By Author [ A  B  C  D  E  F  G  H  I  J  K  L  M  N  O  P  Q  R  S  T  U  V  W  X  Y  Z |  Other Symbols ]
  By Title [ A  B  C  D  E  F  G  H  I  J  K  L  M  N  O  P  Q  R  S  T  U  V  W  X  Y  Z |  Other Symbols ]
  By Language
all Classics books content using ISYS

Download this book: [ ASCII | HTML | PDF ]

Look for this book on Amazon

We have new books nearly every day.
If you would like a news letter once a week or once a month
fill out this form and we will give you a summary of the books for that week or month by email.

Title: Luther, vol. 4 of 6
Author: Grisar, Hartmann
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
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.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Luther, vol. 4 of 6" ***

This book is indexed by ISYS Web Indexing system to allow the reader find any word or number within the document.

images generously made available by The Internet
Archive/Canadian Libraries)

                         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 IV

                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
 Athenæum_ (Vol. I).

 “The second volume of Dr. Grisar’s ‘Life of Luther’ is fully as
 interesting as the first. There is the same minuteness of criticism
 and the same width of survey.” _The Athenæum_ (Vol. II).

 “Its interest increases. As we see the great Reformer in the thick of
 his work, and the heyday of his life, the absorbing attraction of his
 personality takes hold of us more and more strongly. His stupendous
 force, his amazing vitality, his superhuman interest in life,
 impress themselves upon us with redoubled effect. We find him the
 most multiform, the most paradoxical of men.... The present volume,
 which is admirably translated, deals rather with the moral, social,
 and personal side of Luther’s career than with his theology.”--_The
 Athenæum_ (Vol. III).

 “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._

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

 “Like its two predecessors, Volume III excels in the minute analysis
 not merely of Luther’s actions, but also of his writings; indeed,
 this feature is the outstanding merit of the author’s patient
 labours.”--_The Irish Times._

 “This third volume of Father Grisar’s monumental ‘Life’ is full of
 interest for the theologian. And not less for the psychologist; for
 here more than ever the author allows himself to probe into the
 mind and motives and understanding of Luther, so as to get at the
 significance of his development.”--_The Tablet._


 CHAPTER XXI. PRINCELY MARRIAGES                            _pages_ 3-79


  The case of Henry VIII; Robert Barnes is despatched to
  Wittenberg; Luther proposes bigamy as a safer expedient
  than divorce (1531); Melanchthon’s advice: _Tutissimum
  est regi_ to take a second spouse. The conduct of
  Pope Clement VII. The Protestant Princes of Germany
  endeavour to secure the good-will of the King of
  England; final collapse of the negotiations; Luther’s
  later allusions to Henry VIII                             _pages_ 3-13


  The question put by Philip to Luther in 1526; Philip
  well informed as to Luther’s views. Bucer deputed by
  the Landgrave to secure the sanction of Wittenberg for
  his projected bigamy; Bucer’s mission crowned with
  success; Philip weds Margaret von der Sale; Luther’s
  kindly offices rewarded by a cask of wine; the bigamy
  becomes known at the Court of Dresden; the Landgrave is
  incensed by Bucer’s proposal that he should deny having
  committed bigamy. Luther endeavours to retire behind
  the plea that his permission was a “dispensation,”
  a piece of advice given “in confession,” and,
  accordingly, not to be alleged in public. Some
  interesting letters of Luther to his sovereign and
  to Hesse; his private utterances on the subject
  recorded in the Table-Talk. “_Si queam mutare!_” The
  Eisenach Conference; Luther counsels the Landgrave to
  tell a good, lusty lie; the Landgrave’s annoyance.
  Melanchthon’s worries; an expurgated letter of his
  on Landgrave Philip. Duke Henry of Brunswick enters
  the field against Luther and the Landgrave; Luther’s
  stinging reply: “Wider Hans Worst.” Johann Lening’s
  “Dialogue”; how it was regarded by Luther, Menius and
  the Swiss theologians. The Hessian bigamy is hushed
  up. The Bigamy judged by Protestant opinion; Luther’s
  consent to some extent extorted under pressure           _pages_ 13-79

 CHAPTER XXII. LUTHER AND LYING                           _pages_ 80-178


  Luther’s conduct in the matter of the Bigamy an excuse
  for the present chapter. His dishonest assurances
  in his letters to Leo X, to Bishop Scultetus his
  Ordinary, and to the Emperor Charles V (1518-1520);
  his real feelings at that time as shown in a letter to
  Spalatin; Luther’s later parody of Tetzel’s teaching;
  his insinuation that it was the Emperor’s intention
  to violate the safe-conduct granted; he calls into
  question the authenticity of the Papal Bull against
  him, whilst all the time knowing it to be genuine; he
  advises _ordinandi_ to promise celibacy with a mental
  reservation; his distortion of St. Bernard’s “_perdite
  vixi_”; his allusion to the case of Conradin, “slain
  by Pope Clement IV,” and to the spurious letter of
  St. Ulrich on the babies’ heads found in a convent
  pond at Rome. His allegation that his “Artickel” had
  been subscribed to at Schmalkalden; his unfairness
  to Erasmus and Duke George; his statement, that, for
  a monk to leave his cell without his scapular, was
  accounted a mortal sin, and that, in Catholicism,
  people expected to be saved simply by works; his
  advocacy of the “Gospel-proviso”; his advice to the
  Bishop of Samland to make a show of hesitation in
  forsaking Catholicism                                    _pages_ 80-99


  Bucer, Münzer, J. Agricola, Erasmus, Duke George, etc.,
  on Luther’s disregard for truth                         _pages_ 99-102


  The palpable untruth of certain statements which
  Luther never tires of repeating. How to explain his
  putting forward as true what was so manifestly false:
  The large place occupied by the jocular element; his
  tendency to extravagance of language; he comes, by dint
  of repetition, to persuade himself of the truth of
  his charges. The new theology of mendacity: Luther’s
  earlier views consistent with the Church’s; study of
  the Old Testament leads him to the theory that only
  such untruths as injure our neighbour are real lies;
  influence of his teaching on the theologians of his
  circle: Melanchthon, Bucer, Bugenhagen, Capito, etc.   _pages_ 102-116


  Luther’s distortions of the actual state of things
  before his coming; admissions of modern scholars. The
  olden Catholics’ supposed “holiness-by-works”; on the
  relations between creature and Creator; the Lamb of
  God; the Eucharistic sacrifice; “personal religion”;
  Luther’s plea that he revived respect for the secular
  calling; the olden teaching concerning perfection      _pages_ 116-131


  Luther’s claim to be the saviour of woman and
  matrimony; what he says of the Pope’s treatment of
  marriage; marriage “a state of sin”; witnesses to the
  contrary: Devotional and Liturgical books; Luther’s own
  attachment in his younger days to St. Anne. Various
  statements of Luther’s to the advantage or otherwise
  of woman and the married life; his alteration of
  outlook during the controversy on the vow of Chastity;
  the natural impulse, and the honour of marriage;
  expressions ill-befitting one who aspired to deliver
  womankind; practical consequences of the new view
  of woman: Matrimonial impediments and divorce; Duke
  George on the saying “If the wife refuse then let the
  maid come.” Respect for the female sex in Luther’s
  conversations. The new matrimonial conditions and the
  slandered opponents; the actual state of things in
  Late Mediæval times as vouched for in the records. Two
  concluding pictures towards the history of woman: A
  preacher’s matrimonial trials; the letters of Hasenberg
  and von der Heyden and the “New-Zeittung” and “Newe
  Fabel” which they called forth                         _pages_ 131-178

(1534, 1536) AND DUKE GEORGE († 1539)                    _pages_ 179-193


  Their relations since 1525; the “_Hyperaspistes_”;
  Luther’s attack in 1534 and Erasmus’s “_Purgatio_”;
  Luther on the end of Erasmus                           _pages_ 179-186


  Luther exhorts the Duke to turn Protestant; the Duke’s
  answer; how George had to suffer at Luther’s hands;
  his true character utterly at variance with Luther’s
  picture; the Duke repays Luther in his own coin        _pages_ 187-193

REFORMATION. PRINCELY PATRONS                            _pages_ 194-227


  The Duchy of Saxony; the Electorate of Brandenburg; the
  Duchy of Prussia; Würtemberg; Duke Ulrich and Luther;
  Blaurer and Schnepf; the sad state of things revealed;
  the Landgraviate of Hesse; results of Landgrave
  Philip’s bad example                                   _pages_ 194-202


  The Electorate of Saxony; the morals of Elector Johann
  Frederick; the character of his predecessors; Luther’s
  relations with them; the records of the Visitations;
  Luther compares himself to Lot dwelling in Sodom       _pages_ 202-210


  His candid admissions; his varied explanations of the
  state of things: The malice of Satan; the apparent
  increase of evil due to the bright light of the
  Evangel; his seeming lack of success the best proof of
  the truth of his mission; Luther on Wittenberg and its
  doings                                                 _pages_ 210-218


  The habitual depression in which zealous promoters
  of the Evangel lived; Melanchthon, Spalatin, Jonas,
  Camerarius, etc.; the increase in the number of
  suicides; expectation of the end of all; the sad case
  of Johann Schlaginhaufen                               _pages_ 218-227

AND FAMILY. LUTHER’S BETTER FEATURES                     _pages_ 228-283


  Relations with the Wittenberg students; esteem in
  which Luther was held by them; he warns them against
  consorting with evil women. The Preacher and Catechist;
  the force and practical bearing of Luther’s sermons;
  his instructions to others how best to preach; his
  discourses at home; the notes of his sermons; what he
  says of Our Lady when preaching on the Magnificat; his
  staunch fidelity to the great doctrines of Christianity
  and his attachment to Holy Scripture; the fine
  qualities of his German as evinced in his translations
  and elsewhere. The spiritual guide; his concern for
  discipline; his circular letters; his strictures on
  certain legends; his efforts to re-introduce a new form
  of confession and to further the cause of Church-music _pages_ 228-257


  The place of feeling in Luther’s life; an interview
  with Cochlæus; his powerful fancy and still more
  powerful will; his huge capacity for work              _pages_ 257-261


  The better side of the Table-Talk; his friends and
  pupils on his kindly ways; his disinterestedness,
  love of simplicity, his generosity, his courage when
  plague threatened; his occasional belittling of his
  own powers; his prayer and his trust in God; his lack
  of any real organising talent. Luther’s family life;
  his allusions to his wife; his care for his children   _pages_ 261-283

OF HIS SOUL                                              _pages_ 284-350


  Sir Thomas More on Luther’s language. Three writings
  launched against the Jews; the place of the pig and
  donkey in Luther’s stable of metaphor. Luther’s animus
  against the Lawyers due to their attachment to the
  matrimonial legislation as then established. His attack
  on the Princes in his “Von welltlicher Uberkeytt”; his
  ire against Albert, Elector of Mayence; his list of the
  archbishop’s relics; how the Duke of Brunswick fared   _pages_ 284-295


  The Pope is the “Beast” and the “Dragon”; Luther’s
  language in the Table-Talk, and in the Disputation
  in 1539; on the Papal Bearwolf (Werewolf); the Papal
  Antichrist; Luther’s wrath against all who dared to
  stand up for the Pope; how the Pope deserves to be
  addressed                                              _pages_ 295-305


  His ungovernable temper; reality of certain misuses
  against which he thundered; his vexation with those
  who, like Carlstadt and Zwingli, seemed to be robbing
  him of the credit which was his due; his tendency to be
  carried away by the power of his own tongue; his need
  for the stimulus and outlet provided by vituperation;
  his ill-humour at the smallness of the moral results
  obtained; abuse serves to repress his own troubles of
  conscience. Connection of Luther’s abusiveness with his
  mystic persuasion of his special call; all his anger
  really directed against the devil; it is no insult “to
  call a turnip a turnip.” The unpleasant seasoning of
  Luther’s abuse; some samples; was language of so coarse
  a character at all usual at that time? Indignation of
  the Swiss                                              _pages_ 306-326


  His occasional professions of humility; a number of
  typical sayings of Luther referring to his peculiar
  standing and his achievements: The predictions
  fulfilled in him; the poverty of the exegesis of the
  Fathers; his reforms more far-reaching than those
  of any Councils; his being alone no better argument
  against him than against the Old-Testament Prophets,
  who also stood up against the whole world. Harnack’s
  dilemma: Was Luther a megalomaniac, or were his
  achievements commensurate with his claims? His habit
  of giving free rein to his “rhetoric”; its tendency to
  extravagance, unseemliness, and, occasionally, to rank
  blasphemy; “papist and donkey is one and the same, _sic
  volo, sic iubeo_”; his rhetoric a true mirror of his
  inward state; his changeableness; his high opinion of
  himself to some extent fostered by the adulation of his
  friends                                                _pages_ 327-350

THE CHURCH                                               _pages_ 351-386


  Hostile contemporaries ascribe Luther’s ravings to the
  devil, others actually hold him to be beset by the
  devil; references to his eyes; the idle tale of his
  having been begotten of the devil                      _pages_ 351-359


  Their opinion of Luther and Luther’s opinion of them;
  Egranus, Zasius, Wicel and Amerbach                    _pages_ 360-365


  The Preface of Cochlæus to his “_Commentaria de actis.
  etc., M. L._”; the sermons of Wild, the Mayence
  Franciscan, and the complaints laid before the Diet, at
  Ratisbon (1541) and Worms (1545)                       _pages_ 365-369


  Was Luther really dragged into controversy by the
  tactics of his opponents? A retrospect: The character
  of the writings of Tetzel and Prierias; Emser; Eck
  and his “Obelisks”; his “_Enchiridion_”; Cochlæus’s
  “_Septiceps Lutherus_”; other champions of the Church  _pages_ 370-386

PSYCHOLOGICAL LIGHT                                      _pages_ 387-527


  Liberty for the examination of Scripture and Luther’s
  autonomy; Luther gradually reaches the standpoint that
  the Bible is the only judge in matters of faith; those
  only must be listened to who teach “_purum verbum
  Dei_.” Experience given by the Spirit; divergent
  utterances regarding the perspicuity of Holy Writ;
  the Bible a “heresy-book.” Luther not in favour of
  verbal inspiration; mistakes of the sacred writers;
  which books are canonical, and why? The discord which
  followed on Luther’s principle of relying on private
  judgment and the “_influxus spiritus_”; he reverts to
  the “outward Word” in his controversy with Zwingli and
  corroborates it by tradition. What authority, apart
  from the Church’s, can lay doubts to rest? The object
  of faith: Many articles, or only one? Protestants on
  Luther’s self-contradictions; the end of Luther’s
  “formal principle”                                     _pages_ 387-420


  Some characteristic of Luther’s exegesis; his respect
  for the literal sense; all his reading of the Bible
  coloured by his theory of Justification; his exegesis
  in the light of his early development                  _pages_ 420-431


  Connection between the “material principle”
  (justification) and the “formal principle” (Scripture
  as the only rule) of Luther’s theology, and between
  the “material principle” and the theory of the
  worthlessness of works and of God’s being the sole real
  agent; the theory at variance with the teaching of St.
  Augustine. The need of struggling to feel entirely
  certain of our personal justification; Luther’s own
  failure to come up to his standard; present-day
  Protestants on Luther’s main Article “on which the
  Church stands or falls”                                _pages_ 431-449


  The Church’s teaching; origin of Luther’s new ideas to
  be sought in his early dislike for the “Little Saints”
  and their doings; the perils of his theory; on the fear
  of God as a motive for action. Augustine summoned as a
  witness on Luther’s behalf; the witness discarded by
  Melanchthon and the Pomeranians; Augustine’s real view;
  the new doctrine judged by 16th-century Protestants;
  Luther’s utterances in favour of good works; what
  charity meant in the Middle Ages; Luther on the
  hospitals of Florence                                  _pages_ 449-481


  Luther no systematic theologian. The _regula fidei_;
  Harnack on Luther’s inconsequence; Paulsen on “Pope
  Luther.” Luther’s teaching on the sacraments; on
  infant-baptism and the faith it requires; liberal
  Protestants appeal to his principles against the
  “magical” theory of Baptism; penance an extension of
  baptism. Luther’s teaching on the Supper; Communion
  merely a means of fortifying faith; Impanation versus
  Transubstantiation; theory of the omnipresence of
  Christ’s body; Luther’s stead-fastness in his belief
  in the Real Presence. Attitude towards the invocation
  of the Saints, particularly of the Blessed Virgin. His
  views on Purgatory                                     _pages_ 482-506


  The place of this sacrifice in the Church previous
  to Luther’s time; Luther’s first attacks; the Mass
  suppressed at Wittenberg; his “Von dem Grewel der
  Stillmesse”; Eck’s reply; Luther undertakes to prove
  that the priests’ attachment to the Mass is based
  merely on pecuniary grounds; connection between his
  attack on the Mass and his theory as a whole. His work
  on the “Winkle-Mass”; his dispute with the devil; his
  defence of his work on the “Winkle-Mass”; Cochlæus
  replies; Luther’s references to the Mass in his
  familiar talks, and in his Schmalkalden “Artickel”; a
  profession of faith in the Real Presence               _pages_ 506-527






1. Luther and Henry VIII of England. Bigamy instead of Divorce

IN King Henry the Eighth’s celebrated matrimonial controversy the Roman
See by its final decision was energetically to vindicate the cause
of justice, in spite of the fear that this might lead to the loss of
England to Catholicism. The considered judgment was clear and definite:
Rather than countenance the King’s divorce from Queen Catherine, or
admit bigamy as lawful, the Roman Church was prepared to see the
falling away of the King and larger portion of the realm.[1]

In the summer, 1531, Luther was drawn into the controversy raging round
the King’s marriage, by an agent of King Henry’s. Robert Barnes, an
English Doctor of Divinity who had apostatised from the Church and was
residing at Wittenberg, requested of Luther, probably at the King’s
instigation, an opinion regarding the lawfulness of his sovereign’s

To Luther it was clear enough that there was no possibility of
questioning the validity of Catherine’s marriage. It rightly appeared
to him impossible that the Papal dispensation, by virtue of which
Catherine of Aragon had married the King after having been the spouse
of his deceased brother, should be represented as sufficient ground for
a divorce. This view he expressed with praiseworthy frankness in the
written answer he gave Barnes.[2]

At the same time, however, Luther pointed out to the King a loophole
by which he might be able to succeed in obtaining the object of his
desire; by this concession, unfortunately, he branded his action as
a pandering to the passions of an adulterous King. At the conclusion
of his memorandum to Barnes he has the following: “Should the Queen
be unable to prevent the divorce, she must accept the great evil and
most insulting injustice as a cross, but not in any way acquiesce in
it or consent to it. Better were it for her to allow the King to wed
another Queen, after the example of the Patriarchs, who, in the ages
previous to the law, had many wives; but she must not consent to being
excluded from her conjugal rights or to forfeiting the title of Queen
of England.”[3]

It has been already pointed out that Luther, in consequence of his
one-sided study of the Old Testament, had accustomed himself more
and more to regard bigamy as something lawful.[4] That, however, he
had so far ever given his formal consent to it in any particular
instance there is no proof. In the case of Henry VIII, Luther felt
less restraint than usual. His plain hint at bigamy as a way out of
the difficulty was intended as a counsel (“_suasimus_”). Hence we can
understand why he was anxious that his opinion should not be made
too public.[5] When, in the same year (1531), he forwarded to the
Landgrave of Hesse what purported to be a copy of the memorandum, the
incriminating passage was carefully omitted.[6]

Melanchthon, too, had intervened in the affair, and had gone
considerably further than Luther in recommending recourse to bigamy
and in answering possible objections to polygamy.

In a memorandum of Aug. 23, Melanchthon declared that the King was
entirely justified in seeking to obtain the male heirs with whom
Catherine had failed to present him; this was demanded by the interests
of the State. He endeavours to show that polygamy is not forbidden by
Divine law; in order to avoid scandal it was, however, desirable that
the King “should request the Pope to sanction his bigamy, permission
being granted readily enough at Rome.” Should the Pope refuse to give
the dispensation, then the King was simply and of his own authority to
have recourse to bigamy, because in that case the Pope was not doing
his duty, for he was “bound in charity to grant this dispensation.”[7]
“Although I should be loath to allow polygamy generally, yet, in the
present case, on account of the great advantage to the kingdom and
perhaps to the King’s conscience, I would say: The King may, with a
good conscience (‘_tutissimum est regi_’), take a second wife while
retaining the first, because it is certain that polygamy is not
forbidden by the Divine law, nor is it so very unusual.” Melanchthon’s
ruthless manner of proceeding undoubtedly had a great influence on the
other Wittenbergers, even though it cannot be maintained, as has been
done, that he, and not Luther, was the originator of the whole theory;
there are too many clear and definite earlier statements of Luther’s
in favour of polygamy to disprove this. Still, it is true that the lax
opinion broached by Melanchthon in favour of the King of England played
a great part later in the matter of the bigamy of the Landgrave of

In the same year, however, there appeared a work on matrimony by the
Lutheran theologian Johann Brenz in which, speaking generally and
without reference to this particular case, he expressed himself very
strongly against the lawfulness of polygamy. “The secular authorities,”
so Brenz insists, “must not allow any of their subjects to have two or
more wives,” they must, on the contrary, put into motion the “penalties
of the Imperial Laws” against polygamy; no pastor may “bless or ratify”
such marriages, but is bound to excommunicate the offenders.[9] Strange
to say, the work appeared with a Preface by Luther in which, however,
he neither praises nor blames this opinion.[10]

The Strasburg theologians, Bucer and Capito, as well as the Constance
preacher, Ambrosius Blaurer, also stood up for the lawfulness of
bigamy. When, however, this reached the ears of the Swiss theologians,
Œcolampadius, in a letter of Aug. 20, exclaimed: “They were inclined to
consent to the King’s bigamy! But far be it from us to hearken more to
Mohammed in this matter than to Christ!”[11]

In spite of the alluring hint thrown out at Wittenberg, the adulterous
King, as everyone knows, did not resort to bigamy. It was Henry the
Eighth’s wish to be rid of his wife, and, having had her removed, he
regarded himself as divorced. After the King had repudiated Catherine,
Luther told his friends: “The Universities [i.e. those which sided
with the English King] have declared that there must be a divorce. We,
however, and the University of Louvain, decided differently.... We
[viz. Luther and Melanchthon] advised the Englishman that it would be
better for him to take a concubine than to distract his country and
nation; yet in the end he put her away.”[12]

When Clement VII declared the first marriage to be valid and
indissoluble, and also refused to countenance any bigamy, Henry VIII
retorted by breaking with the Church of Rome, carrying his country
with him. For a while Clement had hesitated on the question of bigamy,
since, in view of Cardinal Cajetan’s opinion to the contrary, he
found it difficult to convince himself that a dispensation could not
be given, and because he was personally inclined to be indulgent
and friendly; finally, however, he gave Bennet, the English envoy,
clearly to understand that the dispensation was not in his power to
grant.[13] That he himself was not sufficiently versed in Canon Law,
the Pope repeatedly admitted. “It will never be possible to allege the
attitude of Clement VII as any excuse for the Hessian affair” (Ehses).
It is equally impossible to trace the suggestion of bigamy back to
the opinions prevailing in mediæval Catholicism.[14] No mediæval
pope or confessor can be instanced who sanctioned bigamy, while
there are numbers of theologians who deny the Pope’s power to grant
such dispensations; many even describe this negative opinion as the
“_sententia communis_.”[15]

Of Cardinal Cajetan, the only theologian of note on the opposite
side (see above, vol. iii., p. 261), W. Köhler remarks, alluding
particularly to the recent researches of N. Paulus: “It never
entered Cardinal Cajetan’s head to deny that the ecclesiastical
law categorically forbids polygamy.”[16] Further: “Like Paulus, we
may unhesitatingly admit that, _in this case_, it would have been
better for Luther had he had behind him the guiding authority of the

       *       *       *       *       *

Henry VIII, as was only natural, sought to make the best use of the
friendship of the Wittenberg professors and Princes of the Schmalkalden
League, against Rome and the Emperor. He despatched an embassy, though
his overtures were not as successful as he might have wished.

We may describe briefly the facts of the case.

 The Schmalkalden Leaguers, from the very inception of the League, had
 been seeking the support both of England and of France. In 1535 they
 made a determined effort to bring about closer relations with Henry
 VIII, and, at the Schmalkalden meeting, the latter made it known that
 he was not unwilling to “join the Christian League of the Electors and
 Princes.” Hereupon he was offered the “title and standing of patron
 and protector of the League.” The political negotiations nevertheless
 miscarried, owing to the King’s excessive demands for the event of an
 attack on his Kingdom.[18] The project of an alliance with the King
 of Denmark, the Duke of Prussia, and with Saxony and Hesse, for the
 purpose of a war against the Emperor, also came to nothing.

 In these negotiations the Leaguers wanted first of all to reach an
 agreement with Henry in the matter of religion, whereas the latter
 insisted that political considerations should have the first place.

 In the summer, 1535, Robert Barnes, the English plenipotentiary, was
 raising great and exaggerated hopes in Luther’s breast of Henry’s
 making common cause with the Wittenberg reformers.

 Into his plans Luther entered with great zest, and consented to
 Melanchthon’s being sent to England as his representative, for the
 purpose of further negotiations. As we now know from a letter of
 recommendation of Sep. 12, 1535, first printed in 1894, he recommended
 Barnes to the Chancellor Brück for an interview with the Elector,
 and requested permission for Melanchthon to undertake the journey to
 England. Joyfully he points out that “now the King offers to accept
 the Evangel, to join the League of our Princes and to allow our
 ‘_Apologia_’ entry into his Kingdom.” Such an opportunity must not
 be allowed to slip, for “the Papists will be in high dudgeon.” Quite
 possibly God may have something in view.[19]

 In England hopes were entertained that these favourable offers would
 induce a more friendly attitude towards the question of Henry’s
 divorce. Concerning this Luther merely says in the letter cited: “In
 the matter of the royal marriage, the ‘_suspensio_’ has already been
 decided,” without going into any further particulars; he, however,
 reserves the case to be dealt with by the theologians exclusively.

 In August, 1535, Melanchthon had dedicated one of his writings to
 the King of England, and had, on this occasion, lavished high praise
 on him. It was probably about this time that the King sent the
 presents to Wittenberg, to which Catherine Bora casually alludes in
 the Table-Talk. “Philip received several gifts from the Englishman,
 in all five hundred pieces of gold; for our own part we got at least

 Melanchthon took no offence at the cruel execution of Sir Thomas More
 or at the other acts of violence already perpetrated by Henry VIII; on
 the contrary, he gave his approval to the deeds of the royal tyrant,
 and described it as a commandment of God “to use strong measures
 against fanatical and godless men.”[21] The sanguinary action of the
 English tyrant led Luther to express the wish, that a similar fate
 might befall the heads of the Catholic Church at Rome. In the very
 year of Bishop Fisher’s execution he wrote to Melanchthon: “It is easy
 to lose our tempers when we see what traitors, thieves, robbers, nay
 devils incarnate the Cardinals, the Popes and their Legates are. Alas
 that there are not more Kings of England to put them to death!”[22] He
 also refers to the alleged horrors practised by the Pope’s tools in
 plundering the Church, and asks: “How can the Princes and Lords put up
 with it?”

 In Dec., 1535, a convention of the Schmalkalden Leaguers, at
 Melanchthon’s instance, begged the envoys despatched by Henry, who
 were on their way to Wittenberg, to induce their master to promote the
 Confession of Augsburg--unless, indeed, as they added with unusual
 consideration, “they and the King should be unanimous in thinking that
 something in the Confession might be improved upon or made more in
 accordance with the Word of God.”[23]

 Just as in the advances made by the King to Wittenberg “the main
 point had been to obtain a favourable pronouncement from the German
 theologians in the matter of his divorce,” so too in consenting to
 discuss the Confession of Augsburg he was actuated by the thought that
 this would lead to a discussion on the Papal power and the question
 of the divorce, i.e. to those points which the King had so much at

 On the arrival immediately after of the envoys at Wittenberg they
 had the satisfaction of learning from Luther and his circle, that
 the theologians had already changed their minds in the King’s favour
 concerning the lawfulness of marriage with a brother’s widow. Owing to
 the influence of Osiander, whom Henry VIII had won over to his side,
 they now had come to regard such marriages as contrary to the natural
 moral law. Hence Henry’s new marriage might be considered valid. They
 were not, however, as yet ready to draw this last inference from the
 invalidity of the previous marriage between the King and Catherine.[25]

 Luther, however, became more and more convinced that marriage with a
 brother’s widow was invalid; in 1542, for instance, on the assumption
 of the invalidity of such a union, he unhesitatingly annulled the
 marriage of a certain George Schud, as a “devilish abomination”
 (“_abominatio diaboli_”).[26]

 The spokesman of the English mission, Bishop Edward Fox, demanded from
 Luther the admission that the King had separated from his first wife
 “on very just grounds.” Luther, however, would only agree that he
 had done so “on very many grounds.” He said later, in conversation,
 that his insistence on this verbal nicety had cost him three hundred
 Gulden, which he would have received from England in the event of
 his compliance.[27] He cannot indeed be accused of having been,
 from ecclesiastico-political motives, too hasty in gratifying the
 King’s demands in the matter of the divorce. Yet, on the other hand,
 it is not unlikely that the desire to pave the way for a practical
 understanding was one of the motives for his mode of action. His
 previous outspoken declarations against any dissolution of the Royal
 marriage compelled him to assume an attitude not too strongly at
 variance with his earlier opinion.

 After the new marriage had taken place negotiations with England
 continued, principally with the object of securing such acceptance
 of the new doctrine as might lead to a politico-religious alliance
 between that country and the Schmalkalden Leaguers. Luther, however,
 stubbornly refused to concede anything to the King in the matter of
 his chief doctrines, for instance, regarding Justification or the
 rejection of the Mass.

 The articles agreed upon at the lengthy conferences held during the
 early months of 1536--and made public only in 1905 (see above, p. 9,
 n. 4)--failed to satisfy the King, although they displayed a very
 conciliatory spirit. Melanchthon outdid himself in his endeavour to
 render the Wittenberg teaching acceptable. “It is true that the
 main points of faith were not sacrificed,” remarks the discoverer
 and editor of the articles in question, “but the desire to please
 noticeable in their form, even in such questions as those concerning
 the importance of good works, monasteries, etc., is nevertheless
 surprising.”[28] Luther himself, in a letter of April 29, 1536, to
 the Electoral Vice-Chancellor Burkhard, spoke of the concessions
 made in these articles as the final limit; to go further would be
 to concede to the King of England what had been refused to the Pope
 and the Emperor; “at Augsburg [in 1530] we might have come to terms
 more easily with the Pope and the Emperor, nay, perhaps we might do
 so even now.” To enter into an ecclesiastico-political alliance with
 the English would, he considers, be “dangerous,” for the Schmalkalden
 Leaguers “were not all of one mind”; hence the (theological) articles
 ought first to be accepted; the League was, however, a secular matter
 and therefore he would beg the “beloved Lords and my Gracious Master
 to consider” whether they could accept it without a previous agreement
 being reached on the point of theology.[29]

Though Luther and the Princes set great store on the projected
alliance, on account of the increase of strength it would have brought
the German Evangelicals, yet their hopes were to be shattered, for the
articles above referred to did not find acceptance in England. Luther
was later on to declare that everything had come to nought because
King Henry wished to be head of the Protestants in Germany, which the
Elector of Saxony would not permit: “Let the devil take the great
Lords! This rogue (‘_is nebulo_’) wanted to be proclaimed head of our
religion, but to this the Elector would in no wise agree; we did not
even know what sort of belief he had.”[30] Probably the King demanded a
paramount influence in the Schmalkalden League, and the German Princes
were loath to be deprived of the direction of affairs.

After all hopes of an agreement had vanished Henry VIII made no secret
of his antipathy for the Lutheran teaching.

The quondam Defender of the Faith even allowed himself to be carried
away to acts of bloodshed. In 1540 he caused Luther’s friend, Robert
Barnes, the agent already referred to, to be burnt at the stake as a
heretic. Barnes had adopted the Lutheran doctrine of Justification. It
was not on this account alone, however, that he was obnoxious to the
King, but also because the latter had grown weary of Anne of Cleves,
whom Barnes and Thomas Cromwell, the King’s favourite, had given him
as a fourth consort, after Anne Boleyn and Jane Seymour. Cromwell,
though not favourably disposed to Lutheranism, was executed a few days
before. On April 9, 1536, Luther had written to Cromwell a very polite
letter, couched in general terms,[31] in answer to a courteous missive
from that statesman handed to him by Barnes. From Luther’s letter
we see that Cromwell “had been described to him in too favourable
a light,”[32] as though predisposed to the Lutheran doctrine or to
regard Luther as a divinely sent teacher. Luther deceived himself if
he fancied that Cromwell was ready to “work for the cause”; the latter
remained as unfriendly to Lutheranism proper as the King himself.

In the year of Barnes’s execution Melanchthon wrote the letter to Veit
Dietrich in which he expresses the pious wish, that God would send a
brave murderer to bring the King to the end he deserved.[33]

Luther, on his side, declared: “The devil himself rides astride this
King”; “I am glad that we have no part in his blasphemy.” He boasted,
so Luther says, of being head of the Church of England, a title which
no bishop, much less a King, had any right to, more particularly one
who with his crew had “vexed and tortured Christ and His Church.”[34]
In 1540 Luther spoke sarcastically of the King’s official title:
“Under Christ the supreme head on earth of the English Church,”[35]
remarking, that, in that case, “even the angels are excluded.”[36]
Of Melanchthon’s dedication of some of his books to the King, Luther
says, that this had been of little service. “In future I am not going
to dedicate any of my books to anyone. It brought Philip no good in
the case of the bishop [Albert of Mayence], of the Englishman, or of
the Hessian [the Landgrave Philip].”[37] Still more fierce became his
hatred and disappointment when he found the King consorting with his
sworn enemies, Duke George, and Albert, Elector of Mayence.[38] When
he heard the news of Barnes having been cast into prison, he said:
“This King wants to make himself God. He lays down articles of faith
and forbids marriage under pain of death, a thing which even the Pope
scrupled to do. I am something of a prophet and, as what I prophesy
comes true, I shall refrain from saying more.”[39]

Luther never expressed any regret regarding his readiness to humour the
King’s lusts or regarding his suggestion of bigamy.

The Landgrave Philip of Hesse, however, referred directly to the
proposal of bigamy made to the King of England, when he requested
Luther’s consent to his own project of taking a second wife. The
Landgrave had got to hear of the proposal in spite of the unlucky
passage having been struck out of the deed.

The history of the Hessian bigamy is an incident which throws a curious
light on Luther’s exceptional indulgence towards princely patrons of
the Evangel in Germany.

2. The Bigamy of Philip of Hesse

As early as 1526 Philip of Hesse, whose conduct was far from being
conspicuous for morality, had submitted to Luther the question whether
Christians were allowed to have more than one wife. The Wittenberg
Professor gave a reply tallying with his principles as already
described;[40] instead of pointing out clearly that such a thing was
divinely forbidden to all Christians, was not to be dispensed from by
any earthly authority, and that such extra marriages would be entirely
invalid, Luther refused to admit unconditionally the invalidity of such
unions. Such marriages, he stated, gave scandal to Christians, “for
without due cause and necessity even the old Patriarchs did not take
more than one wife”; it was incumbent that we should be able “to appeal
to the Word of God,” but no such Word existed in favour of polygamy,
“by which the same could be proved to be well pleasing to God in the
case of Christians”; “hence I am unable to recommend it, but would
rather dissuade from it, especially for Christians, unless some great
necessity existed, for instance were the wife to contract leprosy
or become otherwise unfit.”[41] It is not clear whether Philip was
interested in the matter for personal reasons, or simply because some
of his subjects were believers in polygamy.

Luther’s communication, far from diverting the Prince from his project,
could but serve to make him regard it as feasible; provided that the
“great necessity” obtained and that he had “the Word of God on his
side,” then the step could “not be prevented.” By dint of a judicious
interpretation of Scripture and with expert theological aid, the
obstacles might easily be removed.

The Hessian Prince also became acquainted with Luther’s statements on
bigamy in his Commentary on Genesis published in the following year.
To them the Landgrave Philip appealed expressly in 1540; the preacher
Anton Corvinus having suggested that he should deny having committed
bigamy, he replied indignantly: “Since you are so afraid of it, why do
you not suppress what Luther wrote more than ten years ago on Genesis;
did he and others not write publicly concerning bigamy: ‘Advise it I
do not, forbid it I cannot’? If you are allowed to write thus of it
publicly, you must expect that people will act up to your teaching.”[42]

The question became a pressing one for Luther, and began to cast a
shadow over his wayward and utterly untraditional interpretation of the
Bible, when, in 1539, the Landgrave resolved to take as an additional
wife, besides Christina the daughter of George of Saxony, who had now
grown distasteful to him, the more youthful Margeret von der Sale. From
Luther Margeret’s mother desired a favourable pronouncement, in order
to be able with a good conscience to give her consent to her daughter’s

_Philip Seeks the Permission of Wittenberg._

Early in Nov., 1539, Gereon Sailer, an Augsburg physician famous for
his skill in handling venereal cases, who had treated the Landgrave
at Cassel, was sent by Philip to Bucer at Strasburg to instruct the
latter to bring the matter before the theologians of Wittenberg. Sailer
was a friend of the innovations, and Bucer was highly esteemed by the
Landgrave as a theologian and clever diplomatist.

Bucer was at first sorely troubled in conscience and hesitated to
undertake the commission; Sailer reported to the Landgrave that, on
hearing of the plan, he had been “quite horrified” and had objected
“the scandal such an innovation in a matter of so great importance and
difficulty might cause among the weak followers of the Evangel.”[43]
After thinking the matter over for three days Bucer, however, agreed to
visit the Landgrave on Nov. 16 and receive his directions. A copy of
the secret and elaborate instructions given him by Philip concerning
the appeal he was to make to Luther still exists in the handwriting of
Simon Bing, the Hessian Secretary, in the Marburg Archives together
with several old copies,[44] as also the original rough draft in
Philip’s own hand.[45] The envoy first betook himself to the meeting of
the Schmalkalden Leaguers, held at Arnstadt on Nov. 20, to confer upon
a new mission to be sent to England; on Dec. 4 he was at Weimar with
the Elector of Saxony and on the 9th he had reached Wittenberg.

The assenting answer given by Luther and Melanchthon bears the date
of the following day.[46] It is therefore quite true that the matter
was settled “in haste,” as indeed the text of the reply states. Bucer
doubtless did his utmost to prevent the theologians from having
recourse to subterfuge or delay.

The above-mentioned instructions contain a sad account of the “dire
necessity” which seemed to justify the second marriage: The Landgrave
would otherwise be unable to lead a moral life; he was urged on by
deep distress of conscience; not merely did he endure temptations of
the flesh beyond all measure, but, so runs his actual confession,
he was quite unable to refrain from “fornication, unchastity and
adultery.”[47] The confession dealt with matters which were notorious.
It also contains the admission, that he had not remained true to his
wife for long, in fact not for more than “three weeks”; on account
of his sense of sin he had “not been to the Sacrament.” As a matter
of fact he had abstained from Communion from 1526 to 1539, viz. for
thirteen years, and until his last attack of the venereal disease.

But were the scruples of conscience thus detailed to the Wittenbergers
at all real? Recently they have been characterised as the “outcome of a
bodily wreck.”

“I am unable to practise self-restraint,” Philip of Hesse had declared
on another occasion, “I am forced to commit fornication or worse,
with women.” His sister Elisabeth had already advised him to take a
concubine in place of so many prostitutes. In all probability Philip
would have abducted Margaret von der Sale had he not hoped to obtain
her in marriage through the intervention of her relations and with
Luther’s consent. A Protestant historian has recently pointed this out
when dealing with Philip’s alleged “distress of conscience.”[48]

Bucer was well able to paint in dismal hues the weakness of his
princely client; he pointed out, “how the Landgrave, owing to his
wife’s deficiencies, was unable to remain chaste; how he had previously
lived so and so, which was neither good nor Evangelical, especially
in one of the mainstays of the party.”[49] In that very year Philip
of Hesse had, as a matter of fact, been ailing from a certain malady
brought upon him by his excesses; he himself spoke of it as a “severe
attack of the French sickness [syphilis], which is the penalty of an
immoral life.”[50]

 True to his instructions, Bucer went on to say that the Landgrave
 had firmly “resolved” to make use against his unchastity--which he
 neither could nor would refrain from with his present wife--of “such
 means as God permitted and did not forbid,” viz. to wed a second wife.
 The two Wittenbergers had perforce to listen while Bucer, as the
 mouthpiece of the Landgrave, put forth as the grounds of his client’s
 firm resolve the very proofs from Scripture which they themselves had
 adduced in favour of polygamy; they were informed that, according to
 the tenor of a memorandum, “both Luther and Philip had counselled
 the King of England not to divorce his first wife, but rather to
 take another.”[51] It was accordingly the Landgrave’s desire that
 they should “give testimony” that his deed was not unjust, and that
 they should “make known in the press and from the pulpit what was
 the right course to pursue in such circumstances”; should they have
 scruples about doing this for fear of scandal or evil consequences,
 they were at least to give a declaration in writing: “That were I to
 do it secretly, yet I should not offend God, but that they regard it
 as a real marriage, and would meanwhile devise ways and means whereby
 the matter might be brought openly before the world”; otherwise, the
 instructions proceeded, the “wench” whom the Prince was about to take
 to himself might complain of being looked upon as an improper person;
 as “nothing can ever be kept secret,” “great scandal” would indeed
 arise were not the true state of the case known. Besides, he fully
 intended to retain his present wife and to consider her as a rightful
 spouse, and her children alone were to be the “lawful princes of the
 land”; nor would he ask for any more wives beyond this second one. The
 Landgrave even piously reminds Luther and Melanchthon “not to heed
 overmuch the opinion of the world, and human respect, but to look to
 God and what He has commanded or forbidden, bound or loosened”; he,
 for his part, was determined not to “remain any longer in the bonds of
 the devil.”

 Philip was careful also to remind them that, if, after putting
 into execution his project, he was able to “live and die with a
 good conscience,” he would be “all the more free to fight for the
 Evangelical cause as befitted a Christian”; “whatever they [Luther and
 Melanchthon] shall tell me is right and Christian--whether it refers
 to monastic property or to other matters--that they will find me ready
 to carry out at their behest.” On the other hand, as an urgent motive
 for giving their consent to his plan, he broadly hinted, that, “should
 he not get any help from them” he would, “by means of an intermediary,
 seek permission of the Emperor, even though it should cost me a lot
 of money”; the Emperor would in all likelihood do nothing without
 a “dispensation from the Pope”; but in such a matter of conscience
 neither the Pope nor the Emperor were of any great account, since he
 was convinced that his “design was approved by God”; still, their
 consent (the Pope and Emperor’s) would help to overcome “human
 respect”; hence, should he be unable to obtain “consolation from
 this party [the Evangelical],” then the sanction of the other party
 was “not to be despised.” Concerning the request he felt impelled
 to address to the Emperor, he says, in words which seem to convey
 a threat, that although he would not for any reason on earth prove
 untrue to the Evangel, or aid in the onslaught on the Evangelical
 cause, yet, the Imperial party might “use and bind” him to do things
 “which would not be to the advantage of the cause.” Hence, it was in
 their interest to assist him in order that he might “not be forced to
 seek help in quarters where he had no wish to look for it.”

After again stating that he “took his stand on the Word of God”
he concludes with a request for the desired “Christian, written”
testimony, “in order that thereby I may amend my life, go to the
Sacrament with a good conscience and further all the affairs of our
religion with greater freedom and contentment. Given at Milsungen on
the Sunday _post Catharine anno etc._ 39.”

The Wittenberg theologians now found themselves in a quandary. Luther
says: “We were greatly taken aback at such a declaration on account
of the frightful scandal which would follow.”[52] Apart from other
considerations, the Landgrave had already been married sixteen years
and had a number of sons and daughters by his wife; the execution of
the project would also necessarily lead to difficulties at the Courts
of the Duke of Saxony and of the Elector, and also, possibly, at that
of the Duke of Würtemberg. They were unaware that Margaret von Sale
had already been chosen as a second wife, that Philip had secured the
consent of his wife Christina, and that the way for a settlement with
the bride’s mother had already been paved.[53]

The view taken by Rockwell, viz. that the form of the memorandum to be
signed by Luther and Melanchthon had already been drawn up in Hesse
by order of Philip, is, however, erroneous; nor was the document they
signed a copy of such a draft.[54]

It is much more likely that the lengthy favourable reply of the
Wittenbergers was composed by Melanchthon. It was signed with the
formula: “Wittenberg, Wednesday after St. Nicholas, 1539. Your Serene
Highness’s willing and obedient servants [and the signatures] Martinus
Luther, Philippus Melanchthon, Martinus Bucerus.”[55] The document is
now among the Marburg archives.

 Characteristically enough the idea that the Landgrave is, and must
 remain, the protector of the new religious system appears at the
 commencement as well as at the close of the document. The signatories
 begin by congratulating the Prince, that God “has again helped him out
 of sickness,” and pray that heaven may preserve him, for the “poor
 Church of Christ is small and forsaken, and indeed stands in need of
 pious lords and governors”; at the end God is again implored to guide
 and direct him; above all, the Landgrave must have nothing to do with
 the Imperialists.

 The rest of the document, apart from pious admonitions, consists of
 the declaration, that they give their “testimony that, in a case
 of necessity,” they were “unable to condemn” bigamy, and that,
 accordingly, his “conscience may be at rest” should the Landgrave
 “utilise” the Divine dispensation. In so many words they sanction the
 request submitted to them, because “what was permitted concerning
 matrimony in the Mosaic Law was not prohibited in the Gospel.”
 Concerning the circumstances of the request they, however, declined
 “to give anything in print,” because otherwise the matter would be
 “understood and accepted as a general law and from it [i.e. a general
 sanction of polygamy] much grave scandal and complaint would arise.”
 The Landgrave’s wish that they should speak of the case from the
 pulpit, is also passed over in silence. Nor did they reply to his
 invitation to them to consider by what ways and means the matter
 might be brought publicly before the world. On the contrary, they
 appear to be intent on burying in discreet silence a marriage so
 distasteful to them. It even looks as though they were simple enough
 to think that such concealment would be possible, even in the long
 run. What they fear is, above all, the consequences of its becoming
 common property. In no way, so they declare, was any universal law,
 any “public precedent” possible, whereby a plurality of wives might
 be made lawful; according to its original institution marriage had
 signified “the union of two persons only, not of more”; but, in view
 of the examples of the Old Covenant, they “were unable to condemn it,”
 if, in a quite exceptional case, “recourse were had to a dispensation
 ... and a man, with the advice of his pastor, took another wife, not
 with the object of introducing a law, but to satisfy his need.”

 As for instances of such permission having been given in the Church,
 they were able to quote only two: First, the purely legendary case
 of Count Ernest of Gleichen--then still regarded as historical--who,
 during his captivity among the Turks in 1228, had married his
 master’s daughter, and, then, after his escape, and after having
 learnt that his wife was still living, applied for and obtained a
 Papal dispensation for bigamy; secondly, the alleged practice in
 cases of prolonged and incurable illness, such as leprosy, to permit,
 occasionally, the man to take another wife. The latter, however,
 can only refer to Luther’s own practice, or to that followed by
 the teachers of the new faith.[56] In 1526 Luther had informed the
 Landgrave that this was allowable in case of “dire necessity,” “for
 instance, where the wife was leprous, or had been otherwise rendered
 unfit.”[57] Acting upon this theory he was soon to give a decision in
 a particular case;[58] in May or June, 1540, he even stated that he
 had several times, when one of the parties had contracted leprosy,
 privately sanctioned the bigamy of the healthy party, whether man or

 They are at great pains to impress on the Landgrave that he must
 “take every possible care that this matter be not made public in the
 world,” otherwise the dispensation would be taken as a precedent by
 others, and also would be made to serve as a “weapon against them
 and the Evangel.” “Hence, seeing how great scandal would be caused,
 we humbly beg your Serene Highness to take this matter into serious

 They also admonish him “to avoid fornication and adultery”; they had
 learnt with “great sorrow” that the Landgrave “was burdened with
 such evil lusts, of which the consequences to be feared were the
 Divine punishment, illness and other perils”; such conduct, outside
 of matrimony, was “no small sin”--as they proceed to prove from
 Scripture; they rejoiced, however, that the Prince felt “pain and
 remorse” for what he had done. Although monogamy was in accordance
 with the original institution of marriage, yet it was their duty to
 tell him that, “seeing that your Serene Highness has informed us that
 you are not able to refrain from an immoral life, we would rather that
 your Highness should be in a better state before God, and live with a
 good conscience for your Highness’s own salvation and the good of your
 land and people. And, as your Serene Highness has determined to take
 another wife, we consider that this should be kept secret, no less
 than the dispensation, viz. that your Serene Highness and the lady in
 question, and a few other trustworthy persons, should be apprised of
 your Highness’s conscience and state of mind in the way of confession.”

 “From this,” they continue, “no great gossip or scandal will result,
 for it is not unusual for Princes to keep ‘_concubinas_,’ and, though
 not everyone is aware of the circumstances, yet reasonable people will
 bear this in mind and be better pleased with such a manner of life
 than with adultery or dissolute and immoral living.”

 Yet, once again, they point out that, were the bigamy to become
 a matter of public knowledge, the opinion would gain ground that
 polygamy was perfectly lawful to all, and that everyone might follow
 the precedent; the result would also be that the enemies of the
 Evangel would cry out that the Evangelicals were not one whit better
 than the Anabaptists, who were likewise polygamists and, in fact, just
 the same as the Turks. Further, the great Lords would be the first
 to give the example to private persons to do likewise. As it was,
 the Hessian aristocracy was bad enough, and many of its members were
 strongly opposed to the Evangel on earthly grounds; these would become
 still more hostile were the bigamy to become publicly known. Lastly,
 the Prince must bear in mind the injury to his “good name” which the
 tidings of his act would cause amongst foreign potentates.

A paragraph appended to the memorandum is, according to recent
investigation, from Luther’s own pen and, at any rate, is quite in
his style.[60] It refers to Philip’s threat to seek the Emperor’s
intervention, a step which would not have been at all to the taste
of the Wittenbergers, for it was obvious that this would cripple
Philip’s action as Protector of the Evangelicals. This menace had
plainly excited and troubled Luther. He declares in the concluding
sentences, that the Emperor before whom the Prince threatened to lay
the case, was a man who looked upon adultery as a small sin; there was
great reason to fear that he shared the faith of the Pope, Cardinals,
Italians, Spaniards and Saracens; he would pay no heed to the Prince’s
request but only use him as a cat’s-paw. They had found him out to be
a false and faithless man, who had forgotten the true German spirit.
The Emperor, as the Landgrave might see for himself, did not trouble
himself about any Christian concerns, left the Turks unopposed and was
only interested in fomenting plots in Germany for the increase of the
Burgundian power. Hence it was to be hoped that pious German Princes
would have nothing to do with his faithless practices.

Such are the contents of Luther and Melanchthon’s written reply. Bucer,
glad of the success achieved, at once proceeded with the memorandum to
the Electoral Court.

This theological document, the like of which had never been seen,
is unparalleled in the whole of Church history. Seldom indeed has
exegetical waywardness been made to serve a more momentous purpose.
The Elector, Johann Frederick of Saxony, was, at a later date, quite
horrified, as he said, at “a business the like of which had not been
heard of for many ages.”[61] Sidonie, the youthful Duchess of Saxony,
complained subsequently, that, “since the Birth of Christ, no one had
done such a thing.”[62] Bucer’s fears had not been groundless “of the
scandal of such an innovation in a matter of so great importance and
difficulty among the weak followers of the Evangel.”[63]

Besides this, the sanction of bigamy given in the document in question
is treated almost as though it denoted the commencement of a more
respectable mode of life incapable of giving any “particular scandal”;
for amongst the common people the newly wedded wife would be looked
upon as a concubine, and such it was quite usual for Princes to
keep. Great stress is laid on the fact that the secret bigamy would
prevent adultery and other immorality. Apart, however, from these
circumstances, the sanctioning, largely on the strength of political
considerations, of an exception to the universal New-Testament
prohibition, is painful. Anyone, however desirous of finding
extenuating circumstances for Luther’s decision, can scarcely fail
to be shocked at this fact. The only excuse that might be advanced
would be, that Philip, by his determination to take this step and
his threat of becoming reconciled to the Emperor, exercised pressure
tantamount to violence, and that the weight of years, his scorn for the
Church’s matrimonial legislation and his excessive regard for his own
interpretation of the Old Testament helped Luther to signify his assent
to a plan so portentous.

_The Bigamy is Consummated and made Public._

The object of Bucer’s hasty departure for the Court of the Elector
Johann Frederick of Saxony was to dispose him favourably towards the
impending marriage. In accordance with his instructions from Hesse, he
was to submit to this Prince the same arguments which had served him
with the two Wittenbergers, for the superscription of the instructions
ran: “What Dr. Martin Bucer is to demand of D. Martin Luther and
Philip Melanchthon, and, should he see fit, after that also of the
Elector.”[64] In addition to this he had in the meantime received
special instructions for this delicate mission to Weimar.[65]

The Landgrave looked upon an understanding with the Elector as
necessary, not merely on account of his relationship with him and out
of consideration for Christina his first wife, who belonged to the
House of Saxony, but also on account of the ecclesiastico-political
alliance in which they stood, which made the Elector’s support seem to
him quite as essential as the sanction of the Wittenberg theologians.

Bucer treated with Johann Frederick at Weimar on 15 or 16 Dec. and
reached some sort of understanding, as we learn from the Elector’s
written reply to the Landgrave bearing the latter date. Bucer
represents him as saying: If it is impossible to remove the scandal
caused by the Landgrave’s life in any other way, he would ask, as a
brother, that the plan should not be executed in any other way than
“that contained in our--Dr. Luther’s, Philip’s and my own--writing”;
upon this he was unable to improve; he was also ready to “lend him
fraternal assistance in every way” should any complications arise from
this step.[66] In return, in accordance with the special instructions
given to Bucer, he received from the Landgrave various political
concessions of great importance: viz. support in the matter of the
Duke of Cleves, help in his difficulties about Magdeburg, the eventual
renunciation of Philip’s title to the inheritance of his father-in-law,
Duke George, and, finally, the promise to push his claims to the
Imperial crown after the death of Charles V, or in the event of the
partitioning of the Empire.

The Elector, like his theologians, was not aware that the “lady” (she
is never actually named) had already been chosen. Margaret von der
Sale, who was then only seventeen years of age, was the daughter of a
lady-in-waiting to Philip’s sister, Elisabeth, Duchess of Rochlitz. Her
mother, Anna von der Sale, an ambitious lady of the lower nobility, had
informed the Landgrave that she must stipulate for certain privileges.
As soon as Philip had received the replies from Wittenberg and Weimar,
on Dec. 23, 1539, the demands of the mother were at once settled by
persons vested with the necessary authority. Even before this, on the
very day of the negotiations with Luther, Dec. 11, the Landgrave and
his wife Christina had each drawn up a formal deed concerning what
was about to take place: Christina agreed to Philip’s “taking another
wedded wife” and promised that she would never on that account be
unfriendly to the Landgrave, his second wife, or her children; Philip
pledged himself not to countenance any claim to the Landgraviate on the
part of any issue by the second wife during the lifetime of Christina’s
two sons, but to provide for such issue by means of territories
situated outside his own dominions.[67] Such was the assurance with
which he proceeded towards the cherished goal.

Several Hessian theologians of the new faith, for instance, the
preacher Dionysius Melander, a personal friend of the Landgrave’s, and
Johann Lening were on his side.[68] To the memorandum composed by
Luther and Melanchthon the signatures of both the above-mentioned were
subsequently added, as well as those of Anton Corvinus, then pastor
at Witzenhausen, of Adam Fuldensis (Kraft), then Superintendent at
Marburg, of Justus Winther--since 1532 Court Schoolmaster at Cassel
and, from 1542, Superintendent at Rotenburg on the Fulda--and of
Balthasar Rhaide (Raid), pastor at Hersfeld, who, as Imperial Notary,
certified the marriage. The signature of the last was, however,
subsequently erased.[69]

About the middle of Jan., 1540, Philip informed the more prominent
Councillors and theologians that he would soon carry out his project.
When everything was ready the marriage was celebrated on March 4 in
the Castle of Rotenburg on the Fulda by the Court Chaplain, Dionysius
Melander, in the presence of Bucer and Melanchthon; were also present
the Commandant of the Wartburg, Eberhard von der Thann, representing
the Elector of Saxony, Pastor Balthasar Rhaide, the Hessian Chancellor
Johann Feige of Lichtenau, the Marshal Hermann von Hundelshausen,
Rudolf Schenk zu Schweinsberg (Landvogt of Eschwege on the Werra),
Hermann von der Malsburg, a nobleman, and the mother of the bride, Anna
von der Sale.[70] The draft of the short discourse still exists with
which the Landgrave intended to open the ceremony. Melander delivered
the formal wedding address. On the following day Melanchthon handed the
Landgrave an “admonition,” i.e. a sort of petition, in which he warmly
recommended to his care the welfare of education. It is possible that
when summoned, to Rotenburg from a meeting of the Schmalkalden League
at which he had been assisting, he was unaware of the object of the
invitation. Subsequent explanations, furnished at the last moment, by
Melander and Lening, seem to have drawn a protest from Melanchthon
which roused the anger of the two preachers. This shows that
“everything did not pass off smoothly at Rotenburg.”[71] Both were, not
long after, stigmatised by Melanchthon as “_ineruditi homines_” and
made chiefly responsible for the lax principles of the Landgrave.[72]
Luther tried later to represent Lening, the “monster,” as the man by
whom the idea of the bigamy, a source of extreme embarrassment to the
Wittenbergers, had first been hatched.[73]

Although the Landgrave was careful to preserve secrecy concerning
the new marriage--already known to so many persons,--permitting only
the initiate to visit the “lady,” and even forbidding her to attend
Divine Worship, still the news of what had taken place soon leaked
out. “Palpable signs appeared in the building operations commenced
at Weissenstein, and also in the despatch of a cask of wine to
Luther.”[74] At Weissenstein, in the former monastery near Cassel, now
Wilhelmshöhe, an imposing residence was fitted up for Margaret von der
Sale. In a letter of May 24, 1540, to Philip, Luther expresses his
thanks for the gift of wine: “I have received your Serene Highness’s
present of the cask of Rhine wine and thank your Serene Highness most
humbly. May our dear Lord God keep and preserve you body and soul.
Amen.”[75] Katey also received a gift from the Prince, for which Luther
returned thanks on Aug. 22, though without mentioning its nature.[76]
On the cask of wine and its destination the Schultheiss of Lohra
spoke “openly before all the peasants,” so Anton Corvinus informed
the Landgrave on May 25, saying that: “Your Serene Highness has taken
another wife, of which he was perfectly sure, and your Serene Highness
is now sending a cask of wine to Luther because he gave your Serene
Highness permission to do such a thing.”[77]

 On June 9 Jonas wrote from Wittenberg, where he was staying with
 Luther--who himself was as silent as the tomb--to George of Anhalt:
 Both in the Meissen district and at Wittenberg there is “much gossip”
 (‘_ingens fama_’) of bigamy with a certain von Sale, though, probably,
 it was only “question of a concubine.”[78] Five days later, however,
 he relates, that “at Würzburg and similar [Catholic] localities the
 Papists and Canons were expressing huge delight” over the bigamy.[79]

 The behaviour of the Landgrave’s sister had helped to spread the
 news. On March 13 the Landgrave, through Marshal von Hundelshausen,
 had informed the latter of the fact, as he had formally promised
 Margaret’s mother to do. The “lady began to weep, made a great outcry
 and abused Luther and Bucer as a pair of incarnate scamps.”[80] She
 was unable to reconcile herself to the bigamy or to refrain from
 complaining to others. “My angry sister has been unable to hold her
 tongue,” wrote the Landgrave Philip on June 8.[81] The Ducal Court of
 Saxony at Dresden was anxious for reliable information. Duke Henry was
 a patron of Lutheranism, but one of the motives for his curiosity in
 this matter is to be found in the fact that the Landgrave was claiming
 a portion of the inheritance of the late Duke George, who had died
 on April 17, 1539. In accordance with Henry’s orders Anna von der
 Sale, as a subject of the Saxon duchy, was removed by force on June
 3 from her residence at Schönfeld and carried to Dresden. There the
 mother confessed everything and declared, not without pride, that her
 daughter Margaret “was as much the rightful wife of the Landgrave as
 Christina.”[82] About Whitsun the Landgrave personally admitted the
 fact to Maurice of Saxony.

 The Court of Dresden at once informed the Elector of Saxony of its
 discovery and of the very unfavourable manner in which the news had
 been received, and the latter, in turn, communicated it, through
 Chancellor Brück, to Luther and Melanchthon.

 The Elector Johann Frederick, in view of the change of circumstances,
 became more and more vexed with the marriage. To a certain extent he
 stood under the influence of Elisabeth Duchess of Rochlitz. In his
 case, too, the question of property played a part, viz. whether, in
 view of the understanding existing between Hesse and Saxony as to the
 succession, the children of the second wife were to become the heirs
 in the event of the death of the children of the first wife, this
 being what the Landgrave demanded. Above all, however, the cautious
 Elector was anxious about the attitude of the Empire and Emperor. He
 feared lest steps should be taken against the general scandal which
 had been given and to obviate the danger of the spread of polygamous
 ideas. Hence he was not far from withdrawing from Luther the favour
 he had hitherto shown him, the more so now that the Court of Dresden
 was intent on raising trouble against all who had furthered the
 Landgrave’s plan.

 Meanwhile the news rapidly spread, partly owing to persons belonging
 to the Court. It reached King Ferdinand, and, by him, and still more
 by Morone, the Nuncio, it was carried to the Emperor.

 Morone wrote on June 15, from the religious conference then proceeding
 at Hagenau, to Cardinal Farnese at Rome: “During the lifetime of his
 first wife, a daughter of Duke George of Saxony of good memory, the
 Landgrave of Hesse, has, as we hear, taken a second wife, a lady of
 distinction, von der Sale by name, a native of Saxony. It is said,
 his theologians teach that it is not forbidden to Christians to have
 several wives, except in the case of a Bishop, because there is no
 such prohibition in Holy Scripture. I can hardly credit it, but since
 God has ‘given them over to a reprobate mind’ [Rom. i. 28] and as the
 King has assured me that he has heard it from several quarters, I give
 you the report for what it is worth.”[83]

Philip of Hesse, who was already in disgrace with the Emperor on
account of his expedition into Würtemberg and his support of Duke
Ulrich, knew the penalties which he might expect unless he found some
means of escape. The “_Carolina_” (1532) decreed “capital punishment”
against bigamists, no less than against adulterers.[84] The Landgrave
himself was even fully prepared to forfeit one-third of his possessions
should it be impossible to arrive otherwise at a settlement.[85] He
now openly declared--as he had already hinted he would--that, in case
of necessity, he would make humble submission to the Emperor; if the
worst came to the worst, then he would also make public the memorandum
he had received from Wittenberg in order to exculpate himself--a threat
which filled the Elector with alarm on account of his University and of

Bucer, the first to be summoned to the aid of the Hessian Court,
advised the Landgrave to escape from his unfortunate predicament by
downright lying. He wrote: If concealment and equivocation should
prove of no avail, he was to state in writing that false rumours
concerning his person had come into circulation, and that no Christian
was allowed to have two wives at the same time; he was also to replace
the marriage-contract by another contract in which Margaret might
be described as a concubine--such as God had allowed to His beloved
friends--and not as a wife within the meaning of the calamitous
Imperial Law; an effort was also to be made to induce the Court of
Dresden to keep silence, or to deny any knowledge of the business, and,
in the meantime, the “lady” might be kept even more carefully secluded
than before.[86]

The Landgrave’s reply was violent in the extreme. He indignantly
rejected Bucer’s suggestion; the dissimulation alleged to have been
practised by others, notably by the Patriarchs, Judges, Kings and
Prophets, etc., in no wise proved the lawfulness of lying; Bucer had
“been instigated to make such proposals by some worldly-wise persons
and jurists whom we know well.”[87] Philip wrote to the same effect to
the Lutheran theologians, Schnepf, Osiander and Brenz, who urged him
to deny that Margaret was his lawful wife: “That, when once the matter
has become quite public, we should assert that it was invalid, this we
cannot bring ourselves to do. We cannot tell a lie, for to lie does
not become any man. And, moreover, God has forbidden lying. So long
as it is possible we shall certainly reply ‘_dubitative_’ or ‘_per
amphibologiam_,’ but to say that it is invalid, such advice you may
give to another, but not to us.”[88]

The “_amphibologia_” had been advised by the Hessian theologians, who
had pointed out that Margaret could best be described to the Imperial
Court of Justice as a “_concubina_,” since, in the language of the
Old Testament, as also in that of the ancient Church, this word had
sometimes been employed to describe a lawful wife.[89] They also
wrote to Luther and Melanchthon, fearing that they might desert the
Landgrave, telling them that they were expected to stand by their
memorandum. Although they were in favour of secrecy, yet they wished
that, in case of necessity, the Wittenbergers should publicly admit
their share. Good care would be taken to guard against the general
introduction of polygamy.[90]

_Dispensation; Advice in Confession; a Confessor’s Secret?_

Was the document signed by Luther, Melanchthon and Bucer a dispensation
for bigamy?

It has been so described. But, even according to the very wording
of the memorandum, the signatories had no intention of issuing a
dispensation. On the contrary, according to the text, they, as learned
theologians, declared that the Divine Law, as they understood it,
gave a general sanction, according to which, in cases such as that of
Philip of Hesse, polygamy was allowed. It is true that they and Philip
himself repeatedly use the word “dispensation,” but by this they meant
to describe the alleged general sanction in accordance with which the
law admitted of exceptions in certain cases, hence their preference
for the term “to use” the dispensation, instead of the more usual “to
beg” or “to grant.” Philip is firmly resolved “to use” the dispensation
brought to his knowledge by Luther’s writings, and the theologians,
taking their cue from him, likewise speak of his “using” it in his own

It was the same with the “dispensation” which the Wittenbergers
proposed to Henry VIII of England. (See above, p. 4 f.) They had no
wish to invest him with an authority which, according to their ideas,
he did not possess, but they simply drew his attention to the freedom
common to all, and declared by them to be bestowed by God, viz. in his
case, of taking a second wife, telling him that he was free to have
recourse to this dispensation. In other words, they gave him the power
to dispense himself, regardless of ecclesiastical laws and authorities.

Another question: How far was the substance of the advice given in the
Hessian case to be regarded as a secret? Can it really be spoken of as
a “counsel given in confession,” or as a “secret of the confessional”?

This question later became of importance in the negotiations which
turned upon the memorandum. In order to answer it without prejudice
it is essential in the first place to point out, that the subsequent
interpretations and evasions must not here be taken into account.
The actual wording of the document and its attendant historical
circumstances have alone to be taken into consideration, abstraction
being made of the fine distinctions and meanings afterwards read into

First, there is no doubt that both the Landgrave’s request for the
Wittenberg testimony and its granting were intended to be confidential
and not public. Philip naturally assumed that the most punctilious
secrecy would be preserved so long as no decision had been arrived
at, seeing that he had made confidential disclosures concerning his
immorality in pleading for a second marriage. The Wittenbergers, as
they explicitly state, gave their reply not merely unwillingly, with
repugnance and with great apprehension of the scandal which might
ensue, but also most urgently recommended Philip to keep the bigamy to
himself. Both the request and the theological testimony accordingly
came under the natural obligation of silence, i.e. under the so-called
confidential seal of secrecy. This, however, was of course broken when
the suppliant on his part allowed the matter to become public; in
such a case no one could grudge the theologians the natural right of
bringing forward everything that was required for their justification,
even to the reasons which had determined them to give their consent,
though of course they were in honour bound to show the utmost
consideration; for this the petitioner himself was alone to blame.

As a matter of fact, however, strange though it may seem, Philip’s
intention all along had been ultimately to make the marriage public.
It cannot be proved that he ever made any written promise to observe
the recommendation of absolute secrecy made by the theologians. Those
who drew up the memorandum disregarded his wish for publicity, and, on
the contrary, “advised” that the matter should be kept a dead secret.
Yet ought they not to have foreseen that a Prince so notoriously
unscrupulous would be likely to disregard their “advice”? The
theologians were certainly no men of the world if they really believed
that the Landgrave’s bigamy--and their memorandum by which it was
justified--would or could remain concealed. They themselves had allowed
a number of other parties to be initiated into the secret, nor was it
difficult to foresee that Philip, and Margaret’s ambitious mother,
would not allow the stigma of concubinage to rest permanently on the
newly wedded bride. The mother had expressly stipulated that Margaret
should be treated as a lawful wife and given this title, and not as a
concubine, though of this the Wittenbergers were not aware.

Further, the theological grounds for the Wittenberg “advice” must not
be lost sight of in considering the question of the obligation of
silence or secrecy. The theologians based their decision on a doctrine
which they had already openly proclaimed. Nor did Luther ever withdraw
from the standpoint that polygamy was lawful; he even proclaimed it
during the height of the controversy raised by the Hessian bigamy,
though he was careful to restrict it to very rare and exceptional
cases and to make its use dependent on the consent of the authorities.
Thus the grounds for the step he had taken in Philip’s favour were
universally and publicly known just as much as his other theological
doctrines. If, however, his teaching on this matter was true, then,
strictly speaking, people had as much right to it as to every other
piece of truth; in fact, it was the more urgent that this Evangelical
discovery should not be put under a bushel, seeing that it would have
been a veritable godsend to many who groaned in the bonds of matrimony.
Hence everything, both on Philip’s side and on that of the theologians,
pointed to publicity. But may, perhaps, the Wittenberg “advice” have
been esteemed a sort of “counsel given in Confession,” and did its
contents accordingly fall under the “secret of Confession”?

The word “Confession,” in its sacramental meaning, was never used in
connection with the affair dealt with at Wittenberg, either in Philip’s
instructions to Bucer or in the theologians’ memorandum, nor does it
occur in any of the few documents relating to the bigamy until about
six months later. “Confession” is first alleged in the letter of excuse
given below which Luther addressed to the Elector of Saxony. It is
true that the expression “in the way of Confession” occurs once in the
memorandum, but there it is used in an entirely different sense and
in no way stamps the business as a matter of Confession. There it is
stated (above, p. 21), that those who were to be apprised of the bigamy
were to learn it “in the way of Confession.” Here the word Confession
is employed by metonymy and merely emphasises the need of discretion.
Here there was naturally no idea of the sacramental seal, or of the
making of a real Confession. In the Middle Ages the term Confession was
not seldom used to denote the imparting of an ordinary confidential
secret, just as the word to confess originally meant to admit, to
acknowledge, or to communicate something secret. This, however, was not
the meaning attached to it by those who sought to shelter themselves
behind the term in the controversies which ensued after the bigamy
had become generally known. To vindicate the keeping secret of his
so-called “advice in Confession,” Luther falls back upon his Catholic
recollections of the entire secrecy required of the Confessor, in other
words, on the sacramental “seal.”

Undoubtedly the Seal of Confession is inexorable; according to the
Catholic view it possesses a sacramental sanction and surrounds, like
a protecting rampart, the sanctuary of the Sacrament of Penance, which
otherwise would be shunned by all. But this absolute and sacramental
obligation of silence attends only the administration of the Sacrament
of Penance.

The idea that Luther and his comrades when signing the “advice” were
dispensing the Sacrament of Penance cannot but raise a smile. In
connection with this matter non-Catholic theologians and historians
would never have spoken as they have done of Luther as a Confessor, had
they been better acquainted with the usages of the older Church. In the
case of such writers all that is known of the system of Confession is
often a few distorted quotations from casuists. Even under its altered
form, as then in use among the Protestants, Confession could only mean
an admission of one’s sins, made to obtain absolution. In Lutheranism,
confession, so far as it was retained at all, meant the awakening and
animating of faith by means of some sort of self-accusation completed
by the assurance given by the preacher of the Divine promise and
forgiveness, a process which bears no analogy to the “testimony”
given by the theologians to Philip of Hesse. In the Catholic Church,
moreover, in whose practice Luther seems anxious to take refuge,
Confession involves an accusation of all grievous sins, contrition, a
firm resolve to amend, satisfaction and absolution. What was there of
all this in the Landgrave’s so-called Confession?[92] Where was the
authority to absolve, even had this been what the Landgrave sought?
How then could there come into play the Seal of Confession, i.e.
any sacramental obligation apart from the purely natural obligation
of keeping silence concerning a communication made in confidence?
Again, Confession, even according to Lutheran ideas, is not made at a
distance, or to several persons simultaneously, or with the object of
securing a signed document.

Apart from all this one may even question whether the Landgrave’s
disclosures were really honestly meant. Not everyone would have taken
them from the outset as intended seriously, or have regarded them as
above suspicion. Melanchthon, for instance, soon began to have doubts.
(See below.) The readiness, nay, eagerness, shown by Philip later to
repeat his Confession to others, to reinforce it by even more appalling
admissions of wickedness, and to give it the fullest publicity, is
really not favourable to the “Confession” idea; on the contrary, it
reminds us of the morbid pleasure which persons habituated to vice and
who have lost all respect whether for themselves or for the virtue
of others, take in speaking openly of their moral lapses. The most
important point to bear in mind is, however, the fact, that with Philip
of Hesse it was a question of a marriage which he intended should be
kept secret only for a time, and further that the Wittenbergers were
aware of Philip’s readiness to lay his case before the Emperor, nay,
even the Pope should necessity arise.[93] Owing to this they could
not be blind to the possibility of the marriage, and, incidentally,
of the Landgrave’s admission of moral necessity, and further of their
own “advice” being all disclosed. Thus the “Seal of Confession” was
threatened from the very first. Philip himself never recognised a
binding obligation of secrecy on the part of the Wittenbergers; on the
contrary, his invitation to them was: Speak out freely, now that the
step has been taken with your sanction! What was Luther’s answer? He
appealed to the Secret of the Confessional and refused to defend the
act before the world and the Empire, but merely “before God”; all he
was willing to do was to vindicate it “before God, by examples such as
that of Abraham, etc., and to conceal it as much as possible.” And yet,
to forestall what will be related below, full publicity would surely
have been the best thing for himself, as then the world would at least
have learnt that he was not desirous of introducing polygamy generally,
and that the whole business had only been made common property through
Philip’s disregard of the recommendation of secrecy. Instead of this,
however, he preferred to profess his readiness (it was probably no
more than a threat) to admit publicly that he had been in the wrong
all along and had acted foolishly; here again, had he been true to his
word, the “Secret of the Confessional” would assuredly have fared badly.

Even in his letter of excuse to the Elector Johann Frederick concerning
his sanction of the bigamy, Luther explained so much of the incident,
that the “Seal of Confession” was practically violated; quite unmindful
of the inviolability of the Seal he here declared, that he would have
preferred to say nothing of the “counsel given in Confession had not
necessity” forced him to do so. But what kind of Seal of Confession was
this, we may ask, which could thus be set aside in case of necessity?

Melanchthon acted differently. He, without any necessity, at once
recounted everything that had happened to a friend in a letter eloquent
with grief. He, the author of the “Counsel of Confession,” felt under
no obligation to regard the Seal. He considers himself liberated,
by Philip’s behaviour, from the obligation even of confidential
secrecy.[94] Bucer expressed himself on Aug. 8, 1540, in a similar
fashion concerning the counsel given to the Landgrave “in Confession”:
Luther would certainly publish and defend it, should the “marriage
have to be admitted” through no fault of the Landgrave’s.[95] No one,
in fact, displayed the slightest scruple regarding the secrecy of the
Confession--except Luther and those who re-echo his sentiments.

According to the above we are justified in saying that the term
“Counsel given in Confession” is in no wise descriptive of the
Wittenberg document. The word “testimony,” or “certificate,” used both
in Philip’s instructions and in an important passage of the document
signed by Luther, Melanchthon and Bucer, is historically more correct;
the terms “opinion” or “memorandum” are equally applicable.

The Wittenbergers gave their testimony or opinion--such is the upshot
of the matter--but no Dispensation or Counsel in Confession in the
sense just determined. They gave a testimony, which was asked for that
it might be made public, but which was given in confidence, which was
moreover based on their openly expressed teaching, though it actually
dealt only with Philip’s own case, a testimony which no longer involved
them in any obligation of secrecy once the marriage had been made
public by Philip, and once the latter had declared his intention of
making the testimony public should circumstances demand it.

_Luther’s Embarrassment on the Bigamy becoming Public._

At the commencement of June, 1540, Luther was in great distress on
account of the Hessian bigamy. His embarrassment and excitement
increased as the tidings flew far and wide, particularly when the Court
of Dresden and his own Elector began to take fright at the scandal,
and the danger of complications arising with the Emperor. On the other
hand, Luther was not unaware of the Landgrave’s doubts as to whether he
would stand by his written declaration. Jonas wrote from Wittenberg on
June 10 to George of Anhalt: “Philip is much upset and Dr. Martin full
of thought.”[96]

On that very day Brück, the Electoral Chancellor, discussed the
matter with both of them at Wittenberg. He acquainted them with his
sovereign’s fears. They had gone too far, and the publication of the
affair had had the most disastrous results; a young Princess and
Landgravine had appeared on the scene, which was not at all what the
Elector had expected; the Court of Dresden was loud in its complaints
and spared not even the Elector; the Dresden people were bringing
forward against Luther what he had taught in favour of polygamy
thirteen years before; the door had now been opened wide to polygamists.

Not long after Luther wrote, that, were it necessary, he would know how
to “extricate himself.”[97] Even before dropping this curious remark he
had shown himself very anxious to make his position secure. It was with
this object in view, that, after his interview with Brück, probably on
the same day, he proceeded to explain the case to his sovereign in the
lengthy letter[98] in which he appeals to Confession and its secrecy.

“Before the world and against the laws of the Empire it cannot be
defended,” but “we were desirous of glossing it over before God as
much as possible with examples, such as that of Abraham, etc. All
this was done and treated of as in Confession, so that we cannot be
charged as though we had done it willingly and gladly, or with joy and
pleasure.... I took into consideration the unavoidable necessity and
weakness, and the danger to his conscience which Master Bucer had set

 Luther goes on to complain, that the Landgrave, by allowing this
 “matter of Confession” and “advice given in Confession” to become to a
 certain extent public, had caused all this “annoyance and contumely.”
 He relates in detail what Bucer, when seeking to obtain the Wittenberg
 sanction, had recounted concerning his master’s immorality, so
 contrary to the Evangel, “though he should be one of the mainstays
 of the party.” They had at first looked askance at the idea, but, on
 being told that “he was unable to relinquish it, and, should we not
 permit it, would do it in spite of us, and obtain permission from the
 Emperor or the Pope unless we were beforehand, we humbly begged His
 Serene Highness, if he was really set on it, and, as he declared,
 could not in conscience and before God do otherwise, that he would at
 least keep it secret.” This had been promised them [by Bucer]; their
 intention had been to “save his conscience as best we might.”

 Luther, far from showing himself remorseful for his indulgence,
 endeavours in his usual way to suppress any scruples of conscience:
 “Even to-day, were such a case to come before me again, I should not
 know how to give any other advice than what I then gave, nor would
 it trouble me should it afterwards become known.” “I am not ashamed
 of the testimony even should it come before the world, though, to
 be spared trouble, I should prefer it to be kept secret so long as
 possible.” Still, no angel would have induced him to give such advice
 “had he known that the Landgrave had long satisfied and could still
 satisfy his cravings on others, for instance, as I now learn, on
 lady von Essweg.” This lady was perhaps a relative of Rudolf Schenk,
 Landvogt of Eschwege on the Werra.[99] We may recall, that the
 proposal of taking a “concubine” in place of the too numerous “light
 women” had been made to Philip by his sister.[100]

 Luther goes on to excuse his conduct still further to the Elector:
 “Still less would I have advised a public marriage”; that the second
 wife was to become a Princess or Landgravine--a plan at which the
 whole Empire would take offence--had been kept from him altogether;
 “what I expected was, that, since he was obliged owing to the
 weakness of the flesh to follow the ordinary course of sin and
 shame, he would perhaps keep an honest girl in some house, and wed
 her secretly--though even this would look ill in the sight of the
 world--and thus overcome his great trouble of conscience; he could
 then ride backwards and forwards, as the great lords do frequently
 enough; similar advice I gave also to certain parish priests under
 Duke George and the bishops, viz. that they should marry their cook

 Though what he here says may be worthy of credence, yet to apply
 the term Confession to what passed between Philip and Wittenberg is
 surely to introduce an alien element into the affair. Yet he does use
 the word three times in the course of the letter and seemingly lays
 great stress on it. The Confession, he says, covered all that had
 passed, and, because it “was seemly” to “keep matters treated of in
 Confession private” he and Melanchthon “preferred not to relate the
 matter and the counsel given in Confession” to the Elector; but,
 since the Landgrave “had revealed the substance of the Confession
 and the advice,” it was easier for him to speak. Hence he would now
 reveal the “advice given in Confession; though I should much have
 preferred to keep it secret, unless necessity had forced it from me,
 now I am unable to do so.” The fact is, however, that the real Seal
 of Confession (and of this Luther was quite aware) does not allow the
 confessor who has received the Confession to make any communication
 or disclosure concerning it; even should the penitent make statements
 concerning other matters which occurred in the Confession, under no
 circumstances whatsoever, however serious these may be, not even in
 the case of danger to life and limb, may “necessity” “force out”
 anything. Although in this case Luther had not heard a Confession at
 all, yet he refers to the Secret of the Confessional with which he was
 acquainted from his Catholic days, and his own former exercise of it:
 “I have received in Confession many confidences, both in Popery and
 since, and given advice, but were there any question of making them
 public I should be obliged to say no.... Such matters are no business
 of the secular courts nor ought they to be made public.”

This uncalled-for introduction of Confession was intended to save him
from being obliged to admit his consent publicly; it was meant to
reassure so weak a theologian as the Elector, who dreaded the scandal
arising from Luther’s advice to commit bigamy, and the discussion
of the case before the Imperial Court of Justice; possibly he also
hoped it would serve against that other princely theologian, viz.
the Landgrave, and cause him to withdraw his demand for a public
acknowledgment of the sanction given. His tactics here remind us of
Luther’s later denial, when he professed himself ready simply to deny
the bigamy and his share in it--because everything had been merely a
matter of Confession.

Even in this first letter dealing with the question, he is clearly on
the look-out for a loophole by which he may escape from the calamitous

The publication of the “testimony” was to be prevented at all costs.
But, as a matter of fact, not only did the “Seal of Confession” present
no obstacle, but even the common secrecy referred to above (p. 31) was
no longer binding. This had been cancelled by the indiscretion of the
Landgrave. Moreover, apart from this, the natural obligation of secrecy
did not extend to certain extreme cases which might have been foreseen
by both parties and in the event of which both would recover their
freedom. It should be noted, that Luther hardly made any appeal to this
natural obligation of secrecy, probably because it could not be turned
to account so easily. The Seal of Confession promised to serve him
better in circles so little acquainted with theology.

In the second letter dealing with the bigamy, dated June 27, 1540,
and addressed to Philip’s intimate, Eberhard von der Thann, Luther
speaks with an eye on Hesse.[101] Thann, through Chancellor Brück,
had informed him of what was being said of him there, and had asked
what Luther would advise the Hessian Prince, and whether, in order to
obviate other cases of polygamy in Hesse, it would be advisable for
the authorities to issue an edict against the universal lawfulness
of having several wives. Luther replied, that he agreed with the
Landgrave’s intention as announced by Thann concerning his second
marriage, viz. to wait until the Emperor “should approach His Serene
Highness on the subject”; and then to write to the Emperor: “That he
had taken a concubine but that he would be perfectly ready to put her
away again if other Princes and Lords would set a good example.” If the
Emperor were compelled “to regard the ‘lady’ as a concubine,” “no one
else would dare to speak or think differently”; in this wise the real
state of things would be “covered over and kept secret.” On the other
hand, it would not be at all advisable to issue any edict, or to speak
of the matter, for then “there would be no end or limit to gossip and

 “And I for my part am determined [here he comes to his ‘testimony’
 and the meaning he now put on it] to keep silence concerning my part
 of the confession which I heard from His Serene Highness through
 Bucer, even should I suffer for it, for it is better that people
 should say that Dr. Martin acted foolishly in his concession to the
 Landgrave--for even great men have acted foolishly and do so, even
 now, as the saying goes: A wise man makes no small mistakes--rather
 than reveal the reasons why we secretly consented; for that would
 greatly disgrace and damage the reputation of the Landgrave, and would
 also make matters worse.” To the Elector his sovereign Luther had
 said that, even to-day, he “would not be able to give any different
 advice” and that he saw no reason to blush for it. Hence it is hard
 to believe that he seriously contemplated admitting that he had been
 guilty of an act of “folly” and had “acted foolishly.” It will be
 shown more clearly below what his object was in threatening such a
 repudiation of his advice to the Landgrave.

 In his letter to Thann, Luther decides in favour of the expedient
 suggested by the Hessian theologians, viz. of the amphibological use
 of the word concubine; here it should, however, be noted, that this
 term, if used officially to counteract the common report concerning
 the new marriage, plainly implied a denial of the reality of the

 But how if the Landgrave were directly confronted in a Court of
 Justice with the question: Have you, or have you not, married two

Here belongs the third letter of Luther’s which we have on the subject
and which was despatched to Hesse before the middle of July. It is
addressed to “a Hessian Councillor” who has been identified, with some
probability, as the Hessian Chancellor Johann Feige.[102]

To the addressee, who was acquainted with the whole matter and had
applied to Luther for his opinion on behalf of the Landgrave, the
writer defines his own position still more clearly; if people say
openly that the Landgrave has contracted a second marriage, all one
need answer is, that this is not true, although it is true that he
has contracted a secret union; hence he himself was wont to say, “the
Landgrave’s other marriage is all nonsense.”

 The justification of this he finds in the theory of the secrecy of
 confession upon which he insists strongly in this letter. Not only
 is his own share in the matter _nil_ because ostensibly done in
 confession, but the marriage itself is merely a sort of “confession
 marriage,” a thing concealed and therefore non-existent so far
 as the world is concerned. “A secret affirmative cannot become a
 public affirmative ... a secret ‘yes’ remains a public ‘no’ and vice
 versa.... On this I take my stand; I say that the Landgrave’s second
 marriage is _nil_ and cannot be convincing to anyone. For, as they
 say, ‘_palam_,’ it is not true, and although it may be true ‘_clam_,’
 yet that they may not tell.”

 He is very bitter about the Landgrave’s purpose of making the marriage
 and the Wittenberg “advice” public, should need arise. The fate of
 the latter was, in fact, his chief anxiety. “In this the Landgrave
 touches us too nearly, but himself even more, that he is determined
 to do ‘_palam_’ what we arranged with him ‘_clam_,’ and to make of
 a ‘_nullum_’ an ‘_omne_’; this we are unable either to defend or
 to answer for, and we should certainly come to high words.” The
 last sentence was, however, felt by Luther to be too strong and he
 accordingly struck it out of the letter.

 He also says that the Landgrave’s appeal to his sermon on Genesis
 would be of no avail, because he (Luther) had taught, both previous to
 and after it, that the law of Moses was not to be introduced, though
 some of it “might be used secretly in cases of necessity, or even
 publicly by order of the authorities.” But advice extorted from him
 in Confession by the distress of a suffering conscience could “not be
 held to constitute a true precedent in law.” He here touches upon a
 thought to which he was to return in entirely different circumstances:
 Neither the preachers, nor the Gospel, lay down outward laws, not
 even concerning religion; the secular authorities are the only
 legislators; ecclesiastical guidance comprises only advice, direction
 and the expounding of Scripture, and has to do only with the interior
 life, being without any jurisdiction, even spiritual; as public
 men, the pastors were appointed to preach, pray and give advice; to
 the individual they rendered service amidst the “secret needs of

 He thereby absolves himself from the consequence apparently involved
 in the step he had taken, viz. the introduction of polygamy as a
 “general right”; it does not follow that: “What you do from necessity,
 I have a right to do”; “necessity knows no law or precedent,”
 hence a man who is driven by hunger to steal bread, or who kills
 in self-defence is not punished, yet what thus holds in cases of
 necessity cannot be taken as a law or rule. On the other hand, Luther
 will not listen to the proposal then being made in Hesse, viz. that,
 in order to counteract the bad example, a special edict should be
 issued declaring polygamy unlawful as a general rule, but allowable
 in an exceptional case, on the strength “of secret advice given
 in Confession”; on the contrary, it would be far better simply to
 denounce polygamy as unlawful.

Hence if the Landgrave, so Luther concludes, “will not forsake the
sweetheart” on whom “he has so set his heart that she has become a need
to him,” and if, moreover, he will “keep her out of the way,” then “we
theologians and confessors shall vindicate it before God, as a case
of necessity to be excused by the examples of Genesis. But defend it
before the world and ‘_iure nunc regente_,’ that we cannot and shall
not do. Short of this the Landgrave may count upon our best service.”

The Landgrave was, however, not satisfied with either of these letters,
both of which came into his hands. He wanted from Luther a clear and
public admission of his share in the business, which, to the Prince’s
peril, had now become as good as public, and threatened to constitute a
precedent. By this invitation the Prince naturally released Luther from
all obligation of secrecy. Even the making public of the immorality,
which had served as a pretext for the new marriage, he did not mind
in the least, for his laxity in morals was already a matter of common
knowledge; he discussed his lapses with the theologians as openly as
though all of them had been his confessors and spiritual directors;
he was also quite ready to repeat his admissions, “as in Confession,”
before secular witnesses. Such was the depth of depravity into which
his passions had brought him.

Yielding to pressure brought to bear on him by Saxony, Luther had
meanwhile conceived the idea of publishing a work against polygamy.
The new expedient had indeed been foreshadowed in his last letter. On
June 17, 1540, Jonas wrote to George of Anhalt that Luther might be
expected to write a work “_Contra polygamiam_.”[104] Martin Beyer of
Schaffhausen, on his return from Wittenberg, also brought the news, so
Bullinger was informed, that “Luther was being compelled by the Hessian
business to write a work against the plurality of wives.”[105]

The project was, however, never realised, probably on account of the
insuperable difficulties it involved.

But though this work never saw the light, history has preserved for us
a number of Luther’s familiar conversations, dating from this period
and taken down directly from his lips, utterances which have every
claim to consideration and faithfully mirror his thoughts.

_Luther’s Private Utterances Regarding the Bigamy._

The Table-Talk, dating from the height of the hubbub caused by the
bigamy, affords us a vivid psychological picture of Luther.

Of this Table-Talk we have the detailed and authentic notes from the
pen of Johann Mathesius, who was present. These notes, in their best
form, became known only in 1903, thanks to Kroker’s edition, but,
for the better understanding of Luther’s personality, his intimate
descriptions of what was passing in his mind are of inestimable value.
Conjointly with the principal passage, which probably dates from June
18, 1540, other sayings dropped regarding the same matter may be

 The scene in the main was as follows: The usual guests, among them
 the disciples with their note-books, were assembled after the evening
 meal in Luther’s house, grouped around the master, who seemed sunk
 in thought; Melanchthon, however, was missing, for he lay seriously
 ill at Weimar, overwhelmed by anxiety now that his consent to the
 bigamy was leaking out. Whilst yet at table two letters were handed
 to Luther, the first from Brück, the Electoral Chancellor, the second
 from the Elector himself. Both referred to Melanchthon. The Elector
 requested Luther to betake himself as soon as possible to Weimar to
 his friend, who seemed in danger of death, and informed him at the
 same time of the measures threatened by the Landgrave in the matter of
 the second marriage.

 Luther, after glancing at Brück’s missive concerning Melanchthon, said
 to the guests: “Philip is pining away for vexation, and has fallen
 into a fever (‘_tertiana_’). But why does the good fellow crucify
 himself so about this business? All his anxiety will do no good. I do
 wish I were with him! I know how sensitive he is. The scandal pains
 him beyond measure. I, on the other hand, have a thick skin, I am a
 peasant, a hard Saxon when such × are concerned.[107] I expect I shall
 be summoned to Philip.”

 Someone thereupon interjected the remark: “Doctor, perhaps the
 Colloquium [which was to be held at Hagenau] will not now take place”;
 Luther replied: “They will certainly have to wait for us....”

 A second messenger now came in with the Elector’s letter, conveying
 the expected summons to proceed to Weimar. On the reader the news
 it contained concerning the Landgrave fell like the blows of a
 sledge-hammer. After attentively perusing the letter “with an earnest
 mien,” he said: “Philip the Landgrave is cracked; he is now asking the
 Emperor to let him keep both wives.”

 The allusion to the Landgrave’s mental state is explained by a former
 statement of Luther’s made in connection with some words uttered by
 the Landgrave’s father: “The old Landgrave [William II] used to say
 to his son Philip: ‘If you take after your mother, then you won’t come
 to much; if you take after me, you will have nothing about you that
 I can praise; if you take after both of us, then you will be a real
 demon.’” Luther had added: “I fear he is also mad, for it runs in the
 family.”[108] “And Philip [Melanchthon] said: ‘This [the bigamy] is
 the beginning of his insanity.’”[109]

 When Luther re-entered, so the narrator continues, “he was as cheerful
 as could be, and he said to us: ‘It is grand having something to do,
 for then we get ideas; otherwise we do nothing but feed and swill. How
 our Papists will scream! But let them howl to their own destruction.
 Our cause is a good one and no fault is to be found with our way of
 life, or rather [he corrects himself] with the life of those who
 take it seriously. If the Hessian Landgrave has sinned, then that
 is sin and a scandal. That we have frequently discounselled by good
 and holy advice; they have seen our innocence and yet refuse to see
 it. Hence they [the Papists] are now forced to look the Hessian _in
 anum_[110] (i.e. are witnesses of his shame). But they will be brought
 to destruction by [our] scandals because they refuse to listen to the
 pure doctrine; for God will not on this account forsake us or His
 Word, or spare them, even though we have our share of sin, for He has
 resolved to overthrow the Papacy. That has been decreed by God, as we
 read in Daniel, where it is foretold of him [Antichrist] who is even
 now at the door: “And none shall help him” (Dan. xi. 45). In former
 times no power was able to root out the Pope; in our own day no one
 will be able to help him, because Antichrist is revealed.’”

 Thus amidst the trouble looming he finds his chief consolation in his
 fanatical self-persuasion that the Papacy must fall and that he is the
 chosen instrument to bring this about, i.e. in his supposed mission to
 thwart Antichrist, a Divine mission which could not be contravened.
 Hence his pseudo-mysticism was once again made to serve his purpose.

 “If scandals occur amongst us,” he continues, “let us not forget that
 they existed in Christ’s own circle. The Pharisees were doubtless in
 glee over our Lord Christ on account of the wickedness of Judas. In
 the same way the Landgrave has become a Judas to us. ‘Ah, the new
 prophet has such followers [as Judas, cried the foes of Christ!] What
 good can come of Christ?’--But because they refused to open their
 eyes to the miracles, they were forced to see ‘_Christum Crucifixum_’
 and ... later to see and suffer under Titus. But our sins may obtain
 pardon and be easily remedied; it is only necessary that the Emperor
 should forbid [the bigamy], or that our Princes should intercede [for
 the Hessian], which they are at liberty to do, or that he should
 repudiate the step he took.”

 “David also fell, and surely there were greater scandals under Moses
 in the wilderness. Moses caused his own masters to be slain.... But
 God had determined to drive out the heathen, hence the scandals
 amongst the Jews availed not to prevent it. Thus, too, our sins are
 pardonable, but not those of the Papists; for they are contemners
 of God, crucify Christ and, though they know better, defend their

 “What advantage do they expect of it,” he goes on to ask in an
 ironical vein; “they put men to death, but we work for life and take
 many wives.” This he said, according to the notes, “with a joyful
 countenance and amidst loud laughter.”[111] “God has resolved to vex
 the people, and, when my turn comes, I will give them hard words and
 tell them to look Marcolfus ‘_in anum_’ since they refuse to look
 him in the face.” He then went on: “I don’t see why I should trouble
 myself about the matter. I shall commend it to our God. Should the
 Macedonian [the Landgrave] desert us, Christ will stand by us, the
 blessed Schevlimini [םיבילי כש: Sit at my right hand (Ps. cix. 1)]. He
 has surely brought us out of even tighter places. The restitution of
 Würtemberg puts this scandal into the shade, and the Sacramentarians
 and the revolt [of the Peasants]; and yet God delivered us out of
 all that.” What he means to say is: Even greater scandal was given
 by Philip of Hesse when he imposed on Würtemberg the Protestant Duke
 Ulrich, heedless of the rights of King Ferdinand and of the opposition
 of the Emperor and the Church;[112] in the same way the ever-recurring
 dissensions on the Sacrament were an even greater scandal, and so was
 the late Peasant War which threatened worse things to the Evangelical
 cause than the Hessian affair.

“Should the Landgrave fall away from us.”--This fear lest Philip
should desert their party Luther had expressed in some rather earlier
utterances in 1540, when he had described more particularly the
Landgrave’s character and attitude. “A strange man!” he says of him.
“He was born under a star. He is bent upon having his own way, and so
fancies he will obtain the approval of Emperor and Pope. It may be that
he will fall away from us on account of this affair.... He is a real
Hessian; he cannot be still nor does he know how to yield. When once
this business is over he will be hatching something else. But perhaps
death will carry him, or her (Margaret), off before.” A Hessian
Councillor who was present quite bore out what Luther had said: Nothing
was of any avail with the Landgrave, “what he once undertakes he cannot
be induced to give up.” In proof of this those present instanced the
violence and utter injustice of the raid made on Würtemberg. “Because
he is such a strange character,” Luther remarked, “I must let it pass.
The Emperor, moreover, will certainly not let him have his way.”[113]
“No sensible man would have undertaken that campaign, but he, carried
away by fury, managed it quite well. Only wait a little! It [the new
scandal] will pass!” Luther was also ready to acknowledge that the
Landgrave, in spite of the promises and offers of the Emperor and Duke
of Saxony, had remained so far “very faithful” to the Evangel.[114]

 In the conversation on June 18, Luther adopts a forcedly light view
 of the matter: “It is only a three-months’ affair, then the whole
 thing will fizzle out. Would to God Philip would look at it in this
 light instead of grieving so over it! The Papists are now Demeas
 and I Mitio”; with these words commences a string of word-for-word
 quotations from Terence’s play “_Adelphi_,” all concerning the harsh
 and violent Demeas, whom Luther takes as a figure of the Catholic
 Church, and the mild and peaceable Mitio, in whom Luther sees himself.
 In the Notes the sentences are given almost unaltered: “The prostitute
 and the matron living in one house.” “A son is born.” “Margaret has
 no dowry.” “I, Mitio, say: ‘May the gods direct all for the best!’”
 “Man’s life is like a throw of the dice.”[115]

 “I overlook much worse things than this,” he continues. “If anyone
 says to me: Are you pleased with what has taken place? I reply: No;
 oh, would that I could alter it. Since I cannot, I am resolved to bear
 it with equanimity. I commit it all to our dear God. Let Him preserve
 His Church as it now stands in order that it may remain in the unity
 of faith and doctrine and the pure confession of the Word; all I hope
 for is that it may never grow worse!”

 “On rising from the table he said cheerfully: I will not give the
 devil and the Papists the satisfaction of thinking that I am troubled
 about the matter. God will see to it. To Him we commend the whole.”

 In thus shifting the responsibility from his own shoulders and putting
 it on God--Whose chosen instrument, even at the most critical
 juncture, he would still persuade himself he was--he finds the most
 convenient escape from anxiety and difficulty. It has all been laid
 upon us by God: “We must put up with the devil and his filth as long
 as we live.” Therefore, forward against the Papists, who seek to
 conceal their “sodomitic vices” behind this bigamy! “We may not and
 shall not yield. Let them do their dirty work and let us lay odds
 on.”[116] With these words he is again quite himself. He is again the
 inspired prophet, oblivious of all save his mission to champion God’s
 cause; all his difficulties have vanished and even his worst moral
 faults have disappeared. But in this frame of mind Luther was not
 always able to persevere.

 “All I hope for is that it may never grow worse.” The depressing
 thought implied in these words lingered in the depths of his soul in
 spite of all his forced merriment and bravado. “Alas, my God, what
 have we not to put up with from fanatics and scandals! One follows on
 the heels of the other; when this [the bigamy] has been adjusted, then
 it is certain that something else will spring up, and many new sects
 will also arise.... But God will preserve His Christendom.”[117]

Meanwhile the remarkably speedy recovery of his friend Melanchthon
consoled him. Soon after the arrival of the letters mentioned above
Luther set out for Weimar. His attentions to the sick man, and
particularly his words of encouragement, succeeded, so to say, in
recalling him to life. Luther speaks of it in his letters at that time
as a “manifest miracle of God,” which puts our unbelief to shame.[118]
The fanciful embellishment which he gave to the incident when narrating
it, making it into a sort of miracle, has left its traces in his friend
Ratzeberger’s account.[119]

Confident as Luther’s language here seems, when it is a question of
infusing new courage into himself, still he admits plainly enough one
point, concerning which he has not a word to say in his correspondence
with strangers or in his public utterances: A sin, over and above all
his previous crimes, now weighed upon the Hessian and his party owing
to what had taken place. He repeatedly uses the words “sin,” “scandal,”
“offence” when speaking of the bigamy; he feels the need of seeking
consolation in the “unpardonable” sins of the Catholics for the moral
failings of his own party, which, after all, would be remitted by
God. Nor does the Landgrave’s sin consist in his carelessness about
keeping the matter secret. Luther compares his sin to David’s, whose
adultery had been forgiven by God, and reckons Philip’s new sin amongst
the sins of his co-religionists, who, for all their failings, were
destined, with God’s help, to overthrow the Papal Antichrist. “Would
that I could alter it!” Such an admission he would not at any price
make before the princely Courts concerned, or before the world. Still
less would he have admitted publicly, that they were obliged “to put up
with the devil’s filth.” It is therefore quite correct when Köstlin,
in his Biography of Luther, points out, speaking of the Table-Talk:
“That there had been sin and scandal, his words by no means deny.”[120]
Concerning the whole affair Köstlin moreover remarks: “Philip’s bigamy
is the greatest blot on the history of the Reformation, and remains a
blot in Luther’s life in spite of everything that can be alleged in
explanation or excuse.”[121]

F. W. Hassencamp, another Protestant, says in his “Hessische
Kirchengeschichte”: “His statements at that time concerning his share
in the Landgrave’s bigamy prove that, mentally, he was on the verge of
despair. Low pleasantry and vulgarity are mixed up with threats and
words of prayer.” “Nowhere does the great Reformer appear so small
as here.”[122]--In the “Historisch-politische Blätter,” in 1846, K.
E. Jarcke wrote of the Table-Talk concerning the bigamy: “Rarely has
any man, however coarse-minded, however blinded by hate and hardened
by years of combat against his own conscience, expressed himself more
hideously or with greater vulgarity.”[123]

“After so repeatedly describing himself as the prophet of the Germans,”
says A. Hausrath, “he ought not to have had the weakness to seek a
compromise between morality and policy, but, like the preacher robed
in camels’ hair, he should have boldly told the Hessian Princelet: It
is not lawful for you to have her.” Hausrath, in 1904, is voicing the
opinion of many earlier Protestant historians when he regrets “that,
owing to weariness and pressure from without,” Luther “sanctioned an
exception to God’s unconditional command.” “The band of Protestant
leaders, once so valiant and upright,” so he says, “had for once been
caught sleeping. Evening was approaching and the day was drawing in,
and the Lord their God had left them.”[124]

_Luther at the Conference of Eisenach. The Landgrave’s Indignation._

An official conference of theologians and Councillors from Hesse and
the Electorate of Saxony met at Eisenach at the instance of Philip on
July 15, 1540, in order to deliberate on the best means of escaping
the legal difficulty and of satisfying Philip’s demand, that the
theologians should give him their open support. Luther, too, put in an
appearance and lost no time in entering into the debate with his wonted

According to one account, on their first arrival, he bitterly
reproached (“_acerbissimis verbis_”)[125] the Hessian theologians.
The report of the Landgrave’s sister says, that his long talk with
Philip’s Chancellor so affected the latter that the “tears streamed
down his cheeks,” particularly when Luther rounded on the Hessian
Court officials for their too great inclination towards polygamy.[126]
Though these reports of the effect of his strictures and exhortations
may be exaggerated, no less than the remark of Jonas, who says, that
the “Hessians went home from Eisenach with long faces,”[127] still it
is quite likely that Luther made a great impression on many by his
behaviour, particularly by the energy with which he now stood up for
the cause of monogamy and appealed to the New Testament on its behalf.

Without denying the possibility of an exception in certain rare cases,
he now insisted very strongly on the general prohibition.

The instructions given to the Hessians showed him plainly that the
Landgrave was determined not to conceal his bigamy any longer, or to
have it branded as mere concubinage; the theologians, so the document
declares, would surely never have advised him to have recourse to
sinful concubinage. That he was not married to his second wife
was a lie, which he would not consent to tell were he to be asked
point-blank; his bigamy was really a dispensation “permitted by
God, admitted by the learned, and consented to by his wife.” If
“hard pressed” he must disclose it. To introduce polygamy generally
was of course quite a different matter, and was not to be thought
of.[128]--Needless to say, Luther was ready enough to back up this last
stipulation, for his own sake as much as for the Landgrave’s.

During the first session of the conference, held in the Rathaus
at Eisenach, Luther formally and publicly committed himself to
the expedient at which he had faintly hinted even previously. He
unreservedly proposed the telling of a lie. Should a situation arise
where it was necessary to reply “yes” or “no,” then they must resign
themselves to a downright “No.” “What harm would it do,” he said on
July 15, according to quite trustworthy notes,[129] “if a man told a
good, lusty lie in a worthy cause and for the sake of the Christian
Churches?” Similarly he said on July 17: “To lie in case of necessity,
or for convenience, or in excuse, such lying would not be against God;
He was ready to take such lies on Himself.”[130]

The Protestant historian of the Hessian Bigamy says in excuse of
this: “Luther was faced by the problem whether a lie told in case
of necessity could be regarded as a sin at all”; he did not have
recourse to the “expedient of a mental reservation [as he had done when
recommending an ambiguous reply]”; he merely absolved “the ‘_mendacium
officiosum_’ [the useful lie] of sinfulness. This done, Luther could
with a good conscience advise the telling of such a lie.”[131]

Nevertheless Luther felt called upon again to return to the alleged
Confession made. He is even anxious to make out that his memorandum
had been an Absolution coming under the Seal of Confession, and that
the Absolution might not be “revealed”: “If the Confession was to be
regarded as secret, then the Absolution also must be secret.”[132]
“He considered the reply given in Confession as an Absolution,” says
Rockwell.[133] Moreover he gave it to be understood, that, should
the Landgrave say he had committed bigamy as a right to which he
was entitled, and not as a favour, then he, Luther, was quit of all
responsibility; it was not the confessor’s business to give public
testimony concerning what had taken place in Confession.[134]

Practically, however, according to the notes of the conference, his
advice still was that the Landgrave should conceal the bigamy behind
the ambiguous declaration that: “Margaret is a concubine.” Under the
influence of the hostility to the bigamy shown by the Saxon Courts
he urged so strongly the Bible arguments against polygamy, that the
Hessians began to fear his withdrawal from his older standpoint.

 The Old-Testament examples, he declared emphatically, could neither
 “exclude nor bind,” i.e. could not settle the matter either way;
 Paul’s words could not be overthrown; in the New Testament nothing
 could be found (in favour of bigamy), “on the contrary the New
 Testament confirmed the original institution [monogamy]”; therefore
 “since both the Divine and the secular law were at one, nothing could
 be done against it; he would not take it upon his conscience.” It
 is true, that, on the other side, must be put the statement, that
 he saw no reason why the Prince should not take the matter upon
 his own conscience, declare himself convinced, and thus “set their
 [the theologians’] consciences free.” That he still virtually stood
 by what had happened, is also seen from his plain statement: “Many
 things are right before God in the tribunal of conscience, which,
 to the world, must appear wrong.” “In support of this he brought
 forward the example,” so the report of the Conference proceeds, “of
 the seduction of a virgin and of an illegitimate birth.” He also lays
 stress on the principle that they, the theologians, had merely “to
 dispense according to God’s command in the tribunal of conscience,”
 but were unable to bear witness to it publicly; hence their advice
 to the Landgrave had in reality never been given at all, for it was
 no business of the “_forum externum_”; the Landgrave had acted in
 accordance with his own ideas, just as he had undertaken many things
 “against their advice,” for instance, “the raid on Wirtenbergk.”
 He was doing the same in “this instance too, and acting on his own

 Again, for his own safety, he makes a request: “Beg him [the Prince]
 most diligently to draw in [to keep it secret],” otherwise, so he
 threatens, he will declare that “Luther acted like a fool, and will
 take the shame on himself”; he would “say: I made a mistake and I
 retract it; he would retract it even at the expense of his own honour;
 as for his honour he would pray God to restore it.”[135]

 In a written memorandum which he presented during the Conference
 he makes a similar threat, which, however, as already shown in the
 case of Thann (above, p. 40 f.), it is wrong to take as meaning that
 he really declared he had acted wrongly in the advice given to the

 He begs the Landgrave, “again to conceal the matter and keep it
 secret; for to defend it publicly as right was impossible”; should
 the Landgrave, however, be determined, by revealing it, to “cause
 annoyance and disgrace to our Confession, Churches and Estates,”
 then it was his duty beforehand to consult all these as to whether
 they were willing to take the responsibility, since without them
 the matter could not take place and Luther and Melanchthon alone
 “could do nothing without their authority. And rather than assist
 in publicly defending it, I would repudiate my advice and Master
 Philip’s [Melanchthon’s], were it made public, for it was not a public
 advice, and is annulled by publication. Or, if this is no use, and
 they insist on calling it a counsel and not a Confession,[136] which
 it really was, then I should rather admit that I made a mistake and
 acted foolishly and now crave for pardon; for the scandal is great and
 intolerable. And my gracious Lord the Landgrave ought not to forget
 that his Serene Highness was lucky enough in being able to take the
 girl secretly with a good conscience, by virtue of our advice in
 Confession; seeing that H.S.H. has no need or cause for making the
 matter public, and can easily keep it secret, which would obviate all
 this great trouble and misfortune. Beyond this I shall not go.”[137]

 These attempts at explanation and subterfuge to which the sadly
 embarrassed authors of the “testimony” had recourse were keenly
 criticised by Feige, the Hessian Chancellor, in the sober, legal
 replies given by him at the Conference.[138] He pointed out, that: The
 Landgrave, his master, could not now “regard or admit his marriage
 to be a mere ‘_liaison_’”; he would indeed keep it secret so far as
 in him lay, but deny it he could not without prejudice to his own
 honour; “since it has become so widely known”; those to whom he had
 appealed, “as the chiefs of our Christian Churches, for a testimony,”
 viz. Luther and his theologians, must not now leave him in the lurch,
 “but bar witness, should necessity arise, that he had not acted
 unchristianly in this matter, or against God.” Philip, moreover, from
 the very first, had no intention of restricting the matter to the
 private tribunal of conscience; the request brought by Bucer plainly
 showed, that he “was publicly petitioning the tribunal of the Church.”
 The fact is that the instructions given to Bucer clearly conveyed the
 Prince’s intention of making public the bigamy and the advice by which
 it was justified.

 Hence, proceeded Feige: Out with it plainly, out with the theological
 grounds which “moved the theologians to grant such a dispensation!”
 If these grounds were not against God, then the Landgrave could take
 his stand on them before the secular law, the Emperor, the Fiscal and
 the Courts of Justice. Should the theologians, however, really wish to
 “repudiate” their advice, nothing would be gained; the scandal would
 be just as great as if they had “admitted” it; and further, it would
 cause a split in their own confession, for the Prince would be obliged
 to “disclose the advice.” Luther wanted to get out of the hole by
 saying he had acted foolishly! Did he not see how “detrimental this
 would be to his reputation and teaching”? He should “consider what he
 had written in his Exposition of Genesis twelve years previously, and
 that this had never been called into question by any of his disciples
 or followers.” He should remember all that had been done against the
 Papacy through his work, for which the Bible gave far less sanction
 than for the dispensation, and which “nevertheless had been accepted
 and maintained, in opposition to the worldly powers, by an appeal to a
 Christian Council.”

 Hence the Landgrave must urgently request, concludes Feige, that the
 theologians would, at least “until the Council,” take his part and
 “admit that what he had done had been agreeable to God.”

The Saxon representatives present at the Conference were, however,
ready to follow the course indicated by Luther in case of necessity,
viz. to tell a downright lie; rather than that the Prince should be
forced to vindicate openly his position it was better to deny it
flatly. They declared, without, however, convincing the Conference,
“that a flat denial was less culpable before God and in conscience--as
could be proved by many examples from Scripture--than to cause a great
scandal and lamentable falling away of many good people by a plain and
open admission and vindication.”[139]

       *       *       *       *       *

Philip of Hesse was not particularly edified by the result of the
Eisenach Conference. Of all the reports which gradually reached him,
those which most aroused his resentment were, first, that Luther should
expect him to tell a lie and deny the second marriage, and, secondly,
his threat to withdraw the testimony, as issued in error.

Luther had, so far, avoided all direct correspondence with the
Landgrave concerning the disastrous affair. Now, however, he was forced
to make some statement in reply to a not very friendly letter addressed
to him by the Prince.[140]

In this Philip, alluding to the invitation to tell a lie, says: “I will
not lie, for lying has an evil sound and no Apostle or even Christian
has ever taught it, nay, Christ has forbidden it and said we should
keep to yea and nay. That I should declare the lady to be a whore, that
I refuse to do, for your advice does not permit of it. I should surely
have had no need of your advice to take a whore, neither does it do you
credit.” Yet he declares himself ready to give an “obscure reply,” i.e.
an ambiguous one; without need he would not disclose the marriage.

Nor does Luther’s threat of retracting the advice and of saying that
he had “acted foolishly” affright him. The threat he unceremoniously
calls a bit of foolery. “As to what you told my Councillors, viz. that,
rather than reveal my reasons, you would say you had acted foolishly,
please don’t commit such folly on my account, for then I will confess
the reasons, and, in case of necessity, prove them now or later,
unless the witnesses die in the meantime.” “Nothing more dreadful has
ever come to my ears than that it should have occurred to a brave
man to retract what he had granted by a written dispensation to a
troubled conscience. If you can answer for it to God, why do you fear
and shrink from the world? If the matter is right ‘_in conscientia_’
before the Almighty, the Eternal and Immortal God, what does the
accursed, sodomitic, usurious and besotted world matter?” Here he is
using the very words in which Luther was wont to speak of the world
and of the contempt with which it should be met. He proceeds with a
touch of sarcasm: “Would to God that you and your like would inveigh
against and punish those in whom you see such things daily, i.e.
adultery, usury and drunkenness--and who yet are supposed to be members
of the Church--not merely in writings and sermons but with serious
considerations and the ban which the Apostles employed, in order
that the whole world may not be scandalised. You see these things,
yet what do you and the others do?” In thus finding fault with the
Wittenberg habits, he would appear to include the Elector of Saxony,
who had a reputation for intemperance. He knew that Luther’s present
attitude was in part determined by consideration for his sovereign. In
his irritation he also has a sly hit at the Wittenberg theologians:
At Eisenach his love for the “lady” (Margaret) had been looked upon
askance; “I confess that I love her, but in all honour.... But that I
should have taken her because she pleased me, that is only natural, for
I see that you holy people also take those that please you. Therefore
you may well bear with me, a poor sinner.”

       *       *       *       *       *

Luther replied on July 24,[141] that he had not deserved that the
Landgrave should write to him in so angry a tone. The latter was
wrong in supposing, that he wanted to get his neck out of the noose
and was not doing all that he could to “serve the Prince humbly and
faithfully.” It was not no his own account that he wished to keep his
advice secret; “for though all the devils wished the advice to be made
public, I would give them by God’s Grace such an answer that they would
not find any fault in it.”

 It was, so Luther says in this letter, a secret counsel as “all the
 devils” knew, the keeping secret of which he had requested, “with all
 diligence,” and which, even at the worst, he would be the last to
 bring to light. That he, or the Prince himself, was bound to silence
 by the Seal of Confession, he does not say, though this would have
 been the place to emphasise it. He merely states that he knew what,
 in the case of a troubled conscience, “might be remitted out of mercy
 before God,” and what was not right apart from this necessity. “I
 should be sorry to see your Serene Highness starting a literary feud
 with me.” It was true he could not allow the Prince, who was “of the
 same faith” as himself, “to incur danger and disgrace”; but, should he
 disclose the counsel, the theologians would not be in a position to
 “get him out of the bother,” because, in the eyes of the world, “even
 a hundred Luthers, Philips and others” could not change the law; the
 secret marriage could never be publicly held as valid, though valid
 in the tribunal of conscience. He wished to press the matter before
 the worldly authorities; but here the Prince’s marriage would never
 be acknowledged; he would only be exposing himself to penalties, and
 withdrawing himself from the “protection and assistance of the Divine
 Judgment” under which he stood so long as he regarded it as a marriage
 merely in conscience.

 In this letter Luther opposes the “making public of the advice,” which
 he dreaded, by the most powerful motive at his command: The result
 of the disclosure would be, that “at last your Serene Highness would
 be obliged to put away your sweetheart as a mere whore.” He would
 do better to allow her to be now regarded as a “whore, although to
 us three, i.e. in God’s sight, she is really a wedded concubine”;
 in all this the Prince would still have a good conscience, “for the
 whole affair was due to his distress of conscience, as we believe,
 and, hence, to your Serene Highness’s conscience, she is no mere

 There were, however, three more bitter pills for the Landgrave to
 swallow. He had pleaded his distress of conscience. Luther hints,
 that, “one of our best friends” had said: “The Landgrave would not
 be able to persuade anyone” that the bigamy was due to distress of
 conscience; which was as much as to say, that “Dr. Martin believed
 what it was impossible to believe, had deceived himself and been
 willingly led astray.” He, Luther, however, still thought that the
 Prince had been serious in what he had said “secretly in Confession”;
 nevertheless the mere suspicion might suffice to “render the advice
 worthless,” and then Philip would stand alone.... The Landgrave,
 moreover, had unkindly hinted in his letter, that, “we theologians
 take those who please us.” “Why do not you [Princes] do differently?”
 he replies. “I, at least, trust that this will be your Serene
 Highness’s experience with your beloved sweetheart.” “Pretty women are
 to be wedded either for the sake of the children which spring from
 this merry union, or to prevent fornication. Apart from this I do
 not see of what use beauty is.” Marry in haste and repent at leisure
 was the result of following our passions, according to the proverb.
 Lastly, Luther does not hide from the Landgrave that his carelessness
 in keeping the secret had brought not only the Prince but “the whole
 confession” into disrepute, though “the good people” belonging to the
 faith were really in no way involved in what Philip had done. “If each
 were to do what pleased him and throw the responsibility on the pious”
 this would be neither just nor reasonable.

 Such are the reasons by which he seeks to dissuade the warrior-Prince
 from his idea of publishing the fatal Wittenberg “advice,” to impel
 him to allow the marriage to “remain an ‘_ambiguum_,’” and “not openly
 to boast that he had lawfully wedded his sweetheart.”

 He also gives Philip to understand that he will get a taste of the
 real Luther should he not obey him, or should he expose him by
 publishing the “advice,” or otherwise in writing. He says: “If it
 comes to writing I shall know how to extricate myself and leave
 your Serene Highness sticking in the mud, but this I shall not do
 unless I can’t help it.” The Prince’s allusion to the Emperor’s anger
 which must be avoided, did not affright Luther in the least. In his
 concluding words his conviction of his mission and the thought of
 the anti-Evangelical attitude of the Emperor carry him away. “Were
 this menace to become earnest, I should tweak the Emperor’s forelock,
 confront him with his practices and read him a good lecture on the
 texts: ‘Every man is a liar’ and ‘Put not your trust in Princes.’ Was
 he not indeed a liar and a false man, he who ‘rages against God’s own
 truth,’” i.e. opposes Luther’s Evangel?

Faced by such unbounded defiance Philip and his luckless bigamy, in
spite of the assurance he saw fit to assume, seemed indeed in a bad
way. One can feel how Luther despised the man. In spite of his painful
embarrassment, he is aware of his advantage. He indeed stood in need of
the Landgrave’s assistance in the matter of the new Church system, but
the latter was entirely dependent on Luther’s help in his disastrous

Hence Philip, in his reply, is more amiable, though he really
demolishes Luther’s objections. This reply he sent the day after
receiving Luther’s letter.[142]

Certain words which had been let fall at Eisenach had “enraged and
maddened” him (Philip). He had, however, good “scriptural warrant for
his action,” and Luther should not forget that, “what we did, we did
with a good conscience.” There was thus no need for the Prince to
bow before the Wittenbergers. “We are well aware that you and Philip
[Melanchthon] cannot defend us against the secular powers, nor have we
ever asked this of you.” “That Margaret should not be looked upon as a
prostitute, this we demand and insist upon, and the presence of pious
men [Melanchthon, etc.] at the wedding, your advice, and the marriage
contract, will prove what she is.” “In fine, we will allow it to remain
a secret marriage and dispensation, and will give a reply which shall
conceal the matter, and be neither yea nor nay, as long as we can and
may.” He insists, however, that, “if we cannot prevent it,” then we
shall bring the Wittenberg advice “into the light of day.”

As to telling a downright lie, that was impossible, because the
marriage contract was in the hands of his second wife’s friends, who
would at once take him to task.

“It was not our intention to enter upon a wordy conflict, or to set
your pen to work.” Luther had said, that he would know how to get out
of a tight corner, but what business was that of Philip’s: “We care
not whether you get out or in.” As to Luther’s malicious allusion to
his love for the beautiful Margaret, he says: “Since she took a fancy
to us, we were fonder of her than of another, but, had she not liked
us, then we should have taken another.” Hence he would have committed
bigamy in any case. He waxes sarcastic about Luther’s remark, that the
world would never acknowledge her as his wife, hinting that Luther’s
own wife, and the consorts of the other preachers who had formerly been
monks or priests, were likewise not regarded by the imperial lawyers as
lawful wedded wives. He looked upon Margaret as his “wife according to
God’s Word and your advice; such is God’s will; the world may regard
our wife, yours and the other preachers’ as it pleases.”

Philip, however, was diplomatic enough to temper all this with friendly
assurances. “We esteem you,” he says, “as a very eminent theologian,
nor shall we doubt you, so long as God continues to give you His
Spirit, which Spirit we still recognise in you.... We find no fault
with you personally and consider you a man who looks to God. As to our
other thoughts, they are just thoughts, and come and go duty free.”

These “duty-free” thoughts, as we readily gather from the letter,
concerned the Courts of Saxony, whose influence on Luther was a thorn
in the Landgrave’s flesh. There was the “haughty old Vashti” at Dresden
(Duchess Catherine), without whom the “matter would not have gone
so far”; then, again, there was Luther’s “Lord, the Elector.” The
“cunning of the children of the world,” which the Landgrave feared
would infect Luther, had its head-quarters at these Courts. But if it
came to the point, such things would be “disclosed and manifested” by
him, the Landgrave, to the Elector and “many other princes and nobles,”
that “you would have to excuse us, because what we did was not done
merely from love, but for conscience’s sake and in order to escape
eternal damnation; and your Lord, the Elector, will have to admit it
too and be our witness.” And in still stronger language, he “cites” the
Elector, or, rather, both the Elector and himself, to appear before
Luther: “If this be not sufficient, then demand of us, and of your
master, that we tell you in confession such things as will satisfy you
concerning us. They would, however, sound ill, so help me God, and we
hope to God that He will by all means preserve us from such in future.
You wish to learn it, then learn it, and do not look for anything good
but for the worst, and if we do not speak the truth, may God strike
us”; “to prove it” we are quite ready. Other things (see below, xxiv.,
2) make it probable, that the Elector is here accused as being Philip’s
partner in some very serious sin. It looks as though Philip’s intention
was to frighten him and prevent his proceeding further against him.
Since Luther in all probability brought the letter to the cognisance of
the Elector, the step was, politically, well thought out.

_Melanchthon’s Complaints._

Melanchthon, as was usual with him, adopted a different tone from
Luther’s in the matter. He was very sad, and wrote lengthy letters of

As early as June 15, to ease his mind, he sent one to the Elector
Johann Frederick, containing numerous arguments against polygamy,
but leaving open the possibility of secret bigamy.[143] Friends
informed the Landgrave that anxiety about the bigamy was the cause of
Melanchthon’s serious illness. Philip, on the other hand, wrote, that
it was the Saxon Courts which were worrying him.[144] Owing to his
weakness he was unable to take part in the negotiations at Eisenach.
On his return to Wittenberg he declared aloud that he and Luther had
been outwitted by the malice of Philip of Hesse. The latter’s want of
secrecy seemed to show the treasonable character of the intrigue. To
Camerarius he wrote on Aug. 24: “We are disgraced by a horrid business
concerning which I must say nothing. I will give you the details in
due time.”[145] On Sep. 1, he admits in a letter to Veit Dietrich: “We
have been deceived, under a semblance of piety, by another Jason, who
protested conscientious motives in seeking our assistance, and who
even swore that this expedient was essential for him.”[146] He thus
gives his friend a peep into the Wittenberg advice, of which he was the
draughtsman, and in which he, unlike Luther, could see nothing that
came under the Seal of Confession. The name of the deceitful polygamist
Jason he borrows from Terence, on whom he was then lecturing. Since
Luther, about the same time, also quotes from Terence when speaking at
table about Philip’s bigamy, we may infer that he and Melanchthon had
exchanged ideas on the work in question (the “_Adelphi_”). Melanchthon
was also fond of dubbing the Hessian “Alcibiades” on account of his
dissembling and cunning.[147]

Most remarkable, however, is the assertion he makes in his annoyance,
viz. that the Landgrave was on the point of losing his reason: “This
is the beginning of his insanity.”[148] Luther, too, had said he
feared he was going crazy, as it ran in the family.[149] Philip’s
father, Landgrave William II, had succumbed to melancholia as the
result of syphilis. The latter’s brother, William I, had also been
insane. Philip’s son, William IV, sought to explain the family
trouble by a spell cast over one of his ancestors by the “courtisans”
at Venice.[150] In 1538, previous to the bigamy scandal, Henry of
Brunswick had written, that the Landgrave, owing to the French disease,
was able to sleep but little, and would soon go mad.[151]

Melanchthon became very sensitive to any mention of the Hessian bigamy.
At table, on one occasion in Aug., 1540, Luther spoke of love; no one
was quite devoid of love because all at least desired enjoyment; one
loved his wife, another his children, others, like Carlstadt, loved
honour. When Bugenhagen, with an allusion to the Landgrave, quoted the
passage from Virgil’s “_Bucolica_”: “_Omnia vincit amor et nos cedamus
amori_,” Melanchthon jumped up and cried: “Pastor, leave out that

Brooding over the permission given, the scholar sought earnestly for
grounds of excuse for the bigamy. “I looked well into it beforehand,”
he writes in 1543, “I also told the Doctor [Luther] to weigh well
whether he could be mixed up in the affair. There are, however,
circumstances of which the women [their Ducal opponents at Meissen]
are not aware, and understand not. The man [the Landgrave] has many
strange ideas on the Deity. He also confided to me things which I have
told no one but Dr. Martin; on account of all this we have had no small
trouble.”[153] We must not press the contradiction this presents to
Melanchthon’s other statement concerning the Prince’s hypocrisy.

Melanchthon’s earlier letter dated Sep. 1, 1540, Camerarius ventured to
publish in the collection of his friend’s letters only with omissions
and additions which altered the meaning.

 Until 1904 this letter, like Melanchthon’s other letter on Luther’s
 marriage (vol. ii., p. 176), was only known in the amended form. W.
 Rockwell has now published the following suppressed passages from
 the original in the Chigiana at Rome, according to the manuscript
 prepared by Nicholas Müller for the new edition of Melanchthon’s
 correspondence. Here Melanchthon speaks out plainly without being
 conscious of any “Secret of Confession,” and sees little objection
 to the complete publication by the Wittenbergers of their advice. “I
 blame no one in this matter except the man who deceived us with a
 simulated piety (‘_simulatione pietatis fefellit_’). Nor did he adhere
 to our trusty counsel [to keep the matter secret]. He swore that the
 remedy was necessary. Therefore, that the universal biblical precept
 [concerning the unity of marriage]: ‘They shall be two in one flesh’
 might be preserved, we counselled him, secretly, and without giving
 scandal to others, to make use of the remedy in case of necessity.
 I will not be judge of his conscience, for he still sticks to his
 assertion; but the scandal he might well have avoided had he chosen.
 Either [what follows is in Greek] love got the upper hand, or here
 is the beginning and foretaste of that insanity which runs in the
 family. Luther blamed him severely and he thereupon promised to keep
 silence. But ... [Melanchthon has crossed out the next sentence: As
 time goes on he changes his views] whatever he may do in the matter,
 we are free to publish our decision (‘_edere sententiam nostram_’);
 for in it too we vindicated the law. He himself told me, that formerly
 he had thought otherwise, but certain people had convinced him that
 the thing was quite indifferent. He has unlearned men about him who
 have written him long dissertations, and who are not a little angry
 with me because I blamed them to their teeth. But in the beginning we
 were ignorant of their prejudices.” He goes on to speak of Philip as
 “depraved by an Alcibiadean nature (‘_Alcibiadea natura perditus_’),”
 an expression which also fell under the red pencil of the first
 editor, Camerarius.[154]

_Literary Feud with Duke Henry of Brunswick._

Prominent amongst those who censured the bigamy was the Landgrave’s
violent opponent Duke Henry of Brunswick-Wolfenbüttel. The Duke, a
leader of the Catholic Alliance formed to resist the Schmalkalden
Leaguers in North Germany, published in the early ‘forties several
controversial works against Philip of Hesse. This brisk and active
opponent, whose own character was, however, by no means unblemished,
seems to have had a hand in the attacks of other penmen upon the
Landgrave. Little by little he secured fairly accurate accounts of the
proceedings in Hesse and at Wittenberg, and, as early as July 22, 1540,
made a general and public reference to what had taken place.[155]

In a tract published on Nov. 3, he said quite openly that the Landgrave
had “two wives at the same time, and had thus rendered himself liable
to the penalties against double marriage.” The Elector of Saxony
had, however, permitted “his biblical experts at the University of
Wittenberg to assist in dealing with these nice affairs,” nay, had
himself concurred in the bigamy.[156]

In consequence of these and other charges contained in the Duke’s
screed, Luther wrote the violent libel entitled “Wider Hans Worst,”
of which the still existing manuscript shows in what haste and frame
of mind the work was dashed off. All his exasperation at the events
connected with the bigamy now become public boils up in his attack on
the “Bloodhound, and incendiary Harry” of Brunswick, and the “clerical
devil’s whores in the Popish robbers’ cave.”[157] Of Henry’s charge
he speaks in a way which is almost more than a mere concealing of the
bigamy.[158] He adds: “The very name of Harry stinks like devil’s
ordure freshly dropped in Germany. Did he perchance desire that not he
alone should stink so horribly in the nostrils of others, but that he
should make other honourable princes to stink also?” He was a renegade
and a coward, who did everything like an assassin. “He ought to be
set up like a eunuch, dressed in cap and bells, with a feather-brush
in his hand to guard the women and that part on account of which
they are called women, as the rude Germans say.” “Assassin-adultery,
assassin-arson indeed became this ‘wild cat,’” etc.

Even before this work was finished, in February, 1541, a pseudonymous
attack upon the Landgrave appeared which “horrified Cruciger,”[159] who
was with Luther at Wittenberg. The Landgrave is here upbraided with
the bigamy, the reproaches culminating in the following: “I cannot but
believe that the devil resides in your Serene Highness, and that the
Münster habit has infected your S.H., so that your S.H. thinks that you
may take as many wives as you please, even as the King of Münster did.”

An anonymous reply to this screed penned by the pastor of Melsungen,
Johann Lening, is the first attempt at a public justification of
Philip’s bigamy. The author only disclaims the charge that the
Landgrave had intended to “introduce a new ‘_ius_.’”[160]

Henry of Brunswick replied to “Hans Worst” and to this vindication
of the bigamy in his “_Quadruplicæ_” of May 31, 1541. He said there
of Luther’s “Hans Worst”: “That we should have roused Luther,
the arch-knave, arch-heretic, desperate scoundrel and godless
arch-miscreant, to put forth his impious, false, unchristian, lousy and
rascally work is due to the scamp [on the throne] of Saxony.” “We have
told the truth so plainly to his Münsterite brother, the Landgrave,
concerning his bigamy, that he has been unable to deny it, but admits
it, only that he considers that he did not act dishonourably, but
rightly and in a Christian fashion, which, however, is a lie and
utterly untrue.” In some of his allegations then and later, such as
that the Landgrave was thinking of taking a third wife “in addition to
his numerous concubines,” and that he had submitted to re-baptism, the
princely knight-errant was going too far. A reply and defence of the
Landgrave, published in 1544, asserts with unconscious humour that the
Landgrave knew how to take seriously “to heart what God had commanded
concerning marriage ... and also the demands of conjugal fidelity and

Johann Lening, pastor of Melsungen, formerly a Carthusian in the
monastery of Eppenberg, had been the most zealous promoter of the
bigamy. He was also very active in rendering literary service in its
defence. The string of Bible proofs alleged by Philip in his letter
to Luther of July 18 (above, p. 55 f.) can undoubtedly be traced to
his inspiration. In October, 1541, he was at Augsburg with Gereon
Sailer,[161] the physician so skilled in the treatment of syphilis;
a little later Veit Dietrich informed Melanchthon of his venereal
trouble.[162] He was much disliked by the Saxons and the Wittenbergers
on account of his defence of his master. Chancellor Brück speaks
of him as a “violent, bitter man”; Luther calls him the “_Melsingen
nebulo_” and the “_monstrum Carthusianum_”;[163] Frederick Myconius
speaks of the “_lenones Leningi_” and fears he will catch the
“_Dionysiorum vesania_.”

Such was the author of the “_Dialogue of Huldericus Neobulus_,” which
has become famous in the history of the Hessian Bigamy; it appeared in
1541, towards the end of summer, being printed at Marburg at Philip’s

The book was to answer in the affirmative the question contained in the
sub-title: “Whether it be in accordance with or contrary to the Divine,
natural, Imperial and ecclesiastical law, to have simultaneously
more than one wife.” The author, however, clothed his affirmation in
so pedantic and involved a form as to make it unintelligible to the
uninitiate so that Philip could say that, “it would be a temptation to
nobody to follow his example,” and that it tended rather to dissuade
from bigamy than to induce people to commit it.[164]

This work was very distasteful to the Courts of Saxony, and Luther soon
made up his mind to write against it.

He wrote on Jan. 10, 1542, to Justus Menius, who had sent him a reply
of his own, intended for the press: “Your book will go to the printers,
but mine is already waiting publication; your turn will come next....
How this man disgusts me with the insipid, foolish and worthless
arguments he excretes.” To this Pandora all the Hessian gods must
have contributed. “Bucer smells bad enough already on account of the
Ratisbon dealings.... May Christ keep us well disposed towards Him
and steadfast in His Holy Word. Amen.”[165] From what Luther says he
was not incensed at the Dialogue of Neobulus so much on account of
its favouring polygamy itself, but because, not content with allowing
bigamy conditionally, and before the tribunal of conscience, it sought
also to erect it into a public law. When, however, both Elector and
Landgrave[166] begged him to refrain from publishing his reply, he
agreed and stopped the printers, though only after a part of it had
already left the press.[167]

His opinion concerning the permissibility of bigamy in certain cases he
never changed in spite of the opposition it met with. But, in Luther’s
life, hardly an instance can be cited of his having shrunk back when
attacked. Rarely if ever did his defiance--which some admire--prove
more momentous than on this occasion. An upright man is not unwilling
to allow that he may have been mistaken in a given instance, and, when
better informed, to retract. Luther, too, might well have appealed to
the shortness of the time allowed him for the consideration of the
counsel he had given at Wittenberg. Without a doubt his hand had been
forced. Further, it might have been alleged in excuse for his act, that
misapprehension of the Bible story of the patriarchs had dragged him to
consequences which he had not foreseen. It would have been necessary
for him to revise completely his Old-Testament exegesis on this point,
and to free it from the influence of his disregard of ecclesiastical
tradition and the existing limitations on matrimony. In place of this,
consideration for the exalted rank of his petitioners induced him to
yield to the plausible reasons brought forward by a smooth-tongued
agent and to remain silent.

The tract of Menius, on the same political grounds, was likewise either
not published at all or withdrawn later. The truth was, that it was
desirable that the Hessian affair should come under discussion as
little as possible, so that no grounds should be given “to increase
the gossip,” as Luther put it in 1542; “I would rather it were left to
settle as it began, than that the filth should be stirred up under the
noses of the whole world.”[168]

The work of Neobulus caused much heart-burning among the Swiss
reformers; of this we hear from Bullinger, who also, in his Commentary
on Matthew, in 1542, expressed himself strongly against the tract.[169]
His successor, Rudolf Gualther, Zwingli’s son-in-law, wrote that it
was shocking that a Christian Prince should have been guilty of such a
thing and that theologians should have been found to father, advocate
and defend it.[170]

In time, however, less was heard of the matter and the rumours
died down. A peace was even patched up between the Landgrave and
the Emperor, chiefly because the Elector of Saxony was against the
Schmalkalden League being involved in the Hessian affair. Without
admitting the reality of the bigamy, and without even mentioning
it, Philip concluded with Charles V a treaty which secured for him
safety. Therein he made to the Emperor political concessions of such
importance[171] as to arouse great discontent and grave suspicions in
the ranks of the Evangelicals. At a time when the German Protestants
were on the point of appealing to France for assistance against Charles
V, he promised to do his best to hinder the French and to support the
Imperial interests. In the matter of the Emperor’s feud with Jülich,
he pledged himself to neutrality, thus ensuring the Emperor’s success.
After receiving the Imperial pardon on Jan. 24, 1541, his complete
reconciliation was guaranteed by the secret compact of Ratisbon on June
13 of the same year. He had every reason to be content, and as the
editor of Philip’s correspondence with Bucer writes,[172] what better
could even the Emperor desire? The great danger which threatened was a
league of the German Protestants with France. And now the Prince, who
alone was able to bring this about, withdrew from the opposition party,
laid his cards on the table, left the road open to Guelders, offered
his powerful support both within and outside of the Empire, and, in
return, asked for nothing but the Emperor’s favour. The Landgrave’s
princely allies in the faith were pained to see him forsake “the
opposition [to the Emperor]. For their success the political situation
was far more promising than in the preceding winter. An alliance with
France offered [the Protestants] a much greater prospect of success
than one with England, for François I was far more opposed to the
Emperor than was Henry VIII.... Of the German Princes, William of
Jülich had already pledged himself absolutely to the French King.”[173]

Philip was even secretly set on obtaining the Pope’s sanction to the
bigamy. Through Georg von Carlowitz and Julius Pflug he sought to enter
into negotiations with Rome; they were not to grudge an outlay of from
3000 to 4000 gulden as an “offering.”[174] As early as the end of 1541
Chancellor Feige received definite instructions in the matter.

The Hessian Court had, however, in the meantime been informed, that
Cardinal Contarini had given it to be understood that “no advice or
assistance need be looked for from the Pope.”[175]

Landgravine Christina died in 1549, and, after her death, the
unfortunate marriage was gradually buried in oblivion.--But did
Landgrave Philip, after the conclusion of the second marriage, cease
from immoral intercourse with women as he had so solemnly promised
Luther he would?

 In the Protestant periodical, “Die christliche Welt,”[176] attention
 was drawn to a Repertory of the archives of Philip of Hesse, published
 in 1904,[177] in which a document is mentioned which would seem to
 show that Philip was unfaithful even subsequent to his marriage with
 Margaret. The all too brief description of the document is as follows:
 “Suit of Johann Meckbach against Landgrave Philip on behalf of Lady
 Margaret; the Landgrave’s infidelity; Margaret’s demand that her
 marriage be made public.” “This sounds suspicious,” remarks W. Köhler,
 “we have always taken it for granted that the bigamy was moral only
 in so far as the Landgrave Philip refrained from conjugal infidelity
 after its conclusion, and now we are confronted with this charge. Is
 it founded?” Concerning this new document N. Paulus remarks: “In order
 to be able properly to appreciate its importance, we should have to
 know more of the suit. At any rate Margaret would not have caused
 representations to be made to her ‘husband’ concerning his infidelity
 without very weighty reasons.”[178]

 In the Landgrave’s family great dissatisfaction continued to be felt
 with Luther. When, in 1575, Philip’s son and successor, Landgrave
 William IV, was entertaining Palsgravine Elisabeth, a zealous friend
 of Lutheranism, he spoke to her about Luther, as she relates in a
 letter.[179] “He called Dr. Luther a rascal, because he had persuaded
 his father to take two wives, and generally made out Dr. Luther to
 be very wicked. Whereat I said that it could not be true that Luther
 had done such a thing.”--So completely had the fact become shrouded
 in obscurity. William, however, fetched her the original of the
 Wittenberg testimony. Although she was unwilling to look at it lest
 her reverence for Luther should suffer, yet she was forced to hear it.
 In her own words: “He locked me in the room and there I had to remain;
 he gave it me to read, and my husband [the Palsgrave Johann Casimir]
 who was also with me, and likewise a Zwinglian Doctor both abused Dr.
 Luther loudly and said we simply looked upon him as an idol and that
 he was our god. The Landgrave brought out the document and made the
 Doctor read it aloud so that I might hear it; but I refused to listen
 to it and thought of something else; seeing I refused to listen the
 Landgrave gave me a frightful scolding, but afterwards he was sorry
 and craved pardon.”

 There is no doubt that William’s dislike for Luther, here displayed,
 played a part in his refusal to accept the formula of Concord in

So meagre were the proofs made public of Luther’s share in the step
which Philip of Hesse had taken, that, even in Hesse, the Giessen
professor Michael Siricius was able to declare in a writing of 1679,
entitled “_Uxor una_” that Luther’s supposed memorandum was an

Of the Wittenberg “advice” only one, fairly long, but quite apocryphal
version, was put in circulation during Melanchthon’s lifetime; it
appeared in the work of Erasmus Sarcerius, “On the holy married state,”
of which the Preface is dated in 1553. It is so worded as to leave the
reader under the impression that its authors had refused outright to
give their consent. Out of caution, moreover, neither the authors nor
the addressee are named.[182] In this version, supposed to be Luther’s
actual text, it was embodied, in 1661, in the Altenburg edition of
his works, then in the Leipzig reprint of the same (1729 ff.) and
again in Walch’s edition (Halle, 1740 ff.).[183] Yet Lorenz Beger, in
his work “_Daphnæus Arcuarius_” (1679), had supplied the real text,
together with Bucer’s instructions and the marriage contract, from
“a prominent Imperial Chancery.” The importance of these documents
was first perceived in France. Bossuet used them in his “Histoire des
variations des églises protestantes” (1688).[184] He was also aware
that Landgrave Ernest, of Hesse-Rheinfels-Rotenburg, who returned to
the Catholic Church in 1652, had supplied copies of the three documents
(to Elector Carl Ludwig of the Palatine). In more recent times Max
Lenz’s publication of the Hessian archives has verified these documents
and supplied a wealth of other material which we have duly utilised in
the above.

_Opinions Old and New Regarding the Bigamy._

As more light began to be thrown on the history of the bigamy,
Protestant historians, even apart from those already mentioned, were
not slow in expressing their strong condemnation, as indeed was only to
be expected.

 Julius Boehmer, in outspoken language, points to “the unfortunate
 fact” that “Luther, in his old age, became weak, nay, flabby in his
 moral judgments and allowed himself to be guided by political and
 diplomatic considerations, and not by truth alone and an uncorruptible

 Walter Köhler, in the “Historische Zeitschrift,” has thrown a strong
 light on the person and the motives of the Landgrave.[186] Whilst
 admitting that Philip may have suffered from remorse of conscience
 and depression, he shows how these were “in great part due to his
 physical deterioration, his unrestrained excesses having brought
 on him syphilis in its worst form; sores broke out on his hands
 and he suffered from trouble with the throat.” His resolution to
 commit bigamy also sprang from the same source, “not from a sudden
 realisation of the wickedness of his life, but simply from the sense
 of his physical bankruptcy.” Besides, as Köhler points out, the
 Landgrave’s intention was not at first to marry Margaret, but rather
 to maintain her as a kept woman and so render excesses unnecessary.
 Philip, however, was unable to get her as a concubine, owing to the
 opposition of her mother, who demanded for her daughter the rank of
 princess and wife. Hence the idea of a bigamy.

 The following indignant reference of Onno Klopp’s must be included
 amongst the Protestant statements, since it was written some
 time before the eminent historian joined the Catholic Church:
 “The revolting story has left a blot on the memory of Luther and
 Melanchthon which oceans of sophisms will not avail to wash away.
 This, more than any other deed, brought to light both the waywardness
 of the new Church and its entire dependence on the favour of

 As for the concealment, and the secrecy in which the sanction of the
 bigamy was shrouded, G. Ellinger considers, that the decision of
 Luther and his friends “became absolutely immoral only through the
 concealment enjoined by the reformers.” In consequence of the matter
 being made a secret of conscience, “the second wife would seem to the
 world a concubine”; hence not only the first wife, but also the second
 would suffer degradation. The second wife’s relatives had given their
 consent “only on the hypothesis of a real marriage”; this too was what
 Philip intended; yet Luther wished him to tell the Emperor that she
 was a mere concubine; the Landgrave, however, refused to break the
 word he had given, and “repudiated Luther’s suggestion that he should
 tell a lie.”[188]

 Another Protestant, the historian Paul Tschackert, has recently
 characterised the Hessian affair as “a dirty story.” “It is, and must
 remain,” he says, “a shameful blot on the German Reformation and the
 life of our reformers. We do not wish to gloss it over, still less to
 excuse it.”[189]

Yet, notably in modern theological literature, some Protestants have
seemed anxious to palliate the affair. An attempt is made to place the
Wittenberg advice and Luther’s subsequent conduct in a more favourable
light by emphasising more than heretofore the secrecy of the advice
given, which Luther did not consider himself justified in revealing
under any circumstances, and the publication of which the Landgrave was
unjustly demanding. It is also urged, that the ecclesiastical influence
of the Middle Ages played its part in Luther’s sanction of the bigamy.
One author even writes: “the determining factor may have been,” that
“at the critical moment the reformer made way for the priest and
confessor”; elsewhere the same author says: “Thus the Reformation
begins with a mediæval scene.” Another Protestant theologian thinks
that “the tendency, taken over from the Catholic Church,” to treat
the marriage prohibitions as aspects of the natural law was really
responsible; in Luther’s evangelical morality “there was a good lump of
Romish morality, worthless quartz mingled with good metal”; “Catholic
scruples” had dimmed Luther’s judgment in the matter of polygamy; to us
the idea of bigamy appears “simply monstrous,” “but this is a result of
age-long habits”; in the 16th century people thought “very differently.”

In the face of the detailed quotations from actual sources already
given in the present chapter, all such opinions--not merely Luther’s
own appeal to a “secret of confession,” invented by himself--are
seen to be utterly unhistorical. Particularly so is the reference
to the Catholic Middle Ages. It was just the Middle Ages, and the
ecclesiastical tradition of earlier times, which excited among Luther’s
contemporaries, even those of his own party, such opposition to the
bigamy wherever news of the same penetrated in any shape or form.[190]

In the following we shall quote a few opinions of 16th-century
Protestants not yet mentioned. With the historian their unanimous
verdict must weigh more heavily in the scale than modern theories,
which, other considerations apart, labour under the disadvantage of
having been brought forward long after the event and the expressions
of opinion which accompanied it, to bolster up views commonly held

 The bigamy was so strongly opposed to public opinion and thus
 presumably to the tradition handed down from the Middle Ages, that
 Nicholas von Amsdorf, Luther’s friend, declared the step taken by
 Philip constituted “a mockery and insult to the Holy Gospel and
 a scandal to the whole of Christendom.”[192] He thought as did
 Justus Jonas, who exclaimed: “Oh, what a great scandal!” and, “Who
 is not aghast at so great and calamitous a scandal?”[193] Erasmus
 Alber, preacher at Marburg, speaks of the “awful scandal” (“_immane
 scandalum_”) which must result.[194] In a letter to the Landgrave in
 which the Hessian preacher, Anton Corvinus, fears a “great falling
 away” on account of the affair, he also says, that the world will not
 “in any way” hear of such a marriage being lawful; his only advice
 was: “Your Serene Highness must take the matter to heart and, on
 occasion, have recourse to lying.”[195] To tell a deliberate untruth,
 as already explained (pp. 29, 53), appeared to other preachers
 likewise the only possible expedient with which to meet the universal
 reprobation of contemporaries who judged of the matter from their
 “mediæval” standpoint.

 Justus Menius, the Thuringian preacher, in his work against polygamy
 mentioned above, appealed to the universal, Divine “prohibition which
 forbids and restrains us,” a prohibition which applied equally to the
 “great ones” and allowed of no dispensation. He also pointed out the
 demoralising effect of a removal of the prohibition in individual
 cases and the cunning of the devil who wished thereby “to brand the
 beloved Evangel with infamy.”[196]

 Philip had defiled the Church with filth (“_fœdissime_”), so wrote
 Johann Brenz, the leader of the innovations in Würtemberg. After such
 an example he scarcely dared to raise his eyes in the presence of
 honourable women, seeing what an insult this was to them.[197]

 Not to show how reprehensible was the deed, but merely to demonstrate
 anew how little ground there was for throwing the responsibility on
 the earlier ages of the Church, we may recall that the Elector, Johann
 Frederick of Saxony, on first learning of the project through Bucer,
 expressed his “horror,” and two days later informed the Landgrave
 through Brück, that such a thing had been unheard of for ages and
 the law of the land and the tradition of the whole of Christendom
 were likewise against it. It is true that he allowed himself to be
 pacified and sent his representative to the wedding, but afterwards
 he again declared with disapproval, that the whole world, and all
 Christians without distinction, would declare the Emperor right should
 he interfere; he also instructed his minister at the Court of Dresden
 to deny that the Elector or the Wittenberg theologians had had any
 hand in the matter.[198] Other Princes and politicians belonging to
 the new faith left on record strong expressions of their disapproval;
 for instance: Elector Joachim II of Brandenburg, Duke Ulrich of
 Würtemberg, King Christian III of Denmark, the Strasburg statesman
 Jacob Sturm and the Augsburg ambassador David Dettigkofer.[199] To the
 latter the news “was frightful tidings from which would result great
 scandal, a hindrance to and a falling away from the Holy Evangel.”[200]

All there now remains to do is to illustrate, by statements made by
Protestants in earlier and more recent times, two important points
connected with the Hessian episode; viz. the unhappy part which
politics played in Luther’s attitude, and what he said on lying. Here,
again, during the last ten years there has been a movement in Luther’s
favour amongst many Protestant theologians.

Concerning the part of politics W. Rockwell, the historian of the
bigamy, openly admits, that: “By his threat of seeking protection
from the Emperor for his bigamy, Philip overcame the unwillingness of
the Wittenbergers to grant the requested dispensation.”[201] “It is
clear,” he also says, “that political pressure was brought to bear on
the Wittenbergers by the Landgrave, and that to this pressure they

That consideration for the effect his decision was likely to have on
the attitude of the Landgrave weighed heavily in the balance with
Luther in the matter of his “testimony,” it is scarcely possible
to deny, after what we have seen. “The Hessian may fall away from
us” (above, p. 46), such was one of the fears which undoubtedly had
something to do with his compliance. To inspire such fear was plainly
the object of Philip’s threat, that, should the Wittenbergers not prove
amenable, he would make advances to the Emperor and the Pope, and the
repeated allusions made by Luther and his friends to their dread of
such a step, and of his falling away, show how his threat continued to
ring in their ears.[203]

 Bucer declared he had himself agreed to the bigamy from fear lest
 Philip should otherwise be lost to the Evangelical cause,[204] and his
 feelings were doubtless shared at Wittenberg. Melanchthon speaks not
 merely of a possible attempt on Philip’s part to obtain the Emperor’s
 sanction to his marriage, but of an actual threat to leave the party
 in the lurch.[205] Johann Brenz, as soon as news reached him in
 Würtemberg of the Landgrave’s hint of an appeal to the Emperor, saw in
 it a threat to turn his back on the protesting party.[206] All three
 probably believed that at heart the Landgrave would remain true to the
 new faith, but what Luther had chiefly in view was Philip’s position
 as head of the Schmalkalden League.

The result was all the more tragic. The compliance wrung from the
Wittenbergers failed to protect the party from the evil they were so
desirous of warding off. Philip’s reconciliation with the Emperor, as
already pointed out, was very detrimental to the Schmalkalden League,
however insincere his motives may have been.

 On this point G. Kawerau says:[207] “In the Landgrave’s resolution
 to address himself to the Emperor and the Pope, of which they were
 informed, they [Luther and Melanchthon] saw a ‘public scandal,’ a
 ‘_publica offensio_,’ which they sought to obviate by demanding
 absolute secrecy.”[208] “But the disastrous political consequences
 did, in the event, make their appearance.... The zealously promoted
 alliance with François I, to which even the Saxon Elector was not
 averse, came to nothing and Denmark and Sweden’s overtures had to
 be repelled. The prime-mover in the Schmalkalden League was himself
 obliged to cripple the League. ‘The dreaded champion of the Evangel
 became the tool of the Imperial policy’ (v. Bezold). From that time
 forward his position lacked precision and his strong initiative was

 G. Ellinger, in his study on Melanchthon, writes: “It can scarcely be
 gainsaid that Luther and Melanchthon allowed themselves in a moment of
 weakness to be influenced by the weight of these considerations.” The
 petition, he explains, had been warmly urged upon the Wittenbergers
 from a political point of view by Bucer, the intermediary. “If Bucer
 showed himself favourable to the Landgrave’s views this was due to
 his wish to preserve thereby the Evangelical cause from the loss of
 its most doughty champion; for Philip had told him in confidence,
 that, in the event of the Wittenbergers and the Saxon Electorate
 refusing their consent, he intended to address himself directly to the
 Emperor and the Pope in order to obtain sanction for his bigamy.” The
 Landgrave already, in the summer of 1534, had entertained the idea of
 approaching the Emperor, and in the spring of 1535 had made proposals
 to this end. “It can hardly be doubted that in Bucer’s case political
 reasons turned the scale.” Ellinger refers both to the admission made
 by Melanchthon and to the significant warning against the Emperor with
 which the letter of Dispensation closes.[209]

 The strongest reprobation of the evil influence exerted over Luther by
 politics comes, however, from Adolf Hausrath.[210] He makes it clear,
 that, at Wittenberg, they were aware that Protestantism “would assume
 quite another aspect were the mighty Protestant leader to go over to
 the Pope or the Emperor”; never has “the demoralising character of
 all politics” been more shamefully revealed; “eternal principles were
 sacrificed to the needs of the moment”; “Philip had to be retained at
 any cost.” Hence came the “great moral defeat” and Luther’s “fall.”

This indignant language on the part of the Heidelberg historian of
the Church has recently been described by a learned theologian on the
Protestant side as both “offensive” and uncalled for. Considering
Luther’s bold character it is surely very improbable, that an attempt
to intimidate him would have had any effect except “to arouse his
spirit of defiance”; not under the influence of mere “opportunism”
did he act, but, rather, after having, as a confessor, heard “the
cry of deep distress” he sought to come to “the aid of a suffering
conscience.”--In answer to this we must refer the reader to what
has gone before, where this view, which seems a favourite with some
moderns, has already sufficiently been dealt with. It need only be
added, that the learned author says of the bigamy, that “a fatal
blunder” was made by Luther ... but only because the mediæval confessor
intervened. “The reformer was not able in every season and situation to
assert the new religious principle which we owe to him; hence we have
merely one of many instances of failure, though one that may well be
termed grotesque and is scarcely to be matched.” “Nothing did more to
hinder the triumphal progress of the Reformation than the Landgrave’s
‘Turkish marriage.’” As to the argument drawn from Luther’s boldness
and defiance, a Protestant has pointed out, that we are not compelled
to regard any compliance from motives of policy as “absolutely
precluded”; to say that “political expediency played no part whatever
in Luther’s case” is “going a little too far.” “Did then Luther never
allow any room to political considerations? Even, for instance, in the
question of armed resistance to the Emperor?”[211]

       *       *       *       *       *

Referring to Luther’s notorious utterance on lying, G. Ellinger, the
Protestant biographer of Melanchthon, says: Luther’s readiness to
deny what had taken place is “one of the most unpleasing episodes in
his life and bears sad testimony to the frailty of human nature.” His
statements at the Eisenach Conference “show how even a great man was
driven from the path of rectitude by the blending of politics with
religion. He advised a ‘good, downright lie’ that the world might be
saved from a scandal.... It is sad to see a great man thus led astray,
though at the same time we must remember, that, from the very start,
the whole transaction had been falsified by the proposal to conceal

Th. Kolde says in a similar strain, in a work which is otherwise
decidedly favourable to Luther, “Greater offence than that given by the
‘advice’ itself is given by the attitude which the reformers took up
towards it at a later date.”[213]

 “The most immoral part of the whole business,” so Frederick von Bezold
 says in his “Geschichte der deutschen Reformation,” “lay in the advice
 given by the theologians that the world should be imposed upon.... A
 man [Luther] who once had been determined to sacrifice himself and
 the whole world rather than the truth, is now satisfied with a petty
 justification for his falling away from his own principles.”[214] And,
 to conclude with the most recent biographer of Luther, Adolf Hausrath
 thus criticises the invitation to tell a “downright lie”: “It is
 indeed sad to see the position into which the ecclesiastical leaders
 had brought themselves, and how, with devilish logic, one false step
 induced them to take another which was yet worse.”[215]

 This notwithstanding, the following opinion of a defender of Luther
 (1909) has not failed to find supporters in the Protestant world: “The
 number of those who in the reformation-period had already outgrown
 the lax mediæval view regarding the requirements of the love of truth
 was probably not very great. One man, however, towers in this respect
 above all his contemporaries, viz. Luther. He it was who first taught
 us what truthfulness really is. The Catholic Church, which repudiated
 his teaching, knows it not even to this day.” “A truthfulness which
 disregards all else,” nay, a “positive horror for all duplicity” is,
 according to this writer, the distinguishing mark of Luther’s life.



1. A Battery of Assertions.[216]

LUTHER’S frank admission of his readiness to make use of a “good big
lie” in the complications consequent on Philip’s bigamy, and his
invitation to the Landgrave to escape from the dilemma in this way, may
serve as a plea for the present chapter. “What harm is there,” he asks,
“if, in a good cause and for the sake of the Christian Churches, a man
tells a good, downright lie?” “A lie of necessity, of convenience,
or of excuse, all such lies are not against God and for such He will
Himself answer”; “that the Landgrave was unable to lie strongly, didn’t
matter in the least.”[217]

It is worth while ascertaining how Luther--who has so often
been represented as the embodiment of German integrity and
uprightness--behaved in general as regards the obligation of speaking
with truth and honesty. Quite recently a Protestant author, writing
with the sole object of exonerating his hero in this particular,
bestowed on him the title of “Luther the Truthful.” “Only in one
single instance,” so he has it, “did Luther advise the use of a lie of
necessity at which exception might be taken.” In order not to run to
the opposite extreme and make mountains out of mole-hills we shall do
well to bear in mind how great was the temptation, during so titanic a
struggle as his, for Luther to ignore at times the rigorous demands of
truth and justice, particularly when he saw his opponents occasionally
making light of them. We must likewise take into consideration the
vividness of Luther’s imagination, the strength of the ideas which
dominated him, his tendency to exaggeration and other mitigating

There was a time when Luther’s foes were ready to describe as lies
every false statement or erroneous quotation made by Luther, as though
involuntary errors and mistakes due to forgetfulness were not liable to
creep into his works, written as they were in great haste.

On the other hand, some of Luther’s admirers are ready enough to make
admissions such as the following: “In point of fact we find Luther
holding opinions concerning truthfulness which are not shared by
every Christian, not even by every evangelical Christian.” “Luther
unhesitatingly taught that there might be occasions when it was a
Christian’s duty to depart from the truth.”[218]

To this we must, however, add that Luther, repeatedly and with the
utmost decision, urged the claims of truthfulness, branded lying as
“the devil’s own image,”[219] and extolled as one of the excellencies
of the Germans--in which they differed from Italians and Greeks--their
reputation for ever being “loyal, truthful and reliable people”; he
also adds--and the words do him credit--“To my mind there is no more
shameful vice on earth than lying.”[220]

This, however, does not dispense us from the duty of carefully
examining the particular instances which seem to militate against the
opinion here expressed.

We find Luther’s relations with truth very strained even at the
beginning of his career, and that, too, in the most important and
momentous explanations he gave of his attitude towards the Church and
the Pope. Frequently enough, by simply placing his statements side by
side, striking falsehoods and evasions become apparent.[221]

 For instance, according to his own statements made in private, he
 is determined to assail the Pope as Antichrist, yet at the same
 time, in his official writings, he declares any thought of hostility
 towards the Pope to be alien to him. It is only necessary to note
 the dates: On March 13, 1519, he tells his friend Spalatin that he
 is wading through the Papal Decretals and, in confidence, must admit
 his uncertainty as to whether the Pope is Antichrist or merely his
 Apostle, so miserably had Christ, i.e. the truth, been crucified by
 him in the Decretals.[222] Indeed, even in the earlier half of Dec.,
 1518, he had been wondering whether the Pope was not Antichrist; on
 Dec. 11, writing to his friend Link, he said he had a suspicion, that
 the “real Antichrist” of whom Paul speaks ruled at the Court of Rome,
 and believed that he could prove that he was “even worse than the
 Turk.”[223] In a similar strain he wrote as early as Jan. 13, 1519,
 that he intended to fight the “Roman serpent” should the Elector and
 the University of Wittenberg allow him so to do;[224] on Feb. 3,[225]
 and again on Feb. 20, 1519,[226] he admits that it had already “long”
 been his intention to declare war on Rome and its falsifications of
 the truth.--In spite of all this, at the beginning of Jan., 1519, he
 informed the Papal agent Miltitz that he was quite ready to send a
 humble and submissive letter to the Pope, and, as a matter of fact,
 on Jan. 5 (or 6), 1519, he wrote that strange epistle to Leo X in
 which he speaks of himself as “the dregs of humanity” in the presence
 of the Pope’s “sublime majesty”; he approaches him like a “lambkin,”
 whose bleating he begs the Vicar of Christ graciously to give ear to.
 Nor was all this merely said in derision, but with a fixed purpose to
 deceive. He declares with the utmost solemnity “before God and every
 creature” that it had never entered his mind to assail in any way
 the authority of the Roman Church and the Pope; on the contrary, he
 “entirely admits that the power of the Church extends over all, and
 that nothing in heaven or on earth is to be preferred to her, except
 Jesus Christ alone, the Lord of all things.” The original letter
 still exists, but the letter itself was never despatched, probably
 because Miltitz raised some objection.[227] Only through mere chance
 did the Papal Curia fail to receive this letter, which, compared with
 Luther’s real thought as elsewhere expressed, can only be described as

 In his dealings with his Bishop, Hieronymus Scultetus the chief pastor
 of Brandenburg, he had already displayed a like duplicity.

 In May, 1518, he wrote assuring him in the most respectful terms,
 that he submitted unconditionally to the judgment of the Church
 whatever he was advancing concerning Indulgences and kindred
 subjects; that the Bishop was to burn all his scribbles (Theses and
 Resolutions) should they displease him, and that he would “not mind
 in the least.”[229]--And yet a confidential letter sent three months
 earlier to his friend Spalatin mentions, though for the benefit of
 him “alone and our friends,” that the whole system of Indulgences now
 seemed to Luther a “deluding of souls, good only to promote spiritual

 To the Emperor too he also gives assurances couched in submissive and
 peaceful language, which are in marked contrast with other statements
 which emanated from him about the same time.

 It is only necessary to recall his letter of Aug. 30, 1520, to
 Charles V.[231] Here Luther seeks to convince the Emperor that he
 is the quietest and most docile of theologians; who was “forced to
 write only owing to the snares laid for him by others”; who wished
 for nothing more than to be ignored and left in peace; and who was
 ready at any moment to welcome the instruction which so far had been
 refused him.--Very different was his language a few weeks earlier when
 writing to Spalatin, his tool at the Electoral Court of Saxony: “The
 die is cast; the despicable fury or favour of the Romans is nothing
 to me; I desire no reconciliation or communion with them.... I shall
 burn the whole of the Papal Laws and all humility and friendliness
 shall cease.”[232] He even hopes, with the help of Spalatin and the
 Elector, to send to Rome the ominous tidings of the offer made by the
 Knight Silvester von Schauenburg to protect him by armed force; they
 might then see at Rome “that their thunders are of no avail”; should
 they, however, obtain from the Elector his dismissal from his chair
 at Wittenberg, then, “with the support of the men-at-arms, he would
 make things still warmer for the Romans.”[233] And yet, on the other
 hand, Luther was just then most anxious that Spalatin, by means of the
 Elector, should represent his cause everywhere, and particularly at
 Rome, as not yet defined, as a point of controversy urgently calling
 for examination or, at the very least, for a biblical refutation
 before the Emperor and the Church; the Sovereign also was to tell the
 Romans that “violence and censures would only make the case of Germany
 worse even than that of Bohemia,” and would lead to “irrepressible
 tumults.” In such wise, by dint of dishonest diplomacy, did he seek
 to frighten, as he says, the “timid Romanists” and thus prevent their
 taking any steps against him.[234]

 If we go back a little further we find a real and irreconcilable
 discrepancy between the actual events of the Indulgence controversy
 of 1517 and 1518 and the accounts which he himself gave of them later.

 “I was forced to accept the degree of Doctor and to swear to preach
 and teach my cherished Scriptures truly and faithfully. But then the
 Papacy barred my way and sought to prevent me from teaching.”[235]
 “While I was looking for a blessing from Rome, there came instead
 a storm of thunder and lightning; I was made the lamb that fouled
 the water for the wolf; Tetzel escaped scot-free, but I was to be

 His falsehoods about Tetzel are scarcely believable. The latter
 was, so he says, such a criminal that he had even been condemned to

 The Indulgence-preachers had declared (what they never thought of
 doing) “that it was not necessary to have remorse and sorrow in
 order to obtain the indulgence.”[238] In his old age Luther stated
 that Tetzel had even given Indulgences for future sins. It is true,
 however, that when he spoke “he had already become a myth to himself”
 (A. Hausrath). “Not only are the dates wrong but even the events
 themselves.... It is the same with the statement that Tetzel had sold
 Indulgences for sins not yet committed.... In Luther’s charges against
 Tetzel in the controversy on the Theses we hear nothing of this; only
 in the work ‘Wider Hans Worst’ (1541), written in his old age, does he
 make such an assertion.”[239] In this tract Luther does indeed make
 Tetzel teach that “there was no need of remorse, sorrow or repentance
 for sin, provided one bought an indulgence, or an indulgence-letter.”
 He adds: “And he [Tetzel] also sold for future sins.” (See vol. i., p.

 This untruth, clearly confuted as it was by facts, passed from
 Luther’s lips to those of his disciples. Mathesius in his first sermon
 on Luther seems to be drawing on the passage in “Wider Hans Worst”
 when he says, Tetzel had preached that he was able to forgive the
 biggest past “as well as future sins.”[240] Luther’s friend, Frederick
 Myconius, helped to spread the same falsehood throughout Germany by
 embodying it in his “_Historia Reformationis_” (1542),[241] whilst in
 Switzerland, Henry Bullinger, who also promoted it, expressly refers
 to “Wider Hans Worst” as his authority.[242]

 In this way Luther’s misrepresentations infected his whole circle, nor
 can we be surprised if in this, as in so many similar instances, the
 falsehood has held the field even to our own day.[243]

 We may mention incidentally, that Luther declares concerning the fame
 which his printed “Propositions against Tetzel’s Articles” brought
 him: “It did not please me, for, as I said, I myself did not know
 what the Indulgence was,”[244] although his first sermons are a
 refutation, both of his own professed ignorance and of that which he
 also attributes “to all theologians generally.”--Finally, Luther was
 very fond of intentionally representing the Indulgence controversy as
 the one source of his opposition to the Church, and in this he was so
 successful that many still believe it in our own times. The fact that,
 long before 1517, his views on Grace and Justification had alienated
 him from the teaching of the Church, he keeps altogether in the

At length the Church intervened with the Ban and Luther was summoned
before the Emperor at the Diet of Worms. Three years later, at the
cost of truth, he had already contrived to cast a halo of glory around
his public appearance there. For instance, we know how, contrary to
the true state of the case, he wrote: “I went to Worms although I knew
that the safe conduct given me by the Emperor would be broken”; for the
German Princes, otherwise so staunch and true, had, he says, learned
nothing better from the Roman idol than to disregard their plighted
word; when he entered Worms he had “taken a jump into the gaping jaws
of the monster Behemoth.”[245] Yet he knew well enough that the promise
of a safe conduct was to be kept most conscientiously. Only on the
return journey did he express the fear lest, by preaching in defiance
of the prohibition, he might make people say that he had thereby
forfeited his safe conduct.[246]

Yet again it was no tribute to truth and probity, when, after the
arrival in Germany of the Bull of Excommunication, though perfectly
aware that it was genuine, he nevertheless feigned in print to regard
it as a forgery concocted by his enemies, to the detriment of the
Evangel. In confidence he declared that he “believed the Bull to be
real and authentic,”[247] and yet at that very time, in his “Von den
newen Eckischenn Bullen und Lugen,” he brought forward four reasons for
its being a forgery, and strove to make out that the document was, not
the work of the Pope, but a “tissue of lies” woven by Eck.[248]

His tactics had been the same in the case of an edict directed against
him by the Bishop of Meissen, the first of the German episcopate to
take action. He knew very well that the enactment was genuine. Yet he
wrote in reply the “Antwort auff die Tzedel sso unter des Officials tzu
Stolpen Sigel ist aussgangen,” as though the writer were some unknown
opponent, who ... “had lost his wits on the Gecksberg.”[249]

A similar artifice was made to serve his purpose in the matter of the
Papal Brief of Aug. 23, 1518, in which Cardinal Cajetan received full
powers to proceed against him. He insisted that this was a malicious
fabrication of his foes in Germany; and yet he was well aware of the
facts of the case; he cannot have doubted its authenticity, seeing that
the Brief had been officially transmitted to him from the Saxon Court
through Spalatin.[250]

While, however, accusing others of deception, even occasionally by
name, as in Eck’s case, he saw no wrong in antedating his letter to
Leo X; for this neither he nor his adviser Miltitz was to be called
to account; it sufficed that by dating it earlier the letter appeared
to have been written in ignorance of the Excommunication, and thereby
served Luther’s interests better.[251]

In fact, right through the period previous to his open breach with
Rome, we see him ever labouring to postpone the decision, though a
great gulf already separated him from the Church of yore. Across the
phantom bridge which still spanned the chasm, he saw with satisfaction
thousands passing into his own camp. When on the very point of raising
the standard of revolt he seemed at pains to prove it anything but an
emblem of uprightness, probity and truth.

       *       *       *       *       *

Passing now to the struggle of his later life, similar phenomena can
scarcely escape the eyes of the unprejudiced observer.

He was proposing untruth and deception when, in 1520, he advised
candidates to qualify for major Orders by a fictitious vow of celibacy.
Whoever was to be ordained subdeacon was to urge the Bishop not to
demand continency, but should the Bishop insist upon the law and call
for such a promise, then the candidates were quietly to give it with
the proviso: “_quantum fragilitas humana permittit_”; then, says
Luther, “each one is free to take these words in a negative sense, i.e.
I do not vow chastity because human frailty does not allow of a man
living chastely.”[252]

To what lengths he was prepared to go, even where members of Reformed
sects were concerned, may be seen in one of his many unjust outbursts
against Zwingli and Œcolampadius. Although they were suffering
injustice and violence, yet he denounced them mercilessly. They were
to be proclaimed “damned,” even though this led to “violence being
offered them”; this was the best way to make people shrink from their
false doctrines.[253] His own doctrines, on the other hand, he says,
are such that not even Catholics dared to condemn them. On his return
to Wittenberg from the Coburg he preached, that the Papists had been
forced to admit that his doctrine did not offend against a single
article of the Faith.[254]--Of Carlstadt, his theological child of
trouble, he asserted, that he wished to play the part of teacher of
Holy Scripture though he had never in all his life even seen the
Bible,[255] and yet all, Luther inclusive, knew that Carlstadt was not
so ignorant of the Bible and that he could even boast of a considerable
acquaintance with Hebrew. Concerning Luther’s persecution of Carlstadt,
a Protestant researcher has pointed to the “ever-recurring flood
of misrepresentations, suspicions, vituperation and abuse which the
Reformer poured upon his opponent.”[256]

Such being his licence of speech, what treatment could Catholics expect
at his hands? One instance is to be found in the use he makes against
the Catholics of a well-known passage of St. Bernard’s.

 St. Bernard, says Luther, had declared the religious life to be
 worthless and had said: “_Perdite vixi_” (“I have shamefully wasted
 my life”). The great Saint of the religious life, the noblest patron
 and representative of the virtues of the cloister, Luther depicts
 as condemning with these words the religious life in general as
 an abominable error; he would have him brand his own life and his
 attention to his vows, as an existence foreign to God which he had
 too late recognised as such! By this statement, says Luther, he
 “hung up his cowl on the nail,” and proceeds to explain his meaning:
 “Henceforward he cared not a bit for the cowl and its foolery and
 refused to hear any more about it.”[257] Thus, so Luther assures
 us, St. Bernard, at the solemn moment of quitting this world, “made
 nothing” (“_nihili fecit_”) of his vows.[258]

 When quoting the words “_Perdite vixi_” Luther frequently seeks to
 convey an admission on the Saint’s part of his having come at last to
 see that the religious life was a mistake, and merely led people to
 forget Christ’s merits; that he had at last attained the perception
 during sickness and had laid hold on Christ’s merits as his only
 hope.[259] Even on internal grounds it is too much to assume Luther to
 have been in good faith, or merely guilty of a lapse of memory. That
 we have here to do with a distorted version of a perfectly harmless
 remark is proved to the historian by another passage, dating from
 the year 1518, where Luther himself refers quite simply and truly
 to the actual words employed by St. Bernard and sees in them merely
 an expression of humility and the admission of a pure heart, which
 detested the smallest of its faults.[260]

 Denifle has followed up the “_Perdite vixi_” with great acumen, shown
 the frequent use Luther made of it and traced the words to their
 actual context in St. Bernard’s writings. The text does not contain
 the faintest condemnation of the religious life, so that Luther’s
 incessant misuse of it becomes only the more incomprehensible.[261]

 St. Bernard is here speaking solely of his own faults and
 imperfections, not at all of the religious life or of the vows. Nor
 were the words uttered on his death-bed, when face to face with
 eternity, but occur in a sermon preached in the full vigour of manhood
 and when the Saint was eagerly pursuing his monastic ideal.

Again, what things were not circulated by Luther, in the stress of his
warfare, concerning the history of the Popes and the Church? Here,
again, some of his statements were not simply errors made in good
faith, but, as has been pointed out by Protestant historians, malicious
inventions going far beyond the matter contained in the sources which
we know to have been at his command. The Popes “poisoned several
Emperors, beheaded or otherwise betrayed others and put them to death,
as became the diabolical spectre of the Papacy.”[262] The bloodthirsty
Popes were desirous of “slaying the German Emperors, as Clement IV did
with Conradin, the last Duke of Suabia and hereditary King of Naples,
whom he caused to be publicly put to death by the sword.”[263] Of this
E. Schäfer rightly says, that the historian Sabellicus, whom Luther
was utilising, simply (and truly) records that: “Conradin was taken
while attempting to escape and was put to death by order of Charles [of
Anjou]”; Clement IV Sabellicus does not mention at all, although it is
true that the Pope was a strong opponent of the Staufen house.[264]

The so-called letter of St. Ulrich of Augsburg against clerical
celibacy, with the account of 3000 (6000) babies’ heads found in a
pond belonging to St. Gregory’s nunnery in Rome, is admittedly one of
the most impudent forgeries found in history and emanated from some
foe of Gregory VII and opponent of the ancient law of celibacy. Luther
brought it out as a weapon in his struggle against celibacy, and,
according to Köstlin-Kawerau, most probably the Preface to the printed
text published at Wittenberg in 1520 came from his pen.[265] The
manuscript had been sent to Luther from Holland. Emser took him to task
and proved the forgery, though on not very substantial grounds. Luther
demurred to one of his arguments but declared that he did not build
merely on a doubtful letter. In spite of this, however, the seditious
and alluring fable was not only not withdrawn from circulation but
actually reprinted. When Luther said later that celibacy had first
been introduced in the time of St. Ulrich, he is again speaking on the
authority of the supposititious letter. This letter was also worked for
all it was worth by those who later took up the defence of Luther’s

To take one single example of Luther’s waywardness in speaking of Popes
who were almost contemporaries: He tells us with the utmost assurance
that Alexander VI had been an “unbelieving Marane.” However much we
may execrate the memory of the Borgia Pope, still so extraordinary an
assertion has never been made by any sensible historian. Alexander
VI, the pretended Jewish convert and “infidel” on the Papal throne!
Who could read his heart so well as to detect an infidelity, which,
needless to say, he never acknowledged? Who can credit the tale of his
being a Marane?

       *       *       *       *       *

When, in July 14, 1537, Pope Paul III issued a Bull granting an
indulgence for the war against the Turks, Luther at once published
it with misleading notes in which he sought to show that the Popes,
instead of linking up the Christian powers against their foes, had ever
done their best to promote dissensions amongst the great monarchs of

In 1538 he sent to the press his Schmalkalden “Artickel” against the
Pope and the prospective Council, adding observations of a questionable
character regarding their history and meaning. He certainly was
exalting unduly the Articles when he declared in the Introduction,
that “they have been unanimously accepted and approved by our people.”
It is a matter of common knowledge, that, owing to Melanchthon’s
machinations, they had never even been discussed. (See vol. iii., p.
434.) They were nevertheless published as though they had been the
official scheme drafted for presentation to the Council. Luther also
put into the printed Artickel words which are not to be found in the
original.[268] The following excuse of his statement as to their having
been accepted at Schmalkalden has been made: “It is evident, that,
owing to his grave illness at Schmalkalden, he never learnt the exact
fate of his Articles.” Yet who can believe, that, after his recovery,
he did not make enquiries into what had become of the Articles on which
he laid so much weight, or that he “never learnt” their fate, though
the matter was one well known to both the Princes and the theologians?
Only after his death were these Articles embodied in the official

Seeing that he was ready to misrepresent even the official proceedings
of his own party, we cannot be surprised if, in his controversies,
he was careless about the truth where the person of an opponent was
concerned. Here it is not always possible to find even a shadow of
excuse behind which he can take refuge. Of Erasmus’s end he had
received accounts from two quarters, both friendly to his cause, but
they did not strike him as sufficiently damning. Accordingly he at
once set in currency reports concerning the scholar’s death utterly at
variance with what he had learnt from the letters in question.[270]
He accused the Catholics, particularly the Catholic Princes, of
attempting to murder him, and frequently speaks of the hired braves
sent out against him. Nor were his friends and pupils slow to take his
words literally and to hurl such charges, more particularly against
Duke George of Saxony.[271] Yet not a single attempt on his life can
be proved, and even Protestants have admitted concerning the Duke
that “nothing credible is known of any attempt on George’s part to
assassinate Luther.”[272] Cochlæus merely relates that murderers had
offered their services to Duke George;[273] beyond that nothing.

Far more serious than such misrepresenting of individuals was the
injustice he did to the whole ecclesiastical life of the Middle Ages,
which he would fain have made out to have entirely fallen away from
the true standard of Christian faith and practice. Seen through his
new glasses, mediæval life was distorted beyond all recognition.
Walter Köhler gives a warning which is to the point: “Protestant
historians must beware of looking at the Middle Ages from Luther’s
standpoint.”[274] In particular was mediæval Scholasticism selected
by Luther and his friends as a butt for attack and misrepresentation.
Bucer admits in a letter to Bullinger how far they had gone in this
respect: “We have treated all the Schoolmen in such a way as to shock
many good and worthy men, who see that we have not read their works but
are merely anxious to slander them out of prudence.”[275]

       *       *       *       *       *

However desirous we may be of crediting the later Luther with good
faith in his distorted views of Catholic practices and doctrines, still
he frequently goes so far in this respect as to make it extremely
difficult to believe that his misrepresentations were based on mere
error or actual conviction. One would have thought that he would at
least have noticed the blatant contrast between his insinuations
and the text of the Breviary and Missal--books with which he was
thoroughly conversant--and even of the rule of his Order. As a monk
and priest he was perfectly familiar with them; only at the cost of a
violent wrench could he have passed from this so different theological
world to think as he ultimately did of the doctrines of Catholicism.
Döllinger was quite right when he wrote: “As a controversialist Luther
combined undeniably dialectic and rhetorical talent with a degree of
unscrupulousness such as is rarely met with in this domain. One of
his most ordinary methods was to distort a doctrine or institution
into a mere caricature of itself, and then, forgetful of the fact
that what he was fighting was a simple creation of his fancy, to
launch out into righteous abuse of it.... So soon as he touches a
theological question, he confuses it, often of set purpose, and as
for the reasons of his opponents, they are mutilated and distorted
out of all recognition.”[276] The untruthfulness of his polemics is
peculiarly apparent in his attack on free-will. It is impossible,
even with the best of intentions, to put it all, or practically all,
to the account “of the method of disputation” then in use. That
method, the syllogistic one, called for a clear and accurate statement
of the opponent’s standpoint. The controversy round “_De servo
arbitrio_” (fully dealt with in vol. ii., pp. 223-294) has recently
been studied by two scholars, one a Protestant, the other a Catholic,
and both authors on the whole agree at least on one point, viz. that
Luther ascribed to his opponent a denial of the necessity of Grace,
such as the latter never defended, and such as is quite unknown to
Catholics.[277] Indeed, at a later juncture in that same controversy
Luther even declared of the author of the “_Hyperaspistes_” that he
denied the Trinity![278]

Instead of instancing anew all the many minor misrepresentations of
the dogmas and practices of the older Church for which Luther was
responsible, and which are found scattered throughout this work, we may
confine ourselves to recalling his bold assertion, that all earlier
expositors had taken the passage concerning “God’s justice,” in Rom.
i. 17, as referring to punitive justice.[279] This was what he taught
from his professor’s chair and what we find vouched for in the notes
of a zealous pupil of whose fidelity there can be no question. And yet
it has been proved, that, with the possible exception of Abelard, not
one can be found who thus explained the passage of which Luther speaks
(“_hunc locum_”), whilst Luther himself was acquainted with some at
least of the more than sixty commentators who interpret it otherwise.
Significant enough is the fact that he only reached this false
interpretation gradually.

Luther also says that he and all the others had been told it was a
mortal sin to leave their cell without their scapular, though he never
attempts to prove that this was the general opinion, or was even
held by anybody. The rule of his Order rejected such exaggeration.
All theologians were agreed that such trifles did not constitute a
grievous sin. Luther was perfectly aware that Gerson, who was much
read in the monasteries, was one of these theologians; he praised him,
because, though looked at askance at Rome, he set consciences free from
over-great scrupulosity and refused to brand the non-wearing of the
scapular as a crime.[280] Gerson was indeed not favourably regarded
in Rome, but this was for other reasons, not, as Luther makes out, on
account of such common-sense teaching as the above.

Then again we have the untruth he is never tired of reiterating, viz.
that in the older Church people thought they could be saved only by
means of works, and that, through want of faith in Christ, the “Church
had become a whore.”[281] Yet ecclesiastical literature in Luther’s day
no less than in ours, and likewise an abundance of documents bearing on
the point teach quite the contrary and make faith in Christ the basis
of all the good works enjoined.[282] All were aware, as Luther himself
once had been, that outward works taken by themselves were worthless.
And yet Luther, in one of the charges which he repeated again and
again, though at the outset he cannot have believed it, says: “The
question is, how we are to become pious. The Grey Friar says: Wear a
grey hood, a rope and the tonsure. The Black Friar says: Put on a black
frock. The Papist: Do this or that good work, hear Mass, pray, fast,
give alms, etc., and each one whatever he fancies will help him to be
saved. But the Christian says: Only by faith in Christ can you become
pious, and righteous and secure salvation; only through Grace alone,
without any work or merits of your own. Now look and see which is true

Let us listen for a moment to the indignant voice of a learned Catholic
contemporary, viz. the Saxon Dominican, Bartholomew Kleindienst,
himself for a while not unfavourable to the new errors, who, in 1560,
replied to Luther’s misrepresentations: “Some of the leaders of sects
are such impudent liars as, contrary to their own conscience, to
persuade the poor people to believe, that we Catholics of the present
day, or as they term us Papists, do not believe what the old Papists
believed; we no longer think anything of Christ, but worship the
Saints, not merely as the friends of God but as gods themselves; nay,
we look upon the Pope as our God; we wish to gain heaven by means of
our works, without God’s Grace; we do not believe in Holy Writ; have
no proper Bible and should be unable to read it if we had; trust more
in holy water than in the blood of Christ.... Numberless such-like
horrible, blasphemous and hitherto unheard-of lies they invent and use
against us. The initiate are well aware that this is the chief trick of
the sects, whereby they render the Papacy an abomination to simple and
otherwise well-disposed folk.”[284]

       *       *       *       *       *

But had not Luther, carried away by his zeal against the Papists, taken
his stand on the assumption, that, against the deception and depravity
of the Papal Antichrist, every weapon was good provided only that it
helped to save souls? Such at any rate was his plea in justification of
his work “An den christlichen Adel.”[285] Again, during the menacing
Diet of Augsburg, when recommending the use of the questionable
“Gospel-proviso,” he let fall the following in a letter: Even “tricks
and failings” (“_doli et lapsus_”), should they occur amongst his
followers in their resistance to the Papists, “can easily be atoned for
once we have escaped the danger.”[286] He even adds: “For God’s Mercy
watches over us.”

In the midst of the double-dealing then in progress Luther again
appealed to Christ in his letter to Wenceslaus Link on Sep. 20, 1530,
where he says: Christ “would be well pleased with such deceit and would
scornfully cheat the [Papist] deceivers, as he hoped,” i.e. raise
false hopes that the Lutherans would yield; later they would find out
their mistake, and that they had been fooled. Here is my view of the
matter, he continues, “I am secure, that without my consent, their
consent [the concessions of Melanchthon and his friends at the Diet]
is invalid. Even were I too to agree with these blasphemers, murderers
and faithless monsters, yet the Church and [above all] the teaching of
the Gospel would not consent.” This was his “Gospel-proviso,” thanks to
which all the concessions, doctrinal or moral, however solemnly granted
by him or by his followers, might be declared invalid--“once we have
escaped the danger.” (See vol. iii., p. 337 ff.)

The underhandedness which he advocated in order that the people might
not be made aware of the abrogation of the Mass, has been considered
above (vol. ii., p. 321). Another strange trick on his part--likewise
for the better furtherance of his cause--was his attempt to persuade
the Bishop of Samland, George von Polenz, who had fallen away from the
Church and joined him, “to proceed with caution”; “therefore that it
would be useful for him [the Bishop] to appear to suspend his judgment
(“_ut velut suspendens sententiam appareret_”); to wait until the
people had consented, and then throw in his weight as though he had
been conquered by their arguments.”[287] Couched in Luther’s ordinary
language this would mean that the Bishop was to pretend to be wavering
between Christ and Antichrist, between hell and the Evangel, though any
such wavering, to say nothing of any actual yielding, would have been
a capital crime against religion. At the best the Bishop could only
hypocritically feign to be wavering in spite of the other public steps
he had taken in Luther’s favour and of which the latter was well aware.

Later, in 1545, considering the “deception and depravity” of the Papacy
Luther thought himself justified in insinuating in a writing against
the Catholic Duke Henry of Brunswick,[288] then a prisoner, that the
Pope had furnished him supplies for his unfortunate warlike enterprise
against the allies of the evangelical confession.

 Of this there was not the shadow of a proof. The contrary is clear
 from Protestant documents and protocols.[289] The Court of the Saxon
 Electorate, where an insult to the Emperor was apprehended, was aghast
 at Luther’s resolve to publish the charge concerning the “equipment
 from Italy,” and Chancellor Brück hastened to request him to alter the
 proofs for fear of evil consequences.[290] Luther, however, was in no
 mood to yield; the writing comprising this malicious insinuation and
 other falsehoods was even addressed in the form of a letter to the
 Saxon Elector and the allied Princes. At the same time the author,
 both in the text and in his correspondence, gave the impression that
 the writing had been composed without the Elector’s knowledge and only
 at the request of “many others, some of them great men,” though in
 reality, as Protestants admit, the “work had been written to order,”
 viz. at the instigation of the Electoral Court.[291]

 “We all know,” Luther says, seemingly with the utmost gravity, in this
 work against the Duke, “that Pope and Papists desire our death, body
 and soul. We, on the other hand, desire to save them with us, soul
 and body.”[292] There is no need to waste words on the intentions here
 ascribed to the Papists. As to Luther’s own good intentions so far as
 the material welfare of the Papists goes, what he says does not tally
 with the wish he so loudly expressed at that very time for the bloody
 destruction of the Pope. Further, as regards the Papists’ souls,
 what he said of his great opponent, Archbishop Albert of Mayence,
 deserves to be mentioned: “He died impenitent in his sins and must be
 damned eternally, else the Christian faith is all wrong.”[293] Did
 Luther perhaps write this with a heavy heart? Yet he also condemns in
 advance the soul of the unhappy Duke of Brunswick, “seeing there is
 no hope of his amendment,” and “even though he should feign to repent
 and become more pious,” yet he would not be trusted since “he might
 pretend to repent and amend merely in order to climb back to honour,
 lands and people, which assuredly would be nothing but a false and
 foxy repentance.”[294] Hence he insists upon the Princes refusing
 to release the Duke. But even his own friends will not consider his
 religious motives for this very profound or genuine, for instance,
 when he says: Were he to be released, “many pious hearts would be
 saddened and their prayers for your Serene Highnesses become tepid and
 cold.”[295] His political reasons were no less founded on untruth.
 The only object of the League of the Catholic Princes was to seize
 upon the property of the evangelical Princes; “they were thinking,
 not of the Christian faith, but of the lands of the Elector and the
 Landgrave”; they have made “one league after the other” and now “call
 it a defensive one, as though forsooth they were in danger,” whereas
 “we for our part have without intermission prayed, implored, called
 and cried for peace.”[296]

While Luther was himself playing fast and loose with truth, he was not
slow to accuse his opponents of lying even when they presented matters
as they really were. When Eck published the Bull of Excommunication,
which Luther himself knew to be authentic, he was roundly rated for
saying that his “tissue of lies” was “the Pope’s work.”[297] In fact,
in all and everything that Catholics undertake against his cause,
they are seeking “to deceive us and the common people, though well
aware of the contrary.... You see how they seek the truth.... They are
rascals incarnate.”[298] In fighting against the lies of his opponents
Luther, once,--curiously enough--in his writing “Widder die hymelischen
Propheten” actually takes the Pope under his protection against the
calumnies of his Wittenberg opponent Carlstadt; seeking to brand him as
a liar, he declares that he “was notoriously telling lies of the Pope.”

We already know how much Carlstadt had to complain of Luther’s lying
and fickleness.

This leads to a short review of the remarks made by Luther’s then
opponents and friends concerning his want of truthfulness.

2. Opinions of Contemporaries in either Camp

Luther’s work against Duke Henry of Brunswick entitled “Wider Hans
Worst” was so crammed with malice and falsehoods that even some of
Luther’s followers were disposed to complain of its unseemliness. Simon
Wilde, who was then studying medicine at Wittenberg, wrote on April
8, 1541, when forwarding to his uncle the Town Clerk, Stephen Roth of
Zwickau, a copy of the booklet which had just appeared: “I am sending
you a little work of Dr. Martin against the Duke of Brunswick which
bristles with calumnies, but which also [so he says] contains much that
is good, and may be productive of something amongst the virtuous.”[299]

Statements adverse to Luther’s truthfulness emanating from the
Protestant side are not rare; particularly are they met with in the
case of theologians who had had to suffer from his violence; nor can
their complaints be entirely disallowed simply because they came from
men who were in conflict with him, though the circumstance would call
for caution in making use of them were the complaints not otherwise

Œcolampadius in his letter to Zwingli of April 20, 1525, calls Luther a
“master in calumny, and prince of sophists.”[300]

The Strasburg preachers Bucer and Capito, though reputed for their
comparative moderation, wrote of one of Luther’s works on the
Sacrament, that “never had anything more sophistical and calumnious
seen the light.”[301]

Thomas Münzer repeatedly calls his enemy Luther “Dr. Liar” and “Dr.
Lyinglips,”[302] on account of the unkindness of his polemics; more
picturesquely he has it on one occasion, that “he lied from the bottom
of his gullet.”[303]

 Bucer complains in terms of strong disapprobation, that, when engaged
 with his foes, Luther was wont to misrepresent and distort their
 doctrines in order the more readily to gain the upper hand, at least
 in the estimation of the multitude. He finds that “in many places” he
 has “rendered the doctrines and arguments of the opposite side with
 manifest untruth,” for which the critic is sorry, since this “gave
 rise to grave doubts and temptations” amongst those who detected
 this practice, and diminished their respect for the Evangelical

 The Lutheran, Hieronymus Pappus, sending Luther’s work “Wider Hans
 Worst” to Joachim Vadian, declared: “In calumny he does not seem to me
 to have his equal.”[305]

 Johann Agricola, once Luther’s friend, and then, on account of his
 Antinomianism, his adversary, brings against Luther various charges
 in his Notes (see above, vol. iii., p. 278); the worst refer to his
 “lying.” God will punish Luther, he writes, referring to his work
 “Against the Antinomians”; “he has heaped too many lies on me before
 all the world.” Luther had said that Agricola denied the necessity of
 prayer or good works; this the latter, appealing to his witnesses,
 brands as an “abominable lie.” He characterises the whole tract as
 “full of lies,”[306] and, in point of fact, there is no doubt it did
 contain the worst exaggerations.

 Among the writers of the opposite camp the first place is due to
 Erasmus. Of one of the many distortions of his meaning committed by
 Luther he says: “It is true I never look for moderation in Luther,
 but for so malicious a calumny I was certainly not prepared.”[307]
 Elsewhere he flings in his face the threat: “I shall show everybody
 what a master you are in the art of misrepresentation, defamation,
 calumny and exaggeration. But the world knows this already.... In your
 sly way you contrive to twist even what is absolutely true, whenever
 it is to your interest to do so. You know how to turn black into
 white and to make light out of darkness.”[308] Disgusted with Luther’s
 methods, he finally became quite resigned even to worse things. He
 writes: “I have received Luther’s letter; it is simply the work of
 a madman. He is not in the least ashamed of his infamous lies and
 promises to do even worse. What can those people be thinking of who
 confide their souls and their earthly destiny to a man who allows
 himself to be thus carried away by passion?”[309]

 The polemic, Franz Arnoldi, tells Luther, that one of his works
 contains “as many lies as words.”[310]

 Johann Dietenberger likewise says, referring to a newly published book
 of Luther’s which he had been studying: “He is the most mendacious man
 under the sky.”[311]

 Paul Bachmann, shortly after the appearance of Luther’s booklet “Von
 der Winckelmesse,” in his comments on it emits the indignant remark:
 “Luther’s lies are taller even than Mount Olympus.”[312]

 “This is no mere erring man,” Bachmann also writes of Luther, “but the
 wicked devil himself to whom no lie, deception or falsehood is too

 Johann Eck sums up his opinion of Luther’s truthfulness in these
 words: “He is a man who simply bristles with lies (‘_homo totus
 mendaciis scatens_’)”.[314] The Ingolstadt theologian, like
 Bartholomew Kleindienst (above, p. 95), was particularly struck by
 Luther’s parody of Catholic doctrine.--Willibald Pirkheimer’s words in
 1528 we already know.[315]

 We pass over similar unkindly epithets hurled at him by indignant
 Catholic clerics, secular, or regular. The latter, particularly,
 speaking with full knowledge and therefore all the more indignantly,
 describe as it deserves what he says of vows, as a glaring lie, of
 the falsehood of which Luther, the quondam monk, must have been fully

 Of the Catholic Princes who were capable of forming an opinion,
 Duke George of Saxony with his downright language must be mentioned
 first. In connection with the Pack negotiations he says that Luther
 is the “most cold-blooded liar he had ever come across.” “We must
 say and write of him, that the apostate monk lies like a desperate,
 dishonourable and forsworn miscreant.” “We have yet to learn from Holy
 Scripture that Christ ever bestowed the mission of an Apostle on such
 an open and deliberate liar or sent him to proclaim the Gospel.”[316]
 Elsewhere he reminds Luther of our Lord’s words: “By their fruits you
 shall know them”: To judge of the spirit from the fruits, Luther’s
 spirit must be a “spirit of lying”; indeed, Luther proved himself
 “possessed of the spirit of lies.”[317]

3. The Psychological Problem Self-suggestion and Scriptural Grounds of

Not merely isolated statements, but whole series of regularly recurring
assertions in Luther’s works, constitute a real problem, and, instead
of challenging refutation make one ask how their author could possibly
have come to utter and make such things his own.

_A Curious Mania._

 He never tires of telling the public, or friends and supporters within
 his own circle, that “not one Bishop amongst the Papists reads or
 studies Holy Scripture”; “never had he [Luther] whilst a Catholic
 heard anything of the Ten Commandments”; in Rome they say: “Let us be
 cheerful, the Judgment Day will never come”; they also call anyone
 who believes in revelation a “poor simpleton”; from the highest to
 the lowest they believe that “there is no God, no hell and no life
 after this life”; when taking the religious vows the Papists also
 vowed they “had no need of the Blood and Passion of Christ”; I, too,
 “was compelled to vow this”; all religious took their vows “with a
 blasphemous conscience.”

 He says: In the Papacy “they did not preach Christ,” but only the Mass
 and good works; and further: “No Father [of the Church] ever preached
 Christ”; and again: “They knew nothing of the belief that Christ died
 for us”; or: “No one [in Popery] ever prayed”; and: Christ was looked
 upon only as a “Judge” and we “merely fled from the wrath of God,”
 knowing nothing of His mercy. “The Papists,” he declares, “condemned
 marriage as forbidden by God,” and “I myself, while still a monk,
 was of the same opinion, viz. that the married state was a reprobate

 In the Papacy, so Luther says in so many words, “people sought to be
 saved through Aristotle.”[318] “In the Papacy the parents did not
 provide for their children. They believed that only monks and priests
 could be saved.”[319] “In the Papacy you will hardly meet with an
 honest man who lives up to his calling” (i.e. who performs his duties
 as a married man).[320]

But enough of such extravagant assertions, which to Catholics stand
self-condemned, but were intended by their author to be taken
literally. He flung such wild sayings broadcast among the masses, until
it became a second nature with him. For we must bear in mind that
grotesque and virulent misstatements such as the above occur not merely
now and again, but simply teem in his books, sermons and conversations.
It would be an endless task to enumerate his deliberate falsehoods. He
declares, for instance, that the Papists, in all their collects and
prayers, extolled merely the merits of the Saints; yet this aspersion
which he saw fit to cast upon the Church in the interests of his
polemics, he well knew to be false, having been familiar from his
monastic days with another and better aspect of the prayers he here
reviles. He knew that the merits of the Saints were referred to only in
some of the collects; he knew, moreover, why they were mentioned there,
and that they were never alleged alone but always in subordination to
the merits and the mediation of our Saviour (“_Per Dominum nostrum
Iesum Christum_,” etc.).

A favourite allegation of Luther’s, viz. that the Church of the past
had regarded Christ exclusively as a stern Judge, was crushingly
confuted in Denifle’s work. The importance of this brilliant and
scholarly refutation lies in the fact, that it is principally founded
on texts and usages of the older Church with which Luther was perfectly
familiar, which, for instance, he himself had recited in the liturgy
and more especially in the Office of his Order year after year, and
which thus bear striking testimony against his good faith in the matter
of his monstrous charge.[321]

It is a matter of common knowledge that, also in other branches of the
history of theology and ecclesiastical life, Denifle has refuted with
rare learning, though with too sharp a pen, Luther’s paradoxical “lies”
concerning mediæval Catholicism. It is to be hoped that this may be
followed by other well-grounded and impartial comments from the pen of
other writers, for, in spite of their monstrous character, some of
Luther’s accusations still live, partly no doubt owing to the respect
in which he is held. Some of them will be examined more closely below.
The principal aim of these pages is, however, to seek the psychological
explanation of the strange peculiarity which manifests itself in
Luther’s intellectual life, viz. the abnormal tendency to level
far-fetched charges, sometimes bordering on the insane.

_An Attempt at a Psychological Explanation._

A key to some of these dishonest exaggerations is to be found in the
need which Luther experienced of arming himself against the Papacy
and the older Church by ever more extravagant assertions. Realising
how unjust and untenable much of his position was, and oppressed by
those doubts to which he often confessed, a man of his temper was
sorely tempted to have recourse to the expedient of insisting yet more
obstinately on his pet ideas. The defiance which was characteristic of
him led him to pile up one assertion on the other which his rhetorical
talent enabled him to clothe in his wonted language. Throughout he was
acting on impulse rather than from reflection.

To this must be added--incredible as it may appear in connection
with the gravest questions of life--his tendency to make fun. Jest,
irony, sarcasm were so natural to him as to obtrude themselves almost
unconsciously whenever he had to do with opponents whom he wished to
crush and on whom he wished to impose by a show of merriment which
should display the strength of his position and his comfortable sense
of security, and at the same time duly impress his own followers. Those
who looked beneath the surface, however, must often have rejoiced
to see Luther so often blunting the point of his hyperboles by the
drolleries by which he accompanies them, which made it evident that
he was not speaking seriously. To-day, too, it would be wrong to take
all he says as spoken in dead earnest; at the same time it is often
impossible to determine where exactly the serious ends and the trivial,
vulgar jest begins; probably even Luther himself did not always know. A
few further examples may be given.

 “In Popery we were compelled to listen to the devil and to worship
 things that some monk had spewed or excreted, until at last we lost
 the Gospel, Baptism, the Sacrament and everything else. After that
 we made tracks for Rome or for St. James of Compostella and did
 everything the Popish vermin told us to do, until we came to adore
 even their lice and fleas, nay, their very breeches. But now God has
 returned to us.”[322]

 “Everywhere there prevailed the horrid, pestilential teaching of the
 Pope and the sophists, viz. that a man must be uncertain of God’s
 grace towards himself (‘_incertum debere esse de gratia Dei erga
 se_’).”[323] By this doctrine and by their holiness-by-works Pope and
 monks “had driven all the world headlong into hell” for “well-nigh
 four hundred years.”[324] Of course, “for a man to be pious, or to
 become so by God’s Grace, was heresy” to them; “their works were of
 greater value, did and wrought more than God’s Grace,”[325] and with
 all this “they do no single work which might profit their neighbour in
 body, goods, honour or soul.”[326]

 A. Kalthoff[327] remarks of similar distortions of which Luther was
 guilty: “Hardly anyone in the whole of history was so little able to
 bear contradiction as Luther; it was out of the question to discuss
 with him any opinion from another point of view; he preferred to
 contradict himself or to assert what was absolutely monstrous, rather
 than allow his opponent even a semblance of being in the right.”--The
 misrepresentation of Catholic doctrine which became a tradition among
 Lutheran polemics was in great part due to Luther.--With equal skill
 and moderation Duke Anton Ulrich of Brunswick, in his “Fifty Reasons”
 for returning to the Catholic Church,[328] protests against this
 perversion of Catholic doctrine by Lutheran writers. He had observed
 that arguments were adduced by the Lutherans to prove truths which
 the Church does not deny at all, whilst the real points at issue were
 barely touched upon. “For instance, they bring forward a heap of
 texts to prove that God alone is to be adored, though Catholics never
 question it, and they teach that it is a sin of idolatry to pay divine
 worship to any creature.” “They extol the merits of Christ and the
 greatness of His satisfaction for our sins. But what for? Catholics
 teach the same, viz. that the merits of Christ are infinite and that
 His satisfaction suffices to blot out all the sins of the world,
 and thus they, too, hold the Bible doctrine of the appropriation of
 Christ’s merits by means of their own good works (1 Peter i. 10).”

 Two things especially were made the butt of Luther’s extravagant and
 untrue charges and insinuations, viz. the Mass and the religious
 life. In his much read Table-Talk the chapter on the Mass is full of
 misrepresentations such as can be explained only by the animus of the
 speaker.[329] Of religious he can relate the most incredible tales.
 Thus: “On the approach of death most of them cried in utter despair:
 Wretched man that I am; I have not kept my Rule and whither shall I
 flee from the anger of the Judge? Alas, that I was not a sow-herd,
 or the meanest creature on earth!”[330] On account of the moral
 corruption of the Religious Orders, he declares it would be right,
 “were it only feasible, to destroy both Papacy and monasteries at one
 blow!”[331] He is fond of jesting at the expense of the nuns; thus he
 makes a vulgar allusion to their supposed practice of taking an image
 of the Crucified to bed with them, as though it were their bridegroom.
 He roundly charges them all with arrogance: “The nuns are particularly
 reprehensible on account of their pride; for they boast: Christ is our
 bridegroom and we are His brides and other women are nothing.”[332]

 It is putting the matter rather too mildly when a Protestant
 historian, referring to the countless assertions of this nature,
 remarks, “that, in view of his habits and temper, some of Luther’s
 highly flavoured statements call for the use of the blue pencil if
 they are to be accorded historical value.”[333]

Lastly, we must point to another psychological, or, more accurately,
pathological, element which may avail to explain falsehoods so glaring
concerning the Church of former times. Experience teaches, that
sometimes a man soaked in prejudice will calumniate or otherwise assail
a foe, at first from an evil motive and with deliberate injustice, and
then, become gradually persuaded, thanks to the habit thus formed,
of the truth of his calumnies and of the justice of his proceedings.
Instances of such a thing are not seldom met with in history,
especially among those engaged in mighty conflicts in the arena of the
world. Injustice and falsehood, not indeed entirely, but with regard to
the matter in hand, are travestied, become matters of indifference, or
are even transformed in their eyes into justice and truth.

In Luther’s case the phenomenon in question assumes a pathological
guise. We cannot but perceive in him a kind of self-suggestion by which
he imposed upon himself. Constituted as he was, such suggestion was
possible, nay probable, and was furthermore abetted by his nervous
excitement, the result of his never-ceasing struggle.[334]

It is in part to his power of suggestion that must also be attributed
his success in making his disciples and followers accept even his most
extravagant views and become in their turn missioners of the same.

_The New Theology of Lying._

Another explanation, this time a theological one, of Luther’s disregard
for the laws of truth is to be found in the theory he set up of the
permissibility of lies.

Previously, even in 1517, he, like all theologians, had regarded every
kind of lie as forbidden. Theologians of earlier times, when dealing
with this subject, usually agreed with Augustine and Peter Lombard, the
“_Magister Sententiarum_” and likewise with Gratian, that all lies,
even lies of excuse, are forbidden. After the commencement of his
public controversy, however, strange as it may appear, Luther gradually
came to assert in so many words that lies of excuse, of convenience,
or of necessity were not reprehensible, but often good and to be
counselled. How far this view concerning the lawfulness of lying might
be carried, remained, however, a question to be decided by each one

 Formerly he had rightly declared: A lie is “contrary to man’s nature
 and the greatest enemy of human society”; hence no greater insult
 could be offered than to call a man a liar. To this he always adhered.
 But besides, following St. Augustine, he had distinguished between
 lies of jest and of necessity and lies of detraction. Not merely the
 latter, so he declared, were unlawful, but, as Augustine taught, even
 lies of necessity or excuse--by which he understands lies told for our
 own or others’ advantage, but without injury to anyone. “Yet a lie of
 necessity,” he said at that time, “is not a mortal sin,” especially
 when told in sudden excitement “and without actual deliberation.”
 This is his language in January, 1517,[335] in his Sermons on the Ten
 Commandments, when explaining the eighth. Again, in his controversy
 with the Zwinglians on the Sacrament (1528), he incidentally shows his
 attitude by the remark, that, “when anyone has been publicly convicted
 of falsehood in one particular we are thereby sufficiently warned by
 God not to believe him at all.”[336] In 1538, he says of the Pope and
 the Papists, that, on account of their lies the words of Chrysippus
 applied to them: “If you are a liar you lie even in speaking the

Meanwhile, however, his peculiar reading of the Old Testament, and
possibly no less the urgent demands of his controversy, had exerted an
unfortunate influence on his opinion concerning lies of convenience or

 It seems to him that in certain Old-Testament instances of such lies
 those who employed them were not to blame. Abraham’s lie in denying
 that Sarah was his wife, the lie of the Egyptian midwives about the
 Jewish children, Michol’s lie told to save David, appear to Luther
 justifiable, useful and wholesome. On Oct. 2, 1524, in his Sermons
 on Exodus, as it would seem for the first time, he defended his
 new theory. Lies were only real lies “when told for the purpose of
 injuring our neighbour”; but, “if I tell a lie, not in order to injure
 anyone but for his profit and advantage and in order to promote his
 best interests, this is a lie of service”; such was the lie told by
 the Egyptian midwives and by Abraham; such lies fall “under the grace
 of Heaven, i.e. came under the forgiveness of sins”; such falsehoods
 “are not really lies.”[338]

 In his lectures on Genesis (1536-45) the same system has been further
 elaborated: “As a matter of fact there is only one kind of lie, that
 which injures our neighbour in his soul, goods or reputation.” “The
 lie of service is wrongly termed a lie, for it rather denotes virtue,
 viz. prudence used for the purpose of defeating the devil’s malice and
 in order to serve our neighbour’s life and honour. Hence it may be
 called Christian and brotherly charity, or to use Paul’s words: Zeal
 for godliness.”[339] Thus Abraham “told no lie” in Egypt (Gen. xii.
 11 ff.); what he told was “a lie of service, a praiseworthy act of

 According to his Latin Table-Talk not only Abraham’s lie, but also
 Michol’s was a “good, useful lie and a work of charity.”[341] A lie
 for the advantage of another is, so he says, an act “by means of which
 we assist our neighbour.”

 “The monks,” says Luther, “insist that the truth should be told
 under all circumstances.”[342]--Such certainly was the teaching
 of St. Thomas of Aquin, whose opinion on the subject then held
 universal sway, and who rightly insists that a lie is never under any
 circumstances lawful.[343] St. Augustine likewise shared this monkish
 opinion, as Luther himself had formerly pointed out. Long before
 Aquinas’s time this Doctor of the Church, whom Luther was later on
 deliberately to oppose,[344] had brought his view--the only reliable
 one, viz. that all untruth is wrong--into general recognition, thanks
 to his arguments and to the weight of his authority. Pope Alexander
 III, in a letter to the Archbishop of Palermo, declared that even
 a lie told to save another’s life was unlawful; this statement was
 incorporated in the official Decretals--a proof of the respect with
 which the mediæval Church clung to the truth.[345]

 Some few writers of antiquity had, it is true, defended the lawfulness
 of lies of necessity or convenience. For instance, Origen, possibly
 under the influence of pagan philosophy, also Hilary and Cassian.
 Eventually their opinion disappeared almost completely.

It was reserved for Luther to revive the wrong view concerning the
lawfulness of such lies, and to a certain extent to impose it on his
followers. Theologically this spelt retrogression and a lowering of the
standard of morality hitherto upheld. “Luther here forsook his beloved
Augustine,” says Stäudlin, a Protestant, “and declared certain lies to
be right and allowable. This opinion, though not universally accepted
in the Evangelical Church, became nevertheless a dominant one.”[346]

It must be specially noted that Luther does not justify lies of
convenience, merely when told in the interests of our neighbour, but
also when made use of for our own advantage when such is well pleasing
in God’s sight. This he states explicitly when speaking of Isaac, who
denied his marriage with Rebecca so as to save his life: “This is no
sin, but a serviceable lie by which he escaped being put to death by
those with whom he was staying; for this would have happened had he
said Rebecca was his wife.”[347] And not only the lawful motive of
personal advantage justifies, according to him, such untruths as do
not injure others, but much more the love of God or of our neighbour,
i.e. regard for God’s honour; the latter motive it was, according to
him, which influenced Abraham, when he gave out that Sarah was his
sister. Abraham had to co-operate in accomplishing the great promise
made by God to him and his progeny; hence he had to preserve his life,
“in order that he might honour and glorify God thereby, and not give
the lie to God’s promises.” Many Catholic interpreters of the Bible
have sought to find expedients whereby, without justifying his lie,
they might yet exonerate the great Patriarch of any fault. Luther,
on the contrary, following his own arbitrary interpretation of the
Bible, approves, nay, even glories in the fault. “If,” he says, “the
text be taken thus [according to his interpretation] no one can be
scandalised at it; for what is done for God’s honour, for the glory and
furtherance of His Word, that is right and well done and deserving of
all praise.”[348]

On such principles as these, what was there that Luther could not
justify in his polemics with the older Church?

In his eyes everything he undertook was done for “God’s glory.” “For
the sake of the Christian Church,” he was ready, to tell “a downright
lie” (above, p. 51) in the Hessian affair. “Against the deception
and depravity of the Papal Antichrist,” he regarded everything “as
permissible” for the salvation of souls (above, p. 95); moreover,
was not the war he was waging part of his divine mission? The public
welfare and the exalted interests of his work might therefore at any
time call for a violation of the truth. Was he to be deterred, perhaps,
by the injury his opponents might thereby suffer? By no means. They
suffered no real injury; on the contrary, it all redounded to their
spiritual good, for by ending the reign of prejudice and error their
souls would be saved from imminent peril and the way paved for the
accomplishment of the ancient promises “to the glory and furtherance of
the Word.”

We do not mean to say that Luther actually formed his conscience thus
in any particular instance. Of this we cannot judge and it would be too
much to expect from him any statement on the subject. But the danger of
his doing so was sufficiently proximate.

The above may possibly throw a new light on his famous words: “We
consider everything allowable against the deception and depravity of
the Papal Antichrist.”[349]

_Luther’s Influence on His Circle._

Our remarks on Luther and lying would be incomplete were we not
to refer to the influence his example and theory exercised on his
surroundings and on those who assisted him in establishing the new
Church system.

Melanchthon not only incurred, and justly too, the reproach of
frequently playing the dishonest diplomatist, particularly at the
Diet of Augsburg,[350] but even advocated in his doctrinal works the
Lutheran view that lying is in many cases lawful.

 “The lie of convenience,” he says, “is praiseworthy, it is a good
 useful lie and proceeds from charity because one desires thereby to
 help one’s neighbour.” Hence, we may infer, where the object was to
 bring the Evangel home to a man, a lie was all the less reprehensible.
 Melanchthon appeals to Abraham’s statement that Sarah was his sister
 (Gen. xii. and xx.), and to the artifice of Eliseus (4 Kings vi. 19),
 but overlooks the fact that these instances prove nothing in his
 favour since there no “neighbour was helped,” but, on the contrary,
 untruth was dictated purely by self-love.[351]

 During the negotiations carried on between England, Hesse and Saxony
 in view of an ecclesiastical understanding, Melanchthon, at the
 instance of the Elector of Saxony, drew up for him and the Landgrave,
 a document to be sent to Henry VIII of England, giving him information
 concerning the Anabaptist movement. His treatment of the matter has
 already been referred to (vol. iii., p. 374), but it now calls for
 more detailed consideration.

 In this writing Melanchthon, to serve the interests of the new
 Evangel, had the courage to deny that the movement had made its
 appearance in those parts of Germany “where the pure Gospel is
 proclaimed,” but was only to be met with “where the people are not
 preserved from such errors by sound doctrine,” viz. “in Frisia and
 Westphalia.”[352] The fact is that the Anabaptists were so numerous
 in the Saxon Electorate that we constantly hear of prosecutions
 being instituted against them. P. Wappler, for instance, quotes an
 official minute from the Weimar archives, actually dated in 1536,
 which states, that the Elector “caused many Anabaptists to be punished
 and put to death by drowning and the sword, and to suffer long terms
 of imprisonment.”[353] Shortly before Melanchthon wrote the above,
 two Anabaptists had been executed in the Saxon Electorate. Beyond
 all doubt these facts were known to Melanchthon. The Landgrave of
 Hesse refused to allow the letter to be despatched. Feige, his
 Chancellor, pointed out the untruth of the statement, “that these
 errors only prevailed in places where the pure doctrine was lacking”;
 on the contrary, the Anabaptist error was unfortunately to be found
 throughout Germany, and even more under the Evangel than amongst the
 Papists.[354] An amended version of the letter, dated Sep. 23, 1536,
 was eventually sent to the King. Wappler, who relates all this fully,
 says: “Melanchthon was obviously influenced by his wish to warn the
 King of the ‘plague’ of the Anabaptist heresy and to predispose him
 for the ‘pure doctrine of the Evangel.’” “What he said was glaringly
 at variance with the actual facts.”[355]

Like Luther, Martin Bucer, too, urged the Landgrave to tell a
deliberate lie and openly deny his bigamy. Though at first unwilling,
he had undertaken to advocate the Landgrave’s bigamy with Luther
and had defended it personally (above, p. 28). In spite of this,
however, when complications arose on its becoming public, he declared
in a letter of 1541 to the preachers of Memmingen, which so far has
received little attention, that the Landgrave’s wrong step, some
rumours of which had reached his ears, should it prove to be true,
could not be laid to his charge or to that of the Wittenbergers. “I
declare before God (‘_coram Deo affirmo_’) that no one has given the
Prince such advice, neither I, nor Luther, nor Philip, nor, so far as
I know, any Hessian preacher, nor has anyone taught that Christians
may keep concubines as well as their wives, or declared himself ready
to defend such a step.”[356] And, again calling God to witness (“_hæc
ego ut coram Deo scripta_”), he declares that he had never written or
signed anything in defence of the bigamy.[357] In the following year
he appeared before the magistrates of Strasburg and, in the presence
of two colleagues, “took God to witness concerning the suspicion of
having advised the Landgrave the other marriage,” “that the latter had
consulted neither him nor any preacher concerning the matter”; he and
Capito had “throughout been opposed to it” (the bigamy), “although
his help had been sought for in such matters by honourable and highly
placed persons.”[358] The reference here is to Henry VIII of England,
to whom, however, he had never expressed his disapproval of bigamy;
in fact he, like Capito and the two Wittenbergers (above, p. 4), had
declared his preference for Henry’s taking an extra wife rather than
divorcing his first.

Bucer (who had so strongly inveighed against Luther’s lies, above,
p. 99), where it was a question of a Catholic opponent like the
Augustinian Johann Hoffmeister, had himself recourse to notorious
calumnies concerning this man, whom even Protestant historians now
allow to have been of blameless life and the “greatest enemy of
immorality.”[359] He accused him of “dancing with nuns,” of “wallowing
in vice,” and of being “an utterly abandoned, infamous and dissolute
knave,” all of them groundless charges at very most based upon mere
hearsay.[360]--This same Bucer, who accused the Catholic Princes
of being double-tongued and pursuing dubious policies, was himself
notorious amongst his own party for his wiliness, deceit and cunning.

Johann Bugenhagen, the Pastor of Wittenberg, when called upon to
acknowledge his share in a certain questionable memorandum of a
semi-political character also laid himself open to the charge of being
wanting in truthfulness (vol. iii., p. 74 f.).

P. Kalkoff has recently made clear some of Wolfgang Capito’s
double-dealings and his dishonest behaviour, though he hesitates to
condemn him for them. Capito had worked in Luther’s interests at the
Court of Archbishop Albert of Mayence, and there, with the Archbishop’s
help, “rendered incalculable services to the Evangelical cause.” In
extenuation of his behaviour Kalkoff says: “In no way was it more
immoral than the intrigues” of the Elector Frederick. On the strength
of the material he has collected J. Greving rightly describes Capito
as a “thoroughbred hypocrite and schemer.”[361] The dealings of this
“eminent diplomatist,” as Greving also terms him, remind us only too
often of Luther’s own dealings with highly placed ecclesiastics and
seculars during the first period of his apostasy. If, in those early
days, Luther’s theory had already won many friends and imitators, in
the thick of the fight it made even more converts amongst the new
preachers, men ready to make full use of the alluring principle, that,
against the depravity of the Papacy everything is licit.

From vituperation to the violation of truth there was but a step amidst
the passion which prevailed. How Luther’s abuse--ostensibly all for
the love of his neighbour--infected his pupils is plain from a letter
in the newly published correspondence of the Brothers Blaurer. This
letter, written from Wittenberg on Oct. 8, 1522, by Thomas Blaurer, to
Ulrich Zasius, contains the following: “Not even from the most filthy
and shameful vituperation [of the hateful Papacy] shall we shrink,
until we see it everywhere despised and abhorred.” What had to be
done was to vindicate the doctrine that, “Christ is our merit and our
satisfaction.”[362] Luther, he says, poured forth abuse (“_convicia_”),
but only to God’s glory, and for the “salvation and encouragement of
the little ones.”[363]

4. Some Leading Slanders on the Mediæval Church Historically Considered

“In Luther’s view the Middle Ages, whose history was fashioned by the
Popes, was a period of darkest night.... This view of the Middle Ages,
particularly of the chief factor in mediæval life, viz. the Church in
which it found its highest expression, is one-sided and distorted.”
Such is the opinion of a modern Protestant historian. He is sorry that
false ideas of the mediæval Church and theology “have been sheltered so
long under the ægis of the reformer’s name.”[364]--“It will not do,” a
lay Protestant historian, as early as 1874, had told the theologians of
his faith, speaking of Köstlin’s work “Luthers Theologie,” “to ignore
the contemporary Catholic literature when considering Luther and the
writings of the reformers.... It is indispensable that the condition
of theology from about 1490 to 1510 should be carefully examined. We
must at all costs rid ourselves of the caricatures we meet with in the
writings of the reformers, and of the misunderstandings to which they
gave rise, and learn from their own writings what the theologians of
that time actually thought and taught.” “Paradoxical as it may sound,
it is just the theological side of the history of the Reformation
which, at the present day, is least known.”[365]

During the last fifty years German scholars have devoted themselves
with zeal and enthusiasm to the external and social aspect of the
Middle Ages. That great undertaking, the “_Monumenta Germaniæ
historica_,” its periodical the “Archiv,” and a number of others
dealing largely with mediæval history brought Protestants to a juster
and more objective appreciation of the past. Yet the theological,
and even in some respects the ecclesiastical, side has been too
much neglected, chiefly because so many Protestant theologians were
scrupulous about submitting the subject to a new and unprejudiced
study. Hence the astonishment of so many when Johannes Janssen, with
his “History of the German People,” and, to pass over others, Heinrich
Denifle with his work on Luther entered the field and demonstrated how
incorrect had been the views prevalent since Luther’s time concerning
the doctrine and the ecclesiastical life of his age. Astonishment in
many soon made way for indignation; in Denifle’s case, particularly,
annoyance was caused by a certain attitude adopted by this author
which led some to reject in their entirety the theologico-historical
consequences at which he arrived, whilst even Janssen was charged with
being biassed. Other Protestants, however, have learned something from
the Catholic works which have since made their appearance in greater
numbers, have acknowledged that the ideas hitherto in vogue were behind
the times and have invited scholars to undertake a more exact study of
the materials.

 “The later Middle Ages,” says W. Friedensburg, speaking of the
 prevailing Protestant view, “seemed only to serve as a foil for the
 history of the Reformation, of which the glowing colours stood out all
 the more clearly against the dark background.” “As late as a few years
 ago the history of the close of the Middle Ages was almost a ‘_terra
 incognita_.’” Only through Janssen, Friedensburg continues, “were we
 led to study more carefully the later Middle Ages” and to discover,
 amongst other things, that the “majority of the people [_sic_] had
 not really been so ignorant of the truth of Christianity,” that “the
 Church had not yet lost her power over people’s minds,” that “towards
 the end of the Middle Ages the people had already been growing
 familiar with the Bible,” and that “sermons in the vulgar tongue had
 not been neglected to the extent that has been frequently assumed.”
 This author, like H. Böhmer, characterises it as erroneous “to suppose
 that Luther was the first to revive regard for Paul and to restore
 Paulinism” or “to insist upon the reform of godliness on the model of
 the theology of Christ.” Coming to Denifle, he says, that the latter
 “on account of his learning was without a doubt qualified as scarcely
 any other scholar of our time for the task he undertook. When he
 published his ‘Luther’ he could look back on many years of solid and
 fruitful labour in the field of mediæval Scholasticism and Mysticism.”
 From Denifle’s work it is clear that Luther was “but little conversant
 with mediæval Scholasticism, particularly that of Thomas Aquinas.”[366]

 “Denifle is right,” wrote Gustav Kawerau in an important Protestant
 theological periodical, “and touches a weak spot in Luther research
 when he reproaches us with not being sufficiently acquainted with
 mediæval theology.” An “examination of the Catholic surroundings in
 which Luther moved” is, so Kawerau insists, essential, and Protestants
 must therefore apply themselves to “the examination of that theology
 which influenced Luther.”[367]

 What is, however, imperative is that this theology be, if possible,
 examined without Luther’s help, i.e. without, as usual, paying such
 exaggerated regard to his own statements as to what influenced him.

 Luther, moreover, does not always speak _against_ the Middle Ages;
 on occasion he can employ its language himself, particularly when he
 thinks he can quote, in his own interests, utterances from that time.
 What W. Köhler says of a number of such instances holds good here:
 “Luther fancied he recognised himself in the Middle Ages, that is
 why his historical judgment is so often false.” In point of fact, as
 the same writer remarks, “Luther’s idea of history came from his own
 interior experience; this occupies the first place throughout.”[368]
 If for “interior experience” we substitute “subjective bias” the
 statement will be even more correct.

In returning here to some of Luther’s legends mentioned above (p.
92 f.) concerning the Catholic past and the religious views then
prevailing, our object is merely to show by a few striking examples how
wrong Luther was in charging the Middle Ages with errors in theology
and morals.

One of his most frequently repeated accusations was, that the Church
before his day had merely taught a hollow “holiness by works”; all
exhortations to piety uttered by preachers and writers insisted solely
on outward good works; of the need of cultivating an inward religious
spirit, interior virtues or true righteousness of heart no one had any

Against this we may set a few Catholic statements made during the years
shortly before Luther’s appearance.

 Gabriel Biel, the “standard theologian” of his time, whose works
 Luther himself had studied during his theological course, in one of
 his sermons distinctly advocates the Church’s doctrine against any
 external holiness-by-works. Commenting on the Gospel account of the
 hypocrisy and externalism of the Pharisees and their semblance of
 holiness, he pauses at the passage: “Except your righteousness exceed
 the righteousness of the Scribes and Pharisees ye shall not enter the
 Kingdom of Heaven” (Mt. v. 20). “Hence, if we desire to be saved,” he
 says, “our righteousness must not merely be shown in outward works
 but must reside in the heart; for without the inward spirit, outward
 works are neither virtuous nor praiseworthy, though the spirit may be
 so without outward works.” After proving this he again insists: “Thus
 true service of God does not consist in externals; on the contrary it
 is on the inward, pious acts of the will that everything depends, and
 this presupposes a right judgment and the recognition of the spirit.
 Hence in the practice of good works we must expend greater care on
 the interior direction of the will.” The learned preacher goes on
 fervently to exhort his hearers to amend their lives, to be humble, to
 trust in Christ and to lead lives of real, inward piety.[369]

 Another preacher and theologian with whom Luther was well acquainted
 was Andreas Proles († 1503), the founder of the German Augustinian
 Congregation to which Luther had once belonged. In the sermons
 published by Petrus Sylvius, Proles insists upon the good intention
 and interior disposition by which works are sanctified. They are
 “smothered,” so he tells his hearers, “if done not out of love for
 God but with evil intent, for instance, for the sake of praise, or in
 order to deceive, or again, if done in sin or for any bad purpose.”
 “Hence ... in the practice of all his works a man must diligently
 strive after Divine justice, after a true faith with love of God and
 of his neighbour, after innocence and humility of heart, with a good
 purpose and intention, since every good work, however insignificant,
 even a drink of cold water given to the meanest creature for God’s
 sake, is deserving of reward in eternity.... Without charity neither
 faith nor good works are profitable unto salvation.”[370]

 At about that same time the so-called “holiness-by-works” was also
 condemned by the learned Franciscan theologian, Stephen Brulefer.
 “Merit,” so he emphasises, “depends not on the number of external
 works but on the zeal and charity with which the work is done;
 everything depends on the interior act of the will.” Amongst his
 authorities he quotes the far-famed theologian of his Order, Duns
 Scotus, who had enunciated the principle with the concision of the
 scholastic: “_Deus non pensat quantum sed ex quanto_.”[371]

 “God wants, not your work, but your heart.” So Marquard of Lindau
 writes in his “Buch der X Gepot,” printed in 1483. Before this, under
 the heading: “That we must love God above all things,” he declares,
 that, whoever does not turn to God with his whole heart cannot merely
 by his works gain Him, even though he should surrender “all his
 possessions to God and allow himself to be burnt.”[372]

Thus we find in the writings of that period, language by no
means wanting in vigour used in denunciation of the so-called
“holiness-by-works”; hence Luther was certainly not first in the field
to raise a protest.

From their preachers, too, the people frequently heard this same

Johann Herolt, a Dominican preacher, very celebrated at the
commencement of the 15th century, points out clearly and definitely in
his sermons on the Sunday Epistles, that every work must be inspired by
and permeated with charity if man’s actions are not to deteriorate into
a mere “holiness-by-works”; a poor man who, with a pure conscience,
performs the meanest good work, is, according to him, of “far greater
worth in God’s sight than the richest Prince who erects churches and
monasteries while in a state of mortal sin”; the outward work was of
small account.[373] Herolt thus becomes a spokesman of “inwardness” in
the matter of the fulfilment of the duties of the Christian life;[374]
many others spoke as he did.

Sound instruction concerning “holiness-by-works” and the necessary
“inwardness” was to be found in the most popular works of devotion at
the close of the Middle Ages.

The “Evangelibuch,” for instance, a sermon-book with glosses on the
Sunday Gospels, has the following for those who are too much devoted
to outward works: “It matters not how good a man may be or how many
good works he performs unless, at the same time, he loves God.” The
author even goes too far in his requirements concerning the interior
disposition, and, agreeably with a view then held by many, will not
admit as a motive for love a wholesome fear of the loss of God; he says
a man must love God, simply because “he is the most excellent, highest
and most worthy Good; ... for a man filled with Divine love does not
desire the good which God possesses, but merely God Himself”; thus, in
his repudiation of all so-called “holiness-by-works,” he actually goes
to the opposite extreme.[375]

Man becomes pleasing to God not by reason of the number or greatness of
his works, but through the interior justice wrought in him by grace;
such is the opinion of the Dominican, Johann Mensing. He protests
against being accused of disparaging God’s grace because at the same
time he emphasises the value of works; he declares that he exalts the
importance of God’s sanctifying Grace even more than his opponents (the
Lutherans) did, because, so he says, “we admit (what they deny, thereby
disparaging the grace of God), viz. that we are not simply saved by
God, but that He so raises and glorifies our nature by the bestowal of
grace, that we are able ourselves to merit our salvation and attain to
it of our own free will, which, without His Grace, would be impossible.
Hence our belief is not that we are led and driven like cattle who know
not whither they go. We say: God gives us His grace, faith and charity,
at first without any merit on our part; then follow good works and
merits, all flowing from the same Grace, and finally eternal happiness
for such works as bring down Grace.”[376]

This was the usual language in use in olden time, particularly in the
years just previous to Luther, and it was in accordance with this
that most of the faithful obediently shaped their lives. If abuses
occurred--and it is quite true that we often do meet with a certain
degree of formalism in the customs of the people--they cannot be
regarded as the rule and were reproved by zealous and clear-sighted

A favourite work at that time was the “Imitation of Christ” by Thomas à
Kempis. Thousands, more particularly amongst the clergy and religious,
were edified by the fervent and touching expositions of the author to
permeate all works with the spirit of interior piety.[377] We know how
strongly he condemns formalism as exemplified in frequent pilgrimages
devoid of virtue and the spirit of penance, and how he does not
spare even the religious; “the habit and the tonsure make but little
alteration, but the moral change and the entire mortification of the
passions make a true religious.”[378]

The practice of works of charity, which at that time flourished
exceedingly among both clergy and laity, offered a field for the
realisation of these principles of the true spirit in which good works
are to be performed. We have countless proofs of how the faithful in
Germany despoiled themselves of their temporal goods from the most
sincere religious motives--out of love for their neighbour, or to
promote the public Divine worship--“for the love of God our Lord,” as a
common phrase, used in the case of numerous foundations, expresses it.

G. Uhlhorn, the Protestant author of the “Geschichte der christlichen
Liebestätigkeit,” also pays a tribute to the spirit which preserved
charity from degenerating into mere “holiness-by-works.” “We should
be doing injustice to that period,” he says of the Middle Ages
generally, “were we to think that it considered as efficacious, i.e. as
satisfactory, mere external works apart from the motive which inspired
them, for instance, alms without love.” In support he quotes Thomas of
Aquin and Pope Innocent III, remarking, however, that even such alms
as were bestowed without this spirit of love were regarded, by the
standard authorities, as predisposing a man for the reception of Grace,
and as deserving of temporal reward from God, hence not as altogether
“worthless and unproductive.”[379]

       *       *       *       *       *

Another fable concerning the Middle Ages, sedulously fostered by
Luther in his writings, was, that, in those days man had never come
into direct relations with God, that the hierarchy had constituted a
partition between him and Christ, and that, thanks only to the new
Evangel, had the Lord been restored to each man, as his personal
Saviour and the object of all his hopes; Luther was wont to say that
the new preaching had at length brought each one into touch with Christ
the Lamb, Who taketh away our sin; Melanchthon, in his funeral oration
on Luther, also said of him, that he had pointed out to every sinner
the Lamb in Whom he would find salvation.

To keep to the symbol of the Lamb: The whole Church of the past had
never ceased to tell each individual that he must seek in the Lamb of
God purgation from his guilt and confirmation of his personal love of
God. The Lamb was to her the very symbol of that confidence in Christ’s
Redemption which she sought to arouse in each one’s breast. On the
front of Old St. Peter’s, for instance, the Lamb was shown in brilliant
mosaic, with the gentle Mother of the Redeemer on its right and the
Key-bearer on its left, and this figure, in yet older times, had been
preceded by the ancient “_Agnus Dei_.”[380]

Every Litany recited by the faithful in Luther’s day, no less than in
earlier ages and in our own, concluded with the trustful invocation of
the “Lamb of God”; the waxen “_Agnus Dei_,” blessed by the Pope, and so
highly prized by the people, was but its symbol.[381] The Lamb of God
was, and still is, solemnly invoked by priest and people in the Canon
of the Mass for the obtaining of mercy and peace.

The centre of daily worship in the Catholic Church, in Luther’s day
as in the remoter past, was ever the Eucharistic Sacrifice. The Lamb
of God, which, according to Catholic belief, is there offered to the
Father under the mystic elements, and mysteriously renews the sacrifice
of the Cross, was as a well, daily opened, in which souls athirst for
God might find wherewith to unite themselves in love and confidence
with their Redeemer.

 It was Luther who, with cruel hand, tore this pledge of hope and
 consolation from the heart of Christendom. Inspiring indeed are the
 allusions to the wealth of consolation contained in the Eucharist,
 which we find in one of the books in most general use in the days
 before Luther. “Good Jesus, Eternal Shepherd, thanks be to Thee Who
 permittest me, poor and needy as I am, to partake of the mystery of
 Thy Divine Sacrifice, and feedest me with Thy precious Body and Blood;
 Thou commandest me to approach to Thee with confidence. Come, sayest
 Thou, to Me, all you that labour and are burdened, and I will refresh
 you. Confiding, O Lord, in Thy goodness and in Thy great mercy, I come
 sick to my Saviour, hungry and thirsty to the Fountain of life, needy
 to the King of Heaven, a servant to my Lord, a creature to my Creator,
 and one in desolation to my loving Comforter.”[382]

 The doctrine that the Mass is a renewal of the Sacrifice of Christ
 “attained its fullest development in the Middle Ages”; thus Adolf
 Franz at the conclusion of his work “Die Messe im deutschen
 Mittelalter.” At the close of the Middle Ages it was the rule to
 “direct the eyes of the faithful, during the sacrifice on the altar,
 to the sufferings and death of the Redeemer in all its touching
 and thrilling reality. At the altar a mystery is enacted; Christ
 suffers and dies; the priest represents Him, and every act typifies
 Christ’s Passion; just as He expired on the cross in actual fact,
 so, mystically, He dies upon the altar.”[383] Though some writers of
 the period dwell perhaps a little too much on the allegorical sense
 then so popular in explaining the various acts of the Mass, yet, in
 their conviction that its character was sacrificial and that it truly
 re-enacted the death of Christ, they were in perfect agreement with
 the past. In the explanations of the Mass everyone was reminded of his
 union with Christ; and our Lord’s sufferings “were brought before the
 mind of both priest and people”; by this means the “outward ceremonial
 of the Mass was made a fruitful source of inward edification.” “The
 abundant mediæval literature on the Mass is a proof both of the needs
 of the clergy, and of the care displayed by the learned and those in
 authority, to instruct them. In this matter the 15th century excels
 the earlier Middle Ages.”[384] The very abuses and the formalism which
 Franz finds witnessed to in certain mediæval sermons on the Mass,
 chiefly in the matter of undue stress laid on the “fruits of the
 Mass,” reveal merely an over-estimation on the part of the individual
 of his union with Christ, or a too great assurance of obtaining help
 in bodily and spiritual necessities; of want of fervour or of hope
 there is not the least trace.

 It is well worthy of note that Luther, if we may believe what he said
 in a sermon in 1532, even in his monastic days, did not prize or love
 the close bond of union established with Christ by the daily sacrifice
 of the Mass: “Ah, bah, Masses! Let what cannot stand fast fall. You
 never cared about saying Mass formerly; of that I am sure. I know it
 from my own case; for I too was a holy monk, and blasphemed my dear
 Lord miserably for the space of quite fifteen years with my saying of
 Masses, though I never liked doing so, in spite of being so holy and

In spite of this Luther succeeded in bequeathing to posterity the
opinion that it was he who delivered people from that “alienation from
God” imposed on the world in the Middle Ages; “who broke down the
prohibition of the mediæval Church against anyone concerning himself on
his own account with matters of religion”; and who gave back “personal
religion” to the Christian.

Were Protestants to bestow more attention on the religious literature
of the Later Middle Ages, such statements would be simply impossible.
One of those best acquainted with this literature writes: “During
the last few months the present writer has gone carefully, pen in
hand, through more than one hundred printed and manuscript religious
works, written in German and belonging to the end of the Middle Ages:
catechetical handbooks, general works of piety, confession manuals,
postils, prayer-books, booklets on preparation for death and German
sermonaries. In this way he has learnt from the most reliable sources
not only how in those days people were guided to devout intercourse
with God, but also with what fervent piety the faithful were accustomed
to converse with their Saviour.” Let Protestants, he adds, at least
attempt to vindicate their pet assertions “scientifically, i.e. from
trustworthy sources.”[386]

The relations between the individual and God were by no means
suppressed because the priesthood stood as an intermediary between the
faithful and God, or because ecclesiastical superiors watched over and
directed public worship and the lines along which the life of faith
was to move. If the union of the individual with God was endangered by
such interference on the part of the clergy, then it was endangered
just as much by Luther, who insists so strongly on the preachers being
listened to, and on the ministers taking the lead in things pertaining
to God.

 He teaches, for instance: “It is an unsufferable blasphemy to reject
 the public ministry or to say that people can become holy without
 sermons and Church. This involves a destruction of the Church and
 rebellion against ecclesiastical order; such upheavals must be warded
 off and punished like all other revolts.”[387]

 The fact is, the ecclesiastical order of things to which Luther
 attached himself more and more strongly amounted to this, as he
 declares in various passages of his Table-Talk. Through the ministers
 and preachers, as through His servants, God speaks to man; through
 them God baptises, instructs and absolves; what the ministers of
 the Gospel say and do, that God Himself does through and in us as
 His instruments. Whoever does not believe this, Luther looks on as
 damned. In a sermon of 1528, speaking of the spiritual authority
 which intervenes between God and man, he exclaims: “God requires for
 His Kingdom pious Bishops and pastors, through them he governs His
 subjects [the Emperor, on the other hand, so he had said, had not even
 to be a Christian since the secular power was all outward and merely
 served to restrain evil-doers].[388] If you will not hearken to these
 Bishops and pastors, then you will have to listen to Master Hans [the
 hangman] and get no thanks either.”[389]

 He uses similar language in his sermons on Matthew: “God, by means of
 Prophets and Apostles, ministers and preachers, baptises, gives the
 sacraments, preaches and consoles; without preachers and holy persons,
 He does nothing, just as He does not govern land and people without
 the secular power.”[390]

 Hence Luther shows himself very anxious to establish a kind of
 hierarchy. If then he charges the priesthood of the past with putting
 itself between God and man, it is hard to see how he is to avoid
 a similar charge being brought forward against himself. Moreover,
 at the bottom of his efforts, memories of his Catholic days were
 at work, and the feeling that an organised ministry was called for
 if the religious sentiment was not to die out completely among the
 people. His practical judgment of the conditions even appears here in
 a favourable light, for instance, in those passages where he insists
 on the authority of rightly appointed persons to act as intermediaries
 between God and man, and as vicars and representatives of Christ.
 The word Christ spoke on earth and the word of the preacher, are, he
 says, one and the same “_re et effectu_,” because Christ said: “He
 that heareth you heareth me” (Luke x. 16); “God deals with us through
 these instruments, through them He works everything and offers us all
 His treasures.”[391] Indeed, “it is our greatest privilege that we
 have such a ministry and that God is so near to us; for he that hears
 Christ hears God Himself; and he that hears St. Peter or a preacher,
 hears Christ and God Himself speaking to us.”[392]

 “We must always esteem the spoken Word very highly, for those
 who despise it become heretics at once. The Pope despises this
 ministry”[393] [!]. God, however, “has ordained that no one should
 have faith, except thanks to the preacher’s office,” and, “without the
 Word, He does no work whatever in the Church.”[394]

Thus we find Luther, on the one hand insisting upon an authority, and,
on the other, demanding freedom for the interpretation of Scripture.
How he sought to harmonise the two is reserved for later examination.
At any rate, it is to misapprehend both the Catholic Church and
Luther’s own theological attitude, to say that “independent study of
religious questions” had been forbidden in the Middle Ages and was
“reintroduced” only by Luther, that he removed the “blinkers” which
the Church had placed over people’s eyes and that henceforward “the
representatives of the Church had no more call to assume the place of
the Living God in man’s regard.”

       *       *       *       *       *

Luther also laid claim to having revived respect for the secular
authorities, who, during the Middle Ages, had been despised owing to
the one-sided regard shown to the monks and clergy. He declares that
he had again brought people to esteem the earthly calling, family life
and all worldly employments as being a true serving of God. Boldly he
asserts, that, before my time, “the authorities did not know they were
serving God”; “before my time nobody knew ... what the secular power,
what matrimony, parents, children, master, servant, wife or maid really
signified.” On the strength of his assertions it has been stated,
that he revived the “ideal of life” by discovering the “true meaning
of vocation,” which then became the “common property of the civilised
world”; on this account he was “the creator of those theories which
form the foundation upon which the modern State and modern civilisation

The fact is, however, the Church of past ages fully recognised the
value of the secular state and spheres of activity, saw in them a
Divine institution, and respected and cherished them accordingly.

 A very high esteem for all secular callings is plainly expressed in
 the sermons of Johann Herolt, the famous and influential Nuremberg
 Dominican, whose much-read “_Sermones de tempore et de Sanctis_”
 (Latin outlines of sermons for the use of German preachers) had, prior
 to 1500, appeared in at least forty different editions.

 “It has been asked,” he says in one sermon, “whether the labour of
 parents for their children is meritorious. I reply: Yes, if only
 they have the intention of bringing up their children for the glory
 of God and in order that they may become good servants of Christ.
 If the parents are in a state of grace, then all their trouble with
 their children, in suckling them, bathing them, carrying them about,
 dressing them, feeding them, watching by them, teaching and reproving
 them, redounds to their eternal reward. All this becomes meritorious.
 And in the same way when the father labours hard in order to earn
 bread for his wife and children, all this is meritorious for the life
 beyond.”[395]--A high regard for work is likewise expressed in his
 sermon “To workmen,” which begins with the words: “Man is born to
 labour as the bird is to fly.”[396] Another sermon praises the calling
 of the merchant, which he calls a “good and necessary profession.”[397]

 Another witness to the Church’s esteem for worldly callings and
 employments is Marcus von Weida, a Saxon Dominican. In the discourses
 he delivered on the “Our Father” at Leipzig, in 1501, he says: “All
 those pray who do some good work and live virtuously.” For everything
 that a man does to the praise and glory of God is really prayer. A
 man must always do what his state of life and his calling demands.
 “Hence it follows that many a poor peasant, husbandman, artisan or
 other man who does his work, or whatever he undertakes, in such a way
 as to redound to God’s glory, is more pleasing to God, by reason of
 the work he daily performs, and gains more merit before God than any
 Carthusian or Friar, be he Black, Grey or White, who stands daily in
 choir singing and praying.”[398]

 It is evident that Catholic statements, such as that just quoted from
 Herolt, concerning the care of children being well-pleasing to God,
 have been overlooked by those who extol Luther as having been the
 first to discover and teach, that even to rock children’s cradles
 and wash their swaddling clothes is a noble, Christian work. What
 is, however, most curious is the assurance with which Luther himself
 claimed the merit of this discovery, in connection with his teaching
 on marriage.

 The Carthusian, Erhard Gross, speaks very finely of the different
 secular callings and states of life, and assigns to them an eminently
 honourable place: “What are the little precious stones in Christ’s
 crown but the various classes of the Christian people, who adorn the
 head of Christ? For He is our Head and all the Christian people are
 His Body for ever and ever. Hence, amongst the ornaments of the house
 of God some must be virgins, others widows, some married and others
 chaste, such as monks, priests and nuns. Nor are these all, for we
 have also Princes, Kings and Prelates who rule the commonwealth, those
 who provide for the needs of the body, as, for instance, husbandmen
 and fishermen, tailors and merchants, bakers and shoemakers, and,
 generally, all tradesmen.” If the general welfare is not to suffer, he
 says, each one must faithfully follow his calling. “Therefore whoever
 wishes to please God, let him stick to the order [state] in which God
 has placed him and live virtuously; he will then receive his reward
 from God here, and, after this life, in the world to come.”[399]

Although Luther must have been well aware of the views really held on
this subject, some excuse for his wild charges may perhaps be found in
his small practical experience, prior to his apostasy, of Christian
life in the world. His poverty had forced him, even in childhood,
into irregular ways; he had been deprived of the blessings of a truly
Christian family-life. His solitary studies had left him a stranger to
the active life of good Catholics engaged in secular callings; the fact
of his being a monk banished him alike from the society of the bad and
impious and from that of the good and virtuous. Thus in many respects
he was out of touch with the stimulating influence of the world; the
versatility which results from experience was still lacking, when, in
his early years at Wittenberg, he began to think out his new theories
on God and sin, Grace and the Fall.

“Whoever wishes to please God let him stick to the order [state] in
which God has placed him.” These words of Gross, the Carthusian, quoted
above, remind us of a comparison instituted by Herolt the Dominican
between religious Orders and the “Order” of matrimony. Commending the
secular calling of matrimony, he says here, that it was instituted by
God Himself, whereas the religious Orders had been founded by men: “We
must know that God first honoured matrimony by Himself instituting it.
In this wise the Order of matrimony excels all other Orders (‘_ordo
matrimonialis præcellit olios ordines_’); for just as St. Benedict
founded the Black Monks, St. Francis the Order of Friars Minor and St.
Dominic the Order of Friars Preacher, so God founded matrimony.”[400]

True Christian perfection, according to the ancient teaching of the
Church, is not bound up with any particular state, but may be attained
by all, no matter their profession, even by the married.

Luther, and many after him, even down to the present day, have
represented, that, according to the Catholic view, perfection was
incapable of attainment save in the religious life, this alone being
termed the “state of perfection.” In his work “On Monkish Vows”
he declares: “The monks have divided Christian life into a state
of perfection and one of imperfection. To the great majority they
have assigned the state of imperfection, to themselves, that of

As a matter of fact the “state of perfection” only means, that,
religious, by taking upon themselves, publicly and before the Church,
the three vows of poverty, chastity and obedience, bind themselves to
strive after perfection along this path as one leading most surely
to the goal; it doesn’t imply that they are already in possession of
perfection, still less that they alone possess it. By undertaking
to follow all their life a Rule approved by the Church, under the
guidance of Superiors appointed by the Church, they form a “state” or
corporation of which perfection is the aim, and, in this sense alone,
are said to belong to the “state of perfection.” In addition, it was
always believed that equal, in fact the highest, perfection might
be attained to in any state of life. Though the difficulties to be
encountered in the worldly state were regarded as greater, yet the
conquest they involved was looked upon as the fruit of an even greater
love of God, the victory as more splendid, and the degree of perfection
attained as so much the more exalted.

It is the love of God which, according to the constant teaching of the
Church, constitutes the essence of perfection.

The most perfect Christian is he who fulfils the law of charity
most perfectly, and this--notwithstanding whatever Luther may
say--according to what has ever been the teaching of the Church, the
ordinary Christian may quite well do in his everyday calling, and
in the married as much as in the religious state. Even should the
religious follow the severest of Rules, yet if he does not make use
of the more abundant means of perfection at his command but lives in
tepidity, then the ordinary Christian approaches more closely than he
to the ideal standard of life if only he fulfils his duties in the home
with greater love of God.

The Bavarian Franciscan, Caspar Schatzgeyer, Luther’s contemporary, is
right when he says in his work “_Scrutinium divinæ scripturæ_”: “We
do not set up a twofold standard of perfection, one for people in the
world and another for the religious. For all Christians there is but
one order, one mode of worshipping God, one evangelical perfection....
But we do say this, that in cloistral life the attainment of perfection
is easier, though a Christian living in the world may excel all
religious in perfection.”[402] For--such is the ground he gives in a
German work--“it may well happen that in the ordinary Christian state a
man runs so hotly and eagerly towards God as to outstrip all religious
in all the essentials of Christian perfection, just as a sculptor
may with a blunt chisel produce a masterpiece far superior to that
carved by an unskilful apprentice even with the best and sharpest of

This may suffice to elucidate the question of the Catholic ideal of
life in respect of Luther’s statements, a question much debated in
recent controversies but not always set in as clear a light as it

The preceding remarks on Luther’s misrepresentations of the Church’s
teaching concerning worldly callings lead us to consider his utterances
on the Church’s depreciation of the female sex and of matrimony.

5. Was Luther the Liberator of Womankind from “Mediæval Degradation”?

Luther maintained that he had raised the dignity of woman from the
depths to which it had fallen in previous ages and had revived due
respect for married life. What the Church had defined on this subject
in the past he regarded as all rubbish. Indeed, “not one of the
Fathers,” he says, “ever wrote anything notable or particularly good
concerning the married state.”[404] But, as in the case of the secular
authority and the preaching office, so God, before the coming of the
Judgment Day, by His special Grace and through His Word, i.e. through
the new Evangel, had restored married life to its rightful dignity,
“as He had at first instituted and ordained it.” Marriage, so Luther
asserts, had been regarded as “a usage and practice rather than as a
thing ordained by God. In the same way the secular authorities did not
know that they were serving God, but were all tied up in ceremonies.
The preaching office, too, was nothing but a sham consisting of cowls,
tonsures, oilings,” etc.[405]

In short, by his teaching on marriage he had ennobled woman, whereas
the Catholics had represented matrimony as an “unchristian” state, only
permitted out of necessity, even though they called it a Sacrament.[406]

_Conspectus of Luther’s Distortion of the Catholic View of Marriage._

Luther based his charges chiefly on the canonical enforcement of
clerical celibacy and on the favour shown by the Church to the vow
of chastity and the monastic life. How this proved his contention it
is not easy to see. Further, he will have it, that the Church taught
that true service of God was to be found only in the monastic state,
and that vows were a sure warrant of salvation--though, as a matter
of fact, neither Church nor theologians had ever said anything of the

 In his remarks on this subject in 1527 he openly accused the Papists
 of saying that “whoever is desirous of having to do with God and
 spiritual matters must, whether man or woman, remain unmarried,” and
 “thus,” so he says, “they have scared the young from matrimony, so
 that now they are sunk in fornication.”[408]

 At first Luther only ventured on the charge, that matrimony had been
 “_de facto_” forbidden, though it had not actually been declared
 sinful, by the Pope;[409] by forbidding the monks to marry he had
 fulfilled the prophecy in 1 Timothy iv. 1 ff., concerning the
 latter times, when many would fall away from the faith and forbid
 people to marry. “The Pope forbids marriage under the semblance of
 spirituality.”[410] “Squire Pope has forbidden marriage, because one
 had to come who would prohibit marriage. The Pope has made man to be
 no longer man, and woman to be no longer woman.”[411]

 As years passed Luther went further; forgetful of his admission that
 the Pope had not made matrimony sinful, he exclaimed: To him and to
 his followers marriage is a sin. The Church had hitherto treated
 marriage as something “non-Christian”;[412] the married state she had
 “handed over to the devil”;[413] her theologians look down on it as a
 “low, immoral sort of life,”[414] and her religious can only renounce
 it on the ground that it is a kind of legalised “incontinence.”[415]

 In reality, however, religious, when taking their vow, merely acted
 on the Christian principle which St. Augustine expresses as follows:
 Although “all chastity, conjugal as well as virginal, has its
 merit in God’s sight,” yet, “the latter is higher, the former less
 exalted.”[416] They merely renounced a less perfect state for one more
 perfect; they could, moreover, appeal not only to 1 Cor. vii. 33,
 where the Apostle speaks in praise of the greater freedom for serving
 God which the celibate state affords, but even to Luther himself who,
 in 1523, had interpreted this very passage in the same sense, and that
 with no little warmth.[417]

 His later and still more extravagant statements concerning the
 Catholic view of marriage can hardly be taken seriously; his
 perversion of the truth is altogether too great.

 He says, that married people had not been aware that God “had
 ordained” that state, until at last God, by His special Grace, and
 before the Judgment Day, had restored the dignity of matrimony no less
 than that of the secular authority and the preaching office, “through
 His Word [i.e. through Luther’s preaching].” The blame for this state
 of things went back very far, for the Fathers, like Jerome, “had seen
 in matrimony mere sensuality,” and for this reason had disparaged

 The Prophet Daniel had foreseen the degradation of marriage under the
 Papacy: It is of the Papal Antichrist “that Daniel says [xi. 37], that
 he will wallow in the unnatural vice which is the recompense due to
 contemners of God (Rom. i. [27]), in what we call Italian weddings and
 silent sin. For matrimony and a right love and use of women he shall
 not know. Such are the horrible abominations prevailing under Pope
 and Turk.”[419] “The same prophet,” he writes elsewhere, “says that
 Antichrist shall stand on two pillars, viz.: idolatry and celibacy.
 The idol he calls Mausim, thus using the very letters which form the
 word Mass.” The Pope had deluded people, on the one hand by the Mass,
 and, on the other, “by celibacy, or the unmarried state, fooling the
 whole world with a semblance of sanctity. These are the two pillars on
 which the Papacy rests, like the house of the Philistines in Samson’s
 time. If God chose to make Luther play the part of Samson, lay hold
 on the pillars and shake them, so that the house fall on the whole
 multitude, who could take it ill? He is God and wonderful are His

 Luther appeals expressly to the Pope’s “books” in which marriage is
 spoken of as a “sinful state.”[421] The Papists, when they termed
 marriage a sacrament, were only speaking “out of a false heart,”
 and trying to conceal the fact that they really looked on it as
 “fornication.”[422] “They have turned all the words and acts of
 married people into mortal sins, and I myself, when I was a monk,
 shared the same opinion, viz. that the married state was a damnable

 This alone was wanting to fill up the measure of his falsehoods. One
 wonders whether Luther, when putting forward statements so incredible,
 never foresaw that his own earlier writings might be examined and
 his later statements challenged in their light? Certainly the
 contradiction between the two is patent. We have only to glance at
 his explanation of the fourth and sixth Commandments in his work on
 the Ten Commandments, published in 1518, to learn from Luther himself
 what Catholics really thought of marriage, and to be convinced that it
 was anything but despised; there, as in other of his early writings,
 Luther indeed esteems virginity above marriage, but to term the latter
 sinful and damnable never occurred to him.

The olden Church had painted an ideal picture of the virgin. By this,
though not alone by this, she voiced her respect for woman, from that
Christian standpoint which differs so much from that of the world.
From the earliest times she, like the Gospel and the Apostle of the
Gentiles, set up voluntary virginity as a praiseworthy state of life.
Hereby she awakened in the female sex a noble emulation for virtue,
in particular for seclusion, purity and morality--woman’s finest
ornaments--and amongst men a high respect for woman, upon whom, even in
the wedded state, the ideal of chastity cast a radiance which subdued
the impulse of passion. Virgin and mother alike were recommended by
the Church to see their model and their guide in the Virgin Mother of
our Saviour. Where true devotion to Mary flourished the female sex
possessed a guarantee of its dignity, from both the religious and the
human point of view, a pledge of enduring respect and honour.

How the Church of olden days continued to prize matrimony and
to view it in the light of a true Sacrament is evident from the
whole literature of the Middle Ages. Such being its teaching it is
incomprehensible how a well-known Protestant encyclopædia, as late as
1898, could still venture to say: “As against the contempt for marriage
displayed in both religious and secular circles, and to counteract the
immorality to which this had given rise, Luther vindicated the honour
of matrimony and placed it in an entirely new light.”

 In those days Postils enjoyed a wider circulation than any other
 popular works. The Postils, however, do not teach “contempt of
 marriage,” but quite the contrary. “The Mirror of Human Conduct,”
 published at Augsburg in 1476, indeed gives the first place to
 virginity, but declares: “Marriage is good and holy,” and must not be
 either despised or rejected; those who “are mated in matrimony” must
 not imagine that the maids (virgins) alone are God’s elect; “Christ
 praises marriage, for it is a holy state of life in which many a man
 becomes holy, for marriage was instituted by our Lord in Paradise”;
 from Christ’s presence at the marriage at Cana we may infer that “the
 married life is a holy life.”

 Other works containing the same teaching are the “Evangelibuch,”
 e.g. in the Augsburg edition of 1487, the “Postils on the Four
 Gospels throughout the year,” by Geiler of Kaysersberg († 1510),
 issued by Heinrich Wessmer at Strasburg in 1522, and the important
 Basle “Plenarium” of 1514, in which the author, a monk, writes: “The
 conjugal state is to be held in high respect on account of the honour
 done to it by God”; he also appends some excellent instructions on the
 duties of married people, concluding with a reference to the story
 of Tobias “which you will find in the Bible” (which, accordingly, he
 assumed was open to his readers).

 The “Marriage-booklets” of the close of the Middle Ages form a
 literary group apart. One of the best is “Ein nützlich Lehre und
 Predigt, wie sich zwei Menschen in dem Sacrament der Ehe halten
 sollen,” which was in existence in MS. as early as 1456. “God Himself
 instituted marriage,” it tells us, “when He said, ‘Be fruitful and
 multiply!’ The Orders, however, were founded by Bernard, Augustine,
 Benedict and Dominic; thus the command of God is greater than that of
 the teacher,” i.e. the Sacrament excels all Rules made by men, even by
 Saints. It also gives a touching account of how marriage is founded on
 love and sustained by it.[424]

 Another matrimonial handbook, composed by Albert von Eyb, a Franconian
 cleric, and printed at Augsburg in 1472, lavishes praise on “holy,
 divine matrimony” without, however, neglecting to award still higher
 encomium to the state of virginity. Erhard Gross, the Nuremberg
 Carthusian, about the middle of the 15th century, wrote a “Novel”
 containing good advice for married people.[425] The hero, who was
 at first desirous of remaining unmarried, declares: “You must not
 think that I condemn matrimony, for it is holy and was established by

 Among the unprinted matrimonial handbooks dating from the period
 before Luther’s time, and containing a like favourable teaching on
 marriage, are the “Booklet on the Rule of Holy Matrimony,”[427] “On
 the Sacrament of Matrimony,”[428] and the excellent “Mirror of the
 Matrimonial Order,” by the Dominican Marcus von Weida.[429] Fr. A.
 Ebert, the Protestant bibliographer, remarks of the latter’s writings:
 “They effectually traverse the charges with which self-complacent
 ignorance loves to overwhelm the ages previous to the Saxon
 Reformation,” and what he says applies particularly to the teaching on

 To come now to the preachers. We must first mention Johann Herolt,
 concerning whose influence a recent Protestant writer aptly remarks,
 that his “wisdom had been listened to by thousands.”[431] The
 passage already given, in which he describes marriage as an Order
 instituted by Christ (p. 129 f.), is but one instance of his many
 apt and beautiful sayings. In the very next sermon Herolt treats
 of the preparation which so great a Sacrament demands. In the same
 way that people prepare themselves for their Easter Communion, so
 they, bride and bridegroom, must prepare themselves for matrimony by
 contrition and confession; for “marriage is as much a Sacrament as the

 A similar view prevailed throughout Christendom.

 One of the most popular of Italian preachers was Gabriel Barletta,
 who died shortly after 1480. Amongst his writings there is a Lenten
 sermon entitled: “_De amore conjugali vel de laudibus mulierum_.” In
 this he speaks of the “cordial love” which unites the married couple.
 He points out that marriage was instituted in Paradise and confirmed
 anew by Christ. Explaining the meaning of the ring, he finds that it
 signifies four things, all of which tend to render Christian marriage
 praiseworthy. He declares that a good wife may prove an inestimable
 treasure. If he dwells rather too much on woman’s physical and mental
 inferiority, this does not prevent him from extolling the strength of
 the woman who is upheld by Christian virtue, and who often succeeds in
 procuring the amendment of a godless husband.[432]

 Barletta, in his sermons, frequently follows the example of his
 brother friar, the English Dominican preacher, Robert Holkot († 1349),
 whose works were much in request at the close of the Middle Ages.[433]
 Holkot had such respect for Christian matrimony, that he applies to
 it the words of the Bible: “O how beautiful is the chaste generation
 with glory; for the memory thereof is immortal.” Since the “_actus
 matrimonialis_” was willed by God, it must be assumed, he says,
 that it can be accomplished virtuously and with merit.[434] If the
 intention of the married couple is the begetting of children for the
 glory of God, they perform an act of the virtue of religion; they also
 exercise the virtue of justice if they have the intention of mutually
 fulfilling the conjugal duties to which they have pledged themselves.
 According to him, mutual love is the principal duty of the married
 couple.[435] Franz Falk has dwelt in detail on the testimony borne by
 the Late Middle Ages to the dignity of marriage.[436]

 Commencing with the prayers of the marriage-service and the blessing
 of the ring, the prayers for those with child and in child-bed, and
 for the churching of women, he goes on to deal with the civil rights
 pertaining to the married state and with the Church’s opinion as
 witnessed to in the matrimonial handbooks and books of instruction and
 edification. With the respect for the Sacrament and the dignity of
 the married woman there found expressed, Falk compares the sentiments
 likewise found in the prose “novels” and so-called “Volksbücher,”
 and, still more practically expressed, in the numerous endowments
 and donations for the provision of bridal outfits. “It is quite
 incomprehensible,” such is the author’s conclusion, “how non-Catholic
 writers even to the present time can have ventured to reproach the
 Church with want of regard for the married state.”[437] Of the
 information concerning bridal outfits, he says, for instance: “The
 above collection of facts, a real ‘_nubes testium_,’ will sufficiently
 demonstrate what a task the Church of the Middle Ages here fulfilled
 towards her servants and children.... Many other such foundations may,
 moreover, have escaped our notice owing to absence of the deeds which
 have either not been printed or have perished. From the 16th century
 onwards records of such foundations become scarce.”[438]

 In the “Internationale Wochenschrift” Heinrich Finke pointed out that
 he had examined hundreds of Late-mediæval sermons on the position of
 women, with the result, that “it is impossible to discover in them any
 contempt for woman.”[439] The fact is, that “there exist countless
 statements of the sanctity of marriage and its sacramental character
 ... statements drawn from theologians of the highest standing,
 Fathers, Saints and Doctors of the Church. Indeed, towards the close
 of the Middle Ages, they grow still more numerous. The most popular of
 the monks, whether Franciscans or Dominicans, have left us matrimonial
 handbooks which imply the existence of that simple, happy family
 life they depict and encourage.”[440] Finke recalls the 15th-century
 theologian, Raymond of Sabunde, who points out how union with God
 in love may be reproduced in marriage. Countless theologians are at
 one with him here, and follow Scripture in representing the union
 of Christ with the Church as an exalted figure of the marriage-bond
 between man and wife (Eph. v. 25, 32). Of the respect which the
 ancient Church exhibited towards women Finke declares: “Never has
 the praise of women been sung more loudly than in the sermons of the
 Fathers and in the theological tractates of the Schoolmen.” Here “one
 picture follows another, each more dazzling than the last.”[441]
 Certainly we must admit, as he does, that it is for the most part the
 ideal of virginity which inspires them, and that it is the good,
 chaste, virtuous wife and widow whom they extol, rather than woman
 _qua_ woman, as a noble part of God’s creation. Their vocation as
 spiritual teachers naturally explains this; and if, for the same
 cause, they seem to be very severe in their strictures on feminine
 faults, or to strike harsh notes in their warnings on the spiritual
 dangers of too free intercourse with the female sex, this must not
 be looked upon as “hatred of women,” as has been done erroneously on
 the strength of some such passages in the case of St. Antoninus of
 Florence and Cardinal Dominici.[442]

 “Just as Church and Councils energetically took the side of marriage”
 when it was decried in certain circles,[443] so the accusation of
 recent times that, in the Middle Ages, woman was universally looked
 upon with contempt, cannot stand; according to Finke this was not the
 case, even in “ascetical circles,” and “still less elsewhere.”[444]
 The author adduces facts which “utterly disprove any such general
 disdain for woman.”[445]

 The splendid Scriptural eulogy with which the Church so frequently
 honours women in her liturgy, might, one would think, be in itself
 sufficient. To the married woman who fulfils her duties in the home
 out of true love for God, and with zeal and assiduity, the Church, in
 the Mass appointed for the Feasts of Holy Women, applies the words
 of Proverbs:[446] “The price of the valiant woman is as of things
 brought from afar and from the uttermost coasts. The heart of her
 husband trusteth in her ... she will render him good and not evil all
 the days of her life. She hath sought wool and flax and hath wrought
 by the counsel of her hands.... Her husband is honourable in the gates
 when he sitteth among the senators of the land.... Strength and beauty
 are her clothing, and she shall laugh in the latter day. She hath
 opened her mouth to wisdom.... Her children rose up and called her
 blessed, her husband, and he praised her.... The woman that feareth
 the Lord, she shall be praised.”--Elsewhere the liturgy quotes the
 Psalmist:[447] “Grace is poured abroad from thy lips,” “With thy
 comeliness and thy beauty set out, proceed prosperously and reign....
 Therefore God, thy God, hath anointed thee with the oil of gladness
 above thy fellows.”

 It cannot be objected that the ordinary woman, in the exercise of her
 household duties and of a humbler type of virtue, had no part in this
 praise. On the contrary, in honouring these Saints the Church was at
 the same time honouring all women who had not, by their misconduct,
 rendered themselves unworthy of the name. To all, whatever their rank
 or station, the high standard of the Saints was displayed, and all
 were invited to follow their example and promised their intercession.
 At the foot of the altar all were united, for their mother, the
 Church, showed to all the same consideration and helpful love. The
 honours bestowed upon the heroines of the married state had its
 influence on their living sisters, just as the Church’s “undying
 respect for virginity was calculated to exercise a wholesome effect on
 those bound by the marriage tie, or about to be so bound.”[448]

 In Luther’s own case we have an instance in the devotion he showed in
 his youth to St. Anne, who was greatly venerated by both men and women
 in late mediæval times. The vow he had made to enter the cloister he
 placed in the hands of this Saint. The liturgical praise to which we
 have just listened, and which is bestowed on her in common with other
 holy spouses, he repeated frequently enough as a monk, when saying
 Mass, and the words of the Holy Ghost in praise of the true love of
 the faithful helpmate he ever treasured in his memory.[449]

 How well Luther succeeded in establishing the fable of the scorn in
 which the married state was held in the Middle Ages is evident from
 several recent utterances of learned Protestants.

 One Church historian goes so far, in his vindication of the Reformer’s
 statements concerning the mediæval “contempt felt for womankind,”
 as actually to lay the blame for Luther’s sanction of polygamy
 on the low, “mediæval view of the nature of matrimony.” Another
 theologian, a conservative, fancies that he can, even to-day, detect
 among “Romanists” the results of the mediæval undervaluing of
 marriage. According to Catholics “marriage is not indeed forbidden to
 everyone--for otherwise where would the Church find new children?--but
 nevertheless is looked at askance as a necessary evil.” Perfection in
 Catholic theory consists in absolute ignorance of all that concerns
 marriage. One scholar declares the Church before Luther’s day had
 taught, that “marriage had nothing to do with love”; “of the ethical
 task [of marriage] and of love not a trace is to be found” in the
 teaching of the Middle Ages. An eminent worker in the field of the
 history of dogma also declares, in a recent edition of his work, that,
 before Luther’s day, marriage had been “a sort of concession to the
 weak”; thanks only to Luther, was it “freed from all ecclesiastical
 tutelage to become the union of the sexes, as instituted _by God_
 [his italics], and the school of highest morality.” Such assertions,
 only too commonly met with, are merely the outcome of the false ideas
 disseminated by Luther himself concerning the Church of olden days.
 The author of the fable that woman and marriage were disdained in the
 Middle Ages scored a success, of which, could he have foreseen it, he
 would doubtless have been proud.

 Two publications by Professors of the University of Wittenberg have
 been taken as clear proof of how low an opinion the Catholic Middle
 Ages had of woman and marriage. Of these publications one, however, a
 skit on the devil in Andr. Meinhardi’s Latin Dialogues of 1508--which,
 of the two, would, in this respect, be the most incriminating--has
 absolutely nothing to do with the mediæval Church’s views on marriage,
 but simply reproduces those of the Italian Humanists, though revealing
 that their influence extended even as far as Germany. It tells how
 even the devil himself was unable to put up with matrimony; since the
 difficulties of this state are so great, one of the speakers makes
 up his mind “never to marry, so as to be the better able to devote
 himself to study.” Despite this the author of the Dialogue entered
 the married state. The other publication is a discourse, in 1508, by
 Christopher Scheurl, containing a frivolous witticism at the expense
 of women, likewise due to Italian influence. This, however, did not
 prevent Scheurl, too, from marrying.[450] The truth is that the
 Italian Humanists’ “favourite subjects are the relations between the
 sexes, treated with the crudest realism, and, in connection with this,
 attacks on marriage and the family.”[451] At the same time it cannot
 be denied that individual writers, men influenced by anti-clerical
 Humanism, or ascetical theologians knowing nothing of the world, did
 sometimes speak of marriage in a manner scarcely fair to woman and did
 occasionally unduly exalt the state of celibacy.

Against such assertions some of Luther’s finest sayings on woman’s
dignity deserve to be pitted.

_Luther’s Discordant Utterances on the Value of Marriage in his Sermons
and Writings._

Any objective examination of Luther’s attitude towards woman and
marriage must reveal the fact, that he frequently seeks to invest
Christian marriage, as he conceived it, with a religious character and
a spiritual dignity. This he does in language witty and sympathetic,
representing it as a close bond of love, though devoid of any
sacramental character. Nor does he hesitate to use the noble imagery of
the Church when describing his substitute for the Christian marriage of
the past.

“It is no small honour for the married state,” he says in a sermon of
1536, “that God should represent it under the type and figure of the
unspeakable grace and love which He manifests and bestows on us in
Christ, and as the surest and most gracious sign of the intimate union
between Himself and Christendom and all its members, a union than which
nothing more intimate can be imagined.”[452]

 In another sermon he praises the edification provided in the married
 state, when “man and wife are united in love and serve each other
 faithfully”; Luther invites them to thank God “that the married state
 is profitable alike to body, property, honour and salvation.” “What,
 however, is best of all in married life,” so he insists, “for the sake
 of which everything must be suffered and endured, is that God may give
 offspring and command us to train it in His service. This is earth’s
 noblest and most priceless work, because God loves nothing so well as
 to save souls.”[453]

 Such exhortations of Luther’s, apart from peculiarities of expression,
 differ from those of earlier writers only in that those authors,
 relying on the traditional, sacramental conception of the matrimonial
 union, had an even greater right to eulogise marriage and the blessing
 of children.

 Catholic preachers might quite profitably have made use of the greater
 part of a wedding discourse delivered by Luther in 1531,[454] though
 they might have failed to emulate the force and emphasis with which
 it was uttered. His theme there is “that marriage is to be held in
 honour”; he quotes Hebr. xiii. 4, “Marriage is honourable in all,
 and the bed undefiled”; he continues: “It is true that our flesh is
 full of evil lusts which entice us to sin, but to these we must not
 consent; if, however, you hold fast to the Word of God and see to it,
 that this state is blessed and adorned, this will preserve and comfort
 you, and make of it a holy state for you.”[455] It was necessary, he
 continues, not merely to fight against any sensual lusts outside of
 the marriage bond, but also to cultivate virtue. Conjugal fidelity
 must be preserved all the more carefully since “Satan is your enemy
 and your flesh wanton.” “Fornication and adultery are the real stains
 which defile the marriage bed.” “Married persons are embraced in the
 Word of God.” This they must take as their guide, otherwise (here
 Luther’s language ceases to be a pattern) “the bed is soiled, and,
 practically, they might as well have passed their motions in it.”[456]

 Such an emphasising of the religious side of matrimony almost gives
 the impression, that Luther was following an interior impulse which
 urged him to counteract the effects of certain other statements of his
 on marriage. Doubtless he felt the contrast between his worldly view
 of matrimony and the higher standard of antiquity, though he would
 certainly have refused to admit that he was behindhand in the struggle
 against sensuality. In view of the sad moral consequences which were
 bearing witness against him, he was disposed to welcome an opportunity
 to give expression to such sentiments as those just described, which
 tended to justify him both to his listeners and to himself. Nor were
 such sentiments mere hypocrisy; on the contrary, they have their
 psychological place as a true component part of his picture. On one
 occasion Luther bewails the want of attention paid to his excellent
 doctrines: “The teachers are there, but the doers are nowhere to be
 found; as with the other points of our doctrine, there are but few who
 obey or heed us.”[457]

Not infrequently, however, instead of praising the dignity of woman and
the purity of married life, Luther speaks in a far from respectful,
nay, offensive manner of woman, though without perhaps meaning all
that his words would seem to convey. He thereby exposes woman, in
her relations with man, to the danger of contempt, and thus forfeits
the right of posing as the defender of feminine dignity and of the
married state against alleged detractors among the Catholics. His false
aspersions on former days thus stand out in a still more unpleasant

In a sermon of 1524, where it is true he has some fine words on the
indulgent treatment to be meted out to the wife, he says: St. Peter
calls woman the “weaker vessel” (1 Peter iii. 7); he “had given faint
praise to woman,” for “woman’s body is not strong and her spirit, as a
general rule, is even weaker; whether she is wild or mild depends on
God’s choice of man’s helpmate. Woman is half a child; whoever takes a
wife must look upon himself as the guardian of a child.... She is also
a crazy beast. Recognise her weakness. If she does not always follow
the straight path, bear with her frailty. A woman will ever remain a
woman.... But the married state is nevertheless the best, because God
is there with His Word and Work and Cross.”[458]

With those who complain of the sufferings of the mother in pregnancy
and childbirth he is very angry, and, in one sermon, goes so far as
to say: “Even though they grow weary and wear themselves out with
child-bearing, that is of no consequence; let them go on bearing
children till they die, that is what they are there for.”[459]

His description of marriage “as an outward, material thing, like any
other worldly business,[460] was certainly not calculated to raise
its repute;” and in the same passage he proceeds: “Just as I may eat
and drink, sleep and walk, ride, talk and do business with a heathen
or a Jew, a Turk or a heretic, so also I may contract marriage with

Matrimonial cases had formerly belonged to the ecclesiastical courts,
but Luther now drives the parties concerned to the secular judge,
telling them that he will give them “a good hog,” i.e. a sound
trouncing, for having sought to “involve and entangle him in such
matters” which “really concerned the secular authority.”[462] “Marriage
questions,” he says, “do not touch the conscience, but come within the
province of the secular judge.”[463] Previously, parties whose rights
had been infringed were able to seek redress from the ecclesiastical
tribunals, the sentences of which were enforced by Canon Law under
spiritual penalties, to the advantage of the injured party. Luther, on
the other hand, after having secularised marriage, finds himself unable
to cope with the flood of people clamouring for justice: “I am tired of
them [the matrimonial squabbles] and I have thrown them overboard; let
them do as they like in the name of all the devils.”[464] He is also
determined to rid the preachers of this business; the injured parties
are, he says, to seek for justice and protection “in the latrines of
the lawyers”; his own conduct, he hopes, will serve as a model to the
preachers, who will now repel all who solicit their help.[465]

The increase in the number of matrimonial misunderstandings and
quarrels, the haste with which marriage was entered upon and then
dissolved, particularly in the Saxon Electorate and at Wittenberg, was
not merely the result of the new Evangelical freedom, as Luther and
his friends sadly admitted, but was due above all to the altered views
on marriage. In the new preaching on marriage the gratification of the
sensual impulse was, as will be shown below, placed too much in the
foreground, owing partly to the fanatical reaction against clerical
celibacy and religious vows. “To marry is a remedy for fornication”;
these words of Luther’s were again and again repeated by himself and
others in one form or another, as though they characterised the main
object of marriage. Nature was persistently painted as excessively
weak in the matter of chastity, and as quite captive under the yoke of
passion. People were indeed admonished to curb their passions with the
help of Grace, but such means of acquiring God’s Grace as mortification
and self-conquest were only too frequently scoffed at as mere
holiness-by-works, while as for the means of grace sought by Catholics
in the Sacraments, they had simply been “abolished.”

By his patronage of polygamy, forced on him by his wrong interpretation
of the Bible, Luther put the crowning touch on his contempt for
Christian marriage.[466] This was to relinquish the position of
privilege in which Christianity had established marriage, when,
following the Creator’s intention, it insisted on monogamy.

_Birth of the New Views on Marriage during the Controversy on the Vow
of Chastity._

How did Luther reach his opinion and succeed in endowing it with
credibility and life? A glance at its birth and growth will give us an
instructive insight into Luther’s manner of proceeding.

He had already long been engaged in his struggle with “Popish abuses”
and had already set up all the essential points of his new theology,
before becoming in the least conscious of the supposed contempt in
which marriage was held by the Roman Church. In his exposition of the
Ten Commandments, in 1518, he still speaks of it in the respectful
language of his earlier years; in his sermon on the Married State, in
1519, he still terms it a Sacrament, without hinting in any way that
it had hitherto been considered disreputable. Whether he uses the term
Sacrament in its traditional meaning we do not, of course, know. At any
rate, he says: “Matrimony is a Sacrament, an outward, holy sign of the
greatest, most sacred, worthy and exalted thing that ever has been,
or ever will be, viz. of the union of the Divine and human nature in
Christ.”[467] Enumerating the spiritual advantages of marriage, which
counteract the “sinful lusts therewith intermingled,” he expressly
appeals to the “Doctors” of the Church, and the three benefits they
perceived in matrimony; “first, marriage is a Sacrament,” “secondly,
it is a bond of fidelity,” “thirdly, it brings offspring, which is the
end and principal office of marriage”; a further benefit must be added,
viz. the “training of the offspring in the service of God.”[468]

In his book “On the Babylonish Captivity” (1520) he has already arrived
at the explicit denial to marriage of the name and character of a

But it was only in the war he waged against his own vow of chastity
that the idea arose in his mind, and even then only gradually, that
the true value and excellence of marriage had never hitherto been
recognised. The more he sought for theological grounds on which to
prove the worthlessness of religious celibacy and the nullity of the
vow of chastity, the more deeply he persuaded himself that proofs
existed in abundance of the utter perversity of the prevailing opinions
on matrimony. He began to impute to the Church extravagant views on
virginity, of which neither he nor anyone else had ever thought. He
now accused her of teaching the following: That virginity was the
only state in which God could be served perfectly; that marriage was
forbidden to the clergy because it was disreputable and a thing soiled
with sin; finally, that family life with its petty tasks must be
regarded as something degrading, while woman herself, to whom the chief
share in these tasks belongs and who, moreover, so often tempts man to
sins of incontinence, is a contemptible creature.

All these untruths concerning the ancient Church were purely the
outcome of Luther’s personal polemics.

His system of attack exhibits no trace of any dispassionate examination
of the testimonies of antiquity. But his false and revolting charges
seemed some sort of justification for his attack on religious vows
and clerical celibacy. From such theoretical charges there was but a
step to charges of a more practical character and to his boundless
exaggerations concerning the hideous vices supposed to have been
engendered by the perversion of the divinely appointed order, and to
have devastated the Church as a chastisement for her contempt for

In the second edition of the sermon of 1519 on the Married State he
places virginity on at least an equal footing with matrimony. Towards
the end of the sermon he (like the earlier writers) calls matrimony “a
noble, exalted and blessed state” if rightly observed, but otherwise
“a wretched, fearful and dangerous” one; he proceeds: Whoever bears
this in mind “will know what to think of the sting of the flesh,
and, possibly, will be as ready to accept the virginal state as
the conjugal.”[469] Even during his Wartburg days, when under the
influence of the burning spirit of revolt, and already straining at
the vows which bound him, he still declared in the theses he sent
Melanchthon, that “Marriage is good, but virginity better” (“_Bonum
coniugium, melior virginitas_”),[470] a thesis, which, like St. Paul,
he bases mainly on the immunity from worldly cares. This idea impressed
Melanchthon so deeply, that he re-echoes it in his praise of virginity
in the “Apology for the Confession of Augsburg”: “We do not make
virginity and marriage equal. For, as one gift is better than another,
prophecy better than eloquence, strategy better than agriculture,
eloquence better than architecture, so virginity is a gift excelling

But this great gift, to Luther’s mind, was a moral impossibility,
the rarest of God’s Graces, nay, a “miracle” of the Almighty. Hence
he teaches that such a privilege must not be laid claim to, that the
monastic vow of chastity was therefore utterly immoral, and clerical
celibacy too, to say nothing of private vows of virginity; in all such
there lurked a presumptuous demand for the rarest and most marvellous
of Divine Graces; even to pray for this was not allowed.

At the conclusion of his theses for Melanchthon, Luther enforces what
he had said by the vilest calumnies against all who, in the name of the
Church, had pledged themselves to remain unmarried. Were it known what
manner of persons those who profess such great chastity really are,
their “greatly extolled chastity” would not be considered fit “for a
prostitute to wipe her boots on.”

Then follow his further unhappy outbursts at the Wartburg on religious
vows (vol. ii., p. 83 ff.) consummating his perversion of the Church’s
teaching and practice regarding celibacy and marriage. In marriage
he sees from that time forward nothing by the gratification of the
natural impulse; to it every man must have recourse unless he enjoys
the extraordinary grace of God; the ancient Church, with her hatred
of marriage, her professed religious and celibate clergy, assumes in
his imagination the most execrable shape. He fancies that, thanks to
his new notions, he has risen far above the Christianity of the past,
albeit the Church had ever striven to guard the sanctity of marriage
as the very apple of her eye, by enacting many laws and establishing
marriage-courts of her own under special judges. He becomes ever more
reckless in casting marriage matters on the shoulders of the State.
In the Preface to his “Trawbüchlin,” in 1529, he says, for instance,
“Since wedlock and marriage are a worldly business, we clergy and
ministers of the Church have nothing to order or decree about it,
but must leave each town and country to follow its own usage and

From that time forward, particularly when the Diet of Augsburg had
embittered the controversy, Luther pours out all the vials of his
terrible eloquence on the bondage in which marriage had been held
formerly, and on the contempt displayed by Rome for it. He peremptorily
demands its complete secularisation.

And yet he ostentatiously extols marriage as “holy and Divine,”
and even says that wedlock is most pleasing to God, a mystery and
Sacrament in the highest sense of the word. Of one of these passages
Emil Friedberg, the Protestant canonist, remarks in his “Recht
der Eheschliessung”: “Luther’s views as here expressed completely
contradict other passages, and this same discrepancy is apparent
throughout the later literature, and, even now, prevents [Protestants]
from appreciating truly the nature of marriage.”[473]

Every impartial observer could have seen that the preference given to
virginity by the Catholic Church, her defence of the manner of life of
those whom God had called to the cloister, and her guardianship of the
celibacy of the priesthood, handed down from the earliest ages, did not
in the least imply any undervaluing of marriage on her part--unless
indeed, as Joseph Mausbach remarks, he was prepared to admit that,
“because one thing is better, its opposite must needs be bad.”

“Who thinks,” continues the same writer, that “preference for gold
involves contempt for silver, or preference for the rose a depreciation
of all other flowers? But these very comparisons are to be met with
even amongst the ancient Fathers.... Why should the Church’s praise of
virginity be always misconstrued as a reproach against matrimony? All
this is mere thoughtlessness, when it is not blind prejudice, for the
Church did everything to prevent any misunderstanding of her praise of
virginity, and certainly taught and defended the sanctity of marriage
with all her power.”[474]

Luther’s judgment was not due so much to mere thoughtlessness as to
his burning hatred of the Papacy; this we see from the vulgar abuse
which, whenever he comes to speak of marriage and celibacy, he showers
on the Pope, the supreme champion of the Evangelical Counsels and of
the priestly ideal of life; on the other hand, it was also to some
extent due to his deeply rooted and instinctive aversion for everything
whereby zealous Christians do violence to nature out of love for God,
from the motive of penance and from a desire to obtain merit.

_The Natural Impulse and the Honour of Marriage._

Ecclesiastical writers before Luther’s day speak frequently and plainly
enough of the impulse of nature, but, as a rule, only in order to
recommend its control, to point out the means of combating excesses,
and to insist on the Sacrament which sanctifies conjugal intercourse
and brings down the blessings we require if the earthly and eternal
purpose of marriage is to be fulfilled.

 Luther, however, if we may trust one of his most zealous defenders,
 rendered a great service with regard to sexual intercourse in that “he
 shook off the pseudo-ascetic spirit of the past.” He demonstrated,
 so we are told, particularly in what he wrote to Spalatin about
 the “_actus matrimonialis_”[475]--words which some have regarded as
 offensive--“that even that act, though represented by his opponents as
 obscene, to the faithful Christian who ‘receives it with thanksgiving’
 (1 Tim. iv. 4), contained nothing to raise a blush or to forbid its
 mention.” According to the “Roman view” it is perfectly true that
 “the ‘_actus matrimonialis_’ is sinless only when performed with the
 object of begetting children, or in order to fulfil the conjugal
 due.”[476] This, he exclaims, “was forsooth to be the sole motive of
 conjugal intercourse! And, coupled with this motive, the act even
 becomes meritorious! Is there any need of confuting so repulsive a
 notion?... Luther’s view is very different. The natural sexual passion
 was, according to him, the will and the work of God.” “The effect of
 the Roman exaltation of celibacy was to make people believe, that
 the motive [of conjugal intercourse] implanted by God, viz. sexual
 attraction, must not be yielded to.” This attraction Luther declared
 to be the one motive on account of which we should “thankfully avail
 ourselves” of matrimony. “This Luther conveys most clearly in his
 letter to Spalatin, his intimate friend, shortly after both had
 wedded.... We know no higher conception of conjugal intercourse.”

 This description does not do justice to the mediæval Catholic teaching
 on matrimony, its duties and privileges. This teaching never demanded
 the suppression of sensual attraction or love. It fully recognised
 that this had been implanted in human nature by God’s wise and
 beneficent hand as a stimulus to preserve and multiply the human
 race, according to His command: “Be fruitful and multiply.” But the
 Church urged all to see that this impulse was kept pure and worthy by
 attention to its higher purpose, viz. to the object appointed from
 above. Instead of becoming its slave the Christian was to ennoble
 it by allowing the motives of faith to play their part in conjugal
 intercourse. The Church’s teaching would indeed have been “repulsive”
 had it demanded the general repression of the sexual instinct and not
 merely the taming of that unruliness which is the result of original
 sin, and is really unworthy of man. Had she imposed the obligation to
 wage an impossible struggle against it as a thing essentially sinful,
 then her teaching might indeed have been described as “repulsive.”

 Still it is sufficiently tragic, that, in spite of the gratification
 of the sensual impulse of nature playing the principal part in his
 new and supposedly more exalted view of conjugal intercourse, Luther
 should, on account of the concupiscence involved, characterise the
 “_actus matrimonialis_” as a mortal sin. In “_De votis monasticis_,”
 his work written at the Wartburg, he says: “According to Ps. 1. 7, it
 is a sin differing in nothing from adultery and fornication so far as
 the sensual passion and hateful lust are concerned; God, however, does
 not impute it to the married, though simply because of His compassion,
 since it is impossible for us to avoid it, although our duty would
 really be to do without it.”[477] We are already familiar with his
 curious and impossible theory of imputation, according to which God is
 able to close His eyes to a sin, which nevertheless is really there.

 That there is actual sin in the act Luther also insists elsewhere, at
 the same time pleading, however, that the sin is not imputed by God,
 who, as it were, deliberately winks at it: “In spite of all the good
 I say of married life, I will not grant so much to nature as to admit
 that there is no sin in it; what I say is that we have here flesh and
 blood, depraved in Adam, conceived and born in sin (Ps. 1. 7), and
 that no conjugal due is ever rendered without sin.”[478]--The blessing
 which God bestowed on marriage, he says elsewhere, fallen human nature
 was “not able to accomplish without sin”; “without sin no married
 persons could do their duty.”[479]

 Hence the following inference would seem justified: Matrimony is
 really a state of sin. Such was the opinion, not of the Church before
 Luther’s day, but of her assailant, whose opponents soon pointed out
 to him how unfounded was his supposition.[480] The ancient Church, by
 the voice of her theologians, declared the “_actus matrimonialis_,”
 when performed in the right way and to a right end, to be no sin; they
 admitted the inevitable satisfaction of concupiscence, but allowed it
 so long as its gratification was not all that was sought. According
 to Luther--whom the author above referred to has quite rightly
 understood--it is different: Sin is undoubtedly committed, but we may,
 nay, are bound, to commit it.

With the above, all Luther’s statements on the inevitable strength
of the impulse of nature agree. Though the union of husband and wife
is a rule of the natural law applying to the majority rather than
to the individual, Luther practically makes it binding upon all. In
this connection he seems to be unable to view the moral relation of
the sexes in any other light than as existing for the gratification
of mutual lust, since without marriage they must inevitably fall
into every sort of carnal sin. “It is a necessary and natural thing,
that every man should have a wife,” he says in the lengthy passage
already quoted, where he concludes, “it is more necessary than eating
and drinking, sleeping and waking, or passing the natural motions of
the body.”[481] Elsewhere, in a characteristic comparison, he says:
“Were a man compelled to close his bowels and bladder--surely an utter
impossibility--what would become of him?”[482] According to him, “man
must be fruitful, and multiply, and breed,” “like all other animals,
since God has created him thereto, so that, of necessity, a man must
seek a wife, and a woman a husband, unless God works a miracle.”[483]

Many were they who, during the controversies which accompanied the
schism, listened to such teaching and believed it and were ready to
forgo the miracle in order to follow the impulse of nature; were ready
to indulge their weakness did their state of life prohibit marriage,
or to dissolve the marriage already contracted when it did not turn
out to their taste, or when they fancied they could advance one of
the numerous reasons proclaimed by Luther for its annulment. The
evil effects of such morality in the 16th century (see below, p. 164
ff. and xxiv. 1 and 2), witnessed to on all sides by Lutherans as
well as Catholics, prove conclusively that the originator of the new
matrimonial theories was the last man qualified to reproach the ancient
Church with a want of appreciation for marriage or for woman.

       *       *       *       *       *

Nor must we look merely at the results. The man’s very character, his
mode of thought and his speech, suffice to banish him from the society
of the olden, earnest moralists. Albeit unwillingly, we must add here
some further statements to those already adduced.[484]

 “If a man feels his manhood,” Luther says, “let him take a wife and
 not tempt God. ‘_Puella propterea habet pudenda_,’ to provide him a
 remedy that he may escape pollution and adultery.”[485]

 “The sting of the flesh may easily be helped, so long as girls and
 women are to be found.”[486]

 Our readers will not have forgotten the reason he gives why women
 have so little intellect;[487] or the reproof addressed to him by

 Luther urges early marriage in the words of an old proverb: “To rise
 early and to marry young will cause regret to no one.” “It will fare
 with you,” he says to the same addressee, “as with the nuns to whom
 they gave carved Jesuses. They cast about for others, who at least
 were living and pleased them better, and sought how best to escape
 from their convent.”[489]--“What greater service can one do a girl
 than to get her a baby? This rids her of many fancies.”[490] Here, and
 elsewhere too, he is anxious that people should marry, even though
 there should not be enough to live upon; God would not allow the
 couple to starve if they did their duty.[491]--“A young fellow should
 be simply given a wife, otherwise he has no peace. Then the troubles
 of matrimony will soon tame him.”[492]

 On another occasion (1540) Luther expresses himself with greater
 caution about too early matches: “It is not good for young people to
 marry too soon. They are ruined in their prime, exhaust their strength
 and neglect their studies.” “But the young men are consumed with
 passion,” one of those present objected, “and the theologians work
 upon their conscience and tell them that ‘To marry young will cause
 regret to no one.’” Luther’s reply was: “The young men are unwilling
 to resist any temptations.... They should console themselves with the
 hope of future marriage. We used to be forbidden to marry in almost
 all the Faculties, hence the youths indulged in all kinds of excesses,
 knowing that, later on, they would no longer be able to do so. Thus
 they sunk into every kind of disorder. But now everybody is allowed
 to marry, even the theologian and the bishop. Hence, in their own
 interests, they ought to learn to wait.”[493]

 At other times he was inclined to promote hasty marriages from motives
 of policy, and, without a thought of the dignity of the conjugal union
 and the respect due to woman, to use it as a means to increase the
 number of his followers.

 This happened in the case of many of his converts from the ranks of
 the clergy and religious.[494]

 In the case of the Bishop of Samland, George von Polenz, and his
 adviser, Johann Briesmann, the ex-Franciscan, who both were desirous
 of marrying, Luther judged that delay would be disastrous. He urged
 them to make haste and be publicly wedded, both having already
 contracted a so-called marriage in conscience; in their case there
 was “danger in delay,” and, as the saying goes, “If you wait a night,
 you wait a year”; even Paul had said we must not receive the grace of
 God in vain (2 Cor. vi. 1), and the bride in the Canticle complained
 that the bridegroom “was gone,” because she had been tardy in opening
 the door (v. 6). A German proverb said, “Wenn das Ferkel beut soll
 man den Sack herhalten.” Esau’s lost birthright, and the solemn words
 of Christ concerning separation from Him (John xii. 35 f.) were also
 made to serve his purpose. “Take it when, where and how you can, or
 you won’t get another chance.” A man could not be sure of his own mind
 on account of the snares of the devil; a marriage not yet publicly
 ratified remained somewhat uncertain.[495]

 Before these exhortations reached them both the parties in question
 had, however, already taken the public step.

 It was in those very days that Luther celebrated his own wedding and
 sent his pressing invitation to marry to the Cardinal and Elector
 of Mayence, telling him that, short of a miracle, or without some
 peculiar grace, it was a “terrible thing” for a man “to be found
 without a wife at the hour of death.”[496] It was then, too, that he
 sent to Albert of Prussia, the Grand Master of the Teutonic Order, who
 was contemplating marriage, his congratulations on the secularisation
 of the lands of the Order and the founding of the Duchy, which he had
 even previously strongly urged him to do. In this letter he tells
 the Grand Master that it was “God Almighty,” “Who had graciously
 and mercifully helped him to such a position [that of a secular
 Prince].”[497] The Grand Master’s marriage and consequent breach of
 his vow of chastity followed in 1526. He invited Luther to the wedding
 and wrote to him, that God had given him “the grace to enter the Order
 [of marriage] instituted by Himself” after he had “laid aside the
 cross [the sign of the Order] and entered the secular estate.”

 It cannot be denied, that in all these marriages which Luther
 promoted, or at least favoured, what he had his eye on was the
 advantage of the new Church system. Of any raising of the moral
 position of women, of any deepening of the significance of marriage,
 there is here no trace; these marriages served quite another purpose.
 The circumstances attending them were, moreover, frequently far from
 dignified. “The Bishop of Samland,” so Philip von Creutz, a Knight
 of the Teutonic Order, relates, “gave up his bishopric to the Duke
 [Albert] in the presence of the whole assembly.... He caused his mitre
 to be broken up and, out of its precious stones and jewels, he had
 ornaments made for his wife.”[498]

_Practical Consequences of the New View of Woman: Matrimonial
Impediments, Divorce._

The readiness shown by Luther to annul valid marriages, and the wayward
manner in which he disposed of the impediments fixed by the Church,
were not calculated to enhance respect either for marriage or for woman.

As regards the impediments to marriage we shall here merely refer to
the practical and not uncommon case where a person wished to marry
a niece. Whereas Canon Law, at one with Roman Law, regarded this
relationship as constituting an impediment, which might, however, be
dispensed from by the Pope, Luther at first saw fit to declare it no
impediment at all; he even issued memoranda to this effect, one of
which was printed in 1526 and circulated widely.[499] “If the Pope
was able to dispense,” he said later on concerning this, “why can’t I
too?”[500] In favour of the lawfulness of such marriages he appealed to
the example of Abraham, and in reply to objections declared: “If they
blame the work and example of the holy Patriarch Abraham, then let them
be scandalised.”[501] At a later date, nevertheless, he changed his
mind and held such marriages to be unlawful. His previous statements he
explained by saying that once he had indeed given a different decision,
not in order to lead others into excesses but in order “to assist
consciences at the hour of death against the Pope”; he had merely
given advice in Confession to troubled consciences, and had not laid
down any law; to make laws was not within his province, either in the
State or in the Church. His former memoranda were not to be alleged
now; a certain man of the name of Borner, who, on the strength of them,
had married his niece, had acted very ill and done injustice to his
(Luther’s) decision. The Pope alone, so Luther says, was to blame for
his previous advice--because many, owing to his laws, were reduced to
despair and had come to Luther for help. “It is true that in Confession
and in order to pacify consciences I have advised differently, but
I made a mistake in allowing such counsels to be made public. Now,
however, it is done. This is a matter for Confession only.”[502]

When speaking in this way, in 1544, he probably had in mind his
so-called advice in Confession to Philip of Hesse. He was still acting
on the principle, that advice given in Confession might afterwards be
publicly repudiated as quite wrong; he failed somehow to see that the
case of marriage of uncle and niece was of its very nature something

The multitude of divorces caused him great anxiety. Even the preachers
of the new faith were setting a bad example by putting away their
spouses and contracting fresh marriages. Melander, for instance,
who blessed Philip’s second marriage, after deserting “two wives in
succession without even seeking legal aid, married a third.”[503] At
Gotha, as Luther himself relates, a woman deserted her husband and
her three children, and sent him a message to tell him he might take
another wife. When, however, he had done so the woman again asserted
her claims. “Our lawyers,” Luther complains, “at once took her part,
but the Elector decided she should quit the country. My own decision
would have been to have her done to death by drowning.”[504]

In a still existing letter of 1525, Luther permitted Michael Kramer,
preacher at Domitsch, near Torgau, to contract a third marriage, two
previous ones having turned out unfortunate. Kramer, as a Catholic
priest, had first married a servant maid and, for this, had been sent
to jail by Duke George his sovereign. When the maid proved unfaithful
and married another, Luther, to whom Kramer had attached himself,
declared her to be really “deceased” and told the preacher he might
use his “Christian freedom.” Kramer thereupon married a girl from
Domitsch, where he had been in the meantime appointed Lutheran pastor.
This new wife likewise ran away from him three weeks later. He now
addressed himself to the local board of magistrates, who, conjointly
with him, wrote to Luther, pointing out how the poor man “could not
do without a wife.” Luther thereupon sent a memorandum, addressed to
the “magistrates and the preacher of Domitsch,” in which he allowed a
divorce from the second wife and gave permission for a third marriage,
which, apparently, was more of a success. During the Visitations in
1528 this preacher, who had since been transferred to Lucka, got into
trouble on account of his three marriages, but saved his skin by
appealing to Luther’s letter.[505]

The reader already knows that, according to Luther, a woman who has
no children by her husband, may, with the latter’s consent, quietly
dissolve the marriage and cohabit with another, for instance, with
her brother-in-law; this, however, was to be secret, because the
children were to be regarded as her first husband’s. Should he refuse
his consent, says Luther, “rather than suffer her to burn or have
recourse to adultery, I would advise her to marry another and flee to
some place where she is unknown. What other advice can be given to
one who is in constant danger from carnal lusts?”[506] Duke George of
Saxony, referring to a similar passage in Luther’s work “On Conjugal
Life” (1522),[507] said in a letter to Luther which was immediately
printed: “When was it ever heard of that wives should be taken from
their husbands and given to other men, as we now find it stated in your
Evangel? Has adultery ever been more common than since you wrote: If a
woman has no children by her husband, then let her go to another and
bear children whom her husband must provide for as though he were the
father? This is the fruit of the precious Evangel which you dragged
forth out of the gutter. You were quite right when you said you found
it in the gutter; what we want to know is, why you didn’t leave it

 What Luther had said concerning the refusal to render the conjugal
 due: “If the wife refuse, then let the maid come,” attracted more
 attention than he probably anticipated, both among his own adherents
 and among his foes. It is true, as already pointed out, that the
 context does not justify illicit relations outside marriage (see vol.
 iii., p. 252 f.), but the words as they stand, to say nothing of the
 unlikelihood of any real marriage with the maid, and, finally, the
 significance which may have clung to a coarse saying of the populace
 possibly alluded to by Luther, all favoured those who chose to make
 the tempting phrase a pretext for such extra-matrimonial relations.

 When the sermon on marriage in which the passage occurs was published,
 Duke George’s representative at the Diet of Nuremberg in 1522 sent his
 master at Dresden a copy of the booklet, “which the devilish monk,”
 so he writes, “has unblushingly published, though it has cost him the
 loss of many followers about here; it would not go well with us poor
 husbands, should our naughty wives read it. I shall certainly not
 give my wife one.”[509] Duke George replied with a grim jest which
 doubtless went the rounds at Nuremberg among those whom the booklet
 had offended: “As to what you write,” George says, “viz. that you
 won’t let your wife read the little book on marriage, me thinks you
 are acting unwisely; in our opinion it contains something which might
 serve even a jealous husband like you very well; for it says, that if
 your wife refuses to do your will you have only to turn to the maid.
 Hence keep a look out for pretty maids. These and similar utterances
 you may very well hold over your wife.”[510]

 In 1542 Wicel, in his Postils, speaking of the preachers, says: “The
 words of St. Paul, ‘Art thou loosed from a wife, seek not a wife,’ 1
 Cor. vii. 27, have a very unevangelical sound on the lips of these
 Evangelists. How then must it be? Quick, take a wife or a husband;
 whether you be young or old, make haste; should one die, don’t delay
 to take another. Celebrate the wedding, if it turns out ill, then let
 the maid come! Divorce this one and take in marriage that one, whether
 the first be living or dead! For chambering and wantonness shall not
 be neglected,”--“Since the coming of Christ,” says the same writer
 elsewhere, “there have never been so many divorces as under Luther’s

 Of the unlooked-for effects produced among Luther’s preachers by the
 above saying, Sebastian Flasch, an ex-Lutheran preacher and native of
 Mansfeld, complained in 1576: “Although the preachers are married, yet
 they are so ill-content with their better halves, that, appealing to
 Luther’s advice, they frequently, in order to gratify their insatiable
 concupiscence, seduce their maids, and, what is even more shameful,
 do not blush to misconduct themselves with other men’s wives or to
 exchange wives among themselves.” He appeals to his long experience
 of Lutheranism and relates that such a “_commutatio uxorum_” had been
 proposed to him by a preacher of high standing.[512]--Much earlier
 than this, in 1532, Johann Mensing, the Dominican, wrote sadly, that
 the state of matrimony was dreadfully disgraced by the new preachers;
 “for they give a man two wives, a woman two husbands, allow the man
 to use the maid should the wife not prove compliant, and the wife
 to take another husband should her own prove impotent.” “When they
 feel disposed or moved to what is sin and shameful, they say the
 Holy Spirit urges them. Is not that a fine tale that all the world
 is telling about Melchior Myritsch of Magdeburg, of Jacob Probst
 of Bremen and of others in the Saxon land. What certain mothers
 have discovered concerning their daughters and maids, who listened
 to such preaching, it is useless to relate.”[513]--The name of the
 ex-Augustinian, Melchior Myritsch, or Meirisch, recalls the coarseness
 of the advice given by Luther, on Feb. 10, 1525, to the latter’s new
 spouse. (See vol. ii., p. 144.)

_Respect for the Female Sex in Luther’s Conversations._

Had Luther, as the legend he set on foot would make us believe, really
raised the dignity of woman and the married state to a higher level, we
might naturally expect, that, when he has to speak of matters sexual
or otherwise repugnant to modesty, he would at least be reticent and
dignified in his language. We should expect to find him surrounded
at Wittenberg by a certain nobility of thought, a higher, purer
atmosphere, a nobler general tone, in some degree of harmony with his
extraordinary claims. Instead we are confronted with something very
different. Luther’s whole mode of speech, his conversations and ethical
trend, are characterised by traits which even the most indulgent of
later writers found it difficult to excuse, and which, particularly his
want of delicacy towards women, must necessarily prove offensive to

Luther was possibly not aware that the word “nun” comes from the Low
Latin “_nonna_,” i.e. woman, and was originally the name given to those
who dwelt in the numerous convents of Upper Egypt; he knew, however,
well enough that the word “monk” was but a variant of “_monachus_.” He
jestingly gives to both the former and the latter an odious derivation.
“The word nun,” he says, “comes from the German, and cloistered women
are thus called, because that is the term for unsexed sows; in the
same way the word monk is derived from the horses [viz. the gelded
horses]. But the operation was not altogether successful, for they are
obliged to wear breeches just like other people.”[515] It may be that
Catherine, the ex-nun, was present when this was said; at any rate she
is frequently mentioned in the Table-Talk as assisting.[516]

 He could not let slip the opportunity of having a dig at the ladies
 who were sometimes present at his post-prandial entertainments. In
 1542 conversation turned on Solomon’s many wives and concubines.
 Luther pointed out,[517] that the figures given in the Bible must
 be taken as referring to all the women dwelling in the palace, even
 to such as had no personal intercourse with Solomon. “One might as
 well say,” he continues, “Dr. Martin has three wives; one is Katey,
 another Magdalene, the third the pastoress; also a concubine, viz.
 the virgin Els.[518] This made him laugh [writes the narrator, Caspar
 Heydenreich]; and besides these he has many girls. In the same way
 Solomon had three hundred queens; if he took only one every night,
 the year would be over, and he would not have had a day’s rest. That
 cannot be, for he had also to govern.”[519]

 He advised that those who were troubled with doubts concerning
 their salvation should speak of improper subjects (“_loquaris de
 venereis_”), that was an infallible remedy.[520] In one such case he
 invited a pupil to jest freely with his own wife, Catherine. “Talk
 about other things,” Luther urges him, “which entirely distract your

 As we know, Luther himself made liberal use of such talk to cheer up
 himself and others. Thus, in the presence of his guests, in 1537, he
 joked about Ferdinand, the German King, his extreme thinness and his
 very stout wife who was suspected of misconduct: “Though he is of
 such an insignificant bodily frame,” he says, “others will be found
 to assist him in the nuptial bed. But it is a nuisance to have the
 world filled with alien heirs.”[522]--This leads him to speak of
 adulteresses in other districts.[523]

 A coarser tale is the one he related about the same time. A minister
 came to him complaining of giddiness and asking for a remedy. His
 answer was: “Lass das Loch daheime,” which, so the narrators explain,
 meant, “that he should not go to such excess in chambering.”[524]--A
 similar piece of advice is given by Luther in the doggerel verses
 which occur in his Table-Talk: “Keep your neck warm and cosy,--Do not
 overload your belly.--Don’t be too sweet on Gertie;--Then your locks
 will whiten slowly.”[525]--On one occasion he showed his friends
 a turquoise (“_turchesia_”), which had been given him, and said,
 following the superstition of the day, that when immersed in water it
 would make movements “_sicut isti qui eveniunt juveni cum a virgine
 in chorea circumfertur_,” but, that, in doing so, it broke.[526] On
 account of the many children he had caused to be begotten from priests
 and religious, he, as we already know, compared himself to Abraham,
 the father of a great race: He, like Abraham, was the grandfather of
 all the descendants of the monks, priests and nuns and the father of a
 mighty people.[527]

 We may not pass over here Luther’s frequent use of filthy expressions,
 which, though they agree well with his natural coarseness, harmonise
 but ill with the high ideals we should expect in one whose vocation
 it was to rescue marriage and feminine dignity from the slough of the
 Papacy. He is fond of using such words in his abuse of the Popish
 teaching on marriage: At one time, he writes, the Papists make out
 marriage to be a Sacrament, “at another to be impure, i.e. a sort of
 merdiferous Sacrament.”[528] The Pope, who waywardly teaches this and
 other doctrines, “has overthrown the Word of God”; “if the Pope’s
 reputation had not been destroyed by the Word of God, the devil
 himself would have ejected him” (‘_a posteriori_’).[529] Elsewhere he
 voices his conviction as to the most fitting epithet to apply to the
 Pope’s “human ordinances.” One thing in man, he explains, viz. “the
 ‘_anus_,’ cannot be bound; it is determined to be master and to have
 the upper hand. Hence this is the only thing in man’s body or soul
 upon which the Pope has not laid his commands.”[530]

 “The greatest blessing of marriage,” he tells his friends, “lies in
 the children; this D.G. [Duke George] was not fated to see in his
 sons, ‘_quos spectatissima principissa cacatos in lucem ederat_.’”[531]

 The Pope and his people, he says in a sermon, had “condemned and
 rejected matrimony as a dirty, stinking state.” “Had the creation of
 human beings been in the Pope’s power he would never have created
 woman, or allowed any such to exist in the world.”[532] “The Pope, the
 devil and his Church,” he says in 1539, “are hostile to the married
 state.... Matrimony [in their opinion] is mere fornication.”[533]

The Pope, he says, had forbidden the married state; he and his
followers, “the monks and Papists,” “burn with evil lust and love of
fornication, though they refuse to take upon themselves the trouble
and labour of matrimony.”[534] “With the help of the Papacy Satan has
horribly soiled matrimony, God’s own ordinance”; the fact was, the
clergy had been too much afraid of woman; “and so it goes on: If a man
fears fornication he falls into secret sin, as seems to have been the
case with St. Jerome.”[535]

He saw sexual excesses increasing to an alarming extent among the youth
of his own party. At table a friend of the “young fellows” sought
to excuse their “wild, immoral life and fornication” on the ground
of their youth; Luther sighed, at the state of things revealed, and
said: “Alas, that is how they learn contempt for the female sex.”
Contempt will simply lead to abuse; the true remedy for immorality was
prayerfully to hold conjugal love in honour.[536]

Luther, however, preferred to dwell upon the deep-seated vice of an
anti-matrimonial Papacy rather than on the results of his teaching upon
the young.

“Every false religion,” he once exclaimed in 1542 in his
Table-Talk,[537] “has been defiled by sensuality! Just look at the
|!”--[He must here have used, says Kroker, “a term for _phallus_,
or something similar,” which Caspar Heydenreich the reporter has
suppressed.][538] “What else were the pilgrimages,” Luther goes on,
“but opportunities for coming together? What does the Pope do but
wallow unceasingly in his lusts?... The heathen held marriage in far
higher honour than do the Pope and the Turk. The Pope hates marriage,
and the Turk despises it. But it is the devil’s nature to hate God’s
Word. What God loves, e.g. the Church, marriage, civic order, that he
hates. He desires fornication and impurity; for if he has these, he
knows well that people will no longer trouble themselves about God.”

_The New Matrimonial Conditions and the Slandered Opponents._

It is a fact witnessed to by contemporaries, particularly by Catholics,
that Luther’s unrestraint when writing on sexual subjects, his open
allusions to organs and functions, not usually referred to, and,
especially, the stress he laid on the irresistibility of the natural
impulse, were not without notable effect on the minds of the people,
already excited as they were.

In 1522, after having explained his new views on divorce, he puts
himself the question, whether this “would not make it easy for wicked
men and women to desert each other, and betake themselves to foreign
parts”? His reply is: “How can I help it? It is the fault of the
authorities. Why do they not strangle adulterers?”[539]

Certain preachers of Lutheranism made matters worse by the fanaticism
with which they preached the freedom of the Evangel. So compromising
was their support, that other of Luther’s followers found fault with
it, for instance, the preacher Urbanus Rhegius[540] It was, however,
impossible for these more cautious preachers to prevent Luther’s
principles being carried to their consequences, in spite of all the
care they took to emphasise his reserves and his stricter admonitions.

 The Protestant Rector, J. Rivius, complained in 1547: “If you are an
 adulterer or lewdster, preachers say ... only believe and you will
 be saved. There is no need for you to fear the law, for Christ has
 fulfilled it and made satisfaction for all men.” “Such words seduce
 people into a godless life.”[541]

 E. Sarcerius, the Superintendent of the county of Mansfeld, also
 bewailed, in a writing of 1555, the growing desecration of the married
 state: Men took more than one wife; this they did by “fleeing to
 foreign parts and seeking other wives. Some women do the same. Thus
 there is no end to the desertions on the part of both husbands and
 wives.” “In many places horrible adultery and fornication prevail, and
 these vices have become so common, that people no longer regard them
 as sinful.” “Thus there is everywhere confusion and scandal both in
 match-making and in celebrating the marriages, so that holy matrimony
 is completely dishonoured and trodden under foot.” “Of adultery,
 lewdness and incest there is no end.”[542]--These complaints were
 called forth by the state of things in the very county where Luther
 was born and died.

 The convert George Wicel, who resided for a considerable time at
 Mansfeld, had an opportunity of observing the effects of Luther’s
 matrimonial teaching and of his preaching generally on a population
 almost entirely Protestant. He writes, in 1536: “It is enough to
 break a Christian’s heart to see so many false prophets and heretics
 flourishing in Germany, whose comforting and frivolous teaching fills
 the land not merely with adulterers but with regular heathen.”[543]
 In an earlier work he had said: “Oh, you people, what a fine manner
 of life according to the Gospel have you introduced by your preaching
 on Grace! Yes, they cry, you would make of Christ a Moses and a
 taskmaster; they, however, make of Him a procurer and an Epicurean by
 their sensual life and knavish example.”[544]

 Luther, it is true, had an excuse ready. He pleaded that the freedom
 of the Gospel was not yet rightly understood. “The masses,” he wrote
 to Margrave George of Brandenburg, on Sep. 14, 1531, “have now fallen
 under the freedom of the flesh, and there we must leave them for a
 while until they have satisfied their lust. Things will be different
 when the Visitation is in working order [the first Visitation in the
 Margrave’s lands had taken place as early as 1528]. It is quick work
 pulling down an old house, but building a new one takes longer....
 Jerusalem, too, was built very slowly and with difficulty.... Under
 the Pope we could not endure the constraint, and the lack of the Word;
 now we cannot endure the freedom and the superabundant treasure of the

 Amidst all these disorders Luther found great consolation in
 contemplating the anti-Christian character of the Popish Church and
 Daniel’s supposed prophecy of Antichrist’s enmity for woman.[546] His
 preachers only too eagerly followed in his footsteps.

 George Wicel speaks of the preachers, who, while themselves leading
 loose lives, used Daniel’s prophecy against the Catholic view of
 marriage.[547] “They mock at those who wish to remain single or who
 content themselves with one wife, and quote the words of Daniel: ‘He
 shall not follow the lust of women nor regard any gods,’ so that
 anyone belonging to this sect who is not addicted to the pursuit of
 women, is hardly safe from being taken for Antichrist. The words
 of St. Paul in Cor. vii., of Our Lord in Mat. xix., concerning the
 third sex of the eunuchs, and of St. John in Apoc. xiv., on those
 who have not defiled themselves with women, and, again, of St. Paul
 when speaking of the ‘_vidua digama_’ in 1 Tim. v., don’t count a
 farthing in this Jovinian school[548].... It is an Epicurean school
 and an Epicurean life and nothing else.” With biting satire, in part
 the result of the controversy thrust upon him, in part the outcome
 of his temper, he had declared shortly before, that Lutheranism was
 all “love of women,” was “full of senseless lust for women”; he uses
 “gynecophiles” as an adjective to qualify it, and speaks of its
 “gynecomania”; by this means men were to become better Christians,
 and be more secure of salvation than all the Saints of God ever were
 in the ancient apostolic Church. “See there what Satan is seeking by
 means of this exalted respect for the love of women, and by his glib,
 feminist preachers in Saxony. Hence his and his followers’ concern for
 women, to whom they cling so closely that they can hardly get into
 their pulpits without them, and, rather than live a celibate life, the
 Evangelist would prefer to be the husband, not of one wife, but of
 three or four.”[549]

 An intimate friend of Luther’s, Johann Brenz, wrote, in 1532, in
 a book to which Luther supplied the Preface: “The youngsters are
 barely out of the cradle before they want wives, and girls, not yet
 marriageable, already dream of husbands.”[550]--After the immoral
 atmosphere has brought about their fall, writes Fr. Staphylus, “they
 grow so impudent as to assert that a chaste and continent life is
 impossible and the gratification of the sexual appetite as essential
 as eating and drinking.”[551]--The same author, who returned to the
 Catholic Church, also wrote, in 1562: “So long as matrimony was looked
 upon as a Sacrament, modesty and an honourable married life was loved
 and prized, but since the people have read in Luther’s books that
 matrimony is a human invention ... his advice has been put in practice
 in such a way, that marriage is observed more chastely and honourably
 in Turkey than amongst our German Evangelicals.”[552]

The list of testimonies such as these might be considerably

It would, however, be unfair, in view of the large number of such
statements, to shut our eyes to the remarkable increase, at that
time, in the immorality already prevalent even in Catholic circles,
though this was due in great measure to the malignant influence of the
unhappy new idea of freedom, and to that contempt for ecclesiastical
regulations as mere human inventions, which had penetrated even into
regions still faithful to the Church.[554] Owing to the general
confusion, ecclesiastical discipline was at a standstill, evil-doers
went unpunished, nor could moral obligations be so regularly and
zealously enforced. It is true that favourable testimonies arc not
lacking on both sides, but they chiefly refer to remote Catholic and
Protestant localities. As is usual, such reports are less noticeable
than the unfavourable ones, the good being ever less likely to
attract attention than the evil. Staphylus complains bitterly of both
parties, as the very title of his book proves.[555] Finally, all the
unfavourable accounts of the state of married life under Lutheranism
are not quite so bad as those given above, in which moreover, maybe,
the sad personal experience of the writers made them see things with a
jaundiced eye.

That, in the matter of clerical morals, there was a great difference
between the end of the 15th and the middle of the 16th centuries
can be proved by such ecclesiastical archives as still survive; the
condemnations pronounced in the 16th century are considerably more
numerous than in earlier times.

 On the grounds of such data Joseph Löhr has quite recently made a very
 successful attempt to estimate accurately the moral status of the
 clergy in the Lower Rhine provinces, particularly Westphalia.[556]
 He has based his examination more particularly on the records of
 the Archdeaconry of Xanten concerning the fines levied on the
 clergy for all sorts of offences. The accounts “cover a period of
 about one hundred years.”[557] In the 16th century we find a quite
 disproportionate increase in the number of offenders. There are,
 however, traces, over a long term of years, of a distinct weakening
 of ecclesiastical discipline which made impossible any effective
 repression of the growing evil.

 A glance at the conditions prevailing in the 15th century in the
 regions on which Löhr’s researches bear is very instructive.

 It enables us to see how extravagant and untrue were--at least with
 regard to these localities--the frequent, and in themselves quite
 incredible, statements made by Luther regarding the utter degradation
 of both clergy and religious owing to the law of celibacy. “Of a total
 of from 450 to 600 clergy in the Archdeaconry of the Lower Rhine
 (probably the number was considerably higher) we find, up to the end
 of the 15th century, on an average, only five persons a year being
 prosecuted by the Archdeacon for [various] offences.”[558] “Assuming
 a like density of clergy in Westphalia, the number prosecuted by the
 ecclesiastical commissioner in 1495 and in 1499 would amount roughly
 to 2 per cent., but, in 1515, already to 6 per cent.”[559]

The results furnished by such painstaking research are more reliable
than the vague accounts and complaints of contemporaries.[560] Should
the examination be continued in other dioceses it will undoubtedly do
as much to clear up the question as the Visitation reports did for the
condition of affairs in the 16th century under Lutheranism, though
probably the final result will be different. The Lutheran Visitation
reports mostly corroborate the unfavourable testimony of olden
writers, whereas the fewness of the culprits shown in the Catholic
lists of fines would seem to bear out, at least with regard to certain
localities, those contemporaries who report favourably of the clergy
at the close of the Middle Ages. One such favourable contemporary
testimony comes from the Humanist, Jacob Wimpfeling, and concerns the
clergy of the Rhine Lands. The statement of this writer, usually a very
severe critic of the clergy, runs quite counter to Luther’s general
and greatly exaggerated charges.[561] “God knows, I am acquainted with
many, yea, countless pastors amongst the secular clergy in the six
dioceses of the Rhine, who are richly equipped with all the knowledge
requisite for the cure of souls and whose lives are blameless. I know
excellent prelates, canons and vicars both at the Cathedrals and the
Collegiate Churches, not a few in number but many, men of unblemished
reputation, full of piety and generous and humble-minded towards the

Luther himself made statements which deprive his accusations of their
point. Even what he says of the respect paid to the clerical state
militates against him. Of the first Mass said by the newly ordained
priest he relates, that “it was thought much of”; that the people on
such occasions brought offerings and gifts; that the “bridegroom’s”
“Hours” were celebrated by torchlight, and that he, together with his
mother, if still living, was led through the streets with music and
dancing, “the people looking on and weeping for joy.”[562] It is true
that he is loud in his blame of the avarice displayed at such first
Masses, but the respect shown by the people, and here described by him,
would never have been exhibited towards the clergy had they rendered
themselves so utterly contemptible by their immorality as he makes out.

In a sermon of 1521, speaking of the “majority of the clergy,” he
admits that most of them “work, pray and fast a great deal”; that they
“sing, speak and preach of the law and lead men to many works”; that
they fancy they will gain heaven by means of “pretty works,” though
all in vain, so he thinks, owing to their lack of knowledge of the
Evangel.[563] During the earlier period of his change of opinions he
was quite convinced, that a pernicious self-righteousness (that of the
“_iustitiarii_”) was rampant amongst both clergy and religious; not
only in the houses of his own Congregation, but throughout the Church,
a painstaking observance of the law and a scrupulous fulfilment of
their duty by the clergy and monks constituted a danger to the true
spirit of the Gospel, as he understood it. It was his polemics which
then caused him to be obsessed with the idea, that the whole world had
been seized upon by the self-righteous. It was his polemics again,
which, later, made him regard the whole world as full of immoral

The extravagance of Luther’s utterances in his fight against clerical
celibacy might perhaps be regarded as due to the secluded life he had
led at Wittenberg during the years he was a monk, which prevented
him from knowing the true state of things. Experience gained by
more extensive travel and intercourse with others might indeed have
corrected his views. But, as a matter of fact, he was not altogether
untravelled; besides visiting Rome and Southern Germany he had been
to Heidelberg, Worms and Cologne. His stay at the latter city is
particularly noteworthy, for there he was in the heart of the very
region of which Wimpfeling had given so favourable an account.
Can he, during the long journey on foot and in his conversations
with his brother monks there, not have convinced himself, that the
clergy residing in that city were by no means sunk in immorality and
viciousness? His visit to Cologne coincided in all probability with the
general Chapter which Staupitz had summoned there at the commencement
of May, 1512. Luther only recalls incidentally having seen there the
bodies of the Three Kings; having swallowed all the legends told him
concerning them; and having drunk such wine as he had never drunk

_Two Concluding Pictures towards the History of Woman._

We may, in conclusion, give two pictures which cast a new and lurid
light on what has gone before.

Luther’s standpoint, and, no less, the confusion which had arisen in
married life and the humiliations to which many women were exposed,
come out clearly in the story of his relations with the preacher
Jodocus Kern and his spouse. Kern, an apostate monk, had wedded at
Nuremberg Ursula Tagler, an ex-nun from the convent of Engelthal. On
Dec. 24, 1524, Luther joyously commended him as “a monk, metamorphosed
into a married man,” to the care of Spalatin.[565] When Kern went to
Saxony in search of a post the girl refused to accompany him until he
had found employment. During his absence she began to regret the step
she had taken, and the letters she received from her former Prioress
determined her to return no more to her husband. The persuasion of her
Lutheran relatives indeed induced her to go to Allstedt after Kern
had been appointed successor to Thomas Münzer in that town, but there
her horror only grew for the sacrilegious union she had contracted.
Coercion was quite fruitless. The minister, at the advice of her own
relatives, treated her very roughly, forced her to eat meat on Good
Friday and refused to listen when she urged him to return to the
Catholic Church. Having made an attempt to escape to Mansfeld, her
case was brought before the secular Courts; she was examined by the
commissioner of Allstedt on January 11, 1526, when she declared, that
it was against her conscience to look upon Kern as her husband, that
her soul was dearer to her than her body and that she would rather
die than continue to endure any longer the bonds of sin. This the
commissioner reported to the Elector Johann, and the latter, on Jan.
17, forwarded her statement to Luther, together with Kern’s account,
for the purpose of hearing from one so “learned in Scripture” “how the
matter ought to be treated and disposed of in accordance with God’s
Holy Writ.”[566]

Luther took a week to reply: The Allstedt woman was suffering such
“temptations from the devil and men, that it would verily be a wonder
if she could resist them.” The only means of keeping her true to
the Evangel and to her duty would be to send her to her people at
Nuremberg. Should, even there, “the devil refuse to yield to God’s
good exhortation” then she would have to “be allowed to go,” and “be
reckoned as dead,” and then the pastor might marry another. Out of
the scandal that the wanton spirit had given through her God might
yet work some good. “The Evangel neither will nor can be exempt from

The unhappy nun was, as a matter of fact, forcibly brought to Nuremberg
and placed amongst Lutheran surroundings instead of being conveyed to
her convent at Engelthal, as the laws of the Empire demanded. From
thence she never returned to Allstedt. Kern, during the proceedings,
had declared that he did not want her against her conscience, and was
ready to submit to the Word of God and to comply exactly with whatever
this imposed. In accordance therewith he soon found a fresh bride.
During the Visitations, in 1533, he was charged with bigamy and was
reprimanded for being a “drinker and gambler,” although his industry
and talents were at the same time recognised. Nothing is known of his
later doings.[568]

       *       *       *       *       *

Two open letters addressed to Luther by Catholics in 1528 form a
companion picture to the above. They portray the view taken by many
faithful Catholics of Luther’s own marriage.

In that year two Professors at the Leipzig University, Johann Hasenberg
and Joachim von der Heyden, published printed circulars addressed to
Luther and Catherine von Bora, admonishing them--now that ten years had
elapsed since Luther first attacked the Church--on their breaking of
their vows, their desecration of the Sacrament of Matrimony and their
falling away from the Catholic faith.[569] It is probable that Duke
George of Saxony had something to do with this joint attack.[570] It is
also likely that hopes of sterner measures on the part of the Imperial
authorities also helped to induce the writers to put pen to paper.[571]
In any case it was their plan, vigorously and before all the world, to
attack the author of the schism in his most vulnerable spot, where it
would not be easy for him to defend himself publicly. Master Hasenberg,
a Bohemian, was one of George’s favourites, who had made him three
years previously Dean of the Faculty of Arts. He addressed his open
letter to “Martinus Luderus,” the “destroyer of the public peace and
piety.” Von der Heyden, known in Latin as Myricianus or Phrisomynensis
(a Frisian by birth), was likewise a Master, and Papal and academic
Notary at Leipzig. Of the two he was the younger. His letter was
addressed to “Khete von Bhore, Luther’s pretended wife,” and served
as preface to a printed translation he had made of the work: “_De
lapsu virginis consecratæ_,” then attributed to St. Ambrose.[572] Both
epistles, according to one of the answers, must have been despatched
by special messenger and delivered at Luther’s house. They drew forth
printed replies, some of which can be traced to Luther himself, while
Euricius Cordus ridiculed the writers in a screed full of biting

The Leipzig letters, the first of which was also published in German,
made a great sensation in German circles and constituted an urgent
exhortation to thousands of apostates estranged from the Church by
Luther’s new doctrine on Christian freedom and on the nullity of vows.

 Relentlessly Hasenberg put to Luther the questions: “Who has
 blasphemously slandered the pious promise of celibacy which priests,
 religious and nuns made to God, and which, throughout the ages,
 had been held sacred? Luderus. Who has shrouded in darkness
 free-will, good works, the ancient and unshaken faith, and that
 jewel of virginity which shines more brightly than the sun in the
 Church? Luderus.... Do you not yet see, you God-forsaken man, what
 all Christians think of your impudent behaviour, your temerity and

 Referring to the sacrilegious union with Bora, he proceeds: “The
 enormity of your sin is patent. You have covered yourself with guilt
 in both your private and public life, particularly by your intercourse
 with the woman who is not your wife.” In his indignation he does not
 shrink from comparing the ex-nun to a lustful Venus. He thunders
 against Luther: “You, a monk, fornicate by day and by night with a
 nun! And, by your writings and sermons, you drag down into the abyss
 with you ignorant monks and unlearned priests, questionable folk,
 many of whom were already deserving of the gallows. Oh, you murderer
 of the people!” “Yes, indeed, this is the way to get to heaven--or
 rather to Lucifer’s kingdom! Why not say like Epicurus: There is no
 God and no higher power troubles about us poor mortals? Call upon
 your new gods, Bacchus, Venus, Mars, Priapus, Futina, Potina, Subigus
 and Hymenæus.” His wish for Luther’s spouse is, that she may take to
 heart the touching words of St. Ambrose to the fallen nun, so as not
 to fall from the abyss of a vicious life into the abyss of everlasting
 perdition prepared “for the devil and his Lutheran angels.” And again,
 turning to Luther: “Have pity,” he says, “on the nun, have compassion
 on the concubine and the children, your own flesh and blood. Send
 the nun back to the cloistral peace and penance which she forsook;
 free the unhappy creature from the embraces of sin and restore her to
 her mother the Church and to her most worthy and loving bridegroom
 Christ, so that she may again sing in unison with the faithful the
 Ambrosian hymn: ‘_Iesu, corona virginum_.’[573]... This much at least,
 viz. the dismissal of the nun, you cannot refuse us, however blindly
 you yourself may hurry along the sad path you have chosen. All the
 faithful, linked together throughout the world by the golden chain of
 charity, implore you with tears of blood; so likewise does your kind
 Mother, the Church, and the holy choirs of Angels, who rejoice over
 the sinner who returns penitent.”

 The writer, who seasons his counsel with so much bitterness, had
 plainly little hope of the conversion of the man he was addressing;
 his attack was centred on Catharine Bora. This was even more so the
 case with von der Heyden, a man of lively character who delighted
 in controversy; even from his first words it is clear that he had
 no intention of working on her kindlier feelings: “Woe to you,
 poor deluded woman.” He upbraids her with her fall from light into
 darkness, from the vocation of the cloister into an “abominable and
 shameful life”; by her example she has brought “many poor, innocent
 children into a like misery”; formerly they had, as nuns, “lived in
 discipline and purity,” now they are “not merely in spiritual but
 in actual bodily want, nay, the poorest of the poor and have become
 the most despicable of creatures.” Many of them now earned a living
 in “houses of ill-fame,” they were frequently forced to pawn or sell
 their poor clothing, and sometimes themselves; they had hoped for the
 true freedom of the spirit that had been promised them, and, instead,
 they had been cast into a “horrible bondage of soul and body.” Luther
 “in his pestilential writings had mistaken the freedom of the flesh
 for the true liberty of the spirit, in opposition to St. Paul, who
 had based this freedom solely on the Spirit of the Lord, as in 2 Cor.
 iii. 17: ‘Where the Spirit of God is, there is liberty’” Luther’s
 preaching on liberty was one big lie, and another was his opinion that
 the “vow of virginity, where it was observed, was wicked and sinful,
 which statement was contrary to God and the whole of Scripture,” and
 more particularly opposed to St. Paul, who strongly condemned those
 who broke their plighted faith to Christ; St. Paul had quite plainly
 recommended clerical celibacy when he wrote, that he who is without a
 wife is solicitous for the things that are the Lord’s, but that the
 husband is solicitous for the things of the world, how best he may
 please his wife (1 Cor. vii. 32 f.).

 Your “Squire Luther,” he says to Bora, “behaves himself very
 impudently and proudly”; “he fancies he can fly, that he is treading
 on roses and is ‘_lux mundi_’”; he forgets that God has commanded us
 to keep what we have vowed; people gladly obeyed the Emperor, yet
 God was “an Emperor above all Emperors,” and had still more right
 to fealty and obedience. Was she ignorant of Christ’s saying: “No
 man having put his hand to the plough and looking back is fit for
 the Kingdom of God” (Luke ix. 62)? He reminds her of the severe
 penalties imposed by the laws of the Empire on those religious who
 were openly unfaithful to their vow, and, particularly, of the eternal
 punishment which should move her to leave the “horrid, black monk”
 (the Augustinians wore a black habit), to bewail like “St. Magdalene
 the evil she had done” and, by returning to the convent, to make
 “reparation for her infidelity to God.” St. Ambrose’s booklet on the
 fallen nun might lead her, and her companions in misfortune, to a
 “humble recognition” (of their sin), “and enable her to flee from
 the swift wrath of God and return to the fold of Christ, attain to
 salvation together with us all and praise the Lord for all eternity.”

We catch a glimpse of the gulf which divided people’s minds at that
time in the very title of the reply by Euricius Cordus: “The Marburg
literary society’s peal of laughter over the screed against Luther of
two Leipzig poets.”[574]

Two satirical and anonymous replies immediately appeared in print at
Wittenberg, the one entitled: “New-Zeittung von Leyptzig,” of which
Luther “was not entirely innocent,” and the other quite certainly his
work, viz. “Ein newe Fabel Esopi newlich verdeudscht gefunden.”[575]
In the first reply spurious epistles are made to relate how the two
Leipzig letters had been brought by a messenger to Luther’s house,
and had then been carried by the servants unread to the “back-chamber
where it stinketh.” “The paper having duly been submitted to the most
ignominious of uses it was again packed into a bundle and despatched
back to the original senders by the same messenger.”[576]

In his “Newe Fabel” (of the Lion and the Ass) Luther implicitly
includes von der Heyden, all the defenders of the Pope, and the Pope
himself under the figure of the Ass (with the cross on its back);
“there is nothing about the Ass that is not worthy of royal and papal
honours.”[577] The author of the letter he calls an ass’s head and
sniveller; the very stones of Leipzig would spit upon him; he was the
“horse-droppings in which the apples were packed”; his art had brought
on him “such an attack of diarrhœa that all of us have been bespattered
with his filth”; “If you wish to devour us, you might begin downstairs
at the commode,” etc.[578]

We find nothing in either writing in the nature of a reply--of which
indeed he considered the Leipzig authors unworthy--except the two
following statements: firstly, Luther had sufficiently instructed his
faithful wife, and the world in general, “that the religious life
was wrong”;[579] secondly, Ambrose, Jerome, or whoever wrote the
booklet, “had stormed and raved like a demon” in that work, which was
“more heretical than Catholic, against the nun who had yielded to her
sexual instincts; he had not spoken like a Doctor, ... but as one who
wished to drive the poor prostitute into the abyss of hell; a murderer
of souls pitted against a poor, feeble, female vessel.”[580] Hence
Luther’s views are fairly apparent in the replies.

The Church, yea, even the Church of the earliest times, was made to
bear the curse of having degraded woman and of having, by the religious
life, declared war on marriage.

A contemporary, Petrus Silvius, who read Luther’s writings with
indignation and disgust, wrote, in 1530: “Luther, with his usual lies
and blasphemy, calumniates the Christian Church and now says, that she
entirely rejected and condemned matrimony.”[581]

In what has gone before these falsehoods concerning the earlier
degradation and his own exaltation of woman have been refuted at
some length; the detailed manner in which this was done may find its
vindication in the words of yet another opponent of Luther’s, H.
Sedulius, who says: “It must be repeated again and again, that it is an
impudent lie to say we condemn marriage.”[582]



1. Luther and Erasmus Again

IN reply to Luther’s “_De servo arbitrio_” against Erasmus the latter
had published, in 1526, a sharp retort entitled “_Hyperaspistes_,”
which, in the following year, he enlarged by adding to it a second
part.[583] In this work the author’s able pen brings into the light of
day the weakness of Luther’s objections, his distortion of the Church’s
teaching, his frequent misrepresentations of Erasmus and his own

Luther did not then reply to the work of the chief of the Humanists.
In the ensuing years, however, he became painfully aware that the
hostility of Erasmus had lost him many adherents belonging to the
Erasmian school. A great cleavage had become apparent in the scholar’s
circle of friends till then so closely united, the greater number
taking their master’s side against the smaller group which remained
true to Luther. It was in vain that several of Erasmus’s admirers
intervened and besought Luther to spare the feelings of the elder man.
The Wittenberg professor made many cutting allusions to his opponent
and assumed more and more an attitude which foreboded another open
outburst of furious controversy.

With the art peculiar to him, he came to persuade himself, that the
champion of free-will was hostile to the idea of any Divine supremacy
over the human will, scoffed at all religion, denied the Godhead
and was worse than any persecutor of the Church; he was confirmed
in this belief by the sarcastic sayings about his Evangel, to which
Erasmus gave vent in his correspondence and conversations, and which
occasionally came to Luther’s knowledge. It is true that if we look
at the matter through Luther’s spectacles we can understand how
certain darker sides of Erasmus and his Humanist school repelled him.
Luther fixed on these, and, as was his wont, harshly exaggerated and
misrepresented them. The too-great attention bestowed on the outward
form, seemingly to the detriment of the Christian contents, displeased
him greatly; still more so did the undeniable frivolity with which
sacred things, still dear to him, were treated. At the same time it
was strange to him, and rightly so, how little heed the Humanists who
remained faithful to the Church paid to the principle of authority
and of ecclesiastical obedience, preferring to follow the lax example
set by Erasmus himself, more particularly during the first period of
his career; they appeared to submit to the yoke of the Church merely
formally and from force of habit, and showed none of that heart-felt
conviction and respect for her visible supremacy which alone could win
the respect of those without.[584]

 Schlaginhaufen has noted down the following remark made by Luther in
 1532 when a picture of Erasmus was shown him. “The cunning of his
 mode of writing is perfectly expressed in his face. He does nothing
 but mock at God and religion. When he speaks of our Holy Christ, of
 the Holy Word of God and the Holy Sacraments, these are mere fine,
 big words, a sham and no reality.... Formerly he annoyed and confuted
 the Papacy, now he draws his head out of the noose.”[585] In the same
 year, and according to the same reporter, he declared: “Erasmus is a
 knave incarnate.... Were I in good health, I should inveigh against
 him. To him the Father, Son and Holy Ghost are something ludicrous....
 Erasmus is as sure there is no God as I am that I can see. Lucian
 himself was not so bold and impudent as Erasmus.”[586]

 At Easter of the following year Veit Dietrich, who lived in Luther’s
 house, announced in a letter to Nuremberg, that the storm was about to
 break: Luther was arming himself against Erasmus, reading his books
 carefully and gathering together his blasphemies. The same writer in
 a collection of Luther’s conversations not yet published quotes the
 following outbursts: “Erasmus makes use of ambiguities, intentionally
 and with malice, this I shall prove against him.... Were I to cut open
 Erasmus’s heart, I should find nothing but mockeries of the Trinity,
 the Sacraments, etc. To him the whole thing is a joke.”[587]

 And yet, at that very time, Erasmus, who, as years passed, had come to
 regret his earlier faults of the pen,[588] was engaged in composing
 serious and useful works, in which, though not unfaithful to his older
 style, he sought to defend the dogmas of religion and the authority of
 the Church. In March his “_Explanatio symboli, decalogi et dominicæ
 precationis_” was issued at Basle by Froben; another important work
 of the same year, appearing in the guise of an exposition of Psalm
 lxxxiv., contained counsels how best to restore the unity of the
 Church and to root out abuses. Therein he does not deny the duty of
 submitting to the Church, but recommends both sides to be ready to
 give and take.

 When Luther’s little son Hans had, in his Latin lessons, to study some
 works composed by Erasmus for the young, his father wrote out for
 him the following warning: “Erasmus is a foe to all religion and an
 arch-enemy of Christ; he is the very type of an Epicurus and Lucian.
 This I, Martin Luther, declare in my own handwriting to you, my very
 dear son Johann, and, through you, to all my children and the holy
 Church of Christ.”[589]

Luther’s pent-up wrath at length vented itself in print. He had
received a letter sent him from Magdeburg, on Jan. 28, 1534, by
Nicholas Amsdorf, the old friend who knew so well how to fan the flames
of enthusiasm for the new teaching, and who now pointed out Erasmus
as the source whence George Wicel had drawn all his material for his
latest attack on Lutheranism.[590] It was high time, he wrote, that
Luther should paint Erasmus “in his true colours and show that he was
full of ignorance and malice.” This he would best do in a tract “On
the Church,” for this was the Erasmians’ weak point: They stick to the
Church, because “bishops and cardinals make them presents of golden
vessels,” and then “they cry out: Luther’s teaching is heresy, having
been condemned by Emperor and Pope.” “I, on the other hand, see all
about me the intervention and the wonders of God; I see that faith is
a gift of God Who works when and where He wills, just as he raised His
Son Christ from the dead. Oh, that you could see the country folk here
and admire in them the glory of Christ!”

The letter pleased Luther so well that he determined to print it,
appending to it a lengthy answer to Amsdorf, both being published

In this answer, before launching out into invective against Erasmus
he joins in his friend’s enthusiastic praise of the Evangel which has
dawned: “Our cause was heard at Augsburg before the Emperor and the
whole world, and has been found blameless; they could not but recognise
the purity of our teaching.... We have confessed Christ before the evil
generation of our day, and He too will confess us before God the Father
and His angels.” “Wicel, I shall vanquish by silence and contempt, as
my custom is. How many books I have disposed of and utterly annihilated
merely by my silence, Eck, Faber, Emser, Cochlæus and many others could
tell. Had I to fight with filth, I should, even if victorious, get
dirty in the process. Hence I leave them to revel in their blasphemy,
their lying and their calumny.”

He might, he proceeds, leave Erasmus too to dissolve into smoke like
those others. For a long time past he had looked on him as one crazy
(“_delirus_”); since he had given birth to the “_viperaspides_” (i.e.
“brood of vipers,” a play on the title of the “_Hyperaspistes_”) he had
given up all hopes of his theology, but would follow Amsdorf’s advice
and expose his malice and ignorance to the world.

In contradiction to the facts he goes on to declare, that, in his
“_Explanatio symboli_,” of 1533, Erasmus had “slyly planned” to
undermine all respect for the Christian doctrines, and for this
purpose ingratiated himself with his readers and sought to befool
them, as the serpent did in Paradise. The Creed was nothing to him but
a “fable,”--in support of which Luther adduces what purports to be a
verbal quotation--nothing but the “mouthpiece and organ of Satan”; his
method was but “a mockery of Christ”; according to him, the Redeemer
had come into the world simply to give an example of holiness; His
taking flesh of a virgin Erasmus described in obscene and blasphemous
language; naturally the Apostles fared no better at his hands, and he
even said of John the Evangelist, “_meros crepat mundos_” (because
he mentions the “world” too often): there were endless examples of
this sort to be met with in the writings of Erasmus. He was another
Democrites or Epicurus; even what was doubtful in his statements had to
be taken in the worst sense, and he himself (Luther) would be unable
to believe this serpent even should he come to him with the most
outspoken confession of Christianity.

All this he wrote seemingly with the utmost conviction, as though it
were absolutely certain. At about that same time he sent a warning
to his friend Amsdorf not to allege anything against Erasmus, which
was not certain, should he be tempted to write against him.[592]
Yet Luther’s fresh charges were undoubtedly unjust to his opponent,
although his letter really does forcibly portray much that was
blame-worthy in Erasmus, particularly in his earlier work, for
instance, his ambiguous style of writing, so often intentionally vague
and calculated to engender scepticism.[593]

Not even in Luther’s immediate circle did this letter meet with general
approval. Melanchthon wrote, on March 11, 1534, to Camerarius: “Our
Arcesilaus [Luther] is starting again his campaign against Erasmus;
this I regret; the senile excitement of the pair disquiets me.”[594]
On May 12, 1535, he even expressed himself as follows to Erasmus,
referring to the fresh outbreak of hostilities: “The writings published
here against you displease me, not merely on account of my private
relations with you, but also because they do no public good.”[595]

Boniface Amerbach, a friend of Erasmus’s, sent Luther’s letter to his
brother, calling it a “_parum sana epistola_,” and adding, “Hervagius
[the Basle printer] told me recently that Luther, for more than a year,
had been suffering from softening of the brain (‘_cephalæa_’), I think
the letter proves this, and also that he has not yet recovered, for in
it there is no trace of a sound mind.”[596]

Recent Protestant historians speak of the letter as “on the whole hasty
and dictated by jealousy,”[597] and as based “in part on inaccurate
knowledge and a misapprehension of Erasmus’s writings.”[598]

Shortly after this Luther expressed himself with rather more moderation
in a Preface which he composed for Anton Corvinus’s reply to Erasmus’s
proposals for restoring the Church to unity. In this writing he sought
to make his own the more moderate tone which dominated Corvinus’s
works. He represented as the chief obstacle to reunion the opinion
prevalent amongst his opponents of the consideration due to the Church.
Their one cry was “the Church, the Church, the Church”; this has
confirmed Erasmus in his unfounded opposition to the true Evangel, in
spite of his having himself thrown doubt on all the doctrines of the
Church.[599] He could not as yet well undertake a work on the subject
of the Church, such as Amsdorf wished, as he was fully occupied with
his translation of the Bible. In the Preface referred to above he
announced, however, his intention of doing so later. The result was
his “Von den Conciliis und Kirchen,” of 1539, which will be treated of

Erasmus was unwilling to go down to the grave bearing the calumnies
against his faith which Luther had heaped upon him. He owed it to his
reputation to free himself from these unjust charges. This he did
in a writing which must be accounted one of the most forcible and
sharpest which ever left his pen. The displeasure and annoyance which
he naturally felt did not, however, interfere with his argument or
prevent him from indulging in sparkling outbursts of wit. Amerbach had
judged Luther’s attack “insane”; Erasmus, for his part, addressed his
biting reply to “one not sober.” The title of the writing, published
at Basle in 1534, runs: “_Purgatio adversus epistolam non sobriam M.

It was an easy matter for Erasmus to convict the author of manifest
misrepresentation and falsehood.

 He repeatedly accuses the writer of downright lying. What he charges
 me with concerning my treatment of the Apostle John, “is a palpable
 falsehood. Never, even in my dreams, did the words which he quotes as
 mine enter my mind.” Such a lie he can have “welded together” only by
 joining two expressions used in other contexts.[602]

 As for his alleged blasphemy concerning Christ’s birth from the
 Virgin Mary, Erasmus protests: “I can swear I never said anything of
 the kind either in a letter, as Luther makes out, though he fails
 to say which, or in any of my writings.” Moreover he was a little
 surprised to find Luther, whose own language was not remarkable for
 modesty, suddenly transformed into a champion of cleanliness of
 speech: “Everything, bridegroom, bride and even best man, seems of a
 sudden to have become obscene to this Christian Luther,” etc.

 Erasmus also points out that the passage concerning the Creed being a
 mere fable had been invented by Luther himself by means of deliberate
 “distortion” and shameful misinterpretation: “No text,” he exclaims,
 “is safe from his calumny and misrepresentation.” As for what Luther
 had said, viz. that “whoever tells untruths lies even when he speaks
 the truth,” and that he would refuse to believe Erasmus even were he
 to make an orthodox profession of faith, Erasmus’s retort is: “Whoever
 spoke this bit of wisdom was assuredly out of his senses and stood
 in need of hellebore” (the remedy for madness). As to the charge of
 deliberately leading others into infidelity he does not shrink from
 telling Luther, that “he will find it easier to persuade all that
 he has gone mad out of hatred, is suffering from some other form of
 mental malady, or is led by some evil genius.”[603]

Luther took good care to say nothing in public about the rebuff he had
received from Erasmus; nor did he ever make any attempt to refute the
charge of having “lied.”

In the circle of his intimate friends, however, he inveighed all the
more against the leader of the Humanists as a sceptic and seducer to

 After Erasmus’s death he declared that, till his end (1536), he lived
 “without God.” He refused to give any credence to the report that
 he had displayed faith and piety at the hour of death. Erasmus’s
 last words were: “Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me. I will
 extol the mercies of the Lord and His judgments.”[604] Luther, on the
 other hand, in his Latin Table-Talk says: “He died just as he lived,
 viz. like an Epicurean, without a clergyman and without comfort....
 ‘_Securissime vixit, sicut etiam morixit_,’” he adds jestingly. “Those
 pious words attributed to him are, sure enough, an invention.”[605]

 Erasmus, he says,--revealing for once the real ground of all his
 hatred--“might have been of great service to the cause of the Evangel;
 often was he exhorted to this end.... But he considered it better that
 the Gospel should perish and not be preached than that all Germany
 should be convulsed and all the Princes be troubled with risings.”
 “He refuses to teach Christ,” he said of him during his lifetime; “he
 does not take it seriously, that is the way with all Italians and
 with them he has had much intercourse. One page of Terence is better
 than his whole ‘_Dialogus_’ or his ‘_Colloquium_’; he mocks not only
 at religion but even at politics and at public life. He has no other
 belief than the Roman; he believes what Clement VII believes; this
 he does at his command, and yet at the same time sneers at it.... I
 fear he will die the death of the wicked.”[606] After the scholar’s
 decease, Luther naturally desired to find his prophecy fulfilled.

An obvious weapon, one constantly employed against Luther by his foes,
was to twit him with his lies; a reply addressed to him in 1531 by a
friend of George of Saxony, Franz Arnoldi of Cöllen, near Meissen, was
no exception to the rule. In this little work entitled “Antwort auf
das Büchlein,” etc., it is not merely stated that Luther, in his “Auff
das vermeint Keiserlich Edict,” had put forward “as many lies as there
were words,”[607] but it is also pointed out that the Augsburg Edict,
“which is truly Christian and requires no glosses,” had been explained
by him most abominably and shamefully, and given a meaning such as His
Imperial Majesty and those who promulgated or executed it had never
even dreamt of.[608] “He promises us white and gives us black. This has
come down to him from his ancestor, the raging devil, who is the father
of lies.... With such lies does Martin Luther seek to deck out his
former vices.”[609]

2. Luther on George of Saxony and George on Luther

The hostile relations between Luther and Duke George of Saxony found
expression at the end of 1525 in a correspondence, which throws some
light on the origin and extent of the tension and on the character
of both men. The letters exchanged were at once printed and spread
rapidly through the German lands, one serving to enlist recruits to
Luther’s standard, the other constituting a furious attack on the

Luther’s letter of Dec. 21, 1525, to the Duke, “his gracious master,”
was “an exhortation to join the Word of God,” as the printed title
runs. Sent at a time when the peasants, after their defeat, had
deserted Luther, and when the latter was attaching himself all the more
closely to those Royal Courts which were well disposed towards him, the
purpose of the letter was to admonish the chief opponent of the cause,
“not so barbarously to attack Christ, the corner-stone,” but to accept
the Evangel “brought to light by me.” He bases his “exhortation” on
nothing less than the absolute certainty of his mission and teaching.
“Because I know it, and am sure of it, therefore I must, under pain
of the loss of my own soul, care, beg and implore for your Serene
Highness’s soul.” He had already diligently prayed to God to “turn
his heart,” and he was loath now “to pray against him for the needs
of the cause”; his prayers and those of his followers were invincibly
powerful, yea, “stronger than the devil himself,” as the failure of all
George’s and his friends’ previous persecutions proved, “though men do
not see or mark God’s great wonders in me.”

It is hard to believe that the author, in spite of all he says, really
expected his letter to effect the conversion of so energetic and
resolute an opponent; nevertheless, his assurances of his peaceable
disposition were calculated to promote the Lutheran cause in the public
eye, whatever the answer might be. He will, he says in this letter,
once again “beseech the Prince in a humble and friendly manner, perhaps
for the last time”; George and Luther might soon be called away by
God; “I have now no more to lose in this world but my carcase, which
each day draws closer to the grave.” Formerly he had, it is true,
spoken “harshly and crossly” to him, as God also does “to those whom He
afterwards blesses and consoles”; he had, however, also published “many
kindlier sermons and booklets in which everyone might discern that I
mean ill to no one but desire to serve every man to the best of my

The letter partook of the nature of a manifesto, intended to place the
Catholic-minded Prince publicly in the wrong, if it did not, as was
hardly to be expected, draw him over to the side of the innovators.

The Duke replied, on Dec. 28, in a manner worthy of his status in the
Empire and of the firm attitude he had maintained so far. “As a layman”
he refused to enter upon a “Scriptural disputation” with Luther; it was
not untrue that Luther had attacked him “harshly and contrary to the
ordinance of God and the command of the Gospel”; Luther might, if he
chose, compare his former severity with that of God, but he certainly
would not find, “in the Gospels or anywhere in Scripture,” abusive
epithets such as he employed; for him, as a sovereign, to have had to
put up with such treatment from a man under the ban of the Empire,
had cost him much; he had been compelled to put pressure on himself
to accept “persecution for justice’ sake.” Luther’s “utterly shameful
abuse of our most gracious Lord, the Roman Emperor,” made it impossible
for him to be Luther’s “gracious master.”

 Formerly, so George admits, when Luther’s writings “first appeared,
 some of them had pleased him. Nor were we displeased to hear of the
 Disputation at Leipzig, for we hoped from it some amendment of the
 abuses amongst Christians.” Luther, however, in his very hearing
 at Leipzig, had advanced Hussite errors, though he had afterwards
 promised him privately to “write against them” in order to allay
 any suspicion; in spite of this he had written in favour of Hus and
 against the Council of Constance and against “all our forefathers.”

 He, for his part, held fast to the principle, “that all who acted in
 defiance of obedience and separated themselves from the Christian
 Churches were heretics and should be regarded as such, for so they
 had been declared by the Holy Councils, all of which you deny, though
 it does not beseem you nor any Christian.” Hence he would “trouble
 little” about Luther’s Evangel, but would continue to do his best to
 exclude it from his lands.

 “One cause for so doing is given us in the evil fruit which springs
 from it; for neither you nor any man can say that aught but blasphemy
 of God, of the Blessed and Holy Sacrament, of the most Holy Mother
 of God and all the Saints has resulted from your teaching; for in
 your preaching all the heresies condemned of old are revived, and
 all honourable worship of God destroyed to an extent never witnessed
 since the days of Sergius [the monk supposed to have taught Mohammed].
 When have more acts of sacrilege been committed by persons dedicated
 to God than since you introduced the Evangel? Whence has more revolt
 against authority come than from your Evangel? When has there been
 such plundering of poor religious houses? When more robbery and
 thieving? When were there so many escaped monks and nuns at Wittenberg
 as now?”[611] etc.

 “Had Christ wanted such an Evangel, He would not have said so often:
 Peace be with you! St. Peter and St. Paul would not have said that
 the authorities must be obeyed. Thus the fruits of your teaching and
 Evangel fill us with horror and disgust. We are, however, ready to
 stake body, soul, goods and honour in defence of the true Gospel, in
 which may God’s Grace assist us!”

 After urgent admonitions offered to Luther “as New-Year wishes,” more
 particularly to sever his connection with the nun, he promises him his
 assistance should he obey him: “We shall spare no pains to obtain the
 clemency of our most gracious Lord the Emperor, so far as is possible
 to us here, and you need have no fear of any ill on account of what
 you have done against us, but may expect all that is good. That you
 may see your way to this is our hope. Amen.”

Few Princes were to suffer worse treatment at Luther’s hands than Duke
George. The Duke frequently retaliated by charging Luther with being a

He wrote, for instance, in 1531, that Luther simply bore witness to the
fact that the “spirit of lying” dwelt in him, “who speaks nothing but
his own fabrications and falsehood.” “You forsworn Luther,” he says
to him, “you who treacherously and falsely calumniate His Imperial

Luther’s anger against the most influential Prince in the Catholic
League was not diminished by the fact, that the Duke severely censured
the real evils on the Catholic side, was himself inclined to introduce
reforms on his own, and even, at times, to go too far. Such action on
George’s part annoyed Luther all the more, because in all this the Duke
would not hear of any relinquishing of ancient dogma. Hence we find
Luther, quite contrary to the real state of the case, abusing George
as follows: The Duke was secretly in favour of the new teaching and his
resistance was merely assumed; he was opposed to the reception of the
Sacrament under both kinds, only because he wished to tread under foot
the whole teaching of Christ, to forbid Holy Scripture altogether and
particularly to condemn St. Paul;[613] if he, Luther, were not allowed
to abuse the Duke, then neither might he call the devil a murderer and
a liar.[614] “He is my sworn, personal enemy,” he says, and proceeds in
the same vein: “Had I written in favour of the Pope, he would now be
against the Pope, but because I write against the Pope, he fights for
him and defends him.”[615]

Luther, as his manner was, announced as early as 1522 that “the
Judgment of God would inevitably overtake him.”[616] When the Duke,
in 1539, had died the death of a Christian, Luther said: “It is a
judgment on those who despise the one true God.” “It is an example when
a father and two fine grown-up sons sink into the grave in so short a
time, but I, Dr. Luther, prophesied that Duke George and his race would
perish.”[617] There was, according to Luther, only one ray of hope for
the eternal happiness of the Duke, viz. that, when his son Hans lay
dying in 1537, not so long before his own death, it was reported he
had consoled him in the Lutheran fashion. According to Luther he had
encouraged him with the article on Justification by Faith in Christ and
reminded him, “that he must look only to Christ, the Saviour of the
world, and forget his own works and merits.”[618] Needless to say the
pious thoughts suggested to the dying man were simply those usually
placed before the mind of faithful Catholics at the hour of death.

Luther’s imagination and his polemics combine to trace a picture of
Duke George which is as characteristic of himself as it is at variance
with the figure of the Duke, as recorded in history. He accused the
Duke of misgovernment and tyranny and incited his subjects against
him; and, in his worst fit of indignation, launched against the Duke
the booklet “Widder den Meuchler zu Dresen” (1531).[619] Yet the
Saxons generally did not regard the Duke’s government as tyrannical
or look upon him as an “assassin,” not even the Lutherans who formed
the majority. On the contrary, they were later on to acknowledge,
that, under the Duke’s reign, they had enjoyed “prosperity and peace”
with the Emperor, amongst themselves and with their neighbours. His
firmness and honour were no secret to all who knew him. The King of
France admired his disinterestedness, when, in 1532, he rejected the
proffered yearly pension of at least 5000 Gulden which was to detach
him from the Empire. At the Diet of Worms this Catholic Duke had been
the most outspoken in condemning the proposal made, that Luther should
be refused a safe conduct for his return journey; he pointed out how
much at variance this was with German ways and what a lasting shame it
would bring on the German Princes. As for the rest he favoured the use
of strong measures to safeguard Germany from religious and political
revolution. He also befriended, more than any other German Prince or
Bishop, those scholars who attacked Luther in print.

After the appearance of the libel “Widder den Meuchler zu Dresen,” he
wrote a reply entitled “About the insulting booklet which Martin Luther
has published against the Dresden murderer,” though it was issued in
1531, not under his own name, but under that of Franz Arnoldi.[620]

The work is more a vindication of the Empire’s Catholic standpoint and
of the honour of the Catholics against Luther’s foul suspicions and
calumnies, than a personal defence of his own cause. It is couched in
the language we might expect from a fighter and a sovereign pelted with
filth before the eyes of his own subjects. It hails expressions of the
roughest against Luther, the convicted “rebel against the Emperor and
all authority,” the inventor of “slimy fabrications and palpable lies”
not worth an answer, amongst which was the “downright false” assertion,
that “the Papists are up in arms” against the Protestant Estates.[621]
In order to understand its tone we must bear in mind Luther’s own
method of belabouring all his foes with the coarsest language at his

 At the beginning of his writing the Duke says of Luther’s abuse:
 “If both Lutherans and Papists could be reformed by vituperation
 and abuse, cursing and swearing, then His Imperial Roman Majesty,
 Christian kings, princes and lords would have had no need of a
 scholar; plenty other people, for instance, worn-out whores, tipsy
 boors and loose knaves, might have done it just as well without any
 assistance or help of yours.”[622]

 The following, taken from the Duke’s writing, carries us back into the
 very thick of the excitement of those years:

 “Who is the man who, contrary to God, law, justice and all Scripture
 and knowledge, has sacrilegiously robbed, stolen and taken from
 Christ all the possessions bestowed upon Him hundreds of years ago by
 emperors, kings, princes, lords, counts, knights, nobles, burghers
 and peasants, all of whom, out of fervent love and appreciation
 for His sacred Passion, His rosy blood and guiltless death, gave
 their gifts for the establishment of monasteries, parish-churches,
 altars, cells, hospitals, mortuaries, guilds, roods, etc., etc.?
 Why, Squire Martin, Dr. Luther!--Who has plundered and despoiled the
 poor village clergy--who were true pastors of the Church, ministers
 of the Sacraments, preachers and guides of souls--of their blood and
 sweat, their hardly earned yearly stipend, nay, their sacred gifts
 such as tithes, rents, offerings and Church dues, and that without
 any permission of the Ordinaries and contrary to God, to honour and
 to justice? Why, Dr. Pig-trough Luther!--Who has robbed, plundered
 and deprived God during the last twelve years of so many thousand
 souls and sent them down with bloody heads to Lucifer in the abyss
 of hell? Who, but the arch-murderer of souls, Dr. Donkey-ear Mertein
 Luther!--Who has robbed Christ of His wedded spouses--many of whom
 (though perhaps not all) had served Him diligently day and night for
 so many years in a lovely, spiritual life--and has brought them down
 to a miserable, pitiable and wicked mode of life? Shame upon you, you
 blasphemous, sacrilegious man, you public bordeller for all escaped
 monks and nuns, apostate priests and renegades generally!--Who has
 filched, robbed and stolen from his Imperial Roman Majesty, our
 beloved, innocent, Christian Prince Charles V., and from kings,
 princes and lords, the honour, respect, service, obedience and the
 plighted oath of their subjects (not of all, thank God) by false,
 seditious and damnable writings and doctrines? Why, sure, Dr.
 Luther!--Who has made so many thieves and scoundrels as are now to
 be found in every corner, amongst them so many runaway monks, so
 that in many places, as I hear, one is not safe from them either in
 the streets or at home? Why, Dr. Luther! That nothing might be left
 undone, he has also destroyed the religious houses of nuns.--‘_Summa
 summarum_,’ there would be so much to tell, that, for the sake of
 brevity, it must stick in the pen.... But I will show you from
 Scripture who was the first, the second and the third sacrilegious
 robber. The first was Lucifer, who, out of pride, tried to rob the
 Almighty of His glory, power, praise and service (Is. xiv. 12). He
 received his reward. The second was Aman, who stole from God the
 highest honour, viz. worship, for, in his malice, he caused himself
 to be worshipped as God. He was hanged on a gallows 50 ells high.
 Judas Scariothis stole from Christ and His Apostles the tenth penny of
 their daily living; he hanged himself. Luther, the fourth sacrilegious
 robber, has surpassed all men in iniquity; what his end and reward
 will be God alone knows.”[623]

It has been said, that, among the defenders of Catholicism, no voice
was raised which could compare in any way in emphasis and power with
that of Luther. Döllinger in later life considered that, in comparison
with Luther, his opponents could only “stammer”; what they advanced
sounded “feeble, weak and colourless.”[624] Yet, what we have just
quoted from Duke George cannot in fairness be charged with weakness.
Their indignation and fiery zeal inspired other Catholics too to
express with eloquence and rudeness their conviction of the evil
consequences of Luther’s action.



1. Reports from various Lutheran Districts

AFTER Duke George of Saxony had been carried off by death on April 17,
1539, a sudden revulsion in favour of Lutheranism took place in his
land. Duke Henry, his brother, who succeeded him, introduced the new
teaching to which he had long been favourable. Luther came at once
to Leipzig with Melanchthon, Jonas and Cruciger to render at least
temporary assistance, by preaching and private counsel. In July of that
same year an Evangelical Visitation was already arranged by Duke Henry
on the lines of that in the Saxon Electorate; this was carried out by
Luther’s preachers.

Many abuses dating from Catholic times were prevalent amongst both
people and parochial clergy. Concubinage in particular had increased
greatly in the clerical ranks under the influence of the new ideas.
Luther himself boasted of having advised “several parish-priests under
Duke George to marry their cook secretly.”[625] But much greater
disorders than had previously existed crept in everywhere at the
commencement of the change.

 Luther himself was soon at a loss to discover any religious spirit
 or zeal for ecclesiastical affairs, either in the ruler or in his
 councillors. The Duke seemed to him “old, feeble and incapable.” He
 complained, on March 3, 1540, to his friend Anton Lauterbach, then
 minister at Pirna: “I see well enough, that, at the Dresden Court
 there is an extraordinary unwillingness to advance the cause of God or
 man; there pride and greed of gain reign supreme. The old Prince can’t
 do anything, the younger Princes dare not, and would not even had
 they the courage. May God keep the guidance of His Church in His own
 Hands until He finds suitable tools.”[626] On the moral conditions
 at the Ducal Court he passes a startling and hasty judgment when he
 says, writing to his Elector in 1540, that there the “scandals were
 ten times worse” than those caused by the Hessian bigamy. He was
 annoyed to find that, even after the introduction of the new teaching,
 the courtiers and nobles thought only of replenishing their purses.
 He speaks of them as the “aristocratic harpies of the land,” and
 exclaims: “These courtiers will end by eating themselves up by their
 own avarice.”[627] They refused to support the ministers of the Word
 and disputed amongst themselves as to whose duty it was to do so;
 they did not hide their old contempt for Wittenberg, i.e. for its
 theologians and theology, and yet they expected Wittenberg to carry
 out the Visitations free of cost. “Even should you get nothing for the
 Visitation,” he nevertheless instructs one of the preachers, “still
 you must hold it as well as you can, comfort souls to the best of your
 power and, in any case, expel the poisonous Papists.”[628]

The unexpected and apparently so favourable change in the Duchy really
did little to dispel his gloom, though he occasionally intones a hymn
of gratitude and admiration for the working of Providence displayed in
the change of rulers.

About this time (1539), in Brandenburg, the Elector Joachim II. also
ushered in the innovations. The rights and possessions of the ancient
Church fell a prey to the spoilers. Luther praised the ruler for going
forward so bravely “to the welfare and salvation of many souls.” He
was, however, apprehensive lest the “roaring of the lion in high
places” might influence the Elector; with the Divine assistance,
however, he would not fear even this.[629] He showed himself strangely
lenient in regard to the Elector’s prudent retention of much more of
the Catholic ceremonial than had been preserved in any other German
land. Even the Elevation of the Sacrament at Mass (or rather at the
sham Mass still in use) was tolerated by Luther; he writes: “We had
good reasons for doing away with the elevation [of the Sacrament] here
at Wittenberg, but perhaps at Berlin you have not.”[630]

In the Duchy of Prussia, formerly ecclesiastical property of the
Teutonic Knights, the way had been paved for the apostasy of these
Knights, all bound by the vow of chastity, by Luther’s alluring tract
“An die Herrn Deutschs Ordens, das sic falsche Keuscheyt meyden und zur
rechten ehlichen Keuscheyt greyffen.”[631] Albert, the Grand Master,
who had visited Luther twice, as already narrated, seized upon the
lands of the Order belonging to the Church and caused himself to be
solemnly invested and proclaimed hereditary Duke of Prussia on April
10, 1525; thereupon Luther sent him his congratulations that God should
have so graciously called him to this new Estate. The Grand Master,
himself a married man, with the assistance of the two apostate Bishops
of Samland and Pomerania, then established Lutheranism. As chief Bishop
he assumed the position of head of the territorial Church, agreeably
with the Protestant practice in the other German lands. The episcopal
jurisdiction was transferred to the civil Consistorial Courts.

Violent appropriation of alien property, as well as illegal assumption
of ecclesiastical jurisdiction, also characterised the advent of the
new faith in Würtemberg. Duke Ulrich, who had been raised to the
throne in 1534 by a breach of the peace of the Empire and contrary to
all law and justice, thanks to the successful raid of Philip of Hesse
(above, p. 47; vol. iii., p. 67 f.), continued to labour under the
stigma attaching to the manner in which he had obtained the Duchy, in
spite of the peace he had patched up with the Emperor. The religious
transformation of the country was however, soon accomplished, thanks to
his pressure.

The chief part in this, so far as Upper Würtemberg was concerned,
devolved on the preacher, Ambrosius Blaurer (Blarer), who favoured the
Zwinglian leanings of Bucer.

 Blaurer was openly accused of deception and hypocrisy in the matter
 of his profession of faith. Though he had formerly sided with Zwingli
 in the denial of the Sacrament, he vindicated his Lutheran orthodoxy
 to his patron, the Duke, by means of a formulary[632] tallying with
 Luther’s doctrine on the Supper. Subsequently, however, he issued
 an “Apology,” in which he declared he had not in the least altered
 his views. “Who does not see the deception?” wrote Luther’s friend,
 Veit Dietrich; “formerly he made a profession of faith in our own
 words, and now he attacks everybody who says he has retracted his
 previous opinion.”[633] Luther had been a prey to the greatest
 anxiety on learning that Blaurer had become the Duke’s favourite.
 “If this be true,” he wrote, “what hope is left for the whole of
 Upper Germany?”[634] Much as he had rejoiced at Blaurer’s apparent
 retractation in the matter of the Sacrament, he was very mistrustful
 of his bewildering “Apology.” “I only hope it be meant seriously,” he
 declared; “it scandalises many that Blaurer should be so anxious to
 make out that he never thought differently. People find this hard to
 believe.” “For the sake of unity I shall, however, put a favourable
 interpretation on everything. I am ready to forgive anyone who in his
 heart thinks aright, even though he may have been in error or hostile
 to me.”[635] Thus he practically pledged himself to silence regarding
 the work.

 Of “Blaurer’s” doings in Würtemberg, now won over to the new Evangel,
 the Bavarian agent, Hans Werner, a violent opponent of Duke Ulrich’s,
 wrote: “He preaches every day; yet none save the low classes and
 common people, etc., attend his sermons, for these readily accept
 the Evangel of mine being thine and thine mine. _Item_, Blaurer has
 full powers, writes hither and thither in the land, turns out here
 a provost, there a canon, vicar, rector or priest and banishes them
 from the country by order of Duke Ulrich; he appoints foreigners,
 Zwinglians or Lutheran scamps, of whom no one knows anything; all must
 have wife and child, and if there be still a priest found in the land,
 he is forced to take a wife.”[636]

In the Würtemberg lowlands, north of Stuttgart, a zealous Lutheran,
Erhard Schnepf, laboured for the destruction of the old Church system;
Duke Ulrich also summoned Johann Brenz, the Schwäbisch-Hall preacher,
to his land for two years.

At Christmas, 1535, Ulrich gave orders to all the prelates in his realm
to dismiss the Catholic clergy in their districts and appoint men of
the new faith, as the former “did nothing but blaspheme and abuse
the Divine truth.”[637] Even the assisting at Mass in neighbouring
districts was prohibited by the regulation issued in the summer of
1536, which at the same time prescribed the attendance of Catholics
at least once every Sunday and Holiday at the preaching of the new
ministers of the Word; under this intolerable system of compulsion
Catholics were reduced to performing all their religious exercises
in their own homes.[638] The violent suppression of the monasteries
and the sequestration of monastic property went hand in hand with the
above. In the convents of women, which still existed, the nuns were
forced against their will to listen to the sermons of the preachers.
Church property was everywhere confiscated so far as the ancient
Austrian law did not prevent it. The public needs and the scarcity of
money were alleged as pretexts for this robbery. The Mass vestments
and church vessels were allotted to the so-called poor-boxes. At
Stuttgart, for instance, the costly church vestments were sold for the
benefit of the poor. In the troubles many noble works of art perished,
for “all precious metal was melted down and minted, nor were cases of
embezzlement altogether unknown.” “The Prince, with the approach of old
age, manifested pitiable miserliness and cupidity.”[639] Unfortunately
he was left a free hand in the use of the great wealth that poured
into his coffers. But, not even in the interests of the new worship,
would he expend what was necessary, so that the vicarages fell into
a deplorable state. In other matters, too, the new Church of the
country suffered in consequence of the way in which Church property
was handled. The inevitable consequence was the rise of many quarrels,
complaints were heard on all sides and even the Schmalkalden League was
moved to remonstrate with Ulrich.[640]

 Terrible details concerning the alienation of church and monastic
 property are reported from Würtemberg by contemporaries. The preacher
 Erhard Schnepf, the Duke’s chief tool, was also his right hand in the
 seizure of property. Loud complaints concerning Schnepf’s doings, and
 demands that he should be made to render an account, were raised even
 by such Protestants as Bucer and Myconius, and by the speakers at the
 religious conference at Worms. He found means, however, to evade this
 duty. One of those voices of the past bewails the treatment meted out
 to the unfortunate religious: “Even were the Würtemberg monks and
 nuns all devils incarnate and no men, still Duke Ulrich ought not to
 proceed against them in so un-Christian, inhuman and tyrannical a

The relentless work of religious subversion bore everywhere a political
stamp. The leaders were simply tools of the Court. Frequently they
were at variance amongst themselves in matters of theology, and their
people, too, were dragged into the controversy. To the magistrates it
was left to decide such differences unless indeed some dictatorial
official forestalled them, as was the case when the Vogt of Herrenberg
took it into his own hands to settle a matter of faith. In the
struggles between Lutherans and Zwinglians, the highest court of appeal
above the town-Councillors and the officials was the Ducal Chancery.

Ulrich himself did not explicitly side either with the Confession of
Augsburg or with the “_Confessio Tetrapolitana_,” viz. with the more
Zwinglian form of faith agreed upon at the Diet of Augsburg by the four
South-German townships of Strasburg, Constance, Memmingen and Lindau.

 The preachers who assembled in 1537 at the so-called Idols-meeting of
 Urach, to discuss the question of the veneration of images which had
 given rise to serious dissensions amongst them, appealed to Ulrich.
 Blaurer inveighed against the use of images as idolatrous. Brenz
 declared that their removal in Würtemberg would be tantamount to a
 condemnation of the Lutheran Church in Saxony and elsewhere where they
 were permitted. The Court, to which the majority of the theologians
 appealed, ordered the removal of all images on Jan. 20, 1540.
 Distressing scenes were witnessed in many places when the images and
 pictures in the churches, which were not only prized by the people,
 but were also, many of them, of great artistic value,[642] were broken
 and torn to pieces in spite of the warning issued by the authorities
 against their violent destruction. The “_Tetrapolitana_” had already
 forcibly denounced the use of images.

 At Ulm, which so far had refused to accept the “_Tetrapolitana_,”
 the magistrates in 1544 decided to adhere to the Confession of
 Augsburg and the “_Apologia_.” Blaurer, some years before (1541),
 had justifiably complained of the arbitrary action of the civic
 authorities and said that every town acted according to its own ideas.
 But the preachers were frequently so exorbitant in the material
 demands they made on behalf of themselves and their families that the
 Town Council of Ulm declared, they behaved as though “each one had the
 right to receive a full saucepan every day.”[643]

 In place of any amendment of the many moral disorders already
 prevailing, still greater moral corruption became the rule among the
 people of Würtemberg, as is attested by Myconius the Zwinglian in
 1539, and thirty years later by the Chancellor of the University of
 Tübingen, Jacob Andreæ.

 The former declared that the “people are full of impudence and
 godlessness; of blasphemy, drunkenness, sins of the flesh and wild
 licentiousness there is no end.”[644] Andreæ directly connects with
 the new faith this growing demoralisation: “A dissolute, Epicurean,
 bestial life, feeding, swilling, avarice, pride and blasphemy.” “We
 have learnt,” so the people said, according to him, “that only through
 faith in Jesus Christ are we saved, Who by His death has atoned for
 all our sins; ... that all the world may see they are not Papists and
 rely not at all on good works, they perform none. Instead of fasting
 they gorge and swill day and night, instead of giving alms, they flay
 the poor.” “Everyone admits this cannot go on longer, for things have
 come to a crisis. Amongst the people there is little fear of God and
 little or no veracity or faith; all forms of injustice have increased
 and we have reached the limit.”[645]

 A General Rescript had to be issued on May 22, 1542, for the whole of
 Würtemberg, to check “the drunkenness, blasphemy, swearing, gluttony,
 coarseness and quarrelsomeness rampant in the parishes.”[646]

Few bright spots are to be seen in the accounts of the early days of
the Reformation in Würtemberg, if we except the lives of one or two
blameless ministers. It is no fault of the historian’s that there
is nothing better to chronicle. Even the Protestant historians of
Würtemberg, albeit predisposed to paint the change of religion in
bright colours, have to admit this. They seek to explain the facts on
the score that the period was one of restless and seething transition,
and to throw the blame on earlier times and on the questionable
elements among the Catholic clergy from whose ranks most of the
preachers were recruited.[647] But though grave responsibility may rest
on earlier times, not only here but in the other districts which fell
away from the Church, and though those of the clergy who forgot their
duty and the honour of their calling may have contributed even more
than usual to damage the fair reputation of Protestantism, yet the
increase of immorality which has been proved to have endured for a long
course of years, brings the historian face to face with a question not
lightly to be dismissed: Why did the preaching of the new Evangel, with
its supposedly higher standard of religion and morality, especially at
the springtide of its existence and in its full vigour, not bring about
an improvement, but rather the reverse?

This question applies, however, equally to other countries which were
then torn from the Church, and to the persons principally instrumental
in the work.

       *       *       *       *       *

In Hesse the religious upheaval, as even Protestant contemporaries
conceded, also promoted a great decline of morals.

The bad example given by Landgrave Philip tended to increase the
evil.[648] A harmful influence was exercised not only by the
Landgrave’s Court but also by certain preachers, such as Johann
Lening,[649] who enjoyed Philip’s favour. Elisabeth, Duchess of
Rochlitz, the Landgrave’s sister, and a zealous patron of the Evangel,
like the Prince himself, cherished rather lax views on morality. At
first she was indignant at the bigamy, though not on purely moral
grounds. The sovereign met her anger with a threat of telling the world
what she herself had done during her widowhood. The result was that the
Duchess said no more.[650] The Landgrave’s Court-preacher, Dionysius
Melander, who performed the marriage ceremony with the second wife,
had, five years before, laid down his office as preacher and leader
of the innovations at Frankfort on the Maine, “having fallen out with
his fellows and personally compromised himself by carrying on with his
housekeeper.” He was a “violent, despotic and, at times, coarse and
obscene, popular orator whose personal record was not unblemished.”[651]

 A Hessian church ordinance of 1539 complains of the moral
 retrogression: Satan has estranged men from the communion of Christ
 “not only by means of factions and sects, but also by carnal
 wantonness and dissolute living.”[652] The old Hessian historian
 Wigand Lauze writes, in his “Life and deeds of Philip the Magnanimous,
 Landgrave of Hesse,” that, the people have become very savage and
 uncouth, “as though God had given us His precious Word, and thereby
 delivered us from the innumerable abominations of Popery and its
 palpable idolatry, simply that each one might be free to do or leave
 undone whatever he pleased”; “many evil deeds were beginning to be
 looked upon by many as no longer sinful or vicious.” He accuses “the
 magistrates, ministers and governors” of corrupting the people by
 themselves transgressing the “good, Christian regulations” which had
 been set up, and charges both preachers and hearers with serving
 Mammon, and with “barefaced extortion,” “not to mention other sins and

 The Hessian theologians and preachers transferred the responsibility
 for the abolition of “law and order,” for the increase of the
 “freedom of the flesh within the Evangel” and for the falling away
 into a “state like that of Sodom and Gomorrha” to the shoulders of
 the “magistrates and officials.”[654] The latter, on the other hand,
 boldly asserted that the preachers themselves were the cause of the
 evil, since they led a “wicked, scandalous life, drinking, gambling,
 practising usury and so forth, and were, some of them, guilty of
 still worse things, brawling, fighting and wrangling with the people
 in the taverns and behaving improperly with the women.”[655] Bucer
 himself, Philip’s adviser in ecclesiastical matters, wrote sadly
 to the Landgrave, in 1539, from Marburg: “The people are becoming
 demoralised and immorality is gaining the upper hand.” “Where such
 contempt prevails for God and the authorities there the devil is

2. At the Centre of the New Faith

If we glance at the Saxon Electorate we shall find the deep despondency
frequently displayed by Luther concerning the deplorable moral
decadence prevailing there only too well justified.

The downward trend appeared to have set in in earnest and all hope of
remedying affairs seemed lost.[657]

The Court and those in authority not only did little to check the evil
but, by their example, even tended to promote many disorders. The
Elector, Johann Frederick “the Magnanimous” (1532-1547), was addicted
to drink. The banquets which he gave to his friends--in which wine
was indulged in to an extent unusual even in those days when men were
accustomed to heavy drinking--became a byword. Luther himself came to
speak strongly on his excessive drinking. “His only faults,” he laments
in the Table-Talk, “are his drinking and routing too much with his
companions.”[658] “He has all the virtues--but just fancy him swilling
like that!”[659] Yet Luther has an excuse ready: “He is a stout man and
can stand a deep draught; what he must needs drink would make another
man dead drunk.”[660] “Unfortunately not only our Court here but the
whole of Germany is plagued with this vice of drunkenness. It is a
bad old custom in the German lands which has gone on growing and will
continue to grow. Henry, Duke of [Brunswick] Wolfenbüttel calls our
Elector a drunkard and very Nabal with whom Abigail could not speak
until he had slept off his carouse.”[661] We have the Elector’s own
comment on this in a letter to Chancellor Brück: “If the Brunswick
fellow writes that we are a drunken Nabal and Benadad, we cannot
entirely deny that we sometimes follow the German custom”; at any rate
the Brunswicker was not the man to find fault, for he was an even
harder drinker.[662]

 Johann Frederick was accused by Philip of Hesse of the grossest
 immorality. This happened when the former refused to defend Philip’s
 bigamy and when his Superintendent, Justus Menius, who was given
 to lauding the Elector’s virtues, showed an inclination to protest
 publicly against the Landgrave’s bigamy. This led Philip to write this
 warning to his theologian Bucer: “If those saintly folk, Justus Menius
 and his crew, amuse themselves by writing against us, they shall have
 their answer. And we shall not leave hidden under a bushel how this
 most august and quite sinless Elector, once, under our roof at Cassel,
 and again, at the time of the first Diet of Spires, committed the
 crime of sodomy.”[663]

 A. Hausrath remarks concerning this in his “Luthers Leben”: That
 Philip was lying “can hardly be taken for granted”;[664] G. Mentz,
 likewise, in his recent work, “Joh. Friedrich der Grossmütige,”[665]
 says: “It is difficult simply to ignore the Landgrave’s statement, but
 we do not know whether the allusion may not be to some sin committed
 in youth.” Here belongs also the passage in Philip of Hesse’s letter
 to Luther of July 27, 1540 (above, p. 60), where he calls the Elector
 to bear witness that he (the Landgrave) had done “the worst.” The
 Biblical expression “_peccatum pessimum_” stood for sodomy. Further
 charges of a similar nature were even more explicitly laid at the door
 of Johann Frederick. A Catholic, relating the proceedings in Brunswick
 at the close of the conquest of that country by the Protestant troops
 in 1542, speaks of “vices and outrages against nature then indulged in
 by the Elector at the Castle as is commonly reported and concerning
 which there is much talk among the Court people.”[666] Duke Henry
 of Brunswick in a tract of 1544 referred not only to the Elector’s
 sanction of the Landgrave’s bigamy, in return for which he was spared
 by the latter, but also to the “many other pranks which might be
 circumstantially proved against them and which deserved more severe
 punishment” than that of the sword.[667] The “more severe punishment”
 means burning at the stake, which was the penalty decreed by the laws
 of the Empire for sodomy, whereas polygamy and adultery were simply
 punished by decapitation. Both sovereigns in their reply flatly denied
 the charge, but, evidently, they clearly understood its nature; they
 had never been guilty, they said, of “shameful, dishonourable pranks
 deserving of death by fire.”[668]

Whatever the truth may be concerning this particular charge which
involves them both,[669] both Landgrave and Elector certainly left
behind them so bad a record that Adolf Hausrath could say: The pair
(but the Landgrave even more than the Elector) did their best “to make
mockery of the claim of the Evangelicals that their Evangel would
revive the morality of the German nation.” He instances in particular
the bigamy, “which put any belief in the reality of their piety to a
severe test and prepared the way for a great moral defeat of Luther’s

In the matter of the bigamy attempts were made to exculpate the Elector
Johann Frederick by alleging, that he regarded the Landgrave’s step
not as a real new marriage but as mere concubinage. The fact is,
however, he was sufficiently well informed by Bucer in Dec. 1539,
i.e. from the very beginning, learnt further details two months later
from the Landgrave’s own lips, and declared himself “satisfied with
everything.” When, later, the Elector began to take an unfavourable
view of the business, Philip wrote to Bucer (July 24, 1540), pointing
out that he had nevertheless sent his representative to the wedding.
It is, however, true that the Elector had all along been against any
making public of so compromising an affair and had backed up his
theologians when they urged the Landgrave to deny it.[671]

There is no more ground for crediting Johann Frederick with “strictness
of morals” than for saying that the Elector Frederick the Wise
(1486-1525), under whose reign Lutheranism took root in the land, was
upright and truthful in his dealings with the Pope and the Empire.

The diplomatic artifices by which the latter protected Luther whilst
pretending not to do so, the dissembling and double-dealing of his
policy throws a slur on the memory of one who was a powerful patron
of Lutheranism. Even in Köstlin-Kawerau[672] we find his behaviour
characterised as “one long subterfuge, seeing, that, whilst giving
Luther a free hand, he persisted in making out that Luther’s cause was
not his”; his declaration, that “it did not become him as a layman to
decide in such a controversy,” is rightly branded as misleading.

The Protestant Pietists were loudest in their complaints. In his
“Kirchenhistorie,” Gottfried Arnold, who was one of them, blamed, in
1699, this Elector for the “cunning and the political intrigues” of
which he was suspected; he is angry that this so undevout promoter of
Lutheranism should have written to Duke George, his cousin, “that he
never undertook nor ever would undertake to defend Luther’s sermons
or his controversial writings,” and that he should have sent to his
minister at Rome the following instructions, simply to pacify the Pope:
“It did not become him as a secular Prince to judge of these matters,
and he left Luther to answer for everything at his own risk.”[673] The
same historian also points out with dissatisfaction that the Elector
Frederick, “though always unmarried, had, by a certain female, two sons
called Frederick and Sebastian. How he explained this to his spiritual
directors is nowhere recorded.”[674] The “female” in question was Anna
Weller, by whom he had, besides these two sons, also a daughter.[675]

Against his brother and successor, Johann, surnamed the Constant
(1525-1532), Luther’s friends brought forward no such complaints, but
merely reproached him with letting things take their course. Arnold
instances a statement of Melanchthon’s according to which this good
Lutheran Prince “had been very negligent in examining this thing
and that,” so that grave disorders now called for a remedy. Luther,
too, whilst praising the Elector’s good qualities, declares, that
“he was far too indulgent.”[676] “I interfere with no one,” was his
favourite saying, “but merely trust more in God’s Word than in man.”
The protests of the Emperor and the representations of the Catholics,
politics and threats of war left him quite unmoved, whence his title
of “the Constant”; “he was just the right man for Luther,” says
Hausrath,[677] “for the latter did not like to see the gentlemen of the
Saxon Chancery, Brück, Beyer, Planitz and the rest, interfering and
urging considerations of European politics. ‘Our dear old father, the
Elector,’ Luther said of him in 1530, ‘has broad shoulders, and must
now bear everything.’”

The favour of these Princes caused Luther frequently to overstep the
bounds of courtesy in his behaviour towards them. Julius Boehmer, who
is sorry for this, in the Introduction to his selection of Luther’s
works remarks, that he was guilty of “want of respect, nay, of
rudeness, towards the Elector Frederick and his successor Johann.”[678]
Of Luther’s relations with Johann Frederick, Hausrath says: “It is by
no means certain that the Duke’s [Henry of Brunswick’s] opinion [viz.
that Luther used to speak of his own Elector as Hans Wurst (i.e. Jack
Pudding)] was without foundation; in any case, it was not far from the
mark. With his eternal plans and his narrow-minded obstinacy, Luther’s
corpulent master was a thorn in the side of the aged Reformer.... ‘He
works like a donkey,’ Luther once said of him, and, unfortunately, this
was perfectly true.”[679]

In his will, dated 1537, Luther addressed the following words of
consolation to the princely patrons and promoters of his work, the
Landgrave and the Elector Johann Frederick: It was true they were not
quite stainless, but the Papists were even worse; they had indeed
trespassed on the rights and possessions of others, but this was of no
great consequence; they must continue to work for the Evangel, though
in what way he would not presume to dictate to them.[680]--Melanchthon,
who was so often distressed at the way the Princes behaved on the
pretext of defending the Evangel, complains that “the sophistry and
wickedness of our Princes are bringing the Empire to ruin,” in which
“bitter cry,” writes a Protestant historian, “he sums up the result of
his own unhappy experiences.”[681]

From the accounts of the Visitations in the Electorate we learn more
details of the condition of morality, law and order in this the focus
of the new Evangel. The proximity and influence of Luther and of his
best and most faithful preachers did not constitute any bulwark against
the growing corruption of morals, which clear-sighted men indeed
attributed mainly to the new doctrines on good works, on faith alone
and on Evangelical freedom.

 In the protocols of the first Visitation (1527-1529) we read: The
 greater number of those entrusted with a cure of souls, are “in an
 evil case”; reckless marriages are frequent amongst the preachers;
 complaints were lodged with the Electoral Visitors concerning the
 preacher at Lucka who “had three wives living.”[682] At a later
 Visitation a preacher was discovered to have had six children by two
 sisters. Many of the preachers had wives whom they had stolen from
 husbands still living. The account of the people whether in town or
 country was not much more reassuring; many localities had earned
 themselves a bad repute for blasphemy and general adultery. In many
 places the people were declared to be so wicked that only “the hangman
 and the jailer would be of any avail.” Besides this, the parsonages
 were in a wretched state. The foundations had fallen in, or, in many
 instances, had been seized by the nobles, the lands and meadows
 belonging to the parsonages had been sold by the parish-councils, and
 the money from the sale of chalices and monstrances spent on drink.
 The educational system was so completely ruined that in the Wittenberg
 district, for instance, in which there were 145 town and country
 livings with hundreds of chapels of ease, only 21 schools remained.

 As early as 1527 Melanchthon had viewed with profound dismay the
 “serious ruin and decay that menaces everything good,” which, he
 says, was clearly perceived at Wittenberg. “You see,” he writes,
 “how greatly men hate one another, how great is the contempt for all
 uprightness, how great the ignorance of those who stand at the head of
 the churches, and above all how forgetful the rulers are of God.” And
 again, in 1528: “No one hates the Evangel more bitterly than those who
 like to be considered ours.” “We see,” he laments in the same year,
 “how greatly the people hate us.”[683]

 His friend Justus Jonas, who was acquainted with the conditions in
 the Saxon Electorate from long personal experience, wrote in 1530:
 “Those who call themselves Evangelical are becoming utterly depraved,
 and not only is there no longer any fear of God among them but there
 is no respect for outward appearances either; they are weary of and
 disgusted with sermons, they despise their pastors and preachers and
 treat them like the dirt and dust of the streets.” “And, besides all
 this, the common people are becoming utterly shameless, insolent and
 ruffianly, as if the Evangel had only been sent to give lewd fellows
 liberty and scope for the practice of all their vices.”[684]

 The next Visitation, held seven years later, only confirmed the growth
 of the evil. In the Wittenberg district in particular complaints were
 raised concerning “the increase in godless living, the prevailing
 contempt and blasphemy of the Word of God, the complete neglect of the
 Supper and the general flippant and irreverent behaviour during Divine

 Of a later period, when the fruits of the change of religion had still
 further ripened, Melanchthon’s friend Camerarius says: “Mankind have
 now attained the goal of their desires--boundless liberty to think and
 act exactly as they please. Reason, moderation, law, morality and duty
 have lost all value, there is no reverence for contemporaries and no
 respect for posterity.”[686]

 The Elector Augustus of Saxony goes more into particulars when he
 writes: “A disgraceful custom has become established in our villages.
 The peasants at the high festivals, such as Christmas and Whitsuntide,
 begin their drinking-bouts on the eve of the festival and prolong them
 throughout the night, and the next day they either sleep through the
 morning or else come drunk to church and snore and grunt like pigs
 during the whole service.” He reproves the custom of making use of the
 churches as wine-cellars, the contempt displayed for the preachers,
 the scoffing at sacred rites and the “frequent blasphemy and cursing.”
 “Murder and abominable lasciviousness” were the consequences of such
 contempt for religion. But any improvement was not to be looked for
 seeing that there were hardly any schools remaining, and the cure of
 souls was left principally in the charge of ministers such as the
 Elector proceeds to describe. The nobles and the other feudal lords,
 he says, “appoint everywhere to the ministry ignorant, destitute
 artisans, or else rig out their scribes, outriders or grooms as
 priests and set them in the livings so as to have them all the more
 under their thumb.”[687]

 The state of things in Saxony provided the Landgrave with a
 serviceable weapon against Luther when the latter showed an
 inclination to repudiate the bigamy, or to say he had merely “acted
 the fool” in sanctioning it. The passage has been quoted above (p.
 56), where the Landgrave exhorted him to pay less attention to the
 world’s opinion, but rather to set himself and all the preachers in
 the Saxon Electorate to the task of checking the “vices of adultery,
 usury and drunkenness which were no longer regarded as sins, and that,
 not merely by writings and sermons, but by earnest admonition and by
 means of the ban.”

 It is true that the conditions which accompanied the introduction of
 his new system were a trial to Luther, which he sought to remedy. The
 Landgrave could not reproach him with actual indifference. Not merely
 by “writings and sermons,” but also by “earnest admonition” and even
 by re-introducing the “ban of the Church” he strove to check the
 rising tide of moral evil. But the evil was the stronger of the two,
 and the causes, for which he himself was responsible, lay too deep. We
 have an example of the way in which he frequently sought to curb the
 mischief, in his quarrel with Hans Metzsch, the depraved Commandant of
 Wittenberg, whom he excluded from the Supper.[688]

 He sums up his grievances against the state of things in the
 Electorate and at Wittenberg in a letter to Johann Mantel, in which
 he calls Wittenberg a new Sodom. He writes to this preacher (Nov.
 10, 1539): “Together with Lot (2 Peter ii. 8), you and other pious
 Christians, I, too, am tormented, plagued and martyred in this awful
 Sodom by shameful ingratitude and horrible contempt of the Divine Word
 of our beloved Saviour, when I see how Satan seizes upon and takes
 possession of the hearts of those who think themselves the first and
 most important in the kingdom of Christ and of God; beyond this I
 am tempted and plagued with interior anxiety and distress.” He then
 goes on to console his friend, who was also troubled with melancholy
 and the fear of death, by a sympathetic reference to the death of
 Christ. He then admits again of himself that he was “distressed and
 greatly plagued” and “compassed by more than one kind of death in this
 miserable, lamentable age, where there is nothing but ingratitude, and
 where every kind of wickedness gains the upper hand.... Wait for the
 Lord with patience, for He is now at hand and will not delay to come.

3. Luther’s Attempts to Explain the Decline in Morals

 Luther quite candidly admitted the distressing state of things
 described above without in the least glossing it over, which indeed
 he could not well have done; in fact, his own statements give us an
 even clearer insight into the seamy side of life in his day. He speaks
 of the growing disorders with pain and vexation; the more so since he
 could not but see that they were being fomented by his doctrine of
 justification by faith alone.

 “This preaching,” he says, “ought by rights to be accepted and
 listened to with great joy, and everyone ought to improve himself
 thereby and become more pious. But, unfortunately, the reverse is now
 the case and the longer it endures the worse the world becomes; this
 is [the work of] the devil himself, for now we see the people becoming
 more infamous, more avaricious, more unmerciful, more unchaste and in
 every way worse than they were under Popery.”[690]

 The Evangelicals now are not merely worse, but “seven times worse than
 before,” so he complains as early as 1529. “For after having heard the
 Evangel we still continue to steal, lie, cheat, feed and swill and to
 practise every vice. Now that one devil [that of Popery] has been
 driven out seven others worse than it have entered into us, as may be
 seen from the way the Princes, lords, nobles, burghers and peasants
 behave, who have lost all sense of fear, and regard not God and His

From his writings a long, dreary list of sins might be compiled, of
which each of the classes here mentioned had been guilty. In the last
ten years of his life such lamentations give the tone to most of what
he wrote.

 “The nobles scrape money together, rob and plunder”; “like so many
 devils they grind the poor churches, the pastors and the preachers.”
 “The burghers and peasants do nothing but hoard, are usurers and
 cheats and behave defiantly and wantonly without any fear of
 punishment, so that it cries to heaven for vengeance and the earth
 can endure it no longer.” “On all hands and wherever we turn we see
 nothing in all classes but a deluge of dreadful ingratitude for the
 beloved Evangel.”[692]

 “Nowadays the Gospel is preached, and whoever chooses can hear it
 ... but burghers, peasants and nobles all scorn their ministers and

 “I have often said that a plague must fall upon Germany; the Princes
 and gentry deserve that our Lord God should play them a trick; there
 will be such bloodshed that no one will know his own home.”[694] “Now
 that all this [the Evangel] is preached rightly and plainly, people
 cannot despise it enough. In old days monasteries and churches were
 built with no regard for cost, now people won’t even repair a hole
 in the roof that the minister may lie dry; of their contempt I say
 nothing, it is enough to move one to tears to witness such scorn.
 Hence I say: Take care, you are young; it may be you will live to see
 and experience the coming misfortune that will break over Germany. For
 a storm will burst over Germany, and that without fail.... I do not
 mind so much the peasants’ avarice and the fornication and immorality
 now on the increase everywhere, as the contempt for the Evangel....
 That peasants, burghers and nobles thus contemn the Word of God will
 be their undoing.”[695]

To the question whence the moral decline amongst the adherents of
the new teaching came, Luther was wont to give various answers.
Their difference and his occasional self-contradictions show how his
consciousness of the disorders and the complaints they drew from every
side drive him into a corner.

The most correct explanation was, of course, that the mischief was
due to the nature of his teaching on faith and good works; to this,
involuntarily, he comes back often enough.

 “That we are now so lazy and cold in the performance of good works,”
 he says, in a recently published sermon of 1528, “is due to our no
 longer regarding them as a means of justification. For when we still
 hoped to be justified by our works our zeal for doing good was a
 marvel. One sought to excel the other in uprightness and piety. Were
 the old teaching to be revived to-day and our works made contributory
 to righteousness, we should be readier and more willing to do what is
 good. Of this there is, however, no prospect and thus, when it is a
 question of serving our neighbour and praising God by means of good
 works, we are sluggish and not disposed to do anything.”[696] “The
 surer we are of the righteousness which Christ has won for us, the
 colder and idler we are in teaching the Word, in prayer, in good works
 and in enduring misfortune.”[697]

 “We teach,” he continues, “that we attain to God’s grace without any
 work on our part. Hence it comes that we are so listless in doing
 good. When, once upon a time, we believed that God rewarded our works,
 I ran to the monastery, and you gave ten gulden towards building a
 church. Men then were glad to do something through their works and to
 be their own ‘_Justus et Salvator_’ (Zach. ix., 9).” Now, when asked
 to give, everybody protests he is poor and a beggar, and says there is
 no obligation of giving or of performing good works. “We have become
 worse than formerly and are losing our old righteousness. Moreover,
 avarice is increasing everywhere.”[698]

 Though here Luther finds the reason of the neglect of good works so
 clearly in his own teaching, yet on other occasions, for instance, in
 a sermon of 1532, he grows angry when his doctrine is made responsible
 for the mischief.

 Only “clamourers,” so he says, could press such a charge. Yet, at the
 same time, he fully admits the decline: “I own, and others doubtless
 do the same, that there is not now such earnestness in the Gospel as
 formerly under the monks and priests when so many foundations were
 made, when there was so much building and no one was so poor as not
 to be able to give. But now there is not a town willing to support
 a preacher, there is nothing but plundering and thieving among the
 people and no one can prevent it. Whence comes this shameful plague?
 The clamourers answer, ‘from the teaching that we must not build upon
 or trust in works.’ But it is the devil himself who sets down such an
 effect to pure and wholesome doctrine, whereas it is in reality due
 to his own and the people’s malice who ill-use such doctrines, and to
 our old Adam.... We are, all unawares, becoming lazy, careless and

“The devil’s malice!” This is another explanation to which Luther
and others not unfrequently had recourse. The devil could do such
extraordinary and apparently contradictory things! He could even teach
men to “pray fervently.” In the Table-Talk, for instance, when asked by
his wife why it was, that, whereas in Popery “we prayed so diligently
and frequently, we are now so cold and pray so seldom,” Luther put it
down to the devil. “The devil made us fervent,” he says; “he ever urges
on his servants, but the Holy Ghost teaches and exhorts us how to pray
aright; yet we are so tepid and slothful in prayer that nothing comes
of it.”[700] Thus it might well be the devil who was answerable for the
misuse of the Evangel.

On another occasion, in order to counteract the bad impression made on
his contemporaries by the fruits of his preaching, he says: “Our morals
only look so bad on account of the sanctity of the Evangel; in Catholic
times they stood very low and many vices prevailed, but all this was
unperceived amidst the general darkness which shrouded doctrine and the
moral standards which then held; now, on the other hand, our eyes have
been opened by a purer faith and even small abuses are seen in their
true colours.” His words on this subject will be given below.

It even seemed to Luther that the decay of almsgiving and the parsimony
displayed towards the churches and the preachers proved the truth of
the Evangel (“_signum est, verum esse evangelium nostrum_”), for, so
he teaches in a sermon preached at Wittenberg in 1527, “the devil is
the Prince of this world and all its riches, as we learn from the
story of Christ’s Temptation. He is now defending his kingdom from the
Evangel which has risen up against him. He does not now allow us so
many possessions and gifts as he formerly did to those who served him
(i.e. the Papists), for their Masses, Vigils, etc.; nay, he robs us of
everything and spends it on himself. Formerly we supported many hundred
monks and now we cannot raise the needful for one Evangelical preacher,
a sign that our Evangel is the true one and that the Pope’s empire was
the devil’s own, where he bestowed gifts on his followers with open
hands and incited them to luxury, avarice, fornication and gluttony.
And their teaching was in conformity therewith, for they urged those
works which pleased them.”[701]

The observer may well marvel at such strange trains of thought.
Luther’s doctrine has become to him like a pole-star around which the
whole firmament must revolve. Experience and logic alike must perforce
be moulded at his pleasure to suit the idea which dominates him.

It was impossible to suppress the inexorable question put by his
opponents, and the faint-hearted doubts of many of his own followers:
Since our Saviour taught: “By their fruits shall you know them,” how
can you be a Divinely sent teacher if these are the moral effects of
your new Evangel? And yet Luther, to the very close of his career, in
tones ever more confident, insists on his higher, nay, Divine, calling,
and on his election to “reveal” hidden doctrines of faith, strange to
say, those very doctrines to which he, like others too, attributed the

Concerning his Divine mission he had not hesitated to say in so many
words: Unless God calls a man to do a work no one who does not wish
to be a fool may venture to undertake it; “for a certain Divine
call and not a mere whim” is essential to every good work.[702]
Hence he frequently sees in success the best test of a good work.
In his own case, however, he could point only to one great result,
and that a negative one, viz. the harm done to Popery; the Papacy
had been no match for him and had failed to check the apostasy. The
Papists’ undertaking, such is his proof, is not a success; it goes
sideways “after the fashion of the crab.” “Even for those who had a
sure Divine vocation it was difficult to undertake and carry through
anything good, though God was with them and assisted them; what then
could those silly fools, who wished to undertake it without being
called, expect to do?” “But I, Dr. Martin, was called and compelled
to become a Doctor.... Thus I was obliged to accept the office of a
Doctor. Hence, owing to my work, this which you see has befallen the
Papacy, and worse things are yet in store for it.” To those who still
refused to acknowledge Luther’s call to teach he addresses a sort of
command: St. Paul, 1 Cor. xiv., 30, commanded all, even superiors, to
be silent and obey “when some other than the chief teacher receives a
revelation.” “The work that Luther undertakes,” “the great work of the
Reformation,” he assures all, was given not to the other side, but to
him alone.[703]--It is no wonder that his gainsayers and the doubters
on his own side refused to be convinced by such arguments and appeals
to the work of destruction accomplished, but continued to harp on the
words: “By their fruits you shall know them,” which text they took
literally, viz. as referring to actual fruits of moral improvement.

       *       *       *       *       *

The “great work of the Reformation,” i.e. of real reform, to which
Luther appeals--unless he was prepared to regard it as consisting
solely in the damage done to the Roman Church--surely demanded that,
at least at Wittenberg and in Luther’s immediate sphere, some definite
fruits in the shape of real moral amelioration should be apparent. Yet
it was precisely of Wittenberg and his own surroundings that Luther
complained so loudly. The increase of every kind of disorder caused him
to write to George of Anhalt: “We live in Sodom and Babylon, or rather
must die there; the good men, our Lots and Daniels, whom we so urgently
need now that things are daily becoming worse, are snatched from us
by death.”[704] So bad were matters that Luther was at last driven to
flee from Wittenberg. The sight of the immorality, the vexation and the
complaints to which he was exposed became too much for him; perhaps
Wittenberg would catch the “Beggars’ dance, or Beelzebub’s dance,” he
wrote; “at any rate get us gone from this Sodom.”[705]

 According to his letters, the Wittenberg authorities did not interfere
 even in the case of the gravest disorders, but allowed themselves to
 be “playthings of the devils”; they looked on whilst the students
 “were ruined by bad women,” and “though half the town is guilty of
 adultery, usury, theft and cheating, no one tries to put the law in
 force. They all simply smile, wink at it and do the same themselves.
 The world is a troublesome thing.”[706] “The hoiden-folk have grown
 bold,” he writes to the Elector, “they pursue the young fellows into
 their very rooms and chambers, freely offering them their love; and I
 hear that many parents are recalling their children home because, they
 say, when they send their children to us to study we hang women about
 their necks.”[707] He is aghast at the thought that the “town and the
 school” should have heard God’s Word so often and so long and yet,
 “instead of growing better, become worse as time goes on.” He fears
 that at his end he may hear, “that things were never worse than now,”
 and sees Wittenberg threatened with the curse of Chorazin, Bethsaida
 and Capharnaum.[708]

 In point of fact he did preach a sermon to the Wittenbergers in which,
 like a prophet, he predicts the judgments of heaven.[709]

 In another sermon he angrily acquaints them with his determination:
 “What am I to do with you Wittenbergers? I am not going to preach to
 you any longer of Christ’s Kingdom, seeing that you will not accept
 it. You are thieves, robbers and men of no mercy. I shall have to
 preach you the ‘Sachsenspiegel.’” They refuse, he says, to give
 anything to clergy, church or schools. “Are you still ignorant, you
 unthankful beasts (‘_ingratæ bestiæ_’) of what they do for you?” He
 concludes: They must make up their minds to provide the needful,
 “otherwise I shall abandon the pulpit.”[710]

 “Later you will find my prophecy fulfilled,” he cried on one occasion
 after having foretold “woes”; “then you will long for one of those
 exhortations of Martin Luther.”[711]

 His Table-Talk bears, if possible, even stronger witness than his
 letters and sermons to the conditions at Wittenberg, for there he
 freely lets himself go. Some of the things he says of the town and
 neighbourhood, found in the authentic notes of docile pupils, such as
 Mathesius, Lauterbach and Schlaginhaufen, are worth consideration.

 We hear from Lauterbach not only that Hans Metzsch, the town
 Commandant whom Luther had “excommunicated,” continued to persecute
 the good at Wittenberg “with satanic malice” and to “boast of his
 wickedness,”[712] but that in the same year Luther had to complain
 of other men of influence and standing in the town who injured the
 Evangel by their example. “So great is the godlessness of those of
 rank that one was not ashamed to boast of having begotten forty-three
 children in a single year; another asked whether he might not take 40
 per cent interest _per annum_.” In the same year Luther was obliged
 to exclude from the Sacrament another notorious, highly-placed

 “The soil of Wittenberg is bad,” he declared, speaking from sad
 experience; “even were good, honest people sown here the crop would be
 one of coarse Saxons.”[714]

 “The Gospel at Wittenberg,” he once said poetically, if we may trust
 Mathesius, “is like rain that falls on water, i.e. it has no effect.
 The good catch the law and the wicked the Gospel.”[715]

 “I have often wondered,” he said in 1532, according to Schlaginhaufen,
 “why Our Lord God sent His Word to this unfaithful world of
 Wittenberg: I believe that He sent it to Jerusalem, Wittenberg and
 such-like places that He might, at the Last Day, be able to reprove
 their ingratitude.” And again, “My opinion is that God will punish
 severely the ingratitude shown to His Word; for there is not a man of
 position or a peasant who does not stamp on the ministers; but the
 service of the Word must remain; even the Turk has his ministers,
 otherwise he could not maintain his rule.”[716]

 Luther’s Evangel had made “law and command” to retreat into the
 background as compared with the liberty of the children of God; the
 penalties he devised, e.g. his exclusion of persons from the reception
 of the Sacrament, proved ineffectual. He would willingly have made
 use of excommunication if only “there had been people who would let
 themselves be excommunicated.” “The Pope’s ban which kept the people
 in check,” he says, “has been abolished, and it would be a difficult
 task to re-establish law and command.”[717]

 “No, I should not like to endure this life for another forty years,”
 so he told his friends on June 11, 1539, “even were God to turn it
 into a Paradise for me. I would rather hire an executioner to chop off
 my head; the world is so bad that all are turning into devils, so that
 they could wish one nothing better than a happy death-bed, and then
 away!”[718] “The dear, holy Evangel of Christ, that great and precious
 treasure, we account as insignificant, as if it were a verse from
 Terence or Virgil.”[719]

 He found such disdain of his teaching even in his own household and
 family. This it was which caused him, in 1532, to preach a course of
 sermons to his family circle on Sundays. No head of a family, least
 of all here, could connive at any “contempt of the Word.” To the
 question of Dr. Jonas as to the wherefore of these private addresses,
 he replied: “I see and know that the Word of God is as much neglected
 in my house as in the Church.”[720]

 There was no more hope for the world; nothing remains “unspoiled
 and incorrupt” although, “now, God’s Word is revealed,” yet “it is
 despised, spurned, corrupted, mocked at and persecuted,” even by the
 adherents of his teaching.[721]

 Luther made Mathesius the recipient of some of his confidences, as
 the latter relates in his sermons; on account of the scandals among
 the preachers of the neighbourhood he was forced and urged by his own
 people to appeal to the Elector to erect a jail “into which such wild
 and turbulent folk might be clapped.” “Satan causes great scandals
 amongst the patrons and hearers of the new doctrine,” says Mathesius.
 The common people have become rough and self-confident and have begun
 to regard the ministers as worthless. “Verily,” he exclaims, “the
 soul of this pious old gentleman was sadly tormented day by day by
 the unrighteous deeds he was obliged to witness, like pious Lot in

 With a deep sigh, as we read in Lauterbach’s Notes, Luther pointed
 to the calamities which were about to overtake the world; it was so
 perverse and incorrigible that discipline or admonition would be of
 no avail. Already there was the greatest consternation throughout
 the world on account of the revelation of the Word. “It is cracking
 and I hope it will soon burst,” and the Last Day arrive for which we
 are waiting. For all vices have now become habitual and people will
 not bear reproof. His only comfort was the progress made by studies
 at Wittenberg, and in some other places now thrown open to the

 But how were the future preachers now growing up there to improve
 matters? This he must well have asked himself when declaring, “with
 sobs,” as Lauterbach relates, that “preachers were treated in most
 godless and ungrateful fashion. The churches will soon be left without
 preachers and ministers; we shall shortly experience this misfortune
 in the churches; there will be a dearth not only of learned men but
 even of men of the commonest sort. Oh, that our young men would study
 more diligently and devote themselves to theology.”[724]

In view of the above it cannot surprise us that Luther gradually became
a victim to habitual discouragement and melancholy, particularly
towards the end of his life. Proofs of the depression from which he
suffered during the latter years of his life will be brought forward in
a later volume.

Such fits of depression were, however, in those days more than usually
common everywhere.

4. A Malady of the Age: Doubts and Melancholy

One of the phenomena which accompanied the religious revulsion and
which it is impossible to pass over, was, as contemporary writers
relate, the sadness, discontent and depression, in a word “melancholy,”
so widespread under the new Evangel even amongst its zealous promoters.

Melanchthon, one of Luther’s most intimate friends, furnished on many
occasions of his life a sad spectacle of interior dejection. Of a
weaker and more timid mental build than Luther, he appeared at times
ready to succumb under the weight of faint-heartedness and scruples,
doubts and self-reproaches. (Cp. vol. iii., p. 363 ff.) We may recall
how his anxieties, caused by the scandal subsequent on his sanctioning
of Philip’s bigamy, almost cost him his life. So many are the records
he left behind of discouragement and despondency that his death must
appear in the light of a welcome deliverance. Luther sought again and
again to revive in him the waning consciousness of the Divine character
of their work. It is just in these letters of Luther to Melanchthon
that we find him most emphatic in his assertion that their common
mission is from God. It was to Melanchthon, that, next to himself,
Luther applied the words already quoted, spoken to comfort a dejected
pupil: “There must be some in the Church as ready to slap Satan as we
three; but not all are able or willing to endure this.”[725]

Spalatin, who has so frequently been referred to as Luther’s go-between
at the Electoral Court, and who afterwards became pastor of Altenburg,
towards the end of his life fell into incurable despondency.[726]
Justus Jonas, likewise, was for a considerable time a prey to
melancholy.[727] Hieronymus Weller, one of Luther’s best friends,
confessed to having suffered at times such violent doubts and fears
as would have driven a heathen to commit suicide.[728] The preachers
George Mohr[729] and Nicholas Hausmann (a very intimate friend of
Luther’s[730]) had to endure dreadful pangs of soul; the same was the
case with Johann Beltzius, Pastor at Allerstedt in Thuringia,[731] and
with Simon Musæus, who died at Mansfeld in 1576 as Superintendent and
who composed two works against the devil of melancholy.[732] Nicholas
Selnecker, who died Superintendent at Leipzig, was responsible for the
rearranged edition of Luther’s Table-Talk; according to the title his
hope was to produce a work “which it might console all Christians to
read, especially in these wretched last days.” Elsewhere he confirms
the need of such consolation when he says: “We experience in our own
selves” that sadness is of frequent occurrence.[733]

Wolfgang Capito, the Strasburg preacher, wrote in 1536 to Luther
that his experience of the want of agreement in doctrine had caused
him such distress of mind that he was on the verge of the “malady of
melancholia”; he trusted he would succeed in reaching a better frame
of mind; the burden of gloom, so he comforts himself, was, after all,
not without its purpose in God’s plan in the case of many under the
Evangel. With Capito, too, melancholy was a “frequent guest.”[734]
Bucer wrote in 1532 to A. Blaurer that Capito had often bemoaned “his
rejection by God.”[735]

Joachim Camerarius, the celebrated Humanist and writer, confessed in
a letter to Luther, that he was oppressed and reduced to despair by
the sight of the decline in morals “in people of every age and sex,
in every condition and grade of life”; everything, in both public and
private life, was so corrupt that he felt all piety and virtue was
done for. Of the Schools in particular he woefully exclaimed that it
would perhaps be better to have none than to have “such haunts of
godlessness and vice.” At the same time, however, he makes admissions
concerning faults of his own which may have served to increase
his dejection: He himself, in his young days, had, like others,
disgraced himself by a very vicious life (“_turpissime in adolescentia

The Nuremberg preacher, George Besler, fell into a state of
melancholia, declared “in his ravings that things were not going right
in the Church,” began to see hidden enemies everywhere and finally
committed suicide with a “hogspear” in 1536.[737] William Bidembach,
preacher at Stuttgart, and his brother Balthasar, Abbot of Bebenhausen,
both became a prey to melancholia towards the end of their life.[738]

It would, of course, be foolish to think that many good souls, in the
simplicity of their heart, found no consolation in the new teaching
and in working for its furtherance. Of the preachers, for instance,
Beltzius, who has just been mentioned, declares, that, amidst his
sadness Luther’s consolations had “saved him from the abyss of
hell.”[739] Amongst those who adhered in good faith to the innovations
there were some who highly lauded the solace of the Evangel. But,
notwithstanding all that may be alleged to the contrary, we cannot get
over such testimonies as the following.

Felix, son of the above-mentioned William Bidembach, and Court preacher
in Würtemberg, declared in a “Handbook for young church ministers”:
“It happens more and more frequently that many pious people fall into
distressing sadness and real melancholia, to such an extent that they
constantly experience in their hearts fear, apprehension, dread and
despair”; in the course of his ministry he had met with both persons of
position and common folk who were oppressed with such melancholia.[740]
Nicholas Selnecker (above, p. 220) assures us that not only were
theologians perplexed with many “melancholy and anxious souls and
consciences whom nothing could console,” but physicians, too, “never
remembered such prevalence of evil melancholia, depression and sadness,
even in the young, and of other maladies arising therefrom, as during
these few years, and such misfortune continues still to grow and

The Leipzig Pastor, Erasmus Sarcerius, speaks in a similar strain of
the “general faint-heartedness prevalent in every class,” who are
acquainted with nothing but “fear and apprehension”;[742] Victorinus
Strigel, Professor at the University of Leipzig, of the “many persons
who in our day have died simply and solely of grief”;[743] Michael
Sachse, preacher at Wechmar, of people generally as being “timid and
anxious, trembling and despairing from fear.”[744]

When the preacher Leonard Beyer related to Luther how in his great
“temptations” the devil had tried to induce him to stab himself, Luther
consoled him by telling him that the same had happened in his own

We are told that in latter life Luther’s pupil Mathesius was a prey to
a “hellish fear” which lasted almost three months; “he could not even
look at a knife because the sight tempted him to suicide.”[746] Later,
his condition improved. The same Mathesius relates how Pastor Musa
found consolation in his gloomy doubts on faith in Luther’s account of
his own similar storms of doubt.[747]

In the 16th century we hear many lamentations in Protestant circles
concerning the unheard-of increase in the number of suicides.

 “There is such an outcry amongst the people,” wrote the Lausitz
 Superintendent, Zacharias Rivander, “that it deafens one’s ears and
 makes one’s hair stand on end. The people are so heavy-hearted and yet
 know not why. Amidst such lowness of spirit many are unable to find
 consolation, and, so, cut their throats and slay themselves.”[748]--In
 1554 the Nuremberg Councillor, Hieronymus Baumgärtner, lamented at
 a meeting attended by the clergy of the town: “We hear, alas, how
 daily and more than ever before, people, whether in good health or
 not, fall into mortal fear and despair, lose their minds and kill
 themselves.”[749] In 1569, within three weeks, fourteen suicides
 occurred at Nuremberg.[750]--“You will readily recall,” Lucas Osiander
 said in a sermon about the end of the century, “how in the years gone
 by many otherwise good people became so timorous, faint-hearted and
 full of despair that they could not be consoled; and how of these
 not a few put an end to their own lives; this is a sign of the Last

 Luther himself confirms the increase in the number of suicides which
 took place owing to troubles of conscience.

 In a sermon of 1532 he bemoans, that “so many people are so disquieted
 and distressed that they give way to despair”; this was chiefly
 induced by the “spirits,” for there “have been, and still are, many
 who are driven by the devil and plagued with temptations and despair
 till they hang themselves, or destroy themselves in some other
 way out of very fear.”[752] He is quite convinced that the devil
 “drives” all suicides and makes them helpless tools of his plans
 against human life.--It was to this idea that the Lutheran preacher
 Hamelmann clung when he wrote, in 1568, that many trusted “that those
 who had been overtaken and destroyed by the devil would not be lost

 Andreas Celichius, Superintendent in the Mark of Brandenburg, was
 of opinion that such suicides, such “very sudden and heartrending
 murders,” “gave a bad name to the Evangel in the world”; one sees and
 hears “that some in our very midst are quite unable to find comfort
 in the Evangelical sanctuary.... This makes men distrustful of the
 preaching of Jesus Christ and even causes it to be hated.”[754]

 Michael Helding, Bishop-auxiliary of Mayence, found a special reason
 for the increase in the number of suicides amongst those who had
 broken with the Church, in their rejection of the Catholic means of
 grace. In a sermon which he delivered towards the end of 1547 at
 the Diet of Augsburg he pointed out that, ever since the use of the
 Sacraments had been scorned, people were more exposed to the strength
 of the evil one and to discouragement. “When has the devil ever
 driven so many to desperation, so that they lose all hope and kill
 themselves? Whose fault is it? Ah, we deprive ourselves of God’s grace
 and refuse to accept the Divine strength which is offered us in the
 Holy Sacraments.”[755]

Among the Lutheran preachers the expected end of the world was made
to play a part and to explain the increase of faint-heartedness and

 Mathesius says in his Postils: “Many pine away and lose hope; there is
 no more joy or courage left among the people; therefore let us look
 for the end of the world, and prepare, and be ready at any moment for
 our departure home!” “For the end is approaching; heaven and earth and
 all government now begin to crack and break.”[756]

Luther’s example proved catching, and the end of the world became a
favourite topic both in the pulpit and in books, one on which the
preachers’ own gloom could aptly find vent. The end of all was thought
to be imminent. Such forebodings are voiced, for instance, in the
following: “No consolation is of any help to consciences”;[757] “many
pine away in dejection and die of grief”;[758] “in these latter days
the wicked one by his tyranny drives men into fear and fright”;[759]
“many despair for very dejection and sadness”;[760] “many pious hearts
wax cowardly, seeing their sins and the wickedness of the world”;[761]
“the people hang their heads as though they were walking corpses and
live in a constant dread”;[762] “all joy is dead and all consolation
from God’s Word has become as weak as water”;[763] the number of
those “possessed of the devil body and soul” is growing beyond all

Though the special advantage claimed for the new Evangel lay in the
sure comfort it afforded troubled consciences, many found themselves
unable to arouse within them the necessary faith in the forgiveness of
their sins. Luther’s own experience, viz. that “faith won’t come,”[765]
was also that of many of the preachers in the case of their own uneasy
and tortured parishioners; their complaints of the fruitlessness
of their labours sound almost like an echo of some of Luther’s own

 “There are many pious souls in our churches,” says Simon Pauli, of
 Rostock, “who are much troubled because they cannot really believe
 what they say they do, viz. that God will be gracious to them and will
 justify and save them.”[766]

 The widespread melancholy existing among the parishioners quite as
 much and sometimes more so than among the pastors, explains the
 quantity of consolatory booklets which appeared on the market during
 the second half of the 16th century, many of which were expressly
 designed to check the progress of this morbid melancholy.[767]
 Selnecker’s work, mentioned above, is a specimen of this sort of
 literature. The Hamburg preacher, J. Magdeburgius, wrote: “Never has
 there been such need of encouragement as at this time.”[768] The
 Superintendent, Andreas Celichius, laments that people “are quite
 unable to find comfort in the sanctuary of the Evangel, but, like the
 heathen who knew not God, are becoming melancholy and desperate,” and
 this too at a time when “God, by means of the evangelical preaching,
 is daily dispensing abundantly all manner of right excellent and
 efficacious consolation, by the shovelful and not merely by the
 spoonful.”[769]--It was, however, a vastly more difficult matter
 to find comfort in the bare “_Sola Fides_” than it had been for the
 ancestors of these Evangelicals to find it in the Church’s way.
 Thanks to their co-operation, it was given to them to experience the
 vivifying and saving strength of the Sacraments and of the Eucharistic
 Sacrifice, to find example and encouragement in the veneration of
 the Saints and in the ritual, to be led to display their faith by
 the performance of good works in the hope of an eternal reward, and
 to enjoy in all the guidance and help of pastors duly called and
 ordained. In spite of all the abuses which existed, their Catholic
 forebears had never been deprived of these helps.

 Many Protestants were driven by such considerations to return to the
 Church. Of this Nicholas Amsdorf complained. Many, he says, “have
 fallen away from Christ to Antichrist in consequence of such despair
 and doubts,” and the uncertainty in matters of faith is nourished
 by the want of any unity in teaching, so that the people “do not
 know whom or what to believe”;[770] this was also one of the reasons
 alleged by Simon Pauli why “many in the Netherlands and in Austria are
 now relapsing into Popery.”[771]

 “We find numerous instances in our day,” Laurence Albertus said in
 1574, “of how, in many places where Catholics and sectarians live
 together, no one was able to help a poor, deluded sectarian in
 spiritual or temporal distress, save the Catholic Christians, and
 especially their priests; such persons who have been helped admit that
 they first found real comfort among the Catholics, and now refuse to
 be disobedient to the Church any longer.” Albertus wrote a “Defence”
 of such converts.[772]

 Johann Schlaginhaufen, Luther’s pupil, with the statements he makes
 concerning his own sad interior experiences, brings us back to his
 master.[773] Schlaginhaufen himself, even more than the rest, fell
 a prey to sadness, fear and thoughts of despair on account of his
 sins. Luther, to whom he freely confided this, told him it was “false
 that God hated sinners, otherwise He would not have sent His Son”;
 God hated only the self-righteous “who didn’t want to be sinners.”
 If Satan had not tried and persecuted me so much, “I should not
 now be so hostile to him.” Schlaginhaufen, however, was unable to
 convince himself so readily that all his trouble came from the devil
 and not from his conscience. He said to Luther: “Doctor, I can’t
 believe that it is only the devil who causes sadness, for the Law
 [the consciousness of having infringed it] makes the conscience sad;
 but the Law is good, for it comes from God, consequently neither is
 the sadness from Satan.” Luther was only able to give an evasive
 answer and fell back on the proximity of the Last Day as a source
 of consolation: “In short, why we are so plagued, vexed and troubled
 is due to the Last Day.... The devil feels his kingdom is coming to
 an end, hence the fuss he makes. Therefore, my dear Turbicida [i.e.
 Schlaginhaufen], be comforted, hold fast to the Word of God, let us
 pray.” Such words, however, did not suffice to calm the troubled man,
 who only became ever more dejected; his inference appeared to him only
 too well founded: “The Law with its obligations and its terrifying
 menaces is just as much God’s as the Gospel.”

 “How doleful you look,” Luther said to him some weeks later. “I
 replied,” so Schlaginhaufen relates: “‘Ah, dear Doctor, I was
 brooding; my thoughts worry me and yet I can do nothing. I am unable
 to distinguish between the Law and the Gospel.’ The Doctor replied:
 ‘Yes, dear Master Hans, if you could do that then you would be indeed
 a Doctor yourself,’ saying which he stood up and doffed his cap....
 ‘Paul and I have never been able to get so far ... the best thing to
 do is to hold fast to the man Who is called Christ.’” In answer to a
 new objection Luther referred the young man to the secret counsels
 of God, for, according to him, there was a hidden God Who had not
 revealed Himself and of Whom men “were unable to know what He secretly
 planned,”[774] and a revealed God Who indeed speaks of a Divine
 Will that all should be saved; how, however, this was to afford any
 consolation it is not easy to see.[775] On other occasions Luther
 simply ordered Schlaginhaufen to rely on his authority; God Himself
 was speaking through him words of command and consolation. “You are
 to believe without doubting what God Himself has spoken to you, for
 I have God’s authority and commission to speak to and to comfort



1. The University Professor, the Preacher, the Pastor

_Relations with the Wittenberg Students._

AMONG the pleasing traits in Luther’s picture a prominent one is the
care he evinced for the students at Wittenberg.

The disagreeable impression caused by the decline of the University
town is to some extent mitigated by the efforts Luther made to check
the corruption amongst the scholars of the University. He saw that
they were supervised, so far as academic freedom permitted, and never
hesitated to blame their excesses from the pulpit. At the same time,
in spite of the growing multiplicity of his labours and cares, he
showed himself a helpful father to them even in temporal matters, for
instance, when he inveighed in a sermon against their exploitation
at the hands of burghers and peasants: They were being sucked dry
and could scarcely be treated worse; this he had heard from all he

The respect he enjoyed and the example of his own simple life lent
emphasis to his moral exhortations. His eloquent lectures were eagerly
listened to; his delivery was vivid and impressive. People knew that he
did not lecture for the sake of money and, even at the height of his
fame, they gladly pointed to the unassuming life he led at home. He did
not expect any marks of respect from the students, greatly as they, and
not only those of the theological Faculty, esteemed him. Melanchthon
had introduced the custom of making the students stand when Luther
entered the class-room; Luther, however, was not at all pleased with
this innovation and said petulently: “_Doxa, doxa est magna noxa_; who
runs after glory never gets it.”[778]

Oldecop, the Catholic chronicler and Luther’s former pupil, who, as
a youth and before the apostasy, had listened to him at Wittenberg,
remembered in his old age how Luther, without setting himself in
opposition to their youthful jollifications had known how to restrain
them; just as he “reproved sin fearlessly from the pulpit,”[779] so
he earnestly sought to banish temptation from the pleasures of the

We may here recall, that, as early as 1520, Luther had urged that all
bordels should be done away with, those “public, heathenish haunts of
sin,” as he termed them, at the same time using their existence as a
weapon against the Catholic past.[780] The fact that many such houses
were closed down at that time was, however, to some extent due to fear
of the prevalent “French disease.”

When, in his old age, in 1543, the arrival of certain light women
threatened new danger to the morals of the Wittenberg students, already
exposed to the ordinary temptations of the town, Luther decided to
interfere and make a public onslaught at the University. This attack
supplies us with a striking example of his forcefulness, whilst
also showing us what curious ideas and expressions he was wont to
intermingle with his well-meant admonitions.

 “The devil,” so he begins, “has, by means of the gainsayers of our
 faith and our chief foes [presumably the Catholics], sent here certain
 prostitutes to seduce and ruin our young men. Hence I, as an old and
 tried preacher, would paternally implore you, my dear children, to
 believe that the Wicked One has sent these prostitutes hither, who are
 itchy, shabby, stinking and infected with the French disease as, alas,
 experience daily proves. Let one good comrade warn the other, for one
 such infected strumpet can ruin 10, 20, 30, or even 100 sons of good
 parents and is therefore to be reckoned a murderess and much worse
 than a poisoner. Let one help the other in this poisonous mess, with
 faithful advice and warning, as each one would himself wish to be done

 He then threatens them with the penalties of the Ruler, which
 dissolute students had to fear, “in order that they may take
 themselves off, and the sooner the better”; “here [at Wittenberg]
 there is a Christian Church and University to which people resort to
 learn the Word of God, virtue and discipline. Whoever wants to drab
 had better go elsewhere.”

 Were he able, he would have such women “bled and broken on the
 wheel.” Young people ought, however, to resist concupiscence and fight
 against “their heat”; it was not to no purpose that the Holy Ghost had
 said: “Go not after thy lusts” (Eccl. xviii. 30). He concludes: “Pray
 God He may send you a pious child [in marriage], there will in any
 case be trouble enough.”[781]

 Some polemics have characterised such exhortations of Luther’s as mere
 “hypocrisy.” Whoever knows his Luther, knows, however, how unfounded
 is this charge. Nor was there any hypocrisy about the other very
 urgent exhortation which Luther caused to be read from the pulpit
 at Wittenberg in 1542, when himself unable to preach, and which is
 addressed to both burghers and students. He there implores “the town
 and the University for God’s sake not to allow it to be said of them,
 that, after having heard God’s Word so abundantly and for so long,
 they had grown worse instead of better.” “Ah, brother Studium,” he
 says, “spare me and let it not come to this that I be obliged like
 Polycarp to exclaim, ‘O my God, why hast Thou let me live to see
 this?’” He points to his “grizzly head” which at least should inspire

_The Preacher and Catechist._

As a preacher Luther was hard-working, nay, indefatigable; in this
department his readiness of speech, his familiarity with Holy Scripture
and above all his popular ways stood him in good stead. At first he
preached in the church attached to the monastery; later on his sermons
were frequently preached in the parish church, and, so long as his
health stood the strain, he sometimes even delivered several sermons
a day.[783] Even when not feeling well he took advantage of every
opportunity to mount the pulpit. In 1528 he took over the parochial
sermons during Bugenhagen’s absence from Wittenberg,[784] in spite of
being already overworked and ill in body.

All were loud in their praise of the power and vigour of his style.
Mathesius in his “Historien” records a remark to this effect of
Melanchthon’s.[785] Luther frequently laid down, after his own fashion,
the rules which should guide those who preach to the little ones and
the poor in spirit: “Cursed and anathema be all preachers who treat
of high, difficult and subtle matters in the churches, put them to
the people and preach on them, seeking their own glory or to please
one or two ambitious members of the congregation. When I preach here
I make myself as small as possible, nor do I look at the Doctors and
Masters, of whom perhaps forty may be present, but at the throng of
young people, children and common folk, from a hundred to a thousand
strong; it is to them that I preach, of them that I think, for it is
they who stand in need.”[786] And elsewhere: “Like a mother who quiets
her babe, dandles it and plays with it, but who must give it milk
from her breast, and on no account wine or Malmsey, so preachers must
do the same; they ought so to preach in all simplicity that even the
simple-minded may hear, grasp and retain their words. But when they
come to me, to Master Philip, to Dr. Pommer, etc., then they may show
off their learning--and get a good drubbing and be put to shame.” But
when they parade their learning in the pulpit this is merely done “to
impose on and earn the praise of the poor, simple lay-folk. Ah, they
say, that is a great scholar and a fine speaker, though, probably, they
neither understood nor learnt anything.”[787]

“Nor should a preacher consider individual members of his congregation
and speak to them words of comfort or reproof; what he must seek to
benefit is the whole congregation. St. Paul teaches this important
doctrine [2 Cor. ii. 17]: ‘We speak with sincerity in Christ as from
God and before God.’ God, Christ and the angels are our hearers, and if
we please them that is enough. Let us not trouble ourselves about the
world and about private persons! We will not speak in order to please
any man nor allow our mouth to be made the ‘Arschloch’ of another. But
when we have certain persons up before us, then we may reprove them
privately and without any rancour.”[788]

As a preacher he was able often enough to tell the various classes
quite frankly what he found to censure in them. At the Court, for
instance, he could, when occasion arose, reprove the nobles for their
drunkenness, and that in language not of the choicest.[789] He was not
the man to wear kid gloves, or, as an old German proverb he himself
quoted said, to let a spider spin its web over his mouth. A saying
attributed to him characterises him very well, save perhaps in its
latter end: Come up bravely, speak out boldly, leave off speedily.[790]
“I have warned you often enough,” so we read in the notes of a
Wittenberg sermon of Sep. 24, 1531,[791] “to flee fornication, and
yet I see that it is again on the increase. It is getting so bad
that I shall be obliged to say: Bistu do zurissen, sso lop dich der
Teuffl.”[792] The preacher then turns to the older hearers, begging
them to use their influence with the younger generation, to prevail on
them to abstain from this vice.

As to his subject-matter, he was fond of urging Biblical texts and
quotations, wherein he displayed great skill and dexterity. In general,
however, his attacks on Popery are always much the same; he dwells with
tiresome monotony on the holiness-by-works and the moral depravity of
the Papists. Though his theory of Justification may have proved to him
a never-failing source of delight, yet his hearers were inclined to
grow weary of it. He himself says once: “When we preach the ‘_articulum
justificationis_’ the people sleep or cough”; and before this: “No one
in the people’s opinion is eloquent if he speaks on justification; then
they simply close their ears.” Had it been a question of retailing
stories, examples and allegories he could have been as proficient as
any man.[793]

Mathesius has incorporated in his work some of Luther’s directions on
preaching which might prove a good guide to any pulpit orator desirous
of being of practical service to his hearers.[794] Some of these
directions and hints have recently appeared in their vigorous original
in the Table-Talk edited by Kroker.

It was his wish that religious addresses in the shape of simple, hearty
instructions on the Epistles and Gospels should be given weekly by
every father to his family.[795] He himself, in his private capacity,
set the example as early as 1532 by holding forth in his own home on
Sundays, when unable to preach in the church, before his assembled
household and other guests. This he did, so he said, from a sense of
duty towards his family, because it was as necessary to check neglect
of the Divine Word in the home as in the Church at large.[796]

He also himself catechised the children at home, in order, as he
declared, to fulfil the duties of a Christian father; on rising in the
morning he was also in the habit of reciting the “Ten Commandments, the
Creed, the Our Father and some Psalm as well” with the children.

He even expressed the opinion that catechetical instruction in church
was of little use to children, but that in the home it was more
successful and was therefore not to be omitted, however much trouble
it might give. When, however, he adds, that the Papists had neglected
such home teaching and had sacrificed the flock of Christ,[797] he is
quite wrong. The fact is, that, before his day, it was left far too
much to the family to give religious instruction to the children, there
being as yet no properly organised Catechism in schools and churches.
It was only the opposition aroused among Catholics by the religious
changes that led to religious teaching becoming more widespread in
the Catholic schools, and to a catechetical system being organised; a
fuller religious education then served to check the falling away.[798]
How highly, in spite of such apparent depreciation, he valued the
ministerial teaching of the Catechism we learn from some words
recorded by Mathesius: “If I had to establish order, I should see that
no preacher was nominated who had not previously taught the ‘_bonæ
artes_’ and the Catechism in the schools for from one to three years.
Schools are also temples of God, hence the olden prophets were at once
pastors and schoolmasters.”[799] “There is no better way,” he writes,
“of keeping people devout and faithful to the Church than by the

At Wittenberg an arrangement existed, at any rate as early as
1528,[801] by which, every quarter, certain days were set apart for
special sermons on the articles of the Catechism.[802] The Larger and
the Smaller Catechism published by Luther (see vol. v., xxxiv., 2) were
intended to form the basis of the verbal teaching everywhere. The three
courses of sermons preached by Luther at Wittenberg in May, Sep. and
Nov., 1528, and since edited by George Buchwald, were arranged to suit
the contents of the Greater Catechism and to some extent served Luther
as a preparation for this publication. Luther, in the first instance,
brought out the Smaller Catechism, as we see from certain letters
given by Buchwald, not in book form, but, agreeably with an earlier
ecclesiastical practice, on separate sheets in the shape of tablets
to hang upon the walls; hence what he said on Dec. 18, 1537, of his
being the author of the Catechism, the “_tabulæ_” and the Confession of

He displayed great talent and dexterity in choosing the language best
suited to his subject. We hear him denouncing with fire and power the
vice of usury which was on the increase.[804] He knows how to portray
the past and future judgments of God in such colours as to arouse the
luke-warm. When treating of the different professions and ways of
ordinary life he is in his own element and exhibits a rare gift of
observation. On the virtues of the home, the education of children,
obedience towards superiors, patience in bearing crosses and any
similar ethical topics which presented themselves to him, his language
is as a rule sympathetic, touching and impressive; in three wedding
sermons which we have of him he speaks in fine and moving words on love
and fidelity in the married state.[805]

In addition to his printed sermons, which were polished and amended for
the press and from which we have already given many quotations on all
sorts of subjects, the hasty, abbreviated notes of his sermons, made by
zealous pupils, give us an insight into a series of addresses full of
originality, outspokenness and striking thoughts. Indeed these notes,
which are becoming better known at the present day, frequently render
the sermons in all their primitive simplicity far better than do the
more carefully arranged printed editions.

 Luther, in 1524, according to one of these sets of notes, spoke
 on Good Works in the following style: “The Word is given in order
 that you may awaken! It is meant to spur you on to do what is good,
 not that you should lull yourself in security. When fire and wood
 [come together there ensues a fire; so you in like manner, must be
 inflamed]. If, however, the effect of the sermon is, that you do not
 act towards your brother as Christ does towards you, that is a bad
 sign, not, indeed, that you must become a castaway, but that you may
 go so far as one day to deny the Word.” “The devil knows that sin
 does not harm you, but his aim is to tear Christ out of your heart,
 to make you self-confident and to rob you of the Word. Hence beware
 of being idle under the influence of Grace. Christ is seen with you
 when you take refuge in Him, whether you be in sin or at the hour of
 death,” etc. “This is preached to you daily, but we produce no effect.
 Christ has bones and flesh, strength and weakness. Let each one see
 to it that above all he possess the faith ... the Gospel is preached
 everywhere, but few indeed understand it. Christ bore with His
 followers. In the same way must we behave towards the weak. And the
 day will come when at last they will understand, like the disciples.
 But that will never be unless persecution comes.”[806]

 _Excerpts from Luther’s Sermons on Our Lady._

 In a sermon of 1524 on the Feast of the Visitation, taken down in
 Latin by the same reporter and recently published, Luther not only
 voices the olden view concerning the virtues and privileges of the
 Blessed Virgin but also, incidentally, supplies us with a sample
 of his candour in speaking of the faults of his hearers: “You are
 surprised that now I preach here so seldom, I, on the other hand,
 am surprised that you do not amend. There may possibly be a few to
 whom the preaching is of some avail; but the more I preach, the
 more ungodliness increases. It is not my fault, for I know that I
 have told you all what God gave me [to speak]. I am not responsible
 and my conscience is at peace. I have forced you to nothing. We
 have introduced two collections. If they are not to your taste, do
 away with them again. We shall not force you to give even a single
 penny.”[807]--He then deals with the Gospel of the Feast which records
 Mary’s visit to Elizabeth, and the canticle of praise with which she
 greeted her cousin. He draws apt lessons from it and praises the
 virtues and the dignity of the Blessed Virgin in a way that does him
 honour: “First of all you see how Mary’s faith finds expression in
 a work of charity. Her faith was not idle but was proved real by
 her acting as a mere maid, seeking out Elizabeth and serving her.
 Her faith was immense, as we also learn from other Gospel-readings.
 That is why Elizabeth said to her: ‘Blessed art thou that hast
 believed.’... This is a true work of faith when impelled thereby we
 abase ourselves and serve others. We, too, hear all this, but the
 works are not forthcoming.... Yet where there is real faith, works are
 never absent.”

 “When Mary was magnified by Elizabeth with words of praise, it was
 as though she did not hear them, for she paid no heed to them. Every
 other woman would have succumbed to the temptation of vainglory, but
 she gives praise to Him to Whom alone praise is due. From this example
 all Christians, but particularly all preachers, ought to learn. You
 know that God preserves some preachers in a state of grace, but others
 He permits to fall.... God must preserve them like Mary so that they
 do not grow proud. When God bestows His gifts upon us it is hard not
 to become presumptuous and self-confident. If, for instance, I am well
 acquainted with Scripture, people will praise me on this account,
 and when I am praised, I, as a carnal man, am exposed to the fire;
 when on the contrary I am despised, etc. [i.e. this is helpful for my
 salvation].... Mary acted as though she did not hear it, and never
 even thanked Elizabeth for her praise.”

 Mary said, so he continues, “My soul doth magnify the Lord, not
 myself; I am a mere creature of God; He might have set another in
 my place; I magnify Him Who has made me a Mother.” In this way
 Mary teaches us the right use of the gifts bestowed by God, for
 she rejoiced only in God. On the other hand, any woman who is even
 passably pretty becomes vain of herself, and any man who has riches,
 boasts of his possessions. Mary is merely proud that God, as she
 says, has regarded her humility. This is the praise which we too
 must pay her. We ought to extol her because she was chosen by the
 Divine Majesty to be the Mother of His Son. That, she says, will be
 proclaimed to the end of the world (“all generations shall call me
 blessed”), not on her own account, but because God has done this.
 Concerning her own good works and her virginity she was silent and
 simply said: “He has done great things in me.” In the same way we
 ought to be nothing in our own eyes and before the world, but to
 rejoice simply because God has looked down on us, confessing that all
 we have comes from Him. In this spirit Mary counted up great gifts;
 though she could have said: All that you have just told me is true.
 “Ah, hers was a fine spirit; and her example will assuredly endure.”
 “The whole world will never attain to it, for the soul that is not
 exalted by God’s gifts and depressed by poverty is indeed hard to
 find.” By her words, so the speaker continues, Mary condemned the
 world, raised herself above it and cast it aside; her language was not
 human, but came to her from God.

 Though such praise of Mary--from which at a later date Luther
 desisted--may be placed to his credit, yet it must be pointed
 out, that even the above discourse is disfigured by bitter and
 unwarrantable attacks on Catholic doctrine and practice. He even
 speaks as though the veneration of Mary did not rest on the principles
 we have just heard him expound, viz. on the dignity bestowed by God
 on Mary as the Mother of God, and on the virtues with which she was
 endowed from on high, such as faith and humility. The Catholic Church,
 so Luther complains quite unjustly and falsely, had made of Mary a
 goddess (“_fecimus eam Deam_”) and had given her honour and praise
 without referring it to God.[808]

 The supreme distinction which the Church acknowledges in Mary--viz.
 her immaculate conception and exemption from original sin from the
 first moment of her soul’s existence--Luther himself accepted at
 first and adhered to for a considerable time, following in this the
 tradition of his Order.[809]

 All honour was to be given to Christ as God; this right and
 praiseworthy view, which Luther was indefatigable in expressing,
 misled him in the matter of the veneration and invocation of Mary and
 the Saints. Of this he would not hear, though such had ever been the
 practice of the Church, and though it is hard to see how God’s glory
 can suffer any derogation through the honour paid to His servants. In
 this Luther went astray; the dogma of the adorable Divinity of Jesus
 Christ was, however, always to remain to him something sacred and

_Statements to Luther’s advantage from various Instructions. His

In his sermons Luther was so firm in upholding the Divinity of Christ,
in opposition to the scepticism he thought he detected in other
circles, that one cannot but be favourably impressed. He was filled
with the liveliest sense of man’s duty of submitting his reason to
this mystery; he even goes too far, in recommending abdication of the
intellect and in his disparagement of human reason; what he is anxious
to do is to make all his religious feeling culminate in a trusting
faith in the words: “God so loved the world that He gave His only
begotten Son for us.”

In his sermons and instructions he demands a similar yielding of
reason to faith with regard to the mystery of Christ’s Presence in the
Sacrament, though in this case he had not shrunk from twisting the
doctrine to suit his own ideas. It would hardly be possible to maintain
more victoriously against all gainsayers the need of standing by the
literal sense, or at least of excluding any figurative interpretation
of, the words of institution “This is My Body,” than Luther did in many
of his pronouncements against the Sacramentarians.[810]

With advancing years, and in view of the dissensions and confusion
prevailing in the Reformed camp, he came to insist more and more on
those positive elements, which, for all his aversion for the ancient
Church, he had never ceased to defend. Of this we have a monument in
one of his last works, viz. the “Kurtz Bekentnis,” to which we shall
return later. Embittered by the scepticism apparent in Zwinglianism and
elsewhere, which, as he thought, threatened to sap all religion, he
there obeys his heart’s instincts and gives the fullest expression to
his faith in general and not merely to his belief in Christ’s presence
in the Sacrament.[811]

Concerning the Sacrament of the Altar he gave the following noteworthy
answer to a question put to him jointly, in 1544, by the three princely
brothers of Anhalt, viz. whether they should do away with the Elevation
of the Sacrament in the liturgy. “By no means,” he replied, “for
such abrogation would tend to diminish respect for the Sacrament and
cause it to be undervalued. When Dr. Pommer abolished the Elevation
[at Wittenberg, in 1542] during my absence, I did not approve of it,
and now I am even thinking of re-introducing it. For the Elevation is
one thing, the carrying about of the Sacrament in procession quite
another [at Wittenberg Luther would not allow such processions of the
Sacrament]. If Christ is truly present in the Bread (‘_in pane_’),
why should He not be treated with the utmost respect and even be
adored?”--Joachim, Prince of Anhalt, added, when relating this: “We
saw how Luther bowed low at the Elevation with great devotion and
reverently worshipped Christ.”[812]

 Certain controversialists have undoubtedly been in the wrong in making
 out Luther to have been sceptical about, or even opposed at heart to,
 many of the ancient dogmas which he never attacked, for instance,
 the Trinity, or the Divinity of Christ. A few vague and incautious
 statements occasionally let slip by him are more than counterbalanced
 by a wealth of others which tell in favour of his faith, and he
 himself would have been the last to admit the unfortunate inferences
 drawn more or less rightly from certain propositions emitted by him.
 It is a lucky thing, that, in actual life, error almost always claims
 the right of not being bound down too tightly in the chains of logic.
 When Luther, for instance, made every man judge of the meaning of the
 Bible, he was setting up a principle which must have dissolved all
 cohesion between Christians, and thus, of necessity, he was compelled
 to limit, somewhat illogically, the application of the principle.

 In a passage frequently cited against him, where he shows himself
 vexed with the ancient term employed by the Church to express the
 Son’s being of the same substance with the Father (“_homoousios_”), it
 was not his intention to rail against the doctrine therein expressed,
 but merely to take exception to the word. He explicitly distinguishes
 between the word and the thing (“_vocabulum et res_”). He says that,
 so long as one holds fast to the doctrine (“_modo rem teneam_”)
 scripturally defined by the Nicene Council, it was no heresy to
 dislike the word or to refuse to employ it.[813] Hence the passage
 affords no ground for saying, that “Luther was rash enough to tamper
 with the doctrine of the Person of Christ.” On the other hand, the
 new doctrine of the omnipresence of the Body of Christ evolved by him
 during the controversy on the Sacrament, can scarcely be considered
 creditable.[814] His views on the “_communicatio idiomatum_”[815]
 in Christ, and particularly on the Redemption,[816] also contain
 contradictions not to be explained away.

 Contrariwise we must dismiss the charge based on his repugnance for
 the word “Threefoldhood,” by which Germans designate the Trinity, as
 if this involved antagonism on his part to the mystery itself. He was
 referring merely to the term when he said: “It is not particularly
 good German and does not sound well, but since it cannot be improved
 upon, we must speak as best we can.”[817] An undeniable confession
 of faith in the Trinity is contained in this very passage, and in
 countless others too.--When abbreviating the Litany he indeed omitted
 the invocation “_Sancta Trinitas unus Deus_,” but this was not from
 any hostility to the doctrine but from a wish not to have “too many
 words.” He left in their old places the separate invocations of the
 Father, Son and Holy Ghost, and deemed this quite sufficient.

By his retention of the belief in the three Divine Persons and in the
Divinity of the Redeemer, Luther was instrumental in preserving among
his future followers a treasure inherited from past ages, in which not
a few have found their consolation. We must not be unmindful of how he
strove to defend it from the assaults of unbelief, in his time still
personified in Judaism. He did not sin by debasing the Second Person
of the Trinity, but rather by foisting on God Incarnate attributes
which are not really His; for instance, by arguing that, owing to the
intimacy of the two Natures, Divine and Human, in Christ, His Human
Nature must be as omnipresent as His Divine; or, again, by teaching
that mere belief in one’s redemption and sanctification suffices to
destroy sin; or, again, when his too lively eschatological fancy led
him to see Christ, the Almighty conqueror of the devil and his world,
already on the point of coming to the Judgment. And just as Christ’s
Godhead was the very fulcrum of all his teaching, so he defended
likewise the other Articles of the Apostles’ Creed with such courage,
force and eloquence, as, since his death, few of his followers have
found themselves capable of. About the Person of the Redeemer he wove
all the usual Christological doctrines, His Virgin Birth, His truly
miraculous Resurrection, His descent into Hell, His Ascension and
Second Advent; finally, also, the resurrection of the dead, the future
Judgment, and the everlasting Heaven and everlasting Hell. From the
well-spring of the ancient creed, under God’s Grace, Lutherans without
number have drawn and still continue to draw motives for doing what is
good, consolation amidst affliction and strength to lead pious lives.

“What holiness, devotion and heroic virtue do we not find among
non-Catholics. God’s Grace is not confined within the four walls of
the Catholic Church, but breathes even in the hearts of outsiders,
working in them, when opportunity affords, the miracle of justification
and adoption, and thus ensuring the eternal salvation of countless
multitudes who are either entirely ignorant of the true Church, as
are the upright heathen, or mistake her true form and nature as do
countless Protestants, brought up amidst the crassest prejudice. To
all such as these the Church does not close the gates of Heaven” (J.

       *       *       *       *       *

It would be superfluous to enumerate amongst Luther’s favourable
traits the respect he always paid to Holy Scripture as the Word of
God, demanding for its infallible revelations a willing faith and the
sacrifice of one’s own whims.

 Greatly as he erred in wilfully applying his new, subjective principle
 of interpretation and in excluding certain of the Sacred Books, still
 the Bible itself he always declared to be an object of the highest
 reverence. Thanks to a retentive memory he made his own the words
 of Scripture, and even adopted its style. His “enthusiasm for the
 inexhaustible riches and Divine character of Holy Scripture,” of
 which the earlier Döllinger speaks,[818] has, and with some reason,
 been held up by Luther’s followers as the model, nay, the palladium
 of Lutheranism as a whole; on the other hand, however, Döllinger’s
 accompanying censure on Luther’s “arbitrary misuse” of the Bible-text
 must also commend itself not only to Catholics but to every serious
 student of the Bible. High praise for Luther’s acquaintance with
 Scripture combined with severe blame for his deviation from tradition
 are forthcoming from a contemporary of the early years of Luther’s
 public career. In a short, unprinted and anonymous work entitled
 “Urteil über Luther,” now in the Munich State Library, we read: “In
 the fine art of the written Word of God, i.e. the Bible, I hold Martin
 Luther to be the most learned of men, whether of those now living on
 earth or of those who have departed long since; he is, moreover, well
 versed in the two languages, both Latin and German. I do not, however,
 regard him as a Christian--for to be learned and eloquent is not to be
 a Christian--but as a heretic and schismatic”; he was, it adds, “the
 scourge of an angry God.”[819]

In the field of scriptural activity his German translation of the whole
Bible has procured for him enduring fame. Since the birth of Humanism
not a few scholars had drawn attention to the languages in which the
Bible was originally written; Luther, however, was the first who
ventured to make a serious attempt to produce a complete translation of
all the Sacred Books on the basis of the original text.

Thanks to his German version, from the linguistic point of view so
excellent, Protestants down to our own day have been familiar with the
Bible. His rendering of the Bible stories and doctrines, at once so
able and so natural, was a gain not only to the language of religion
but even to profane literature, just as his writings generally have
without question largely contributed to the furtherance of the German

 The scholarly Caspar Ulenberg, writing on this subject from the
 Catholic side in the 16th century, expresses himself most favourably.
 “What Luther,” he says, “after consulting the recognised opinion of
 Hebrew and Greek experts, took to be the true meaning of the text
 under discussion, that he clothed in pure and elegant German, on the
 cultivation of which he had all his life bestowed great care. He had
 made such progress in the art of writing, teaching and expounding,
 that, if we take into consideration the beauty and the brilliance of
 his language, so free from artifice, as well as the originality of
 his expression, we must allow that he excelled all in the use of the
 German tongue so that none can compare with him. Thus it was that
 he gained so uncanny an influence over the hearts of his Germans,
 that, by caressing and flattering and using the allurements of the
 Divine Word, he could make them believe whatever he pleased. In this
 translation of the Bible he was, above all, at pains, by means of a
 certain elegance and charm of speech, to entice all to become his
 readers, and thus to win men’s hearts.”[820]

 Luther cannot indeed be called the creator of New-High-German, either
 by reason of his translation of the Bible or of his other German
 writings. Yet, using as he did the already existing treasure of the
 language with such ability, his influence on the German language was
 necessarily very great, especially as, owing to the great spread
 of his writings in those early days of printing, his works were
 practically the first in the literary field, and, indeed, in many
 places excluded all others. “Luther’s importance as regards the
 language,” declares one of the most recent students of this matter,
 “is less apparent in the details of grammar, in which he is sometimes
 rather backward, than in the general effect of his exertions on behalf
 of New-High-German.” It is of small importance, the same writer
 remarks, “if in the mere wealth of common idioms one or other of the
 towns even within the confines of his native Saxon land--Grimma,
 Leipzig, Dresden--were in advance of the language employed by

Luther’s translation of the Bible will be treated of more in detail
elsewhere (vol. v., xxxiv., 3). Here, however, mention may be made of
the fine quality of the German used in his sermons, his theological and
polemical writings, as well as in his popular works of devotion.

The figures and comparisons in which his sparkling fancy delights,
particularly in the devotional booklets intended for the common people,
his popular, sympathetic and often thoughtful adaptation of his
language to the subject and to the personality of the reader, the truly
German stamp of his phraseology, lending to the most difficult as well
as to the most ordinary subjects just the clothing they require--all
this no one can observe and enjoy without paying tribute to his gift of
description and language.

 “His vocabulary was strong and incisive,” Johannes Janssen truly
 remarks, “his style full of life and movement, his similes, in their
 naked plainness, were instinct with vigour and went straight to the
 mark. He drew from the rich mines of the vernacular tongue, and in
 popular eloquence and oratory few equalled him. Where he still spoke
 in the spirit of the Catholic past his language was often truly
 sublime. In his works of instruction and edification he more than once
 reveals a depth of religious grasp which reminds one of the days of
 German mysticism.”[822]

 His first pupils could not sufficiently extol his gift of language.
 Justus Jonas in his panegyric on Luther declares, though his words are
 far-fetched: “Even the Chanceries have learnt from him, at least in
 part, to speak and write correct German; for he revived the use of the
 German language so that now we are again able to speak and write it
 accurately, as many a person of degree must testify and witness.”[823]
 And of the influence of his spoken words on people’s minds Hieronymus
 Weller declares, that it had been said of him, his words “made each
 one fancy he could see into the very hearts of those troubled or
 tempted, and that he could heal wounded and broken spirits.”[824]

_The Spiritual Guide._

Not merely as professor, preacher and writer, but also as spiritual
leader, did Luther exhibit many qualities which add to the attraction
of his picture. Whatever may be the habits of polemical writers, the
historian who wishes to acquit himself properly of his task must not in
so momentous a matter evade the duty of depicting the favourable as
well as the unfavourable sides of Luther’s character.

Though Luther did not regard himself as the pastor of Wittenberg, yet
as much depended on him there as if he had actually been the regular
minister; moreover, as was only to be expected, throughout the Saxon
Electorate as well as in other districts won over to him, he exercised
a certain sway. As can be proved from his letters and other documents,
he freely offered his best services, if only for the good repute of the
Evangel, to abolish scandals, to punish preachers who led bad lives, to
promote attendance at public worship and the reception of communion, to
help on the cause of the schools and the education of the young, and in
every other way to amend the Christian life.

In order to revive discipline at Wittenberg, he tried the effect of
excommunication, though with no very conspicuous success. He took the
brave step of placing the Town Commandant, Hans Metzsch, under a sort
of ban for his notorious disregard of the Church.[825] What he then
told the congregation was calculated to inspire a wholesome dread, and
to recall them to their duties towards God and their neighbour. The
incident was likely to prove all the more effectual seeing that Luther
had on his side both Town Council and congregation, Metzsch having
previously fallen out with them, a fact which undoubtedly emboldened

When Antinomianism, with its perilous teaching against the binding
character of the Divine Law, strove to strike root in the Saxon
Electorate, he set himself with unusual vigour to combat the evil,
and in his writings, sermons and letters set forth principles worthy
of being taken to heart concerning the importance of the Commandments
and the perils of self-will. Similar edifying traits are apparent in
his struggle with other “Rotters.” In the elimination of the sectarian
element from the heart of the new faith and in instancing its dangers,
he shows himself very emphatic, and, at times, the force of his
reasoning is inimitable. Neither was he slow to find practical measures
to ensure its extirpation, especially when it threatened the good name
and stability of his work.[827]

He exercised many of the other labours of his ministry by means of his
writings; with the help of his pen and the press, he, in his quality
of spiritual guide, attacked all the many-sided questions of life,
seeking to impart instruction to his followers wherever they might
chance to be. No one so far had made such use of the newly invented art
of printing for the purpose of exerting religious influence and for
spiritual government.

He despatched a vast number of circular-letters to the congregations,
some with detailed and fervent exhortations; his Postils on the
scriptural Lessons for the Sundays and Feast Days he scattered far
and wide amongst the masses; he was also interested in good books
on profane subjects, and exhorted all to assist in the suppression
of obscene romances and tales;[828] he also set to work to purify
Æsop’s Fables--which, under Humanist influence, had become a source of
corruption--from filthy accretions so that they might be of use in the
education of the young.[829] The collection of German Proverbs which he
commenced was also intended to serve for the instruction of youth.[830]

He justly regretted that amongst the Legends of the Saints current
amongst the people there were many historical untruths and
impossibilities. Many of his remarks on these stories do credit to
his critical sense, particularly as in his time very few had as yet
concerned themselves with the revision of these legends. It was far
from advantageous to ecclesiastical literature, that, in spite of
the well-grounded objections raised by Luther and by some Catholic
scholars, deference to old-standing tradition allowed such fictions to
be retained and even further enhanced. “It is the devil’s own plague,”
Luther groans, “that we have no reliable legends of the Saints.... To
correct them is an onerous task.” “The legend of St. Catherine,” he
says on the same occasion to his friends, “is quite at variance with
Roman history. Whoever concocted such a tale must now assuredly be
sitting in the depths of hell.”[831] He goes, however, too far when he
says that the inaccuracies were intentional, “infamous” lies devised by
Popery, and adds: “We never dared to protest against them.”--As though
such literary and often poetic outgrowths of a more childlike age were
not to be regarded as merely harmless, and as though criticism had been
prohibited by the Church. It is true, nevertheless, that criticism had
not been sufficiently exercised, and if Luther’s undertaking and the
controversies of the 16th century helped to arouse it, or, rather, to
quicken the efforts already made in this direction, first in the field
of Bible-study and Church-history and then, more gradually, in that
of popular legendary and devotional literature, no wise man can see
therein any cause for grief.

“An die Radherrn aller Stedte deutsches Lands, das sie christliche
Schulen auffrichten und halten sollen” is the title of one of Luther’s
writings of 1524, in which he urges the erection of schools with such
vigour that the circular in question must be assigned a high place
among his hortatory works: “With this writing Luther will recapture
the affection of many of his opponents,” wrote a Zwickau schoolmaster
after reading it.[832] “Ob Kriegsleutte auch ynn seligem Stande seyn
künden” (1526) is the heading of another broadsheet of his, dealing
with the secular sword, the divinely established “office of war” and
the rights of the authorities. For this Luther made use of Augustine’s
work “_Contra Faustum manichæum_.”[833] It is said that part of the
proofs, without any author’s name, was put into the hands of Duke
George of Saxony; thereupon he remarked to Lucas Cranach: “See, I have
here a booklet which is better than anything Luther could do.”[834] At
a later date Luther urged the people in eloquent words to take up arms
against the Turk, though he had at first been opposed to resistance;
nevertheless, he ever maintained his unfavourable attitude towards
the Empire, already described in vol. iii., even on this question of
such vital importance to Germany. He was relentless in his criticism
of German unpreparedness for war, of the fatal habit of disregarding
danger and of other possible sources of disaster; he also advanced
religious motives for joining in the war, and exhorted all the faithful
bravely to assist by their prayers.

Whilst these and other writings deal with practical questions
affecting public life in which his position and religious ideas
entitled him to interfere, a large number of works and pamphlets are
devoted to domestic and private needs. In his “Trost fur die Weibern
welchen es ungerat gegangen ist mit Kinder Geberen” (1542) he even has
a kind word for such wives as had had a miscarriage, and consoles those
who were troubled about the fate of their unbaptised infants. From
the theological point of view this subject had, however, been treated
better and more correctly by others before his day. He was also at his
post with words of direction and sympathy when pestilence threatened,
as his writing “Ob man fur dem Sterben fliehen muge” (1527) bears
witness. He frequently composed Prefaces to books written by others, in
order to encourage the authors and to help on what he considered useful
works; thus, for instance, he wrote a commendatory Introduction to
Justus Menius’s “_Œconomia Christiana_” (1529).

_The New Form of Confession._

Luther’s pastoral experience convinced him that Confession was
conducive to the maintenance and furtherance of religious life.
He accordingly determined to re-introduce it in a new shape, i.e.
without invalidating the doctrines he had preached concerning faith
and freedom. Hence, at times we find him speaking almost like an
apologist of the Church concerning this practice of earlier ages and
its wholesome effects. He insists, however, that no confession of all
mortal sins must be required, nor ought Confession to be made a duty,
but merely counselled.

In his work “Von der Beicht, ob der Bapst Macht habe zu gepieten”
(1521) he begins one section with the words: “Two reasons ought to make
us ready and willing to confess,” which he then proceeds to expound
quite in the manner of the olden Catholic works of instruction.[835]
Elsewhere he expresses his joy that Confession had been bestowed on the
Church of Christ, especially for the relief of troubled consciences;
Confession and Absolution must not be allowed to fall into disuse; to
despise so costly a treasure would be criminal.

Of Luther himself it is related again and again, that, after having
confessed, he received “Absolution,” either from Pastor Bugenhagen of
Wittenberg or from someone else.

The words Absolution and Confession must not, however, as already
hinted, be allowed to mislead those accustomed to their Catholic sense.
Sometimes in Catholic works we read quotations from Luther which convey
the wrong impression, that he had either retained the older doctrine
practically entire, or at least wished to do so. So little is this the
case, that, on the contrary, when he mentions Confession it is usually
only to rail at the “slavery” of conscience and the spiritual tyranny
of the past.[836] Absolution, according to him, could be received
“from the lips of the pastor, or of some other brother.”[837] Even
the ordinary preaching of the Gospel to the faithful he considers as
“fundamentally and at bottom an ‘_absolutio_’ wherein forgiveness of
sins is proclaimed.”[838] In Confession there was no “Sacrament” in
the sense that Baptism and the Supper were Sacraments, but merely “an
exercise of the virtue of Baptism,” an act in which the simple Word
became a means of grace. The Word was to arouse and awaken in the
heart of the Christian the assurance of forgiveness. The faith of the
penitent is the sole condition for the appropriation of the Divine
promises.[839] Of the way in which Luther in the Smaller Catechism
nevertheless emphasises the significance of the Absolution given by the
confessor,[840] Julius Köstlin says: “These statements of Luther’s are
in several ways lacking in clearness.”[841]

 I must, in my trouble, Luther says elsewhere of Confession, seek
 for comfort from my brother or neighbour, and “whatever consolation
 he gives me is ratified by God in heaven [’_erunt soluta in cœlo_’
 (Mat. xviii. 18)]”; “He consoles me in God’s stead and God Himself
 speaks to me through him.” “When I receive absolution or seek for
 comfort from my brother,” then “what I hear is the voice of the Holy
 Ghost Himself.” “It is a wonderful thing, that a minister of the
 Church or any brother should be ‘_minister regni Dei et vitæ æternæ,
 remissionis peccatorum...._’”[842]

 But all such private exercise of the power of the keys
 notwithstanding, the public exercise by the ordinary ministers of
 the Church was also to be held in honour; it was to take place “when
 the whole body of the Church was assembled.”[843] In spite of the
 opposition of some he was always in favour of the general absolution
 being given during the service.[844] In this he followed the older
 practice which still exists, according to which, out of devotion and
 not with any idea of imparting a sacrament, the “_Misereatur_” and
 “_Indulgentiam_” were said over the assembled faithful after they
 had said the “_Confiteor_.” He also drew up a special form for this
 general confession and absolution.[845]

 But even such public Confession was not, however, to be made
 obligatory; the very nature of Luther’s system forbade his setting
 up rules and obligations. In the present matter Luther could not
 sufficiently emphasise the Christian’s freedom, although this freedom,
 as man is constituted, could not but render impossible any really
 practical results. Hence Confession, private as well as public, was
 not to be prescribed, so much so that “those who prefer to confess to
 God alone and thereafter receive the Sacrament” are “quite at liberty
 to do so.”[846] For Confession was after all merely a general or
 particular confession of trouble of conscience or sinfulness, made in
 order to obtain an assurance that the sins were all forgiven.

 It was, however, of the utmost importance that the penitents should
 declare whether they knew all that was necessary about Christ and
 His saving Word, and that otherwise they should be instructed. “If
 Christians are able to give an account of their faith,” Luther says
 in 1540 of the practice prevailing at Wittenberg, “and display an
 earnest desire to receive the Sacrament, then we do not compel them to
 make a private Confession or to enumerate their sins.” For instance,
 nobody thinks of compelling Master Philip (Melanchthon). “Our main
 reason for retaining Confession is for the private rehearsal of the

 In 1532, amidst the disturbance caused by Dionysius Melander, the
 Zwinglian faction gained the upper hand at Frankfort on the Maine,
 and the preachers, supported by the so-called fanatics, condemned and
 mocked at the Confession, which, according to the Smaller Catechism,
 was to be made to a confessor, to be duly addressed as “Your
 Reverence.” Luther, in his “Brieff an die zu Franckfort am Meyn” (Dec.
 1532), accordingly set forth his ideas on Confession, in what manner
 it was to be retained and rendered useful.[848] “We do not force
 anyone to go to Confession,” he there writes, “as all our writings
 prove, just as we do not enquire who rejects our Catechism and our
 teaching.” He had no wish to drive proud spirits “into Christ’s
 Kingdom by force.” As against the self-accusation of all mortal sins
 required in Popery he had introduced a “great and sublime freedom” for
 the quieting of “agonised consciences”; the penitent need only confess
 “some few sins which oppress him most,” even this is not required of
 “those who know what sin really is,” “like our Pastor [Bugenhagen] and
 our Vicar, Master Philip.” “But because of the dear young people who
 are daily growing up and of the common folk who understand but little,
 we retain the usage in order that they may be trained in Christian
 discipline and understanding. For the object of such Confession is not
 merely that we may hear the sins, but that we may learn whether they
 are acquainted with the Our Father, the Creed, the Ten Commandments
 and all that is comprised in the Catechism.... Where can this be
 better done, and when is it more necessary than when they are about to
 approach the Sacrament?”[849]

 “Thus, previously [to the Supper], the common people are to be
 examined and made to say whether they know the articles of the
 Catechism and understand what it is to sin against them, and if they
 will for the future learn more and amend, and otherwise are not to
 be admitted to the Sacrament.” “But if a pastor who is unable at all
 times and places to preach God’s Word to the people, takes advantage
 of such time and place as offers when they come to Confession, isn’t
 there just the devil of a row! As if, forsooth, he were acting
 contrary to God’s command, and as if those fanatics were saints, who
 would prevent him from teaching God’s Word at such a time and place,
 when in reality we are bound to teach it in all places and at all
 times when or wheresoever we can.”[850]

 This instruction, which is the “main reason” for retaining Confession,
 is to be followed, according to the same letter, by “the _Absolutio_”
 pronounced by the preacher in God’s stead, i.e. by the word of the
 confessor which may “comfort the heart and confirm it in the faith.”
 Of this same word Luther says: “Who is there who has climbed so high
 as to be able to dispense with or to despise God’s Word?”[851]

It is in the light of such explanations that we must appreciate the
fine things in praise of Confession, so frequently quoted, which Luther
says in his letter to Frankfurt.

Luther goes on to make an admission which certainly does him honour:
“And for this [the consolation and strength it affords] I myself stand
most in need of Confession, and neither will nor can do without it; for
it has given me, and still gives me daily, great comfort when I am sad
and in trouble. But the fanatics, because they trust in themselves and
are unacquainted with sadness, are ready to despise this medicine and

He had already said: “If thousands and thousands of worlds were mine, I
should still prefer to lose everything rather than that one little bit
of this Confession should be lost to the churches. Nay, I would prefer
the Popish tyranny, with its feasts, fasts, vestments, holy places,
tonsures, cowls and whatever I might bear without damage to the faith,
rather than that Christians should be deprived of Confession. For it
is the Christian’s first, most necessary and useful school, where he
learns to understand and to practise God’s Word and his faith, which
cannot be so thoroughly done in public lectures and sermons.”[852]

“Christians are not to be deprived of Confession.” On this, and for the
same reasons, Luther had already insisted in the booklet on Confession
he had published in 1529. The booklet first appeared as an appendix
to an edition of his Greater Catechism published in that year, and is
little more than an amended version of Rörer’s notes of his Palm Sunday
sermon in 1529.[853]

In this booklet on Confession, also entitled “A Short Exhortation to
Confession,”[854] he says of the “secret Confession made to a brother
alone”: “Where there is something special that oppresses or troubles
us, worries us and will give us no rest, or if we find ourselves
halting in our faith,” we should “complain of this to a brother and
seek counsel, consolation and strength.” “Where a heart feels its
sinfulness and is desirous of comfort, it has here a sure refuge
where it may find and hear God’s Word.” “Whoever is a Christian, or
wishes to become one, is hereby given the good advice to go and fetch
the precious treasure.” “Thus we teach now what an excellent, costly
and consoling thing Confession is, and admonish all not to despise
so fine a possession.” As the “parched and hunted hart” panteth
after the fountains, so ought our soul to pant after “God’s Word or
Absolution.”--The zeal expected of the penitent is well described, but
here, as is so often the case with Luther, we again find the mistake
resulting from his false idealism, viz. that, after doing away with
all obligation properly so called, personal fervour and the faith he
preached would continue to supply the needful.

Before Luther’s day Confession had been extolled on higher grounds
than merely on account of the comfort and instruction it afforded. It
had been recognised as a true Sacrament instituted by Christ for the
forgiveness of sins, and committed by Him with the words “Whose sins
you shall forgive,” etc. (John xx. 22 f.), to the exercise of duly
appointed ministers. Yet the earlier religious literature had not
been behindhand in pointing out how great a boon it was for the human
heart to be able to pour its troubles into the ears of a wise and
kindly guide, who could impart a true absolution and pour the balm of
consolation and the light of instruction into the soul kneeling humbly
before him as God’s own representative.

 As regards the instruction, on which Luther lays such stress as the
 “main reason” for retaining the practice, the Catholic Confession
 handbooks of that period, particularly some recently re-edited, show
 how careful the Church was about this matter.

 Franz Falk has recently made public three such handbooks, of which
 very few copies were hitherto known.[855] One of these is the work
 of a priest of Frankfurt a. M., Magister Johann Wolff (Lupi), and
 was first published in 1478; the second is a block-book containing a
 preparation for Confession, probably printed at Nuremberg in 1475;
 the third an Augsburg manual of Confession printed in 1504. The
 last two were intended more for popular use and give the sins in the
 order of the Decalogue. The first, by Wolff, pastor of St. Peter’s
 at Frankfurt, consists of two parts, one for children, the other for
 “older people, learned or unlearned,” containing examinations of
 conscience, very detailed and explicit in some parts, into the sins
 against the Ten Commandments, the seven capital sins, and, finally,
 the sins committed with “the five outward senses.” The examination of
 conscience for children, for the sake of instruction also includes
 the Our Father, Hail Mary, Creed and Decalogue, also the list of
 capital sins, Sacraments and Eight Beatitudes. The copious Latin tags
 from Peter Lombard, Scotus, Gerson, etc., point to the manual having
 been meant primarily as a guide for the clergy, on whom an appendix
 also impresses the advantages of a frequent explanation of the Ten
 Commandments from the pulpit. Schoolmasters too, so the manual says,
 should also be urged to instruct on the Commandments those committed
 to their care. Luther’s manual on Confession contains so many echoes
 of Wolff’s work (or of other Catholic penitential handbooks) that one
 of Wolff’s Protestant editors remarks: “Such agreement is certainly
 more than a mere chance coincidence,” and, further: “It is difficult
 in view of the great resemblance of thought, and in places even of
 language, not to assume that the younger man is indebted to his
 predecessor.”[856] However this may be, Wolff’s work, though holding
 no very high place as regards either arrangement or style, clearly
 expresses the general trend of the Catholic teaching on morality
 at that time, and refutes anew the unfounded charge that religious
 instruction for the people was entirely absent.

 “We see how mature and keen in many particulars was the moral sense
 in that much-abused period.... The author is not satisfied with
 merely an outward, pharisaical righteousness, but the spirit is what
 he everywhere insists on.... He also defines righteousness ... as
 absolute uprightness of spirit, thankful, devoted love of God and pure
 charity towards our neighbour, free from all ulterior motive.” These
 words, of the “Leipziger Zeitung” (“Wissenschaftliche Beilage,” No.
 10, 1896), regarding the Leipzig “Beichtspiegel” of 1495, Falk applies
 equally to Wolff’s handbook for Confession.[857]

 This latter instruction dwells particularly on the need of
 “contrition, sorrow and grief for sin” on the part of the penitent.
 N. Paulus, in several articles, has furnished superabundant proof,
 that in those years, which some would have us believe were addicted
 to the crassest externalism, the need of contrition in Confession was
 earnestly dwelt upon in German religious writings.[858]

Luther, however, even in the early days of his change, under the
influence of a certain distaste and prejudice in favour of his own
pet ideas, had conceived an aversion for Confession. Here again his
opposition was based on purely personal, psychological grounds. The
terrors he had endured in Confession owing to his curious mental
constitution, his enmity to all so-called holiness-by-works--leading
him to undervalue the Church’s ancient institution of Confession--and
the steadily growing influence of his prejudices and polemics, alone
explain how he descended so often to the most odious and untrue
misrepresentations of Confession as practised by the Papists.

What in the depths of his heart he really desired, and what he openly
called for, viz. a Confession which should heal the wounds of the soul
and, by an enlightened faith, promote moral betterment--that, alas, he
himself had destroyed with a violent hand.

In his letter to Frankfurt quoted above he abuses the Catholic system
of Confession because it requires the admission of all mortal sins, and
calls it “a great and everlasting martyrdom,” “trumped up as a good
work whereby God may be placated.” He calumniates the Catholic past by
declaring it did nothing but “count up sins” and that “the insufferable
burden, and the impossibility of obeying the Papal law caused such
fear and distress to timorous souls that they were driven to despair.”
And, in order that the most odious charge may not be wanting, he
concludes: “This brought in money and goods, so that it became an idol
throughout the whole world, but it was no doctrine, examination or
exercise leading to the confession and acknowledgment of Christ.”[859]
The fables which he bolstered up on certain abuses, of which even the
Papal penitentiary was guilty, were only too readily believed by the

_Church Music._

In order to enliven the church services Luther greatly favoured
congregational singing. Of his important and successful labours in this
direction we shall merely say here, that he himself composed canticles
instinct with melody and force, which were either set to music by
others or sung to olden Catholic tunes, and became hugely popular
among Protestants, chiefly because their wording expresses so well the
feelings of the assembled congregation. One of Luther’s Hymnbooks, with
twenty-four hymns composed by himself, appeared in 1524.[861]

Music, particularly religious music, he loved and cherished, yielding
himself entirely to the enjoyment of its inspiring and ennobling
influence. As a schoolboy he had earned his bread by singing; at the
University he delighted his comrades by his playing on the lute; later
he never willingly relinquished music, and took care that the hours of
recreation should be gladdened by the singing of various motets.[862]
Music, he said, dispelled sad thoughts and was a marvellous cure for
melancholy. In his Table-Talk he describes the moral influence of music
in language truly striking.[863] “My heart overflows and expands to
music; it has so often refreshed and delivered me amidst the worst
troubles,” thus to the musician Senfl at Munich when asking him to
compose a motet.[864] He supplied an Introduction in the shape of a
poem entitled “Dame Music” to Johann Walther’s “The Praise and Prize
of the lovely art of Music” (1538). It commences:[865] There can be no
ill-will here--Where all sing with voices clear--Hate or envy, wrath or
rage,--When sweet strains our minds engage. Being himself conversant
with musical composition, he took pleasure in Walther’s description
of counterpoint and in his ingenious comparison of the sequence of
melodies to a troop of boys at play.

Grauert admirably groups together “Luther’s poetic talent, the gift of
language, which enabled him so to master German, his work for German
hymnology, his enthusiastic love of music, of which he well knew the
importance as a moral factor, and his familiarity with the higher
forms of polyphonic composition.” He also remarks quite rightly that
these favourable traits had been admitted unreservedly by Johannes

2. Emotional Character and Intellectual Gifts

The traits mentioned above could hardly be duly appreciated unless we
also took into account certain natural qualities in Luther from which
his depth of feeling sprang.

A Catholic has recently called him an “emotional man,” and, so far
as thereby his great gifts of intellect and will are not called into
question, the description may be allowed to stand.[867] Especially
is this apparent in his peculiar humour, which cannot fail to charm
by its freshness and spontaneity all who know his writings and his
Table-Talk, even though his witticisms quite clearly often served to
screen his bitter vexation, or to help him to react against depression,
and were frequently disfigured by obscenity and malice.[868] It is a
more grateful task to observe the deep feeling expressed in his popular
treatment of religious topics. Johannes Janssen declares that he finds
in him “more than once a depth of religious grasp which reminds one
of the days of German mysticism,”[869] while George Evers, in a work
otherwise hostile to Luther, admits: “We must acknowledge that a truly
Christian credulity peeps out everywhere, and, particularly in the
Table-Talk, is so simple and childlike as to appeal to every heart.”
Evers even adds: “His religious life as pictured there gives the
impression of a man of prayer.”[870]

The circumstantial and reliable account given by Johann Cochlæus of
an interview which he had with Luther at Worms in 1521 gives us a
certain glimpse into the latter’s feelings at that critical juncture.
After holding a lengthy disputation together, the pair withdrew into
another room where Cochlæus implored his opponent to admit his errors
and to make an end of the scandal he was giving to souls. Both were so
much moved that the tears came to their eyes. “I call God to witness,”
writes Cochlæus, “that I spoke to him faithfully and with absolute
conviction.” He pointed out to him as a friend how willing the Pope and
all his opponents were to forgive him; he was perfectly ready to admit
and condemn the abuses in connection with the indulgences against which
Luther had protested; his religious apostasy and the revolt of the
peasants whom he was leading astray were, however, a different matter.
The matter was frankly discussed between the two, partly in German,
partly in Latin. Luther finally mastered the storm obviously raging
within and brought the conversation to an end by stating that it did
not rest with him to undo what had been done, and that greater and more
learned men than he were behind it. On bidding him farewell, Cochlæus
assured him with honest regret that he would continue the literary
feud; Luther, for his part, promised to answer him vigorously.[871]

Luther’s mental endowments were great and unique.

Nature had bestowed on him such mental gifts as must astonish all, the
more they study his personality. His extraordinary success was due in
great part to these rare qualities, which were certainly calculated
to make of him a man truly illustrious had he not abused them. His
lively reason, quick grasp and ready tongue, his mind, so well stocked
with ideas, and, particularly, the inexhaustible fertility of his
imagination, allowing him to express himself with such ease and
originality, enchanted all who came into contact with him.

 Pollich of Mellerstadt, one of the most highly respected Professors
 of the Wittenberg University, said of Luther, when as yet the latter
 was scarcely known: “Keep an eye on that young monk, Master Martin
 Luther, he has a reason so fine and keen as I have not come across
 in all my life; he will certainly become a man of eminence.”[872]
 Jonas, his friend, assures us that others too, amongst them Lang and
 Staupitz, admitted they had never known a man of such extraordinary
 talent.[873] Urban Rhegius, who visited him in 1534, in the report he
 gives shows himself quite overpowered by Luther’s mind and talent: “He
 is a theologian such as we rarely meet. I have always thought much
 of Luther, but now I think of him more highly than ever. For now I
 have seen and heard what cannot be explained in writing to anyone not
 present.... I will tell you how I feel. It is true we all of us write
 occasionally and expound the Scriptures, but, compared with Luther, we
 are children and mere schoolboys.”[874]

 His friends generally stood in a certain awe of his greatness,
 though, in their case, we can account otherwise for their admiration.
 Later writers too, even amongst the Catholics, felt in the imposing
 language of his writings the working of a powerful mind, much as
 they regretted his abuse of his gifts. “His mind was both sharp and
 active,” such was the opinion of Sforza Pallavicini, the Jesuit
 author of a famous history of the Council of Trent; “he was made for
 learned studies and pursued them without fatigue to either mind or
 body. His learning seemed his greatest possession, and this he was
 wont to display in his discourse. In him felicity of expression was
 united with a stormy energy. Thereby he won the applause of those
 who trust more to appearance than to reality. His talents filled
 him with a self-reliance which the respect shown him by the masses
 only intensified.”[875] “Luther’s mind was a fertile one,” he writes
 elsewhere, “but its fruits were more often sour than ripe, more often
 abortions of a giant than viable offspring.”[876] His alert and
 too-prolific fancy even endangered his other gifts by putting in the
 shade his real intellectual endowments. “His imagination,” Albert
 Weiss truly says, “was, next to his will, the most strongly developed
 of his inner faculties, and as powerful as it was clear. Herein
 chiefly lies the secret of his power of language.”[877]

To his temperamental and intellectual qualities, which undoubtedly
stamped his works with the impress of a “giant,” we must add his
obstinate strength of will and his extraordinary tenacity of purpose.

Were it possible to separate his will from his aims and means, and
to appreciate it apart, then one could scarcely rate it high enough.
Thousands, even of the bravest, would have quailed before the
difficulties he had to face both without and within his camp. The
secret of his success lay simply in his ability to rise superior to
every difficulty, thanks to his defiance and power of will. Humanly
it is hard to understand how all attacks and defeats only served to
embolden him. Protestants have spoken of the “demoniacal greatness”
manifest in Luther, have called him a man of “huge proportions and
power” in whose “breast two worlds wrestled,” and, on account of his
“heroic character,” have even claimed that history should overlook “the
vices proper to heroes.”[878]

Among Catholic writers the earlier Döllinger, for all his aversion for
Luther’s purpose and the weapons he employed, nevertheless says of
him: “If such a one is justly to be styled a great man, who, thanks
to his mighty gifts and powers, accomplishes great things and brings
millions of minds under his sway--then the son of the peasant of Möhra
must be reckoned among the great, yea, among the greatest of men.”[879]
Upon the disputed definition of “greatness” we cannot enter here. (See
vol. vi., xl., 1.) Yet, in view of the intellectual gifts lavished on
Luther, Döllinger’s words are undoubtedly not far away from the mark,
particularly when we consider his gigantic capacity for work and the
amazing extent of his literary labours, distracted though he was by
other cares.

We have already had occasion to give the long list of the works he
penned in 1529 and 1530,[880] and we may add some further examples. In
1521, in which year he lost over five weeks in travelling, not to speak
of the correspondence and other business which claimed his attention
in that exciting period of his life, he still found time to write more
than twenty works of varying length which in the Weimar edition cover
985 large octavo pages; he also translated a book by Melanchthon into
German, commenced his translation of the Bible and his church Postils.
In 1523 he produced no less than twenty-four books and pamphlets, and,
besides this, his lectures on Deuteronomy (247 pages in the Weimar
edition) and a German translation of the whole Pentateuch. He also
preached about 150 sermons, planned other works and wrote the usual
flood of letters, of which only a few, viz. 112, have been preserved,
amongst them being some practically treatises in themselves and which
duly appeared in print. Even in 1545, when already quite broken down
in health and when two months were spent in travelling, he managed
with a last effort, inspired by his deadly hate, to compose even so
considerable a book as his “Wider das Bapstum zu Rom vom Teuffel
gestifft,” as well as other smaller writings and the usual number of
private letters, circulars, and memoranda.[881] At the very end he told
his friend, the preacher Jacob Probst, that he meant to work without
intermission though old and weary, with a failing eyesight and a body
racked with pain.

These labours, of which the simple enumeration of his books gives
us an inkling, even the most fertile mind could have performed only
by utilising every moment of his time and by renouncing all the
allurements to distraction and repose. The early hours of the morning
found Luther regularly in his study, and, in the evening, after his
conversation with his friends, he was wont to betake himself early
to bed so as to be able to enjoy that good sleep, without which, he
declared, he could not meet the demands made upon him.

That, however, behind all his fiery zeal for work, certain moral
influences not of the highest also had a share is obvious from what has
been said previously.

3. Intercourse with Friends. The Interior of the former Augustinian

Hitherto we have been considering the favourable traits in Luther’s
character as a public man; turning to his quieter life at Wittenberg,
we shall find no lack of similar evidences.[882] We must begin by
asking impartially whether the notorious Table-Talk does not reveal a
better side of his character.

The question must be answered in the affirmative by every unprejudiced
reader of those notes. Luther’s gifts of mind and temperament, his
versatility, liveliness of imagination, easy use of Scripture and
insight even into worldly matters; further his rare talent of simple
narration, and not seldom the very subjects he chooses give a real
worth to Luther’s Table-Talk, notwithstanding all that may be urged
against it. It is accordingly the historian’s duty faithfully to
portray its better side.

_The more favourable side of the Table-Talk._

Any comprehensive judgment on the Table-Talk as a whole is out of the
question; with its changing forms and colours and its treatment of the
subjects it is altogether too kaleidoscopic. Again, in conjunction
with what is good and attractive, frivolous, nay, even offensive and
objectionable subjects are dealt with, for which the reader is in no
wise prepared.[883]

It is necessary to emphasise the fact--which may be new to some--that
to regard the Table-Talk as a hotch-potch of foul sayings is to do it
an injustice. Catholics, as a matter of course, are used to finding
in anti-Lutheran polemics plentiful quotations from it not at all to
Luther’s credit; of its better contents, a knowledge of which is of
even greater importance in forming an opinion of his character, no hint
is contained in this sort of literature. Some are even ignorant that
Protestant writers have more than compensated for this undue stress on
the unfavourable side of the Table-Talk by the attractive selection
they give from its finer parts.

In point of fact the subject of Luther’s conversations is, not
infrequently, the attributes of God; for instance, His mercy and love;
the duties of the faithful towards God and their moral obligations
in whatever state of life they be placed; hints to the clergy on the
best way to preach or to instruct the young; not to speak of other
observations regarding neighbourly charity, the vices of the age and
the virtues or faults of great personages of that day, or of the past.
Luther was fond of discoursing on subjects which, in his opinion, would
prove profitable to those present, though often his object was merely
to enliven and amuse the company.

The tone and the choice of his more serious discourses frequently show
us that he was not unmindful of the fact, that his words would be
heard by others beyond the narrow circle of his private guests; he was
aware that what he said was noted down, and not unfrequently requested
the reporters to commit this or that to writing, knowing very well
that such notes would circulate.[884] At times, however, he seemed to
become forgetful of this, and allowed observations to escape him which
caused many of his oldest admirers to regret the publication of the
Table-Talk. A large number of statements made by him on the spur of the
moment must, moreover, not be taken too seriously, for they are either
in contradiction with other utterances or are practically explained
away elsewhere.

 Thus, for instance, in a conversation in the winter of 1542-1543,
 occur the following words which really do him honour: “God has
 preserved the Church by means of the schools; they it is that keep
 the Church standing. Schools are not very imposing as to their
 exterior, yet they are of the greatest use. It was to the schools
 that the little boys owed their knowledge of the Paternoster and the
 Creed, and the Church has been wonderfully preserved by means of the
 small schools.”[885]--Yet, at an earlier date, he had said just the
 contrary, viz. that before his day the young had been allowed to drift
 to wreck and ruin, owing to entire lack of instruction.

 On certain religious subjects he could speak with deep feeling.[886]
 Compare, for instance, what he says of Christ’s intercourse with His

 “In what a friendly way,” Luther remarks, “did He behave towards His
 disciples! How charming were all His dealings with them! I quite
 believe what is related of Peter, viz. that, after Christ’s Ascension,
 he was always weeping and wiping his eyes with a handkerchief till
 they grew quite red; when asked the cause of his grief, he replied,
 he could not help shedding tears when he remembered the friendly
 intercourse they had had with Christ the Lord. Christ indeed treats
 us just as He did His disciples, if only we would but believe it; but
 our eyes are not open to the fact. It was a real wonder how they [the
 Apostles] were so altered in mind at Pentecost. Ah, the disciples must
 have been fine fellows to have been witnesses of such things and to
 have had such fellowship with Christ the Lord!”[887]

 Immediately after this, however, we hear him inveighing against the
 Pope with statements incredibly false,[888] whilst, just before, in
 another conversation, he had introduced his favourite error concerning
 Justification by Faith.[889]

 It may suffice to keep to the dozen pages or so[890] from which the
 above kindlier samples were extracted, to become acquainted with the
 wealth of good interspersed amongst so much that is worthless, and
 at the same time to appreciate how lively his mind and his powers of
 observation still remained even when increasing years and persistent
 bad health were becoming a burden to him.

 As to the way in which his then sayings were handed down, we may
 state, that, in the winter of 1542-1543, Caspar Heydenreich, who had
 already officiated as pastor of Joachimstal, was present at Luther’s
 table and wrote down these and other remarks as they dropped from
 the speaker’s lips; they were afterwards incorporated in Mathesius’
 collection. In the original they are partly in Latin, partly in
 German, and betray not the slightest attempt at polish. The reason
 that we thus find Latin passages in reports of German conversations is
 that the reporter, in order to take down more rapidly what he heard,
 at times made use of shorthand, then only employed for Latin. Others
 who reported the Table-Talk had recourse to the same device. The
 consequence is, that, in the recent German editions of the Table-Talk,
 we find in one and the same conversation some sentences in the Old
 German Luther actually used, and others in present-day German, the
 latter being merely translations from the Latin.

 After discoursing at length on the fact that schools ought to be
 carefully cherished for the sake of the coming generation of Church
 teachers, he says: “The work of the schools is not brilliant in the
 eyes of the world, but it is of the greatest utility.” (No. 609; then
 follows the praise of the old schools already recorded.)--“Wealth is
 the most insignificant thing in the world, the meanest gift in God’s
 power to bestow on man. What is it compared with the Word of God?
 Indeed, what is it compared with bodily endowments, or with beauty,
 or with the gifts of the soul? and yet people fret so much for it.
 Material, formal, efficient and final causes here fare badly. For this
 reason the Almighty usually gives riches to rude donkeys upon whom He
 bestows nothing else” (611).

 Luther relates incidentally that his father Hans, who died at Mansfeld
 in 1530, when asked on his death-bed whether he believed in the
 Apostles’ Creed, replied: “He would indeed be a scoundrel who refused
 to believe that.” “That,” aptly remarked Luther, “is a voice from the
 old world”; whereupon Melanchthon chimed in: “Happy those who die in
 the knowledge of Christ as did your [daughter] Magdalene [† Sep. 20,
 1542]; the older we grow the more foolish we become.... When we grow
 up we begin to dispute and want to be wise, and yet we are the biggest
 fools” (615).

 According to Luther, God’s most grievous wrath then rested on the
 Jews. They are blinded, pray fanatically and yet are not heard. “Oh,
 dear God, rather than remain silent do Thou punish us with pestilence,
 the French disease and whatever other dreadful maladies the soldiers
 curse. God says: I have stretched out My hands; come, give ear, draw
 nigh to Me! [The Jews reply]: We won’t. [God says]: You have Isaias;
 hear him. [They scream]: Yah, we will kill him! [God says]: Here is
 My Son! [They reply]: Out on Him! Hence Our Lord God now treats them
 as we see. That is how abandoned children fare, who refuse to obey
 their parents and are therefore deserted by them. No one has ever
 written concerning this wrath of God, nor is anyone able to do so; no
 eloquence can plumb the depths of this wrath. O Heavenly Father--[this
 he said with clasped hands]--allow us to enjoy the sunshine and
 permit us not to fall away from the Word! Just fancy, for fifteen
 hundred years the Jews have groaned under His Wrath! And what will
 be the end of it all? Alas, there will be a dreadful scene in hell!”

 Against the Jews he was very bitter. It was related at table,
 that, in spite of the two books Luther had recently published, the
 Hebrews stood in favour with the Counts of Mansfeld, and, from
 their synagogue, had even dared to hurl at an Eisleben preacher the
 opprobrious epithet of Goim. Luther replied that if he were pastor and
 Court Chaplain there like Cœlius, or even a simple preacher, he would
 at once resign his post. When it was remarked that the Jews knew how
 to curry favour with the great, his comment was: “The devil can do
 much.” On being asked whether it would be right to box the ears of a
 Jew who uttered a blasphemy, he replied, “Certainly; I for one would
 smack him on the jaw. Were I able, I would knock him down and stab
 him in my anger. If it is lawful, according to both the human and the
 Divine law, to kill a robber, then it is surely even more permissible
 to slay a blasphemer.” To the observation of one of his guests that
 the Jews boasted, that, of the two, the Christians were the worse
 usurers, Luther said: “That is quite true. At Leipzigk there are
 greater usurers than the Jews. But a distinction must be drawn.” Among
 the Jews usury is made the rule, whereas amongst the Christians it is
 repressed. “We preach against it and are heartily opposed to it; with
 them this is not the case” (628).

 In a similar strain, in the dozen pages under consideration, he
 touches on many other instructive subjects, whether connected with
 questions of the day, or with religion, or the Bible. He portrays with
 a clear hand the dominant idea of the Book of Job, in comparison with
 which all the dramatic force of the Greek plays was as nothing (616);
 he expounds the narratives of Christ’s Prayer in the Garden of Olives,
 where He suffered indescribable pains for our sins (626); in answer to
 a query he speaks of the anointing of Our Lord’s feet by Magdalene,
 and observes, referring to the censure drawn from Judas by his
 avarice: “That is the way of the world and the devil; what should be
 blamed is praised, and what should be praised is blamed” (627). What
 he says of the vast number of the slain, alluded to so frequently in
 the Old Testament, was probably also called forth by some questioner
 (612). Amidst this recur new invectives against the Jews and their
 magic; never ought we to eat or drink with them (619); also against
 the Turks and their bigotry and unbelief; the latter resembled the
 fanatics in that, like them, they refused to doubt their revelations;
 this he proved by certain instances (620). He speaks of the strong
 faith of simple Christians with feeling and not without envy (614). He
 extols the power of prayer for others, and proves it not merely from
 Biblical texts and examples, but also from his own experience; “we,
 too, prayed Philip back to life. Verily prayer can do much.... God
 does not reward it with a certain, fixed measure, but with a measure
 pressed and running over, as He says.... A powerful thing is prayer,
 if only I could believe it, for God has bound and pledged Himself by
 it” (617).

 Dealing with astrology, he demonstrates its folly by a lengthy and
 very striking argument; when it was objected that the reformation he
 was carrying out had also been predicted by the stars at the time of
 his birth, he replied: “Oh no, that is another matter! That is purely
 the work of God. You will never persuade me otherwise!” (625).

 As to practical questions, he speaks of the doings of the Electoral
 marriage courts in certain cases (621); of severity in the up-bringing
 of children (624); of the choice of godparents for Baptism (620); of
 the authority of guardians in the marriage of their wards (613); and
 of what was required of those who dispensed the Supper (618).

 On one occasion, when the conversion of the Jews at the end of the
 world was being discussed, the “Doctoress” (Catherine) intervened in
 the conversation with a Biblical quotation, but her contribution (John
 x. 16) was rejected in a friendly way by Luther as mistaken.

In these pages of the Table-Talk unseemly speeches or expressions
such as call for censure elsewhere do not occur, though the Pope and
the Papacy are repeatedly made the butt of misrepresentation and
abuse (610, 616, 619); as was only to be expected, we find here again
Luther’s favourite assertion that the Roman doctrine of works is a
gross error very harmful to souls (623); in support of his opinion
Luther gives a long string of Bible texts.

Apart from the abuse just referred to and some other details these
few leaves, taken at haphazard from the Table-Talk, are certainly not
discreditable to Luther. Beside these might moreover be placed, as we
have already admitted elsewhere, many other pages the contents of which
are equally unexceptionable.

It is naturally not the task or duty of Catholic controversialists to
fill their works with statements from the Table-Talk such as the above;
they would nevertheless do well always to bear in mind that many such
favourable utterances occur in Luther’s works with which moreover the
Protestants are as a rule perfectly familiar. The latter, indeed, who
often are acquainted only with these better excerpts from Luther’s
books, sermons, letters or Table-Talk, are not unnaturally disposed
to view with suspicion those writers who bestow undue prominence on
unfavourable portions of his works, torn from their context.

Unless Catholic polemics contrive to look at things from their
opponents’ point of view, their success must always be limited; short
of this they run the risk of being accused of being ignorant of
what tells in Luther’s favour, or of not giving it due weight. All
controversy should in reality be conducted in a friendly spirit, and,
in the discussion of Luther, such a spirit joined with a broad-minded
appreciation of what is good in the opposite party cannot fail to
be productive of happy results. How far Protestants have acted in
this spirit is, alas, plain to all who have had dealings with them.
There can be no question but that certain excesses perpetrated on the
opposite side go far to explain, if not to excuse, the methods adopted
by some of the champions of Catholicism.

_Kindlier Traits Evinced by Luther._

The great veneration felt for Luther by most of his pupils,
particularly by those who were intimate with him, enables us to see the
impression his talents made on others. It is, of course, probable that
their mental submission to him was in part due to the feeling, that
it was an exceptional honour to be accounted friends of a man famous
throughout the world and so distinguished by his extraordinary success;
yet it is equally certain that it was his own peculiar charm which
caused not merely young students, such as those who noted down the
Table-Talk, but even mature and experienced men, to look up to him with
respect and affection and voluntarily to subject themselves to his mind
and his will. The fact is, in Luther a powerful and domineering talent
existed side by side with great familiarity in consorting with others
and a natural gift of making himself loved. The unshakable confidence
in God on which he and his followers seemed to lean in every reverse
they met, perhaps impressed people more than anything else.

 “His earnestness,” wrote a devoted young follower of his, “is so
 tempered with gladness and friendliness that one longs to live with
 him; it seems as though God wished to demonstrate how blissful and
 joyous his Evangel is, not merely by his teaching, but even by
 his conduct.” Thus the Swiss student, Johann Kessler, who became
 acquainted with Luther after his return from the Wartburg.[891]
 Another voice from the same period enthusiastically extols his
 friendly ways and his winning speech in his dealings with his pupils,
 also the power of his words “which cast such a spell over the hearts
 of his hearers that anyone, who is not made of stone, having once
 heard him, yearns to hear him again.” Thus his disciple Albert

 Mathesius, one of his busier pupils, declares: “The man was full
 of grace and the Holy Ghost. Hence all who sought counsel from
 him as a prophet of God, found what they desired.”[893] Often, he
 remarks, difficult questions from Scripture were submitted to him (in
 conversation at table) which he answered both plainly and concisely.
 And if anyone contradicted him he took no offence but skilfully put
 his gainsayer in the wrong. The Doctor knew so well how to bring in
 his stories and sayings and apply them at the proper juncture that it
 was a real pleasure and comfort to listen to him.[894] “Amongst his
 other great virtues he was very easily contented, and also extremely

 Spangenberg, Aurifaber, Cordatus and other pupils were, so to speak,
 quite under his spell. Hieronymus Weller, whom Luther frequently
 sought to encourage in his fits of depression, remarked indeed on one
 occasion that the difference in age, and his reverence for Luther,
 prevented him from speaking and chatting as confidentially as he would
 have liked with the great man.[896] On the other hand, the Humanist,
 Peter Mosellanus, who was at one time much attached to him and never
 altogether abandoned his cause, says: “In daily life and in his
 intercourse with others he is polite and friendly; there is nothing
 stoical or proud about him; he is affable to everyone. In company he
 converses cheerfully and pleasantly, is lively and gay, always looks
 merry, cheerful and amiable however hard pressed by his opponents,
 so that one may well believe he does not act in such weighty matters
 without God’s assistance.”[897]

 Melanchthon, particularly in his early days, as our readers already
 know, expressed great reverence and devotion for Luther. “You know,”
 he wrote to Spalatin during his friend’s stay at the Wartburg, “how
 carefully we must guard this earthen vessel which contains so great a
 treasure.... The earth holds nothing more divine than him.”[898] After
 Luther’s death, in spite of the previous misunderstandings, he said of
 him in a panegyric addressed to the students: “Alas, the chariot of
 Israel and the horseman thereof, who ruled the Church in these latter
 years of her existence, has departed.”[899]

Luther was often to prove that the strong impression made by his
personality was alone able to gain the day in cases of difficulty,
to break down opposition and to ensure the successful carrying out of
hardy plans. Seldom indeed did those about him offer any objection,
for he possessed that gift, so frequently observed in men of strong
character, of exercising, in every matter great or small, a kind of
suggestive influence over those who approached him. He possessed an
inner, unseen power which seemed to triumph over all, ... even over the
claims of truthfulness and logic;[900] besides this, he was gifted with
an imposing presence and an uncanny glance. He was by no means curt
in his answers, but spoke freely to everyone in a manner calculated
to awaken the confidence and unlock the hearts of his hearers. Of
his talkativeness he himself once said: “I don’t believe the Emperor
[Charles V.] says so much in a year as I do in a day.”[901]

       *       *       *       *       *

His “disinterestedness which led him to care but little about money and
worldly goods”[902] increased the respect felt for him and his work.
So little did he care about heaping up riches, that, when scolding the
Wittenbergers on account of their avarice, he could say that “though
poor, he found more pleasure in what was given him for his needs than
the rich and opulent amongst them did in their own possessions.”[903]
So entirely was he absorbed in his public controversy that he paid too
little attention to his own requirements, particularly in his bachelor
days; he even relates how, before he took a wife, he had for a whole
year not made his bed, or had it made for him, so that his sweat caused
it to rot. “I was so weary, overworked all the day, that I threw
myself on the bed and knew nothing about it.”[904] He was never used
to excessive comfort or to indulgence in the finer pleasures of the
table. In every respect, in conversation and intercourse with others
and in domestic life, he was a lover of simplicity. In this he was ever
anxious to set a good example to his fellow-workers.

Although he frequently accepted with gratitude presents from the
great, yet on occasion he was not above cautioning givers of the
danger such gifts involved, when the “eyes of the whole world are
upon us.”[905] In 1542, when there was a prospect of his receiving
from his friend Amsdorf, the new “bishop” of Naumburg, presents out
of the estates of the bishopric, he twice wrote to him to refrain
from sending him anything, even a single hare, because “our courtly
centaurs [the selfish and rapacious nobles] must be given no pretext
for venting their glowing hate against us on the trumped-up charge that
we were desirous of securing gain through you.” “They have gulped down
everything without compunction, but still would blame us were we to
accept a paltry gift of game. Let them feed in God’s or another’s [the
devil’s] name, so long as we are not accused of greed.”[906] Döllinger
speaks of Luther as “a sympathetic friend, devoid of avarice and greed
of money, and a willing helper of others.”[907]

He was always ready to assist the poor with open-handed and kindly
liberality, and his friends especially, when in trouble or distress,
could reckon on his charity.

When his own means were insufficient he sought by word of mouth or by
letter to enlist the sympathy of others, of friends in the town, or
even of the Elector himself, in the cause of the indigent. On more
than one occasion his good nature was unfairly taken advantage of.
This, however, did not prevent his pleading for the poor who flocked
to Wittenberg from all quarters and were wont to address themselves to
him. Thus, for instance, in 1539 we have a note in which he appealed to
certain “dear gentlemen” to save a “pious and scholarly youth” from the
“pangs of hunger” by furnishing him with 30 Gulden; he himself was no
longer able to afford the gifts he had daily to bestow, though he would
be willing, in case of necessity, to contribute half the sum.[908]

Many of the feeble and oppressed experienced his help in the law. He
reminds the lawyers how hard it is for the poor to comply with the
legal formalities necessary for their protection. On one occasion, when
it was a question of the defence of a poor woman, he says: “You know
Dr. Martin is not only a theologian and the champion of the faith, but
also an advocate of the poor, who troop to him from every place and
corner and demand his aid and his intercession with the authorities, so
that he would have enough to do even if no other burden rested on his
shoulders. But Dr. Martin loves to serve the poor.”[909]

In 1527, when the plague reached Wittenberg, he stayed on in the
town with Bugenhagen in order at least to comfort the people by his
presence. The University was transferred for the time being to Jena
(and then to Schlieben) and the Elector accordingly urged him to
migrate to Jena with his wife and family. Luther however insisted
on remaining, above all on account of the urgent need of setting an
example to his preachers, who were too much preoccupied with the safety
of their own families. It was then that he wrote the tract “Ob man fur
dem Sterben fliehen muge” (Whether one may flee from death), answering
the question in the negative so far as the ministers were concerned. In
such dire trouble the flock were more than ever in need of spiritual
help; the preachers were to exhort the people to learn diligently
from the Word of God how to live and how to die, also, by Confession,
reception of the Supper, reconciliation with their neighbours, etc., to
“prepare themselves in advance should the Lord knock speedily.”[910]
He displayed the same courage during the epidemic of the so-called
“English sweat,” a fever which, in 1529, broke out at Wittenberg, and
in other German towns, and carried off many victims. Again in 1538 and
in 1539 he braved new outbreaks of the plague at Wittenberg. His wish
was, that, in such cases, one or two preachers should be specially
appointed to look after those stricken with the malady. “Should the lot
fall on me,” he says in 1542, “I should not be afraid. I have now been
through three pestilences and mixed with some who suffered from it ...
and am none the worse.”[911] “God usually protects the ministers of
His Word,” he writes in 1538, “if one does not run in and out of the
inns and lie in the beds; confessions there is no need to hear, for we
bring the Word of Life.”[912] The fact that he could boast of having
braved the plague and remained at his post naturally tended to increase
his influence with his congregation.[913]

He had passed through a severe mental struggle previous to the epidemic
of 1529. Only by dint of despairing efforts was he able to overcome
his terrors of conscience concerning his doctrine and his own personal
salvation. This inner combat so hardened him that he was fearless where
others were terrified and fled. Of his own qualms of conscience he
wrote to a friend in April, 1529: If it be an apostolic gift to fight
with devils and to lie frequently at the point of death, then he was
indeed in this a very Peter or Paul, however much he might lack the
other apostolic characters.[914] Here we have the idea of his Divine
calling, always most to the front in times of danger, which both
strengthens him and enables him to inspire others with a little of his
own confidence. “I and Bugenhagen alone remain here,” he wrote during
the days of the plague, “but we are not alone, for Christ is with
us and will triumph in us and shelter us from Satan, as we hope and

       *       *       *       *       *

We already are acquainted with some of his admissions of his own
weakness and acknowledgments of the greater gifts and achievements of
others--confessions which have been extolled as a proof of his real

 “I have no such foolish humility,” so he says, “as to wish to deny
 the gifts God has bestowed on me. In myself I have indeed enough and
 more than enough to humble me and teach me that I am nothing. In God,
 however, we may well pride ourselves, and rejoice and glory in His
 gifts and extol them, as I myself do on account of my German Psalter;
 for I studied the Psalter, thanks be to God, with great fruit; but
 all to the honour and glory of God to Whom be praise for ever and
 ever.” This he wrote to Eobanus Hessus, the poet, in a high-flown
 letter thanking him for translating the German Psalter into excellent
 Latin.[916] Of his own virtues or sinfulness he preferred to speak
 humorously, as his manner was. Thus, he says, for instance, in 1526,
 in his suppressed “Widder den Radschlag der Meintzischen Pfafferey,”
 that “he had not defiled any man’s wife or child,” “had not robbed
 anyone of his goods ... nor murdered or assaulted anyone or given help
 or counsel thereto”; his sin consisted in “not pulling a long face but
 in insisting on being merry”; also in eating meat on forbidden days.
 People might defame his life, but he was not going to heed “the dirty

His statements belittling his own powers and achievements, coming from
a man whose apparently overmastering self-confidence had, from the
beginning, prepossessed so many of his followers in his favour, afford
a subject for psychological study. He seems the more ready to give full
play to his confidence the more he feels his weakness face to face with
the menace of danger, and the more he experiences in the depths of his
soul the raging of doubts which he attributes to the devil.

In the humble admissions he makes he never conceals how much he stands
in need of assistance. He does not hide from himself the fact that
he dreads outward troubles, and is deficient in strong and exalted
virtue. But side by side with his faults, he is fond of gazing on and
extolling God’s gifts in his person. His peculiar form of humility, his
prayer and his trust in God find expression in certain utterances and
experiences, on which no judgment can be passed until we have before
us a larger selection of them, particularly of such as seem to be less

_Prayer and Confidence in God._

Luther’s strangely undaunted confidence and the personal nature of his
reliance on God’s help form part of his mental physiognomy.

 He sees around him much distress and corruption and exclaims: “Alas,
 we are living outwardly under the empire of the devil, hence we can
 neither see nor hear anything good from without.” And yet, he proceeds
 in his usual forced tone, “inwardly we are living in the kingdom of
 Christ, where we behold God’s glory and His grace! For of Christ
 it is said: ‘Rule Thou in the midst of Thine enemies.’” “Hatred is
 our reward in this world.” “Our reward is excessive considering the
 insignificance of the service we render Christ. But what is the world,
 its anger, or its prince? A smoke that vanishes, a bubble that bursts,
 such is everything that is opposed to the Lord Whom we serve and Who
 works in us.” With these words, so expressive of his determination, he
 directs his trusted pupil, Conrad Cordatus, to enter courageously upon
 the office of preacher at Stendal in the March.[918]

 Again and again he seeks to reanimate his faith and confidence by
 calling to mind not merely God’s faithfulness to His promises, but
 also his own personal “sufferings” and “temptations,” the only escape
 from which, as he believed, lay in the most obstinate and presumptuous
 belief in his cause, and in the conviction that God was constantly
 intervening in his favour.

 “Not only from Holy Scripture,” he said in a conversation in 1540,
 “but also from my violent inner combats and temptations have I learnt
 that Christ is God incarnate, and that there is a Trinity. I now know
 it even better from experience than by faith that these articles are
 true. For in our greatest temptations nothing can help us but the
 assurance that Christ became man and is now our intercessor at the
 right hand of the Father. There is nothing that excites our confidence
 to such a degree.... God, too, has championed this article from the
 beginning of the world against countless heretics, and even to-day
 defends it against Turk and Pope; He incessantly confirms it by
 miracles and permits us to call His Son, the Son of God and true God,
 and grants all that we ask in Christ’s name. For what else has saved
 us even till the present day in so many perils but prayer to Christ?
 Whoever says it is Master Philip’s and my doing, lies. It is God Who
 does it for Christ’s sake.... Therefore we hold fast to these articles
 in spite of the objections of reason. They have remained and will

Luther often had recourse to prayer, especially when he found himself
in difficulty, or in an awkward situation from which he could see no
escape; in his letters he also as a rule asks for prayers for himself
and for the common cause of the new Evangel. It is impossible to take
such requests as a mere formality; his way of making them is usually so
full of feeling that they must have been meant in earnest.

In 1534 he wrote a special instruction for the simple and unlearned on
the way to pray.[920] Many parts of this booklet recall the teaching of
the great masters of prayer, though unfortunately it is imbued with his
peculiar tenets.

 He urges people to pray fervently against “the idolatry of the Turk,
 of the Pope, of all false teachers and devil’s snares”; he also mocks
 at the prayers of the “parsons and monks,”[921] unable to refrain
 from his bitter polemics even in an otherwise edifying work. Yet the
 body of the booklet teaches quite accurately, in a fashion recalling
 the directions given by St. Ignatius, how the Our Father and other
 daily prayers may be devoutly recited, with pauses after the various
 petitions or words, so as to form a sort of meditation. He himself, so
 he assures his readers, was in the habit of “sucking” in this way at
 the Paternoster, and was also fond of occupying himself with a similar
 prayerful analysis of the Psalter.

 His regular daily prayer he says elsewhere was the Our Father,
 the Creed and the other usual formulas.[922] “I have daily to do
 violence to myself in order to pray,” he remarked to his friends,
 “and I am satisfied to repeat when I go to bed the Ten Commandments,
 the Our Father and then a verse or two; thinking over them I fall
 asleep.”[923] “The Our Father is my prayer, I pray this and sometimes
 intermingle with it something from the Psalms, so as to put to shame
 the vain scoffers and false teachers.”

 It must not be overlooked, however, that on extraordinary occasions,
 when his hatred of the Papacy was more than usually strong or when
 troubles pressed, his prayer was apt to assume strange forms. His
 abomination for the Pope found vent, as he repeatedly tells us, in
 his maledictory Paternoster.[924] When in great fear and anxiety
 concerning Melanchthon, who lay sick at Weimar, he, to use his own
 quaint phraseology, “threw down his tools before our God,” to compel
 Him, as it were, to render assistance. Another such attempt to do
 violence to God is the purport of a prayer uttered in dejection during
 his stay in the fortress of Coburg, which Veit Dietrich, who overheard
 it, gives us in what he states were Luther’s own words: “I know that
 Thou art Our God and Father; hence I am certain Thou wilt put to shame
 all those who persecute Thy children. Shouldst Thou not do so, there
 will be as much danger for Thee as for us. This is Thy cause, and we
 only took it up because we knew Thou wouldst defend it,” etc.[925]
 This intimate friend of Luther’s also tells us, that, in those
 anxious days, Luther’s conversations concerning God and his hopes for
 the future bore an even deeper stamp than usual of sincerity and depth
 of feeling. Dietrich was one of Luther’s most passionately devoted

 “Ah, prayer can do much,” such are Luther’s words in one of the
 numerous passages of the Table-Talk, where he recommends its use. “By
 prayer many are saved, even now, just as we ourselves prayed Philip
 back to life.”[926]

 “It is impossible,” he says, “that God should not answer the prayer of
 faith; that He does not always do so is another matter. God does not
 give according to a prescribed measure, but heaped up and shaken down,
 as He says.... Hence James says (v. 16): ‘Pray one for another,’ etc.
 ‘The continual prayer of a just man availeth much.’ That is one of the
 best verses in his Epistle. Prayer is a powerful thing.”[927]

Anyone who has followed Luther’s development and understands his
character will know where to find the key to these remarkable, and at
first sight puzzling, declarations of trust in God and zeal in prayer.

When once the herald of the new religion had contrived to persuade
himself of his Divine call, such blindly confident prayer and trust in
God no longer involve anything wonderful. His utterances, undoubtedly,
have a good side, for instance, his frank admission of his weakness, of
his want of virtue and of the parlous condition of his cause, should
God forsake it. All his difficulties he casts into the lap of the
Almighty and of Christ, in the true Divine sonship of whom he declares
he believes firmly. It must, however, strike anyone who examines his
prayers that he never once expresses the idea which should accompany
all true prayer, viz. resignation into the hands of God and entire
willingness to follow Him, to go forward, or turn back whithersoever
God wills; never do we find him imploring light so as to know whether
the course he is pursuing and the work he has undertaken is indeed
right and pleasing to God. On the contrary, in his prayers, in his
thoughts and amidst all his inner conflicts, he resolutely sets aside
as out of the question any idea of changing the religious attitude he
has once assumed.[928] All his striving is directed towards this one
end, viz. that God will vouchsafe to further his cause and grant him
victory. He, as it were, foists his cause on Heaven. Hence there is
lacking a property imperatively demanded by prayer, viz. that holy
indifference and readiness to serve God in the way pleasing to Him to
which the Psalmist alludes when he says: “Teach me to do Thy Will, O

The dominating idea which both animates his confidence and gives it its
peculiar stamp, also furnishes him with a sword against the Papacy,
with which he lays about him all the more vigorously the more fervently
he prays. In praying he blows into a flame his hatred of all who stand
up for the ancient Church; in his prayers he seems to find all the
monstrous accusations he intends to hurl against her. Yet he himself
elsewhere reminds his hearers, that, as a preparation for prayer, they
must put away all bad feeling, since our Lord warns the man who is at
variance with his brother first to be reconciled to him before coming
with his offering. Luther also impresses on the monks and clergy that
they must not pray for what is displeasing to God ... for instance, for
strength to fulfil their obligation of celibacy or their vows.--Might
they not justly have retorted that he, too, should not insist so
blindly that God should establish his work? And might not the fanatics
and Anabaptists have urged a _tu quoque_ against him when he accused
them of spiritual pride and blind presumption because of their fervent

We shall not go out of our way to repeat again what we have already
said of his pseudo-mysticism. But in order to understand rightly
Luther’s prayers and trustfulness, so frequently reminiscent of the
best men of the Catholic past, it is necessary to bear in mind his
peculiar mystic leanings.

_Other Personal Traits. His Family Life._

Luther was able to combine in a remarkable manner his pseudo-mysticism
with practical and sober common sense.

Where it is not a question of his Divine mission, of the rights of
the new Evangel or of politics--of which by nature he was unfitted
to judge--we usually find him eminently practical in his views. His
intercourse with others was characterised by simplicity and directness,
and the tone of his conversation was both vigorous and original. It
was most fortunate for him that his practical insight into things
so soon enabled him to detect the exaggeration and peril of the
movement set on foot by the fanatics. Had he been as incautious as
they, the State authorities would soon have crushed his plans. This
he clearly perceived from the very outset of the movement. Something
similar, though on a smaller scale, happened later in the case of
the Antinomians. Luther was opposed to such extravagance, and, when
friendly admonition proved of no avail, was perfectly ready to resort
to force. Whether, from his own standpoint, he was in a position to set
matters straight in the case of either of the two movements is another
question; the truth is that his standpoint had suspiciously much in
common with both. At any rate his encounter with the fanatics taught
him to lay much less stress than formerly on the “Spirit,” and to
insist more on the outward Word and the preaching of the “Evangel.”

It must also be noted, that, though accustomed to go forward bravely
and beat down all difficulties by main strength, yet in many instances
he was quite open to accommodate himself to circumstances, and to
yield in the interests of his cause, displaying likewise considerable
ingenuity in the choice of the means to be employed. We have already
had occasion more than once to see that he was by no means deficient
in the wisdom of the serpent. He knew how to give favourably disposed
Princes astute advice, particularly as to how they might best encourage
and promote the new Church system. To settle their quarrels and to
restore concord among them he had recourse sometimes to fiery and
even gross language, sometimes to more diplomatic measures. When the
Elector and the Duke of Saxony became estranged by the Wurzen quarrel
Luther frankly advised the former to give way, and jestingly added that
sometimes there might be good reason to “light a couple of tapers at
the devil’s altar.”

He did not, however, possess any talent as an organiser and was,
generally speaking, a very imperfect judge of the social conditions of
his time. (See vol. vi., xxxv.)

Heinrich Böhmer remarks justly: “Luther was no organiser. Not that he
was devoid of interest in or comprehension for the practical needs of
life. He was neither a secluded scholar nor a stiff-necked pedant....
His practical vein, though strong enough to enable him readily to
detect the weak spot in the proposals and creations of others, was,
however, not equal to any independent, creative and efficient action.
However bold, energetic and original as a thinker and writer, as an
organiser he was clumsy, diffident and poor in ideas. In this domain
he is entirely lacking in initiative, decision and, above all, in any
theory he could call his own.” “His regulations for public worship are
no new creation but, more often than not, merely the old, Catholic
ones, reduced and arranged to meet the needs of the evangelical
congregation.... Where he is original he not seldom ceases to be
practical. For instance, his extraordinary proposal that the Latin
service should be retained for the benefit and edification of those
familiar with the language, and his regret that it was no longer
possible to arrange a service in Greek or Hebrew, can scarcely be
characterised as anything but a professor’s whim.”[929]

       *       *       *       *       *

His domestic life, owing to the simplicity, frugality and industry
which reigned there, presents the picture of an unpretentious family

With Catherine Bora and the children she bore him, he led--apart from
the disturbances arising from his outward controversies and inward
combats--a regular life conducive to his labours. His relations with
his life’s partner, who was absorbed in the management of the little
household, were, so it would appear, never seriously disturbed; he
was as devoted to her as she was to him, striving as she did to serve
him and to lighten his cares. As to her failings, viz. a certain
haughtiness and masterfulness, he winked at them.

 In his will dated Jan. 6, 1542, he gives, as follows, his reason for
 leaving everything to his “beloved and faithful wife Catherine”: “I do
 this first because she, as a pious, faithful and honourable wife, has
 always held me dear and in honour and, by God’s blessing, bore me and
 brought up five children, who are still alive and whom may God long

 Incidentally he praises her complacency and says that she had served
 him not only like a wife but like a maid. It is true, however, he says
 elsewhere: “Had I to marry another, I should hew myself an obedient
 wife out of stone, for I despair of any woman’s obedience.”[932]

 His last letters to Bora attest great mutual confidence, even though
 he does just hint in his usual joking way at their common faults: “I
 think, that, had you been here, you would also have advised us to do
 this, so that then for once we should have followed your advice.”
 “To my well-beloved housewife Catherine Lutheress, Doctoress,
 Zulsdorferess, pork-butcheress and whatever else she may be. Grace to
 you and peace in Christ and my poor old love.... I commend to God’s
 keeping you and all the household; greet all the guests. [Signed] M.
 L., your old sweetheart.” Writing to his wife who was so anxious about
 him, he says: “You want to undertake the care of your God just as
 though He were not almighty and able to create ten Dr. Martins.... Let
 Master Philip read this letter, for I have not had time to write to
 him; console yourself with this, that I would be with you were I able,
 as you know, and as he perhaps also knows from experience with his
 own wife, and understands it all perfectly.” “We are very grateful to
 you for your great anxiety that prevents you from sleeping.... Do you
 pray and leave the rest to God. It is written: ‘Cast thy care upon the
 Lord, and He shall sustain thee’ (Psalm lv.).”[933]

 His humour helped to tide him over any minor annoyances for which
 Catherine and the inmates of his house were responsible. He preferred
 to oppose the shield of jest to Catherine’s obstinacy, to her feminine
 desire to interfere in business that was not hers, as well as to
 her jealous rule in matters pertaining to the management of the
 household. When in his letters he addresses her as “Lord Katey,” and
 so forth, his object was to reprove her gently for that imperiousness
 under which he himself had sometimes to smart. We learn from outside
 sources that her interference was particularly troublesome to others
 at the time of Luther’s conflict with the lawyers on the validity of
 clandestine marriages, when his wife’s friendly interest in certain
 couples concerned displayed itself in loud and over-zealous advocacy
 of Luther’s view of the question. It was then that Cruciger, the
 Wittenberg theologian, described her as the “firebrand in Luther’s

 He was not merely unable to accustom himself to the humdrum
 occupations connected with household management, but the annoyance it
 entailed was so repugnant to him that in 1538 he dissuaded a preacher
 who wished to marry a second time, telling him that “the management of
 a family is in our day the most troublesome thing on earth, so that,
 knowing the wickedness of the world, were I a young man I would rather
 die than again become a married man, even though, after my Katey, a
 queen were offered me in marriage.”[935] Evidently he must have found
 something to regret.

Both took their share in the troublesome and unpretentious work of
educating and instructing the children. Luther rightly extols such
labours as great and meritorious in God’s sight, just as he frequently
describes the seemingly lowly callings, which, in the eyes of the
world, are of no account, e.g. marriage, as ennobled by God when
performed by pious Christians in accordance with His Will and to the
benefit of body and soul. (Above, p. 142 f.)

By means of a fairly well-ordered division of the day he found time,
in the intervals of the demands made by his domestic duties, to
devote long hours to the multifarious and exhausting labours of which
we know something. Self-denial in the interests of the cause he had
espoused, renunciation of ease and enjoyment so as better to serve
an end for which he was impassioned, disregard even of the pressing
claims of health--all this is not easily to be matched in any other
writer of eminence and talent occupying so historic a position in
public life. Luther, plagued as he was by extraneous difficulties,
with his professorship, his pulpit and his care for souls, seemed to
revolve the wheel of time. Without unheard-of energy and a fiery,
overmastering enthusiasm for the cause his achievements would indeed
be incomprehensible.

The Catholic, however, when contemplating these traits so far as they
redound to Luther’s credit must deeply regret, that such energy was
not employed in a well-ordered amelioration of the ecclesiastical
system on the basis of the true Christian doctrine and in harmony with
the authority divinely appointed. If he considers these favourable
sides of Luther’s character with befitting broad-mindedness, his grief
can only deepen at the action, characterised by such perversity and
contradiction, by which Luther sought utterly to destroy the existing
Church and her faith as revealed and handed down.



1. Luther’s Anger. His Attitude towards the Jews, the Lawyers and the

WHAT above all strikes one in Luther’s mode of controversy is his
utter unrestraint in his scolding and abuse. Particularly remarkable,
especially in his later years, is the language which he has in
readiness for two groups of foes, viz. for Jews and Lawyers; then,
again, we have the invective which, throughout his career, he was
fond of hurling at such Princes and scholars as did not submit to his

As, in what follows, and in studying the psychology of his anti-Papal
abuse, we shall have again occasion to encounter unpleasant passages,
we may well make our own the words of Sir Thomas More in his
“_Responsio ad convitia Lutheri_,” where he trounces Luther for his
handling of Henry VIII.: “The gentle reader must forgive me if much
that occurs offends his feelings. Nothing has been more painful to me
than to be compelled to pour such things into decent ears. The only
other alternative would, however, have been to leave the unclean book

_The Jews._

In his earlier days Luther had been more friendly towards the Jews,
and had even cherished the childish hope that many of them would
embrace the new Evangel and help him in his warfare against the Papal
Antichrist. When this failed to come about Luther became more and more
angered with their blasphemy against Christ, their art of seducing the
faithful and their cunning literary attacks on Christian doctrine. He
was also greatly vexed because his Elector, in spite of having, in
1536, ordered all Jews to leave the country, nevertheless, in 1538,
granted them a conditional permit to travel through it; he was still
more exasperated with Ferdinand the German King who had curtailed the
disabilities of the Jews. Luther’s opinion was that the only thing to
do was to break their pride; he now relinquished all hope of convincing
any large number of them of the truth of Christianity; even the
biblical statements, according to which the Jews were to be converted
before the end of the world, appeared to him to have been shorn of
their value.[937]

Hence Luther was, above all, desirous of proving to the faithful that
the objections brought forward by the Jews against Christian doctrine
and their interpretation of the Old Testament so as to exclude the
Christian Messias were all wrong. This he did in three writings which
followed each other at short intervals: “Von den Jüden und jren Lügen,”
“Vom Schem Hamphoras,” both dating from 1542, and “Von den letzten
Worten Davids” (1543). Owing to his indignation these writings are no
mere works of instruction, but in parts are crammed with libel and
scurrilous abuse.[938]

 In the first of these tracts, for instance, he voices as follows his
 opinion of the religious learning of the Hebrews: “This passage [the
 Ten Commandments] is far above the comprehension of the blind and
 hardened Jews, and to discourse to them on it would be as useless as
 preaching the Gospel to a pig. They cannot grasp the nature of God’s
 law, much less do they know how to keep it.” “Their boast of following
 the external Mosaic ordinances whilst disobeying the Ten Commandments,
 fits the Jews just as well as ornaments do an evil woman”; “yet
 clothes, adornments, garlands, jewels would serve far better to deck
 the sow that wallows in the mire than a strumpet.”[939]

 One point which well illustrates his anti-Semitism is the Talmud-Bible
 he invents as best suited to them: “That Bible only should you
 explore which lies concealed beneath the sow’s tail; the letters
 that drop from it you are free to eat and drink; that is the best
 Bible for prophets who trample under foot and rend in so swinish a
 manner the Word of the Divine Majesty which ought to be listened to
 with all respect, with trembling and with joy.” “Do they fancy that
 we are clods and wooden blocks like themselves, the rude, ignorant
 donkeys?... Hence, gentle Christian, beware of the Jews, for this
 book will show you that God’s anger has delivered them over to the

 The figure of the sow’s tail pleased him so well that he again used it
 later in the same year in his “Vom Schem Hamphoras.” There he alludes
 to the piece of sculpture which had originally supplied him with the
 idea: “Here, at Wittenberg, outside our parish church there is a sow
 chiselled in the stone; under her are piglets and little Jews all
 sucking; behind the sow stands a Rabbi, who lifts, with his right hand
 the sow’s hind leg and with his left her tail, and is intently engaged
 poring over the Talmud under the sow’s tail, as though he wished to
 read and bring to light something especially clever. That is a real
 image of Schem Hamphoras.... For of the sham wise man we Germans say:
 Where did he read that? To speak coarsely, in the rear parts of a

 The “devil” also is drawn into the fray the better to enable Luther to
 vent his ire against the Jews. At the end of the passage just quoted
 he says: “For the devil has entered into the Jews and holds them
 captive so that perforce they do his will, as St. Paul says, mocking,
 defaming, abusing and cursing God and everything that is His....
 The devil plays with them to their eternal damnation.”[942]--And
 elsewhere: “Verily a hopeless, wicked, venomous and devilish thing
 is the existence of these Jews, who for fourteen hundred years have
 been, and still are, our pest, torment and misfortune. In fine, they
 are just devils and nothing more, with no feeling of humanity for us
 heathen. This they learn from their Rabbis in those devils’ aeries
 which are their schools.”[943]--“They are a brood of vipers and the
 children of the devil, and are as kindly disposed to us as is the
 devil their father.”[944]--“The Turk and the other heathen do not
 suffer from them what we Christians do from these malignant snakes
 and imps.... Whoever would like to cherish such adders and puny
 devils--who are the worst enemies of Christ and of us all--to befriend
 them and do them honour simply in order to be cheated, plundered,
 robbed, disgraced and forced to howl and curse and suffer every kind
 of evil, to him I would commend these Jews. And if this be not enough
 let him tell the Jew to use his mouth as a privy, or else crawl
 into the Jew’s hind parts and there worship the holy thing, so as
 afterwards to be able to boast of having been merciful, and of having
 helped the devil and his progeny to blaspheme our dear Lord.”[945] The
 last clause would appear to have been aimed at the Counts of Mansfeld,
 who had allowed a large number of Jews to settle in Eisleben, Luther’s

 The temporal happiness which the Jews looked for under the reign of
 their Messias, Luther graphically compares to the felicity of a sow:
 “For the sow lies as it were on a feather-bed whether in the street
 or on the manure-heap; she rests secure, grunts contentedly, sleeps
 soundly, fears neither lord nor king, neither death nor hell, neither
 devil nor Divine anger.... She has no thought of death until it is
 upon her.... Of what use would the Jews’ Messias be to me if he could
 not help poor me against this great and horrible dread and misfortune
 [the fear of death], nor make my life a tenth part as happy as that of
 the sow? I would much rather say: Dear God Almighty, keep Your Messias
 for Yourself, or give him to those who want him; as for me, change
 me into a sow. For it is better to be a live pig than a man who is
 everlastingly dying.”[946]

Such passages as the above are frequently to be met with in Luther’s
writings against the Jews. In them his object plainly was to confute
the misinterpretation of the Bible and the scoffing objections to
which Jewish scholars were given. Yet so utterly ungovernable was the
author’s passion that it spoiled the execution of his noble task. He
scarcely knew how to conduct a controversy without introducing sows,
devils and such like.

Was it really to Luther’s credit that the sty should loom so large in
his struggle with his foes?

 Duke George he scolds as the “Dresden pig,” and Dr. Eck as “Pig-Eck”;
 the latter Luther promises to answer in such a way “that the sow’s
 belly shall not be too much inflated.”[947] The Bishops of the Council
 of Constance who burnt Hus are “boars”; the “bristles of their backs
 rise on end and they whet their snouts.”[948] Erasmus “carries within
 him a sow from the herd of Epicurus.”[949] The learned Catholics of
 the Universities are hogs and donkeys decked out in finery, whom God
 has sent to punish us; these “devils’ masks, the monks and learned
 spectres, from the Schools we have endowed with such huge wealth,
 many of the doctors, preachers, masters, priests and friars are big,
 coarse, corpulent donkeys, decked out with hoods red and brown, like
 the market sow in her glass beads and tinsel chains.”[950]

 The same simile is, of course, employed even more frequently of the
 peasants. “To-day the peasants are the merest hogs, whilst the people
 of position, who once prided themselves on being bucks, are beginning
 to copy them.”[951]--The Papists have “stamped the married state under
 foot”; their clergy are “like pigs in the fattening-pen,” “they wallow
 in filth like the pig in his sty.”[952]--The Papists are fed up by
 their literary men, as befits such pigs as they. “Eat, piggies, eat!
 This is good for you.”[953]--We Germans are “hopeless pigs.”[954]

 Henry of Brunswick is “as expert in Holy Writ as a sow is on the
 harp.” Let him and his Papists confess that they are “verily the
 devil’s whore-church.”[955] “You should not write a book,” Luther
 tells him, “until you have heard an old sow s----; then you should
 open your jaws and say: Thank you, lovely nightingale, now I have the
 text I want. Stick to it; it will look fine printed in a book against
 the Scripturists and the Elector; but have it done at Wolfenbüttel.
 Oh, how they will have to hold their noses!”[956]

 Another favourite image, which usually accompanies the sow, is
 provided by the donkey. Of Clement VII. and one of his Bulls Luther
 says: “The donkey pitched his bray too high and thought the Germans
 would not notice it.”[957] Of Emser and the Catholic Professors he
 writes: “Were I ignorant of logic and philosophy you rude asses
 would be after setting yourselves up as logicians and philosophers,
 though you know as much about the business as a donkey does about
 music.”[958] Of Alveld the Franciscan he says: “The donkey does not
 understand music, he must rather be given thistles.”[959] The fanatics
 too, naturally, could not expect to escape. All that Luther says of
 heavenly things is wasted upon them. “They understand it as little as
 the donkey does the Psalter.”[960]

The devil, however, plays the chief part. Luther’s considered judgment
on the Zwinglians, for instance, is, that they are “soul-cannibals and
soul-assassins,” are “endeviled, devilish, yea, ultra-devilish and
possessed of blasphemous hearts and lying lips.”[961]

_The Lawyers._

Luther’s aversion for the “Jurists” grew yearly more intense. His
chief complaint against them was that they kept to the Canon Law and
put hindrances in his way. Their standpoint, however, as regards Canon
Law was not without justification. “Any downright abrogation of Canon
Law as a whole was out of the question. The law as then practised, not
only in the ecclesiastical but even in the secular courts, was too
much bound up with Canon Law; when it was discarded, for instance, in
the matrimonial cases, dire legal complications threatened throughout
the whole of the German Empire.”[962] To this Luther’s eyes were not
sufficiently open.

His crusade against the validity of clandestine engagements which he
entered upon in opposition to his friend and co-religionist, Hieronymus
Schurf, his colleague in the faculty of jurisprudence at the University
of Wittenberg, was merely one episode in his resistance to those who
represented legalism as then established.

In another and wider sphere his relations with those lawyers, who
were the advisers at the Court of his Elector and the other Princes,
became more strained. This was as a result of their having a hand in
the ordering of Church business. Here again his action was scarcely
logical, for he himself, forced by circumstances, had handed over to
the State the outward guidance of the Church; that the statesmen would
intervene and settle matters according to their own ideas was but
natural; and if their way of looking at things failed to agree with
Luther’s, this was only what might have been foreseen all along.

 In a conference with Melanchthon, Amsdorf and others in Dec., 1538,
 he complained bitterly of the lawyers and of the “misery of the
 theologians who were attacked on all sides, especially by the mighty.”
 To Melchior Kling, a lawyer who was present, he said: “You jurists
 have a finger in this and are playing us tricks; I advise you to
 cease and come to the assistance of the nobles. If the theologians
 fall, that will be the end of the jurists too.” “Do not worry us,” he
 repeated, “or you will be paid out.” “Had he ten sons, he would take
 mighty good care that not one was brought up to be a lawyer.” “You
 jurists stand as much in need of a Luther as the theologians did.”
 “The lawyer is a foe of Christ; he extols the righteousness of works.
 If there should be one amongst them who knows better, he is a wonder,
 is forced to beg his bread and is shunned by all the other men of

 On questions affecting conscience he considered that he alone, as
 theologian and leader of the others, had a right to decide; yet
 countless cases which came before the courts touched upon matters of
 conscience. He exclaims, for instance, in 1531: Must not the lawyers
 come to me to learn what is really lawful? “I am the supreme judge of
 what is lawful in the domain of conscience.” “If there be a single
 lawyer in Germany, nay, in the whole world, who understands what is
 ‘lawful _de jure_’ and ‘lawful _de facto_’ then I am ... surprised.”
 The recorder adds: “When the Doctor swears thus he means it very
 seriously.” Luther proceeds: “In fine, if the jurists don’t crave
 forgiveness and crawl humbly to the Evangel, I shall give them such a
 doing that they will not know how to escape.”[964]

 Thus we can understand how, in that same year (1531), when
 representatives of the secular law interfered in the ecclesiastical
 affairs at Zwickau against his wishes, he declared: “I will never
 have any more dealings with those Zwickau people, and I shall carry
 my resentment with me to the grave.” “If the lawyers touch the Canons
 they will fly in splinters.... I will fling the Catechism into their
 midst and so upset them that they won’t know where they are.”[965] If
 they are going to feed on the “filth of the Pope-Ass,” and “to put
 on their horns,” then he, too, will put on his and “toss them till
 the air resounds with their howls.” This from the pulpit on Feb. 23,

_The Princes._

With what scant respect Luther could treat the Princes is shown in his
work “Von welltlicher Uberkeytt, wie weyt man yhr Gehorsam schuldig
sey” (1523).[967]

Here he is not attacking individual Princes as was the case, for
instance, in his writings against King Henry of England, Duke George of
Saxony and Duke Henry of Brunswick, hence there was here no occasion
for the abuse with which these polemical tracts are so brimful. Here
Luther is dealing theologically with the relations which should
obtain between Princes and subjects and, according to the title and
the dedicatory note to Johann of Saxony, professes to discuss calmly
and judicially the respective duties of both. Yet, carried away by
vexation, because the Princes and the nobles had not complied with his
request in his “An den christlichen Adel” that they should rise in a
body against Rome, and reform the Church as he desired, he bitterly
assails them as a class.

 Even in the opening lines all the Princes who, like the Emperor, held
 fast to the olden faith and sought to preserve their subjects in it,
 were put on a par with “hair-brained fellows” and loose “rogues.” “Now
 that they want to fleece the poor man and wreak their wantonness on
 God’s Word, they call it obedience to the commands of the Emperor....
 Because the ravings of such fools leads to the destruction of the
 Christian faith, the denial of God’s Word and blasphemy of the Divine
 Majesty, I neither can nor will any longer look on calmly at the
 doings of my ungracious Lords and fretful squires.”[968]

 Of the Princes in general he says, that they ought “to rule the
 country and the people outwardly; this, however, they neglect. They
 do nothing but rend and fleece the people, heaping impost upon impost
 and tax upon tax; letting out, here, a bear, and there, a wolf; nor is
 there any law, fidelity or truth to be found in them, for they behave
 in such a fashion that to call them robbers and scoundrels would be to
 do them too great an honour.... So well are they earning the hatred of
 all that they are doomed to perish with the monks and parsons whose
 rascality they share.”[969]

 It is here that Luther tells the people that, “from the beginning a
 wise Prince has been a rare find, and a pious Prince something rarer
 still. Usually they are the biggest fools or the most arrant knaves
 on earth; hence one must always expect the worst from them and little
 good, particularly in Divine things which pertain to the salvation of
 souls. For they are God’s lictors and hangmen.”[970] “The usual thing
 is for Isaias iii. 4 to be verified: ‘I will give children to be their
 princes, and the effeminate shall rule over them.’”[971]

 We have to look on while “secular Princes rule in spiritual matters
 and spiritual Princes in secular things.” In what else does the
 devil’s work on earth consist but in making fun of the world and
 turning it into a pantomime.

 In conclusion he hints to the Princes plainly that the “mob and the
 common folk are beginning to see through it all.”[972]

A Protestant writer, in extenuation of such dangerous language against
the rulers, recently remarked: “It never entered Luther’s head that
such words might bring the Princes into contempt and thus, indirectly,
promote rebellion.... If we are to draw a just conclusion from his
blindness to the obvious psychological consequences of his words, it
can only be, that Luther was no politician.”[973]

It may, indeed, be that he did not then sufficiently weigh the
consequences. Nevertheless, in his scurrilous writings against
individual Princes he was perfectly ready to brave every possible
outcome of his vituperation. “What Luther wrote against the German
Princes,” justly remarks Döllinger, “against Albert, Elector of
Mayence, against the Duke of Brunswick and Duke George of Saxony, puts
into the shade all the libels and screeds of the more recent European

One of the chief targets for his shafts was the Archbishop of Mayence.

 Albert, Elector of Mayence, “is a plague to all Germany; the
 ghastly, yellow, earthen hue of his countenance--a mixture of mud
 and blood--exactly fits his character; ... he is deserving of death
 under the First Table” (viz. because of his transgression of the
 first commandments of the Decalogue by his utter godlessness).[975]
 It was, however, not so much on account of his moral shortcomings,
 notorious though they were, but more particularly because he did
 not take his side, that Luther regarded him as a “most perfidious
 rogue” (“_nebulo perfidissimus_”). “If thieves are hanged, then
 surely the Bishop of Mayence deserves to be hanged as one of the
 first, on a gallows seven times as high as the Giebenstein.... For he
 fears neither God nor man.”[976] When Simon Lemnius, the Humanist,
 praised Archbishop Albert in a few epigrams, Luther’s anger turned
 against the poet, whom he soundly rated for making “a saint out of
 a devil.” He issued a sort of mandate against Lemnius of which the
 conclusion was: “I beg our people, and particularly the poets or his
 [the Archbishop’s] sycophants, in future not publicly to praise the
 shameful merd-priest”; he threatens sharp measures should anyone at
 Wittenberg dare to praise “the self-condemned lost priest.”[977]

 The satirical list of relics which, in 1542, he published with a
 preface and epilogue against the same Elector amounted practically to
 a libel, and was described by lawyers as a lying slander punishable at
 law. As a “_libellus famosus_” against a reigning Prince of the Empire
 it might have entailed serious consequences for its author.

 In it Luther says: The Elector, as we learn, is offering “big pardons
 for many sins,” even for sins to be committed for the next ten years,
 to all who “help in decking out in new clothes the poor, naked bones”;
 the relics in question, during their translation from Halle to
 Mayence, had, so Luther tells us, been augmented by other “particles,”
 enriched by the Pope with Indulgences, amongst them, “(1) a fine piece
 of the left horn of Moses; (2) three flames from the bush of Moses on
 Mount Sinai; (3) two feathers and one egg of the Holy Ghost,” etc., in
 all, twelve articles, specially chosen to excite derision.

 Justus Jonas appears to have been shocked at Luther’s ribaldry and
 to have given Luther an account of what the lawyers were saying. At
 any rate, we have Luther’s reply in his own handwriting, though the
 top part of the letter has been torn away. In the bottom fragment we
 read: “[Were it really a libel] which, however, it cannot be, yet I
 have the authority, right and power [to write such libels] against the
 Cardinal, Pope, devil and all their crew; and not to have the term
 ‘_libellus famosus_’ hurled at me. Or have the ‘asinists’--I beg your
 pardon, jurists--studied their jurisprudence in such a way as to be
 ignorant of what ‘_subjectum_’ and ‘_finis_’ mean in secular law?
 [the end in his eyes was a good one]. If I have to teach them, I shall
 exact smaller fees and teach them unwashed. How has the beautiful
 Moritzburgk [belonging to the see of Mayence] been turned into a
 donkey-stable! If they are ready to pipe, I am quite willing to dance,
 and, if I live, I hope to tread yet another measure with the bride of
 Mayence.”[978] Thus the revolting untruths to which his tactics led
 him to have recourse, the better to excite the minds of the people,
 seemed to him a fit subject for jest; in spite of the wounds which the
 religious warfare was inflicting on the German Church he still saw
 nothing unseemly in the figure of the dance and the bridal festivity.

An incident of his controversy with the Duke of Brunswick may serve to
complete the picture. In 1540, during the hot summer, numerous fires
broke out in North and Central Germany, causing widespread alarm;
certain alleged incendiaries who were apprehended were reported to
have confessed under torture that this was the doing of Duke Henry
of Brunswick and the Pope. Before even investigations had commenced
Luther had already jumped to the conclusion that the real author was
his enemy, the Catholic Duke, backed up by the Pope and the monks;
for had not the Duke (according to Luther) explained to the burghers
of Goslar that he recognised no duties with regard to heretics?[979]
The Franciscans had been expelled and were now in disguise everywhere
“plotting vengeance”; they it was who had done it all with the
assistance of the Duke of Brunswick and the Elector of Mayence, who,
of course, remained behind the scenes.[980] “If this be proved, then
there is nothing left for us but to take up arms against the monks and
priests; and I too shall go, for miscreants must be slain like mad
dogs.”[981] Hieronymus Schurf, as the cautious lawyer he was, expressed
himself in Luther’s presence against the misuse of torture in the case
of those accused and against their being condemned too hastily. Luther
interrupted him: “This is no time for mercy but for rage!” According
to St. Augustine many must suffer in order that many may be at peace;
so is it also in the law courts, “now and again some must suffer
injustice, so long as it is not done knowingly and intentionally by the
judge. In troublous times excessive severity must be overlooked.”[982]
He became little by little so convinced of the guilt of Henry the
“incendiary” and his Papists, that, in October, 1540, he refers
half-jestingly to the reputation he was acquiring as “prophet and
apostle” by so correctly discerning in the Papists a mere band of
criminals.[983] He also informed other Courts of the supposed truth of
his surmise, viz. that “Harry of Brunswick has now been convicted as an
arch-incendiary-assassin and the greatest scoundrel on whom the sun has
ever shone. May God give the bloodhound and werewolf his reward. Amen.”
Thus to Duke Albert of Prussia on April 20, 1541.[984]

Considerably before this, in a letter to the same princely patron,
he expressly implicates in these absurd charges the Pope, the chief
object of his hate: After telling Albert of the report, that the
Duke of Brunswick “had sent out many hundred incendiaries against
the Evangelical Estates” of whom more than 300 had been “brought to
justice,” many of them making confessions implicating the Duke, the
Bishop of Mayence and others, Luther goes on to say that the business
must necessarily have been set on foot “by great people, for there is
plenty of money.”

“The Pope is said to have given 80,000 ducats towards it. This is the
sort of thing we are compelled to hear and endure; but God will repay
them abundantly ... in hell, in the fire beneath our feet.”[985]

“The Doctor said,” we read in the Table-Talk, taken down by Mathesius
in September (2-17), 1540: “The greatest wonder of our day is that
the majesty of the Pope--who was a terror to all monarchs and against
whom they dared not move a muscle, seeing that a glance from him or a
movement of his finger sufficed to keep them all in a state of fear and
obedience--that this god should have collapsed so utterly that even his
defenders loathe him. Those who still take his part, without exception
do this simply for money’s sake and their own advantage, otherwise
they would treat him even worse than we do. His malice has now been
thoroughly exposed, since it is certain that he sent eighteen thousand
crowns for the hiring of incendiaries.”[986] The perfect seriousness
with which he relates this in the circle of his friends furnishes an

His consciousness of all that he had accomplished against the Pope,
combined with his hatred of Catholicism, seems often to cloud his mind.

2. Luther’s Excuse: “We MUST Curse the Pope and His Kingdom”[987]

In Luther’s polemics against the Pope and the Papists it is
psychologically of importance to bear in mind the depth of the passion
which underlies his furious and incessant abuse.

The further we see into Luther’s soul, thanks especially to his
familiar utterances recorded in the Table-Talk, the more plainly does
this overwhelming enmity stand revealed. In what he said privately to
his friends we find his unvarnished thought and real feelings. Far
from being in any sense artificial, the intense annoyance which rings
throughout his abuse seems to rise spontaneously from the very bottom
of his soul. That he should have pictured to himself the Papacy as a
dragon may be termed a piece of folly, nevertheless it was thus that
it ever hovered before his mind, by day and by night, whether in the
cheery circle of his friends or in his solitary study, in the midst of
ecclesiastical or ecclesiastico-political business, when engaged in
quiet correspondence with admirers and even when he sought in prayer
help and comfort in his troubles.

 In Lauterbach’s Diary we find Luther describing the Pope as the
 “Beast,”[988] the “Dragon of Hell” towards whom “one cannot be too
 hostile,”[989] as the “Dragon and Crocodile,” whose whole being “was,
 and still is, rascality through and through.”[990] “Even were the
 Pope St. Peter, he would still be godless.”[991] “Whoever wishes to
 glorify the Blood of Christ must needs rage against the Pope who
 blasphemes it.”[992] “The Pope has sold Christ’s Blood and the state
 of matrimony, hence the money-bag [of this Judas] is chock-full of
 the proceeds of robbery.... He has banned and branded me, and stuck
 me in the devil’s behind. Hence I am going to hang him on his own
 keys.”[993] This he said when a caricature was shown him representing
 the Pope strung up next to Judas, with the latter’s money-bag.

 “I am the Pope’s devil,” so he declared to his companions, “hence it
 is that he hates and persecutes me.”[994]

 And yet the chief crime of this execrated Papacy was its
 non-acceptance of Luther’s innovations. The legal measures taken
 against him agreeably with the olden law, whether of the State or of
 the Church, were no proof of “hatred,” however much they might lame
 his own pretensions.

 In other notes of his conversations we read: “Formerly we looked at
 the Pope’s face, now we look only at his posterior, in which there is
 no majesty.”[995] “The city of Rome now lies mangled and the devil
 has discharged over it his filth, i.e. the Pope.”[996] It is a true
 saying, that, “if there be a hell, Rome is built upon it.”[997]

 “Almost all the Romans are now sunk in Epicurism; they trouble
 themselves not at all about God or a good conscience. Alack for our
 times! I used to believe that the Epicurean doctrine was dead and
 buried, yet here it is still flourishing.”[998]

 At the very commencement of the Diary of Cordatus, Luther is recorded
 as saying: “The Pope has lost his cunning. It is stupid of him still
 to seek to lead people astray under the pretence of religion, now that
 mankind has seen through the devil’s trickery. To maintain his kingdom
 by force is equally foolish because it is impracticable.”[999]--He
 proceeds in a similar strain: “The Papists, like the Jews, insist
 that everyone who wishes to be saved must observe their ceremonies,
 hence they will perish like the Jews.”[1000]--He maliciously quotes
 an old rhyme in connection with the Pope, who is both the “head of
 the world” and “the beast of the earth,” and, in support of this,
 adduces abundant quotations from the Apocalypse.[1001]--When Daniel
 declared that Antichrist would trouble neither about God nor about
 woman (xi. 37), this meant that “the Pope would recognise neither God
 nor lawful wives, that, in a word, he would despise religion and all
 domestic and social life, which all turned on womankind. Thus may
 we understand what was foretold, viz. that Antichrist would despise
 all laws, ordinances, statutes, rights and every good usage, contemn
 kings, princes, empires and everything that exists in heaven or on
 earth merely the better to extol his fond inventions.”[1002]--It is
 difficult to assume that all this was mere rhetoric, for, then, why
 was it persisted in? Intentionally hyperbolical utterances are as a
 rule brief. In these conversations, however, the tone never changes,
 but merely becomes at times even more emphatic.

 On the same page in Cordatus we read: “Children are lucky in that they
 come into the world naked and penniless; for the Pope levies toll on
 everything there is on the earth, save only upon baptism, because he
 can’t help it.”[1003] And immediately after: “The Pope has ceased to
 be a teacher and has become, as his Decretals testify, a belly-server
 and speculator. In the Decretals he treats not at all of theological
 matters but merely pursues three self-seeking ends: First, he does
 everything to strengthen his domination; secondly, he does his best
 to set the kings and princes at loggerheads with each other whenever
 he wants to score off one of the great, in doing which he does not
 scruple to show openly his malice; thirdly, he plays the devil most
 cunningly, when, with a friendly air, he allays the dissensions he had
 previously stirred up among the sovereigns; this, however, he only
 does when his own ends have been achieved. He also perverts the truth
 of God’s Word [thus invading the theological field]. This, however, he
 does not do as Pope, but as Antichrist and God’s real enemy.”[1004]

 The whole mountain of abuse expressed here and in what follows rests
 on this last assumption, viz. that the Pope perverts “the truth of
 God’s Word”; thanks to this the Wittenberg Professor fancied he could
 overthrow a Church which had fifteen centuries behind it. His hate
 is just as deeply rooted in his soul as his delusion concerning his
 special call.

 According to the German Colloquies the Pope, like Mohammed, “began
 under the Emperor Phocas”: “The prophecy [of the Apocalypse] includes
 both, the Pope and the Turk.”[1005] Still, the Pope is the “best
 ruler” for the world, because he does know how to govern; “he is lord
 of our fields, meadows, money, houses and everything else, yea, of our
 very bodies”; for this “he repays the world in everlasting curses and
 maledictions; this is what the world wants and it duly returns thanks
 and kisses his feet.”[1006]--“He is rather the lawyers’ than the
 theologians’ god.”[1007]

 He is determined to turn me “straightway into a slave of sin” and
 to force me to “blaspheme,” but instead of “denying God” I shall
 withstand the Pope; “otherwise we would willingly have borne and
 endured the Papal rule.”[1008]--“No words are bad enough to describe
 the Pope. We may call him miserly, godless and idolatrous, but all
 this falls far short of the mark. It is impossible to grasp and put
 into words his great infamies;”[1009] in short, as Christ says, “he is
 the abomination of desolation standing in the Holy Place.”[1010]

 The Pope is indeed the “father of abominations and the poisoner of
 souls.” “After the devil the Pope is a real devil.”[1011] “After
 the devil there is no worse man than the Pope with his lies and
 his man-made ordinances”;[1012] in fact, he is a masked devil
 incarnate.[1013] No one can become Pope unless he be a finished
 and consummate knave and miscreant.[1014] The Pope is a “lion” in
 strength and a “dragon” in craft.[1015] He is “an out-and-out Jew
 who extols in Christ only what is material and temporal”;[1016]
 needless to say, he is “far worse than the Turk,”[1017] “a mere
 idolater and slave of Satan,”[1018] “a painted king but in reality a
 filthy pretence,”[1019] his kingdom is a “Carnival show,”[1020] and
 he himself “Rat-King of the monks and nuns.”[1021] Popery is full of
 murder;[1022] it serves Moloch,[1023] and is the kingdom of all who
 blaspheme God.

 “For the Pope is, not the shepherd, but the devil of the Churches;
 this comforts me as often as I think of it.”[1024]

 “Anno 1539, on May 9,” we read in these Colloquies, “Dr. Martin for
 three hours held a severe and earnest Disputation in the School at
 Wittenberg, against that horrid monster, the Pope, that real werewolf
 who excels in fury all the tyrants, who alone wishes to be above all
 law and to act as he pleases, and even to be worshipped, to the loss
 and damnation of many poor souls.... But he is a donkey-king [he
 said] ... I hope he has now done his worst [now that I have broken
 his power]; but neither are the Papists ever to be trusted, even
 though they agree to peace and bind themselves to it under seal and
 sign-manual.... Therefore let us watch and pray!”[1025]

 The Disputation, of which all that is known was published by Paul
 Drews in 1895,[1026] dealt principally with the question, which had
 become a vital one, of armed resistance to the forces of the Empire
 then intent on vindicating the rights of the Pope. The Theses solve
 the question in the affirmative. “The Pope is no ‘authority’ ordained
 by God ... on the contrary he is a robber, a ‘Bearwolf’ who gulps
 down everything. And just as everybody rightly seeks to destroy this
 monster, so also it is everyone’s duty to suppress the Pope by force,
 indeed, penance must be done by those who neglect it. If anyone is
 killed in defending a wild beast it is his own fault. In the same way
 it is not wrong to offer resistance to those who defend the Pope, even
 should they be Princes or Emperors.”[1027]

 A German version of the chief Theses (51-70) was at once

 Among the explanations given by Luther previous to the Disputation
 (“_circulariter disputabimus_”) the following are worthy of note: “We
 will not worship the Pope any longer as has been done heretofore....
 Rather, we must fight against this Satan.”[1029] “The Pope is such a
 monstrous beast that no ruler or tyrant can equal him.... He requires
 us to worship his public blasphemy in defiance of the law; it is as
 though he said: I will and command that you adore the devil. It is
 not enough for him to strangle me, but he will have it that even the
 soul is damned at his word of command.... The Pope is the devil. Were
 I able to slay the devil, why should I not risk my life in doing so?
 Look not on the Pope as a man; his very worshippers declare that
 he is no mere man, but partly man and partly God. For ‘God’ here
 read ‘devil.’ Just as Christ is God-made-flesh, so the Pope is the
 devil incarnate.”[1030]--“Who would not lend a hand against this
 arch-pestilential monster? There is none other such in the whole
 world as he, who exalts himself far above God. Other wolves there
 are indeed, yet none so impudent and imperious as this wolf and

 In this celebrated Disputation some of the objections are couched in
 scholastic language. Such is the following: According to the Bible,
 Antichrist is to be destroyed by the breath of God’s mouth and not
 by the sword; therefore armed resistance to the Pope and the Papists
 is not allowed. Luther replies: “That we concede, for what we say is
 that he will escape and remain with us till the end of the world. He
 is nevertheless to be resisted, and the Emperor too, and the Princes
 who defend him, not on the Emperor’s account, but for the sake of this
 monstrous beast.”[1032]--Another objection runs: “Christ forbade Peter
 to make use of his sword against those sent out by the Pharisees;
 therefore neither must we take up arms against the Pope.” The reply
 was: “_Negabitur consequens_,” and Luther goes on to explain: “The
 Pope is no authority as Caiphas and Pilate were. He is the devil’s
 servant, possessed of the devil, a wolf who tyrannically carries off
 souls without any right or mandate.” According to the report Luther
 suddenly relapsed into German: “If Peter went to Rome and slew him,
 he would be acting rightly, ‘_quia papa non habet ordinationem_,’”
 etc.[1033] Justus Jonas and Cruciger also took a part, bringing
 forward objections in order to exercise others in refuting them.
 This theological tournament, with its crazy ideas couched in learned
 terminology, might well cause the dispassionate historian to smile
 were it not for the sombre background and the vision of the religious
 wars for which ardent young students were being fitted and equipped.

What we have quoted from Luther’s familiar talks and from his
disputations affords overwhelming proof, were such wanting, that
the frenzied outbursts against the Pope we find even in his public
writings, were, not merely assumed, but really sprang from the depths
of his soul. It is true that at times they were regarded as rhetorical
effusions or even as little more than jokes, but as a matter of fact
they bear the clearest stamp of his glowing hate. They indicate a
persistent and eminently suspicious frame of mind, which deserves
to be considered seriously as a psychological, if not pathological,
condition; what we must ask ourselves is, how far the mere hint of
Popery sufficed to call forth in him a delirium of abuse.

In his tract of 1531 against Duke George he boasted, that people would
in future say, that “his mouth was full of angry words, vituperation
and curses on the Papists”; that “he intended to go down to his grave
cursing and abusing the miscreants”;[1034] that as long as breath
remained in him he would “pursue them to their grave with his thunders
and lightnings”;[1035] again, he says he will take refuge in his
maledictory prayer against the Papists in order to “kindle righteous
hatred in his heart,” and even expounds and recommends this prayer
in mockery to his opponent[1036]--in all this we detect an abnormal
feature which characterises his life and temper. This abnormity is
apparent not only in the intense seriousness with which he utters the
most outrageous things, more befitting a madman than a reasonable
being, but also at times in the very satires to which he has recourse.
That the Papacy would have still more to suffer from him after he was
dead, is a prophecy on which he is ever harping: “When I die,” he
remarks, “I shall turn into a spirit that will so plague the bishops,
parsons and godless monks, that one dead Luther will give them more
trouble than a thousand living Luthers.”[1037]

No theological simile is too strange for him in this morbid state of
mind and feeling. As in the case of those obsessed by a fixed idea the
delusion is ever obtruding itself under every possible shape, so, in a
similar way, every thought, all his studies, his practice, learning,
theology and exegesis, even when its bearing seems most remote, leads
up to this central and all-dominating conviction: “I believe that
the Pope is a devil incarnate in disguise, for he is Endchrist. For
as Christ is true God and true man, so also is Antichrist a devil
incarnate.”[1038] And yet, in the past, so he adds with a deep sigh,
“we worshipped all his lies and idolatry.”

 He is very painstaking in his anatomy of the Pope-Antichrist.

 “The head of Antichrist,” he said, “is both the Pope and the
 Turk; a living creature must have both body and soul; the Pope is
 Antichrist’s soul or spirit, but the Turk is his flesh or body; for
 the latter lays waste, destroys and persecutes the Church of God
 materially, just as the Pope does so spiritually.” Considering,
 however, that he had unduly exonerated the Pope, he corrects himself
 and adds: And materially also; “materially, viz. by laying waste
 with fire and sword, hanging, murdering, etc.” The Church, however,
 so he prophesies, will nevertheless “hold the field and resist the
 Pope’s hypocrisy and idolatry.” He then goes on to make a fanciful
 application of Daniel’s prophecy concerning the kingdoms of the world
 to the Pope’s downfall. “The text compels us” to take the prophecy
 (Apoc. xiii. 7) as also referring to the “Papal abomination.”
 “The Pope shall be broken without hands and perish and die of

 That the Pope was spiritually destroying the Church he had already
 asserted as early as 1520 in his “Von dem Bapstum tzu Rome”: “Of
 all that is of Divine appointment not one jot is now observed at
 Rome; indeed, if anyone thought of doing what is manifestly such,
 it would be derided as folly. They let the Gospel and the Christian
 faith perish everywhere and turn never a hair; moreover, every bad
 example of mischief, spiritual and secular, flows from Rome over
 the whole world as from an ocean of wickedness. All this the Romans
 laugh at, and whoever laments it is looked upon as a ‘bon Christian’
 [’_cristiano_’], i.e. a fool.”[1040]

The strength of Luther’s delusion that the Pope was Antichrist and
shared the diabolical nature furnishes the chief explanation of the
hopelessly bitter way in which he deals with all those who ventured to
defend the Papacy. On all such he heaps abuse and assails them with
that worst of the weapons at his command, viz. with calumny, calling
into question their good faith and denying to them the character of

 Johann Eck, so he assured his friends in 1538, “when at Rome, profited
 splendidly by the example of Epicurus; his short stay there was
 quite sufficient for him. No doubt he possesses great talent and a
 good memory, but he is impudence itself, and, at the bottom of his
 heart, cares as little about the Pope as he does about the Gospel.
 Twenty years ago I should never have thought it possible to find
 such Epicureans within the Church.”[1041] Eck is “a bold-lipped and
 bloodthirsty sophist.”[1042] In 1532, somewhat more indulgently,
 Luther had said of him: “Eccius is no preacher.... He can indeed talk
 _ad lib._ of drinking, gambling, light women and boon companions”;
 what, however, he says in his sermons he either does not take
 seriously or at any rate his heart is not in it.[1043] In 1542,
 nevertheless, Luther was heard to say: “I believe he has made himself
 over to the devil and entered into a bargain with him how long he will
 be allowed to live.”[1044] As was but natural, the man who had “never
 really taken the defence of the Pope seriously” died impenitent.
 According to Luther he passed away without making any confession,
 without even saying, “God be gracious to me.”[1045]

 Could we trust Luther, Johannes Fabri, another Catholic opponent,
 “blasphemed himself to death.” Surely, thus “to sin deliberately and
 of set purpose, exceeds all bounds.”[1046]

 Joachim I., Elector of Brandenburg († 1535), who remained faithful to
 the Church, was abused by Luther as a “liar, mad bloodhound, devilish
 Papist, murderer, traitor, desperate miscreant, assassin of souls,
 arch-knave, dirty pig and devil’s child, nay, the devil himself.”

 We may recall the epithets he bestowed on Henry VIII. for having
 presumed to criticise him: “Crowned donkey, abandoned, senseless man,
 excrement of hogs and asses, impudent royal windbag, mad Harry, arrant

 Cardinal Cajetan, the famous theologian, was, according to Luther,
 “an ambiguous, secretive, incomprehensible, mad theologian, and as
 well qualified to understand and judge his cause as an ass would be to
 play upon the harp.”[1048] Hoogstraaten, the Cologne Dominican, “does
 not know the difference between what is in agreement with and what
 contrary to Scripture; he is a mad, bloodthirsty murderer, a blind and
 hardened donkey, who ought to be put to scratch for dung-beetles in
 the manure-heaps of the Papists.”

 Of his attacks on Duke George of Saxony, the “Dresden Assassin,” we
 need only mention the parting shaft he flung into his opponent’s
 grave: “Let Pharao perish with all his tribe; even though he [the
 Duke] felt the prick of conscience yet he was never truly contrite....
 Now he has been rooted out.... God sometimes consents to look on
 for a while, but afterwards He punishes the race even down to the

 No one who in any way stood up for the Papal Decrees was safe from
 Luther’s ungovernable abuse, not even those statesmen who followed
 them from necessity rather than out of any respect for the Church.
 Luther is determined, so he says, “not to endure the excrement and
 filth of the Pope-Ass.... For goodness’ sake don’t come stirring up
 the donkey’s dung and papal filth in the churches, particularly in
 this town [Wittenberg].... The Pope defiles the whole world with his
 donkey’s dung, but why not let him eat it himself?... Let sleeping
 dogs lie, this I beg of you [and do not worry me with the Pope],
 otherwise I shall have to give you what for.... I must desist,
 otherwise I shall get too angry.”[1050]

 With the real defenders of the Papal Decrees, or the olden faith, he
 was, however, never afraid of becoming “too angry”; the only redeeming
 feature being, that, at times the overwhelming consciousness of his
 fancied superiority brings his caustic wit to his assistance and
 his anger dissolves into scorn. Minus this pungent ingredient, his
 polemics would be incomprehensible, nor would his success have been
 half so great.

 An example of his descriptions of such Catholics who wrote and
 spoke against him is to be found in his preface to a writing of
 Klingenbeyl’s. He there jokingly congratulates himself on having been
 the means of inducing his opponents to study the Bible in order to
 refute him: “Luther has driven these blockheads to Holy Scripture,
 just as though a man were to bring a lot of new animals to a
 menagerie. Here Dr. Cockles [Cochlæus] barks like a dog; there Brand
 of Berne [Johann Mensing] yelps like a fox; the Leipzig preacher of
 blasphemy [Johann Koss] howls like a wolf; Dr. Cunz Wimpina grunts
 like a snorting sow, and there is so much noise and clamour amongst
 the beasts that really I am quite sorry to have started the chase....
 They are supposed to be conversant with Scripture, and yet are quite
 ignorant of how to handle it.”[1051]

In a more serious and tragic tone he points out, how many of his foes
and opponents had been carried off suddenly by a Divine judgment. He
even drafted a long list of such instances, supplied with hateful
glosses of his own, which he alleged as a proof of the “visible action
of God” in support of his cause.[1052] Johann Koss, the “preacher
of blasphemy,” mentioned above, was given a place in this libellous
catalogue after he had been seized with a stroke of apoplexy in the
pulpit (Dec. 29, 1532). At the instance of Duke George he had been
appointed assistant preacher under Hieronymus Dungersheim, that, by
means of his elocutionary talent, he might defend the town of Leipzig
against the inroads of the new teaching. What particularly incensed
Luther was the use this preacher made of his Postils to refute him
by his own words. The stroke came on him while he was vindicating
the Catholic doctrine of good works. This circumstance, taken in
conjunction with the “place, time and individual,” was for Luther an
irrefutable proof of the intervention of “God’s anger.” “Christ,” he
says, “struck down His enemy, the Leipzig shouter, in the very midst of
his blasphemy.”[1053] The zealous preacher died about a month later.

“None are more pitiable,” Luther says elsewhere of this incident,
“than the presumptuous, such as are all the Papists.”[1054] It was
impossible for him to inveigh with sufficient severity against the
presumption which threatened him on all sides, despite the excessive
kindliness and moderation with which he occasionally credits himself;
for were not those who confronted him “the devil and his hirelings”? He
was forced to combat the frightful presumption of these men who acted
as though they were “steeped in holiness”; for in reality they are
“dirty pig-snouts”; as Papists they are “at the very least, murderers,
thieves and persecutors”; hence let all rise up against the “servers of

“We must curse the Pope and his kingdom and revile and abuse it,
and not close our jaws but preach against it without ceasing. There
are some now who say we are capable of nothing else but of damning,
scolding and slandering the Pope and his followers.” “Yes, and so it
must be.”[1056]

Elsewhere he hints which vilely vulgar terms of opprobrium were to be
applied to the Pope, and, after instancing them, adds: “It is thus
that we should learn to make use of these words.” The Catholic Princes
were also aimed at in this instruction which occurs in one of his
sermons. This discourse, pronounced on Jan. 12, 1531, at a time when
the intervention of the hostile secular powers was feared, was printed
ten years later under the title “Ein trostlich Unterricht wie man
sich gegen den Tyrannen, so Christum und sein Wort verfolgen halten

“Our mad and raving Princes,” he says, “are now raging and blustering
and planning to root out this teaching. Whoever is desirous of devoting
himself to Christ must daily be ready to suffer any peril to life and
limb.” Amongst the grounds for encouragement he adduces is the fact
that even his very foes admitted, “that we preach and teach God’s Word;
the only thing amiss being, that it was not done at their bidding,
but that we at Wittenberg started it all unknown to them.” He calls
the angry Princes “great merd-pots,” who are “kings and rulers of
the pig-sty of the earth where the belly, the universal cesspool,
reigns supreme.” “But we will be of good cheer and put our fingers
to our noses at them”; because we hold fast to Christ therefore we
suffer persecution from the world. “Who is the Pope, that he should
be angry?... A sickly, smelly scarecrow.” “The Pope says: I will
excommunicate you, thrust you down to the abyss of hell. [I tell him]
Stick your tongue in my----. I am holy, am baptised, have God’s Word
and His Promises to proclaim, but you are a sickly, syphilitic sack
of maggots. It is thus that we should learn to make use of these

3. The Psychology of Luther’s Abusive Language

_Various Psychological Factors._

Psychologically to appreciate the phenomenon in question we must first
of all take into account Luther’s temperament.

To every unprejudiced observer it must be clear, that, without the
unusual excitability natural to him, many of his utterances would be
quite inexplicable; even when we have given due weight to Luther’s
ungovernable temper and all too powerful imagination they still present
many difficult questions to the observer. Luther himself, as early as
1520, excuses to Spalatin his offensive language on the ground of his
natural “hot-bloodedness”; as everybody knew what his temper was, his
opponents ought not to annoy him as they did; yet these “monsters” only
provoked him the more, and made him “overstep the bounds of modesty and
decency.”[1059] It is perfectly true that some of his foes did provoke
him by their mode of attack, yet on the other hand his own violence
usually put theirs in the shade. (See below, xxvii., 4.)

In addition to his natural impetuosity which furnishes the chief basis
of the phenomenon under consideration, several other factors must
also be envisaged, depending on the objects or persons arousing his

It is clear that he was within his rights when he scourged the
anti-Christian blasphemy and seductive wiles of the Jews, however much
he may have been in the wrong in allowing himself to be carried away by
fanaticism so far as to demand their actual persecution. The same holds
good of many of the instances of his ungenerous and violent behaviour
towards “heretics” in his own fold. As against the many and oftentimes
very palpable defects of their position, he knew how to stand up for
truth and logic, though his way of doing so was not always happy, nor
his strictures untouched by his own theological errors.

Nor can it be denied that he was in the right when he assailed the
real, and, alas, all too many abuses of the olden Church. The lively
sense that, at least in this respect, he was in the right may quite
possibly have fed the inward fire of his animosity to Catholics, all
the more owing to his being in the wrong in those new doctrines which
were his principal concern. To the assurance, and the offensive manner
in which he insisted on a reform, his visit to Rome, a distorted
recollection of which ever remained with him, no doubt contributed.
His mind was ever reverting to the dismal picture--by no means an
altogether imaginary one--of the immorality prevailing in even the
highest ecclesiastical circles of Rome.

Rome’s unworthy treatment of the system of indulgences, which had
afforded the occasion of his action in 1517, continued to supply new
fuel for his indignation; to it he was fond of tracing back his whole
undertaking. What increased his anger was the thought that it was this
same Rome, whose ignoble practices both in the matter of indulgences
and in other fields was notorious, who had called him to judgment. It
is painful to the Catholic to have to confess that many of Luther’s
complaints were by no means unfounded. He will, however, call to mind
the better churchmen of those days, who, though indignant at the sad
corruption then prevalent, never dreamt of apostasy, knowing as they
did, that even far worse scandals could never justify a revolt against
the institution appointed by Christ for the salvation of souls.

Even when voicing his real grievances Luther was seldom either prudent
or moderate. He never seems to have quite taken to heart the scriptural
injunction: “Let every man be slow to speak, slow to anger, for the
anger of man worketh not the justice of God.” He expounds in his
Postils the Epistle where the admonition in question occurs,[1060] but
it is curious to note how cursorily he dismisses the words, with which,
maybe, he felt somewhat out of sympathy, though here, as elsewhere, he
refers to the evil consequences of any proneness to anger. On the other
hand, he insists, that “our censures and rebukes” must be in accordance
with the “right and true Word,” i.e. with theology as he understood
it.[1061] He prefers to devote far the greater portion of the
exposition to proving his favourite thesis, that, thanks to the Evangel
now proclaimed, “we have a good and cheerful conscience, stronger than
all fear, sin and temptation, and containing the sure hope of life
everlasting”;[1062] “it is a Word that has power to save your souls;
what more can you desire?”[1063] He seems averse to inculcating that
meekness which the text requires.

       *       *       *       *       *

One factor which frequently fanned the flames was jealousy, when,
for instance, he had to deal with theological opponents who appeared
to be making too small account of him. The new Evangel, he said, was
endangered by none more than by the “fanatics and sacramentarians”;
to defend his personal position against them had cost him the hardest
struggle of his whole life; no wonder that against them he opened wide
the sluice-gates of his eloquence. He was keenly sensitive to any
slight. “Things are going all wrong in the world,” he sighed in 1532.
“We are already looked upon with contempt, but let us gather up the
fragments when they are cheapest, that is what I advise.”[1064] Of
Carlstadt twelve years previous he had written: “If he has no respect
for me, which of us then will he respect? And what is the good of
admonishing him? I believe he reckons me one of the most learned men
in Wittenberg, and yet he actually tells me to my very face that I am
nobody.... He writes right and left just as he chooses and looks on
poor Wittenberg as quite beneath his notice.”[1065] Luther’s vexation
explains his language. A pity one of the Princes did not let him taste
cold steel; if Carlstadt believed in a God in heaven, then might
Christ never more be gracious to him (Luther); he was no man, but an
incarnation of the evil spirit, etc.

Not merely his former friend Carlstadt but others too he accused of
inordinate ambition because they wished to discredit his discoveries
and his position. “It is the ‘_gloria_’ that does the mischief,” he
said in 1540 in his Table-Talk, “Zwingli was greedy of honour, as
we see from what he wrote, viz. that he had learnt nothing from me.
I should indeed be sorry had he learnt from me, for he went astray.
Œcolampadius thought himself too learned to listen to me or to learn
from me; of course, he too, surpassed me. Carlstadt also declares: ‘I
care nothing for you,’ and Münzer actually declaimed against two Popes,
the new one [myself] and the old.[1066] All who shun us and attack
us secretly have departed from the faith, like Jeckel and Grickel
[Jakob Schenk and Johann Agricola]; they reached their understanding by
their own efforts and learnt nothing from us! Just like Zwingli.” Yet
twenty-five years before (i.e. previous to his great discovery in 1515)
no one “knew anything,” and, twenty-one years before, he, all alone,
under the Divine guidance had put the ball in motion. “Ah, κενοδοξία
[vainglory], that’s the mischief.”[1067]

Jealousy played its part also, when, in 1525, he rounded so violently
upon Zwingli and the Zwinglians at Strasburg. Zwingli’s crime in
his eyes lay not merely in his having, like Œcolampadius, adopted a
divergent doctrine on the Eucharist, but in his claim to have been
before Luther in preaching the Gospel of Christ openly according to
its true meaning.[1068] Both circumstances contributed to Luther’s
ire, which, after finding vent in many angry words, culminated at last
in the rudest abuse of Zwingli and his “devilish” crew. Already in
1525, he wrote in the instruction for the people of Strasburg which he
gave to Gregory Casel, who had come to Wittenberg to negotiate:[1069]
“One of the parties must be the tool of Satan, i.e. either they or
we.”[1070] “Christ can have no part with Belial.” And, before this:
“They [Zwingli and Œcolampadius] disturb our Church and weaken
our repute. Hence we cannot remain silent. If they would be vexed
to see their own reputation suffer, let them also think of ours.”
“They ought to have held their tongues long ago [on the question of
the Sacrament]; now silence comes too late.” He concludes with the
assurance, that their error was refuted by “the Spirit,” and that it
was impossible they could have any certainty concerning their doctrine,
whereas he could justly boast, that he had the experience of the faith
and the testimony of the Spirit (“_experimentum fidei et spiritus
testimonium_”). “They will never win the day. It pains me that Zwingli
and his followers take offence at my saying that ‘What I write must be

Apart from the doctrine on the Sacrament, the other thing which helped
to annoy him stands revealed more plainly in the letter addressed on
the same day to the Strasburg preachers: “We dare to boast that Christ
was first made known by us, and now Zwingli actually comes and accuses
us of denying Christ.”[1071] Bossuet was quite right in arguing that
such petty jealousy on Luther’s part is scarcely to his credit.[1072]
He quotes a criticism on Luther’s behaviour by George Calixt, the
famous Lutheran professor of theology at Helmstädt: “The sweetness of
vainglory is so seductive and human weakness so great, that even those
who despise all things and risk their goods, yea life itself, may
succumb to inordinate ambition.” Luther, too, had high aims; “we cannot
be surprised that, even a man so large-minded as Luther, should have
written such things to the people of Strasburg.”[1073]

Offended vanity played a part as great and even more obvious in
Luther’s furious polemics against the literary defenders of the Church.
One cannot help noticing how, especially when they had succeeded in
making out a clear case against him, his answer was a torrent of most
unsparing abuse.

       *       *       *       *       *

The eloquence which he had at his command also constituted a
temptation. He was well aware of the force with which his impassioned
language carried others away. Very little was thus needed to induce him
to take up this formidable weapon which at least ensured his success
among the masses. He himself revelled in the unquenchable wealth of his
vituperative vocabulary, and with it he caught the fancy of thousands
who loved nothing more than a quarrel. If it be true that all popular
orators are exposed to the temptation to exaggerate, to say things
which are striking rather than correct, and, generally, to court the
applause of the crowd, this danger was even greater in Luther’s case
owing to the whole character of the controversy he had stirred up. In
the midst of a stormy sea one does not speak softly. Luther’s abuse
was, however, powerful enough to be heard above even the most furious

For his work Luther required an extraordinary stimulus. He would have
succumbed under the countless and burdensome labours which devolved
on him had he not constantly aroused himself anew by the exercise of
a sort of violence. Vituperation thus became to him a real need. When
he had succeeded thereby in working himself up into a passion his mind
grew clearer and his imagination more vigorous, so that he found it all
the easier to borrow from the lips of the mob that rude language of
which he makes such fell use. He kindles his animation by dwelling on
the “vermin and running sores of Popery.”

In the same way from time to time he found the need of unburdening
himself of his ill-humour. The small success of his labours for the
reform of morals and his other annoying experiences gave him many an
unhappy hour. His bad humour found an outlet in abuse and vituperation,
particularly against the enemies of the Evangel. He himself was unable
to conceal the real grounds of the vexation which he vented on the
Papacy, for, often enough, after storming against the Papists, he
complains bitterly of his own followers’ contempt for the “Word” and of
their evil lives.

 After the utterance already recorded: “We must curse the Pope and his
 kingdom,” he goes on to levy charges of the worst character against
 those of his own party, and pours forth on them, too, all the vials of
 his wrath and disappointment. It was in this connection that he said,
 that the Evangelicals were seven times worse than before; for the one
 devil that had been expelled, seven worse had entered in, so horribly
 did they lie, cheat, gorge and swill and indulge in every vice;
 princes, lords, nobles, burghers and peasants alike had lost all fear
 of God.[1074]

 Another example, taken this time from the year 1536. Full of anger
 against the Pope he said to a friend who held a high post: “My dear
 fellow, do hurl a Paternoster as a curse against the Papacy that it
 may be smitten with the Dance of St. Vitus.” He adds: “Don’t mind
 my way of speaking, for indeed you know it well; I am coarse and
 rough ... so sore beset, oppressed and overwhelmed with business of
 all kinds, that, to save my poor carcase I must sometimes indulge
 in a little pleasure, for, after all, man is only human”[1075]--an
 utterance psychologically valuable. The real reason for the
 depression against which he was struggling is, however, clearer in
 other letters dating from that time. In them we get a glimpse of his
 grievous vexation and annoyance with the false teachers within the
 Evangelical fold: “New prophets are arising one after the other. I
 almost long to be delivered [by death] so as not to have to go on
 seeing so much mischief, and to be free at last from this kingdom
 of the devil. I implore you to pray to God that He would grant me

Lastly, his outbursts against the Papacy served to cover his own
anxiety of conscience.

 In the same way as others who leave their Church, fling themselves
 into the turmoil and distractions of the world in order to escape
 their scruples, Luther too, allayed the reproach of his conscience by
 precipitating himself into the midst of the storm he had evoked; with
 this advantage, that the sharp weapons of abuse and scorn he employed
 could be turned against the enemy both without and within. Accustomed
 as he was to treat the voice of conscience as the voice of Satan, he
 willingly clung to the doubtful consolation that the stronger his
 abuse of his opponents the greater his own encouragement. The evil
 which he detected in Popery seemed to him to load the scale in his own
 favour. He even admits this with the most engaging frankness.

 “I am quite ready to allow that the Pope’s abomination is, after
 Christ, my greatest consolation. Hence those are hopeless simpletons
 who say we should not abuse the Pope. Don’t be slow in abuse,
 particularly when the devil attacks you on Justification.” He intends
 “to infuse courage into himself by considering the abomination and
 horror” of the Pope; and to “hold it up under the devil’s nose.”[1077]
 Döllinger remarks justly: “Here [in these anxieties of conscience]
 is to be found at least a partial psychological explanation of that
 wealth of bitter abuse which marks off Luther’s writings from all
 other literary products, ancient or mediæval.... Not seldom he sought
 to deaden the interior terrors of a reproving conscience with the
 noisy clamour of his vituperation.”[1078]

We have just heard Luther promise to hold up the Pope’s abomination to
the devil’s nose. This saying brings us to the principal explanation of
the phenomenon under consideration.

_Connection of Luther’s Abusiveness with his Mystic Persuasion of his
Special Call._

Luther had brought himself to such a pitch as to see in the existing
Church the devil’s kingdom, to overthrow which, with its Antichrist,
was his own sublime mission. This theological, anti-diabolical motive
for his anger and boundless invective, throws all others into the shade.

 “Even were I not carried away by my hot temper and my style of
 writing,” he says, “I should still be obliged to take the field, as I
 do, against the enemies of truth” (“children of the devil” he calls
 them elsewhere). “I am hot-headed enough, nor is my pen blunt.” But
 these foes “revel in the most horrible crimes not merely against me,
 but even against God’s Word.” Did not Christ Himself have recourse
 to abuse, he asks, against the “wicked and adulterous generation of
 the Jews, against the brood of vipers, the hypocrites and children of
 the devil”? “Whoever is strong in the consciousness of the truth, can
 display no patience towards its furious and ferocious enemies.”[1079]

 The more vividly he persuaded himself of his mission, the blacker
 were the colours in which he painted the devil of Popery who refused
 to believe in it, and the more strangely did there surge up from
 the sombre depths of his soul and permeate his whole being a hatred
 the like of which no mortal man had ever known before. In such
 outbursts Luther thinks he is “raving and raging [’_debacchari_’]
 against Satan”; for instance, in a letter to Melanchthon, dated from
 the fortress of Coburg, “from the stronghold full of devils where
 Christ yet reigns in the midst of His foes.” Even when unable from
 bodily weakness to write against the devil, yet he could at least
 rage against him in thought and prayer; “the Pope’s enormities
 (‘_portenta_’) against God and against the common weal” supplied him
 with material in abundance.[1080]

 God had appointed him, so we read elsewhere, “to teach and to
 instruct,” as “an Apostle and Evangelist in the German lands” (were
 it his intention to boast); for he knows that he teaches “by the
 Grace of God, whose name Satan shall not destroy nor deprive me of
 to all eternity”; therefore I must unsparingly “expose my back parts
 to the devil ... so as to enrage him still more.” To the wrath of
 all the devils, bishops, and princes he will pay as little heed as
 to the rustle of a bat’s wing, nor will he spare the “traitors and

 As early as 1520 he revealed to an intimate friend the morbidly
 exaggerated ideas which moved him: As an excuse for his dreadful
 vituperation he alleges his pseudo-mystic conception of the life and
 death struggle he was to engage in with the devil, and his sense
 of the “_impetus Spiritus_”; this he pleads in extenuation to his
 friend, who would appear to have reminded him of the dangers of
 pride. “All condemn my sarcasm,” he admits, but, now that the Spirit
 has moved him, he may set himself on a line with the “prophets” of
 the Old Law who “were so harsh in their invective,” nay, with Paul
 the Apostle, whose severe censures were ever present in his mind. In
 fact, God Himself, according to Luther, is to some extent present in
 these utterances by means of His power and action, and, “sure enough,
 intends in this way to unmask the inventions of man.”[1082]

As compared with the interior force with which the idea of his mission
inspired him, all his violence, particularly in his polemics with the
Catholic theologians and statesmen, appeared to him far too weak. Thus
his “Wider Hans Worst” against the Catholic Duke of Brunswick, though
reeking of blood and hate, seemed to him to fall short of the mark
and to be all too moderate, so at least he told Melanchthon, to all
appearance quite seriously.[1083] His inability ever to exhaust his
indignation goes back to the idea expressed by him in the same letter
with such startling candour and conviction as to remind one of the
ravings of a man possessed by a fixed delusion: “It is certain that it
is God Who is fighting.” “Our cause is directed by the hand of God, not
by our own wisdom. The Word makes its way and prayer glows ... hence
we might well sleep in peace were we not mere flesh.” His hint at the
near approach of the Last Judgment, the many signs of which could not
escape notice, more than confirms the pseudo-mystic character both of
his confidence and of his hate.[1084]

On other occasions traces of his pet superstitions are apparent, and,
when we take them together, prove beyond a doubt the unhealthy state
of the mind from which they sprang. For instance, Luther professes to
know particulars of the approaching end of the world concerning which
the Bible says nothing; he also has that curious list of opponents
miraculously slain by the Divine hand, and even fancies he can increase
it by praying for the death of those who, not sharing his opinions,
stood in his way: “This year we must pray Duke Maurice to death; we
must slay him by our prayers, for he is likely to prove a wicked man.”
On the same occasion he also attributes to himself a sort of prophetic
gift: “I am a prophet.”[1085] The foretelling of future events and
the fulfilment in his own person of olden prophecies and visions, and
again the many miracles and expulsions of the devil which accompany the
spread of his teaching, confirm his Evangel and impress the stamp of
Divine approbation on his hatred of Antichrist.[1086] Divine portents,
which, however, no one but Luther would have recognised as such, were
also exploited: the birth of the monstrous Monk-Calf; the Pope-Ass
fished from the Tiber; signs in the heavens and on the earth. The Book
of Daniel and St. John’s Apocalypse supplied him when necessary with
the wished-for interpretation, though his far-fetched speculations
would better become a mystic dreamer than a sober theologian and
spiritual guide of thousands. All this was crowned by the diabolical
manifestations which he himself experienced, though what he took for
apparitions of the devil was merely the outcome of an overwrought

This enables us to seize that second nature of his, made up of
superhuman storming and vituperation, and to understand, how, in his
hands, wild abuse of the Papacy became quite a system.

 “I shall put on my horns,” he wrote to a friend in 1522, “and vex
 Satan until he lies stretched out on the ground. Don’t be afraid, but
 neither expect me to spare my gainsayers; should they be hard hit by
 the new movement, that is not our fault, but a judgment from above on
 their tyranny.”[1088] Shortly after he wrote in a similar strain to
 reassure some unknown correspondent concerning his unusual methods
 of controversy: “Hence, my dear friend, do not wonder that many take
 offence at my writings. For it _must_ be that only a few hold fast
 to the Gospel [the friend had pointed out to him that many of his
 followers were being scared away by his abuse].... His Highness my
 master has admonished me in writing, and many other friends have done
 the same. But my reply is ever that I neither can nor will refrain
 from it.”[1089]

 Abuse becomes almost inseparable from his teaching, or at least seems
 entailed by it. “Whoever accepts my teaching with a right heart,”
 he says, “will not be scandalised by my abuse.” Indeed, he adds,
 emulating Hus, he was ready “to risk his life should persecution or
 the needs of the time demand it.” Nor have we any reason to doubt that
 his misguided enthusiasm would have rendered him capable of such a

 In 1531 the Elector Johann sent him a reprimand through Chancellor
 Brück on account of the two violent tracts, “Warnunge an seine lieben
 Deudschen” and “Auff das vermeint keiserlich Edict.” George of Saxony
 had, it appears, complained to the Elector, that these writings
 “served in no small measure to incite to rebellion, and also contained
 much abuse both of high and low.”[1091] Hereupon Luther, with the
 utmost impudence, vindicated his cause to his sovereign: “That
 certain persons may have informed your Electoral Highness that the
 two writings were sharp and hasty, this is indeed true; I never meant
 them to be blunt and kind, and only regret that they were not more
 severe and violent”; for all he had said of such “lying, blasphemous,
 asinine” opponents--especially considering the danger in which the
 Electoral house stood--fell short of the mark; the Prince should bear
 in mind that he [Luther] had been “far too mild and soft in dealing
 with such evil knots and boughs.”[1092]

 But “the knots and boughs” of his literary opponents did not consist
 entirely in coarse insults, but largely in the well-grounded
 vindication against his unwarranted attacks of the religion of their
 fathers, in which they saw the true basis of the common weal. His
 opponents had necessarily to take the defensive; Luther, with his
 furious words and actions, was in almost every case the aggressor, and
 forestalled their writings.

 It is plain that, at the very time when he thus explained his position
 to the Elector Johann, i.e. about the time of the Diet of Augsburg,
 in 1530, he was under the influence of that inner power of which he
 had said: “I am carried away I know not by what spirit”; “I am not
 master of myself.” He exclaims: “In God’s name and at His command I
 will tread upon the lion and adder and trample under foot the lion and
 dragon [it is thus that he applies the Messianic prophecy in Ps. xc.
 13]; this shall commence during my lifetime and be accomplished after
 my death. St. John Hus prophesied of me,” etc.[1093] More than ever
 he lays stress on the fact that he has a “Divine mission,” and was
 “called by God to a work,” not commenced “of his own initiative”; for
 which cause also “God was with him and assisted him.”[1094] He means
 to realise his earlier threat (1521): “If I live I shall never make
 peace with the Papacy; if you kill me you shall have twice as little
 peace. Do your worst, you swine and Thomists. Luther will be to you a
 bear in the road and a lion in the path [as Osee says]. He will meet
 you everywhere and not leave you in peace until your brazen front and
 stiff neck be broken, either by gentleness or by force. I have lost
 enough patience already; if you will not amend you may continue to
 rage against me and I to despise you, you abandoned monsters.”[1095]

 He is now determined to carry out his threat of 1527 even at the cost
 of his life: “My teaching shall cry aloud and smite right and left;
 may God deny me the gifts of patience and meekness. My cry is: No, No,
 No, so long as I can move a muscle, let it vex King, Emperor, Princes,
 the devil, or whom it may.... Bishops, priests, monks, great Johnnies,
 scholars and the whole world are all thirsting for the gore of Luther,
 whose executioners they would gladly be, and the devil likewise and
 his crew.... My teaching is the main thing by which I defy not only
 princes and kings but even all the devils. I am and remain a mere
 sheep.... Not following my own conceit, I may have attacked a tyrant
 or great scholar and given him a cut and made him angry, but let him
 be ready for thirty more.... Let no one, least of all the tyrants
 and persecutors of the Evangel, expect any patience or humility from
 me.... What must not my wrath be with the Papists who are my avowed
 enemies?... Come on, all together, since you all belong to one batch,
 devils, Papists, fanatics, fall upon Luther! Papists from the front,
 fanatics from the rear, devils from every side! Chase him, hunt him
 down gaily, you have found the right quarry. Once Luther is down you
 are saved and have won the day. But I see plainly that words are of no
 avail; no abuse, no teaching, no exhortation, no menaces, no promises,
 no beseeching serve our purpose.... Well, then, in God’s name, let us
 try defiance. Whoever relents, let him go; whoever is afraid, let him
 flee; I have at my back a strong Defender.... I have well served the
 world and brought Holy Scripture and the Word of God to light in a way
 unheard of for a thousand years. I have done my part; your blood be
 upon your own head and not on my hands!”[1096]

Nevertheless, at times he appears to have had some slight qualms.
Yet after having described the Papists as “Pope-Asses, slaves of
the Mass, blasphemers, miscreants and murderers of souls,”[1097] he
continues: “Should anyone here say that I confine myself to flinging
coarse epithets about me and can do nothing but slander and abuse, I
would reply, firstly, that such abuse is nothing compared with the
unspeakable wickedness. For what is it if I abuse the devil as a
murderer, miscreant, traitor, blasphemer and liar? To him all this
is but a gentle breeze! But what else are the Pope-Asses but devils
incarnate, who know not penance, whose hearts are hardened and who
knowingly defend their palpable blasphemy.... Hence my abuse is not
abuse at all, but just the same as were I to call a turnip a turnip, an
apple an apple, or a pear a pear.”[1098]

A psychological explanation of Luther’s mania for invective is also to
be looked for in the admixture of vile ingredients which went to make
up his abuse. So frequently had he recourse to such when in a state of
excitement that they must be familiar to every observer of Luther’s
development and general behaviour; it is, however, our duty here to
incorporate this element, so characteristic of his polemics, in our
sketch of the angry Luther.

_The Unpleasant Seasoning of Luther’s Abuse._

The filthy expressions, to which Luther was so prone when angry, are
psychologically interesting, throwing light as they do on the depth
of his passion and on the all too earthly atmosphere which pervades
his abuse. Had Luther’s one object, as writer and teacher, been to
vindicate spiritual treasures he would surely have scorned to make use
of such adjuncts as these in his teaching or his polemics. Even when
desirous of speaking forcibly, as beseemed a man of his stamp, he would
have done so without introducing these disreputable and often repulsive
elements of speech. He was, however, carried away by an imagination
only too familiar with such vulgar imagery, and a tongue and pen much
too ready to speak or write of things of that sort. Unless he places
pressure on himself a man’s writings give a true picture of his inner
standards, and pressure was something which Luther’s genius could never

Luther had, moreover, a special motive for drawing his creations
from this polluted well. He wished to arouse the lower classes and
to ingratiate himself with those who, the less capable they were of
thinking for themselves or of forming a true judgment, were all the
readier to welcome coarseness, banter and the tone of the gutter.
Amidst their derisive laughter he flings his filth in the face of
his opponents, of the Catholics throughout the world, the Pope, the
hierarchy and the German past.

 If at Rome they had to prove that the Keys had been given to St.
 Peter “the Pope’s nether garments would fare badly.”[1099] Of the
 Papal dispensation for the clergy to marry, which many confidently
 expected, Luther says, that it would be just the thing for the devil;
 “let him open his bowels over his dispensation and sling it about his
 neck.”[1100]--The Princes and nobles (those who were on the other
 side) “soiled their breeches so shamefully in the Peasant War that
 even now they can be smelt afar off.”[1101]--He declares of the head
 of the Church of Rome: “Among real Christians no one is more utterly
 despicable than the Pope ... he stinks like a hoopoe’s nest.”[1102]
 Of those generally who opposed the Divine Word he says: “No smell is
 worse than yours.”[1103]--“Good-bye, beloved Rome; let what stinks go
 on stinking.”[1104]

 “It is stupid of the Papists to wear breeches. How if they were to get
 drunk and let slip a motion?”[1105] This concern we find expressed in
 Luther’s “Etliche Sprüche wider das Concilium Obstantiense” (1535).
 And it is quite in keeping with other utterances in the same writing.
 He there speaks of the “dragons’ heads that peep and spew out of the
 hind-quarters of the Pope-Ass,”[1106] and on the same page ventures to
 address our Saviour as follows: “Beloved Lord Jesus Christ, it is high
 time that Thou shouldst lay bare, back and front, the shame of the
 furious, bloodthirsty, purple-clad harridan and reveal it to the whole
 world in preparation for the dawn of Thy bright Coming.”

 Naturally he is no less unrestrained in his attacks on all who
 defended Popery. Of Eck’s ideas on chastity he remarks: “Your he-goat
 to your nostrils smells like balsam.”[1107] Of Cardinal Albert of
 Mayence and his party he wrote, during the Schönitz controversy:
 These “knaves and liars” “bring out foul rags fit only for devils
 and men to use in the closet.”[1108] The epithet, merd-priest,
 merd-bishop, is several times applied by him to members of the
 Catholic hierarchy.[1109] “The poor merd-priest wanted to ease
 himself, but, alas, there was nothing in his bowels.”[1110]

 The Jurists who still clung to Canon Law he declares “invade the
 churches with their Pope like so many swine; yet there is another
 place whither they might more seemingly betake themselves if they
 wish to wipe the fundament of their Pope.”[1111] The Italians think
 that “whatever a Cardinal gives vent to, however vile it be, is a new
 article of faith promulgated for the benefit of the Germans.”[1112]
 To the Papists who threaten him with a Council he says: “If they are
 angry let them ease themselves into their breeches and sling it round
 their neck; that will be real balsam and pax for such thin-skinned
 saints.”[1113]--The fanatics who opposed his teaching on the Sacrament
 were also twitted on the score that “they would surely ease themselves
 on it and make use of it in the privy.”[1114] The Princes and
 scoundrel nobles faithfully followed the devil’s lead, who cannot
 bear to listen to God’s Word “but shows it his backside.”[1115] How
 are we best to answer an opponent, even the Pope? As though he were
 a “despicable drunkard.” “Give them the fig” (i.e. make a certain
 obscene gesture with the fist).[1116]--Such is his own remedy in all
 hostility and every misfortune: “I give them the fig.”[1117] His usual
 counsel is, however, to turn one’s “posterior” on them.

 The Pope is the “filth which the devil has dropped in the Church”;
 he is the “devil’s bishop and the devil himself.”[1118]--Commenting
 on the Papal formula “_districte mandantes_,” he adds: “Ja, in
 Ars.”[1119] They want “me to run to Rome and fetch forgiveness of
 sins. Yes, forsooth, an evacuation!”[1120]

 Of the Pope’s Bull of excommunication he says “they ought to order his
 horrid ban to be taken to the back quarters where children of Adam go
 to stool; it might then be used as a pocket-handkerchief.”[1121]--We
 must seize hold of the “vices” of the Pope and his clergy and show
 them up as real lechers; thus should all those who hold the office of
 preacher “set their droppings under the very noses of the Pope and the
 bishops.”[1122] “The spirit of the Pope, the father of lies,” wishes
 to display his wisdom by so altering the Word of God, that it “reeks
 of his stale filth.”[1123]--These people, who, like the Pope, are so
 learned in the Scripture, are “clever sophists,” experts in equine
 anal functions.[1124] They have “taken it upon themselves to come to
 the assistance of the whole world with their chastity and good works,”
 but, in reality, they merely “stuff our mouths with horse-dung.”[1125]

 Of the alleged Papal usurpations he exclaims: “Were such muck
 as this stirred up in a free Council, what a stench there would
 be!”[1126]--The same favourite figure of speech helps him against the
 Sacramentarians: “What useful purpose can be served by my raking up
 all the devil’s filth?”[1127]--This phrase was at least more in place
 when Luther, referring to Philip of Hesse’s bigamy, said, that he “was
 not going to stir up the filth under the public nose.”[1128]--After
 their defeat he refused to comply with the demand of the peasants,
 that he should support them in their lawlessness: They want us to lend
 them a hand in “stirring up thoroughly the filth that is so eager to
 stink, till their mouths and noses are choked with it.”[1129] But it
 is to the Pope and his followers that, by preference, he applies such
 imagery. “They have forsaken the stool of St. Peter and St. Paul and
 now parade their filth [concerning original sin]; to such a pass have
 they come that they no longer believe anything, whether concerning
 the Gospel, or Christ, or even their own teaching.”[1130]--“This is
 the filth they now purvey, viz. that we are saved by our works; this
 is the devil’s own poisonous tail.”[1131]--Of those who awaited the
 decision of a Council he writes: “Let the devil wait if he chooses....
 The members of the body must not wait till the filth says and decrees
 whether the body is healthy or not. We are determined to learn this
 from the members themselves and not from the urine, excrement and
 filth. In the same way we shall not wait for the Pope and bishops in
 Council to say: This is right. For they are no part of the body, or
 clean and healthy members, but merely the filth of squiredom, merd
 spattered on the sleeve and veritable ordure, for they persecute the
 true Evangel, well knowing it to be the Word of God. Therefore we can
 see they are but filth, stench and limbs of Satan.”[1132]

 At the time of the Diet of Augsburg, in 1530, he informed the
 delegates of his party: “You are treating, not with men, but with the
 very gates of hell.... But they have fallen foul of the wisdom of
 God and [the final sentence of this Latin epistle is in German] soil
 themselves with their own filthy wisdom. Amen, Amen.”[1133]--The words
 “bescheissen” and “beschmeissen” (cp. popular French: “emmerder”) flow
 naturally from Luther’s pen. Neobulus, the Hessian defender of the
 bigamy, he describes as “a prince of darkness,” who “has ‘defiled’
 himself with his wisdom”;[1134] the papal “Jackanapes” who “declare
 that the Lutherans have risen in revolt,” have likewise “‘defiled’
 themselves with their sophistry.”[1135]

 He asserts he can say “with a clear conscience that the Pope is a
 merd-ass and the foe of God.”[1136] “The Pope-Ass has emitted a great
 and horrible ordure here.... A wonder it did not tear his anus or
 burst his belly.” “There lies the Pope in his own dung.”[1137] “The
 Popes are so fond of lies and scurrilities that their paunch waxes fat
 on them”; they are waiting to see “whether the Pope’s motions will
 not ultimately scare the kings.... The Papal hypocrites--I had almost
 said the devil’s excrements--boast of being masters over the whole

Amidst these unavoidable quotations from Luther’s unpleasant vocabulary
of abuse the historian is confronted again and again with the question:
What relation does this coarser side of Luther’s style bear to the
manners of his times? We have already pointed out how great the
distance is between him and all other writers, particularly such as
treat of religious subjects in a popular or polemical vein; obviously
it is with the latter category of writings that his should be compared,
rather than with the isolated aberrations of certain writers of romance
or the lascivious works produced by the Humanists.[1139] Various
quotations from contemporaries of Luther’s, even from friends of the
innovations, have shown that his language both astonished and shocked
them.[1140] It was felt that none other could pretend to measure
himself beside this giant of invective.

Duke George of Saxony on one occasion told Luther in no kindly way that
he knew peasants who spoke just the same, “particularly when the worse
for drink”; indeed they went one better and “knew how to use their
fists”; among them Luther would be taken for a swine-herd.[1141]

“Their inexhaustible passion for abuse,” wrote a Catholic contemporary
in 1526, “makes me not a little suspicious of the teaching of this
sect. No one is accounted a good pupil of Luther’s who is not an adept
in abusive language; Luther’s own abuse knows no bounds.... Who can
put up with such vituperation the like of which has not been heard for
ages?... Read all this man’s writings and you will hardly find a page
that is not sullied with vile abuse.”[1142]

It is true that the lowest classes, particularly in Saxony, as it
would appear, were addicted to the use of smutty language in which
they couched their resentment or their wit; this, however, was among
themselves. In the writings of the Wittenberg professor of theology,
on the other hand, this native failing emerges unabashed into the
light of day, and the foul sayings which Luther--in his anxiety to
achieve popularity--gathered from the lips of the rabble swept like
a flood over the whole of the German literary field. Foul language
became habitual, and, during the polemics subsequent on Luther’s death,
whether against the Catholics or among the members of the Protestant
fold, was a favourite weapon of attack with those who admired Luther’s
drastic ways.

As early as 1522 Thomas Blaurer, a youthful student at Wittenberg,
wrote: “No abuse, however low and shameful,” must be spared until
Popery is loathed by all.[1143] Thus the object in view was to besmirch
the Papacy by pelting it with mire. When, in 1558, Tilman Hesshusen,
an old Wittenberg student, became Professor of Theology and General
Superintendent at Heidelberg and thundered with much invective against
his opponents and in favour of the Confession of Augsburg, even his
friends asked the question, “whether the thousand devils he was wont
to purvey from the pulpit helped to promote the pure cause of the
Lutheran Evangel?” At Bremen, preaching against Hardenberg, a follower
of Melanchthon’s, he declared, that he had turned the Cathedral into a
den of murderers.[1144] In 1593 Nigrinus incited the people to abuse
the Papists with the words: “Up against them boldly and fan the flames
so that things may be made right warm for them!” George Steinhausen
remarks in this connection in his History of German Civilisation:
“Luther became quite a pattern of violent abuse and set the tone for
the anti-popish ranters, who, most of them, belonged to the lowest
class. On their side the Catholics, for instance, Hans Salat of
Lucern or the convert Johann Engerd, were also not behindhand in this
respect.... The preachers, however, were always intent on egging them
on to yet worse attacks.”[1145]

The manner in which Luther in his polemics treated his opponents, wrote
Döllinger in his “Sketch of Luther,” “is really quite unparalleled.
He never displays any of that kindly charity, which, while hating the
error, seeks to win over those who err; on the contrary, with him all
is abuse and anger, defiance and contemptuous scorn voiced in a tempest
of invective, often of a most personal and vulgar kind.... It is quite
wrong to say that Luther in this respect merely followed in the wake
of his contemporaries; this is clear enough to everyone familiar with
the literature of that age and the one which preceded it; the virulence
of Luther’s writings astonished everybody; those who did not owe him
allegiance were not slow to express their amazement, to blame him and
to emphasise the harmful effects of these outbursts of abuse, whilst
his disciples and admirers were wont to appeal to Luther’s ‘heroic
spirit’ which lifted him above the common herd and, as it were,
dispensed him from the observance of the moral law and allowed him to
say things that would have been immoral and criminal in others.”[1146]

Especially his obscene abuse of the Pope did those of Luther’s
contemporaries who remained faithful to the Church brand as wicked,
immoral and altogether unchristian. “What ears can listen to these
words without being offended?” wrote Emser, “or who is the pious
Christian who is not cut to the quick by this cruel insult and
blasphemy offered to the vicar of Christ? Is this sort of thing
Christian or Evangelical?”[1147]

_Protestant Opinions Old and New._

Erasmus’s complaints concerning Luther’s abusiveness were re-echoed,
though with bated breath, by those of the new faith whose passion had
not entirely carried them away. The great scholar, speaking of Luther’s
slanders on him and his faith, had even said that they were such as to
compel a reasonable reader to come to the conclusion that he was either
completely blinded by hate, or suffering from some mental malady, or
else possessed by the devil.[1148] Many of Luther’s own party agreed
with Erasmus, at any rate when he wrote: “This unbridled abuse showered
upon all, poisons the reader’s mind, particularly in the case of the
uneducated, and can promote only anger and dissension.”[1149]

 The Protestant theologians of Switzerland were much shocked by
 Luther’s ways. To the complaints already quoted from their letters and
 writings may be added the following utterances of Zwingli’s successor,
 Heinrich Bullinger, who likewise judged Luther’s offensive tone to be
 quite without parallel: Most of Luther’s books “are cast in such a
 mould as to give grievous scandal to many simple folk, so that they
 become suspicious of the Evangelical cause as a whole.... His writings
 are for the most part nothing but invective and abuse.... He sends to
 the devil all who do not at once side with him. Thus all his censure
 is imbued with hostility and contains little that is friendly or
 fatherly.” Seeing that the world already teems with abuse and curses,
 Bullinger thinks that it would better befit Luther “to be the salt”
 and to strive to mend matters, instead of which he only makes bad
 worse and incites his preachers to “abuse and blaspheme.” “For there
 are far too many preachers who have sought and found in Luther’s books
 a load of bad words.... From them we hear of nothing but of fanatics,
 rotters, Sacramentarians, foes of the Sacrament, blasphemers,
 scoundrels, hypocrites, rebels, devils, heretics and endless things of
 the like.... And this, too, is praised by many [who say]: Why, even
 Luther, the Prophet and Apostle of the Germans, does the same!”[1150]

 Of Luther’s “Schem Hamphoras” Bullinger wrote: “Were it written,
 not by a famous pastor of souls, but by a swine-herd,” it would
 still be hard to excuse.[1151] In a writing to Bucer, Bullinger
 also protested against endangering the Evangel by such unexampled
 abuse and invective. If no one could stop Luther then the Papists
 were right when they said of him, and the preachers who followed in
 his footsteps, that they were no “Evangelists, but rather scolding,
 foul-mouthed buffoons.”[1152]

 In answer to such complaints Martin Bucer wrote to Bullinger admitting
 the existence of grievous shortcomings, but setting against it
 Luther’s greatness as evinced in the admiration he called forth. The
 party interests of the Evangel and his hatred of the Papal Antichrist
 made him to regard as merely human in Luther, frailties which to
 others were a clear proof of his lack of a Divine mission. As Bucer
 puts it: “I am willing to admit what you say of Luther’s venomous
 discourses and writings. Oh, that I could only change his ways.... But
 the fellow allows himself to be carried away by the storm that rages
 within him so that no one can stop him. It is God, however, Who makes
 use of him to proclaim His Evangel and to overthrow Antichrist.... He
 has made Luther to be so greatly respected in so many Churches that
 no one thinks of opposing him, still less of removing him from his
 position. Most people are proud of him, even those whom he does not
 acknowledge as his followers; many admire and copy his faults rather
 than his virtues; but huge indeed is the multitude of faithful who
 revere him as the Apostle of Christ.... I too give him the first place
 in the sacred ministry. It is true there is much about him that is
 human, but who is there who displays nothing but what is Divine?” In
 spite of all he was a great tool of God (“_admirandum organum Dei pro
 salute populi Dei_”); such was the opinion of all pious and learned
 men who really knew him.[1153]

 Yet Bucer had some strong things to say to Landgrave Philip of Hesse,
 regarding Luther’s addiction to abuse. To try and persuade him to
 deal courteously with his foes, particularly with the Zürichers after
 their “mistaken booklet,” so Bucer writes to the Prince, “would be
 like trying to put out a fire with oil. If Master Philip and I--who
 have kept rigidly and loyally to the Concord--succeed in turning away
 the man’s wrath from ourselves, then we shall esteem ourselves lucky.”
 The “foolhardiness” of the Zürichers has “so enraged him, that even
 Emperors, though they should be good Evangelicals, would find it hard
 to pacify him.” “No one has ever got the better of Dr. Luther in

Fresh light is thrown on the psychological side of Luther’s
controversial methods when we bring together those utterances in which
his sense of his own greatness finds expression. We must observe a
little more closely Luther’s inner thoughts and feelings from the
standpoint of his own ideal.

4. Luther on his own Greatness and Superiority to Criticism The art of

Characteristic utterances of Luther’s regarding his own gifts and
excellencies, the wisdom and courage displayed in his undertaking and
the important place he would occupy in history as the discoverer and
proclaimer of the Evangelical truth, are to be met with in such plenty,
both in his works and in the authentic notes of his conversations,
that we have merely to select some of the most striking and bring them
together. They form a link connecting his whole public career; he never
ceased to regard all his labours from the point of view of his Divine
mission, and what he says merely varies in tone and colour with the
progress which took place in his work as time went on.

It is true that he knew perfectly well that it was impossible to figure
a Divine mission without the pediment and shield of humility. How
indeed could those words of profound humility, so frequent with St.
Paul, have rung in Luther’s ears without finding some echo? Hence we
find Luther, too, from time to time making such his own; and this he
did, not out of mere hypocrisy, but from a real wish to identify his
feelings with those of the Apostle; in almost every instance, however,
his egotism destroys any good impulse and drives him in the opposite

 Luther’s confessions of his faults and general unworthiness are often
 quite impressive. We may notice that such were not unfrequently made
 to persons of influence, to Princes and exalted patrons on whom his
 success depended, and whom he hoped thereby to dispose favourably;
 others, however, are the natural, communicative outpourings of that
 “colossal frankness”--as it has been termed--which posterity has
 to thank for its knowledge of so many of Luther’s foibles. In his
 conversations we sometimes find him speaking slightingly of himself,
 for instance, when he says: “Philip is of a better brand than I. He
 fights and teaches; I am more of a rhetorician or gossip.”[1155]

 A passage frequently quoted by Luther’s admirers in proof of his
 humility is that which occurs in his preface to the “Psalter”
 published by Eobanus Hessus. The Psalms, he says, had been his school
 from his youth upwards. “While unwilling to put my gifts before those
 of others, I may yet boast with a holy presumption, that I would not,
 as they say, for all the thrones and kingdoms of the world, forgo the
 benefits, that, by the blessing of the Holy Spirit, I have derived
 from lingering and meditating on the Psalms.” He was not going to
 hide the gifts he had received from God, and in Him he would be proud,
 albeit in himself he found reasons enough to make him humble; he took
 less pleasure in his own German Psalter than in that of Eobanus, “but
 all to the honour and glory of God, to Whom be praise for ever and

In order to know Luther as he really was we should observe him amongst
his pupils at Wittenberg, for instance, as he left the Schlosskirche
after one of his powerful sermons to the people, and familiarly
addressed those who pressed about him on the steps of the church. There
were the burghers and students whose faults he had just been scourging;
the theologians of his circle crowding with pride around their master;
the lawyers, privy councillors and Court officials in the background,
probably grumbling under their breath at Luther’s peculiarities and
harsh words. His friends wish him many years of health and strength
that he may continue his great work in the pulpit and press; he, on the
other hand, thinks only of death; he insists on speaking of his Last
Will and Testament, of the chances of his cause, of his enemies and of
the threatened Council which he so dreaded.[1157]

“Let me be,” Luther cries, turning to the lawyers, “even in my Last
Will, the man I really am, one well known both in heaven and on earth,
and not unknown in hell, standing in sufficient esteem and authority to
be trusted and believed in more than any notary; for God, the Father
of Mercies, has entrusted to me, poor, unworthy, wretched sinner that
I am, the Gospel of His Dear Son and has made and hitherto kept me
faithful and true to it, so that many in the world have accepted it
through me, and consider me a teacher of the truth in spite of the
Pope’s ban and the wrath of Emperors, Kings, Princes, priests and all
the devils.... Dr. Martin Luther, God’s own notary and the witness of
His Gospel.”[1158]

I am “Our Lord Jesus Christ’s unworthy evangelist.”[1159]

I am “the Prophet of the Germans, for such is the haughty title I must
henceforth assume.”[1160]

“I am Ecclesiastes by the Grace of God”; “Evangelist by the Grace of

“I must not deny the gifts of Jesus Christ, viz. that, however small
be my acquaintance with Holy Scripture, I understand it a great deal
better than the Pope and all his people.”[1162]

“I believe that we are the last trump that sounds before Christ’s

Many arise against me, but with “a breath of my mouth” I blow them
over.--All their prints are mere “autumn leaves.”[1164]

“One only of my opponents, viz. Latomus, is worth his salt, he is the
scribe who writes best against me. Latomus alone has really written
against Luther, make a note of that! All the others, like Erasmus, were
but frogs. Not one of them really meant it seriously. Yes indeed all,
Erasmus included, were just croaking frogs.”[1165]

I have been tried in the school of temptations; “these are the exalted
temptations which no Pope has ever understood,” I mean, “being tempted
to blasphemy and to question God’s Judgments when we know nothing
either of sin or of the remedy.”[1166]

Because I have destroyed the devil’s kingdom “many say I was the man
foretold by the Prophet of Lichtenberg; for in their opinion I must be
he. This was a prophecy of the devil, who well saw that the kingdom he
had founded on lies must fall. Hence he beheld a monk, though he could
not tell to which Order he belonged.”[1167]

“Be assured of this, that no one will give you a Doctor of Holy
Scripture save only the Holy Ghost who is in heaven.... He indeed
testified aforetimes against the prophet by the mouth of the she-ass
on which the prophet rode. Would to God we were worthy to have such
doctors sent us!”[1168]

“I have become a great Doctor, this I am justified in saying; I would
not have thought this possible in the days of my temptations” when
Staupitz comforted me with the assurance, “that God would make use of
me as His assistant in mighty things.”[1169]

“St. John Hus” was not alone in prophesying of me that ... “they will
perforce have to listen to the singing of a swan,” but likewise the
prophet at Rome foretold “the coming hermit who would lay waste the

When I was a young monk and lay sick at Erfurt they said to me: “Be
consoled, good bachelor ... our God will still make a great man of you.
This has been fulfilled.”[1171]

“On one occasion when I was consoling a man on the loss of his son he,
too, said to me: ‘You will see, Martin, you will become a great man!’ I
often call this to mind, for such words have something of the omen or
oracle about them.”[1172]

“Small and insignificant as they [Luther’s and the preachers’ reforms]
are, they have done more good in the Churches than all the Popes and
lawyers with all their decrees.”[1173]

“No one has expounded St. Paul better” than you, Philip (Melanchthon).
“The commentaries of St. Jerome and Origen are the merest trash in
comparison with your annotations” (on Romans and Corinthians). “Be
humble if you like, but at least let me be proud of you.” “Be content
that you come so near to St. Paul himself.”[1174]

“In Popery such darkness prevailed that they taught neither the Ten
Commandments, nor the Creed, nor the Our Father; such knowledge was
considered quite superfluous.”[1175]

“The blindness was excessive, and unless those days had been shortened
we should all have grown into beasts! I fear, however, that after us it
will be still worse, owing to the dreadful contempt for the Word.”[1176]

“Before my day nothing was known,” not even “what parents or children
were, or what wife or maid.”[1177]

“Such was then the state of things: No one taught, or had heard or
knew what secular authority was, whence it came, or what its office
and task was, or how it must serve God.”--“But I wrote so usefully and
splendidly concerning the secular authorities as no teacher has ever
done since Apostolic times, save perhaps St. Augustine; of this I may
boast with a good conscience, relying on the testimony of the whole

Similarly, “we could prove before the whole world that we have preached
much more grandly and powerfully of good works than those very people
who abuse us.”[1179]

“Not one of the Fathers ever wrote anything remarkable or particularly
good concerning matrimony.... In marriage they saw only evil luxury....
They fell into the ocean of sensuality and evil lusts.” “But [by my
preaching] God with His Word and by His peculiar Grace has restored,
before the Last Day, matrimony, secular authority and the preaching
office to their rightful position, as He instituted and ordained them,
in order that we might behold His own institutions in what hitherto had
been but shams.”[1180]

The Papists “know nothing about Holy Scripture, or what God is ... or
what Baptism or the Sacrament.”[1181] But thanks to me “we now have the
Gospel almost as pure and undefiled as the Apostles had it.”[1182]

“Not for a thousand years has God bestowed such great gifts on any
bishop as He has on me; for it is our duty to extol God’s gifts.”[1183]

 It is easy to understand what an impression such assurances and
 such appeals to the heavenly origin of his gifts must have made on
 enthusiastic pupils. Before allowing the speaker to continue we may
 perhaps set on record what one of his defenders alleges in Luther’s
 favour.[1184] “An energetic character to whom all pretence is
 hateful may surely speak quite freely and openly of his own merits
 and capabilities.” “Why should such a thing seem strange? Because
 now, among well-bred people, conventions demand that, even should
 we be conscious of good deeds and qualities in ourselves, we should
 nevertheless speak as though unaware of them.” Luther, however, was
 “certain that he had found the centre of all truth, and that he
 possessed it as his very own; he knew that by his ‘faith’ he had
 become something, viz. that which every man ought to become according
 to the will of God. This explains that self-reliance whereby he felt
 himself raised above those who either continued to withstand the
 truth, or else had not yet discovered it.” By such utterances he “only
 wished to explain why he feared nothing for his cause.” “Arrogance and
 self-conceit are sinful, but he who by God’s grace really is something
 must feel proud and self-reliant.” “The only question is whether it
 is a proof of pride that he was not altogether oblivious of this,
 and that he himself occasionally spoke of it.” “Christ and Paul knew
 what they were and openly proclaimed it. Just as Christ found Himself
 accused of arrogance, so Paul, too, felt that his boasting would be
 misunderstood.” Besides, “Luther, because the title prophet [which he
 had applied to himself] was open to misconstruction, writes elsewhere:
 ‘I do not say that I am a prophet.’”[1185]

 The comparison between Christ’s sayings and Luther’s had best
 be quietly dropped. As to the parallel with the Apostle of the
 Gentiles--his so-called boasting (2 Cor. xi. 16; xii. 1 ff.) and his
 frequent and humble admissions of frailty--St. Paul certainly has no
 need to fear comparison with Luther. He could have set before the
 world other proofs of his Divine mission, and yet he preferred to make
 the most humble confessions:

 “But for myself I will glory in nothing but in my infirmities,” says
 Paul ... “gladly therefore will I glory in my infirmities that the
 power of Christ may dwell in me; for which cause I please myself
 in my infirmities, in reproaches, necessities, in persecutions, in
 distresses, for Christ. For when I am weak then am I powerful ...
 although I be nothing, yet the signs of my apostleship have been
 wrought in you in all patience, in signs and wonders and mighty
 deeds.” “For I am the least of the Apostles, who am not worthy to be
 called an Apostle because I persecuted the Church of God. But by the
 grace of God I am what I am and His grace hath not been void, but I
 have laboured more abundantly than they all: yet not I but the grace
 of God with me.” “But we became little ones in the midst of you, as
 if a nurse should cherish her children: so desirous of you, we would
 gladly impart unto you not only the Gospel of God but also our own
 souls because you were become most dear to us.... You are our glory
 and joy” (2 Cor. xii. 5 ff.; 1 Cor. xv. 9; 1 Thess. ii. 7 ff.).

“God has appointed me for the whole of the German land,” Luther
continues, “and I boldly vouch and declare that when you obey me in
this [the founding of Evangelical schools] you are without a doubt
obeying not me but Christ, and that, whoever obeys me not, despises,
not me, but Christ [Luke xx. 16]. For I know well and am certain of
what and whereto I speak and teach.”[1186]

“And now, dear Germans, I have told you enough; you have heard your
prophet; God grant we may obey His words.”[1187]

As Germany does not obey “misery” must needs overtake it; “when I pray
for my beloved Germany I feel that my prayer recoils on me and will not
ascend upwards as it does when I pray for other things.... God grant
that I be wrong and a false prophet in this matter.”[1188]

“Our Lord God had to summon Moses six times; me, too, He has led in
the same way.... Others who lived before me attacked the wicked and
scandalous life of the Pope; but I assailed his very doctrine and
stormed in upon the monkery and the Mass, on which two pillars the
whole Papacy rests. I could never have foreseen that these two pillars
would fall, for it was almost like declaring war on God and all

“I picked the first fruits of the knowledge and faith of Christ, viz.
that we are justified by faith in Christ and not by works.”[1190]

“I am he to whom God first revealed it.”[1191]

“Show me a single passage on justification by faith in the Decrees,
Decretals, Clementines, ‘_Liber Sextus_’ or ‘_Extravagantes_’” in
any of the Summas, books of Sentences, monkish sermons, synodal
definitions, collegial or monastic Rules, in any Postils, in any
work of Jerome and Gregory, in any decisions of the Councils, in any
disputations of the theologians, in any lectures of any University, in
any Mass or Vigil of any Church, in any “_Cæremoniale Episcoporum_,”
in the institutes of any monastery, in any manual of any confraternity
or guild, in any pilgrims’ book anywhere, in the pious exercises of
any Saint, in any Indulgence, Bull, anywhere in the Papal Chancery or
the Roman Curia or in the Curia of any bishop. And yet it was there
that the doctrine of faith should have been expressed in all its

“My Evangel,” that was what was wanting. “I have, praise be to God,
achieved more reformation by my Evangel than they probably would have
done even by five Councils.... Here comes our Evangel ... and works
wonders, which they themselves accept and make use of, but which they
could not have secured by any Councils.”[1193]

“I believe I have summoned such a Council and effected such a
reformation as will make the ears of the Papists tingle and their heart
burst with malice.... In brief: It is Luther’s own Reformation.”[1194]

“I, who am nothing, may say with truth that during the [twenty] years
that I have served my dear Lord Christ in the preaching office, I have
had more than twenty factions opposing me”; but now they are, some
of them, extirpated, others, “like worms with their heads trodden

“I have now become a wonderful monk, who, by God’s grace, has deposed
the Roman devil, viz. the Pope; yet not I, but God through me, His
poor, weak instrument; no emperor or potentate could have done

In point of fact “the devil is not angry with me without good reason,
for I have rent his kingdom asunder. What not one of the kings and
princes was able to do, that God has effected, through me, a poor
beggar and lonely monk.”[1197]

How poor are the ancient Fathers in comparison! “Chrysostom was a
mere gossip. Jerome, the good Father, and lauder of nuns, understood
precious little of Christianity. Ambrose has indeed some good sayings.
If Peter Lombard had only happened upon the Bible he would have
excelled all the Fathers.”[1198]

“See what darkness prevailed among the Fathers of the Church concerning
faith! Once the article concerning justification was obscured it became
impossible to stem the course of error. St. Jerome writes on Matthew,
on Galatians and on Titus, but how paltry it all is! Ambrose wrote
six books on Genesis, but what poor stuff they are! Augustine never
writes powerfully on faith except when assailing the Pelagians.... They
left not a single commentary on Romans and Galatians that is worth
anything. Oh, how great, on the other hand, is our age in purity of
doctrine, and yet, alas, we despise it! The holy Fathers taught better
than they wrote; we, God be praised, write better than we live.” Had
Gregory the Great at least refrained from spoiling what remained! “He
broke in with his pestilent traditions, bound men down to observances
concerning flesh-meat, cowls and Masses, and imposed on them his
filthy, merdiferous law. And in the event this dreadful state of things
grew from day to day worse.”[1199]

“On the other hand, it is plain that I may venture to boast in God,
without arrogance or untruth, that, when it comes to the writing of
books I am not far behind many of the Fathers.”[1200]

“In short the fault lay in this, that [before I came], even in the
Universities the Bible was not read; when it was read at all it had
to be interpreted in accordance with Aristotle. What blindness that

But then my translation of Holy Scripture appeared. Whereas the
Schoolmen never were acquainted with Scripture, indeed “never were at
home even in the Catechism,”[1202] all admit my Bible scholarship. On
one occasion “Carlstadt said to the Doctors at Wittenberg: My dear
sirs, Dr. Martin is far too learned for us; he read the Bible ten years
ago and now if we read it for ten years, he will then have read it for
twenty; in any case, therefore, we are lost.” “Don’t start disputing
with him.”[1203]

“Nevertheless I never should have attained to the great abundance of
Divine gifts, which I am forced to confess and admit, unless Satan had
tried me with temptations; without these temptations pride would have
cast me into the abyss of hell.”[1204]

“The Papists are blind to the clear light of truth because it was
revealed by a man. As though Elias, who wrought such great things
against the servants of Baal, was not likewise a man and a beggar.
As though John the Baptist, who so brilliantly put to flight the
Pharisees, was not a man too. One’s being a man does not matter
provided one be a man of God. For heroes are not merely men.”[1205]

 Certain statements of contemporaries, both Catholics and Protestants,
 sound like interjections in the midst of Luther’s discourse. They
 point out how unheard-of was his demand that faith should be placed
 in him alone to the exclusion of all Christian authorities past and
 present. “What unexampled pride is this,” exclaims the learned Ulrich
 Zasius, who in earlier days had favoured Luther’s more moderate plans
 of reform, “when a man demands that his interpretation of the Bible
 should be given precedence over that of the Fathers of the Church
 herself, and of the whole of Christendom!”[1206] “He has stuck himself
 in the Pope’s place,” cries Thomas Münzer, and does the grand as
 though, forsooth, he had not come into the world in the ordinary way,
 but “had sprung from the brain.” “Make yourself cosy in the Papal
 chair,” is Valentine Ickelsamer’s comment, since you are determined to
 “listen only to your own song.”[1207]

Luther concludes his address to his followers by replying first of all
to the frequent objection we have just heard Zasius bring forward:

“I, Dr. Martin Luther by name, have taken it upon me to prove for
further instruction each and every article in a well-grounded work....
But first I must answer certain imputations made by some against me.”
“They twit me with coming forward all alone and seeking to teach
everybody. To this I reply that I have never put myself forward and
would have been glad to creep into a corner; they it is who dragged me
out by force and cunning.”[1208]

“But who knows whether God has not raised me up and called me to this,
and whether they have not cause to fear that they are condemning God in
me? Do we not read in the Old Testament that God, as a rule, raised up
only one prophet at a time? Moses was alone when he led the people out
of Egypt; Helias was alone in the time of King Achab; later on Helisæus
was also alone; Isaias was alone in Jerusalem, Oseas in Israel,
Hieremias in Judea, Ezechiel in Babylon, and so on.”[1209]

“The dear Saints have always had to preach against and reprove the
great ones, the kings, princes, priests and scholars.”[1210]

“I do not say that I am a prophet, but I do say that the Papists have
the more reason to fear I am one, the more they despise me and esteem
themselves. God is wonderful in His works and judgments.... If I am not
a prophet yet I am certain within myself that the Word of God is with
me and not with them; for I have Scripture on my side, but they, only
their own doctrine.”[1211]

“There were plenty donkeys in the world in Balaam’s time, yet God did
not speak through all of them, but only through Balaam’s ass.”[1212]
“They also say that I bring forward new things, and that it is not to
be supposed that all others were in the wrong for so long. To this
reproof the ancient prophets also had to listen.... Christ’s teaching
was different from what the Jews had heard for a thousand years. On the
strength of this objection the heathen, too, might well have despised
the Apostles, seeing that their ancestors had believed otherwise for
more than three thousand years.”[1213]

“I say that all Christian truth had perished amongst those who ought to
have been its upholders, viz. the bishops and learned men. Yet I do not
doubt that the truth has survived in some hearts, even though only in
those of babes in the cradle.”[1214]

“I do not reject them [all the Doctors of the Church] ... but I refuse
to believe them except in so far as they prove their contentions from
that Scripture which has never erred.... Necessity forces us to test
every Doctor’s writings by the Bible and to judge and decide upon them.
The standing as well as the number of my foes is to me a proof that I
am in the right.”[1215]

“Were I opposed only by a few insignificant men I should know that
what I wrote and taught was not from God.... Truth has ever caused
disturbance, and false teachers have ever cried ‘Peace, peace.’”[1216]

“They say they don’t want to be reformed by such a beggar....” “Daniel
has arisen in his place and is determined to perform what the angel
Gabriel has pointed out to him; for the same prophet told us how
he would rise up at the end of the world. That he is now doing.”
“God has made Luther a Samson over them; He is God and His ways are
wonderful.... Let good people say the best they can of me and let the
Papists talk and lie to their hearts’ content.”[1217]

Neither councils nor reformations will help them. “They wish to reform
and govern the Church according to their own lights and by human
wisdom; but that is something that lies far above the counsel of men.
When our Lord God wished to reform His Church He did so ‘_divinitus_,’
not by human methods; thus it was at the time of Josue, of the Judges,
Samuel, the Apostles and also in my own time.”[1218]

Even should our work be frustrated, yet the “power of the Almighty
could make a new Luther out of nothing.” In this wise “God raised up
Noe when He was obliged to destroy the world by the deluge. And, in
Abraham’s time, when the whole world was plunged in darkness and under
the empire of Satan, Abraham and his seed came as a great light; and He
drowned King Pharao and slew seven great nations in Canaan. And again
when Caiphas crucified the Son of God ... He rose again from the dead
and Caiphas was brought to nought.”[1219]

“Christ was not so greatly considered, nor had He ever such a number of
hearers as the Apostles had and we now have; Christ Himself said to His
disciples: ‘You will do greater works than I,’ and, truly enough, at
the time of the Apostles, and now amongst us, the Gospel and the Divine
Word is preached much more powerfully and is more widely spread than at
the time of Christ.”[1220]

It is true that “my conviction is, that, for a thousand years,
the world has never loathed anyone so much as me. I return its

It “is probable that my name stinks in the nostrils of many who wish
to belong to us, but you [Bugenhagen] will put things right without my
troubling.” Formerly the decisions of the Councils ranked above God’s
Word, “but now, thank God, this would not be believed among us even by
ducks or geese, mice or lice.” “God has no liking for the ‘expectants’
[those who looked for a Council], for He will have His Word honoured
above all angels, let alone men or Councils, and will have no waiting
or expectancy. Our best plan will be to send them to the devil in the
abyss of hell, to do their waiting there.”[1222]

“So the Council is going to be held at Trent. Tridentum, however,
signifies in German, ‘divided, torn asunder, dissolved,’ for God
will scatter it and its Legates. I believe they do not know what
they are doing or what they mean to do. God has cursed them with
blindness.”[1223] “Nay, under Satan’s rule they have all gone mad; they
condemn us and then want our approval.”[1224] “The Council is worthy
of its monsters. May misfortune fall upon them; the wrath of God is
verily at their heels.”[1225] “They look upon us as donkeys, and yet do
not realise their own dense stupidity and malice.”[1226]

“Should we fall, then Christ will fall with us, the ruler of the world.
Granted, however, that He is to fall, I would rather fall with Christ
than stand with the Emperor.” “Put your trust in your Emperor and we
will put our trust in ours [in Christ], and wait and see who holds the
field. Let them do their best, they have not yet got their way.” They
shall perish. “I fear they wish to hear those words of Julius Cæsar:
‘They themselves have willed it!’”[1227]

Should I be carried to the grave, for instance, as a victim of the
religious war, people will say at the sight of the Popish rout
that will ensue: “Dr. Martin was escorted to his grave by a great
procession. For he was a great Doctor, above all bishops, monks and
parsons, therefore it was fitting that they should all follow him into
the grave, and furnish a subject for talk and song. And to end up, we
shall all make a little pilgrimage together; they, the Papists, to the
bottomless pit to their god of lying and murder, whom they have served
with lies and murders; I to my Lord, Jesus Christ, Whom I have served
in truth and peace; ... they to hell in the name of all the devils, I
to heaven in God’s name.”[1228]

       *       *       *       *       *

No mortal ever spoke of himself as Luther did. He reveals himself as
a man immeasurably different from that insipid portrait which depicts
him as one who made no claim on people’s submission to his higher light
and higher authority, but who humbly advanced what he fancied he had
discovered, an ordinary human being, even though a great one, who was
only at pains to convince others by the usual means in all wisdom and
charity. Everyday psychology does not avail to explain the language
Luther used, and we are faced by the graver question of the actual
condition of such a mind, raised so far above the normal level. “We
have,” says Adolf Harnack, “to choose between two alternatives: Either
he suffered from the mania of greatness, or his self-reliance really
corresponded with his task and achievements.”[1229]

Luther, at the very commencement of the tract which he published soon
after leaving the Wartburg, and in which he describes himself as
“Ecclesiastes by the grace of God,” says: “Should you, dear Sirs, look
upon me as a fool for my assumption of so haughty a title,” I should
not be in the least surprised; he adds, however: “I am convinced of
this, that Christ Himself, Who is the Master of my teaching, calls me
thus and regards me as such”; his “Word, office and work” had come
to him “from God,” and his “judgment was God’s own” no less than his
doctrine.[1230] The bishops of the Catholic world may well have raised
their eyebrows at the tone of this work, couched in the form of a
Bull and addressed to all the “Popish bishops”; the following year it
was even reprinted in Latin at Wittenberg in order to make it known
throughout the world. Bossuet’s words on the opening lines of the
tract well render the feeling of apprehension they must have created:
“Hence Luther’s is the same call as St. Paul’s, no less direct and
no less extraordinary!... And on the strength of this Divine mission
Luther proceeds to reform the Church!”[1231]--We should, however,
note that Luther, in his extraordinary demands, goes far beyond any
mere claim to a Divine call. A heavenly vocation might perfectly well
have been present without any such haughty treading under foot of the
past, without any such conceit as to his own and his fellow-workers’
achievements, and without all this boasting of prophecies, of victories
over fanatics and devils, and of world-wide fame, rather, a true
vocation would dread anything of the kind. Hence, in the whole series
of statements we have quoted, commencing with the title of Ecclesiastes
by the Grace of God, which he adopted soon after his Wartburg
“baptism,” we find not only the consciousness of a mission conferred
on him at the Wartburg, but also an altogether unique idea of his own
greatness which no one who wishes to study Luther’s character must lose
sight of. We shall have, later on, to ask ourselves whether those were
in the right who looked upon this manifestation as a sign of disease.

       *       *       *       *       *

Luther’s language would be even more puzzling were it not certain that
much that he said was not really meant seriously. With him rhetoric
plays a greater rôle than is commonly admitted, and even some of his
utterances regarding his own greatness are clearly flowers of rhetoric
written half in jest.

Luther himself ingenuously called his art of abusing all opponents
with the utmost vigour, “_rhetorica mea_.” This he did in those
difficult days when it was a question of finding some means of escape
in connection with the threatening Diet of Augsburg: “By my rhetoric
I will show the Papists that they, who pretend to be the champions of
the faith and the Gospel, have there [at Augsburg] made demands of
us which are contrary to the Gospel; verily I shall fall upon them
tooth and nail.... Come, Luther most certainly will, and with great
pomp set free the eagle [the Evangel] now held caught in the snare
(‘_aquilam liberaturus magnifice_’).”[1232] So much did he trust his
rhetorical talent that on another occasion he told the lawyers: “If I
have painted you white, then I can equally well paint you black again
and make you look like regular devils.”[1233] Amidst the embarrassments
subsequent on Landgrave Philip’s bigamy Luther’s one ray of hope was in
his consciousness, that he could easily manage to “extricate” himself
with the help of his pen; at the same time, when confiding this to
the Landgrave, he also told him quite openly, that, should he, the
Landgrave, “start a literary feud” with him, Luther would soon “leave
him sticking in the mud.”[1234]

 We have already heard him say plainly: “I have more in me of the
 rhetorician or the gossip”;[1235] he adds that his only writings which
 were strictly doctrinal were his commentaries on Galatians and on
 Deuteronomy and his sermons on four chapters of the Gospel of St.
 John; all the rest the printers might well pass over, for they merely
 traced the history of his conflict; the truth being that his doctrine
 “had not been so clear at first as it is now.” And yet he had formerly
 written much on doctrine; as he once said in a conversation recorded
 in Schlaginhaufen’s notes of 1532: “I don’t care for my Psalter,
 it is long and garrulous. Formerly I was so eloquent that I wanted
 to talk the whole world to death. Now I can do this no longer, for
 the thoughts won’t come. Once upon a time I could talk more about a
 little flower than I now could about a whole meadow. I am not fond of
 any superfluity of words. Jonas replied: The Psalter [you wrote] is,
 however, of the Holy Ghost and pleases me well.”[1236]

 That he avoided “any superfluity of words” later in life is not
 apparent. What he says of himself in the Table-Talk, viz. that he
 resembled an Italian in liveliness and wealth of language, holds
 good of him equally at a later date; on the other hand, his remark,
 that Erasmus purveyed “words without content” and he content without
 words,[1237] is not true of the facts.

 An example of his rhetorical ability to enlarge upon a thought is
 found in the continuation of the sentence already mentioned (p. 331):
 “Before my day nothing was known.”

 “Formerly no one knew what the Gospel was, what Christ, or baptism,
 or confession, or the Sacrament was, what faith, what spirit, what
 flesh, what good works, the Ten Commandments, the Our Father, prayer,
 suffering, consolation, secular authority, matrimony, parents or
 children were, what master, servant, wife, maid, devils, angels,
 world, life, death, sin, law, forgiveness, God, bishop, pastor, or
 Church was, or what was a Christian, or what the cross; in fine, we
 knew nothing whatever of all a Christian ought to know. Everything
 was hidden and overborne by the Pope-Ass. For they are donkeys,
 great, rude, unlettered donkeys in Christian things.... But now,
 thank God, things are better and male and female, young and old, know
 the Catechism.... The things mentioned above have again emerged into
 the light.” The Papists, however, “will not suffer any one of these
 things.... You must help us [so they say] to prevent anyone from
 learning the Ten Commandments, the Our Father and Creed; or about
 baptism, the Sacrament, faith, authority, matrimony or the Gospel....
 You must lend us a hand so that, in place of marriage, Christendom may
 again be filled with fornication, adultery and other unnatural and
 shameful vices.”[1238]

A particular quality of Luther’s “rhetoric” was its exaggeration. By
his exaggeration his controversy becomes a strangely glaring picture
of his mind; nor was it merely in controversy that his boundless
exaggeration shows itself. Sometimes, apparently, without his being
aware of it, but likewise even in the course of his literary labours
and his preaching, things had a tendency to assume gigantic proportions
and fantastic shapes in his eyes. Among his friends the aberrations
into which his fondness for vigorous and far-fetched language led him
were well known. It was certain of his own followers who dubbed him
“_Doctor Hyperbolicus_” and declared that “he made a camel of a flea,
and said a thousand when he meant less than five.” This is related
by the Lutheran zealot, Cyriacus Spangenberg, who dutifully seeks to
refute the “many, who, though disciples of his,” were in the habit of
making such complaints.[1239]

His “rhetoric,” in spite of a literary style in many respects
excellent, occasionally becomes grotesque and insipid owing to the
utter want of taste he shows in his choice of expressions. This was
particularly the case in his old age, when he no longer had at his
command the figures of speech in which to clothe decently those all
too vigorous words to which, as the years went by, he became more and
more addicted. In the last year of his life, for instance, writing to
his Elector and the Hessian Landgrave concerning the “Defensive league”
of those who stood up for “the old religion,” he says: God Himself has
intervened to oppose this league, not being unaware of its aims; “God
and all His angels must indeed have had a terrible cold in the head not
to have been able to smell, even until this 21st day of October, the
savoury dish that goes by the name of Defensive league; but then He
took some sneeze-wort and cleared His brain and gave them to understand
pretty plainly that His catarrh was gone and that He now knew very well
what Defensive league was.”[1240] Luther does not seem to feel how much
out of place such buffoonery was in a theologian, let alone in the
founder of a new religion. Even in some of his earlier writings and in
those which he prized the most, e.g. in the Commentary on Galatians, a
similar want of taste is noticeable. It is also unnecessary to repeat
that even his “best” writings, among them the work on Galatians,
are frequently rendered highly unpalatable by an excess of useless
repetitions. Everybody can see that the monotony of Luther’s works is
chiefly due to the haste and carelessness with which they were written
and then rushed through the press.

In considering Luther’s “rhetoric,” however, our attention perforce
wanders from the form to the matter, for Luther based his claim to
originality on his art of bringing forward striking and effective
thoughts and thus charming and captivating the reader. In his thoughts
the same glaring, grotesque and contradictory element is apparent as
in his literary style and outward conduct. Much is mere impressionism,
useful indeed for his present purposes, but contradicted or modified
by statements elsewhere. Whatever comes to his pen must needs be put
on paper and worked for all it is worth. Thus in many instances his
thoughts stray into the region of paradox. Thereby he seemed indeed to
be rendering easier the task of opponents who wished to refute him, but
as a matter of fact he only increased the difficulty of dealing with
him owing to his elusiveness.

Even down to the present day the incautious reader or historian is all
too frequently exposed to the temptation of taking Luther at his word
in passages where in point of fact his thoughts are the plaything of
his “rhetoric.” Anybody seeking to portray Luther’s train of thought is
liable to be confronted with passages, whether from the same writing or
from another composed under different influences, where statements to
an entirely different effect occur. Hence, when attempting to describe
his views, it is essential to lay stress only on statements that are
clear, devoid of any hyperbolical vesture and frequently reiterated.

 He was not, of course, serious and meant to introduce no new rule
 for the interpretation of Scripture when he pronounced the words so
 often brought up against him (“_sic volo, sic iubeo_”) in connection
 with his interpolation of the term “alone” in Rom. iii. 28;[1241] yet
 this sentence occupies such a position in a famous passage of his
 works that it will repay us to give it with its context as a typical

 “If your Papist insists on making much needless ado about the word
 ‘alone,’ tell him smartly: Dr. Martin Luther will have it so and
 says: Papist and donkey is one and the same. ‘_Sic volo, sic iubeo;
 sit pro ratione voluntas._’ For we will not be the Papists’ pupils
 or disciples, but their masters and judges, and, for once in a way,
 we shall strut, and rap these asses’ heads; and as Paul boasted to
 his crazy saints, so I too will boast to these my donkeys. They are
 Doctors? So am I. They are learned? So am I. They are preachers? So am
 I. They are theologians? So am I. They are disputants? So am I. They
 are philosophers? So am I. They are dialecticians? So am I. They are
 lecturers? So am I. They write books? So do I. And I will boast still
 further: I can expound the Psalms and the Prophets; this they can’t
 do. I can interpret; they, they can’t.”

 He proceeds in the same vein and finally concludes: “And if there is
 one amongst them who rightly understands a single preface or chapter
 of Aristotle, then I will allow myself to be tossed. Here I am not too
 generous with my words.”--And yet there is still more to follow that
 does not belong to the subject! Having had his say he begins again:
 “Give no further answer to these donkeys when they idly bray about the
 word ‘_sola_,’ but merely tell them: ‘Luther will have it so and says
 he is a Doctor above all the Doctors of the Papacy.’ There it shall
 remain; in future I will despise them utterly and have them despised,
 so long as they continue to be such people, I mean, donkeys. For there
 are unblushing scoundrels amongst them who have never even learnt
 their own, viz. the sophists’, art, for instance, Dr. Schmidt, Dr.
 Dirty Spoon [Cochlæus] and their ilk. And yet they dare to stand in my

 He nevertheless seeks to give a more satisfactory answer, and admits,
 “that the word ‘alone’ is not found in either Latin or Greek text, ...
 at the letters of which our donkeys stare like cows at a new gate.
 They don’t see that the meaning of the text requires it.”[1242]--The
 last assertion may be taken for what it is worth. The principal thing,
 however, is that he introduced the interpolation with a meaning of
 his own, though he could not have held that his doctrine of a dead
 faith (for this was what his “faith alone” amounted to) really tallied
 with the Apostle’s teaching. On this point he is quite silent in
 his strange answers. He is far more concerned in parrying the blows
 with his rhetorical artifice. His appeal to the will of Dr. Martin
 Luther may be termed the feint of a skilful swordsman; his whole
 treatment of the matter is designed to surprise, to puzzle and amuse,
 and, as a matter of fact, could impress only the populace. It is not
 without reason that Adolf Harnack speaks of the “strange logic of his
 arguments, the faults of his exegesis and the injustice and barbarity
 of his polemics.”[1243]

The strange controversial methods of his rhetoric give, however, a true
picture of his soul.

All this inconstancy and self-contradiction, this restless upheaval
of assertions, now rendered doubtful by their palpable exaggeration,
now uncertain owing to the admixture of humour they contain, now
questionable because already rejected elsewhere by their author, all
this mirrors the unrest of his soul, the zigzag course of his thought,
in short a mind unenlightened by the truth, which thrives only amidst
the excitement of conflict and contradiction. Moderation in resolve
and deed is as little to his taste as any consistent submission of
his word to the yoke of reflection and truthfulness. He abandons his
actions as well as his most powerful organ, his voice, to the impulse
and the aims of the moment. He finds no difficulty, for instance, even
in his early days, in soundly rating his fellow-monks even in the
most insulting and haughty manner, and in assuring them in the same
breath of his “peaceable heart” and his “perfect calm,” or in shifting
the responsibility for his earlier outbursts of anger on God, Who so
willed it and Whose action cannot be withstood. All this we find in
his letter in 1514 to the Erfurt Augustinians, where his singular
disposition already reveals itself.[1244] No less easy was it to him at
the commencement of his struggle to protest most extravagant humility
towards both Pope and Emperor, to liken himself to a “flea,” and yet to
promise resistance to the uttermost. He was guilty of exaggeration in
his championship of the downtrodden peasants before the war, and, when
it was over, was again extravagant in his demand for their punishment.
With an all too lavish hand he abandons Holy Scripture to each one’s
private interpretation, even to the “miller’s maid,” and yet, as soon
as anyone, without the support of “miracles,” attempted to bring
forward some new doctrine differing from his own, he withdrew it with
the utmost imperiousness as a treasure reserved.

As in style, so in deed, he was a chameleon. This he was in his inmost
feelings, and not less in his theology.[1245]

In one matter only did he remain always the same, on one point
only is his language always consistent and clear, viz. in his
hatred and defiance of the Church of Rome. Some have praised his
straightforwardness, and it must be admitted, that, in this particular,
he certainly always shows his true character with entire unrestraint.
This hate permeates all his thoughts, his prayer, all his exalted
reflections, his good wishes for others, his sighs at the approach of
death. Even in his serious illness in 1527 he was, at least according
to the account of his friend Jonas, principally concerned that God
should not magnify his enemies, the Papists, but exalt His name
“against the enemies of His most holy Word”; he recalls to mind that
John the Evangelist, too, “had written a good, strong book against the
Pope” (the Apocalypse); as John did not die a martyr, he also would be
content without martyrdom. Above all, he was not in the least contrite
for what he had printed against the doctrines of the Pope, “even though
some thought he had been too outspoken and bitter.”[1246] In his second
dangerous illness, in 1537, Luther declared even more emphatically,
that he had “done right” in “storming the Papacy,” and that if he
could live longer he would undertake still “worse things against that

       *       *       *       *       *

Luther’s over-estimation of himself was partly due to the seductive
effect of the exaggerated praise and admiration of his friends, amongst
whom Jonas must also be reckoned. They, like Jonas, could see in
him nothing but the “inspiration of the Holy Ghost.”[1248] Luther’s
responsibility must appear less to those who lay due stress on the
surroundings amidst which he lived. He was good-natured enough to give
credence to such eulogies. Just as, moved by sympathy, he was prone
to lavish alms on the undeserving, so he was too apt to be influenced
by the exaggerations of his admirers and the applause of the masses,
though, occasionally, he did not fail to protest.

 This veneration went so far that many, in spite of his remonstrances,
 placed him not only on a level with but even above the Apostles.[1249]
 His devoted pupils usually called him Elias. He himself was not
 averse to the thought that he had something in common with the fiery
 prophet. As early as 1522 Wolfgang Rychard, his zealous assistant
 at Ulm, greets him in his letters as the risen Elias, and actually
 dates a new era from his coming. In this the physician Magenbuch
 imitated him, and the title was as well received by Melanchthon and
 the other Wittenbergers as it was by outsiders.[1250] In the Preface
 which Luther wrote in 1530 to a work by the theologian Johann Brenz,
 he contrasts the comparative calmness of the preacher to his own
 ways, and remarks that his own uncouth style vomited forth a chaos
 and torrent of words, and was stormy and fierce, because he was ever
 battling with countless hordes of monsters; he had received as his
 share of the fourfold spirit of Elias (4 Kings xix.), the “whirlwind
 and the fire” which “overthrew mountains and uprooted rocks”; the
 Heavenly Father had bestowed this upon him to use against the thick
 heads, and had made him a “strong wedge wherewith to split asunder
 hard blocks.”[1251]

 When, in 1532, his great victory over the Sacramentarians was
 discussed in the circle of his friends, the words of the Magdeburg
 Chancellor, Laurentius Zoch, recurred to him: “After reading my books
 against the Sacramentarians he said of me: ‘Now I see that this man is
 enlightened by the Holy Ghost; such a thing as this no Papist could
 ever have achieved,’” and so, Luther adds in corroboration, “he was
 won over to the Evangel; what I say is, that all the Papists together,
 with all their strength, would not have been able to refute the
 Sacramentarians, either by authority [the Fathers] or from Scripture.
 Yet I get no thanks!”[1252]

Not his admirers only, but even his literary opponents contributed, at
least indirectly, to inflate his rhetoric and his assurance; his sense
of his own superiority grew in the measure that he saw his foes lagging
far behind him both in language and in vigour.

Amongst the Catholic theologians of Germany there were too few able
to compete with him in point of literary dexterity. Luther stood on a
pinnacle and carried away the multitude by the war-cry he hurled over
the heads of the Catholic polemists and apologists who bore witness to
the ancient truths, some well and creditably, others more humbly and
awkwardly. The apparent disadvantage under which the Catholic writers
laboured, was, that they were not so relentless in treading under foot
considerations of charity and decency; unlike him, they could not
address fiery appeals to the passions in order to enlist them as their
allies, though traces far too many of the violence of the conflict are
found even in their polemics. Amongst them were men of high culture and
refinement, who stood far above the turmoils of the day and knew how to
estimate them at their true worth. They felt themselves supported by
the Catholics throughout the world, whose most sacred possessions were
being so unjustly attacked.



1. Luther’s “demoniacal” storming. A man “possessed”

WE have plenty descriptions of Luther from the pen of literary
opponents, and they have a perfect right to be taken into account, for
they are so many voices courageously raised in defence of the heirloom
of the faith. What has led to this being so often passed over is the
fear lest their censure should be taken as prejudice, and, needless to
say, what they tell us must be carefully weighed. Much depends on the
circumstances in which they wrote, on the character of the writers,
on the content of their statements and on how far they differ from
or agree with other witnesses and the known facts. Several striking
passages from their writings, in so far as they are confirmed either by
Luther himself or by his followers, have already been utilised in the
present work and have served to complete our picture of Luther’s mind.

Catholic polemists all agree on one point, viz. that the bitter and
unkindly ways of their adversary were a clear proof that he had no
Divine call. Like Erasmus, they too contend that no man who excited
such great commotion and was so insatiable in abuse and vituperation
could be honestly furthering God’s cause. Like Erasmus, they too
question whether such unheard-of presumption could “be combined with
an apostolic spirit or did not rather denote madness.” They compare
his inconstancy, his passion and his fickleness to a “restless, stormy
sea.” His slanderous tongue, which so unsparingly lashed the olden
Church and its doctrines, reminds them of the “roaring lion,” who,
according to St. Peter, “goeth about seeking whom he may devour,” or
of the “fiery darts” of the wicked one against whom St. Paul utters
a warning. With pain and horror they call to mind the seven-headed
beast of the Apocalypse, that rises out of the deep, bearing names of
blasphemy and with a “mouth that speaks great things and profanities.”

Their strictures cannot be examined in detail here, but we may instance
a trait which is common to many of these writers and which, though kept
in the background as not altogether relevant to the discussion, yet
deserves consideration as a proof of the effect that Luther’s unbounded
hate, his abuse and his arrogance had on the feelings and judgment
of contemporaries. Their keen sense of religion made them ascribe
his behaviour to the devil, and to assume, or at least to suspect,
that he was in some way possessed. It is curious to note how many
unhesitatingly have recourse to this explanation.

 “We must regard it as a sure sign of demoniacal possession,” wrote
 Johann Hoffmeister, Prior of the Colmar Augustinians, “that Luther
 should thus persistently enjoin on preachers as a duty to go on
 cursing and denouncing from the pulpit, though he himself sees and
 bewails the fact, that contempt for religion, godlessness and every
 vice is steadily gaining ground in Germany. What can we expect
 unfortunate youths to learn from such abuse and reviling in the

 “Luther is the devil’s own bellows,” wrote Paul Bachmann, Abbot of
 Altzelle, in 1534, “with which the devil blows up a whirlwind of
 error, scandal and heresy.”[1254] He goes even further and appeals to
 what he had heard from Luther’s brother monks concerning the scene in
 choir, when, falling into a fit, Luther had frantically protested that
 he was not the man possessed (vol. i., p. 17).[1255]

 Bachmann adds: “Luther is the cruel monster that John the Apostle saw
 rising out of the deep, with open jaws to utter abuse and blasphemy.”
 “This is no mere mistaken man, but the wicked devil himself to whom no
 lying, deceit or falsehood is too much.”[1256]

 Even from men who had long sided with Luther we hear similar things;
 for instance, Willibald Pirkheimer of Nüremberg says bluntly: “Luther,
 with his impudent and defiant tongue, betrays plainly enough what is
 in his heart; he seems to have gone quite mad, or to be agitated by
 some wicked demon.”[1257]

 Erasmus declared that people, rather than credit his calumnies,
 would say that he was steeped in vengefulness, mentally deranged, or
 possessed by some sinister spirit.[1258]

 Even Luther’s brother monk at Erfurt, Johann Nathin, who had been
 struck with wonder at the young monk’s sudden conversion, remarked
 later, when the two had gone different ways, that “a spirit of
 apostasy had entered him,” which was corrupting all the clergy.[1259]

 Johann Cochlæus thinks that Luther’s unholy doctrine resembles a
 dragon with seven heads; such a monster hailed, not from God, but
 from the devil.[1260] He allows himself to be carried so far away by
 his conviction that Luther was possessed, as to scorn all caution and
 to take literally a certain rhetorical statement of Luther’s, where
 he tells us that he had eaten more than a bushel of salt with the
 devil, and that he had held a disputation with him on the Mass.[1261]
 Cochlæus here lays great stress on the views and reports of Luther’s
 former associates in the monastery.[1262]

 Under the impression made on him by the vehemence of Luther’s language
 and his whole conduct, Hieronymus Emser declared subsequently to
 Luther’s so-called “great Reformation Writings”: “This monk who has
 gone astray differs from the devil only in that he carries out what
 the wicked one inspires him with.”[1263] Emser, too, appeals to
 Luther’s former associates in the monastery: Luther “was possessed by
 the evil spirit from his youth upwards,” he says, “as is well known in
 his monastery at Erfurt, where he made his profession.”[1264]

 Kilian Leib, a contemporary defender of the Church in the Eichstätt
 district, tells in his Annals of the impression made upon those
 present by Luther’s behaviour at the Diet of Worms: He displayed such
 pride in his manner and conduct that we seemed to have before us the
 image of the enemy of mankind. The latter must have dwelt within him
 and instructed him, if indeed he does not still do so.[1265] He quotes
 with approval Emser’s first statement, and, from Cochlæus, the passage
 where Luther speaks of his eating salt with the devil.[1266]

 Hieronymus Dungersheim, the opponent to whom we owe Nathin’s remark,
 given above, upbraids Luther, the “child of Belial,” for his “devilish
 writings” “whereby he, and Satan through him, blasphemes Christ.”[1267]

 Aleander the Nuncio reported on April 17, 1521, from the Diet of
 Worms, that some regarded Luther as mad, others as “possessed”; he
 also mentions on the testimony of others how Luther, on his arrival,
 “had gazed about him with the eyes of a demon.”[1268]

 The Reichstagsabschied of Worms speaks of Luther as “led by the evil
 spirit,” nay, “as the wicked enemy himself clad in human form.”[1269]

 In the tract against a pamphlet of Luther’s published by Duke George
 of Saxony, in 1531 under Franz Arnoldi’s name, we read at the very
 commencement, that Luther was losing many of his adherents because he
 showed his hand “so clearly and plainly in his writings, that, as they
 said, Luther must certainly be possessed of the devil, indeed of the
 whole legion that Christ drove out of the man possessed and into the
 herd of swine who forthwith went raving mad and ran headlong into the
 sea”: “By the fruits [of his words] we may recognise the spirit.”[1270]

 Johann Dietenberger, as early as 1524, in his “Against the unchristian
 book of Martin Luther on the abuse of the Mass,” says: “There is no
 doubt whatever that the horrid, damnable Lutheran doctrine has been
 brought into the world by the devil, otherwise it would not be so
 utterly beastly and contentious, quarrelsome and fickle, and so fitted
 for everything evil.” “These are all manifest lies, nothing but abuse,
 slander and blasphemy, devilish lies and works by which Luther the
 arch-liar has driven the world to the devil.” He calls Luther “the
 devil’s hired messenger” and says of his manner of writing: “Here
 everything reeks of devils; nothing that the devilish man writes can
 stand without the devil who endevils all his products.”[1271]

 The Ratisbon Benedictine, Christopher Hoffmann († 1534), in his
 sermons to the Chapter preached before 1525 represents Luther as an
 apostate and as “_dæmone plenus_.”[1272]

 The anonymous “_Iudicium de Luthero_” included in a German codex
 at Munich and dating from the early years of the controversy, also
 deserves to be mentioned. The author indeed praises Luther’s learning
 all too generously, but then goes on to say, that he looked on him
 as “no Christian,” and to speak of the “devil’s brood” by whom Martin
 Luther is possessed.[1273]

 Berthold of Chiemsee in his “Tewtsche Theologey” considers that in
 his day false teaching has been spread abroad “by a horrid devil,”
 who makes use of wicked men; the “devil, with his wicked company, has
 stirred up heresy.”[1274]

 Petrus Sylvius, in 1534, after a lengthy discourse on Luther’s
 “seductive and damnable” manner of “slandering and blaspheming,” says,
 that he was “in very truth a possessed and devilish man.”[1275]

 In order the better to explain how these and many other of Luther’s
 contemporaries came to see a diabolical influence in his work, we
 may quote a few words from Johann Adam Möhler’s lectures on Church
 History (published posthumously): “We find Luther in 1520 and 1521
 displaying a feverish literary activity that arouses in the reader a
 horrible misgiving. An uneasy sense of discomfort oppresses us, and a
 secret shudder runs through our frame when we think of the boundless
 selfishness and presumption which holds sway in this man; we seem to
 be standing within the inner circle where that sinister power rules,
 which, from the beginning of the world, has ever been seeking to taint
 the history of our race.”[1276]

 Luther himself, as early as 1518, alludes to opponents of his who
 descried in him the influence of the devil. In a letter to Trutfetter,
 his old master, he says: “They speak of me from the pulpit as a
 heretic, a madman, a tempter and one possessed by I know not how many
 devils”; but “let people say, hearken to and believe what, where and
 as much as they will, I shall do what God inspires me to do.”[1277]

       *       *       *       *       *

 Paolo Vergerio, the Nuncio, whose detailed account of his interview
 with Luther has already been related (vol. iii., p. 426 ff.), speaks,
 like Aleander, of his “strange look,” which, the longer he observed
 it, the more it reminded him of persons he had formerly seen whom
 some regarded as possessed; his eyes were restless and uncanny, and
 bore the stamp of rage and anger. “Whether he be possessed or not,”
 he says, “in his behaviour he is the personification of presumption,
 wickedness and indiscretion.”[1278]

 The statements regarding Luther’s eyes made by various persons who
 knew him would appear to have furnished many with a ground for
 thinking him under some diabolical spell. “Luther’s dark and sparkling
 eyes, deep-set and keen ... must indeed have made an even greater
 impression than the best of Cranach’s portraits.”[1279]

 While his friends, Melanchthon for instance, saw in them the
 expression of a high-minded and noble nature and a “leonine
 glance,”[1280] many Catholics, like Vergerio, saw the reflection of
 a spirit hostile to God. At Worms, as already related, Aleander had
 said, though only on the strength of hearsay, that Luther had “the
 eyes of a demon,” and a Spanish account from Worms also remarks: “his
 eyes forebode no good.”[1281] Cardinal Cajetan, in his examination of
 Luther at Augsburg, stated, that he would confer no more with him;
 “he has deep-set eyes and strange fancies in his head.”[1282] The
 University Professor, Martin Pollich, of Melrichstatt (Mellerstadt),
 seems to have let fall a similar remark during Luther’s early years
 at Wittenberg; he too mentioned his “deep-set eyes” and “strange
 fancies.” It may be, however, that Luther, who tells us this,
 erroneously puts into Pollich’s mouth the remark actually made by
 Cajetan.[1283] It was Pollich also who often declared, that this monk
 would one day overthrow the system of teaching which had hitherto
 prevailed in all the Universities.[1284] Johannes Dantiscus, a
 Pole, who visited Luther during a journey through Germany and who
 subsequently became Bishop of Culm and Ermeland, expresses himself
 very frankly. He says: His eyes were keen and sparkled strangely, as
 is sometimes the case with those possessed.[1285] Luther’s own pupil,
 Johann Kessler, also found something uncomfortable about his glance:
 He had “jet-black brows and eyes that sparkled and twinkled like
 stars, so that it was no easy thing to fix them.”[1286]

 In the above statement concerning Luther’s look and the likelihood of
 his being possessed, Vergerio also has a passing allusion to a certain
 crude tale then current which quite befitted the taste of the age and
 which he gives for what it may be worth in his official report, viz.
 that Luther was begotten of the devil.[1287] This tale also found its
 way into several Catholic works written in that credulous and deeply
 agitated period.

 It was not the first time such things had been invented concerning a
 person who was an object of ill-will in that age when prejudice told
 so strongly.

 Luther himself was in the habit of speaking of the actual occurrence
 of diabolical births and of the “_diabolus incubus_”;[1288] he not
 only did not rise above the vulgar beliefs handed down by a credulous
 past, but even imparted to them, at least so far as the power of
 the devil went, a still worse shape. He never tired of filling the
 imagination of the reader with diabolical images (vol. v., xxxi., 4);
 and he spoke of persons possessed as though the world were replete
 with them.

 If we could trust Cochlæus, Luther’s brother monks would seem
 to have partly been responsible for the report not merely of a
 diabolical possession (“_obsessio_, _circumsessio_”), but also of
 a certain wilful league with the devil entered into by the young
 Augustinian. They could not forget the “singularity” of the young
 monk, particularly that once, during his fit in choir whilst the
 Gospel of the man possessed was being read, he had cried out, “I am
 not he.” Cochlæus, who had some intercourse with the Augustinians at
 Nuremberg, hints in his Commentaries at the “secret intercourse with
 the demon” of which Luther was suspected, and immediately afterwards
 refers, though under a misapprehension, to Luther’s own remark about
 eating salt with the devil, and holding a disputation with him.[1289]
 The passage frequently attributed to Cochlæus, viz. that it was
 notorious “the devil Incubus was Luther’s father,” and son of the
 devil his “real name, therefore remain the devil’s son as long as you
 live,”[1290] was, however, never penned by him. But he was aware of
 the reports on this subject already in circulation and never saw fit
 to treat them with the contempt they deserved.

 All the passages quoted above regarding Luther’s being possessed of
 the devil are in every instance quite independent of this stupid tale:
 they are based throughout on the character of Luther’s writings and on
 his public behaviour.

 The first to relate anything concerning Luther’s diabolical parentage
 was, according to N. Paulus, Petrus Sylvius in his polemics of
 1531-1534.[1291] He recounts with perfect seriousness the information
 which he says he had from an “honest, god-fearing woman,” who had
 heard it from some former female friends of Luther’s mother to whom
 the latter had herself disclosed the fact: “At night time, when the
 doors were locked, a beautiful youth dressed in red had frequently
 visited her before the Carnival,” etc. Some such idle tale may have
 reached the ears of the Legate Vergerio during his travels through
 Germany in that same decade. Possibly he may have expressed himself
 in private with greater credulity concerning this story than in his
 official report, for Contarini goes so far as to write that Vergerio
 “had found that Martin was begotten of the devil.”[1292]

The silly story ought to have made all Luther’s later critics more
cautious, even with regard to the statements regarding Luther’s
obsession by the Evil One. The few Catholic writers, who have ventured
even in our own day to assert that Luther was possessed, should have
been deterred from entering a region so obscure and where the danger
of missing one’s way is so great. Even in the case of persons still
living it is rash and often morally impossible to diagnose a case of
possession; much more is this the case when the person in question has
so long been dead.

2. Voices of Converts

Of the Catholic writers, those in particular were sure of a hearing
amongst the educated, who for a long while and until it revealed itself
in its true colours, had been inclined to Lutheranism. Such was, for
instance, the case with several of the pupils and admirers of Erasmus.
Among these were Ulrich Zasius and Silvius Egranus, who, though ready
to criticise Luther severely, were not wanting in words of praise. The
latter was a good type of the half-fledged convert.

Silvius Egranus (see vol. iii., p. 402), for instance, wrote: “I do
not deny that Luther has spirit and inventive genius, but I find
him utterly wanting in judgment, learning and prudence.... Luther’s
foolhardy abuse, his defiance and violence, breed nothing but
unutterable confusion. Nowhere do I see Christian godliness flourishing
in the hearts of men, nay, owing to Luther, it is not safe even to
speak of the Gospel of Christ or of Paul.”[1293] “I declare that
Luther’s doctrine is a web of sophisms, is neither ecclesiastical nor
Apostolic, but closely related to that sophistical buffoonery and
strong language to which he is ever having recourse.”[1294]--Ulrich
Zasius, a Humanist, and at the same time learned in the law, after
changing his views, publicly took the field against Luther even in
official academical discourses; he maintained nevertheless that he
had been led by Luther to a deeper knowledge of the spirit of Christ;
his skill and talent he never even questioned; he declared: “There is
something in Luther’s spirit that meets with my approval.”[1295] What
alienated him from Luther was not only his attack on the authority
of the Pope--with the grounds of which Zasius was well acquainted
from his study of Canon Law--but his denial of the merit of good
works. This contention seemed to him diametrically opposed to Holy
Scripture. “You reject [meritorious] good works,” he says to Luther’s
followers, “and yet I know One Who says: Their works shall follow
them.”[1296] He finds it necessary to reprove Luther sharply for
his unmeasured, nay, shameless boasting of his gifts, for exciting
enmity, strife, dissension and factions, and for inciting to ill-will
and murder. “What shall I say,” he exclaims, “of the boldness and
impudence with which Luther interprets the Testaments, both Old and
New, from the first chapter of Genesis to the very end, as a tissue
of menaces and imprecations against Popes, bishops and priests, as
though through all the ages God had had nothing to do but to thunder
at the priesthood.”[1297] Elsewhere he bewails with noble indignation
the fate of his beloved fatherland: “Luther, the foe of peace, and the
most worthless of men, has let loose the furies over Germany so that we
must regard it as a real mercy if speedy destruction does not ensue.
I should have much to write upon the subject if only my grief allowed

Zasius and Egranus, however, like others in a similar walk of life
and who were disposed to seek a compromise, never attacked the new
teachers, their reputation and their supposed wisdom as decidedly as
did those whose deeper knowledge of theology taught them how dangerous
the errors were.

       *       *       *       *       *

One well equipped for the literary struggle with Luther was the convert
George Wicel, a priest who had married and settled down as a Lutheran
pastor and then, after a thorough study of holy Scripture and the
Fathers, had resigned his post and published an “_Apologia_” at Leipzig
in 1533 to justify his return to the Church of his Fathers.

 In a multitude of polemical treatises, often couched in caustic
 language, he exposed the untenability and the innate contradictions
 of the Wittenberg doctrines. Of this hated “apostate” Luther speaks
 in a characteristic letter of 1535.[1299] He writes to the Mansfeld
 Chancellor, Caspar Müller, about a new work of Wicel’s: This
 Masterlet, as he hears--for he himself “read none of their books”--has
 again been throwing sweetmeats to his swine, the Catholics. “Such
 guests are well served by such a cook.”

 Owing to his stay at Wittenberg and Eisleben, Wicel was well fitted to
 paint a reliable picture of the morals there prevailing. He utilised
 his experiences in his “_Retectio Lutheranismi_” (1538), and summed
 up his case against Luther as follows: “The life of the great mass
 of Evangelicals is so little Evangelical that I have thousands and
 thousands of times felt most heartily ashamed of it.... Only too
 quickly have most of them sucked in the poisonous doctrine, that works
 are of no avail and that sin is not imputed to the believer.”[1300]
 Concerning one phenomenon, which Luther himself bewails as a very
 pest, viz. the fear of death, which had become the rule since the
 prevalence of the new teaching, Wicel had some severe things to say;
 this was strangely at variance with the confidence which Luther’s
 Evangel was supposed to impart. “Is it not a deep disgrace,” he says,
 “that those who, formerly, when they were the followers of Antichrist,
 to use their own Lutheran phrase, did not fear the plague at all,
 or at any rate not much, now, as ‘Christians,’ display such abject
 terror when it comes? Hardly anyone visits the sick and no one dares
 to assist those stricken with the plague. No one will even look at
 them from a distance, and all are seized with a strange panic. Where
 is that all-prevailing faith that is now so often extolled, where is
 their love for their neighbour? Tell me, I adjure you in the name of
 Christ, whether there has ever been less trust or less charity amongst

 In the conversations held in that same year in the intimate circle
 at Wittenberg, and preserved for us by Lauterbach the Deacon, Luther
 frequently alluded to Wicel; at that time the latter was in the midst
 of his successful literary labours against the Lutherans, and his
 proposals for reunion, though by no means wholly satisfactory, had
 even led Duke George of Saxony to summon him to his Court. Luther,
 with a hatred quite comprehensible under the circumstances, calls him,
 according to Lauterbach, “the most treacherous of men, insatiable in
 his jealousy, a scoundrel who does not even deserve an answer”; Wicel
 himself, he tells us, was well aware he was defending, against his
 better feelings, a cause altogether wrong; the ungrateful slanderer
 richly deserved death; only thanks to Luther’s kindness, had he
 found a decent means of livelihood. “Let us despise him! We must be
 silent, pray and bless,” so he concludes, “and not bring new faggots
 to feed the flames.”[1302] Luther knew perfectly well that any “new
 faggots” he might have brought would have burst into flame under
 Wicel’s ardent pen, to his own disadvantage. He does not shrink from
 indignantly describing Wicel elsewhere as a “sycophant and venomous
 traitor,”[1303] and as “a man full of malice and presumption.”[1304]
 He comes along and “boasts of the Fathers. I do not even read his
 works, for I know his Fathers well; but we have one only Father,
 Who is in Heaven and Who is over all Fathers.”[1305] Particularly
 sensitive was he to Wicel’s strictures on his doctrine of good
 works, that heel of Achilles of the new Evangel. Wicel, “with scorn
 and mockery,” says, “that we have taught that, ‘whoever has once been
 converted can sin no more, and whatever he does is right and good.’
 But the same thing happened to St. Paul and he too had to listen to
 slanderers, who, because he taught that people might be saved without
 the works of the law and merely by faith in Christ, said: ‘Then let us
 do what is evil and sin lustily that good may come of it,’ etc. Let us
 pray against such blasphemy.”[1306]

 Of the consequences of the new teaching levelled at the meritorious
 nature of good works, Wicel had said at the end of his “_Apologia_”:
 “The Lutheran sect has opened wide the flood-gates to immorality and
 disorder, so that everybody laments and sighs over it. If there be
 anything god-fearing, good, moral or right to be found in this sect,
 then it was there before, and did not originate with it. For, show me
 seven men in seven thousand, who, having been formerly godless and
 wicked, have now, because they are Lutherans, become good and full
 of the fear of God. I could, however, point out some, such as had
 previously led a devout, peaceable, inward and harmless life, who are
 now quite changed by this Evangel. May but the Lord grant them to
 see and acknowledge what misery they have excited within the German
 nation. Amen.”[1307]

 Among Wicel’s “blasphemies,” as Luther calls them, were some that
 traversed the latter’s assertions that the holy works of penitents
 and ascetics were utterly worthless, and that the business of a
 house-agent or tax-collector, provided one went about it in faith,
 ranked higher than all the pious works of any monk or hermit.[1308]
 “The wretched man,” exclaims Luther, angry because of his inability to
 answer the objection, “most idly attacks us; he has no respect for the
 labours of their calling which God has commanded each man to perform
 in his state of life; all this he disregards and merely gapes at
 superstitious, grand and showy works”;[1309] “and yet Paul extols the
 ordinary works of the faithful and lays great stress on them.”[1310]
 This was one of his habitual falsehoods, viz. to make out that Wicel
 and his other opponents looked down on lowly and commonplace works
 and the unobtrusive performance of the duties of one’s calling, more
 particularly in the life of the world. In reality, however, they
 recognised in the most large-minded way the high value of the duties
 of any worldly calling when done in a religious spirit, and repudiated
 with perfect justice the charge brought against Catholicism of
 undervaluing the ordinary virtues of the good citizen.

 The zealous Wicel was not perturbed by Luther’s attacks. He continued
 to damage the Lutheran cause by his writings, though the position he
 took up in ecclesiastical matters was not always well advised.

Another convert, Veit Amerbach (Amorbach), one of the most capable
Humanists of the day, after abandoning the Catholic communion lectured
first at Eisleben and then in the philosophical faculty at Wittenberg,
till, owing to his patristic studies and after personal conferences
with Luther and Melanchthon, he returned to the bosom of the Church
in 1543, and at once found a post as lecturer at the University
of Ingolstadt. As he declared in a written statement handed to
Melanchthon, it was particularly the doctrines of Justification and
of the Primacy of the Bishop of Rome that compelled him to side with
antiquity and to oppose the innovations.

Too high-minded to abuse his former associates (he even refrained
from writing against them), Luther nevertheless, on hearing of his
conversion, declared that he would surely turn out later a blasphemer.

 “You know,” Luther wrote to Lauterbach, “Vitus Amerbach, who left
 us to go to Ingolstadt, was a man who was never really one of us (1
 John ii. 19); he will imitate Eck in his blasphemy of our Word, and
 perhaps do even worse things.”[1311] Amerbach having pointed out
 that the greatest authorities both of East and West had acknowledged
 the Pope’s leadership in the Church, Luther replies in Table-Talk in
 1544: “Whence do they get the rotten argument, that the Church must
 have Rome for its outward head? All history is against anything of
 the kind. The whole of the West was never under the Pope, nor the
 whole of the East. It is mere pride on Amerbach’s part! O God, this
 is indeed a fall beyond all other falls! I am sorry about him, for he
 will occasion great scandal. Poor people, they think not of their last
 hour.”[1312] “Ah, it is said of them: They went out from us, from the
 Apostles. But whence came the devil? From the angels surely. Whence
 the prostitutes if not from virgins? Whence the knaves if not from the
 ranks of the pious? Evil must needs come from good.”[1313]

 Amerbach’s opinion of the innovations and of the work of the devil was
 a different one.

 In the Preface to his collection of the Capitularies of Charles the
 Great and Lothair,--the solitary passage in which he alludes to the
 upheaval he had witnessed, though he refrains from any reference to
 his former colleagues--he expresses his cherished hope that the
 Church will ultimately be restored to unity under the successor
 of Peter; the most pressing thing was to set some bounds to the
 extraordinary and utterly unrestrained abuse and vituperation, which
 was not a little promoted by the avarice and filthy venality of the
 printers, but which the authorities did nothing to prevent. “At times,
 when I reflect on this disorder,” he says, “it seems to me that men
 are not filled merely with gall and wormwood, but are verily led and
 set in motion by devils incarnate. But otherwise it cannot be, so
 long as, within the Church, the faithful are split up into opposing
 factions. And would that the populace alone were to blame! I am very
 much deceived if in any of the books of history even one other example
 is to be met with of such madness, such furious, poisonous railing and
 drunken invective.”[1314]

3. Lamentations over the Wounds of the Church and over Her Persecutions

With the defenders of the Church the depravity of Luther’s teaching,
and the immense injury which his work of apostasy was doing to souls,
weighed far more heavily than any of the charges we have heard advanced
against his person.

In the beginning, it is true, they were chiefly concerned in refuting
his new and daring propositions. But, as the years passed and the
ruin increased, startling accounts of the sad state of religion more
and more often find a place in their polemics, the writers urging
against Lutheranism the decay of faith and morals which had followed
in its train. In their words we can feel even to-day the fervour
and the profound anxiety with which they sought to admonish their
contemporaries against the destroyer of the Sanctuary and his seductive

 When Johann Cochlæus composed the Preface to his “_Commentaria de
 actis et scriptis Martini Lutheri_,” he could not refrain, at the
 sight of the state of Germany, from giving lively expression to his

 To him “the greatest misfortune, which no tears can sufficiently
 deplore,” is “the fall of so many immortal souls, destined by the
 grace of baptism for life everlasting.” “This unhappy strife regarding
 belief,” he writes at the commencement, “has torn them from the
 bosom and the unity of the Church and will bring them to eternal
 destruction!” In addition to this there is “a frightful subversion
 of all things such as no previous heresy had ever brought about.”
 The bond of charity and concord which unites Christian people has
 been loosened, discipline undermined, reverence for God destroyed,
 wholesome fear extinguished, obedience cast aside, and in their lieu
 prevails “sinfulness and a freedom that is alien to God.”[1315] In
 the body of the work he describes with pain and indignation how the
 uncalled preachers behaved. “They come,” so he says in one passage,
 “and prate of that false freedom which is to set us free from all laws
 of Church, Pope, bishops and Councils. With a cloud of Scriptural
 texts they undertake to prove, that fasting, prayers, vigils and other
 penitential works are no good whatever, that Christ has sufficiently
 atoned for our sins, that faith alone suffices, that our good works,
 far from being deserving, are really sinful, and so forth. In glibness
 of tongue and in energy they are not to be outdone.”[1316]

 Johann Wild, Cathedral preacher at Mayence, also describes in moving
 words the grievous wounds that were being inflicted on the Church. He
 was a Franciscan Observantine and was distinguished in his Order for
 his learning and success. After having been from 1528 preacher at the
 friary church at Mayence, he was appointed in 1539 to the pulpit of
 the Cathedral, which he retained till his death in 1554. To him it was
 in part due that what was then the ecclesiastical metropolis of the
 Rhine Province was preserved in the Catholic faith. He was a type of
 those men who attempted to meet the spiritual needs of the day, not
 by loud-voiced polemics, but in a conciliatory and peaceable fashion,
 and who insisted that the first requirement was to instruct the people
 thoroughly in the faith, and to raise the moral tone of the faithful.
 Luther’s name he does not mention once in the many volumes of his
 sermons, but the complaints are none the less heart-felt that he pours
 forth concerning the devastation wrought in the Lord’s vineyard,
 warning his hearers and exhorting them to pity, labour and prayer in
 the interests of Catholicism, now in such dire straits.

 “Woe to all those,” he cries, “who by their preaching have made the
 world so frivolous and fearless of God! Our forefathers were better
 advised in this matter. They too preached grace, but they did not
 forget penance.”[1317] “But now we see, how, by dint of sermons
 lacking all sense of modesty and urging faith alone, all fear of God
 is driven out of the hearts of men.”[1318] “One thing, viz. faith,
 has been extolled to the skies, the other, viz. good works, has been
 trodden in the mire. The result is that we are now for the most part
 merely Christians in name, but, so far as works are concerned, more
 depraved and wicked than even Jews or Turks. Yet they expect it to
 be said of them: These are Evangelical preachers, comforting folk,
 who know how to quiet people’s consciences.”[1319] “All sorts of
 wickedness, injustice and frivolity increase from day to day.” “Since
 ever there were Christians in the world a godly life has never been
 so little esteemed as now.”[1320] This, according to him, is the
 chief cause of all the “very grievous sufferings of the Church,” in
 comparison with which the spoliation of the clergy was nothing, of the
 loss of souls, and ruin of religious life. “The cause of the Church’s
 pain is that her children have been and are so lamentably led astray,
 that they refuse any longer to acknowledge their own mother, but
 avoid and flee from her, despise her old age, mock at her wrinkles,
 laugh at her feebleness, pay no heed to her admonitions, transgress
 her laws, forsake her doctrine, reject her commands, despise her
 sacraments, cling to her enemies, wallow in every sort of sin and
 defile themselves with all kinds of errors. Who can tell all the
 misery which is now to be met with among Christians by reason of their
 sins and errors?” How should this not cause pain to the Church, our
 loving Mother?[1321]--When the discord was on the point of breaking
 out into an armed conflict, this patriot, deeply moved at the sight of
 the dissensions that ravaged the Fatherland, exclaimed: Germany has
 become a byword to her neighbours. “Everybody wants a bit of us.” We
 have to submit to bitter scorn. They say: “Ha, these are the haughty
 Germans who help to destroy all other countries and have a finger
 in every war; now they are going to set to on each other.... Is it
 not a lamentable thing that foreigners and aliens should speak thus
 derisively of us?... We must lay it before God and beg Him to forgive
 those whose fault it is that we cannot reach any agreement. I have
 always feared this outcome, yet I ever furthered and counselled peace
 and unity.”[1322]

 In a writing presented at the Diet of Ratisbon in 1541 by Duke
 William of Bavaria, the acts of violence committed by the protesting
 Estates for years past were thus summarised: “The Protestants clamour
 for peace and justice, but in their actions they violate both.”
 The Catholic Estates “are continually molested on account of their
 religion, and great loss and injury are inflicted on them. Contrary
 to the commandment of God, in defiance of law and Christian usages,
 the Protestants forbid them to preach the Gospel and the Word of God
 openly; their churches and monasteries are seized by force, their
 subjects enticed away from them by all manner of devices and taken
 under the shelter of the Protestants; their religious foundations and
 property are torn from them mercilessly and used for alien purposes,
 the graves and monuments of the pious dead, both high and low, are
 desecrated and destroyed; the pictures and images of our Saviour Jesus
 Christ, of the chaste Virgin Mary and the dear Saints are pitifully
 damaged and smashed to pieces.” “The Catholics have no dearer wish
 than for peace and order and justice; they too were clamouring for
 these, and not like the Protestants, trying at the same time to upset
 them. All they asked was to be left in the enjoyment of their holy
 Christian faith and the ordinances of the Christian Church, and
 not to have their goods violently taken from them.”[1323]--These
 complaints were, however, ineffective, as the Protestant party had
 already the upper hand in the College of Electors.

 At the Diet of Worms in 1545 the complaints were renewed on the
 Catholic side: “The Protestants have made themselves masters of
 churches and monasteries and have driven into misery all who wished
 to abide by the old faith. They have invaded bishoprics and have been
 reckless of justice and peace; have constrained the poor inhabitants
 to embrace their religion, as, for instance, in the land of Brunswick,
 where they had no other right than the might of the sword. They
 trample under foot and oppress everything, and then complain of being
 themselves oppressed.” “They are insatiable in their demands and are
 for ever producing fresh cards to play, at every Diet putting forward
 fresh claims which they insist on having conceded to them before
 they will take part in the transactions or vote supplies.”[1324] The
 Catholics further declared in the sittings of a committee at Worms, in
 answer to the charges of their opponents concerning the real abuses
 which prevailed among the bishops and elsewhere: “Scandals and abuses
 innumerable certainly existed and were openly flaunted, and were
 growing worse and worse nowadays, because, owing to the perilous times
 and the teaching of novel sects and preachers, all good works were
 being abandoned, and unbelief and contempt for religion was becoming
 the custom among high and low. Many thousand livings stood vacant and
 the people were without helm or rudder.” “Where were the schools and
 the Divine worship? Where the foundations and endowments for the poor
 which had been so numerous twenty or thirty years ago?” “What the
 Protestants call proclaiming the Word of God is for the most part, as
 they themselves complain, mere slander and abuse of the Pope and the
 clergy and a general reviling of mankind.” The pulpit has “degenerated
 into a chair of scurrility at which foreign nations are shuddering.”
 Not many years before Luther had openly exhorted the preachers to
 “denounce the Duke of Brunswick in their sermons as a servant of the
 devil, likewise the Archbishop of Mayence and all followers of the

 “If we wish to discover the causes of the war which is undoubtedly
 at hand,” so the Cologne doctor, Carl van der Plassen, who was well
 acquainted with the conditions in Germany, wrote from the Diet
 of Worms, “we must bear in mind all that has happened in Germany
 since the subjugation of the peasants by the Princes and municipal
 authorities, all the countless violations of human and Divine law, of
 the public peace, of property, civic rights, conscience and honour.
 Let us but reckon up the number of churches and monasteries which
 have been destroyed and pillaged during these twenty years, and
 all the accompanying crime and iniquity. And to what purpose have
 these stolen goods been applied? What has become of all the Church
 property, all the treasures?... A new religion has been forced upon
 the people by might and by stratagem, and they have been forbidden
 under threat of punishment to carry on the old service of God, with
 its rites and Christian usages. Is this the vaunted freedom of the
 Gospel, to persecute and coerce others, to imprison them or drive them
 into exile? Everything that was formerly reverenced has now fallen
 into contempt, with the result that right and property are no longer
 respected; the endless disturbances in matters of religion have upset
 the whole national equilibrium; discipline, loyalty and respectability
 have vanished.... What misery results from want of clergy and schools
 even in the lands which have remained Catholic! Princes and towns,
 making their boast of the Gospel, have not been satisfied with
 introducing the new Church system into their own territories, but
 have invaded the Catholic bishoprics and secular dominions and turned
 everything topsy-turvy in order to set up their own institutions. The
 Schmalkalden confederates extend their operations from year to year
 and grow more and more audacious. At this moment they are actually
 preaching a war of extermination against the Pope and his adherents.
 There will be no checking them if the sword of the Emperor is not used
 to restrain them, as it ought to have been long ago.”[1326]

 Another Catholic contemporary complains in similar fashion: “Religion
 is perverted, all obedience to the Emperor destroyed, justice
 set aside and insolence of all sorts everywhere encouraged.” The
 Emperor “has tried many and various means of putting a stop to this
 insubordination, but all measures have been fruitless and he must
 now wield in earnest the sword that God put into his hands to bring
 back his and our fatherland to peace, order and unity.”[1327] In the
 Emperor’s own circle the conviction had ripened that so much injustice
 had been done to Catholics and so much detriment to the Church, that
 armed intervention was the only course that remained. “Things had come
 to such a pass in Germany,” said the Imperial Chancellor Granvell to
 Farnese, the Papal Legate, about the time of the Diet of Worms, “that
 neither the Emperor’s nor the Pope’s name any longer carried any
 weight; indeed, it was to be feared that the Protestants looked upon
 the opening of the Council as a signal for war, and that they would at
 once begin to equip themselves not merely for the sake of being ready
 for any emergency, but rather in order to suppress the Catholics and
 to make an attack on Italy, the object of their bitter hatred.”[1328]

4. The Literary Opposition

Most of those who opposed Luther in the literary field have already
made their appearance in the various episodes narrated in the foregoing
pages. In the present section, which is in the nature of a retrospect
and amplification of certain points, we must first touch on the
charge frequently put forward by Luther, viz. that it was the furious
polemics of his foes which drew from him his violent rejoinders, and,
particularly in the earlier part of his career, drove him to take the
field against Rome.

We have already repeatedly admitted the too great acrimony of some
of the writings against Luther, the exasperation they frequently ill
conceal and their needlessly strong and insulting language; of this
we saw instances in the case of Tetzel, Eck, Prierias, Emser and many

It can, however, readily be proved by a comparison with Luther’s
own writings, that the champions of the Church fell far short of
their opponent, generally speaking, in the matter of violence and
contemptuous satire. Luther not only maintained in this respect his
supremacy as a speaker, but the small account he made of truth[1330]
lent an immense advantage to his overwhelming invective. It is
also easy to discern a difference in the writings directed against
his revolutionary movement, according as they were written earlier
or later. At first, when it was merely a question of exposing his
theological errors, his opponents were comparatively calm; the first
counter theses and the discussions to which they led are replete with
the ponderous learning of the Schoolmen, though, even there, we find
occasional traces of the indignation felt that the sanctuary of the
faith should have been attacked in so wanton a fashion. But after the
actual subversion of the Church had begun and the social peril of
the radical innovations had revealed itself, the voices of Luther’s
opponents grow much harsher. Many, in their anguish at the growing
evil, do not spare the person of the man responsible for it all, whose
own methods of controversy, unfortunately, became a pattern even to his
foes. At no time, not even in a warfare such as that then going on, can
all the things be justified which were said by Augustine Alveld, Franz
Arnoldi, Johann Cochlæus, Paul Bachmann, Duke George, King Henry VIII
and even, occasionally, by Sir Thomas More.

What helped to poison the language was, on the one hand, the coarse
tone then generally prevalent amongst the German people, which
contrived to find its way into the literary treatment of theological
questions to an extent never heard of before, and, on the other,
the love of the Humanists for mockery and satire, to which end they
ransacked the storehouse of antiquity, classical or otherwise. Among
earnest Catholics the most powerful factor was overpowering indignation
at the sight of such ruthless trampling under foot of the religion of
their forefathers and of a faith so closely bound up with the greatness
of the fatherland and with every phase of life. Their indignation led
them to utter things that were less praiseworthy than the feeling which
inspired them.

Besides this, there was a great temptation to use, as the best way of
testifying to their abhorrence for the opponent of religious truth,
that drastic language handed down by past ages, indeed largely borrowed
from the Bible, particularly from the Prophets of the Old Testament. Of
this, not theological writers only, but even official ecclesiastical
documents, had made such liberal use, that scholars had it at their
finger-tips. Even in our own day such mediæval thunders are still
sometimes heard rumbling, particularly among the Latin races. When
dealing with the Bull of Excommunication against Luther, we already
had occasion to remark that much in it was due to the after-effects
of the older habits of speech usual in earlier condemnations.[1331]
It may be mentioned of Hadrian VI that in a stern missive addressed
in 1522 to Frederick the Elector of Saxony, he denounced Luther as a
“serpent” infecting heaven and earth with the venom of its tongue, as
a “boar” laying waste the vineyard of the Lord, as a “thief” who broke
in pieces the cross of Christ, as a man with “diabolical, impious and
pestilential lips.” He also, in the words of Scripture, tells the
Prince that Luther, whom he was protecting, is a devil who has assumed
the appearance of an angel of light.[1332]

As regards the beginnings of the controversy, both series of Theses
advanced by Johann Tetzel in 1517 against Luther’s attack on the system
of indulgences, are exclusively of a technical nature and never even
mention by name the originator of the controversy.[1333]

Luther, on the other hand, after the publication of the ninety-five
Theses, in his German sermon on Indulgences and Grace,[1334] addressed
himself directly to the populace. He poured out his scorn on the
school-opinions of the theologians and the “bawling” of the envious;
they seek, he says, your “pennies,” not your souls, and preach for the
sake of their “money-box.” He appealed very cleverly to their more
sordid instincts, hinting that the money might be better spent on the
poor in their own neighbourhood than on the building of St. Peter’s;
at the end, sure of his success with the multitude, he abused those
who called him a heretic, as “darkened intellects who had never even
sniffed a Bible ... and had never grasped their own teaching.”

What was the nature of Tetzel’s reply? His “Vorlegung” of the
Sermon,[1335] being intended for the people, was naturally written
in German, but in the wearisome style of the Latin theology of the
Schools. In point of matter and logical accuracy it was indeed far
superior to Luther’s superficialities, but the clumsy German in which
it was couched and the number of quotations it borrowed from the
Fathers could only make it distasteful to the reader. It is hardly
possible to recognise in its language the popular orator who was such
a favourite with the people. The seriousness of his tone contrasts
strangely with Luther’s airy style. It is easy to believe his honest
assurance, that he was ready to submit his views to the judgment of
the learned and to the ecclesiastical authorities, and to risk even
life itself for the holy Faith of the Catholic past. Only towards the
end of the short work, when refuting Luther’s twentieth proposition,
does Tetzel, not very skilfully, retaliate upon his opponent--though
even here he does not name him--for the coarse and abusive language
he had used in this thesis. Tetzel says, it would be seen from a
consideration of their reasons which of the two it was who had “never
sniffed a Bible,” never grasped his own teaching and applied to the
study of theology “a brain like a sieve”; which of the two was the
schismatic, heretic, etc.

In his reply to the “Vorlegung,” which he published in his own name
under the title “Eyn Freiheyt dess Sermons Bebstlichen Ablass,”[1336]
Luther spared no venom: Sun and moon might well wonder at the light of
wisdom displayed by such a poetaster; evidently he had a superabundance
of paper and leisure; but his artificial flowers and withered leaves
must be scattered to the winds; he had dared to treat “the scriptural
text, which is our comfort (Rom. xv. 4), as a sow would treat a sack of
oats.” His opponent’s offer to risk a trial by fire or water for the
Faith, he treats with the utmost scorn and derision: “My honest advice
to him would be, modestly to restrict himself to the juice of the grape
and to the steam that arises from the roast goose to which he is so
partial.”--Some Protestants have urged that Luther’s rudeness of tone,
here displayed for the first time, may be explained by his opponent’s
example. How little this defence of Luther accords with the true state
of the case is plain from the above.

As regards Silvester Prierias the matter stands somewhat differently.
The “_Dialogus_,” composed by the Master of the Palace in hot haste
in reply to Luther’s “arrogant Theses on the power of the Pope” (the
ninety-five Indulgence Theses he had nailed to the door of the Castle
Church at Wittenberg), a work written with all the weighty scholarship
of the Schoolmen and criticising each thesis in detail, contained in
its thirty-three octavo pages a number of exaggerations and words
calculated to offend.

 The lively Southerner was not content with proving that much in
 Luther’s Theses was provocative, contrary to dogma, criminal,
 seductive, sarcastic, etc., but, even in the Dedication to Leo X, he
 starts off by saying that: Luther had dared to rise up against the
 truth and the Holy See, but that he, the writer, would see whether
 “his iron nose and brazen neck were really unbreakable.”[1337]
 Luther preferred to “snap secretly” rather than to put forward plain
 doctrines.[1338] “If it is in the nature of dogs to snap, then I
 feel sure you must have had a dog for your father, for you are ever
 ready to bite.”[1339] Luther having in one passage put forward a
 statement that was true, Prierias tells him: “You mix a little truth
 with much that is false, and thus you are a spiritual leper, for you
 have a spotted skin that shines partly with true, partly with false
 colours.”[1340] Referring to the building of St. Peter’s at Rome, he
 says to Luther rather maliciously: “You blame in the case of the first
 church of Christendom what was extolled when other churches were being
 built. Had you received a fat bishopric from the Pope with a plenary
 indulgence for the erection of your church, then, perhaps, you would
 have found friendly words in plenty and have belauded the Indulgences
 on which now you pour contempt.”[1341]

 These are lapses in style which a high official of the Pope should
 have known better than to commit.

 Yet it is clear from Luther’s reply that they did not exasperate him
 nearly so much as did Prierias’s energetic repudiation of his teaching
 and his calm exposure of the untenable nature of his assertions. What
 alarmed him was the fact that a highly placed Papal dignitary should
 have shown the contrast between his innovations and the theology
 and practice of the Church; he now perceived clearly the practical
 consequences of his undertaking and the direct entanglement it would
 involve with Rome. Hence the frame of mind in which he composed his
 “_Responsio ad Dialogum_,” etc. (1518),[1342] was not due so much to
 his opponent’s personalities as to the whole aspect of affairs, to the
 shakiness of his own position and to his fierce determination to win
 respect for and to further at the expense of Rome the new doctrine
 which he now had ready-made in his mind. Whoever recalls the spirit
 which breathes in his Commentary on Romans and the violent language
 found in his sermons and letters even before 1518, will readily
 estimate at its true worth the statement, that what drove him onwards
 was the insolence of Prierias. Unfortunately, Prierias’s “Dialogue”
 shares the fate of the Latin works which appeared in Germany in
 defence of Catholicism in the early days of the struggle with Luther:
 Save by a few theologians, they are never read, and, indeed, even were
 they read, it is doubtful whether they would be rightly understood
 except by those familiar with Scholasticism; hence discretion in
 passing judgment is doubly necessary.

In the Reply of 1518 now under consideration, Luther, in view of the
person and position of his opponent, and of the possible consequences,
is more restrained in his abuse than in other writings soon to follow.
Yet, anxious as he was to furnish a real answer to the criticisms of
an author so weighty, we find irony, rudeness and attempts to render
ridiculous the “senile” objections of the “Thomaster,” the “sophist”
and all his “taratantara,” intermingled with unwarrantable attacks on
“Thomistic” theology, that storehouse whence his opponent purloined
“his phrases and his shouting.” The reply opens with the words: “Your
Dialogue, Reverend Father, has reached me; it is a rather high-flown
writing, quite Italian and Thomistic.” It also ends in the same vein.
“If for the future you don’t bring into the arena a Thomas armed with
better weapons, then don’t expect to find again such consideration as I
have just shown you. I have bridled myself so as not to return evil for
evil. Good-bye.”

When, in 1519, the Dominican whom he had thus insulted published,
first a “_Replica_” in the form of a short letter addressed to Luther,
and then the “_Epitome_” (an abstract of his investigations into
the theological questions then under discussion), it was impossible
for Luther to complain of any too harsh treatment; the tone of the
“_Replica_,” although dealing with Luther’s attacks on the person of
the Roman scholar, falls immeasurably short of his assailant’s in point
of bitterness. It is conciliatory, indeed proffers an olive-branch,
should the Wittenberg professor retract the new doctrines which Rome
was determined to condemn.[1343] As for the “_Epitome_,” it is merely
a theological review of the doctrines involved, which it clearly
states and establishes whilst vigorously refuting all opinions to the
contrary. It is accompanied by a grave warning to Luther not to impugn
the authority of the Roman Church.[1344]

This was, however, sufficient to let loose the anger of the German
Reformer, who meanwhile had advanced considerably, and whose wrath now
manifested itself in his rejoinders. Such was his presumption that he
actually reprinted in Germany both works of Prierias as soon as they
had been published; the “_Replica_” he introduced with the derisive
remark, that, as the author had threatened to give birth to more, they
must pray that he might suffer no abortions.[1345] His reprint of the
“_Epitome_” in 1520 was accompanied by contemptuous and satirical
annotations, and by a preface and postscript where he breaks out into
the language already described, about Antichrist seated in the Temple
of God in the Roman Babylon, about the happiness of the separated
Greeks and Bohemians and about the washing of hands in the blood of the
Popish Sodom.[1346] It was the seething ferment in Luther’s own mind,
not anything that Prierias had said, that was really responsible for
such outbursts. The flood-gates had now been thrown open, and even from
the Catholic side came many a wave of indignation to lend acrimony to
the contest.

Referring to Luther’s words on bloodshed, we hear, for instance, Thomas
Murner speaking of “the furious bloodhound, Martin Luther of execrable
memory, the blasphemous, runaway monk and murderous bloodhound, who
wants to wash his hands in the blood of the priests!”[1347]

How far Hieronymus Emser allowed himself to go in his hostility
to Luther is plain from his first tract, “_A venatione Luteriana
Ægocerotis assertio_,” of Nov., 1519, in which he replies to an attack
of Luther’s on an epistle he (Emser) had sent to Provost Johann
Zack. Luther, in the title, had addressed him as the “he-goat” (“_ad
Ægocerotem_”) on account of the goat’s head figuring in his coat of
arms. Emser retorts: “It is plainly beyond your ability to send out
into the world any writing of yours that is not replete with houndish
fury and bristles, as it were, with canine fangs. Your father is
Belial, the ancestor of all insolent monks.” He paints a frightful
picture of Luther’s career and character the better to prove that such
a man had no right to sit in judgment on him.

Luther’s “An den Bock zu Leyptzck,” dating from the beginning of 1520,
was replied to by Emser in his “An den Stier zu Wittenberg,” whereupon
Luther retorted with “Auff des Bocks zu Leypczick Antwort,” to which
Emser replied in his pamphlet: “Auff des Stieres tzu Wiettenberg
wiettende Replica,” and his larger work “Against the Unchristian book
of M. Luther to the German Nobility”; this Luther countered by his
“Auff das ubirchristlich ... Buch Bocks Emssers.”

During the years 1521-1522 Emser wrote no less than eight tracts
against the Wittenberg Professor. The Humanist and clever man of
letters has left therein many a witty page; a refreshing sincerity
is one of his characteristics.[1348] On the whole, however, what F.
A. Scharpff says applies to these and the later polemics of this
zealous champion of the Church: They “are composed in a tone of violent
personality, nor does either combatant seek any longer to restrain the
‘Old Adam,’ as both at the outset had pledged themselves to do.”[1349]

       *       *       *       *       *

Another of Luther’s earliest literary opponents was Johann Eck, the
author of the “Obelisks,” on the Indulgence Theses. Like the works
of Tetzel and Prierias, this tract is chiefly concerned in a calm
discussion of the matter in dispute, though it does not refrain from
occasionally describing this or that opinion of Luther’s as a “rash,
corrupt, impudent assertion,” as an insipid, unblushing error, a
ridiculous mistake, etc. The severest remark, however, and that which
incensed Luther beyond all the rest was, that certain passages in the
Indulgence Theses, owing to a confusion of ideas, made admissions
“containing Bohemian poison,” i.e. savouring of the errors of
Hus.[1350] Subsequent to this Eck, however, wrote to Carlstadt a letter
which was intended for Luther, where he says in a conciliatory tone:
“To offend Martin was never my intention.”[1351] Nor did he at first
print his “Obelisks,” but merely sent the tract to his bishop and his
friends. Luther, on the other hand, had the work printed in August,
1518, together with his own “Asterisks,” and, after circulating them
privately among his acquaintances, finally published them together.
In the “_Asterisci_” he speaks of the behaviour of Eck, his quondam
“friend,” as most insidious and iniquitous (“_insidiossissimum
iniquissimum_”), and mocks at his “grand, not to say high-flown,”
preface. He says: “Hardly was I able to refrain from laughter”;
Eck must have written his “Obelisks” during the Carnival; wearing
the mask of genius he had produced a chaos. His writing adduced
nothing concerning the Bible, the Fathers and the Canons, but was all
arch-scholastic; had he, Luther, wished to peripateticise he could,
with one puff, have blown away all these musty cobwebs, etc.[1352]

Johann Eck, who was professor of theology at the University of
Ingolstadt and at the same time parish-priest and preacher, enjoyed a
great reputation among the Catholics on account of his works against
Luther, particularly those on the Primacy, on Purgatory, the Mass and
other Catholic doctrines and practices, no less than on account of his
printed sermons and his general activity on behalf of the Church.

The indefatigable defender of the Church composed amongst other
writings the “_Enchiridion locorum communium adv. Lutherum et alios
hostes ecclesiæ_” (1525). The work was of great service and formed an
excellent guide to many.

 In this well-arranged and eminently practical book the questions then
 under debate are dealt with for the instruction of Catholics and the
 confutation of heretics; excerpts from Scripture and from the Fathers
 are in each instance quoted in support of the Catholic teaching, and
 then the objections of opponents are set forth and answered. Not
 only were the Church, the Papal Primacy, Holy Scripture, Faith and
 Works, the Sacraments, the Veneration of the Saints, Indulgences,
 Purgatory and other similar points of doctrine examined in this way,
 but even certain matters of discipline and the ecclesiastico-political
 questions of the day, such as payments to Rome, the ornaments of the
 churches and the ceremonies of Divine Worship, the use of Latin in
 the Mass, the disadvantage of holding disputations with heretics, and
 even the question of the Turkish war. Hence the work amounted to a
 small arsenal of weapons for use in the controversial field. The tone
 is, however, not always moderate and dispassionate. The author was
 clear-sighted enough to avoid the pitfall into which other writers
 lapsed who cherished undue hopes of a settlement by give and take.
 In much that he says he still speaks from the mediæval standpoint,
 for instance, concerning the death penalty due to heretics; this
 he defends on the strength of the identical passages from the Old
 Testament to which Luther and his followers appealed for the putting
 to death of blasphemers and apostates from the true faith.

 Eck had the satisfaction of seeing his “_Enchiridion_,” within four
 years, reprinted four times in Bavaria, twice at Tübingen, and
 at Cologne, Paris and Lyons. Before 1576 it had been reimpressed
 forty-five times. In the midst of his other literary works and his
 fatiguing labours as preacher and professor at the University of
 Ingolstadt, the scholar never forgot his useful “_Enchiridion_,” but
 amended it and added to it as occasion demanded. In 1529, in a new
 edition which he dedicated to Conrad von Thuengen, bishop of Würzburg,
 he looks back in the dedicatory preface on the ten years that had
 passed since his disputation at Leipzig, and voices his grief at the
 immense advance the apostasy had made with the course of time.

 “People have outgrown themselves,” Eck exclaims, “they exalt
 themselves against God just as Lucifer once did, but like him too they
 fall into the abyss and come to despise the teaching of God.” “Whoever
 does not hold fast to the tradition of the Church and to the unanimous
 consent of the Fathers and the Councils must fall into the cesspool of
 the worst errors.” These words are characteristic of Eck’s unwavering
 adherence to authority.

 He goes on to apply this to Luther: “Luther and those who follow him
 prefer to rise up in their foolish daring rather than bow to the rule
 of faith; they open their offensive mouth against the holy Fathers and
 the whole Church; they exalt their own judgment with momentous and
 arrogant blindness above that of the most august representatives of
 the teaching office.” True enough Luther had begun softly by merely
 publishing some theses against the system of indulgences with which
 many might still agree; but then he had gone on step by step and had
 increased his partisans by proclaiming a Christian freedom which in
 reality savoured more of Mohammed. It is our sins, Eck admits, that
 are the cause of the unhappy success of his work. “From the poisoned
 root new and corrupt shoots are constantly springing up, and of their
 new sects we see no end. In our unhappy days we have experienced the
 fury of the iconoclasts; Capharnaites have arisen to whom Christ’s
 presence in the Sacrament is a hard saying; Anabaptists, who refuse
 baptism to children but bestow it on adults, and, amongst these
 teachers, every day fresh divisions arise so that the heretics are
 even more prolific than rabbits. Yes, God is angry with us and allows
 this because we do not turn to Him with powerful and fervent prayer.”

 He then goes on to encourage the Bishop of Würzburg to offer vigorous
 resistance and points modestly to his own self-sacrificing labours.

 “However much heresy may gain the upper hand, the watchmen of Sion
 must not keep silence; their voice must ring out like a clarion
 against the Philistines who scoff at the hosts of the Lord. We must
 oppose them with all the powers of our mind and defend the Tower of
 David, guarded, as Scripture says, with a thousand shields. This,
 zealous men, equipped with holy learning, have already done. I myself,
 as the least of all, have also entered the arena and exposed myself to
 the teeth of the wild beasts. At Leipzig I stood up and disputed for
 twenty days with Luther, the Prince of Dragons, and with Carlstadt; at
 Baden [in Switzerland, in 1526] too, I had to sustain a combat for
 several days with Œcolampadius the Capharnaite, and his comrades. I
 have also wrestled with them from a distance in several little works
 which I published in Germany and Italy.”

 Again, in 1541, in the evening of his days († 1543), in an eighth
 edition of the “_Enchiridion_” dedicated to Cardinal Alexander
 Farnese, while urging him to increased efforts for the bringing about
 of a Council, he could point to his own three-and-twenty years of
 incessant conflict with heresy. “O God,” he cries at the sight of the
 extent to which the evil had grown, “what times are ours!” “Every
 bulwark against arbitrary private judgment has been torn down; Luther
 has taught all how to dare all things. Since he has overthrown the
 authority of the Councils, the Popes, the Holy Fathers and all the
 Christian Universities, every man, no matter how mad or hair-brained
 he may be, is free to teach his new fancies to mankind.”[1353]

 Yet the author seeks to revive hope and confidence in his own mind and
 in that of his Catholic readers, and, to this end, quotes on the last
 page the saying of St. Jerome, which he applies to the misfortunes
 of his own day: “During the years of persecution the priests of the
 Church must tell the faithful boldly and confidently: Your churches
 will be rebuilt; have no fear, peace and unity will once more enter
 in.--Yes truly, by God’s Mercy there will come an end to the heresies
 of Luther, Zwingli, Œcolampadius, Blaurer, Osiander, Schnepf and all
 their ilk, and the olden truth of faith will flourish again. Grant
 this, Good Jesus, and grant it speedily!” Invocations such as these
 accord well with the exhortations to pray for the erring which Eck was
 fond of introducing in this as well as in his other books.

Eck’s writings in defence of the faith include learned as well as
popular works, and he was also indefatigable in his labours in the

Johann Cochlæus, who like Eck was one of the more famous of Luther’s
opponents, had a keen and versatile mind († 1552). He first made
Luther’s personal acquaintance at Worms,[1355] and entered the lists
against him in 1522 with his “_De gratia sacramentorum_”; from that
time forward he kept a watch on all that Luther wrote, so as to be
in readiness to reply to or refute it as occasion arose. He himself
gives us the long list of his publications against Luther, in his
“_Commentaria de actis ... Lutheri_,” the work in which he sums up his
recollections of the struggles of his time.

From these “_Commentaria_” of Cochlæus, despite the disparaging
treatment accorded them by Sleidanus, “more is to be gleaned concerning
the history of the Reformation than from many bungling Protestant
eulogies.” Such, at least, is the opinion of C. Krafft, himself a

The writer sought after the truth and wrote with honest indignation. In
spite of disappointments, and even privations, he remained faithful to
the Church, making during his career many a sacrifice for his cherished
convictions; he himself relates how he could not find a printer for his
works against Luther and was forced himself to defray a part of the
expense of publication, whereas every press was eager to print Luther’s
books owing to the demand anticipated.

If, in Cochlæus’s writings, too great passion is often apparent, this
may well have been due to that depraved humanism and neo-classicism
under the influence of which, more perhaps than any other Catholic
man of letters, he stood. We have an instance of this in his
“Seven-headed Luther,” which he composed in 1529 at Dresden, whither
he had been summoned on Emser’s death.[1357] This book, like his later
“Commentaries,” denotes the climax of his polemics. In the dedication
he says that the seven-headed monster could not have been born either
of God or of Nature, since neither God nor Nature was capable of such
an abortion; rather, it must be an offspring of the evil one, who had
deceived man and worked him harm, in Paradise under the guise of a
serpent, and, often later, under the form of fauns, satyrs, Sileni and
various enchantments. In Africa, according to the ancients, there had
been a dragon with three or four heads, and Geryon, whom Hercules slew,
had also had three heads. But a monster with seven heads, such as was
Luther with his sevenfold doctrine, had never been ushered into the
world by any country, but must be a creation of the devil. The wicked,
perverse, insane apostate monk, long since destined to damnation,
had no scruple in deceiving and assailing every upright man with
lies, mockery, blasphemy and every kind of nastiness, or in pouring
forth seditious falsehoods and insults like an infuriated lioness.
The seven-headed hoodman, or hooded dragon, was causing all too much
confusion in Germany with his seven heads and was polluting it all with
his deadly poison. King Saul, he continues, had sinned in not rooting
out the people of Amalek. But to whom did the name of Amalek apply more
aptly than to the Lutherans? For Amalek’s was a bestial nation, living
bestially according to the flesh, just as the Lutherans--particularly
their idol, viz. this monk with his nun--were now doing. In this
mad devil’s minister not one crumb of any kind of virtue remained,

Apart from his too rhetorical and acrimonious tone other unsympathetic
features met with in Cochlæus are his frequent petitions to high
dignitaries of the Church, in Germany and even in Rome, for material
assistance; his complaints that he was not taken seriously enough; his
too great eagerness, during the first years of the struggle, to hold a
disputation with Luther; too much pushfulness and sometimes a certain
credulity, not to speak of occasional lapses into a frivolity which,
like his rhetoric, recalls the more blatant faults of Humanism and
ill beseemed a man anxious to censure the morals of his opponents. He
deemed it right and proper, for instance, to write under an assumed
name a work against the Reformers’ wives and matrimonial relationships,
where, in colloquial form and in a manner highly offensive, he
introduces much that was mere tittle-tattle and quite without
foundation. His authorship of this “Private Conversation” has been
proved up to the hilt in recent times.[1359]

Among the ranks of the opponents of Lutheranism Johann Faber and
Frederick Nausea, both of them bishops of Vienna, hold a high place.
The efforts of these two theologians to elucidate controverted points
and to refute Luther were much appreciated in the Catholic circles of
that day.

In the more popular field quite a number of good speakers and writers
belonging to various Religious Orders, particularly the German
Dominicans, distinguished themselves for their zeal in the campaign
against Lutheranism. Johann Mensing, who became a licentiate at
Wittenberg in 1517 and was Luther’s best-hated opponent, was a member
of the Order of St. Dominic; so also was Augustine von Getelen, of
whose sermons the Lutheran preacher Martin Undermark admitted, that,
“with his tongue he was able to sway the people as he pleased”;[1360]
Matthias Sittardus, Johann Dietenberger and Ambrosius Pelargus were
also all Dominicans, nor did they confine themselves to preaching, but
were all of them authors of publications suited to the times. Michael
Vehe, another Dominican, was renowned for his ability to wield the
pen in German not less than for his Latin discourses from the pulpit.
His brother friar, Johann Fabri, earned praise as a preacher and as
a clever popular writer. The Protestant preacher H. Rocholl wrote of
him: “The turn of what he writes gives proof of great eloquence and
his language is oratorically fine; his exhortations are also from an
homiletic point of view quite excellent.”[1361] Antonius Pirata of the
Dominican friary at Constance received the following encomium from
Erasmus in a letter to Laurinus: “He is a respected man of good morals
and profound learning, who displays in his sermons an eloquence truly
wonderful.”[1362] Conrad Köllin and Jacob Hoogstraaten also adorned the
Dominican Order in Germany at that time with their learning, though
their interest lay more in scholastic theology than in popular works.

All the above belonged to the German province of a single Order, and,
altogether, quite thirty Dominicans might be enumerated who engaged
in controversy with Luther. Amongst the polemists hailing from other
Orders and deserving honourable mention was the zealous and scholarly
Franciscan Caspar Schatzgeyer, also another Franciscan, Thomas Murner,
to whom we shall return immediately, the Augustinian Johann Hoffmeister
and the Carmelite Eberhard Billick.[1363]

The reason that the old Orders, with the exception of the Dominicans,
did not furnish more controversialists was in great part due to the
disastrous effect of the apostasy on their houses. Many of their
subjects, deluded by Lutheranism, forsook their cells, and those
who remained were frequently exposed to severe persecution. Many
monasteries were not only deprived of their means of subsistence, but,
owing to the new spirit of the age and the material difficulties of the
monastic life, the supply of novices began to run short.

During this period of the German Church’s distress the secular clergy
were not behindhand in furnishing tried combatants, though the
influence of the new ideas and the decline in morals, particularly
during the preceding thirty or forty years, had brought ecclesiastical
life and learning to an even lower level than before. There were,
however, still some cheering examples to be met with. Conspicuous
amongst the veterans who opposed Luther’s teaching and innovations,
were, in addition to those already mentioned, Michael Helding,
auxiliary bishop and preacher at Mayence (later bishop of Merseburg),
and Conrad Wimpina of Leipzig and Frankfurt-on-the-Oder, the author
of a good Latin collection of works against Luther entitled “On the
sects and errors,” etc. (1528).[1364] The Lutheran cause suffered
considerably at the hands of these writers.

Thomas Murner, the famous Alsatian preacher and writer, a new Sebastian
Brant even mightier than the former, entered the lists against Luther
and made full use of the satirical style he had cultivated even
earlier. Even Protestants have admitted his principal work against
Luther (1522) to be a highly incisive and significant production,
whilst a recent editor of his works describes him as the most weighty
of Luther’s literary opponents in Germany.[1365] There is certainly no
question of his “wanton, cheerful, nay, bacchantic humour,” and of his
wealth of caustic irony; he enters into Luther’s arguments and proofs,
and refutes them, more particularly those taken from the Bible. Murner
speaks a very simple and pithy language, though not loath to have
recourse occasionally to coarse words, of which an example has been
given above (p. 376). Luther paid him out by “amusing his readers with
an account of the lice on Murner’s cowl, and by circulating a lampoon
alleged to have been sent him from the Rhine, but, at any rate, printed
at Luther’s own instance.”[1366]

       *       *       *       *       *

Not one of those who took the field against Luther and pitted their
strength against his was really a match for him in energy, in ability
to handle the language, in wealth of fancy or in power over the people.
To every clear-sighted observer it must have been apparent that truth
and logic were on the side of the Catholic controversialists, but,
unfortunately, not one of them was able to rival in effectiveness the
writings of the Wittenberg Professor.

Here and there, in certain ruder passages, we can easily see how his
opponents are clumsily endeavouring to retort upon their readier and
more inventive foe in language almost identical with his own. Luther,
however, stands alone in the originality of his abuse. But if his
adversaries, as was too often the case, overstepped the bounds of
moderation of language, we must bear in mind their pain and indignation
at the unspeakable injustice done to the Church of their fathers.
In those rude encounters people were only too apt to forget that,
according to Christ’s command, charity must be displayed even towards
those who err. Yet the Church had received as part of her heirloom
the injunction set by her Founder against the practice of the Jewish
synagogue and its saying, “Hate thy enemy” (Mt. v. 42). “But I say to
you: Love your enemies, do good to them that hate you, and pray for
them that persecute and calumniate you.”

It was on principles such as these that, for all his glowing zeal for
the glory of God, Bl. Pierre Favre (Faber) acted, that gentle and
enlightened preacher of the true Catholic reformation, who, since
1540, had been labouring in the dioceses of Spires, of Mayence and
of Cologne. It was on these principles that he formed his gifted
pupil Bl. Peter Canisius, the first German Jesuit, who completed the
Exercises under him at Mayence, and, three years before Luther’s death,
on May 8, 1543, joined the Society which had now been approved by the
Church. Of the followers of the new religion, Favre expresses himself
as follows: “May Jesus Christ, the Saviour of all men, Who knows that
His written Word does not suffice to touch the human mind, soften and
move their hearts by His divine Grace.” “No other arguments promote
their conversion better than good works and self-sacrifice, even to
laying down one’s life.”[1367] “I never cease grieving,” so he wrote to
Ignatius, the General of the Order, “at the fall of the noble German
nation, once the incomparable pearl of the Church and the glory of
Christendom.” Through the head of the Society he sought to convince its
members that his own way of dealing with the apostasy was the best.
“Those who wish to be of service to the false teachers of to-day,” he
writes, “must above all be distinguished by charity and real esteem for
their opponents, and banish from their minds every thought that might
in any way lessen their regard for them.”[1368]

When Pierre Favre set about his work for the preservation of the
German Church, Luther was already at the heyday of his success. Favre
accompanied the Spanish ambassador Ortiz to the religious Conference
at Worms in 1540, and to the Diet of Ratisbon in 1541. Those two
years bore convincing witness to the fact, that the progress of the
innovations could no longer be checked by the authority either of
Church or State.

But, before proceeding to examine Luther’s work at its zenith, we must
scrutinise his doctrine a little more closely.



1. The Bible text and the Spirit as the “True Tests of Doctrine”

LUTHER’S theological opinions present an attractive field to the
psychologist desirous of studying his character. They are in great
part, as has been several times shown, the result of his experiences,
inward or outward, and appear peculiarly suited to meet his own
case. Hence an examination of his doctrines will be of great value,
particularly towards an understanding of his inner history.

The specifically Lutheran doctrine of the Bible as sole judge in
matters of faith, i.e. the old, so-called “formal principle” of
Protestantism, deserves to be considered first, though, in point of
time, it was not the first to be reached by Luther. Actually it was
first broached by the author of the schism only when the opposition
between his newly discovered views and the Church’s teaching determined
him to set aside both her claim to act as judge, and all other outward
authority on doctrine. Refusing to be bound by the Church, in place of
the teaching office with its gift of infallibility, which, according
to the belief of the ancient Church, guards the treasure of revelation
and therefore also decides on the sense of Holy Scripture, Luther set
up as supreme arbiter the letter of the Bible. From this source, so
he teaches, the faithful draw the doctrines of the faith, each one
according to his ability and enlightenment.

The interpretation of the Sacred Books, in his view, takes place under
the illumination of the Holy Ghost, and such an illumination he claimed
first and foremost for himself. “Any believer who has better grounds
and authority from Scripture on his side, is more to be believed than
the Pope or a whole Council.”[1369]

_Liberty for the Examination of Scripture and Luther’s Autonomy._

Luther only gradually reached his teaching concerning the supremacy of
Holy Scripture.

 His examination at Augsburg drew forth from him his first statements
 on this subject. In the postscript to his own report of the interview
 he places Holy Scripture first amongst the theological sources, adding
 that it was merely being corrupted by the so-called sacred Decrees
 of the Church;[1370] in his appeal to the Council he also places the
 Bible and its decision (i.e. his interpretation) above the Pope. Even
 then, however, he admitted the authority of the Council side by side
 with that of the Bible only in so far as he confidently looked to the
 Council for a decision in his favour. The fact that about this time
 he fancied he could descry Antichrist in the Pope reveals at once the
 wide gulf he was about to create between all ecclesiastical authority
 and Scripture privately interpreted.--Without having as yet formally
 proclaimed the new principle on Holy Scripture, he nevertheless
 declared at the Leipzig Disputation, that Scripture ranked above a
 Council,[1371] and that Œcumenical Councils had already erred in
 matters of faith. Only when driven into a corner by his defence of the
 heresy of Hus, and after fruitless evasions, were these admissions
 wrung from him by Eck. Any light thus thrown on the matter by the
 Catholic speaker was, however, at once obscured by the following
 ambiguous clause added by Luther: “Councils have erred, and may err,
 particularly on points which do not appertain to faith.”[1372]

 Immediately after the Leipzig Disputation, in a letter addressed
 by himself and Carlstadt to the Elector, Luther lays it down that
 “a layman with the Scripture on his side is more to be believed in
 than the Pope and a Council without Scripture.”[1373] Then, in the
 “_Resolutiones super propositionibus Lipsiæ disputatis_,” he gives
 utterance to an assertion behind which he seeks to shelter his views:
 “Faith does not originate in authority but is produced in the heart
 only by the Holy Ghost, though man is indeed moved to faith by word
 and example.”[1374]

 Yet, as though he himself wished to demonstrate the perils his new
 principle involved, not merely for the interpretation of the Bible but
 even for the integrity of the Sacred Books, he makes in the very same
 writing, on ostensibly intrinsic grounds, his famous onslaught on the
 Epistle of St. James which had been urged against him. Because this
 canonical Epistle tells against his doctrine of Justification, he will
 have it that, “its style is far beneath the dignity of an Apostle and
 is not to be compared with that of Paul.”[1375] Already at the Leipzig
 Disputation he had attacked the second Book of the Machabees, which
 did not suit his views, again for intrinsic reasons and because it ran
 counter to true doctrine; the Church had indeed admitted it into the
 Canon, but “she could not raise the status of a book nor impart to it
 a higher value than it actually possessed.”[1376]

From that time forward Luther gives the most varied expression to the
principle of the free interpretation of Scripture: He declares, that
the Bible may be interpreted by everyone, even by the “humble miller’s
maid, nay, by a child of nine if it has the faith.”[1377] “The sheep
must judge whether the pastors teach in Christ’s own tone.”[1378]
“Christ alone, and none other than the Crucified, do we acknowledge as
our Master. Paul will not have us believe him or an angel (Gal. i. 8,
12) unless Christ lives and speaks in him.” He is at pains to inform
“the senseless Sophists, the unlearned bishops, monks and priests, the
Pope and all his Gomorrahs” that we were baptised, not in the name of
any Father of the Church, “but in the name of Jesus Christ.”[1379]

“That a Christian assembly or congregation has the right and the power
to judge of doctrine and to appoint and dismiss preachers” is the title
of one of Luther’s writings of 1523.[1380] Later we meet the downright
declaration: “Neither Church, nor Fathers, nor Apostles, nor angels
are to be listened to except so far as they teach the pure Word of God
(‘_nisi afferant et doceant purum verbum Dei_’).”[1381]

In his bias against his foes he does not pause to consider that the
very point at issue is to discern what the “pure Word of God” is, for,
where it exists, any opposition on the part of “Church, Fathers and
Apostles” is surely inconceivable. It is merely an echo of his early
mystic theories when, in a dreamy sort of way, he hints, that the pure
Word manifests itself to each believer and reveals itself to the world
without the intervention of any outward authority. It was clearly mere
prejudice in his own favour which led him to be ruled by the one idea
that the “pure Word of God” was to be found nowhere but in his own
reading of the Bible.

How greatly he allowed himself to be deceived by such fancies is
already apparent in Luther’s earliest known statements on Scripture
at the very beginning of the public controversy. His devotion to
Biblical study from his youth, and the academic laurels he had won
in this branch of learning, led him, consciously or not, to find
in himself an embodiment of Holy Scripture. Only in this way can
we explain his strange language concerning the Bible in his “Eyn
Freiheyt dess Sermons” against Tetzel. Here, at the very commencement,
instead of setting quietly about his task, which was to defend his
new interpretation against the tradition, objected by his opponent,
he sings a pæan in praise of the unassailable Divine Word. “All who
blaspheme Scripture with their false glosses,” he writes, “shall perish
by their own sword, like Goliath (1 Kings xvii. 51).... Christ’s
doctrine is His Divine Word. Whence it is forbidden, not only to
this blasphemer [Tetzel], but to any angel in heaven, to change one
letter of it. For it is written: ‘God does not deny what He has once
said,’ Job xiii. [xiv.], and in the Psalter [cxviii. 89]: ‘For ever,
O Lord, Thy word standeth firm.’ Not a jot or tittle of the most
insignificant letter of the law of God shall pass; everything must
be fulfilled.”[1382] Here Tetzel becomes a rude ass, “who brays at
Luther,” reminding the latter of a “sow” that defiles the venerable

How uncalled for his emphatic words quoted above on the value of the
Bible really were can be more readily perceived now from a distance;
for his opponents’ esteem and that of the Church generally for the
Word of God was certainly not behind his, whilst the Church provided
a safeguard for Holy Scripture which Luther was unwilling to admit.
But in those days, in the midst of the struggle, such praises showered
by Luther on Holy Writ served to make people think--not at all to his
disadvantage--that he was the herald and champion of the Bible, which
the Popish Church did not reckon at its true worth, whereas, all the
while, he should have been striving to show that his contentions really
had the support of Scripture. Even later his misleading cry was ever:
Back to the sacred stronghold of the Bible! Back to the “true, pure and
undefiled Word of God!”

“Thy Word is the Truth” was his habitual battle-shout, though about
this there had never been the least dispute.

“Against all the sayings of the Fathers,” he says in 1522 in his reply
to King Henry VIII, “against all the arts and words of angels, men and
devils I set the Scriptures and the Gospel.... Here I stand and here
I defy them.... The Word of God I count above all else and the Divine
Majesty supports me; hence I should not turn a hair were a thousand
Augustines against me, and am certain that the true Church adheres
with me to God’s Word.” “Here Harry of England must hold his tongue.”
Harry would see how Luther “stood upon his rock” and that he, Harry,
“twaddled” like a “silly fool.”[1384]

_Experience given by the Spirit._

The “rock” on which Luther’s interpretation of the Bible rests is a
certain inward feeling and perception by the individual of the Bible’s

In the last resort it is on an inward experience of having been taught
by the Spirit the truth and meaning of the Divine words that the
Christian must firmly take his stand. Just as Luther believed himself
to have passed through such an experience, so, according to him, all
others must first reach it and then make it their starting-point.

This is the Spirit from on High that co-operates with the Word of

 “Each man must believe solely because it is the Word of God and
 because he feels within that it is true, even though an angel from
 heaven and all the world should preach against it.”[1385] We must not
 regard the “opinion of all Christendom” but “each one for himself
 alone” must believe the Scriptures.[1386] “The Word itself must
 content the heart and embrace and seize a man and, as it were, hold
 him captive till he feels how true and right it is.”

 “Hence every Christian can learn the truth from Scripture,” so
 a present-day Protestant theologian describes Luther’s then
 teaching;[1387] “he is bound by no human school of interpretation, but
 the plain sense of Scripture and the experience of his heart suffice.”
 He adds: “This might of course draw down upon Luther the charge of
 subjectivism.” “What Luther said of the ‘whisper’ of the word of
 forgiveness is well known. Thus [according to Luther] God can, when
 necessary, work without the use of any means.” Thanks to the “whisper”
 the Bible becomes a sure guide, “for [according to him] the Holy Ghost
 always works in the heart the selfsame truth.” “From the peculiar
 religious standpoint of his own experience of salvation,” Luther,
 so the same theologian admits, determined his “attitude towards
 Scripture.” In this we have one of the results of his “personal

 “How it comes to pass,” says Luther, “that Christ thus enters the
 heart you cannot tell; but your heart feels plainly, by the experience
 of faith, that He is there indeed.”[1388] “When the Holy Ghost
 performs His office then it proceeds.”[1389] “No one can rightly
 understand God or the Word of God unless he receives it directly from
 the Holy Ghost.”

When his friend Carlstadt, together with whom Luther had at first
insisted on Scripture only, later struck out a path of his own in
doctrine and ecclesiastical practice while continuing to appeal to
Scripture and to his own enlightenment, even the controversy with him
and the “fanatics” failed to make Luther relinquish in theory his
standpoint concerning the Bible and the Spirit as the one source and
rule of faith. He became, however, more cautious in formulating it and
endeavoured at least to leave a back door open. He was less insistent
in his assertion that the Spirit instructed, by the inward Word, each
one who read the Scriptures; so much the more did he emphasise the
supposed “clearness of the outward Word,” viz. the Bible, and deprecate
any wanton treatment of it (by anyone save himself); at the same time
he began to lay stress on the outward side of the Church, on the
preaching office and the administration of the Sacraments.[1390] The
fanatics he reproves for “merely gaping at the Spirit in their hearts,”
whereas the outward articles must necessarily precede this.[1391] At
times what he says almost looks like a repudiation of his earlier
theory of enlightenment through the Spirit; for instance, when he
describes how the fanatics wait “till the heavenly voice comes and God
speaks to them.”[1392] Now, the outward Word of the Gospel, proclaimed
by men truly “called,” is to be the guiding star amidst the mischief
wrought by the sectarians; this outward Word, so he now fancies, will
surely avail to decide every issue, seeing that it is so clear; only
by dint of juggling could the sense of the Bible, as manifest in the
outward Word, be distorted; looked at fairly it at once settled every
question--needless to say in Luther’s favour; to understand it, all
that was needed was the “natural language,” the “Lady Empress who far
excels all subtle inventions.”[1393]

As to the alleged clearness of the word of Scripture it is sufficient
to recall that he himself indirectly challenged it by accusing the
whole Church of having misunderstood the Bible, and to consider
the abyss that separated his interpretation, even of the most
vital texts, from that of the scholars of the past. “Though we had
the Bible and read it,” he says, “yet we understood nothing of
it.”[1394]--Nevertheless he fancied he could save his theory by
appealing to the clearness of the text and the assistance rendered
by a knowledge of languages. “St. Paul wills” (1 Cor. xiv. 29), so
Luther says, in a writing on the schools, “that Christians should judge
all doctrine, though for this we must needs be acquainted with the
language. For the preacher or teacher may indeed read the Bible through
and through as much as he chooses, but he will sometimes be right and
sometimes wrong, if there be no one there to judge whether he is
doing it well or ill. Thus in order to judge there must be skill or a
knowledge of tongues, otherwise it is all to no purpose.”[1395]

But above all, as he impresses on the reader in the same tract, he
himself had thrown light on the Bible by his knowledge of languages;
his interpretation, thanks to the “light” of the languages, had
effected “such great things that all the world marvels and must confess
that now we have the Gospel almost as pure and undefiled as the
Apostles had it, that it is restored to its pristine purity, and is
even more undefiled than at the time of St. Jerome or Augustine.”[1396]
His willingness, expressed from time to time, to submit himself or any
other teacher to the judgment of anyone possessed of greater learning
and a more profound spiritual sense, attracted many enlightened minds
to his party.[1397]

Luther’s self-contradiction in speaking, first, of the great clearness
of the Bible, and then of its great obscurity, cannot fail to strike

“Whoever now wants to become a theologian,” he says, for instance,
“enjoys a great advantage. For, first, he has the Bible which is now so
clear that he can read it without any difficulty.” “Should anyone say
that it is necessary to have the interpretation of the Fathers and that
Scripture is obscure, you must reply, that that is untrue. There is no
book on earth more plainly written than Holy Scripture; in comparison
with all other books it is as the sun to any other light.”[1398]
Elsewhere he says: “The ungodly sophists [the Schoolmen] have asserted,
that in Holy Scripture there is much that is obscure and not yet
clearly explained,” but according to him they were not able to bring
forward one vestige of proof; “if the words are obscure in one passage,
they are clear in another,” and a comparison makes everything plain,
particularly to one who is learned in languages.[1399]--Thus the Bible,
according to a further statement, is “clearer, easier and more certain
than any other writing.”[1400] “It is in itself quite certain, quite
easy and quite plain; it is its own explanation; it is the universal
argument, judge and enlightener, and makes all clear to all.”[1401]

Later, however, the idea that Holy Scripture was obscure preponderated
with him. Two days before his death Luther wrote in Latin on a piece
of paper, which was subsequently found on his table, his thoughts on
the difficulty of understanding Scripture: “No one can understand the
Bucolics of Virgil who has not been a herdsman for five years; nor his
Georgics unless he has laboured five years in the fields. In order to
understand aright the epistles of Cicero a man must have been full
twenty years in the public service of a great State. No one need fancy
he has tasted Holy Scripture who has not ruled Churches for a hundred
years with prophets like Elias and Eliseus, with John the Baptist,
Christ and the Apostles.”[1402] In all likelihood his experiences with
the sectarians in his own camp led him towards the end of his life to
lay more stress on the difficulty of understanding the Bible.

Even with the “plain, arid Scripture” and a clear brain it may easily
happen, as he says, to a man to fall into danger through the Bible, by
looking at it from “his own conceit,” as “through a painted glass,”
and “seeing no other colour than that of the glass.”[1403] Such people
cannot then be set right, but become “masters of heresy.”[1404] All
heresy seems to him to come from Scripture and to be based on it.
There is no heretic, he says in a sermon in 1528, who does not appeal
to Scripture; hence it came about that people called the Bible a
heresy-book.[1405] The “heresy-book” was a favourite topic with him.
Two years earlier he had used the expression twice on one day,[1406]
and in 1525, when complaining in a sermon that the fanatics decked
themselves out with Scripture, he said: “Thus it is true what people
say, viz. that Holy Scripture is a heresy-book, i.e. a book that the
heretics claim for themselves; there is no other book that they misuse
so much as this book, and there has never been a heresy so bad or so
gross that it has not sheltered itself behind Scripture.”[1407] These
preachers from among the fanatics, he says, boast of the voice of God
and of the Spirit, but they were never sent; let them prove by miracles
their Divine mission![1408]

Thus he had retracted nothing of his strange doctrine concerning
private enlightenment; on the contrary, when not actually dealing with
the sectarians, he still declared with that persistence of which he
was such a master and which shrank from no self-contradictions, that
the Spirit alone taught man how to understand the Scriptures, now that
man, owing to original sin, was quite unable to grasp even the plainest
passages. “In it [the Bible] not one word is of so small account as to
allow of our understanding it by reason.”[1409] Only by virtue of the
higher light by which he understood Scripture could a man “impartially
prove and judge the different spirits and their doctrines.” This he
wrote in his “_De servo arbitrio_” at a time when he had already
engaged upon the struggle with the “Heavenly Prophets.”[1410] And to
these principles he remained faithful till death without, however, as
a Protestant scholar repeatedly points out of the several sides of
Luther’s theology, “explaining more clearly” their relation to the
difficulties involved.

       *       *       *       *       *

Concerning the inward Word or the enlightenment by the Spirit some
words of Luther’s in 1531 may be given here.

 In that year he preached on the Gospel of St. John. He dwelt at
 some length on his favourite passage: “Whoever believeth in Me hath
 everlasting life,” and its context. Here, speaking repeatedly of the
 outward and the inward Word, he insists especially on the former and
 particularly on the hearing of sermons with faith, though so far was
 he from relinquishing the inward Word that he combines it in a strange
 way with the outward, and finally arrives once more at his earlier pet
 idea: Whoever is taught inwardly by the Spirit is free to judge and
 decide on all things.

 “The Lord Christ intends,” so he explains, “that we should hold fast
 and remain by the outward, spoken Word, and thereby He has put down
 reason from its seat,” i.e. has repudiated the objections of the
 fanatics who differed from him. Christ, according to Luther, exhorts
 us “diligently to listen to and learn the Word.”[1411] The beginning
 of Justification is in this, that “God proclaims to you the spoken,
 outward Word.”[1412] To this end God has His messengers and vicars.
 “When you hear a sermon from St. Paul or from me, you hear God the
 Father Himself; yet both of us, you and I, have one schoolmaster
 and doctor, viz. the Father ... only that God speaks to you through
 me.”[1413] Here he does not enter into the question of his mission,
 though he shows plainly enough that he was not going to be set aside.
 “God must give the spoken Word,” “otherwise it does not make its way.
 But if you are set on helping yourselves, why then should I preach? In
 that case you have no need of me.... We may be angered and stupefied
 over it” (viz. at the apparent divergence between the Word of God and
 reason), yet we must listen and weigh “the Word that is preached by
 the lips of Christ.”[1414]

 Excellent as this exhortation may be so far as St. Paul was concerned,
 the speaker is at no pains to supply his hearer with any proof of his
 own saying, viz. “that God speaks to you through me.” He insists upon
 it, however, and now comes the intervention of the Spirit: God must
 “inspire the conviction that it is His Word”[1415] which has been
 heard. “Without the Word we must not do anything, but must be taught
 by God.”[1416] “When the heart can feel assured that God the Father
 Himself is speaking to us [when we listen to a sermon], then the Holy
 Ghost and the light enter in; then man is enlightened and becomes a
 happy master, and is able to decide and judge of all doctrine, for he
 has the light, and faith in the Divine Word, and feels certain within
 his breast that his doctrine is the very Word of God.”[1417] When you
 “feel this in your heart, then account yourself one of the disciples
 of the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will allow Him to be Master and
 surrender yourself to Him. In this way will you be saved.”[1418]

 The real breathing of the Spirit of God, however, confirms the
 utterances only of the “preaching office,” viz. Luther’s and the
 Lutherans’. This he proclaims in the following words: “The true
 breathing and inspiration of the Holy Ghost is that which is wafted
 through the preaching office and the outward Word.”[1419]

In what follows, for the better understanding of Luther’s attitude
towards the Bible, we shall examine two consequences of his subjective
ways, viz. their effect on the inspiration and the Canon of Scripture,
and the exegetical disagreement which was the result of the principle
of inward experience, also the means he chose to remedy it.

_Inspiration and the Canon of Scripture._

In the matter of the inspiration of Scripture Luther never went so
far as the fanatical enthusiasts of later Lutheranism, who, in their
systems, taught an actual verbal inspiration, according to which the
writers of the Bible had not merely been impelled, enlightened, and
infallibly preserved from error, but had received every word from
God. On the contrary, owing to his wanton handling of the Bible, he
takes the inspiration of its writers so widely and vaguely that the
very idea of inspiration is practically evaporated. The Bible is
indeed, according to him, an outcome of the inspiration of God and
is the writing and Word of the Holy Ghost (“_Spiritus auctor est
libri_”),[1420] and may accordingly be described as “the Holy Ghost’s
own especial book, writing and Word”--which he sometimes explains
almost as though he had been a believer in verbal inspiration.[1421]

The fact is, however, that he sees “in the sacred writers no other form
of spiritual illumination than that displayed in the verbal preaching
of the Divine witnesses.”[1422] “Moreover we occasionally find him
questioning whether in certain passages the Holy Ghost ... is really
so unquestionably present as in other parts of Scripture.” The truth
is “he never formulated any detailed theory of Scriptural inspiration.
With Luther the action of the Holy Ghost, on the witnesses of both Old
Testament and New, is always one and the same, whether they proclaim
the Word verbally or by writing; nowhere do we meet with the thought
that they were under the influence of any other inspiration when they

The freedom he allowed himself, no less in the matter of inspiration
than in the principle of the Bible only, explains the distinction he
so often makes between the character and importance of the various
parts of the “Word of God,” which he will have one keep in view when
searching in Scripture for the truths of faith. In passages where
religion is not concerned, particularly in historical statements, he
believes that the tools of the Holy Ghost both could and did err.[1424]
He thinks that “the predictions of the prophets concerning the Kings
and secular affairs often turned out wrong.”[1425] The inspiration
of the Apostles (and Evangelists) in the New-Testament writings was
merely a part of their general “office,” not a “special inspiration” in
the nature of a “second power added to and independent of it.” “The
predominant importance of the Apostles he traces back to their general
inspiration in the sense described above.”[1426]

Catholic doctors before Luther’s day had showed themselves far more
jealous of the sacredness of the Bible, as regards both the idea of
inspiration and the equal value of all the books, and their every part.
In spite of this Luther would have it that he had been the first to
make the Bible respected.

One point deserving of consideration as an instance of Luther’s
wantonness is his attitude towards the Canon of the Sacred Books.

How was he to prove that this or that book was to be included amongst
the writings which constituted the Word of God, now that he had
rejected the testimony of ecclesiastical tradition? According to the
teaching of the ancient Church, it was tradition and the authority of
the Church which vouched for the canonical character of the books of
the Bible. Luther was confronted with this objection by Johann Eck
at the Leipzig Disputation, who quoted the well-known words of St.
Augustine, that he was compelled “to believe the Gospel only on the
authority of the Catholic Church.”[1427] No longer recognising the
authority of the Church, Luther met the objection by some strange
evasions.[1428] When at last he saw that no other meaning could be read
into the passage he threw it overboard and wrote: “If this meaning
be not in St. Augustine’s words then it were better to repudiate his
saying. For it is contrary to Scripture, to the Spirit and to all
experience.”[1429] Even for the inspired value of the books included in
the Canon he appealed in his arbitrary fashion, not to the infallible
Church, but to the “inward testimony of the Spirit.”

He could hardly escape being thus thrown back on this inward, mystical
attestation, seeing that, according to him, human reason is of little
assistance in the matter. Here the “inner sense” has to come in and,
just as under the illumination of the Spirit of God, it imparts
certainty concerning the meaning of the Bible, so also it discerns
the dignity and godly value of Scripture. For obvious reasons, here
again, he fails to favour us with any “clearer explanation” of his
theory. One thing, however, emerges clearly, viz. that the feeling of
certainty regarding both the meaning and the contents is practically
identical with the feeling that the writing in question is Divine;
since the Spirit from on High teaches me the truth which lies in the
sense of Scripture, so also it must teach me that it is Scripture; the
apprehension of the sense and of the Divine character of the sacred
pages is one and the same.[1430]

It is thus that Luther clothes in intangible, mystical language the
vital question of religion here involved; at the Leipzig Disputation he
had used terms no less elusive: Every book that really belongs to the
Canon has authority and certainty “_per se ipsum_.”[1431] His mystical
words were the outcome of deep-seated tendencies within him; Tauler’s
language, which Luther had so skilfully made his own, was to assist him
in concealing the obscurity and lack of logic inherent in his views.

In reality, nevertheless, like the Catholics, he accepted the Canon of
Holy Scripture as handed down by antiquity; only that he granted to the
subjective influence of the “testimony of the Spirit” a far-reaching
and destructive force. He arbitrarily struck out of the Canon quite
a number of authentic writings,[1432] which will be enumerated
elsewhere[1433] together with his statements concerning them. His
literary opponents had a right to represent to him that so “strange
and arbitrary”[1434] a proceeding was merely a result of his theory
that the sacred books must prove their character and value to each man
individually. At any rate, his attitude towards the Bible cannot be
regarded as at all logical.[1435]

_Inward Assurance and Disagreements Without._

The second consequence of Luther’s biblical subjectivism which we
have to consider lies outside him. It is the disconcerting divergence
in interpretation which was the immediate result of his doctrine of
“inward experience,” to correct which he had recourse to some curious

First of all we may append some further quotations from his writings
to those already adduced. The significance of this remarkable side
of the psychology of his doctrine is often not fully appreciated,
because it seems scarcely believable that Luther should have ventured
so far into the airy region of idealism. And yet, on the other hand,
we have here the principal reason for describing the new doctrine as
something interior, and as one doing better justice to our feelings
and personality, which was Luther’s own claim and, after him, that of
Protestants generally. The difficulty, however, is that almost every
sentence of Luther’s regarding the part played by “inward assurance”
in respect of the Bible, raises the question how that oneness of
interpretation which he ever presupposes, is to escape shipwreck, even
in the case of essential doctrines.

 As early as Jan. 18, 1518, in his advice to Spalatin on the reading of
 Scripture, Luther had appealed to the mystic “influence,” telling him
 to distrust himself and to rely solely on the “_influxus Spiritus_”;
 this appeal he supports on his own inward experience.[1436] In this
 case his experience, however, mainly concerned the confirmation of
 his chief doctrine; for it was under an inspiration from on High that
 he had begun to feel his way to the new Evangel of Justification (see
 vol. iii., p. 110 ff.). But what was to be done when others, too, laid
 claim to a similar experience and inspiration?

 At a later date he described to his friends how he had learnt to
 understand Scripture “_in maximis agonibus et tentationibus_”; it
 was thus he had found in the Bible the Divinity of Christ and the
 articles on the Trinity; even now he was more certain of these truths
 by experience than by faith.[1437] Even the absolute predestination
 of the damned to hell, the entire absence of free-will for doing what
 is good and other extravagant opinions questioned even by his own
 followers, he declares he had learned directly from the Bible. In
 1534 he places Scripture side by side with inward experience (or the
 Spirit), as the warrant--even in the case of others--for all knowledge
 of things Divine.

 This he likewise applies to the Apostles’ Creed.[1438] In 1537 he said
 in a sermon at Schmalkalden, “not only did all this [what is professed
 in the Creed] take place as we read in the Word of the Gospel, but the
 Holy Ghost also writes it inwardly in our heart.”[1439] He accepts
 the teaching of the Apostles’ Creed because he has convinced himself
 that it is based on Holy Writ.[1440] But how if others are not thus
 convinced? Were they too to be fastened to the dogma?

 R. Seeberg gives a good account of Luther’s views on the character
 of the dogmas of the ancient Church.[1441] “He treats the symbols of
 the ancient Church with great respect, particularly the Apostles’
 Creed which contains all the chief articles of faith.[1442] But this
 does not mean that he believes in each creed or Council as such.” “In
 his work ‘Von den Conciliis’ with masterly historical criticism [?]
 he denies all binding authority even to the ancient Councils”; even
 the Council of the Apostles passed resolutions which were afterwards
 rescinded, and so did the Nicene Council. “Dogma is true,” so runs
 Luther’s teaching as given by Seeberg, “only so far as it agrees
 with Scripture; in itself it is of no authority. But the truth of
 Scripture is one that is attested interiorly. Hence we can say that
 the Holy Ghost produces in us the assurance of the true doctrine [of
 the Apostles’ Creed].”[1443]--The page-heading where these words occur
 runs: “Luther’s independence of dogma.”

 A highly important statement on the interior instruction that goes on
 when we read Scripture is contained in Luther’s quite early work “_De
 Captivitate Babylonica_” (1520): The soul, he says there, referring
 to a misunderstood passage of St. Augustine’s on a well-known fact in
 the natural order, is so affected by the truth, that, thanks to it,
 it is able to judge rightly and surely of all things; it is forced
 to confess with unfailing certitude that this is the truth, just as
 reason affirms with unfailing certitude that three and seven make ten;
 the same is the case with all real Christians and their spiritual
 sense which, according to 1 Cor. ii. 15, judges all things and is
 judged of no man.[1444]--The last words of the Apostle refer, however,
 to the extraordinary gifts of the Spirit, bestowed for a while by God
 on some few Christians in the early days of the Church, and cannot
 apply to the ordinary conditions of later times.

 Luther simply ignores the objection, that, if every man is judge,
 unutterable discord must ensue. The way in which he contrived so
 long to conceal this from himself is psychologically remarkable. For
 instance, in one of the principal passages where this objection should
 have been faced, viz. in his work against King Henry VIII, he glosses
 over the difficulty with the assertion that, even under the Pope,
 there was also no unity of doctrine; he then consoles himself with
 the words of Christ (John vi.), that all true Christians “shall be
 taught of God” and that every one that hath heard the Father cometh
 to the Saviour; the Spirit of God makes all to be one and effects an
 “_idem docere, idem confiteri, idem sequi_.”--We can only wonder at
 the idealism that could expect such results in a world inhabited by
 human beings.--In the end, however, since this was scarcely to be
 looked for, “external unity would be sufficiently safeguarded by the
 one Baptism and one Supper,” whereby all “testify to the oneness of
 their faith and spirit.”[1445] At any rate, he is confident that the
 true explanation (viz. his own) of the truths of salvation will gain
 the upper hand. For the Church cannot perish.

 In point of fact Luther really fancies himself justified in appealing
 to this entirely new meaning put by him on the promise to the Church
 that she shall never perish; she is indestructible because true
 believers will always be there to maintain Luther’s interpretation of
 revelation and of the imputed righteousness of Christ, and because any
 general falling away from the truth is not to be thought of. Even
 though very many, indeed the greater number, deny the true Scripture
 teaching, still, many others remain, as, of yore, the seven thousand
 when Israel fell away from God. According to him even these may be
 held captive all their life in some error concerning the faith and
 reach the right road and faith in the grace of Christ only on their
 death-bed, according to the promise in John x. 28.[1446] In view
 of the darkness prevalent in former ages this appears to him to
 suffice in order to enable us to say that the Church has not really
 perished,[1447] and to save the cause of private enlightenment on the
 Bible. For this must stand fast, viz. that the Spirit of God most
 surely bears witness to the contents of the Divine Word in the hearts
 of the hearers and readers. “Luther,” says a Protestant exponent of
 his theology, “laid this down time after time.” “His statements on
 this subject cannot fail, however, to raise certain questions in our

 They gave rise to questions in his own day, and to something more than
 mere questions. The bitter theological dissensions already hinted
 at were the result. The inevitable divergency in the interpretation
 of the Bible was seen everywhere, and a hundred different opinions,
 some based on the inward assurance given by the “Spirit of God,”
 some on the reflections of reason, took the field. We know to
 what an extent Luther had to suffer from the discord born of his
 principle, not merely from such comparatively unimportant persons
 as Jacob Schenk[1449] and his “disgracefully arrogant” colleague,
 Johann Agricola, not merely from the fanatics and Anabaptists who
 found in the Bible a different teaching on Baptism, divine worship
 and morality, or from the Zwinglians with their divergent biblical
 interpretation of the Eucharist, but even, so to speak, in his own
 family, from Melanchthon, who was rash enough to incline to the Swiss
 reformed doctrines and to fight shy of the stricter Lutheranism.
 “The presumption,” Luther declares, strangely enough, “is really
 unbearable, that people should rise up against the authority of the
 Church,” despise the teaching of the best and ablest, and only worship
 their own views in Holy Scripture. “The name of the Church should be
 held in high honour.”[1450] He forbore, however, to specify which
 Church he meant, and moreover he had set himself above every Church.
 “All other forms of arrogance,” he declares, “can be endured and allow
 of improvement, as in the healing art, in philosophy, in poetry,
 in mechanics and in the case of the young.... But that shocking
 ‘_arrogantia theologiæ_’ is the source of all evil, and a consuming

 So little did he succeed in repressing “theological arrogance,” but
 rather, by his action, threw open the doors to it, that in 1525 he
 was forced to lament:[1452] “There are as many sects and beliefs as
 there are heads. This fellow will have nothing to do with baptism,
 another denies the Sacrament, a third believes that there is another
 world between this and the Last Day. Some teach that Christ is not
 God, some say this, some that.... There is now no rustic so rude but
 that, if he dreams or fancies anything, it must be the whisper of the
 Holy Ghost and he himself a prophet.... There is no one who does not
 wish to be cleverer than Luther; they all want to try their steel
 on me.... They speak like madmen; I have during the year to listen
 to many such wretched folk. In no other way can the devil come so
 close to me, that I must admit. Formerly the world was full of noisy,
 disembodied spirits giving themselves out to be the souls of men; now
 it is full of uproarious spirits with bodies, who all declare that
 they are real angels.”[1453]

 He has this crumb of comfort: The world is the devil’s playground; and
 uproars there must be.[1454]

 “This is all due,” he says finally, truly and aptly, “to their
 bringing their conceit with them to the study of Scripture, which
 has to submit to being judged, moulded and led by their head and
 reason,”[1455]--surely a bitter punishment for throwing over the
 divinely appointed authority of the Church, which decides on the sense
 of the Bible.

 “By thus making individual experience the test,” remarks a Protestant
 theologian, “the door seemed opened wide to neverending dissension....
 Luther did not succeed in carrying his theory to its right conclusion.
 Indeed we even find him formulating thoughts which seem to tend
 back to the old, mechanical authority of Scripture.” According to
 this writer, Luther’s conception of Scripture presented certain
 “imperfections” which, “even in principle, were practically at
 variance with it; these, however, disappeared as the fanatic movement
 taught Luther their disastrous effects.” The same writer asks finally:
 “But was it really a question merely of ‘imperfections’ which did not
 endanger the very essence of his views?”[1456]

 “What did Luther set up, instead of tradition, as a principle of
 interpretation?” another Protestant theologian recently queried. He
 answers: “In theory, that Scripture interprets itself; in practice
 however, as it doesn’t, his own theology.”[1457]

_Remedies against Disagreement. The Outward Word._

Since the harmony of the “Spirit,” which Luther had so confidently
looked for, failed to show itself in people’s minds and not a glimmer
of hope of any future agreement was visible, he found it necessary to
insist far more strongly than heretofore on the outward Word;[1458]
this was to check unwelcome inward revelations, to put everything
in order and to be a bulwark against unusual views. “Now that the
Apostles have preached the Word,” so runs one of his most interesting
pronouncements on this subject,[1459] “and left us their writings,
so that there is nothing more to reveal than what they have written,
there is no need of any special new revelation, or miracles. This we
know from the writings of the Apostles.” It would be a different matter
if all were filled with the Holy Ghost and His gifts; “were this so
it would be an easy thing to preach and to govern and all would go
on quite smoothly and well, as indeed it ought. But unfortunately
this is not the case, and those who have the Holy Ghost and a right
understanding are not so common,” but “there are plenty who fancy they
have mastered Scripture and have the Holy Ghost without measure.”
These want to be thought “far more deeply and profoundly initiated”
than Luther himself, and “much more learned than we are.” This he is
not unwilling to allow, but on one thing he must insist, viz. on the
“Word!” “This old and tried doctrine of the Apostles” he has “again
brought to light,” having found “all this darkened by the Pope and
his human teaching”; “by the Grace of God we have brought it to light
once more”; “it is the very same as the Apostles first taught. But it
has not been brought to light again without a revelation of the Holy
Ghost.... He had to illumine our minds that Holy Scripture might be
rightly viewed and understood”; hence “no other word or revelation is
to be expected” “contrary to this doctrine, even were an angel from
heaven visibly to bring” a new doctrine. Everyone can see “that God is
tempting the people, particularly in these latter days of which it is
said, that the devil shall rule mightily over Christendom by means of
Antichrist.”--Here, consequently, his teaching is put on a level with
the “outward Word.”

The outward Word, according to other passages where Luther is rather
more reticent concerning the “revelation” he had received, was that
plain and unassailable Bible teaching on which all “Spirits” must
agree without any danger of divergency. This Word he now identifies
with preaching. Preaching, however, is part of the office, and both
office and preaching were controlled by Luther; indeed the office had
been instituted chiefly by him and his sovereign. Hence, in effect, the
outward Word is still Luther’s word.

“Faith,” we read of the outward Word, seemingly contradicting the
freedom Luther had formerly proclaimed, “comes of hearing, i.e. from
preaching, or from the outward Word. This is the order established by
God and He will not derogate from it. Hence contempt for the outward
Word and for Scripture is rank blasphemy, which the secular authorities
are bound to punish, according to the second Commandment which enjoins
the punishment of blasphemy.” This occurs in the booklet officially
circulated in 1536 among the pastors of the Saxon Electorate.[1460]
A Protestant researcher who has recently made a special study of
the “Inquisition” in the Saxon Electorate has the following remark
concerning this statement, which is by no means without a parallel
in Luther’s works: “Thus even contempt for Scripture--here meaning
contempt for Luther’s interpretation of the Bible text--was already
regarded as ‘rank blasphemy’ which it was the duty of the authorities
to punish. To such a pass had Evangelical freedom already come.”[1461]

In order to uphold his own reading of the Bible against others which
differed from his, Luther incidentally appealed with the utmost vigour,
as the above examples show, to the Church, to tradition and to the
Fathers, whose authority he had nevertheless solemnly renounced.

 This was the case especially in the controversies on the Zwinglian
 doctrine of the Supper. In defending the Real Presence and the literal
 sense of the words of consecration, Luther was in the right. He could
 not resist the temptation to adduce the convincing testimony of
 tradition, the voice of the “Church” from the earliest ages, which
 spoke so loudly in defence of the truth. It was then that he wrote
 the oft-quoted words to Albert of Brandenburg, in order to retain
 him on his side and to preserve him from Zwinglian contamination:
 “That Christ is present in the Sacrament is proved by the books and
 writings, both Greek and Latin, of the dear Fathers, also by the daily
 usage and our experience till this very hour; which testimony of all
 the holy Christian Churches, even had we no other, should suffice to
 make us remain by this article.”[1462] It is true that elsewhere we
 find him saying of the tradition of the Fathers: “When the Word of God
 comes down to us through the Fathers it seems to me like milk strained
 through a coal-sack, when the milk must needs be black and nasty.”
 This meant, he says, “that the Word of God was in itself pure and
 true, bright and clear, but by the teaching of the Fathers, by their
 books and their writings, it was much darkened and corrupted.”[1463]
 “And even if the Fathers agreed with you,” he says elsewhere, “that
 is not enough. I want Holy Writ, because I too am fighting you in

 In his controversy with Zwingli, Luther even came to plead the cause
 of the Catholic principle of authority. In his tract of 1527, “Das
 diese Wort Christi, ‘Das ist mein Leib’ noch fest stehen,” he declared
 that Zwingli’s interpretation of the Bible had already given rise to
 “many opinions, many factions and much dissension.” Such arbitrary
 exegesis neither can nor may go any further. “And if the world is to
 last much longer, we shall on account of such dissensions again be
 obliged, like the ancients, to seek for human contrivances and to
 set up new laws and ordinances in order to preserve the people in
 the unity of the faith. This will succeed as it succeeded before. In
 fine, the devil is too clever and powerful for us. He hinders us and
 stops the way everywhere. If we wish to study Scripture he raises up
 so much strife and dissension that we tire of it.... He is, and is
 called, Satan, i.e. an adversary.” He here attributes to the devil
 the defects of his own Scriptural system, and puts away as something
 wrong even the very thought that it contained faults, another trait
 to his psychological picture: “The devil is a conjurer.” “Unless God
 assists us, our work and counsel is of no avail. We may think of it as
 we like, he still remains the Prince of this world. Whoever does not
 believe this, let him simply try and see. Of this I have experienced
 something. But let no one believe me until he has himself experienced
 it.”[1465] There is no doubt, that, in 1527, Luther did have to go
 through some severe struggles of conscience.

 The Swiss held fast to “Scripture” and to their own “Spirit.”

 H. Bullinger, the leader of the Zwinglians, proved more logical than
 Luther in his interpretation of the new principle of Scripture. In his
 book on the difference between the Evangelical and Roman doctrines
 (Zürich, 1551) he deliberately rejected quite a number of traditional,
 Catholic practices which Luther had spared; for instance, the use
 of religious pictures in the churches, ceremonies, the liturgical
 chants, confession, etc. With this same weapon he attacked not only
 Catholicism, but also Luther’s doctrine of the Real Presence in the
 Blessed Sacrament and the whole Church system as introduced by the

 Luther, for his part, in order to retain the Bible on his side, used
 a very arbitrary method of Scripture interpretation both against the
 Swiss theologians and against Catholicism and its defenders. In many
 cases it was only his peculiar exegesis (to be considered below,
 xxviii., 2) that furnished him with the Scriptural arguments he needed.

Thus, in his attitude towards Scripture, the Wittenberg Professor
wavers between tradition, to which he frequently appeals almost
against his will, and that principle of independent study of the Bible
under enlightenment from on high, which is ever obtruding itself
on him. The latter principle he never denied, in spite of his sad
experiences with the doctrine that everyone who is taught by the Holy
Ghost can draw from Scripture his own belief, and, according to St.
Paul, with the help of this light, test the teaching and opinions of
all.[1466] Yet--strange as it may seem on the part of an assailant of
authority--the last word on matters of faith belongs, according to
him, to authority. This is his opinion for practical reasons, because
not everyone can be expected, and but few are able, to undertake the
task of finding their belief for themselves in the Bible. Moreover,
what one may possibly have learnt from Scripture at the cost of toil
and with the help of inspiration, cannot so readily become the common
property of all. On the other hand, according to Luther, the “_exterius
iudicium_” which is supported by the “_externa claritas_” of Scripture,
as interpreted by himself and proclaimed with authority by the
preachers, was intended for all.[1467]

_The Way of Settling Doubts Concerning Faith. Assurance of Salvation
and Belief in Dogma._

When we come to examine Luther’s teaching on the nature of the faith
which is based on the Bible and to enquire how doubts regarding this
Bible teaching were to be quieted, we are again faced by the utmost

 In his “Von beider Gestallt des Sacramentes” (1522), Luther says of
 belief in the truths of revelation generally: “And it is not enough
 for you to say: Luther, Peter or Paul has said it, but you must feel
 Christ Himself in your own conscience and be assured beyond all doubt
 that it is really the Word of God, even though all the world should be
 against it. So long as you have not this feeling it is certain that
 you have not tasted the Word of God, but are still hanging by your
 ears on the lips or the pen of man and not clinging with all your
 heart to the Word.” Since Christ is the one and only teacher it is
 plain “what horrid murderers of souls those are [viz. the Papists] who
 preach to souls the doctrines of men.”[1468]

 The whole passage is of the utmost practical importance, because in
 it Luther seeks to solve the question anxiously asked by so many: Who
 will assure us that all that we are now told that we must believe if
 we do not wish to lose our souls, is really the teaching of Christ?
 To this he here gives an answer which is intended to satisfy even one
 in danger of death and to instruct him fully on the matter of his

 The olden Church had given her faithful a clear answer which set every
 doubt at rest: The warrant for our belief is the authority of the
 Church instituted by Christ and endowed by God with infallibility. In
 effect the voice of the General Councils, the decisions of an unbroken
 line of vicars of Christ on the Papal throne, the teaching of the
 hierarchy everywhere and at every time, the consensus of the faithful,
 in brief, the outward testimony of Christ’s whole Church, aroused in
 all hearts the happy certainty that the faith offered was indeed the
 revelation of God; people, indeed, believed in God and in His Word,
 but what they believed was what the Church proposed for belief. The
 Church also declared, though not in the same sense as Luther, “_Fides
 non ullorum auctoritate sed Spiritu solo Dei oritur in corde_.”[1469]
 The Church taught, what the Council of Trent emphasised anew, viz.
 that, by the action of the Holy Ghost alone, i.e. by the supernatural
 Grace of God which exalts the powers of man, faith attains to what is
 requisite for salvation.

 Luther, who overthrew the authority of the Church’s teaching office,
 was unable to provide the soul in its struggle after faith with any
 guarantee beyond his own authority to take the Church’s place. In his
 “Von beider Gestallt des Sacramentes” he refers to Christ Himself
 the man oppressed by doubt and fear, viz. to a court of appeal
 inaccessible to the seeker, and this he did at a time when he himself
 had started all kinds of discussions on the sense of the Gospel, and
 when Christ was being claimed in support of the most widely divergent
 views. He refers the enquirer to Christ, because here he deems it
 better not to say plainly “hold fast to me,” though elsewhere such an
 admonition was not too bold a one for him to give. “Think rather for
 yourself,” such is his advice, “you have death or persecution in front
 of you, and I cannot be with you then nor you with me. Each one must
 fight for himself and overcome the devil, death and the world. Were
 you at such a time to be looking round to see where I was, or I to
 see where you were, or were you disturbed because I or anyone else on
 earth asserted differently, you would be lost already and have let the
 Word slip from your heart, for you would be clinging, not to the Word,
 but to me or to some other; in that case there is no help.”[1470]

He thus leaves the anxious man “to himself” at the most awful of
moments; elsewhere, too, he does the same. When he invites every man to
“taste the Word of God” betimes and to “feel” how directly “the Master
speaks within his heart,” this is merely a roundabout way of repeating
the comfortless warning that “each one must fight for himself.” In
other words, what he means is: I have no sure warrant to give in the
stead of the Church’s authority; you must find out for yourself whether
you have received the true Word of Christ by consulting your own

In addition to this, in the opinion of many Protestant theologians,
the faith to be derived from the Bible which everyone must necessarily
arrive at was very much circumscribed by Luther. “Man’s attitude
towards Christ and His saving Grace” loomed so large with him, that
it “decided the question whether a man was, or was not, a believer.”
If, in the Protestantism of to-day, Luther’s “idea of faith” is
frequently taken rather narrowly, it must be admitted that in many of
his statements and demands he himself goes even further. We have here
to do with that “two-sidedness in his attitude towards Scripture,”
which “is apparent at every period of his life.”[1471] If we keep to
the earlier and more “liberal” side of his “Evangelical conception of
faith,” then indeed the trusting and confident assumption of such a
relationship with Christ would certainly be “decisive in the question
whether a man was a believer or not, and Luther himself frequently used
this criterion, for instance, when he answers as follows the question:
Who is a member of the Church and whom must one regard as a dear
brother in Christ: ‘All who confess Christ as sent by God the Father
in order to reconcile us by His death and to obtain grace for us’;
or again elsewhere: ‘All those who cling to Christ alone and confess
Him in faith,’ or, yet again: All those ‘who seek the Lord with all
their heart and soul, and trust only in God’s mercy.’[1472] In such
utterances we have the purely religious conception of Evangelical faith
clearly summarised.” (Cp. above, vol. iii., p. 13.)

Agreeably with this conception of faith, some Protestants have
contended that Luther should have been much more broad-minded with
regard to doubts and to doctrines which differed from his own; his
opposition to other views, notably to those of the Zwinglians, brought
him, however, to another conception of faith, to one more closely
related to the Catholic theory. According to Catholic doctrine, faith
is a firm assent to all that God has revealed and the Church proposes
for belief. It is made up of many articles, not one of which can be set
aside without injury to the whole. Luther, so we are told, “owing to
his controversy with Zwingli, ran the risk of exchanging his conception
of faith for this one [the Catholic one], according to which faith is
the acceptance of a whole series of articles of faith.”

In reality he did not merely “run the risk” of reaching such a
doctrine; he had, all along, even in earlier days, been moving on
these same lines, albeit in contradiction with himself. It was in fact
nothing altogether new when he wrote in the Articles of Schwabach:
“Such a Church is nothing else than the faithful in Christ, who
believe, hold and teach the above Articles.”[1473] The faith for
which he wishes to stand always comprised the contents of the oldest
Creeds, and he prefers to close his eyes to the fact that they were
really undermined by his other propositions. By these articles he is
determined to abide. Hence it is hardly fair to appeal to him in favour
of their abrogation, and any such appeal would only serve to emphasise
his self-contradiction. Luther himself, when dealing with opponents,
frequently speaks of the breaking of a single link as being sufficient
to make the whole chain fall apart. “All or nothing” was his cry,
viz. the very same as Catholics had used against his own innovations.
In short, in his “two-sidedness,” he, quite generally, seeks a sure
foothold against difficulties from within and from without in the
principle of authority in its widest meaning, and, when trying to
safeguard the Apostles’ Creed and the “œcumenical symbols,” he appeals
expressly to the Catholic past. He says that by thus vindicating the
Apostles’ Creed and that of Nicæa he wished to show that he “was true
to the rightful, Christian Church, which had retained them till that
day.”[1474] The Fathers preserved them and, as in the case of the
Athanasian Creed, supplemented and enlarged the traditional formulas,
the better to counter heretics; Luther is even willing to accept
new terms not found in Scripture, but coined by the Church, such as
“_peccatum originale_” or “_consubstantialis_” _ὁμοούσιος_,[1475] since
they might profitably be employed against false teachers.

_Protestant Objections to Luther’s so-called “Formal Principle.”_

“It is not for us to tone down or conceal the contradictions which
present themselves,” writes a Protestant theologian who has made
Luther’s attitude towards Scripture the subject of particular study.
“... Even judged by the standard of his own day Luther does not display
that uniformity which we are entitled to expect.... The psychological
motives in particular are very involved and spring from different
sources. The very fact that throughout his life he exhibited a certain
obstinacy and violence towards both himself and others, must render
doubtful any attempt to trace everything back to a single source.
Obstinacy always points to contradictions.” This author goes so far
as to say: “We might almost give vent to the paradox, that only in
these contradictions is uniformity apparent; such a proposition would,
however, hold good only before the court of psychology.” “To-day it is
not possible to embrace Luther’s view in its entirety.”[1476]

In an historical account of Luther’s teaching (and it is in this that
most Protestant scholars are interested) we must, as we advance,
ever keep in view Luther’s whole individuality with all its warring
elements. The difficulty thus presented to our becoming better
acquainted with his views is, however, apparent from the words already
quoted from one of Luther’s biographers concerning Luther’s wealth of
ideas, which also, to some extent, apply even to his statements on
dogma: “Every word Luther utters plays in a hundred lights and every
eye meets with a different radiance which it would gladly fix.”[1477]

In spite of the difficulties arising from this character of the
Wittenberg Doctor, early orthodox Lutheranism taught that he had set up
the “_sola scriptura_” as the “formal principle” of the new doctrine.
According to eminent authorities in modern Protestantism, however, this
formal principle was stillborn; it was never capable in practice of
supporting an edifice of doctrine, still less of forming a community of
believers. Hence the tendency has been to make it subservient to the
“Evangelical” understanding of the Bible.

 Thus F. Kropatscheck, the author of the learned work “Das
 Schriftprinzip der lutherischen Kirche” (1904), says candidly,
 “that the formal principle of Protestantism [Scripture only] does
 not suffice in itself as a foundation for the true Christian life
 whether of the individual or of a community.” “Where the Evangelical
 content is lacking, the formal principle does not rise above sterile

 Kropatscheck’s examination of the mediæval views on Scripture led him
 moreover to recognise, that, in theory at least, the Bible always
 occupied its due place of honour; its content was, however, so he
 fancies, not understood until Luther rediscovered it as the Gospel
 of the “forgiveness of sins through Christ.”[1479] So far, according
 to him, did esteem for Scripture as the Word of God go in the Middle
 Ages, that he even ventures to characterise the formula “_sola
 scriptura_” as “Catholic commonplace”;[1480] this, however, he can
 only have intended in the sense in which it was read and supplemented
 by another Protestant theologian: “In practice this did not exclude
 the interpretation of Scripture on the lines of tradition.”[1481]
 “The so-called formal principle,” the above work goes on to say, with
 quite remarkable fairness to the past, “was much more utilised in
 the Middle Ages than popular accounts would lead us to suppose. To
 the Reformation we owe neither the formula (‘_sola scriptura_’) nor
 the insisting on the literal sense, nor the theory of inspiration,
 nor scarcely anything else demanded on the score of pure scriptural
 teaching.”[1482] “Almost all” the qualities attributed to Holy
 Scripture in the early, orthodox days of Protestantism “are already to
 be met with in the Middle Ages.”[1483]

 In the same work Kropatscheck rightly sums up the teaching on the
 inspiration of the canonical books, of St. Thomas Aquinas, the
 principal exponent of the mediæval biblical teaching, doing so in
 a couple of sentences the clearness and conclusiveness of which
 contrast strangely with the new doctrine: “The effect of inspiration,”
 according to this Doctor of the Church, implies, negatively,
 preservation from error, positively, an enlightenment, both for the
 perception of supernatural truth and for the right judging of natural
 verities. Beyond this, a certain impulse from on high was needed to
 move the sacred scribes to write the burden of their message.[1484]

 That in the past the doctrine of interpretation was bound up with the
 doctrine of inspiration, is, according to the statements of another
 Protestant writer, P. Drews,[1485] expressed as follows by the
 Catholic voice of Willibald Pirkheimer: “We should have to look on
 ourselves as reprobate were we to despise even one syllable of Holy
 Scripture, for we know and firmly believe that our salvation rests
 solely and entirely on the Gospel. Hence we have it daily in our hands
 and read it and regard it as the guide of our lives. But no one can
 blame us if we place greater reliance on the interpretation of the
 holy, ancient Fathers than on some garbled account of Holy Scripture,
 since it is, alas, daily evident that there are as many different
 readings of the Word of God as there are men. Herein lies the source
 of all the evils and disorders, viz. that every fool would expound
 Scripture, needless to say, to his own advantage.”[1486]

 Protestant theologians have recently been diligent in studying
 Luther’s teaching on the Bible. The conclusions arrived at by O.
 Scheel, who severely criticises Luther, have several times been
 quoted in this work. K. Thimme, in a scholarly work entitled “Luthers
 Stellung zur Heiligen Schrift,”[1487] has pointed out that Luther,
 who “affirms the existence of real inaccuracies in Holy Scripture,”
 nevertheless, in the very year that he expressed contempt for certain
 books of the New Testament, loudly demanded “the firmest belief
 (‘_firmissime credatur_’), that nothing erroneous is contained in the
 canonical books.”[1488]

 A. Galley, a theologian to whom it fell to review the book, declared,
 that, unfortunately, in spite of this and other essays on the subject,
 no sure and decisive judgment on Luther’s attitude towards Holy
 Scripture had yet been arrived at.[1489]--Does this not, perhaps,
 amount to saying that any ultimate verdict of harmony, truth and
 absence of contradictions is out of the question?

 R. Seeberg in one work emphasises “Luther’s independent and critical
 attitude towards the books of the Old and New Testament Canon.”
 “Scripture is to be believed not on the external authority of the
 Church but because it is revelation tested by experience.... Scripture
 was to him the standard, test and measure of all ecclesiastical
 doctrine, but this it was as the expression of the experienced
 revelation of God.”[1490]

 This statement Seeberg further explains elsewhere: “Though, in his
 controversies, Luther pits Scripture as the ‘Divine law’ against all
 mere ecclesiastical law [viz. the Church’s dogma], yet he regarded it
 as authoritative simply in so far as it was the original, vigorous
 witness to Christ and His salvation. Considered in this light,
 Scripture, however, cannot be put side by side with justifying
 faith as the second principle of Protestantism. The essential and
 fundamental thought is faith.”--What Seeberg here says is quietly
 aimed at the later, orthodox, Lutheran theologians who took from
 Luther the so-called formal principle of Protestantism, viz. the
 doctrine of the verbal inspiration of the Bible. “How is it possible,
 in view of Luther’s reprobation of certain things in the Bible ...
 and his admission that it contained mistakes, to imagine any verbal

 Seeberg has also a remarkable account of Luther’s views on the
 relation to Scripture of that faith which in reality is based on
 inward experience: “The specific content of Scripture” is “Christ,
 His office and kingdom.” To this content it is that faith bears
 witness by inward experience (see above, p. 404 f.). For faith is
 “the recognition by the heart of the Almighty love revealed to us in
 God.... This recognition involves also the certainty that I am in
 the Grace of God.” “The truth of Scripture is something demonstrated
 inwardly,” etc. “The external, legal founding of doctrine upon dogma
 is thus set aside, and an end is made of the ancient canon of Vincent
 of Lerins. Even the legal [dogmatic] application of Scripture is in
 principle done away with.” Of the extent to which Luther carried out
 these principles the author says in conclusion: “That his practice was
 not always exemplary and devoid of contradiction can merely be hinted
 at here.”[1492]

 It would have been better to say straight away that no
 non-contradictory use of contradictory principles was possible.

 Dealing with a work by K. Eger (“Luthers Auslegung des Alten
 Testamentes”), W. Köhler said: “Any interpretation not limited by
 practical considerations ... was quite unknown to Luther, hence we
 must not seek such a thing in him.... Our best plan is to break with
 Luther’s principle of interpretation.” And, before this: “Luther’s
 principle of interpretation is everywhere the ‘_fides_,’ and what
 Luther has to offer in the way of sober, ‘historical’ interpretation
 is no growth of his own garden but a fruit of Humanism.... Just as
 the Schoolmen found their theology in the Old Testament, so he did

 Luther’s method of interpretation, however, presents much that calls
 for closer examination.

2. Luther as a Bible-Expositor

“Luther in his quality of Bible-expositor is one of the most
extraordinary and puzzling figures in the domain of religious

_Some Characteristics of Luther’s Exegesis._

It is true that some of Luther’s principles of exegesis are excellent,
and that he has a better perception than many of his predecessors
of the need of first ascertaining the literal sense, and, for this
purpose, of studying languages. He is aware that the fourfold sense
of Holy Scripture, so often wrongly appealed to, must retire before
the literal meaning, and that we must ever seek what the sacred writer
really and obviously meant, in whatever dress we find his ideas
clothed. Some quite excellent observations occur in his works on the
danger of having recourse to allegorical interpretations and of not
taking the text literally.

Luther himself, it is true, in his earlier postils, frequently makes
use of the allegory so dear to mediæval writers, often investing what
he says in poetic and fantastic forms. Later on, however, he grew more
cautious. Here again the abuse of allegory by the fanatics had its
effect. In addition to this his constant efforts to prove his doctrine
against theological gainsayers within and without his camp, forced him
in his arguments to use the literal sense of the Bible, or at least
what he considered such. The advantages of his German translation of
the Bible will be spoken of elsewhere (see vol. v., xxxiv., 3).

Yet he lacked one thing essentially required of an expositor, viz.
theological impartiality, nor was he fair to those means by which the
Church’s interpreters were guided in determining the sense of Scripture.

Concerning the latter, it is enough to remember how lightheartedly
he threw overboard the interpretation of the whole of the Christian
past. His wantonness, which led him to esteem as of no account all
the expositions and teachings of previous ages, deprived his exegesis
of much help and also of any stable foundation. Even considered from
the merely natural standpoint, real progress in religious knowledge
must surely be made quietly and without any sudden break with what has
already been won by the best minds by dint of diligent labour.

The rock on which Luther suffered shipwreck was however above all his
complete lack of impartiality. In his work as expositor his concern was
not to do homage to the truth in whatever shape he might encounter it
in the texts he was interpreting, but to introduce into the texts his
own ideas. Bearing in mind his controversy and his natural temperament,
this cannot, however, surprise us. Hence it is not necessary to take
too tragically the tricks he occasionally plays with Bible texts. Some
of these have been most painstakingly examined,[1495] and, indeed, it
was not without its advantages to have the general complaints raised
thus verified in individual instances. Thanks to his investigations
Döllinger was able to write: “False interpretations of the most obvious
and arbitrary kind are quite the usual thing in his polemics. It would
hardly be possible to carry this further than he did in his writings
against Erasmus in the instances quoted even by Planck. Indeed,
examples of utter wilfulness and violence to the text can be adduced in
great number from his writings.” Most frequently, as Döllinger points
out, “his interpretation is false, because he foists his own peculiar
ideas on the biblical passages, ideas which on his own admission he
reached not by a calm and dispassionate study of the Bible, but under
conditions of painful mental disturbance and anxiety of conscience.”
To this he was urged by the unrest certain Bible-sayings excited in
him; in such cases, as Döllinger remarks, he knew how “to pacify his
exegetical conscience by telling himself, that all this disquiet
was merely a temptation of the devil, who wanted to puzzle him with
passages from Scripture and thus drive him to despair.”[1496]

The whole of his exegesis is pervaded by his doctrine of Justification.
In this sense he says in the preface to Galatians, the largest of his
exegetico-dogmatic works: “Within me this one article of faith in
Christ reigns supreme. Day and night all my ideas on theology spring
from it and return thereto.”[1497]

 “The article of Justification,” he declares, in a disputation in 1537,
 “is the master and prince, the lord, regent and judge of every form of
 doctrine, which preserves and rules all ecclesiastical knowledge and
 exalts our consciousness before God.”[1498]

 Two years before this (1535) he expressed himself still more strongly
 in a disputation: “Scripture is not to be understood against, but
 for, Christ. Hence it must either be made to apply to Him--or not be
 regarded as true Scripture at all.”[1499]

 His highly vaunted idea of Justification he sought to apply first
 and foremost to those books or passages of the Bible which, as he
 expressed it, “preach Christ.” Though giving the first place in the
 canonical regard to those writings where Christ is most strongly and
 fully preached and but scant favour (when he does not reject them
 entirely) to those where this is not the case, he yet contrives to
 introduce his own particular Christ into many parts of Scripture which
 really say nothing about Him. Everything that redounds to the honour
 of Christ, i.e. to the exaltation of His work of grace in man, as
 Luther understood it, must be forced into Scripture, while everything
 that tends to assert man’s powers and the need of his co-operation
 must be expunged, since Christ cannot arrive at His right which He
 has from the Father except through the utter helplessness of man. The
 Bible must nowhere know of any inner righteousness on man’s part that
 is of any value in God’s sight; it must never place on the lips of
 Christ any demand, any praise or reward for human effort. All sacred
 utterances which contradict this are, so he says, in spite of his
 preference for the literal sense, not to be taken literally. Thus,
 when the Bible says man _shall_, it does not follow that he _can_;
 God rather wishes thereby to convince man of his helplessness; nay,
 what is said in this connection of man and his works really applies
 to Christ, Who has done everything for us and makes it all ours by

 “There were times in his life when the antithesis between faith and
 works so dominated him and filled his mind, that the whole Bible
 seemed to him to have been written simply to illustrate and emphasise
 this doctrine of Justification.”[1501]

 Two portions of Holy Scripture, viz. the Epistles to the Romans and to
 the Galatians, according to him, hold the first place in their eulogy
 of Christ, by their recommendation of faith in Him alone. Hence “all
 questions and all the more obscure passages of Scripture are to be
 solved and explained by these two epistles.”[1502] If, in the Bible,
 good works are extolled or almsgiving praised, the word “_fide_” must
 always be understood, since the meaning cannot but be that such works
 are profitable by faith.[1503]

 In the case of the Evangelists, Matthew and Luke in particular,
 we must expound their writings in accordance with the doctrine of
 Justification through Christ and man’s own helplessness. “Scripture
 must be interpreted according to this article.... When Matthew and
 Luke speak of good works, they are to be understood and judged
 according to this rule.”[1504]

Thus, in all questions of exegesis the “preaching of Christ” is
conclusive. We must, first of all, see whether each book commonly
reckoned to form part of the Bible really “preaches Christ,” and, where
this is so, the same thoughts will control everything else.[1505]

In the question of the relation of faith to the interpretation of
Scripture, Luther hobbles strangely. On the one hand the Bible is to
be interpreted strictly according to faith, on the other, faith is to
be won solely from the Bible. The former proposition he thus explains
in a sermon: It is a command that the interpretation of Scripture must
“rhyme with faith and not teach anything contrary to or differing from
what faith teaches.” True faith, however, is that which is directed
against the power of works, so that any interpretation of the Bible
which contradicts this is wrong. Whatever teaches us “to have a good
conscience towards God, except by faith alone and without any works,
neither resembles nor rhymes with faith.”[1506] Of the content of faith
we are assured above all by inward experience and the Spirit. It is
indeed on the “feeling and sentiment” that, in the case of faith, i.e.
the acceptance of the Gospel message of salvation, Luther lays the
chief stress.[1507] “If you feel it not, you have not the faith, the
Word merely rings in your ears and hovers on your lips like foam on

Luther is just as determined in proving faith from Scripture as
he is in making Scripture subservient to and dependent on faith.
“Without Scripture faith soon goes,” he exclaims after labouring to
bring forward arguments from the Bible in support of the new faith
in Christ.[1509] “Whatever is advanced without being attested by
Scripture or a revelation need not be believed.”[1510] “To this wine
no water must be added”;[1511] to this sun no lantern must be held
up![1512] “You must take your stand on a plain, clear and strong word
of Scripture, which will then be your support.”[1513]

The worst of it is, as O. Scheel aptly remarks, that Luther pits his
Christ against Scripture and thus makes the latter void.[1514]

On the one hand, according to Adolf Harnack, Luther, when making
faith the rule of Bible interpretation, becomes a “mediæval exegete”
and borrows from the past even his types and allegories. Yet he cuts
himself adrift in the most decided fashion from the mediæval exegesis,
“not merely when it is a question of Justification,” but even “in
regard to such Scripture passages as contain nothing whatever about the
doctrine of Justification and faith, or only alien matter.”[1515]

For instance, he finds righteousness by works condemned and faith
exalted in the very first pages of the Bible; for Cain, his brother’s
murderer, “clung to works and lost the faith,” that was his misfortune;
whereas Abel held aloof “from free-will and the merit of works” and
“kept the faith in a pure conscience.” “The same thing happened later
with Isaac and Ismael, Jacob and Esau, and others.”--Yet, in spite of
such condemnation of works, many passages, particularly in the New
Testament, seem to tell in favour of works. This, however, is only
due to the fact that at the time of the New Testament writers it was
desirable to raise up a bulwark against any too great esteem for faith.
Thus it was really not meant quite seriously; in the same way even he
himself, so he says, had been obliged to oppose this excessive esteem
for faith, because, in his day, and owing to his preaching, the people
“wanted merely to believe, to the neglect of the power and fruit of
faith” (in good actions).[1516]

Owing to his habit of ever reading the Bible through the glass of his
doctrine of Justification, his handling of Rom. xi. 32 (in the Vulgate:
“_Conclusit Deus omnia in incredulitate ut omnium misereatur_”) was
such that Döllinger found in it no less than “three falsifications of
the words of Paul.”[1517]

Luther’s marginal glosses to his translation of the Bible are open to
plentiful objections, for their purpose is to recall the reader as
often as possible to the basic theories of his doctrine.[1518]

Some Protestants have been exceedingly frank in characterising the
strained relations often noticeable between Luther’s exegesis and true

 Friedrich Paulsen, in his “Geschichte des gelehrten Unterrichts,” when
 dealing with the demand made by the “exegesis of the Reformation,”
 viz. that the reader must cling to the plain text and letter of
 Scripture, says: “Luther by no means considered himself bound to
 the letter and the grammatical sense of the text of Scripture. Where
 the letter was in his favour, he indeed used it against others, the
 Swiss, for instance, but, where it was not, he nevertheless stands
 by his guns and knows what Scripture _ought_ to have said. Everybody
 knows with what scant regard he handled certain books of Scripture,
 estimating their value according as they agreed more or less with his
 teaching, and even amending them a little when they failed to reach
 his standard or to present the pure doctrine of justification by faith
 ‘alone’ in a light sufficiently strong.... In order to understand
 Scripture it is necessary [according to Luther] to know beforehand
 what it teaches; Scripture is indeed the rule of doctrine, but,
 _vice versa_, doctrine is also the rule of Scripture which must be
 interpreted ‘_ex analogia fidei_.’”[1519]

 Referring to Luther’s interpretation of the Epistle to the Romans,
 Adolf Hausrath pithily observes: “Luther read this Epistle to the
 Romans into everything and found it everywhere.” Though Hausrath makes
 haste to add that this was because “his personal experiences agreed
 with those of the Epistle to the Romans,” still, his reference to the
 psychological basis of the phenomenon is quite in place. “He had been
 led to draw from Scripture one basic principle which to him was the
 embodiment of truth, viz. Justification by Faith. That only which ran
 counter to this ‘faith alone’ was to be set aside.”[1520]

_Luther’s Exegesis in the Light of His Early Development._

With the help of the newly published Commentary on Romans, written by
Luther in his youth (vol. i., p. 184 ff.), we can trace the beginnings
of his curious exegesis more easily than was possible before.

What we want first of all is a key to that more than human confidence
which prompts the new teacher to blend in one his own interpretation
and the actual text of the Bible and to say, “_My_ word is the truth.”
This key is to be found in his early history. It was then, in those
youthful days when he began morbidly to brood over the mysteries of the
Epistle to the Romans, all unable to grasp the profound thoughts it
contained, that the phenomenon in question made its first appearance.

 We must call to mind that the young and ardent University professor,
 though deficient in humility and in the capacity to assimilate the
 sublime teachings of the Epistle to the Romans, stood all the more
 under the spell of two misleading ideas which had long dominated him,
 viz. on the one hand, the supposed depth and transforming power of
 the knowledge of Scripture he had already acquired and, on the other,
 the need of assailing the self-righteous and hypocritical Little
 Saints and all excessive esteem for good works. In the latter respect
 the passages in Romans on works, faith and merit--of which he failed
 to see the real meaning--became dangerous rocks on which Luther’s
 earlier religious convictions suffered hopeless shipwreck. So greatly
 was he attracted and, as it were, fascinated by the light that seemed
 to him to stream in on his soul from this Epistle, that he came to
 see the same thing everywhere. Its suggestive power over him was all
 the greater because in his then pseudo-mystical train of thought he
 was fond of comparing himself to the Apostle and of fancying, that,
 as in that case so in his, inner self-annihilation would lead to his
 receiving similar favours from God. This self-annihilation in Luther’s
 case was, however, a morbid one.

 Luther, in his younger days, had also been grievously tormented with
 thoughts on predestination. He now fancied, according to what he
 supposed was Paul’s teaching, that to abandon oneself in the hands of
 God, without will, strength or wish, was the sole means by which he
 and all other men could find tranquillity. Thus, on the strength of
 misunderstood inward experiences, he hailed the Epistle to the Romans
 and, a little later, the Epistle to the Galatians, as the only guide
 along the strange paths of his future exegesis.

 His supposed “experiences of God” became the ruling power by which,
 thanks to an exegesis entirely new, he was to bring salvation to the
 whole of mankind.

 Hitherto, in spite of all his diligence in the study of the Bible,
 any idea of upholding his own new interpretation against the existing
 doctrines of the Church had been altogether foreign to him. In his
 first manuscript notes and in the Commentary on the Psalms which has
 only recently come to light, likewise in his earlier sermons, he
 still looks at everything from the Catholic standpoint; the Church’s
 authority is still the appointed guardian and interpreter of Holy
 Scripture. There the Bible is to him unquestionably the divinely
 inspired book and the true Word of God, though it is, not the
 individual’s, but the Church’s duty to draw from its inexhaustible
 treasures arguments in her own defence and in refutation of the
 teaching of the heretics. To the teaching of Scripture and to the
 infallible interpretation of the Church based on the tradition of the
 Fathers, everyone, so he then held, must submit as Christ Himself had

 Even then, however, he was already convinced that he had received an
 extraordinary call to deal with Holy Scripture. The very admiration
 of his fellow-monks for his familiarity with his red leather copy
 of the Bible, fostered the self-love of the youthful student of the
 Scriptures. This Staupitz increased by his incautious reference to
 the future “great Doctor,” and by his general treatment of Luther.
 The written Word of God in which the wide-awake and quick-witted monk
 felt himself at home more than any of his fellows quite evidently
 became so much his own peculiar domain, that, in his opinion, Bible
 scholarship was the only worthy form of theological learning and ruled
 every branch of Divine knowledge. He even went further, attributing
 all the corruption in the Church to “neglect of the Word,” i.e. to
 ignorance of and want of compliance with the Bible Word. On the
 strength of his accounted profounder knowledge of the “Word,” he also
 reproves the “holy-by-works.” Even previous to the lectures on Romans,
 his conviction of the antithesis between human works and Christ’s
 grace made him read everywhere Christ into Scripture; the Bible, so he
 says, must be taken to the well-spring, i.e. to the Cross of Christ,
 having done which we may then be “quite certain to catch” its true
 meaning. Before Luther’s day others in the Church had done the same,
 though within lawful limits. Among contemporary Humanists even Erasmus
 had insisted on Christ’s being made the centre of Scripture.[1521]

 Widely as Luther, in his Commentary on Romans, already diverges
 from the Church’s interpretation of St. Paul regarding the doctrine
 of Justification, yet he still admits, at least in theory, the
 principle of authority both in the interpretation of the Bible and in
 general.[1522] He rejects without compunction all those heresies which
 deviate from the Church’s guidance. In practice, however, he sets
 himself above the teaching of the Fathers where-ever this runs counter
 to his views; St. Augustine is forced to witness in his favour even
 at the expense of the other representatives of tradition, and, as for
 mediæval scholasticism, it is treated as though it were not at all one
 of the links in the venerable chain of tradition. On the other hand,
 Luther allows his exegesis to be influenced by those later and less
 reputable exponents of scholasticism with whom alone he was acquainted.

 On such lines as these did his exegesis of the Bible proceed; on the
 one hand there was his excessive regard for his own acquaintance
 with Scripture, and, on the other, his pseudo-mysticism leaning for
 its support on misunderstood interior revelations and illuminations.
 A certain sense of his vocation as the Columbus of the Bible ever
 accompanies him from that time forward.

 This psychological condition manifests itself in utterances contained
 in the lectures on Romans and in later works.

 “Here,” so he writes in the lectures, “a great stride has been made
 towards the right interpretation of Holy Scripture, by understanding
 it all as bearing on Christ ... even when the surface-sense of the
 letter does not require it.”[1523] “All Scripture deals everywhere
 with Christ alone.”[1524] “All this is said, written or done that
 human presumption may be humbled and the grace of God exalted.”[1525]
 He is ever reading his own thoughts into the oftentimes obscure words
 of St. Paul, though, that he is so doing is evident neither to his
 hearers nor to himself. That same eloquence and wealth of imagery are
 to be found here which are to characterise his later expositions.
 “Quite unmistakably his language, thought and imagery throughout the
 work is that of the mystic,” remarks the editor of the Commentary.
 “How much Tauler--whom Luther extols so highly, even when as yet he
 was so little acquainted with him--has taken possession of Luther’s
 mind and influences his language, would be clear from the Commentary
 on Romans, even were Tauler’s name not mentioned in it.”[1526]

 With the mental attitude assumed quite early in his career the scant
 regard for Humanism and philosophy he evinces in this Commentary well
 agrees; further, his use of the Bible as a whip with which to lash
 unsparingly the abuses rampant in the Church, another peculiarity
 which was to remain in his treatment of Scripture. The better to
 appreciate his first attempts at exegesis we may recall, that, even
 then, he was concerned for the text and its purity, and that, no
 sooner was Erasmus’s Greek edition of the New Testament published,
 than Luther, who had now reached chapter ix. of the Epistle, began to
 use it for his lectures.[1527]

 That Luther’s first attempts in the exegetical field were so
 successful was in great part due to his personal gifts, to his
 eloquence and to his frankness. Oldecop, a pupil of his, who remained
 true to the Church, wrote as an old man, that, being as he was then
 twenty-two years of age, he “had taken pleasure in attending Martin’s
 lectures.”[1528] The lectures on Romans commenced immediately after
 Oldecop’s matriculation. Christopher Scheurl, the Humanist Professor
 of Law, reckoned the new exegete among the best of the Wittenberg
 theologians and said: “Martin Luther, the Augustinian, expounds St.
 Paul’s Epistles with marvellous talent.”[1529]

In the matter of private interpretation as against the Church’s, in
these earliest exegetical efforts, he remained, outwardly at least,
true to the traditional standpoint, until, little by little, he forsook
it, as already described (above, p. 387 ff.). Even his academic Theses
of Sept., 1517 (“Against the Theology of the Schools”), based though
they were on a misapprehension of Scripture, conclude with the
assurance, that, “throughout, he neither intended nor had said anything
contrary to the Church or at variance with her doctrines.”[1530]--Then,
however, with startling suddenness the change set in.

When, after the storm aroused by the publication of the Indulgence
Theses, he wrote his German “Sermon von dem Ablass und Gnade,”[1531] he
appealed in it repeatedly to the Bible as against the “new teachers,”
i.e. the Schoolmen, and indeed in as confident a manner as though he
alone were learned in Scripture. He says on the first page: “This I
say: That it cannot be proved from any Scripture, etc. Much should I
like to hear anyone who can testify to the contrary in spite of the
fact that some doctors have thought so.” And at the end he sums up as
follows: “On these points I have no doubt, and they have sufficient
warrant in Scripture. Therefore you too should have no doubt and send
the Scholastic doctors about their business!” Shortly before this, in a
letter about the Scholastic theologians of his day, particularly those
of Leipzig, he declares: “I could almost swear that they understand
not a single chapter of the Gospel or Bible.”[1532] He was, however,
greatly cheered to hear that, thanks to his new interpretation of the
Bible, prelates, as well as the burghers of Wittenberg, were all saying
“that formerly they had neither known nor heard anything of Christ or
of His Gospel.”[1533]

After Tetzel had attacked his Sermon and accused Luther of falsifying
the sacred text, and of cherishing heretical opinions, the latter
indited his “Eyn Freiheyt dess Sermons Bepstlichen Ablass und Gnad
belangend,” where he emphasises even more strongly and pathetically
the supremacy of Holy Scripture over all outward authority: “Even
though all these and a thousand others of the holiest of doctors had
held this or that, yet their opinion is of no account compared with a
single verse of Holy Writ.... They are not in the least to be believed,
because the Scripture says: The Word of God no one may set aside or

Carlstadt, whom Luther himself had instructed, outdid his master and
advocated entire freedom for the private interpretation of Scripture
before Luther could make up his mind to do this. He did not shrink
from making his own the following defiant Thesis: “The text of the
Bible does not take precedence merely of one or several Doctors of
the Church, but even of the authority of the whole Church.”[1535] It
was only after Luther, thanks to his obstinacy and curious methods of
reasoning, had extricated himself from his examination at Augsburg,
and fled, that he admitted in the statements already given (p. 388)
that the word of Scripture was to be set in the first place, and,
that, in its interpretation, no account need be made of ecclesiastical
authority.[1536] This prelude to Luther’s new exegetical standpoint,
more particularly towards the end, was marked by much fear, doubt and
anxiety of conscience. He was worried, to such an extent that his
“heart quaked for fear,” by a number of Scripture passages and still
more by the question: Could the Author of Scripture hitherto have
really left His work open to such dire misunderstanding?

While his powerful rhetoric, particularly when it came to polemics,
was able to conceal all the failings of his exposition of the Bible,
his real eloquence, his fervour and his popular ways of dealing with
non-controversial things imparted to his pulpit-commentaries no less
than to his written ones a freshness of tone which improved, stimulated
and inspired his followers with love for Holy Scripture and also
brought them Bible consolation amidst the trials of life.

3. The Sola Fides. Justification and Assurance of Salvation

The two propositions considered above, fundamental though they are, of
the Bible being under the enlightenment of the Spirit the sole rule of
faith, and of the untrustworthiness of ecclesiastical authority and
tradition, far from having been the first elements to find their place
in Luther’s scheme, were only advanced by him at a later date and in
order to protect his pet dogma.

His doctrine of Justification was the outcome of his dislike for
“holiness-by-works,” which led him to the theory of salvation by
faith alone, through the imputation of the merits of Christ without
any co-operation on man’s part, or any human works of merit. This
doctrine, from the very first as well as later, was everything to
him. This it was which he made it his earliest task to elaborate, and
about it he then proceeded to hang the other theories into which he
was forced by his conflict with the Church and her teaching, some of
which were logically connected with his main article, whilst, in the
case of others, the connection was only artificial. Later exponents of
Lutheranism termed his doctrine of Justification the material principle
of his theology, no doubt in the same sense as he himself reckons it,
in a sermon of 1530 in his postils, as: “the only element, article or
doctrine by which we become Christians and are called such.”

This Evangel, Luther’s consoling doctrine, as a matter of fact was
simply the record of his own inner past, the most subjective doctrine
assuredly that ever sought to enlist followers. As we know, it is
already found entire in his Commentary on Romans of 1515-1516.

In order to strengthen, in himself first and then in others, the
assurance of salvation it comprised, he amplified it by asserting
the believer’s absolute certainty of salvation; this was lacking in
his Commentary on Romans, though even then he was drifting towards
it. It was only in 1518-1519 that he developed the doctrine of the
so-called “special faith,” by which the individual assures himself of
pardon and secures salvation. Thereby he transformed faith into trust,
for what he termed fiducial faith partook more of the nature of a
strong, artificially stimulated hope; it really amounted to an intense
confidence that the merits of Christ obliterated every sin.

Of faith in this new sense he says that it is _the_ faith. “To have
the Faith is assentingly to accept the promises of God, laying hold
on God’s gracious disposition towards us and trusting in it.”[1537]
In spite of this he continues in the old style to define faith as
the submission of reason to all the truths revealed, and even to
make it the practical basis of all his religious demands: Whoever
throws overboard even one single article of faith will be damned;
faith being one whole, every article must be believed.[1538] We can
understand how opponents within his own camp, of whom he demanded
faith in the doctrines he had discovered in the Bible, when they
themselves failed to find them there, ventured to remind him of his
first definition of faith, viz. the fiducial, and to ask him whether a
trustful appropriation of the merits of Christ did not really meet all
the demands of “faith.” Recent Protestant biographers of Luther point
out that Zwingli was quite justified in urging this against Luther.
Attacked by Luther on account of his discordant teaching on the Lord’s
Supper, and that on the score of faith, Zwingli rudely retorted: “It is
a pestilential doctrine, by a perversion of the word faith which really
means trust in Christ, to lower it to the level of an opinion”; with
this behaviour on Luther’s part went “hand in hand a similar change in
his conception of the Church founded on faith.”[1539]

_Some Characteristics of the New Doctrine of Justification._

If we take Luther’s saving faith we find that, according to him, it
produces justification without the help of any other work or act on
man’s part, and without contrition or charity contributing anything
to the appropriation of righteousness on the part of the man to be

Any contrition proceeding from the love of God, or at least from
that incipient love of God such as Catholicism required agreeably
with both revelation and human psychology, appeared to Luther
superfluous; in view of the power of man’s ingrained concupiscence it
amounted almost to a contradiction; only the fear of God’s Judgments
(“_timor servilis_”), so he declares (vol. i., p. 291), with palpable
exaggeration, had ruled his own confessions made in the monastery.
At any rate, he was in error when he declared that this same fear
had been the motive in the case of Catholics generally. He persuaded
himself that this fear must be overcome by the Evangel of the imputed
merits of Christ, because otherwise man can find no peace. The part
played by the law is, according to him, almost confined to threatening
and reducing man to despair, just as he himself had so often verged on
hopelessness through thinking of his own inevitable reprobation; the
assurance of salvation by faith, however, appears to every Christian as
an angel of help and consolation even minus any repudiation of sin on
the part of man’s will, for, owing to the Fall, sin cannot but persist.

When he attempts to prove this by his “experiences,” we must remind the
reader how uncertain his statements are, concerning his own “inward
feelings” during his monastic days. It will be pointed out elsewhere
(vol. vi., xxxvii.) that these “recollections,” with their polemical
animus, were of comparatively late growth, though they would have been
of far greater service at the outset when still quite fresh.

A more solid basis for estimating the value of his doctrine of
Justification is afforded by its connection with his other theological
views. As we know, he regarded original sin and the concupiscence
resulting from it as actual sin, still persisting in spite of baptism;
he exaggerated beyond measure man’s powerlessness to withstand
the concupiscence which remains with him to the end. Owing to the
unfreedom of the will, the devil, according to Luther, holds the
field in man’s heart and rules over all his spiritual faculties. The
Divine Omnipotence alone is able to vanquish this redoubtable master
by bestowing on the unhappy soul pardon and salvation; yet sin still
reigns in the depths of the heart. No act of man has any part in
the work of salvation. Actual grace is no less unknown to him than
sanctifying grace. Good works are of no avail for salvation and of no
importance for heaven, though, accidentally, they may accompany the
state of grace, God working them in the man on whom He has cast His eye
by choosing him to be a recipient of faith and salvation. Such election
and predestination is, however, purely God’s work which man himself can
do absolutely nothing to deserve.--Thanks to these errors, the “_sola
fides_” and assurance of salvation stand bereft of their theological

We must, however, revert to one point again and examine it more closely
on account of its historical and psychological importance. This is
Luther’s doctrine of the slavery of the will, and of God’s being the
sole agent in man.

 This doctrine, already expressed in his Commentary on Romans in
 connection with his opinion on unconditional predestination,[1540]
 he was afterwards to expound with increasing vehemence.[1541] He
 was delighted to find his rigid views expressed in the Notes of the
 lectures on Romans and 1 Corinthians, which Melanchthon delivered in
 1521 and 1522. These Notes he caused to be printed, and sent them to
 the author with a preface cast in the form of a letter.[1542]

 In this letter he assumes the whole responsibility for the
 publication, and assures Melanchthon that “no one has written better
 than you on Paul.” “I hold that the Commentaries of Jerome and Origen
 are the merest nonsense and rubbish compared with your exposition....
 They, and Thomas too, wrote commentaries that are filled with their
 own conceits rather than with that which is Paul’s or Christ’s,
 whereas on the contrary yours teaches us how to read Scripture and to
 know Christ, and thus excels any mere commentary, which is more than
 one can say of the others hitherto in vogue.”

 Such praise for Melanchthon’s work, indirectly intended to recoil upon
 his own doctrine, caused Erasmus to remark of the Preface: “How full
 of pride it is!”[1543]

 The doctrine of the unfreedom of the will as here expressed by
 Melanchthon who then was still the true mouthpiece of Luther, though
 free from Luther’s rhetorical exaggerations, remains extremely harsh.

 It contains, for instance, the following propositions: “Everything in
 every creature occurs of necessity.... It must be firmly held that
 everything, both good and bad, is done by God.” “God does not merely
 allow His creatures to act, but it is He Himself Who acts.” As He
 does what is good, so also He does what is indifferent in man, such
 as eating and drinking and the other animal functions, and also what
 is evil, “such as David’s adultery and Manlius’s execution of his
 son.” The treason of Judas was not merely permitted of God, but, as
 Augustine says, was the effect of His power. “It is a huge blasphemy
 to deny predestination, the actuality of which we have briefly proved

 Ten years later Melanchthon had grown shy of views so monstrous;
 he thought it advisable to repudiate this book, and, in 1532, he
 dedicated a new Commentary on Romans to the Archbishop of Mayence,
 whom he was anxious to win over. In the preface he says, that he no
 longer acknowledged (“_plane non agnosco_”)[1545] the earlier work
 which had appeared under his name. Later, after Luther’s death, he
 went so far as to demand the severe punishment of those who denied
 free-will and questioned the need of good works for salvation.[1546]

 Luther, on the other hand, as we know, never relinquished his
 standpoint on the doctrine of free-will. Beside his statements
 already quoted may be put the following: The will is not only unfree
 “in everything,”[1547] but is so greatly depraved by original sin,
 that, not content with being entirely passive in the matter of
 Justification, it actually resists God like the devil. “What I say
 is, that the spiritual powers are not merely depraved, but altogether
 annihilated by sin, not less in man than in the devils.... Their
 reason and their will seek those things alone which are opposed to
 God. Whatever is in our will is evil and whatever is in our reason is
 mere error and blindness. Thus, in things Divine, man is nothing but
 darkness, error and depravity, his will is evil and his understanding

From such a standpoint all that was possible was a mere outward
imputation of the merits of Christ, no Justification in the sense
in which it was taken by the ancient Church, viz. as a supernatural
regeneration by means of sanctifying grace.

Any reliable proofs, theological or biblical, in support of this
altogether novel view of Justification will be sought for in vain in
the works of Melanchthon and Luther. When Luther speaks of the power of
faith in the merits of Christ and of the promises of faith concerning
eternal life, as he does, for instance, in the written defence which
he handed to Cardinal Cajetan at Augsburg, his words and the Bible
passages he quotes merely express what the Church had always taught
concerning the necessity and efficacy of faith as the condition of the
supernatural life to be further developed in the soul by God’s Grace
and man’s co-operation.[1549] In spite of this, in that very writing
he alleges that he has satisfactorily proved that Justification is
effected by fiducial faith.

“No one can be justified,” he there writes, “but by faith, in the sense
that he must needs believe with a firm faith (‘_certa fide credere_’)
that he _is_ justified, and not doubt in any way that he is to attain
to grace; for if he doubts and is uncertain, he will not be justified,
rather he spits out the grace.”[1550]

His doctrine of faith alone and of the imputed merits of Christ, was,
of all his theological opinions, the one which underwent the least
change during his lifetime.[1551] Until old age he continued to lay
great stress on it both in the University Disputations and in his
sermons and writings.[1552] Even the inferences drawn from it by Johann
Agricola in his Antinomian theses did not cause Luther to waver in the

In the Schmalkalden Articles he declares explicitly that Justification
consists merely in God’s “looking upon” the sinner “as righteous
and holy.”[1553] According to one of his sermons our righteousness
comes “altogether from without and rests solely on Christ and His
work”;[1554] elsewhere he says, with the utmost assurance: The
Christian is “righteous and holy by virtue of a foreign or outward

In view of such statements undue stress must not be laid on that
Luther says in another passage, which recalls the teaching of the
olden Church, viz. that the Spirit of God dwells in the righteous, and
fills him with His gifts, nay, with His very “substance,”[1556] and
that it was this Spirit which gave him the “feeling and the certainty”
of being in a state of grace.[1557] This is much the same as when
Luther describes man’s active love of God whereby he becomes united
and “one kitchen” with God,[1558] whilst, nevertheless, insisting that
the strength of the _sola fides_ must never be the least diminished
by work. “No work must be added to this” (to faith), he says in his
postils, “for whoever preaches that guilt and penalty can be atoned for
by works has already denied the Evangel.”[1559] Only at times does he
allow himself to follow the voice of nature speaking on behalf of man’s
co-operation; this he does, for instance, in the passage just referred
to, where he admits that human reason is ever inviting man to take a
share in working out his salvation by means of his own works.[1560]

The forgiveness which God offers “must be seized and believed. If you
believe it you are rid of sin and all is right.” “This all the Gospels
teach.”[1561] Unfortunately there are “many abandoned people who misuse
the Gospel ... who think that no one must punish them because the
Gospel preaches nothing but forgiveness of sins. To such the Gospel
is not preached.... To whom is it preached? To those who feel their
misery,” i.e. to those who are sunk in remorse of conscience and in
fears, similar to, or at least faintly resembling, those he had himself
once endured. When he applies the words of Psalm 50 to the yearning,
the prayers and the struggles of those who thirst for salvation: “A
contrite and humbled heart, O God, Thou wilt not despise,” he finds
himself again, all unconsciously, on the road to the Church’s olden
view on man’s share in repentance.

What we read in the important notes “_De iustificatione_,” written
during Luther’s stay in the fortress of Coburg and only recently
published, differs not at all from his ordinary, purely mechanical
view of Justification.[1562] These notes are from Luther’s amanuensis,
Veit Dietrich, and record some conversations concerning a work Luther
had planned in reply to the objections against the new doctrine of
Justification. Dietrich entitled the collection “_Rhapsodia_.”[1563]

 It is not surprising that at a later date Luther hesitated to appeal
 to St. Augustine in support of his doctrine so confidently as he once
 had done. Augustine and all the Doctors of the Church are decidedly
 against him. On the publication of the complete edition of his works
 in Latin Luther expressed himself in the preface very diplomatically
 concerning Augustine: “In the matter of imputation he does not explain
 everything clearly.”[1564] Naturally the greatest teacher on grace,
 who lays such stress on its supernatural character and its gifts in
 the soul of the righteous, could not fail to disagree with him, seeing
 that Luther’s system culminates in the assurance, that grace is the
 merest imputation in which man has no active share, a mere favour on
 God’s part, “_favor Dei_.”[1565]

 Augustine’s views of the powers and the end of man in the natural as
 well as the supernatural order have been clearly set forth in their
 connection with the trend of present-day scholarship by an eminent
 Catholic researcher. The latter points out that a strong revulsion
 against Luther’s idea of outward imputation has shown itself in
 Protestantism, and that the “historical theology” of our day largely
 acknowledges the existence of the Catholic doctrine “in the olden
 ecclesiastical and, indeed, even in the New-Testament world.” The same
 holds good of Augustine as of Paul. “Not the ‘_sola fides_,’ but the
 renewal of the interior man, a ‘true and real new creation,’ was the
 essence of Paul’s doctrine of justification.”[1566]

_The Striving after Absolute Certainty of Salvation._

Luther was chiefly concerned in emphasising the indispensable necessity
of particular faith in personal justification and personal salvation.

Whereas the Church had required faith in our real, objective redemption
by Christ, Luther demanded over and above a further faith in one’s
subjective redemption, in spite of the difficulty which circumstances
might present to the attaining of this assurance. It was something
very different when the olden theologians taught that there were
signs from which the good man’s state of grace might be inferred
with moral certainty, and that such signs were, for instance, the
determination to commit no grievous sin, the desire to perform good
works more especially such as were difficult, joy and peace of soul
in God, and, above all, the consciousness of having done everything
that was necessary for reconciliation with God. That, by such marks,
it was “possible to arrive at the practical certainty of being in a
state of grace” had been taught by Gabriel Biel, with whom Luther
was acquainted.[1567] Later on, the Council of Trent laid down as
the Catholic doctrine, against the Lutheran theory of absolute faith
in personal justification, “that no good Christian may doubt of the
mercy of God, of the merits of Christ or the efficacy of grace,” but
that at the same time “no one can know with the certainty of faith
which precludes all possibility of error that he has attained to God’s

Luther’s teaching was quite different.

 He writes, for instance, in the larger Commentary on Galatians, which,
 as we know, he regarded next to his work “_De servo arbitrio_” as
 his principal legacy to posterity: “We must perceive and recognise
 it as certain that we are the temple of the Holy Ghost.”[1569] “The
 heart must be quite certain that it is in a state of grace and that
 it has the Holy Ghost.”[1570] It is true, he says, that, “because
 we feel the opposite sentiments of fear, doubt, sadness, etc., we
 fail to regard this as certain.”[1571] Yet do this we must: “We must
 day by day struggle (‘_luctari_’)[1572] towards greater and greater
 certainty.” We should exercise ourselves in the feeling of certainty,
 risk something to secure it; for it rests with our own self-acquired
 ability to believe ever firmly and steadfastly, even as we believe
 the truths of faith, that we are really justified. All depends on
 the practice and experience just referred to. “This matter, if it is
 to be achieved, cannot be learnt without experience. Everyone should
 therefore accustom himself resolutely to the persuasion that he is in
 a state of grace and that his person and deeds are pleasing [to God].
 Should he feel a doubt, then let him exercise faith; he must beat down
 his doubts and acquire certainty, so as to be able to say: I know that
 I am pleasing [to God] and have the Holy Ghost, not on account of any
 worth or merits of my own, but on account of Christ, Who for our sakes
 submitted Himself to the law and took away the sins of the world.
 In Him I believe.”[1573] “The greatest art consists in this, that,
 regardless of the fact that we commit sin, we can yet say to the law:
 I am sinless.”[1574]

 “And even when we have fought very hard for this, it will still cost
 us much sweat.”

 It is thus that Luther was led to speak from his own inner experience,
 of which we have plentiful corroboration. In the passage last quoted,
 he proceeds: “The matter of justification is difficult and delicate
 (‘_causa iustificationis lubrica est_’), not indeed in itself, for in
 itself it is as certain as can be, but in our regard; of this I have
 frequent experience.”[1575]

We are already acquainted to some extent with the struggle against
himself, and the better voices within him, which the unhappy man had
to wage; this distress of soul remains to be treated of more in detail
later (vol. v., xxxii.). It may, however, be pointed out here that he
knew how to make this struggle part of his system; even when depressed
by one’s painful inability to reach this unshaken consciousness of
salvation he still insists that one must feel certain; faced by doubts
and fears on account of his sins, man must summon defiance to his aid,
then, finally, he will come to rest secure of his personal salvation.

 “We must cling with all sureness to the belief that not merely our
 office but also our person is well-pleasing to God.”[1576] It is true
 that men see, “how weak is the faith even of the pious. We would
 assuredly joyfully give thanks to God for His unspeakable gift could
 we but say with entire certainty: Yes, indeed, I am in a state of
 grace, my sin is forgiven me, I have the Spirit of Christ and I am the
 son of God. We feel, however, in ourselves emotions quite contrary,
 viz. fear, doubt, sadness, etc., hence we do not venture to make the
 assertion.”[1577] Others might infer from this the uselessness of all
 such vain efforts. Luther, however, would not be the man he is were he
 not to declare: On the contrary, “we must daily struggle more and more
 from uncertainty to certainty!” “Christ Himself,” so he argues, “is
 quite certain in His Spirit that He is pleasing to God.... Hence we
 too, seeing that we have the Spirit of Christ, must be certain that we
 too stand in grace ... on account of Him Who is certain.”[1578]

 The last argument is the more noteworthy in that it demonstrates so
 well the vicious circle involved in Luther’s conclusion.

 It amounts to this: In order to possess grace and reconciliation you
 must believe that you have grace and reconciliation. What guarantee
 has one of the certainty of this belief? Nothing but the inward
 consciousness to be evolved in the soul that it has indeed the grace
 of Christ which covers over all that is evil in it.

 As Luther says, “If you are to be saved you must be so sure within
 yourself of the Word of grace, that even were all men to say the
 contrary, yea all the angels to deny it, you could yet stand alone and
 say: I know this Word is true.”[1579]

 In practice, nevertheless, Luther was content with very little in the
 matter of this strength of certitude: “If I have Him [Christ], I am
 sure that I have everything.... What is still wanting in me is, that I
 cannot yet grasp it or believe it perfectly. So far as I am able now
 to grasp it and believe it, so far do I possess it, and if I stick to
 it this will go on increasing.” But “still there remains an outward
 feeling of death, of hell, of the devil, of sin and of the law. Even
 though you feel this, it is merely a warfare that seeks to hinder you
 from attaining to life everlasting.... We should say: I believe in
 Christ Jesus, He is mine, and so far as I have Him and believe in Him,
 thus far am I pious.”[1580]--“Yet believe it I cannot.”[1581]

Luther, according to the legend which he evolved later when defending
his doctrine of faith alone and Justification, had started from the
intense inward need he felt of certainty of salvation, and with the
object, as he says, of “finding a Gracious God.” By his discovery
regarding Justification, so his admirers say, he at last found and
retained for the rest of his life the sense of a merciful God. The
strange thing is, however, that in his severe and protracted struggles
of conscience he should, at a later date, have again arrived at this
very question: “How can I find a Gracious God?”

 He writes in 1527 to Melanchthon: “Like a wretched, reprobate worm
 I am molested by the spirit of sadness.... I desire nothing and
 thirst after nothing but a Gracious God.” So greatly was he involved
 in inward contests that he says: “I am scarce able to drag on my
 existence; of working or writing I dare not think.”[1582] “Satan is
 busy,” he exclaims to his friend Wenceslaus Link during these storms,
 “and would fain make it impossible for me to write; he wants to drag
 me down to him in hell. May God tread him under foot. Amen!”[1583]

 With very many of his followers the assurance of salvation failed
 to hold good in the presence of death. “We not only do not feel it
 [this assurance],” so he makes them say, “but rather the contrary.”
 He admits the phenomenon and seeks to account for it; nay, in his
 usual way, he makes capital out of it. “In God’s sight,” he says,
 “the matter is indeed so [i.e. as promised by his doctrine of
 Justification], but not yet in our eyes and in those of the world;
 hence our fears still persist until we are released by death.”[1584]
 “Whoever feels weak let him console himself with this, that no one
 succeeds perfectly in this [in the attainment of certainty].” “That
 is one of the advantages enjoyed by heretics,” he cries, “to lull
 themselves in security.... Nothing is more pestilential than security.
 Hence, when you feel weak in the faith you must rouse yourself; it is
 a sign of a good disposition and of the fear of God.”[1585]--Readers
 of Luther must be prepared for surprising statements.

 It is true that he laments bitterly the increase of the fear of death
 among the new believers. In the case of epidemics he sees to his
 regret that everybody is “scared and takes to flight.” Far greater
 than ever under Popery, so he says, “is now, under the strong light of
 the Evangel, men’s fear of losing their life.”[1586] For this again he
 has an explanation to hand. When, for instance, the plague spread to
 Wittenberg in 1538 he wrote: Whence comes all this fear? “Formerly,
 under Popery, the people were not so much afraid. The reason is this:
 In Popery we trusted in the merits of the monks and of others, but
 now each one has to trust to and depend on himself.”[1587] Elsewhere,
 with the same object of reassuring himself and others, he says: The
 Evangel with its clear light of truth causes the holiness of God
 to be better perceived and thus leaves more room for the sense of
 fear. This he here reckons as an advantage over Popery, though, as
 a rule, his grievance against Catholicism had been that it excited
 fearsomeness by the gloomy legal spirit which prevailed in it and by
 its ignoring of God’s mercy.--We shall not be far wrong if we regard
 such statements as dictated more by psychological than by theological

 “It is a great thing,” says Luther, referring to his doctrine of
 faith alone, “to lay claim to righteousness; then man dares to say:
 I am a son of God; whereas the state of grace affrights him....
 Without practice (‘_sine practica_’) no one is able to repudiate
 righteousness-by-works and to preach faith alone.”[1588] He bewails
 “that we are too blind to be able to seize upon the treasure of
 grace.... We refuse to call ourselves holy,” in spite of the certainty
 which faith brings us. Here our opponents, the Papists and the
 Sacramentarians, are not nearly so well off; at least they could not
 “quiet their conscience” as he could do by his method, because, owing
 to their works, they were always in doubt as to their own salvation.
 (At any rate, they were in no state of “pestilential security.”)
 “They are always in doubt and wondering: Who knows whether it is
 really pleasing to God?” Yet they cling to works and “say Anathema to

 “I have to labour daily,” he says, “before I can lay hold on Christ”;
 he adds: “That is due to force of habit, because for so many years [in
 Popery] I looked upon Christ as a mere judge. It is an old, rotten
 tree that is rooted in me.... We have, however, now again reached the
 light; in my case this occurred when I was made a Doctor.... But know
 this, that Christ is not sent to judge and to punish, not to bite and
 to slay sinners as I used to fancy and as some still think.”[1590]

 His extraordinary esteem for the new doctrine of the power of faith
 alone and the assurance of salvation, would furnish quite a riddle to
 one not aware of the constitution of his mind.

 So greatly did he prize this doctrine, that, according to the
 testimony of Melanchthon, he referred to it all other articles of
 faith, even that of creation. “The article of the forgiveness of
 sins,” he says, “is the foundation on which the article of the
 creation of the world rests.”[1591] “If we drop this article then we
 may well despair. The reason why heretics and fanatics [Papists and
 sectarians] go astray is simply their ignorance of this doctrine.
 Without it it is impossible to contend with Satan and with Popery,
 still less to be victorious.”[1592]--Thanks to such statements as
 these Luther’s article of Justification came to be termed the article
 on which the Church stands or falls.

_The “Article on which the Church Stands or Falls”: According to Modern

Protestant scholars are far from sharing Luther’s high regard for his
dogma of Justification, and what they say throws a curious light on the
fashion in which he deceived himself.

 Amongst the Protestant voices raised in protest against this doctrine,
 the following deserve to be set on record. It is clear, says K. Hase,
 that the Catholic doctrine is more closely related to the “Protestant
 view now prevailing”; he avers, that the “Protestant theologians of
 our day, even those who are sticklers for the purity of Lutheranism,
 have described saving faith as that which works by love, quite
 agreeably to the scholastic conception of the ‘_fides formata_,’ and
 have opposed to it a pretended Catholic dogma of Justification by good

 This well-known controversial writer when expressing it as his opinion
 that Luther’s doctrine of Justification is now practically discarded,
 was not even at pains to exclude the conservative theologians of his
 party: “Döllinger[1594] is quite right in charging the so-called ‘old
 believers’ amongst us with having fallen away from the Reformer’s
 dogma of Justification as strictly and theologically defined.”[1595]

 Thus oblivion seems to be the tragic fate of Luther’s great
 theological discovery, which, if we are to believe what he says, was
 to him the light of his existence and his most powerful incentive in
 his whole work, and which figured so prominently in all his attacks
 on Rome. Was it not this doctrine which played the chief part in his
 belief in the utter corruption of the Church of earlier days, when,
 instead of prizing the grace of Christ, everything was made to depend
 on works, which had led to the ruin of Christendom, to the debasement
 of the clergy and to the transformation of the Pope into Antichrist?

 The sole authority of Scripture, Luther’s other palladium, had
 already suffered sadly since the Revolution period, and now the
 doctrine of Justification seems destined to a like fate. Albert
 Ritschl was pronouncing a severe censure when he declared, “that,
 amongst the differences of opinion prevalent in the ranks of the
 evangelical theologians, the recognition of two propositions [the
 sole authority of Scripture and Justification by imputation] was the
 minimum that could be expected of anyone who wished to be considered
 Evangelical.”[1596] For the fact is that the minimum required by
 Ritschl, is, according to the admission of Protestant critics
 themselves, frequently no longer held by these theologians.

 Of the Lutheran doctrine of Justification here in question, P.
 Genrich, a theologian, in his work on the idea of regeneration,
 says: “If we glance at the process of salvation as described in
 the evangelical theological handbooks of the 19th century, we may
 well be astonished at the extraordinary divergencies existing as
 regards both the conception of regeneration, and the place it is to
 occupy in the system of doctrine. There are hardly two theologians
 who entirely agree on the point.”[1597]--Of the practical side of
 the Lutheran doctrine in question the same writer states: “It is an
 almost universal complaint that this chief article of Evangelical
 faith is not of much use when it is a question of implanting and
 fostering piety, in the school, the church or in parish-work. Perhaps
 the preacher says a few words about it ... the teacher, too, feels
 it his duty to deal with it in his catechetical instructions....
 Justification by faith is extolled in more or less eloquent words as
 the treasure of the Reformation, because Church history and theology
 have taught us so to regard it. But at heart one is glad to be
 finished with it and vaguely conscious that all one said was in vain,
 and that, to the children or congregation Justification still remains
 something foreign and scarcely understood.”[1598] Genrich himself lays
 the blame on the later formularies of Lutheranism for the mistaken
 notion of a righteousness coming from without; yet the formularies of
 Concord surely voiced Luther’s teaching better than the new exponents
 who are so disposed to tone it down.[1599]

 Of the actual theory of Luther, de Lagarde wrote some fifty years
 ago: “The doctrine of Justification [Luther’s] is not the Evangel....
 It was not the basic principle of the Reformation, and to-day in
 the Protestant Churches it is quite dead.” De Lagarde did not allow
 himself to be misled by the flowery language concerning personal
 religious experience which is all that remains of Luther’s doctrine in
 many modern expositions of it.[1600]

 “Research in the domain of New-Testament history and in that of
 the Reformation,” says K. Holl, “has arrived at conclusions closely
 akin to de Lagarde’s.... It has been made impossible simply to set
 the Protestant doctrine of Justification on the same level with the
 Pauline and with that of the Gospel of Jesus.” Amongst the Protestant
 objections to the doctrine, he instances “its narrowness, which
 constitutes a limitation of the ethical insupportable to present-day
 tastes.” He attempts to explain, or rather to amend, Luther’s theory,
 so as to give ethics its due and to evade Luther’s “paradox of a God,”
 Who, though inexorable in His moral demands, Himself procures for the
 offender salvation and life. As the new dogma originally stood “both
 its Catholic opponents and the Anabaptists were at one in contending
 that Luther’s doctrine of Justification could not fail to lead to
 moral laxity. Protestant theologians were not able to deny the weight
 of this objection.” In point of fact it involves an “antinomy, for
 which there is no logical solution.”[1601]

 The same author writes elsewhere concerning the assurance of salvation
 which, according to Luther, accompanies justifying faith: Luther,
 standing as he did for predestinarianism, “clearly abolished thereby
 the possibility of attaining to any certainty of salvation. All his
 life Luther allowed this remarkable contradiction to remain, not
 because it escaped his notice, but because he had no wish to remove
 it.” Holl finds, moreover, in Luther’s opinions on Predestination “the
 climax of the thoughts underlying his doctrine of Justification”; “the
 strength of [justifying] faith has to be tested by one’s readiness to
 submit even to the sentence [of damnation].”[1602]

 In conclusion we may cite what W. Köhler says of the unreasonableness
 of Luther’s denial of free-will, according to which either God or the
 devil sits astride man’s back.

 “With the rejection of man’s pure passivity, or, as Luther says,
 of his being ridden by the Lord God, Luther’s theology suffers a
 set-back, and the Catholic polemics of the 16th century receive a
 tardy vindication.” Only owing to his “lucky lack of logic” did Luther
 steer clear of the disastrous moral consequences of such a view; “in
 practice” he still laid stress on good works in spite of the danger
 that the “feeling of security” and the idea of “sinlessness” might
 lead people “to sink into the mire.” His doctrine, however, in itself
 leads “either to his usual thought: We are sinners after all, or to
 extravagant praise of the Divine m