these smoking firebrands”
 (Isa. vii. 4). Should a rising or a tumult among the people ensue
 “which cannot be suppressed by force, then that will be the Lord’s
 own work; He conceals the danger from the sight of the Princes; and,
 owing to their blindness and rebellion, He will work such things
 that methinks all Germany will be deluged with blood. We shall ‘set
 ourselves like a hedge before God in favour of the land and the
 people’ (Ezek. xxii. 30), in this day of His great wrath, wherefore do
 you and your people pray for us.”

 These words were addressed to an old Augustinian friend to whom he
 showed himself undisguisedly and in his true colours. In the same
 letter he has it that he considers it quite certain that Carlstadt,
 Gabriel Zwilling and the fanatical Anabaptists were preaching without
 any real call, in fact, against God’s will. To himself he applies the
 words of our Redeemer: “He Whom God has sent speaketh the words of
 God” (John iii. 34), and “He that seeketh the glory of Him that sent
 Him is true” (John vii. 18). Fully convinced of the Divine inspiration
 and compulsion he exclaims: “For this reason did I yield to necessity
 and return [from the Wartburg], viz. that I might, if God wills, put
 an end to this devils’ uproar” (of the fanatics).[327]

 If Luther sought to show the fanatics that their fruits bore witness
 against them and their doctrine, it is worthy of note that Staupitz,
 his former Superior, about this very time, confronted Luther with the
 disastrous fruits of his action, in order to dissuade him from the
 course he was pursuing. Staupitz, who so far had been his patron, had
 grown apprehensive of the character of the movement. His warning,
 however, only acted as oil on the flame of the enthusiasm then surging
 up in Luther. In his reply, dated in May, 1522, we find the real
 Luther, the prophet full of his own great plans: “You write that my
 undertaking is praised [by discreditable people], and by those who
 frequent houses of ill-fame, and that much scandal has been given
 by my latest writings. I am not surprised at this, neither am I
 apprehensive. It is certain that we for our part have been careful
 to proclaim the pure Word without causing any tumult; the good and
 the bad alike make use of this Word, and this, as you know, we cannot
 help.... For we do what Christ foretold when He commanded the angels
 to collect and remove out of His Kingdom all scandals. Father, I
 cannot do otherwise than destroy the Kingdom of the Pope, the Kingdom
 of abomination and wickedness together with all its train. God is
 already doing this without us, without any assistance from us, merely
 by His Word. The end of this Kingdom is come before the Lord. The
 matter far exceeds our powers of comprehension.... Great commotion
 of minds, great scandals and great signs must follow, in view of
 God’s greatness. But, dear father, I hope this will not trouble
 you; God’s plan is visible in these things and His mighty hand. You
 will remember that at the outset everybody thought my undertaking
 suspicious, doubtful and altogether too bad, and yet it has held the
 field and will hold its own in spite of your apprehensions; only have
 patience. Satan feels the smart of his wound, and that is why he rages
 so greatly and sets all at loggerheads. But Christ Who has begun the
 work will trample him under foot; and the gates of hell will do their
 worst, but all in vain.”

 So perverted an application of the promise solemnly made by Christ to
 the Church of Peter, that the gates of hell should not prevail against
 it, had surely never before been heard. Words such as these would even
 sound incredible did we not learn from the same letter into what a
 state of nervous excitement the ban and excommunication had plunged
 him. At Antwerp, Jacob Probst, one of his followers, was to be burned
 with two of his comrades, and in various localities Luther’s writings,
 by order of the authorities, were being consigned to the flames.
 This it was which made him say in his letter: “My death by fire is
 already under discussion; but I only defy Satan and his myrmidons
 the more that the day of Christ may be hastened, when an end will be
 put to Antichrist. Farewell, father, and pray for me.... The Evangel
 is a scandal to the self-righteous and to all who think themselves

The later occasions on which this peculiar mystic idea asserted
itself most strongly and vividly were during the exciting events of
the Peasant War of 1525; in 1528, at the time his Evangel was in
danger from the Empire, while he was tormented within; his sojourn in
the fortress of Coburg during the much-dreaded Diet of Augsburg, in
1530, when he again endured profound mental agony; the period of the
Schmalkald negotiations, in 1537, when the Council of Trent had already
been summoned, while Luther was suffering much from disease; finally,
in the last years of his life, accompanied as they were by recurring
friction with the various Courts and hostile parties, when a growing
bitterness dominated his spirit.

In this last period of his career the sense of his Divine mission
revived in full force, never again to quit him. His statements
concerning his mission now bear a more pessimistic stamp, but he
nevertheless holds fast to it and allows nothing to disconcert him by
any suspicion of a mistake on his part, nor does he betray any trace of
his earlier doubts and misgivings.

 “We know that it is God’s cause,” he says in 1541 to the Electoral
 Chancellor Brück: “God has commenced it and carried it through, and He
 too will finish it! Whoever does not wish to follow us, let him fall
 to the rear, with the Emperor and the Turk; all the devils shall gain
 nothing here, let what God wills befall us.”[329]

 “It annoys me that they should esteem these things [of the Evangel]
 as though they were secular, Imperial, Turkish or princely matters
 to be decided and controlled, bestowed and accepted by reason alone.
 It is a matter which God and the devil with their respective angels
 must arrange. Whoever does not believe this will do no good in the

 When the negotiations at Ratisbon seemed to be exposing the
 timorous Melanchthon to the “snares of Satan,” Luther in his wonted
 presumptuous fashion wrote to him: “Our cause is not to be controlled
 by our own action, but only by God’s Providence. The Word progresses,
 prayer is ardent, hope endures, faith conquers, so that verily we
 cannot but see it, and might even sleep calmly and feast were we not
 so carnal; for the words of Moses are also addressed to us: ‘The Lord
 will fight for you and you shall hold your peace’ (cp. Exod. xiv.
 14). It is certain that the Lord is fighting, that He is slowly and
 gradually descending from His Throne to the [Last] Judgment which we
 so anxiously look for. The signs announcing the approaching Judgment
 are all too numerous.... Hence put away all fear. Be strong and
 glad and untroubled, for the Lord is near. Let them undertake what
 they please, the Henrys [he is thinking of Henry of Brunswick, an
 opponent], the bishops, and likewise the Turks and Satan himself.
 We are children of the kingdom, and we await and honour Him as our
 Saviour Whom these Henrys spit upon and crucify anew.”[331]

 In what frame of mind he then was, and what strange judgments he could
 pass, is seen even more plainly from what he adds concerning a tract
 he had just published against Duke Henry of Brunswick.

 This work, entitled “Wider Hans Worst,” is, in style and matter, an
 attack of indescribable violence on this Catholic prince and Catholics
 in general. Yet Luther writes of it to Melanchthon: “I have re-read my
 book against this devil, and I cannot understand what has happened to
 make me so restrained. I attribute it to my headache which prevented
 my mind from being carried away on the wings of the storm.” The
 “bloodhound and incendiary assassin,” as he calls the Duke, would
 otherwise have had to listen to a very different song for having
 compelled Luther to “waste his time on Henry’s devil’s excrement.”
 That the Duke had been the originator of the appalling number of
 fires which occurred in the Electorate of Hesse in 1540, both Luther
 and Melanchthon were firmly convinced. Luther’s readiness to cherish
 the blackest suspicions, his volcanic rage against Catholics, the
 pessimism of his reiterated cry: “Let everything fall, stand or sink
 into ruins, as it pleases; let things take their own course,”[332]
 form a remarkable accompaniment to the thrilling tones in which he
 again asserts his consciousness of the fulfilment of his Divine

We must here revert to some of Luther’s Statements concerning the
triumphant progress of the Evangel and the determined resistance to be
offered to all opposing forces—solemn declarations which attain their
full meaning only in the light of his idea of his own Divine mission.
We give the gist of the passages already quoted in detail elsewhere.
These passages, which reek of revolution, are altogether inspired by
the glowing idea of his heavenly mission apart from which they are
scarcely comprehensible.

“If war is to come of it, let it come,” etc. “Princely foes are
delivered up to us as a holocaust in order that they may be rewarded
according to their works”; God will “deliver His people even from the
fiery furnace of Babylon.”[333]

“Let things run on merrily and be prepared for the worst,” “whether it
be war or revolt, as God’s anger may decree.”[334]

“Let justice take its course even should the whole world fall into

“It is said, ‘If the Pope fall, Germany will perish.’[336] But what has
this to do with me?”

“It is God’s Word. Let what cannot stand, fall, and what is not to
remain, pass away.” “It is a great thing,” he continues, “that for the
sake of the young man [the Divine Redeemer] this Jewish Kingdom and
the Divine Service which had been so gloriously instituted and ordered
should fall to the ground.” Not Christ alone, he says, had spoken of
His work in the same way that he (Luther) did of his own, but St.
Paul also, in spite of his grief over the Jews, had, like himself,
constantly declared: “The Word is true, else everything must fall
into ruins; for He Who sent me and commanded me to preach, will not

His followers recalled his words, that it were better “all churches,
convents and foundations throughout the world should be rooted
out” than that “even one soul should be seduced by such [Popish]
error.”[338] And again: “Are we to forswear the truth?” “Would it be
strange were the rulers, the nobles and laity to fall upon the Pope,
the bishops, priests and monks and drive them out of the land?” They
had brought it upon themselves and it was necessary “to pray for
them.”[339] But prayer might not suffice. If no improvement took place,
then “a general destruction of all the foundations and convents would
be the best reformation.”[340]

These outbursts date almost all from the time of the Diet of Augsburg,
or that immediately succeeding it. They might, however, be compared
with some earlier utterances not one whit less full of fanaticism;
for instance, where he says to the Elector, in 1522: “Not only the
spiritual but also the secular power must yield to the Evangel, whether
willingly or unwillingly”;[341] or the opening sentences of his “Bull
of the Evening Feed of our Most Holy Lord the Pope” (1522): “After
having had to put up with so many hawkers of bulls, cardinals ... and
the countless horde of extortioners and swindlers and knaves whom the
Rhine would hardly suffice to drown ...!”[342]

A flood of rage and passionate enthusiasm for his mission finds vent
in these words: “If they hope ever to exterminate the Turks they must
begin with the Pope.”[343] “The Pope drives the whole world from the
Christian faith to his devilish lies, so that the Pope’s rule is ten
times worse than that of the Turk for both body and soul.”[344]

Previous to this, in February, 1519, he reveals in the following words
the agitation and ferment going on within him: “I adjure you,” he says
to his friend Spalatin, “if you would think aright of the Evangel, not
to imagine that such a cause can be fought out without tumults, scandal
and rebellion. You cannot make a pen out of a sword, or peace of war.
The Word of God is a sword, war, ruin, scandal, destruction, poison
and, as we read in the Old Covenant, ‘Like to a bear in the road and a
lioness in the wood,’ so it withstands the sons of Ephraim.”[345]

No Apostle or Prophet ever laid claim to a Divine authorisation for
their preaching in language so violent. Indeed, mere phrases and
extracts from his writings scarcely suffice to give a true picture of
the intensity of his prepossession for his supposed Divine calling and
of his furious hatred of his opponents. It would, in fact, be necessary
to read in their entirety certain of his polemical works. That they
have not done so is the explanation why so many know only a polished
Luther and have scarcely an inkling of the fierceness of the struggle
which centred round his consciousness of a Divine mission, and of the
depth of his animosity against those who dared to gainsay him.

Nor was this consciousness of his without its effects on those around
him. During the long years of his public life, it kindled the passion
of thousands and contributed largely to the Peasant Revolt and the
unhappy religious wars which followed later. Indirectly it was also
productive of disaster for the Empire by forcing it to make terms with
the turbulent elements within, and by preventing it from displaying
a united front against the Turks and other enemies without. On the
other hand, in the case of very many who honestly looked on Luther as
a real reformer of the Church, it also served to infuse into them new
enthusiasm for what they deemed the Christian cause.

Its effect on Luther’s character in later life was such as to make
him, in his writings to the German people, rave like a maniac of the
different forms of death best suited for Pope and Cardinals, viz. being
hanged on the gallows with their tongues torn out, being drowned in the
Tyrrhenean Sea, or “flayed alive.”[346] “How my flesh creeps and how my
blood boils,” he cries, after one such outburst.[347]

If we remember the frenzy with which he carried out his religious
enterprise, the high tension at which he ever worked and his
inexhaustible source of eloquence, it is easy to fancy ourselves face
to face with something more than human. The real nature of the spirit
which, throughout Luther’s life, was ever so frantically at work
within him, must for ever remain a secret. One eye alone, that of the
All-seeing, can pierce these depths. Anxious Catholic contemporaries of
Luther’s strongly suspected that they had to deal with one possessed
by the evil spirit. This opinion was openly voiced, first by Johann
Nathin, Luther’s contemporary at the Erfurt monastery, by Emser,
Cochlæus, Dungersheim and certain other early opponents, and then by
several others whose testimony will be heard later (vol. iv., xxvii.,

Catholic contemporaries also urged that his claim to a Divine mission
was mere impudence. A simple monk, hitherto quite unknown to the world,
so they said, breaks his vows and dares to set himself in opposition
to the universal Church. A man, whose repute was not of the best, and
who not only lacked any higher attestation, but actually exhibited in
his doctrine of evangelical freedom, in the disorderly lives of his
followers and in the dissensions promoted by his fanatical and stormy
rhetoric, those very signs which our Redeemer had warned His disciples
would follow false prophets—such a man, they argued, could surely not
be a reformer, but was rather a destroyer, of Christendom; he perceives
not that the Church, for all her present abuses and corruption, has
nevertheless all down the ages scattered throughout the world the
Divine blessings committed to her care by a promise which shall never
fail, and that she will soon rise again purer and more beautiful than
ever, for the lasting benefit of mankind.

Luther, on the contrary, sought to base his claim to a Divine mission
on the abuses rampant in Popery, which, he would have it, was
altogether under the dominion of the devil and quite beyond redemption.

2. His Mission Alleged against the Papists

Luther, subsequent to his apostasy, accustomed himself to speak of
Catholicism in a fashion scarcely credible. He did not shrink even from
the grossest and most impudent depreciation of the Church of the Popes.
His incessant indulgence in such abuse calls for some examination into
its nature and the mental state of which it was a product.

_The Pope and the Papacy._

The Roman Curia, Luther repeatedly declared, did not believe one
word of all the truths of religion; at the faithful who held fast
to Revelation they scoffed and called them good simpletons (“_buoni
cristiani_”); they knew nothing either of the Creed or of the Our
Father, and from all the ecclesiastical books put together not as much
could be learnt as from one page of Martin Luther’s Catechism.

 “Mark this well,” he declared as early as 1520 in his work “Von dem
 Bapstum tzu Rome,” of all that is ordered of God not one jot or tittle
 is observed at Rome; indeed, they mock at it as folly when anyone pays
 any attention to it. They don’t mind a bit that the Gospel and the
 faith of Christ are perishing throughout the world, and would not
 lift a finger to prevent it.[348] The Popes are simply “Epicureans,”
 so that, naturally, almost all those who return from Rome bring back
 home with them an “Epicurean faith.” “For this at least is certain,
 viz. that the Pope and the Cardinals, together with their schools of
 knaves, believe in nothing at all; in fact, they smile when they hear
 faith mentioned.”[349]

 “What cares the Pope about prayer and God’s Word? He has his own god
 to serve, viz. the devil. But this is a mere trifle.... What is far
 worse, and a real masterpiece of all the devils in hell, is, that
 he usurps the authority to set up laws and articles of faith.... He
 roars, as though chock-full of devils, that whosoever does not obey
 him and his Romish Church cannot be saved.... Papistically, knavishly,
 nay, in a truly devilish way, does the Pope, like the stupid scoundrel
 he is, use the name of the holy Roman Church, when he really means
 his school of knaves, his Church of harlots and hermaphrodites, the
 devil’s own hotchpotch.... For such is the language of his Romish
 Church, and whoever has to do with the Pope and the Roman See must
 first learn this or else he fares badly. For the devil, who founded
 the Papacy, speaks and works everything through the Pope and the Roman

 His “Heer-Predigt widder den Türcken,” in 1529, supplied him with
 the occasion for the following aside: “The Pope’s doctrine is mere
 spiritual murder and not one whit better than the teaching and
 blasphemy of Mohammed or the Turks.... We have nothing but devils
 on either side and everywhere.”[351] “They even try to force us
 poor Christians at the point of the sword to worship the devil and
 blaspheme Christ. Other tyrants have at least this in their favour,
 that they crucify the Lord of Glory ignorantly, like the Turks, the
 heathen and the Jews ... but they [the Papists], say: We know that
 Christ’s words and acts testify against us, but nevertheless we shall
 not endure His Word, or yield to it.”[352] “I believe the Pope is the
 devil incarnate in disguise; for he is Antichrist. For, as Christ is
 true God and man, so Antichrist is the incarnation of the devil.”[353]

 “The superstition of the Pope exceeds that of the Jews.” Though
 the Pope drags countless souls down to hell, yet we may not say
 to him: “For shame! Why act you thus?” “Had not his prestige been
 overthrown by the Word [i.e. by my preaching] even the devil would
 have vomited him forth. But this deliverance [from the Pope] we esteem
 a small matter and have become ungrateful. God, however, will send
 other forms of darkness to avenge this ingratitude; we still have
 this consolation, that the Last Day cannot be far distant; for the
 prophecy of Daniel has been entirely fulfilled, where he describes
 the Papacy as though he had actually seen its doings.”[354]

 “At Rome,” so he assures his readers, “they pull the noses of us
 German fools,” and then say, that “it is of Divine institution
 that none can be made bishop without the authority of Rome. I can
 only wonder that Germany ... has a farthing left for this horde of
 unspeakable, intolerable Roman fools, scoundrels and robbers.”[355]
 “Worse even than this rapacious seizing of the money of foreigners is
 the Pope’s usurped right of deciding matters of faith. He acts just
 as he pleases in accordance with the imaginary interior inspirations
 which he believes he receives.” “He does just the same as Thomas
 Münzer and the Anabaptists, for he treads under foot the outward Word
 of God, trusts entirely to higher illumination and gives vent to his
 own fond inventions against Holy Scripture; which is the reason why we
 blame him. We care not for mere human thoughts; what we want is the
 outward Word.”[356]

 “In short, what shall I say? No error, superstition or idolatry is too
 gross to be admitted and accepted; at Rome they even honour the Pope
 as God. And the heathen also had a god, whose name it was not lawful
 to utter.”[357]

_The Catholics._

If we turn from the Pope-God or Pope-devil to the Papists, from the
Roman Curia to the Catholics, we find them scourged in similar language.

Amidst a wealth of imagery quite bewildering to the mind, one idea
emerges clearly, viz. that he has been summoned by God for the purpose
of rebuilding Christianity from the very foundation. Nothing but such
a mission could justify him in forcing upon himself and others the
belief, that the existing Church had been utterly corrupted by the
devil and that everybody who dared to oppose him was inspired by Satan.

 “No one can be a Papist unless he is at the very least a murderer,
 robber or persecutor,” for “he must agree” that the “Pope and his crew
 are right in burning and banishing people,”[358] etc. The worst thing
 about the Papists is the Mass; he would rather he had “kept a brothel,
 or been a robber, than have sacrificed and blasphemed Christ for
 fifteen years by saying Mass.”[359]

 Their bloodthirstiness is beyond belief. “They would not care a scrap
 were no Prince or ruler left in Germany, and were the whole land
 bathed in blood, so long as they were free to exercise their tyranny
 and lead their godless and shameless life.”[360] So shameless is their
 life that the morals of the Lutherans glitter like gold in comparison.
 Yea, “our life even when it reeks most of sin is better than all their
 [the Papists’] sanctity, though it should seem to smell as sweet as
 balsam.”[361] The Catholics had destroyed the Baptism instituted by
 Christ, and replaced it by a baptism of works, hence their doctrine is
 as pernicious as that of the Anabaptists, nay, is exactly on a level
 with that of the Jews.[362]

 The Catholics profess “unbelief in God,” and “put to death those
 guileless Christians who refuse to countenance such idolatry”; they
 are “not fit to be compared with oxen or asses,” seeing that they
 exalt “their self-chosen works,” “far above God’s commandment. For
 in addition to the idolatry and ungodly teaching whereby they daily
 outrage and blaspheme God, they do not perform any works of charity
 towards their neighbour, nay, would rather leave anyone to perish in
 want than stretch out a hand to help him. Again, they are as careful
 not to deviate by a hair’s breadth from their man-made ordinances,
 rules and commands as were the Jews with regard to the Sabbath....
 They make no scruple of cheating their neighbour of his money and
 goods in order to fill their own belly.... Such perverse and crazy
 saints, more foolish than ever ox or ass, are all those, Mohammedans,
 Turks or whatever else they be called, who refuse to listen to or
 receive Christ.”[363]

 It was Luther that Dr. Jonas had heard, on one occasion at table,
 express the opinion concerning the Papists: “Young fellows, take note
 of this definition: A Papist is a liar and murderer, nay, the devil
 himself. Hence they are not to be trusted, for they thirst for our

 Luther himself assures us that “the blindness of the Papists and the
 anger of God against the Papacy was terrible.” “Christians, redeemed
 by the Blood of Christ, put away this blood and worshipped the crib,
 surely an awful fall! If this had happened amongst the heathen it
 would have been regarded as monstrous.”[365]

 The Catholics, Luther taught, never pray, in fact, they do not know
 how to pray but only how to blaspheme. We find other almost incredible
 allegations born of his fancy and voiced in a sermon in 1524, of which
 we have a transcript. “They taught the Our Father, but warned us not
 to use it [by instructing us to get others to pray for us in our
 stead]. It is true that for many years I shouted [’bawled,’ he says
 elsewhere] in the monastery [in choir], but never did I pray. They
 mock the Lord God with their prayers. Never did they approach God
 with their hearts so as to pray for anything in faith.”[366]

 Had it been possible for a man to be saved in Popery? He, Luther,
 replies that this might have happened because “some laymen” may have
 “held the crucifix in front of the dying man and said: Look up to
 Jesus, Who died on the cross for you. By this means many a dying man
 had turned to Christ in spite of having previously believed in the
 false, miraculous signs [which the devil performs in Popery] and
 acted as an idolator. Such, however, were lucky.”[367] He admits
 incidentally that “many of our forefathers” had been saved in this
 exceptional way, though only such as “had been led astray into error,
 but had not clung to it.”[368] In any case it was a miracle. “Those
 pious souls,” “many of whom had by God’s grace been wonderfully
 preserved in the true faith in the midst of Popery,” had been
 saved, so he fancies, in much the same way as “Abraham in Ur of the
 Chaldeans, and Lot in Sodom.”[369]

 Now, however, matters stood differently; thanks to his mission light
 had dawned again, and the unbelief of the Catholics was therefore all
 the more reprehensible. In the heat of his polemic Luther goes so far
 as to accuse the Papists who oppose him of the sin against the Holy
 Ghost. At any rate they were acting against their conscience, as he
 had pointed out before. He also hints that theirs is that worst sin,
 of which Christ declares (Matt. xii. 31), that it can be forgiven
 neither in this world nor in the next. The greater part of a sermon
 on this text which he preached at Wittenberg, in 1528 or 1529, deals
 with this criminal blindness on the part of Catholics, this deliberate
 turning away from the truth of the Holy Ghost to which Matthew refers.
 Here, as elsewhere, Luther’s presupposition is: I teach “the bright
 Evangel with which even they can find no fault”; I preach “nothing
 but what is plain to all and so clearly grounded on Scripture that
 they themselves are forced to admit it”; “what is so plainly proved
 by the Holy Ghost” that it stands out as a “truth known to all.” He
 proceeds: “When I was a learned Doctor I did not believe there was
 such a thing on earth as the sin against the Holy Ghost, for I never
 imagined or believed it was possible to find a heart that could be
 so wicked.” But “now the Papal horde” has descended to this, for
 they “blaspheme and lie against their conscience”; they “are unable
 to refute our Evangel or to advance anything against it,” “yet they
 knowingly oppose our teaching out of waywardness and hatred of the
 truth, so that no admonition, counsel, prayer or chastisement is
 of any avail.” “Thus openly to smite the Holy Ghost on the mouth,”
 nay, “to spit in His Face,” is to emulate the treachery of Judas in
 the depth of their “obstinate and venomous hearts”; for such it was
 “forbidden to pray,” according to 1 John v. 16, because this would be
 to “insult the spirit of grace and tread under foot the Son of God.”
 The Papists richly deserve that the “Holy Ghost should forsake them,”
 and that they should go “wantonly to their destruction according to
 their desire.” In short, “It is better for people to be sunk in sin,
 to be prostitutes and utter scamps, for at least they may yet come to
 a knowledge of the truth; but these devil’s saints who go to Divine
 worship full of good works, when they hear the Holy Ghost openly
 testifying against them, strike Him on the mouth and say: it is all
 heresy and devilry.”[370]

The tone of hatred and of blind prejudice in favour of his cause which
here finds utterance may be explained to some extent by his experience
during the sharp struggles of conscience through which he was then
going, and which formed the worst crisis of his inner states of terror.
(See vol. v., xxxii., 4.) Nor must the connection be overlooked between
his apparent confidence here and the attempt which he makes in one
passage of the sermon to justify theologically his radical subversion
of olden doctrine. The brief argument runs as follows: “From St. Paul
everyone can infer that it cannot be achieved by works, otherwise the
Blood of Christ is made of no account.” Hence the holiness-by-works of
the Catholics was an abomination.[371]

On another occasion Luther, speaking of the wilful blindness of the
Catholics, declared that “God’s untold wrath must sooner or later fall
upon such Epicurean pigs and donkeys”; the devil must be a spirit of
tremendous power to incite them “deliberately to withstand God.” They
say and admit: “‘That is, I know, the Word of God, but even though it
is the Word of God I shall not suffer it, listen to it, nor regard it,
but shall reprove it and call it heretical, and whoever is determined
to obey God in this matter ... him I will put to death or banish.’ I
could never have believed there was such a sin.”[372]

As such declarations of the wilful obstinacy of the Catholics are quite
commonly made by him, we are tempted to assume that such was really his
opinion; if so, we are here face to face with a remarkable instance of
what his self-deception was capable.

Even at the Wartburg, however, he was already on the road to such an
idea, for, while still there, he had declared that the Papists were
unworthy to receive the truth which he preached: “Had they been worthy
of the truth, they would long ago have been converted by my many
writings.” “If I teach them they only revile me; I implore and they
merely mock at me; I scold them and they grow angry; I pray for them
and they reject my prayer; I forgive them their trespass and they will
have none of my forgiveness; I am ready to sacrifice myself for them
and yet they only curse me. What more can I do than Christ?”[373]

It is true that according to him the Papists were ignorant to the last
degree, and such ignorance had indeed always prevailed under Popery.
“I myself have been a learned Doctor of theology and yet I never
understood the Ten Commandments aright. Nay, there have been many
celebrated Doctors who were not sure whether there were nine or ten or
eleven Commandments; much less did they know anything of the Gospel or
of Christ.”[374]

Still, this appalling ignorance on the part of the Papists did not
afford any excuse or ground for charitable treatment. Their malice,
particularly that of the Popes, is too great. “The Popes are a pot-boil
of the very worst men on earth. They boast of the name of Christ, St.
Peter and the Churches and yet are full of the worst devils in hell,
full, absolutely full, so full that they drivel, spew and vomit nothing
but devils.”[375]

A passage in the “Table-Talk” collected by Mathesius and recently
published, shows that Luther considered his frenzied anti-popery as the
most suitable method of combating Popish errors; “Philip [Melanchthon]
isn’t as yet angry enough with the Pope,” he said some time in the
winter of 1542-43; “he is moderate by nature and always acts with
moderation, which may possibly be of some use, as he himself hopes.
But _my_ storming (_impetus_) knocks the bottom out of the cask; _my_
way is to fall upon them with clubs ... for the devil can only be
vanquished by contempt. Enough has been written and said to the weak,
as for the hardened, nothing is of any avail ... I rush in with all my
might, but against the devil.”[376]

 His attitude towards scholarly Catholics was very apparent in the
 later episodes of his controversy with Erasmus.[377]

 After having charged Popes and Cardinals with lack of faith, it can be
 no matter for surprise that he should have represented Erasmus as an
 utter infidel and a preacher of Epicureanism. The pretexts upon which
 Luther based this charge had been triumphantly demolished by Erasmus,
 and only Luther’s prejudice in favour of his own mission to save
 Christendom from destruction could have led him to describe Erasmus as
 a depraved fellow, who personified all the infidelity and corruption
 of the Papacy.

 “This man learned his infidelity in Rome,” Luther ventured to say of
 him; hence his wish “to have his Epicureanism praised.” “He is the
 worst foe of Christ that has arisen for the last thousand years.”[378]
 In 1519, before Erasmus took the field against him, Luther had written
 to him, praising him, and, in the hope of securing his co-operation,
 had said: “You are our ornament and our hope.... Who is there into
 whose mind Erasmus has not penetrated, who does not see in him a
 teacher, or over whom he has not established his sway? You are
 displeasing to many, but therein I discern the gifts of our Gracious
 God.... With these my words, barbarous as they are, I would fain pay
 homage to the excellence of your mind to which we, all of us, are
 indebted.... Please look on me as a little brother in Christ, who is
 wholly devoted to you and loves you dearly.”[379]

 On another occasion Luther abuses his opponent as follows: “The only
 foundation of all his teaching is his desire to gain the applause of
 the world; he weights the scale with ignorance and malice.” “What is
 the good of reproaching him with being on the same road as Epicurus,
 Lucian and the sceptics? By doing so I merely succeeded in rousing the
 viper, and in its fury against me it gave birth to the _Viperaspides_
 [i.e. the “_Hyperaspistes_”]. In Italy and at Rome he sucked in the
 milk of the Lamiæ and Megæræ and now no medicine is of any avail.”
 Even in what Erasmus says concerning the Creed, we see the “_os et
 organum Satanæ_.” He may be compared with the enemy in the Gospel,
 who, while men slept, sowed cockel in the field. We can understand now
 how Sacramentarians, Donatists, Arians, Anabaptists, Epicureans and
 so forth have again made their appearance. He sowed his seed and then
 disappeared. And yet he stands in high honour with Pope and Prince.
 “Who would have believed that the hatred of Luther was so strong? A
 poor man is made great simply through Luther.”[380]

 This letter Erasmus described in the title of his printed reply as
 “_Epistola non sobria Martini Lutheri_.” Others, he says, might well
 explain it as a mental aberration, or as due to the influence of some
 evil demon.[381]

 Luther, quite undismayed, continued to deny that Erasmus was in any
 sense a believer: “He regards the Christian religion and doctrine
 as a comedy or tragedy”; he is “a perfect counterfeit and image of
 Epicurus”; to this “incarnate scoundrel, God—the Father, Son and
 Holy Ghost—is merely ludicrous.” “Whereas I did not take the trouble
 to read most of the other screeds published against me, but merely
 put them to the basest use that paper can be put—which indeed was
 all they were worth—I read through the whole of the ‘_Diatribe_’
 of Erasmus, though I was often tempted to throw it aside.” He, like
 Democritus, the cynical heathen philosopher, looks on our whole
 theology as nothing better than a fairy tale.[382]

We may well be permitted to regard such statements made by Luther
in his later years concerning the Catholics more as the result of a
delusion than as deliberate falsehoods. It may be that Luther gradually
persuaded himself that such was really the case. If this be so, we
must, however, admit with Döllinger “the unparalleled perversion and
darkening of Luther’s judgment”; this, adds Döllinger, would explain
“much in his statements which must otherwise appear enigmatical.”[383]
Considerations such as those we have seen him (p. 121 ff.) allege
concerning the truth of his cause being proved by its success, could
scarcely have impressed any save an unsettled mind such as his. He
seems to have accustomed himself to explaining the complex and highly
questionable movement at the head of which he stood in a light other
than the true one, so much so that he could declare: “God knows all
this is not my doing, a fact of which the whole world should have been
aware long ago.”[384] Brimful of the enthusiasm he had imbibed at the
Wartburg he wrote, from Wittenberg, on June 27, 1522, in a similar
tone to Staupitz, who was then Benedictine Abbot at Salzburg: “God has
undertaken it [the destruction of the abomination of the kingdom of
the Pope] without our help and without human aid, merely by the Word.
Its end has come before the Lord. The matter is beyond our reason or
understanding, hence it is useless to expect all to grasp it. For the
sake of God’s power it is meet and just that people’s minds be deeply
stirred and that there should be great scandals and great signs. Dear
father, do not let this disturb you; I am hopeful. You see God’s plan
in these matters and His Mighty Hand. Remember how my cause from
the outset seemed to the world doubtful and intolerable, and how,
notwithstanding, from day to day it has gained the upper hand more and
more. It will also gain the upper hand in what you now anticipate with
misplaced apprehension; just you wait and see. Satan feels the smart
of the wound inflicted on him, that is why he rages so furiously and
throws everything into confusion. But Christ Who began the work will
tread him under foot in defiance of all the gates of hell.”[385]

       *       *       *       *       *

From the very outset of his career Luther had been paving the way for
this delusion as to the true character of his Catholic opponents, his
own higher mission and God’s overthrow of all gainsayers.

In 1518 he declared, as a sort of prelude to the idea of his Divine
mission, that the Catholic Doctors who opposed him were sunk in
“chaotic darkness,” and that he preached “the one true light, Jesus
Christ.”[386] Even in 1517, in publishing his Resolutions, he had said
of the setting up of his Indulgence Theses, that the Lord Himself had
compelled him to advance all this. “Let Christ see to it whether it be
His cause or mine.”[387]

His pupils and Wittenberg adherents treasured up such assurances of
his extraordinary mission in order to excite their own enthusiasm.
Even Albert Dürer, who was further removed from the sphere of his
influence, spoke of him in the third decade of the century as “a man
enlightened by the Holy Ghost and one who has the Spirit of God.”[388]
Long after his death the chord which he had struck continued to
vibrate among those who were devoted to him. On his tomb at Wittenberg
might be read: “Taught by the Divine inspiration and called by
God’s Word, he disseminated throughout the world the new light of
the Evangel.” Old, orthodox Lutheranism honoured him as God’s own
messenger; the Protestant Pietists, at the turn of the seventeenth
and eighteenth centuries, attributed to Luther, to quote the words
of Gottfried Arnold, a truly “apostolic call,” received by means of
a “direct inspiration, impulse or Divine apprehension”; this Divine
mission, Arnold says, was “generally” admitted, although he himself,
as a staunch Pietist, was willing to allow to Luther “the power and
illumination of the Spirit” only during the period previous to the
dispute with Carlstadt, who was equally enlightened from above. “For a
while,” says Arnold, i.e. for about seven years, Luther was “in very
truth mightily guided by God and employed as His instrument.”[389]

Other Lutheran theologians, Gerhard and Calovius, for instance,
refused to see in Luther’s case anything more than an indirect call;
about the middle of the eighteenth century the editor of Luther’s
Works, Consistorialrat Prof. J. G. Walch, of Jena, asserted openly of
Luther’s mission that he “was not called directly by God as had been
the case with the Prophets and Apostles”; his call had only in so far
been beyond the ordinary in that “God, after decreeing in His Divine
plans the Reformation, had chosen Luther as His tool”; hence Luther’s
providential mission was only to be inferred from the “divinity of
the Reformation,” which, however, was apparent to all who “did not
wantonly and maliciously shut their eyes to facts.” Extraordinary gifts
had not indeed been bestowed upon him by God, though he had all the
“gifts pertaining to his office” in rich measure, and likewise the
“sanctifying gifts” and the “spiritual graces”; the latter Walch then
proceeds to dissect with painstaking exactitude.[390]

Such a view marks the transition to the modern conception of Luther
so widely prevalent among Protestants to-day, which, while extolling
him as the powerful instrument of the Reformation, naturalises him, so
to speak, and takes him down from the pedestal of the God-illumined
teacher and prophet, who proclaims a Divine interpretation of Scripture
binding upon all.[391]

_Apocalyptico-Mystic Vesture._

Against Catholics Luther also used certain pseudo-mystic elements drawn
from his consciousness of a higher mission and based principally on
Holy Scripture.

In this respect his one-sided study of the Bible explains much, and
should avail to mitigate our judgment on him. Stories and scenes from
the Old Testament, incidents from the heroic times of the prophets, the
lives of the patriarchs, to which he had devoted special Commentaries,
so engrossed his mind, that, unwittingly, he came to clothe all in
the garb of the prominent figures of Bible history. He was fond of
imagining himself as one of those privileged heroes living in the same
world of miracles as of yore.

 If a she-ass could speak to Balaam then how much more can he, Luther,
 proclaim the truth by the power from on high, even though the whole
 world should be astonished at the solitary figure who dares to
 stand up against it. He calls to mind, that the prophet Elias was
 almost alone in refusing to bow the knee to Baal. Discouraged by the
 opposition he met with from the Catholic party he was ready to liken
 himself to Jeremias the prophet, and like him to say: “We would have
 cured Babylon, but she is not healed, let us forsake her.”[392]

 In the New Testament Christ Himself and the Apostles were Luther’s
 favourite types, because, like himself, they were against a whole
 world whose views were different. The fact that they were alone did
 not, he says, diminish their reputation, and their success proved
 their mission. Like Paul and Athanasius and Augustine it is his duty
 to withstand the stream of false opinions: “My rock, that on which I
 build, stands firm and will not totter or fall in spite of all the
 gates of hell; of this I am certain.... Who knows what God wills to
 work by our means?”[393]

When, at different periods of his public career, and in preparing
his various works for the press, he had occasion to ruminate on the
biblical questions connected with Antichrist, he was wont also to
consider the prophecies of Daniel on the end of the world. By dint of
a diligent comparison of all the passages on the abominations of the
latter days he came to find therein the corruption of the Papacy fully
described, even down to the smallest details, with an account of its
overthrow, and, consequently, also of his own mission. In the same way
that he saw the impending fall of the Turkish Empire predicted, so also
he recognised that the German Empire must shortly perish, since, as he
had learnt from Daniel, it was to receive no other constitution. As
for the Papacy, at least according to one of the most forcible of his
pronouncements, within two years “it would vanish like smoke, together
with all its swarm of parasites.”

In Daniel viii. we read that a king will come, “of a shameless face,
and understanding dark sentences.” He will lay all things waste and
destroy the mighty and the people of the saints according to his
will. “Craft shall be successful in his hands and his heart shall be
puffed up. He shall rise up against the prince of princes, and shall
be broken without a hand.” His coming will be “after many days.”[394]
The king thus prophesied is generally admitted to have been Antiochus
Epiphanes, while the words “after many days” do not refer to the Last
Day or to the End of the World, but to the latter end of the Jewish
people. Luther, however, took these words and the whole prophecy in
an erroneous, apocalyptic sense. He brought the description of the
king into connection with the passages on Antichrist, and the great
apostasy, in the Second Epistle to the Thessalonians, the Second
Epistle to Timothy and the Second Epistle of Peter, etc.[395] There
seemed to him not the slightest doubt that the Papacy, with its
pernicious arrogance and revolt against God, was here described in
minutest detail.

This idea he finally elaborated while writing his violent work “On
the Babylonish Captivity.” He therein promised to tell the Papists
things such as they had never heard before. This promise he fulfilled
soon after in the detailed reply to Ambrosius Catharinus, which he
hastily wrote in the month of March, 1521. In this Latin work he
proved in detail to the satisfaction of learned readers, whether in
Germany or abroad, that the Papacy was plainly depicted in the Bible as
Antichrist, and likewise its approaching great fall.[396]

 “I think that, through my exposition of the Prophet Daniel, I have
 carried out excellently what I promised the Papists to do.” Thus to
 his friend Link, on the completion of the work.[397]

 Daniel’s Antichrist, according to Luther’s interpretation, assumes
 various shapes. These, Luther assures us, are the different forms
 and masks of Romish superstition and Romish hypocrisy. Amongst these
 he reckons, as the last, the Universities, because they had made use
 of the Divine Word in order to deceive the world; here he introduces
 the prophecy in Apocalypse ix., where a star falls from heaven,
 the fountains of the deep are opened, locusts with the strength of
 scorpions rise up out of a thick smoke, and a King reigns over them
 whose name is Apollyon, or destroyer. The star Luther takes to be
 Thomas Aquinas, the smoke is the empty words and opinions of Aristotle
 and the philosophers, the destructive locusts are the Universities,
 and Apollyon is their master, viz. Aristotle. As for Antichrist
 himself, i.e. the Papacy, Jesus will destroy him with the breath of
 His mouth, according to the word of St. Paul, which agrees with the
 “destruction without hands” prophesied by Daniel. “Thus the Pope and
 his kingdom are not to be destroyed by laymen, although they greatly
 dread this [at Rome]; they are not worthy of so mild a chastisement,
 but are being reserved for the Second Coming of Christ because they
 have been, and still remain, His most furious enemies. Such is the
 end of Antichrist, who exalts himself above all things and does not
 fight with hands, but by the breath and spirit of Satan. Breath shall
 destroy breath, truth unmask deceit, for the unmasking of a lie means
 bringing it to nought.”[398]

Apocalyptic fancies such as the above were to dog Luther’s footsteps
for the rest of his life. Both in his writings and in his “Table-Talk”
he was never backward in putting forth his views on this abstruse

Of the ideas concerning the Papal Antichrist which, since Hus’s time
were current among the classes hostile to Rome,[399] Luther selected
and absorbed whatever was worst. Hus’s work on the Church he read in
February, 1520. The birth and growth of the theory in his mind even
previous to this can, however, be traced step by step, and the process
affords us a valuable insight into his mentality by revealing so well
its pseudo-mystical element.

We may distinguish between the earliest private and the earliest
public appearance of Luther’s idea of the Papal Antichrist. Its first
unmistakable private trace is to be met with in a letter of December
11, 1518, to his brother-monk and sympathiser Wenceslaus Link.
Luther was at that time labouring under the emotion incident on his
interrogation at Augsburg, of which he had just published the “_Acta_.”
Sending a copy to his friend he declares, that his pen is already at
work at much greater things, that he knew not whence the ideas that
filled his mind came, but that he would send Link whatever writings
he published, that he might see “whether I am right in my surmise
that the real Antichrist, according to Paul [2 Thess. ii., 3 ff.],
rules at the Roman Curia.”[400] The first public expression of this
idea is, however, to be found in the pronouncement he made subsequent
to the Leipzig Disputation in the summer of 1519, viz. that if the
Pope arrogated to himself alone the power of interpreting Scripture,
then he was exalting himself above God’s Word and was worse than

Not long after Luther showed how deeply he had drunk in the ideas of
Hus; in February, 1520, he confessed to being a Husite, since both he
and Staupitz too had hitherto taught precisely Hus’s doctrine, though
without having recognised him as their leader; the plain, evangelical
truth had been burnt a hundred years before in the person of Hus. “I
am so astonished I know not what to think when I contemplate these
terrible judgments of God upon men.”[402] On March 19 he sent to
Spalatin a copy of Hus’s writing, which had just been printed for
the first time, praising the author as a “marvel of intellect and

In his conception of Antichrist Luther differed from antiquity in
that he applied the term not so much to a person as to a system, or a
condition of things: the ecclesiastical government of Rome, with its
“pretensions” and its “corruption,” appears to him in his apocalyptic
dreams as the real Antichrist. That he finally came to see in the
person of the Pope more and more an embodiment of Antichrist was,
however, only to be expected; when one wearer of the Papal tiara
died, the mask of Antichrist passed to his successor, a matter of no
difficulty since, as the end of the world was nigh, the number of the
Popes was in any case complete.

As early as February 24, 1520, having previously found new fuel
for his ire in the perusal of Hutten’s edition of Lorenzo Valla’s
dissertation against the Donation of Constantine, he wrote to
Spalatin:[404] “Nothing is too utterly monstrous not to be acceptable
at Rome;[405] of the impudent forgery of the Donation they have made
a dogma[!]. I have come to such a pass that I can scarcely doubt that
the Pope is the real Antichrist whom the world, according to the
accepted view, awaits. His life, behaviour, words and laws all fit the
character too well. But more of this when we meet.” The allusion to
the “accepted view” may refer to a work, reprinted at Erfurt in 1516,
and which Luther must certainly have known, viz. the “Booklet on the
Life and Rule of End-Christ as Divinely decreed, how he corrupteth the
world through his false teaching and devilish counsel, and how, after
this, the two prophets Enoch and ‘Helyas’ shall win back Christendom by
preaching the Christian faith.”

Greater even than the influence of such writings, in confirming him in
his persuasion that the Pope was Antichrist, was that of the excitement
caused by his polemics. We have already had occasion to speak of
his stormy replies to the “_Epitome_” of Silvester Prierias and the
controversial pamphlet of Augustine Alveld the Franciscan friar. In the
latter rejoinder he promises to handle the Papacy “mercilessly” and to
belabour Antichrist as he deserves. “Circumstances demand imperatively
that the veil be torn from the mysteries of Antichrist; indeed, in
their effrontery they themselves refuse to be any longer shrouded
in darkness.” Speaking of Prierias, who was a Roman, he says: “I
believe that at Rome they have all gone stark, staring mad, and become
senseless fools, stocks, stones, devils and a very hell”; “what now can
we expect from Rome where such a monster is permitted to take his place
in the Church?”[406] In his replies to Prierias and Alveld he depicts
Antichrist in the worst colours to be supplied by a vivid imagination
and an over-mastering fury: If such things are taught in Rome, then
“the veritable Antichrist is indeed seated in the Temple of God, and
rules in the purple-clad Babylon at Rome, while the Roman Curia is the
synagogue of Satan.... Who can Antichrist be, if not such a Pope? O
Satan, Satan, how greatly dost thou abuse the patience of thy Creator
to thine own destruction!”[407]

The anger of the sensitive and excitable Wittenberg professor had been
roused by contradiction, particularly by the tract which hailed from
Rome, but the arrival of the Bull of Excommunication moved him to the
very depths of his soul and led him to commit to writing the most
hateful travesties of the Roman Papacy.

In the storm and stress of the struggle, which in the latter half of
1520 produced the so-called great Reformation works, the Antichrist
theory, in its final form, was made to serve as a bulwark against
the Papal excommunication and its consequences. Luther drops all
qualifications and henceforth his assertions are positive. The wider
becomes the breach separating him from Rome, the blacker must he paint
his opponents in order to justify himself before the world and to his
own satisfaction. Previous to its publication he summed up the contents
of his “An den christlichen Adel” as follows: “There the Pope is
severely mauled and treated as Antichrist.”[408] As a matter of fact,
the comparison is so startling that he could well speak of the booklet
as “a trumpet-blast against the world-destroying tyranny of the Roman
Antichrist.”[409] In the writing “On the Babylonish Captivity,” a few
weeks later, he exclaims: “Now I know and am certain that the Papacy
is the empire of Babylon.” “The Popes are Antichrists and desire to
be honoured in the stead of Christ.... The Papacy is nothing but the
empire of Babylon and of the veritable Antichrist, because with its
doctrines and laws it merely makes sin more plentiful; hence the Pope
is the ‘man of sin’ and the ‘son of destruction.’”[410]

Hereby he had prepared the way for his attack upon Leo the Tenth’s Bull
of Excommunication, which he published in German and Latin at the end
of October, 1520, under the title, “Widder die Bullen des Endchrists”
and “_Adversus execrabilem Antichristi bullam_.”[411] Such a name was
well calculated to strike the fancy of the masses, and there cannot be
the slightest doubt that Luther welcomed it as a taking, popular cry.

It is easy to meet the objection that the Papal Antichrist was nothing
more to Luther than a serviceable catchword, and that he never meant
it seriously. That such was not the case we have abundantly proved
already; on the contrary, we have here a clear outgrowth of his
pseudo-mysticism. He ever preserved it as a sacred possession, and
it found its way in due season into the Schmalkald Articles[412] and
into the Notes Luther appended to his German Bible.[413] The idea,
which never left him, of the world’s approaching end—with this we
shall deal at greater length in vol. v., xxxi. 2—is without a doubt
closely linked with his cherished theory of his being the revealer of
Antichrist and the chosen instrument of God for averting His malice in
the latter days.

 The Bible assures us, according to Luther, that, “after the downfall
 of the Pope and the delivery of the poor, no one on earth would be
 feared as a tyrant” (Psalm x. 18); now, he continues, “this would not
 be possible were the world to continue after the Pope’s fall, for the
 world cannot exist without tyrants. And thus the prophet agrees with
 the Apostle that Christ at His coming [i.e. His second coming, for the
 Last Judgment] will upset the holy Roman Chair. God grant this happen
 speedily. Amen.”[414]

 In 1541, Luther wrote a Latin essay on the Chronology of the World,
 which, in 1550, was published in German by Johann Aurifaber under
 the title of “Luthers Chronica.” This work, which witnesses both to
 Luther’s industry and to his interest in history, is also made to
 serve its author’s views on Antichrist. Towards the end, alluding
 to what he had already said concerning the several periods of the
 world’s history, he adds, that it was “to be hoped that the end of
 the world was drawing near, for the sixth millenary of its history
 would not be completed, any more than the three days between Christ’s
 death and resurrection.” Besides, “at no other time had greater and
 more numerous signs taken place, which gives us a certain hope that
 the Last Day is at the very door.”[415] Of the year A.D. 1000 we here
 read: “The Roman Bishop becometh Antichrist, thanks to the power of
 the sword.”[416]

 In the same year his tireless pen, amongst other writings, produced
 a Commentary on Daniel xii. concerning the “end of the days,” the
 abomination of desolation and the general retribution. The Papal
 Antichrist here again supplies him with abundant exemplifications
 of the fulfilment of the prophecy; the signs foretold to herald the
 destruction of this Empire, so hostile to God, had almost all been
 accomplished, and the great day was at hand.

 Other people, and, among them some of the great lights of Catholicism,
 both before and after Luther’s day, have erred in their exegesis of
 Antichrist and been led to expect prematurely the end of the world.
 Yet only in Luther do we find united a fanatical expectation of the
 end with a minute acquaintance with its every detail, scriptural
 demonstrations with anxious observation of the events of the times,
 all steeped in the deadliest hatred of that mortal enemy the Papacy.

 His conviction that God was proving his mission by signs and
 wonders sometimes assumed unfortunate forms, for instance, when he
 superstitiously seeks its attestation in incidents of his own day.

 We see an example of this in the meaning he attached to the huge
 whale driven ashore near Haarlem, in which he saw a sign of God’s
 wrath against the Papists. “The Lord has given them an ominous sign,”
 he writes, on June 13, 1522, to Speratus, “if so be they enter into
 themselves and do penance. For He has cast a sea monster called a
 whale, 70 feet in length and 35 feet in girth, on the shore near
 Haarlem. Such a monster it is usual to regard as a certain sign of
 wrath. May God have mercy on them and on us.”[417] Other natural
 phenomena, amongst them an earthquake in Spain, led him to write as
 follows to Spalatin at the beginning of the following year: “Don’t
 think that I shall creep back into a corner however much Behemoth and
 his crew may rage. New and awful portents occur day by day, and you
 have doubtless heard of the earthquake in Spain.”[418]

 When, in 1536, extraordinary deeds were narrated of a girl at
 Frankfurt-on-the-Oder, and attributed to demoniacal possession (she
 could, for instance, produce coins from all sorts of impossible
 places, even out of men’s beards), Luther, we are told, utilised
 in the pulpit these terrible signs and portents, “as a warning to
 abandoned persons who deem themselves secure, in order that now, at
 last, they may begin to fear God and to put their trust in Him.”[419]

At Freiberg in Saxony, towards the end of 1522, a cow was delivered
of a deformed calf. On this becoming known, people, as was then the
vogue, set about discovering the meaning of the portent. An astrologer
of Prague first took the extraordinary phenomenon to refer to Luther,
whose hateful and wicked behaviour was portrayed in the miscarriage.
Luther, on the other hand, discovered that the monstrosity really
represented a naked calf clothed in a cowl (the skin was drawn up into
strange creases on the back), and that it therefore indicated the
monkish state, of the worthlessness of which it was a true picture, and
God’s wrath against monasticism. In a tract published in the spring,
1523, he compared in such detail and with such wealth of fancy the
creature to the monks that the work itself was termed monstrous.[420]
The cowl represented the monkish worship, “with prayers, Masses,
chanting and fasting,” which they perform to the calf, i.e. “to the
false idol in their lying hearts”; just as the calf eats nothing but
grass, so “they fatten on sensual enjoyments here on earth.” “The
cowl over the hind-quarters of the calf is torn,” this signifies the
monks’ “impurity”; the calf’s legs are “their impudent Doctors” and
pillars; the calf assumes the attitude of a preacher, which means
that their preaching is despicable; it is also blind because they are
blind; it has ears, and these signify the abuse of the confessional;
with the horns with which it is provided it shall break down their
power; the tightening of the cowl around its neck signifies their
obstinacy, etc. A woodcut of the calf helped the reader to understand
the mysteries better. To show that he meant it all in deadly earnest,
he adduced texts from Scripture which might prove how “well-grounded”
was his interpretation. He declares, that he only speaks of what he
is quite sure, and that he refrains from a further, i.e. a prophetic,
interpretation of the “Monk-Calf” because it was not sufficiently
certain, although “God gives us to understand by these portents that
some great misfortune and change is imminent.” His hope is that this
change might be the coming of the Last Day, “since many signs have so
far coincided.” Hence his strange delusion concerning the calf goes
hand in hand with his habitual one concerning the approaching end of
the world.

It would be to misapprehend the whole character of the writing to
assert, as has recently been done by an historian of Luther, that the
author was merely joking, and that what he says of the Monk-Calf was
simply a jest at the expense of the Pope and the monks. As a matter of
fact, every line of the work protests against such a misrepresentation
of the author and his prophetic mysticism, and no one can read the
pamphlet without being struck by the entire seriousness which it

The tragic earnestness of the whole is evident in the very first
pages, where Luther allows a friend to give his own interpretation of
a similar abortion (the Pope-Ass) born in Italy. Here the writer is no
other than the learned Humanist Melanchthon, who, like Luther, with the
help of a woodcut, describes and explains the portent. Pope-Ass and
Monk-Calf made the round of Germany together, in successive editions.
Melanchthon, scholar though he was, is not one whit less earnest in the
significance he attaches to the “Pope-Ass found dead in 1496 in the
Tiber at Rome.”

After this double work, so little to the credit of German literature,
had frequently been reprinted, Luther, in 1535, added two additional
pages to Melanchthon’s text with a corroboration entitled: “Dr.
Martin Luther’s Amen to the interpretation of the Pope-Ass.” He here
accepts entirely Melanchthon’s exposition, which was more than the
latter was willing to do for Luther’s interpretation of the Monk-Calf.
Melanchthon’s opinion, for which perhaps more might be said, was that
the misshapen calf stood for the corruption of the Lutheran teaching by
sensuality and perverse doctrine, iconoclast violence and revolutionary
peasant movements.[421]

In his “Amen” to Melanchthon’s Pope-Ass, Luther writes: “The Sublime,
Divine Wisdom Itself” “created this hideous, shocking and horrible
image.” “Well may the whole world be affrighted and tremble.” “People
are terrified if a spirit or devil appears, or makes a clatter in a
corner, though this is but mere child’s play compared with such an
abomination, wherein God manifests Himself openly and shows Himself
so cruel. Great indeed is the wrath which must be impending over the

 In his Church-postils Luther spoke of the “Pope-Ass” with an
 earnestness calculated to make a profound impression upon the
 susceptible. He referred to the “dreadful beast which the Tiber had
 cast up at Rome some years before, with an ass’s head, a body like
 a woman’s, an elephant’s foot for a right hand, with fish scales on
 its legs, and a dragon’s head at its rear, etc. All this signified
 the Papacy and the great wrath and chastisement of God. Signs in such
 number portend something greater than our reason can conceive.”[423]

 As Luther makes such frequent use of the Pope-Ass, which he was
 instrumental in immortalising, for instance, in the frightful abuse of
 the Pope contained in “Das Bapstum zu Rom vom Teuffel gestifft,”[424]
 and also circulated a woodcut of it in his book of caricatures of the
 Papacy, adding some derisive verses,[425] which woodcut was afterwards
 reproduced from this or the earlier publication by other opponents
 of the Papacy, both in Germany and abroad,[426] some particulars
 concerning the previous history of the Pope-Ass may here not be out of

 The dead beast was said to have been left stranded on the banks of the
 Tiber in January, 1496, under the pontificate of Pope Alexander VI.,
 when Italy was in a state of great distress. The find made a profound
 impression, as was only to be expected in those days of excitement
 and superstition; it was greatly exaggerated, and, at an early date,
 interpreted in various ways. The oldest description is to be met
 with in the Venetian Annals of Malipiero, where the account is that
 given by the ambassador of the Republic at Rome.[427] The monster
 was also portrayed in stone in the Cathedral of Como, as an omen, so
 it would seem, of the misfortunes of the day, and of those yet to
 be expected.[428] At Rome itself political opponents of Alexander
 VI. made use of it in their campaign against a Pope they hated, by
 circulating a lampoon—the oldest extant—containing a caricature
 of the event. A facsimile of this cut has come down to us in the
 shape of a copper plate made in 1498 by Wenzel of Olmütz.[429] In
 all likelihood a copy of this very plate was sent to Luther at the
 beginning of 1523 by the Bohemian Brethren.

 Melanchthon and Luther diverged in their use of this picture from
 the older and more harmless interpretation, i.e. that which saw in
 it a reference to earthly trials, or a judgment on the politics
 of the Pope. They, on the contrary, regarded it as a denunciation
 by heaven of the Papacy itself and of the Roman Church with all
 its “abominations.” Quite possibly the transition had been quietly
 effected by the Bohemian Brethren. Luther, however, says Lange,
 “was the first to make it public property.” “The Pope-Ass is for
 this reason the most interesting example of the whole teratological
 literature, because in it we can see the transition visibly effected.”
 The same author detects in the joint work of the two Wittenbergers “a
 polemical tone hitherto unheard of”; of Melanchthon’s Pope-Ass, he
 says: “It is probably the most unworthy work we have of Melanchthon’s.
 He himself naturally believed implicitly in what he wrote.... That
 Melanchthon acquitted himself of his task with particular skill cannot
 be affirmed.”[430]

 Just as the Monk-Calf had been applied to Luther himself previous
 to his own polemical interpretation of it, so, after the appearance
 of his and Melanchthon’s joint publication, both the Calf and the
 Ass were repeatedly taken by the Catholic controversialists to
 represent Luther and his innovations. The sixteenth century, as
 already hinted, loved to dwell upon and expound such freaks of nature.
 Authors of repute had done so before Luther, at least to the extent
 of making such the subject of indifferent compositions, as the poet
 J. Franciscus Vitalis of Palermo had done (“_De monstro nato_”) in
 the case of a monstrosity said to have been born at Ravenna in 1511
 or 1512; the Humanist Jacob Locher, at the turn of the fifteenth
 and sixteenth centuries, dealt with a similar case in his “_Carmen
 heroicum_.” Conrad Lycosthenes published at Basle, in 1557, a
 compendium of the prodigies of nature (“_Prodigiorum ac ostentorum
 chronicon_”), in which he instances a large number of such freaks
 famous even before Luther’s day. Of the earlier Humanists Sebastian
 Brant composed some Elegies on the Marvels of Nature. The Wittenberg
 work on the Calf and Ass must be put in its proper setting, and
 judged according to the standard of its age; although, owing to its
 religious bias, it far exceeds in extravagance anything that had
 appeared so far, it nevertheless was an outgrowth of its time.

3. Proofs of the Divine Mission. Miracles and Prophecies

How was Luther to give actual proof of the reality of his call and of
his mission to introduce such far-reaching ecclesiastical innovations?

Luther himself, indirectly, invited his hearers to ask this question
concerning his calling. “Whoever teaches anything new or strange”
must be “called to the office of preacher” he frequently declares
of those new doctrines which differed from his own; no one who has
not a legitimate mission will be able to withstand the devil, but on
the contrary will be cast down to hell.[431] Even in the case of the
ordinary and regular office, Luther demands a legitimate mission; for
the office of extraordinary messenger of God, he is still more severe.
For here it is a question of the extraordinary preaching of truths
previously unknown or universally forgotten or questioned, and of the
reintroduction of doctrine. Here he rightly requires that whoever
wishes to introduce anything new or to teach something different from
the common, must be able to appeal to miracles in support of his
vocation. If he is unable to do this, let him pack up and depart.[432]
Elsewhere, as he correctly puts it: “Where God wills to alter the
ordinary ways, He ever performs miracles.”[433] (Cp. vol. i., p. 225 f.)

His teaching is, “There are two sorts of vocations to the office of
preacher”; one takes place without any human means by God alone [the
extraordinary call], the other [the ordinary] is effected by man as
well as by God. The first is not to be credited unless attested by
miracles such as were performed by Christ and His Apostles. Hence, if
they come and say God has called them, that the Holy Ghost urges them,
and they are forced to preach, let us ask them boldly: “What signs do
you perform that we may believe you?”[434] (Mark xvi. 20). Logically
enough Luther also demanded miracles of Carlstadt, Münzer and the

Which of the two kinds of vocation must we see in Luther’s case?
Was his the ordinary one, which keeps to the well-trodden path, or
the extraordinary one, which “strikes out a new way”? Simple as the
question appears, it is nevertheless difficult to give a straight
answer in Luther’s own words.

As has been proved by Döllinger in his work on the Reformation, and as
was well seen even by earlier polemical writers, Luther’s statements
concerning his own mission were not remarkable for consistency. No less
than fourteen variations have been counted, though, naturally, they do
not involve as many changes of opinion.[435] We shall be nearest to
the truth if we assume his mission to have been an extraordinary and
unusual one. As an ordinary one it certainly could not be regarded,
seeing the novelty of his teaching, and that he himself, as “Evangelist
by God’s Grace” (see vol. iv., xxvi., 4), professed to be introducing
a doctrine long misunderstood and forgotten. Besides, an ordinary call
could only have emanated from the actually existing ecclesiastical
authorities, with whom Luther had altogether broken. In this connection
Luther himself, on one occasion, comes surprisingly near the Catholic
view concerning the right of call invested in the bishops as the
successors of the Apostles, and declares that “not for a hundred
thousand worlds would he interfere with the office of a bishop without
a special command.”[436]

The assumption of an extraordinary call offers, however, an insuperable
difficulty which cannot fail to present itself after what has
been said. No extraordinary attestation on the part of heaven is
forthcoming, nor any miracle which might have confirmed Luther’s
doctrine; God’s witness on behalf of His messenger by signs or
prophecies, such as those of Christ, of the Apostles and of many of the
Saints, was lacking in Luther’s case, and so was that sanctity of life
to be expected of a divinely commissioned teacher whose mission it is
to bring men to the truth.

No one now believes in the existence of any actual and authentic
miracle performed by Luther, or in any real prophecy, whether about
or by him. With the tales of miracles which once found favour among
credulous Pietists, history has no concern. Though here and there
some credence still attaches to the alleged prediction of Hus, which
Luther himself appealed to,[437] viz. that after the goose (Hus=goose)
would come a swan, yet historical criticism has already dealt quite
sufficiently with it. We should run the risk of exposing Luther to
ridicule were we to enumerate and reduce to their real value the
alleged miracles by which, for instance, he was convinced his life
was preserved in the poisoned pulpits of the Papists, or the various
“_monstra_” and “_portenta_” which accompanied his preaching. Of such
prodigies the Pope-Ass and the Monk-Calf are fair samples (above, p.
148 ff.).[438]

In reply to the attempts made, more particularly in the days of
Protestant orthodoxy in the sixteenth century, to compare the rapid
spread of Protestantism with the miracle of the rapid propagation of
Christianity in early days, it has rightly been pointed out, that the
comparison is a lame one; the Church of Christ spread because her moral
power enabled her to impose on a proud world mysteries which transcend
all human reason; on a world sunk in every lust and vice a moral law
demanding a continual struggle against all the passions and desires
of the heart; her conquest of the world was achieved without secular
aid or support, in fact, in the very teeth of the great ones of the
earth who for ages persecuted her; yet during this struggle she laid
her foundations in the unity of the one faith and one hierarchy; her
spread, then, was truly miraculous.

Luther, on the other hand, so his opponents urged, by his opposition to
ecclesiastical authority and his principle of the free interpretation
of Scripture, was casting humility to the winds and setting up
the individual as the highest authority in matters of religion;
thanks to his “evangelical freedom” he felt justified in deriding
as holiness-by-works much that in Christianity was a burden or
troublesome; on the other hand, by his doctrine of imputation, he
cast the mantle of Christ’s righteousness over all the doings and
omissions of believers; from the very birth of his movement he had
sought his principal support in the favour of the Princes, whom, in
due course, he invested with supreme authority in the Church; the
spread of Lutheranism was not the spread of a united Church, but, on
the contrary, such was the diversity of opinions that Jacob Andreæ,
a Protestant preacher, could say, in 1576, in a public address, that
it would be difficult to find a pastor who held the same faith as his
sexton.[439] From all this the Church’s sixteenth-century apologists
concluded that the spread of Luther’s teaching was not at all

 Concerning the miracle spoken of above, and miracles in general as
 proofs of the truth, Luther expresses himself in the third sermon
 on the Ascension, embodied in his Church-postils. The occasion was
 furnished by the words of Our Lord: “These signs shall follow those
 who believe” (Mark xvi. 17), and by the pertinent question addressed
 to him by the fanatics and other opponents: Where are your miracles?

 With remarkable assurance he will have it, that to put such a
 question to him was quite “idle”; miracles enough had taken place
 when Christianity was first preached to make good the words spoken by
 Our Lord; at the present day the Gospel had no further need of them;
 such outward signs had been suitable “for the heathen,” whereas, now,
 the Gospel had been “proclaimed everywhere.”—He does not see that
 though the Gospel had certainly been proclaimed everywhere this was
 was not his own particular Gospel or Evangel, and that he is therefore
 begging the question. He continues quite undismayed: Miracles may
 nevertheless take place, and do, as a matter of fact, occur under
 the Evangel, for instance, the driving out of devils and the healing
 of sicknesses. “The best and greatest miracle” is, however, the
 spread and preservation of my doctrine in spite of the assaults of
 devils, tyrants and fanatics, in spite of flesh and blood, of the
 “Pope, the Turk and his myrmidons.” Is it no miracle, that “so many
 die cheerfully in Christ” in this faith? Compared with this miracle,
 declares the orator, those miracles which appeal to the senses are
 mere child’s play; this is a “miracle beyond all miracles”; well might
 people be astonished at the survival of his doctrine “when a hundred
 thousand devils were striving against it.” It was only to be expected
 that this miracle should be blasphemed by an unbelieving world, but
 “were we to perform the most palpable miracles, they would still
 despise them.” This is why God does not work them through us, just as
 Christ Himself, although able to perform miracles with the greatest
 ease, once refused to give the Jews “any other sign than that of
 the Prophet Jonas,” i.e. the resurrection. Luther concludes with an
 explanation of Christ’s refusal and of the miracle of Jonas.[440]

Hence he is willing to allow the absence of “palpable miracles” in
support of his Evangel, in default of which, however, he instances the
miracle of his great success. And yet, according to his own showing,
such an attestation by palpable miracles would have been eminently
desirable. Germany, he says, from the early days of her conversion down
to his own time, had never been in possession of Christianity, because
the real Gospel, i.e. the doctrine of Justification, had remained
unknown. Only now for the first time had the Gospel been revealed in
all its purity, thanks to his study of Scripture.[441] At the Council
of Nicæa he declares, “there was not one who had even tasted of the
Divine Spirit”; even the Council of the Apostles at Jerusalem was not
above suspicion, seeing that it had seen fit to discuss works and
traditions rather than faith.[442]

Thus he requires that his unheard-of claims, albeit not attested by any
display of miracles, should be accepted simply on his own assurance
that his teaching was based on Holy Scripture. “There is no need for
us to work wonders, for our teaching is already confirmed [by Holy
Scripture] and is no new thing.”[443]

Owing to the lack of any Divine attestation, Luther often preferred
to describe his mission as an ordinary one. In this case he derives
his vocation to teach from his degree of Doctor of Theology and
from the authority given him by the authorities to preach. “I, Dr.
Martin,” he says, for instance, speaking of his doctorate, “was called
and compelled thereto; for I was forced to become a Doctor [of
Holy Scripture] against my will and simply out of obedience.”[444]
Elsewhere, however, he declares that the doctorate was by no means
sufficient to enable one to bid defiance to the devil, or to equip a
man in conscience for the task of preaching.[445] He was still further
confirmed in this belief when he realised that he owed his doctorate
to that very Church which he represented as the Kingdom of Antichrist
and a mere Babylon. He himself stigmatised his degree as the “mark of
the Beast,” and rejoiced that the excommunication had cancelled this
papistical title.

Neither could the want of a call be supplied by the authorisation of
the Wittenberg Council, upon which at times Luther was wont to lay
stress. He himself hesitated to allow that magistrates or Princes could
give a call, particularly where the teaching of any of those thus
appointed by the magistrates ran counter to his own. Even though their
teaching agreed entirely with the views of the secular authorities,
their mission was in his eyes quite invalid. He even had frequent cause
to complain, that the Evangel was greatly hampered by the interference
of the secular authorities and by their sending out as preachers those
who had no real call, and were utterly unfitted for the office.

After what has gone before, we can readily understand how Luther came
to pass over in silence the question of his mission and to appeal
directly to his preaching of the truth as the sign of his vocation; he
does not seem to have perceived that the main point was to establish a
criterion for the recognition of the truth, short of which anyone would
be at liberty to set up his pet error as the “truth.” “The first,”
though not the only condition, was, he declared, “that the preacher
should have an office, be convinced that he was called and sent, and
that what he did was done for the sake of his office”; seeing, however,
that even the Papists fulfilled these conditions, Luther usually
required in addition that the preachers “be certain they have God’s
Word on their side.”[446]

In 1522 he declared any questioning of his vocation to be mere
perversity, for, of his call, no creature had a right to judge. We
cannot but quote again this assurance, “My doctrine is not to be judged
by any man, nor even by the angels; because I am certain of it, I will
judge you and the angels likewise, as St. Paul says (Gal. i. 8), and
whosoever does not accept my teaching will not arrive at blessedness.
For it is God’s and not mine, therefore my judgment is God’s and not

Such statements are aids to the understanding of his mode of thought,
but there are other traits in his mental history relating to the
confirmation of his Divine calling.

Such, for instance, is his account of the miracles by which the flight
of certain nuns from their convents was happily accomplished.

 The miracle which was wrought on behalf of the nun Florentina, and
 in confirmation of the new Evangel, is famous. Luther himself, in
 March, 1524, published the story according to the account given by
 the nun herself, and dedicated it to Count Mansfeld.[448] As this
 circumstance, and also the Preface, shows, he took the matter very
 seriously, and was entirely persuaded that it was a visible “sign from
 heaven.” Yet it is perfectly plain, even from his own pamphlet, that
 the occurrence was quite simple and natural.

 Florentina of Upper-Weimar had been confided in early childhood to
 the convent of Neu-Helfta, at Eisleben, to be educated; later, after
 the regulation “year of probation,” she took the vows, probably
 without any real vocation. Having become acquainted with some of
 the writings of the Reformers, she entered into correspondence with
 Luther, and, one happy day in February, 1524, thanks to “visible,
 Divine assistance,” escaped from her fellow-nuns—who, so she alleged,
 had treated her cruelly—because, as she very naively remarks,[449]
 “the person who should have locked me in left the cells open.” She
 betook herself to Luther at Wittenberg. Luther adds nothing to the
 bare facts; he has no wish to deceive the reader by false statements.
 Yet, speaking of the incident, he says in the Introduction: “God’s
 Word and Work must be acknowledged with fear, nor ... may His signs
 and wonders be cast to the winds.” Godless people despised God’s works
 and said: This the devil must have done. They did not “perceive God’s
 action, or recognise the work of His Hands. So is it ever with God’s
 miracles.” Just as the Pharisees disregarded Christ’s driving out of
 devils and raising of the dead, and only admitted those things to be
 miracles which they chose to regard as such, so it is still to-day.
 Hence no heed would be paid to this work of God by which Florentina
 “had been so miraculously rescued from the jaws of the devil.” If
 noisy spirits, or Papists with their holy water, performed something
 extraordinary, then, of course, that was a real miracle. He proceeds:
 “But we who, by God’s Grace, have come to the knowledge of the
 Evangel and the truth, are not at liberty to allow such signs, which
 take place for the corroboration of the Evangel, to pass unnoticed.
 What matters it that those who neither know, nor desire to know, the
 Evangel do not recognise it as a sign, or even take it for the devil’s

 The use of an argument so puerile, and Luther’s confident assumption
 of an extraordinary interference of Divine Omnipotence suspending the
 laws of nature (which is what a miracle amounts to), all this could
 only arouse painful surprise in the minds of those of his readers who
 were faithful to the Church. Luther was here the victim of a mystical
 delusion only to be accounted for by his dominant idea of his relation
 to God and the Church.

 When, in the same work, he goes on to tell his readers that: “God has
 certainly wrought many similar signs during the last three years,
 which shall be described in due season”; or that he merely recounted
 Florentina’s escape to Count Mansfeld as “a special warning from
 God” against the nunneries, which “God had made manifest in their
 own country,” we see still more plainly the extent and depth of his
 pseudo-mystical views concerning the miracles wrought on behalf of his

Concerning his own ability to work miracles, he is reticent and
cautious. It is true that, to those who are ready to believe in him,
he confidently promises God’s wonderful intervention should the
need arise; the miraculous power, so far as it concerns himself, he
represents, however, as bound by a wise economy, and, also, by his own
desire of working merely through the Word.

It should be noted of the statements to be quoted that they betray no
trace of having been made in a jesting or rhetorical mood, but are, on
the contrary, in the nature of theological arguments.

 In 1537, he declared: “I have frequently said that I never desired
 God to grant me the grace of working miracles, but rejoice that it
 is given to me to hold fast to the Word of God and to work with it;
 otherwise they would soon be saying: ‘The devil works through him.’”
 For, as the Jews behaved towards Christ, “so also do our adversaries,
 the Papists, behave towards us. Whatever we do is wrong in their
 eyes; they are annoyed at us and scandalised and say: The devil made
 this people. But they shall have no sign from us.” All that Christ
 said to the Jews was: “Destroy this temple,” that is, Me and My
 teaching; I shall nevertheless rise again. “What else can we reply to
 our foes, the Papists?... Destroy the temple if you will, it shall
 nevertheless be raised up again in order that the Gospel may remain in
 the Christian Church.”[451]—The great miracle required of Christ was
 merely deferred, He performed it by His actual resurrection from the
 dead. What sign such as this was it in Luther’s power to promise?

 Luther is even anxious not to have any signs. “I have besought the
 contrary of God,” i.e. that there should be no revelations or signs,
 so he writes in 1534, in the enlarged Commentary on Isaias, “in order
 that I may not be lifted up, or drawn away from the spoken Word, by
 the deceit of Satan.”[452]—“Now that the Gospel has been spread
 abroad and proclaimed to the whole world it is not necessary to work
 wonders as in the time of the Apostles. But should necessity arise
 and the Gospel be threatened and suffer violence, we should then have
 to set about it and work signs rather than leave the Gospel to be
 abused and oppressed. But I hope it will not be necessary, and that
 things will not come to such a pass as to compel me to speak with new
 tongues, for this is not really necessary.” Here he is thinking of
 believers generally, though at the close he refers more particularly
 to himself. Speaking of all, he continues prudently: “Let no one take
 it upon himself to work wonders without urgent necessity.” “For the
 disciples did not perform them on every occasion, but only in order to
 bear witness to the Word and to confirm it by miraculous signs.”[453]

 That he believed the power to work miracles might be obtained of God
 may be inferred from many of his declarations against the fanatics,
 where he challenges them to prove themselves the messengers of God by
 signs and wonders; for whosoever is desirous of teaching something new
 or uncommon, he had said, must be “called by God and able to confirm
 his calling by real miracles,” otherwise let him pack up and go his
 way.[454] But his own doctrines were an entirely new thing in the
 Church, and, in spite of every subterfuge, when thus inviting others
 to perform miracles, he cannot always have been unmindful of the fact.
 Hence it has been said that he claimed a certain latent ability to
 work miracles. It should, however, be noted that he always insists
 here that his teaching, unlike that of the fanatics and other sects,
 Catholics included, was not new, but was the original teaching of
 Christ, and that therefore it stood in no need of miracles.

 Still, his confident tone brings him within measurable distance of
 volunteering to work miracles in support of his cause. “Although
 I have wrought no such sign such as perhaps we might work, should
 necessity arise,” etc.[455] These words are quite in keeping with the
 above: “We should have to set about it,” etc.

 It is strange how Luther repeatedly falls back on Melanchthon’s
 recovery at Weimar in 1540. This eventually followed a visit of Luther
 to his friend, to encourage and pray for the sick man, whose health
 had completely broken down under the influence of melancholy.[456]
 It is possible Luther saw in this a miraculous answer to his prayer;
 owing to the manner in which he recounted the incident it became a
 tradition, that the power of his prayer was stronger than the toils of
 death. Walch, in his Life of Luther, wrote, that people had then seen
 “how much Luther’s prayer was capable of.”[457]

 The same scholar adds, as another “remarkable example,” that that
 godly and upright man, Frederick Myconius, the first evangelical
 Superintendent at Gotha, had assured him before his death, that only
 thanks to Luther’s prayers had he been able to drag on his existence,
 notwithstanding his consumption, for six years, though in a state of
 “great weakness.”[458] In cheering up Myconius, and promising him his
 prayers, Luther had said: As to your recovery, “I demand it, I will
 it, and my will be done. Amen.”[459] “In the same way,” Walch tells
 us, “he also prayed for his wife Catharine when she was very ill; he
 was likewise reported to have said on one occasion: ‘I rescued our
 Philip, my Katey and Mr. Myconius from death by my prayers.’”[460]

How does the case stand as regards the gift of prophecy, seeing
that Luther apparently claims to have repeatedly made use of higher
prophetic powers?

 On more than one occasion Luther declares that what he predicted
 usually came to pass, even adding, “This is no joke.” In the same way
 he often says quite seriously, that he would refrain from predicting
 this or that misfortune lest his words should be fulfilled. We see an
 instance of this sort in his circular-letter addressed, in February,
 1539, to the preachers on the anticipated religious war.[461]

 “I am a prophet of evil and do not willingly prophesy anything, for it
 generally comes to pass.” This he says in conversation when speaking
 of the wickedness of Duke George of Saxony.[462] In the Preface to
 John Sutel’s work on “The Gospel of the Destruction of Jerusalem,”
 Luther says, in 1539, speaking of the disasters which were about to
 befall Germany: “I do not like prophesying and have no intention of
 doing so, for what I prophesy, more particularly the evil, is as
 a rule fulfilled, even beyond my expectations, so that, like St.
 Micheas, I often wish I were a liar and false prophet; for since it is
 the Word of God that I speak it must needs come to pass.”[463] In his
 Church-postils he commences a gloomy prophecy on the impending fate
 of Germany with the words: “From the bottom of my heart I am loath to
 prophesy, for I have frequently experienced that what I predict comes
 only too true,” the circumstances, however, compelled him, etc.[464]

 No wonder then that his enthusiastic disciples had many instances to
 relate of his “prophecies.”

 A casual reference of Luther’s to a seditious rising to be expected
 among the German nobility, is labelled in the MS. copy of Lauterbach’s
 “Tagebuch,” “Luther’s Prophecy concerning the rising of the German
 nobles.”[465] Bucer in his Eulogies on Luther in the old Strasburg
 Agenda, after mentioning his great gifts, says: “Add also the gift
 of prophecy, for everything happens just as he foretold it.” This
 we read in a Leipzig publication,[466] in which, as an echo of the
 Reformation Festivities of 1717, a Lutheran, referring to the General
 Superintendent of Altenburg, Eckhard, protests, “that Luther both
 claimed and really possessed the gift of prophecy.” Mathesius, in
 his 15th Sermon on Luther, speaks enthusiastically of the latter’s
 prophecy against those of the new faith who were sapping the
 foundations of the Wittenberg teaching: “In our own day Dr. Martin’s
 prayers and prophecies against the troublesome and unruly spirits
 have, alas, grown very powerful ... they were to perish miserably, a
 prophecy which I heard from his own lips: ‘Mathesius, you will see
 what wanton attacks will be made upon this Church and University
 of Wittenberg, and how the people will turn heretics and come to a
 frightful end.’”[467]

 Even J. G. Walch,[468] in 1753, at least in the Contents and Indices
 to his edition of Luther’s Works, quotes as “Luther’s Prophecies
 on the destruction of Germany,” the passage from the German
 “Table-Talk”[469] which foretells God’s judgments on Germany where
 His Evangel was everywhere despised. Yet this “prophecy” is nothing
 more than a natural inference from the confusion which Luther saw
 was the result of his work. In the same Indices, under the name
 “Luther,”[470] we again find given as a “prophecy” this prediction
 concerning Germany, under the various forms in which Luther repeated
 it. Lastly, under the heading “Prophecy,” further reference is made to
 his predictions on the future lamentable fate of his own Evangel; on
 the distressing revival by his preachers of the doctrine of good works
 which he had overthrown; on the apostasy of the most eminent Doctors
 of the Church; on the abuse of his books by friends of the Evangel;
 on the Saxon nobles after the death of Frederick the Elector,[471]
 and, finally, on the fate of Wittenberg.[472]—In all this there is,
 however, nothing which might not have been confidently predicted
 from the existing state of affairs. Walch prefaces his summary with
 the words: “For Luther’s teaching is verily that faith and doctrine
 proclaimed by the prophets from the beginning of the world,” just as
 Luther himself had once said in a sermon, that his doctrine had “been
 proclaimed by the patriarchs and prophets five thousand years before,”
 but had been “cast aside.”[473]

 We can understand his followers, in their enthusiasm, crediting him
 with a true gift of prophecy, but it is somewhat difficult to believe
 that he himself shared their conviction. Although the belief of his
 disciples can be traced as clearly to Luther’s own assurances, as to
 the fulfilment of what he predicted, yet it is uncertain whether at
 any time his self-confidence went to this length. Whoever is familiar
 with Luther’s mode of speech and his habit of talking half in earnest
 half in jest, will have some difficulty in persuading himself that the
 disciples always distinguished the shade of their master’s meaning.
 The disasters imminent in Germany, and the religious wars, might quite
 well have been foreseen by Luther from natural signs, and yet this is
 just the prophecy on which most stress is laid. Melanchthon, who was
 more sober in his judgments in this respect, speaks of Luther as a
 prophet merely in the general sense, as for instance when he says in
 his Postils: “Prophets under the New Law are those who restore again
 the ancient doctrine; such a one was Dr. Martin Luther.”[474]

 “What Luther, the new Elias and Paul, has prophesied cannot but come
 true,” writes a preacher in 1562, “and those who would doubt this are
 unbelieving and godless, Papists, Epicureans, Sodomites or fanatics.
 Everything has become so frightful and bestial, what with blasphemy,
 swearing, cursing, unchastity and adultery, usury, oppression of
 the poor and every other vice, that one might fancy the last trump
 was sounding for the Judgment. What else do the countless, hitherto
 unheard-of signs, wonders and visions indicate, but that Christ is
 about to come to judge and punish?”[475]

Luther was most diligent in collecting and making use of any
prophetical utterances which might go to prove the exalted character of
his mission.

The supposed prophecy of Hus, that from his ashes would arise a swan
whose voice it would be impossible to stifle, he coolly applied to
himself.[476] He was fond of referring to what a Franciscan visionary
at Rome had said of the time of Leo X.: “A hermit shall arise and lay
waste the Papacy.” Staupitz, he says, had heard this prophecy from the
mouths of many at the time of his stay in Rome (1510). He himself had
not heard it there, but later he, like Staupitz, had come to see that
he “was the hermit meant, for Augustinian monks are commonly called

Luther had also learnt that a German Franciscan named Hilten, who died
at Eisenach about the end of the fifteenth century, had predicted much
concerning the destruction of monasticism, the shattering of Papal
authority and the end of all things. So highly were Hilten’s alleged
sayings esteemed in Luther’s immediate circle that Melanchthon placed
one of them at the head of the Article (27) “On monastic vows,” in his
theological defence of the Confession of Augsburg; “In 1516 a monk
shall come, who will exterminate you monks; ... him will you not be
able to resist.”[478] Luther, before this, on October 17, 1529, by
letter, had urged his friend Frederick Myconius of Gotha to let him
know everything he could about Hilten, “fully, entirely and at length,
without forgetting anything”; “you are aware how much depends upon
this.... I am very anxious for the information, nay, consumed with
longing for it.”[479] His friend’s report, however, did not bring him
all he wanted.[480] The Franciscan had predicted the fall of Rome
about 1514, i.e. too early, and the end of the world for 1651, i.e.
too late. Hence we do not hear of Luther’s having brought forward the
name of this prophet in support of his cause. Only on one occasion does
he mention Hilten as amongst those, who “were to be consigned to the
flames or otherwise condemned.” The fact is that this monk of Eisenach,
once an esteemed preacher, was never “condemned” or even tried by the
Church, although Luther in the above letter to Myconius says that he
“died excommunicate.” Hilten died in his friary, fortified with the
Sacraments, and at peace with the Church and his brother monks, after
beseeching pardon for the scandal he had given them. The Franciscans
had kept in custody the unfortunate man, who had gone off his head
under the influence of astrology and apocalyptic dreams, in order
that his prophecies might not do harm in the Church or the Order. He
was not, however, imprisoned for life, still less was he immured, as
some have said; he was simply kept under fatherly control (“_paterne
custoditum_”), that those of his brethren who believed in him might not
take any unfair advantage of the old man.[481]

In the widely read new edition of the book of Prophecies by Johann
Lichtenberger, astrologer to the Emperor Frederick III. (1488),
republished by Luther in 1527 with a new Preface, the latter’s ideas
play a certain part. Luther did not regard these Prophecies as a
“spiritual revelation”; they were merely astrological predictions,
as he says in the Preface,[482] views which might often prove to be
questionable and faulty; nevertheless, his “belief” is “that God
does actually make use of heavenly signs, such as comets, eclipses
of the sun and the moon, etc., to announce impending misfortune and
to warn and affright the ungodly.”[483] “I myself do not scorn this
Lichtenberger in everything he says, for he has come right in some
things.”[484] Luther is principally concerned with the chastisements
predicted by Lichtenberger, but not yet accomplished—as the
“priestlings” rejoiced to think—but, still to overtake them owing
to their hostility to the Lutheran teaching. “Because they refuse to
amend their impious life and doctrine, but on the contrary persevere
in it and grow worse, I also will prophesy that in a short time their
joy shall be turned to shame, and will ask them kindly to remember
me then.”[485] Later he speaks incidentally of Lichtenberger as a
“fanatic, but still one who had foretold many things, for this the
devil is well able to do.”[486]

During his stay at the Wartburg he had occasion to reflect on the
ancient prophecy concerning an Emperor Frederick, who should redeem the
Holy Sepulchre. He was inclined to see in this Frederick, his Elector,
whose right hand he himself was. The difficulty that the Elector was
not Emperor did not appear to him insuperable, since at Frankfurt the
votes of the other electors had been given to Frederick, so that he
might have been “a real emperor had he so desired.” Still, he was loath
to insist upon such an artifice; this solution of the difficulty might,
he says, be termed mere child’s play. What is much clearer to him is,
that the Holy Sepulchre of the prophecy is “the Holy Scripture wherein
the truth of Christ lies buried, after having been put to death by the
Papists.... As for the actual tomb in which the Lord lay and which
is now in the hands of the Saracens, God cares no more about it than
about the Swiss cows. But no one can deny that amongst you, under Duke
Frederick, Elector of Saxony, the living truth of the Gospel has shone



1. Luther’s Vocation. His Standard of Life

READING the lives of great men really sent by God who did great things
for the salvation of souls by their revelations and their labours,
whether narrated in the Bible or in the history of the Christian
Church, we find that, without exception, their standards were high,
that they sought to convert those with whom they came in contact
primarily by their own virtuous example, that their aim was to promote
the spread of their principles and doctrines by honest, truthful and
upright means, and that their actions bore the stamp, not of violence,
but of peaceableness and charity towards all brother Christians.

Luther’s friends have always protested against his being compared with
the Saints. Be their reason what it may, when it is a question of the
moral appreciation of the founder of a religious movement everyone
should be ready to admit, that such a founder must not present too
great a contrast with those great harbingers of the faith in olden
days whom he himself claims as his ideal, and in whose footsteps he
pretends to tread. Luther is anxious to see St. Paul once more restored
to his pinnacle; his doctrine he would fain re-establish. This being
so, we may surely draw his attention to the character of St. Paul as it
appears to us in his Epistles and in the Acts of the Apostles. St. Paul
brought into this dark world a new light, unknown heretofore, which had
been revealed to him together with his Divine calling. His vocation
he fostered by heroic virtues, and by a purity of life free from all
sensuality or frivolity, preaching with all the attraction conferred
by sincerity and honesty of purpose, in words and deeds full of fire,
indeed, yet at the same time breathing the most patient and considerate

Although we may not exact from Luther all the virtues of a St. Paul,
yet he cannot complain if his private life and his practice and theory
of morals be compared with the sublime mission to which he laid
claim. It is true, that, when confronted with such a critical test,
he was accustomed to meet it with the assertion that his Evangel was
unassailable whatever his life might be. This, however, must not deter
us from applying the test in question, calmly and cautiously, with
every precaution against infringing the truth of history and the claims
of a just and unbiassed judgment which are his right even at the hands
of those whose views are not his.

The following is merely an appreciation of some of the sides of his
character, not a general conspectus of his morals. Such a conspectus
will only become possible at the conclusion of our work. This we
mention because in what follows we shall be considering almost
exclusively Luther’s less favourable traits and ethical principles.
It is unavoidable that we should consider here in this connection his
own testimonies, and those of other witnesses, which militate against
his Divine mission. His better points, both as man and writer, will be
impartially pointed out elsewhere.

       *       *       *       *       *

Luther himself admitted that Christ’s words: “By their fruits ye
shall know them,” established a real standard for the teachers of the
Gospel. He was familiar with the words of St. Bonaventure: “The sign
of a call to the office of preacher is the healing of the hearers from
the maladies of sin.”[488] He knew that the preacher’s virtue must be
imparted to others, and that the sublimity and purity of his doctrine
must be reflected in the amelioration of his followers.

A mere glance at Wittenberg at the time of the religious subversion
will suffice to show how little such conditions were realised.
Valentine Ickelsamer was referring to well-known facts when he
confronted Luther with the words of Christ quoted above. He added: “You
boast of holding the true doctrine on faith and charity and you shriek
that men merely condemn the imperfections of your life.” He is here
referring to Luther’s evasion. The latter had complained that people
under-valued him and were scandalised at his life and that of his
friends. In 1538, for instance, he was obliged, with the help of Jonas,
Cruciger and Melanchthon, to dissociate himself from a theologian,
Master George Karg, who had been advocating at Wittenberg doctrines
which differed from his own; of him he wrote: “He is an inexperienced
young man and, possibly, was scandalised at us personally in the first
instance, and then fell away in his doctrine; for all those who have
caused dissensions among us have begun by despising us personally.”[489]

       *       *       *       *       *

Amongst the Catholic writers who pointed out to the Wittenberg
professor that his lack of a Divine call or higher mission was proved
by the visible absence of any special virtue, and by his behaviour as a
teacher, we may mention the Franciscan Johann Findling (Apobolymæus).
In the beginning of 1521 the latter published an “admonition” addressed
to Luther which relies chiefly on the reasons mentioned above.[490]
In this anonymous writing the Franciscan deals so considerately with
the monk, who was already then excommunicate, that recent Protestant
writers have actually contrasted him with the “Popish zealots.”[491]
Luther he terms his “beloved,” and is unwilling even to describe him
as a “heretic,”[492] following in this the example of many other monks
who showed the same scruple, probably on account of their own former
vacillation. Excuses of various kinds are not wanting in Findling’s

 What is of interest in the present connection is the question the
 author sets before the originator of the schism in the following
 challenge: “If you are a prophet or seer sent by God to point out
 the truth to men, let us perceive this, that we may believe in you,
 approve your action and follow you. If what you preach and write is
 of Divine revelation, then we are ready to honour you as a messenger
 sent from heaven.... But it is written: ‘Believe not every spirit, but
 try the spirits if they be of God’ (1 John iv. 1).... We are unable
 to believe in you because so much strife, so many intrigues, insults,
 bitter reproaches, vituperation and abuse proceed from you....
 Quarrels, blasphemies and enmities are, as St. Ambrose says, foreign
 to the ministers of God.”[493] Your acrimony, your vituperation, your
 calumny and abuse are such that one is forced to ask: “Where is your
 Christian spirit, or your Lutheran spirit, for, according to some,
 Lutheran means the same as Christian?” Has not Christ commanded: “Love
 your enemies, pray for those who persecute you? Certainly if prayer
 consists in calumny, abuse, detraction, reviling and cursing, then you
 pray excellently and effectually enough. Not one of all those I have
 ever read curses and abuses others as you do.”[494]

 The writer also points out how Luther’s followers imitate and even
 outdo him; they were likewise turning his head by their praises; they
 sang hymns in his honour, but hymns coming from such lips were a poor
 tribute. Nor was the applause of the masses beyond suspicion, for it
 merely showed that what he wrote was to the taste of the multitude;
 for instance, when he blamed the authorities and cited them before his
 tribunal. It was his rude handling of his ghostly superiors which had
 brought the nobility and the knights to his side. Had he overwhelmed
 them and the laity with such reproaches as he had heaped upon the
 spiritual authorities, then “I know not whether you would still be in
 the land of the living.”[495]

 Apart from his want of charity and his censoriousness, other very
 un-apostolic qualities of Luther’s were his pride and arrogance, his
 utter disdain for obedience, his irascibility, his jealousy and his
 want of seriousness in treating of the most important questions that
 concerned humanity; the childish, nay, womanish, outbursts in which
 notoriously he was wont to indulge could only serve to humble him in
 his own eyes.

 Luther must have felt keenly the Franciscan’s allusions to his
 untruthfulness and evasiveness, more particularly in his conduct
 towards the Pope, whereas Holy Scripture expressly declares that “God
 has no need of a lie” (Job xiii. 7).

 He concludes by saying, that if Luther “is a good and gentle disciple
 of Christ,” then he will not disregard this exhortation to turn back
 and recant.

 Thus the Franciscan. It is to be feared, however, that Luther never
 read the letter to its end. As he himself said, he had nothing but
 scorn for anything that Catholic censors might say to him. “Attacks
 from without only serve to render me proud and arrogant, and you may
 see from my books how I despise my gainsayers; I look upon them as
 simple fools.”[496] His state of mind even then was such as to make
 him incapable of calmly weighing such reproofs. In the following
 sentences the Franciscan above referred to has aptly described
 Luther’s behaviour: Whoever allows himself to be overtaken by hatred
 and carried away by fury, “blots out the light of reason within
 himself and darkens his comprehension, so that he is no longer able to
 understand or judge aright. He rushes blindly through the surrounding
 fog and darkness, and knows not whither his steps will carry him. Many
 people, dearest Martin, believe you to be in this state.”[497] “In
 this condition of mental confusion you cannot fail to go astray; you
 will credit yourself with what is far beyond you and quite outside
 your power.”[498] In such a man eloquence was like a sword in the hand
 of a madman, as was sufficiently apparent in the case of Luther’s
 followers who attempted to emulate his zeal with the pen.[499]

Erasmus was another moderate critic. In the matter of Luther’s life,
as was to be expected from one who had once praised him in this
particular, as a rule he is inclined to be cautious, however unable
to refrain from severely censuring his unevangelical manner of
proceeding. The absence of the requisite standard of life seemed to
Erasmus sufficient to disprove Luther’s claim to the possession of the
Spirit of God and a higher mission. “You descend to calumny, abuse and
threats and yet you wish to be esteemed free from guile, pure, and led
by the Spirit of God, not by human passion.”[500] “Can the Evangel
then be preached in so unevangelical a manner?” “Have all the laws of
propriety been abrogated by the new-born Evangel, so that each one
is at liberty to make use of any method of attack either in word or
writing? Is this the liberty which you restore to us?”[501] He points
more particularly to Luther’s demagogism as alien to the Christian
spirit: “Your object is to raise revolt, and you are perfectly aware
that this has often been the result of your writings. Not thus did the
Apostles act. You drag our controversial questions before the tribunal
of the unlearned.”[502] “God Almighty! What a contrast to the spirit of
the Gospel!” exclaims Erasmus, referring to some of Luther’s abuse. “A
hundred books written against him would not have alienated me from him
so much as these insults.”[503]

Amongst the admonitions addressed to Luther at an early date by men
of weight, that of Zaccaria Ferreri, the Papal Legate in Poland,
written in 1520 and published in 1894, is particularly noteworthy.
From the self-love and arrogance which he found displayed in Luther’s
character he proves to him that his could not be the work of God:
“Do open your eyes and see into what an abyss of delusion you are
falling. You seem to fancy that you alone are in the sunlight and
that all the rest of the world is seated in the darkness of night....
You reproach Christianity with groping about in error for more than a
thousand years; in your madness you wish to appear wiser and better
than all other mortals put together, to all of whom you send forth
your challenge. Rest assured your opponents are not so dull-witted as
not to see through your artfulness and to perceive the inconsistency
and frivolity of your doctrines.” Ferreri also addressed the following
appeal to Luther: “If you are determined to cast yourself into the
abyss of death, at least take pity on the unfortunate people whom you
are daily infecting with your poison, whose souls you are destroying
and dragging along with you to perdition. The Almighty will one day
require of you their blood which you have drunk, and their happiness
which you have destroyed.”[504]

       *       *       *       *       *

Such voices from the past help to make us alive to the importance of
the question which forms the subject of the present section. Luther’s
own ethical practice when defending the divinity of his mission, more
particularly his doctrine of the forgiveness of sins, against all
doubts and “temptations” which occurred to him, affords us, however,
the best and clearest insight into his moral standards. Here his moral
attitude appears in a most singular light.

We may preface what follows with some words of the Protestant historian
Gottlieb Jacob Planck (†1833): “When it is necessary to lay bare
Luther’s failings, an historian should blush to fancy that any excuse
is required for so doing.”[505]

“Temptations” to doubt were not uncommon in Luther’s case and in that
of his friends. He accordingly instructs his disciples to combat them
and to regain their lost equanimity by the same method which he himself
was in the habit of employing. Foremost amongst these instructions is
one addressed to his pupil Hieronymus Weller of Molsdorf, a native of
Freiberg, who, whilst at Wittenberg, had, under Luther’s influence,
relinquished the study of the law for that of theology. He was received
into Luther’s household as a boarder in 1527, and in 1535, after having
secured his Doctorate of Theology, he was still resident there. He was
one of the table-companions who took notes of Luther’s “Table-Talk.”
This young man was long and grievously tormented with anxiety of mind
and was unable to quiet, by means of the new Evangel, the scruples of
conscience which were driving him to despair.

In 1530, Luther, writing from the Castle of Coburg, gave him the
following counsel; we must bear in mind that it comes from one who
was himself then struggling with the most acute mental anxiety.[506]
“Sometimes it is necessary to drink more freely, to play and to jest
and even to commit some sin (‘_peccatum aliquod faciendum_’) out of
hatred and contempt for the devil, so that he may get no chance of
making a matter of conscience out of mere trifles; otherwise we shall
be vanquished if we are too anxious about not committing sin.... Oh
that I could paint sin in a fair light,[507] so as to mock at the devil
and make him see that I acknowledge no sin and am not conscious of
having committed any! I tell you, we must put all the Ten Commandments,
with which the devil tempts and plagues us so greatly, out of sight and
out of mind. If the devil upbraids us with our sins and declares us to
be deserving of death and hell, then we must say: ‘I confess that I
have merited death and hell,’ but what then? Are you for that reason
to be damned eternally? By no means. ‘I know One Who suffered and made
satisfaction for me, viz. Jesus Christ, the Son of God. Where He is,
there I also shall be.’”

Fell counsels such as these, to despise sin and to meet the temptation
by sinning, Luther had certainly not learnt from the spiritual writers
of the past. Such writers, more particularly those whom he professed
to have read at his monastery, viz. Bernard, Bonaventure and Gerson,
teach that sin must first be resisted, after which we may then seek
prayerfully for the cause of the trouble; for this is not always due to
the temptations of the devil, as Luther unquestioningly assumed in his
own case and, consequently, also in that of Weller. If conscience was
oppressed by sin, then, according to these spiritual writers, a remedy
different from that suited to doubts against the faith must be applied,
namely, penance, to be followed by acts of hope. If the trouble in
Weller’s case was one of doubts concerning faith, anyone but Luther
would have been careful to ascertain first of all whether these doubts
referred to the specifically Lutheran doctrine or to the other truths
of the Christian revelation. Luther, however, at the commencement
of the letter, simply declares: “You must rest assured that this
temptation comes from the devil, and that you are thus tortured because
you believe in Christ”—i.e. in the Lutheran doctrine and in the Christ
preached by that sect, as is clear from the reference immediately
following to the “foes of the Evangel,” who live in security and good

The whole letter, though addressed to one standing on the brink of
despair, contains not a single word about prayer for God’s help, about
humbling oneself or striving after a change of heart. Beyond the
above-mentioned reference to Christ, Who covers over all our sins, and
to the need of contemning sin, we find merely the following natural,
indeed, of the earth earthly, remedies recommended, viz.: To seek
company, to indulge in jest and play, for instance, with Luther’s wife,
ever to keep a good temper and, finally, “to drink more deeply.” “If
the devil says, ‘Don’t drink,’ answer him at once: ‘Just because you
don’t wish it, I shall drink, and deeply too.’ We must always do the
opposite of what the devil bids. Why, think you, do I drink so much,
converse so freely and give myself up so frequently to the pleasures of
the table, if it be not in order to mock at the devil, and to plague
him when he tries to torment and mock at me?”

Finally he encourages the sorely tried man by telling him how Staupitz
had foretold that the temptations which he, Luther, endured in the
monastery would help to make a great man of him, and that he had
now, as a matter of fact, become a “great doctor.” “You, too,” he
continues, “will become a great man, and rest assured that such
[prophetic] words, particularly those that fall from the lips of
great and learned men, are not without their value as oracles and

It is not surprising that such counsels and the consolation of possible
future greatness did not improve the pitiable condition of the
unfortunate man, but that he long continued to suffer.

 Of a like nature is the advice which Luther in the following year gave
 another of his boarders and companions, Johann Schlaginhaufen, as a
 remedy for the same malady, which indeed seems to have been endemic in
 his immediate circle. The passages in question, from Schlaginhaufen’s
 own notes, may be useful in further elucidating Luther’s instructions
 to Weller.

 According to what we are told Luther spoke as follows to
 Schlaginhaufen on December 14, 1531, at a time when the latter had
 been reduced to despair owing to his sins and to his lack of the
 fiducial faith required by the new Evangel. “It is false that God
 hates sinners; if the devil reminds us of the chastisement of Sodom
 and other instances of God’s wrath, then let us confront him with
 Christ, Who became man for us. Had God hated sinners He would not have
 sent His own Son for us [here again not the slightest allusion to any
 effort after an inward change of heart, but merely what follows]:
 Those only does God hate who will not be justified, i.e. those who
 will not be sinners (‘_qui non volunt esse peccatores_’).”[508]

 In these admonitions to Schlaginhaufen the consolatory thought of the
 merits of Christ, which alone can save us, occurs more frequently,
 though in a very Lutheran guise: “Why torment yourself so much
 about sin? Even had you as many sins on your conscience as Zwingli,
 Carlstadt, Münzer and all the ungodly, faith in Christ would overcome
 them all. Alas, faith is all that lacks us!” If the devil could
 reproach you with unbelief and such-like faults, says Luther, then it
 would be a different matter; but he does not worry us about the great
 sins of the first table, but about other sins; “he annoys us with
 mere trifles; if we would consent to worship the Pope, then we should
 be his dear children.”[509] “We must cling to the Man Who is called
 Christ, He will soon put right whatever we may have done amiss.”[510]

 “So that at last I said,” Schlaginhaufen continues, “Then, Doctor, it
 would be better that I should remain a rogue and a sinner. And the
 Doctor replied: That Thou, O Lord, mayst be justified in Thy words,
 and mayst overcome when Thou art judged” (Ps. 1. 6).[511]

 With this pupil, as with Weller, Luther enters into an account of his
 own temptations and the means he employed for ridding himself of them.

 He himself, he says, in December, 1531, had often been made a target
 for the shafts of Satan. “About ten years ago I first experienced this
 despair and these temptations concerning the wrath of God. Afterwards
 I had some peace so that I enjoyed good days and even took a wife, but
 then the temptations returned again.”[512]

 “I never had any temptation greater or more burdensome than that
 which assailed me on account of my preaching, when I thought: It is
 you alone who are bringing all this business about; if it is wrong,
 then you alone are accountable for so many souls which go down to
 hell. During such temptations I often went right down to hell, only
 that God called me back and strengthened me, because it was His Word
 and true doctrine. But it costs much before one can arrive at such

 Here also he speaks of his remedy of a free indulgence in food and
 drink: “Were I to give in to my want of appetite, then I should [in
 this frame of mind] for three days eat not a scrap; it is a double
 fast to me to eat and drink without the least inclination. When the
 world sees this it looks upon it as drunkenness, but God shall judge
 whether it is drunkenness or fasting ... therefore keep stomach and
 head alike filled.”[514]

 According to another communication of Luther’s to this pupil, he was
 in the habit of repelling the devil, when he troubled him too much
 about his sins, by cynical speeches on the subject of the evacuations.
 After one such statement the parish priest of Wittenberg, the
 apostate Bugenhagen, interrupted him, and, in perfect agreement with
 Luther, said, “I too would say to the devil: ‘My good devil, I have
 committed a great sin, for Pope and bishop anointed my hands and I
 have defiled them; that is also a great sin.’”[515] From such coarse
 speeches Schlaginhaufen passes on to relate other things which the
 veracious historian is not at liberty to suppress. The anxious pupil
 who was seeking consolation continues: “The Doctor [Luther] said:
 ‘Nevertheless, the devil was unable to get over my arguments. Often
 have I called my wife, et cetera, in order to allay the temptation and
 to free myself from such idle thoughts.’”[516]

 What Luther, or rather Schlaginhaufen, merely hints at, we find
 explained in greater detail in the diary of Luther’s pupil Conrad
 Cordatus: “Thoughts of terror and sadness have worried me more
 than enemies and labours. In my attempts to drive them away I met
 with little success. I also tried caressing my wife in order that
 this distraction might free me from the suggestions of Satan; but
 in temptations such as these we can find no comfort, so greatly is
 our nature depraved. It is necessary, however, to make every kind
 of effort to banish these thoughts by some stronger emotion.”[517]
 One of the chief Latin versions of Luther’s Colloquies gives this
 passage in his “Table-Talk” as follows: “How often have I taken with
 my wife those liberties which nature permits merely in order to get
 rid of Satan’s temptations. Yet all to no purpose, for he refused to
 depart; for Satan, as the author of death, has depraved our nature to
 such an extent that we will not admit any consolation. Hence I advise
 everyone who is able to drive away these Satanic thoughts by diverting
 his mind, to do so, for instance, by thinking of a pretty girl, of
 money-making, or of drink, or, in fine, by means of some other vivid
 emotion. The chief means, however, is to think of Jesus Christ, for He
 comes to console and to make alive.”[518] The latter passage is to be
 found, with unimportant alterations, in Rebenstock’s edition of the
 Colloquies, though, perhaps out of consideration for Luther, it there
 commences with the words: “For Satan”;[519] in the German “Table-Talk”
 it is not found at all.[520]

 “Let us fix our mind on other thoughts,” Luther had also said to
 Schlaginhaufen, “on thoughts of dancing, or of a pretty girl, that
 also is good. Gerson too wrote of this.”[521] As a matter of fact,
 Gerson certainly wrote nothing about getting rid of temptations by
 means of sensual images. On the contrary, in the passages in question
 of his spiritual writings, he teaches something quite different and
 insists, first and foremost, on the avoidance of sin. He proposes our
 doing the exact opposite of the wicked or unworthy acts suggested by
 the evil spirit. He, like all Catholic masters of the spiritual life,
 indeed instructs those tempted to distract their minds, but by pious,
 or at least, indifferent and harmless means.[522]

2. Some of Luther’s Practical Principles of Life

We find in Luther no dearth of strong expressions which, like his
advice to Weller and Schlaginhaufen, seem to discountenance fear of
sin, penance and any striving after virtue. It remains to determine
from their context the precise meaning which he attached to them.

_Luther on Sin_

As early as 1518 Luther, in a sermon at Erfurt, had given vent to the
words already quoted: “What does it matter whether we commit a fresh
sin so long as we do not despair but repeat: Thou, my God, still
livest, Christ, my Lord, has destroyed sin; then at once the sin is
gone.... The reason why the world is so out of joint and lies in such
error is that there has been no real preacher for so long.”[523]

“Hence we say,” so later on we read in his exposition of John xvii.,
“that those who are true Saints of Christ must be great sinners and
yet remain Saints.... Of themselves, and for all their works, they are
nothing but sinners and under condemnation, but by the holiness of
another, viz. of the Lord Christ, bestowed on them by faith, they are
made holy.”[524]

And further: “The Christian faith differs greatly from the faith and
religion of the Pope and the Turks, etc., for, by it, in spite of his
consciousness of sin, a man, amidst afflictions and the fear of death,
continues to hope that God for Christ’s sake will not impute to him his
sin.... But so great is this grace that a man is startled at it and
finds it hard to believe.”[525]—He himself and many others often found
it difficult, indeed terribly difficult, to believe. They were obliged
to “reassure themselves” by the Word of God. A few more quotations may
here be added.

“To be clean of heart not only means not to harbour any impure
thoughts, but that the conscience has been enlightened and assured by
the Word of God that the law does not defile; hence the Christian must
understand that it does not harm him whether he keeps it [the law] or
not; nay, he may even do what is otherwise forbidden, or leave undone
what is usually commanded; it is no sin in him, for he is incapable
of sinning because his heart is clean. On the other hand, an impure
heart defiles itself and sins in everything because it is choked with

“God says in the law: Do this, leave that undone, this do I require of
thee. But the Evangel does not preach what we are to do or to leave
undone, it requires nothing of us. On the contrary. It does not say: Do
this or that, but only tells us to hold out our hands and take: Behold,
O man, what God has done for thee; He has caused His own Son to take
flesh for thee, has allowed Him to be done to death for thy sake, and
to save thee from sin, death and the devil; believe this and accept it
and thou shalt be saved.”[527]

Such statements, which must not be regarded as spoken merely on the
spur of the moment, rest on the idea that sin only troubles the man who
looks to the law; let us look rather to the Gospel, which is nothing
but grace, and simply cover over our sin by a firm faith in Christ,
then it will not harm us in any way. Yet it would be quite a mistake to
infer from this that Luther always regarded sin with indifference, or
that he even recommended it on principle; as a rule he did not go so
far as we just saw him do (p. 175 ff.) in his exhortations to persons
tempted; there, moreover, his invitation to commit sin, and his other
misplaced instructions, may possibly be explained by the excitement
of the hand-to-hand struggle with the devil, in which he fancied
himself to be engaged whenever he had to do with doubts concerning
his doctrines, or with souls showing signs of halting or of despair.
On the contrary, he teaches, as a rule, that sin is reprehensible; he
also instructs man to fight against concupiscence which leads up to
it. (Vol. i., p. 114 f.) He is fond of exhorting to amendment of life
and to avoid any scandal. Still, the barriers admitted by his doctrine
of Justification against this indifference with regard to sin were not
strong enough.[528]

As to Luther’s teaching on the manner in which sin was forgiven, we
shall merely state his ideas on this subject, without attempting to
bring them into harmony; the fact is that, in Luther’s case, we must
resign ourselves to a certain want of sequence.

 He teaches: “Real faith is incompatible with any sin whatsoever;
 whoever is a believer must resist sinful lusts by the power and
 the impulse of the faith and Spirit.”[529] “Whoever has faith in
 the forgiveness of sins does not obey sinful lusts, but fights
 against them until he is rid of them.”[530] Where mortal sin has
 been committed, there, according to him, real faith was manifestly
 lacking; it had already been denied and was no longer active, or even
 present. A revival of faith, together with the necessary qualities of
 confidence, covers over all such sins, including the sin of unbelief.
 On the other hand, sins committed where faith was present, though
 for the moment too weak to offer resistance, were sins of frailty;
 there faith at once regains the upper hand and thus forgiveness
 or non-imputation of the sin is secured. The denial of Peter was,
 according to Luther, a sin of frailty, because it was merely due to
 “chance weakness and foolishness.” Nevertheless he declares that, like
 the treason of Judas, it was deserving of death.[531]

 Luther teaches further, affording us incidentally an insight into
 the inadequacy of his doctrine from another point of view, that, in
 the case of the heathen or of Christians who had no faith, not only
 was every sin a mortal sin, but also all works, even good works,
 were mortal sins; indeed, they would be so even in the faithful,
 were it not for Christ, the Redeemer, Whom we must cling to with
 confidence. Moreover, as we know, man’s evil inclinations, the motions
 of concupiscence, the bad tendencies of the pious, were all grievous
 sins in Luther’s eyes; original sin with its involuntary effects he
 considers an enduring offence; only faith, which merits forgiveness
 and overcomes the terrors of conscience by the saving knowledge of
 Christ, can ensure man against it, and the other sins.

 “Thus our salvation or rejection depends entirely on whether we
 believe or do not believe in Christ.... Unbelief retains all sin,
 so that it cannot be forgiven, just as faith cancels all sin; hence
 outside of such faith everything is and remains sinful and worthy of
 damnation, even the best of lives, and the best of works.... In faith
 a Christian’s life and works are pleasing to God, outside of Christ
 everything is lost and doomed to perdition; in Christ all is good and
 blessed, so that even the sin which flesh and blood inherits from
 Adam is neither a cause of harm nor of condemnation.” “This, however,
 is not to be understood as a permit to sin and to commit evil; for
 since faith brings forgiveness of sin ... it is impossible that he who
 lives openly unrepentant and secure in his sins and lusts should be
 a Christian and a believer.”[532] In conclusion he explains to what
 category of hearers he is speaking: “To them [the faithful] this is
 said, in order that sin may not harm nor condemn them; to the others,
 who are without faith and reprobate, we do not preach.”[533] Amongst
 the numerous other questions which here force themselves upon us, one
 is, why Luther did not address his Evangel to those “without faith,”
 and to the “reprobate,” according to the example of Christ.[534]

 The fanatics, particularly Carlstadt, were not slow in attacking
 Luther on account of his doctrine of faith alone. Carlstadt described
 this “faith” of Luther’s as a “paper faith” and a “heartless faith.”
 He perceived the “dangers to the interior life which might arise from
 the stress laid on faith alone, viz. the enfeebling of the moral
 powers and the growth of formalism.”[535] The modern Protestant
 biographer of Carlstadt, from whom these words are taken, points out
 that “moral laxity too often went hand-in-hand with Luther’s doctrine
 of the forgiveness of sins.”[536] “Owing to an assiduous depreciation
 of the moral code no criterion existed according to which the
 direction of the impulses of the will could be determined, according
 to Luther’s doctrine of Justification.”[537] The Lutheran teaching was
 “admirably adapted to suit the life of the individual,” but the moral
 laxity which followed in its train “could not be considered as merely
 an exceptional phenomenon.”[538] There is no doubt that “much dross
 came to the surface when ‘faith only’ was applied to the forgiveness
 of sins.”[539]

 A Protestant theologian, A. Hegler, one of those who demur to Luther’s
 doctrines, mentioned above, owing to their moral consequences,
 remarks: “It remains that the idea of justification without works was,
 at the time of the Reformation, often found side by side with moral
 laxity, and that, sometimes, the latter was actually the effect of
 the former.” Seeking the reason why so talented a man as Sebastian
 Franck should have seceded, after having been a Lutheran preacher till
 1528, he remarks: “There is much to lead us to suppose that the sight
 of the moral indifference and coarseness of the evangelicals was the
 determining factor.”[540]

After having considered Luther’s principles with regard to the theory
of sin, we now proceed to give some of his utterances on penance.

_Luther’s Views on Penance_

Although he speaks of repentance as the first step towards salvation
in the case of the sinner, yet the idea of repentance, remorse or
contrition was ever rather foreign to him. He will not admit as valid
any repentance aroused by the demands and menaces of the law;[541] in
the case of man, devoid of free will, it must be a result of Divine
charity and grace; repentance without a love of justice is, he says,
at secret enmity with God and only makes the sin greater.[542] Yet he
also declares, not indeed as advocating penance as such, that it merely
acts through faith “previous to and independently of all works,” of
which, as we know, he was always suspicious; all that was needed was to
believe “in God’s Mercy,” and repentance was already there.[543]

He is nevertheless in favour of the preachers exhorting Christians
to repentance by diligent reference to the commandments, and to the
chastisements threatened by God, so as to instil into them a salutary
fear. The law, he goes on to say, in contradiction to the above, must
do its work, and by means of its terrors drive men to repentance
even though love should have no part in it. Here he is perfectly
conscious of the objection which might be raised, viz. that he had
made “repentance to proceed from, and to be the result of, justifying
faith.” To this he replies, that repentance itself forms part of the
“common faith,” because it is first necessary to believe that there is
a God Who commands and makes afraid; this circumstance justifies the
retention of penance, “for the sake of the common, unlearned folk.”[544]

 The Catholic Church, on the other hand, formulates her doctrine of
 penance and regeneration, for the most cultured as well as for the
 “common and unlearned,” in terms simple and comprehensible, and in
 perfect accord with both Scripture and theology: Adults “are prepared
 for justification, when, moved and assisted by Divine grace ... they,
 of their free will, turn to God, believing that those things are
 true which have been Divinely revealed and promised; above all, that
 the ungodly is justified by God’s grace and by the redemption which
 is in Christ Jesus; recognising with a wholesome fear of the Divine
 Justice their sinfulness, they turn to God’s mercy, and, being thus
 established in hope, gain the confidence that God, for Christ’s sake,
 will be gracious to them. Thus they begin to love God as the source
 of all justice and to conceive a certain hatred (‘_odium aliquod_’)
 and detestation for sin, i.e. to perform that penance which must take
 place previous to baptism. Finally, they must have the intention of
 receiving baptism, of commencing a new life and of observing the
 commandments of God.”[545] “Those who, after having received the grace
 of justification, fall into sin [’without loss of faith’],[546] with
 God’s help may again be justified, regaining through the Sacrament of
 Penance and Christ’s merits the grace they had lost.... Christ Jesus
 instituted the Sacrament of Penance when He said: ‘Receive ye the Holy
 Ghost: whose sins ye shall forgive, they are forgiven them; and whose
 sins ye shall retain, they are retained.’ Hence we must teach that
 the repentance of a sinner after falling into sin is very different
 from that which accompanies baptism, and involves not merely a turning
 away from, and a detestation for, sin, or a contrite and humble heart,
 but also a Sacramental confession of the sin, or at least a purpose
 of making such a confession in due season, and receiving the priestly
 absolution; finally, it involves satisfaction by fasting, almsdeeds,
 prayer and other pious exercises.”[547]

Such, according to the Catholic doctrine, is the process approved of
by Holy Scripture, the various phases of which rest alike on religion
and psychology, on the positive ordinances of God and on human nature.
Luther, however, thrust all this aside; his quest was for a simpler and
easier method, through faith alone, by which sin may be vanquished or
covered over.

His moral character, so far as it reveals itself in his teaching,
is here displayed in an unfavourable light, for he is never weary
of emphasising the ease with which sin can be covered over—and
that in language which must necessarily have had a bad effect on
discipline—when we might have expected to hear some earnest words on
penance. A few of his sayings will help to make yet clearer his earlier

 “You see how rich the Christian is,” he says, “since, even should he
 desire it, he is unable to forfeit his salvation, no matter how many
 sins he may commit, unless indeed he refuses to believe (‘_nisi nolit
 credere_’). No sin but unbelief can bring him to damnation; everything
 else is at once swept away by this faith, so soon as he returns to it,
 or recollects the Divine promise made to the baptised.”[548]

 “Christ’s Evangel is indeed a mighty thing.... God’s Word brings
 everything to pass speedily, bestows forgiveness of sins and the gift
 of eternal life; and the cost of this is merely that you should hear
 the Word, and after hearing it believe. If you believe, then you
 possess it without any trouble, expense, delay or difficulty.”[549]

 “No other sin exists in the world save unbelief. All others are mere
 trifles, as when my little Hans or Lena misbehave themselves in the
 corner, for we all take that as a big joke. In the same way faith
 covers the stench of our filth before God.... All sins shall be
 forgiven us if only we believe in the Son.”[550]

 “As I have often said, the Kingdom of Christ is nothing else but
 forgiveness and perpetual blotting out of sin, which is extinguished,
 covered over, swept away and made clean while we are living here.”
 “Christ makes things so easy for us who stand before God in fear and

 “_Summa summarum_: Our life is one long ‘_remissio peccatorum_,’ and
 forgiveness of sin, otherwise it could not endure.”[552]

 Here, indeed, we have one of the main props of Luther’s practical
 theology. To this the originator of the doctrine sought to remain
 faithful to the very end of his life, whereas certain other points
 of his teaching he was not unwilling to revise. His ideas on sin and
 repentance had sprung originally from his desire to relieve his own
 conscience,[553] and, of this, they ever retained the mark. The words
 and doctrine of a teacher are the best witnesses we have to his moral
 character, and here the doctrine is one which affords but little
 stimulus to virtue and Christian perfection, but rather the reverse.

In what follows we shall consider more closely the relation between
this doctrine and the effort after virtue, while at the same time
taking into account that passivity, nay, entire unfreedom of the will
for doing what is good, proclaimed by Luther.

_Luther on Efforts after Higher Virtue._

The effort to attain perfection and to become like to Christ, which is
the highest aim of the Christian, is scarcely promoted by making the
whole Gospel to consist merely in the happy enjoyment of forgiveness.
The hard work required for the building up of a truly virtuous life
on the rude soil of the world, necessarily involving sacrifice,
self-denial, humiliation and cheerful endurance of suffering, was more
likely to be looked at askance and carefully avoided by those who clung
to such a view.

On the pretext of opposing the “false humility of the holy-by-works,”
Luther attacks many practices which have always been dear to pious
souls striving after God. At the same time he unjustly implies that
the Catholics made holiness to consist merely in extraordinary works,
performed, moreover, by human strength alone, without the assistance of
grace. “This all comes from the same old craze,” he declares;[554] “as
soon as we hear of holiness we immediately think of great and excellent
works and stand gaping at the Saints in heaven as though they had got
there by their own merits. What _we_ say is that the Saints must be
good, downright sinners.” (See above, p. 180.) “The most holy state is
that of those who believe that Christ alone is our holiness, and that
by virtue of His holiness, as already stated, everything about us, our
life and actions, are holy, just as the person too is holy.”[555]

After this, who can contend that Luther sets before the world the
sublime and arduous ideal of a life of virtue such as has ever been
cherished by souls inflamed with the love of Christ? To rest content
with a standard so low is indeed to clip the wings of virtue. This
is in no way compensated for by Luther’s fervent exhortations to the
Christian, “to confess the Word, more particularly in temptation and
persecution,” because true and exalted virtue was present wherever
there was conflict on behalf of the Word [as preached by him], or by
his asseveration, that “where the Word is and brings forth fruit so
that men are willing to suffer what must be suffered for it, there
indeed we have living Saints.” Living Saints? Surely canonisation is
here granted all too easily. Nor does Luther make good the deficiencies
of his teaching, by depriving good works of any merit for heaven, or
by requiring that they should be performed purely out of love of God,
without the least thought of reward. He thereby robs the practice of
good works of a powerful stimulus, as much in conformity with the Will
of God as with human nature. He is too ready here to assume that the
faithful are angels, raised above all incentive arising from the hope
of reward, though, elsewhere, he looks upon men only too much as of the
earth earthly.

At any rate he teaches that good works spring spontaneously from the
faith by which man is justified, and that the outcome is a life of
grace in which the faithful has every incentive to the performance of
his duty and to works of charity towards his neighbour. He also knows
how to depict such spontaneous, practical efforts on the part of the
righteous in attractive colours and with great feeling. Passages of
striking beauty have already been quoted above from his writings.
Too often, as he himself complains, such good works are conspicuous
by their absence among the followers of the evangelical faith; he
is disappointed to see that the new teaching on faith serves only
to engender lazy hearts. Yet this was but natural; nature cannot be
overcome even in the man who is justified without an effort on his
part; without exertion, self-sacrifice, self-conquest and prayer no
one can make any progress and become better pleasing to God; not
holiness-by-works, but the sanctifying of our works, is the point
to be aimed at, and, for this purpose, Holy Scripture recommends no
mere presumptuous, fiducial faith as the starting-point, but rather
a pious fear of God, combined with a holy life; no mere reliance on
a misapprehension of the freedom of the children of God, but rather
severe self-discipline, watchfulness and mortification of the whole
man, who, freely and of his own accord, must make himself the image
of his crucified Saviour. Those of Luther’s followers who, to their
honour, succeeded in so doing, did so, and were cheered and comforted,
not by following their leader’s teaching, but by the grace of God which
assists every man.

We must, however, refer to another point of importance already once
discussed. Why speak at all of good works and virtue, when Luther’s
doctrine of the passivity and unfreedom of the will denies the
existence of all liberty as regards either virtue or sin? (See vol.
ii., p. 223 ff.)

Luther’s doctrine of Justifying Faith is closely bound up with his
theories on the absence of free will, man’s inability to what do is
good, and the total depravity of human nature resulting from original
sin. In his “_De servo arbitrio_” against Erasmus, Luther deliberately
makes the absence of free will the basis of his view of life.

Deprived of any power of choice or self-determination, man is at the
mercy of external agents, diabolical or Divine, to such an extent
that he is unable to will except what they will. Whoever has and
keeps the Spirit of God and the faith cannot do otherwise than fulfil
the Will of God; but whoever is under the domination of the devil
is his spiritual captive. To sum up what was said previously: man
retains at most the right to dispose of things inferior to him, not,
however, any actual, moral freedom of choice, still less any liberty
for doing what is good such as would exclude all interior compulsion.
He is created for eternal death or for everlasting life; his destiny
he cannot escape; his lot is already pre-ordained. Luther’s doctrine
brings him into line, even as regards the “harshest consequences of
the predestinarian dogma, with Zwingli, Calvin, and Melanchthon in
his earliest evangelical Theology.”[556] According to one of the most
esteemed of Lutheran theologians, “what finds full and comprehensive
expression in the work ‘_De servo arbitrio_’ is simply the conviction
which had inspired Luther throughout his struggle for his pet doctrine
of salvation, viz. the doctrine of the pure grace of God as against the
prevailing doctrine of free will and man’s own works.”[557] According
to this theory, in spite of the lack of free will, God requires of man
that he should keep the moral law, and, to encourage him, sets up a
system of rewards and punishments. Man is constrained to this as it
were in mockery, that, as Luther says, God may make him to realise his
utter powerlessness.[558] God indeed deplores the spiritual ruin of
His people—this much the author is willing to allow to his opponent
Erasmus—but, the God Who does so is the God of revelation, not the
Hidden God. “The God Who conceals Himself beneath His Majesty grieves
not at man’s undoing, He takes no step to remedy it, but works all
things, both life and death.” God, “by that unsearchable knowledge of
His, wills the death of the sinner.”[559]

“Even though Judas acted of his own will and without compulsion, still
his willing was the work of God, Who moved him by His Omnipotence as
He moves all things.”[560] In the same way, according to Luther, the
hardening of Pharao’s heart was in the fullest sense God’s work.[561]
Adam’s sin likewise is to be traced back to the Will of God.[562] We
must not ask, however, how all this can be reconciled with the goodness
and justice of God. We must not expect God to act according to human

It was necessary to recall the above in order to show how such a
doctrine robs the moral law of every inward relation to its last end,
and degrades it till it becomes a mere outward, arbitrary barrier.
Luther may well thank his want of logic that this system failed to be
carried to its extremest consequences; the ways of the world are not
those of the logician.

Who but God can be held responsible in the last instance for the world
being, as Luther complains, the “dwelling-place” of the devil, and his
very kingdom? According to him the devil is its “Prince and God”;[564]
every place is packed with devils.[565] Indeed, “the whole world is
Satanic and to a certain extent identified with Satan.”[566] “In such
a kingdom all the children of Adam are subject to their lord and king,
i.e. the devil.”[567] Such descriptions given by Luther are often so
vivid that one might fancy the devil was making war upon God almost
like some independent power. Luther, however, admits that the devil has
“only a semblance of the Godhead, and that God has reserved to Himself
the true Godhead.”[568] Ethically the consequence of such a view of the
world is a pessimism calculated to lame both the powers and the desires
of anyone striving after higher aims.

Luther’s pessimism goes so far, that too often he is ready to believe
that, unlike the devil, Christ loves “to show Himself weak” in man. He
writes, for instance, that Satan desired to drag him in his toils down
into the abyss, but that the “weak Christ” was ever victorious, or at
least “fighting bravely.”[569] That it was possible for Christ to be
overcome he would not have allowed, yet, surely, an excuse might have
been sought for man’s failings in Christ’s own “weakness,” particularly
if man is really devoid of free will for doing what is good.

Luther was always fond of imputing weaknesses and sins to the Saints.
Their works he regarded as detracting from the Redemption and the Grace
of Christ, which can be appropriated only by faith. Certain virtues
manifested by the Saints and their heroic sacrifices Luther denounced
as illusions, as morally impossible and as mere idolatry.

 “The Apostles themselves were sinners, yea, regular scoundrels....
 I believe that the prophets also frequently sinned grievously, for
 they were men like us.”[570] He quotes examples from the history of
 the Apostles previous to the descent of the Holy Ghost. Elsewhere he
 alludes to the failings they betrayed even in later life. “To hear”
 that the Apostles, even after they had received the Holy Ghost, were
 “sometimes weak in the faith,” is, he says, “very consoling to me
 and to all Christians.” Peter “not only erred” in his treatment of
 the Gentile Christians (Gal. ii. 11 ff.), “but sinned grossly and
 grievously.” The separation of Paul and Barnabas (Acts xv. 39) was
 very blameworthy. “Such instances,” he says, “are placed before us for
 our comfort; for it is very consoling to hear that such great Saints
 have also sinned.” “Samson, David and many other fine and mighty
 characters, filled as they were with the Holy Ghost, fell into great
 sins,” which is a “splendid consolation to faint-hearted and troubled
 consciences.” Paul himself did not believe as firmly as he spoke; he
 was, in point of fact, better able to speak and write than to believe.
 “It would scarcely be right for us to do all that God has commanded,
 for then what need would there be for the forgiveness of sins?”[571]

 “Unless God had told us how foolishly the Saints themselves acted, we
 should not have been able to arrive at the knowledge of His Kingdom,
 which is nothing else but the forgiveness of sins.”[572] Here He is
 referring to the stumbling and falls of the Patriarchs; he adds:
 “What wonder that we stumble? And yet this is no cloak or excuse for
 committing sin.” Nevertheless, he speaks of Abraham, whom he credits
 with having fallen into idolatry and sin, as though holiness of life
 were of no great importance: “Believe as he did and you are just as
 holy as he.”[573] “We must interpret all these stories and examples as
 told of men like ourselves; it is a delusion to make such a fuss about
 the Saints. We ought to say: If they were holy, why, so are we; if we
 are sinners, why, so were they; for we are all born of the same flesh
 and blood and God created us as much as He did them; one man is as
 good as another, and the only difference between us is faith. If you
 have faith and the Word of God, you are just as great; you need not
 trouble yourself about being of less importance than he, unless your
 faith is less strong.”[574]

By his “_articulus remissionis_,” the constantly reiterated Evangel of
the forgiveness of sins by faith, Luther certainly succeeded in putting
down the mighty from their seats, but whether he inspired the lowly to
qualify for their possession is quite another question.

On the unsafe ground of the assurance of salvation by faith alone
even the fanatics were unwilling to stand; their preference was for a
certain interior satisfaction to be secured by means of works. Hence
they and their teaching—to tell the truth a very unsatisfactory
one—became a target for Luther’s sarcasm. By a pretence of strict
morals they would fain give the lie to the words of the Our Father,
“Forgive us our trespasses”; “but we are determined not to make
the Our Father untrue, nor to reject this article (the ‘_remissio
peccatorum_’), but to retain it as our most precious treasure, in
which lies our safety and salvation.”[575] An over-zealous pursuit of
sanctity and the works of the Spirit might end by detracting from a
trusting reliance upon Christ. In Catholic times, for instance, the
two things, works and faith, had, so he complains, been “hopelessly
mixed.” “This, from the beginning until this very day, has been a
stumbling-block and hindrance to the new doctrine of faith. If we
preach works, then an end is made of faith; hence, if we teach faith,
works must go to the wall.”[576]

We must repeat, that, by this, Luther did not mean to exclude works;
on the contrary, he frequently counsels their performance. He left
behind him many instructions concerning the practice of a devout
life, of which we shall have to speak more fully later. On the other
hand, however, we can understand how, on one occasion, he refused
to draw up a Christian Rule of Life, though requested to do so by
his friend Bugenhagen, arguing that such a thing was superfluous.
We can well understand his difficulty, for how could he compile a
rule for the promotion of practical virtue when he was at the same
time indefatigable in condemning the monkish practices of prayer and
meditation, pious observances and penitential exercises, as mere
formalities and outgrowths of the theory of holiness-by-works? It was
quite in keeping with his leading idea, and his hatred of works, that
he should stigmatise the whole outward structure of the Christian life
known hitherto as a mere “service of imposture.”

“Christ has become to all of us a cloak for our shame.”[577]

“Our life and all our doings must not have the honour and glory of
making us children of God and obtaining for us forgiveness of sins and
everlasting life. What is necessary is that you should hear Christ
saying to you: ‘Good morning, dear brother, in Me behold your sin and
death vanquished.’ The law has already been fulfilled, viz. by Christ,
so that it is not necessary to fulfil it, but only to hang it by faith
around Him who fulfils it, and to become like Him.”[578]

“This is the Evangel that brings help and salvation to the conscience
in despair.... The law with its demands had disheartened, nay, almost
slain it, but now comes this sweet and joyful message.”[579]

“Be a sinner and sin boldly, but believe more boldly still.”[580]

_Luther’s “Pecca fortiter.”_

In what has gone before, that we might the better see how Luther’s
standard of life compared with his claim to a higher calling, we have
reviewed in succession his advice and conduct with regard to one of the
principal moral questions of the Christian life, viz. how one is to
behave when tempted to despondency and to despair of one’s salvation;
further, his attitude—theoretical and practical—towards sin, penance
and the higher tasks and exercises of Christian virtue. On each several
point the ethical defects of his system came to light, in spite of all
his efforts to conceal them by appealing to the true freedom of the
Christian, to the difference between the law and the Gospel, or to the
power of faith in the merits of Christ.

On glancing back at what has been said, we can readily understand why
those Catholic contemporaries, who took up the pen against Luther and
his followers, directed their attacks by preference on these points of
practical morality.

Johann Fabri (i.e. Schmidt) of Heilbronn, who filled the office of
preacher at Augsburg Cathedral until he was forced to vacate the pulpit
owing to the prohibition issued by the Magistrates against Catholic
preaching in 1534, wrote at a later date, in 1553, in his work “The
Right Way,” of Luther and those preachers who shared his point of
view: “The sweet, sugary preachers who encourage the people in their
wickedness say: The Lord has suffered for us, good works are unclean
and sinful, a good, pious and honest life with fasting, etc., is mere
Popery and hypocrisy, the Lord has merited heaven for us and our
goodness is all worthless. These and such-like are the sweet, sugary
words they preach, crying: Peace, Peace! Heaven has been thrown open,
only believe and you are already justified and heirs of heaven. Thus
wickedness gets the upper hand, and those things which draw down upon
us the wrath of God and rob us of eternal life are regarded as no sin
at all. But the end shall prove whether the doctrine is of God, as the
fruit shows whether the tree is good. What terror and distress has been
caused in Germany by those who boast of the new Gospel it is easier
to bewail than to describe. Ungodliness, horrible sins and vices hold
the field; greater and more terrible evil, fear and distress have never
before been heard of, let alone seen in Germany.”[581]

Matthias Sittardus, from the little town of Sittard in the Duchy of
Jülich, a zealous and energetic worker at Aachen, wrote as follows
of Luther’s exhortations quoted above: “The result is that men say,
What does sin matter? Christ took it away on the cross; the evil that
I do—for I must sin and cannot avoid it—He is ready to bear; He
will answer for it and refrain from imputing it to me; I have only to
believe and off it goes like a flash. Good works have actually become
a reproach and are exposed to contempt and abuse.”[582]—Elsewhere he
laments, that “there is much glorying in and boasting of faith,” but of
“good works and actions little” is seen.[583]

Alluding to man’s unfreedom for doing what is good, as advocated by
Luther, Johann Mensing, a scholarly and busy popular writer, says:
“They [the preachers] call God a sinner and maintain that God does all
our sins in us. And when they have sinned most grievously they argue
that such was God’s Will, and that they could do nothing but by God’s
Will. They look upon the treachery of Judas, the adultery of David and
Peter’s denial as being simply the work of God, just as much as the
best of good deeds.”[584]

The words quoted above: “Be a sinner and sin boldly, but believe more
boldly still,” are Luther’s own.

 The saying, which must not be taken apart from the context, was
 employed by Luther in a letter to Melanchthon, on August 1, 1521.[585]
 The writer, who was then at the Wartburg, was engaged in a “heated
 struggle”[586] on the question of the Church, and on religious vows,
 for the setting aside of which he was seeking a ground. At the
 Wartburg he was, on his own confession, a prey to “temptations and
 sins,”[587] though in this he only saw the proof that his Evangel
 would triumph over the devil. The letter is the product of a state
 of mind, restless, gloomy and exalted, and culminates in a prophetic
 utterance concerning God’s approaching visitation of Germany on
 account of its persecution of the Evangel.

 The passage which at present interests us, taken together with the
 context, runs thus:

 “If you are a preacher of grace, then preach a real, not a fictitious
 grace; if your grace is real, then let your sin also be real and
 not fictitious. God does not save those who merely fancy themselves
 sinners. Be a sinner and sin boldly, but believe more boldly still
 (‘_esto peccator et pecca fortiter, sed fortius fide_’); and rejoice
 in Christ, Who is the conqueror of sin, death and the world; we must
 sin as long as we are what we are. This life is not the abode of
 justice, but we look for a new heaven and a new earth wherein dwelleth
 righteousness, as Peter says. It suffices that by the riches of the
 glory of God we have come to know the Lamb, Who taketh away the sin of
 the world; sin shall not drag us away from Him, even should we commit
 fornication or murder thousands and thousands of times a day. Do you
 think that the price and the ransom paid for our sins by this sublime
 Lamb is so insignificant? Pray boldly, for you are in truth a very
 bold sinner.”

 This is language of the most extravagant paradox. What it really
 means is very objectionable. Melanchthon is to pray very fervently
 with the hope of obtaining the Divine assistance against sin, but at
 the same time he is to sin boldly. This language of the Wartburg is
 not unlike that in which Luther wrote, from the Castle of Coburg,
 to his pupil, Hieronymus Weller, when the latter was tempted to
 despair, to encourage him against the fear of sin (above, p. 175 f.);
 that letter too was written in anguish of spirit and in a state of
 excitement similar to what he had experienced in the Wartburg. We
 might, it is true, admit that, in these words Luther gave the rein
 to his well-known inclination to put things in the strongest light,
 a tendency to be noticed in some of his other statements quoted
 above. On the other hand, however, the close connection between the
 compromising words and his whole system of sin and grace, can scarcely
 be denied; we have here something more than a figure of rhetoric.
 Luther’s endeavour was to reassure, once and for all, Melanchthon,
 who was so prone to anxiety. The latter shrank from many of the
 consequences of Luther’s doctrines, and at that time was possibly also
 a prey to apprehension concerning the forgiveness of his own sins.
 Hence the writer of the letter seeks to convince him that the strength
 of the fiducial faith preached by himself, Luther, was so great, that
 no sense of sin need trouble a man. To have “real, not fictitious,
 sin” to him, means as much as: Be bold enough to look upon yourself as
 a great sinner; “Be a sinner,” means: Do not be afraid of appearing
 to be a sinner in your own sight; Melanchthon is to be a bold sinner
 in his own eyes in order that he may be the more ready to ascribe all
 that is good to the grace which works all. Thus far there is nothing
 which goes beyond Luther’s teaching elsewhere.

 The passage is, however, more than a mere paradoxical way of
 expressing the doctrine dear to him.

 Luther, here and throughout the letter, does not say what he ought
 necessarily to have said to one weighed down by the consciousness of
 sin; of remorse and compunction we hear nothing whatever, nor does
 he give due weight and importance to the consciousness of guilt; he
 misrepresents grace, making it appear as a mere outward, magical
 charm, by which—according to an expression which cannot but offend
 every religious mind—a man is justified even though he be a murderer
 and a libertine a thousand times over. Luther’s own words here are
 perhaps the best refutation of the Lutheran doctrine of Justification,
 for he speaks of sin, even of the worst, in a way that well lays bare
 the weaknesses of the system of fiducial faith.

 It is unfortunate that Luther should have impressed such a stigma upon
 his principal doctrine, both in his earliest statements of it, for
 instance, in his letter to George Spenlein in 1516, and, again, in
 one of his last epistles to a friend, also tormented by scruples of
 conscience, viz. George Spalatin.[588]

In the above-mentioned letter to Melanchthon, in which Luther expresses
his contempt for sin by the words “_Pecca fortiter_,” he is not only
encouraging his friend with regard to possible sins of the past, but
is also thinking of temptations in the future. His advice is: Sin
boldly and fearlessly—whereas what one would have expected would have
been: Should you fall, don’t despair. The underlying idea is: No sin is
so detestable as to affright the believer, which is further explained
by the wanton phrase: “even should we commit fornication or murder
thousands and thousands of times a day.”

However much stress we may be disposed to lay on Luther’s warnings
against sin, and whatever allowance we may make for his rhetoric, still
the “_Pecca fortiter_” stands out as the result of his revolt against
the traditional view of sin and grace, with which his own doctrine of
Justification refused to be reconciled. These inauspicious words are
the culmination of Luther’s practical ideas on religion, borne witness
to by so many of his statements, which, at the cost of morality, give
the reins to human freedom and to disorder. Such was the state of mind
induced in him by the spirits of the Wartburg, such the enthusiasm
which followed his “spiritual baptism” on his “Patmos,” that isle of
sublime revelations.

Such is the defiance involved in the famous saying that an impartial
critic, Johann Adam Möhler, in his “Symbolism” says: “Although too much
stress must not be laid on the passage, seeing how overwrought and
excited the author was, yet it is characteristic enough and important
from the point of view of the history of dogma.”[589] G. Barge, in his
Life of Carlstadt, says, that Luther in his letter to Melanchthon had
reduced “his doctrine of Justification by faith alone to the baldest
possible formula.”[590] “If Catholic research continues to make this
[the ‘_Pecca fortiter_’] its point of attack, we must honestly admit
that there is reason in its choice.”

 The last words are from Walter Köhler, now at the University of
 Zürich, a Protestant theologian and historian, who has severely
 criticised all Luther’s opinions on sin and grace.[591]

 One of the weak points of Luther’s theology lies, according
 to Köhler,[592] in the “clumsiness of his doctrine of sin and
 salvation.” “How, in view of the total corruption of man” (through
 original sin, absence of free will and loss of all power), can
 redemption be possible at all unless by some mechanical and
 supernatural means? Luther says: “By faith alone.” But his “faith is
 something miraculous, in which psychology has no part whatever; the
 corruption is mechanical and so is the act of grace which removes
 it.” In Luther’s doctrine of sin, as Köhler remarks, the will, the
 instrument by which the process of redemption should be effected,
 becomes a steed “ridden either by God or by the devil. If the Almighty
 is the horseman, He throws Satan out of the saddle, and _vice
 versa_; the steed, however, remains entirely helpless and unable to
 rid himself of his rider. In such a system Christ, the Redeemer,
 must appear as a sort of ‘_deus ex machina_,’ who at one blow sets
 everything right.” It would not be so bad, were at least “the Almighty
 to overthrow Satan. But He remains ever seated in heaven, i.e. Luther
 never forgets to impress on man again and again that he cannot get out
 of sin: ‘The Saints remain always sinners at heart.’”

 Although, proceeds Köhler, better thoughts, yea, even inspiring ones,
 are to be found in Luther’s writings, yet the peculiar doctrines just
 spoken of were certainly his own, at utter variance though they be
 with our way of looking at the process of individual salvation, viz.
 from the psychological point of view, and of emphasising the personal
 will to be saved. “In spite of Luther’s plain and truly evangelical
 intention of attributing to God alone all the honour of the work of
 salvation,” he was never able “clearly to comprehend the personal,
 ethico-religious value of faith”; “on the contrary, he makes man to
 be shifted hither and thither, by the hand of God, like a mere pawn,
 and in a fashion entirely fatalistic”; “when Christ enters, then,
 according to him, all is well; I am no longer a sinner, I am set
 free” (“_iam ego peccatum non habeo et sum liber_”)[593];—“but where
 does the ethical impulse come in?” Seeing that sin is merely covered
 over, and, as a matter of fact, still remains, man must, according
 to Luther, “set to work to conquer it without, however, ever being
 entirely successful in this task, or rather he must strengthen his
 assurance of salvation, viz. his faith. Such is Luther’s ethics.” The
 critic rightly points out, that this “system of ethics is essentially
 negative,” viz. merely directs man how “not to fall” from the
 “pedestal” on which he is set up together with Christ. Man, by faith,
 is raised so high, that, as Luther says, “nothing can prejudice his
 salvation”;[594] “Christian freedom means ... that we stand in no need
 of any works in order to attain to piety and salvation.”[595]

3. Luther’s Admissions Concerning His own Practice of Virtue

St. Paul, the far-seeing Apostle of the Gentiles, says of the ethical
effects of the Gospel and of faith: “Those who are Christ’s have
crucified their flesh with the lusts thereof. If we live in the Spirit
let us also walk in the Spirit.” He instances as the fruits of the
Spirit: “Patience, longanimity, goodness, benignity, mildness, faith,
modesty, continency, chastity” (Gal. v. 22 ff.). Amongst the qualities
which must adorn a teacher and guide of the faithful he instances
to Timothy the following: “It behoveth him to be blameless, sober,
prudent, of good behaviour, chaste, no striker, not quarrelsome; he
must have a good testimony of them that are without, holding the
mystery of the faith in a pure conscience” (1 Tim. iii. 2 ff.). Finally
he sums up all in the exhortation: “Be thou an example to the faithful
in word, in conversation, in charity, in faith, in chastity” (_ibid._,
iv. 12).

It seems not unjust to expect of Luther that his standard of life
should be all the higher, since, in opposition to all the teachers of
his day and of bygone ages, and whilst professing to preach nought
but the doctrine of Christ, he had set up a new system, not merely of
faith, but also of morals. At the very least the power of his Evangel
should have manifested itself in his own person in an exceptional

How far was this the case? What was the opinion of his contemporaries
and what was his own?

Catholics were naturally ever disposed to judge Luther’s conduct from a
standpoint different from that of Luther’s own followers. A Catholic,
devoted to his Church, regarded as his greatest blemish the conceit of
the heresiarch and devastator of the fold; to him it seemed intolerable
that a disobedient and rebellious son of the Church should display
such pride as to set himself above her and the belief of antiquity and
should attack her so hatefully. As for his morality, his sacrilegious
marriage with a virgin dedicated to God, his incessant attacks upon
celibacy and religious vows, and his seducing of countless souls to
break their most sacred promises, were naturally sufficient to debase
him in the eyes of most Catholics.

There were, however, certain questions which both Catholics and
Lutherans could ask and answer impartially: Did Luther possess in any
eminent degree the fiducial faith which he represented as so essential?
Did this faith produce in him those fruits he extols as its spontaneous
result, above all a glad heart at peace with God and man? Further: How
far did he himself come up even to that comparatively low standard to
which, theoretically, he reduced Christian perfection?

If we seek from Luther’s own lips an estimate of his virtues, we shall
hear from him many frank statements on the subject.

The first place belongs to what he says of his faith and personal
assurance of salvation.

Of faith, he wrote to Melanchthon, who was tormented with doubts
and uncertainty: “To you and to us all may God give an increase of
faith.... If we have no faith in us, why not at least comfort ourselves
with the faith that is in others? For there must needs be others who
believe instead of us, otherwise there would be no Church left in the
world, and Christ would have ceased to be with us till the end of time.
If He is not with us, where then is He in the world?”[596]

He complains so frequently of the weakness of his own faith that we
are vividly reminded how greatly he himself stood in need of the
“consolation” of dwelling on the faith that was in others. He never,
it is true, attributes to himself actual unbelief, or a wilful abandon
of trust in the promises of Christ, yet he does speak in strangely
forcible terms—and with no mere assumed humility or modesty—of the
weakness of this faith and of the inconstancy of his trust.

 Of the devil, who unsettles him, he says: “Often I am shaken, but
 not always.”[597] To the devil it was given to play the part of
 torturer. “I prefer the tormentor of the body to the torturer of the
 soul.”[598]—“Alas, the Apostles believed, of this there can be no
 doubt; I can’t believe, and yet I preach faith to others. I know that
 it is true, yet believe it I cannot.”[599] “I know Jonas, and if he
 [like Christ] were to ascend to heaven and disappear out of our sight,
 what should I then think? And when Peter said: ‘In the name of Jesus,
 arise’ [Acts iii. 6], what a marvel that was! I don’t understand it
 and I can’t believe it; and yet all the Apostles believed.”[600]

 “I have been preaching for these twenty years, and read and written,
 so that I ought to see my way ... and yet I cannot grasp the fact,
 that I must rely on grace alone; and still, otherwise it cannot
 be, for the mercy-seat alone must count and remain since God has
 established it; short of this no man can reach God. Hence it is no
 wonder that others find it so hard to accept faith in its purity,
 more particularly when these devil-preachers [the Papists] add to the
 difficulty by such texts as: ‘Do this and thou shalt live,’ item ‘Wilt
 thou enter into life, keep the commandments’ (Luke x. 28; Matthew xix.

 He is unable to find within him that faith which, according to his
 system, ought to exist, and, in many passages, he even insists on
 its difficulty in a very curious manner. “Ah, dear child, if only
 one could believe firmly,” he said to his little daughter, who “was
 speaking of Christ with joyful confidence”; and, in answer to the
 question, “whether then he did not believe,” he replied by praising
 the innocence and strong faith of children, whose example Christ bids
 us follow.[602]

 In the notes among which these words are preserved there follows a
 collection of similar statements belonging to various periods: “This
 argument, ‘The just shall live in his faith’ (Hab. ii. 4), the devil
 is unable to explain away. But the point is, who is able to lay hold
 on it?”[603]—“I, alas, cannot believe as firmly as I can preach,
 speak and write, and as others fancy I am able to believe.”[604]—When
 the Apostle of the Gentiles speaks of dying daily (1 Cor. xv. 31),
 this means, so Luther thinks, that he had doubts about his own
 teaching. In the same way Christ withdraws Himself from him, Luther,
 “so that at times I say: Truly I know not where I stand, or whether I
 am preaching aright or not.”[605] “I used to believe all that the Pope
 and the monks said, but now I am unable to believe what Christ says,
 Who cannot lie. This is an annoying business, but we shall keep it for
 that [the Last] Day.”[606]

 “Conscience’s greatest consolation,” he also says, according to the
 same notes, “is simply the Lord Christ,” and he proceeds to describe
 in detail this consolation in language of much power, agreeably with
 his doctrine of Justification. He, however, concludes: “But I cannot
 grasp this consoling doctrine, I can neither learn it nor bear it in

 “I am very wretched owing to the weakness of my faith; hardly can I
 find any comfort in the death and resurrection of Christ, or in the
 article of the forgiveness of sins.... I cannot succeed in laying hold
 on the essential treasure, viz. the free forgiveness of sins.”[608]

 “It is a difficult matter to spring straight from my sins to
 the righteousness of Christ, and to be as certain that Christ’s
 righteousness is mine as I am that my own body is mine.... I am
 astonished that I cannot learn this doctrine.”[609]

 In a passage already quoted Luther rightly described the task he
 assigned to grace and faith as something “which affrights a man,” for
 which reason it is “hard for him to believe”; he himself had often, so
 to speak, to fight his way out of hell, “but it costs much before one
 obtains consolation.”

 Such statements we can well understand if we put ourselves in his
 place. The effects he ascribed to fiducial faith were so difficult
 of attainment and so opposed to man’s natural disposition, that
 never-ending uncertainty was the result, both in his own case
 and in that of many others. Moreover, he, or rather his peculiar
 interpretation of Holy Scripture, was the only guarantee of his
 doctrine, whereas the Catholic Church took her stand upon the broad
 and firm basis of a settled, traditional interpretation, and traced
 back her teaching to an authority instituted by God and equipped
 with infallibility. In his “temptations of faith,” Luther clung to
 the most varied arguments, dwelling at one time on the fact of his
 election, at another on the depravity of his opponents, now on the
 malice of the devil sent to oppose him, now on the supposed advantages
 of his doctrine, as for instance, that it gave all the honour to God
 alone and made an end of everything human, even of free will: “Should
 Satan take advantage of this and ally himself with the flesh and with
 reason, then conscience becomes affrighted and despairs, unless you
 resolutely enter into yourself and say: Even should Cyprian, Ambrose,
 Augustine, St. Peter, Paul, John, nay, an angel from heaven, teach
 otherwise, yet I know for a certainty that what I teach is not human
 but divine, i.e. that I ascribe all to God and nothing to man.”[610]

 “I do not understand it, I am unable to believe ... I cannot believe
 and yet I teach others. I know that it is right and yet believe it
 I cannot. Sometimes I think: You teach the truth, for you have the
 office and vocation, you are of assistance to many and glorify Christ;
 for we do not preach Aristotle or Cæsar, but Jesus Christ. But when I
 consider my weakness, how I eat and drink and am considered a merry
 fellow, then I begin to doubt. Alas, if one could only believe!”[611]

 “Heretics believe themselves to be holy. I find not a scrap of
 holiness in myself, but only great weakness. As soon as I am assailed
 by temptation I understand the Spirit, but nevertheless the flesh
 resists. [That is] idolatry against the first table [of the law].
 Gladly would I be formally just, but I am not conscious of being so.”

 And Pomeranus replied: “Neither am I conscious of it, Herr

Before passing on to some of Luther’s statements concerning the
consonance of his life with faith, we may remark that there is no lack
of creditable passages in his writings on the conforming of ethics
to faith. Although here our task is not to depict in its entirety
the morality of Luther and his doctrine, but merely to furnish an
historical answer to the question whether there existed in him elements
which rendered his claim to a higher mission incredible, still we must
not forget his many praiseworthy exhortations to virtue, intended,
moreover, not merely for others, but also for himself.

That the devil must be resisted and that his tricks and temptations
lead to what is evil, has been insisted upon by few preachers so
frequently as by Luther, who in almost every address, every chapter of
his works, and every letter treats of the sinister power of the devil.
Another favourite, more positive theme of his discourses, whether to
the members of his household or to the larger circle of the public, was
the domestic virtues and the cheerful carrying out of the duties of
one’s calling. He was also fond, in the sermons he was so indefatigable
in preaching, of bringing home to those oppressed with the burden of
life’s troubles the consolation of certain evangelical truths, and of
breaking the bread of the Word to the little ones and the unlearned.
With the utmost earnestness he sought to awaken trust in God,
resignation to His Providence, hope in His Mercy and Bounty and the
confession of our own weakness. One idea on which he was particularly
fond of lingering, was, that we must pray because we depend entirely
upon God, and that we must put aside all confidence in ourselves in
order that we may be filled with His Grace.

Unfortunately such thoughts too often brought him back to his own pet
views of man’s passivity and absence of free will and the all-effecting
power of God. “The game is always won,” he cries, “and if it is
won there is no longer any pain or trouble more; there is no need
to struggle and fight, for all has already been accomplished.”[613]
“Christ, the Conqueror, has done all, so that there is nothing left
for us to do, to root out sin, to slay the devil or to overcome death;
they all have been trampled to the ground.... The doing was not,
however, our work.”[614]—“The Christian’s work is to sleep and do
nothing”; thus does he sum up in one of his sermons the exhortations
he had previously given to rest altogether on the merits of Christ;
even should a man “fall into sin and be up to the neck in it, let him
remember that Christ is no taker, but a most gracious giver”; this is
“a very sweet and cheering doctrine; others, it is true, teach that
you must do so much for sin, must live in this or that way, since God
must be paid to the last farthing before you can appear before Him.
Such people make of God a torturer and taskmaster.”[615] After having
recommended prayer he inveighs against what he calls its abuse: “They
say: I will pray until God gives me His Grace; but nothing comes of
it, because God says to them: You cannot and never will be able to
do anything; but I shall do everything.” “Everything through Christ:
through works, nothing whatever.”[616]

       *       *       *       *       *

Luther has some remarkable admissions to make, particularly in his
private utterances, concerning the manner in which he himself and his
chosen circle lived their faith.

 “I cannot express in words what great pains I took in the Papacy to
 be righteous. Now, however, I have ceased entirely to be careful,
 because I have come to the insight and belief that another has become
 righteous before God in my stead.”[617]

 “My doctrine stands whatever [my] life may be.”[618]

 “Let us stick to the true Word that the seat of Moses may be ours.
 Even should our manner of life not be altogether polished and perfect,
 yet God is merciful; the laity, however, hate us.”[619]

 “Neither would it be a good thing were we to do all that God commands,
 for in that case He would be cheated of His Godhead, and the Our
 Father, faith, the article of the forgiveness of sins, etc., would all
 go to ruin. God would be made a liar. He would no longer be the one
 and only truth, and every man would not be a liar [as Scripture says].
 Should any man say: ‘If this is so, God will be but little served on
 earth’ [I reply]: He is accustomed to that; He wills to be, and is, a
 God of great mercy.”[620]

 “I want to hand over a downright sinner to the Judgment Seat of our
 Lord God; for though I myself may not have actually been guilty of
 adultery, still that has not been for lack of good-will.”[621]—The
 latter phrase was a saying of the populace, and does not in the least
 mean that he ever really had the intention of committing the sin.

 “I confess of myself,” he says in a sermon in 1532, “and doubtless
 others must admit the same [of themselves], that I lack the diligence
 and earnestness of which really I ought to have much more than
 formerly; that I am much more careless than I was under the Papacy;
 and that now, under the Evangel, there is nowhere the same zeal to
 be found as before.” This he declares to be due to the devil and to
 people’s carelessness, but not to his teaching.[622]

On other occasions he admits of his party as a whole, more particularly
of its leaders, viz. the theologians and Princes, that they fell more
or less short of what was required for a Christian life; among them he
expressly includes himself: “It is certain with regard to ourselves and
our Princes that we are not clean and holy, and the Princes have vices
of their own. But Christ loves a frank and downright confession.”[623]

Among such “confessions” made by Luther we find some concerning prayer.

 Comparing the present with the past he says: “People are now so cold
 and pray so seldom”; this he seeks to explain by urging that formerly
 people were more “tormented by the devil.”[624] A better explanation
 is that which he gave in his Commentary on Galatians: “For the more
 confident we are of the freedom Christ has won for us, the colder and
 lazier we are in teaching the Word, praying, doing good and enduring

 We possess some very remarkable and even spirited exhortations to
 prayer from Luther’s pen; on occasion he would also raise his own
 voice in prayer to implore God’s assistance with feeling, fervour and
 the greatest confidence, particularly when in anxiety and trouble
 about his undertaking. (See vol. iv., xxv. 3.) He refers frequently
 to his daily prayer, though he admits that the heretics, i.e. the
 Anabaptists, also were in the habit of praying—in their own way. His
 excessive labours and the turmoil of his life’s struggle left him,
 however, little time and quiet for prayer, particularly for interior
 prayer. Besides, he considered the canonical hours of the Catholics
 mere “bawling,” and the liturgical devices for raising the heart
 mere imposture. During the latter years he spent in the cloister
 outside cares left him no leisure for the prayers which he was, as a
 religious, bound to recite. Finally, towards the end of his life, he
 often enough admits that his prayers were cold.[626] Frequently he was
 obliged to stimulate his ardour for prayer as well as work by “anger
 and zeal”;[627] “for no man can say,” as he puts it, “how hard a thing
 it is to pray from the heart.”[628]

 Even in the early part of his career he had deliberately and on
 principle excluded one important sort of prayer, viz. prayer for help
 in such interior trials as temptations against the celibacy enjoined
 by the religious state, which he came to persuade himself was an
 impossibility and contrary to the Will of God. Then, if ever, did he
 stand in need of the weapon of prayer, but we read nowhere in his
 letters, written in that gloomy period, of his imploring God humbly
 for light and strength. On the contrary, he writes, in 1521: “What if
 this prayer is not according to God’s Will, or if He does not choose
 to grant it when it is addressed to Him?”[629] He ironically attacks
 those who rightly said that “we must implore in all things the grace
 of God, that He denies it to none,” and, that, with God’s grace, it
 was possible to keep the vows. He replies to “these simple people and
 those who care nothing for souls”: “Excellent! Why did you not advise
 St. Peter to ask God that he might not be bound by Herod?” “That,”
 he says, “is to make a mockery of serious matters” (“_est modus
 ludendi_”)[630]—a censure which might very well have been flung back
 at such a teacher of prayer.

 Seventeen years later he gave the following advice on prayer: “We must
 not curse, that is true, but pray we must that God’s name be hallowed
 and honoured, and the Pope’s execrated and cursed together with his
 god, the devil; that God’s Kingdom come, and that End-Christ’s kingdom
 perish. Such a ‘paternosteral’ curse may well be breathed, and so
 should every Christian pray.”[631] That the Pope be “cursed, damned,
 dishonoured and destroyed, etc.,” such was his “daily, never-ending,
 heartfelt prayer, as it was of all those who believe in Christ,” so
 he assures us, “and I feel that my prayer is heard.”[632] His opinion
 is that it is impossible to pray for anything without “cursing,” i.e.
 excluding the opposite. “Someone asked Dr. Martin Luther whether
 he who prayed thus must curse. ‘Yes,’ he replied, ‘for when I pray
 “Hallowed be Thy Name,” I curse Erasmus and all heretics who dishonour
 and blaspheme God.’”[633] His anger against the devil often broke
 out in his prayers. “Though I cannot read or write,” he writes to
 Melanchthon from the Coburg, “I can still think, and pray, and rage
 (‘_debacchari_’) against the devil.”[634]

 He ought to “offer incense to God,” he complains on one occasion in
 1538 in his “Table-Talk,” but, instead, he brings Him “stinking pitch
 and devil’s ordure by his murmuring and impatience.” “It is thus
 that I frequently worship my God.... Had we not the article of the
 forgiveness of sins, which God has firmly promised, our case would
 indeed be bad.”[635] Again and again does he cast his anchor on this
 article when threatened by the storms.

His private, non-polemical religious exercises seem to have been
exceedingly brief: “I have to do violence to myself daily in order
to pray, and I am satisfied to repeat, when I go to bed, the Ten
Commandments, the Our Father and then a verse or two; while thinking
these over I fall asleep.”[636] Unusual, and at the same time peculiar,
were the prayers which we hear of his offering with the intention of
doing some wholesome ill to his neighbour, or even of bringing about
the latter’s death in the interests of the Evangel. In a sermon on July
23, 1531, after reprimanding certain Wittenberg brewers, who, in the
hope of adding to their profits, were accustomed to adulterate their
beer, he says: “Unless you mend your ways, we shall pray that your
malt may turn to muck and sewage. Don’t forget that.”[637]

       *       *       *       *       *

The Christian’s life of faith ought not merely to be penetrated with
the spirit of prayer but, in spite of all crosses and the temptations
from earthy things, to move along the safe path of peace and joy of
heart. Luther must have found much concerning “peace and joy in the
Holy Ghost” in his favourite Epistle to the Romans. He himself says:
“A Christian must be a joyful man.... Christ says, ‘Peace be with you;
let not your heart be troubled: have confidence, I have overcome the
world.’ It is the will of God that you be joyful.”

 Of himself, however, he is forced to add: “I preach and write this,
 but I have not yet acquired the art when tempted the other way. This
 is in order that we may be instructed,” so he reassures himself. “Were
 we always at peace, the devil would get the better of us.... The fact
 is we are not equal to the holy Fathers in the matter of faith. The
 further we fall short of them [this is another of his consolations],
 the greater is the victory Christ will win; for in the struggle with
 the devil we are the meanest, most stupid of foes, and he has a great
 advantage over us.... Our Lord has determined to bring about the end
 [the impending end of all] amidst universal foolishness.”[638] Thus,
 according to him, the victory of Christ would be exalted all the more
 by the absence of peace and joy amongst His followers.

What do we see of pious effort on his part, more particularly in the
matter of preparation for the sacraments, and repressing of self?

The spiritual life was to him a passive compliance with the faith
which God Himself was to awaken and preserve in the heart.

 For “this is how it takes place,” he says, in a carefully considered
 instruction, “God’s Word comes to me without any co-operation on my
 part. I may, it is true, do this much, go and hear it, read it, or
 preach it, so that it may sink into my heart. And this is the real
 preparation which lies not in man’s powers and ability, but in the
 power of God. Hence there is no better preparation on our part for
 all the sacraments than to suffer God to work in us. This is a brief
 account of the preparation.”[639]

 Yet he himself perceived the peril of teaching that “those people were
 fit to receive the sacrament whose hearts had been touched by the Word
 of God so that they believed, and that whoever did not feel himself
 thus moved should remain away.” He says: “I remark in many, myself
 included, how the evil spirit, by insisting too much upon the right
 side, makes people lazy and slow to receive the sacrament, and that
 they refuse to come unless they feel assured that their faith has been
 enkindled. This also is dangerous.”

 Nevertheless he will have no “self-preparation”; such preparation, “by
 means of one’s own works,” appeared to him Popish; it was loathsome to
 God, and the doctrine of “faith alone” should be retained, even though
 “reason be unable to understand it.”[640] Hence it is not surprising
 that he declared it to be a dreadful “error and abuse” that we should
 venture to prepare ourselves for the sacrament by our own efforts, as
 those do who strive to make themselves worthy to receive the sacrament
 by confession and other works.[641]

 He storms at those priests who require contrition from the sinner who
 makes his confession; his opinion is that they are mad, and that,
 instead of the keys, they were better able to wield pitchforks.[642]
 Even “were Christ Himself to come and speak to you as He did to
 Moses and say, ‘What hast thou done?’ kill Him on the spot.”[643]
 “Contrition only gives rise to despair, and insults God more than it
 appeases Him.”[644] Such language may be explained by the fact, that,
 in his theory, contrition is merely consternation and terror at God’s
 wrath produced by the accusations of the law; the troubled soul ought
 really to take refuge behind the Gospel.—How entirely different had
 been the preparation recommended by the Church in previous ages for
 the reception of the sacraments! She indeed enjoined contrition, but
 as an interior act issuing in love and leading to the cleansing of
 the soul. According to Luther, however, excessive purity of soul
 was not advisable, and only led to presumption. “The devil is a holy
 fellow,” he had said, “and has no need of Christ and His Grace”;
 “Christ dwells only in sinners.”

 On the other hand, in many fine passages, he recommends self-denial
 and mortification as a check upon concupiscence. He even uses the
 word “_mortificare_,” and insists that, till our last breath, we
 must not cease to dread the “_fomes_” of the flesh and dishonourable
 temptations. He alone walks safely, so he repeatedly affirms,
 who keeps his passions under the dominion of the Spirit, suffers
 injustice, resists the attacks of pride, and at the same time holds
 his body in honour as the chaste temple of God by denying it much that
 its evil lusts desire.

 Luther himself, however, does not seem to have been overmuch given
 to mortification, whether of the senses or of the inner man. He was
 less notable for his earnest efforts to restrain the passions than for
 that “openness to all the world had to offer,” and that “readiness
 to taste to the full the joy of living,” which his followers admire.
 Not only was he averse to penitential exercises, but he even refused
 to regulate his diet: “I eat just what I like and bear the pains
 afterwards as best I can.” “To live by the doctor’s rule is to live
 wretchedly.” “I cannot comply with the precautions necessary to ensure
 health; later on, remedies may do what they can.”[645] “I don’t
 consult the doctors, for I don’t mean to embitter the one year of life
 which they allow me, and I prefer to eat and drink in God’s name what
 I fancy.”[646] With his reference to his “tippling” and the “Good
 drink” we shall deal at greater length below, in section 5.

The aim of Luther’s ethics, as is plain from the above, did not rise
above the level of mediocrity. His practice, to judge from what has
been already said, involved the renunciation of any effort after the
attainment of eminent virtue. It may, however, be questioned whether he
was really true even to the low standard he set himself.

There is a certain downward tendency in the system of mediocrity which
drags one ever lower. Such a system carries with it the rejection
of all effort to become ever more and more pleasing to God, such as
religion must necessarily foster if it is to realise its vocation,
and to which those countless souls who were capable of higher things
have, under the influence of Divine grace, ever owed their progress.
The indispensable and noblest dowry of true piety is the moulding
of spiritual heroes, of men capable of overcoming the world and all
material things. Thousands of less highly endowed souls, under the
impulse from above, hasten to follow them, seeking the glory of God,
and comfort amidst the troubles of life, in religion and the zealous
practice of virtue. Mighty indeed, when transformed by them into
glowing deeds, were the watch words of the Church’s Saints: “I was
born for higher things,” “All for the greater glory of God,” “Conquer
thyself,” “Suffer and fight with courage and confidence.”

On the other hand, the system of mediocrity, organised yielding to
weakness, and the setting up of the lowest possible ethical standard,
could not be expected to furnish Luther and his disciples with any very
high religious motive. Even in the ordinary domain of Christian life
Luther’s too easy and over-confident doctrine of the appropriation
of the satisfaction made by Christ, sounds very different from our
Saviour’s exhortations: “Do penance, for the kingdom of heaven is at
hand”; “Whoever will come after Me, let him deny himself”; “Whoever
does not take up his cross and follow Me cannot be My disciple”;
or from those of St. Paul who said of himself, that the world was
crucified to him and he to the world; or from those of St. Peter:
“Seeing that Christ suffered in the flesh, arm yourselves with the like
mind.” “Do penance and be converted, that your sins may be blotted
out.” What Scripture requires of the faithful is not blind, mechanical
confidence in the merits of Christ as a cloak for our sins, but “fruits
worthy of penance.” In the long list of Luther’s works we seek in vain
for a commentary which brings these solemn statements on penance before
the mind of the reader with the emphasis hitherto habitual. Even were
such a commentary forthcoming, the living commentary of his own life,
which is the seal of the preacher’s words, would still be wanting.

On another point, viz. zeal for the souls of others, we see no less
clearly how far Luther was removed from the ideal. True zeal for souls
embraces all without exception, more particularly those who have gone
astray and who must be brought to see the light and to be saved.
Luther, on the other hand, again and again restricts most curiously the
circle to whom his Evangel is to be preached; the wide outlook of the
great preachers of the faith in the Church of olden days was not his.

 “Three classes do not belong to the Evangel at all,” he had said, “and
 to them we do not preach.... Away with the dissolute swine.” The three
 classes thus stigmatised were, first the “rude hearts,” who “will
 not accept the Evangel nor observe its behests”; secondly, “coarse
 knaves steeped in great vices,” who would not allow themselves to be
 bitten by the Evangel; thirdly, “the worst of all, who, beyond this,
 even dare to persecute the Evangel.” The Evangel is, as a matter of
 fact, intended only for “simple souls ... and to none other have we
 preached.”[647] This explains why Luther long cherished the idea of
 forming a kind of esoteric Church, or community consisting simply
 of religiously disposed faithful; unfortunately “he did not find
 such people,”[648] for most were content to neglect both Church and

 The older Church had exhorted all who held a cure of souls to be
 zealous in seeking out such as had become careless or hostile. When,
 however, someone asked Luther, in 1540, how to behave towards those
 who had never been inside a church for about twenty years, he replied:
 “Let them go to the devil, and, when they die, pitch them on the

 The zeal for souls displayed by Luther was zeal for his own peculiar
 undertaking, viz. for the Evangel which he preached. Zeal for the
 general spread of the kingdom of God amongst the faithful, and
 amongst those still sunk in unbelief, was with him a very secondary

 In reality his zeal was almost exclusively directed against the Papacy.

The idea of a universal Church, which just then was inspiring Catholics
to undertake the enormous missionary task of converting the newly
discovered continents, stood, in Luther’s case, very much in the

Though, in part, this may be explained by his struggle for the
introduction of the innovations into those portions of Germany nearest
to him, yet the real reason was his surrender of the old ecclesiastical
ideal, his transformation of the Church into an invisible kingdom
of souls devoted to the Evangel, and his destruction of the older
conception of Christendom with its two hinges, viz. the Papacy
established for the spiritual and the Empire for the temporal welfare
of the family of nations. He saw little beyond Saxony, the land
favoured by the preaching of the new Gospel, and Germany, to which he
had been sent as a “prophet.” The Middle Ages, though so poor in means
of communication and geographical knowledge, compared with that age of
discovery, was, thanks to its great Catholic, i.e. world-embracing
ideas, inspired with an enthusiasm for the kingdom of God which found
no place in the ideals of Lutheranism. We may compare, for instance,
the heroic efforts of those earlier days to stem the incursions of the
Eastern infidel with the opinion expressed by the Wittenberg professor
on the war against the Crescent, where he declared the resistance
offered in the name of Christendom to the Turks to be “contrary to the
will of the Holy Ghost,” an opinion which he continued to hold, in
spite of, or perhaps rather because of, its condemnation by the Pope
(p. 76 ff., and p. 92). We may contrast the eloquent appeals of the
preachers of the Crusades—inspired by the danger which threatened from
the East—for the delivery of the Holy Land and the Holy Sepulchre,
with Luther’s statement quoted above, that God troubled as little
about the Tomb at Jerusalem as He did about the Swiss cows (p. 168).
In Luther’s thoughts the boundaries of the Christian world have
suddenly become much less extensive than in the Middle Ages, whilst
ecclesiastical interests, thanks to the new territorial rights of the
Princes, tend to be limited by the frontiers of the petty States.[649]

The stormy nature of the work on which his energies were spent could
not fail to impress on his personal character a stamp of its own. In
considering Luther’s ethical peculiarities, we are not at liberty to
pass over in silence the feverish unrest—so characteristic of him and
so unlike the calm and joyous determination evinced by true messengers
sent by God—the blind and raging vehemence, which not only suited the
violence of his natural disposition, but which he constantly fostered
by his actions. “The Lord is not in the storm”; these words, found in
the history of the Prophet Elias, do not seem to have been Luther’s
subject of meditation. He himself, characteristically enough, speaks
of his life-work as one long “tally-ho.” He was never content save
when worrying others or being worried himself; he always required
some object which he could pull to pieces, whereas true men of God are
accustomed to proceed quietly, according to a fixed plan, and in the
light of some great supernatural principle. With Luther excitement,
confusion and war were a second nature. “The anger and rage of my
enemies is my joy and delight, in spite of all their attempts to take
it from me and defraud me of it.... To hell-fire with such flowers and
fruits, for that is where they belong!”[650]

       *       *       *       *       *

If, after listening to utterances such as the above, we proceed
to visit Luther in his domestic circle—as we shall in the next
section—we may well be surprised at the totally different impression
given by the man. In the midst of his own people Luther appears in a
much more peaceable guise.

He sought to fulfil his various duties as father of the family, towards
his children, the servants and the numerous guests who lived in or
frequented his house, whether relatives or others, so far as his
occupations permitted. He was affable in his intercourse with them,
sympathetic, benevolent and kind-hearted towards those who required his
help, and easily satisfied with his material circumstances. All these
and many other redeeming points in his character will be treated of
more in detail later. It is true that the ceaseless labours to which he
gave himself up caused him to overlook many abuses at his home which
were apparent to others.

 The unrest, noise and bustle which reigned in Luther’s house, were,
 at a later date, objected to by many outsiders. George Held wrote
 in 1542 to George of Anhalt, who had thought of taking up his
 abode with Luther, to dissuade him from doing so: “Luther’s house
 is tenanted by a miscellaneous crowd (‘_miscellanea et promiscua
 turba_’) of students, girls, widows, old women and beardless boys,
 hence great unrest prevails there; many good men are distressed at
 this on account of the Reverend Father [Luther]. Were all animated by
 Luther’s spirit, then his house would prove a comfortable and pleasant
 abode for you for a few days, and you would have an opportunity of
 enjoying his familiar discourses, but, seeing how his house is at
 present conducted, I would not advise you to take up your quarters

 Many of Luther’s friends and acquaintances were also dissatisfied
 with Catherine Bora, because of a certain sway she seemed to exercise
 over Luther, even outside the family circle, in matters both great
 and small. In a passage which was not made public until 1907 we
 find Johann Agricola congratulating himself, in 1544, on Luther’s
 favourable disposition towards him: “Domina Ketha, the arbitress of
 Heaven and Earth, who rules her husband as she pleases, has, for
 once, put in a good word on my behalf.”[652] The assertion of Caspar
 Cruciger, a friend of the family, where he speaks of Catherine as the
 “firebrand in the house,” and also the report given to the Elector
 by the Chancellor Brück, who accuses her of a domineering spirit,
 were already known before.[653] Luther’s own admissions, to which we
 shall return later, plainly show that there was some truth in these
 complaints. The latest Protestant to write the life of Catherine
 Bora, after pointing out that she was vivacious, garrulous and full
 of hatred for her husband’s enemies, says: “The influence of such
 a temperament, united with such strength of character, could not
 fail to be evil rather than good, and for this both wife and husband
 suffered.... We cannot but allow that Katey at times exerted a
 powerful influence over Luther.” Particularly in moving him in the
 direction in which he was already leaning, “her power over him was

 Luther’s son Hans was long a trial to the family, and his father
 occasionally vents his ire on the youth for his disobedience and
 laziness. He finally sent him to Torgau, where he might be more
 carefully trained and have his behaviour corrected. Hans seems to have
 been spoilt by his mother. Later on she spoke of him as untalented,
 and as a “silly fellow,” who would be laughed at were he to enter the
 Chancery of the Elector.[655] A niece, Magdalene Kaufmann, whom Luther
 brought up in his house together with two other young relatives,[656]
 was courted by Veit Dietrich, one of Luther’s pupils, who also
 boarded with him. This was, however, discountenanced by the master
 of the house, who declared that the wench “was not yet sufficiently
 educated.” Luther was annoyed at her want of obedience and ended by
 telling her that, should she not prove more tractable, he would marry
 her to a “grimy charcoal-burner.” His opposition to the match with
 Dietrich brought about strained relations between himself and one who
 had hitherto been entirely devoted to him. Dietrich eventually found
 another partner and was congratulated by Luther. Magdalene, with
 Luther’s consent, married, first, Ambrose Berndt, an official of the
 University, and, after his death in 1541, accepted the proposal of
 Reuchlin, a young physician only twenty years of age, whom she married
 in spite of Luther’s displeasure. With her restlessness she had
 sorely troubled the peace of the household.[657]

 Other complaints were due to the behaviour of Hans Polner, the son
 of Luther’s sister, who was studying theology, but who nevertheless
 frequently returned home the worse for drink and was given to
 breaking out into acts of violence.[658] Another nephew, Fabian
 Kaufmann, seems to have been the culprit who caused Luther to grumble
 that someone in his own house had been secretly betrothed at the
 very time when, in his bitter controversy with the lawyers, he was
 denouncing such “clandestine marriages” as invalid.[659] Finally,
 one of the servant-girls, named Rosina, gave great scandal by her
 conduct, concerning which Luther has some strong things to say in his

 The quondam Augustinian priory at Wittenberg, which has often been
 praised as the ideal of a Protestant parsonage, fell considerably
 short, in point of fact, even of Luther’s own standard. There lacked
 the supervision demanded by the freedom accorded to the numerous
 inmates, whether relatives or boarders, of the famous “Black

4. The Table-Talk and the First Notes of the same

At the social gatherings of his friends and pupils, Luther was fond
of giving himself up unrestrainedly to mirth and jollity. His genius,
loquacity and good-humour made him a “merry boon companion,” whose
society was much appreciated. Often, it is true, he was very quiet and
thoughtful. His guests little guessed, nay, perhaps he himself was not
fully aware, how often his cheerfulness and lively sallies were due
to the desire to repress thereby the sad and anxious thoughts which
troubled him.

Liveliness and versatility, imagination and inventiveness, a good
memory and a facile tongue were some of the gifts with which nature
had endowed him. To these already excellent qualities must be added
that depth of feeling which frequently finds expression in utterances
of surprising beauty interspersed among his more profane sayings.
Unfortunately, owing to his incessant conflicts and to the trivialities
to which his pen and tongue were so prone, this better side of his
character did not emerge as fully as it deserved.

In order to become better acquainted with the conditions amid which
Luther lived at Wittenberg, we must betake ourselves to a room in the
former Augustinian convent, where we shall find him seated, after
the evening meal, amidst friends such as Melanchthon, Bugenhagen
and Jonas, surrounded by eager students—for the most part boarders
in his house, the former “Black monastery”—and strangers who had
travelled to the little University town attracted by the fame of the
Evangel. There it is that he imparts his views and relates his interior
experiences in all confidence. He was perfectly aware that what he said
was being noted down, and sometimes suggested that one saying or the
other should be carefully committed to writing.[661] The older group
of friends (1529-1535), to whom we owe relations of the Table-Talk,
comprised Conrad Cordatus, Veit Dietrich, Johann Schlaginhaufen,
Anton Lauterbach, Hieronymus Weller and Anton Corvinus; such of these
as remained with him from 1536 to 1539 form the middle group; the
last (1540-1546) was chiefly made up of Johann Mathesius, Caspar
Heydenreich, Hieronymus Besold, Master Plato, Johann Stoltz and Johann
Aurifaber. Apart from these there were a few who came into close,
personal contact with Luther, for instance, George Rörer, who assisted
him in translating the Bible and who is one of Aurifaber’s authorities
for the Table-Talk.[662]

In his twelfth Sermon on the “Historien von des ehrwürdigen ...
Manns Gottes Martini Lutheri,” etc., Mathesius was later on to write
that he had enjoyed at his table “many good colloquies and chats”
and had tasted “much excellent stuff in the shape of writings and
counsels.”[663] Luther himself refers incidentally to these social
evenings in his famous saying, that, while he “drank Wittenberg beer
with his friends Philip and Amsdorf,” God, by his means, had weakened
the Papacy and brought it nigh to destruction.[664] The wine was
drunk—at least on solemn occasions—from the famous bowl known as
the “Catechismusglas,” on which were painted in sections, placed one
below the other and separated by three ridges, various portions of
Christian doctrine: at the top the Ten Commandments, in the middle the
Creed and Our Father, and at the bottom the whole Catechism (probably
the superscriptions and numbers of the questions in the Catechism). We
read in the Table-Talk, that, on one occasion, Johann Agricola could
get only as far as the Ten Commandments at one draught, whereas Luther
was able to empty the bowl right off down to the very dregs, i.e.
“Catechism and all.”[665]

For Luther’s sayings given in what follows we have made use of the
so-called original versions of the Table-Talk recently edited by
various Protestant scholars, viz. the Diaries of Lauterbach and
Cordatus, the notes of Schlaginhaufen and the Collections made by
Mathesius and found in the “Aufzeichnungen” edited by Loesche and in
the “Tischreden (Mathesius)” published more recently still by Kroker,
the Leipzig librarian.[666]

The objection has frequently been raised that the Table-Talk ought
not to be made use of as a reliable source of information for the
delineation of Luther’s person. It is, however, remarkable that the
chapters which are favourable to Luther are referred to and exploited
in Protestant histories, only that which is disagreeable being usually
excluded as historically inaccurate. The fact is that we have merely
to comply conscientiously with the rules of historical criticism when
utilising the information contained in the Table-Talk, which, owing
to its fulness and variety, never fails to rivet attention. These
rules suggest that we should give the preference to those statements
which recur frequently under a similar form; that we should not take
mere questions, put forward by Luther simply to invite discussion
and correction, as conveying his real thought; that we consult the
original notes, if possible those made at the time of the conversation,
and that, where there is a discrepancy between the accounts (a rare
occurrence), we should prefer those which date from before the time
when Luther’s pupils arranged and classified his sayings according to
subjects. The chronological arrangement of Luther’s sayings has thereby
suffered, and here and there the text has been altered. For this reason
the Latin tradition, as we have it, for instance, from Lauterbach’s
pen,[667] ranks before the German version, which is of slightly later
date. Kroker’s new edition, when complete, promises to be the best.

If the rules of historical criticism are followed in this and other
points there is no reason why the historian should not thankfully avail
himself of this great fount of information, which the first collectors
themselves extolled as the most valuable authority on the spirit of
their master “of pious and holy memory,”[668] and as likely to prove
both instructive and edifying to a later generation. The doubt as to
the reliability of the notes has been well answered by Kroker: “Such
distrust, so far as the original documents are concerned, can now
no longer stand. In his rendering of Luther’s words Mathesius, and
likewise Heydenreich, Besold and Weller, whose notes his Collection
also embodies, does not differ substantially from the older table
companions, Dietrich, Schlaginhaufen and Lauterbach. All these men did
their utmost to render Luther’s sayings faithfully and to the best of
their knowledge and ability.”[669]

The spontaneous character of the Table-Talk gives it a peculiar value
of its own. “These [conversations] are children of the passing moment,
reliable witnesses to the prevailing mood” (Adolf Hausrath). In
intercourse with intimates our ideas and feelings express themselves
much more spontaneously and naturally than where the pen of the
letter-writer is being guided by reflection, and seeks to make a
certain impression on the mind of his reader. But if even letters are
no faithful index to our thought, how much less so are prints, intended
for the perusal of thousands and even to outlive the writer’s age? On
the other hand, it is true that the deliberation which accompanies the
use of the pen, imparts, in a certain sense, to the written word a
higher value than is possessed by the spoken word. We should, however,
expect to find in a man occupying such a position as Luther’s a
standard sufficiently high to ensure the presence of deliberation and
judgment even in ordinary conversation.

Among the valuable statements made by Luther, which on account of their
very nature were unsuited for public utterance but have been faithfully
transmitted in the Table-Talk, we have, for instance, certain
criticisms of friends and even patrons in high places. Such reflections
could not well be uttered save in the privacy of his domestic circle,
but, for this very reason, they may well be prized by the historian.
Then we have his candid admissions concerning himself, for instance,
that his fear lest the Landgrave of Hesse should fall away from the
cause of the Evangel constituted one of the motives which led him to
sanction this Prince’s bigamy. Then, again, there is the account of
his mental trouble, due to certain external events, of the influence
of biblical passages, old memories, etc. Finally, we have his strange
counsels concerning resistance to temptation, his own example held
up as a consolation to the faint-hearted, to those who wavered in the
faith or were inclined to despair; his excuse for a “good drink,” his
curious recipe for counteracting the evil done by witches at home, and
many other statements of an intimate nature which were quite unsuitable
for public writings or even for letters. All this, and much more,
offers the unprejudiced observer an opportunity for knowing Luther
better. It is true that all is not the Word of God; this Luther himself
states in a passage which has been wrongly brought forward in excuse of
the Table-Talk: “I must admit that I say many things which are not the
Word of God, when speaking outside my office of preacher, at home at
meals, or elsewhere and at other times.”[670]

The value of the Table-Talk (always assuming the use of the oldest
and authentic version) is enhanced if we take into consideration the
attitude assumed with regard to it by learned Protestant writers of
earlier times. As an instance of a certain type we may take Walch,
the scholarly editor of the important Jena edition of Luther’s works
prized even to-day.[671] He was much annoyed at the publication of
the Table-Talk, just because it furnished abundant material for a
delineation of Luther, i.e. for that very reason for which it is
esteemed by the modern historian. It was unjust, he says, and “quite
wrong to reveal what ought to have been buried in silence, to say
nothing of the opportunity thus afforded the Papists for abuse and
calumny of Luther’s person and life.” At most—he continues in a
tone in which no present-day historian would dare to speak—mere
“selections” from the Table-Talk “which could give no offence” ought to
have been published, but thus to bring everything ruthlessly to light
was a “perversion of the human will.” Fortunately, however, it was not
possible even so to prove much against Luther, for, “though the sayings
emanated from him originally,[672] still, they remained mere sayings,
spoken without deliberation and written down without his knowledge or

When he made this last statement Walch was not aware that Luther’s
utterances were committed to writing in his presence and with his
full “consent and knowledge” even, for instance, when spoken in the
garden. “Strange as it may appear to us, these men were usually busy
recording Luther’s casual words, just as though they were seated in a
lecture-hall.”[674] Once, in 1540, Catherine Bora said jestingly to
Luther, when they were at table with several industrious students:
“Doctor, don’t teach them without being paid; they have already written
down quite a lot; Lauterbach, however, has written the most and all
that is best.” To which the Doctor replied; “I have taught and preached
gratis for thirty years, why then should I now begin to take money for
it in my old age?”[675]

The style of the original notes of the Table-Talk in many instances
shows plainly that they were made while the conversation was actually
in progress; even the frequent defects in the construction of the
original notes, which have now been published, prove this.[676]

In 1844 E. Förstemann in his edition of the Table-Talk, as against
Walch, had expressed himself strongly in favour of its correctness; he
even went so far as to remark, with all the prejudice of an editor for
his own work, that these conversations constituted the most important
part of Luther’s spiritual legacy, and that here “the current of his
thoughts flows even more limpidly than elsewhere.”[677] Walter Köhler
likewise, speaking of the Table-Talk edited by Kroker, considers it a
“reliable source.”[678]

Of Johann Aurifaber, who was the first to publish the Table-Talk in
German, at Eisleben in 1566, and through whose edition it was most
widely known, F. X. Funk said in 1882: “As his devotion to Luther led
him to make public all the words and sayings which had come to his
knowledge, the book, in spite of its defective plan, is important for
the history of the Reformer and his time. Its value has always been
admitted, though from different standpoints; of this its numerous
editions are a proof.”[679] The defect in the arrangement consists in
the classifying of the sayings handed down according to the different
subjects, whereby they lose their historical setting. The large, new
edition of the Table-Talk now planned, will necessarily abandon this
confusing arrangement. It has been proved, however, that Aurifaber had
a reliable version to work on. “He most probably took for the basis of
his edition Lauterbach’s preliminary work,”[680] says Kawerau. This
collection of Lauterbach’s has been incorporated, for the most part,
in the Halle MS. edited by Bindseil under the title “_Colloquia_,”
etc.[681] In addition to this, Aurifaber made use of the notes by
Cordatus, Schlaginhaufen, Veit Dietrich, Mathesius and others. Kawerau
draws attention to the fact, that the coarseness to be found in the
German edition is not solely due to the compiler, as some of Luther’s
apologists had urged, but really belongs to the original texts. Gross
sayings of the sort not only gave no offence to Aurifaber, but he
delights to repeat them at great length. Yet in certain instances he
appears to have watered down and modified his text, as one investigator
has proved by a comparison with the notes of Cordatus.[682]

_The Pith of the New Religion. Doubts on Faith._

We shall begin by giving some practical theological examples out of the
Table-Talk which may serve further to elucidate certain of Luther’s
ideas already referred to, e.g. those concerning temptations and
their remedy, particularly that most serious temptation of all, viz.
regarding the saving power of fiducial faith, which, so Luther thinks,
comes through our “weakness.” To this, the tender spot and at the same
time cardinal point of his teaching and practical morality, Luther
returns again and again, with a frankness for which indeed we may be
grateful. Owing to the nature of the conversations and to his habitual
loquacity it may happen that some of the trains of thought and modes of
expression resemble those already quoted elsewhere; this, however, is
no reason for neglecting them, for they testify anew to the ideas of
which his mind was full, and also to the state of habitual depression
in which he lived.

 “Early this morning the devil held a disputation with me on Zwingli,
 and I learned that a full head is better able to wrangle with the
 devil than an empty one.... Hence,” he says, “eat and drink and live
 well, for bodies tempted in this way must have plenty of food and
 drink; but lewdsters, and those tempted by sensual passion, ought to

 “For those who are tempted fasting is a hundred times worse than
 eating and drinking.”[684]

 “When a man is tempted, or is in the company of those who are tempted,
 let him put to death Moses [i.e. the Law] and cast stones at him; but,
 when he recovers, the Law must be preached to him also; a man who is
 troubled must not have new trouble heaped upon him.”[685]

 “In the monastery the words ‘just and justice’ fell like a thunderbolt
 upon my conscience. I was terrified when I heard it said: ‘He is
 just, and He will punish.’”[686] [But now I know]: “Our justice is
 a relative justice [a foreign righteousness]. Though I am not good,
 yet Christ is good.”[687] “Hence I say to the devil: I, indeed, am a
 sinner, but Christ is righteous.”[688]

 Many admissions reveal his altered feelings, the inconstancy and
 sudden changes to which he was so prone.

 “I do not always take pleasure in the Word. Were I always so disposed
 towards the Word of God as I was formerly, then I should indeed be
 happy. Even dear St. Paul had to complain in this regard, for he
 bewails another law which wars in his members. But is the Word to be
 considered false because it does not happen to suit me?”[689]

 “Unless we wrap ourselves round with this God, Who has become both Man
 and Word, Satan will surely devour us.” “Hence the aim of the Prophets
 and the Apostles, viz. to make us hold fast to the Word.” “It costs
 God Almighty much to manifest His power and mercy even to a few. He
 must slay many kings before a few men learn to fear Him, and He must
 save many a rascal and many a prostitute before even a handful of
 sinners learn to believe in Him.”[690]

 “So soon as I say: ‘Yes, indeed, I am a poor sinner,’ Christ replies,
 ‘But I died for you, I baptised you and I teach you daily.’ ... Ever
 bear this in mind, that it is not Christ Who affrights you, but Satan;
 believe this as though God Himself were speaking.”[691]

 “Is it not a curse that we should magnify our sins so greatly? Why do
 we not exalt our baptism just as we exalt our inheritance? A princely
 baby remains a prince even though he should s—— in his cradle. A
 child does not cease being heir to his father’s property for having
 soiled his father’s habiliments. If only we could see our way to make
 much of our inheritance and patrimony before God!... Yet children
 call God quite simply their Father.”[692]

 “You are not the only man to be tempted; I also am tempted and have
 bigger sins piled on my conscience than you and your fathers. I would
 rather I had been a procurer or highwayman than that I should have
 offered up Christ in the Mass for so long a time.”[693]

The last words may serve as an introduction to a remarkable series of
statements concerning the religious practices of the ancient Church.
As these words show, he does not shrink from dishonouring by the most
unworthy comparisons even those acts and doctrines which, by reason of
their religious value, were dear to the whole Church of antiquity and
had been regarded by some of the purest and most exalted souls as their
only consolation in this life.

 Elsewhere he says of the sacrifice of the Mass: “The blind priestlings
 run to the altar like pigs to the trough”; this, “the shame of our
 scarlet woman of Babylon, must be exposed.” “I maintain that all
 public houses of ill-fame, strictly forbidden by God though they be,
 yea, manslaughter, thieving, murder and adultery, are not so wicked
 and pernicious as this abomination of the Popish Mass.”[694]

 He says of the Catholic preacher: “Where the undefiled Evangel is not
 preached, the whoremonger is far less a sinner than the preacher, and
 the brothel less wicked than the church; that the procurer should
 daily make prostitutes of virgins, honest wives and cloistered nuns,
 is indeed frightful to hear of; still, his case is not so bad as that
 of the Popish preacher.”[695]

 The Church’s exhortation to make use of fasting as a remedy in the
 struggle against sin—in which counsel she had the support both of
 Holy Scripture and of immemorial experience—was thus described by
 Luther: “No eating or drinking, gluttony or drunkenness can be so bad
 as fasting; indeed, it would be better to swill day and night rather
 than to fast for such a purpose,” so “ludicrous and shameful in God’s
 sight” was such fasting.[696]

 “Confession” (as made by Catholics), Luther asserted in 1538, “is
 less to be condoned than any infamy.” “The devil assails Christians
 with pressing temptations, most of all on account of their

 The life of the Saints in the Catholic Church, he says elsewhere,
 consisted in “their having prayed much, fasted, laboured, taken the
 discipline, slept on hard pallets and worn poor clothing, a kind of
 holiness which any dog or pig might practise any day.”[698]

 He voices his abhorrence of the monastic life in figures such as the
 following: “Discalced Friars are lice placed by the devil on God
 Almighty’s fur coat, and Friars-preacher are the fleas of His shirt.”
 “I believe the Franciscans to be possessed of the devil, body and
 soul,”[699] and, reverting once again to his favourite image, he adds
 elsewhere: “Neither the dens of evil women nor any secret sins are
 so pernicious as those rules and vows which the devil himself has

We have to proceed to the uninviting task of collecting other sayings
of Luther’s, particularly from the Table-Talk, which are characteristic
of his more than plain manner of speaking, and to pass in review the
somewhat peculiar views held by him on matters sexual. As it is to be
feared that the delicacy of some of our readers will be offended, we
may point out that those who wish are at liberty to skip the pages
which follow and to continue from Section 7 of the present chapter
which forms the natural sequence of what has gone before. Certainly
no one would have had just cause for complaint had one of the guests
at Luther’s table chosen to take leave when the conversation began
to turn on matters distasteful to him. The historian, however, is
obliged to remain. True to his task he may not close his ears to what
is said, however unpleasant the task of listener. He must bear in mind
that Cordatus, one of Luther’s guests, in the Diary he wrote praises
Luther’s Table-Talk as “more precious than the oracles of Apollo.”
This praise Cordatus bestows not only on the “serious theological
discourses,” but also expressly on those sayings which were apparently
merely frivolous.[701] Another pupil, Mathesius, who was also
frequently present, assures us he never heard an improper word from
Luther’s lips.[702] This he writes in spite of the fact, that one of
the first anecdotes he relates, embellished with a Latin verse from
Philo, contains an unseemly jest,[703] and that he himself immediately
after tells how Luther on one occasion told the people from the pulpit
that: “Ein weiter Leib und zeitiger Mist ist gut zu scheiden”; he even
mentions that Luther was carried away to express himself yet more
plainly concerning the ventral functions, till he suddenly reined in
and corrected himself. The truth is that Mathesius was an infatuated
admirer of Luther’s.

As a matter of fact, terms descriptive of the lower functions of the
body again and again serve Luther not only to express his anger and
contempt, but as comparisons illustrative of his ideas, whether on
indifferent matters or on the highest and most sacred topics. It is
true that what he said was improper rather than obscene, coarse rather
than lascivious. Nor, owing to the rough and uncouth character of the
age and the plainness of speech then habitual, were his expressions,
taken as a whole, so offensive to his contemporaries as to us. Yet,
that Luther should have cultivated this particular sort of language so
as to outstrip in it all his literary contemporaries, scarcely redounds
to his credit. His readers and hearers of that day frequently expressed
their disgust, and at times his language was so strong that even
Catherine Bora was forced to cry halt.

As a matter of course the devil came in for the largest share of this
kind of vituperation, more particularly that devil who was filling
Luther with anxiety and trouble of mind. The Pope and his Catholic
opponents came a good second. Luther was, however, fond of spicing in
the same way even his utterances on purely worldly matters.

 “When we perceive the devil tempting us,” he says, “we can easily
 overcome him by putting his pride to shame and saying to him: ‘Leck
 mich im Arss,’ or ‘Scheiss in die Bruch und hengs an den Halss.’”[704]
 This counsel he actually put in practice: “On May 7, 1532, the devil
 was tormenting me in the afternoon, and thoughts troubled me, such as
 that a thunderbolt might kill me, so I replied to him: ‘Leck mich im
 Arss, I am going to sleep, not to hold a disputation.’”[705] When the
 devil would not cease urging his sins against him he had a drastic
 method of effectually disposing of his importunity.[706]

 He relates in the Table-Talk, in 1536, the “artifice” by which the
 parish-priest of Wittenberg, his friend Johann Bugenhagen (Pomeranus),
 had put the devil to flight. It was a question of the milk which the
 devil had bewitched by means of sorceresses or witches. Luther says:
 “Dr. Pommer’s plan was the best, viz. to plague them [the witches]
 with filth and stir it into the milk so that everything stank. For
 when his [Pommer’s] cows also lost their milk, he promptly took a
 vessel filled with milk, relieved himself in it, poured out the
 contents and said: ‘There, devil, eat that.’ After that he was no
 longer deprived of the milk.”[707] Before this his wife and the maids
 had worried themselves to death trying “to get the butter to come”—as
 we read in another account of this occurrence in a version of the
 Table-Talk which is more accurately dated—but all to no purpose.
 “Then Pommer came up, mocked at the devil and eased himself in the
 churn. Thereupon Satan ceased his tricks, for he is proud and cannot
 bear to be laughed at.”[708]

 Less formal, according to him, was the action of another individual,
 who had put Satan to flight by a “_crepitus ventris_.”[709]

 Still, all temptations of the devil are profitable to us, so Luther
 says, for, if we were always at peace, the devil himself “would treat
 us ignominiously,”[710] for he is full of nothing but deception and
 filthiness. Luther, like many of his contemporaries and later writers,
 was well acquainted with the devil’s private life, and convinced
 that “devil’s prostitutes: ‘_cum quibus Sathan coiret_’” actually

 As the filthy details of the expulsion of the devil from the churn
 are omitted in Lauterbach’s Diary, certain defenders of Luther
 think they are warranted in drawing from this particular passage
 the conclusion that the Table-Talk had been polluted by “unseemly”
 additions in Aurifaber’s and other later versions (above, p. 224
 f.) which “must not be laid to the charge of the Reformer.” “Not
 Luther in his domestic circle, but the compilers and collectors of
 the much-discussed Table-Talk, Aurifaber in particular, were rude,
 obscene and vulgar.” The publication of the original documents, for
 instance, by Kroker in 1903, has, however, shown the first version of
 the Table-Talk to be even more intolerably coarse, and confirmed the
 substantial accuracy of the text of the older German Table-Talk at
 present under discussion.[712] Preger, the editor of Schlaginhaufen’s
 notes, rightly repudiated such evasions even in 1888, together with
 the alleged proofs urged by apologists. “We want to see Luther,” he
 says, “under the actual conditions in which he moved, and in all his
 own native rudeness.”[713] Kroker also pointed out that even the first
 writers of the Table-Talk made use of certain signs in their notes
 (e.g. × or |) in lieu of certain words employed by Luther which they
 felt scrupulous about writing.[714]

 “The entire lack of restraint with which Luther expresses himself,” a
 Protestant writer says of the Table-Talk edited by Kroker, “makes a
 remarkable impression on the reader of to-day, more particularly when
 we consider that his wife and children were among the audience....
 In the Table-Talk we meet with numerous statements, some of them
 far-fetched, which are really coarse.... Although we can explain
 Luther’s love of obscenities, still, this does not hinder us from
 deploring his use of such and placing it to his discredit. It is
 true,” the same writer proceeds, “that Luther is never lascivious or
 merely frivolous.”[715] As regards the latter assertion the texts to
 be adduced will afford a better opportunity of judging. That at any
 rate in the instances already mentioned Luther did not intentionally
 wish to excite his hearers’ passions is clear, and the fact has been
 admitted even by Catholic polemics who have really read his writings
 and Table-Talk.[716]

       *       *       *       *       *

An alarming number of dirty expressions concerning the Pope and
Catholicism occur in the Table-Talk.

 “Were the Pope to cite me to appear before him,” Luther says, “I
 should not go. I should s—— upon the summons because he is hostile
 to me; but were I summoned by a Council, then I should go.”[717]

Elsewhere, however, he says of the Council: “I should like, during my
lifetime, to see a Council deal with the matter, for they would give
one another a fine pummelling, and us a splendid reason for writing
against them.”[718]

What was the origin of the Pope’s authority? “I see plainly
whence the Pope came; he is the vomit of the lazy, idle Lords
and Princes.”[719]—“Then the Pope burst upon the world with his
pestilential traditions and bound men by his carnal ordinances, his
rules and Masses, to his filthy, rotten law.”[720]

Such unseemly expressions occur at times in conjunction with thoughts
intended to be sublime. “I hold that God has just as much to do in
bringing things back to nothingness as He has in creating them. This
he [Luther] said, referring to human excrement. He also said: I am
astounded that the dung-hill of the world has not reached the very
sky.”[721]—“He took his baby into his arms and perceived that it was
soiling its diaper. His remark was that the small folk by messing
themselves and by their howling and screaming earn their food and drink
just as much as we deserve heaven by our good works.”[722] He even
brings the holy name of God into conjunction with one such customary
vulgar expression. “I too have laid down rules and sought to be master,
Aber der frum Gott hat mich in sein Arss fahren lassen und meyn
Meystern ist nichts worden.”[723]

“There are many students here, but I do not believe there is one who
would allow himself to be anointed [by the Papists], or open his mouth
for the Pope to fill it with his filth; unless, perhaps, Mathesius or
Master Plato.”[724]

In his strange explanation of how far God is or is not the author of
evil, he says: Semei wished to curse and God merely directed his curse
against David (2 Kings xvi. 10). “God says: ‘Curse him and no one
else.’ Just as if a man wishes to relieve himself I cannot prevent him,
but should he wish to do so on the table here, then I should object and
tell him to betake himself to the corner.”[725]

“The Pope is a cuckoo who gobbles the eggs of his Church and vomits the

It is not surprising that in Luther’s conversations on non-theological,
i.e. on secular subjects, similar and even more offensive expressions

He thinks that we “feed on the bowels of the peasants,” for they “expel
the stones” which produce the trees which produce the fruit on which we
feed.[727]—He has a joke at the expense of an unlearned man who had
mistaken the Latin equivalent of the German word “Kunst” for a common
German term: “Wenn man eynem auff die Kunst küsset so bescheist er

Speaking of women who had the impertinence to wish for a share in the
government, he says: “The ‘Furtzlecher’ want to rule and we suffer for
it; they really should be making cheese and milking the cows.”[729]
Elsewhere he says to the preachers: “We never seek to please anybody
nor to make our mouth the ‘Arschloch’ of another.”[730]

“Those who now grudge the preachers of the Word their bread will
persecute us until we end by disgracing ourselves. Then ... ‘_adorabunt
nostra stercora_.’” By a natural transition of ideas he goes on to
say: “They will be glad to get rid of us, and we shall be glad to
be out of them. We are as ready to part as ‘ein reiffer Dreck und
ein weit Arssloch.’”[731]—“Rather than let them have such a work [a
conciliatory writing requested by the inhabitants of Augsburg] I would
‘in einen Becher scheissen und bissen,’ that they might have whereof to
eat and drink.”[732]

“The lawyers scream [when we appropriate Church property]: ‘_Sunt bona
ecclesiae!_’ ... Yes [I say], but where are we to get our bread? ‘We
leave you to see to that,’ they say. Yes, the devil may thank them for
that. We theologians have no worse enemies than the lawyers.... We here
condemn all jurists, even the pious ones, for they do not know what
‘_ecclesia_’ means.... If a jurist wishes to dispute with you about
this, say to him: ‘Listen, my good fellow, on this subject no lawyer
should speak till he hears a sow s——, then he must say: ‘Thank you,
Granny dear, it is long since I listened to a sermon.’”[733]

After the above there is no need of giving further instances of the
kind of language with which opponents within his fold had to put
up from Luther. It will suffice to mention the poem “_De merda_”
with which he retaliated on the satirist Lemnius for some filthy
verses,[734] and the following prediction to his Zwickau opponents:
“When trouble befalls them, whenever it may be, they will ‘in die Hosen
scheissen und ein solchen Gestanck anrichten’ that nobody will be able
to tarry in their neighbourhood.”[735]

It is also difficult for us to tarry any longer over these texts,
especially as in what follows we shall meet with others of a similar

       *       *       *       *       *

Not to do injustice to the general character of Luther’s Table-Talk,
we must again lay stress on the fact, that very many of his evening
conversations are of irreproachable propriety. We may peruse many
pages of the notes without meeting anything in the least offensive,
but much that is both fine and attractive. Events of the day, history,
nature, politics or the Bible, form in turn the subject-matter of the
Table-Talk, and much of what was said was true, witty and not seldom
quite edifying.

Still, the fact remains that filthy talking and vulgarity came so
natural to Luther as to constitute a questionable side to his character.

Even when writing seriously, and in works intended for the general
public, he seems unable to bridle his pen.

 In the book “Wider das Bapstum zu Rom vom Teuffel gestifft,” he
 introduces, for instance, the following dialogue: “We have enacted
 in our Decretals [say the Papists] that only the Pope shall summon
 Councils and appoint to benefices. [Luther]: My friend, is that really
 true? Who commanded you to decree this? [Answer]: Be silent, you
 heretic, what proceeds from our mouth must be hearkened to. [Luther]:
 So you say; but which mouth do you mean? Da die Förze ausfahren? To
 such an opinion you are welcome. Or that into which good Corso [wine]
 is poured? Da scheiss ein Hund ein! [Answer]: Out upon you, you
 shameless Luther, is it thus you talk to the Pope? [Luther]: Out upon
 you rather, you rude asses and blasphemous desperadoes, to address the
 Emperor and the Empire in such a manner! How can you venture to insult
 and slight four such great Councils and the four greatest Christian
 Emperors ‘umb euer Förze und Drecketal [_sic_] willen?’ What reason
 have you to think yourselves anything but big, rude, senseless fools
 and donkeys?”[737]

 Before this he says in the same work, in personal abuse of Pope Paul
 III.: “Dear donkey, don’t lick! Oh, dear little Pope-ass, were you to
 fall and some filth escape you, how all the world would mock at you
 and say: Lo, how the Pope-ass has disgraced itself!... Oh, fiendish
 Father, do not be unmindful of your great danger.”[738]

 “Dr. Luther is a rough sort of fellow; were he to hear that, he would
 rush in booted and spurred like a countryman and say: The Pope had
 been thrust into the Church by all the devils from hell.”[739] “‘As
 much as the sun is greater than the moon, so does the Pope excel the
 Emperor.’ ... Hearken, reader; if you forget yourself and your nether
 garments have to be fumigated with incense and juniper, from such a
 reeking sin the Most Holy Father would never absolve you.”[740]

 “‘Whatsoever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven.’ ‘Whatsoever’
 means [according to the Catholics] all that there is on earth,
 churches, bishops, emperors, kings and possibly ‘alle Förze aller Esel
 und sein eigen Förze auch.’ Ah, dear brother in Christ, put it down
 to my credit when I speak here and elsewhere so rudely of the cursed,
 noxious, ungainly monster at Rome. Whoever knows my mind must admit
 that I am far, far too lenient, and that no words or thoughts of mine
 could repay his shameful and desperate abuse of the Word and Name of
 Christ, our beloved Lord and Saviour.”[741]

 “I must cease,” Luther says elsewhere in his “Wider das Bapstum,”
 after speaking of a Decretal, “I cannot bear to wallow any longer in
 this blasphemous, hellish, devils’ filth and stench; let someone else
 read it. Whoever wants to listen to God’s Word, let him read Holy
 Writ; whoever prefers to listen to the devil’s word, let him read the
 Pope’s Drecket [_sic_] and Bulls,” etc.[742]

We must here consider more closely the statement, already alluded
to, made by some of Luther’s apologists. To remove the unfavourable
impression left on the mind of present-day readers by his unbridled
language an attempt has been made to represent it as having been quite
the usual thing in Luther’s day.

It is true that, saving some expressions peculiar to the Saxon peasant,
such obscenity is to be met with among the neo-Humanist writers of that
age, both in Germany and abroad. Even Catholic preachers in Germany,
following the manners of the time, show but scant consideration for the
delicacy of their hearers when speaking of sexual matters or of the
inferior functions of the human body. It is quite impossible to set up
a definite standard of what is becoming, which shall apply equally to
every age and every state of civilisation. But if Luther’s defenders
desire to exonerate him by comparing him with others, it is clear that
they are not justified in adducing examples taken from burlesque,
popular writers, light literature, or even from certain writings of
the Humanists. The filth contained in these works had been denounced
by many a better author even in that age. Luther, as already explained
(vol. ii., p. 150 f.), must not be judged by a profane standard, but
by that which befits a writer on religion and the spiritual life, a
reformer and founder of a new religion. The fact remains that it is
impossible to instance any popular religious writer who ever went so
far as, or even approached, Luther in his lack of restraint in this
particular. Luther, in the matter of licentiousness of language, stands
out as a giant apart. The passages to be quoted later on marriage and
the sexual question will make this still more apparent.

His own contemporaries declared aloud that he stood quite alone in
the matter of coarseness and in his incessant use of vituperation;
Catholics, such as Dungersheim, and opponents of the Catholic Church
like Bullinger, testify alike in the strongest terms to the impression
made upon them. Some of their numerous statements will be quoted below.
We may, however, remark that the severest strictures of all came from
Sir Thomas More, who, for all his kindliness of disposition, condemned
most indignantly the filthy language of the assailant of King Henry
VIII. of England. The untranslatable passage may be read in its Latin
original in the note below.[743] Caspar Schatzgeyer, another learned
opponent of Luther’s, and likewise a man of mild temper, also rebuked
Luther with great vehemence for the ignoble and coarse tone he was
wont to employ against theological adversaries; he plainly hints that
no one within living memory had brought into the literary arena such
an arsenal of obscene language. Luther behaved “like a conqueror,
assured by the spirit that he was able to walk upon the sea.” Spirits
must, however, be tried. “The triumphal car of the victor can only be
awarded to Luther and his followers if it be admitted that to triumph
is synonymous with befouling the face and garments of all foes with
vituperative filth (‘_conviciorum stercora_’), so that they are forced
to save themselves by flight from the intolerable stench and dirt.
Never in any literary struggle has such an array of weapons of that
sort been seen.” One could well understand how such a man inspired fear
amongst all who valued the cleanliness of their garments. Well might he
be left to triumph with his assertion, which his adversaries would be
the last to gainsay, “that everything which is not Gospel, must make
room for the Gospel.”[744]

Some have gone so far as to say, that the tone of the popular religious
writers of the period, from 1450-1550, was frequently so vulgar that
there is little to choose between them and Luther. This is an unfair
and unhistorical aspersion on a sort of literature then much read and
which, though now little known, is slowly coming to its due owing
to research. We may call to mind the long list of those in whose
writings Luther could have found not merely models of decency and good
taste—which might well have shamed him—but also much else worthy of
imitation; for instance, Thomas à Kempis, Jacob Wimpfeling, Johann
Mensing, Johann Hoffmeister, Michael Vehe, Johann Wild, Matthias
Sittard, Caspar Schatzgeyer, Hieronymus Dungersheim, Ulrich Krafft,
Johannes Fabri, Marcus de Weida, Johann Staupitz, and lastly Peter
Canisius, who also belonged practically to this period. Many other
popular religious authors might be enumerated, but it is impossible to
instance a single one among them who would have descended to the level
of the language employed by Luther.

Moreover, those secular writers of that day whose offensive crudities
have been cited in excuse of Luther, all differed from him in one
particular, viz. they did not employ these as he did, or at least
not to the same extent, as controversial weapons. It is one thing
to collect dirty stories and to dwell on them at inordinate length
in order to pander to the depraved taste of the mob; it is quite
another to pelt an enemy with filthy abuse. Hate and fury only make a
vulgar tone more repulsive. There are phrases used by Luther against
theological adversaries which no benevolent interpretation avails to
excuse. Such was his rude answer to the request of the Augsburgers
(above, p. 233), or, again, “I would rather advise you to drink
Malvasian wine and to believe in Christ alone, and leave the monk (who
through being a monk has denied Christ) to swill water or ‘seinen
eigenen Urin.’”[745]

It may occur to one to plead in justification the language of the
peasants of that day, and it must be conceded, that, even now, in
certain districts the countryman’s talk is such as can only be
appreciated in the country. The author of a book, “Wie das Volk
spricht” (1855), who made a study of the people in certain regions not
particularly remarkable for culture or refinement, says quite rightly
in his Preface, that his examples are often quite unsuited “for the
ears of ladies, and those of a timorous disposition”; “the common
people don’t wear kid gloves.” This writer was dealing with the present
day, yet one might ask what indulgence an author would find were he to
draw his language from such a source, particularly did he happen to
be a theologian, a spiritual writer or a reformer? Luther undoubtedly
savours of his time, but his expressions are too often reminiscent
of Saxon familiarity; for instance, when he vents his displeasure
in the words: “The devil has given his mother ‘eine Fliege in den

Luther was fond of introducing indelicacies of this sort even into
theological tracts written in Latin and destined for the use of
the learned, needless to say to the huge scandal of foreigners not
accustomed to find such coarseness in the treatment of serious
subjects. Under the circumstances we can readily understand the
indignation of men like Sir Thomas More (above, p. 237, n. 1) at the
rudeness of the German.

Luther’s example proved catching among his followers and supporters.
A crowd of writers became familiar with the mention of subjects on
which a discreet silence is usually observed, and grew accustomed to
use words hitherto banished from polite society. So well were Luther’s
works known that they set the tone. His favourite pupils, Mathesius
and Aurifaber, for instance, seem scarcely aware of the unseemliness
of certain questions discussed. Sleidan, the well-known Humanist
historian, described the obscene woodcuts published by Luther and
Lucas Cranach in 1545 in mockery of the Papacy, “as calmly as though
they had been no worse than Mr. Punch’s kindly caricatures.”[747]
Luther actually told the theologians and preachers (and his words
carried even more weight with secular writers, who were less hampered
by considerations of decency) that “those who filled the office of
preacher must hold the filth of the Pope and the bishops up to their
very noses,”[748] for the “Roman court, and the Pope who is the bishop
of that court, is the devil’s bishop, the devil himself, nay, the
excrement which the devil has ... into the Church.”[749]

One of Luther’s most ardent defenders in the present day, Wilhelm
Walther of Rostock, exonerates Luther from any mere imitation of the
customary language of the peasants or the monks, for, strange to say,
some have seen in his tone the influence of monasticism; he claims
originality for Luther. “Such a mode of expression,” he says, “was
not in Luther’s case the result of his peasant extraction or of his
earlier life. For, far from becoming gradually less noticeable as
years went on, it is most apparent in his old age.”[750] It is plain
that Luther’s earlier Catholic life cannot be held responsible, nor
the monastic state of celibacy, often misjudged though it has been in
certain quarters. As regards the reassertion in him of the peasant’s
son, we are at liberty to think what we please. At any rate, we cannot
but endorse what Walther says concerning the steady growth of the
disorder; in all likelihood the applause which greeted his popular
and vigorous style reacted on Luther and tended to confirm him in his
literary habits. As years passed he grew more and more anxious that
every word should strike home, and delighted in stamping all he wrote
with the individuality of “rude Luther.” Under the circumstances it was
inevitable that his style should suffer.

Walther thinks he has found the real explanation in Luther’s “energy
of character” and the depth of his “moral feeling”; here, according to
him, we have cause of his increasingly lurid language; Luther, “in his
wish to achieve something,” and to bring “his excellent ideas” home
to the man in the street, of set purpose disregarded the “esthetic
feelings of his readers” and his own “reputation as a writer.”
Melanchthon, says Walther, “took offence at his smutty language.
Luther’s reply was to make it smuttier still.”

This line of defence is remarkable enough to deserve to be chronicled.
From the historical standpoint, however, we should bear in mind that
Luther had recourse to “smuttiness” not merely in theological and
religious writings or when desirous of producing some effect with “his
excellent ideas.” The bad habit clings to him quite as much elsewhere,
and disfigures his most commonplace conversations and casual sallies.

Thus the psychological root of the problem lies somewhat deeper. We
shall not be far wrong in believing, that a man who moved habitually
amidst such impure imaginations, and gave unrestrained expression to
statements of a character so offensive, bore within himself the cause.
Luther was captain in a violent warfare on vows, religious rules,
celibacy and many other ordinances and practices of the Church, which
had formerly served as barriers against sensuality. Consciously or
unconsciously his rude nature led him to cast off the fetters of shame
which had once held him back from what was low and vulgar. After all,
language is the sign and token of what is felt within. It was chiefly
his own renunciation of the higher standard of life which led him to
abandon politeness in speech and controversy, and, in word and imagery,
to sink into ever lower depths. Such is most likely the correct answer
to the psychological problem presented by the steady growth of this
questionable element in his language.

Friedrich Wilhelm Nietzsche (“Werke,” 7, p. 401) has a few words,
not devoid of admiration for Luther, which, however, apply to the
whole man and not merely to his habits of speech. They may well serve
as a transition to what follows: “Luther’s merit lies in this, that
he possessed the courage of his sensuality—in those days tactfully
described as the ‘freedom of the Gospel.’”

5. On Marriage and Sexuality

Christianity, with its doctrine of chastity, brought into the heathen
world a new and vital element. It not only inculcated the controlling
of the sexual instinct by modesty and the fear of God, but, in
accordance with the words of our Saviour and His Apostle, St. Paul, it
represented voluntary renunciation of marriage and a virgin life as
more perfect and meritorious in God’s sight. What appeared so entirely
foreign to the demands of nature, the Christian religion characterised
as really not only attainable, but fraught with happiness for those
who desired to follow the counsel of Christ and who trusted in the
omnipotence of His grace. The sublime example of our Lord Himself, of
His Holy Mother, and of the disciple whom Jesus loved, also St. Paul’s
praise for virginity and the magnificent description in the Apocalypse
of the triumphal throng of virgins who follow the Lamb, chanting a
song given to them alone to sing—all this inspired more generous
souls to tread with cheerfulness the meritorious though thorny path of
continence. Besides these, countless millions, who did not choose to
live unwedded, but were impelled by their circumstances to embrace the
married state, learnt in the school of Christianity, with the help of
God’s grace, that in matrimony too it was possible for them to serve
God cheerfully and to gain everlasting salvation.

_The Necessity of Marriage._

After having violated his monastic vows, Luther not only lost a true
appreciation of the celibate state when undertaken for the love of
God, but also became disposed to exaggerate the strength of the
sexual instinct in man, to such an extent, that, according to him,
extra-matrimonial misconduct was almost unavoidable to the unmarried.
In this conviction his erroneous ideas concerning man’s inability for
doing what is good play a great part. He lays undue stress on the
alleged total depravity of man and represents him as the helpless
plaything of his evil desires and passions, until at last it pleases
God to work in him. At the same time the strength of some of his
statements on the necessity of marriage is due to controversial
interests; to the desire to make an alluring appeal to the senses
of those bound by vows or by the ecclesiastical state, to become
unfaithful to the promises they had made to the Almighty. Unfortunately
the result too often was that Luther’s invitation was made to serve as
an excuse for a life which did not comply even with the requirements of
ordinary morality.

 “As little as it is in my power,” Luther proclaims, “that I am not a
 woman, so little am I free to remain without a wife.”[751]

 “It is a terrible thing,” he writes with glaring exaggeration to
 Albert, Archbishop of Mayence, “for a man to be found without a wife
 in the hour of death; at the very least he should have an earnest
 purpose of getting married. For what will he say when God asks him: ‘I
 made you a man, not to stand alone but to take a wife; where then is
 your wife?’”[752]

 To another cleric who fancied himself compelled to marry, he writes
 in the year of his own wedding: “Your body demands and needs it; God
 wills it and insists upon it.”[753]

 “Because they [the Papists] rejected marriage [!],” he says, “and
 opposed the ordinance of God and the clear testimony and witness of
 Scripture, therefore they fell into fornication, adultery, etc., to
 their destruction.”[754]

 “Just as the sun has no power to stop shining, so also is it implanted
 in human nature, whether male or female, to be fruitful. That God
 makes exceptions of some, as, for instance, on the one hand of the
 bodily infirm and impotent, and on the other of certain exalted
 natures, must be regarded in the same light as other miracles....
 Therefore it is likewise not my will that such should marry.”[755]

 “A man cannot dispense with a wife for this reason: The natural
 instinct to beget children is as deeply implanted as that of eating
 and drinking.” Hence it is that God formed the human body in the
 manner He did, which Luther thereupon proceeds to describe to his
 readers in detail.[756]

 “Before marriage we are on fire and rave after a woman.... St. Jerome
 writes much of the temptations of the flesh. Yet that is a trivial
 matter. A wife in the house will remedy that malady. Eustochia
 [Eustochium] might have helped and counselled Jerome.”[757]

 One sentence of Luther’s, which, as it stands, scarcely does honour
 to the female sex, runs as follows: “The Word and work of God
 is quite clear, viz. that women were made to be either wives or

 By this statement, which so easily lends itself to misunderstanding,
 Luther does not mean to put women in the alternative of choosing
 either marriage or vice. In another passage of the same writing he
 says distinctly, what he repeats also elsewhere: “It is certain that
 He [God] does not create any woman to be a prostitute.” Still, it
 is undeniable that in the above passage, in his recommendation of
 marriage, he allows himself to be carried away to the use of untimely
 language.—In others of the passages cited he modifies his brutal
 proclamation of the force of the sexual craving, and the inevitable
 necessity of marriage, by statements to quite another effect, though
 these are scarcely noticeable amid the wealth of words which he
 expends in favour of man’s sensual nature; for instance, he speaks of
 the “holy virgins,” who “live in the flesh as though not of the flesh,
 thanks to God’s sublime grace.”[759] “The grace of chastity”[760]
 was, he admits, sometimes bestowed by God, yet he speaks of the
 person who possesses it as a “prodigy of God’s own”;[761] such a one
 it is hard to find, for such a man is no “natural man.”[762] Such
 extravagant stress laid on the fewness of these exceptions might,
 however, be refuted from his own words; for instance, he urges a woman
 whose husband is ill to do her best with the ordinary grace of God
 bestowed on her as on all others, and endure with patience the absence
 of marital intercourse. “God is much too just to rob you of your
 husband by sickness in this way without on the other hand taking away
 the wantonness of the flesh, if you on your part tend the sick man

 That for most men it is more advisable to marry than to practise
 continence had never been questioned for a moment by Catholics, and if
 Luther had been speaking merely to the majority of mankind, as some
 have alleged he was, his very opponents could not but have applauded
 him. It is, however, as impossible to credit him with so moderate
 a recommendation as it is to defend another theory put forward by
 Protestants, viz. that his sole intention was to point out “that the
 man in whom the sexual instinct is at work cannot help being sensible
 of it.”

 His real view, as so frequently described by himself, is linked up to
 some extent with his own personal experiences after he had abandoned
 the monastic life. It can scarcely be by mere chance that a number of
 passages belonging here synchronise with his stay at the Wartburg, and
 that his admission to his friend Melanchthon (“I burn in the flames of
 my carnal desires ... ‘_ferveo carne, libidine_’”)[764] should also
 date from this time.

 In an exposition often quoted from his course of sermons on
 Exodus, Luther describes with great exaggeration the violence and
 irresistibility of the carnal instinct in man, in order to conclude
 as usual that ecclesiastical celibacy is an abomination. His strange
 words, which might so readily be misunderstood, call for closer
 consideration than is usually accorded them; they, too, furnished a
 pretext for certain far-fetched charges against Luther.

 With the Sixth Commandment, says Luther, God “scolds, mocks and
 derides us”; this Commandment shows that the world is full of
 “adulterers and adulteresses,” all are “whore-mongers”; on account
 of our lusts and sensuality God accounted us as such and so gave us
 the Sixth Commandment; to a man of good conduct it would surely be an
 insult to say: “My good fellow, see you keep your plighted troth!”
 God, however, wished to show us “what we really are.” “Though we may
 not be so openly before the world [i.e. adulterers and whore-mongers],
 yet we are so at heart, and, had we opportunity, time and occasion, we
 should all commit adultery. It is implanted in all men, and no one is
 exempt ... we brought it with us from our mother’s womb.”[765] Luther
 does not here wish to represent adultery as a universal and almost
 inevitable vice, or to minimise its sinfulness. Here, as so often
 elsewhere, he perceives he has gone too far and thereupon proceeds
 to explain his real meaning. “I do not say that we are so in very
 deed, but that such is our inclination, and it is the heart that God
 searches.” Luther is quite willing to admit: “There are certainly many
 who do not commit fornication, but lead quite a good life”; “this is
 due either to God’s grace, or to fear of Master Hans” (the hangman).
 “Our reason tells us that fornication, adultery and other sins are
 wrong.... All these laws are decreed by nature itself,” just like the
 Commandment not to commit murder.[766] “But we are so mad,” “when once
 our passions are aroused, that we forget everything.” Hence we cannot
 but believe, that “even though our monks vowed chastity twice over,”
 they were adulterers in God’s sight. The conclusion he arrives at is:
 “Such being our nature, God forbids no one to take a wife.”

 The whole passage is only another instance of Luther’s desire to
 magnify the consequences of original sin without making due allowance
 for the remedies provided by Christianity, the sacraments in
 particular. It is also in keeping with his usual method of clothing
 his attack on Catholicism in the most bitter and repulsive language, a
 method which gradually became a second nature to him.

In insisting on the necessity of marriage, Luther does not stop
to consider that the Church of antiquity, for all her esteem for
matrimony, was ever careful to see that the duties and interests of
the individual, of the State and of the Church were respected, and
not endangered by hasty marriages. Luther himself was not hampered by
considerations of that sort, whether in the case of priests, monks or
laymen. The unmarried state revolted him to such a degree, that he
declares nothing offended his “ears more than the words nun, monk and
priest,” and that he looked on marriage as “a Paradise, even though the
married pair lived in abject poverty.”[767] A couple, who on account
of their circumstances should hesitate to marry, he reproaches with a
“pitiful want of faith.” “A boy not later than the age of twenty, and
a girl when she is from fifteen to eighteen years of age [ought to
marry]. Then they are still healthy and sound, and they can leave it to
God to see that their children are provided for.”[768]

If we are to take him at his word, then a cleric ought to marry merely
to defy the Pope. “For, even though he may have the gift so as to be
able to live chastely without a wife, yet he ought to marry in defiance
of the Pope, who insists so much on celibacy.”[769]

_The “Miracle” of Voluntary and Chaste Celibacy._

Of the celibate and continent life Luther had declared (above, p.
242-3) that practically only a miracle could render it possible.[770]
If we compare his statements on virginity, we shall readily see how
different elements were warring within him. On the one hand he is
anxious to uphold the plain words of Scripture, which place voluntary
virginity above marriage. On the other, his conception of the great
and, without grace, irresistible power of concupiscence draws him in
the opposite direction. Moreover, man, being devoid of free will, and
incapable of choosing of his own accord the higher path, in order not
to fall a prey to his lusts, must resolutely embrace the married state
intended by God for the generality of men. Then, again, we must not
discount the change his views underwent after his marriage with a nun.

In view of the “malady” of “the common flesh,” he says of the man who
pledges himself to voluntary chastity, that “on account of this malady,
marriage is necessary to him and it is not in his power to do without
it; for his flesh rages, burns and tends to be fruitful as much as
that of any other man, and he must have recourse to marriage as the
necessary remedy. Such passion of the flesh God permits for the sake
of marriage and for that of the progeny.”[771]—And yet, according to
another passage in Luther’s writings, even marriage is no remedy for
concupiscence: “Sensual passion (‘_libido_’) cannot be cured by any
remedy, not even marriage, which God has provided as a medicine for
weak nature. For the majority of married people are adulterers, and
each says to the other in the words of the poet: ‘Neither with nor
without you can I live.’”[772] “Experience teaches us, that, in the
case of many, even marriage is not a sufficient remedy; otherwise there
would be no adultery or fornication, whereas, alas, they are only too

It is merely a seeming contradiction to his words on the miraculous
nature of virginity when Luther says on one occasion: “_Many_ are to
be met with who have this gift; I also had it, though with many evil
thoughts and dreams,”[774] for possibly, owing to his reference to
himself, modesty led him here to represent this rare and miraculous
gift as less unusual. Here he speaks of “many,” but usually of the
“few.” “We find so few who possess God’s gift of chastity.”[775]
“They are rare,” he says in his sermon on conjugal life, “and among
a thousand there is scarcely one to be found, for they are God’s own
wonder-works; no man may venture to aspire to this unless God calls him
in a special manner.”[776]

Luther acknowledges that those in whom God works this “miracle”—who,
while remaining unmarried, do not succumb to the deadly assaults
of concupiscence—were to be esteemed fortunate on account of the
happiness of the celibate state. It would be mere one-sidedness to
dwell solely upon Luther’s doctrine of the necessity and worth of
marriage and not to consider the numerous passages in which he speaks
in praise of voluntary and chaste celibacy.

 He says in the sermon on conjugal life: “No state of life is to be
 regarded as more pleasing in the sight of God than the married state.
 The state of chastity is certainly better on earth as having less of
 care and trouble, not in itself, but because a man can give himself
 to preaching and the Word of God [1 Cor. vii. 34].... In itself it is
 far less exalted.”[777] In the following year, 1523, in his exposition
 of 1 Corinthians, chapter vii., St. Paul’s declaration leads him to
 extol virginity: “Whoever has grace to remain chaste, let him do so
 and abstain from marriage and not take upon himself such trouble
 unless need enforce it, as St. Paul here counsels truly; for it is
 a great and noble freedom to be unmarried and saves one from much
 disquietude, vexation and trouble.”[778] He even goes so far as to
 say: “It is a sweet, joyous and splendid gift, for him to whom it
 is given, to be chaste cheerfully and willingly,”[779] and for this
 reason in particular “is it a fine thing,” because it enables us the
 better to serve the “Christian Churches, the Evangel and the preaching
 of the Word”; this is the case “when you refrain from taking a wife so
 as to be at peace and to be of service to the Kingdom of Heaven.” The
 preacher, he explains, for instance, was not expected to ply a trade,
 for which reason also he received a stipend for preaching. “Hence,
 whoever wishes to serve the Churches and to enjoy greater quiet, would
 do well to remain without a wife, for then he would have neither
 wife nor child to support.”[780] “Whoever has the gift of being able
 to live without a wife, is an angel on earth and leads a peaceful

 In this way Luther comes practically to excuse, nay, even to eulogise,
 clerical celibacy; elsewhere we again find similar ideas put forward.

 In his Latin exposition of Psalm cxxviii. he says: “There must be
 freedom either to remain single or to marry. Who would force the
 man who has no need to marry to do so? Whoever is among those who
 are able ‘to receive this word,’ let him remain unmarried and glory
 in the Lord.... They who can do without marrying do well (_recte
 faciunt_) to abstain from it and not to burden themselves with
 the troubles it brings.”[782] And again: “Whoever is set free by
 such a grace [a ‘special and exalted grace of God’], let him thank
 God and obey it.”[783] For “if we contrast the married state with
 virginity, chastity is undoubtedly a nobler gift than marriage, but,
 still, marriage is as much God’s gift—so St. Paul tells us—as
 chastity.”[784] Compared with the chastity of marriage, “virgin
 chastity is more excellent (_virginalis castitas excellentior
 est_).”[785] “Celibacy is a gift of God and we commend both this and
 the married state in their measure and order. We do not extol marriage
 as though we should slight or repudiate celibacy.”[786]

 Usually Luther represents virginity as not indeed superior but quite
 equal to the married state: “To be a virgin or a spouse is a different
 gift; both are equally well pleasing to God.”[787] As we might expect,
 we find the warmest appreciation of celibacy expressed before Luther
 himself began to think of marriage, whereas, subsequent to 1525,
 his strictures on celibacy become more frequent. In 1518, without
 any restriction, he has it that virginity is held to be the highest
 ornament and “an incomparable jewel”; in the case of religious,
 chastity was all the more precious because “they had of their own
 free will given themselves to the Lord.”[788] In the following year,
 comparing the married state with virginity, he says that “virginity is
 better,” when bestowed by the grace of God.[789]

“The breach with the past caused by his marriage,” says M. Rade, was
“greater and more serious” than any change effected in later years in
matrimonial relationship.[790] By his advocacy of marriage, as against
celibacy and his glorification of family life, Luther brought about “a
reversal of all accepted standards.”[791] Rade, not without sarcasm,
remarks: “There is something humorous in the way in which Luther in his
exposition of 1 Corinthians vii., which we have repeatedly had occasion
to quote, after praising virginity ever passes on to the praise of the
married state.”[792] It is quite true that his interpretation seems
forced, when he makes St. Paul, in this passage, extol continency, not
on account of its “merit and value in God’s sight,” but merely for the
“tranquillity and comfort it insures in this life.”[793] To Luther it
is of much greater interest, that St. Paul should be “so outspoken in
his praise of the married state and should allude to it as a Divine
gift.” He at once proceeds to prove from this, that “the married state
is the holiest state of all, and that certain states had been falsely
termed ‘religious’ and others ‘secular’; for the reverse ought to be
the case, the married state being truly religious and spiritual.”[794]

Luther’s animus against celibacy became manifest everywhere. He refused
to give sufficient weight to the Bible passages, to the self-sacrifice
so pleasing to God involved in the unmarried state, or to its merits
for time and for eternity. It is this animus which leads him into
exaggeration when he speaks of the necessity of marriage for all men,
and to utter words which contradict what he himself had said in praise
of celibacy.

He paints in truly revolting colours the moral abominations of the
Papacy, exaggerating in unmeasured terms the notorious disorders
which had arisen from the infringement of clerical celibacy. His
controversial writings contain disgusting and detailed descriptions of
the crimes committed against morality in the party of his opponents;
the repulsive tone is only rivalled by his prejudice and want of
discrimination which lead him to believe every false report or stupid
tale redounding to the discredit of Catholicism.

His conception of the rise of clerical celibacy is inclined to be
hazy: “The celibacy of the clergy commenced in the time of Cyprian.”
Elsewhere he says that it began “in the time of Bishop Ulrich, not more
than five hundred years ago.”[795]

He assures us that “St. Ambrose and others did not believe that they
were men.”[796] “The infamous superstition [of celibacy] gave rise to,
and promoted, horrible sins such as fornication, adultery, incest ...
also strange apparitions and visions.... What else could be expected of
monks, idle and over-fed pigs as they were, than that they should have
such fancies?”[797]—In the Pope’s Ten Commandments there was, so he
said, a sixth which ran: “Thou shalt not be unchaste, but force them
to be so” (by means of vows and celibacy), and a ninth: “Thou shalt not
covet thy neighbour’s wife, but say, it is no sin.”[798]

“Were all those living under the Papacy kneaded together, not one would
be found who had remained chaste up to his fortieth year. Yet they
talk much of virginity and find fault with all the world while they
themselves are up to their ears in filth.”[799]—“It pleases me to see
the Saints sticking in the mud just like us. But it is true that God
allows nature to remain, together with the spirit and with grace.”[800]

_Luther’s Loosening of the Marriage Tie._

Luther, advocate and promoter of marriage though he was, himself did
much to undermine its foundations, which must necessarily rest on
its indissolubility and sanctity as ordained by Christ. In the six
following cases which he enumerates he professes to find sufficient
grounds for dissolving the marriage tie, overstepping in the most
autocratic fashion the limits of what is lawful to the manifest
detriment of matrimony.

He declares, first, that if one or other of the married parties should
be convicted of obstinately refusing “to render the conjugal due, or to
remain with the other,” then “the marriage was annulled”; the husband
might then say: “If you are unwilling, some other will consent; if the
wife refuse, then let the maid come”; he had the full right to take
an Esther and dismiss Vasthi, as King Assuerus had done (Esther ii.
17).[801] To the remonstrances of his wife he would be justified in
replying: “Go, you prostitute, go to the devil if you please”;[802] the
injured party was at liberty to contract a fresh union, though only
with the sanction of the authorities or of the congregation, while the
offending party incurred the penalty of the law and might or might not
be permitted to marry again.[803]

The words: “If you won’t ... then let the maid come” were destined
to become famous. Not Catholics only, but Protestants too, found in
them a stone of offence. As they stand they give sufficient ground
for scandal. Was it, however, Luther’s intention thereby to sanction
relations with the maid outside the marriage bond? In fairness the
question must be answered in the negative. Both before and after the
critical passage the text speaks merely of the dissolution of the
marriage and the contracting of another union; apart from this, as is
clear from other passages, Luther never sanctioned sexual commerce
outside matrimony. Thus, strictly speaking, according to him, the
husband would only have the right to threaten the obstinate wife
to put her away and contract a fresh union with the maid. At the
same time the allusion to the maid was unfortunate, as it naturally
suggested something different from marriage. In all probability it
was the writer’s inveterate habit of clothing his thought in the most
drastic language at his command that here led him astray. It may be
that the sentence “Then let the maid come” belonged to a rude proverb
which Luther used without fully adverting to its actual meaning, but
it has yet to be proved that such a proverb existed before Luther’s
day; at any rate, examples can be quoted of the words having been used
subsequently as a proverb, on the strength of his example.[804]—It
was on this, the first ground for the dissolution of marriage,
that Luther based his decision in 1543, when one of the Professors
turned preacher and his wife refused to follow him to his post at
Frankfort-on-the-Oder, saying that “she wasn’t going to have a parson.”
Luther then wrote: “I should at once leave her and marry another,”
should she categorically refuse compliance; in reality the authorities
ought to coerce her, but unfortunately no authority “with ‘_executio_’
existed, having power over the ‘_ministerium_.’”[805]

Secondly, according to Luther, the adultery of one party justified
the other in assuming that the “guilty party was already _ipso facto_
divorced”; “he can then act as though his spouse had died,” i.e. marry
again, though Christian considerations intimate that he should wait at
least six months.[806]

Thirdly, if one party “will not suffer the other to live in a Christian
manner,” then the other, finding a separation from bed and board of
no avail, has the right to “make a change,” i.e. to contract another
union. “But how,” he asks, “if this new spouse should turn out ill and
try to force the other to live like a heathen, or in an unchristian
manner, or should even run away; what then, supposing this thing went
on three, four or even ten times?” Luther’s answer to the conundrum is
the same as before: “We cannot gag St. Paul, and therefore we cannot
prevent those who desire to do so from making use of the freedom he
allows.” Luther’s conviction was that the well-known passage in 1
Corinthians vii. 15 sanctioned this dangerous doctrine.[807]

Fourthly, if subsequent to the marriage contract one party should prove
to be physically unfit for matrimony, then, according to Luther, the
marriage might be regarded as dissolved without any ecclesiastical
suit solely by “conscience and experience.” He would in that case
advise, he says, that the woman, with the consent of the man, should
enter into carnal relations with someone else, for instance, with
her partner’s brother, for her husband would really be no husband at
all, but merely a sort of bachelor life-partner; this marriage might,
however, be kept secret and the children be regarded as those of the
putative father.[808] Even where it was not a question of impotence
but of leprosy Luther decided in much the same way, without a word
of reference to any ecclesiastical or legal suit: should the healthy
party “be unable or unwilling to provide for the household” without
a fresh marriage, and should the sick party “consent willingly to a
separation,” then the latter was simply to be looked upon as dead, the
other party being free to re-marry.[809]

To these grounds of separation Luther, however, added a fifth. He
declared, on the strength of certain, biblical passages, that marriage
with the widow of a brother—for which, on showing sufficient grounds,
it was possible to obtain a dispensation in the Catholic Church—was
invalid under all circumstances, and that therefore any person married
on the strength of such a dispensation might conclude a fresh union. At
first, in 1531, such was not his opinion, and he declared quite valid
the marriage of Henry VIII. with his sister-in-law Catherine of Aragon,
which was the outcome of such a dispensation; later on, however,
in 1536, on ostensibly biblical grounds he discarded the Catholic

His views, not here alone but elsewhere, on matrimonial questions,
were founded on an altogether peculiar interpretation of Scripture; he
sought in Scripture for the proofs he wished to find, interpreting the
Sacred Text in utter disregard of the teaching of its best authorised
exponents and the traditions of the Church. The consequences of such
arbitrary exegetical study he himself described characteristically
enough. Speaking of Carlstadt, who, like him, was disposed to lay
great stress on Old-Testament examples and referring to one of his
matrimonial decisions which he was not disposed to accept, Luther
exclaims: “Let him [Carlstadt] do as he pleases; soon we shall have
him introducing circumcision at Orlamünde and making Mosaists of them

Yet he was perfectly aware of the danger of thus loosening the marriage
tie. He feared that fresh grounds for severing the same would be
invented day by day.[812] On one occasion he exclaims, as though to
stifle his rising scruples, that it was clear that all God cares for is
“faith and confession.... It does not matter to Him whether you dismiss
your wife and break your word. For what is it to Him whether you do
so or not? But because you owe a duty to your neighbour,” for this
reason only, i.e. on account of the rights of others, it is wrong.[813]
These strange words, which have often been misunderstood and quoted
against Luther by polemics, were naturally not intended to question the
existence of the marriage tie, but they are dangerous in so far as they
do not make sufficient account of the nature of the commandment and the
sin of its breach.

Most momentous of all, however, was the sixth plea in favour of
divorce, an extension of those already mentioned. Not merely the
apostasy of one party or his refusal to live with the Christian party,
justified the other to contract a fresh union, but even should he
separate, or go off, “for any reason whatever, for instance, through
anger or dislike.” Should “husband or wife desert the other in this
way, then Paul’s teaching [!] was to be extended so far ... that the
guilty party be given the alternative either to be reconciled or to
lose his spouse, the innocent party being now free and at liberty to
marry again in the event of a refusal. It is unchristian and heathenish
for one party to desert the other out of anger or dislike, and not to
be ready patiently to bear good and ill, bitter and sweet with his
spouse, as his duty is, hence such a one is in reality a heathen and no

Thus did Luther write, probably little dreaming of the incalculable
confusion he was provoking in the social conditions of Christendom by
such lax utterances. Yet he was perfectly acquainted with the laws
to the contrary. He declaims against “the iniquitous legislation of
the Pope, who, in direct contravention of this text of St. Paul’s (1
Cor. vii. 15), commands and compels such a one, under pain of the loss
of his soul, not to re-marry, but to await either the return of the
deserter or his death,” thus “needlessly driving the innocent party
into the danger of unchastity.” He also faces, quite unconcernedly, the
difficulty which might arise should the deserter change his mind and
turn up again after his spouse had contracted a new marriage. “He is
simply to be disregarded and discarded ... and serve him right for his
desertion. As matters now are the Pope simply leaves the door open for

The new matrimonial legislator refuses to see that he is paving the
way for the complete rupture of the marriage tie. If the mere fact of
one party proving disinclined to continue in the matrimonial state
and betaking himself elsewhere is sufficient to dissolve a marriage,
then every barrier falls, and, to use Luther’s own words of the Pope a
little further, “it is no wonder that the world is filled with broken
pledges and forsaken spouses, nay, with adultery which is just what the
devil is aiming at by [such a] law.”[816]

On the other hand, Luther, in his reforms, attacks those matrimonial
impediments which, from the earliest Christian times, had always
been held to invalidate marriages. The marriage of a Christian with
a heathen or a Jew he thinks perfectly valid, though, as was to be
expected, he does not regard it with a friendly eye. We are not to
trouble at all about the Pope’s pronouncements concerning invalidity:
“Just as I may eat and drink, sleep and walk, write and treat, talk and
work with a pagan or a Jew, a Turk or a heretic, so also can I contract
a marriage with him. Therefore pay no heed to the fool-laws forbidding
this.” “A heathen is just as much a man or woman as St. Peter, St. Paul
or St. Lucy.”[817]

M. Rade, the Protestant theologian quoted above, considers that on
the question of divorce Luther took up “quite a different attitude,”
and “opened up new prospects” altogether at variance with those of
the past.[818] By his means was brought about a “complete reversal of
public opinion on the externals of sexual life”; in this connection
to speak of original sin was in reality mere “inward contradiction.”
Such were, according to him, the results of the “Christian freedom”
proclaimed by Luther.[819]

August Bebel, in his book “Die Frau und der Sozialismus,” says of
Luther: “He put forward, regarding matrimony, views of the most radical
character.”[820] “In advocating liberty with regard to marriage, what
he had in mind was the civil marriage such as modern German legislation
sanctions, together with freedom to trade and to move from place to
place.”[821] “In the struggle which it now wages with clericalism
social democracy has the fullest right to appeal to Luther, whose
position in matrimonial matters was entirely unprejudiced. Luther
and the reformers even went further in the marriage question, out of
purely utilitarian motives and from a desire to please the rulers
concerned, whose powerful support and lasting favour they were desirous
of securing and retaining. Landgrave Philip I. of Hesse, who was well
disposed towards the reformation,” etc. etc.[822]


Sanctity of marriage in the Christian mind involves monogamy. The
very word polygamy implies a reproach. Luther’s own feelings at the
commencement revolted against the conclusions which, as early as
1520, he had felt tempted to draw from the Bible against monogamy,
for instance, from the example of the Old Testament Patriarchs,
such as Abraham, whom Luther speaks of as “a true, indeed a perfect
Christian.”[823] It was not long, however, before he began to incline
to the view that the example of Abraham and the Patriarchs did, as a
matter of fact, make polygamy permissible to Christians.

In September, 1523, in his exposition on Genesis xvi., he said without
the slightest hesitation: “We must take his life [Abraham’s] as an
example to be followed, provided it be carried out in the like faith”;
of course, it was possible to object, that this permission of having
several wives had been abrogated by the Gospel; but circumcision
and the sacrifice of the Paschal Lamb had also been abrogated, and
yet they “are not sins, but quite optional, i.e. neither sinful nor
praiseworthy.... The same must hold good of other examples of the
Patriarchs, namely, if they had many wives, viz. that this also is

In 1523 he advanced the following: “A man is not absolutely forbidden
to have more than one wife; I could not prevent it, but certainly I
should not counsel it.” He continues in this passage: “Yet I would
not raise the question but only say, that, should it come before the
sheriff, it would be right to answer that we do not reject the example
of the Patriarchs, as though they were not right in doing what they
did, as the Manicheans say.”[825]

The sermons where these words occur were published at Wittenberg in
1527 and at once scattered broadcast in several editions. We shall have
to tell later how the Landgrave Philip of Hesse expressly cited on his
own behalf the passage we have quoted.

Meanwhile, however, i.e. previous to the printing of his sermons on
Genesis, Luther had declared, in a memorandum of January 27, 1524,
addressed to Brück, the electoral Chancellor, regarding a case in
point, viz. that of an Orlamünde man who wished to have two wives, that
he was “unable to forbid it”; it “was not contrary to Holy Scripture”;
yet, on account of the scandal and for the sake of decorum, which at
times demanded the omission even of what was lawful, he was anxious
not to be the first to introduce amongst Christians “such an example,
which was not at all becoming”; should, however, the man, with the
assistance of spiritual advisers, be able to form a “firm conscience
by means of the Word,” then the “matter might well be left to take
its course.”[826] This memorandum, too, also came to the knowledge of
Landgrave Philip of Hesse.[827]

Subsequently Luther remained faithful to the standpoint that polygamy
was not forbidden but optional; this is proved by his Latin Theses
of 1528,[828] by his letter, on September 3, 1531,[829] addressed
to Robert Barnes for Henry VIII. and in particular by his famous
declaration of 1539 to Philip of Hesse, sanctioning his bigamy.

His defenders have taken an unfinished treatise which he commenced in
the spring of 1542[830] as indicating, if not a retractation, at least
a certain hesitation on his part; yet even here he shows no sign of
embracing the opposite view; in principle he held fast to polygamy
and merely restricts it to the domain of conscience. The explanation
of the writing must be sought for in the difficulties arising out of
the bigamy of Landgrave Philip. Owing to Philip’s representations
Luther left the treatise unfinished, but on this occasion he expressly
admitted to the Prince, that there were “four good reasons” to justify
his bigamy.[831]

Needless to say, views such as these brought Luther into conflict with
the whole of the past.

Augustine, like the other Fathers, had declared that polygamy
was “expressly forbidden” in the New Testament as a “crime”
(“_crimen_”).[832] Peter Lombard, Thomas Aquinas and Bonaventure speak
in similar terms in the name of the scholasticism of the Middle Ages.
Peter Paludanus, the so-called “_Doctor egregius_” († 1342), repeated
in his work on the Sentences, that: “Under the Gospel-dispensation it
never had been and never would be permitted.”[833]

It is, however, objected that Cardinal Cajetan, the famous theologian
and a contemporary of Luther, had described polygamy as allowable
in principle, and that Luther merely followed in his footsteps. But
Cajetan does not deny that the prohibition pronounced by the Church
stands, he merely deals in scholastic fashion with the questions
whether polygamy is a contravention of the natural law, and whether it
is expressly interdicted in Holy Scripture. True enough, however, he
answers both questions in the negative.[834] In the first everything of
course depends on the view taken with regard to the patriarchs and the
Old Testament exceptions; the grounds for these exceptions (for such
they undoubtedly were) have been variously stated by theologians. In
the second, i.e. in the matter of Holy Scripture, Cajetan erred. His
views on this subject have never been copied and, indeed, a protest
was at once raised by Catharinus, who appealed to the whole body of
theologians as teaching that, particularly since the preaching of the
Gospel, there was no doubt as to the biblical prohibition.[835]

Thus, in spite of what some Protestants have said, it was not by
keeping too close to the mediæval doctrine of matrimony, that Luther
reached his theory of polygamy.

It is more likely that he arrived at it owing to his own arbitrary
and materialistic ideas on marriage. It was certainly not the Catholic
Church which showed him the way; as she had safeguarded the sanctity
of marriage, so also she protected its monogamous character and its
indissolubility. In Luther’s own day the Papacy proved by its final
pronouncement against the adultery of Henry VIII. of England, that she
preferred to lose that country to the Church rather than sanction the
dissolving of a rightful marriage (vol. iv., xxi. 1).

_Toleration for Concubinage? Matrimony no Sacrament._

In exceptional cases Luther permitted those bound to clerical celibacy,
on account of “the great distress of conscience,” to contract “secret
marriages”; he even expressly recommended them to do so.[836] These
unions, according to both Canon and Civil law, amounted to mere
concubinage. Luther admits that he had advised “certain parish priests,
living under the jurisdiction of Duke George or the bishops,” to “marry
their cook secretly.”[837]

At the same time, in this same letter written in 1540, he explains
that he is not prepared to “defend all he had said or done years ago,
particularly at the commencement.” Everything, however, remained in
print and was made use of not only by those to whom it was actually
addressed, but by many others also; for instance, his outrageous letter
to the Knights of the Teutonic Order who were bound by vow to the
celibate state. Any of them who had a secret, illicit connection, and
“whoever found it impossible to live chastely,” he there says, “was
not to despair in his weakness and sin, nor wait for any Conciliar
permission, for I would rather overlook it, and commit to the mercy of
God the man who all his life has kept a pair of prostitutes, than the
man who takes a wife in compliance with the decrees of such Councils.”
“How much less a sinner do you think him to be, and nearer to the grace
of God, who keeps a prostitute, than the man who takes a wife in that

Of the Prince-Abbots, who, on account of the position they occupied
in the Empire, were unable to marry so long as they remained in the
monastery, he likewise wrote: “I would prefer to advise such a one
to take a wife secretly and to continue as stated above [i.e. remain
in office], seeing that among the Papists it is neither shameful nor
wrong to keep women, until God the Lord shall send otherwise as He will
shortly do, for it is impossible for things to remain much longer as
they are. In this wise the Abbot would be safe and provided for.”[839]

Here again we see how Luther’s interest in promoting apostasy from Rome
worked hand in hand with the lax conception he had been led to form of

Of any sacrament of matrimony he refused to hear. To him marriage was
really a secular matter, however much he might describe it as of Divine
institution: “Know, that marriage is an outward, material thing like
any other secular business.”[840] “Marriage and all that appertains to
it is a temporal thing and does not concern the Church at all, except
in so far as it affects the conscience.”[841] “Marriage questions do
not concern the clergy or the preachers, but the authorities; theirs it
is to decide on them”; this, the heading of one of the chapters of the
German Table-Talk, rightly describes its contents.[842]

In Luther’s denial of the sacramental character of matrimony lies
the key to the arbitrary manner in which, as shown by the above, he
handled the old ecclesiastical marriage law. It was his ruling ideas
on faith and justification which had led him to deny that it was a
sacrament. The sacraments, in accordance with this view, have no other
object or effect than to kindle in man, by means of the external sign,
that faith which brings justification. Now marriage, to his mind, was
of no avail to strengthen or inspire such faith. As early as 1519 he
bewails the lack in matrimony of that Divine promise which sets faith
at work (“_quae fidem exerceat_”),[843] and in his Theses of February
13, 1520, he already shows his disposition to question its right to
be termed a sacrament.[844] In his work “On the Babylonish Captivity”
of the same year he bluntly denies its sacramental character, urging
that the Bible was silent on the subject, that matrimony held out no
promise of salvation to be accepted in faith, and finally that it was
in no way specifically Christian, since it had already existed among
the heathen.[845] He ignores all that the Fathers had taught regarding
marriage as a sacrament, with special reference to the passage in
Ephesians v. 31 ff., and likewise the ancient tradition of the Church
as retained even by the Eastern sects separated from Rome since the
fifth century.

In advocating matrimony, instead of appealing to it as a sacrament,
he lays stress on its use as a remedy provided by God against
concupiscence, and on its being the foundation of that family life
which is so pleasing to God. Incidentally he also points out that it is
a sign of the union of Christ with the congregation.[846]

Luther did not, as has been falsely stated, raise marriage to a higher
dignity than it possessed in the Middle Ages. No more unjustifiable
accusation has been brought against Catholic ages than that marriage
did not then come in for its due share of recognition, that it was
slighted and even regarded as sinful. Elsewhere we show that the
writings dating from the close of the Middle Ages, particularly German
sermonaries and matrimonial handbooks, are a direct refutation of these

_Luther on Matters Sexual._

Examples already cited have shown that, in speaking of sexual questions
and of matters connected with marriage, Luther could adopt a tone
calculated to make even the plainest of plain speakers wince. It is our
present duty to examine more carefully this quality in the light of
some quotations. Let the reader, if he chooses, look up the sermon of
1522, “On Conjugal Life,” and turn to pages 58, 59, 61, 72, 76, 83, 84;
or to pages 34, 35, 139, 143, 144, 146, 152, etc., of his Exposition
of Corinthians.[848] We are compelled to ask: How many theological or
spiritual writers, in sermons intended for the masses, or in vernacular
works, ever ventured to discuss sexual matters with the nakedness that
Luther displays in his writing “Wyder den falsch genantten geystlichen
Standt des Bapst und der Bischoffen” (1522), in which through several
pages Luther compares, on account of its celibacy, the Papacy with
the abominable Roman god Priapus.[849] In this and like descriptions
he lays himself open to the very charge which he brings against the
clergy: “They seduce the ignorant masses and drag them down into the
depths of unchastity.”[850] He thus compares Popery to this, the most
obscene form of idolatry, with the purpose of placing before the German
people in the strongest and most revolting language the abomination by
which he will have it that the Papacy has dishonoured and degraded the
world, through its man-made ordinances. Yet the very words in which he
wrote, quite apart from their blatant untruth, were surely debasing. In
the same writing he also expresses himself most unworthily regarding
the state of voluntary celibacy and its alleged moral and physical

Here again it has been urged on Luther’s behalf, that people in his
day were familiar with such plain speaking. Yet Luther himself felt
at times how unsuitable, nay, revolting, his language was, hence his
excuses to his hearers and readers for his want of consideration, and
also his attempt to take shelter in Holy Writ.[852] That people then
were ready to put up with more in sermons is undeniable. Catholic
preachers are to be met with before Luther’s day who, although they do
not speak in the same tone as he, do go very far in their well-meant
exhortations regarding sexual matters, for instance, regarding the
conjugal due in all its moral bearings. Nor is it true to say that such
things occur only in Latin outlines or sketches of sermons, intended
for preacher rather than people, for they are also to be found in
German sermons actually preached. This disorder even called forth a
sharp rebuke from a Leipzig theologian who was also a great opponent of
Luther’s, viz. Hieronymus Dungersheim.[853]—In none of the Catholic
preachers thus censured, do we, however, find quite the same seasoning
we find in Luther, nor do they have recourse to such, simply to spice
their rhetoric or their polemics, or to air new views on morality.

His contemporaries even, more particularly some Catholics, could not
see their way to repeat what he had said on sexual matters.[854] “It
must be conceded” that Luther’s language on sexual questions was “at
times repulsively outspoken, nay, coarse, and that not only to our
ears but even to those of his more cultured contemporaries.” Thus a
Protestant writer.[855] Another admits with greater reserve: “There are
writings of Luther’s in which he exceeds the limits of what was then

       *       *       *       *       *

Certain unseemly anecdotes from the Table-Talk deserve to be mentioned
here; told in the course of conversation while the wine-cup went the
rounds, they may well be reckoned as instances of that “buffoonery”
for which Melanchthon reproves Luther. Many of them are not only to
be found in Bindseil’s “_Colloquia_” based on the Latin collection of
Lauterbach, and in the old Latin collection of Rebenstock, but have
left traces in the original notes of the Table-Talk, for instance, in
those of Schlaginhaufen and Cordatus. It is not easy to understand why
Luther should have led the conversation to such topics; in fact, these
improper stories and inventions would appear to have merely served the
company to while away the time.

 For example, Luther amuses the company with the tale of a Spandau
 Provost who was a hermaphrodite, lived in a nunnery and bore a
 child;[857] with another, of a peasant, who, after listening to a
 sermon on the use of Holy Water as a detergent of sin, proceeded to
 put what he had heard into practice in an indecent fashion;[858]
 with another of self-mutilated eunuchs, in telling which he is
 unable to suppress an obscene joke concerning himself.[859] He
 entertains the company with some far from witty, indeed entirely
 tactless and indecent stories, for instance, about the misfortune of
 a concubine who had used ink in mistake for ointment;[860] of the
 Beghine who, when violence was offered her, refused to scream because
 silence was enjoined after Compline;[861] of a foolish young man’s
 interview with his doctor;[862] of an obscene joke at the expense
 of a person uncovered;[863] of a young man’s experience with his
 bathing dress;[864] of women who in shameless fashion prayed for a
 husband;[865] of the surprise of Duke Hans, the son of Duke George of
 Saxony, by his steward, etc.[866]

 These stories, in Bindseil’s “Colloquia,” are put with the filthy
 verses on Lemnius,[867] the “_Merdipoeta_,” and form a fit sequence
 to the account of Lustig, the cook, and the substitute he used for

 These anecdotes are all related more or less in detail, but, apart
 from them, we have plentiful indelicate sayings and jokes and
 allusions to things not usually mentioned in society, sufficient in
 fact to fill a small volume.

 Luther, for instance, jests in unseemly fashion “amid laughter” on
 the difference in mind and body which distinguishes man from woman,
 and playfully demonstrates from the formation of their body that
 his Catherine and women in general must necessarily be deficient in
 wit.[869] An ambiguous sally at the expense of virginity and the
 religious life, addressed to the ladies who were usually present at
 these evening entertainments, was received with awkward silence and a

 On another occasion the subject of the conversation was the female
 breasts, it being queried whether they were “an ornament” or intended
 for the sake of the children.[871] Then again Luther, without any
 apparent reason, treats, and with great lack of delicacy, of the
 circumstances and difficulties attending confinement;[872] he also
 enters fully into the troubles of pregnancy,[873] and, to fill
 up an interval, tells a joke concerning the womb of the Queen of

 In the Table-Talk Luther takes an opportunity of praising the mother’s
 womb and does so with a striking enthusiasm, after having exclaimed:
 “No one can sufficiently extol marriage.” “Now, in his old age,” he
 understood this gift of God. Every man, yea, Christ Himself, came from
 a mother’s womb.[875]

 Among the passages which have been altered or suppressed in later
 editions from motives of propriety comes a statement in the Table-Talk
 concerning the Elector Johann Frederick, who was reputed a hard
 drinker. In Aurifaber’s German Table-Talk the sense of the passage is
 altered, and in the old editions of Stangwald and Selnecker the whole
 is omitted.[876]

 Of the nature of his jests the following from notes of the Table-Talk
 gives a good idea: “It will come to this,” he said to Catherine Bora,
 “that a man will take more than one wife.” The Doctoress replied:
 “Tell that to the devil!” The Doctor proceeded: Here is the reason,
 Katey: a wife can have only one child a year, but the husband several.
 Katey replied: “Paul says: ‘Let everyone have his own wife.’ Whereupon
 the Doctor retorted: ‘His own,’ but not ‘only one,’ that you won’t
 find in Paul. The Doctor teased his wife for a long time in this way,
 till at last she said: ‘Sooner than allow this, I would go back to the
 convent and leave you with all the children.’”[877]

 When the question of his sanction of Philip of Hesse’s bigamy and the
 scandal arising from it came under discussion, his remarks on polygamy
 were not remarkable for delicacy. He says: “Philip (Melanchthon) is
 consumed with grief about it.... And yet of what use is it?... I, on
 the contrary am a hard Saxon and a peasant.... The Papists could have
 seen how innocent we are, but they refused to do so, and so now they
 may well look the Hessian ‘_in anum_.’ ... Our sins are pardonable,
 but those of the Papists, unpardonable; for they are contemners of
 Christ, have crucified Him afresh and defend their blasphemy wittingly
 and wilfully. What are they trying to get out of it [the bigamy]? They
 slay men, but we work for our living and marry many wives.” “This
 he said with a merry air and amid much laughter,” so the chronicler
 relates. “God is determined to vex the people, and if it comes to my
 turn I shall give them the best advice and tell them to look Marcolfus
 ‘_in anum_,’” etc.[878] On rising from table he said very cheerfully:
 “I will not give the devil and the Papists a chance of making me
 uneasy. God will put it right, and to Him we must commend the whole
 Church.”[879] By such trivialities did he seek to escape his burden of

 On one occasion he said he was going to ask the Elector to give orders
 that everybody should “fill themselves with drink”; then perhaps they
 would abandon this vice, seeing that people were always ready to do
 the opposite of what was commanded; what gave rise to this speech on
 drinking was the arrival of three young men, slightly intoxicated,
 accompanied by a musical escort. The visitors interrupted the
 conversation, which had turned on the beauty of women.[880]

 Many of Luther’s letters, as well as his sermons, lectures and
 Table-Talk, bear sad witness to his unseemly language. It may suffice
 here to mention one of the most extraordinary of these letters, while
 incidentally remarking, that, from the point of view of history, the
 passages already cited, or yet to be quoted, must be judged of in
 the light of the whole series, in which alone they assume their true
 importance. In a letter written in the first year of his union, to his
 friend Spalatin, who though also a priest was likewise taking a wife,
 he says: “The joy at your marriage and at my own carries me away”;
 the words which follow were omitted in all the editions (Aurifaber,
 De Wette, Walch), Enders being the first to publish them from the
 original. They are given in the note below.[881]

Luther himself was at times inclined to be ashamed of his ways of
speaking, and repeatedly expresses regret, without, however, showing
any signs of improvement. We read in Cordatus’s Diary that (in 1527,
during his illness) “he asked pardon for the frivolous words he had
often spoken with the object of banishing the melancholy of a weak
flesh, not with any evil intent.”[882] At such moments he appears
to have remembered how startling a contrast his speeches and jests
presented to the exhortation of St. Paul to his disciples, and to all
the preachers of the Gospel: “Make thyself a pattern to all men ...
by a worthy mode of life; let thy conversation be pure and blameless”
(Titus ii. 7 f.). “Be a model to the faithful in word, in act, in faith
and charity, in chastity” (1 Tim. iv. 12).

It would be wrong to believe that he ever formally declared foul
speaking to be permissible. It has been said that, in any case in
theory, he had no objection to it, and, that, in a letter, he even
recommends it. The passage in question, found in an epistle addressed
to Prince Joachim of Anhalt, who was much troubled with temptations to
melancholy, runs thus: “It is true that to take pleasure in sin is the
devil, but to take pleasure in the society of good, pious people in the
fear of God, sobriety and honour is well pleasing to God, even with
possibly a word or ‘Zötlein’ too much.”[883] The expression “Zötlein”
(allied with the French “sottise”) did not, however, then bear the bad
meaning suggested by the modern German word “Zote,” and means no more
than a jest or merry story; that such a meaning was conveyed even by
the word “Zote” itself can readily be proved.

Especially was it Luther’s practice to load his polemics with a
superabundance of filthy allusions to the baser functions of the body;
at times, too, we meet therein expressions and imagery positively

 In his work “Vom Schem Hamphoras” against the Jews he revels in scenes
 recalling that enacted between Putiphar’s wife and Joseph, though here
 it is no mere temptation but actual mutual sin; the tract contains
 much else of the same character.[884] In the notorious tract entitled
 “Wider Hans Worst,” which he wrote against Duke Henry of Brunswick
 (1541), he begins by comparing him with a “common procuress walking
 the street to seize, capture and lead astray honest maidens”;[885]
 he gradually works himself up into such a state of excitement as to
 describe the Church of Rome as the “real devil’s whore”; nay, the
 “archdevil’s whore,” the “shameless prostitute” who dwells in a
 “whores’ church” and houses of ill-fame, and compared with whom, as
 we have already heard him say elsewhere, “common city whores, field
 whores, country whores and army whores”[886] may well be deemed
 saints. In this work such figures of speech occur on almost every
 page. Elsewhere he describes the motions of the “Roman whore” in the
 most repulsive imagery.[887]

 The term “whore” is one of which he is ever making use, more
 particularly in that connection in which he feels it will be most
 shocking to Catholics, viz. in connection with professed religious.
 Nor does he hesitate to use this word to describe human reason as
 against faith. In such varied and frenzied combinations is the term
 met with in his writings that one stands aghast. As he remarked on
 one occasion to his pupil Schlaginhaufen, people would come at last
 to look upon him as a pimp. He had been asked to act as intermediary
 in arranging a marriage: “Write this down,” he said, “Is it not a
 nuisance? Am I expected to provide also the women with husbands?
 Really they seem to take me for a pander.”[888]

Even holy things were not safe in Luther’s hands, but ran the risk
of being vilified by outrageous comparisons and made the subject of
improper conversations.

 According to Lauterbach’s Diary, for instance, Luther discoursed in
 1538 on the greatness of God and the wisdom manifest in creation; in
 this connection he holds forth before the assembled company on the
 details of generation and the shape of the female body. He then passes
 on to the subject of regeneration: “We think we can instruct God ‘_in
 regenerationis et salvationis articulo_,’ we like to dispute at great
 length on infant baptism and the occult virtue of the sacraments,
 and, all the while, poor fools that we are, we do not know ‘_unde
 sint stercora in ventre_.’”[889] Over the beer-can the conversation
 turns on temperance, and Luther thereupon proposes for discussion an
 idea of Plato’s on procreation;[890] again he submits an ostensibly
 difficult “_casus_” regarding the girl who becomes a mother on the
 frontier of two countries;[891] he relates the tale of the woman
 who “_habitu viri et membro ficto_” “_duas uxores duxit_”;[892] he
 dilates on a “marvellous” peculiarity of the female body, which one
 would have thought of a nature to interest a physician rather than
 a theologian.[893] He also treats of the Bible passage according to
 which woman must be veiled “on account of the angels” (1 Cor. xi. 11),
 adding with his customary vulgarity: “And I too must wear breeches
 on account of the girls.”[894] When the conversation turned on the
 marriage of a young fellow to a lady of a certain age he remarked,
 that at such nuptials the words “Increase and multiply” ought not to
 be used; as the poet says: “_Arvinam quaerunt multi in podice porci_,”
 surely a useless search.[895] The reason “why God was so angry with
 the Pope” was, he elsewhere informs his guests, because he had robbed
 Him of the fruit of the body. “We should have received no blessing
 unless God had implanted our passions in us. But to the spark present
 in both man and wife the children owe their being; even though our
 children are born ugly we love them nevertheless.”[896]—He then
 raises his thoughts to God and exclaims: “Ah, beloved Lord God, would
 that all had remained according to Thine order and creation.” But what
 the Pope had achieved by his errors was well known: “We are aware how
 things have gone hitherto.” “The Pope wanted to enforce celibacy and
 to improve God’s work.” But the monks and Papists “ ... are consumed
 with concupiscence and the lust of fornication.”[897]—Take counsel
 with someone beforehand, he says, “in order that you may not repent
 after the marriage. But be careful that you are not misled by advice
 and sophistry, else you may find yourself with a sad handful ... then
 He Who drives the wheel, i.e. God, will jeer at you. But that you
 should wish to possess one who is pretty, pious and wealthy, nay, my
 friend ... it will fare with you as it did with the nuns who were
 given carved Jesus’s and who cast about for others who at least were
 living and pleased them better.”[898]

Thus does Luther jumble together unseemly fancies, coarse concessions
to sensuality and praise for broken vows, with thoughts of the Divine.

Anyone who regards celibacy and monastic vows from the Catholic
standpoint may well ask how a man intent on throwing mud at the
religious state, a man who had broken his most sacred pledges by his
marriage with a nun, could be in a position rightly to appreciate the
delicate blossoms which in every age have sprung up on the chaste
soil of Christian continence in the lives of countless priests and
religious, not in the cloister alone, but also in the world without?

Of his achievements in this field, of his having trodden celibacy under
foot, Luther was very proud. To the success of his unholy efforts he
himself gave testimony in the words already mentioned: “I am like unto
Abraham [the Father of the Faithful] for I am the progenitor of all
the monks, priests and nuns [who have married], and of all the many
children they have brought into the world; I am the father of a great

By his attacks on celibacy and the unseemliness of his language Luther,
nevertheless, caused many to turn away from him in disgust. Duke Anton
Ulrich of Brunswick, who reverted to Catholicism in 1710, states in
a writing on the step he had taken, that it was due to some extent
to his disgust at Luther’s vulgarity. “What writer,” he says, “has
left works containing more filth?... Such was his way of writing that
his followers at the present day are ashamed of it.” He had compared
the character of this reformer of the Church, so he tells us, with
that of the apostolic men of ancient times. In striking contrast they
were “pious, God-fearing men, of great virtue, temperate, humble,
abstemious, despising worldly possessions, not given to luxury, having
only the salvation of souls before their eyes”; particularly did they
differ from Luther in the matter of purity and chastity.[900]

6. Contemporary Complaints. Later False Reports

Those of his contemporaries who speak unfavourably of Luther’s private
life belong to the ranks of his opponents. His own followers either
were acquainted only with what was to his advantage, or else took
care not to commit themselves to any public disapproval. To give
blind credence in every case to the testimony of his enemies would,
of course, be opposed to the very rudiments of criticism, but equally
alien to truth and justice would it be to reject it unheard. In each
separate case it must depend on the character of the witness and on
his opportunity for obtaining reliable information and forming a just
opinion, how much we credit his statements.

Concerning the witnesses first to be heard, we must bear in mind, that,
hostile as they were to Luther, they had the opportunity of seeing him
at close quarters. How far their statements are unworthy of credence
(for that they are not to be taken exactly at their word is clear
enough) cannot be determined here in detail. The mere fact, however,
that, at Wittenberg and in Saxony, some should have written so strongly
against Luther would of itself lead us to pay attention to their words.
In the case of the other witnesses we shall be able to draw some sort
of general inference from their personal circumstances as to the degree
of credibility to be accorded them. While writers within Luther’s camp
were launching out into fulsome panegyrics of their leader, it is of
interest to listen to what the other side had to say, even though,
there too, the speakers should allow themselves to be carried away to
statements manifestly exaggerated.

 Simon Lemnius, the Humanist, who, owing to his satirical epigrams on
 the Wittenberg professor—whom he had known personally—was inexorably
 persecuted by the latter, wrote, in his “Apology,” about 1539, the
 following description of Luther’s life and career. This and the whole
 “Apology,” was suppressed by the party attacked; the later extracts
 from this writing, published by Schelhorn (1737) and Hausen (1776),
 passed over it in silence, till it was at last again brought to light
 in 1892: “While Luther boasts of being an evangelical bishop, how
 comes it that he lives far from temperately? For he is in the habit
 of overloading himself with food and drink; he has his court of
 flatterers and adulators; he has his Venus [Bora] and wants scarcely
 anything which could minister to his comfort and luxury.”[901] “He has
 written a pamphlet against me, in which, as both judge and authority,
 he condemns and mishandles me. Surely no pastor would arrogate to
 himself such authority in temporal concerns. He deprives the bishops
 of their temporal power, but himself is a tyrant; he circulates
 opprobrious and quite execrable writings against illustrious Princes.
 He flatters one Prince and libels another. What is this but to preach
 revolt and to pave the way for a general upheaval and the downfall of
 our States?... It is greatly to be feared, that, should war once break
 out, first Germany will succumb miserably and then the whole Roman
 Empire go to ruin. Meanwhile Luther sits like a dictator at Wittenberg
 and rules; what he says must be taken as law.”[902]

 By the Anabaptists Luther’s and his followers’ “weak life” was
 severely criticised about 1525. Here we refer only cursorily to the
 statements already quoted,[903] in order to point out that these
 opponents based their theological strictures on a general, and, in
 itself, incontrovertible argument: “Where Christian faith does not
 issue in works, there the faith is neither rightly preached nor
 rightly accepted.”[904] In Luther they were unable to discern a
 “spark of Christianity,” though his “passionate and rude temper” was
 evident enough.[905] “The witless, self-indulgent lump of flesh at
 Wittenberg,” Dr. Luther, was not only the “excessively ambitious Dr.
 Liar, but also a proud fool,”[906] whose “defiant teaching and selfish
 ways” were far removed from what Christ and His Apostles had enjoined.
 In spite of the manifest spiritual desolation of the people Luther was
 wont to sit “with the beer-swillers” and to eat “sumptuous repasts”;
 he had even tolerated “open harlotry” on the part of some of the
 members of the University although, as a rule, he “manfully opposed”
 this vice.[907]

 Catholic censors were even stronger in their expression of
 indignation. Dungersheim of Leipzig, in spite of his polemics an
 otherwise reliable witness, though rather inclined to rhetoric, in the
 fourth decade of the century reproached him in his “Thirty Articles”
 for leading a “life full of scandal”; he likewise appeals to some who
 had known him intimately, and was ready, if necessary, “to relate
 everything, down to the circumstances and the names.”[908] As a matter
 of fact, however, this theologian never defined his charges.

 From the Duchy of Saxony, too, came the indignant voice of bluff Duke
 George, whom Luther had attacked and slandered in so outrageous a
 fashion: “Out upon you, you forsworn and sacrilegious fellow, Martin
 Luther (may God pardon me), public-house keeper for all renegade
 monks, nuns and apostates!”[909] He calls him “Luther, you drunken
 swine,” you “most unintelligent bacchant and ten times dyed horned
 beast of whom Daniel spoke in chapter viii., etc.”[910] Luther had
 called this Prince a “bloodhound”; he is paid back in his own coin:
 “You cursed, perjured bloodhound”; he was the “arch-murderer,” body
 and soul, of the rebellious peasants, “the biggest murderer and
 bloodhound ever yet seen on the surface of the globe.”[911] “You want
 us to believe that no one has written more beautifully of the Emperor
 and the Empire than yourself. If what you have written of his Imperial
 Majesty is beautiful, then my idea of beauty is all wrong; for it
 would be easy to find tipsy peasants in plenty who can write nine
 times better than you.”[912]

 From the theologian Ambrosius Catharinus we hear some details
 concerning Luther’s private life.

 On the strength of hearsay reports, picked up, so it would appear,
 from some of the visitors to the Council of Trent in 1546 and 1547,
 this Italian, who was often over-ardent both in attack and defence,
 wrote in the latter year his work: “_De consideratione praesentium
 temporum libri quattuor._” Here he says: “Quite reliable witnesses
 tell me of Luther, that he frequently honoured the wedding feasts
 of strangers by his presence, went to see the maidens dance and
 occasionally even led the round dance himself. They declare that
 he sometimes got up from the banquets so drunk and helpless that
 he staggered from side to side, and had to be carried home on his
 friends’ shoulders.”[913]

 As an echo of the rumours current in Catholic circles we have already
 mentioned elsewhere the charges alleged in 1524 by Ferdinand the
 German King, and related by Luther himself, viz. that he “passed
 his time with light women and at playing pitch-and-toss in the
 taverns.”[914] We have also recorded the vigorous denunciation of the
 Catholic Count, Hoyer of Mansfeld, which dates from a somewhat earlier
 period; this came from a man whose home was not far from Luther’s,
 and to whose character no exception has been taken. Hoyer wrote that
 whereas formerly at Worms he had been a “good Lutheran,” he had now
 “found that Luther was nothing but a knave,” who, as the way was at
 Mansfeld, filled himself with drink, was fond of keeping company with
 pretty women, and led a loose life, for which reason he, the Count,
 had “fallen away altogether.”[915] The latter statements refer to a
 period somewhere about 1522, i.e. previous to Luther’s marriage. With
 regard to that critical juncture in the year 1525 some consideration
 must be given to what Bugenhagen says of Luther’s marriage in his
 letter to Spalatin, which really voices the opinion of Luther’s
 friends at Wittenberg: “Evil tales were the cause of Dr. Martin’s
 becoming a married man so unexpectedly.”[916] The hope then expressed
 by Melanchthon, that marriage would sober Luther and that he would lay
 aside his unseemliness,[917] was scarcely to be realised. Melanchthon,
 however, no longer complains of it, having at length grown resigned.
 Yet he continued to regret Luther’s bitterness and irritability: “Oh,
 that Luther would only be silent! I had hoped that as he advanced in
 years his many difficulties and riper experience would make him more
 gentle; but I cannot help seeing that in reality he is growing even
 more violent than before.... Whenever I think of it I am plunged into
 deep distress.”[918]

 Leo Judæ, one of the leaders of the Swiss Reformation, and an opponent
 of Wittenberg, “accuses Luther of drunkenness and all manner of
 things; such a bishop [he says] he would not permit to rule over even
 the most insignificant see.” Thus in a letter to Bucer on April 24,
 1534, quoted by Theodore Kolde in his “Analecta Lutherana,”[919] who,
 unfortunately, does not give the actual text. According to Kolde,
 Leo Judæ continues: “Even the devil confesses Christ. I believe that
 since the time of the Apostles no one has ever spoken so disgracefully
 (‘_turpiter_’) as Luther, so ridiculously and irreligiously. Unless
 we resist him betimes, what else can we expect of the man but that he
 will become another Pope, who orders things first one way then another
 (‘_fingit et refingit_’), consigns this one to Satan and that one to
 heaven, puts one man out of the Church and receives another into it
 again, until things come to such a pass that he acts as Judge over all
 whilst no one pays the least attention to him?” With the exception of
 rejecting infant baptism, so Kolde goes on, Luther appeared to Judæ
 no better than Schwenckfeld, with whom Bucer would have nought to
 do; Judæ proceeds: “Not for one hundred thousand crowns would I have
 all evangelical preachers to resemble Luther; no one could compare
 with him for his wealth of abuse and for his woman-like, impotent
 agitation; his clamour and readiness of tongue are nowhere to be

 Powerful indeed is the rhetorical outburst of Zwingli in a letter to
 Conrad Sam the preacher of Ulm, dated August 30, 1528: “May I be lost
 if he [Luther] does not surpass Faber in foolishness, Eck in impurity,
 Cochlæus in impudence, and to sum it up shortly, all the vicious in

 Heinrich Bullinger, Zwingli’s successor, attacks Luther in his
 “Warhafften Bekanntnuss” of 1545 in reply to the latter’s “Kurtz
 Bekentnis”: “The booklet [Luther’s] is so crammed with devils,
 unchristian abuse, immoral, wicked, and unclean words, anger, rage and
 fury that all who read it without being as mad as the author must be
 greatly surprised and astonished, that so old, gifted, experienced
 and reputable a man cannot keep within bounds but must break out
 into such rudeness and filth as to ruin his cause in the eyes of all
 right-thinking men.”[922]

 Johann Agricola, at one time Luther’s confidant and well acquainted
 with all the circumstances of his life, but later his opponent on the
 question of Antinomianism, left behind him such abuse of Luther that,
 as E. Thiele says, “it is difficult to believe such language proceeds,
 not from one of Luther’s Roman adversaries, but from a man who boasts
 of having possessed his special confidence.” He almost goes so far,
 according to Thiele, as to portray him as a “drunken profligate”; he
 says, “the pious man,” the “man of God (‘_vir Dei_’),” allowed himself
 to be led astray by the “men of Belial,” i.e. by false friends, and
 was inclined to be suspicious; he bitterly laments the scolding and
 cursing of which his works were full. One of his writings, “Against
 the Antinomians” (1539), was, he says, “full of lies”; in it Luther
 had accused him in the strongest terms and before the whole world of
 being a liar; it was “an abominable lie” when Luther attributed to him
 the statement, that God was not to be invoked and that there was no
 need of performing good works. When Luther’s tract was read from the
 pulpit even the Wittenbergers boggled at these lies and said: “Now
 we see what a monk is capable of thinking and doing.” Agricola also
 describes Luther’s immediate hearers and pupils at Wittenberg as mere
 “Sodomites,” and the town as the “Sister of Sodom.”[923] Such is the
 opinion of this restless, passionate man, who bitterly resented the
 wrong done him by Luther. (See vol. v., xxix. 3.)

Not all the above accusations are entirely baseless, for some are
confirmed by other proofs quite above suspicion. The charge of habitual
drunkenness, as will be shown below (xvii. 7), must be allowed to drop;
so likewise must that of having been a glutton and of having constantly
pandered to sensual passion; that Luther sanctioned immorality among
his friends and neighbours can scarcely be squared with his frequent
protests against the disorders rife at the University of Wittenberg;
finally, we have to reduce to their proper proportions certain,
in themselves justifiable, subjects of complaint. That, however,
everything alleged against him was a pure invention of his foes, only
those can believe whom prejudice blinds to everything which might tell
against their hero.

The charges of the Swiss theologians, though so strongly expressed,
refer in the main to Luther’s want of restraint in speech and writing;
the vigour of their defensive tactics it is easy enough to understand,
and, at any rate, Luther’s writings are available for reference and
allow us to appreciate how far their charges were justified.

Another necessary preliminary remark is that no detailed accusation
was ever brought against Luther of having had relations with any woman
other than his wife; nothing of this nature appears to have reached
the ears of the writers in question. Due weight must here be given to
Luther’s constant anxiety not to compromise the Evangel by any personal
misconduct. (See vol. ii., p. 133.) Luther, naturally enough, was ever
in a state of apprehension as to what his opponents might, rightly
or wrongly, impute to him. That he was liable to be misrepresented,
particularly by foreigners (Aleander [vol. ii., p. 78] and Catharinus),
is plain from the examples given above. The distance at which
Catharinus resided from Wittenberg led him to lend a willing ear to the
reports brought by “reliable men,” needless to say opponents of Luther.

The deep dislike felt by faithful Catholics for the Wittenberg
professor and their lively abhorrence for certain moral doctrines
expressed by him in extravagant language,[924] formed a fertile soil
for the growth of legends; some of these, met with amongst the literary
defenders of Catholicism after Luther’s death, have been propagated
even in modern times, and accordingly call for careful examination
at the hands of the Catholic critic. Where Luther himself speaks
we are on safe ground, as the method employed above shows. Where,
however, we have to listen to strangers doubt must needs arise, and
the task of discriminating becomes inevitable, owing to the speaker’s
probable prejudice either for or against Luther. This applies, as
we have already seen, even to Luther’s contemporaries, but it holds
good even more as we approach modern times, when, in the heat of
controversy, things were said concerning alleged historical facts, for
instance, Luther’s immorality, which were certainly quite unknown to
his own contemporaries. Many of Luther’s accusers had never read his
works, possibly had not even troubled to look up a single one of the
facts or passages cited. We must, however, remember—a fact which
serves to some extent to explain the regrettable lack of exactitude
and discernment—that the prohibition of reading Luther’s writings
was on the whole strictly enforced by the authorities of the Church
and conscientiously obeyed by the faithful, even by writers. Only
rarely in olden days[925] were dispensations granted. Thus, when
attacking Luther, writers were wont to utilise passages quoted by
earlier writers, often truncated excerpts given without the context.
Misunderstood or entirely incorrect accounts of events connected with
his life were accepted as facts, of which now, thanks to his works and
particularly to his letters, we are in a better position to judge.
Many seemed unaware that the misunderstandings were growing from age
to age, the reason being that instead of taking as authorities the
best and oldest Luther controversialists, those of a later date were
preferred in whose writings facts and quotations had already undergone
embellishment. In this wise the older popular literature came to
attribute to Luther the strangest statements and to make complaints for
which no foundation existed in fact. Incautious interpretation by more
recent writers, whose training scarcely fitted them for the task and
who might have learnt better by consulting Luther’s works and letters,
has led to a still greater increase of the evil.

In the following pages we propose to examine rather more narrowly
certain statements which appear in the older and also more recent
controversial works.

_Had Luther three children of his own apart from those born of his
union with Bora?_

 By his wife Luther was father to five children, viz. Hans (1526),
 Magdalene (1529), Martin (1531), Paul (1533) and Margaret (1534).

 The paternity of another child born of a certain Rosina Truchsess,
 a servant in his house, has also been ascribed to him, it being
 alleged that his references to this girl are very compromising.[926]
 The latter assertion, however, does not hold good, if only we read
 the passages in an unprejudiced spirit; at most they prove that
 Luther allowed his kindliness to get the better of his caution in
 receiving into his house one who subsequently proved herself to be
 both untruthful and immoral, and that, when by her misconduct she had
 compromised her master and his family, he was exceedingly angry with
 her. It is incorrect to say that Rosina ever designated Luther as the
 father of her baby.

 The second child was one named Andreas, of whom Luther is said to have
 spoken as his son. This boy, however, has been proved to have been
 his nephew, Andreas Kaufmann, who was brought up in Luther’s family.
 Only through a mistake of the editor is he spoken of in the Table-Talk
 as “My Enders” and “My son”; later a fresh alteration of the text
 resulted in: “_filius meus Andreas_.”[927]

 The third child was said to have been referred to in the Table-Talk
 as an “_adulter infans_,” in a passage where mention is made of its
 having been suckled by Catherine during pregnancy. In Aurifaber’s
 Table-Talk (1569 edition) “_adulterum infantem_” is, however, a
 misprint for “_alterum infantem_,” which is the true reading as it
 appears in the first (1568) edition. It is true that the passage in
 question mentions of two of Luther’s own children, that his wife was
 already with child before the first had been weaned.[928]

_Luther and Catherine Bora._

 A letter which Luther wrote to his wife from Eisleben shortly before
 the end of his life, when he was staying at the Court of the Count
 of Mansfeld, has been taken as an admission of immorality: “I am
 now, thanks be to God, in a good case were it not for the pretty
 women who press me so hard that I again go in fear and peril of
 unchastity.”[929] What exactly means this reference to unchastity? As
 a matter of fact, after having partially recovered from his malady,
 he is here seeking to allay his wife’s anxiety by adopting a jesting
 tone, though perhaps exception might be taken to the nature of his
 jest. That what he says was intended as a joke is plain also from
 the superscription of the letter, addressed to the “Pork dealer,”
 an allusion to her purchase of a garden close to the Wittenberg
 pig-market. In the letter he explains humorously to his anxious wife
 (this too has been taken seriously), that his catarrh and giddiness
 had been wholly caused by the Jews, viz. by a cold wind raised up
 against him by them or their God (he was just then engaged in a
 controversy with the Jews).—The superscriptions of the various
 letters to Catherine and the jesting remarks they contain have also
 been taken far too tragically. Luther was wont to address her as
 deeply-learned dame, gracious lady, holy and careful lady, most holy
 Katey, Doctoress, etc., also as My Lord Katey and Gracious Lord Katey.
 It may be that the latter appellations refer to a certain haughtiness
 peculiar to her; but it would be to misunderstand him entirely to
 see in this or even in the name “Kette” = chain, which he applies
 to her now and then, an involuntary admission that he was bound by
 the fetters of a self-willed wife. We have seen how he once spoke of
 her in a letter previous to his marriage as his “mistress” (Metze),
 which has led careless controversialists to fancy that Luther quite
 openly had admitted that she was “his concubine” (vol. ii., p. 183).
 At any rate, not only was Luther’s language unseemly in many of his
 letters and in his intercourse with his Wittenberg circle, but this
 license of speech seems even to have infected the ladies of the
 party, at least if we may credit Simon Lemnius who, on the strength
 of what he had seen at Wittenberg, says that the wives of Luther,
 Justus Jonas and Spalatin vied with each other in indecent stories
 and confidences.[930] Thus we cannot take it amiss if the Catholics
 of that day, to whose ears came such rumours—doubtless already
 magnified—were too ready to credit them and to give open expression
 to their surmises. An instance of this is what Master Joachim von der
 Heyden wrote, in 1528, to Catherine Bora, viz. that she had lived with
 Luther before their marriage in shameful and open lewdness—_as was

_Did Luther indulge in “the Worst Orgies” with the Escaped Nuns in the
Black Monastery of Wittenberg?_

 To give an affirmative reply to this would call for very strong
 proofs, which, in point of fact, are not forthcoming. The passage in
 the Latin Table-Talk[932] quoted in justification contains nothing of
 the sort, but, strange to say, a very fine exhortation to continence.
 For this reason we must again consider it, though it has already
 been dealt with. The exhortation commences with the words: “God is
 Almighty, Eternal, Merciful, Longsuffering, Chaste, etc. He loves
 chastity, purity, modesty. He aids and preserves it by the sacred
 institution of marriage in order that [as Paul says] each one may
 possess his vessel in sanctification, free from unbridled lust. He
 punishes rape, adultery, fornication, incest and secret sins with
 infamy and terrible bodily consequences. He warns such sinners that
 they shall have no part in the Kingdom of God. Therefore let us
 be watchful in prayer,” etc. It is true, however, that this pious
 exhortation is set off by frivolous remarks, and it is probably one
 of these which suggested the erroneous reference. Luther here speaks
 of his young “relative,” Magdalene Kaufmann—a girl of marriageable
 age living in his house—and of two other maidens of the same age,
 remarking that formerly people had been ready for marriage at an
 earlier age than now, but that he was ready to vouch for the fitness
 of these three wenches for conjugal work, even to staking his wife on
 it, etc. Of any “wicked orgies” we hear nothing whatever. Further, it
 is inexact to state, as has been done, that Luther was surrounded in
 “his dwelling” by nuns whom he had given a lodging. Neither before
 nor after his marriage did they stay with him permanently; as already
 stated (vol. ii., p. 138) he either handed over the escaped nuns to
 their friends or lodged them in families at Wittenberg. Only on one
 occasion, in September, 1525, when in the hurry it was impossible
 to find accommodation for a new band of fugitives, did he receive
 them temporarily, possibly only for a few days, in the great “Black
 Monastery.”[933] There, as he himself then expressed it, he was
 “_privatus pater familias_.”

_The Passages “which will not bear repetition.”_

 The popular writer who is responsible for the tale of the “orgies”
 also declares, there are “other admissions of Luther’s” “which will
 not bear repetition.” No such admissions exist. The phrase that this
 or that will not bear repetition is, however, a favourite one among
 controversialists of a certain school, though very misleading; many,
 no doubt, will have been quite disappointed on looking up the passages
 in question in Luther’s writings to find in them nothing nearly so
 bad as they had been led to expect; this, indeed, was one of the
 reasons which impelled us rigidly to exclude from the present work
 any reservation and to give in full even the most revolting passages.
 Of one of Luther’s Theses against the theologians of Louvain we
 read, for instance, in a controversial pamphlet which is not usually
 particular about the propriety of its quotations, that the author does
 “not dare reproduce it”; yet, albeit coarsely worded, the passage in
 question really contains nothing so very dreadful, and, as for its
 coarseness, it is merely such as every reader of Luther’s works is
 prepared to encounter. The passage thus incriminated, which reads
 comically enough in its scholastic presentation (Thesis 31), runs as
 follows: “_Deinde nihil ex scripturis, sed omnia ex doctrinis hominum
 ructant [Lovanienses], vomunt et cacant in ecclesiam, non suam sed Dei
 viventis_.”[934] The German translation in the original edition of
 1545 slightly aggravates the wording of the Thesis.[935]

Two other assertions to Luther’s disadvantage have something in
common; one represents as the starting-point of the whole movement
which he inaugurated his desire to “wed a girl”; the other makes him
declare, three years before the end of his life and as the sum-total
of his experience, that the lot of the hog is the most enviable goal
of happiness.[936] A third statement goes back to his early youth and
seeks to find the explanation of his later faults in a temptation
succumbed to when he was little more than a boy. The facts, alleged to
belong to his early history, may be taken in connection with kindred
matters and examined more carefully than was possible when relating the
details of his early development. After that we shall deal with the
story of the “hog.”

_Did Luther, as a Young Monk, say that he would push on until he could
wed a Girl?_

 Such is the story, taken from a Catholic sermon preached in 1580 by
 Wolfgang Agricola and long exploited in popular anti-Lutheran writings
 as a proof that Luther really made such a statement. A “document,”
 an “ancient deed,” nay, even a confidential “letter to his friend
 Spalatin,” containing the statement have also been hinted at; all
 this, however, is non-existent; all that we have is the story in the

 The sermon, which is to be found in an old Ingolstadt print,[937]
 contains all sorts of interesting religious memories of Spalatin, the
 influential friend of Luther’s youthful days. The preacher was Dean in
 the little town of Spalt, near Nuremberg, Spalatin’s birthplace, from
 which the latter was known by the name of Spalatinus, his real name
 being Burkard. The recollections are by no means all of them equally
 vouched for, and hence we must go into them carefully in order rightly
 to appreciate the value of each. We shall see that those dealing with
 Luther’s love-adventures are the least to be trusted.

 Agricola first gives some particulars concerning Spalatin’s past,
 which seem founded on reliable tradition; in this his object is to
 confirm Catholics in their fidelity to the Church. Spalatin, in the
 course of a journey, came to his birthplace and, with forty-six
 gulden, founded a yearly Mass for his parents, the anniversary having
 been kept ever since, “even to the present day.” It is evident that
 this was vouched for by written documents. To say, as some Protestants
 have, that this and what follows is the merest invention, is not
 justified. Agricola goes on to inform us that Spalatin settled the
 finances of the family, and that, on this occasion, he presented to
 the township of Spalt a picture of Our Lady, which had once belonged
 to the Schlosskirche of Wittenberg, requesting, however, that, out of
 consideration for Luther, the fact of his being the donor should be
 kept secret until after his death. Agricola also tells how, during
 his stay, Spalatin invited the “then Dean, Thomas Ludel,” with the
 members of the chapter to be his guests, and in turn accepted their
 hospitality; he also attended the Catholic sermons in order to
 ascertain how the Word of God was preached. Thomas Ludel, the Dean,
 found opportunity quite frankly to discuss Spalatin’s religious
 attitude, whereupon the latter said: “Stick to your own form of Divine
 Service,” nor did Spalatin shrink from giving the same advice to the
 people. Every year, says Agricola, the picture of Our Lady which he
 had presented was placed on the High Altar to remind the faithful of
 the exhortation of their fellow-citizen.[938] The picture in question
 is still to be seen to-day at Spalt.[939] The narrator goes so far
 as to declare, that during the Dean’s observations on his religious
 conduct “the tears came to Spalatin’s eyes”; “I admit,” he said,
 “that we carried things too far.... God be merciful to us all!” From
 Luther’s correspondence we know that Spalatin, in later days, was much
 disquieted by melancholy and temptations to despair. Luther, by his
 letters, sought to inspire his friend as he approached the close of
 his life with confidence in Christ, agreeably with the tenets of the
 new Evangel.[940]

 Almost all that Agricola here relates appears, from its local
 colouring, to be absolutely reliable, but this is by no means the case
 with what is of more interest to us, viz. the account of Luther as
 prospective bridegroom which he appends to his stories of Spalatin.
 The difference between this account and what has gone before cannot
 fail to strike one.

 According to this story of Agricola’s, set in a period some
 three-quarters of a century earlier, Luther, as a young Augustinian,
 at Erfurt struck up a friendship with Spalatin who was still studying
 there. At the University were two other youths from Spalt, George
 Ferber, who subsequently became Doctor, parish-priest and Dean of
 Spalt, and Hans Schlahinhauffen. All four became fast friends, and
 Luther was a frequent visitor at the house where they lived with a
 widow who had a pretty daughter. He became greatly enamoured of the
 girl and “taught her lace-making,” until the mother forbade him the
 house. He often declared: “Oh, Spalatin, Spalatin, you cannot believe
 how devoted I am to this pretty maid; I will not die before I have
 brought things to such a pass that I also shall be able to marry a
 nice girl.” Eventually, with the assistance of Spalatin, Luther, so we
 are told, introduced his innovations, partly in order to make himself
 famous, partly in order to be able to marry a girl.[941]

 It is hardly probable that Wolfgang Agricola himself invented this
 story of the monk; more likely he found it amongst the numerous
 tales concerning Spalatin current at Spalt. His authority for the
 tale he does not give. It can scarcely have emanated from Spalatin
 himself—for instance, have been told by him on the occasion of the
 visit mentioned above—for then Agricola would surely have said so.
 It more probably belongs to that category of obscure myths clustering
 round the early days of Luther’s struggle with the Church.

 What is, however, of greater importance is that the monk’s behaviour,
 as here described, does not tally with the facts known. During his
 first stay at the Erfurt monastery Luther was not by any means the
 worldly young man here depicted, and even during his second sojourn
 there (autumn, 1508—autumn, 1510) no one remarked any such tendency
 in him; on the contrary, the seven Observantine priories chose him
 as their representative at Rome, presumably because he was a man in
 whom they could trust. We may call to mind that the then Cathedral
 Provost of Magdeburg, Prince Adolf of Anhalt, received letters from
 him at this time attesting his zeal for the “spiritual life and
 doctrine,”[942] and that Luther’s opponent, Cochlæus, from information
 received from Luther’s brethren, gives him credit for the careful
 observance of the Rule in the matter of spiritual exercises and
 studies during his first years as a monk.[943] The notable change in
 Luther’s outward mode of life took place only after his return from
 Rome when he abandoned the cause of the Observantine party.

 Spalatin commenced his studies at Erfurt in 1498 and continued them
 from 1502 at Wittenberg; thence, on their termination, he returned
 to Erfurt in order to take up the position of tutor at a mansion,
 which he soon quitted to become (1505-1508) spiritual preceptor in the
 neighbouring convent of Georgenthal. Thus the date of his first stay
 at Erfurt was too early for him, while himself a student, to have met
 Luther as a monk, seeing that the latter only entered the monastery
 in 1505. His second stay presents this further difficulty, that it
 is not likely that Spalatin lived with the other students at the
 widow’s house, but, first in a wealthy family, and, later, either in
 or near the convent. Further, were the other two youths hailing from
 Spalt then at Erfurt? A certain Johannes Schlaginhaufen from Spalt
 was there in 1518 and is also mentioned as being at the University
 in 1520. He is, perhaps, the same as the compiler of the Table-Talk
 edited by Wilhelm Preger,[944] but, if so, he was not a fellow-student
 of Luther’s at Erfurt. No other similar name appears in the register.
 The name of the second, George Ferber, cannot be found at all in the
 Erfurt University register, nor any Farber, Färber or Tinctoris even
 with another Christian name. Thus there are difficulties on every side.

 Then again, the familiar visits to the girl, as though there had been
 no Rule which debarred the young religious from such intercourse.
 We know that even in 1516 the Humanist Mutian had great trouble in
 obtaining permission for an Augustinian frequently to visit his house
 at Erfurt, even accompanied by another Friar.[945]

 Hence, however deserving of credit Agricola’s other accounts of
 Spalatin may be, we cannot accept his story of Luther’s doings as a
 monk. Nor is this the only statement concerning the earlier history
 of the Reformation in which Agricola has gone astray. The story may
 have grown up at Spalt owing to some misunderstanding of something
 said by George Ferber, the Dean of Spalt, who was supposed to have
 been a fellow-student of Luther’s at Erfurt, and who may possibly
 have related tales of the young Augustinian’s early imprudence. It
 is however possible, in fact not at all unlikely, that, in 1501,
 when Luther was still a secular student at Erfurt, and according to
 the above, a contemporary of Spalatin’s, he took a passing fancy to
 a girl in the house where Spalatin boarded, and that, during the
 controversies which accompanied the Reformation, a rumour of this was
 magnified into the tale that, as a monk, Luther had courted a girl,
 had been desirous of marrying, and, for this reason, had quitted both
 his Order and the Church.

_Luther’s stay as a boy in Cotta’s house at Eisenach no ground for a
charge of immorality._

 Entirely unfounded suspicions have been raised concerning Luther’s
 residence in Frau Cotta’s house at Eisenach (vol. i., p. 5). There is
 not the slightest justification for thinking that Frau Cotta—who has
 erroneously been described as a young widow—acted from base motives
 in thus receiving the youth, nor for the tale of his charming her by
 his playing on the lute or the flute.

 Cuntz (Conrad) Cotta, the husband of Ursula Cotta (her maiden-name
 was Schalbe), was still living when Luther, at the age of fifteen or
 sixteen, was so kindly received into the house and thus dispensed
 from supplementing his small resources by singing in the streets.
 Conrad’s name appears in 1505 in the Eisenach registers as one of
 the parish representatives. His wife Ursula, witness her tombstone,
 died in 1511.[946] How old she was at the time she became acquainted
 with Luther cannot be determined, but quite possibly, she, like her
 husband, was no longer young. The date of death of two supposed sons
 of hers would certainly tend to show that she was then still young,
 but these two Cottas, as has been proved, were not her sons, though
 they may have been nephews. Conrad Cotta is not known to have had any
 children, and the fact of his being childless would explain all the
 more readily Luther’s reception into his household.

 Mathesius, in his frequently quoted historical sermons on Luther,[947]
 says, that “a pious matron” admitted the poor scholar to her table.
 He is referring to Ursula Cotta. The word matron which he makes use
 of seems intended to denote rather respectability than advanced age.
 That he should mention only the wife is probably due to the fact that
 she, rather than her husband, was Luther’s benefactress. He seems to
 have had the account from Luther himself, who, it would appear, told
 him the story together with the edifying cause of his reception. This
 Mathesius relates in a way which excludes rather than suggests any
 thought of dishonourable motives. He says that the matron conceived
 a “yearning attraction for the boy on account of his singing and his
 earnest prayer in the churches.” The expression “yearning attraction,”
 which sounds somewhat strange to us, was not unusual then and comes
 naturally to a preacher rather inclined to be sentimental, as was
 Mathesius. Ratzeberger the physician, a friend of Luther’s to whom
 the latter may also have spoken of his stay at Eisenach, merely says,
 that the scholar “found board and lodging at Cuntz Cotta’s.” Thus he
 credits the husband with the act of charity.

 Luther could not well have played the flute there, seeing that he
 never learned to play that instrument; as for the lute, he became
 proficient on it only during his academic years; nor does any source
 allude to musical entertainments taking place in the Cotta household.

 Luther relates later in the Table-Talk,[948] that he had learned this
 saying from his “hostess at Eisenach,” i.e. Frau Cotta: “There is
 nought dearer on earth than the love of woman to the man who can win
 it.” This, however, affords no ground for thinking evil. The saying
 was a popular one in general use and may quite naturally refer to the
 love existing between husband and wife. It is another question whether
 it was quite seemly on Luther’s part to quote this saying as he did in
 his Glosses on the Bible, in connection with the fine description of
 the “_mulier fortis_” (Proverbs xxxi. 10 ff.), so distinguished for
 her virtue.

_Did Luther describe the lot of the Hog as the most enviable Goal of

 In view of the fear of death which he had often experienced when lying
 on the bed of sickness, Luther, so we are told, came to envy the lot
 of the hog, and to exclaim: “I am convinced that anyone who has felt
 the anguish and terror of death would rather be a pig than bear it for
 ever and ever.” That such are his words is perfectly true, and he even
 goes on to give a graphic description of the happy and comfortable
 life a pig leads until it comes under the hand of the butcher, all due
 to its unacquaintance with death.[949]

 It should first be noted that, throughout the work in question, “Von
 den Jüden und jren Lügen,” Luther is busy with the Jews. He compares
 the happiness which, according to him, they await from their Messias,
 with that enjoyed by the pig.[950] In his cynical manner he concludes
 that the happiness of the pig was even to be preferred to Jewish
 happiness, for the Jews would not be “secure for a single hour” in the
 material happiness they expected, for they would be oppressed by the
 “horrible burden and plague of all men, viz. death,” seeing that they
 merely look for a temporal king as their Messias, who shall procure
 them riches, mirth and pleasure. Thereupon we get one of his customary
 outbursts: “Were God to promise me no other Messias than him for whom
 the Jews hope, I would very much rather be a pig than a man.”

 Yet he proceeds: I, however, as a Christian, have a better Messias,
 “so that I have no reason to fear death, being assured of life
 everlasting,” etc. Well might our “heart jump for joy and be
 intoxicated with mirth.” “We give thanks to the Father of all
 Mercy.... It was in such joy as this that the Apostles sang and gave
 praise in prison amidst all their misery, and even young maidens, like
 Agatha and Lucy,” etc. But the wretched Jews refused to acknowledge
 this Messias.

 How then can one infer from Luther’s words, “I am convinced that
 anyone who has felt the anguish and terror of death,” etc., that he
 represented the lot of the hog as the supreme goal of Christians
 in general and himself in particular? It is true that he magnifies
 the fear of death which naturally must oppress the heart of every
 believer, and for the moment makes no account of the consolation of
 Christian hope, but all this is merely with the object of forcing home
 more strongly to the Jews whom he is addressing, what he had just
 said: “Of what use would all this be to me [viz. the earthly happiness
 which you look for] if I could not be sure of it even for one hour?
 If the horrible burden and plague of all men, death, still presses on
 me, from which I am not secure for one instant, but go in fear of it,
 of hell and the wrath of God, and tremble and shiver at the prospect,
 and this without any hope of its coming to an end, but continuing for
 all eternity?” His closing words apply to unbelievers who are ignorant
 of the salvation which is in Christ: “It is better to be a live pig
 than a man who is everlastingly dying.” The passage therefore does not
 convey the meaning which has been read into it.

We may here glance at some charges in which his moral character is
involved, brought against certain doctrines and sayings of Luther.

_Did Luther allow as valid Marriage between Brother and Sister?_

 The statement made by some Catholics that he did can be traced back
 to a misunderstanding of the simple word “dead.” This word he wrote
 against several passages of a memorandum of Spalatin’s on matrimonial
 questions submitted by the Elector in 1528, for instance, against one
 which ran: “Further, brother and sister may not marry, neither may
 a man take his brother’s or sister’s daughter or granddaughter. And
 similarly it is forbidden to marry one’s father’s, grandfather’s,
 mother’s or grandmother’s sister.”[951] The word “dead” here appended
 does not mean that the prohibition has ceased to hold, but is
 equivalent to “delete,” and implies that the passage should be omitted
 in print. Luther considered it unnecessary or undesirable that the
 impediments in question should be mentioned in this “Instruction”;
 he prefers that preachers should as a general rule simply insist on
 compliance with the Laws of the Empire.

 The accompanying letter of the Elector, in which he requests Luther
 to read through the memorandum, anticipates such a recommendation to
 omit. In it the writer asks whether “it would perhaps be better to
 leave this out and to advise the pastors and preachers of this fact
 in the Visitation,”[952] since, in any case, the “Imperial Code,”
 in which everything was contained in detail, was to be taken as the
 groundwork. Against many clauses of the Instruction Luther places the
 word “_placet_”; a “_non placet_” occurs nowhere; on the other hand,
 we find frequently “_omittatur_, dead, all this dead” (i.e. “delete”);
 he also says: “_hoc manebit, hactenus manebit textus_” (equivalent to
 “stet”). If “dead” had meant the same as “this impediment no longer
 holds,” then Luther would here have removed the impediment even
 between father and daughter, mother and son, seeing that he writes
 “dead” also against the preceding clause, which runs: “Firstly, the
 marriage of persons related in the ascending and descending line is
 prohibited throughout and _in infinitum_.”

_Did Luther Recommend People to Pray for Many Wives and Few Children?_

 This charge, too, belongs to the old armoury of well-worn weapons
 beloved of controversialists. The answer to the question may possibly
 afford material of some interest to the historian and man of letters.

 Down to quite recent times it was not unusual to find in Catholic
 works a story of a poem, said to have been by Luther, found in a MS.
 Bible in the Vatican Library, in which Luther prayed that God in His
 Goodness would bestow “many wives and few children.” At the present
 day no MS. Bible containing a poem by Luther, or any similar German
 verses, exists in the Vatican Library. What is meant, however, is a
 German translation of Holy Scripture, in five volumes, dating from
 the fifteenth century, which was formerly kept in the Vatican and
 now belongs to the Heidelberg University library. It is one of those
 Heidelberg MSS. which were brought to Rome in 1623 and again wandered
 back to their old quarters in 1816 (Palat. German. n. 19-23). The
 “poem” in question is at the end of vol. ii. (cod. 20). Of it, as
 given by Bartsch (“Die altdeutschen Handschriften der Universität
 Heidelberg”) and Wilken (“Heidelberger Büchersammlung”),[953] we
 append a rough translation:

  God Almighty, Thou art good,
  Give us coat and mantle and hood,

         *       *       *       *       *

  Many a cow and many a ewe,
  _Plenty of wives and children few_.

  Explicit: A small wage
  Makes the year to seem an age.

 The “poem” has nothing whatever to do with Luther. It is a product
 of the Middle Ages, met with under various forms. The “Explicit,”
 too, is older than Luther and presumably was added by the copyist
 of the volume. In the seventeenth century the opinion seems to have
 gained ground that Luther was the author, though no Roman scholar can
 be invoked as having said so. Of the MS. Montfaucon merely says: “A
 very old German Bible is worthy of notice”; Luther’s name he does not

 One witness for the ascription of its authorship to Luther was Max.
 Misson, who, in his “Nouveau voyage d’Italie,”[955] gives the “poem”
 very inaccurately and states that a Bible was shown him at the Vatican
 in which Luther was said to have written it, and that the writing was
 the same as that of the rest of the volume. He adds, however, that it
 was hardly credible that Luther should have written such things in a

 Later, Christian Juncker, a Protestant, relates the same thing in his
 “Life of Luther,” published in 1699, but likewise expresses a doubt.
 He quotes the discourse on Travels in Italy by Johann Fabricius, the
 theologian of Helmstedt, where the version of the verses differs from
 that given by Misson.[956]

 According to a record of a journey to Rome undertaken in 1693, given
 by Johann Friedrich von Wolfframsdorf, he, too, was shown a MS. Bible
 alleged to have been written by Luther, doubtless that mentioned

 As a matter of fact the “poem” in question was a popular mediæval one,
 frequently met with in manuscripts, sometimes in quite inoffensive
 forms. At any rate, the jingling rhymes (in the German original: Güte,
 Hüte, Rinder, Kinder) are the persistent feature. According to Bartsch
 it occurs in the Zimmern Chronik[958] in a version attributed to Count
 Hans Werdenberg (1268), which, while retaining the same rhymes (in the
 German), inverts the meaning. Here the prayer is for:

  Potent stallions, portly oxen,
  Buxom women, _plenty children_.

 From a MS., “_Gesta Romanorum_,” of 1476, J. L. Hocker (“_Bibliotheca
 Heilbronnensis_”[959]), quotes a similar but shorter verse.[960] A
 different rendering of the poem was entered into a Diary in 1596 by
 Wolff von Stechau.[961]

 Certain Protestant writers of the present day, not content with
 “saving Luther’s honour” by emphasising the fact that the above verses
 of the Heidelberg MS. are not his, proceed to insinuate that they were
 really “aimed at the clergy”; the “hoods” and “hats” of which they
 speak were forsooth the monks’ and the cardinals’, and the rhymester
 was all the time envying the gay life of the clergy; thus the poem, so
 we are told, throws a “lurid light on the esteem in which the mediæval
 monks and clergy were held by the laity committed to their care.”—Yet
 the verses contain no reference whatever to ecclesiastics. “Hoods”
 were part of the layman’s dress and presumably “hats,” too. And after
 all, would it have been so very wicked even for a pious layman to wish
 to share in the good things possessed by the clergy? If satires on the
 mediæval clergy are sought for, sufficient are to be found without
 including this poor jingle.

_Did Luther include Wives in the “Daily Bread” of the Our Father?_

 Controversial writers have seen fit to accuse Luther of including
 wives in the “daily bread” for which we ask, and, in support of their
 charge, refer to his explanation of the fourth request of the Our
 Father. In point of fact in the Smaller Catechism the following is
 his teaching concerning this petition: It teaches us to ask God “for
 everything required for the sustenance and needs of the body, such
 as food, drink, clothes, shoes and house, a farm, fields, cattle,
 money, goods, a _pious spouse,_ pious children and servants, and
 good masters, etc.[962] In the Larger Catechism the list is similar:
 Food and drink, clothes, a house and farm, health of body, grain and
 fruits, a pious wife, children and servants,” etc.[963] With all this
 surely no fault can be found.

_Was Luther the originator of the proverb: “Who loves not woman, wine
and song remains a fool his whole life long”?_

 These verses are found neither in Luther’s own writings nor in the old
 notes and written traditions concerning him. Joh. Heinrich Voss was
 the first to publish them in the “Wandsbeker Bote” in 1775, reprinting
 them in his Musenalmanach (1777). When he was charged by Senior
 Herrenschmidt with having foisted them on to Luther, he admitted
 that he was unable to give any account of their origin.[964] Several
 proverbs of a similar type, dating from mediæval times, have been

 A humorous remark of Luther’s would appear, according to Seidemann,
 to refer to some earlier proverb linking together women, wine and
 song. The remark in question is contained in the MS. collection of
 the Table-Talk preserved at Gotha and known as “_Serotina_,” now
 available in the work of E. Kroker, published in 1903.[965] The entire
 passage is not to be taken seriously: “To-morrow I have to lecture on
 Noe’s drunkenness, so to-night I shall drink deeply so as to be able
 to speak of the naughty thing from experience. ‘Not at all,’ said Dr.
 Cordatus, ‘you must do just the opposite.’ Thereupon Luther remarked:
 ‘Each country must be granted its own special fault. The Bohemians
 are gluttons, the Wends thieves, the Germans hard drinkers; for my
 dear Cordatus, in what else does a German excel than ‘_ebrietate,
 praesertim talem, qui non diligit musicam et mulieres_’?” This saying
 of Luther’s, which was noted down by Lauterbach and Weller, belongs to
 the year 1536.

7. The “Good Drink”

Among the imputations against Luther’s private life most common among
early controversial writers was that of being an habitual drunkard.

On the other hand, many of Luther’s Protestant supporters down to
our own day have been at pains to defend him against any charge of
intemperance. Even scholarly modern biographers of Luther pass over
this point in the most tactful silence, or with just the merest
allusion, though they delight to dwell on his “natural enjoyment of

The following pages may help to show the failings of both methods,
of that pursued by Luther’s opponents, with their frequently quite
unjustifiable exaggerations, and of that of his defenders with their
refusal to discuss even the really existing grounds for complaint.[966]
To begin with, Luther’s enemies must resign themselves to abandon some
of the proofs formerly adduced for his excessive addiction to drink.

_Unsatisfactory Witnesses._

 Luther’s saying: “If I have a can of beer, I want the beer-barrel
 as well,”[967] has often been cited against him, the fact being
 overlooked, that he only made use of this expression in order to
 illustrate, by a very common example, the idea, expressed in the
 heading of the chapter in which it occurs, viz. that “No one is ever
 satisfied.” Everyone, he continues, desires to go one step higher,
 everyone wants to attain to something more, and, then, with other
 examples, he gives that mentioned above, where, for “I,” we might
 equally well substitute “we,” which indeed we find employed elsewhere
 in this same connection: “If we have one Gulden, we want a hundred.”

 Another passage, alleged, strange to say, by older writers, proves
 nothing: “We eat ourselves to death, and drink ourselves to death; we
 eat and drink ourselves into poverty and down to hell.” Here Luther
 is merely speaking against the habit of drinking which had become so
 prevalent, and dominated some to such an extent that death and hell
 were the lamentable consequences to be feared. (See below, p. 308 f.)

 Luther, wishing to drive a point home, says that he is not
 “drunk,”[968] but is writing “in the morning hours.”[969] Must we
 infer, then, that he was in the habit of writing when drunk, or that
 in the afternoon he was not usually sober? Must he be considered
 drunk whenever he does not state plainly that he is sober? The truth
 is that such expressions were merely his way of speaking. In the
 important passage here under consideration he writes: “Possibly it
 may be asserted later that I did not sufficiently weigh what I say
 here against those who deny the presence of Christ in the Sacrament;
 but I am not drunk or giddy; I know what I am saying and what it will
 mean to me on Judgment Day and at the second coming of the Lord Jesus
 Christ.”[970] Thus he is speaking most seriously and uses this curious
 verbal artifice simply to emphasise his earnestness. Were additional
 proof necessary it might be found in other passages; for instance:
 “Christ was not drunk when He said this,” viz. the Eucharistic words
 of consecration, the literal meaning of which Luther is upholding
 against the Strasburg Sacramentarians.[971]

 For the purpose of discrediting Luther an old opponent wrote: “The
 part that eating and drinking play in the life of the Reformer is
 evident from his letters to his Katey,” and then went on to refer to
 the perfectly innocent passage where Luther says, that he preferred
 the beer and wine he was used to at home to what he was having at
 Dessau, whence he wrote. The rest of the letter has also been taken
 in an unnecessarily tragic sense: “Yesterday I had some poor stuff
 to drink so that I had to begin singing: ‘If I can’t drink deep then
 I am sad, for a good deep drink ever makes me so glad.’” It is quite
 unnecessary to take this as a song sung by a “tipsy man”; it is simply
 a jesting reference to a popular ditty which quite possibly he had
 actually struck up to get rid of his annoyance at the quality of the
 liquor. “You would do well,” he continues in the same jocular vein,
 “to send me over the whole cellar full of my usual wine, and a bottle
 of your beer as often as you can, else I shall not turn up any more
 for the new brew.”[972]

 No one who is familiar with his homely mode of speech will take
 offence at his calling himself on one occasion the “corpulent Doctor,”
 and in any case this involves neither gluttony nor drunkenness.
 Moreover, the words occur in a serious connection, for we shall hear
 it from him during the last days of his life: “When I return again
 to Wittenberg I shall lay myself in my coffin and give the worms a
 corpulent doctor to feast on,”[973] referring, of course, to his
 natural stoutness. Offence has also been taken at a sentence met
 with in Luther’s Table-Talk, where he says of his contemporaries of
 fifty years before: “How thin they [i.e. their ranks] have become”;
 from which it was inferred that he wished them a luxurious life and
 corpulence, and that he “regarded pot bellies as an ornament and a
 thing to be desired.” From its context, however, the meaning of the
 word “thin” is clear. What Luther means is: How few of them remain in
 the land of the living.

 But does not Luther in a letter of his let fall a remark scarcely
 beseeming one in his position, viz. that he would like to be more
 frequently in the company of those “good fellows, the students,”
 “the beer is good, the parlour-maid pretty, the lads friendly
 (innig)”?[974] Such is one of the statements brought forward against
 him to show his inordinate love of drink. Yet, when examined, the
 letter is found to say nothing of any yearning of Luther’s to join
 in the drinking-bouts of the students or of any interest of his in
 the maid. “Two honest students” had been recommended to Luther, and
 the letter informs its addressee, the Mansfeld Chancellor Müller at
 Eisleben, of the rumour that “too much was being consumed without any
 necessity by the pair”; the Chancellor was to inform the Count of
 Mansfeld of the fact in order that he (whose protégés they may have
 been) “might keep an eye on them.” Then come the words: “What harm
 would friendly supervision do? The beer is good, the parlour-maid
 pretty and the lads young (‘jung’ not ‘innig’); the students really
 behave very well, and my only regret is that, owing to my weak
 health, I am unable to be oftener with them.” This letter surely does
 Luther credit. It testifies to his solicitude for the two youths
 committed to his care; seeing they are still “good and pious,” he is
 anxious to preserve them from intemperance and other dangers, and
 regrets that, owing to his poor state of health, he is unable to have
 the pleasure of visiting these young fellows more often.

 We must also caution our readers against an alleged quotation from
 Luther’s contemporary, Simon Lemnius. Lemnius is reported to have
 said: “His excessive indulgence in wine and beer made Luther at times
 so ill that he quite expected to die.” No such statement occurs in the
 works of Lemnius. What this writer actually did say of Luther on the
 score of drunkenness will be given later. The above words are a modern
 invention, though one author, strange to say, actually tacked them on
 to the authentic passage in Lemnius as though they had belonged to the

 Again, it has been said that excessive indulgence in some Malvasian
 wine was, on Luther’s own admission, the cause of a malady which
 troubled him for a considerable time in 1529. Luther’s letter in
 question speaks, however, of a “severe and almost fatal catarrh,”
 which lasted for a long time and almost deprived him of his voice;
 others, too, says Luther, had suffered from the catarrh (no great
 wonder in the month of March or April), but not to the same extent as
 he. He had imprudently aggravated the trouble possibly by preaching
 too energetically or—and here comes the incriminating passage—“by
 drinking some adulterated Malvasian to the health of Amsdorf.” Such
 were his words to his confidential friend Jonas. The fact is that
 a wine so expensive as Malvasian was then very liable to being
 adulterated, the demand far exceeding the supply of this beverage,
 which was always expected to figure on the table on great occasions.
 At any rate, there is no mention here of Luther’s illness having
 arisen from continuous and excessive indulgence in wine. At the
 conclusion of this chapter we shall have to consider a similar passage.

 In the above we have examined about a dozen witnesses, whose testimony
 has been shown quite valueless to prove Luther’s alleged devotion to

 The conclusions which have been drawn from the character of certain
 of Luther’s writings or utterances are also worthless. It has been
 affirmed that his “Wider das Bapstum vom Teuffel gestifft” could only
 have been written “under the excitement produced by drink,” and that
 many of his sayings, such as his exhortation to “pray for Our Lord
 God,” could have been uttered “only by a drunken man.”

 Yet his incredible hatred sufficed of itself to explain the frenzy of
 his utterances, nor must we forget that some of his expressions, out
 of place though they may seem, were chosen as best fitted to appeal
 to the populace. “Pray for Our Lord God,” interpreted in the light of
 other similar expressions used by him, means: Pray for the interests
 of our Lord God and of the new Evangel.

_Other Witnesses, Friendly and Hostile._

Before proceeding to scrutinise in detail the more cogent testimonies,
we may remark that one trait in Luther’s character, that namely which
caused him to be called the “merry boon companion,” might possibly be
invoked in support of the charge now under consideration.

It was his struggle with the gloomy moods to which he was so prone that
drove Luther into cheerful company and to seek relief in congenial
conversation and in liquor. That he was not over-scrupulous concerning
indulgence in the latter comfort is attested by his own words, viz.
that he was too fond of jests and convivial gatherings (“_iocis aut
conviviis excedere_”), and that the world had some grounds for taking
offence (“_inveniat in me quo offendatur et cadat_”).[975] Yet he
was very desirous of avoiding such accusations on the part of his
opponents, though, as he puts it, they “calumniate even what is best
and most inoffensive.”[976] When he says elsewhere in his usual gross
way: “They spy out everything that concerns me, and no sooner do I pass
a motion than they smell it at Rome,”[977] this exclamation was called
forth by the scandalous excess in drinking of which a member of his
family was habitually guilty.

Then, again, the drinking habits of the Germans of those days must
be borne in mind. A man had to be a very hard drinker to gain the
reputation of being a drunkard. Instances will be given later showing
how zealously Luther attacked the vice of drunkenness in Germany. At
that time a man (even though a theologian or other person much exposed
to the gaze of the public) was free to imbibe far more than was good
for him without remarks being made or his conduct censured.

Luther’s extraordinary industry and the astounding number of his
literary productions must likewise not be lost sight of. We are
compelled to ask ourselves whether it is likely that the man who wrote
works so numerous and profound, in the midst, too, of the many other
cares which pressed on him, was addicted to habitual drunkenness.
How could the physical capacity for undertaking and executing such
immense labours, and the energy requisite for the long, uninterrupted
religious and literary struggle into which Luther threw himself,
be found in one who unceasingly quenched an excessive thirst with
alcoholic drink? Kawerau has sketched Luther’s “colossal mental
productivity” during the one year 1529, a year in which he was not
engaged in any of his accustomed literary feuds.[978] Works published
during that year cover, in the Weimar edition, 287 pages, in imperial
octavo, his lectures on Deuteronomy 247 pages and the notes of his
sermons (some, however, in duplicate) 824 pages. In addition to this he
was at work on his German translation of the Old Testament, completing
the Pentateuch and making a beginning with the remaining historical
books. Besides this he wrote in that year countless letters, of which
comparatively few, viz. 112, are still extant. He also undertook five
short journeys lasting together about a fortnight.

During the short and anxious period, amounting to 173 days, which he
spent, in 1530, in the Castle of Coburg (it is to this time that some
of the charges of excessive drinking refer), he wrote and forwarded to
the press various biblical expositions which in the Erlangen edition
occupy 718 pages in small octavo, re-wrote in its entirety “Von den
Schlüsseln,” a work of 87 pages, was all the while busy with his
translation of Jeremias, of a portion of Ezechiel and all the minor
Prophets, and finally wrote at least the 128 letters and memoranda
which are still extant.[979] Yet, for whole days during this sojourn
in the Coburg, he was plagued with noises in the head and giddiness,
results, no doubt, of nervous excitement.

That such productivity would not have been possible “without meditation
and study”[980] is, however, not quite true in his case. Luther wrote
most of his works without reflection and without any real study, merely
jotting down carelessly whatever his lively fancy suggested.

Thus we may rightly ask whether the accusation of habitual
participation in drinking-bouts and constant private excess is
compatible with the work he produced.

In the case of reports of an unfavourable nature it is of course
necessary to examine their origin carefully; this unfortunately is not
always done. As we already had occasion to remark when dealing with the
imputations against his moral character, it makes all the difference
whether the witness against him is a Catholic opponent or represents
the New Evangel. Amongst Catholics, again, we must discriminate between
foreigners, who were ignorant of German customs and who sometimes
wrote merely on hearsay, and Luther’s German compatriots. We shall
not characterise the method of those of Luther’s defenders who simply
refuse to listen to his opponents on the ground that, one and all, they
are prejudiced.

 Wolfgang Musculus (Mäuslin), an Evangelical theologian, in the account
 of a journey in May, 1536, during which he had visited Luther, gives
 an interesting and unbiassed report of what he saw at Wittenberg.[981]
 On May 29, Luther came, bringing with him Melanchthon and Lucas
 Cranach, to dine as Mäuslin’s guest at the inn where he was staying.
 There all had their share of the wine. “When dinner was over,” says
 the chronicler, “we all went to the house of Master Lucas, the
 painter, where we had another drink....[982] After this we escorted
 Luther home, where we drank in true Saxon style. He was marvellously
 cheerful and promised everything most readily” (i.e. probably all
 that Musculus proposed concerning the agreement to be come to with
 the Zwinglians, of whom Musculus was one). The allusion to the “Saxon
 style” reminds us of Count Hoyer’s reference to the “custom at
 Mansfeld” (vol. ii., p. 131). Luther’s country does not seem to have
 been noted for its temperance.

 Melanchthon, as one of his pupils relates in the “_Dicta
 Melanchthoniana_,” tells how on a certain day in March, 1523: “Before
 dinner (‘_ante coenam_’)” Luther, with two intimates, Justus Jonas
 and Jacob Probst, the Pastor of Bremen, arrived at Schweinitz near
 Wittenberg. Here, owing to indigestion, “_cruditas_,” Luther was sick
 in a room. In order to remove the bad impression made on the servant
 who had to clean the apartment, Jonas said: “Do not be surprised, my
 good fellow, the Doctor does this sort of thing every day.” By this he
 certainly did not mean, as some have thought, that Luther was in the
 habit of being sick every day as the result of drink; he was merely
 trying to shield his friend in an embarrassing situation by alleging a
 permanent illness. Pastor Probst, however, according to Melanchthon’s
 story, betrayed Jonas by exclaiming: “What a fine excuse!” Jonas
 thereupon seized him by the throat and said: “Hold your tongue!” At
 table the pastor was anxious to return to the matter, but Jonas was
 able to cut him short. Melanchthon concludes the story with a touch
 of sarcasm: “_Hoc est quando posteriora intelliguntur ex prioribus_.”
 Was the sickness in this case due to previous drinking?

 A letter, written by Luther himself, perhaps will help to explain
 the matter. On the eve of his return to Wittenberg he writes from
 Schweinitz on Oculi Sunday, March 8, 1523, to his friend the Court
 Chaplain Spalatin, that he had come to Schweinitz, where the Elector’s
 castle stood, in order to celebrate with the father the baptism of the
 son of a convert Jew named Bernard. “We drank good, pure wine from the
 Elector’s cellar,” he says; “we should indeed be grand Evangelicals
 if we feasted to the same extent on the Evangel.... Please excuse
 us to the Prince for having drunk so much of his Grüneberger wine
 (‘_quod tantum vini Gornbergici ligurierimus_’). Jonas and his wife
 greet you, also the godfathers, godmothers and myself; three virgins
 were present, certainly Jonas, for, as he has no child, we call him a
 virgin.”[983] The letter, curiously disconnected and containing such
 strange jests, quite gives the impression of having been written after
 such a festive gathering as that described by the writer.

 In connection with Melanchthon’s story some Protestants have recently
 urged that, in 1523, Luther was subject to attacks of “sudden
 indisposition” which came on him in the morning and from which he
 found relief in vomiting, and that the above incident is explained
 by this circumstance; the fact that he was sick “before the meal
 and after a lengthy drive proves that we have to do with a result
 not of intemperance but of nervous irritation.” Of such “sudden
 indispositions” arising from nervousness we, however, hear nothing,
 either during that year or for long after. None of the sources mention
 anything of the kind. On the contrary, at Whitsun, 1523, Luther
 wrote to Nicholas Hausmann that he felt “fairly well” (“_satis bene
 valeo_”); that he was of a nervous temperament is of course true, but
 that the morning hours were, as a rule, his worst we only begin to
 learn from his letters in 1530 and 1532; there, moreover, he does not
 mention sickness, but merely “giddiness and the attacks of Satan,”
 which were wont to come on him before breakfast, (“_prandium_,”[984] a
 meal taken about 9 or 10 a.m.). Melanchthon’s story speaks, however,
 not of the morning at all, but of the time before the “_coena_” (i.e.
 the principal meal, taken about 5 p.m.), when Luther was presumably no
 longer fasting.

 Still, it would be better not to lay too much stress on this isolated
 particular incident.[985]

 Next in the series of statements coming from preachers of the new
 Evangel, we meet that of Johann Agricola, who, according to Thiele,
 in the recently discovered notes of his (above, p. 216), when he
 had already separated from Luther, represents him as a “drunken
 profligate,” “who gave the rein to his passions and whom only his
 wife’s sway could influence for good.” Agricola says that Luther had
 contemptuously put aside certain letters of his, but “at last read
 them one morning before the wine had mounted to his head (‘_mane,
 nondum vino calefactus_’). Then he showed himself willing to take me
 into favour again”; this being the result of Katey’s intercession.

 After this we have the testimony of the Swiss theologian, Leo Judæ,
 who, as Kolde tells us,[986] in the letter to Bucer quoted above (p.
 277) and dated April 24, 1534, “reproaches Luther with drunkenness and
 all manner of things, and declares that such a bishop he would not
 tolerate even in the tiniest diocese.”

 Valentine Ickelsamer, in 1525, voices the “fanatics,” whom Luther
 was attacking so vigorously, in his complaint, that the latter was
 “careless and heedless amidst all our needs, and spent his time in
 utter unconcern with the beer-swillers”; before this he had already
 said: “I am well acquainted with your behaviour, having been for a
 while a student at Wittenberg; I will, however, say nothing of your
 gold finger-ring, which gives scandal to so many people, or of the
 pleasant room overlooking the water where you drink and make merry
 with the other doctors and gentlemen.”[987] Neither Ickelsamer nor
 his friends formulate against Luther any explicit charge of startling
 or habitual excess. His daily habits, as just depicted, seemed to
 them to be at variance with his claim to being a divinely appointed
 preacher, called to raise mankind to higher things, but this was
 chiefly on account of their own peculiar narrow mysticism. It was
 from the same standpoint that, wishing to absolve himself from the
 charge of “inciting to rebellion,” Thomas Münzer, in 1524, writes in
 his “Schutzrede”[988] against the “witless, wanton lump of flesh at
 Wittenberg,” also twitting Luther with his “luxurious living” (vol.
 ii., p. 131), i.e. the daintiness of his food.

 With regard to Simon Lemnius, it will suffice to refer to the passage
 already adduced (p. 274): “Luther boasts of being an evangelical
 bishop; how then comes it that he lives so far from temperately,
 being wont to surfeit himself with food and drink?” It is unnecessary
 to repeat how much caution must be exercised in appealing to this
 writer’s statements.

 Among Catholic critics the first place is taken by the theologian,
 Ambrosius Catharinus, an Italian who lived far from Germany. His
 statement regarding Luther’s dancing and drinking has already been
 given (p. 276). This, together with many other of his strictures[989]
 on Luther’s teaching and work, were collected by Cochlæus. Catharinus
 was present at the Council of Trent from 1546-1547 and such reports
 as these may there have reached his ears. That Luther danced, or
 as Catharinus says, even led the dances, is not vouched for in any
 source. Only concerning Melanchthon have we a credible report, that
 he “sometimes danced.” On the other hand, we do know that Luther
 was frequently present at balls, weddings, christenings and other
 such occasions when food and drink were to be had in plenty. So
 distinguished and pleasant a guest was naturally much in demand, as
 Luther himself tells us on several occasions.

 Luther’s letter to Spalatin, on January 14, 1524, concerning the
 (real or imaginary) agent sent by King Ferdinand to enquire into his
 life at Wittenberg, also speaks of the report carried to Court of his
 intercourse with women and habits of drunkenness (vol. ii., p. 132 f.).

 Shortly before, in 1522, Count Hoyer of Mansfeld, a Catholic, wrote
 in a letter to Count Ulrich of Helfenstein, brought to light by a
 Protestant historian, “that Luther was a thorough scoundrel, who drank
 deeply, as was the custom at Mansfeld, played the lute, etc.” (vol.
 ii., p. 131). If, as we find recounted elsewhere, Luther, on his
 journey to the Diet, and at Worms itself, partook freely of the costly
 wines in which his enthusiastic friends pledged him, this was, after
 all, no great crime. It is probable, however, that some worse tales to
 Luther’s discredit in this matter of drinking had come to Hoyer’s ear.

 At the time of the Diet of Worms, Aleander, the Papal Legate there
 present, indeed writes that Luther was “addicted to drunkenness,”[990]
 but the credulous diplomat probably trusted to what he heard from
 parties hostile to Luther and little acquainted with him. (See vol.
 ii., p. 78 f.) It is also a fact that, to Italians imbued with the
 idea that the Germans were drunkards, even quite moderate drinking
 might seem scandalous.

 Cochlæus says of Luther in 1524: “According to what I hear, in his
 excessive indulgence in beer, Luther is worse than a debauchee.”[991]
 Here again we have merely an echo of statements made by strangers,
 albeit in this instance stronger and more positive.—Less weight is to
 be attached to the account of Jacob Ziegler of Landau, who writes from
 Rome to Erasmus on February 16, 1522, that there Luther was regarded
 as “given to fornication and tippling,” adding that he was considered
 as the precursor of Antichrist.[992]—Of the inhabitants of Wittenberg
 generally Ulrich Zasius complains, in a letter of December 21, 1521,
 to Thomas Blaurer, that it was reported they ran almost daily to
 communion but afterwards swilled beer to such an extent that they were
 unable to recognise each other.[993] To his other charges against the
 life led there and against the heads of the movement, Blaurer replied,
 but, curiously enough, the complaint of drunkenness he does not even
 refer to.[994] From the detailed description given by a Catholic Canon
 of Wittenberg on December 29, 1521, we do, however, learn that the
 greatest abuses prevailed in connection with the Supper, and that some
 even communicated who had previously been indulging in brandy.[995]

 The last witness had nothing to say of Luther personally. On the other
 hand, another does state that, the night before his death, he was
 “_plane obrutus potu_.” This, however, comes from a later writer, who
 lived far away and has shown himself otherwise untrustworthy.[996]

 Another less unreliable report also has to do with Luther’s death-bed.
 Johann Landau, the Mansfeld apothecary, who was a Catholic, and had
 occasion to handle Luther’s corpse, left the following in the notes
 he made: “In consequence of excessive eating and drinking the body
 was full of corrupt juices,” Luther had “exceeded in the use of sweet
 foreign wines.” “It is said,” he continues, “that he drank every
 day at noon and in the evening a sextar of rich foreign wine.”[997]
 This statement does not appear to be restricted to the last days
 of Luther’s life, which were spent with Count Mansfeld. It is well
 known that Luther died after a meal. What amount the “sextar” and
 the “stuebchen,” to be mentioned immediately, represented has not
 yet been determined, as the measures differed so much in various
 parts of the country. The sextar, according to G. Agricola, was
 usually a quarter of the stuebchen, as, according to him, twenty-four
 sextars or six stuebchen went to one amphora; the sextar itself
 contained four gills.[998] In a letter of Luther’s, dating from the
 period of his stay at Mansfeld, we find the following: “We live well
 here,” he writes to Katey, “and the council allows me for each meal
 half a gallon of excellent Rheinfall. Sometimes I drink it with my
 companions. The wine produced here is also good and the Naumburg beer
 quite capital.”[999] Rheinfall (more correctly Reinfal) was a southern
 wine then highly prized.[1000] Luther, as a rule, preferred to keep to
 Naumburg beer.[1001]

_Luther’s Own Comments on the “Good Drink.”_

The following statements of Luther’s concerning his indulgence in
spirituous liquors are especially noteworthy; of these some have been
quoted without sufficient attention being paid to their real meaning.

“Know that all goes well with me here,” Luther writes in 1540
from Weimar to his Katey, who was anxious about him; “I feed like
a Bohemian, and swill like a German, for which God be thanked,
Amen.”[1002] Soon after he repeats, in a letter to the same addressee,
the phrase which has since grown famous, this time in a slightly
amended form: Know “that we are well and cheerful here, thanks be
to God; we feed like Bohemians, though not too much, and swill like
Germans, not deeply but with jollity.”[1003] He is fond of thus
speaking of his “feeding and swilling,” though, such expressions being
less unconventional then than now, stress must not be laid on them. In
both letters he was clearly seeking by his jests to reassure his wife,
who was concerned for his health. During his last weeks at Eisleben he
also wrote to Katey: “We have plenty on which to feed and swill.”[1004]

“If the Lord God holds me excused,” he says in a famous utterance in
the Table-Talk, “for having plagued Him for quite twenty years by
celebrating Mass, He assuredly will excuse me for sometimes indulging
in a drink to His honour; God grant it and let the world take it as it

Of the last decade of Luther’s life his pupil Mathesius relates, that,
in the evening, “if not inclined for sleep, he had to take a draught
to promote it, often making excuse for so doing: ‘You young fellows
must not mind if our Elector and an old chap like me take a generous
drink; we have to try and find our pillow and our bolster in the
tankard.’”[1006] The same witness relates another utterance of about
the same time: “He came home from a party and drank the health of a
guest: ‘I must make merry to-day, for I have received bad tidings; for
this there is no better cure than a fervent Paternoster and a brave
heart. For the demon of melancholy is much put out when a man insists
upon being merry.’”[1007]

Here we have two reasons, want of sleep and depression resulting from
bad news, which induced him to have a “good drink.” A third reason
was furnished by his temptations to doubt and vacillate in faith. The
“good drink” must not, however, be too deep as it “recently was at
the Electoral couchee at Torgau, where, not satisfied with the usual
measures, they pledged each other in half-gallon cans. That they called
a good drink. _Sic inventa lege inventa est et fraus legis._”[1008]

Luther’s advice to his pupil Hieronymus Weller, when the latter was
tempted and troubled, as stated above (p. 175), was to follow his
example and “to drink deeper and jest more freely,” and to answer the
devil when he objected to such drinking, that “he would drink all the
more because he forbade it”; he himself (Luther), for no other reason,
was wont to drink more deeply and talk more freely than to scorn
the devil by his “hard drinking.”[1009] “When troubled with gloomy
thoughts,” he declared on another occasion, it was his habit “to have
a good pull at the beer”; Melanchthon had a different sort of remedy,
viz. consulting the stars; Luther, however, considered his practice the
better one.[1010]

These and such-like utterances circulated far and wide, often in a
highly exaggerated form, and Luther had only himself to thank if many
Catholics, on the strength of them, came to regard him as a regular
drunkard. This impression was in no way diminished by the rough humour
which accompanied his talk of eating and drinking. People then were
perfectly acquainted with the fact that the Table-Talk was regarded,
even by some enthusiastic Lutherans, as only a half revelation, the
truth being that they did not make sufficient allowance for Luther’s
vein of humour and exaggeration.

It was, however, quite seriously that Luther spoke in August, 1540,
when the excessive drinking of the miners was discussed at table: “It
is not well,” he said, “but if they work hard for the rest of the
week, then we must allow them some relaxation (at the week-end). Their
work is hard and very dangerous and some allowance must be made for
the custom of the country. I, too, have an occasional tipple, but not
everybody must follow my example, for not all have the work to do that
I have.”[1011] Here, accordingly, we have a fourth reason alleged in
excuse of his drinking, possibly the most usual and practical one,
viz. his fatiguing work.—In May of the same year he expressed his
opinion of the extent to which drinking might be allowable in certain
circles; this he did because he had been accused of not reproving
drunkenness at the Court: “On the contrary,” he says, “I have spoken
strongly about it before the whole Court; truly I spoke forcibly and
severely to the nobles, reproaching them with tempting and corrupting
the Prince. This greatly pleased the old gentleman [the Elector
Johann], for he lived temperately.... I said to the nobles: ‘You ought
to employ yourselves after dinner in the Palæstra or in some other
good exercise, after which you might have a good drink, for drinking
is permissible, but drunkenness never (_ebrietas est ferenda, sed
ebriositas minime_).’”[1012] “Cheerful people,” he said in May or June,
“may sometimes indulge more freely in wine,” but if drinking makes a
man angry, he must avoid it like “poison.” These words were meant for
his nephew, Hans Polner, who was in the habit of returning to Luther’s
house much the worse for drink. With him Luther was very wroth:
“On your account I am ill-spoken of by foreigners. My foes spy out
everything that goes on about me.... When you do some mischief while
drunk, you forget what shame you are bringing not only upon me and on
my house, but on the town, the Church and the Evangel. Others after
a drinking-bout are merry and friendly; such was the case with my
father; they simply sing and jest; but you, you fly into a rage.”[1013]

Luther, when preaching to the people, often denounced the prevalent
habit of drinking, a circumstance which must not be overlooked when
passing judgment upon him. The German vice of drunkenness which he
saw increasing around him in the most alarming manner caused him such
distress, that he exclaimed in one of his postils: “Our poor German
land is chastised and plagued with this devil of drink, and altogether
drowned in this vice, so that life and limb, possessions and honour,
are shamefully lost while people lead the life of swine, so that,
had we to depict Germany, we should have to show it under the image
of a sow.”[1014] Only “the little children, virgins and women” were
exempt from the malady; “unless God strikes at this vice by a national
calamity everything will go down to the abyss, all sodden through and
through with drink.”[1015] Was this the way to be grateful “to the
light of the Evangel” which had burst upon Germany?[1016] His question
shows that he was speaking primarily of the conditions prevailing under
the new Evangel. Looking back on the Catholic past he has perforce to
admit, that, although this vice was by no means unknown then, yet “I
remember that when I was young it [drunkenness] was looked upon by the
nobility as a great shame, and that worthy gentry and Princes sought
to combat it by wise prohibitions and penalties; but now it is even
worse and more prevalent amongst them than amongst the peasants; so far
has it come that even Princes and men of gentle birth learn it from
their squires, and are not ashamed of it; it is regarded as honourable
and quite a virtue by Princes, nobles and burghers, so that whosoever
refuses to become a sodden brute is despised.”[1017]

In powerful passages such as these he assails the vice from both the
natural and the supernatural standpoint. Yet his chief complaint is
not so much its existence as its appalling extent; his reproofs are
intended for those who “get drunk daily,” for those “maddened and
sodden with drink,” for those who “day and night are ever pouring the
liquor down their throats.” He expressly states that he is willing to
be lenient in cases where a man is drunk only now and again. “It may be
borne with and overlooked,” he says in the sermon quoted, “if from time
to time a person by mistake takes a glass too much, or, after being
exhausted by labour and toil, gets a little the worse for drink.”[1018]

In 1534, in an exposition of Psalm ci., where he describes the doings
of the “Secular Estate,” he is no less hopeless concerning this plague
which afflicts Germany: “Every country must have its own devil; our
German devil is a good skin of wine and surely his name is Swill”;
until the last day eternal thirst would remain the German’s curse;
it was quite useless to seek to remedy matters, Swill still remained
the all-powerful god.[1019] More dignified language would assuredly
have been better in place here and elsewhere where he deals with this
subject. For quaint homeliness it would, however, be hard to beat him;
referring to their drinking habits, he tells the great men at the
Court: “In the morning you really look as though your heads had been
pickled in brine.”[1020] Yet, from the very passage in the Table-Talk
where this is recounted, we learn that he said to the guests, again in
a far too indulgent strain: “The Lord God must account the drunkenness
of us Germans a mere daily [i.e. venial] sin, for we are unable to give
it up; nevertheless, it is a shameful curse, harmful alike to body,
soul and property.”

_Witnesses to Luther’s Temperate Habits._

Within Luther’s camp the chief witnesses to his temperate habits are
Melanchthon and Mathesius.

 Melanchthon in his formal panegyric on the deceased says, that “though
 a stout man, he was very moderate in eating and drinking (‘_natura
 valde modici cibi et potus_’). I have seen him, when quite in good
 health, abstaining entirely from food and drink for four days. At
 other times I frequently saw him content himself for many days with
 a little bread with kippers.”[1021] His four days’ abstinence,
 however, probably coincided with one of his attacks—“temptations,”
 which, as we know from Ratzeberger, his medical adviser, were usually
 accompanied by intense dislike for food. Besides, before his marriage,
 Luther had not the same attention and care he received later from his
 wife. It is not unlikely that Melanchthon was thinking of this period
 when he speaks of the “bread and kippers,” for the passage really
 refers to the beginning of his acquaintanceship with Luther, possibly
 even to his monastic days. However this may be, we must not forget
 that the clause is part of a panegyric.

 Mathesius, Luther’s attentive pupil and admirer, says of him in his
 sermons, that Luther, “although he was somewhat corpulent, ate and
 drank little and rarely anything out of the common, but contented
 himself with ordinary food. In the evening, if not inclined to sleep,
 he had to take a draught to promote it, often making excuse for so

That Luther was perfectly content “without anything out of the common”
is confirmed by other writers, and concerning the general frugality of
his household there can be no question. In this respect we may well
believe what Mathesius says, for he was a regular attendant at Luther’s
evening table in the forties of the century. His assertion that Luther
“drank but little” must, however, be considered in the light of other
of his statements.

What Mathesius thought of the “sleeping-draught” and the feasts at
which, so he relates, Luther assisted from time to time, appears from a
discourse incorporated by him in his “Wedding-sermons.” Here he speaks
of the “noble juice of the grape and how we can make use of it in a
godly fashion and with a good conscience”; he is simply the mouthpiece
of Luther. Like Luther, he condemns gluttony and “bestial drunkenness,”
but is so indulgent in the matter of cheerful carousing that a
Protestant Canon in the eighteenth century declared, that Mathesius had
gone astray in his sermon on the use of wine.[1023] Mathesius says that
we must have “a certain amount of patience” with those who sometimes,
for some quite valid reason, “get a little tipsy,” or “kick over the
traces,” provided they “don’t do so every day” and that “the next
morning they are heartily sorry for it”; the learned were quite right
in distinguishing between “_ebriositas_” and “_ebrietas_”; if a ruling
Prince had worked industriously all day, or a scholar had “read and
studied till his head swam,” such busy and much-tired people, if they
chose “in the evening to drink away their cares and heavy thoughts,
must be permitted some over-indulgence, particularly if it does not
hinder them in the morning from praying, studying and working.”[1024]

This is the exact counterpart of Luther’s theory and practice as
already described, in the distinction made between “_ebriositas_”
and “_ebrietas_,” in the statement that drunkenness is no more than
a venial sin, in the unseemly and jocose tone employed when speaking
of tipsiness, and in the license accorded those who (like Luther) had
much work to do, or (again, like Luther), were plagued with “gloomy
thoughts.” The other conditions are also noteworthy, viz. that it must
not be of “daily occurrence” and that the offender must afterwards be
“heartily sorry”; in such a case we must be tolerant. All this agrees
with Luther’s own teaching.

Such passages, coming from the master and his devoted disciple, must
be taken as the foundation on which to base our judgment. Such general
statements of principle must carry more weight than isolated instances
of Luther’s actual practice, more even than the various testimonies
considered above. In the eyes of the impartial historian, moreover,
the various elements will be seen to fit into each other so as to form
a whole, the elements being on the one hand the highly questionable
principle we have just heard expressed, and on the other his own
admissions concerning his practice, supplemented by the testimony of

In the first place, there is no doubt that his theory was dangerously
lax. We need only call to mind the string of reasons given in
vindication of a “good drink” and mere “_ebrietas_.” Such excuses
were not only insufficient but might easily be adduced daily in
ever-increasing number. Luther’s limitation of the permission to
occasional bouts, etc., was altogether illusory and constituted no
real barrier against excess. How could such theories, we may well ask,
promote temperance and self-denial? Instead of resisting the lower
impulses of nature they give the reins to license. They are part and
parcel of the phenomenon so noticeable in early Lutheranism, where
Christian endeavour, owing to the discredit with which penance and good
works were overwhelmed, was not allowed to rise above the level of
ordinary life, and indeed often failed to attain even to this standard.
How different sound the injunctions of Christ and His Apostles to the
devoted followers of the true Gospel: Take up thy cross; resist the
flesh and all its lusts; be sober and watch.

The result as regards Luther’s practice must on the whole be considered
as unfavourable, though it is not of course so well known to us as his
theory. It may also, quite possibly, have varied at different periods
of his life, for instance, may not have been the same when Mathesius
was acquainted with him, i.e. when his mode of life had become more
regular, as when Count Hoyer of Mansfeld wrote so scornfully after
the Diet of Worms. Nevertheless, Luther’s vigorous denunciation of
habitual drunkenness on the one hand, and the extraordinary amount of
work he contrived to get through on the other, also the absence of any
very damaging or definite charge by those who had every opportunity of
observing him at Wittenberg, for instance, the hostile Anabaptists and
other “sectarians,” all this leads us to infer, that he availed himself
of his theories only to a very limited extent. His own statements,
however, as well as those of his friends and opponents, enable us to
see that his lax principle, “_ebrietas est ferenda_,” was not without
its effects upon his habits of life. The allegation of his joy of
living, and his healthy love of the things of sense, does not avail to
explain away his own admissions, nor what others laid to his charge.
The worst of it is, that we gain the impression that the lax theory was
conceived to suit his own case, for all the reasons which he held to
excuse the “good drink” and the subsequent “_ebrietas_” were present
in his case—depression caused by bad news, cares and gloomy thoughts,
pressure of work, temptations to sadness and doubts, sleeplessness and
mental exhaustion.

_From the Cellar and the Tap-Room._

The task remains of considering certain further traits in Luther’s life
with regard to his indulgence in drinking.

During the first part of his public career Luther himself speaks
of the temptation to excessive eating and drinking and other bad
habits to which he was exposed. This he did in 1519 in his remarkably
frank confession to his superior Staupitz.[1025] Here the expression
“_crapula_” must be taken more seriously than on another occasion
when, in a letter to a friend written from the Wartburg in the midst
of his arduous labours, he describes himself as “sitting idle, and

After Luther’s marriage, when he had settled down comfortably in the
Black Monastery, it was Catherine, who, agreeably with the then custom,
brewed the beer at home. It seems, however, to have been of inferior
quality, indeed not fit to set before his guests. That he had several
sorts of wine in his cellar we learn on the occasion of the marriage of
his niece Lena in 1538. He complains that in Germany it was very hard
to buy “a really trustworthy drink,” as even the carriers adulterated
the wines on the way.[1027]

As already stated, beer was his usual drink. Whilst he was “drinking
Wittenberg beer with Philip and Amsdorf,” he said as early as 1522, in
a well-known passage, “the Papacy had been weakened through the Word of
God” which he had preached.[1028]

It was, however, with wine that on great occasions the ample
“Catechismusglas” (see above, p. 219) was filled.[1029] How much this
bowl contained which Luther, though not his guest Agricola, could
empty at one draught, has not been determined, though illustrations
of it were thought to exist. Agricola’s statement concerning his vain
attempt to drain it leads us to conclude that the famous glass was of
considerable size. It impresses one strangely to learn that Luther
occasionally toasted his guests in a crystal beaker reputed to have
once belonged to St. Elizabeth of Hungary; this too, no doubt, passed
from hand to hand.[1030]

An example of Luther’s accustomed outspokenness was witnessed by some
of those who happened to be present on the arrival of a Christmas gift
of wine in 1538. The cask came from the Margrave of Brandenburg and, to
the intense disappointment of the recipient, contained Franconian wine.
Luther, in spite of the importance of the gift, made no secret of his
annoyance, and his complaints would appear to have duly reached the ear
of the Margrave. In order to efface the bad impression made at Court,
Luther was obliged to send a letter of excuse to Sebastian Heller, the
Chancellor. Therein he says he had been quite unaware of the excellence
of Franconian wine, and, “like the big fool” he was, had not known
that the inhabitants of Franconia were so fortunate in their wine as
now, after tasting it, he had ascertained to be the case. In future
he was going to stick to Franconian wine; to the Prince he sent his
best thanks and trusted he would take nothing amiss.[1031]—From the
Landgrave Philip of Hesse, after he had forwarded him his memorandum
regarding his bigamy, he received a hogshead of Rhine wine.[1032] In
the same year he received from the Town Council of Wittenberg a present
of a gallon of Franconian “and four quarts of Gutterbogk wine” on the
occasion of the marriage of his niece, mentioned above.

From the magistrates, in addition to other presents, came frequent
gifts of liquor for himself and his guests, of which we find the
entries since 1519 recorded in the Town-registers.

Only recently has attention been drawn to this.[1033]

In 1525 we find the following items: “7 Gulden for six cans of
Franconian wine at 14 Groschen the quart presented _Doctori Martino_
on his engagement; 136 Gulden, 6 Groschen for a barrel of Einbeck
beer presented _Doctori Martino_ for his wedding; 440 Gulden _Doctori
Martino_ for wine and beer presented by the Council and the town on the
occasion of his nuptials and wedding. Fine of 120 Gulden paid by Clara,
wedded wife of Lorenz Eberhard dwelling at Jessen for abusive language
concerning Doctor Martin and his honourable wife, and also for abusing
the Pastor’s [Bugenhagen] wife at Master Lubeck’s wedding; 136 Gulden,
2 Groschen for wine sent for during the year by Doctor Martin from the
town vaults and paid for by the Council.” In addition to the various
“presents” made by the Council, we meet repeatedly in other years with
items recording deliveries of beer or wine which Luther had sent for
from the town cellar. These are entered as “owing.... The Council loath
to sue him for them....” And again, “allowed to Doctor Martin this

This explains the low items for liquor in Luther’s own list of
household expenses, which were frequently quoted in proof of his
exceptional abstemiousness. As a matter of fact, they are so small
simply owing to the presents and to his requisitions on the town
cellars, for much of which he never paid. “Four pfennigs daily for
drink” we read in his household accounts in a Gotha MS., the date of
which is uncertain.[1034] Seeing that at Wittenberg a can of beer cost
3 pfennigs, this would allow him very little. According to another
entry Katey required 56 pfennigs weekly for making the beer; the
date of this is equally uncertain. It is to the filial devotion of
Protestant researchers that we owe this information.[1035]

Luther was in a particularly cheerful mood when he wrote, on March
18, 1535, the letter, already quoted (p. 296 f.), to his friend
Caspar Müller, the Mansfeld Chancellor at Eisleben. The letter is to
some extent a humorous one, but is it really a fact that in the last
of the three signatures appended he qualifies himself as “_Doctor
plenus_”?[1036] According to some controversialists such is the case.

It is true that Denifle says of this signature, now-preserved with
the letter in the Vatican Library,[1037] “that the badly written
and scarcely legible word ... either reads or might be read as
‘_plenus_.’”[1038] According to R. Reitzenstein, on the other hand,
who also studied them, the characters cannot possibly be read thus. E.
Thiele, who mentions this, suggests[1039] that perhaps we might read
it as “Doctor Hans,” and that the signature in question might refer to
Luther’s little son who was with him and whose greetings with those of
the mother Luther sends at the end of the letter to Müller, who was the
child’s godfather.

First comes the legible signature “_Doctor Martinus_” in Luther’s
handwriting; below this, also quite legible, stands “_Doctor Luther_,”
possibly denoting his wife, as Thiele very reasonably conjectures;
finally we have the questionable “_Doctor plenus_.” To read “Hans”
instead of “_plenus_,” is, according to Denifle, “quite out of the
question,” as I also found when I came to examine the facsimile
published by G. Evers in 1883.[1040] On the other hand, to judge by the
facsimile, it appeared to me that “_Johannes_” might possibly be the
true reading, and the Latin form also seemed to agree with that of the
previous signatures. When I was able to examine the original in Rome
in May, 1907, I convinced myself that, as a matter of fact, the badly
formed and intertwined characters could be read as “_Johannes_”; this
reading was also confirmed by Alfredo Monaci, the palæologist.[1041]
Hence the reading “_Doctor plenus_,” too confidently introduced by
Evers and repeated by Enders, though with a query, in his edition of
Luther’s letters, may safely be consigned to oblivion. Even had it
been correct, it would merely have afforded a fresh example of Luther’s
jokes at his own expense, and would not necessarily have proved that
his mirth was due to spirituous influence.

In one letter of Luther’s, which speaks of the time he passed in the
Castle of Coburg, we hear more of the disagreeable than of the cheering
effects of wine.

“I have brought on headache by drinking old wine in the Coburg,” he
complains to his friend Wenceslaus Link, “and this our Wittenberg beer
has not yet cured. I work little and am forced to be idle against my
will because my head must have a rest.”[1042] In the Electoral accounts
25 Eimer of wine are set down for the period of Luther’s stay at the
Coburg;[1043] seeing that he and two companions spent only 173 days
there, our Protestant friends have hastened to allege “the frequent
visits he received” in the Coburg.[1044] It is true that he had a good
many visitors during the latter part of his stay. However this may be,
the illness showed itself as early as May, 1530. His own diagnosis
here is no less unsatisfactory than the accounts concerning the other
maladies from which he suffered. No doubt the malady was chiefly

In October of that same year, Luther protested that he had been “very
abstemious in all things”[1045] at the Coburg, and Veit Dietrich, his
assistant at that time, wrote in the same sense on July 4: “I carefully
observed that he did not transgress any of the rules of diet.”[1046]
His indisposition showed itself in unbearable noises in the head, at
times accompanied by extreme sensitiveness to light.[1047] Luther was
convinced that the trouble was due to the qualities of the strong
wines provided for him at the castle—or, possibly, to the devil. “We
are very well off,” he says in June, 1530, “and live finely, but for
almost a month past I have been plagued not only with noises but with
actual thundering in my head, due, perhaps, to the wine, perhaps
to the malice of Satan.”[1048] Veit Dietrich inclined strongly to
the latter view. He tells us of the apparition of a “flaming fiery
serpent” under which form the devil had manifested himself to Luther
during his solitude in the Coburg: “On the following day he was plagued
with troublesome noises in his head; thus the greater part of what he
suffered was the work of the devil.”[1049] Luther himself complained
in August of a fresh indisposition, this time scarcely due to nerves,
which, according to him, was the result either of wine, or of the
devil. “I am troubled with a sore throat, such as I never had before;
possibly the strong wine has increased the inflammation, or perhaps it
is a buffet of Satan [2 Cor. xii. 7].”[1050] Four days later he wrote
again: “My head still buzzes and my throat is worse than ever.”[1051]
In the following month some improvement showed itself, and even before
this he had days free from suffering; still, after quitting the Coburg,
he still complained of incessant headache caused, as he thought, by
the “old wine.” When all is said, however, it does seem that later
controversialists were wrong in so confidently attributing his illness
in the Coburg merely to excessive love of the bottle.

Luther often vaunted the wholesome effects of beer. In a letter to
Katey dated February 1, 1546, he extols the aperient qualities of
Naumburg beer.[1052] In another to Jonas, dated May 15, 1542, he speaks
of the good that beer had done in relieving his sufferings from stone;
beer was to be preferred to wine; much benefit was also to be derived
from a strict diet.[1053]

All these traits from Luther’s private life, taken as a whole, may be
considered to confirm the opinion expressed above, p. 311 f., regarding
the charges which may stand against him and those of which he is to be



1. Melanchthon in the Service of Lutheranism, 1518-30

WHEN Melanchthon was called upon to represent Lutheranism officially at
the Diet of Augsburg, while the real head of the innovation remained in
the seclusion of the Coburg (vol. ii., p. 384), he had already been in
the closest spiritual relation with Luther for twelve years.

The talented young man who had given promise of the highest
achievements in the domain of humanism, and who had taken up his
residence at Wittenberg with the intention of devoting his academic
career more particularly to the Greek classics, soon fell under
Luther’s influence. Luther not only loved and admired him, but was, all
along, determined to exploit, in the interests of his new theology,
the rare gifts of a friend and colleague thirteen years his junior.
Melanchthon not only taught the classics, but, after a while, announced
a series of lectures on the Epistle to Titus. It was due to Luther that
he thus gave himself up more to divinity and eventually cultivated it
side by side with humanism. “With all his might” Luther “drove him to
study theology.”[1054] Melanchthon’s “_Loci communes_” or elements of
theology, a scholastically conceived work on the main doctrines of
Lutheranism, was one of the results of Luther’s efforts to profit by
the excellent gifts of the colleague—who he was convinced had been
sent him by Providence—in formulating his theology and in demolishing
the olden doctrine of the Church. The “_Loci_” proved to be a work of
fundamental importance for Luther’s cause.[1055]

The character of the “_Loci_,” at once methodic and positive,
indicated the lines on which Melanchthon as a theologian was afterwards
to proceed. He invented nothing, his aim being rather to clothe
Luther’s ideas in clear, comprehensive and scholastic language—so
far as this could be done. His carefully chosen wording, together
with his natural dislike for exaggeration or unnecessary harshness
of expression, helped him in many instances so to tone down what was
offensive in Luther’s doctrines and opinions as to render them, in
their humanistic dress, quite acceptable to many scholars. As a matter
of fact, however, all his polish and graceful rhetoric often merely
served to conceal the lack of ideas, or the contradictions. The great
name he had won for himself in the field of humanism by his numerous
publications, which vied with those of Reuchlin and Erasmus—his
friends called him “_praeceptor Germaniae_”—went to enhance the
importance of his theological works amongst those who either sided with
Luther or were wavering.

_Earlier Relations of Luther with Melanchthon._

As professor, Melanchthon had at the outset an audience of from five to
six hundred, and, later, his hearers numbered as many as 1500. He was
perfectly aware that this was due to the renown which the University
of Wittenberg had acquired through Luther, and the success of their
common enterprise bound him still more closely to the ecclesiastical
innovation. To the very end of his life he laboured in the interests
of Lutheranism in the lecture-hall, at religious disputations, by
his printed works, his memoranda, and his letters, by gaining new
friends and by acting as intermediary when dissension threatened.—In
his translation of the Bible Luther found a most willing and helpful
adviser in this expert linguist. It is worthy of note that he never
took the degree of Doctor of Divinity or showed the slightest desire
to be made equal to his colleagues in this respect. Unlike the rest of
his Wittenberg associates, he had not been an ecclesiastic previous to
leaving Catholicism, nor would he ever consent to undertake the task of
preacher in the Lutheran Church, or to receive Lutheran Orders, though
for some years he, on Sundays, was wont to expound in Latin the Gospels
to the students; these homilies resulted in his Postils. When Luther at
last, in 1520, persuaded him to marry the daughter of the Burgomaster
of Wittenberg, he thereby succeeded in chaining to the scene of his
own labours this valuable and industrious little man with all his vast
treasures of learning. At the end of the year Melanchthon, under the
pseudonym of Didymus Faventinus, composed his first defence of Luther,
in which he, the Humanist, entirely vindicated against Aristotle and
the Universities his attacks upon the rights of natural reason.[1056]

As early as December 14, 1518, Luther, under the charm of his
friend’s talents, had spoken of him in a letter to Johann Reuchlin as
a “wonderful man in whom almost everything is supernatural.”[1057]
On September 17, 1523, he said to his friend Theobald Billicanus of
Nördlingen: “I value Philip as I do myself, not to speak of the fact
that he shames, nay, excels me by his learning and the integrity of his
life (‘_eruditione et integritate vitae_’).”[1058] Five years later
Luther penned the following testimony in his favour in the Preface
at the commencement of Melanchthon’s Exposition of the Epistle to
the Colossians (1528-29): “He proceeds [in his writings] quietly and
politely, digs and plants, sows and waters, according to the gifts
which God has given him in rich measure”; he himself, on the other
hand, was “very stormy and pugnacious” in his works, but he was “the
rough hewer, who has to cut out the track and prepare the way.”[1059]
In the Preface to the edition of his own Latin works in 1545 he praises
Melanchthon’s “_Loci_” and classes them amongst the “methodic books” of
which every theologian and bishop would do well to make use; “how much
the Lord has effected by means of this instrument which He has sent me,
not merely in worldly learning but also in theology, is demonstrated by
his works.”[1060]

The extravagant praise accorded by Luther to his fellow-worker was
returned by the other in equal measure. When deprived of Luther’s
company during the latter’s involuntary stay at the Wartburg, he wrote
as follows to a friend: “The torch of Israel was lighted by him, and
should it be extinguished what hope would remain to us?... Ah, could I
but purchase by my death the life of him who is at this time the most
divine being upon earth!”[1061] A little later he says in the same
style: “Our Elias has left us; we wait and hope in him. My longing for
him torments me daily.”[1062] Luther was not unwilling to figure as
Elias and wrote to his friend that he (Melanchthon) excelled him in the
Evangel, and should he himself perish, would succeed him as an Eliseus
with twice the spirit of Elias.

We cannot explain these strange mutual encomiums merely by the love
of exaggeration usual with the Humanists. Luther as a rule did not
pander to the taste of the Humanists, and as for Melanchthon, he really
entertained the utmost respect and devotion for the “venerable father”
and “most estimable doctor” until, at last, difference of opinion and
character brought about a certain unmistakable coolness between the two

Melanchthon, albeit with great moderation and reserve, never quitted
the reformer’s standpoint as regards either theory or practice. Many
Catholic contemporaries were even of opinion that he did more harm to
the Church by his prudence and apparent moderation than Luther by all
his storming. His soft-spoken manner and advocacy of peace did not,
however, hinder him from voicing with the utmost bitterness his hatred
of everything Catholic, and his white-hot prejudice in favour of the
innovations. He wrote, for instance, at the end of 1525 in an official
memorandum (“_de iure reformandi_”) intended for the evangelical
Princes and Estates that, even should “war and scandal” ensue, still
they must not desist from the introduction and maintenance of the new
religious system, for our cause “touches the honour of Christ,” and
the doctrine of Justification by Faith alone in particular, so he
says, “will not suffer the contrary.” Why heed the complaints of the
Catholics and the Empire? Christ witnessed “the destruction of the
Kingdom of the Jews” and yet proceeded with His work. According to
this memorandum there was no need of waiting for the Pope’s permission
to “reform” things; the people are everywhere “bound to accept the
doctrine [of Luther]” while evangelical Princes and authorities are
“not bound to obey the edicts [of the Empire]; hence, in fairness, they
cannot be scolded as schismatics.”[1063] For such a ruthless invitation
to overturn the old-established order Melanchthon sought to reassure
himself and others by alleging the “horrible abuses” of Popery which
it had become necessary to remove; the war was to be only against
superstition and idolatry, the tyranny of the ecclesiastical system
challenging resistance.[1064]

Then and ever afterwards the Pope appeared to him in the light of
Antichrist, with whom no reconciliation was possible unless indeed he
yielded to Luther.

In the same year in which he wrote the above his correspondence begins
to betray the anxiety and apprehension which afterwards never ceased
to torture him, due partly to what he witnessed of the results of the
innovations, partly to his own natural timidity. The Peasant War of
1525 plunged him into dismay. There he saw to what lengths the abuse of
evangelical freedom could lead, once the passions of the people were
let loose. At the express wish of the Elector Ludwig of the Palatinate
he wrote in vigorous and implacable language a refutation of the
Peasant Articles; the pen of the scholar was, however, powerless to
stay the movement which was carrying away the people.

A work of much greater importance fell to him when he was invited to
take part in the Visitation of the churches in the Saxon Electorate,
then in a state of utter chaos; it was then that he wrote, in 1527, the
Visitation-booklet for the use of the ecclesiastical inspectors.

In the directions he therein gave for the examination of pastors
and preachers he modified to such an extent the asperities of the
Lutheran principles that he was accused of reacting in the direction
of Catholicism, particularly by the stress he laid on the motive of
fear of God’s punishments, on greater earnestness in penance and on
the keeping of the “law.” Luther’s preaching of the glad Evangel had
dazzled people and made them forgetful of the “law” and Commandments.
According to Melanchthon this was in great part the fault of the
Lutheran preachers.

 “In their addresses to the people,” he complains in 1526, “they barely
 mention the fear of God. Yet this, and not faith alone, is what they
 ought to teach.... On the other hand, they are all the more zealous
 in belabouring the Pope.” Besides this they are given to fighting
 with each other in the pulpit; the authorities ought to see that only
 the “more reasonable are allowed to preach and that the others hold
 their tongues, according to Paul’s injunction.”[1065] “They blame our
 opponents,” he writes of these same preachers in 1528, “for merely
 serving their bellies by their preaching, but they themselves appear
 only to work for their own glory, so greatly do they allow themselves
 to be carried away by anger.”[1066]

 “The depravity of the country population” he declares in a letter of
 the same year to be intolerable; it must necessarily call down the
 heavy hand of God’s chastisement. “The deepest hatred of the Gospel”
 was, however, to be found “in those who play the part of our patrons
 and protectors.” Here he is referring to certain powerful ones; he
 also laments “the great indifference of the Court.” All this shows the
 end to be approaching: “Believe me, the Day of Judgment is not far
 distant.” “When I contemplate the conditions of our age, I am troubled
 beyond belief.”[1067]

 Regarding his recommendation of penance and confession during the
 Visitations, a conversation which he relates to Camerarius as having
 taken place at the table of a highly placed patron of the innovations,
 is very characteristic. A distinguished guest having complained of
 this recommendation, the patron chimed in with the remark, that the
 people must “hold tight to the freedom they had secured, otherwise
 they would again be reduced to servitude by the theologians”; the
 latter were little by little re-introducing the old traditions. Thus
 you see, Melanchthon adds, “how, not only our enemies, but even those
 who are supposed to be favourably bent, judge of us.”[1068] Yet
 Melanchthon had merely required a general sort of confession as a
 voluntary preparation for Holy Communion.

 Melanchthon was also openly in favour of the penalty of
 excommunication; in order to keep a watch on the preachers he
 introduced the system of Superintendents.

 In the matter of marriage contracts his experience led him to the
 following conclusion: “It is clearly expedient that the marriage bond
 should be tightened rather than loosened”; in this the older Church
 had been in the right. “You know,” he writes, “what blame (‘_quantum
 sceleris_’) our party has incurred by its wrong treatment of marriage
 matters. All the preachers everywhere ought to exert themselves
 to put an end to these scandals. But many do nothing but publicly
 calumniate the monks and the authorities in their discourses.” And yet
 in the same letter he sanctions the re-marriage of a party divorced
 for some unknown reason, a sanction he had hitherto been unwilling
 to grant for fear of the example being followed by others; he only
 stipulates that his sanction is not to be announced publicly; the
 sermons must, on the contrary, censure the license which is becoming
 the fashion.[1069]

Any open and vigorous opposition to Luther’s views, so detrimental
to the inviolability of the marriage tie, was not in accordance with
Melanchthon’s nature. He, like Luther, condemned the religious vows
on the strange ground that those who took them were desirous of
gaining merit in the sight of God. Hence he too came to invite nuns to
marry.[1070] And yet, at the same time, he, like Luther, again declared
virginity to be a “higher gift,” one which even ranked above marriage
(“_virginitas donum est praestantius coniugio_”).[1071]

He was gradually drawn more and more into questions concerning the
public position of the Lutherans and had to undertake various journeys
on this account, because Luther, being under the Ban, was unable to
leave the Electorate, and because his violent temper did not suit him
for delicate negotiations. Melanchthon erred rather on the side of

When, in 1528, in consequence of the Pack business, there seemed a
danger of war breaking out on account of religion, he became the prey
of great anxiety. He feared for the good name and for the evangelical
cause should bloody dissensions arise in the Empire through the
fault of the Princes who favoured Luther. On May 18 he wrote to the
Elector Johann on no account to commence war on behalf of the Evangel,
especially as the Emperor had made proposals of peace. “I must take
into consideration, for instance, what a disgrace it would be to the
Holy Gospel were your Electoral Highness to commence war without
first having tried every means for securing peace.”[1072] There can
be no doubt that the terrible experience of the Peasant War made him
cautious, but we must not forget, that such considerations did not
hinder him from declaring frequently later, particularly previous to
the Schmalkalden War, that armed resistance was allowable, nay, called
for, nor even from going so far as to address the people in language
every whit as warlike as that of Luther.[1073] In the case of the
hubbub arising out of the famous forged documents connected with the
name of Pack, Luther, however, seemed to him to be going much too
far. “Duke George could prove with a clear conscience that it was a
question of a mere forgery and of a barefaced deception,”[1074] got
up to the detriment of the Catholic party. On Luther’s persisting
in his affirmation that a league existed for the destruction of the
Evangelicals, and that the “enemies of the Evangel” really cherished
“this evil intention and will,”[1075] Duke George did, as a matter
of fact, take him severely to task in a work to which Luther at once
replied in another teeming with unseemly abuse.[1076]

Melanchthon, like the rest of Luther’s friends who shared his opinion,
saw their hopes of peace destroyed. They read with lively disapproval
Luther’s charges against the Duke, who was described as a thief, as
one “eaten up by Moabitish pride and arrogance,” who played the fool
in thus raging against Christ; as one possessed of the devil, who in
spite of all his denials meditated the worst against the Lutherans, who
allowed himself to be served in his Chancery by a gang of donkeys and
who, like all his friends, was devil-ridden. Concerning the impression
created, Melanchthon wrote to Myconius that Luther had indeed tried
to exercise greater restraint than usual, but that “he ought to have
defended himself more becomingly. All of us who have read his pages
stand aghast; unfortunately such writings are popular, they pass
from hand to hand and are studied, being much thought of by fools
(‘_praedicantur a stultis_’).”[1077]

It was only with difficulty that he and his Wittenberg friends
dissuaded Luther from again rushing into the fray.

In 1529 Melanchthon, at Luther’s desire, accompanied the Elector of
Saxony to the Diet of Spires. The protest there made by the Lutheran
Princes and Estates again caused him great concern as he foresaw the
unhappy consequences to Germany of the rupture it betokened, and the
danger in which it involved the Protestant cause. The interference of
the Zwinglians in German affairs also filled him with apprehension, for
of their doctrines, so far as they were opposed to those of Wittenberg,
he cherished a deep dislike imbibed from Luther. The political alliance
which, at Spires, the Landgrave of Hesse sought to promote between
the two parties, appeared to him highly dangerous from the religious
point of view. He now regretted that he had formerly allowed himself to
be more favourably disposed to Zwinglianism by the Landgrave. In his
letters he was quite open in the expression of his annoyance at the
results of the Diet of Spires, though he himself had there done his
best to increase the falling away from Catholicism, and, with words
of peace on his lips, to render the estrangement irremediable. In his
first allusion to the now famous protest he speaks of it as a “horrid
thing.”[1078] His misgivings increased after his return home, and he
looked forward to the future with anxiety. He was pressing in his
monitions against any alliance with the Zwinglians. On May 17, 1529,
he wrote to Hieronymus Baumgärtner, a member of the Nuremberg Council:
“Some of us do not scorn an alliance with the [Zwinglian] Strasburgers,
but do you do your utmost to prevent so shameful a thing.”[1079] “The
pains of hell have encompassed me,” so he describes to a friend his
anxieties. We have delayed too long, “I would rather die than see ours
defiled by an alliance with the Zwinglians.”[1080] “I know that the
Zwinglian doctrine of the Sacrament of the Body and Blood of Christ is
untrue and not to be answered for before God.”[1081]

After he had assisted Luther in the religious discussion held at
Marburg between him and Zwingli in the autumn of 1529, and had
witnessed the fruitless termination of the conference, he again voiced
his intense grief at the discord rampant among the innovators, and
the hopelessness of any effort to reunite Christians. “I am quite
unable to mitigate the pains I suffer on account of the position of
ecclesiastical affairs,” so he complains to Camerarius. “Not a day
passes that I do not long for death. But enough of this, for I do not
dare to describe in this letter the actual state of things.”[1082]

Luther was much less down-hearted at that time, having just succeeded
in overcoming a persistent attack of anxiety and remorse of conscience.
His character, so vastly different from that of his friend, now, after
the victory he had won over his “temptations,” was more than ever
inclined to violence and defiance. Luther, such at least is his own
account, refused to entertain any fear concerning the success of his
cause, which was God’s, in spite of the storm threatening at Augsburg.

_Melanchthon at the Diet of Augsburg, 1530._

At Augsburg the most difficult task imaginable was assigned to
Melanchthon, as the principal theological representative of
Lutheranism. His attitude at the Diet was far from frank and logical.

He made his own position quite puzzling by his vain endeavour to unite
things incapable of being united, and to win, by actual or apparent
concessions, temporary toleration for the new religious party within
the Christian Church to which the Empire belonged. Owing to his
lack of theological perspicuity he does not appear to have seen as
clearly as Luther how hopeless was the rupture between old and new. He
still had hopes that the Catholics would gradually come over to the
Wittenberg standpoint when once an agreement had been reached regarding
certain outward and subordinate matters, as he thought them. “Real
unification,” as Johannes Janssen says very truly, “was altogether
out of the question.” For the point at issue in this tremendous
ecclesiastical contest was not this or that religious dogma, this or
that addition or alteration in Church discipline; it was not even
a question merely of episcopal jurisdiction and the sense in which
this was understood and allowed by Protestant theologians; what was
fundamentally at stake was no less than the acceptance or rejection of
the doctrine of the infallibility of the Church, and the recognition
or non-recognition of the Church as a Divine and human institution
of grace, resting upon the perpetual sacrifice and priesthood. The
Protestants rejected the dogma of the infallibility of the Church
and set up for themselves a novel ecclesiastical system, they also
rejected the perpetual sacrifice in that they denied the doctrine of
the perpetual priesthood.... Hence the attempts at reconciliation
made at Augsburg, as indeed all later attempts, were bound to come to

In the “Confession of Augsburg,” where the author shows himself a
past-master in the art of presentation, Melanchthon presents the
Lutheran doctrine under the form most acceptable to the opposite
party, calculated, too, to prove its connection with the teaching of
the Roman Church as vouched for by the Fathers. He passes over in
silence certain capital elements of Lutheran dogma, for instance, man’s
unfreedom in the performance of moral acts pleasing to God, likewise
predestination to hell,[1084] and even the rejection on principle
of the Papal Primacy, the denial of Indulgences and of Purgatory. A
Catholic stamp was impressed on the doctrine of the Eucharist so as to
impart to it the semblance of the doctrine of Transubstantiation; even
in the doctrine of justification, any clear distinction between the
new teaching of the justifying power of faith alone and the Catholic
doctrine of faith working by love (“_fides formata charitate_”) is
wanting. Where, in the second part, he deals with certain traditions
and abuses which he holds to have been the real cause of the schism,
he persists in minimising the hindrances to mutual agreement, or at
least to toleration of the new religious party. According to this
statement, all that Protestants actually demanded was permission
to receive communion under both kinds, the marriage of priests, the
abolition of private masses, obligatory confession, fasts, religious
vows, etc. The bishops, who were also secular princes, were to retain
their jurisdiction as is expressely stated at the end, though they were
to see that the true Gospel was preached in their dioceses, and not to
interfere with the removal of abuses.[1085]

In the specious and seductive explanation of the “Confession,” errors
which had never been advocated by the Church were refuted, while
propositions were propounded at great length which had never been
questioned by her, in both cases the aim being to win over the reader
to the author’s side and to divert his attention from the actual
subject of the controversy.

Luther, to whom the work was submitted when almost complete, allowed
it to pass practically without amendment. He saw in it Melanchthon’s
“soft-spoken manner,” but nevertheless gave it his assent.[1086]

He was quite willing to leave the matter in the hands of such trusty
and willing friends as Melanchthon and his theological assistants at
Augsburg, and to rely on the prudence and strength of the Princes
and Estates of the new profession there assembled. Secure in the
“Gospel-proviso” the Coburg hermit was confident of not being a loser
even in the event of the negotiations not issuing favourably. Christ
was not to be deposed from His throne; to “Belial” He at least could
not succumb.[1087]

The “Confession of Augsburg” was not at all intended in the first
instance as a symbolic book, but rather as a deed presented to the
Empire on the part of the protesting Princes and Estates to demonstrate
their innocence and vindicate their right to claim toleration. During
the years that followed it was likewise regarded as a mere Profession
on the part of the Princes, i.e. as a theological declaration standing
on the same level as the Schmalkalden agreement, and forming the bond
of the protesting Princes in the presence of the Empire; each one
was still free to amplify, explain, or modify the faith within his
own territories. Finally, however, after the religious settlement at
Augsburg in 1555, Melanchthon’s work began to be regarded as a binding
creed, and this character was to all practical purposes stamped on it
by the “Concord” in 1580.[1088]

On August 3, 1530, a “Confutation of the Confession of Augsburg,”
composed by Catholic theologians, was read before the Estates at the
Diet of Augsburg. The Emperor called upon the Protestants to return to
the Church, threatening, in case of refusal, that he, as the “Guardian
and Protector” of Christendom, would institute proceedings. Yet in
spite of this he preferred to follow a milder course of action and to
seek a settlement by means of lengthy “transactions.”

The “Reply” to the Confession (later known as “_Confutatio Confessionis
Augustanæ_”), which was the result of the deliberations of a Catholic
commission, set forth excellent grounds for rejecting the errors
contained in Melanchthon’s work, and also threw a clear light on
his reservations and intentional ambiguities.[1089] Melanchthon’s
answer was embodied in his “_Apologia Confessionis Augustanæ_,”
which well displays its author’s ability and also his slipperiness,
and later took its place, side by side with the Confession, as
the second official exposition of Lutheranism. It energetically
vindicates Luther’s distinctive doctrines, and above all declares,
again quite falsely, that the doctrine of justificatory faith was
the old, traditional Catholic doctrine. Nor does it refrain from
strong and insulting language, particularly in the official German
version. The opposite party it describes as shameless liars, rascals,
blasphemers, hypocrites, rude asses, hopeless, senseless sophists,
traitors, etc.[1090] This, together with the “_Confessio Augustana_,”
was formally subscribed at the Schmalkalden meeting in 1537 by all
the theologians present at the instance of the Evangelical Estates.
Thus it came to rank with the Confession of the Princes and, like the
former, was incorporated later, in both the Latin and the oldest German
version, in the symbolic books.[1091]

Melanchthon, in the “_Apologia_,” re-stated anew the charges already
raised in the “_Confessio_” against Catholic dogma, nor did the proofs
and assurances to the contrary of the authors of the “_Confutatio_”
deter him from again foisting on the Catholic Church doctrines she had
never taught. Thus he speaks of her as teaching, that the forgiveness
of sins could be merited simply by man’s own works (without the grace
and the merits of Christ); he also will have it that the effect of
grace had formerly been altogether lost sight of until it was at last
brought again to light—though as a matter of fact “it had been taught
throughout the whole world.”[1092]

We must come back in detail to the allegations made in the Confession,
and more particularly in the Apology, that Augustine was in favour of
the Lutheran doctrine of Justification; this is all the more necessary
since the Reformers, at the outset, were fond of claiming the authority
of Augustine on their behalf. At the same time the admissions contained
in Melanchthon’s letters will show us more clearly the morality of his
behaviour in a matter of such capital importance.

 At the time when the Confession was printed it had already long been
 clear to him that the principal exponent of the doctrine of grace in
 the ancient Church, viz. St. Augustine, was against the Protestant
 conception of justification.

 On this subject he expressed himself openly at the end of May, 1531,
 in a confidential letter to Brenz. Here he speaks of the doctrine of
 Augustine as “a fancy from which we must turn aside our mind (‘_animus
 revocandus ab Augustini imaginatione_’)”; his ideas disagreed with St.
 Paul’s doctrine; whoever followed Augustine must teach like him, “that
 we are regarded as just by God, through fulfilling the commandments
 under the action of the Holy Ghost, and not through faith alone.”[1093]

 In spite of this, Melanchthon, in the “_Confessio Augustana_,” had
 the courage to appeal publicly to Augustine as the most prominent and
 clearest witness to the Lutheran view of faith and justification, and
 this he did almost at the very time when penning the above letter,
 viz. in April or May, 1531, when the first draft of the “_Confessio_”
 was sent to the press.[1094] According to the authentic version,
 Melanchthon’s words were: “That, concerning the doctrine of faith,
 no new interpretation had been introduced, could be proved from
 Augustine, who treats diligently of this matter and teaches that we
 obtain grace and are justified before God by faith in Christ and not
 by works, as his whole book ‘_De Spiritu et littera_’ proves.”[1095]

 The writer of these words felt it necessary to explain to Brenz why
 he had ventured to claim this Father as being in “entire agreement.”
 He had done so because this was “the general opinion concerning him
 (‘_propter publicam de eo persuasionem_’),[1096] though, as a matter
 of fact, he did not sufficiently expound the justificatory potency
 of faith.” The “general opinion” was, however, merely a groundless
 view invented by Luther and his theologians and accepted by a
 certain number of those who blindly followed him. In the Apology of
 the Confession, he continues, “I expounded more fully the doctrine
 [of faith alone], but was not able to speak there as I do now to
 you, although, on the whole, I say the same thing; it was not to be
 thought of on account of the calumnies of our opponents.” Thus in
 the Apology also, even when it was a question of the cardinal point
 of the new teaching, Melanchthon was of set purpose having recourse
 to dissimulation. If he had only to fear the calumnies of opponents,
 surely his best plan would have been to silence them by telling them
 in all frankness what the Lutheran position really was; otherwise he
 had no right to stigmatise their attack on weak points of Luther’s
 doctrine as mere calumnies. Yet, even in the “_Apologia_,” he appeals
 repeatedly to Augustine in order to shelter the main Lutheran
 contentions concerning faith, grace, and good works under the ægis of
 his name.[1097]

Melanchthon’s endeavour to secure for Protestantism a place within the
older Church and to check the threatened repressive measures, led him
to write letters to the Bishop of Augsburg, to Campeggio, the Papal
Legate, and to his secretary, in which he declares stoutly, that the
restoration of ecclesiastical harmony simply depended on two points,
viz. the sanction of communion under both kinds and the marriage of the
clergy, as though forsooth the two sides agreed in belief and as though
his whole party acknowledged the Pope and the Roman Church.

In the letter to Cardinal Campeggio he even assures him: “We reverence
the authority of the Pope of Rome and the whole hierarchy, and only beg
he may not cast us off.... For no other reason are we hated as we are
in Germany than because we defend and uphold the dogmas of the Roman
Church with so much persistence. And this loyalty to Christ and to the
Roman Church we shall preserve to our last breath, even should the
Church refuse to receive us back into favour.” The words “Roman Church”
were not here taken in the ordinary sense, however much the connection
might seem to warrant this; Melanchthon really means his pet phantom
of the ancient Roman Church, though he saw fit to speak of fidelity to
this phantom in the very words in which people were wont to protest
their fidelity to the existing Roman Church. He further asked of the
Cardinal toleration for the Protestant peculiarities, on the ground
that they were “insignificant matters which might be allowed or passed
over in silence”; at any rate “some pretext might easily be found for
tolerating them, at least until a Council should be summoned.”[1098]

Campeggio and his advisers refused to be led astray by such assurances.

On the other hand, some representatives of the Curia, theologians or
dignitaries of the German Church, allowed themselves to be cajoled by
Melanchthon’s promises to the extent of entering into negotiations with
him in the hope of bringing him back to the Church.[1099] Such was, for
instance, in 1537, the position of Cardinal Sadolet.

To Sadolet, Johann Fabri sent the following warning: “Only the man who
is clever enough to cure an incurable malady, will succeed in leading
Philip—a real Vertumnus and Proteus—back to the right path.”[1100]

Melanchthon was nevertheless pleased to be able to announce that
Cardinal Campeggio had stated he could grant a dispensation for
Communion under both kinds and priestly marriage.[1101]

With this Luther was not much impressed: “I reply,” he wrote to his
friends in the words of Amsdorf, “that I s—— on the dispensation of
the Legate and his master; _we_ can find dispensations enough.”[1102]
His own contention always was and remained the following: “As I have
always declared, I am ready to concede everything, but they must let us
have the Evangel.”[1103] To Spalatin, he says later: “Are we to crave
of Legate and Pope what they may be willing to grant us? Do, I beg you,
speak to them in the fashion of Amsdorf.”[1104]

On the abyss which really separated the followers of the new faith
from the Church, Luther’s coarse and violent writing, “Vermanũg an die
Geistlichen zu Augsburg,” throws a lurid light. Luther also frequently
wrote to cheer Melanchthon and to remind him of the firmness which was

Melanchthon was a prey to unspeakable inward terrors, and had admitted
to Luther that he was “worn out with wretched cares.”[1105] Luther
felt called upon to encourage him by instancing his own case. He was
even more subject to such fits of anxiety than Melanchthon, but,
however weak inwardly, he never winced before outward troubles or ever
manifested his friend’s timidity. Melanchthon ought to display the same
strength in public dealings as he did in his inward trials.[1106]

The Landgrave Philip, a zealous supporter of Luther and Zwingli, was
not a little incensed at Melanchthon’s attempts at conciliation, the
more so as the latter persisted in refusing to have anything to do with
Zwinglianism. In one of his dispatches to his emissaries at Augsburg,
Philip says: “For mercy’s sake stop the little game of Philip, that
shy and worldly-wise reasoner—to call him nothing else.”[1107]
The Nuremberg delegates also remonstrated with him. Baumgärtner of
Nuremberg, who was present at the Diet of Augsburg, relates that Philip
flew into a temper over the negotiations and startled everybody by his
cursing and swearing; he was determined to have the whole say himself
and would not listen to the Hessian envoys and those of the cities. He
“did nothing” but run about and indulge in unchristian manœuvres; he
put forward “unchristian proposals” which it was “quite impossible” to
accept; “then he would say, ‘Oh, would that we were away!’” The result
would be, that, owing to this duplicity, the “tyrants would only be all
the more severe”; “no one at the Reichstag had hitherto done the cause
of the Evangel so much harm as Philip”; it was high time for Luther “to
interfere with Philip and warn pious Princes against him.”[1108]

Amongst the Protestant so-called “Concessions” which came under
discussion in connection with the “_Confutatio_” was that of
episcopal jurisdiction, a point on which Melanchthon and Brenz laid
great stress. It was, however, of such a nature as not to offend in
the least the protesting Princes and towns. In the event of their
sanctioning the innovations, the bishops were simply “to retain their
secular authority”: Melanchthon and Brenz, here again, wished to
maintain the semblance of continuity with the older Church, and, by
means of the episcopate, hoped to strengthen their own position. Such
temporising, and the delay it involved, at least served the purpose
of gaining time, a matter of the utmost importance to the Protestant

Another point allowed by Melanchthon, viz. the omission of the word
“alone” in the statement “man is justified by faith,” was also of
slight importance, for all depended on the sense attached to it,
and the party certainly continued to exclude works and charity.
Melanchthon, however, also agreed that it should be taught that
penance has three essential elements, viz. contrition, confession of
sin and satisfaction, i.e. active works of penance, “a concession,”
Döllinger says, “which, if meant seriously, would have thrown the whole
new doctrine of justification into confusion.”[1110] It may be that
Melanchthon, amidst his manifold worries, failed to perceive this.

At any rate, all his efforts after a settlement were ruled by the
“Proviso of the Gospel”[1111] as propounded by Luther to his friends
in his letters from the Coburg. According to this tacit reservation
no concession which in any way militated against the truth or the
interests of the Evangel could be regarded as valid. “Once we have
evaded coercion and obtained peace,” so runs Luther’s famous admonition
to Melanchthon, “then it will be an easy matter to amend our wiles
and slips because God’s mercy watches over us.”[1112] “All our
concessions,” Melanchthon wrote, “are so much hampered with exceptions
that I apprehend the bishops will suspect we are offering them chaff
instead of grain.”[1113]

 A letter, intended to be reassuring, written from Augsburg on
 September 11 by Brenz, who was somewhat more communicative than
 Melanchthon, and addressed to his friend Isenmann, who was anxious
 concerning the concessions being offered, may serve further to
 elucidate the policy of Melanchthon and Brenz. Brenz writes: “If you
 consider the matter carefully you will see that our proposals are such
 as to make us appear to have yielded to a certain extent; whereas, in
 substance, we have made no concessions whatsoever. This they plainly
 understand. What, may I ask, are the Popish fasts so long as we hold
 the doctrine of freedom?” The real object of the last concession,
 he had already pointed out, was to avoid giving the Emperor and his
 Court the impression that they were “preachers of sensuality.” The
 jurisdiction conceded to the bishops will not harm us so long as they
 “agree to our _Via media_ and conditions”; they themselves will then
 become new men, thanks to the Evangel; “for always and everywhere we
 insist upon the proviso of freedom and purity of doctrine. Having
 this, what reason would you have to grumble at the jurisdiction of
 the bishops?”[1114] It will, on the contrary, be of use to us, and
 will serve as a buffer against the wilfulness of secular dignitaries,
 who oppress our churches with heavy burdens. “Besides, it is not to
 be feared that our opponents will agree to the terms.” The main point
 is, so Melanchthon’s confidential fellow-labourer concludes, that only
 thus can we hope to secure “toleration for our doctrine.”[1115]

When Melanchthon penned this confession only a few days had elapsed
since Luther, in response to anxious letters received from Augsburg,
had intervened with a firm hand and spoken out plainly against the
concessions, and any further attempts at a diplomatic settlement.[1116]

In obedience to these directions Melanchthon began to withdraw more and
more from the position he had taken up.

The most favourable proposals of his opponents were no longer
entertained by him, and he even refused to fall in with the Emperor’s
suggestion that Catholics living in Protestant territories should
be left free to practise their religion. The Elector of Saxony’s
divines, together with Melanchthon, in a memorandum to their sovereign,
declared, on this occasion, that it was not sufficient for preachers
to preach against the Mass, but that the Princes also must refuse to
sanction it, and must forbid it. “Were we to say that Princes might
abstain from forbidding it, and that preachers only were to declaim
against it, one could well foresee what [small] effect the doctrine and
denunciations of the preachers would have.”[1117] “The theologians,”
remarks Janssen, “thus gave it distinctly to be understood that
the new doctrine could not endure without the aid of the secular
authority.”[1118] Hence, at that decisive moment, the Protestant
Princes proclaimed intolerance of Catholics as much a matter of
conscience as the confiscation of Church property. To the demand of the
Emperor for restitution of the temporalities, the Princes, supported
by the theologians, answered, that “they did not consider themselves
bound to obey, since this matter concerned their conscience, against
which there ran no prescription” (on the part of those who had been

Thus, with Melanchthon’s knowledge and approval, the two principal
factors in the whole Reformation, viz. intolerance and robbery of
Church property, played their part even here at the turning-point of
German history.

 On his return from the Coburg to Wittenberg, as already described
 (p. 45 f.), Luther in his sermons showed how the Evangel which
 he proclaimed had to be preached, even at the expense of war and
 universal desolation: “The cry now is, that, had the Evangel not been
 preached, things would never have fallen out thus, but everything
 would have remained calm and peaceful. No, my friend, but things will
 improve; Christ speaks: ‘I have more things to say to you and to
 judge’; the fact is you must leave this preaching undisturbed, else
 there shall not remain to you one stick nor one stone upon another,
 and you may say: ‘These words are not mine, but the words of the
 Father.’” (cp. John viii. 26).[1120]

 Yet, at the time of the Diet of Augsburg, Luther, for all his
 inexorable determination, was not unmindful of the temporal assistance
 promised by the Princes. He hinted at this with entire absence of
 reserve in a letter, not indeed to Melanchthon, who was averse to
 war, but to Spalatin: “Whatever the issue [of the Diet] may be, do
 not fear the victors and their craft. Luther is still at large and so
 is the Macedonian” (i.e. Philip of Hesse, whom Melanchthon had thus
 nicknamed after the warlike Philip of Macedonia). The “Macedonian”
 seemed to Luther a sort of “Ismael,” like unto Agar’s son, whom Holy
 Scripture had described as a wild man, whose hand is raised against
 all (Gen. xvi. 12). Luther was aware that Philip had quitted the Diet
 in anger and was now nursing his fury, as it were, in the desert. “He
 is at large,” he says in biblical language, “and thence may arise
 prudence to meet cunning and Ismael to oppose the enemy. Be strong and
 act like men. There was nothing to fear if they fought with blunted
 weapons.”[1121] Philip’s offer of a refuge in Hesse had helped to
 render Luther more defiant.[1122]

 Exhortations such as these increased the unwillingness of his friends
 at Augsburg to reach any settlement by way of real concessions. All
 hopes of a peaceful outcome of the negotiations were thus doomed.

The Reichstagsabschied which finally, on November 19, 1530, brought
Parliament to an end, witnessed to the hopelessness of any lasting
peace; it required, however, that the bishoprics, monasteries, and
churches which had been destroyed should be re-erected, and that the
parishes still faithful to Catholicism should enjoy immunity under pain
of the ban of the Empire.[1123]

Looking back at Melanchthon’s attitude at the Diet, we can understand
the severe strictures of recent historians.

 “We cannot get rid of the fact,” writes Georg Ellinger, Melanchthon’s
 latest Protestant biographer, “that, on the whole, his attitude at
 the Diet of Augsburg does not make a pleasing impression.” “That the
 apprehension of seeing the realisation of his principles frustrated
 led him to actions which can in no wise be approved, may be freely
 admitted.” It is true that Ellinger emphasises very strongly the
 “mitigating circumstances,” but he also remarks: “He had no real
 comprehension of the importance of the ecclesiastical forms involved
 [in his concessions], and this same lack of penetration served him
 badly even later. The method by which he attempted to put his plans
 into execution displays nothing of greatness but rather that petty
 slyness which seeks to overreach opponents by the use of ambiguous
 words.... He had recourse to this means in the hope of thus arriving
 more easily at his goal.” His “little tricks,” he proceeds, “at
 least delayed the business for a while,” to the manifest advantage
 of the Protestant cause.[1124] He candidly admits that Melanchthon,
 both before and after the Diet of Augsburg, owing to his weak and
 not entirely upright character, was repeatedly caught “having
 recourse to the subterfuges of a slyness not far removed from
 dissimulation.”[1125] In proof of this he instances the expedient
 invented by Melanchthon for the purpose of evading the conference with
 Zwingli at Marburg which was so distasteful to him. “The Elector was
 to behave as though Melanchthon had, in a letter, requested permission
 to attend such a conference, and had been refused it. Melanchthon
 would then allege this to the Landgrave of Hesse [who was urging him
 to attend the conference] ‘in order that His Highness may be pacified
 by so excellent an excuse.’”[1126] Ellinger, most impartially, also
 adduces other devices to which Melanchthon had recourse at a later

 The conduct of the leader of the Protestant party at the Diet of
 Augsburg, more particularly his concern in the document addressed
 to the Legate Campeggio, is stigmatised as follows by Karl Sell,
 the Protestant historian. “This tone, this sudden reduction of the
 whole world-stirring struggle to a mere wrangle about trifles, and
 this recognition, anything but religious, of the Roman Church, comes
 perilously near conscious deception. Did Melanchthon really believe it
 possible to outwit diplomats so astute by such a blind? In my opinion
 it is unfair to reproach him with treason or even servility; what he
 was guilty of was merely duplicity.” Campeggio, Sell continues, of
 these and similar advances made by the Protestant spokesmen, wrote:
 “They answer as heretics are wont, viz. in cunning and ambiguous

 Even in the “Theologische Realenzyklopädie des Protestantismus”
 a suppressed note of disapproval of Melanchthon’s “mistakes and
 weaknesses” is sounded. His attitude at the Diet, the authors of
 the article on Melanchthon say, “was not so pleasing as his learned
 labours on the Augsburg Confession”; “a clear insight into the actual
 differences” as well as a “dignified and firm attitude” was lacking;
 “this applies particularly to his letter to the Papal Legate.”[1129]

 We can understand how Döllinger, in his work “Die Reformation,” after
 referring to Melanchthon’s palpable self-contradictions, speaks of
 his solemn appeal to the doctrine of St. Augustine as an intentional
 and barefaced piece of deception, an untruth “which he deemed
 himself allowed.” Döllinger, without mincing matters, speaks of his
 “dishonesty,” and relentlessly brands his misleading statements;
 they leave us to choose between two alternatives, either he was
 endeavouring to deceive and trick the Catholics, or he had surrendered
 the most important and distinctive Protestant doctrines, and was ready
 to lend a hand in re-establishing the Catholic teaching.[1130]

Luther, so far as we are aware, never blamed his friend, either
publicly or in his private letters, for his behaviour during this
crisis, nor did he ever accuse him of “treason to the Evangelical
cause.”[1131] He only expresses now and then his dissatisfaction at
the useless protraction of the proceedings and scolds him jokingly
“for his fears, timidity, cares and lamentations.”[1132] No real blame
is contained in the words he addressed to Melanchthon: “So long as
the Papacy subsists among us, our doctrine cannot subsist.... Thank
God that you are having nothing from it.” “I know that in treating of
episcopal authority you have always insisted on the Gospel proviso, but
I fear that later our opponents will say we were perfidious and fickle
(‘_perfidos et inconstantes_’) if we do not keep to what they want....
In short, all these transactions on doctrine displease me, because
nothing comes of them so long as the Pope does not do away with his
Papacy.”[1133] A fortnight later Luther cordially blessed his friend,
who was then overwhelmed with trouble: “I pray you, my Philip, not to
crucify yourself in anxiety over the charges which are raised against
you, either verbally or in writing [by some of ours who argue], that
you are going too far.... They do not understand what is meant by the
episcopal authority which was to be re-established, and do not rightly
estimate the conditions which we attach to it. Would that the bishops
had accepted it on these conditions! But they have too fine a nose
where their own interests are concerned and refuse to walk into the

_Melanchthon, the “Erasmian” Intermediary._

A closer examination of the bent of Melanchthon’s mind reveals a trait,
common to many of Luther’s learned followers at that time, which helps
to explain his attitude at Augsburg.

The real foundations of theology were never quite clear to them because
their education had been one-sidedly Humanistic, and they had never
studied theology proper. They were fond of speaking and writing of the
Church, of Grace and Faith, but their ideas thereon were strangely
subjective, so much so that they did not even agree amongst themselves.
Hence, in their dealings with Catholic theologians the latter often
failed to understand them. The fruitlessness of the conferences was
frequently due solely to this; though greatly prejudiced in Luther’s
favour, they still considered it possible for the chasm between the
old and the new to be bridged over, and longed earnestly for such a
consummation to be secured by some yielding on the Catholic side; they
were unwilling to break away from the Church Universal, and, besides,
they looked askance at the moral consequences of the innovations and
feared still greater confusion and civil war.

That this was the spirit which animated Melanchthon is evident from
some of the facts already recorded.

He had nothing more at heart than to secure the atmosphere essential
for his studies and for the furtherance of intellectual, particularly
Humanistic, culture, and to smooth the way for its general introduction
into Germany. His knowledge of theology had been acquired, as it were,
incidentally through his intercourse with Luther and his study of
Scripture; the latter, however, had been influenced by his Humanism
and, speaking generally, he contented himself in selecting in the
Bible certain general moral truths which might serve as a rule of
life. He indeed studied the Fathers more diligently than Luther, the
Greek Fathers proving particularly attractive to him; it was, however,
chiefly a study of form, of culture, and of history, and as regards
theology little more than mere dilettantism. His insight into the
practical life of the Church left much to be desired, otherwise the
Anabaptist movement at Zwickau would not have puzzled him as it did
and left him in doubt as to whether it came from God or the devil.
His ignorance of the gigantic intellectual labours of the Middle Ages
in the domain of theology made itself felt sensibly. He knew even
less of Scholasticism than did Luther, yet, after having acquired a
nodding acquaintance with it in its most debased form, he, as a good
pupil of Erasmus, proceeded to condemn it root and branch. Every page
of his writings proves that his method of thought and expression,
with its indecision, its groping, its dependence on echoes from
the classics, was far removed from the masterpieces of learning and
culture of the best days of the Middle Ages. Yet he fancies himself
entitled to censure Scholasticism and to write in Luther’s style with
a conceit only matched by his ignorance: “You see what thick darkness
envelops the commentaries of the ancients and the whole doctrine of
our opponents, how utterly ignorant they are of what sin really is, of
the purpose of the law, of the blessings of the Gospel, of prayer, and
of man’s refuge when assailed by mental terrors.”[1135] The “mental
terrors,” referred to here and elsewhere, belonged to Luther’s world of
thought. This touch of mysticism, the only one to be found occasionally
in Melanchthon’s works, scarcely availed to render his theology any the
more profound.[1136]

Hence, in fairness, his attempts at mediation when at the Diet of
Augsburg may be regarded as largely due to ignorance and to his
prejudice against Catholic theology.

We must, however, also take into consideration the Humanist phantom
of union and peace for the benefit of the commonweal and particularly
of scholarship; likewise his frequently expressed aversion for public
disorder, and his fears of a decline of morals and of worse things to
come. Then only shall we be in a position to understand the attitude
of the man upon whose shoulders the burden of the matter so largely
rested. The trait chiefly to be held accountable for his behaviour,
viz. his peculiar, one-sided Humanistic education, was well described
by Luther later on when Melanchthon was attacked by Cordatus and
Schenk for his tendency to water down dogma. Luther then spoke of the
“Erasmian intermediaries” at whose rough handling he was not in the
least surprised.

2. Disagreements and Accord between Luther and Melanchthon

Luther had good reason for valuing highly the theological services
which Melanchthon rendered him by placing his ideas before the world
in a form at once clearer and more dignified. Points of theology and
practice which he supplied to his friend as raw material, Melanchthon
returned duly worked-up and polished. Luther’s views assumed practical
shape in passing through Melanchthon’s hands.[1137]

At the outset the latter readily accepted all the doctrines of his
“_præceptor observandissimus_.” In the first edition of the “_Loci_”
(December, 1521) he made his own even Luther’s harshest views, those,
namely, concerning man’s unfreedom and God’s being the author of
evil.[1138] The faithful picture of his doctrine which Luther there
found so delighted him, that he ventured to put the “_Loci_” on a level
with the canon of Holy Scripture (vol. ii., p. 239).


As years passed by, Melanchthon allowed himself to deviate more and
more from Luther’s teaching. The latter’s way of carrying every
theological thesis to its furthest limit, affrighted him. He yearned
for greater freedom of action, was desirous of granting a reasonable
amount of room to doubt, and was not averse to learning a thing or two
even from opponents. It was his Humanistic training which taught him to
put on the brake and even to introduce several far-reaching amendments
into Luther’s theories. It was his Humanism which made him value the
human powers and the perfectibility of the soul, and thus to doubt
whether Luther was really in the right in his denial of freedom. Such
a doubt we find faintly expressed by him soon after he had perused
the “_Diatribe_” published by Erasmus in 1524.[1139] Luther’s reply
(“_De servo arbitrio_”), to which Melanchthon officially accorded
his praise, failed to convince him of man’s lack of freedom in the
natural order. In 1526, in his lectures on Colossians (printed in
1528), he openly rejected the view that God was the author of sin,
stood up for freedom in all matters of civil justice, and declared
that in such things it was quite possible to avoid gross sin.[1140] In
his new edition of the “_Loci_” in 1527 he abandoned determinism and
the denial of free-will, and likewise the severer form of the doctrine
of predestination,[1141] such as he had still championed in the 1525
edition, but which, he had now come to see, was at variance with the
proper estimate of man and human action.

Neither could Melanchthon ever bring himself to speak of human reason,
as compared to faith, in quite the same language of disrespect as

That, on the occasion of the Visitation, he began to lay stress on
works as well as faith, has already been pointed out.[1142] In this
connection it is curious to note how, with his usual caution and
prudence where Luther and his more ardent followers were concerned, he
recommends that works should be represented as praiseworthy only when
penance was being preached, but not, for instance, when Justification
was the subject, as, here, Lutherans, being accustomed to hear so much
of the “_sola fides_,” might well take offence.[1143]

In the matter of Justification, he, like Luther, made everything
to rest on that entirely outward covering over of man by Christ’s
merits received through faith, or rather through confidence of
salvation.[1144] Indeed, Luther’s greatest service, according to
him, lay in his having made this discovery. It was necessary, so he
taught, that Christian perfection should be made to consist solely in
one’s readiness, whenever oppressed by the sense of guilt, to find
consolation by wrapping oneself up in the righteousness of Christ. Then
the heart is “fearless, though our conscience and the law continue to
cry within us that we are unworthy.” In other words, we must “take it
as certain that we have a God Who is gracious to us for Christ’s sake,
be our works what they may.”[1145]

It was his advocacy of this doctrine, as the very foundation of
sanctification, which earned for him the striking commendation we
find in a letter written by Luther to Jonas in 1529. Melanchthon
had been of greater service to the Church and the cause of holiness
than “a thousand fellows of the ilk of Jerome, Hilarion or Macarius,
those Saints of ceremonies and celibacy who were not worthy to loose
the laces of his boots nor—to boast a little—of yours [Jonas’s],
of Pomeranus [Bugenhagen], or even of mine. For what have these
self-constituted Saints and all the wifeless bishops done which can
compare with one year’s work of Philip’s, or with his ‘_Loci_’?”[1146]

Yet this very work was to bear additional testimony to Melanchthon’s
abandonment of several of Luther’s fundamental doctrines.[1147]

In 1530 and 1531 Melanchthon passed through a crisis, and from that
time forward a greater divergency in matters of doctrine became
apparent between the two friends. Even in his work for the Diet in
1530 Melanchthon had assumed a position of greater independence, and
this grew more marked when he began to plan a revised edition of his
“_Loci_.” He himself was later to acknowledge that his views had
undergone a change, though, in order to avoid unpleasantness, he
preferred to make out that the alteration was less far-reaching than
it really was. “You know,” he wrote to an ardent admirer of Luther’s,
“that I put certain things concerning predestination, determination of
the will, necessity of obedience to the law, and grievous sin, less
harshly than does Luther. In all these things, as I well know, Luther’s
teaching is the same as mine, but there are some unlearned persons,
who, without at all understanding them, pin their faith on certain rude
expressions of his.”[1148] But was Luther’s teaching really “the same”?
The truth is, that, on the points instanced, “Luther had not only in
earlier days taught a doctrine different from that of Melanchthon, but
continued to cherish the same to the very end of his life.”[1149] It
fitted, however, the cowardly character of Melanchthon to conceal as
much as possible these divergencies.

It is worth our while to examine a little more closely the nature of
the doctrinal differences between Luther and Melanchthon, seeing that
the latter—to quote the Protestant theologian Gustav Krüger—was
the real “creator of evangelical theology” and the “founder of the
evangelical Church system.”[1150]

 As a matter of fact Melanchthon had already shaped out a course of his
 own by the modifications which he had seen fit to introduce in the
 original Confession of Augsburg.

 Not only did he omit whatever displeased him in the new doctrine, but
 he also formulated it in a way which manifestly deviated from Luther’s
 own. Human co-operation, for instance, plays a part much greater than
 with Luther. Unlike Luther, he did not venture to assert plainly
 that the gift of faith was the work of God independent of all human
 co-operation. Concerning the “law,” too, he put forward a different
 opinion, which, however, was not much better than Luther’s.[1151]
 In 1530, so says Fr. Loofs, one of the most esteemed Protestant
 historians of dogma, “he was no longer merely an interpreter of
 Luther’s ideas.”[1152] “Yet he had not yet arrived at a finished
 theology of his own even in 1531, when he published the ‘_editio
 princeps_’ of the ‘_Augustana_’ and the ‘_Apologia_.’”[1153] One
 of the first important products of the change was the Commentary
 on Romans which he published in 1532. Then, in 1535, appeared the
 revised edition of the “_Loci_,” which, in its new shape, apart from
 mere modifications of detail, was to serve as his measure for the
 last twenty-five years of his life. “The ‘_Loci_’ of 1535 embody the
 distinctive Melanchthonian theology.”[1154]

 “Thus, even before the death of Luther, and before altered
 circumstances had restricted Melanchthon’s influence, the stamp which
 the latter had impressed upon the principles of the Reformation
 had already become the heritage of a large circle of evangelical

 Leaving aside the idea of an unconditional Divine predestination,
 he spoke in both these works of the “_promissio universalis_” of
 salvation. The Holy Ghost—such is his view on the question of
 conversion—by means of the “Word” produces faith in those who do not
 resist. The human will, which does not reject, but accepts grace,
 forms, together with the “Word of God” and the “Holy Ghost,” one of
 the three causes (“_tres causæ concurrentes_”) of conversion. It is
 really to Luther’s deterministic doctrine that the author of the
 “_Loci_” alludes in the 1535 edition: “The Stoics’ ravings about fate
 must find no place in the Church.”[1156]

 Human co-operation in the work of salvation came to be designated
 Synergism. The Protestant historian of dogma mentioned above points
 out “that, by his adoption of Synergism, Melanchthon forsook both the
 Lutheran tradition and his own earlier standpoint.” The assumption of
 an unconditional Divine predestination, such as we find it advocated
 by Luther, Zwingli, Bucer, Calvin and others, was here “for the first
 time thrown overboard by one of the Protestant leaders.”[1157] The
 same author, after commenting on Melanchthon’s new exposition of
 justification and the law in relation to the Gospel, declares that
 here, too, Melanchthon had exploited “only a part of Luther’s thought
 and had distorted some of the most precious truths we owe to the

 This same charge we not seldom hear brought against Melanchthon by
 up-to-date Protestant theologians. In the school of Albert Ritschl it
 is, for instance, usual to say that he narrowed the ideas of Luther,
 particularly in his conception of faith and of the Church. The truth
 is that Melanchthon really did throw overboard certain radical views
 which had been cherished by Luther, particularly in his early days.
 The faith which is required for salvation he comes more and more to
 take as faith in all the articles of revelation, and not so much as
 a mere faith and confidence in the forgiveness of sins and personal
 salvation; “the first place is accorded no longer to trust but to
 doctrine,”[1159] though, as will appear immediately, he did not feel
 quite sure of his position. In his conception of the Church, too, he
 was more disposed to see “an empirical reality and to insist on its
 doctrinal side,”[1160] instead of looking on the Church, as Luther
 did, viz. as the “invisible band of all who confess the Gospel.”[1161]
 Johannes Haussleiter, the Protestant editor of the Disputations held
 under Melanchthon from 1546 onwards, thus feels justified in saying
 that, “it was in Melanchthon’s school that the transition was effected
 ... from a living confession born of faith and moulded with the
 assistance of theology, to a firm, hard and rigid law of doctrine....
 This, from the point of view of history, spelt retrogression.... If it
 was possible for such a thing to occur at Wittenberg one generation
 after Luther’s ringing testimony in favour of the freedom of a
 Christian Man, what might not be feared for the future?”[1162]

 Carl Müller is also at pains to show that it was Melanchthon who
 imbued the first generation of theologians—for whose formation he,
 rather than Luther, was responsible—with the idea of a Church which
 should be the guardian of that “pure doctrine” to be enshrined in
 formularies of faith. According to Müller it can never be sufficiently
 emphasised that the common idea is all wrong, and that “to Luther
 himself the Church never meant a congregation united by outward bonds
 or represented by a hierarchy or any other legal constitution, rule or
 elaborate creed, but nothing more than a union founded on the Gospel
 and its confession”; Luther, according to him, remained “on the whole”
 true to his ideal.[1163] How far the words “on the whole” are correct,
 will be seen when we come to discuss Luther’s changes of views.[1164]

 Melanchthon betrays a certain indecision in his answer to the weighty
 question: Which faith is essential for salvation? At one time he takes
 this faith, according to the common Lutheran view, as trust in the
 mercy of God in Christ, at another, as assent to the whole revealed
 Word of God. Of his Disputations, which are the best witnesses we
 have to his attitude, the editor says aptly: “He alternates between
 two definitions of faith which he seems to consider of equal value,
 though to-day the difference between them cannot fail to strike one.
 He wavers, and yet he does so quite unconsciously.”[1165] The same
 editor also states that all attempts hitherto made to explain this
 phenomenon leave something to be desired. He himself makes no such

 The true explanation, however, is not far to seek.

 Melanchthon’s vacillation was the inevitable consequence of a false
 doctrinal standpoint. According to the principles of Luther and
 Melanchthon, faith, even as a mere assurance of salvation, should of
 itself avail to save a man and therefore to make him a member of the
 Church. Thus there is no longer any ground to require a preliminary
 belief or obedient acceptance of the whole substance of the Word
 of God; and yet some acceptance, at least implicit, of the whole
 substance of revelation, seems required of everyone who desires to be
 a Christian. This explains the efforts of both Luther and Melanchthon
 to discover ways and means for the reintroduction of this sort of
 faith. Their search was rendered the more difficult by the fact that
 here there was a “work” in the most real sense of the word, viz.
 willing, humble and cheerful acceptance of the law, and readiness
 to accord a firm assent to the truths revealed. The difficulty was
 even enhanced because in the last resort an authority is required,
 particularly by the unlearned, to formulate the doctrines and to
 point out what the true content of revelation is. In point of fact,
 however, every external guarantee of this sort had been discarded,
 at least theoretically, and no human authority could provide such
 an assurance. We seek in vain for a properly established authority
 capable of enacting with binding power what has to be believed, now
 that Luther and Melanchthon have rejected the idea of a visible Church
 and hierarchy, vicariously representing Christ. From this point of
 view it is easy to understand Melanchthon’s efforts—illogical though
 they were—to erect an edifice of “pure doctrine for all time” and his
 fondness for a “firm, hard and rigid law of doctrine.” His perplexity
 and wavering were only too natural. What reliable guarantee was
 Melanchthon in a position to offer—he who so frequently altered his
 teaching—that his own interpretation of Scripture exactly rendered
 the Divine Revelation, and thus constituted “pure doctrine” firm
 and unassailable? Modern theologians, when they find fault with
 Melanchthon for his assumption of authority and for his alteration
 of Luther’s teaching, have certainly some justification for their

 As a matter of fact, however, Luther, as we shall see below, was every
 whit as undecided as Melanchthon as to what was to be understood by
 faith. Like his friend, Luther too alternates between faith as an
 assurance of salvation and faith as an assent to the whole Word of
 God. The only difference is, that, in his earlier years, his views
 concerning the freedom of each individual Christian to expound the
 Word of God and to determine what belonged to the body of faith, were
 much more radical than at a later period.[1167] Hence Melanchthon’s
 fondness for a “rigid law of doctrine” was more at variance with
 the earlier than with the later Luther. From the later Luther he
 differs favourably in this; not being under the necessity of having
 to explain away any earlier radical views, he was better able to sum
 up more clearly and systematically the essentials of belief, a task,
 moreover, which appealed to his natural disposition. Luther’s ideas
 on this subject are almost exclusively embodied in polemical writings
 written under the stress of great excitement; such statements only too
 frequently evince exaggerations of the worst sort, due to the passion
 and heat of the moment.

Of special importance was Melanchthon’s opposition to Luther on one
of the most practical points of the Church’s life, viz. the doctrine
of the Supper. At the Table which was intended to be the most sublime
expression of the charity and union prevailing among the faithful,
these two minds differed hopelessly.

It was useless for Luther to assure Melanchthon that the Real Presence
of Christ in the Sacrament was so essential an article of faith that
if a man did not believe in it he believed in no article whatever.
From the commencement of the ‘thirties Melanchthon struck out his own
course and became ever more convinced, that the doctrine of the Real
Presence was not vouched for by the Bible. Once he had gone so far
as to tell the Zwinglians that they had “to fear the punishment of
Heaven” on account of their erroneous doctrine.[1168] After becoming
acquainted with the “_Dialogus_” of [Œcolampadius, published in 1530,
he, however, veered round to a denial of the Sacrament. Yet, with
his superficial rationalism and his misinterpretation of certain
patristic statements, [Œcolampadius had really adduced no peremptory
objection against the general, traditional, literal interpretation of
the words of consecration to which Melanchthon, as well as Luther,
had till then adhered. In view of Melanchthon’s defective theological
education little was needed to bring about an alteration in his
views, particularly when the alteration was in the direction of a
Humanistic softening of hard words, or seemed likely to provide a
basis for conciliation. There was some foundation for his comparison
of himself, in matters of theology, to the donkey in the Palm-Sunday

On the question of the Sacrament, the theory of the “Sacramentarians”
came more and more to seem to him the true one.

Owing, however, to his timidity and the fear in which he stood
of Luther, he did not dare to speak out. The “_Loci_” of 1535 is
remarkably obscure in its teaching concerning the Sacrament, whilst, in
a letter to Camerarius of the same year, he speaks of Luther’s view as
“alien” to his own, which, however, he refuses to explain.[1170] Later
the Cologne scheme of 1543 in which Bucer, to Luther’s great annoyance,
evaded the question of the Real Presence, obtained Melanchthon’s
approval. When, in 1540, Melanchthon made public a new edition of the
Confession of Augsburg (“_Confessio variata_”), containing alterations
of greater import than those of the previous editions, the new wording
of the 10th Article was “Melanchthonian” in the sense that it failed to
exclude “the doctrine either of Melanchthon, or of Bucer, or of Calvin
on the Supper.”[1171] It was “Melanchthonian” also in that elasticity
and ambiguity which has since become the model for so many Protestant
formularies. In order to secure a certain outward unity it became usual
to avoid any explicitness which might affright such as happened to have
scruples. A Melanchthonian character was thus imparted to the theology
which, with Melanchthon himself as leader, was to guard the heritage of

_Points of Accord between Melanchthon and Luther._

Melanchthon’s religious character naturally exhibits many points of
contact with that of Luther.

Only to a limited extent, however, does this hold good of the “inward
terrors.” Attempts have been made to prove that, like Luther, his more
youthful friend believed he had experienced within him the salutary
working of the new doctrine of Justification.[1172] But, though, in
his “_Apologia_” to the Augsburg Confession and in other writings, he
extols, as we have seen, this doctrine as alone capable of imparting
strength and consolation in times of severe anxiety of conscience
and spiritual desolation, and though he speaks of the “_certamina
conscientiæ_,” and of the assurance of salvation in exactly the same
way that Luther does, still this is no proof of his having experienced
anything of the sort himself. The statements, which might be adduced
in plenty from his private letters, lag very far behind Luther’s
characteristic assurances of his own experience.

Of the enlightenment from on high by which he believed Luther’s divine
mission as well as his own work as a teacher to be the result, of
prayer for their common cause and of the joy in heaven over the work,
labours and persecution they had endured, he can speak in language
as exalted as his master’s, though not with quite the same wealth of
imagination and eloquence. That the Pope is Antichrist he proves from
the Prophet Daniel and other biblical passages, with the same bitter
prejudice and the same painstaking exegesis as Luther. On hearing of
the misshapen monster, alleged to have been found dead in the Tiber
near Rome in 1496, his superstition led him to write a work overflowing
with hatred against the older Church in which in all seriousness he
expounded the meaning of the “Pope-Ass,” and described every part of
its body in detail. This work was published, together with Luther’s
on the Freiberg “Monk-Calf.”[1173] Melanchthon there says: “The
feminine belly and breasts of the monster denote the Pope’s body,
viz. the Cardinals, Bishops, Priests, Monks, Students, and such-like
lascivious folk and gluttonous swine, for their life is nothing but
feeding and swilling, unchastity and luxury.... The fish scales on the
arms, legs, and neck stand for the secular princes and lords” who
“cling to the Pope and his rule,” etc.[1174] This curious pamphlet ran
through a number of editions, nor did Melanchthon ever become aware of
its absurdity. As for Luther, in 1535 he wrote an Appendix, entitled
“Luther’s Amen to the Interpretation of the Pope-Ass,” confirming his
friend’s reading of the portent. “Because the Divine Majesty,” so we
there read, “has Himself created and manifested it [the monstrosity],
the whole world ought rightly to tremble and be horror-struck.”[1175]

In his fondness for the superstitions of astrology Melanchthon went
further than Luther, who refused to believe in the influence of the
planets on man’s destiny, and in the horoscopes on which his companion
set so much store. Both, however, were at one in their acceptance of
other superstitions, notably of diabolical apparitions even of the
strangest kinds.[1176]

On this subject we learn much hitherto unknown from the “_Analecta_,”
published by G. Loesche in 1892.[1177] Melanchthon, for instance,
relates that a doctor at Tübingen “kept the devil in a bottle, as
magicians are wont to do.”[1178] Amsdorf had once heard the devil
grunting. Melanchthon himself had heard a tremendous noise on the roof
of the cathedral at Magdeburg, which was a presage of coming warlike
disturbances; the same portent had been observed at Wittenberg previous
to the besieging of the town.[1179] To what extent people might become
tools of the devil was evident, so he told his students, from the
example of two witches at Berlin, who had murdered a child in order to
raise a snow-storm by means of impious rites, and who were now awaiting
punishment at the hands of the authorities.[1180] It was not, however,
so easy to deal with witches. At Wittenberg one, while undergoing
torture on the rack, had changed herself into a cat and mewed.[1181]
Twelve years previously a ghost had killed a fisherman on the
Elster.[1182] Hence it was necessary to look out for good remedies and
counter-spells against witchcraft. “Where tortoises were to be met with
it was held that neither poison nor magic could work any harm.”[1183]

According to Melanchthon the signs in the heavens must never be
disregarded when studying the times. Two fiery serpents, which had
recently been seen at Eisenberg engaged in a struggle in the sky, were
an infallible presage of “coming war in the Church,” especially as
a fiery cross had shown itself above the serpents.[1184] By careful
calculations he had ascertained that the end of the world, the approach
of which was in any case foretold by the wickedness of men, would take
place before the year 1582.[1185]

His friend Camerarius remarked with annoyance that “many persons had
made notes of Melanchthon’s private conversations and thus affixed a
stigma to his name.”[1186] This complaint reminds us of a drollery,
none too delicate, contained in the “_Analecta_” among the “_Dicta
Melanchthonis_” concerning the flatulence of a monk.[1187] Even the
editor admits that one cannot think very highly of these sayings of
Melanchthon, especially when we remember that the “_Dicta_” were
uttered at lectures which the speaker seemed in the habit of enlivening
with all kinds of examples and vulgarities. He adds, “Our discovery
reveals the very low standard of the lectures then delivered at the

Loesche also remarks that “these Dicta have contributed to destroy the
legend of Melanchthon’s gentleness and kindliness.”[1188]

 In connection with the legend of his kindliness, Loesche refers to
 a remark made by Melanchthon, according to the “_Dicta_,” about the
 year 1553: “Whoever murders a tyrant, as did those who murdered N.
 in Lithuania, offers a holocaust to God.”[1189] Such views regarding
 the lawfulness of murdering tyrants he seems to have derived from his
 study of the classics. He had, moreover, already given expression to
 them long before this, referring to Henry VIII. of England, who had
 ceased to favour the Reformation as conducted in Germany. In a letter
 to his friend Veit Dietrich he wishes, that God would send a brave
 assassin to rid the world of the tyrant.[1190]

 Melanchthon was in reality far from tolerant, and in his demands for
 the punishment of heretics he went to great lengths. It is generally
 known how he gave it as his opinion, in 1557, that the execution of
 the Spanish doctor, Michael Servetus, which took place at Geneva in
 1553 at the instance of Calvin, was a “pious and memorable example for
 posterity.”[1191] He wrote to Calvin, on October 14, 1554, concerning
 the proceedings against Servetus, who had denied the Trinity as well
 as the divinity of Christ, as follows: “I agree entirely with your
 sentence; I also declare that your authorities have acted wisely and
 justly in putting this blasphemous man to death.”[1192] When the
 severity of the step was blamed by some, he expressed his surprise
 at the objectors in a letter of August 20, 1555, to Bullinger at
 Zürich, and sent him a little treatise defending and recommending
 similar sentences.[1193] He there proves that false doctrines should
 be treated as notorious blasphemies, and that the secular authorities
 were accordingly bound by the Divine law to punish them with the
 utmost severity; Divine chastisements were to be apprehended should
 the authorities, out of a false sense of pity, show themselves remiss
 in extirpating erroneous doctrines. Such was indeed the teaching
 at Wittenberg, as evinced, for instance, by a disputation at the
 University, where Melanchthon’s friend and colleague, George Major,
 branded the contrary opinion as “impudent and abominable.”[1194]

 Characteristic of Melanchthon, though hitherto little noticed,
 were the severity and obstinacy with which he sought to carry his
 intolerance into practice. He relentlessly called in the assistance of
 the secular authorities against the canons of Cologne who had remained
 faithful to the religion of their fathers.[1195] As to his opponents
 within his own fold he demanded that the rulers should punish them,
 particularly the Anabaptists, not merely as sedition-mongers and
 rebels, but on account of their doctrinal peculiarities. Their
 rejection of infant baptism he regarded as one of those blasphemies
 which ought to be punished by death; the denial of original sin and
 the theory that the Sacraments were merely signs he looked upon as
 similar blasphemies. At least those Anabaptists, “who are the heads
 and leaders,” and who refuse to abjure their errors, “should be put
 to death by the sword as seditious men and blasphemers.” “Others,
 who have been led astray, and who, though not so defiant, refuse to
 recant, should be treated as madmen and sent to jail.”[1196]

 Of these principles concerning the coercion of both Catholics and
 sectarians we have an enduring memorial in Melanchthon’s work dated
 1539, and entitled “On the office of Princes.”[1197] Nor did he fail
 to incite the Lutheran authorities to adopt, in the interests of
 public worship, coercive measures against negligent Protestants: “I
 should be pleased were the authorities to make a stringent rule of
 driving the people to church, particularly on holidays.”[1198]

 His fondness for the use of coercion in furthering his own religious
 views is apparent throughout his career, and how congenial it was to
 him is clear from the fact that he manifested this leaning at the very
 outset of the reforms at Wittenberg, even before Luther had seen his
 way to do the same.

 As early as October 20, 1521, subsequent to the changes in public
 worship which had been effected by the apostate Augustinians supported
 by some Wittenberg professors such as Carlstadt, Amsdorf, and Jonas,
 Melanchthon in a written admonition told the Elector, that, as a
 Christian Prince, he should “make haste to abrogate the abuse of the
 Mass” in his country and principality, unmindful of the calumnies to
 which this might give rise, “in order that your Electoral Highness
 may not, like Capharnaum, be reproached by Christ on the Last Day on
 account of the great grace and mercy which, without any work of ours,
 has been shown in your Electoral Highness’s lands, the Holy Evangel
 being revealed, manifested, and brought to light, and yet all to no
 purpose”; God would require at his hands an account for the great
 grace of Luther’s mission.[1199]

 In this admonition, brimful of the most bitter prejudice, we find for
 the first time the principle laid down, that the “salvation of his
 soul required of a Christian Prince” the prohibition of the olden
 Catholic worship.

 In point of fact Melanchthon was frequently ahead of Luther in
 carrying the latter’s theories to their logical conclusion, utterly
 regardless of rights infringed. Thus, for instance, he was before
 Luther in reaching the conclusion that religious vows were invalid.

The conviction and enthusiasm with which, from the very outset,
he took Luther’s side was due, as he repeatedly avers, to motives
of a moral and religious order; he backed up Luther, so he assures
us, because he hoped thereby to promote a reform of morals. “I am
conscious of having taken up the study of theology for no other reason
than to amend our lives.”[1200] What he here states as a young man of
twenty-eight, he made use of to console and encourage himself with
later. What he had in mind was, of course, the ostensibly hopeless
decline of morals under Popery. This he painted in vivid colours
borrowed from Luther, for he himself had never come into any such close
contact with the abuses as would have enabled him to reach a reliable
and independent opinion of his own. Having thoroughly aroused his
hatred of the Papacy and convinced himself of the urgent necessity of
combating the vicious decadence and intellectual darkness brought into
the world by Antichrist, he is wont to depict the ideal of his own
thoughts and efforts; this was the “_disciplina et obedientia populi
Dei_” to be achieved by means of an education at once religious and

3. Melanchthon at the Zenith of His Career. His Mental Sufferings

Various traits of Melanchthon already alluded to may serve favourably
to impress the unbiassed reader, even though his views be different. We
now proceed to sum these up, supplementing them by a few other details
of a similar nature.

_Favourable Traits._

The many touching and heartfelt complaints concerning the moral
disorders prevalent in the Protestant Churches are peculiar to
Melanchthon. Luther, it is true, also regretted them, but his regret
is harshly expressed and he is disposed to lay the blame on the wrong
shoulders. Melanchthon, with his praiseworthy concern for discipline
and ordered doctrine, was naturally filled with deep misgivings when
the preaching of the Evangel resulted in moral disorder and waywardness
in views and doctrine. This explains why he was so ready to turn to the
authorities to implore their assistance in establishing that stable,
Christian government which was his ideal. (Below, p. 372 f.)

Above all, he was desirous of seeing the foundations of the Empire
and the rights of the Emperor safeguarded, so long as the new Evangel
was not endangered. None of those who thought as he did at Wittenberg
were more anxious lest the religious movement should jeopardise the
peace; in none of them is the sense of responsibility so marked
as in Melanchthon. Being by nature as well as by education less
strong-hearted than Luther, he was not so successful as the latter in
repressing his misery at the consequences of his position. To this his
correspondence, which is full of interest and characteristic of his
moods, is a striking witness.

Yet, amidst all the complaints we find in these letters, we hardly
come across any statement concerning personal troubles of conscience.
As a layman, he had not to reproach himself with any apostasy from the
sacred office of the priesthood. Unlike Luther and his other friends,
from his youth upward his studies and his profession had not been
ecclesiastical. The others had once been religious or priests and had,
by their marriage, violated a strict law of the Church, which was not
the case with him.

His fine mental powers he devoted to the service of Humanism, seeking
to promote the cause of education, particularly at the University of
Wittenberg, but also elsewhere, by his many-sided writings in the
domain of worldly learning and culture. We need only recall his works
on rhetoric and grammar, on the ancient philosophy, more particularly
the Aristotelian, on dialectics, ethics, and psychology. Such works
from his ready but careful pen created for him a great and permanent
field of activity, and at the same time helped to distract him amidst
the sad realities of life and his own bitter experiences. He openly
declared his preference for Humanistic studies, stating that he had
been drawn into the theological controversies quite against his will.

It was to his philosophic mode of thought that he owed the self-control
which he possessed in so remarkable a degree. Often we are put in mind
of the stoic when we hear him, the scholar, giving the soft answer to
the insults heaped on him in his own circle and then quietly proceeding
on his own way. And yet his character was irritable and prone to
passionate anger, as on one occasion some lazy students at the
University learnt to their cost. Hence his moderation in his dealings
with his Wittenberg colleagues is all the more remarkable.

In his family life Melanchthon has been described as a model of
industry, love of order and domesticity. He rose before daybreak
in order to deal with his large correspondence; his letters, full
of sympathy for friends and those who stood in need of help, were
carefully written, and usually couched in Latin. German he did not
write so fluently as Luther. In his Latin letters to Humanist friends
he often drops into Greek, particularly when anxious to conceal
anything, for instance, when he has to complain of Luther. His intimate
and friendly intercourse with kindred spirits, such as Camerarius, is
a pleasing trait in his character; not less so is the benevolence and
unselfishness his letters attest, which indeed he often carried so far
as to deprive himself of the needful. His home life was a happy one
and his children were well brought up, though his son-in-law, Sabinus,
a man of great talent, caused him much grief by his want of conjugal
fidelity, which was a source of scandal to the family and also damaged
the reputation of Wittenberg.

_Melanchthon’s Relations with Luther._

In Melanchthon’s mental history, no less than in the external
circumstances of his life, stands out prominently, his connection with
Luther, of which we have already recounted the beginnings.

The remarkable relations existing between Melanchthon and Luther abound
in psychological traits characteristic of both. So intimate were they
that others of the party were disposed to see in their friendship the
excellent working of the evangelical spirit, the harmony and union of
mind of the two most eminent leaders of the new movement.

 To Melanchthon Luther’s higher mission was as good as proved (above
 pp. 322, 355). To Capito he declared: “I am convinced that he
 carries out his work not merely with prudence but with the best of
 consciences, since he appears to have been destined by God for this
 purpose; for never could one man carry so many along with him unless
 he were animated by the Spirit of God. He has not acted harshly
 towards any, save some of the sophists, and even had he done so, we
 must remember that in our times a sharp tongue is needed, since he
 is the first who has preached the Gospel for a long while. Leave him
 to the working of his own spirit and resist not the will of God! This
 matter must not be judged by human standards. The Gospel is proclaimed
 that it may be an offence to the godless and that the sheep of Israel
 may return to their God.”[1201]

 Thus Melanchthon in 1521. We may compare the promises Luther held out
 to those who were filled with faith to his own happy expectations of
 the outcome of his relations with Melanchthon: “There, faith sets
 to work with joy and charity,” “to serve others and to be helpful
 to them”; the consoling words of St. Paul (Phil. ii. 1 ff.) were
 being fulfilled in brotherly unity, “consolation in Christ, comfort
 of charity, society of the spirit, bowels of commiseration,” and
 the result would be a “free, willing, happy life”; “when the heart
 thus hears the voice of Christ, it must be joyful and receive entire

In Melanchthon’s case, however, these promises were not realised in the
event; on the contrary, inward disappointment and mental suffering were
increasingly to become his portion.

 Between 1528 and 1530 he openly admitted that he was burdened with
 cares and troubles beyond measure, and only consoled himself with
 the thought that the Day of Judgment must be at the door. He was
 suffering all the pangs of hell on account of the sights he was forced
 to witness, and would much rather die than continue to suffer; the
 state of ecclesiastical affairs caused him unspeakable pain, and not
 a day passed that he did not long for death.[1203] Complaints such
 as these are to be found in his correspondence till the very end of
 his life, so that his most recent Protestant biographer speaks of his
 letters, more particularly those to Camerarius, as witnessing to the
 “anxiety, misery and profound mental suffering” which “consumed him”;
 he also alludes to the “wine trodden out with such bitter pain” which
 posterity enjoys, thanks to his labours. “Most of these productions
 [the letters to Camerarius] it is impossible to read without feeling
 the deepest sympathy.” “Even his severest accuser will assuredly be
 disarmed when he sees what Melanchthon suffered.”[1204]

 At the commencement of the ‘thirties he bewails his “unhappy fate”
 which had entangled him in religious disputes,[1205] and, seven years
 later, we have this startling confession: “The cruel dolours of soul
 which I have endured for three years on end, and the other cares
 which each day brings, have wasted me to such an extent that I fear
 I cannot live much longer.”[1206] In the next decade we have another
 confession to the same effect: “I shall not be sorry to leave this
 prison (‘_ergastulum_’) when he [Luther, whom Melanchthon here calls
 ‘_infestus_’] throws me over.”[1207]

The various stages of his unhappy life, the outward influences under
which he came and many other accompanying circumstances, are now known
from various sources.

As early as 1523 and 1524 Melanchthon began to free himself to some
extent from the spell cast over him by his domineering friend. He was
in the first instance repelled by the coarseness of Luther’s literary
style, and also by much which seemed to him exaggerated in his ways,
more particularly by his denial of free-will. (Above, p. 346 f.) The
sensitive nature of Melanchthon also took offence at certain things
in Luther’s private life, and his own observations were confirmed by
the sharp eyes of his bosom friend Camerarius (Joachim Kammermeister),
who had migrated to Wittenberg in 1522. Their exchange of secret
confidences concerning Wittenberg affairs is unmistakable. Melanchthon
felt very lonely after the departure of Camerarius and missed the
stimulating intellectual intercourse at Wittenberg, which had become a
necessity to him. Frequently he complains, even as early as 1524, that
he met with no sympathy, and sometimes he does not exclude even Luther.
At Wittenberg he felt like a lame cobbler.[1208] “There is no one
amongst my comrades and friends whose conversation appeals to me. All
the others [Luther is here excepted] have no time for me, or else they
belong to the common herd (‘_vulgus sunt_’).”[1209] Any real friendship
was out of the question at the University, since there were no kindred
spirits; his intimacies were mere “wolves’ friendships,”[1210] to
use an expression of Plato’s. He envies, so he says, those who were
surrounded by studious pupils and could devote all their energies to
study, far from the turmoil of religious controversy.

The letter of censure which he wrote on Luther’s marriage is a strange
mixture of annoyance that this step should be taken at so critical
a juncture, of displeasure at Luther’s thoughtless buffoonery and
frivolous behaviour, and, on the other hand, of forbearance, nay,
admiration, for the man who, in other respects, still appeared to him
so great. “That his friends [Melanchthon and Camerarius] had privately
criticised Luther’s behaviour is proved beyond a doubt from a remark in
the letter on Luther’s marriage.”[1211]

The contrast between their wives was also unfavourable to the
amity existing between Luther and Melanchthon. The daughter of the
Burgomaster of Wittenberg, Catherine Krapp, whom Melanchthon had
married, seems to have been a rather haughty patrician, who was
disposed to look down on Catherine von Bora, whose family, though
aristocratic, had fallen on evil days. In a letter of a friend of
Luther the “tyranny of women” is once referred to as a disturbing
factor, and the context shows that the complaint was drawn forth by
Melanchthon’s wife and not by Bora.[1212]

Melanchthon’s troubles were, however, mostly caused by the differences,
literary and theological, which sprang up between Luther and himself,
and by his experiences and disappointments in Church matters and
questions of conscience.

Luther’s violent and incautious manner of proceeding led him to
surmise, to his great regret, that many had attached themselves to the
cause of the innovations merely from a desire for the freedom of the
flesh, and that the rising against the older Church had let loose a
whole current of base elements.[1213] The virulence with which Luther
attacked everything could, in Melanchthon’s opinion, only tend to
alienate the better sort, i.e. the very people whose help was essential
to the carrying out of any real reform.

 As early as 1525 he began to find fault with Luther’s too turbulent
 ways. In 1526, on the appearance of Erasmus’s “_Hyperaspistes_,”
 the scholar’s incisive and brilliant rejoinder to Luther’s “_De
 servo Arbitrio_,” Melanchthon feared some unhappy outbreak, and,
 accordingly, he urgently begged the latter to keep silence in the
 interests of truth and justice, which he thought to be more likely
 on the side of Erasmus. To Camerarius he wrote, on April 11, 1526:
 “Oh, that Luther would hold his tongue! I had hoped that advancing
 years and his experience of the prevailing evils would have quietened
 him, but now I see that he is growing even more violent (‘_subinde
 vehementiorem fieri_’) in every struggle into which he enters. This
 causes me great pain.”[1214] Erasmus himself he assured later by
 letter, that he had “never made any secret of this at Wittenberg,”
 i.e. of his displeasure at the tracts Luther had published against the
 great Humanist, for one reason “because they were not conducive to the
 public welfare.”[1215]

 It was inevitable that a certain coolness should spring up between
 them, for though Melanchthon was supple enough to be cautious in
 his personal dealings with Luther, yet there can be no doubt that
 many of his strictures duly reached the ears of his friend. The more
 determined Lutherans, such as Aquila and Amsdorf, even formed a party
 to thwart his plans.[1216] Melanchthon also complains of opponents
 at the Court. Those who had been dissatisfied with his doings at the
 Visitation “fanned the flames at Court,” and so much did he suffer
 through these intrigues that, according to a later statement of
 his, his “life was actually in danger” (“_ut vita mea in discrimen

 So greatly was he overwhelmed that, in 1527, he even declared he would
 rather his son should die than occupy a position of such sore anxiety
 as his own.[1218]

 In spite of the growing independence displayed by Melanchthon, Luther
 continued to show him the greatest consideration and forbearance, and
 even to heap literary praise on him, as he did, for instance, in his
 Preface to Melanchthon’s very mediocre Exposition of the Epistle to
 the Colossians.[1219] He was all the more set on attaching Melanchthon
 to himself and his cause by such eulogies, because he dreaded lest his
 comrade’s preference for his Humanistic labours should one day deprive
 the new faith of his so powerful support.

 The command of the Elector was afterwards to send the learned but
 timid man to the Diets, notwithstanding that he was quite unsuited for
 political labours on the great stage of the world. We know already
 what his feelings were at Spires and then again at Augsburg. His most
 recent biographer says of the earlier Diet: “The depression induced
 in him by the Protest of Spires and the growth of Zwinglianism,
 increased still more during his journey home and the first days after
 his return; he felt profoundly downcast and looked forward to the
 future with the utmost anxiety. From his standpoint he certainly had
 good reason for his fear.”[1220] At Augsburg he suffered so much that
 Luther wrote to him: “You torment yourself without respite.... It is
 not theology, however, which torments you but your philosophy, and
 therefore your fears are groundless.”[1221] And later: “I have been
 through greater inward torments than I trust you will ever experience,
 and such as I would not wish any man, not even our bitterest opponents
 there. And yet, amidst such troubles, I have often been cheered up
 by the words of a brother, for instance, Pomeranus, yourself, Jonas,
 or some other. Hence, why not listen to us, who speak to you, not
 according to the flesh or world, but undoubtedly according to God
 and the Holy Ghost?” But you prefer to lean on your philosophy; “Led
 away by your reason you act according to your own foolishness and
 are killing yourself ... whereas this matter is really beyond us and
 must be left to God.” Luther felt convinced that his “prayer for
 Melanchthon was most certainly being answered.”[1222]

The hope that Melanchthon would get the better of his depression after
the momentous Diet was over was only partially realised.

The conviction that there was no chance of reunion with the existing
Church, which he had reached at Augsburg, pierced him to the depths
of his soul. “In his quality of theologian,” says Kawerau, “the
thought of the Church’s oneness caused him to endure the bitterest
agonies, particularly between 1530 and 1532”; if certain of the
Catholic leaders sought to draw him over to their side, there was
“some justification for their attempts,” to be accounted for by the
impression he had given at Augsburg, viz. of not being quite at home
among the Evangelicals.[1223] What seemed to confirm this impression,
adds Kawerau, was “that Melanchthon in his printed, and still more in
his epistolary communications, repeatedly gave occasion to people to
think that it might be worth while approaching him with fresh proposals
of conciliation.”[1224]

Of the psychological struggle hinted at by Kawerau, through which he,
who, after Luther, was the chief promoter of the innovations, had to
pass, it is possible to gain many a glimpse from contemporary documents.

The wrong idea which he came more and more to cherish amounted to
this: The true doctrine of the Catholic Church of Christ, as against
the _Roman_ Catholic Church of the day, is that to be found “in
the Epistles of the Apostles and in the recognised ecclesiastical
writers.”[1225] Without succeeding in finding any position of real
safety, he insists on the necessity of sharing the “consensus of the
Catholic Church of Christ” and of belonging to the true, ancient and
“sublime ‘_cœtus ecclesiæ_’ over which rules the Son of God.”[1226]
Hence comes what we find in the Wittenberg certificates of Ordination
which he drew up, in which the “_doctrina catholicæ ecclesiæ_,” taken,
of course, in the above uncertain and wholly subjective sense, is
declared to have been accepted by the “_ordinandi_” and to be the
best testimony to their office. In this conception of the Church “we
find the explanation of the great struggle which it cost him, when,
after 1530, he had to face the fact that the schism was real and
definitive.... In his conception, the true faith was thus no longer
the new Lutheran understanding of the Gospel, but rather the ancient

 Cordatus was not so far wrong when he declared, referring to
 Melanchthon, that at Wittenberg there were men “learned in languages
 who would rather read and listen to a dead Erasmus than a living

 Erasmus himself saw in Melanchthon’s exposition of Romans and in
 the dedication of the same which the author privately sent him on
 October 25, 1532, a “clear corroboration of the suspicion that he had
 come to dislike his own party” (“_se suorum pigere_”).[1229] In the
 aforesaid dedication Melanchthon had complained, as he often did, of
 the religious “controversies and quarrels” which were quite repugnant
 to him: “As neither side cares for moderation, both have refused to
 listen to us.” These and such-like admissions “caused Erasmus to think
 that he was desirous of forsaking the evangelical camp.”[1230] In the
 very year of Erasmus’s death he wrote to him: “I cordially agree with
 you on most of the questions under discussion.”[1231] The fondness
 of the Wittenbergers for the crude and paradoxical, so he adds,
 discreetly veiling his meaning in Greek, failed entirely to appeal
 to him; he was anxious to find “better-sounding” formulæ in which to
 embody doctrine, but here he was faced by “danger.” He bad reached an
 age when lie had learnt to treat questions of faith more gingerly than
 of yore.[1232] “Thus, in the presence of Erasmus, he here repudiates
 the Melanchthon of the early years of the Reformation.”[1233]

 At Wittenberg there was then a rumour that Melanchthon intended
 to migrate elsewhere, because he no longer agreed with Luther and
 his set.[1234] That such was actually his intention has since been

 Only in 1900 was a letter unearthed—written by Melanchthon in
 this critical period (1532), to Andreas Cricius, Catholic bishop
 of Plozk, and an ardent Humanist—in which he deplores in touching
 language the “unhappy fate” which had embroiled him in the religious
 “quarrels.”[1235] In the beginning he had taken part in the movement
 started by Luther under the impression that “certain points connected
 with piety would be emphasised, and this had, all along, been his
 object”; his efforts had ever been to “moderate” and to “put an end
 to controversy”; he also exerted himself “to vindicate the importance
 of the Church’s constitution.”[1236] He expresses his readiness to
 accept a post of professor which the Bishop might see fit to offer,
 in which he might find a refuge from the storms at Wittenberg: “If
 you will point out to me a haven of refuge where I can promote and
 advance the learning so dear to us both, and in which I have acquired
 some little proficiency, then I will submit to your authority.” In
 the same letter, however, he points out that he could never approve
 of the “cruelty of the opponents” of the Protestant cause, nor would
 the public decision to be expected fall out in accordance with their
 ideas; yet neither did he agree with those who wished to destroy
 the substance of the Church. Cricius appears to have pointed out to
 him, in a letter now no longer extant, that, before he, the Bishop,
 could do anything it would be necessary for Melanchthon to sever his
 connection with the Evangelicals. This he could not bring himself to
 do. “If you have a more feasible proposal to make, then I will accept
 it as a Divine call.”[1237]

 Shortly before this, on January 31, 1532, Melanchthon had expressed
 the wish to Duke Magnus of Mecklenburg, on the occasion of the
 re-establishment of the University of Rostock, that a “quiet spot
 might be found for him,” lamenting that his time was taken up in
 matters “altogether repugnant to my character and the learned labours
 I have ever loved.”[1238]

 Hence there is no doubt that, at that time, utterly sick of his work
 at Luther’s side, he was perfectly ready to change his lodgings. “It
 was a joyless life that Melanchthon led at Wittenberg. His admiration
 for Luther was indeed not dead, but mutual trust was wanting.”[1239]

 In 1536 the repressed discontent of the ultra-Lutherans broke out into
 open persecution of Melanchthon. At the head of his assailants was
 Conrad Cordatus, who had sniffed heresy in the stress Melanchthon laid
 on the will and on man’s co-operation in the work of Justification;
 his first step was to begin a controversy with Cruciger, Melanchthon’s
 friend.[1240] At about that time, Luther, in his annoyance with
 Melanchthon, declared: “I am willing enough to admit Master Philip’s
 proficiency in the sciences and in philosophy, nothing more; but,
 with God’s help, I shall have to chop off the head of philosophy,
 for so it must be.”[1241] Nevertheless, to retain the indispensable
 support of so great a scholar and to preserve peace at the University,
 Luther preferred to seek a compromise, on the occasion of a solemn
 Disputation held on June 1, 1537. At the same time, it is true,
 he characterised the thesis on the “necessity of good works for
 salvation” as reprehensible and misleading.[1242]

 Further difficulties were raised in 1537 by Pastor Jacob Schenk, who
 would have it that Melanchthon had made treasonable concessions in
 the interests of the Catholics in the matter of the giving of the
 chalice. This strained still further his relations with Luther, who
 had already long been dimly suspicious of Melanchthon’s Zwinglian
 leanings concerning the Supper. The Elector, who was also vexed,
 consulted Luther privately concerning Melanchthon; Luther, however,
 again expressed his regard for him, and deprecated his “being driven
 from the University,” adding, nevertheless, that, should he seek to
 assert his opinion on the Supper, then “God’s truth would have to be
 put first.”[1243]

 The intervention of the Elector in this case, and, generally, the
 interference of the great Lords in ecclesiastical affairs—which
 frequently marred his plans for conciliation—embittered him more and
 more as years passed.

 He was perfectly aware that the influential patrons of the innovations
 were animated by mere egoism, avarice and lust for power. “The rulers
 have martyred me so long,” he once declared, “that I have no wish to
 go on living amid such suffering.”[1244]

Yet Melanchthon’s own inclination was more and more in the direction
of leaving ecclesiastical affairs to the secular authorities. In
his practice he abandoned the idea of an invisible Church even more
completely than did Luther. The rigid doctrinal system for which he
came to stand in the interests of the pure preaching of the faith, the
duty which he assigned to the State of seeing that the proclamation of
the Gospel conformed to the standard of the Augsburg Confession, and
finally the countenance he gave to the persecution of sectarians by the
State, and to State regulation of the Church, all this showed that he
was anxious to make of the Church a mere department of the State.[1245]
The Princes, as principal members of the Church, must, according to
him, see “that errors are removed and consciences comforted”; above all
they were of course to assist in “checking the encroachments of the
Popes.”[1246] “To us at the present day it appears strange—though at
the time of the Reformation this was not felt at all—that Melanchthon,
in the Article of the Augsburg Confession concerning priestly marriage,
should have [in the ‘_Variata_’] made the appeal to the Emperor so
comprehensive that the ecclesiastical privileges of the Princes
practically became an article of faith.”[1247]

It also displeased him greatly that Luther in his writings should so
frequently employ vile and abusive epithets when speaking of great
persons. He was loath to see the Catholic Princes thus vilified,
particularly when, as in the case of Albert, Elector of Mayence, he had
hopes of their assistance. On June 16, 1538, Luther read aloud from the
pulpit, and afterwards published in print, a statement of “frightful
violence” against this Prince, moved thereto, as it would appear, by
the respectful manner in which the Archbishop had been treated by
Melanchthon.[1248] The latter made no secret of his entire disapproval,
and it is to be hoped that others at Wittenberg shared his opinion of
this document in which Luther speaks of the German Prince as a false
and perjured man, town-clerk and merd-bishop of Halle.[1249]

The fact is, however, that it was in many instances Melanchthon’s
own pusillanimity and too great deference to the Protestant Princes
which caused him to sanction things which afterwards he regretted. For
instance, we hear him complaining, when alluding to the cruelty of
Henry VIII. of England, of the “terrible wounds” inflicted on him by a
“tyrant.” The “tyrant” to whom he here refers was the bigamist, Philip
of Hesse. Melanchthon had been too compliant in the case of both these
sovereigns. When Henry VIII., who had fallen out with his spouse, made
overtures to the Wittenbergers, it was Melanchthon, who, in view of the
king’s desire to contract a fresh marriage, suggested he might take a
second wife. Concerning Philip of Hesse’s bigamy he had at the outset
had scruples, but he set them aside from the following motive which he
himself alleged not long after: “For Philip threatened to apostatise
unless we should assist him.”[1250] His conscience had reason enough
to complain of the “terrible wounds” inflicted upon it by this tyrant,
but for this Melanchthon himself was answerable. He even assisted
personally at the marriage of the second wife, though, possibly, his
presence was secured by means of a stratagem. When later, he, even more
than his friends, was troubled with remorse concerning his part in the
business—especially when the Landgrave, wilfully and “tyrannically,”
threatened the theologians with the publication of their permission—he
fell a prey to a deadly sickness, due primarily to the depth of his
grief and shame. Luther hastened to Weimar where he lay and, in spite
of his own depression, by the brave face he put on, and also by his
loving care, was able to console the stricken man so that he ultimately
recovered. “Martin,” so Melanchthon gratefully declared, “saved me from
the jaws of death.”[1251]

By Philip of Hesse, Melanchthon had once before been taken to task
over a falsehood of his. It had fallen to Melanchthon to draw up a
memorandum, dispatched on September 1, 1538, by the Elector Johann
Frederick and the Landgrave Philip, conjointly, to King Henry VIII.
of England. In the draft, which was submitted to both Princes, he
asserted, contrary to the real state of the case, that, in Germany,
there were no Anabaptists “in those districts where the pure doctrine
of the Gospel is preached,” though they were to be found “where
this doctrine is not preached”; this he wrote though he himself had
assisted Luther previously in drawing up memoranda for localities in
the immediate vicinity of Wittenberg, directed against the Anabaptists
established there in the very bosom of the new Church. The Landgrave
refused to agree to such a misrepresentation, even for the sake
of predisposing King Henry for Lutheranism. He candidly informed
the Elector that he did not agree with this passage, “for there
are Anabaptists in those parts of Germany where the pure Gospel is
preached just as much as in those where it is not rightly preached.”
In consequence the passage in question was left out, merely a general
reference to the existence of Anabaptists in Germany being allowed to

The following example likewise shows how Melanchthon’s want of
uprightness and firmness contributed to raise difficulties and
unpleasantness with those in power. Johann Frederick of Saxony
seized upon the bishopric of Naumburg-Zeitz, and, in spite of the
Emperor’s warning, caused Amsdorf to be “consecrated” its bishop. The
Wittenbergers, including Melanchthon, had given their sanction to this
step. Afterwards, however, the latter was overwhelmed with scruples.
“Tyranny has increased more and more at the Courts,” exclaimed
Melanchthon.—“There is no doubt that his sense of responsibility in
a proceeding, which he had been driven to sanction against his better
judgment, depressed him.” He trembled at the thought that “the matter
might well lead to warlike entanglements, and that the Emperor would
resent as an insult and never forget this violent seizure of the
highest spiritual principalities.”[1253]

Here we shall only hint at Melanchthon’s attitude—again characterised
by weakness and indecision—at the time of the Interim controversy.
He himself, from motives of policy and out of consideration for the
interests of the Court, had lent a hand in the bringing about of the
Leipzig Interim. The “real” Lutherans (“_Gnesio-Lutherans_”) saw in
this an alliance with the Popish abomination. The “temporising policy
of the Interim” in which he “became entangled,” remarks Carl Sell,
“called forth the righteous anger of all honest German Protestants.”
“Melanchthon saved his life’s work only at the cost of the agony
of the last thirteen years of his life ... a real martyr—albeit a
tragically guilty one—to a cause.”[1254] “The whole struggle of
‘Gnesio-Lutheranism’ with ‘Philippism’ consisted in employing against
Melanchthon the very weapon of which Melanchthon himself had made use,”
viz. the “confusion of theological opinions with the Divine data which
these opinions purported to represent.”[1255]

       *       *       *       *       *

A redeeming feature in the life of this unhappy man, upon which one
is glad to dwell after what has gone before, was his strong sense of
right and wrong. In spite of all his weakness, his conscience was
highly sensitive. Thus he himself supplies in many cases the moral
appreciation of his actions in his outspoken statements and frank
confessions to some trusted friend, for whom his words were also
intended to serve as a guide.

To his friends he was in the habit of giving advice on their behaviour,
couching such advice in the language of the scholar. Nor was he jesting
when he declared that such good counsel was intended in the first
instance for himself; in practice, however, the deed fell short of the
will. So excellent was his theory that many of his aphorisms, in their
short, classical form, became permanent principles of morality. Their
influence was on a par with that of his pedagogical writings, which
long held sway in the history of education.

His friends could count not only on the ethical guidance of the
philosopher and Humanist, but even on his ready assistance in matters
of all sorts. It was not in his nature to refuse his sympathy to
anyone, and, to the students, who gladly sought his assistance, he was
unable to say no.

Another valuable quality was that talent for making peace, of which
he repeatedly made use in the interests of his co-religionists.
His conversation and bearing were exceedingly courteous. Erasmus,
for instance, speaks of his “irresistible charm” (“_gratia quædam
fatalis_”). In a letter of 1531 Erasmus says: “In addition to his
excellent education and rare eloquence, he possesses an irresistible
charm, due more to ‘_genius_’ than to ‘_ingenium_.’ For this reason he
stands in high esteem with noble minds, and, even amongst his enemies,
there is not one who cordially hates him.”[1256] At the time of the
Interim controversy the agents of the Duke of Saxony were desirous
that the Catholic party should find men of real moderation and culture
to negotiate with Melanchthon and the other leaders of the new faith.
They were particularly anxious that Claudius Jaius, the Jesuit, should
repair to Saxony for this purpose. Peter Canisius, apprised of this,
wrote, on April 30, 1551, to Ignatius his superior, that these people
were sure from experience that Jaius, with the modesty he owed to his
culture, would do more good than the most violent controversies.[1257]

Before the world Melanchthon was careful to hide the growing dissension
between himself and Luther.

Thus, writing on June 22, 1537, to Veit Dietrich, he says, alluding to
the quarrel commenced by Cordatus, that he was working for peace at
Wittenberg University. “Nor does Luther appear to be badly disposed
towards us”; “no hatred exists, and should there be any it will
presently break out”; for his own part he intends to be patient, “even
should it come to blows [’_plaga_’].”[1258]

Even Luther’s outbursts of anger were explained away by his more supple
comrade, who exhorts his friends to possess their souls in patience
and to conceal such faults from the eyes of the world. The “dreadful
man,” he writes to Bucer—applying to Luther the Homeric title [Greek:
deinos]—“often gets these boisterous fits. More is gained by ignoring
them than by open contradiction. Let us therefore make use of the
philosophy in which we both have been initiated, cover our wounds, and
exhort others too to do the same.” Luther, owing to his combativeness,
was not to be depended on, and the sad part of it is that “our little
Churches are tossed about with neither sail nor sober pilot”; for his
part he feared victory as much as war; he was opposed to war in the
cause of the Evangel because in the confusion the Court officials and
the great ones of the Protestant party, the “Centaurs,” would assuredly
stretch out greedy hands to grasp the rights and possessions of the

Melanchthon was at that time in a certain sense the “one who, thanks
to his moderation, kept everything together at Wittenberg. This is
expressly stated by Cruciger.”[1260] For this his endless patience,
what he himself terms his “servile spirit,”[1261] was to some
extent accountable. Yet his Humanism, and the equanimity, calmness
and moderation he owed to it, doubtless served the peacemaker in
good stead. To all, whether of his own party or of the opposite, he
was wont to declare his abhorrence of the “_democratia aut tyrannis
indoctorum_.”[1262] Owing to such personal qualities of Melanchthon’s,
Cochlæus himself, in a letter to his friend Dantiscus, in which he
attacks Melanchthon, admits that he was “nevertheless at heart very
fond of him.”[1263]



1. Zwingli and the Controversy on the Supper

FROM the time that Zwingli, in 1519, commenced working on his own lines
at Zürich in the cause of the religious innovations, he had borrowed
more and more largely from Luther’s writings. Whilst acknowledging
Luther’s great achievements he did not, however, sacrifice his
independence. Writing in 1523 with a strong sense of what he himself
had done and of the success which had attended his own efforts, he
said: “I began to preach before ever I had heard of Luther.... I was
not instructed by Luther, for, until two years ago, his very name was
unknown to me, and I worked on the Bible Word alone.... Nor do I intend
to be called after Luther, seeing that I have read but little of his
doctrine. What I have read of his writings, however, is as a rule so
excellently grounded on the Word of God, that no creature can overthrow
it.... I did not learn the teaching of Christ from Luther, but from
the Word of God. If Luther preaches Christ, he is doing the same as I,
though, praise be to God, countless more souls have been led to God by
him than by me.”[1264]

Little attention was paid at Wittenberg to the religious occurrences
at Zürich, though they had been welcomed by Luther. Only when Zwingli
sided with Carlstadt against Luther in the controversy on the Supper
did the latter begin to give him more heed; this he at once did in
his own fashion. He asserted, as he had already done in the case of
Carlstadt, [Œcolampadius and others, that Zwingli would not have known
the truth concerning Christ and the Evangel “had not Luther first
written on the subject”; of his own initiative he would never have
dared to come to freedom and the light; later he spoke of him as “a
child of his loins” who had betrayed him.[1265]

In 1526 the divergency of opinion between Luther and Zwingli on the
subject of the Real Presence of Christ in the Blessed Sacrament,
already present as early as 1524, became much more apparent.[1266]

Luther, in 1526, in his “Sermon von dem Sacrament,” and, in 1527, in
his work on the words “This is My Body,” had, conformably with his
theory, urged that Christ is present with the bread, and spoken not at
all kindly of his Swiss gainsayers, the Zwinglians.[1267] Zwingli, on
his side, soon after the appearance of the last work, attacked Luther’s
view in a writing entitled “_Amica exegesis_” (1528); this, his first
open assault on the Wittenberg doctor, he followed up with a German
pamphlet on the words of Christ: “This is My Body.” In these we have
the protest of the sceptical rationalism of Zürich, against Luther’s
half-hearted doctrine on the Sacrament.

Zwingli demanded that the words of institution should be taken
figuratively and the Eucharist regarded as a mere symbol of the Body
of Christ. This he did with no less assurance than Luther had urged
his own pet view, viz. that Christ is present together with the bread
(Impanation instead of the Catholic doctrine of Transubstantiation).
Zwingli complained bitterly of the rude tone adopted by Luther;
according to him God’s Word must prevail, not Luther’s abusive
epithets, “fanatic, devil, rogue, heretic, Trotz, Plotz, Blitz and
Donner, and so on.” Over and over again he roundly accuses Luther of
“lying” and “falsehood,” though his language is not so lurid as his
adversary’s. The artifices by which he sought to evade the plain sense
of the words “This is My Body,” were well calculated to call forth
a rude contradiction from Luther. Zwingli’s arbitrary recourse to
the “figurative, symbolical, metaphorical” sense, Luther answered by
appealing to the interpretation accepted by the whole of antiquity.
At the turn of the fourth and the fifth centuries Macarius Magnes had
written: “Christ has said ‘This is My Body’; it is no figure of the
Body of Christ, nor a figure of His flesh, as some have been foolish
enough to assert, but in truth the body and blood of Christ.”[1268]
Concerning the promise of the Eucharist, Hilary of Poitiers declared
in the fourth century: “Christ says: ‘My flesh is meat indeed’ (John
vi. 56); as to the truth of the flesh and blood there can be no doubt.
The Lord Himself teaches it and our faith confesses it, viz. that it
is truly flesh and truly blood.” Any other interpretation of the words
of Christ he calls “_violenta atque imprudens prædicatio, aliena atque
impia intelligentia_.”[1269] The reproach, which at a much earlier
period Ignatius of Antioch, a disciple of the Apostles, had brought
forward against the Docetæ of his day, Luther might well have applied
to the Zwinglians: “They refuse to confess that the Eucharist is the
flesh of our Saviour Jesus Christ, that flesh which suffered for our
sins and which the Father raised from the dead.”[1270]

We can understand the abhorrence which Luther conveyed by the term
Sacramentarians (“_sacramentarii_”), by which he characterised all
those—whether Swiss, Reformed, or followers of Carlstadt—who denied
the Real Presence in the Sacrament.

The Marburg Conference of 1529, at which both Zwingli and Luther
attended with their friends, did not bring any real settlement, for
no compromise on the question of the Eucharist was feasible. Fourteen
of the other Articles submitted by Luther were accepted, but the
15th, with this principal question, remained in suspense owing to
the opposition of the Swiss. In consequence of this Luther refused
to recognise Zwingli and his followers as brothers, in spite of all
the prayers of his opponents. He would not concede to them Christian
brotherhood but merely “Christian charity,” that charity, moreover,
which, as he declared, we owe even to our enemies. He again voiced
it as his opinion, that, “your spirit is different from ours,” which
greatly incensed the other side. A statement was appended to the
Fifteen Articles of Marburg, to the effect, that, on account of the
Supper, they had “so far failed to reach an understanding, but that
each side would exercise Christian charity towards the other so far as
every man’s conscience allowed.”

Once, during the proceedings, Luther, to show his attachment to the
literal sense of the words “This is My Body,” chalked these words on
the tablecloth and held it up in front of him, pointing significantly
to the writing.

Luther, however, overlooked the fact, that, if once the words were
taken in their literal sense, as he was perfectly right in doing, there
was no alternative but to accept the Catholic interpretation, according
to which the bread is actually and substantially changed into the Body
of Christ, and that to say: “This is bread though Christ is present,”
was really out of the question. Many theologians who follow Luther in
other matters, unhesitatingly admit his inconsequence.[1271]

At the solemn meeting at Marburg, Luther was not to be disconcerted,
not even when Zwingli argued that the words of promise of the Sacrament
in St. John’s Gospel (vi. 32 ff., 48 ff.), where we read: “My flesh
is meat indeed,” must mean “my flesh signifies meat.” When Luther, no
less erroneously, objected that the passage in question did not apply
there, Zwingli exclaimed: “Of course not, Doctor, for that passage
is the breaking of your neck.” Luther replied testily: “Don’t be so
sure of it; necks don’t break so easily; here you are in Hesse, not
in Switzerland!” Zwingli was constrained to protest that, even in
Switzerland, people enjoyed the protection of the law, and to explain
that what he had said had not been meant by way of any threat.

Behind the efforts to unite Wittenberg and Zürich there was a different
influence at work. Philip, Landgrave of Hesse, like Zwingli, was
anxious to establish a league of all the Swiss and German Protestants
against those who, in the Empire, defended Catholicism. This proposal
Luther resisted with all his might, urging the Landgrave not to make
common cause with the false teachers, to the delight of the devil.
Melanchthon, who also was present, was likewise pleased to see the
Landgrave’s plan frustrated, for it would have rendered impossible
any reconciliation with the Emperor and the larger portion of the
Empire, which was the vague ideal after which he was striving. The
parties, however, were too distrustful of each other to arrive at any
settlement. Jonas, for his diplomacy, called Bucer a “fox,” and said of
Zwingli, that he detected in him a certain arrogance such as was to be
expected in a boor.

At the time of the Marburg Conference, Vienna was being besieged by the
Turks. Thus, whilst the Empire stood in the greatest peril from foes
without, an attempt was being made within to reach a settlement which
might drive the wedge yet deeper into the unity of the Fatherland. The
latter attempt ended, however, in failure, whilst the siege of Vienna
was raised and the departure of the Turks brought about a certain
strengthening of the Empire.

The tension between the Zwinglians and the Lutherans was not lessened
when each party claimed that it had gained the upper hand and utterly
routed the other at Marburg.

On October 11, 1531, Zwingli fell in the battle of Cappel, in which,
mounted on horseback and fully armed, he was leading the men of Zürich
against the five Catholic cantons. What Luther thought and felt at that
time we learn both from Schlaginhaufen’s Notes of his Table-Talk in
1531 and 1532, which afford some fresh information, and from Luther’s
letters and printed works.

The very first Note we have of Schlaginhaufen’s touches upon Zwingli’s
untimely end. It would appear that a rumour had got abroad that
Luther’s other opponents, Carlstadt and Pellicanus, had also been slain.

Luther was in high glee when news of Zwingli’s death reached him.

 He said: “God knows the thoughts of the heart. It is well that
 Zwingli, Carlstadt, and Pellicanus lie dead on the battle-field, for
 otherwise we could not have retained the Landgrave, Strasburg and
 other of our neighbours [true to our doctrine]. Oh, what a triumph
 is this, that they have perished! God indeed knows His business
 well.”[1272]—“Zwingli died like a brigand,” he said later, when
 scarcely a year had elapsed since his death. “He wished to force
 others to accept his errors, went to war, and was slain.” “He drew the
 sword, therefore he has received his reward, for Christ says: ‘All
 who take the sword shall perish by the sword.’ If God has saved him,
 then He did so contrary to His ordinary ways.”[1273]—“All seek to
 cloak their deceitful doctrines with the name of the Evangel,” so he
 exclaims in 1532. From Augsburg he heard that the Sacramentarian (i.e.
 Zwinglian) preachers were using his name and Melanchthon’s. “Since
 they refused to be our friends in God’s name, let them be so in the
 devil’s, even as Judas was the friend of Christ.”[1274]

 Because Thomas Münzer was no friend of the Evangel he was, according
 to Luther, destined to perish miserably and shamefully. Zwingli
 he placed on exactly the same footing; his death likewise was a
 just judgment.[1275] Zwingli, so he will have it, was a complete
 unbeliever. In his newly published sermons of 1530 he had shown that
 Zwingli, like Carlstadt, by his attacks on the Supper, had denied all
 the articles of the faith. “If a man falls away from one article of
 faith, however insignificant it may appear to reason, he has fallen
 away from all and does not hold any of them aright. For instance,
 it is certain that our fanatics who now deny the Sacrament, also
 deny Christ’s Divinity and all the other articles of faith, however
 much they protest to the contrary, and the reason of this is, that,
 when even one link of the chain is broken, the whole chain is in

 H. Barge, a Protestant, remarks: “After the battle of Cappel,
 Luther appears to have devoted his unusual gifts of eloquence to
 slandering Zwingli and all who remained true to him, systematically,
 deliberately, and maliciously, as mere heretics.”[1277]

 The following delineation of Zwingli by Luther dates from 1538:
 “Zwingli was a very clever and upright man, but he fell [into error];
 then he became so presumptuous as to dare to say and write: ‘I hold
 that no one in the world ever believed that the Body and Blood of
 Christ are present in the Sacrament.’” Luther adds: Because Zwingli
 ventured to speak rashly against him [Luther] and “against what is
 plain to the whole world, he perished miserably, just as did Egranus,
 that importunate fellow.”[1278]

 Just as he had condemned Carlstadt and Pellicanus, and, lastly,
 Egranus (Johann Silvius Egranus of Zwickau), so also elsewhere he
 lumps together in one condemnation with Zwingli all those doctors who
 differed from him. Relentlessly he scourges them as he had scourged
 the Catholics. “The character of those who oppose the Word is fiendish
 rather than human. Man does what he can, but when the devil takes
 possession of him then ‘enmity arises between him and the woman’”
 (Gen. iii. 15).[1279]

 Few experienced his intolerance to such an extent as Andreas
 Bodenstein von Carlstadt, his quondam colleague in the theological
 faculty of Wittenberg.

2. Carlstadt

Carlstadt, the fanatic, failed to obtain any peace from Luther until
he passed over to the camp of the Swiss theologians. In 1534 he became
preacher at St. Peter’s in Basle, and professor of theology. We may
here cast a glance at the troubles brought on him, partly through
Luther, partly through his own passionate exaltation, both previous to
this date and until his death at Basle, where he was carried off by the
plague in 1541.

Carlstadt’s violent doings at Wittenberg and the iconoclasm which he
justified by the Mosaic prohibition of graven images, had miscarried
owing to Luther’s warnings.[1280] Soon it became clear that there was
no longer any room for him at the University town near the leader of
the Reformation, more particularly since, in 1522, he had seen fit to
deny the presence of Christ in the Sacrament. Luther loudly bewailed
Carlstadt’s sudden determination to become a new teacher, and to lay
new injunctions on the people to the detriment of his (Luther’s)

Carlstadt now migrated to Orlamünde in the Saxon Electorate, where the
magistrates appointed him pastor. In August, 1524, however, Luther
passed through Weimar, Jena, and the other districts where the fanatics
had gained a footing, preaching energetically against them. Carlstadt
he had met at Jena on August 22, 1523, in the Black Bear Inn. In vain
did they seek a friendly settlement, for each overwhelmed the other
with reproaches. Finally, in the tap-room of the inn, Luther handed
his opponent a goldgulden as a pledge that he was at liberty to write
against him without reserve and that he did not mind in the least:
“Take it and attack me like a man, don’t fear!”[1282] Shortly after,
however, he complained of the treatment he had received: “At the inn at
Jena ... he turned upon me and abused me, snapped his fingers at me and
said: ‘I don’t care that for you.’ But if he does not respect me, whom,
then, amongst us does he respect?”[1283]

The struggle continued after they had gone their ways, both seeking
to secure the favour of the Court. Luther, through the agency of
Prince Johann Frederick, proposed that Carlstadt should be hounded
from his place of refuge and from the whole upper valley of the Saale.
Ultimately the disturber of the peace was banished from the Electorate;
Luther, in his work “Widder die hymelischen Propheten,” approved of
his expulsion, roughly declaring that, so far as lay in him, Carlstadt
would never again set foot in the country.[1284] The homeless man now
betook himself to Strasburg, whither he was pursued by a furious letter
of Luther’s, directed against him and his teaching, entitled “An die
Christen zu Straspurg widder den Schwermer Geyst.”

Luther became greatly enraged when he perceived that the denial of
the Sacrament, already widespread in Switzerland, was also gaining
ground at Strasburg and was being adopted by Capito and Bucer. In his
excitement, in the hope of checking the falling away from his doctrine,
of closing the mouth of that “fiend” Carlstadt—who likewise stood for
the denial of the Sacrament—and of preventing “the overthrow of all
political and ecclesiastical order,” he penned, in the course of a few
weeks, a violent screed entitled, “Widder die hymelischen Propheten.”
The knowledge that everywhere revolt “was being associated with the
Lutheran doctrines and reforms”[1285] roused his terrible eloquence, of
which the principal aim was to annihilate Carlstadt. Having completed
the first part, comprising seventy pages of print in the Erlangen
edition, he rushed this through the press as a preliminary instalment,
informing his readers at the end that “the remainder will follow on
foot.”[1286] As good as his word, three weeks later, he had ready
the conclusion, consisting of nearly one hundred pages of print. He
asserts that Carlstadt had, “for three years, been making a hash” of
his books; he was even anxious to throw them all overboard. Luther’s
strongest argument against him was the revolutionary peril which this
man represented. Even if he did not actually plot “murder and revolt,”
he writes, “yet I must say that he has a murderous and revolutionary
spirit.... Because he carries a dagger, I do not trust him; he might
well be simply awaiting a good opportunity to do what I apprehend. By
the dagger I mean his false interpretation and understanding of the Law
of Moses.”[1287] “What is the use of admonishing him?” he writes,
alluding to Carlstadt’s departure from the Lutheran interpretation
of the Bible and his obstinacy in accepting no exegesis but his own;
“I believe that he still considers me one of the most learned men
at Wittenberg and yet he tells me to my very face, that I am of no
account, though all the while he pretends to be quite willing to be

From Strasburg, Carlstadt, the restless wanderer, had gone to
Rothenburg-on-the-Tauber, a hotbed of Anabaptists. It was whilst
here, that finding himself in dire want, he besought Luther’s aid,
at a time when the latter had not yet finished the above writing
against him; he, however, frustrated all hopes of any reconciliation
by previously penning a defence of his own doctrine of the Sacrament
against the Wittenberg professor. The unfortunate termination of the
Peasant War exposed him to grave danger, when he broke his promise to
keep silence, and again renewed his complaints concerning Luther, and
bewailed his own reduced circumstances, dissensions broke out afresh
between them. Luther, who was greatly vexed, was very anxious to find
some new means of muzzling his opponent. He proposed that he should in
no case advocate in the presence of others his own theological opinions
or his private interpretation of the Bible, though he might cherish
them as his private convictions, for of the heart no man is judge;
doctrines which differed from his own, so Luther declared, were not to
be defended publicly, else they would come under the cognisance of the
authorities. Under these circumstances Carlstadt thought it better to
depart. In the beginning of 1529 he escaped, and, in 1530, found a home
in Switzerland, where he enjoyed a quieter life and was free to proceed
with his theological labours. “Luther, like Carlstadt, never doubted
for a moment that his doctrine was really founded on Scripture. Hence
Luther and the Elector felt themselves bound in conscience to defend
as best they could the Christian faith and their country against any
invasion of false doctrine.”[1289] Such is the considered judgment of a
Protestant historian.[1290]

       *       *       *       *       *

For the period subsequent to 1534, when Carlstadt at length began to
lead a more tranquil life as professor and preacher at Basle, the
Table-Talk is the principal source of information concerning Luther’s
relations with him.

Luther, in his conversations, frequently referred to his former friend,
particularly in 1538.

 “He, like Bucer, greatly retarded the progress of the Evangel
 by his arrogance. In other matters pride of intellect is not so
 dangerous, but in theology it is utterly pestilential to desire to
 arrogate anything to oneself.... Hence I was greatly troubled when
 Carlstadt once remarked to me: ‘I am as fond of honour as any other
 man.’ At Leipzig he refused to concede me the first place at the
 Disputation lest I should rob him of his part of the praise. And yet
 I was always glad to do him a favour. But he reaped shame instead
 of honour at Leipzig, for no worse disputant could be imagined than
 a man of so dull and wretched a spirit.... At first he, like Peter
 Lupinus, withstood me, but when I rebutted them with Augustine,
 they, too, studied Augustine and then insisted upon my doctrine
 more than I did myself. Carlstadt, however, was deceived by his
 arrogance.”[1291] Indeed, Carlstadt belonged to the category of the

 Elsewhere Luther again says similar things without noticing, so it
 would seem, that others might have complained of his “arrogance” just
 as much as he did of Carlstadt’s. Carlstadt is “full of presumption,”
 and this “brought about his fall as it did that of Münzer, Zwingli,
 [Œcolampadius, Stiefel, and Eisleben.” “Such people, weak and untried
 though they be, are puffed up with self-sufficiency before the
 victory, whereas I have my daily struggles.” Before this Luther had
 declared that he was “plagued and vexed by the devil, whose bones
 are strong until we crack them.”[1293]—“It was impossible to make
 of Carlstadt a humble man because he had been through no real mental
 temptations.”[1294]—“He, like Münzer and Zwingli, was rash when good
 fortune attended him, but an arrant coward in misfortune”;[1295]
 Luther here was probably recalling how Carlstadt, the unhappy married
 priest, had been forced to humble himself before him owing to the
 dire want and danger in which he and his family found themselves.

 “Had not Carlstadt come on the scene with the fanatics, Münzer and the
 Anabaptists, all would have gone well with my undertaking. But though
 I alone lifted it out of the gutter, they wished to seize upon the
 prize and poach upon my preserves, though, owing to the way they went
 about the business, they were really working for the Pope though all
 the while anxious to destroy him.”[1296]

Luther afterwards held fast to the opinion concerning his enemy which
he had expressed long before in a letter to Spalatin: “Carlstadt has
now been delivered over to a reprobate spirit so that I despair of his
return. He always was, and probably always will be, unmindful of the
glory of Christ; his insensate ambition has brought him to this. To me,
nay, to us, he is more troublesome than any foe, so that I believe the
unhappy man to be possessed by more than one devil. God have mercy on
his sin, so far as it is mortal.”[1297]

In 1541 the news of his rival’s death reached him. It was rumoured that
he had died impenitent, that the devil had appeared at his death-bed,
had fetched him away, and continued to make a great noise in his
house.[1298] Luther believed these tales. It was not surprising, so he
said, that Carlstadt had at last received his deserts,[1299] though he
was sorry he should have died impenitent.[1300]

       *       *       *       *       *

It only remains to glance at the arguments Luther brought forward and
at the theoretical attitude he assumed with regard to Carlstadt and
his followers. If we take the book “Widder die hymelischen Propheten”
and the writing he addressed to the Strasburg Christians against the
fanatics, and consider the answers and objections they drew forth, we
shall have a strange picture of Luther’s ways of reasoning and of his
crooked lines of thought. Not that his ability and eloquence failed
him, but, for clearness and coherence, his doctrine and whole conduct
leave everything to be desired. In his book he attacks not Carlstadt
alone, but, as he says: “Carlstadt and his spirits,” i.e. all those
opponents of his whom he was pleased to dub “fanatics.” “Fanaticism”
to him means not merely that fanciful interpretation of the Bible based
on special illumination, to which his opponents were attached, but
more particularly the threefold error for which they stood, viz. their
denial of the Sacrament (i.e. of the Real Presence of Christ in the
Supper), their iconoclasm, and, thirdly, their repudiation of infant
baptism. As for the various elements of good, which, in spite of all
their mistakes, were shared by the earlier Anabaptists, Luther refused
categorically to see them or to hearken to the fanatics’ well-grounded
remonstrances against certain of his propositions.

To preach, a man must be called by God, so he lays it down. Had your
spirit “been the true one, it would have manifested itself by word and
sign; but in reality it is a murderous, secret devil.”[1301] Luther
demands miracles with as much confidence as though he himself could
point to them in plenty.

Those preachers who ventured to differ from him, he invites, at the
very least, to point to their ecclesiastical vocation. But what sort
of a vocation was this to be, they asked. As Luther recognised no
universal Church visible, a call emanating from a congregation of
believers had to suffice; Carlstadt, for instance, could appeal to
his having been chosen by Orlamünde as its pastor. This Luther would
not allow: You must also have the consent of the Elector and of the
University of Wittenberg. Carlstadt and those who felt with him were
well aware, that, in the final instance, this simply meant Luther’s
own consent, for at the University he was all-powerful, whilst the
sovereign likewise was wont to be guided by him. Why, Carlstadt might
also have asked, should not the degree of Doctor of Divinity suffice
in my case, seeing that you yourself have solemnly pleaded your degree
as a sufficient justification for assailing the common tradition of

Luther’s final answer to such an appeal was as follows:

“My devil, I know you well.”[1302]

He was determined to hound out of his last hiding-place his
presumptuous rival, many of whose doctrines, it must be admitted,
were both mistaken and dangerous. Hence the measure which he induced
the Elector to take in 1524, according to which Carlstadt was to
be refused shelter throughout the Electorate; this example was also
followed by the magistrates of Rothenburg-on-the-Tauber, who, by an
edict of January 27, 1525, commanded all burghers by virtue of their
oath and fealty “not to house, shelter, or hide, provide with food and
drink, or further on his way the said Dr. Carlstadt,” adding, that a
similar prohibition had been published in “other lordships and Imperial
cities both near and far.”[1303]

When seeking to retain the support of the burghers of Strasburg, Luther
had made a display of broadminded forbearance and charity. What he
then said is often quoted by his followers as proof of his kindliness
and humility. “Take heed that you show brotherly charity towards one
another in very deed.” “I am not your preacher. No one is bound to
believe me, let each one look to himself. To warn all I am able, but
stop any man I cannot.” Yet he continues: “Carlstadt makes a great fuss
about outward things as though Christianity consisted in knocking down
images, overthrowing the Sacrament, and preventing Baptism; by the
dust he raises he seeks to darken the sun, and the brightness of the
Evangel, and the main facts of Christian faith and practice, so that
the world may forget all that has hitherto been taught by us.”[1304]
Luther’s own doctrine, in spite of his preliminary assurance, was alone
to stand, because, forsooth, it reveals the true sun to the world.

What, however, had he to oppose to the “knocking down of images” and
the “overthrow of the Sacrament”? Did his standpoint afford sufficient
resistance, or was it more than a mere subterfuge?

The pulling down of images and the overthrow of the Sacrament, Luther
tells Carlstadt, agreeably with his own feelings at that time, may be
introduced little by little, but must not be made into a law. Everyone
is free to put away his images, to deny the Sacrament, or to refuse
to receive it; let him follow his own conscience as it is the right
and duty of every man to do. Luther, however, is forgetful of the
restrictions he was in the habit of placing upon Catholic practices,
of how he refused to admit the rights of conscience in the matter
of the Mass and the religious life, notwithstanding that Catholics
could appeal to the age-long practice of the Church in every land,
and of his denial of the existence or even of the possibility of good
faith amongst any of his opponents, whether within or without his own
fold. In his book against the “Heavenly Prophets” he declares it to be
“optional to wear a cowl or the tonsure ... in this there is neither
commandment nor prohibition,” “to wear the tonsure, to put on albs and
chasubles, etc. is a thing God has neither commanded nor forbidden.”
“Doctrine, command, and compulsion are not to be tolerated.”[1305] Here
we see the confused after-effects of his old, pseudo-mystic conception
of a religion of freedom, involving no duty of submission to any
external authority in the matter of “doctrine or command.” (See p. 8

Granting that any real tolerance underlay these statements, the
fanatics could ask: “Why, then, not include our peculiarities, for
instance, our penitential dress, our grey frock, and outward, pious
practices?” Luther, however, will hear of no self-chosen works of
penance, and condemns indiscriminately those of the fanatics and the
more measured ones preferred by Catholics, in spite of mortification
being recommended by the example of the saints both of the Old and
the New Covenant and of Christ Himself. Of the last Luther says quite
openly that Christ’s example taught us nothing; not Christ’s works,
but merely His express words were to be our example. “What He wished
us to do or leave undone, that He not only did or left undone but also
enjoined or forbade in so many words.... Hence we admit no example,
not even that of Christ Himself.”[1306] Elsewhere he also excludes the
Evangelical Counsels of Perfection, although they are not only based
on example, but are also expressed in words. Yet here, in a particular
instance, he departs from his theory that only Christ’s express
injunctions are binding; Carlstadt had done away with the elevation
of the Sacrament in Divine Worship; this Luther disapproved of; he
acknowledges, however, that Christ did not do so at the Last Supper,
though _we_ do.—He does not tell us when or how Christ enjoined this
by “word.”

What the motives were which led to his decisions on such usages we see
from the following. Speaking to Carlstadt’s party he says: “Although
I too had the intention of doing away with the Elevation, yet, now,
the better to defy and oppose for a while the fanatical spirit, I
shall not do so.”[1307] In the same way, “in defiance of the spirit
of the mob, he intends to call the Sacrament a Sacrifice, though
it is not really one, but simply the reception of what was once a
sacrifice.” We cannot wonder if the sectarians looked upon this spirit
of defiance and contradiction as something strange. One of them during
this controversy complained with some justice that Luther, according
to his own admission, had thundered forth many of his theses merely
because the Papists “had pressed him so hard,” and not from any inner
conviction.[1308] Contradiction was to him sufficient reason for
narrowing the freedom of others in the matter of doctrine.

The new Christian freedom Luther vindicates in his book “Widder die
hymelischen Propheten,” more particularly in respect of the Old
Testament Commandments. At that time, strange to say, the fanatics
were set on imposing certain of the Mosaic laws on both public and
ecclesiastical life, under the impression that they were precepts
divinely ordained for all time. For this Luther’s own violent and
one-sided interpretation of the Bible, in defiance of all tradition,
was really responsible; indeed, he himself was not disinclined to lay
undue stress on Mosaism. (See vol. v., xxix., xxxv. 6.)

The fanatics’ exaggerations were, however, too much for Luther. In
his efforts to oppose their trend he goes so far as to include even
the Decalogue, when he exclaims: “Don’t bother us with Moses”; the
Ten Commandments are disfigured with Mosaism, so he says, for they
prescribe the Sabbath and forbid images; it was stupid to see in the
Decalogue nothing more than moral commandments and precepts of the
natural law.[1309] Not on account of this law do we observe the weekly
day of rest, but because we need a rest and regular times for Divine
worship, viz. out of love for our neighbour and from necessity. It
is no easy matter to reconcile this with Luther’s own praiseworthy
practice of teaching the Commandments and seeing that the young were
instructed in them, or with the great respect with which he surrounded
the Decalogue. The Church’s view, as expounded by St. Thomas, was
both better and more logical, viz. that the Ten Commandments were
the primary and common precepts of the law of nature,[1310] and that
the alteration in the third Commandment, introduced by the Church
concerning the day (Sunday in place of the Sabbath), was merely a minor
detail not affecting the real substance of the Commandment.

That, however, the Sunday, instead of the Saturday, was to be observed
as holy was a point on which Luther had perforce to content himself
with that very tradition which he had so often abused.

Tradition likewise was his only authority for defending Infant Baptism
with so much determination against the fanatics. It is true, that, in
order to deprive his opponents of their chief argument, he put forth
the strange theory, treated of elsewhere, that infants are able to
believe.[1311] Elsewhere, too, he seeks to persuade himself, in spite
of all difficulties, that infants in some way or other co-operate in
the baptismal work of justification by means of some sort of faith.

On the other hand, he confutes Carlstadt’s opinion as to the figurative
sense of the Eucharistic words of consecration in a masterly
dissertation on their real meaning. Here he holds the field because
his interpretation is conformable both with that of antiquity and
with the dictates of reason. We find him demolishing Carlstadt’s
stupidities by appeals to reason, but here Luther is in contradiction
with himself, for in another part of the book, where, for his purpose,
it was essential to make out reason to be absolutely blind as regards
doctrine, he has the strongest invectives against it or any use of
reason in matters of faith. In the case of Carlstadt’s objections
against the Sacramental Presence of Christ, he had been obliged to have
recourse to proofs based on reason, yet in the other passage he says:
“As if we did not know that reason is the devil’s handmaid and does
nothing but blaspheme and dishonour all that God says or does.”[1312]
To come to him with such a Frau Hulda (the name by which he ridicules
reason) “is mere devil’s roguery.”[1313] In his contempt for reason he
goes so far as to advocate a new theory of the omnipresence of Christ’s
body, in heaven and everywhere on earth, in spite of the impossibility
such a thing would involve.

It was quite at variance with his habitual exhortations and commands
for him calmly to inform the fanatics that, whoever does not wish
to receive the Sacrament may leave it alone. The only effect of
receiving the Sacrament now appears to him to be, that it strengthens
in us the Word of faith in Christ, and is a consolation to troubled
consciences. It is true that he proves himself a fiery advocate of the
literal sense of the words of institution and a passionate defender
of the Sacramental Presence, yet the meagre effect he concedes to the
Eucharist makes his fervour somewhat difficult to understand, for there
is no doubt that he minimises both the graces we receive through the
Sacrament and the greatness of the gift of Christ; apart from this he
altogether excludes the sacrificial character of the Supper. Still,
his zeal for the defence of the Eucharist against those who denied it
was so great, that, out of defiance, he was anxious to retain even the
Latin wording of his “Liturgy” and, to this end, made a pathetic appeal
to the chapter in which St. Paul speaks of the use of strange tongues
(1 Cor. xiv.), which Luther thought might be understood of the language
used in the Mass.

The list of feeble arguments and self-contradictions found in this
remarkable book might be indefinitely lengthened, though, on the other
hand, it also contains many a practical and striking refutation of
views held by the fanatics.

In the press of his personal struggle, and in spite of all his scorn
for his opponents’ “spiritism,” Luther could not refrain from bringing
forward against Carlstadt a prophecy of the “higher spirit.” This
prophecy had condemned Carlstadt beforehand and had foretold that he
would not long share our faith; this has now been fulfilled to the
letter, so that “I cannot but understand it.”[1314] Unfortunately,
before this, the opposite party had discovered a prediction against
Luther, an “ancient prophecy” which was certainly about to be fulfilled
in Luther, viz. “that the black monk must first come and cause all

As was to be expected, Luther preferred, however, to lay greater stress
on other considerations which might assist him to gain the upper hand.
He returns to his favourite asseveration: “If what I have begun is
of God, no one will be able to hinder it; if it is not, I shall most
assuredly not uphold it.”[1316] But not to “uphold it” with all the
force and passion at his command, was, as a matter of fact, impossible
to him. “No one shall take it from me!” he exclaims, almost in the same
breath with the above, and though he indeed adds “save God alone,”
still he knew perfectly well that God would not appear personally in
order to wrestle with him. Moreover, he will have it that the crucial
test had occurred long before and had entirely vindicated him. So
great a work as he had achieved could not, he assures us, have been
“built” without God’s help; not he but a higher power was the builder,
though, so far as he was concerned, he had “in the main laboured well
and rightly [this to the Strasburg dissenters],[1317] so that whoever
avers the contrary cannot be a good spirit; I hope I shall have no
worse luck in the outward matters upon which these prophets are so fond
of harping.” In “outward matters,” however, he was cautious enough to
restrict his claim within his favourite province of freedom. He calls
it “spiritual freedom,” not to make iconoclasm a duty, to leave each
one at liberty to receive, or not receive, the Sacrament, and not
to insist on the wearing of grey frocks. He is also careful not to
prescribe anything, that, by way of outward observances they may not
fall back into Popery, the whole essence of which consists in this sort
of thing.

Luther, however, insists all the more on the “Bible spirit,” the spirit
of the outward Word.

This, in spite of its subjective character, is to be set up as a brazen
shield against the private judgment of the “heavenly prophets” and
their inspirations. It is true his opponents objected that he himself
had much to learn from the “Bible spirit,” for instance, greater
meekness and a resolution to proceed without stirring up “dangerous
enmities.” These, however, were minor matters in his eyes. For him the
“Bible spirit” was the witness and safeguard of his treasured doctrine.

What we must hearken to is not the inward Word—such is his
emphatic declaration after his encounter with the fanatics, in flat
contradiction to his earlier statements (see above, p. 4 f.)—but
above all the outward Word contained in Scripture: if we do otherwise
we are simply following the example of the “heavenly prophets.” The
Pope “spoke according to his own fancy,” paying no heed to the outward
Word, but I speak according to Scripture.[1318] All that was necessary
was not to pervert the Bible, as the fanatics did; it is the devil
who gives them a wrong understanding of Scripture, indeed, according
to Luther, there is no heretic who does not make much of Scripture.
“When the devil sees that the Bible is used as a weapon against him, he
runs to Scripture and raises such confusion that people no longer can
tell who has the right interpretation. When I quote Scripture against
the Papists and fanatics, they don’t believe me, for they have their
own glosses.”[1319] Hence, such at least is his implicit invitation,
they must hold fast to his gloss and no other. For I, by discovering
Scripture, “have delivered the world from the horrid darkness of
Antichrist; nor have I the faintest doubt, but am entirely convinced,
that our Evangel is the true one.”[1320] “The heresies and persecutions
rampant amongst us are merely that confirmation of the truth which the
New Testament predicted (1 Cor. xi. 19), of the truth which I preach.
Heresies must needs arise,” etc. etc.

Finally—such is one of his main arguments against the “heavenly
prophets”—these heretical fanatics do not preach the “chief piece of
Christian doctrine”; they “do not tell people how to get rid of sin,
obtain a good conscience, and a joyful heart at peace with God, which,
really, is the great thing. Here, if anywhere, is the sign that their
spirit is of the devil.... Of how we may obtain a good conscience they
are utterly ignorant, for they have never experienced it.”[1321] He, on
the other hand, thanks to his doctrine, had, though with unheard-of
efforts, won his way to a quiet conscience, and by this impressed an
infallible stamp upon his Evangel; his own way to salvation will be
the way of all who trustfully lay hold on the merits of Christ. Yet
it is not the way for all. For the proud, and for all who are full of
self, there is the law to terrify them and lay bare their sin. It is
only to the “troubled consciences” who tremble before the wrath of God,
to the simple, the poor, and those who are utterly cast down, that
the Evangel speaks. But these fanatics have no interior combats and
death-struggles, they neither humble themselves before God, nor do they
pray. “This I know and am certain of, that they never commenced their
undertaking by imploring God’s help, or praying, and that, even now,
their conscience would not allow them to pray for a happy issue.”[1322]
Not only do they not pray, but they are simply unable to pray; they are
lost souls and belong to the devil.

Never let us in any single thing ever trust to our own knowledge and
our own will. “I prefer to listen to another rather than to myself.” We
cannot be sufficiently on our guard “against the great rascal whom we
bear in our hearts.”[1323] The fanatics retorted: Well may you speak
thus, “you who soar aloft so high with your faith,” you who are so full
of yourself that you must needs use us as your target; “your defiant
teaching and your obstinacy” are well known to all.[1324]

Carlstadt and his fellows were not to be converted by such outpourings
as these.

The rebellious fanatics treated the writings directed against them
with the greatest contempt. Caspar Glatz, who had replaced Carlstadt
as Lutheran pastor at Orlamünde, said in a report to Wittenberg:
They use them in the privy, as I myself have seen and heard from
others.[1325] Luther, too, indignantly apprises Wenceslaus Link of
this: “_Rustici nates libello meo purgant, sic Satan furit._ Thus doth
Satan rage.”[1326]

The most important change called forth in Luther by his encounters with
the fanatics was an increasing disinclination to appeal as heretofore
to any extraordinary divine illumination or inspiration of his own. At
the commencement of the conflict he had been in the habit of telling
them: “I also was in the spirit, I also have seen spirits”; now,
however, little by little, as we shall see more plainly later (vol.
iv., xxviii. 1), such assurances made room for an appeal to the “Word.”
The outward Bible-Word, the meaning of which he had himself discovered,
was now to count for everything.

Beneath the yoke of the Word he was anxious to compel also his other
opponents, such as Agricola, Schenk, and Egranus, to pass.

3. Johann Agricola, Jacob Schenk, and Johann Egranus

Johann Agricola of Eisleben, one of the earliest and most violent of
Luther’s assistants, was desirous of carrying his doctrine on good
works and the difference between the Law and the Gospel to its logical
conclusion. His modifications and criticism of Luther’s doctrine called
forth the latter’s vigorous denunciation. Agricola had to thank his own
restlessness, and “the burden of Luther’s superiority and hostility,”
for what he endured so long as Luther lived.[1327] As the details of
the quarrel are reserved for later consideration (vol. v., xxix. 3), we
shall here merely indicate Luther’s behaviour by quoting a few of his

 “The foolish fellow was concerned about his honour,” Luther says
 very characteristically of this quarrel. He was anxious “that the
 Wittenbergers should be nothing and Eisleben everything.”[1328] “He is
 hardened,” and nothing can be done for him; “Agricola says, ‘I, too,
 have a head.’ Well, were that all that God requires, I might say I
 have one too. Thus they go on in their obstinacy and see not that they
 are in the wrong.... Our Lord God evidently intends to go on worrying
 me yet a while so as to defy the Papists.”[1329] Elsewhere he says:
 “Agricola looks on at these doings with a merry mien, and refuses to
 humble himself. Yet he has submitted his recantation to me, perhaps
 in the hope that I would treat him more leniently. But I shall seek
 the glory of Christ and not his; I shall pillory him and his words,
 as a cowardly, proud, impious man, who has done much harm to the

Another who fell into serious disagreements with Luther over the
Antinomian question was Dr. Jacob Schenk, then preacher at Freiberg in
Saxony (afterwards Court-preacher at Weimar). At Wittenberg his conduct
began to give rise to suspicion at the same time as Agricola’s. He was
reported to have said in a sermon: Whoever goes on preaching the law,
is possessed of the devil. The eloquence of this man of no mean talents
was as great as his aims were strange.

 In Lauterbach’s Diary we find the following, under date October 7,
 1538, concerning Luther and Schenk: At Luther’s table the conversation
 turned upon Jacob Schenk, “who, in his arrogant and lying fashion was
 doing all manner of things [so Luther declared] which he afterwards
 was wont to deny. Wherever he was, he raised up strife, relying on
 the authority of the Prince and the applause of the people. But he
 will be put to shame in the end [so Luther went on to say], just as
 Johann Agricola, who enjoyed great consideration at Court and was
 almost a Privy Councillor; his reputation vanished without my having
 any hand in the matter. When Schenk preached at Zeitz he gave general
 dissatisfaction. The wretched man is puffed up with pride and deceives
 himself with new-fangled words.... He has concealed his wickedness
 under a Satanic hypocrisy and is ever aping me. Never shall I trust
 him again, no, not to all eternity.”[1331]

 Lauterbach gives a striking picture of Luther’s behaviour at his
 encounter with Jacob Schenk on September 11, 1538. Luther and Jonas,
 after a sermon which had greatly displeased them, paid him a visit.
 They found him, “sad to relate, impenitent and unabashed, rebellious,
 ambitious, and perjurious.” Luther pointed out to him his ignorance;
 how could he, unexperienced as he was, and understanding neither
 dialectics nor rhetoric, venture thus to oppose his teachers? Schenk
 replied: “I must do so for the sake of Christ’s Blood and His dear
 Passion; my own great trouble of conscience also compels me to it”
 (thus adducing a motive similar to that so often alleged by Luther
 in his own case). I must “fear God more than all my preceptors; for
 I have a God as much as you.” Luther replied: “It may be that you
 understand my doctrine perfectly, but you ought nevertheless, for
 the honour of God, to honour us as the teachers who first instructed
 you.” This seems to have made no impression on Schenk. Luther’s
 parting shot was: “If you are torn to pieces, may the devil lap your
 blood. We also are ‘in peril from false brethren.’ Poor Freiberg
 [the scene of Schenk’s labours] will never recover from this. But
 God, the Avenger, will destroy the man who has defiled His temple.
 The proverb says: ‘Where heart and mind both are bad, the state of a
 man indeed is sad.’” At supper, Schenk, seated at table with Luther
 and Jonas, began to abuse Luther and the inhabitants of Freiberg;
 after saying much that was scarcely complimentary, he added: “‘When
 I have made the Court as pious as you have made the world, then my
 work will be finished.’ In spite of all this impertinence he remained
 seated, though his hypocritical show of humility revealed how depraved
 his heart really was. When Luther got up to leave the room Schenk
 attempted to start the quarrel anew.”[1332] Finally they parted

Schenk subsequently led a wandering existence, ever under suspicion
as to the purity of his faith. In 1541 he was at Leipzig and in
1543 he visited Joachim, Elector of Brandenburg. It was given out
by adversaries, such as Melanchthon and Alberus, that he ultimately
committed suicide, driven thereto by melancholy; the statement is,
however, not otherwise confirmed,

       *       *       *       *       *

Johann Wildenauer (or Silvius), the theologian, was born at Eger in
Bohemia, and hence was generally known as Egranus. This priest, who
was a man of talent and of Humanistic culture, and an enthusiastic
follower of Erasmus, had been won over to the new teaching in the very
beginning. After having been preacher at the Marienkirche at Zwickau
until Thomas Münzer made any further stay impossible, we find him
from 1521-23 and, again, from 1533-34, preacher of the new faith at
Joachimstal, where he was one of the predecessors of Mathesius.

Wildenauer was one of the most remarkable and independent characters
of the time, but an “extremely restless spirit.”[1333] Although a
Lutheran, he openly expressed his dissatisfaction, not only with the
moral conditions under Lutheranism, but also with many points of his
master’s doctrine, particularly with his theory that faith alone
justifies, and that man cannot co-operate in the work of his salvation.
Luther became at an early date suspicious and angry concerning him. He
wrote to Joachimstal “to warn the people against the dubious doctrines
of Egranus,” as Mathesius relates, on the strength of copies of certain
letters he had seen.[1334] The more dutiful Mathesius speaks of his
predecessor as “a Mameluke and an ungrateful pupil.”[1335] His fault
consisted in his following the example of Erasmus, as did in progress
of time so many other admirers of the Dutch scholar, and relinquishing
more and more his former good opinion of Luther’s person and work;
with this change his own sad experiences had not a little to do. To
the Catholic Church, which had excommunicated him, he apparently never
returned. When, in 1534, he was deprived of his post at Joachimstal,
he complained in a letter, that he had been “driven into exile and
outlawed by Papists and Lutherans alike.”[1336]

In that same year he published at Leipzig a work entitled “A Christian
Instruction on the righteousness of faith and on good works,”[1337]
which, in spite of its bitterness, contained many home-truths. There,
apart from what he says on doctrinal matters, we find an account of the
“temptations and trials” he had to endure for having ventured to teach
that “good works and a Christian life, side by side with faith, are
useful and necessary for securing eternal life.”[1338]

About this time Luther again sent forth a challenge to Erasmus and to
all Erasmians generally who had broken with him, Egranus included.

 He told his friends that now his business was to “purify the
 Church from the brood of Erasmus” (“_a fœtibus eius_”); he was
 referring particularly to Egranus, also to Crotus Rubeanus, Wicel,
 [Œcolampadius, and Campanus.[1339] Erasmus had already “seduced”
 Zwingli and now he had also “converted Egranus, who believes just as
 much as he,” viz. nothing.[1340]—Egranus he calls a “proud donkey,”
 who teaches that Christ must not be exalted so high, having learnt
 this from Erasmus;[1341] “this proud spirit declared that though
 Christ had earned it, yet we must merit it.”[1342]—He had long been
 acquainted with this false spirit, so he wrote in 1533 or 1534 to a
 Joachimstal burgher; he, like other sectarians, was full of “devil’s
 venom.” “Even though no syrup or purgative be given them, yet they
 cannot but expel their poison from mouth and anus. The time will come
 when they will be unable any longer to pass the matter, and then
 their belly must burst like that of Judas; for they will not be able
 to retain what they have stolen and devoured of [the doctrine of]

 That Egranus finally drank himself to death with Malmsey “is a
 despicable calumny, which can be traced back to Mathesius.”[1344] In
 the sixteenth-century controversies it was the usual thing on either
 side to calumniate opponents and to make them die the worst death
 conceivable,[1345] and it would appear, that, in the case of Egranus,
 at a very early date unfavourable reports were circulated concerning
 his manner of death. His lamentable end (“_misere periit_”), Luther
 likens to that of Zwingli, struck down in the battle of Cappel by a
 divine judgment.[1346] His death occurred in 1535.

 In the “Christian Instruction,” referred to above, Egranus had
 written: “The new prophets can only tell us that we are freed from
 sin by Christ; what He commanded or forbade in the Gospel that they
 pass over as were it not in the Gospel at all.” “If we simply say:
 Christ has done everything and what we do is of no account, then we
 are making too much of Christ’s share, for we also must do something
 to secure our salvation. By such words Christ is made a cloak for our
 sins, and, as is actually now the case, all seek to conceal and excuse
 their wickedness and viciousness under the mantle of Christ’s merits.”

 “If such faith without works continues to be preached much longer, the
 Christian religion will fall into ruins and come to a lamentable end,
 and the place where this faith without works is taught will become a
 Sodom and Gomorrha.”[1347]

4. Bugenhagen, Jonas and others

Disagreements such as these never arose to mar the relations between
Luther and some of his other more intimate co-workers, for instance,
his friendship with Bugenhagen and Jonas, who have been so frequently
alluded to already. He was always ready to acknowledge in the warmest
manner the great services they rendered him in the defence and
spread of his teaching, and to support them when they stood in need
of his assistance. He was never stingy in his bestowal of praise,
narrow-minded or jealous, in his acknowledgement of the merits of
friendly fellow-preachers, or of those writers who held Lutheran views.

Nicholas von Amsdorf, who introduced the new faith into Magdeburg in
1524 and there became Superintendent, he praises for the firmness with
which he confessed the faith and for his fearless conduct generally.
In Disputations he was wont to go straight to the heart of the matter
like the “born theologian” he was; at Schmalkalden, when preaching
before the Princes and magnates, he had not shrunk from declaring that
our Evangel was intended for the weak and oppressed and for those who
feel themselves sinners, though he could not discern any such in the

Johann Brenz, preacher in Schwäbisch-Hall since 1522, and one of the
founders of the new church system in Suabia, was greatly lauded by
Luther for his exegetical abilities. “He is a learned and reliable
man. Amongst all the theologians of our day there is not one who knows
how to interpret and handle Holy Scripture like Brenz. When I gaze in
admiration at his spirit I almost despair of my own powers. Certainly
none of our people can do what he has done in his exposition of the
Gospel of St. John. At times, it is true, he is carried away by his
own ideas, yet he sticks to the point and speaks conformably to the
simplicity of God’s Word.”[1349]

Next to Melanchthon, however, the friend whom Luther praised most
highly as a “thoroughly learned and most able man,” was Johann
Bugenhagen. “He has, under most trying circumstances, been of service
to many of the Churches.”[1350]

 In his Preface to Bugenhagen’s Latin Commentary on the Psalms—a work
 which, even in the opinion of Protestant theologians, “leaves much to
 be desired”[1351] from the “point of view of learning,” and which in
 reality is merely a sort of polemical work of edification, written
 from the standpoint of the new faith—Luther declared, that the spirit
 of Christ had at length unlocked the Psalter through Bugenhagen; every
 teacher must admit that now “the spirit was revealing secrets hidden
 for ages.” “I venture to assert that the first person on earth to give
 an explanation of the Book of Psalms is Pomeranus. Almost all earlier
 writers have introduced their own views into the book, but here the
 judgment of the spirit will teach you wondrous things.”[1352]

 Yet at the very outset, in the first verse of the Psalms, instead of a
 learned commentary, we find Bugenhagen expounding the new belief, and
 attacking the alleged self-righteousness of Catholicism, termed by him
 the “_cathedra pestilentiæ_”; he even relates at length his conversion
 to Lutheranism, which had given scandal “to those not yet enlightened
 by the sun of the Evangel.”[1353] They were no longer to wait for the
 completion of his own Commentary on the Psalms, Luther concludes,
 since now—in place of poor Luther—David, Isaias, Paul, and John were
 themselves speaking to the reader.

 “He had no clear perception of the defects of Bugenhagen’s exegetical
 method,” remarks O. Albrecht, the editor of the above Preface in
 the Weimar edition of Luther’s works.[1354] The explanation of this
 “uncalled-for praise,” as Albrecht terms it, is to be found in the
 feeling expressed by Luther in the first sentence of the Preface:
 At the present time God had caused His Word to shine like crystal,
 whereas of yore there prevailed only chill and dismal mists.

The truth is that few of Luther’s assistants promoted his cause with
such devotion and determination combined as did Pomeranus, who,
for all his zeal, was both practical and sober in his ways. Such
were his achievements for the cause, that Luther greets him in the
superscription of a letter as “Bishop of the Church of Wittenberg,
Legate of Christ’s face and heart to Denmark, my brother and my
master.” He thus explains the words “_legatus a facie et a corde_”:
“the Pope boasts of his ‘_legati a latere_,’ I boast of my pious
preachers ‘_a facie et a corde_.’”[1355] Luther was in the habit of
putting Bugenhagen on the same footing with himself and Melanchthon:
Luther, Philip, and Pomeranus will support the Evangel as long as they
are there, he says, but after this there will come a fall (“_fiet
lapsus_”).[1356] Let those braggarts who pretend they know better
“come to me, to Philip, and to Pomeranus ... then they will be nicely
confounded.”[1357] Köstlin is, however, rightly of opinion that,
as compared with Luther and Melanchthon, Bugenhagen was “merely a
subordinate, though endowed by nature with considerable powers of
mind and body.”[1358] Yet the sun of Luther’s favour shone upon him.
Agricola, “the poor fellow,” says Luther, “looks down on Pomeranus,
but the latter is a great theologian and has plenty nerve for his work
(‘_multum habet nervorum_’); Agricola, of course, would make himself
out to be more learned than Master Philip or I.”[1359] “Pomeranus is a
splendid professor”; “his sermons are full of wealth.”[1360] The truth
is that the “wealth,” or rather expansiveness, of his discourses was
so great that Luther had to reprove him severely for the length of his

Johann Bugenhagen, called Pommer or Pomeranus because he hailed from
Wollin in Pomerania, after two years spent at the University of
Greifswald and a further course devoted mainly to Humanist studies,
was ordained priest by the Bishop of Cammin, when “as yet he probably
had not begun to study theology.”[1361] At the College at Treptow he
earned respect as professor of Humanism and as Rector; in his desire to
further the better theology advocated by Erasmus he took to studying
the Bible, and, on Luther’s appearance, was soon won over to the cause,
though on first reading Luther’s work “On the Babylonish Captivity,”
he “had been repelled by the palpable heresies” it contained. He
settled at Wittenberg, delivered private lectures on the Psalms, and
married, on October 13, 1522, a servant-maid of Hieronymus Schurf, the
lawyer; in the following year he was inducted at the Schlosskirche as
parish-priest of Wittenberg by the magistrates, acting together with
Luther. In defiance of right and justice and of the murmurs raised,
Luther, from the pulpit, proclaimed him pastor, thus overruling the
objections of the Chapter; his choice by the board of magistrates “and
by the congregation agreeably with the evangelical teaching of Paul,”
Luther held to be quite sufficient.[1362]

As pastor, Bugenhagen displayed great energy not merely in preaching to
and instructing the people, but in furthering in every way the spread
of Lutheranism in the civic and social life of the Electorate. His
practical talents made him eventually the apostle of the new Church,
even beyond the confines of Saxony. He successively introduced or
organised it in Brunswick, Hamburg, Lübeck, and in Pomerania, his own
country; then in Denmark, from 1537-39, where he fixed his residence at
Copenhagen. Two main features are apparent in all he did; everywhere
the new Churches were established on a strictly civil basis, and, so
far as the new religion allowed of it, the old Catholic forms were

In his indefatigable and arduous undertakings Bugenhagen made himself
one with Luther, and became, so to speak, a replica of his master. In
his scrupulous observance of Luther’s doctrine he was to be outdone by
none, save possibly by Amsdorf; in rudeness and want of consideration
where the new Evangel was concerned, and in his whole way of thinking,
he stood nearest to Luther, the only difference being, that, in his
discourses and writings we miss Luther’s imagination and feeling.
In the literary field, in addition to the Commentary on the Psalms
and other similar writings, he distinguished himself by a work in
vindication of the new preaching, addressed to the city of Hamburg
and entitled: “Von dem Christen-loven und den rechten guden Werken”
(1526), also by the share he took, with Melanchthon and Cruciger, in
Luther’s German translation of the Bible, and his labours in connection
with the Low-Saxon version. Most important of all, however, were his
Church-constitutions. Bugenhagen died at Wittenberg on April 20, 1558,
after having already lost his sight—broken down by the bitter trials
which had come on him subsequent to Luther’s death.

 Such was Luther’s confidence in his friend and appreciation of his
 power, that, during Bugenhagen’s prolonged absence, we often find
 Luther expressing his desire to see him again by his side and in
 charge of the Wittenberg pastorate. “Your absence,” so in 1531 he
 wrote to him at Lübeck, “is greatly felt by us. I am overburdened with
 work and my health is not good. I am neglecting the Church-accounts,
 and the shepherd should be here. I cannot attend to it. The world
 remains the world and the devil is its God.... Since the world
 refuses to allow itself to be saved, let it perish. Greet your Eve
 and Sara in my name and that of my wife and give greetings to all our

 When Bugenhagen was at Wittenberg Luther loved to open to him the
 secret recesses of his heart, especially when suffering from
 “temptations.” Frequently he even aroused in Bugenhagen a sort of echo
 of his own feelings, which shows us how close a tie existed between
 them, and gives us an idea of the kind of suggestion Luther was wont
 to exercise over those who surrendered themselves to his influence.

 Bugenhagen, like Luther, was not conscious of any good-will or merit
 of his own, but—apart from the merits of Christ with which we are
 bedecked—merely of the oppression arising from his “great weakness”
 and “secret idolatry against the first Table of the Law of Moses.”
 Hence, when Luther, in June, 1540, complained that Agricola was
 after some righteousness of his own, whereas he (Luther) could find
 nothing of the sort in himself, Bugenhagen at once chimed in with the
 assurance that he was no less unable to discover any such thing in

 Luther’s anger against the fanatics and Sacramentarians was imbibed
 by Bugenhagen. To him and his other Table-guests Luther complained
 that his adversaries, Carlstadt, Grickel and Jeckel (i.e. Agricola
 and Jacob Schenk), were ignorant braggarts; they accuse us of want of
 charity because we will not allow them to have their own way, though
 we read in Paul: “A man that is a heretic avoid.” Bugenhagen was at
 once ready to propose a drastic remedy. “Doctor, we should do what
 is commanded in Deuteronomy [xiii. 5 ff.], where Moses says they
 should be put to death.” Whereupon Luther replied: “Quite so, and the
 reason is given in the same text: It is better to make away with a man
 than with God.”[1365] Bugenhagen was also the first to take up his
 pen in Luther’s defence[1366] when the Swiss heresy concerning the
 doctrine of the Supper began to be noised abroad owing to a letter of
 Zwingli’s to Alber at Reutlingen, and to his book, “_Commentarius de
 vera et falsa religione_,” of March, 1525. When Melanchthon showed
 signs of inclining towards the Zwinglian doctrine of the Sacrament,
 there was soon a rumour at Wittenberg that “Melanchthon and Pomeranus
 have fallen out badly on the Article concerning the Supper,” and
 an apprehension of “dreadful dissensions amongst the foremost

 In 1532 Luther declared: There must be some ready to show a “brave
 front” to the devil; “there must be some in the Church as ready to
 slap Satan, as we three [Luther, Melanchthon, and Bugenhagen]; but not
 all are able or willing to endure this.”[1368] And on another occasion
 he described, in Bugenhagen’s presence, how he was wont cynically to
 mock the devil when “he comes by night to worry me ... by bringing up
 my sins”; Satan did not, however, torment him about his really grave
 sins, such as his “celebration of Mass and provocation of God [in
 the religious life].” “May God preserve me from that! For were I to
 realise keenly how great these sins were, the horror of it would kill
 me!” It was on the occasion of this fantastic outburst, employed by
 Luther to quiet his conscience, that Bugenhagen, not to be outdone in
 coarseness, uttered the words already recorded (above, p. 178).[1369]

 The spiritual kinship between Luther and Bugenhagen produced in the
 latter a similar liking for coarse language. He was much addicted to
 the use of strong expressions, witness, for instance, his saying that
 friars wore ropes around their waists that we might have wherewith to
 hang them.[1370]

 In his most severe temptations Luther found consolation in the words
 of comfort spoken by the pastor of Wittenberg, and he assures us he
 was often refreshed by such exhortations, the memory of which he was
 slow to lose.[1371] Bugenhagen assisted him during his severe illness
 in 1527, and again in the other attack some ten years later. On the
 latter occasion he summoned his friend to Gotha, made his confession
 to him, so he says, and commended the “Church and his family” to his
 care.[1372] When separated they were in the habit of begging each
 other’s prayers.

 In his letters Bugenhagen recounts to Luther the success of his
 labours, in order to afford him pleasure, giving due thanks to God.
 Somewhat strange is the account he sent Luther of an encounter he
 had at Lübeck with a girl supposed to be possessed by the devil;
 through her lips the devil had given testimony to him just as at
 Ephesus, so the Acts of the Apostles tell us, he had borne witness
 to the power of Jesus and Paul.[1373] Hardly had he come to the town
 and visited the girl than the devil, speaking through her, called
 him by name (we must not forget that her parents, at least, were
 acquainted with Bugenhagen) and declared his coming to Lübeck to
 be quite uncalled for. That, in spite of his prayers and tears, he
 was unable to expel the devil, he himself admits.[1374] The account
 of the incident, written down by him soon after his arrival at
 Lübeck, and before he had properly inquired into the case, was soon
 published under a curious title.[1375] So much did Luther think of
 the encounter with this hysterical or mentally deranged girl,[1376]
 that he wrote: “Satan is giving Pomeranus a great deal to do at Lübeck
 with a maid who is possessed. The cunning demon is planning marvels.”
 This, when forwarding from the Coburg to Wenceslaus Link, preacher
 at Nuremberg, the account he had received.[1377] In 1536 Bugenhagen
 related at table, during the conciliation meetings held at Wittenberg,
 the encounters he had had in Lübeck and Brunswick with “delivered

 Luther on his side gave his friend, when busy abroad, frequent tidings
 of the state of things at Wittenberg. In 1537 he sent to him, at
 Copenhagen, an account of a nasty trick played by Paul Heintz, a
 professor at the University of Wittenberg, “greatly to the detriment
 of the town and University.” The latter, in order to possess himself
 of an inheritance, had given out that a youthful stepson of his was
 dead, and had caused a dog to be solemnly buried in his place with
 all the usual rites. “The Master’s drama makes me almost burst with
 rage.” If these lawyers (who in Luther’s opinion treated the case
 too leniently) “look upon the disgrace to our Church as a small
 matter,” he writes, to Bugenhagen, “I will show them a bit of the
 true Luther (‘_ero, Deo volente, Lutherus in hac causa_’).”[1379]
 He did actually write a furious letter to the Elector to secure the
 severe punishment of the offender, who has caused us “to be jeered at
 everywhere as dogs’ undertakers”; the lawyers, who in the Pope’s or
 the devil’s name had shown themselves lenient, he would denounce from
 the pulpit.[1380] To Magister Johann Saxo, who in turn related it to
 Bugenhagen, he declared, that, should the burial of the dog with all
 the rites of the Church be proved to have taken place, then “Paul
 would pay for it with his neck” on account of the mockery of religion
 involved.[1381] Even later Luther declared: “I should have liked to
 have written his death-sentence”; he added, however, that the culprit
 had really “buried the dog in order to drive away the plague.”[1382]

 Possessed, like Luther, by a positive craze for seeing diabolical
 intervention everywhere, Bugenhagen shared his superstitions to
 the full. He it was who knew how to expel the devil from the churn
 by what Luther termed the “best” method, which certainly was the
 coarsest imaginable.[1383] When, in December, 1536, a storm broke over
 Wittenberg he vied with Luther in declaring, that since it was quite
 out of the order of nature, it must be altogether satanic (“_plane

 He discerned the work of the devil just as clearly in the persistence
 of Catholicism and its resistance to Lutheranism. “Dear Lord Jesus
 Christ,” he writes, “arise with Thy Holy Angels and thrust down
 into the abyss of hell the diabolical murder and blasphemy of
 Antichrist.”[1385] Elsewhere he prays in similar fashion, “that God
 would put to shame the devil’s doctrines and idolatries of the Pope
 and save poor people from the errors of Antichrist.”[1386] Among all
 the qualities he had acquired from Luther, his patron and model,
 this hatred—which the Sectarians of the new faith who differed from
 Luther were also made to feel—is perhaps the most striking. In his
 case, however, fanaticism was tempered with greater coolness and
 calculation. For calm obstinacy Bugenhagen in many ways recalls Calvin.

 When Superintendent of the Saxon Electorate he introduced into the
 Litanies a new petition: “From the blasphemy, cruel murder and
 uncleanness of Thine enemies the Turk and the Pope, graciously deliver

 With delight he was able to write to Luther from Denmark,[1388] that
 the Mass was forbidden throughout the country and that the mendicant
 Friars had been driven over the borders as “sedition-mongers” and
 “blasphemers” because they refused to accept the King’s offers (“some
 of them were hanged”).[1389] The Canons had everywhere been ordered to
 attend the Lutheran Communion on festivals; the four thousand parishes
 had now to be preserved in the new faith which had dawned upon the
 land. Bugenhagen, on August 12, 1537, a few weeks after his arrival,
 vested in alb and cope, and with great ecclesiastical pomp, had placed
 the crown on the head of King Christian III. who had already given
 the Catholics a foretaste of what was to come and had caused all the
 bishops to be imprisoned.

 “All proceeds merrily,” Luther told Bucer on December 6, “God is
 working through Pomeranus; he crowned the King and Queen like a
 true bishop. He has given a new span of life to the University [of
 Copenhagen].”[1390] Bugenhagen was inexorable in his extirpation of
 the worship of “Antichrist” in Denmark, even down to the smallest
 details. To the King, concerning a statue of Pope St. Lucius in the
 Cathedral Church at Roskilde, he wrote, that this must be removed;
 it was an exact representation of the Pauline prophecy concerning
 Antichrist; the sword, which the Pope carried in his hand as the
 symbol of his death, Bugenhagen regarded as emblematic of the cruelty
 of the Popes, who now preferred to cut off the heads of others and
 to arrogate to themselves authority over all kings and rulers; if a
 true likeness of the Pope was really wanted, then he would have to be
 represented as a devil with claws and a fiendish countenance, and be
 decked out in a golden mantle, a staff, a sword and three crowns; from
 such a book the laity would be able to read the truth.[1391]

Justus Jonas, who, of all his acquaintances, remained longest with
Luther at Wittenberg, like Bugenhagen, bestowed upon the master his
enduring veneration and friendship. His numerous translations of
Luther’s works are in themselves a proof of his warm attachment to
his ideas and of his rare affinity to him. He, next to Melanchthon
and Bugenhagen, was the clearest-headed and most active assistant in
the affairs of Wittenberg, and his name frequently appears, together
with those of Luther and the two other intimates, among the signatures
appended to memoranda dealing with matters ecclesiastical.

To the close relationship between Luther and Jonas many interesting
details preserved in the records remain to attest.

 Jonas once dubbed Luther a Demosthenes of rhetoric.[1392] Luther in
 his turn praised Jonas not merely for his translations, but also
 for his sermons; he had all the gifts of a good orator, “save that
 he cleared his throat too often.”[1393] Yet he also accuses him of
 conceit for declaring that “he knew all that was contained in Holy
 Scripture” and also for his annoyance and surprise at the doubts
 raised concerning the above assertion.[1394]

 On the other hand, the bitter hostility displayed by Jonas towards
 all Luther’s enemies, pleased the latter. Jonas, taking up the thread
 of the conversation, remarked on one occasion to the younger guests
 at Luther’s table: “Remember this definition: A Papist is a liar and
 a murderer, or the devil himself. They are not to be trusted in the
 least, for they thirst after our blood.”[1395]

 His opinion of Jacob Schenk coincided with that of Luther: His
 “head is full of confused notions”; he was as “poison” amongst the
 Wittenberg theologians, so that Bugenhagen did well in refusing him
 his daughter in marriage.[1396] Of Agricola he remarked playfully,
 when the latter had uttered the word “_oportet_” (it must be): “The
 ‘must’ must be removed; the salt has got into it and we refuse to take
 it.” Whereupon Luther replied: “He must swallow the ‘must’ but I shall
 put such salt into it that he will want to spit it out again.”[1397]
 No one, so well as Jonas, knew how to cheer up Luther, hence Katey
 sometimes invited him to table secretly.[1398] It is true that his
 chatter sometimes proved tiresome to the other guests, for one of
 them, viz. Cordatus, laments that he interrupted Luther’s best sayings
 with his endless talk.[1399] The truth is, of course, that the pupils
 were anxious to drink in words from Luther’s own lips. Luther for his
 part encouraged his friend when the latter was oppressed by illness
 or interior anxieties. Jonas suffered from calculus, and, during one
 of his attacks, Luther said to him: “Your illness keeps you watchful
 and troubled, it is of more use to you than ten silver mines. God
 knows how to direct the lives of His own people and we must obey Him,
 each one according to our calling. Beloved God, how is Thy Church
 distracted both within and without!”[1400] When Jonas on one occasion,
 being already unwell, was greatly troubled with scruples of conscience
 and doubts about the faith (“_tentatus gravissime_”), Luther sent
 him, all written out, the consoling words with which he himself was
 wont to find comfort in similar circumstances: “Have I not been found
 worthy to be called to the service of the Word and been commanded,
 under pain of Thine everlasting displeasure, to believe what has
 been revealed to me and in no way to doubt it?... Act manfully and
 strengthen your heart, all ye that hope in God.”[1401]

 In the matter of faith Jonas was easily contented, and, for this,
 Luther praised him; since a man could not comprehend the Articles, it
 was sufficient for him to begin with a mere assent (“_ut incipiamus
 tantum assentiri_”). This theology actually appealed to Luther so much
 that he exclaimed: “Yes, dear Dr. Jonas, if a man could believe it as
 it stands, his heart would burst for joy! That is sure. Hence we shall
 never attain to its comprehension.”[1402] On Ascension Day, 1540,
 Luther’s pupils wrote down these words which fell from his lips: “I am
 fond of Jonas, but if he were to ascend up to heaven and be taken from
 us, what should I then think?... Strange, I cannot understand it and
 cannot believe it, and yet all the Apostles believed.... Oh, if only a
 man could believe it!”[1403]

 Jonas found the faith amongst the country people around Wittenberg so
 feeble and barren of fruit, that, on one occasion, he complained of it
 with great anger. Luther sought to pacify him: God’s chastisement will
 fall upon those peasants in due time; God is strong enough to deal
 with them. He added, however, admitting that Jonas was right: “Is it
 not a disgrace that in the whole Wittenberg district only one peasant
 can be found in all the villages who seriously exhorts his household
 in the Word of God and the Catechism? The others are all going to the

Justus Jonas, whose real name was Jodocus (Jobst) Koch, was a native
of Nordhausen in the province of Saxony. He, like Bugenhagen, could
not boast of a theological education as he had devoted himself to
jurisprudence, and, as an enthusiastic Erasmian, to Humanism. In 1514
or 1515 he became priest at Erfurt, and in 1518 Doctor of Civil and
Canon Law, at the same time securing a comfortable canonry. He attached
himself to Luther during the latter’s journey to Worms, and in July,
1521, migrated to Wittenberg, where he lectured at the University on
Canon Law and also on theology, after having been duly promoted to the
dignity of Doctor in the theological Faculty; at the same time he was
provost of the Schlosskirche.

In 1522 he married a Wittenberg girl, and, in the following year,
vindicated this step against Johann Faber in “_Adv. J. Fabrum,
scortationis patronum, pro coniugio sacerdotali_,” just as Bugenhagen
after his marriage had found occasion to defend in print priestly
matrimony. In 1523 he lectured on Romans. Of his publications his
translations of Luther’s works were particularly prized.

His practical mind, his schooling in the law, and his business
abilities, no less than the friendship of Luther bestowed upon a
man so ready with the pen, procured for him his nomination as dean
of the theological Faculty; this position he retained from 1523
till 1533. Jonas, the “theologian by choice,” as Luther termed him
in contradistinction to Amsdorf, the “theologian by nature,” took
part in all the important events connected with Lutheranism, in the
Conference at Marburg, the Diet of Augsburg and the Visitations in the
Saxon Electorate from 1528 onwards, also in the introduction of the
innovations into the Duchy of Saxony in 1539. In 1541 he introduced the
new church-system in the town of Halle, which till then had been the
residence of the Cardinal-Elector, Albert of Mayence. From the time of
the War of Schmalkalden and the misfortunes which ensued, his interior
troubles grew into a mental malady. Melanchthon speaks of his “_animus
ægrotus_.” His was a form of the “_morbus melancholicus_”[1405] which
we meet with so often at that time amongst disappointed and broken-down
men within the Protestant fold, and which was unquestionably due
to religious troubles. According to the report of one Protestant,
Cyriacus Schnauss (1556), and of a certain anonymous writer, his death
(† October 9, 1555),[1406] was happier than his life. To the darker
side of his character belongs the malicious and personal nature of his
polemics, as experienced, for instance, by Johann Faber and Wicel, whom
he attacked with the weapon of calumny, and his “constant, often petty,
concern in the increase of his income.”[1407]



1. Zürich, Münster, the Wittenberg Concord, 1536

THE tension between Luther and the Swiss theologians grew ever greater
after Zwingli’s death. Zwingli’s successors complained bitterly of
the unkind treatment and the reprobation meted out at Wittenberg to
themselves, as well as to Zwingli’s memory, and their doctrines.

 Leo Judæ, one of the leaders of the Swiss party, writing in 1534 to
 Bucer, a kindred spirit, concerning the latter’s rough treatment of
 Schwenckfeld, takes the opportunity to voice his bitter grudge against
 Luther: “If it is right to oppose Schwenckfeld, why do we not write
 in the same way against Luther? Why do we not issue a proclamation
 warning people against him, seeing that he advocates theories, not
 only on the Sacrament but on other matters too, which are utterly
 at variance with Holy Scripture? Yet he hands us over to Satan and
 decrees our exclusion.”[1408]

 Martin Bucer himself complained in 1534 to his Zwinglian friend
 Bullinger: “The fury is intolerable with which Luther storms and rages
 against everyone who he imagines differs from him, even though not
 actually an opponent. Thus he curses the most pious men and those who
 have been of the greatest service to the Church. It is this alone
 which has brought me into the arena and induced me to join my voice to
 yours in this controversy on the Sacrament.”[1409]

 Heinrich Bullinger, on whom, after Zwingli’s death, devolved the
 leadership of the Swiss innovators, wrote later to Bucer: “Luther’s
 rude hostility might be allowed to pass would he but leave intact
 respect for Holy Scripture.... To such lengths has this man’s proud
 spirit carried him, while all the preachers and ministers worship his
 writings as so many oracles, and extol his spirit as apostolic, of
 whose fulness all have received. What has already taken place leads us
 to apprehend that this man will eventually bring great misfortune upon
 the Church.”[1410]

Just as Luther’s work differed from the religious innovations in
Switzerland, so it differed equally, or even more, from that of the
Anabaptists, despite the fact that the latter traced their origin to
Luther’s doctrine of the Bible as the one source of faith, and were
largely indebted to him for the stress he had laid on the inward
Word.[1411] “The Anabaptist movement was a product of the religious
innovations of the sixteenth century,” “the fanatical sect an outcome
of the so-called Reformation.”[1412] Notwithstanding the severe
persecution they encountered, particularly in Switzerland and in the
German uplands, they soon spread throughout other parts of Germany,
thanks chiefly to the attractions of their conventicle system. An
Imperial mandate of January 4, 1528, imposed the death penalty on
Anabaptist heretics, their sacrilegious repetition of baptism being
taken as equivalent to a denial of this sacrament and therefore as a
capital offence against religion.

The growth of the Anabaptist heresy, in spite of all measures of
repression, filled Luther with astonishment, but its explanation is
to be found not only in the religious subjectivism let loose among
the masses, but also in the fact, that, many elements of revolt
smouldering even before Luther’s day helped to further the Anabaptist
conflagration. The fanatics also gained many adherents among those
who were disappointed in Luther owing to their hopes that he would
ameliorate morals not being realised; instead of returning to the true
Church they preferred to put their trust in these new sects, thinking
that their outward rigour was a guarantee that they would amend the
life of the people. The popular preaching and ways of the Anabaptist
missioners, recalling the apostolic age of the Church, had a powerful
effect upon those of the lower classes who had religious leanings;
the sufferings and persecution they endured with such constancy also
earned them admiration and sympathy. The sectarians were proud of “the
self-sacrificing brotherly love existing in their communities, so
different from the stress laid upon a faith only too often quite barren
of good works.”[1413]

They were so firm in their repudiation of the Lutheran doctrine of
Justification and held fast so frankly to the Catholic principle of
the necessity of man’s co-operation in order to secure God’s pardon,
that Luther angrily classed them with the Papists: “They are foxes,”
he wrote, “who are tied to the Papists by their tails, though the
head is different; they behave outwardly as though they were their
greatest enemies, and yet they share with them the same heresy against
Christ our only Saviour, Who alone is our Righteousness.”[1414] The
Anabaptists also opposed the Lutheran doctrine of the Supper, denying,
like the Zwinglians, the Real Presence. Their congregations, however,
differed vastly both in belief and in observance. To all intents and
purposes their strictness was merely outward, serving to cloak the
vices of their lives and their frivolous enjoyment of the “freedom of
the Gospel.”

Luther’s hostility to the Anabaptists was in many respects of
service to Lutheranism; it was inspired and promoted by the law of
self-preservation. The culmination of the movement at Münster, in
Westphalia, showed that the Wittenberger’s instinct had not erred. It
is true, however, that Luther’s harsh and repellent conduct towards the
Anabaptist sects caused the loss to the Protestants of much that was
good which might well have been retained had he shown a little more
consideration at least for the better minds among the “fanatics”; their
criticism might have done much to remedy what was really amiss.

 When, in 1534, the Anabaptists became all-powerful at Münster, and
 that under their very worst form, they made haste to attack Luther.
 He, of course, was in duty bound to disapprove of their fearsome
 excesses, particularly when the freedom of the Evangel degenerated
 into obligatory polygamy and the most revolting service of the flesh.
 The seditious spirits, in their hatred, declared that “there are two
 false prophets, the Pope and Luther, but that, of the two, Luther is
 the worse.”[1415] Luther, on his side, retorted: “Alas, what can I
 write of these wretched creatures at Münster? It is perfectly evident
 that the devil reigns there in person, yea, one devil sits on the back
 of another, like the toads do.”[1416]

 After the siege of Münster had closed in its capture on June 25, 1535,
 and the reign of terror had been brought to an end by the execution of
 the leaders, viz. Johann of Leyden and his friends, some of Luther’s
 followers turned their attention to the Sacramentarian Zwinglians of
 Switzerland and South Germany, in the hope that some basis might be
 found for union.

Paul III. had ascended the Papal throne in 1534. On his showing a real
intention to summon an [Œcumenical Council in order to put an end to
the religious schism, the Reformers began to feel keenly how necessary
it was to unite for the purpose of offering practical resistance
to their common foe, viz. Catholicism. The political situation was
likewise favourable to such efforts. The Nuremberg truce in 1532 had
expressly been intended to last only for a limited period, hence the
necessity to find new means to make their position secure and increase
their numbers.

In 1535 a star of hope which seemed to forebode some agreement rose
on the horizon. On this Luther wrote as follows to a trusted friend
in August: “An attempt is being made, with great hopes and yearning,
to come to some agreement (‘_concordia_’) between ourselves and the
Sacramentarians. Christ grant it to be realised and of His Goodness
remove that great scandal so that strong measures may not be necessary
as at Münster.”[1417] Hence the Swiss theologians in his eyes were
scarcely better than the authors of the disgraceful abominations in

What sort of “concord” was to be expected while such a temper held sway
unless, indeed, the Zwinglians were prepared to renounce their own
existence and throw their master overboard?

The prime movers in the attempt to bring about an understanding between
the Lutherans and the Swiss and the like-minded Evangelicals of Upper
Germany, were the Landgrave Philip of Hesse, and the theologian Martin

Bucer, who was unremitting in his efforts to secure that union which
was his life-ideal, had already, at the Diet of Augsburg, paved the
way for an understanding, not without some success. At the Coburg
(September 25-26, 1530) he managed to win over Luther to his view, viz.
that an agreement might be looked for with the Strasburgers regarding
the Sacrament.[1418] He then travelled through Upper Germany and
Switzerland with a plan for compromise, in which the contradiction
between the denial and assertion of the Presence of Christ in the
Sacrament was ably concealed; Melanchthon he met at Cassel in 1534,
and on this occasion, ostensibly in the name of many South-German
theologians, made proposals which seem to have satisfied Luther.

After further preliminaries, peace negotiations were to have taken
place at Eisleben in the spring of 1536, but as Luther, owing to
illness and new scruples, did not appear, discussion was deferred till
May 22, the delegates to meet at Wittenberg. Thither representatives of
Strasburg, Augsburg, Memmingen, Ulm, Esslingen, Reutlingen, Frankfurt,
and Constance betook themselves, accompanied by the Lutherans, Menius
from Eisenach and Myconius from Gotha. No Swiss delegate was present.

After protracted negotiations the South-German theologians accepted a
number of articles drawn up by Melanchthon and known as the Wittenberg

In this they recognised the practice of infant baptism; as regards
Confession, they admitted that, though confession as formerly
practised could not be tolerated, yet a humble private interview with
the preacher, and private absolution previous to the reception of
communion, were useful and wholesome. On the other hand, however, the
main difference, viz. that concerning the Presence of Christ in the
Sacrament, was only seemingly bridged over. It is true the South-German
delegates accepted the formula, that in the Sacrament, the Body and
Blood of the Lord are “really and substantially” present by virtue
of Christ’s words of institution, so that even the “unworthy” verily
receive the Body and Blood of Christ. The interpretation which they,
headed by Bucer, placed upon the words showed, however, quite plainly,
that they did not agree with Luther, but still clung to the view that
Christ is not corporally present but only by that faith, which even the
“unworthy” may have, and that He does not bestow on the communicant
His Flesh and Blood, but merely His grace. “The Real Presence of Christ
was to him [Bucer] after all only a spiritual presence.”[1420] At any
rate “the South-Germans, under stress of political danger, rejoined
Luther,”[1421] though some of the towns subsequently added conditions
to their acceptance of the arrangements made by their theologians.

Having been thus far successful Bucer, with consummate ability and
eloquence, proceeded to try to win over the friendly Swiss Zwinglians
to the Concord.

The Swiss were not, however, to be so easily induced to take this step.
In spite of several friendly letters from Luther they could not arrive
at the same apparent agreement with him as the South-Germans. For this
the blame rested to some extent on Luther’s shoulders, his conduct
at this juncture, owing to political considerations, being neither
well-defined nor straightforward. The Burgomasters and Councillors
of the seven towns, Zürich, Bern, Basle, Schaffhausen, St. Gall,
Mühlhausen and Bienne, addressed letters to him couched in conciliatory
language, but Luther, in spite of Bullinger’s request, would not even
enumerate in detail the points of difference which separated them
from him. For the nonce he preferred the policy of leaving doctrine
alone and of “calming down, smoothing and furthering matters for the
best,”[1422] though all the time he was well aware of their theological
views and firm in his repudiation of them.

“The matter refuses to suit itself to us, and we must accordingly suit
ourselves to it,”[1423] such was, for a long while, his motto. He is
willing to hold out to the Zwinglians the hand of friendship without,
however, consenting to regard the points in dispute as minor matters.
Possibly he cherished the hope that, little by little, agreement would
be reached even on these points.

Luther’s attitude has rightly been considered strange, particularly
when compared with his former severity. Even Protestants have instanced
it as remarkable, that he should have contrived “to close his eyes to
the differences which still remained in spite of the Concord, and to
agree with people whose previous teaching he had regarded as dangerous
heresy, requiring to be expelled by a determined testimony to the
truth.”[1424] At any rate “the broadness manifested by Luther in this
matter of faith” was something very foreign to his usual habits.

The explanation of the change in his behaviour lies chiefly in his
urgent desire “to become terrible to the Pope and the Emperor” by
forming an alliance with the Swiss Churches and townships, a hope which
he even expressed to his Wittenberg friends, adding, however, that “in
men one can never trust,” and, “I will not surrender God’s Word.”[1425]
To Duke Albert of Prussia he wrote full of joy, in May, 1538: “Things
have been set going with the Swiss, who hitherto have been at
loggerheads with us on account of the Sacrament.... I hope God will put
an end to this scandal, not for our sake, for we have deserved it, but
for His Name’s sake, and in order to vex the abomination at Rome, for
they are greatly affrighted and apprehensive at the new tidings.”[1426]
Considerations of policy had entirely altered Luther’s tone to the

The bridge, however, collapsed before its completion.

The unrestrained language which Luther again employed towards the
Swiss did much to demonstrate how little real foundation there was
in the efforts at conciliation. The experiences he met with made him
regret his passing opportunism, and in later life the tone in which
he spoke of the Zwinglian errors and their supporters was violent in
the extreme. When a letter reached him from the Evangelicals of Venice
bewailing the dissensions aroused by the controversy on the Sacrament,
he said in his reply, dated June, 1543: These Zwinglians and their
neighbours “are intoxicated by an alien spirit, and their company must
be avoided as infectious.”[1427]

 To his friend Link he wrote about that time: “These Swiss and
 Zürichers pronounce their own condemnation by their pride and
 madness, as Paul says” (Titus iii. 11).[1428] To Zürich itself he soon
 made no secret of his changed temper, writing in August that: he could
 have no fellowship with the preachers there; they were determined to
 lead the unfortunate people to hell; the judgment of God which had
 overtaken Zwingli would also fall upon these preachers of blasphemy,
 since they had made up their minds to follow Zwingli.[1429]

 In September of that same year appeared his energetic “Kurtz Bekentnis
 Doctor Martin Luthers vom heiligen Sacrament.”[1430]

 Complying with a need he felt he sought in this writing to give public
 testimony to his faith in the Eucharist; in order at once to disperse
 the ghosts of the Concord, and to bar the progress of the denial of
 the Sacrament which had already infected Melanchthon and other friends
 around him, he here speaks frankly and openly. In his usual vein
 he says, that it was his wish “to be able to boast at the Judgment
 Seat of the Lord” that “I condemned with all my power the fanatics
 and enemies of the Sacrament, Carlstadt, ‘Zwingel,’ [Œcolampadius,
 ‘Stinkfield’ [Schwenckfeld], and their disciples at Zürich and
 wherever else they be.” The fanatics, he says, make a “great to-do”
 about a spiritual eating and drinking, but they are “murderers of
 souls.” They have a “devilish heart and lying lips.” Whoever believed
 not the Article concerning Christ’s Presence in the Sacrament, could
 not believe in the Incarnation. “Hence there is no alternative, you
 must either believe everything or nothing.” Thus Luther himself at
 last comes to urge against his opponents what Catholic apologists had
 long before urged against him. They had said: If you set aside this
 or that article of faith on the grounds of a higher illumination,
 the result will be the complete subversion of the faith, for the
 edifice of doctrine is one inseparable whole; the divine and the
 ecclesiastical authority is the same for all the articles, and, if
 everything be not accepted, in the end nothing will remain.

2. Efforts in view of a Council. Vergerio visits Luther

Pope Clement VII. († 1534), though at first apprehensive, owing to his
knowledge of what had happened in the time of the Reforming Councils,
had nevertheless, towards the end of his life, promised the Emperor
Charles V. at Bologna, in 1533, that he would summon an [Œcumenical
Council. He had also sought to persuade the King of France, François
I., on the occasion of their meeting at Marseilles in the same year,
to agree to the Council’s being held in one of the Italian towns which
Pope and Emperor had agreed on at Bologna.[1431] But while Rome showed
herself willing enough, the King of France put great obstacles in the
way of a Council, in the hope, that, by preventing it, he would prevent
Germany from securing peace within her borders.

Paul III., the successor of Clement VII., was more successful, though
he too had to battle with his own scruples and to overcome obstacles
greater even than those which faced his predecessor.

Soon after beginning his pontificate he dispatched three Nuncios to
pave the way for the Council, Rodolfo Pio de Carpi to France, Giovanni
Guidiccione to Spain, and Pierpaolo Vergerio to Germany. The last
of these found the Catholic Courts perfectly willing to support the
Council; the heads of the Evangelical party, however, chose to observe
an attitude to be more fully described further on.

Charles V. having agreed to the choice of Mantua as the town where
the Council was to be held, Paul III., in spite of the refusal of the
Protestants, by his Bull of June 2, 1536, summoned the bishops to
meet at Mantua on May 23 of the following year. Needless to say, the
assembly and its procedure were to be governed by the same rules as in
the case of earlier Councils of the Church.

The journey of Vergerio, the Nuncio, through Germany deserves closer
attention on account of his meeting with Luther.

The Papal envoy, who hailed from Capodistria and was more skilful in
Court transactions than in theology, commenced his journey on February
10, 1535. From Vienna he proceeded to visit the Bavarian Dukes and
Suabia. He then travelled along the Main and the Rhine as far north
as Liège, returning by way of Cologne through Saxony to Brandenburg.
Coming south from Berlin he passed a night at Wittenberg, where he met
Luther, and returned by way of Dresden and Prague to Vienna. Everywhere
he did his best not only to secure consent to the Papal plan of holding
the Council in an Italian town, but also, as he had been instructed, to
combat the dangerous though popular opposite plan of a German national
Council. He could talk well, had a sharp eye for business, and a fine
gift of observation. His expectations as regards the Protestants were,
however, far too rosy. The polite reception he met with from the
Protestant sovereigns and the honours done him flattered his vanity,
indeed, but were of little service to the cause he represented.

What his intention was in going to Wittenberg and interviewing Luther
is not clear. He had no instructions to do so. If he hoped to win over
Luther to work for the Council and for reunion, he was sadly deceived.
In reality all he did was to expose himself and his cause to insult
and to furnish his guest a welcome opportunity for boasting. In that
same year, in a work in which he held up the Council of Constance
to derision, Luther told the people how little Councils were to be
respected; by this Council the Church had said to Christ: “You are a
heretic and your teaching is of the devil”; hence the Roman Church
was possessed, “not of seven, but of seven and seventy barrelfuls of
devils”;[1432] now at last it was time for Christ to uncover back and
front the “raving, bloodthirsty scarlet woman and reveal her shame
to the whole world” in order to put an end to “the insult which has
been, and still is being, offered to our dear Saviour by the dragon
heads which peer out of the back parts of the Pope-Ass and vomit forth

From Vergerio’s circumstantial reports as Nuncio, and from other
sources,[1434] we learn the details of the historic meeting between the
standard-bearer of the religious innovations and the envoy of the head
of Christendom.

 On his arrival at Wittenberg, on November 6, the Nuncio, accompanied
 by twenty-one horsemen, proceeded to the Castle, where he was to be
 the guest of Metzsch, the Commandant. He sent an invitation by Metzsch
 to Luther to spend the evening with him, but the latter refused to
 come so late and the visit was accordingly arranged for the following
 morning. Luther dressed himself in his best clothes, put on a gold
 chain, had himself carefully shaved and his hair tidily brushed. To
 the astonished barber he said jestingly, that he must appear young in
 the eyes of the Legate so as to give him the impression that he was
 still able to undertake and accomplish a great deal and thus make them
 fear him at Rome; he was determined to read the Roman gentry a good
 lesson; they had molested him and his followers enough, now it was his
 turn to get his own back. As he sat in the carriage with Bugenhagen
 the pastor of Wittenberg, ready for the drive to the Castle, he
 said: “Here go the German Pope and Cardinal Pomeranus, the chosen
 instruments of the Almighty.”

 After being presented to the Legate, during which ceremony he doffed
 his hat (the only sign of respect he was willing to vouchsafe), he was
 invited to breakfast with him. During the conversation which ensued he
 was at pains to show his real feelings by a demeanour as hostile and
 threatening as possible. “During the whole of the meal,” as he himself
 related later to Justus Jonas,[1435] “I played the true Luther;
 what sort of things I said could not be put on paper.” At the first
 greeting he at once asked the Nuncio ironically, whether he had not
 perchance already heard him decried in Italy as a drunken German.

 Pope Paul III. being mentioned by the Nuncio, Luther said, that he
 might quite well be a prudent and honest man; such was the common
 report concerning the Farnese when he (Luther) was at Rome; but then,
 he added with a mocking smile, at that time he himself was still in
 the habit of saying Mass.

 Luther himself in the Table-Talk relates his reply to the proposal
 to attend the Council: “I shall come,” he said, “but you Papists are
 working and exerting yourselves in vain ... for, when in Council, you
 never discuss wholesome doctrine, the Sacraments, or the faith which
 alone makes us just and saves us ... but only foolish puerilities,
 such as the long habits and frocks which religious and priests are to
 wear, how wide the girdle shall be and how large the tonsure,” etc.
 The account goes on to say, that, at this sally, Vergerio, turning to
 his companion, said: “Verily he has hit the nail on the head.” It is
 difficult to believe that Vergerio actually made such a statement in
 this connection.

 Speaking of the [Œcumenical Council which had been summoned, we
 read in Vergerio’s report that Luther with insufferable arrogance
 exclaimed: “We stand in no need of a Council for ourselves or our
 followers, for we already have the firm Evangelical doctrine and rule;
 but Christendom needs the Council in order to learn to distinguish
 truth and error, so far as it is still held captive by false
 doctrine.” At this outburst the Nuncio expressed his astonishment:
 “Yes, I will come to the Council,” Luther interrupted him angrily, “I
 will forfeit my head rather than fail to defend my teaching against
 the whole world. What proceeds from my mouth, is not my own anger,
 but the wrath of God!”—Whoever knows the man can scarcely doubt
 that Luther would actually have gone to the Council under certain
 conditions, particularly if furnished with a safe-conduct, though, of
 course, only once again to “play the real Luther.” He certainly did
 not lack the audacity. He even declared himself willing to agree to
 any of the places proposed for the Council, whether Mantua, Verona, or
 Bologna; when it was pointed out that Bologna belonged to the Pope,
 Luther, in the presence of the Pope’s own representative, cried: “Good
 God, so the Pope has grabbed that city too!” Curiously enough, in the
 report he forwarded to Rome, the Nuncio declares himself satisfied
 with Luther’s readiness to attend the Council.

 Vergerio also led the conversation to Henry VIII., the King of
 England; as Robert Barnes, an emissary of his, was then staying
 with Luther at Wittenberg, he may have hoped to learn something of
 the King’s intentions. Luther, however, was extremely reticent. As
 he himself expressed it in a letter, he acted the part of Barnes’s
 representative with “most vexatious sayings,” i.e. with such as would
 most annoy and vex the Nuncio. When mention was made of the cruel
 execution of Bishop John Fisher—created Cardinal whilst awaiting his
 fate in prison—Luther ejaculated that his death was a judgment from
 on high because he had won the Cardinalate by withstanding the Gospel.

 Vergerio coming to speak of the Wittenberg hierarchy, Luther admitted
 that, at Wittenberg, they ordained priests and that Pastor Bugenhagen,
 who was then present, “was the bishop appointed for that work; he
 ordained as St. Paul had taught”; all in vain had the “most holy
 bishops” of the Papists refused to ordain the Lutheran preachers.
 Alluding to his family, he said he hoped to leave behind him in his
 firstborn a great preacher, priest and teacher of the Evangel. The
 “reverend” nun “whom he had married had so far presented him with
 three boys and two girls.” Various religious practices came under
 discussion and Vergerio, hoping to please, remarked, that he had found
 much amongst the German Protestants different from what he had been
 led to expect. He also spoke of fasting, but Luther bluntly declared,
 that, just because the Pope had commanded it, they would refuse to
 observe it; if, however, the Emperor were to give the order, they
 would comply with it; he himself would be right glad were the Emperor
 to set apart two days in every week to be kept as strict fasts.

 Though all this, which, moreover, the Nuncio took quite seriously,
 made him angry, as is evident from his report, yet he found leisure
 during the conversation to observe his guest closely. He describes
 his dress: A doublet of dark camelot cloth, the sleeves trimmed
 with satin; over this a rather short coat of serge, edged with fox
 skin.[1436] The large, rough buttons used struck the Italian as
 peculiar. On Luther’s fingers he saw several rings and round his neck
 the heavy gold chain. He found that Luther did not speak Latin very
 well and ventured to surmise that certain books, couched in better
 Latin, were probably not really written by him. Of this, however,
 there is no proof. Luther admitted to him that he was not used to
 speaking Latin and that he was more at home in German. He looked
 strong, so Vergerio says, and though past fifty did not appear to be
 even forty years of age. He considered Luther’s features extremely
 coarse, tallying with his manners, which displayed “presumption,
 malice and want of reflection.” His way of speaking showed that
 “everything he did was done in irritation, annoyance and out of spite;
 he was a silly fellow, without either depth or discernment.”[1437]

 Vergerio also fancied he saw in him something devilish. The longer
 he observed the piercing, uncanny glance of Luther’s eyes, so he
 writes, the more he was put in mind of certain persons who were
 regarded by many as possessed; the heat, the restlessness, the fury
 and frenzy expressed in his eyes were quite similar to theirs.[1438]
 He even casually refers to circumstances (which, however, he does
 not describe) of Luther’s birth and earlier years, which he had
 learnt from friends of Luther’s who had been intimate with him before
 he became a monk; they confirmed him in his belief that the devil
 had entered into Luther.[1439] Although Vergerio immediately after
 admits his doubt (“whether he be possessed or not”), yet in what he
 had written Contarini discovered sufficient to justify him in saying
 that Vergerio “found that Martin was begotten of the devil.”[1440]
 Contarini here is really building on a stupid fable, which, as will be
 shown later (vol. iv., xxvii. 1), is first met with in the writings
 of Petrus Sylvius, a Catholic author. What the Legate says concerning
 the circumstances of Luther’s parents is not of a nature to excite
 any confidence in the reliability of his information about Luther’s
 youth. In Rome people were already perfectly acquainted with Luther’s
 antecedents, as information had been obtained from reliable witnesses
 even before his final excommunication. The tittle-tattle of this
 new informant could accordingly have no influence on the opinion
 concerning him already prevailing there.

After Vergerio the Nuncio had returned to Rome in the beginning of
1536, full of extravagant hopes, he took part in the drafting of the
Bull already mentioned, summoning the Council to meet at Mantua in
1537. In the same year he was consecrated bishop. He was not, however,
employed in diplomacy as frequently as he wished. In 1541 unfavourable
reports began to circulate concerning his attitude towards the Church;
he was charged with Protestant leanings, though some of the witnesses
in the trial which he had to stand at Venice protested his entire
innocence. At any rate, towards the close of 1548 he openly apostatised
and fled to the Grisons, where he placed his services at the disposal
of the Swiss Reformers. His desire to distinguish himself next caused
him to abandon the Swiss Zwinglians and to settle at Tübingen. After
many journeys, undertaken with the object of thwarting the Church of
Rome, this pushful and unrestrained man died at Tübingen in 1565, still
at enmity with Catholicism.[1441]

3. The Schmalkalden Assembly of 1537. Luther’s Illness

The Schmalkalden League, established in 1531 (see above, p. 64 ff.),
was in the main directed against the Emperor and the Empire. It had
grown stronger by the accession of other Princes and States who
bound themselves to render mutual assistance in the interests of the
innovations. In the very year Vergerio started on his mission of peace
in December, 1535, the warlike alliance, headed by Hesse and the
Saxon Electorate, had been renewed at Schmalkalden for ten years. It
undertook to raise 10,000 foot soldiers and 2000 horse for the defence
of the Evangel, and, in case of need, to double the number.

To oppose this a more united and better organised league of the
Catholics was imperatively called for; the alliance already entered
into by some of the Princes who remained true to the older Church,
required to be strengthened and enlarged. In 1538 the new leaguers met
at Nuremberg; at their head were Charles V. and Ferdinand the German
King, while amongst the most prominent members were the Dukes Wilhelm
and Ludwig of Bavaria and the Archbishops of Mayence and Salzburg,
whose secular principalities were very considerable.

Arming of troops, threats of war, and petty broils aroused apprehension
again and again, but, on the whole, peace was maintained till Luther’s

The protesting Estates were desirous of deciding, at a convention to be
held at Schmalkalden on Candlemas Day, 1537, upon the attitude to be
assumed towards the Council convened by the Pope to Mantua. Hence, on
August 30, 1536, Johann Frederick, Elector of Saxony, instructed Luther
to draw up a preliminary writing; he was to state on Scriptural grounds
what he felt it his duty to advance concerning all the Articles of his
teaching as though he were in the presence of a Council or before the
Judgment-Seat of God, and also to point out those Articles regarding
which some concessions might be made “without injury to God or His

Luther therefore set to work on his “Artickel so da hetten sollen auffs
Concilion zu Mantua,” etc., duly printed in 1538, with some slight

 Here, whilst expounding theologically the various Lutheran doctrines,
 he gives his opinion on the Pope; this opinion is all the more
 remarkable because incorporated in a document intended to be entirely
 dispassionate and to furnish the Council with a clear statement of
 the new faith. The Pope, so Luther declares, is “merely bishop or
 parish-priest of the churches of Rome”; the universal spiritual
 authority he had arrogated to himself was “nothing but devilish fable
 and invention”; he roared like the dragon in the Apocalypse, who led
 the whole world astray (Apoc. xii. 9); he told people: “All you do is
 done in vain unless you take me for your God.” “This point plainly
 proves that he is the real Endchrist and Antichrist, who sets himself
 up against and above Christ, because he will not allow Christians to
 be saved without his authority.... This even the Turks and ‘Tatters’
 do not dare to attempt, great enemies of Christians though they be.”
 “Hence, as little as we can adore the devil himself, as Lord and God,
 so little can we suffer his apostle, the Pope, or Endchrist, to rule
 as our Head and Lord. For his real work is lying and murder, and the
 eternal destruction of body and soul, as I have proved at length in
 many books.”[1442]

 Luther concludes this memorable theological essay (at least in the
 printed version) with an application to the projected Council: “If
 those who obey the Evangel attend it, our party will be standing
 before the Pope and the devil himself.” At the Diet of Augsburg they
 stood before the Empire, “before the Emperor and secular authorities,”
 who had been gracious enough to give the cause a hearing; now,
 however, we must say to the Pope, as in the book of Zacharias [iii. 2]
 the angel said to the devil: ‘May God rebuke thee, Satan.’[1443]

When engaged on this work, and whilst the Schmalkalden meeting was in
progress, Luther appears to have been the prey of a perfect paroxysm
of fury. Hate, as a positive mental disorder, then attained in him
an acute crisis. Later on, his anger abated for a while, as though
exhausted, until, just before his death, the spirit of the storm broke
out afresh with hurricane violence in his “Wider das Bapstum zu Rom vom
Teuffel gestifft.”

At the time he wrote his work in preparation for the Schmalkalden
meeting he was already ailing. His nervous system was strained beyond
all limit. Hence we can more readily understand the passion which
seems to possess him against that Church of Rome, which, instead
of collapsing, as he had fondly hoped she would, was daily growing
stronger in spite of all her losses.

The “Artickel,” which were submitted to Johann Frederick the Elector,
on January 6, 1537, were signed likewise by Jonas, Bugenhagen,
Cruciger, and Melanchthon. Melanchthon, however, because the abuse of
the Pope did not meet with his approval and was scarcely to be squared
with his previous temporising assurances, added that, he, for his part,
was ready, “in the interests of peace and the common unity of those
Christians who are now subject to him and may be so in the future,” to
admit the Pope’s supremacy over the bishops; but the Pope was to hold
his office only by “human right” and “in as far as he was willing to
admit the Evangel.” Johann Frederick was sufficiently clear-sighted to
see through this proposal—so typical of Melanchthon—and to recognise
in it a vain attempt to square the circle. He expressed his disapproval
of the addition, pointing out that any recognition of the Papacy would
involve a return to the old bondage. The Pope “and his successors would
leave no stone unturned to destroy and root out us and our successors.”

The opinion of the Elector prevailed in the Council of the Princes and
among the preachers assembled at Schmalkalden.

For all their exasperation against the Pope, Luther, and the Wittenberg
theologians, were not averse to taking part in the Council. Luther, for
instance, opined, that they ought not to give the Papists an excuse
for saying they had made impossible the holding of a Council.[1444]
In a memorandum of December 6, 1536, the theologians, with Luther and
Amsdorf, advised that the Council should be promoted, so as to render
possible a protest. The proposal of the Elector to hold an opposition
Council they rejected, urging that such a Council would “look terribly
like establishing a schism”; moreover, the lack of agreement among
themselves would permit of no such thing, for they would be exposing
themselves to the contempt of their opponents, and holding back foreign
countries from joining the Evangel. On the other hand, it was the
duty of the authorities to offer resistance in the interests of their
subjects and Divine worship, should the Council prove unjust; open
violence and notorious injustice were to be met by violence.[1445]
In this memorandum Melanchthon’s influence is clear enough in the
apprehension of any appearance of setting up a “schism.” Luther signed
it with the words: “I, Martin Luther, will do my best by prayer, and if
needs be, with the fist.”[1446] The Schmalkalden delegates, however, as
we shall see below, strode rough-shod over this memorandum and declined
to have anything to do with the Council.

On January 31, 1537, Luther, with Melanchthon and Bugenhagen, set
out for Schmalkalden where a Papal envoy, the Bishop of Acqui, was
also expected. On the journey he said in the presence of several
gentlemen of the Nuncio’s retinue: “So the devil is sending the Papal
emissary as his ambassador to Schmalkalden to see if, perchance, he
can destroy God’s work.” Besides the secular delegates, some forty
Protestant theologians had gathered at Schmalkalden, and Melanchthon
was in the greatest apprehension lest quarrels should break out
amongst them.[1447] His fears were not altogether groundless, for
it was not long before the usual want of unanimity became apparent
amongst the Lutheran preachers. The “Artickel,” drawn up by Luther,
aroused dissension. They were not equally acceptable to all, some,
for instance, taking offence at his teaching on the Supper, so that a
controversy on this point between such men as Amsdorf and Osiander on
the one side and Blaurer on the other, was to be feared. Melanchthon,
however, was more cautious and avoided insisting on his own divergent
view regarding the Eucharist. He and Cruciger were sternly charged by
Cordatus, the minister, with not preaching aright Luther’s doctrine of
Justification by Faith, and the charge was supported also by Amsdorf.
Osiander, the Nuremberg theologian, finally set against a sermon of
Luther’s on the divine sonship conferred on the Christian by faith in
Christ (1 John iv. 1 ff.), a sermon of his own, embodying quite other

Luther could think of no better plan than to lay before the Elector
his fears lest internal strife should prove the undoing of his whole
enterprise, and to implore him, as father of the country, to take some
steps to prevent this.

Owing to the disunion rife among the preachers, Luther’s “Artickel”
were never officially discussed by the delegates. This was primarily
Melanchthon’s doing; by means of an intrigue which he started at the
very outset of the Conference, and thanks to the assistance of the
Landgrave of Hesse, he had caused it to be settled behind Luther’s
back, that no explicit acceptance of Luther’s exposition of faith was
called for, seeing that the Estates had already taken their stand on
the basis of the Augsburg Confession and the Wittenberg Concord. “The
device was characteristic enough of Melanchthon, but his procedure as a
whole can scarcely be acquitted of insincerity.” (Ellinger.)

Melanchthon was now entrusted with the preparation of a fresh work on
the Papal Primacy, to be described more fully later.[1448] Although it
far exceeds in malice any other work of Melanchthon’s, or perhaps for
that very reason, it was accepted by the Princes and the theologians.

The truth is, that, in their hostility to Popery all were at one.
Opposition to the Church was the bond which united them.

       *       *       *       *       *

Meanwhile, whilst at Schmalkalden, Luther had been visited by a
severe attack of stone, an old trouble which now seemed to put his
life in danger. During this illness his hatred of the Pope broke out
afresh, yet, later, he felt justified in boasting of the moderation
he had displayed during the convention, because, forsooth, of his
advice regarding attendance at the Council. He prides himself on the
consideration which at Schmalkalden he had shown the Papists: “Had I
died there, it would probably have been the ruin of the Papists, for
only after I am dead will they see what a friend they have had in me;
for other preachers will prove incapable of the same moderation and

Luther’s illness increased to such an extent that fears were
entertained for his life. He himself thought seriously of death, though
never for an instant did he think of reconciliation.

 His prayer, as he related later, was as follows: “O God, Thou knowest
 that I have taught Thy Word faithfully and zealously.... O Lord Jesus
 Christ, how grand a thing is it for a man to die by the sword for Thy
 Word.... I die as an enemy of Thine enemies, I die under the ban of
 the Pope, but he dies under Thy ban.... I die in hatred of the Pope
 (‘_ego morior in odio papæ_’).”[1450] “Thou, Lord Christ,” he said,
 “take vengeance upon Thine enemy; I have done well in tearing the Pope
 to pieces.” On February 25, when racked with pain, he said to Herr von
 Ponikau, one of the Elector’s chamberlains: “I have to be stoned like
 Stephen, and the Pope will rejoice. But I hope he will not laugh long;
 my epitaph shall be verified: ‘In life, O Pope, I was thy plague, in
 dying I shall be thy death (‘_Pestis eram vivus, moriens ero mors tua,

 On February 26 the sick man was brought away from Schmalkalden in a
 carriage, the intention being to convey him to Wittenberg. Luther
 was anxious not to rejoice the Papists by breathing his last in a
 locality where the Bishop of Acqui, the Papal envoy, was stopping.
 “At least not in the presence of the monster, the Pope’s ambassador,”
 as he said. “I would die willingly enough were not the devil’s Legate
 at Schmalkalden, for he would cry aloud to the whole world that I
 had died of fright.” This he said before his departure.[1452] Seated
 in the carriage as the horses were being got ready, he received the
 greetings of those present and made the sign of the cross over them,
 saying: “May the Lord fill you with His blessing and with hatred of
 the Pope.”[1453] Mathesius, his pupil, adds in his 11th Sermon on
 Luther: “Then and there, in the carriage, he made his last will and
 testament, willing and bequeathing to his friends the preachers,
 ‘_odium in papam_,’ viz. that they should not allow themselves to be
 deceived by the Pope’s doctrine but remain constant to the end in
 their hostility to his idolatry.”[1454] According to Ericeus he also
 said on leaving: “Take heed to this when I am dead: If the Pope lays
 aside his crown, renounces his throne and primacy, and admits that
 he has erred and destroyed the Church, then and only then will we
 receive him into our communion, otherwise he will always remain in our
 eyes the real Antichrist.”[1455]

After Luther’s departure the assembly considered the question of
the Council. Any share in it was refused point-blank. Even the
letters on the subject which the Legate had brought with him were
returned unopened. In the final resolution the proposed [Œcumenical
Council—although it was to be held in complete accordance with ancient
ecclesiastical rules—was described as a partisan, unreliable and
unlawful assembly because it would consist exclusively of bishops,
would be presided over by the Pope and would not be free to decide
according to the Word of God.

In its outspoken rejection of the Council the Conference was more
logical than Luther and his theological counsellors. The warlike
company brushed aside all the considerations of prudence and policy
alleged by the more timid theologians.

They further declared, that they would maintain the Wittenberg Concord
of 1536; it was also stated in the resolutions that their theologians
were agreed upon all the points of the Augsburg Confession and
“_Apologia_”; one article only, viz. that concerning the authority
of the Pope, had they altered; in other words, they had accepted the
recently drafted document of Melanchthon’s, which, however, repudiated
the Papacy far more firmly than the Augsburg Confession had done. (See
below, p. 439.)

Luther, though absent, had every reason to be satisfied with what had
been achieved.

Luther’s condition had meanwhile improved, and he had already returned
to Wittenberg. On the very first day of his journey he had felt some
relief, and on the following day he wrote to Melanchthon to inform him
of it, crowning the joyful tidings with his blessing:

 “May God preserve you all and cast down Satan under your feet with all
 his crew, viz. the monsters of the Roman Curia.”[1456]

 On his arrival at Gotha, the journey having proved toilsome and
 exhausting, and the malady again threatening to grow worse, he made
 his so-called “First Will.” It commences with the words: “I know, God
 be praised, that I have done rightly in storming the Papacy with the
 Word of God, for Popery spells blasphemy against God, Christ and the
 Gospel.” In his name they were to tell the Elector, our sovereign,
 and also the Landgrave, that “they were not to allow themselves to
 be disturbed at the howls of their opponents, who charged them with
 stealing the possessions of the Church; they do not rob like some
 others do; indeed, I see [such at least was his _hope_] how, with
 these goods, they provide for the welfare of religion. If a little of
 it falls to their share, who has a better right to it than they? Such
 possessions belong to the Princes rather than to the rascally Papists.
 Both sovereigns were to do confidently on behalf of the Evangel
 whatever the Holy Ghost inspired them to do.... If they are not pure
 in all things, but in some respects sinners, as our foes allege, yet
 they must trust in God’s mercy.... I am now ready to die if the Lord
 so will, but I should like to live at least till Whitsun, in order,
 before all the world, to write against the Roman beast and its Kingdom
 with a heavier fist.... If I recover I intend to do far worse than
 ever before. And now I commend my soul into the hands of the Father
 and my Lord Jesus Christ, Whom I have preached and confessed upon

 His friends related that at Gotha he made his confession, and received
 “absolution” from Bugenhagen. After his state of health had greatly
 improved he was able to continue his journey to Wittenberg, where
 he arrived safely. Thence, a week later, he was able to announce
 to Spalatin the progress of his “convalescence, by God’s grace,”
 commending himself likewise to his prayers.[1458]

His anger against the Pope, to which hitherto he had not been able to
give free rein, he now utilised to stimulate and refresh his exhausted
bodily and mental powers. He once said, that, to write, pray or preach
well, he had first to be angry. In Mathesius we find Luther’s own
description of the effects of his anger: “Then my blood is refreshed,
my mind becomes keen and all my temptations vanish.”[1459]

Here we must revert once more to his maledictory prayer against the
Pope and the Papists, and to certain other of his sayings.[1460]

 “If I am so cold at heart that I cannot pray,” so he said on one
 occasion to Cordatus, “I call to mind the impiety and ingratitude of
 my foes, the Pope and King Ferdinand, in order to inflame my heart
 with righteous hate, so that I can say: Hallowed be Thy Name, etc.,
 and then my prayer glows with fervour.”[1461] As given in the German
 edition of the Table-Talk, his words are briefer, but none the less
 striking: “I conjure up the godlessness of the Pope with all his
 ulcers and parasites, and soon I grow warm and burn with anger and
 hate.”[1462] As already related, in his maledictory Paternoster, he
 accompanies the petitions of the Lord’s Prayer with a commentary of
 curses.[1463] He would fain see others too, “cursing the Papacy with
 the Our Father, that it may catch St. Vitus’s Dance.”[1464] Concerning
 his Paternoster he assures us, “I say this prayer daily with my lips,
 and in my heart without intermission.” And yet he does not shrink from
 adding: “Nevertheless I preserve a friendly, peaceable and Christian
 spirit towards everyone; this even my greatest enemies know.”[1465]

 In 1538, the year after his serious illness, an amended edition of
 his “Unterricht der Visitatorn an die Pharhern” was issued by him.
 Although he exhorts the pastors to “refrain from abusive language”
 in the pulpit, yet he expressly tells them to “damn the Papacy and
 its followers with all earnestness as already damned by God, like the
 devil and his kingdom.”[1466]

 Luther’s character presents many psychological problems which seem to
 involve the observer in inextricable difficulty; certain phenomena of
 his inner life can scarcely be judged by common standards. The idea of
 the devil incarnate in Popery distorts his judgment, commits him to
 statements of the maddest kind, and infects even his moral conduct. It
 is not easy to say how far he remained a free agent in this matter,
 or whether the quondam Catholic, priest and monk never felt the prick
 of conscience, yet such questions obtrude themselves at every step.
 For the present we shall merely say that his freedom, and consequently
 his actual responsibility, were greater at the time he first gave such
 ideas a footing in his mind, than when he had fallen completely under
 their spell.[1467]

4. Luther’s Spirit in Melanchthon

During the spring of 1537, when Luther was at Schmalkalden writhing
under bodily anguish and the influence of his paroxysm of hate, a
notable change took place in Melanchthon’s attitude towards the older
Church. The earlier spiritual crisis, if we may speak of such a thing,
ended in his case in an almost inexplicable embitterment against the
Church of his birth.

A proof of this is more particularly to be found in the document then
drawn up by Melanchthon, “On the power and primacy of the Pope.”[1468]

But a short time before he had looked upon the declaration against
the Pope, drafted by Luther for the Schmalkalden Conference, as too
strong. Yet, after having, as related above,[1469] all unknown to
Luther, contrived to prevent any discussion of the latter’s so-called
“Artickel,” and having, at the request of the Princes and Estates,
set to work on a statement concerning the Primacy and the Episcopate,
he himself came gradually, perhaps without noticing it, under the
influence of the passion of anti-popery which found expression at this

 In Melanchthon’s Schmalkalden writing “On the Power and Primacy,” we
 read, that “the Popes defend godless rites and idolatry”; they had
 introduced horrible darkness into the Church. “The marks of Antichrist
 agree with the empire of the Pope,” as is plain from Paul.[1470]
 “The Pope arrogates to himself the right to alter the doctrine of
 Christ.... He even claims rights over the souls of the departed.”
 “He makes himself God,” for he recognises no authority above him.
 “These errors he vindicates with the utmost cruelty ... slaying all
 who differ from him.” All the faithful must therefore “curse” him and
 regard his teaching as “devils’ doctrine.”

 After this profession of pure doctrine comes the chapter on
 abuses.[1471] “The profanation of Masses,” amongst the Papists, “is
 idolatry”; the “most revolting money-making” is carried on by this
 means. “They teach that sin is forgiven on account of the value of
 our works and then require each one to be ever in doubt as to whether
 his sins have really been forgiven. Nowhere do they clearly say that
 it is on account of the merits of Christ that sins are forgiven
 gratuitously. On the other hand, they do away with true worship,
 viz. the exercise of that faith which wrestles with despair.”[1472]
 “Vows they have stamped as righteousness before God, declaring that
 they merit the forgiveness of sins.” It is the duty of the Christian
 Princes to intervene; they must see that “errors are removed and
 consciences healed.” They “must not assist in strengthening idolatry
 and other infamies, or in slaughtering the Saints.” They, beyond all
 others, “must place a check on the licentiousness of the Popes,” the
 more so “since the Pope has bound the bishops under terrible curses to
 support his tyranny and his godless behaviour.”

 A shorter memorandum of Melanchthon’s, appended to the above,
 referred to the “Power and jurisdiction of the Bishops.”[1473] This
 in the clearest and most decided fashion marks the breakdown of all
 the author’s earlier seeming concessions concerning the retention of
 the episcopate. “Since the bishops,” he says towards the close, “in
 their dependence on the Pope defend his godless doctrine and godless
 worship ... second the Pope’s cruelty and tyrannically abuse the
 jurisdiction they have wrenched from the clergy ... the churches must
 not acknowledge them as bishops.”

 At the end there is a hint at the wealth of the bishops, doubtless not
 unwelcome to the Princes: “The bishops can no longer hold their lands
 and revenues with a good conscience” because they do not make use
 of them for the good of souls; their possessions ought rather to be
 employed “for the Church,” “to provide for the preachers [ministers],
 to support students and the poor, and in particular to assist the
 law-courts, especially the matrimonial courts.” Here we have his
 sanction to the Church’s spoliation.

We may be certain that Melanchthon never came to use such language,
so similar to Luther’s, concerning the Papal Antichrist, idolatry and
murder, solely as the result of pressure on the part of the Princes,
who had been enraged by the invitation to attend the Council, and
were determined to crush once and for all every hope of conciliation.
We may take it that his new frame of mind was partly due to Luther’s
serious illness. Luther believed that his end was nigh, he adjured the
Princes and his friends manfully to tackle Antichrist, and he cursed
the dissensions that had broken out amongst his theologians, and
promised soon to ruin his life’s work. This made a great impression on
Melanchthon. As a matter of fact the relations between him and Luther,
subsequent to the latter’s recovery, became closer than they had been
for years.

The change in Melanchthon at Schmalkalden was immortalised by his
frightful document on the Pope and the Bishops being subscribed to by
thirty-two of the theologians and preachers there present.[1474] When,
at a later date, the formulæ of Concord were drawn up, it was included
amongst the “symbolical books” of Lutheranism.[1475] As such, along
with the others, it appears down to the present day, even in the latest
edition (1907), at the head of which is printed the traditional motto
of the whole series: “One Lord, one faith, one Baptism” (Eph. iv. 5).

At the Schmalkalden Conference, Melanchthon, in spite of what he
had written concerning the Pope, declared himself, like Luther, in
favour of accepting with due reserves the invitation to the Council,
as otherwise they would be rendering their position more difficult
and would make the whole world think that they had rudely refused
the olive-branch. The rejection of his proposal annoyed him, as also
did the discourteous treatment—described by Melanchthon as “very
vulgar”—which the Papal Legate endured at the hands of the Elector
Johann Frederick. His fit of indignation does not, however, seem to
have lasted long, as he did not refuse the invitation to draw up a
statement, addressed in the name of the Assembly to all Christian
Princes, in which the Council was repudiated in the strongest terms.
The refusal to take any part in it, so it declares, was rendered
imperative by the clear intention of the Pope to suppress heresy.[1476]

His hostility and his irritation against, the Papacy repeatedly found
expression in after years.

It was quite in Luther’s style, when, in a little work which appeared
at Wittenberg in 1539, he called the Pope, with his bishops and
defenders, “the tyrants and persecutors of Christ,” who “are not the
Church; neither are those who support them or approve such acts of

 Before the War of Schmalkalden he republished several times Luther’s
 inflammatory pamphlet, “Warnunge an seine lieben Deudschen,” of 1531
 (see vol. ii., p. 391), in order to move public opinion against the
 Empire. To these new editions of the booklet against the Popish
 “bloodhounds”[1478]—one of the most violent the author ever
 wrote—Melanchthon added a preface in which he shows himself “animated
 and carried away by Luther’s words.”[1479] In reading it we feel the
 warmth of the fiery spirit which glows in Luther’s writings, for
 instance, when he classes his opponents with the “cut-throats of the
 streets,” whom “to resist was a work well-pleasing to God.”[1480] The
 Pope, according to him, is anxious “to re-establish his idolatry and
 his errors by dint of bloodshed, murder, everlasting devastation of
 the German nation and the destruction of the Electoral and Princely
 houses.” Thus “Spaniards and Italians, and perhaps even possibly the
 Turks,” will break into the German cities. “The devils rage and cause
 all manner of desolation.” Our enemies are “knowingly persecutors of
 the truth and murderers of the Saints.” Whoever is about to die let
 him consider, that the death of the righteous is more pleasing to God
 than “the life of Cain and the luxury and power of all the bishops and

 Hence it was but natural that violent measures of defence should
 appear to Melanchthon both called-for and meritorious.

 As a just measure of defence and resistance he regarded his own
 suggestion made to the Elector of Saxony through his Chancellor on the
 occasion of the Protestantising of the town of Halle, the residence
 of Albert of Brandenburg, viz. that Albert’s whole diocese of Halle
 and Magdeburg should be taken possession of by the Elector. Owing
 to Luther’s dissuasion this act of violence, which would have had
 momentous consequences, was, however, prevented. Melanchthon’s advice
 was, that they “should, as opportunity arose, seize the bishoprics,
 in order that the priests might be emboldened to abstain from knavish
 practices, to co-operate in bringing about a lasting peace, and to
 leave the Word of God unmolested for the future.”[1481]

In this way Melanchthon more than once gave the lie to those who extol
his kindliness. Luther once said, that, whereas he stabbed with a
hog-spear, Philip preferred to use goads and needles, though his little
punctures turned out more painful and difficult to heal; the “little
man” (Melanchthon was of small stature) was pious, and, even when he
did wrong, meant no ill; he sinned because he was too lenient and
allowed himself to be taken in; but this sort of thing was of little
use; he, on the other hand, thought it best to speak out to the knaves;
for clods a pick-axe was very useful; Philip allowed himself to be
devoured, but he, on the contrary, devoured everything and spared no

In his controversial writings and memoranda, written in well-turned and
polished language, Melanchthon went on as before to accuse the Catholic
theologians and the Popes of holding doctrines and opinions, of which,
as Döllinger rightly said, “no theologian had ever thought, but the
opposite of which all had taught.”[1483]

He refused to recognise what was good and just in the long-looked-for
proposals for the amelioration of the Church which the Papal commission
submitted to Paul III. in 1537. They were made known at Wittenberg
through their publication by Johann Sturm of Strasburg.

Luther at once took the field against them with his favourite weapons,
the “pick-axe” and the “hog-spear.”[1484] Melanchthon mentions them,
but has “not a word to say in favour of the important reforms they
proposed.... The fact, however, that one of Erasmus’s writings was
therein characterised as harmful, incensed him against Sadolet [one
of the Cardinals whose signatures were appended].” “With good reason,
and, from the schoolmaster’s point of view, quite justly,”[1485]
they say of the “_Colloquia familiaria_” of Erasmus, that “this book
should be forbidden in the schools,” as it might do harm to young
minds.[1486] This greatly displeased Melanchthon, himself a writer on
pedagogy;[1487] and yet the “_Colloquia_” in question are so permeated
with indecent elements that they have been rightly instanced to prove
how lax were the views then prevalent in Humanistic circles.[1488]
Luther himself strongly disapproved of the “_Colloquia_” of Erasmus,
declaring it a godless book, and forbidding his children to read it;
therein the author put his own antichristian ideas in the mouths of
others.[1489] “Erasmus, the scoundrel,” he says, gives vent to his
contempt for religion “more particularly in his ‘_Colloquia_.’”[1490]
“He is an incarnate scamp, as is shown by his books, notably by the

In the Antinomian controversy at home, between Johann Agricola and
Luther, it was Melanchthon who sought by means of adroit formulæ and
memoranda to achieve the impossible, viz. to square Agricola’s views
with Luther’s teaching at that time. In reality Melanchthon was merely
working for the success of his own milder version of Luther’s view of
the law, to which moreover the latter had already given his assent.
To Agricola, Melanchthon wrote feelingly: “In all that Luther does
there is a certain Achillean violence, of which you are not the only

On the outbreak of the Osiander controversy on Confession, the
ever-ready Melanchthon again set to work, endeavouring to pour oil on
the troubled waters. He assured Osiander that “were I able to bind
down with chains of adamant the tempers of all the clergy, I should
assuredly make this the goal of my most earnest endeavour.”[1493]

Melanchthon’s 1540 edition of the Augsburg Confession, the so-called
“_Confessio variata_,” was a good sample of his elasticity and power
of adaptation in the domain of dogma. The “_Variata_” caused, however,
quite a commotion amongst the representatives of the innovations.

 In the “_Confessio Variata_” Melanchthon, in order to curry favour
 with the Swiss and the adherents of the _Tetrapolitana_, with whom
 his party was politically leagued, set aside the “semblance of
 Transubstantiation” contained in the Article concerning the Supper
 (Art. x.) and struck out the words “_quod corpus et sanguis Christi
 vere adsint_,” as well as the rejection of the contrary belief. For
 these was substituted: “Together with the bread and wine in the Supper
 the communicants are shown [’_exhibeantur_’ instead of the former
 ‘_adsint et distribuantur_’] the Body and Blood of Christ.” This was
 practically to abandon the Real Presence. “Neither the doctrine of
 Bucer [who was a Zwinglian] on the Supper, nor that of Calvin, is

 At a later date, in 1575, Nicholas Selnecker, a Leipzig professor,
 whilst actual witnesses were yet living, declared that he had been
 informed by officials of high standing that the alterations concerning
 the Supper in the “_Variata_” were due to Philip of Hesse’s epistolary
 representations to Melanchthon. The former had held out the hope
 that he, and also the Swiss, would accept the Confession should his
 suggestion be accepted.[1495] We may call to mind that about that same
 time, i.e. about December, 1539, the Landgrave was desirous of yet
 another concession in his favour, viz. of sanction for his bigamy,
 and that Bucer, who had been sent by him to Wittenberg, threw out
 the hint that, were permission refused, the Prince would forsake the
 Evangelical cause.

 Melanchthon also obliterated in the “_Variata_” several other
 “traces of a too diplomatic attempt to conciliate the Romanists....
 Melanchthon’s clearer perception of the doctrine of Justification also
 made some alteration necessary.” The Article “_De iustificatione_”
 (Art. iv.) was accordingly revised, and likewise the Article “_De
 bonis operibus_” (Art. xx.), that both might correspond with the
 doctrine already embodied in the 1535 edition of the “_Loci_.” In
 Article iv. the brief “_hanc fidem imputat Deus pro iustitia_”
 was removed and replaced by: “_homines iustos pronuntiari, id est
 reconciliari_,” by the imputation of righteousness, this being
 explained at considerable length. A new interpretation was also given
 to the doctrine of good works, i.e. by the thesis, that obedience
 to the law is necessary on the part of the justified.[1496] In
 conversion, the necessity of contrition, and that not merely passive,
 previous to Justification by faith is asserted, the Divine Will that
 all men be saved is openly advocated, that God is the author of sin is
 more strongly denied than before.[1497]

 In spite of all these alterations, which, more particularly that
 concerning the Supper, might have wounded Luther’s susceptibilities,
 “Melanchthon was never reproved on account of the ‘_Variata_’ either
 by Luther or by others [of the sect]; what we hear to the contrary is
 nothing but an invention of the anti-Philippians. The truth is that
 the ‘_Variata_’ was generally accepted without question and made use
 of officially, for instance, at the religious conferences.”[1498] In
 January, 1541, the Augsburg Confession was to be made the basis of
 the first religious conference at Worms. When Melanchthon appealed
 to the “_Variata_,” Eck drew particular attention to the difference
 between the new and the old version. Melanchthon, however, insisted
 on the identity of their contents and would only admit that, in
 the “_Variata_,” he had toned down and chosen his expressions more
 carefully.[1499] As Eck, in order to come to the point, desisted from
 any further objections, the diversity was passed over. The conference,
 owing to other causes, was a failure, and so was the next, held at
 Ratisbon in April of the same year, which was fruitless owing to
 Melanchthon’s own conduct. Calvin, who was present, wrote on May 12
 of the practices of the Protestant leaders: “Melanchthon and Bucer
 drew up equivocating and ambiguous formulæ on Transubstantiation,
 seeking to hoodwink their adversaries. They were not afraid to deal in
 equivocal phrases though there is nothing more mischievous.”[1500]

 In connection with the eventual fate of the “_Variata_” we may here
 refer to the deep animosity which the more zealous Lutherans, with
 Flacius Illyricus at their head, displayed towards Melanchthon on
 account of the alterations in the Augsburg Confession. So serious
 did the rupture become that the dissension between the Protestant
 theologians actually rendered impossible any public negotiations with
 the Catholics. This fact proves how little Melanchthon, the then
 leader of the Protestants, had been successful in welding together
 with “chains of adamant” the theologians of his party.

 The standpoint of the amended Confession of 1540, however, enlisted
 all Bucer’s sympathies on Melanchthon’s behalf.

With Bucer’s smooth ways Melanchthon had already found himself in
harmony during the negotiations in view of the Wittenberg Concord.
Mentally the two had much in common. Melanchthon had worked with Bucer
at Bonn in 1543, making use of every kind of theological artifice and
enlisting the service of those who were in revolt against the moral
laws of the Church, in order to bring about the apostasy of Cologne,
though their efforts were fruitless. Want of success here was, however,
not due to any half-measures on Melanchthon’s part, for the latter
repeatedly spoke against any toleration being shown to the ancient
“errors.” In his reply to Eberhard Billick he attacked, for instance,
the “idolatry” which prevailed in the Rhineland, witnessed to by the
invocation of Saints, the veneration of images, the Sacrifice of the
Mass, and the Processions of the Sacrament.[1501]

By this attack on the citadel of Catholicism in the Rhine Province he
again reaped a harvest of trouble and anxiety, in consequence of his
and Bucer’s differences with Luther on the doctrine of the Supper.

In the text of the “Cologne Book of Reform,” composed by both, Luther
failed to find expressed his doctrine of the Presence of Christ, but
rather the opposite. For this reason an outbreak on his part was to
be feared, and Melanchthon trembled with anxiety, since, as he says
in one of his letters,[1502] Luther had already begun to “stir up
strife” in his sermons. He fully expected to have to go into exile.
It was said that Luther was preparing a profession of faith which all
his followers would have to sign. But, this time again, Melanchthon
was spared, though Bucer was not so fortunate; in Luther’s furious
writing against the deniers of the Sacrament, the latter was pilloried,
but not Melanchthon.[1503] Outwardly Luther and Melanchthon remained
friends. In the Swiss camp they were well aware of the difficulties
of the scholar who refused to place himself blindly under the spell
of Luther’s opinions. Bullinger, Zwingli’s successor at Zürich,
invited him to come there and promised to see that the magistrates
provided him with a suitable stipend. Calvin declared later, in 1560,
that Melanchthon had several times told him sorrowfully, that he
would much rather live in Geneva than in Wittenberg.[1504] Concerning
Melanchthon’s views on the Eucharist, Calvin said: “I can assure you
a hundred times over, that to make out Philip to be at variance with
me on this doctrine is like tearing him away from his own self.”[1505]
This explains why Melanchthon always sought to evade the theological
question as to how Christ is present in the Sacrament.

One of the last important works he carried out with Luther was
the so-called “Wittenberg Reformation,” a writing drawn up at the
Elector’s request. The document, which was presented by Luther and
the Wittenberg theologians on January 14, 1545, was intended, in view
of the anticipated Diet, to express theologically the position of the
Reformers with regard to a “Christian Settlement.” Here Melanchthon
found himself in his own element. In this work he distinguished
himself, particularly by his cleverly contrived attempts to make out
the new doctrine to be that of the old and real Church Catholic, by his
stern aversion to Popish “idolatry” and by his repudiation of anything
that might be regarded as a concession, also by the unfeasible proposal
he made out of mockery, that the bishops, in order to make it possible
for the Protestants to join their congregations, should “begin by
introducing the pure evangelical doctrine and Christian distribution of
the Sacraments,” in which case Protestants would obey them.[1506]

The Wittenbergers, in other words, offered to recognise the episcopate
under the old condition, upon which they were ever harping, though well
aware that it was impossible for the bishops to accept it.[1507]

They thus showed plainly how much store was to be set on the tolerance
of certain externals promised by the wily Melanchthon. In this document
he “retained certain outward forms to which the people were accustomed,
proposing, however, to render them innocuous by imbuing them with a new
spirit, and to use them as means of religious and moral education in
the interests of the Evangelical cause. It was in the same sense that
he was ready to recognise the episcopate.”[1508] In reality it was
the merest irony to demand, that all the bishops of Christendom should
prepare the way for and welcome the innovations. Such was, however,
the spirit and tone of Melanchthon’s “very mild reform,” as Brück the
Chancellor described it to the Elector. Luther, however, in order as it
were to furnish a commentary on its real sense, at that very time put
his pen to his last and most revolting work against the Papacy.[1509]




[1] According to Maurenbrecher, “Studien und Skizzen zur Gesch. der
Reformationszeit,” p. 235, Luther “fell back from the position he had
assumed from 1519 to the beginning of 1521 owing to the subjective, and
also objective, impossibility [of proceeding in so radical a way as
previously.]” H. Lang, a Protestant, whose “M. Luther, ein religiöses
Charakterbild,” 1870, he quotes, goes still further, and ascribes to
Luther the entire abandonment of his own principles; he is also of
opinion that Luther does not disguise the fact that [in the Anabaptist
business] he would have considered all in order had the reforms been
carried out by himself. “That he was vexed to see others reap where he
had sown, is only human nature,” says Lang; thus he “sided with the
reactionaries,” though he had really taught what the fanatics were
putting in practice; from that time forward he advocated a “mediæval
ecclesiasticism,” deprived the Congregations of the management of the
reform, which they had set about so vigorously, and transferred it to
the rulers. Such a view is widely held among Protestant historians

[2] Cp. vol. ii., p. 398 f.

[3] J. Schmidlin, in the article “Das Luthertum als historische
Erscheinung” in the “Wissenschaftl. Beilage zur Germania,” 1909, Nos.
14-16, p. 117. The writer even speaks of the “Klotz-Abhängigkeit” on
God which was Luther’s ideal.

[4] “Werke,” Weim. ed., 2, p. 436 ff.; Erl. ed., “Comment. in Galat.,”
1, p. iii. ff.; 3, p. 121 f.

[5] Cp. Köstlin-Kawerau, 1, p. 275 f.

[6] Mathesius, “Aufzeichnungen” (Loesche, p. 75 ff.).

[7] Cp. Kurcz Form der czehen Gepott, etc., “Werke,” Weim. ed., 7, p.
214; Erl. ed., 22, p. 15: “Faith is divided into three principal parts,
according to the three persons of the Holy Trinity,” etc.

[8] “Werke,” Weim. ed., 2, p. 41 ff., 143 ff. “Opp. lat. var.,” 2, p.
322 _seq._, 329 _seq._

[9] _Ibid._, pp. 686, 689; Erl. ed., 21, pp. 259, 261. In the latter
passage he refers to the “sign of Grace,” which is “Christ on the Cross
and all His dear Saints.”

[10] In “Bull. de littér. ecclésiast.,” 1909, p. 198 f.

[11] O. Ritschl, “Dogmengesch. des Protestantismus” (“Prolegomena.
Biblicismus und Traditionalismus in der altprotest. Theol.”), 1908, p.

[12] _Ibid._, pp. 102, 103, 105.

[13] “Tischreden,” “Werke,” Erl. ed., 58, p. 63. Cp. _ibid._, p. 7
and p. 100 and other passages where similar phrases occur. He says,
for instance, of belief: “The Articles of Faith are contrary to all
philosophy, geometry, arithmetic and indeed to all reason. It is a
question of ‘_est_,’ ‘_non_,’ yes and no. This no one can reconcile.”
For this reason he would not come to any “agreement” with Zwingli, who
thought otherwise.

[14] Ritschl, _ibid._, p. 79.

[15] “Preuss. Jahrbücher,” 136, 1909, p. 35, in dealing with Luther’s

[16] “De captivitate babyl.,” “Werke,” Weim. ed., 6, p. 536; “Opp. lat.
var.,” 5, p. 68.

[17] From the writing “Von der Freyheyt eynes Christen Menschen,”
“Werke,” Weim. ed., 7, pp. 23, 27 f.; Erl. ed., 27, pp. 179, 185 f.

[18] “De capt. bab.,” “Werke,” Weim. ed., 6, p. 537; “Opp. lat. var.,”
5, p. 70.

[19] _Ibid._, p. 536 f.=68, 70.

[20] “Werke,” Weim. ed., 10, 3, p. 258 ff.; Erl. ed., 13², p. 228 f.

[21] “Werke,” Weim. ed., 8, p. 157; Erl. ed., 27, p. 343.

[22] “Since Christ never commanded that the Sacrament should be
received by everyone, it is permissible not only to receive only under
one kind, but under neither.” “Werke,” Weim. ed., 6, p. 79; Erl. ed.,
27, p. 72. Cp. Weim. ed., 6, p. 507: “_Cum Christus non praecepisset
ulla (specie) uti_”.

[23] The Larger Catechism of 1529, “Werke,” Erl. ed., 21, p. 129: “Here
(in Scripture) we have God’s command and institution”; hence it is
“seriously and strictly commanded that we be baptised on pain of not
being saved.”

[24] To Haupold and others on September 17, 1521, “Werke,” Erl. ed.,
16², p. 257, and _ibid._, 53, p. 77 (“Briefwechsel,” 3, p. 236).

[25] The editor of the Weimar ed., 8, p. 132.

[26] “Luther im Lichte der neueren Forschung,” 1906, p. 127 (omitted
in the 2nd edition). In 1524 Luther, when engaged with Münzer, still
held that “all should preach stoutly and freely as they were able
and against whomsoever they pleased.... Let the spirits fall upon
one another and fight it out. Should some be led astray, so much the
worse.” True doctrine being the fittest would nevertheless survive and
prevail. To the Elector Frederick and Duke Johann of Saxony, July,
1524, “Werke,” Erl. ed., 53, p. 265 (“Briefwechsel,” 4, p. 372). The
contradiction involved in the freedom which Luther apparently concedes
to him was pointed out by Münzer in his “Schutzrede,” Fol. C. III.,
“Briefwechsel,” 4, p. 375. Hence when Luther counselled that the revolt
should be put down by force of arms, those who considered the war
unjust, for instance because they happened to hold Anabaptist views,
could well appeal to Luther and refuse to lend their assistance. (See
present work, vol. ii., p. 311 f.)

[27] A. Weiss, “Luther und Luthertum,” Denifle, vol. ii., 1909, p. 251

[28] “Werke,” Weim. ed., 26, p. 509; Erl. ed., 30, p. 372 f.

[29] “Werke,” Erl. ed., 12², p. 221.

[30] Though it might be urged that he subordinates the first too much
to the second even in his earlier period. In the “Kurcz Form der
czehen Gepott,” etc. (1520), “Werke,” Weim. ed., 7, p. 215; Erl. ed.,
22, p. 15, he teaches: “that there are two ways of believing: First,
concerning God, when I believe what is said of God to be true, just as
I believe that to be true which is said of the Turks, of the devil,
or of hell; this faith is more a sort of knowledge, or observation,
than real faith. According to the other we believe _in_ God (_Credo
in Deum_), i.e. when I not only believe that to be true which is said
of God, but place my trust in Him.... It is only such a faith which
hazards all on God ... which makes a Christian.... This is a living
faith ... and this none can give but God alone.” The Catholic Church,
however, had always required a “living faith,” one working by charity
(_fides caritate formata_). It is remarkable how much, in the above
passage, Luther allows the formal principle of historical faith, viz.
the authority of the Revealing God, to recede into the background.

[31] O. Ritschl, “Dogmengesch. des Protestantismus,” 1, p. 81.

[32] “Histor. Zeitschrift,” 97, p. 1 ff. Art.: “Die Bedeutung des
Protestantismus für die Entstehung der modernen Welt,” p. 28: “It is
evident that Protestantism cannot be regarded as directly paving the
way for the modern world. On the contrary, it appears rather as an
entire reversion to mediæval fashions of thought. It is shown that
Protestantism was and yet is, at least to some extent, a hindrance to
the development of the modern world.”

[33] “Dogmengesch.,” 3^[4], p. 830, n.

[34] Letter of December, 1523, “Werke,” Weim. ed., 12, p. 232; Erl.
ed., 29, p. 16 (“Briefwechsel,” 4, p. 266). There we read: “God is
older than all the Councils and the Fathers.” “Are we to send God to
school and prune the feathers (quill pens) of the Holy Ghost?” “We
hazard all on the Word ... against all the Churches.” _Ibid._, p.

[35] “Theolog. Literaturztg.,” 1884, p. 37 _seq._

[36] “Werke,” Erl. ed., 13², p. 228. Church postils.

[37] “Werke,” Weim. ed., 10, 2, p. 184; “Opp. lat. var.,” 6, p. 391.

[38] _Ibid._, 6, p. 540=5, p. 74.

[39] Through the “Reformer sent by God,” the Father had “revealed” the
mystery of His Son. Thus Bugenhagen, on February 22, 1546. Cp. vol.
vi., XL., 2.

[40] “Die Renaissance des Christentums im 16 Jahrh.,” 1904, p. 30 ff.

[41] “Die christliche Religion” in “Kultur der Gegenwart,” 1, p. 4,
397. _Ibid._: “The final result is the recognition by Protestantism
of an internal antinomy of religion and Church, which are unable to
subsist without each other nor yet to suffer each other, from which
conflict there can only spring a fresh presentment of the purer,
churchless, Christian idea.”

[42] “Luther und Luthertum,” 1, p. 689 (1², p. 723).

[43] “Zeitschrift für Theol. und Kirche,” 18, 1908, p. 74 _seq._, 147

[44] “Christliche Welt,” 1904, No. 26.

[45] “Monatskorr. des Evangel. Bundes,” 1908, No. 9.

[46] “Luthers Leben,” 1, p. vii. f.

[47] “An den christlichen Adel,” “Werke,” Weim. ed., 6, p. 428; Erl.
ed., 21, p. 307.

[48] _Ibid._, 429=308.

[49] “Werke,” Weim. ed., 6, p. 258; Erl. ed., 16², pp. 197 f.: “Seeing
that Bishops and Prelates remain quiescent, do not resist, care but
little and so leave Christendom to go to destruction, we must humbly
implore God’s help to oppose the evil, and after that put our own hands
to the job.... It is not right that we should support the servants and
menials of the Pope and even his court fools and harlots to the harm
and injury of our souls.... These, surely, are the real Turks whom the
King, the Princes and the Nobles ought to attack first,” just as a
father of a family who has gone out of his mind “must be placed under
restraint and controlled.... The best and only thing to do was, for
the King, Princes, Nobles, townships and parishes to put their hands
to the business and make an end of it themselves, so that the bishops
and clergy, who are so timorous, may be able to follow.... Nor must any
attention be paid to the ban and the threats by means of which they
fancy they can save their skins.”

[50] In strange contrast, to the last passage quoted, he goes on to
inculcate the most respectful obedience to the secular authorities:
“Even though they do what is wrong, still God wills that they should be
obeyed without subterfuge or danger” (p. 259=198). They have “nothing
to do with the preaching and the faith.” “They must not be resisted
even though they do what is unjust” (_ibid._). “There are many abuses
prevalent amongst the secular authorities,” etc. (p. 260=199). He is
accordingly very anxious for their improvement.

[51] To Spalatin, February 27, 1521, “Briefwechsel,” 3, p. 90.

[52] Preface to the writing “Von welltlicher Uberkeytt wie weytt man
yhr Gehorsam schuldig sey” (1523). “Werke,” Weim. ed., 11, p. 246; Erl.
ed., 22, p. 62 f.

[53] “Vom Missbrauch der Messen,” 1521-1522, “Werke,” Weim. ed.,
8, p. 561; Erl. ed., 28, p. 139. To Spalatin, August 15, 1521,
“Briefwechsel,” 3, p. 219: “_Principem esse et non aliqua parte
latronem esse, aut non aut vix possibile est, eoque maiorem, quo maior
princeps fuerit_.” This he says in excuse of his acceptance of the
hospitality of the Wartburg offered him by the Elector.

[54] “Werke,” Weim. ed., 8, p. 679; Erl. ed., 22, p. 48 f. “Von
welltlicher Uberkeytt.”

[55] To the Elector Frederick and Duke Johann of Saxony, July,
1524. “Werke,” Weim. ed., 15, p. 210 f.; Erl. ed., 55, p. 256 f.
(“Briefwechsel,” 4, p. 372). Cp. for above passages P. Drews “Entsprach
das Staatskirchentum dem Ideale Luthers?” in “Zeitschrift für Theol.
und Kirche,” 18, 1908, Ergänzungsheft, p. 31 ff.

[56] Drews, _ibid._, p. 34.

[57] Cp. vol. ii., p. 113.

[58] “Werke,” Erl. ed., 11², p. 245 f. Church Postils. Sermon
for Easter Monday, published in 1523. Order and instruction [how
henceforward the sacrament is to be received]. Cp. _ibid._, p. 197. Cp.
our vol. ii., p. 298, where Luther says: “Those who do not believe do
not belong to the kingdom of Christ, but to the kingdom of the world.”

[59] “Troubled consciences” alone would appreciate the consolation
in his chief doctrine, viz. that of Justification, for which reason
Melanchthon in the apology of the Augsburg Confession (“Symbol.
Bücher^[10],” pp. 87, 90, 118, 120, 174) is fond of representing
Justification by faith alone under the aspect of a solace and
consolation amidst the terrors of conscience caused by the
consciousness of sin. Whoever had not experi