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Title: Luther, vol. 5 of 6
Author: Grisar, Hartmann
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

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—Obvious print and punctuation errors were corrected.

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                 EDM. CAN. SURMONT,
                    _Vic. Gen._

                    _Westmonasterii, die 13 Decembris, 1915._



                         HARTMANN GRISAR, S.J.



                             E. M. LAMOND

                               EDITED BY

                           LUIGI CAPPADELTA

                               VOLUME V

                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).

 “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_ (Vol. III).

 “Historical research owes a debt of gratitude to Father Grisar for the
 calm unbiased manner in which he marshals the facts and opinions on
 Luther which his deep erudition has gathered.”—_The Tablet_ (Vol. IV).




  Difficulties involved in Luther’s standpoint; poverty
  of human reason, power of the devil, etc. How despair
  may serve to excite humility                               _pages_ 3-7


  His merits in distinguishing the two; what he means by
  “the Gospel”; his contempt for “the Law”; the Law a
  mere gallows                                              _pages_ 7-14


  Connection between Agricola’s doctrine and Luther’s.
  Luther’s first step against Agricola; the Disputations;
  the tract “Against the Antinomians”; action of the
  Court; end of Agricola; the reaction of the Antinomian
  movement on Luther                                       _pages_ 15-25


  Psychology of Luther’s conception of this certainty as
  the very cause and aim of true morality. Luther’s last
  sermons at Eisleben; notable omissions in these sermons
  on morality; his wavering between Old and New            _pages_ 25-43


  Faith, praise and gratitude our only duties towards
  God. “All works, apart from faith, must be for our
  neighbour’s sake.” There are “no good works save such
  as God commands.” Good works done without faith are
  mere sins. Annulment of the supernatural and abasement
  of the natural order. The Book of Concord on the
  curtailment of free-will. Christianity merely inward.
  Divorce of Church and World, of Religion and Morals.
  Lack of obligation and sanction                          _pages_ 43-66


  On Conscience and its exercise; how to set it to rest.
  Help of conscience at critical junctures. Conscience
  in the religious questions of the day. Schwenckfeld
  _pages_ 66-84


  Whether Luther founded a school of godly, Christian
  life. A Lutheran theologian on the lack of any teaching
  concerning emancipation from the world. The means of
  self-reform and their reverse side. Self-reform and
  hatred of the foe. Companion phenomena of Luther’s
  hate. Kindlier traits and episodes: The Kohlhase case
  in history and legend. The Reformation of the Church
  and Luther’s Ethics; His work “Against the new idol and
  olden devil.” The Reformation in the Duchy of Saxony.
  The aims of the Reformation and the currents of the age _pages_ 84-133


  Luther’s earlier theory on the subject; Schwenckfeld;
  the proceedings at Leisnig; the Popular Church
  supported by the State; the abortive attempt to create
  a Church Apart in Hesse                                _pages_ 133-144


  The “Deutsche Messe”; the liturgy not meant for “true
  believers”; place of the sermon                        _pages_ 145-154


  Schwenckfeld disappointed in his hope of a moral
  renovation. Luther’s wrong teaching on Law and Evangel;
  on predestination, on freedom and on faith alone,
  on the inward and outward Word. Schwenckfeld on the
  Popular Church and the new Divine Service              _pages_ 155-164

  PRECAUTIONS                                            _pages_ 165-224


  Success met with at Halle and Naumburg; efforts made at
  Cologne, Münster, Osnabrück, Brunswick, and Merseburg.
  Progress abroad; the Turkish danger; the Council       _pages_ 165-168


  False brethren; new sects; gloomy outlook for the
  future                                                 _pages_ 169-174


  A Protestant Council suggested by Bucer and
  Melanchthon. Luther’s attitude towards the
  Consistories. He seeks to reintroduce the Lesser
  Excommunication. The want of a Hierarchy begins to be
  felt                                                   _pages_ 174-191

    NAUMBURG (1542).

  The Ceremony. Luther’s booklet on the Consecration of
  Bishops. Excerpts from his correspondence with the new
  “Bishop”                                               _pages_ 192-200


  End of the Bishopric of Meissen. Destruction of
  Church Property. Luther’s attitude towards pictures
  and images. Details as to the fate of works of art in
  Prussia, Brunswick, Danzig, Hildesheim, Merseburg, etc.
  Protest of the Nuremberg artists                       _pages_ 200-224

  SUPERSTITION AND DELUSIONS                             _pages_ 225-318


  Weariness and pessimism. Grounds of his low
  spirits; suspects the Papists; and his friends. His
  single-handed struggle with the powers of evil         _pages_ 225-241


  Why he was convinced that the end was nigh. Allusions
  to the end of the world in the Table-Talk              _pages_ 241-252


  Some of Melanchthon’s deliverances. His state of
  servitude. His last years. His real character.
  Unfounded tales about him                              _pages_ 252-275


  Luther’s devil-lore. On all the evil the devil works
  in the world. On the devil’s dwelling-place, his
  shapes and kinds. Witchcraft. Connection of Luther’s
  devil-mania with his character and doctrine. The best
  weapons to use against the devil                       _pages_ 275-305


  His humour in the home and in his writings. He finds
  relief in it amidst his troubles. Some instances of his
  jests                                                  _pages_ 306-318



  Some characteristic statements concerning his “combats
  and temptations”                                       _pages_ 319-321


  “Supposing you had to answer for all the souls that
  perish!” “If you do not penance shall you not likewise
  perish?” “See how much evil arises from your
  doctrine!”                                             _pages_ 321-326


  Schlaginhaufen falls into a faint at Luther’s house.
  Luther persuades himself that his remorse of conscience
  comes from the devil                                   _pages_ 326-330


  “What labour did it not cost me ... to denounce the
  Pope as Antichrist.” The height of the storm; “tossed
  about between death and hell”; “I seek only for a
  gracious God.” Luther pens his famous hymn, “A safe
  stronghold our God is still”; the hymn an echo of his
  struggles                                              _pages_ 330-345


  At the Coburg. “I should have died without a struggle.”
  The waning of the “struggles by day and by night”;
  thoughts of suicide; how to reach peace                _pages_ 346-356


  His notion of faith, (_a_) the accepting as true, (_b_)
  the believing trust. His picture of himself and his
  difficulties in late years; he compares his case with
  that of St. Paul and with that of Christ in the Garden.
  Some misunderstandings and false reports as to Luther’s
  having himself condemned his own life-work             _pages_ 356-375

  LUTHER’S POLEMICS AT THEIR HIGHEST TENSION             _pages_ 376-431


  The Schmalkalden meeting in 1537. Luther, after having
  asked for a Council, now opposes such a thing. His “Von
  den Conciliis.” The Ratisbon Interim. The Council is
  summoned                                               _pages_ 376-381


  Luther is urged by highly placed friends to thwart
  the plans of Pope Paul III. The fury of his new book.
  How to deal with Pope and Cardinals. The “Wittenberg
  Reformation” drawn up as a counterblast against the
  Council of Trent                                       _pages_ 381-389


  “If we are to submit to this Council we might as well
  have submitted twenty-five years since to the lord of
  the Councils.” How Luther would have spoken to the
  Fathers of the Council had he attended it              _pages_ 389-394


  The Brunswick raid and Luther’s treatment of Duke
  Henry. His wrath against the Zwinglians: “A man that
  is a heretic avoid.” The exception Luther made in
  favour of Calvin, the friendly relations between the
  two, their similarities and divergencies. Luther vents
  his anger on the Jews in his “Von den Jüden” and “Vom
  Schem Hamphoras” (1543); exceptional foulness of his
  language in these two screeds. An earlier work of his
  on the Jews; reason why, in it, he is fairer to the
  Jews than in his later writings; some special motives
  for his later polemics against the Jews; his “De
  ultimis verbis Davidis.” His crusade against the Turks;
  his translation of the work of Richardus against the
  Alcoran. His last effort against the Papacy: “Popery
  Pictured”; some of the abominable woodcuts described;
  the state of soul they presuppose. Pirkheimer on “the
  audacity of Luther’s unwashed tongue”                  _pages_ 394-431

 WHOLE REVIEWED                                          _pages_ 432-556


  Harnack, etc., on Luther’s abandonment of individual
  points of Christian doctrine and destruction of the
  older idea of faith: The Canon and true interpretation
  of Scripture; speculative theology. Luther’s own
  admissions that Christian doctrine is a chain the
  rupture of any link of which involves the rupture
  of the whole. Luther’s inconsistencies in matters
  of doctrine as instanced by Protestant theologians:
  Original sin and unfreedom; Law and Gospel; Penance;
  Justification and good works; his teaching on merit, on
  the sacraments and the supper; on the Church and Divine
  worship                                               _pages_ 432-469


  Collected works: Luther’s preface to the Latin
  and German Collections. The Church-postils and
  Home-postils; advantages and shortcomings of his
  popular works; his silence regarding self-denial.
  Origin and character of the Larger and Smaller
  Catechisms. His Catechisms compared with the older
  catechetic works                                       _pages_ 470-494


  The work of translation completed in 1534; how it was
  launched on the public and the extent of its success.
  The various revisions of the work and the notes of the
  meetings held under Luther’s presidency. His anxiety
  to use only the best German; “Chancery German.” The
  language of the German Bible, its scholarship; its
  inaccuracies; Luther’s “Sendbrieff” to defend his
  addition of the word “alone” in Romans iii. 28.
  The corrections of Emser the Dresden “scribbler.”
  How Luther belittled certain books of Scripture.
  Some side-lights into the psychology of Luther’s
  translation. The Bible in earlier ages; the “Bible
  in chains.” Luther’s indebtedness to earlier German
  translators                                            _pages_ 494-546


  His efforts to interest his friends in the making of
  hymns. His best-known hymn, “A safe stronghold our God
  is still.” Other hymns; their character and musical
  setting. The “Hymn for the Out-driving of Antichrist”
  once falsely ascribed to Luther                        _pages_ 546-556

 EDUCATION (continued in Vol. VI)                        _pages_ 557-606


  Luther’s “signal services” as they appear to certain
  modern Protestants. The fell results of his twin
  principle: 1º, that the Church is alien to the world,
  and 2º, has no power to make binding laws              _pages_ 557-568


  The State de-Christianised and the Church regarded
  as a mere union of souls. Luther as “Founder of the
  modern State.” The secular potentate assimilated to
  King David. The New Theocracy. The Established Church.
  Significance of the Visitation introduced in the Saxon
  Electorate. The “Instructions of the Visitors.” Luther
  to the end the plaything of divergent currents         _pages_ 568-606






1. Preliminaries. New Foundations of Morality

LUTHER’S system of ethics mirrors his own character. If Luther’s
personality, in all its psychological individuality, shows itself in
his dogmatic theology (see vol. iv., p. 387 ff.), still more is this
the case in his ethical teaching. To obtain a vivid picture of the
mental character of their author and of the inner working of his mind,
it will suffice to unfold his practical theories in all their blatant
contradiction and to examine on what they rest and whence they spring.
First and foremost we must investigate the starting-point of his moral

To begin with, it was greatly influenced by his theory that the Gospel
consisted essentially in forgiveness, in the cloaking over of guilt and
in the soothing of “troubled consciences.” Thanks to a lively faith
to reach a feeling of confidence, is, according to him, the highest
achievement of ethical effort. At the same time, however, Luther lets
it be clearly understood that we can never get the better of sin. In
the shape of original sin it ever remains; concupiscence is always
sinful; and, even in the righteous, actual sin persists, only that its
cry is drowned by the voice speaking from the Blood of Christ. Man must
look upon himself as entirely under the domination of the devil, and,
only in so far as Christ ousts the devil from his human stronghold, can
a man be entitled to be called good. In himself he is not even free to
do what is right.

To the author of such doctrines it was naturally a matter of some
difficulty to formulate theoretically the injunctions of morality.
Some Protestants indeed vaunt his system of ethics as the best ever
known, and as based on an entirely “new groundwork.” Many others,
headed by Stäudlin the theologian, have nevertheless openly admitted
that “no system of Christian morality could exist,” granted Luther’s

Of his principles the following must be borne in mind. Man’s attitude
towards things Divine is just that of the dumb, lifeless “pillar of
salt into which Lot’s wife was changed”; “he is not one whit better
off than a clod or stone, without eyes or mouth, without any sense
and without a heart.”[2] Human reason, which ought to govern moral
action, becomes in matters of religion “a crazy witch and Lady
Hulda,”[3] the “clever vixen on whom the heathen hung when they thought
themselves cleverest.”[4] Like reason, so the will too, in fallen
man, behaves quite negatively towards what is good, whether in ethics
or in religion. “We remain as passive,” he says, “as the clay in the
hands of the potter”; freedom there is indeed, “but it is not under
our control.” In this connection he refers to Melanchthon’s “_Loci
communes_,”[5] whence some striking statements against free-will have
already been quoted in the course of this work.[6]

It is only necessary to imagine the practical application of such
principles to perceive how faulty in theory Luther’s ethics must have
been. Luther, however, was loath to see these principles followed out
logically in practice.

Other theories of his which he applies either not at all or only to
a very limited extent in ethics are, for instance, his opinions that
the believer, “even though he commit sin, remains nevertheless a godly
man,” and, that, owing to our trusting faith in Christ, God can descry
no sin in us “even when we remain stuck in our sins,” because we “have
donned the golden robe of grace furnished by Christ’s Blood.” In his
Commentary on Galatians he had said: “Act as though there had never
been any law or any sin but only grace and salvation in Christ”;[7] he
had declared that all the damned were predestined to hell, and, in
spite of their best efforts, could not escape eternal punishment. (Vol.
ii., pp. 268 ff., 287 ff.)

In view of all the above we cannot help asking ourselves, whence the
moral incentive in the struggle against the depravity of nature is to
come; where, granted that our will is unfree and our reason blind,
any real ethical answerableness is to be found; what motive for moral
conduct a man can have who is irrevocably predestined to heaven or to
hell; and what grounds God has for either rewarding or punishing?

To add a new difficulty to the rest, Luther is quite certain of the
overwhelming power of the devil. The devil sways all men in the world
to such a degree, that, although we are “lords over the devil and
death,” yet “at the same time we lie under his heel ... for the world
and all that belongs to it must have the devil as its master, who
is far stronger than we and clings to us with all his might, for we
are his guests and dwellers in a foreign hostelry.”[8] But because
through faith we are masters, “my conscience, though it feels its
guilt and fears and despairs on its account, yet must insist on being
lord and conqueror of sin ... until sin is entirely banished and is
felt no longer.”[9] Yea, since the devil is so intent on affrighting
us by temptations, “we must, when tempted, banish from sight and mind
the whole Decalogue with which Satan threatens and plagues us so

Such advice could, however, only too easily lead people to relinquish
an unequal struggle with an unquenchable Concupiscence and an
overwhelmingly powerful devil, or, to lose sight of the distinction
between actual sin and our mere natural concupiscence, between sin and
mere temptation; Luther failed to see that his doctrines would only
too readily induce an artificial confidence, and that people would put
the blame for their human frailties on their lack of freedom, their
ineradicable concupiscence, or on the almighty devil.

How, all this notwithstanding, he contrived to turn his back on the
necessary consequences of his own teaching, and to evolve a practical
system of ethics far better than what his theories would have led us
to expect, is plain from his warm recommendation of good works, of
chastity, neighbourly love and other virtues.

In brief, he taught in his own way what earlier ages had also taught,
viz. that sin and vice must be shunned; in his own way he exhorted all
to practise virtue, particularly to perform those deeds of brotherly
charity reckoned so high in the Church of yore. In what follows we
shall have to see how far his principles nevertheless intervened,
and how much personal colouring he thereby imparted to his system of
ethics. In so doing what we must bear in mind is his own way of viewing
the aims of morality and practical matters generally, for here we are
concerned, not with the results at which he should logically have
arrived, but with the opinions he actually held.

The difficulty of the problem is apparent not merely from the nature
of certain of his theological views just stated, but particularly
from what he thought concerning original sin and concupiscence, which
colours most of his moral teaching.

In his teaching, as we already know, original sin remains, even after
baptism, as a real sin in the guise of concupiscence; by its evil
desires and self-seeking it poisons all man’s actions to the end of
his life, except in so far as his deeds are transformed by the “faith”
from above into works pleasing to God, or rather, are accounted as
such. Owing to the enmity to God which prevails in the man who thus
groans under the weight of sin even “civil justice is mere sinfulness;
it cannot stand before the absolute demands of God. All that man
can do is to acknowledge that things really are so and to confess
his unrighteousness.”[11] Such an attitude Luther calls “humility.”
Catholic moralists and ascetics have indeed ever made all other virtues
to proceed from humility as from a fertile source, but there is no need
to point out how great is the difference between Luther’s “humility”
and that submission of the heart to God’s will of which Catholic
theologians speak. Humility, as Luther understood it, was an “admission
of our corruption”; according to him it is our recognition of the
enduring character of original sin that leads us to God and compels us
“to admit the revelation of the Grace of God bestowed on us in Christ’s
work of redemption,” by means of “faith, i.e. security of salvation.”
It is possible to speak “only of a gradual restraining of sin,” so
strongly are we drawn to evil. We indeed receive grace by faith, but
of any infused grace or blotting out of sin, Luther refuses to hear,
since the inclinations which result from original sin still persist.
Hence “by grace sin is not blotted out.” Rather, the grace which man
receives is an imputed grace; “the real answer to the question as to
how Luther arrived at his conviction that imputed grace was necessary
and not to be escaped is to be found in his own inward experience that
the tendencies due to original sin remain, even in the regenerate. This
sin, which persists in the baptised, ... forces him, if he wishes to
avoid the pitfall of despair ... to keep before his mind the consoling
thought ... ‘that God does not impute to him his sin.’”[12]

2. The two Poles: the Law and the Gospel

One of the ethical questions that most frequently engaged Luther’s
attention concerned the relation of Law and Gospel. In reality it
touched the foundations of his moral teaching.

His having rightly determined how Law and Gospel stood seemed to him
one of his greatest achievements, in fact one of the most important
of the revelations made to him from on High. “Whoever is able clearly
to distinguish the Law from the Gospel,” he says, “let such a one
give thanks to God and know that he is indeed a theologian.”[13]
Alluding to the vital importance of Luther’s theory on the Law with
its demands and the Gospel with its assurance of salvation, Friedrich
Loofs, the historian of dogma, declares: Here “may be perceived the
fundamental difference between the Lutheran and the Catholic conception
of Christianity,”[14] though he does not fear to hint broadly at the
“defects” and “limitations” of Luther’s new discovery; rather he admits
quite openly, that some leading aspects of the question “never even
revealed themselves clearly” to Luther, but betray a “notable” lack of
discernment, and that Luther’s whole conception of the Law contained
“much that called for further explanation.”[15]

In order to give here a clearer picture of Luther’s doctrine on this
matter than it was possible to do in the earlier passages where
his view was touched upon it may be pointed out, that, when, as he
so frequently does, he speaks of the Law he means not merely the
Old-Testament ceremonial and judicial law, but even the moral law and
commands both of the Old Covenant[16] and of the New,[17] in short
everything in the nature of a precept binding on the Christian the
infringement of which involves him in guilt; he means, as he himself
expresses it, “everything ... that speaks to us of our sins and of
God’s wrath.”[18]

By the Gospel moreover he understands, not merely the promises
contained in the New Testament concerning our salvation, but also those
of the Old Covenant; he finds the Gospel everywhere, even previous to
Christ: “There is not a book in the Bible,” he says, “which does not
contain them both [the Law and the Gospel]. God has thus placed in
every instance, side by side, the Law and the promises, for, by the
Law, He teaches what we are to do, and, by the promises, how we are to
set about it.” In his church-postils where this passage occurs Luther
explains more fully what he means by the “promise,” or Gospel, as
against the Law: It is the “glad tidings whereby grace and forgiveness
of sins is offered. Hence works do not belong to the Gospel, for it is
no law, but faith only [is required], for it is simply a promise and an
offer of Divine grace. Whoever believes it receives the grace.”[19]

As to the relationship between the Law and the Gospel: Whereas the Law
does not express the relation between God and man, the Gospel does. The
latter teaches us that we may, nay must, be assured of our salvation
previous to any work of ours, in order, that, born anew by such faith,
we may be ready to fulfil God’s Will as free, Christian men. The Law,
on the other hand, reveals the Will of God, on pedagogic grounds, as
the foundation of a system of merit or reward. It is indeed necessary
as a negative preparation for faith, but its demands cannot be complied
with by the natural man, to say nothing of the fact that it seems to
make certainty of salvation, upon which everything depends in our
moral life, contingent on the fulfilment of its prescriptions.[20]

From this one can see how inferior to the Gospel is the Law.

The Law speaks of “_facere_, _operari_,” of “deeds and works” as
essential for salvation. “These words”—so Luther told the students
in his Disputations in 1537 on the very eve of the Antinomian
controversy—“I should like to see altogether banished from theology;
for they imply the notions of merit and duty (“_meritum et debitum_”),
which is beyond toleration. Hence I urge you to refrain from the use of
such terms.”[21]

What he here enjoins he had himself striven to keep in view from
the earliest days of his struggle against “self-righteousness” and
“holiness-by-works.” These he strove to undermine, in the same measure
as he exalted original sin and its consequences. Psychologically his
attitude in theology towards these questions was based on the renegade
monk’s aversion to works and their supposed merit. His chief bugbear
is the meritoriousness of any keeping of the Law. For one reason
or another he went further and denied even its binding character
(“_debitum_”); caught in the meshes of that pseudo-mystic idealism to
which he was early addicted we hear him declaring: the Christian, when
he is justified by “faith,” does of his own accord and without the Law
everything that is pleasing to God; what is really good is performed
without any constraint out of a simple love for what is good. In
this wise it was that he reached his insidious thesis, viz. that the
believer stands everywhere above the Law and that the Christian knows
no Law whatever.[22] In quite general terms he teaches that the Law is
in opposition to the Gospel; that it does not vivify but kills; and
that its real task is merely to frighten us, to show us what we are
unable to do, to reveal sin and “increase it.” The preaching of the Law
he here depicts, not as “good and profitable, but as actually harmful,”
as “nothing but death and poison.”[23]

That such a setting aside of the specifically Mosaic Law appealed to
him, we can readily understand. But does he include in his reprobation
the whole “_lex moralis_,” the Natural Law which the Old Testament
merely confirmed, and which, according to Luther himself, is written
in man’s heart by nature? This Law he asserts is implicitly obeyed as
soon as the heart, by its acceptance of the assurance of salvation,
is cleansed and filled with the love of God.[24] And yet “in many
instances he applies to this Natural Law what he says elsewhere of the
Law of Moses; it too affrights us, increases sin, kills, and stands
opposed to the Gospel.”[25] Desirous of destroying once and for all any
idea of righteousness or merit being gained through any fulfilment of
any Law, he forgets himself, in his usual way, and says strong things
against the Law which scarcely agree with other statements he makes

Owing to polemists taking too literally what he said, he has been
represented as holding opinions on the Law and the Gospel which in
point of fact he does not hold; indeed, some have made him out a real
Antinomian. Yet we often hear him exhorting his followers to bow with
humility to the commandments, to bear the yoke of submission and thus
to get the better of sin and death. Nevertheless, particularly when
dealing with those whose “conscience is affrighted,” he is very apt
to forget what he has just said in favour of the Law, and prefers to
harp on his pet theology: “Man must pay no heed to the Law but only to
Christ.” “In dealing with this aspect of the matter we cannot speak too
slightingly of so contemptuous a thing [as the Law].”[26]

 His changeableness and obscurity on this point is characteristic of
 his mode of thought.

 At times he actually goes so far as to ascribe to the Law merely
 an outward, deterrent force and to make its sole value in ordinary
 life consist in the restraining of evil. Even when he is at pains to
 emphasise the “real, theological” use of the Law as preparatory to
 grace, he deliberately introduces statements concerning the Law which
 do not at all help to explain the matter. According to him, highly
 as we must esteem the Law for its sacred character, its effect upon
 people who are unable to keep it is nevertheless not wholesome but
 rather harmful, because thereby sin is multiplied, particularly the
 sin of unbelief, i.e. as seen in want of confidence in the certainty
 of salvation and in the striving after righteousness by the exact
 fulfilling of the Law.[27] “Whoever feels contrition on account of the
 Law,” he says for instance, “cannot attain to grace, on the contrary
 he is getting further and further away from it.”[28]

 Even for the man who has already laid hold on salvation by the “_fides
 specialis_” and has clothed himself in Christ’s merits, the deadening
 and depraving effect of the Law has not yet ceased. It is true that he
 is bound to listen to the voice of the Law and does so with profit in
 order to learn “how to crucify the flesh by means of the spirit, and
 direct his steps in the concerns of this life.” Yet—and on this it is
 that Luther dwells—because the pious man is quite unable to fulfil
 the Law perfectly, he is only made sensible of his own sinfulness;
 against this dangerous feeling he must struggle.[29] Hence everything
 depends on one’s ability to set oneself with Christ above the Law and
 to refuse to listen to its demands; for Christ, Who has taken the
 whole load upon Himself, bears the sin and has fulfilled the Law for
 us.[30] That this, however, was difficult, nay, frequently, quite
 impossible, Luther discovered for himself during his inward struggles,
 and made no odds in admitting it. He gives a warning against engaging
 in any struggles with our conscience, which is the herald of the
 Law; such contests “often lead men to despair, to the knife and the
 halter.”[31] Of the manner in which he dealt with his own conscience
 we shall, however, speak more in detail below (XXIX, 6).

 It is not necessary to point out the discrepancies and contradictions
 in the above train of thought. Luther was untiring in his efforts
 at accommodation, and, whenever he wished, had plenty to say on
 the matter. Here, even more plainly than elsewhere, we see both
 his lack of system and the irreconcilable contradictions lying in
 the very core of his ethics and theology. Friedrich Loofs says
 indulgently: “Dogmatic theories he had none; without over much
 theological reflection he simply gives expression to his religious

 It is strange to note how the aspect of the Law changes according
 as it is applied to the wicked or to the just, though it was given
 for the instruction and salvation of all alike. In the New Testament
 we read: “My yoke is sweet and my burden light,” but even in the
 Old Testament it had been said: “Much peace have they that love thy
 Law.”[33] According to Luther the man who is seeking for salvation and
 has not yet laid hold on faith in the forgiveness of sins must let
 himself be “ground down [’_conteri_,’ cp. ‘_contritio_’] by the Law”
 until he has learnt “to live in a naked trust in God’s Mercy.”[34] The
 man, however, who by faith has assured himself of salvation looks at
 the Law and its transgressions, viz. sin, in quite a different light.

 “He lives in a different world,” says Luther, “where he must know
 nothing either of sin or of merit; if however he feels his sin, he is
 to look at it as clinging, not to his own person, but to the person
 (Christ) on whom God has cast it, i.e. he must regard it, not as it
 is in itself and appears to his conscience, but rather in Christ
 by Whom it has been atoned for and vanquished. Thus he has a heart
 cleansed from all sin by the faith which affirms that sin has been
 conquered and overthrown by Christ.... Hence it is sacrilege to look
 at the sin in your heart, for it is the devil who puts it there, not
 God. You must say, my sins are not mine; they are not in me at all;
 they are the sins of another; they are Christ’s and are none of my
 business.”[35] Elsewhere he describes similarly the firm consolation
 of the righteous with regard to the Law and its accusations of sin:
 “This is the supreme comfort of the righteous, to vest and clothe
 Christ with my sins and yours and those of the whole world, and then
 to look upon Him as the bearer of all our sins. The man who thus
 regards Him will soon come to scorn the fanatical notions of the
 sophists concerning justification by works. They rave of a faith that
 works by love (‘_fides formata caritate_’), and assert that thereby
 sins are taken away and men justified. But this simply means to
 undress Christ, to strip Him of sin, to make Him innocent, to burden
 and load ourselves with our own sins and to see them, not in Christ,
 but in ourselves, which is the same thing as to put away Christ and
 say He is superfluous.”[36]

 The confidence with which Luther says such things concerning the
 transgression of the Divine Law by the righteous is quite startling;
 nor does he do so in mere occasional outbursts, but his frequent
 statements to this effect seem measured and dispassionate, nor were
 they intended simply for the learned but even for common folk.
 It was for the latter, for instance, that in his “Sermon von dem
 Sacrament der Puss” he said briefly: “To him who believes, everything
 is profitable and nothing harmful, but, to him who believes not,
 everything is harmful and nothing profitable.”[37]

 “Whosoever does not believe,” i.e. has failed to lay hold of the
 certainty of salvation, deserves to feel the relentless severity of
 the Law; let him learn that the “right understanding and use of the
 Law” is this, “that it does no more than prove” that all “who, without
 faith, follow its behests are slaves, stuck [in the Law] against their
 will and without any certainty of grace.” “They must confess that by
 the Law they are unable to make the slightest progress.”

 “Even should you worry yourself to death with works, still your heart
 cannot thereby raise itself to such a faith as the Law calls for.”[38]

 Thus, by the Law alone, and without the help of Luther’s “faith,” we
 become sheer “martyrs of the devil.”

 It is this road, according to him, that the Papists tread and that he
 himself, so he assures us, had followed when a monk. There he had been
 obliged to grind himself on the Law, i.e. had been forced to fight his
 way in despair until at last he discovered justification in faith.[39]
 One thing that is certain is his early antipathy—due to the laxity of
 his life as a religious and to his pseudo-mysticism—for the burdens
 and supposed deadening effect of the Law, an antipathy to which he
 gave striking expression at the Heidelberg Disputation.[40]

Luther remained all his life averse to the Law.[41] In 1542, i.e.
subsequent to the Antinomian controversy, he even compared the Law to
the gallows. He hastens, however, to remove any bad impression he may
have made, by referring to the power of the Gospel: “The Law does not
punish the just; the gallows are not put up for those who do not steal
but for robbers.”[42] The words occur in an answer to his friends’
questions concerning the biblical objections advanced by the Catholics.
They had adduced certain passages in which everlasting life is promised
to those who keep the Law (“_factores legis_”) and where “love of
God with the whole heart” rather than faith alone is represented as
the true source of righteousness and salvation. Luther solves the
questions to his own content. Those who keep the Law, he admits, “are
certainly just, but not by any means owing to their fulfilment of the
Law, for they were already just beforehand by virtue of the Gospel;
for the man who acts as related in the Bible passages quoted stands in
no need of the Law.... Sin does not reign over the just, and, to the
end, it will not sully them.... The Law is named merely for those who
sin, for Paul thus defines the Law: ‘The Law is the knowledge of sin’
(Rom. iii. 20).”—In reality what St. Paul says is that “_By the Law_
is the knowledge of sin,” and he only means that the Old-Testament
ordinances of which he is speaking, led, according to God’s plan, to
a sense of utter helplessness and therefore to a yearning for the
Saviour. Luther’s very different idea, viz. that the Law was meant for
the sinner and served as a gallows, is stated by W. Walther the Luther
researcher, in the following milder though perfectly accurate form: “In
so far as the Christian is not yet a believer he lacks true morality.
Even in his case therefore the Law is not yet abrogated.”[43]

“A distinction must be made,” so Luther declares, “between the Law for
the sinner and the Law for the non-sinner. The Law is not given to the
righteous, i.e. it is not against them.”[44]

 The olden Church had stated her conception of the Law and the Gospel
 both simply and logically. In her case there was no assumption of any
 assurance of salvation by faith alone to disturb the relations between
 the Law and the Gospel; one was the complement of the other; though,
 agreeably to the Gospel, she proclaimed the doctrine of love in its
 highest perfection, yet at the same time, like St. Peter, she insisted
 in the name of the “Law,” that, in the fear of sin and “by dint of
 good works” we must make sure our calling and election (2 Peter i.
 10). She never ceased calling attention to the divinely appointed
 connection between the heavenly reward and our fidelity to the Law,
 vouched for both in the Old Testament (“For thou wilt render to every
 man according to his works,” Ps. lxi. 13) and also in the New (“The
 Son of Man will render to every man according to his works,” Mt. xvi.
 27, and elsewhere, “For we must all be manifested before the judgment
 seat of Christ that everyone may receive the proper things of the body
 according as he hath done, whether it be good or evil,” 2 Cor. v. 10).

3. Encounter with the Antinomianism of Agricola

Just as the Anabaptist and fanatic movement had originally been
fostered by Luther’s doctrines, so Antinomianism sprang from the seed
he had scattered.

Johann Agricola, the chief spokesman of the Antinomians, merely carried
certain theses of Luther’s to their logical conclusion, doing so
openly and regardless of the consequences. He went much further than
his master, who often had at least the prudence here and elsewhere to
turn back half-way, a want of logic which Luther had to thank for his
escape from many dangers in both doctrine and practice. In the same
way as Luther, with the utmost tenacity and vigour, had withstood the
Anabaptists and fanatics when they strove to put in full practice
his own principles, so also he proclaimed war on the Antinomians’
enlargement and application of his ideas on the Law and Gospel which
appeared to him fraught with the greatest danger. That the contentions
of the Antinomians were largely his own, formulated anew, must be
fairly evident to all.[45]

Johann Agricola, the fickle and rebellious Wittenberg professor, seized
on Luther’s denunciations of the Law, more particularly subsequent
to the spring of 1537, and built them up into a fantastic Antinomian
system, at the same time rounding on Luther, and even more on the
cautious and reticent Melanchthon, for refusing to proceed along the
road on which they had ventured. In support of his views he appealed to
such sayings of Luther’s, as, the Law “was not made for the just,” and,
was “a gallows only meant for thieves.”

He showed that, whereas Luther had formerly refused to recognise any
repentance due to fear of the menaces of the Law, he had come to hold
up the terrors of the Law before the eyes of sinners. As a matter of
fact Luther did, at a later date, teach that justifying faith was
preceded by a contrition produced by the Law; such repentance due to
fear was excited by God Almighty in the man deprived of moral freedom,
as in a “_materia passiva_.”—The following theses were issued as
Agricola’s: “1. The Law [the Decalogue] does not deserve to be called
the Word of God. 2. Even should you be a prostitute, a cuckold, an
adulterer or any other kind of sinner, yet, so long as you believe,
you are on the road to salvation. 3. If you are sunk in the depths of
sin, if only you believe, you are really in a state of grace. 4. The
Decalogue belongs to the petty sessions, not to the pulpit. 11. The
words of Peter: ‘That by good works you may make sure your calling and
election’ [2 Peter i. 10] are all rubbish. 12. So soon as you begin to
fancy that Christianity requires this or that, or that people should be
good, honest, moral, holy and chaste, you have already rent asunder the
Gospel [Luke, ch. vi.].”[46]

In his counter theses Luther indignantly rejected such opinions: “the
deduction is not valid,” he says, for instance, “when people make out,
that what is not necessary for justification, either at the outset,
later, or at the end, should not to be taught” (as obligatory), e.g.
the keeping of the Law, personal co-operation and good works. “Even
though the Law be useless to justification, still it does not follow
that it is to be made away with, or not to be taught.”[47]

       *       *       *       *       *

Luther was the more indignant at the open opposition manifest in
his own neighbourhood and at the yet worse things that were being
whispered, because he feared, that, owing to the friendly understanding
between Agricola, Jacob Schenk and others, the new movement might
extend abroad. The doctrine, in its excesses, seemed to him as
compromising as the teaching of Carlstadt and the doings of the
fanatics in former days. In reality it did embody a fanatical doctrine
and an extremely dangerous pseudo-theology; in Antinomianism the
pseudo-mystical ideas concerning freedom and inner experience which
from the very beginning had brought Luther into conflict with the
“Law,” culminated in a sort of up-to-date gnosticism.

We now find Luther, in the teeth of his previous statements, declaring
that “Whoever makes away with the Law, makes away with the Gospel.”[48]
He says: “Agricola perverts our doctrine, which is the solace of
consciences, and seeks by its means to set up the freedom of the
flesh”;[49] the grace preached by Agricola was really nothing more than
immoral licence.[50]

The better to counter the new movement Luther at once proceeded to
modify his teaching concerning the Law. In this wise Antinomianism
exercised on him a restraining influence, and was to some extent of
service to his doctrine and undertaking, warning him, as the fanatic
movement had done previously, of certain rocks to be avoided.

Luther now came to praise Melanchthon’s view of the Law, which hitherto
had not appealed to him, and declared in his Table-Talk: If the Law is
done away with in the Church, that will spell the end of all knowledge
of sin.[51]

This last utterance, dating from March, 1537, is the first to forebode
the controversy about to commence, which was to cause Luther so much
anxiety but which at the same time affords us so good an insight into
his ethics and, no less, into his character. Even more noteworthy are
the two sermons in which he expounds his standpoint as against that of
Agricola, whom, however, he does not name.[52]

The first step taken by Luther at the University against the Antinomian
movement was the Disputation of Dec. 18, 1537. For this he drew up a
list of weighty theses. When the Disputation was announced everyone
was aware that it was aimed at a member of the Wittenberg Professorial
staff, at one, moreover, whom Luther himself, as dean, had authorised
to deliver lectures on theology at Wittenberg. When Agricola failed
even to put in an appearance at the Disputation, as though it in no
way concerned him, and also continued to “agitate secretly” against
the Wittenberg doctrine, Luther, in a letter addressed to Agricola
on Jan. 6, 1538, withdrew from him his faculty to teach, and even
demanded that he should forswear theology altogether (“_a theologia in
totum abstinere_”); if he now wished to deliver lectures he would have
to ask permission “of the University” (where Luther’s influence was
paramount).[53] This was a severe blow for Agricola and his family.
His wife called on Luther, dropped a humble curtsey and assured him
that in future her husband would do whatever he was told. This seems
to have mollified Luther. Agricola himself also plucked up courage to
go to him, only to be informed that he would have to appear at the
second Disputation on the subject—for which Luther had drawn up a
fresh set of theses—and there make a public recantation. Driven into
a corner, Agricola agreed to these terms. At the second Disputation
(Jan. 12, 1538) he did, as a matter of fact, give explanations deemed
satisfactory by Luther, by whom he was rewarded with an assurance
of confidence. He was, nevertheless, excluded from all academical
office, and though the Elector of Saxony permitted him to act as
preacher this sanction was not extended by Bugenhagen to any preaching
at Wittenberg.[54] A third and fourth set of theses drawn up by
Luther,[55] who could not do enough against the new heresy, date from
the interval previous to the settlement, though no Disputation was held
on them that the peace might not be broken.

Agricola nevertheless was staunch in his contention, that, in his
earlier writings, Luther had expressed himself quite differently, and
this was a fact which it was difficult to disprove.

On account of Agricola’s renewal of activity, Luther, on Sep. 13,
1538, held another lengthy and severe Disputation against him and his
supporters, the “hotheads and avowed hypocrites.” For this occasion
he produced a fifth and last set of theses. He also insisted that his
opponent should publicly eat his words. This time Luther admitted that
some of his own previous statements had been injudicious, though he
was disposed to excuse them. In the beginning they had been preaching
to people whose consciences were troubled and who stood in need of a
different kind of language than those whose consciences had first to
be stirred up. Agricola, finding himself in danger of losing his daily
bread, yielded, and even agreed to allow Luther himself to pen the
draft of his retractation, hoping thus to get off more easily.

Instead of this, and in order, as he said, to “paint him as a
cowardly, proud and godless man,” Luther wrote a tract (“Against the
Antinomians”) addressed to the preacher Caspar Güttel, which might take
the place of the retractation agreed upon.[56] It was exceedingly rude
to Agricola. It represented him as a man of “unusual arrogance and
presumption,” “who presumed to have a mind of his own, but one that
was really intent on self-glorification”; he was a standing proof that
in the world “the devil liveth and reigneth”; by his means the devil
was set on raising another storm against Luther’s Evangel, like those
others raised by Carlstadt, Münzer, the Anabaptists and so forth.[57]
In spite of all this the writing, according to a statement made by
its author to Melanchthon, was all too mild (“_tam levis fui_”),
particularly now that Agricola’s great “obstinacy” was becoming so

Luther even spoke of the excommunication which should be launched
against so contumacious a man. As a penalty he caused him to be
excluded from among the candidates for the office of Dean, and when
Agricola complained to the Rector and to Bugenhagen of Luther’s
“tyranny” both refused to listen to him.[59]

In the meantime Agricola expressed his complete submission in a printed
statement, which, however, was probably not meant seriously, and
thereupon, on Feb. 7, 1539, was nominated by the Elector a member of
the Consistory. He at once profited by this mark of favour to present
at Court a written complaint against Luther, referring particularly
to the scurrilous circular letter sent to Caspar Güttel. He protested
that, for wellnigh three years, he had submitted to being trodden under
foot by Luther, and had slunk along at his heels like a wretched cur,
though there had been no end to the insult and abuse heaped upon him.
What Luther reproached him with he had never taught. The latter had
accused him of many things which he “neither would, could nor might

Luther in his turn, in a writing, appealed to the Elector and his
supreme tribunal. In vigorous language he explained to the Court,
utterly incapable though it was of deciding on so delicate a question,
why he had been obliged to withstand the false opinions of his opponent
which the Bible condemned. Agricola had dared to call Luther’s doctrine
unclean, “a doctrine on behalf of which our beloved Prince and Lord
wagered and imperilled land and subjects, life and limb, not to speak
of his soul and ours.” In other words, to differ from Luther was
high treason against the sovereign who agreed with him. He sneers at
Agricola in a tone which shows how great licence he allowed himself
in his dealings with the Elector: Agricola had drawn up a Catechism,
best nicknamed a “Cackism”; Master Grickel was ridden by an angry imp,
etc. So far was he from offering any excuse for his virulence against
Agricola that he even expressed his regret for having been “so friendly
and gentle.”[61]

To the same authority, as though to it belonged judgment in
ecclesiastical matters, Melanchthon, Jonas, Bugenhagen and Amsdorf sent
a joint memorandum in which they recommended a truce, “somewhat timidly
pointing out to the Elector, that Luther was hardly a man who could be
expected to retract.”[62]

The Court Councillors now took the whole matter into their hands and
it was settled to lodge a formal suit against Agricola. The latter,
however, accepted a call from Elector Joachim of Brandenburg, to act as
Court preacher, and, in spite of having entered into recognisances not
to quit the town, he made haste to get himself gone to his new post
in Berlin (Aug., 1540). On a summons from Wittenberg, and seeing that,
unless he made peace with Luther, he could do nothing at Berlin, he
consented to issue a circular letter to the preachers, magistrates and
congregation of Eisleben[63] “which might have satisfied even Luther’s
exorbitant demands.”[64] He explained that he had in the meantime
thought better of the points under discussion, and even promised “to
believe and teach as the Church at Wittenberg believes and teaches.”

In 1545, when he came to Wittenberg with his wife and daughter, Luther,
who still bore him a grudge, whilst allowing them to pay him a visit,
refused to see Agricola himself. On another occasion it was only thanks
to the friendly intervention of Catherine Bora that Luther consented to
glance at a kindly letter from him, but of any reconciliation he would
not hear. Regarding this last incident we have a note of Agricola’s
own: “_Domina Ketha, rectrix cœli et terræ, Iuno coniunx et soror
Iovis_, who rules her husband as she wills, has for once in a way
spoken a good word on my behalf. Jonas likewise did the same.”[65]

Luther’s hostility continued to the day of his death. He found
justification for his harshness and for his refusal to be reconciled in
the evident inconstancy and turbulence of his opponent. For a while,
too, he was disposed to credit the news that Antinomianism was on the
increase in Saxony, Thuringia and elsewhere.

Not only was Agricola’s fickleness not calculated to inspire
confidence, but his life also left much to be desired from the moral
standpoint. Though Luther was perhaps unaware of it, we learn from
Agricola’s own private Notes, that the “vices in which the young take
delight” had assailed him in riper years even more strongly than in
his youth. Seckendorff also implies that he did not lead a “regular

In 1547 Agricola, together with Julius Pflug, Bishop of Naumburg, and
Helding, auxiliary of Mayence, drew up the Augsburg Interim. As General
Superintendent of the Brandenburg district and at the invitation
of his Elector he assisted in the following year at the religious
Conferences of the Saxon theologians. He died at Berlin, Sep. 22, 1566,
of a disease resulting from the plague.

 Of the feeling called forth in circles friendly to Luther by
 Agricola’s part in the Interim we have proof in the preface which
 introduces in the edition of 1549 Luther’s letter of 1539 to the Saxon
 Court. Here we read: If the Eisleben fellow (Agricola) “was ever a
 dissolute sharper, who secretly promoted false doctrine and made use
 of the favour and applause of the pious as a cloak for his knavery,”
 much more has this now become apparent by his outcry concerning the
 Interim and the alleged good it does. The editors recall the fact,
 that “Our worthy father in God, Dr. Martin Luther of happy memory,
 shortly before his end, in the presence of Dr. Pommer, Philip,
 Creutziger, Major, Jonas and D. Paulus Benedictus” spoke as follows:
 “Eisleben (Agricola) is not merely ridden by the devil but the devil
 himself lodges in him.” In proof of the latter statement they add,
 that trustworthy persons, who had good grounds for their opinion,
 had declared, that “it was the simple truth that devils had visibly
 appeared in Eisleben’s house and study, and at times had made a great
 disturbance and clatter; whence it is clear that he is the devil’s own
 in body and soul.” “The truth,” they conclude, “is clear and manifest.
 God gives us warnings enough in the writings of pious and learned
 persons and also by signs in the sky and in the waters. Let whoever
 wills be admonished and warned. For to each one it is a matter of life
 eternal; to which may God assist us through Christ our Lord, Amen.”[67]

 A writing of Melanchthon’s, dating from the last months of his
 life and brought to light only in 1894, gives further information
 concerning a later phase of the Antinomian controversy as fought out
 between Agricola and Melanchthon.[68]

 Melanchthon, for all his supposed kindliness, here empties the vials
 of his wrath on Johann Agricola because the latter had vehemently
 assailed his thesis “_Bona opera sunt necessaria_.” As a matter of
 fact, so he writes, he bothered himself as little about Agricola’s
 “preaching, slander, abuse, insistence and threats” as about the
 “cackle of some crazy gander.” But Christian people were becoming
 scandalised at “this grand preacher of blasphemy” and were beginning
 to suspect his own (Melanchthon’s) faith. Hence he would have them
 know that Agricola’s component parts were an “asinine righteousness,
 a superstitious arrogance and an Epicurean belly-service.” To his
 thesis he could not but adhere to his last breath, even were he to
 be torn to pieces with red-hot pincers. He had refrained from adding
 the words “_ad salutem_” after “_necessaria_” lest the unwary should
 think of some merit. The “_ad salutem_” was an addition of Agricola’s,
 that “foolish man,” who had thrust it on him by means of a “shameless
 and barefaced lie.” He is anxious to win his spurs off the Lutherans.
 Yet donkeys of his ilk do understand nothing in the matter, and God
 will “punish these blasphemers and disturbers of the Churches.”
 But in order that “a final end may at length be put to the evil
 doing, slander, abuse and cavilling it will,” he says, “be necessary
 for God to send the Turk; nothing else will help in such a case.”
 Melanchthon compares himself to Joseph, who was sold by his brethren.
 If Joseph had to endure this “in the first Church,” what then “will
 be my fate in the extreme old age of this mad world (‘_extrema mundi
 delira senecta_’) when licence wanders abroad unrestrained to sully
 everything and when such unspeakably cruel hypocrites control our
 destinies? I can only pray to God that He will deign to come to the
 aid of His Church and graciously heal all the gaping wounds dealt her
 by her foes. Amen.”

A certain reaction against the Antinomian tendency, is, as already
explained, noticeable in Luther’s latter years; at least he felt called
upon to revise a little his former standpoint with regard to the Law,
the motive of fear, indifference to sin and so forth, and to remove
it from the danger of abuse. He was also at pains to contradict the
view that his doctrine of faith involved an abrogation of the Law.
“The fools do not know,” he remarked, for instance, alluding to Jacob
Schenk, “all that faith has to do.”[69]

In his controversy with Agricola we can detect a tendency on his part
“to revert to Melanchthon’s doctrine concerning repentance.”[70]
He insisted far more strongly than before[71] on the necessity of
preaching the Law in order to arouse contrition; he even went so far
along Catholic lines as to assert, that “Penance is sorrow for sin with
the resolve to lead a better life.”[72] He also admitted, that, at the
outset, he had said things which the Antinomians now urged against
the Law, though he also strove to show that he had taken pains to
qualify and safeguard what he had said. Nor indeed can Luther ever have
expected that all the strong things he had once hurled against the Law
and its demands would ever be used to build up a new moral theology.

And yet, even at the height of the Antinomian controversy, he stood
firmly by his thesis regarding the Law, fear and contrition, viz. that
“Whoever seeks to be led to repentance by the Law, will never attain to
it, but, on the contrary, will only turn his back on it the more”;[73]
to this he was ever true.

 “Luther,” says Adolf Harnack, “could never doubt that only the
 Christian who has been vanquished by the Gospel is capable of true
 repentance, and that the Law can work no real repentance.”[74]
 The fact however remains, that, at least if we take his words as
 they stand, we do find in Luther a doctrine of repentance which
 does not claim faith in the forgiveness of sins so exclusively as
 its source.[75] The fact is that his statements do not tally.[76]
 Other Protestant theologians will have it that no change took place
 in Luther’s views on penance,[77] or at least that the attempts
 so far made to solve the problem are not satisfactory.[78] Stress
 should, however, be laid on the fact, that, during his contest with
 Antinomianism Luther insisted that it was necessary “to drive men to
 penance even by the terrors of the Law,”[79] and that, alluding to his
 earlier statements, he admits having had much to learn: “I have been
 made to experience the words of St. Peter, ‘Grow in the knowledge of
 the Lord.’”

 Of the converted, i.e. of those justified by the certainty of
 salvation, he says in 1538 in his Disputations against Agricola: The
 pious Christian as such “is dead to the Law and serves it not, but
 lies in the bosom of grace, secure in the righteousness imputed to him
 by God.... But, so far as he is still in the flesh, he serves the law
 of sin, repulsive as it may sound that a saint should be subject to
 the law of sin.”[80] If Luther finds in the saint or devout man such
 a double life, a free man side by side with a slave, holiness side by
 side with sin, this is on account of the concupiscence, or as Luther
 says elsewhere, original sin, which still persists, and the results of
 which he regarded as really sinful in God’s sight.

 Elsewhere in the same Disputations he speaks of the Law as
 contemptuously as ever: “The Law can work in the soul nothing but
 wanhope; it fills us with shame; to lead us to seek God is not in the
 nature and might of the Law; this is the doing of another fellow,”
 viz. of the Gospel with its preaching of forgiveness of sins in
 Christ.[81] It is true he adds in a kindlier vein: “The Law ought
 not so greatly to terrify those who are justified (‘_nec deberet
 ita terrere iustificatos_’) for it is already much chastened by
 our justification in Christ. But the devil comes and makes the Law
 harsh and repellent to those who are justified. Thus, through the
 devil’s fault, many are filled with fear who have no reason to fear.
 But [and now follows the repudiation of the extreme theories of the
 Antinomians], the Law is not on that account abolished in the Church,
 or its preaching suppressed; for even the pious have some remnant of
 sin abiding in their flesh, which must be purified by the Law.... To
 them, however, the Law must be preached under a milder form; they
 should be admonished in this wise: You are now washed clean in the
 Blood of Christ. Yield therefore your bodies to serve justice and
 lay aside the lusts of the flesh that you may not become like to
 the world. Be zealous for the righteousness of good works.” There
 too he also teaches how the “Law” must be brought home to hardened
 sinners. In their case no “mitigation” is allowable. On the contrary,
 they are to be told: You will be damned, God hates you, you are full
 of unrighteousness, your lot is that of Cain, etc. For, “before
 Justification, the Law rules, and terrifies all who come in contact
 with it, it convicts and condemns.”[82]

 Among the most instructive utterances touching the Antinomians is the
 following one on sin, more particularly on breach of wedlock, which
 may be given here as amplifying Luther’s statements on the subject
 recorded in our vol. iii. (pp. 245, 256 f., etc.): The Antinomians
 taught, so he says, that, if a man had broken wedlock, he had only to
 believe (“_tantum ut crederet_”) and he would find a Gracious God. But
 surely that was no Church where so horrible a doctrine (“_horribilis
 vox_”) was heard. On the contrary what was to be taught was, that,
 in the first place, there were adulterers and other sinners who
 acknowledged their sin, made good resolutions against it and possessed
 real faith, such as these found mercy with God. In the second place,
 however, there were others who neither repented of their sin nor
 wished to forsake it; such men had no faith, and a preacher who should
 discourse to them concerning faith (i.e. fiducial faith) would merely
 be seducing and deceiving them.

4. The Certainty of Salvation and its relation to Morality

How did Luther square his system of morality with his principal
doctrine of Faith and Justification, and where did he find any ground
for the performance of good works?

In the main he made everything to proceed from and rest upon a firm,
personal certainty of salvation. The artificial system thus built up,
so far as it is entitled to be called a system at all, requires only
to be set forth in order to be appreciated as it deserves. It will be
our duty to consider Luther’s various statements, and finally his own
summary, made late in life, of the conclusions he had reached.

_Certainty of Salvation as the cause and aim of True Morality. The
Psychological Explanation_

Quite early Luther had declared: “The ‘_fides specialis_,’ or assurance
of salvation, of itself impels man to true morality.” For, “faith
brings along with it love, peace, joy and hope.... In this faith all
works are equal and one as good as the other, and any difference
between works disappears, whether they be great or small, short or
long, few or many; for works are not pleasing [to God] in themselves
but on account of faith.... A Christian who lives in this faith has
no need to be taught good works, but, whatever occurs to him, that he
does, and everything is well done.” Such are his words in his “Sermon
von den guten Wercken” to Duke Johann of Saxony in 1520.[83]

He frequently repeats, that “Faith brings love along with it,” which
impels us to do good.

He enlarges on this in the festival sermons in his Church-Postils,
and says: When I am made aware by faith, that, through the Son of God
Who died for me, I am able to “resist and flaunt sin, death, devil,
hell and every ill, then I cannot but love Him in return and be well
disposed towards Him, keeping His commandments and doing lovingly and
gladly everything He asks”; the heart will then show itself full “of
gratitude and love. But, seeing that God stands in no need of our
works and that He has not commanded us to do anything else for Him but
to praise and thank Him, therefore such a man must proceed to devote
himself entirely to his neighbour, to serve, help and counsel him
freely and without reward.”[84]

All this, as Luther says in his “Von der Freyheyt eynes Christen
Menschen,” must be performed “by a free, willing, cheerful and
unrequited serving of our neighbour”;[85] it must be done “cheerfully
and gladly for Christ’s sake Who has done so much for us.”[86]
“That same Law which once was hateful to free-will,” he says in his
Commentary on Galatians, “now [i.e. after we have received the faith
and assurance of salvation] becomes quite pleasant since love is
poured into our hearts by the Holy Ghost.... We now are lovers of the
Law.”[87] From the wondrous well-spring of the imputed merits of Christ
there comes first and foremost prayer; if only we cling “trustfully
to the promise of grace,” then “the heart will unceasingly beat and
pulsate to such prayers as the following: O, beloved Father, may Thy
Name be hallowed, Thy Kingdom come, Thy Will be done.”[88] But all is
not prayer and holy desire; even when the “soul has been cleansed by
faith,” the Christian still must struggle against sin and against the
body “in order to deaden its wantonness.”[89] The Christian will set
himself to acquire chastity; “in this work a good, strong faith is of
great help, more so here than anything else.” And why? Because whoever
is assured of salvation in Christ and “enjoys the grace of God, also
delights in spiritual purity.... Under such a faith the Spirit without
doubt will tell him how to avoid evil thoughts and everything opposed
to chastity. For as faith in the Divine mercy persists and works all
good, so also it never ceases to inform us of all that is pleasing or
displeasing to God.”[90]

Whence does our will derive the ability and strength to wage this
struggle to the end? Only from the assurance of salvation, from
its unshaken awareness that it has indeed a Gracious God. For this
certainty of faith sets one free, first of all from those anxieties
with regard to one’s salvation with which the righteous-by-works are
plagued and thus allows one to devote time and strength to doing what
is good; secondly this faith in one’s salvation teaches one how to
overcome the difficulties that stand in one’s way.[91]

There was, however, an objection raised against Luther by his
contemporaries and which even presented itself to his own mind: Why
should a lifelong struggle and the performance of good works be
requisite for a salvation of which we are already certain? It was
re-formulated even by Albert Ritschl, in whose work, “Rechtfertigung
und Versöhnung,” we find the words: “If one asks why God, Who makes
salvation to depend on Justification by faith, prescribes good works
at all, the arbitrary character of the assumption becomes quite
evident.”[92] In Luther’s own writings we repeatedly hear the same
stricture voiced: “If sin is forgiven me gratuitously by God’s Mercy
and is blotted out in baptism, then there is nothing for me to do.”
People say, “If faith is everything and suffices of itself to make us
pious, why then are good works enjoined?”[93]

In order to render Luther’s meaning adequately we must emphasise his
leading answer to such objections. He is determined to insist on good
works, because, as he says, they are of the utmost importance to the
one thing on which everything else depends, viz. to faith and the
assurance of salvation.[94]

 In his “Sermon von den guten Wercken,” which deserves to be taken as
 conclusive, he declares outright that all good works are ordained—for
 the sake of faith. “Such works and sufferings must be performed
 in faith and in firm trust in the Divine mercy, in order that, as
 already stated, all works may come under the first commandment and
 under faith, and that they may serve to exercise and strengthen
 faith, on account of which all the other commandments and works are
 demanded.”[95] Hence morality is necessary, not primarily in order
 to please God, to obey Him and thus to work out our salvation, but
 in order to strengthen our “_fides specialis_” in our own salvation,
 which then does all the needful.[96] It is necessary, as Luther says
 elsewhere, in order to provide a man with a reassuring token of the
 reality of his “_fides specialis_”; he may for instance be tempted to
 doubt whether he possesses this saving gift of God, though the very
 doubt already spells its destruction; hence let him look at his works;
 if they are good, they will tell him at the dread hour of death: Yes,
 you have the “faith.”[97] Strangely enough he also takes the Bible
 passages which deal with works performed under grace as referring to
 faith, e.g. “If thou wilt enter into life keep the commandments” (Mt.
 xix. 17) and, “By good works make your calling and election sure” (2
 Peter i. 10). The latter exhortation of St. Peter signifies according
 to Luther’s exegesis: “Take care to strengthen your faith,” from the
 works “you may see whether you have the faith.”[98] According to St.
 Peter you are to seek in works merely “a sign and token that the faith
 is there”; his meaning is not that you “are to do good works in order
 that you may secure your election.” “We are not to fancy that thereby
 we can become pious.”[99]

 This thought is supplemented by another frequent exhortation of
 Luther’s which concerns the consciousness of sin persisting even after
 “justification.” The sense of sin has, according to him, no other
 purpose than to strengthen us in our trustful clinging to Christ, for
 as no one’s faith is perfect we are ever called upon to fortify it, in
 which we are aided by this anxiety concerning sin: “Though we still
 feel sin within us this is merely to drive us to faith and make our
 faith stronger, so that despite our feeling we may accept the Word and
 cling with all our heart and conscience to Christ alone,” in other
 words, to follow Luther’s own example amidst the pangs of conscience
 that had plunged him into “death and hell.”[100] “Thus does faith,
 against all feeling and reason, lead us quietly through sin, through
 death and through hell.” “The more faith waxes, the more the feeling
 diminishes, and vice versa. Sins still persist within us, e.g. pride,
 avarice, anger and so on and so forth, but only in order to move us
 to faith.” He refrains from adducing from Holy Scripture any proof in
 support of so strange a theory, but proceeds to sing a pæan on faith
 “in order that faith may increase from day to day until man at length
 becomes a Christian through and through, keeps the real Sabbath, and
 creeps, skin, hair and all, into Christ.”[101] The Christian, by
 accustoming himself to trust in the pardoning grace of Christ and by
 fortifying himself in this faith, becomes at length “one paste with

Hence the “_fides specialis_” as just explained, seems to be the chief
ethical aim of life.[103] This is why it is so necessary to strengthen
it by works, and so essential to beat down all anxieties of conscience.

Here Luther is speaking from his own inward experience. He says: “Thus
must the conscience be lulled to rest and made content, thus must all
the waves and billows subside.... Our sins towered mountain-high about
us and would fain have made us despair, but in the end they are calmed,
and settle down, and soon are seen no longer.”[104] It was only very
late in his life that Luther reached a state of comparative calm, a
calm moreover best to be compared with the utter weariness of a man
worn out by fatigue.[105]

_Luther’s Last Sermons at Eisleben on the Great Questions of Morality_

In the four sermons he preached at Eisleben—the last he ever
delivered—Luther gives utterance to certain leading thoughts quite
peculiar to himself regarding morality and the “_fides specialis_.”
These utterances, under the circumstances to be regarded as the ripest
fruit of his reflection, must be taken in conjunction with other
statements made by him in his old age. They illustrate even more
clearly than what has gone before the cardinal point of his teaching
now under discussion, which, even more than any other, has had the bad
luck to be so often wrongly presented by combatants on either side.

Luther’s four sermons at Eisleben, which practically constitute his
Last Will and Testament of his views on faith and good works, were
delivered before a great concourse of people. A note on one delivered
on Feb. 2, 1546, tells us: “So great was the number of listeners
collected from the surrounding neighbourhood, market-places and
villages, that even Paul himself were he to come preaching could
hardly expect a larger audience.”[106] For the reports of his sermons
we are indebted to the pen of his pupil and companion on his journey,
Johann Aurifaber.[107] From their contents we can see how much Luther
was accustomed to adapt himself to his hearers and to the conditions
prevailing in the district where he preached. The great indulgence
then extended to the Jews in that territory of the Counts of Mansfeld;
the religious scepticism shared or favoured by certain people at the
Court; and, in particular, the moral licence—which, taking its cue
from Luther’s teaching, argued: “Well and good, I will sin lustily
since sin has been taken away and can no longer damn me,” as he
himself relates in the third sermon,[108]—all this lends colour to
the background of these addresses delivered at Eisleben. In particular
the third sermon, on the parable of the cockle (Mt. xiii. 24-30), is
well worth notice. It speaks of the weeds which infest the Church and
of those which spring up in ourselves; in the latter connection Luther
expatiates on the leading principles of his ethics, on faith, sin and
good works, and concludes by telling the Christian how he must live and
“grow in faith and the spirit.”[109] One cannot but acknowledge the
force with which the preacher, who was even then suffering acutely,
speaks on behalf of good works and the struggle against sin. What he
says is, however, tainted by his own peculiar views.

 “God forgives sin in that He does not impute it.... But from this
 it does not follow that you are without sin, although it is already
 forgiven; for in yourself you feel no hearty desire to obey God, to go
 to the sacrament or to hear God’s Word. Do you perhaps imagine that
 this is no sin, or mere child’s play?” Hence, he concludes, we must
 pray daily “for forgiveness and never cease to fight against ourselves
 and not give the rein to our sinful inclinations and lusts, nor obey
 them contrary to the dictates of conscience, but rather weaken and
 deaden sin ever more and more; for sin must not merely be forgiven but
 verily swept away and destroyed.”[110]

He exhorts his hearers to struggle against sin, whether original or
actual sin, and does so in words which place the “_fides specialis_” in
the first place and impose the obligation of a painful and laborious
warfare which contrasts strongly with the spontaneous joy of the just
in doing what is good, elsewhere taken for granted by Luther.

 “Our doctrine as to how we are to deal with our own uncleanness
 and sin is briefly this: Believe in Jesus Christ and your sins are
 forgiven; then avoid and withstand sin, wage a hand-to-hand fight with
 it, do not allow it its way, do not hate or cheat your neighbour,”

 Such admonitions strenuously to strive against sin involuntarily
 recall some very different assurances of his, viz. that the man who
 has once laid hold on righteousness by faith, at once and of his own
 accord does what is good: “Hence from faith there springs love and joy
 in God and a free and willing service of our neighbour out of simple

 Elsewhere too he says, “Good works are performed by faith and out of
 our heartfelt joy that we have through Christ obtained the remission
 of our sins.... Interiorly everything is sweet and delicious, and
 hence we do and suffer all things gladly.”[112] And again, just
 as we eat and drink naturally, so also to do what is good comes
 naturally to the believer; the word is fulfilled: Only believe and
 you will do all things of your own accord;[113] as a good tree must
 bring forth good fruit and cannot do otherwise, so, where there is
 faith, good works there must also be.[114] He speaks of this as a
 “_necessitas immutabilitatis_” and as a “_necessitas gratuita_,” no
 less necessary than that the sun must shine. In 1536 he even declared
 in an instruction to Melanchthon that it was not right to say that
 a believer _should_ do good works, because he can’t help performing
 them; who thinks of ordering “the sun to shine, a good tree to bring
 forth good fruit, or three and seven to make ten?”[115]

       *       *       *       *       *

 Of this curious idealism, first noticed in his “Von der Freyheyt eynes
 Christen Menschen,” we find traces in Luther till the very end of his
 life.[116] In later life, however, he either altered it a little or
 was less prone to insist on it in and out of season. This was due to
 his unfortunate experiences to the contrary; as a matter of fact faith
 failed to produce the effects expected, and only in rare instances and
 at its very best was it as fruitful as Luther wished. The truth is he
 had overrated it, obviously misled by his enthusiasm for his alleged
 discovery of the power of faith for justification.

He was also fond of saying—and of this assurance we find an echo
in his last sermon—that a true and lively faith should govern even
our feeling, and as we are so little conscious of such a feeling and
impulse to what is good, it follows that we but seldom have this faith,
i.e. this lively certainty of salvation.

 When a Christian is lazy, starts thinking he possesses everything and
 refuses to grow and increase, then “neither has he earnestness nor a
 true faith.” Even the just are conscious of sin (i.e. original sin),
 but they resist it; but where there is a distaste for the beloved
 Word of God there can be “no real faith.” Luther, to the detriment
 of his ethics, was disposed to relegate faith too much to the region
 of feeling and personal experience; this, however, he could scarcely
 avoid since his was a “_fides specialis_” in one’s own personal
 salvation. True religion, in his opinion, is ever to rejoice and be
 glad by reason of the forgiveness of sins and cheerfully to run the
 way of God’s service; this idea is prominent in his third sermon at
 Eisleben. The right faith “is toothsome and lively; it consoles and
 gladdens.”[117] “It bores its way into the heart and brings comfort
 and cheer”; “we feel glad and ready for anything.”[118]

 But because the actual facts and his experience failed to tally with
 his views, Luther, as already explained, had recourse to a convenient
 expedient; towards the close of his life we frequently hear him
 speaking as follows: Unfortunately we have not yet got this faith, for
 “we do not possess in our hearts, and cannot acquire, that joy which
 we would gladly feel”; thus we become conscious how the “old Adam, sin
 and our sinful nature, still persist within us; this it is that forces
 you and me to fail in our faith.”[119] “Even great saints do not
 always feel that joy and might, and we others, owing to our unbelief,
 cannot attain to this exalted consolation and strength ... and even
 though we would gladly believe, yet we cannot make our faith as strong
 as we ought.”[120] He vouchsafes no answer to the objection: But why
 then set up aims that cannot be reached; why make the starting-point
 consist in a “faith” of which man, owing to original sin, can only
 attain to a shadow, except perhaps in the rare instances of martyrs,
 or divinely endowed saints?

Luther, when insisting so strongly that good works must follow “faith,”
as a moral incentive to such works also refers incidentally to our duty
of gratitude and love in return for this faith bestowed on us.

Thus in the Eisleben sermons he invites the believer, the better to
arouse himself to good works, to address God in this way: “Heavenly
Father, there is no doubt that Thou hast given Thy Son for the
forgiveness of my sins. Therefore will I thank God for this during my
whole life, and praise and exalt Him, and no longer steal, practise
usury or be miserly, proud or jealous.... If you rightly believe,” he
continues, “that God has sent you His Son, you will, like a fruitful
tree, bring forth finer and finer blossoms the older you grow.”[121] In
what follows he is at pains to show that good works will depend on the
constant putting into practice of the “faith”; the Justification that
is won by the “_fides specialis_” is insufficient, in spite of all the
comfort it brings; rather we must be mindful of the saying of St. Paul:
“If by the spirit you mortify the deeds of the flesh you shall live.”
“But if your flesh won’t do it, then leave it to the Holy Ghost.”[122]

The motive for good works which Luther here advances, viz. “To thank
God, to praise and extol Him,”[123] is worthy of special attention;
it is the only real one he furnishes either here or elsewhere. Owing
to the love of God which arises in the heart at the thought of His
benefits we must rouse ourselves to serve Him. The idea is a grand one
and had always appealed to the noblest spirits in the Church before
Luther’s day. It is, however, a very different thing to represent this
motive of perfect love as the exclusive and only true incentive to
doing what is pleasing to God. Yet throughout Luther’s teaching this
is depicted as the general, necessary and only motive. “From faith and
the Holy Ghost necessarily comes the love of God, and together with
it love of our neighbour and every good work.”[124] When I realise by
faith that God has sent His Son for my sake, etc., says Luther, in his
Church-Postils, “I cannot do otherwise than love Him in return, do His
behests and keep His commandments.”[125] This love, however, as he
expressly states, must be altogether unselfish, i.e. must be what the
Old Testament calls a “whole-hearted love,” which in turn “presupposes
perfect self-denial.”[126]

It is plain that we have here an echo of the mysticism which had at one
time held him in thrall;[127] but his extravagant idealism was making
demands which ordinary Christians either never, or only very seldom,
could attain to.

The olden Church set up before the faithful a number of motives adapted
to rouse them to do good works; such motives she found in the holy fear
of God and His chastisements, in the hope of temporal or everlasting
reward; in the need of making satisfaction for sin committed, or,
finally, for those who had advanced furthest, in the love of God,
whether as the most perfect Being and deserving of all our love,
or on account of the benefits received from Him; she invited people
to weld all these various motives into one strong bond; those whose
dispositions were less exalted she strove to animate with the higher
motives of love, so far as the weakness of human nature allowed.
Luther, on the contrary, in the case of the righteous already assured
of salvation, not only excluded every motive other than love, but also,
quite unjustifiably, refused to hear of any love save that arising from
gratitude for the redemption and the faith. “To love God,” in his eyes,
“is nothing more than to be grateful for the benefit bestowed” (through
the redemption).[128] And, again, he imputes such power to this sadly
curtailed motive of love, or rather gratitude, that it is his only
prescription, even for those who are so cold-hearted that the Word of
God “comes in at one ear and goes out at the other,” and who hear of
the death of Christ with as little devotion as though they had been
told, “that the Turks had beaten the Sultan, or some other such tit-bit
of news.”[129]

_Some notable Omissions of Luther’s in the above Sermons on Morality_

Hitherto we have been considering what Luther had to say on the
question of faith and morality in his last sermons. It remains to point
out what he did not say, and what, on account of his own doctrines, it
was impossible for him to say; as descriptive of his ethics the latter
is perhaps of even greater importance.

 In the first place he says nothing of the supernatural life, which,
 according to the ancient teaching of the Church, begins with the
 infusion of sanctifying grace in the soul of the man who is justified.
 As we know, he would not hear of this new and vital principle in the
 righteous, which indeed was incompatible with his theory of the mere
 non-imputation of sin. Further, he also ignores the so-called “infused
 virtues” whence, with the help of actual grace, springs the new motive
 force of the man received into the Divine sonship. By his denial of
 the complete renewal of the inner man he placed himself in opposition
 to the ancient witnesses of Christendom, as Protestant historians of
 dogma now admit.[130]

 Secondly, he dismisses in silence the so-called actual grace. Not even
 in answering the question as to the source whence the believer draws
 strength and ability to strive after what is good, does he refer to
 it, so hostile is his whole system to any co-operation between the
 natural and the supernatural in man.

 Thirdly, he does not give its due to man’s freedom in co-operating
 in the doing of what is good; it is true he does not expressly deny
 it, but it was his usual practice in his addresses to the people to
 say as little as possible of his doctrine of the enslaved will.[131]
 Along with faith, however, he extols the Holy Ghost. “Leave it to
 the Holy Ghost!” Indeed faith itself, and the strong feeling which
 should accompany it, are exclusively the work of the Holy Ghost. It
 is the Holy Ghost alone Who believes, and feels, and works in man,
 according to Luther’s teaching elsewhere. This action of God alone is
 something different from actual grace. In the instructions he gave to
 Melanchthon in 1536 concerning justification and works,[132] Luther
 entirely ignores any action on man’s part as a free agent, and yet
 here we have the “clearest expression” of his doctrine of how good
 works follow on justification. The Protestant author of “Luthers
 Theologie in ihrer geschichtlichen Entwicklung” remarks of this work
 (and the same applies to the above sermons and other statements):
 “Luther is always desirous, on the one hand of depreciating man’s
 claim to personal worth and merit, and on the other by his testimony
 to God’s mercy in Christ, of furthering faith and the impulses and
 desires which spring from faith and the spirit; here, too, he says
 nothing of any choice as open to man between the Divine impulses
 working within him and those of his sinful nature.”[133]

 Fourthly, and most important of all, Luther says nothing of the true
 significance of morality for the attainment of everlasting life.

 The best and theologically most convincing reply to the objection of
 which he spoke: “Well and good, then I shall sin lustily,” etc. would
 have been: No, a good moral life is essential for salvation! The
 strongest Bible texts would have been there to back such a statement,
 and, to his powerful eloquence, it should have proved an attractive
 task to crush his frivolous opponents by so weighty an argument.
 Yet we find never a word concerning the necessity of good works for
 salvation, but merely an account of the wonders worked by faith of
 its own accord alone _after_ it has laid hold on the heart. This is
 readily understood, if justification is purely passive and effected
 solely by the Spirit of God which enkindles faith and, with it, covers
 over sin as with a shield, then the very being of the life of faith
 must be mere passivity, and there can be no more question of attaining
 to salvation by means of good deeds performed with the aid of grace.
 In the instruction for Melanchthon mentioned above we find at the
 end this clear query: “Is this saying true: Righteousness by works
 is necessary for salvation?” Luther answers by a distinction: “Not
 as if works operate or bring about salvation,” he says, “but rather
 they are present together with the faith that operates righteousness;
 just as of necessity I must be present in order to be saved.” This
 distinction, however, leaves the question just where it was before. He
 concludes his remarks on this vital matter with a jest on the purely
 external and fortuitous presence of works in the man received into
 eternal life: “I too shall be in at the death, said the rascal when
 he was about to be hanged and many people were hurrying to see the

 All the more strongly did Luther in his usual way describe in his last
 sermon the natural sinfulness which persists in man owing to original

 The sin that still dwells within us “forces” man to prevent faith
 and works coming to their own.[135] For “he is not yet without sin,
 though he has the forgiveness of sins and is sanctified by the Holy
 Ghost.” In consequence of the “foulness” within him “the longer he
 lives the worse he gets.” “We cannot get rid of our sinful body.”[136]
 For this reason even the “best minds” so often are indifferent to
 eternal life. On account of the evil taint in our flesh we are
 unable to rise as high as we ought.[137] But if original sin and
 its workings were declared really sinful in man (for even the very
 motions against “heartfelt pleasure” in God’s service are, so we are
 told, “sins”[138]), then it is no wonder that Luther should have been
 confronted with the question of which he speaks: “If sin be in me, how
 then can I be pleasing to God?”—a question which formerly could not
 have been asked of those whose original sin had been washed away in
 baptism. The teaching of the olden Church had been, that original sin
 was blotted out by baptism, but that the inclination to evil persisted
 in man to his last breath, though without any fault on his part so
 long as consent was lacking.[139]

 Still less to be wondered at was it, that many, unable to regard
 themselves as responsible or guilty on account of the involuntary
 motions of original sin, began to doubt whether any responsibility
 existed for evil actions or whether moral effort was within the bounds
 of possibility.

 Further, according to Luther, our constant exercise of ourselves in
 faith and our “rubbing” ourselves against sin was finally to lead
 “not merely to our sins being forgiven but to their being altogether
 rooted up and swept away; for your shabby, smelly body could not enter
 heaven without first being cleansed and beautified.”[140] Taking for
 granted his mystic assumption that sinful concupiscence can at last
 be “swept away,” he insists on our continuing hopefully “to amend
 by faith and prayer our weakness and to fight against it until such
 a change takes place in our sinful body that sin no longer exists
 therein,”[141] though, in his opinion, this cannot entirely be until
 we reach heaven. Yet experience, had he but opened his eyes to it,
 here once again contradicted him. The “_fomes peccati_,” as the
 Catholic Church rightly teaches, cannot be extinguished so long as man
 is on this earth, though it may be damped, and, by the practice of
 what is right and the use of the means of grace, be rendered harmless
 to our moral life. The Church expected nothing unreasonable from man,
 though her moral standards were of the highest. Luther, however, by
 abandoning the Church’s ethics, came to teach a strange mixture of
 perverted, unworkable idealism and all too great indulgence towards
 human frailty.

_Luther’s Vacillation between the Two Faiths, Old and New, in the
Matter of Morality and the Assurance of Salvation_

Many discordant utterances, betraying his uncertainty and his
struggles, have been bequeathed to us by Luther regarding the main
questions of morality and as to how we may insure salvation. First we
have his statements with regard to the importance of morality in God’s

 In 1537 in a Disputation on June 1 he denounced the thesis, “Good
 works are necessary for salvation.”[142] In the same way, in a
 sermon of 1535, he asserted that it was by no means necessary for us
 to perform good works “in order to blot out sin, to overcome death
 and win heaven, but merely for the profit and assistance of our
 neighbour.” “Our works,” he there says, “can only shape what concerns
 our temporal life and being”; higher than this they cannot rise.[143]

 Yet, when thus degrading works, he had again and again to struggle
 within his own heart against the faith of the ancient Church
 concerning the merit of good deeds. Especially was this the case
 when he considered the “texts which demand a good life on account
 of the eternal reward,”[144] for instance, “If thou wilt enter into
 life, keep the commandments” (Mt. xix. 17), or “Lay up for yourselves
 treasure in heaven” (_ib._, vi. 20). With them he deals in a sermon
 of 1522. The eternal reward, he here says, follows the works because
 it is a result of the faith which itself is the cause of the works.
 But the believer must not “look to the reward,” or trouble about it.
 Why then does God promise a reward?—In order that “all may know
 what the natural result of a good life will be.” Yet he also admits
 a certain anxiety on the part of the pious Christian to be certain
 of his reward, and the favourable effect of such a certainty on the
 good man’s will.[145] Here he exhorts his listeners; “that you be
 content to know and be assured that this indeed will be the result,”
 whilst in another sermon of that same year he describes as follows the
 promise of eternal life as the reward of works: “It is an incentive
 and inducement that makes us zealous in piety and in the service
 and praise of God.... That God should guide us so kindly makes us
 esteem the more His Fatherly Will and the Mercy of Christ”—but on no
 account “must we be good as if for the sake of the reward.”[146] He
 also quotes incidentally Mt. xix. 29, where our Lord says that all
 who leave home, brethren, etc. for His name’s sake “shall receive
 a hundredfold and shall possess life everlasting”; also Heb. x. 35
 concerning the “great reward” that awaits those who lose not their
 confidence. Such statements, he refuses, however, to see referred to
 salvation, which will be the equal portion of all true believers,
 but, in his arbitrary fashion, explains them as denoting some extra
 ornament of glory.[147]

       *       *       *       *       *

 “Good works will be present wherever faith is.” As this supposition, a
 favourite one with Luther from early days, fails to verify itself in
 practice, and as the expedients he proposed to meet the new difficulty
 are scattered throughout his writings, an admirer in recent times
 ventured to sum up these elements into a system under the following
 headings: “Faulty morality is a proof of a faulty faith.” “The fact
 of morality being present proves the presence of faith.” “Moral
 indolence induces loss of faith.” “Zeal for morality causes faith to
 increase.”[148] The true explanation would therefore seem always to
 be in the assumption of a want of “faith,” i.e. of a lack of that
 absolute certainty of personal salvation which should regulate all
 religious life,[149] in other words moral failings should be held to
 prove the absence of this saving certainty.

 Seen in this light good works are of importance, as the outward
 demonstration that a person possesses the “_fides specialis_,” and
 in this wise alone are they a guarantee of everlasting happiness.
 They prove “before the world and before his own conscience” that
 a Christian really has the “faith.” This is what Luther expressly
 teaches in his Church-Postils: “Therefore hold fast to this, that a
 man who is inwardly a Christian is justified before God solely by
 faith and without any works; but outwardly and publicly, before the
 people and to himself, he is justified by works, i.e. he becomes
 known to others as, and certain in himself that, he is inwardly
 just, believing and pious. Thus you may term one an open or outward
 justification and the other an inward justification.”[150] Hence
 Luther’s certainty of salvation, however strong it may be, still
 requires to be tested by something else as to whether it is the true
 “faith” deserving of God’s compassion; for “it is quite possible for
 a man never to doubt God’s mercy towards him though all the while he
 does not really possess it”;[151] according to Luther, namely, there
 is such a thing as a fictitious faith.

 In Luther’s opinion “faith” was a grasping of something actually
 there. Hence if God’s mercy was not there, then neither was there any
 “faith.” Accordingly, an “unwarrantable assurance of salvation” was
 not at all impossible, and works served as a means of detecting it.
 Walther, to whom we owe our summary, does not, it is true, prove the
 existence of such a state of “unwarrantable assurance” by any direct
 quotation from Luther’s writings, and, indeed, it might be difficult
 to find any definite statement to this effect, seeing that Luther
 was chary of speaking of any failure in the personal certainty of
 salvation, on which alone, exclusive of works, he based the whole work
 of justification.

 And yet, as Luther himself frequently says, moods and feelings are
 no guarantee of true faith; what is required are the works, which,
 like good fruit, always spring from a good tree.—So strongly, in
 spite of all his predilection for faith alone, is he impelled again
 and again to have recourse to works. In many passages they tend to
 become something more than mere signs confirmatory of faith. We need
 not examine here how far his statements concerning faith and works are
 consistent, and to what extent the sane Catholic teaching continued to
 influence him.

 What is remarkable, however, is, that, in his commendable efforts
 to urge the performance of works in order to curtail the pernicious
 results of his doctrine, Luther comes to attribute a saving action
 to “faith,” only on condition that, out of love of God, we “strive”
 against sin. In one of his last sermons at Eisleben he tells his
 hearers: Sins are forgiven by faith and “are not imputed _so far as
 you set yourself to fight against them_, and learn to repeat the Our
 Father diligently ... and to grow in strength as you grow in age; and
 you must be at pains to exercise your faith by resisting the sins
 that remain in you ... in short, you must become stronger, humbler,
 more patient and believe more firmly.”[152] The conditional “so far
 as” furnishes a key which has to be used in many other passages
 where works are demanded as well as faith. Faith, there, is real and
 wholesome “in so far as” it produces works: “For we too admit it
 and have always taught it, better and more forcibly than they [the
 Papists], that we must both preach and perform works, and that they
 must follow the faith, and, that, where they do not follow there the
 faith is not as it should be.”[153]

 Nor does he merely say that works of charity must follow eventually,
 but that charity must be infused by the Spirit of God together with
 faith of which it is the fruit.

 “For though faith makes us righteous and pure, yet it cannot be
 without love, and the Spirit must infuse love together with faith.
 In short, where there is true faith, there the Holy Ghost is also
 present, and where the Holy Ghost is, there love and all good things
 must also be.... Love is a consequence or fruit of the Spirit which
 comes to us wrapped up in the faith.”[154] “Charity is so closely
 bound up [with faith and hope] that it can never be parted from faith
 where this is true faith, and as little as there can be fire without
 heat and smoke, so little can faith exist without charity.”[155] From
 gratitude (as we have heard him state above, p. 26) the man who is
 assured of salvation must be “well disposed towards God and keep His
 commandments.” But if he be “sweetly disposed towards God” this must
 “show itself in all charity.”

Taking the words at their face value we might find in these and similar
statements on charity something reminiscent of the Catholic doctrine
of a faith working through love.[156] But though this is what Luther
should logically have arrived at, he was in reality always kept far
from it by his idea both of faith and of imputation. It should be
noted that he was fond of taking shelter behind the assertion, that
his “faith” also included, or was accompanied by, charity. He was
obliged to do this in self-defence against the objections of certain
Evangelicals—who rushed to conclusions he would not accept—or of
Catholic opponents. Indeed, in order to pacify the doubters, he even
went so far as to say, that love preceded the “faith” he taught, and
that “faith” itself was simply a work like any other work done for the
fulfilling of the commandments.

 It was in this sense that he wrote in the “Sermon von den guten
 Werken,” composed at the instance of his prudent friend Spalatin for
 the Duke of Saxony: “Such trust and faith brings with it charity and
 hope; indeed, if we look at the matter aright, charity comes first, or
 at least simultaneously with faith. For I should not care to trust God
 unless I believed He would be kindly and gracious to me, whereby I am
 well disposed towards Him, trust Him heartily and perform all that is
 good in His sight.” In the same connection he characterises “faith”
 as a “work of the first Commandment,” and as a “true keeping of that
 command,” and as the “first, topmost and best work from which all
 others flow.”[157] It might seem, though this is but apparent, that he
 had actually come to acknowledge the reality and merit of man’s works,
 in the teeth of his denial of free-will and of the possibility of

 Of charity as involved in faith he wrote in a similar strain in 1519
 to Johann Silvius Egranus, who at that time still belonged to his
 party, but was already troubled with scruples concerning the small
 regard shown for ethical motives and the undue stress laid on faith
 alone: “I do not separate justifying faith from charity,” Luther told
 him, “on the contrary we believe because God, in Whom we believe,
 pleases us and is loved by us.” To him all this was quite clear and
 plain, but the new-comers who had busied themselves with faith, hope
 and charity “understood not one of the three.”[158]

 We may recall how the enquiring mind of Egranus was by no means
 entirely satisfied by this explanation. In 1534 he published a bitter
 attack on the Lutheran doctrine of works, though he never returned
 more than half-way from Lutheranism to the olden Church.[159]

 Many, like Silvius Egranus, who at the outset had been won over to the
 new religion, took fright when they saw that, owing to the preference
 shown to faith (i.e. the purely personal assurance of salvation), the
 ethical principles regarding Christian perfection and man’s aim in
 life, received but scant consideration.

Many truly saw therein an alarming abasement of the moral standard and
accordingly returned to the doctrine of their fathers. As the ideal to
be aimed at throughout life the Church had set up before them progress
in the love of God, encouraging them to put this love in practice by
fidelity to the duties of their calling and by a humble and confident
trust in God’s Fatherly promises rather than in any perilous “_fides

 In previous ages Christian perfection had rightly been thought to
 consist in the development of the moral virtues, particularly of
 charity, the queen of all the others. Now, however, Luther represented
 “the consoling faith in the forgiveness of sins as the sum of
 Christian perfection.”[160] According to him the “real essence of
 personal Christianity lies in the confidence of the justified sinner
 that he shares the paternal love of the Almighty of which he has been
 assured by the work and person of Jesus Christ.” In this sense alone
 can he be said to have “rediscovered Christianity” as a religion. We
 are told that “the essence of Lutheran Christianity is to be found
 in Luther’s reduction of practical Christianity to the doctrine of
 salvation.”[161] He “altered the ideal of religious perfection as
 no other Christian before his day had ever done.” The “revulsion”
 in moral ideals which this necessarily involved spelt “a huge

 George Wicel, who, after having long been an adherent of Lutheranism,
 broke away from it in consequence of the moral results referred to,
 wrote, in 1533, with much bitterness in the defence he addressed to
 Justus Jonas: “Amongst you one hears of nothing but of remitting
 and forgiving; you don’t seem to see that your seductions sow more
 sins than ever you can take away. Your people, it is true, are so
 constituted that they will only hear of the forgiving and never of
 the retaining of sin (John xx. 23); evidently they stand more in need
 of being loosed than of being bound. Ah, you comfortable theologians!
 You are indeed sharp-sighted enough in all this business, for were
 you to bind as often as you loose, you, the ringleaders of the party,
 would soon find yourselves all alone with your faith, and might then
 withdraw into some hole to weep for the loss of your authority and
 congregation.” “Ah, you rascals, what a fine Evangelical mode of life
 have you wrought with your preachment on grace.”[163]

5. Abasement of Practical Christianity

To follow up the above statement emanating from a Protestant
source, concerning the “huge decline” in moral ideals and practical
Christianity involved in Luther’s work, we shall go on to consider how
greatly he did in point of fact narrow and restrict ethical effort in
comparison with what was required by the ethics of earlier days. In so
doing he was following the psychological impulse discernible even in
the first beginnings of his dislike for the austerity of his Order and
the precepts of the Church.

_Lower Moral Standards_

1. The only works of obligation in the service of God are faith, praise
and thanksgiving. God, he says, demands only our faith, our praise
and our gratitude. Of our works He has no need.[164] He restricts our
“deeds towards God” to the praise-offering or thank-offering for the
good received, and to the prayer-offering “or Our Father, against the
evil and badness we would wish to be rid of.”[165] This service is the
duty of each individual Christian and is practised in common in Divine
worship. The latter is fixed and controlled with the tacit consent of
the congregation by the ministers who represent the people; in this we
find the trace of Luther’s innate aversion to any law or obligation
which leads him to avoid anything savouring of legislative action.[166]

In the preface to his instructions to the Visitors in 1528 he declares,
for instance, that the rules laid down were not meant to “found new
Papal Decretals”; they were rather to be taken as a “history of and
witness to our faith” and not as “strict commands.”[167] This well
expresses his antipathy to the visible Catholic Church, her hierarchy
and her so-called man-made ordinances for public worship.

Since, to his mind, it is impossible to offer God anything but love,
thanksgiving and prayer, it follows that, firstly, the Eucharistic
Sacrifice falls, and, with it, all the sacrifices made to the greater
glory of God by self-denial and abnegation, obedience or bodily
penances, together with all those works—practised in imitation of
Christ by noble souls—done over and above the bounden duties of each
one’s calling. He held that it was wrong to say of such sacrifices,
made by contrite and loving hearts, that they were both to God’s
glory and to our own advantage, or to endeavour to justify them by
arguing that: Whoever does not do great things for God must expect
small recompense. Among the things which fell before him were: vows,
processions, pilgrimages, veneration of relics and of the Saints,
ecclesiastical blessings and sacramentals, not to speak of holy
days and prescribed fasts. With good reason can one speak of a “huge

He justifies as follows his radical opposition to the Catholic forms
of Divine worship: “The only good we can do in God’s service is to
praise and thank Him, in which in fact the only true worship of God
consists.... If any other worship of God be proposed to you, know that
it is error and deception.”[168] “It is a rank scandal that the Papists
should encourage people to toil for God with works so as thereby to
expiate their sins and secure grace.... If you wish to believe aright
and really to lay hold on Christ, you must discard all works whereby
you may think you labour for God; all such are nothing but scandals
leading you away from Christ and from God; in God’s sight no work is of
any value except Christ’s own; this you must leave to toil for you in
God’s sight; you yourself must perform no other work for Him than to
believe that Christ does His work for you.”[169]

In the same passage he attempts to vindicate this species of Quietism
with the help of some recollections from his own earlier career, viz.
by the mystic principle which had at one time ruled him: “You must be
blind and lame, deaf and dead, poor and leprous, or else you will be
scandalised in Christ. This is what it means to know Christ aright and
to accept Him; this is to believe as befits a true Christian.”[170]

2. “All other works, apart from faith, must be directed towards our
neighbour.”[171] As we know, besides that faith, gratitude and love
which are God’s due, Luther admits no good works but those of charity
towards our neighbour. By our faith we give to God all that He asks of
us. “After this, think only of doing for your neighbour what Christ
has done for you, and let all your works and all your life go to the
service of your neighbour.”[172]—God, he says elsewhere, asks only for
our thank-offering; “look upon Me as a Gracious God and I am content”;
“thereafter serve your neighbour, freely and for nothing.”[173] Good
works in his eyes are only “good when they are profitable to others and
not to yourself.” Indeed he goes so far as to assert: “If you find
yourself performing a work for God, or for His Saints, or for yourself
and not alone for your neighbour, know that the work is not good.”[174]
The only explanation of such sentences, as already hinted, is to be
found in his passionate polemics against the worship and the pious
exercises of the Catholics. It is true that such practices were sullied
at that time by certain blemishes, owing to the abuses rampant in the
Church; yet the Catholic could confidently answer in self-defence in
the words Luther proceeds to put on his lips: Such “works are spiritual
and profitable to the soul of our neighbour, and God thereby is served
and propitiated and His Grace obtained.”

Luther rudely retorts: “You lie in your throat; God is served not
by works but by faith; faith must do everything that is to be done
as between God and ourselves.” That the priests and monks should
vaunt their religious exercises as spiritual treasures, he brands as
a “Satanic lie.” “The works of the Papists such as organ-playing,
chanting, vesting, ringing, smoking [incensation], sprinkling,
pilgriming and fasting, etc., are doubtless fine and many, grand and
long, broad and thick works, but about them there is nothing good,
useful or profitable.”

3. “Know that there are no good works but such as God has commanded.”
What, apart from faith, makes a work a good one is solely God’s express
command. Luther, while finding fault with the self-chosen works of the
Catholics, points to the Ten Commandments as summing up every good
work willed by God. “There used to be ecclesiastical precepts which
were to supersede the Decalogue.” “The commandments of the Church were
invented and set up by men in addition to and beyond God’s Word. Luther
therefore deals with the true worship of God in the light of the Ten
Commandments.”[175] As for the Evangelical Counsels so solemnly enacted
in the New Testament, viz. the striving after a perfection which is
not of obligation, Luther, urged on by his theory that only what is
actually commanded partakes of the nature of a good work, came very
near branding them as an invention of the Papists.

 They have “made the Counsels twelve” in number,[176] he says, “and
 twist the Gospel as they please.” They have split the Gospel into two,
 into “_Consilia et præcepta_.” “Christ,” so he teaches, “gave only
 one Counsel in the whole of the Gospel, viz. that of chastity, which
 even a layman can preserve, assuming him to have the grace.” He sneers
 at the Pope and the Doctors because they had established not only a
 clerical order which should be superior to the laity, but also an
 order of the counsels the duty of whose members it was to portray the
 Evangelical perfection by the keeping of the three vows of poverty,
 chastity and obedience. “By this the common Christian life and faith
 became like flat, sour beer; everyone rubbed his eyes, despised the
 commandments and ran after the counsels. And after a good while they
 at last discovered man-made ordinances in the shape of habits, foods,
 chants, lessons, tonsures, etc., and thus God’s Law went the way of
 faith, both being blotted out and forgotten, so that, henceforth,
 to be perfect and to live according to the counsels means to wear a
 black, white, grey or coloured cowl, to bawl in church, wear a tonsure
 and to abstain from eggs, meat, butter, etc.”[177]

 In the heat of his excitement he even goes so far as to deny the
 necessity of any service in the churches, because God demands only the
 praise and thanks of the heart, and “this may be given ... equally
 well in the home, in the field, or anywhere else.” “If they should
 force any other service upon you, know that it is error and deception;
 just as hitherto the world has been crazy, with its houses, churches
 and monasteries set aside for the worship of God, and its vestments of
 gold and silk, etc. ... which expenditure had better been used to help
 our neighbour, if it was really meant for God.”[178]

 It was of course impossible for him to vindicate in the long run so
 radical a standpoint concerning the churches, and, elsewhere, he
 allows people their own way on the question of liturgical vestments
 and other matters connected with worship.

4. The good works which are performed where there is no “faith” amount
to sin. This strangely unethical assertion Luther is fond of repeating
in so extravagant a form as can only be explained psychologically by
the utter blindness of his bias in favour of the “_fides specialis_”
by him discovered. True morality belongs solely to those who have been
justified after his own fashion, and no others have the slightest right
to credit themselves with anything of the sort.

 When, in 1528, in his “Great Confession” he expounded his “belief
 bit by bit,” declaring that he had “most diligently weighed all
 these articles” as in the presence of death and judgment, he there
 wrote: “Herewith I reject and condemn as rank error every doctrine
 that exalts our free-will, which is directly opposed to the help
 and grace of our Saviour Jesus Christ. For seeing, that, outside
 of Christ, death and sin are our masters and the devil our God and
 sovereign, there can be no power or might, no wit or understanding
 whereby we could make ourselves fit for, or could even strive after,
 righteousness and life, but on the contrary we must remain blind
 and captive, slaves of sin and the devil, and must do what pleases
 them and runs counter to God and His Commandments.”[179] Even the
 most pious of the Papists, he goes on to say, since they lack Christ
 and the “Faith,” have “merely a great semblance of holiness,” and
 although “there seem to be many good works” among them, “yet all is
 lost”; chastity, poverty and obedience as practised in the convents
 is nothing but “blasphemous holiness,” and “what is horrible is that
 thereby they refuse Christ’s help and grace.”[180]

 This, his favourite idea, finds its full expression in his learned
 Latin Commentary on Galatians (1535): “In the man who does not believe
 in Christ not only are all sins mortal, but even his good works are
 sins”;[181] for the benefit of the people he enunciates the same
 in his Church-Postils. “The works performed without faith are sins
 ... for such works of ours are soiled and foul in God’s eyes, nay,
 He looks on them with horror and loathing.” As a matter of course
 he thinks that God looks upon concupiscence as sin, even in its
 permissible manifestations, e.g. in the “_opus conjugalis_.” Amongst
 the heathen even virtues such as patriotism, continence, justice and
 courage in which, owing to the divine impulses (“_divini motus_”),
 they may shine, are tainted by the presence in them of original sin
 (“_in ipsis heroicis virtutibus depravata_”).[182] As to whether such
 men were saved, Luther refuses to say anything definite; he holds fast
 to the text that without faith it is impossible to please God. Only
 those who, in the days of Noe, did not believe may, so he declares, be
 saved in accordance with his reading of 1 Peter iii. 19 by Christ’s
 preaching of salvation on the occasion of His descent into hell. He
 is also disposed to include among those saved by this supposed course
 of sermons delivered “_in inferis_,” such fine men of every nation as
 Scipio, Fabius and others of their like.[183]

 In general, however, the following holds good: Before “faith and
 grace” are infused into the heart “by the Spirit alone,” “as the work
 of God which He works in us”—everything in man is the “work of the
 Law, of no value for justification, but unholy and opposed to God
 owing to the unbelief in which it is performed.”[184]

_Annulment of the Supernatural and Abasement of the Natural Order_

From the above statements it is clear that Luther, in doing away with
the distinction between the natural and supernatural order, also did
away with the olden doctrine of virtue, and without setting up anything
positive in its place. He admits no naturally good action different
from that performed “by faith and grace”; no such thing exists as a
natural, moral virtue of justice. This opinion is closely bound up with
his whole warfare on man’s natural character and endowments in respect
of what is good. Moreover, what he terms the state of grace is not the
supernatural state the Church had always understood, but an outward
imputation by God; it is indeed God’s goodness towards man, but no new
vital principle thanks to which we act justly.[185]

Not only does he deny the distinction between natural and supernatural
goodness, essential as it is for forming an ethical estimate of man,
but he practically destroys both the natural and supernatural order.
Even in other points of Luther’s doctrine we can notice the abrogation
of the fundamental difference between the two orders; for instance
in his view of Adam’s original state, which, according to him, was
a natural not a supernatural one, “no gift,” as he says, “apart
from man’s nature, and bestowed on him from without, but a natural
righteousness so that it came natural to him to love God [as he did],
to believe in Him and to acknowledge Him.”[186] It is, however, in the
moral domain that this peculiarity of his new theology comes out most
glaringly. Owing to his way of proceeding and the heat of his polemics
he seems never to have become fully conscious of how far-reaching the
consequences were of his destruction of all distinction between the
natural and the supernatural order.

Natural morality, viz. that to which man attains by means of his
unaided powers, appears to him simply an invention of the pagan
Aristotle. He rounds on all the theologians of his day for having
swallowed so dangerous an error in their Aristotelian schools to the
manifest detriment of the divine teaching. This he does, for instance,
at the commencement of his recently published Commentary on Romans. He
calls it a “righteousness of the philosophers and lawyers” in itself
utterly worthless.[187] A year later, in his manuscript Commentary
on Hebrews, he has already reached the opinion, that, “the virtues
of all the philosophers, nay, of all men, whether they be lawyers or
theologians, have only a semblance of virtue, but in reality are vices

But what would be quite incomprehensible, had he actually read the
scholastic theologians whose “civil, Aristotelian doctrine of justice”
he was so constantly attacking, is, that he charges them with having
stopped short at this natural justice and with not having taught
anything higher; this higher justice was what he himself had brought
to light, this was the “Scriptural justice which depended more on the
Divine imputation than on the nature of things,”[189] and was not
acquired by deeds but bestowed by God. The fact is, however, that
the Schoolmen did not rest content merely with natural justice, but
insist that true justice is something higher, supernatural and only
to be attained to with the help of grace; it is only in some few
later theologians with whom Luther may possibly have been acquainted,
that this truth fails to find clear expression. Thomas of Aquin, for
instance, distinguishes between the civil virtue of justice and the
justice infused in the act of justification. He says expressly: “A man
may be termed just in two ways, on account of civil [natural] justice
and on account of infused justice. Civil justice is attained to without
the grace which comes to the assistance of the natural powers, but
infused justice is the work of grace. Neither the one nor the other,
however, consists in the mere doing of what is good, for not everyone
who does what is good is just, but only he who does it as do the

 With regard to supernatural (infused) justice, the Church’s
 representatives, quite differently from Luther, had taught that man by
 his natural powers could only attain to God as the Author of nature
 but not to God as He is in Himself, i.e. to God as He has revealed and
 will communicate Himself in heaven; it is infused, sanctifying grace
 alone that places us in a higher order than that of nature and raises
 us to the status of being children of God; in it we love God, by
 virtue of the “habit” of love bestowed upon us, as He is in Himself,
 i.e. as He wills to be loved; sanctifying grace it is that brings
 us into a true relation with our supernatural and final end, viz.
 the vision of God in heaven, in which sense it may be called a vital
 principle infused into the soul.[191]

 This language Luther either did not or would not understand. On this
 point particularly he had to suffer for his ignorance of the better
 class of theologians. He first embraced Occam’s hypothesis of the
 _possibility_ of an imputation of justice, and then, going further
 along the wrong road, he changed this possibility into a reality;
 soon, owing to his belief in the entire corruption of the natural
 man, imputed justice became, to him, the only justice. In this way
 he deprived theology of supernatural as well as of natural justice;
 for imputed justice is really no justice at all, but merely an alien
 one. “With Luther we have the end of the supernatural. His basic view,
 of justifying faith as the work of God in us performed without our
 co-operation, bears indeed a semblance of the supernatural.... But the
 supernatural is ever something alien.”[192]

 What he had in his mind was always a foreign righteousness produced,
 not by man’s own works and acts performed under the help of grace,
 but only by the work of another; this we are told by Luther in so
 many words: “True and real piety which is of worth in God’s sight
 consists in alien works and not in our own.”[193] “If we wish to work
 for God we must not approach Him with our own works but with foreign
 ones.” “These are the works of Our Lord Jesus Christ.” “All that He
 has is ours.... I may attribute to myself all His works as though I
 had actually done them, if only I believe in Christ.... Our works
 will not suffice, all our powers together are too weak to resist even
 the smallest sin.... Hence when the Law comes and accuses you of not
 having kept it, send it to Christ and say: There is the Man who has
 fulfilled it, to Him I cling, He has fulfilled it for me and bestowed
 His fulfilment of it upon me; then the Law will have to hold its

_The Book of Concord on the Curtailment of Free-Will._

When orthodox Lutheranism gained a local and temporary victory in 1580
with the so-called Book of Concord, the authors of the book deplored
the inferences drawn from Luther’s moral teaching, particularly from
his denial of free-will, the dangers of which had already long been

 “It is not unknown to us,” they say, “that this holy doctrine of the
 malice and impotence of free-will, the doctrine whereby our conversion
 and regeneration is ascribed solely to God and in no way to our own
 powers, has been godlessly, shamelessly and hatefully abused.... Many
 are becoming immoral and savage and neglectful of all pious exercises;
 they say: ‘Since we cannot turn to God of our own natural powers, let
 us remain hostile to God or wait until He converts us by force and
 against our will.’” “It is true that they possess no power to act in
 spiritual things, and that the whole business of conversion is merely
 the work of the Holy Ghost. And thus they refuse to listen to the Word
 of God, or to study it, or to receive the Sacraments; they prefer to
 wait until God infuses His gifts into them directly from above, and
 until they feel and are certain by inward experience that they have
 been converted by God.”

 “Others,” they continue, speaking of the case as a possibility and
 not as a sad reality, “may possibly give themselves up to sad and
 dangerous doubts as to whether they have been predestined by God to
 heaven, and as to whether God will really work His gifts in them by
 the help of the Holy Ghost. Being weak and troubled in mind they
 do not grasp aright our pious doctrine of free-will, and they are
 confirmed in their doubts by the fact that they do not find within
 themselves any firm and ardent faith or hearty devotion to God, but
 only weakness, misery and fear.” The authors then proceed to deal with
 the widespread fear of predestination to hell.[195]

We have as it were a sad monument set up to the morality of the
enslaved will and the doctrine of imputation, when the Book of
Concord, in spite of the sad results it has just admitted, goes on
in the same chapter to insist that all Luther’s principles should be
preserved intact. “This matter Dr. Luther settled most excellently
and thoroughly in his ‘_De servo arbitrio_’ against Erasmus, where he
showed this opinion to be pious and irrefutable. Later on he repeated
and further explained the same doctrine in his splendid Commentary
on Genesis, particularly in his exposition of ch. xxvi. There, too,
he made other matters clear—e.g. the doctrine of the ‘_absoluta
necessitas_’—defended them against the objections of Erasmus and,
by his pious explanations, set them above all evil insinuations and
misrepresentations. All of which we here corroborate and commend to the
diligent study of all.”[196]

Melanchthon’s and his school’s modifications of these extreme doctrines
are here sharply repudiated, though Luther himself “never spoke with
open disapproval” of Melanchthon’s Synergism.[197]

 “From our doctrinal standpoint,” we there read, “it is plain that the
 teaching of the Synergists is false, who allege that man in spiritual
 things is not _altogether_ dead to what is good but merely badly
 wounded and _half_ dead.... They teach wrongly, that after the Holy
 Spirit has given us, through the Evangel, grace, forgiveness and
 salvation, then free-will is able to meet God by its natural powers
 and ... co-operate with the Holy Ghost. In reality the ability to lay
 hold upon grace (‘_facultas applicandi se ad gratiam_’) is solely due
 to the working of the Holy Ghost.”

 What then is man to do, and how are the consequences described above
 to be obviated, on the one hand libertinism, on the other fear of
 predestination to hell?

 Man still possesses a certain freedom, so the Book of Concord teaches,
 e.g. “to be present or not at the Church’s assemblies, to listen or
 close his ears to the Word of God.”

 “The preaching of the Word of God is however the tool whereby the Holy
 Ghost seeks to effect man’s conversion and to make him ready to will
 and to work (‘_in ipsis et velle et perficere operari vult_’).” “Man
 is free to open his ears to the Word of God or to read it even when
 not yet converted to God or born again. In some way or other man still
 has free-will in such outward things even since Adam’s Fall.” Hence,
 by the Word, “by the preaching and contemplation of the sweet Evangel
 of the forgiveness of sins, the spark of ‘faith’ is enkindled in his

 “Although all effort without the power and work of the Holy Spirit is
 worthless, yet neither the preacher nor the hearer must doubt of this
 grace or work of the Holy Spirit,” so long as the preacher proceeds
 according to God’s will and command and “the hearer listens earnestly
 and diligently and dwells on what he hears.” We are not to judge of
 the working of the Holy Ghost by our feelings, but “agreeably with
 the promises of God’s Word.” We must hold that “the Word preached is
 the organ of the Holy Ghost whereby He truly works and acts in our

 With the help of this queer, misty doctrine which, as we may notice,
 makes of preaching a sort of Sacrament working “_ex opere operato_,”
 Luther’s followers attempted to construct a system out of their
 master’s varying and often so arbitrary statements. At any rate
 they upheld his denial of any natural order of morality distinct
 from the order of grace. It was to remain true that man, “previous
 to conversion, possesses indeed an understanding, but not of divine
 things, and a will, though not for anything good and wholesome.” In
 this respect man stands far below even a stock or stone, because
 he resists the Word and Will of God (which they cannot do) until
 God raises him up from the death of sin, enlightens and creates him

 Nevertheless several theses, undoubtedly Luther’s own, are here
 glossed over or quietly bettered. If, for instance, according to
 Luther everything takes place of absolute necessity (a fact to which
 the Formula of Concord draws attention), if man, even in the natural
 acts of the mind, is bound by what is fore-ordained,[201] then even
 the listening to a sermon and the dwelling on it cannot be matters of
 real freedom. Moreover the man troubled with fears on predestination,
 is comforted by the well-known Bible texts, which teach that it is
 the Will of God that all should be saved; whilst nothing is said of
 Luther’s doctrine that it is only the revealed God who speaks thus,
 whereas the hidden God acts quite otherwise, plans and carries out
 the very opposite, “damns even those who have not deserved it—and,
 yet, does not thereby become unjust.”[202] Reference is made to
 Adam’s Fall, whereby nature has been depraved; but nothing is said
 of Luther’s view that Adam himself simply could not avoid falling
 because God did not then “bestow on him the spirit of obedience.”[203]
 But, though these things are passed over in silence, due prominence
 is given to those ideas of Luther’s of which the result is the
 destruction of all moral order, natural as well as supernatural.
 According to the Formula of Concord the natural order was shattered
 by Adam’s Fall; as for the supernatural order it is replaced by the
 alien, mechanical order of imputation.

_Christianity merely Inward. The Church Sundered from the World_

Among the things which Luther did to the detriment of the moral
principle must be numbered his merciless tearing asunder of spiritual
and temporal, of Christian and secular life.

The olden Church sought to permeate the world with the religious
spirit. Luther’s trend was in a great measure towards making the
secular state and its office altogether independent; this, indeed,
the more up-to-date sort of ethics is disposed to reckon among his
greatest achievements. Luther even went so far as to seek to erect into
a regular system this inward, necessary opposition of world and Church.
Of this we have a plain example in certain of his instructions to the
authorities.[204] Whereas the Church had exhorted people in power to
temper with Christianity their administration of civil justice and
their use of physical force—urging that the sovereign was a Christian
not merely in his private but also in his official capacity,—Luther
tells the ruler: The Kingdom of Christ wholly belongs to the order of
grace, but the kingdom of the world and worldly life belong to the
order of the Law; the two kingdoms are of a different species and
belong to different worlds. To the one you belong as a Christian, to
the other as a man and a ruler. Christ has nothing to do with the
regulations of worldly life, but leaves them to the world; earthly
life stands in no need of being outwardly hallowed by the Church.[205]
Certain statements to a different effect will be considered elsewhere.

 “A great distinction,” Luther said in 1523, “must be made between a
 worldling and a Christian, i.e. between a Christian and a worldly
 man. For a Christian is neither man nor woman ... must know nothing
 and possess nothing in the world.... A prince may indeed be a
 Christian, but he must not rule as a Christian, and when he rules
 he does so not as a Christian but as a prince. As an individual he
 is indeed a Christian, but his office or princedom is no business
 of his Christianity.” This seems to him proved by his mystical
 theory that a Christian “must not harm or punish anyone or revenge
 himself, but forgive everyone and endure patiently all injustice or
 evil that befalls him.” The theory, needless to say, is based on
 his misapprehension of the Evangelical Counsels which he makes into
 commands.[206] On such principles as these, he concludes, it was
 impossible for any prince to rule, hence “his being a Christian had
 nothing to do with land and subjects.”[207]

 For the same reason he holds that “every man on this earth” comprises
 two “practically antagonistic personalities,” for “each one has at the
 same time to suffer, and not to suffer, everything.”[208] The dualism
 which Luther here creates is due to his extravagant over-statement of
 the Christian law. The Counsels of Perfection given by Christ in the
 Sermon on the Mount, with which Luther is here dealing (not to resist
 evil, not to go to law, etc., Mt. v. 19 ff.), are not an invitation
 addressed to all Christians, and if higher considerations or some
 duty stands in the way it would certainly denote no perfection to
 follow them. Luther’s misinterpretation necessarily led him to make a
 cleavage between Christian life and life in the world.

 The dualism, however, in so far as it concerned the authorities
 had, however, yet another source. For polemical reasons Luther was
 determined to make an end of the great influence that the olden
 Church had acquired over public life. Hence he absolves the secular
 power from all dependence as the latter had itself sought to do
 even before his time. He refused to see that, in spite of all the
 abuses which had followed on the Church’s interference in politics
 during the Middle Ages, mankind had gained hugely by the guidance of
 religion. To swallow up the secular power in the spiritual had never
 been part of the Church’s teaching, nor was it ever the ideal of her
 enlightened representatives; but, for the morality of the great, for
 the observance of maxims of justice and for the improvement of the
 nations the principle that religion must not be separated from the
 life of the State and from the office of those in authority, but
 must permeate and spiritualise them was, as history proved, truly
 vital. Subsequent to Luther’s day the tendency to separate the two
 undoubtedly made unchecked progress. He himself, however, was not
 consistent in his attitude. On the contrary, he came more and more
 to desiderate the establishment of the closest possible bond between
 the civil authorities and religion—provided only that the ruler’s
 faith was the same as Luther’s. Nevertheless, generally speaking, the
 separation he had advocated of secular from spiritual became the rule
 in the Protestant fold.

 “Lutheranism,” as Friedrich Paulsen said on the strength of his own
 observations in regions partly Catholic and partly Protestant, “which
 is commonly said to have introduced religion into the world and to
 have reconciled public worship with life and the duties of each one’s
 calling has, as a matter of fact, led to the complete alienation and
 isolation of the Church from real life; on the contrary, the older
 Church, despite all her ‘over-worldliness,’ has contrived to make
 herself quite at home in the world, and has spun a thousand threads
 in and around the fabric of its life.” He thinks himself justified in
 stating: “Protestantism is a religion of the individual, Catholicism
 is the religion of the people; the former seeks seclusion, the latter
 publicity. In the one even public worship bears a private character
 and appears as foreign to the world as the pulpit rhetoric of a
 Lutheran preacher of the old school; the [Protestant] Church stands
 outside the bustle of the workaday world in a world of her own.”[209]

We may pass over the fact, that, Luther, by discarding the so-called
Counsels reduced morality to a dead level. In the case of all the
faithful he abased it to the standard of the Law, doing away with that
generous, voluntary service of God which the Church had ever approved
and blessed. We have already shown this elsewhere, more particularly in
connection with the status of the Evangelical Counsels and the striving
after Christian perfection in the monastic life. According to him there
are practically no Counsels for those who wish to pass beyond the
letter of the Law; there is but one uniform moral Law, and, on the true
Christian, even the so-called Counsels are strictly binding.[210]

Life in the world, however, according to his theory has very different
laws; here quite another order obtains, which is, often enough, quite
the opposite to what man, as a Christian, recognises in his heart to
be the true standard. As a Christian he _must_ offer his cheek to the
smiter; as a member of the civil order he may not do so, but, on the
contrary, must everywhere vindicate his rights. Thus his Christianity,
so long as he lives in the world, must perforce be reduced to a matter
of inward feeling; it is constantly exposed to the severest tests, or,
more accurately, constantly in the need of being explained away. The
believer is faced by a twofold order of things, and the regulating of
his moral conduct becomes a problem which can never be satisfactorily

“Next to the doctrine of Justification there is hardly any other
doctrine which Luther urges so frequently and so diligently as that of
the inward character and nature of Christ’s kingdom, and the difference
thus existing between it and the kingdom of the world, i.e. the domain
of our natural life.”[211]

 Let us listen to Luther’s utterances at various periods on the dualism
 in the moral life of the individual: “The twin kingdoms must be kept
 wide asunder: the spiritual where sin is punished and forgiven,
 and the secular where justice is demanded and dealt out. In God’s
 kingdom which He rules according to the Gospel there is no demanding
 of justice, but all is forgiveness, remission and bestowal, nor is
 there any anger, or punishment, but nothing save brotherly charity
 and service.”[212]—“No rights, anger, or punishment,” this certainly
 would have befitted the invisible, spiritual Church which Luther had
 originally planned to set up in place of the visible one.[213]

 “Christ’s everlasting kingdom ... is to be an eternal spiritual
 kingdom in the hearts of men by the preaching of the Gospel and by
 the Holy Spirit.”[214] “For your own part, hold fast to the Gospel
 and to the Word of Christ so as to be ready to offer the other cheek
 to the smiter, to give your mantle as well as your coat whenever
 it is a question of yourself and your cause.”[215] It is a strict
 command, though at utter variance with the civil law, in which your
 neighbour also is greatly concerned. In so far, therefore, you must
 resist. “Thus you manage perfectly to satisfy at the same time both
 the Kingdom of God and that of the world, both the outward and the
 inward; you suffer evil and injustice and yet at the same time punish
 evil and injustice; you do not resist evil, and yet at the same time
 you resist it; for according to the one you look to yourself and to
 yours, and, according to the other, to your neighbour and to his
 rights. As regards yourself and yours, you act according to the Gospel
 and suffer injustice as a true Christian; as regards your neighbour
 and his rights, you act in accordance with charity and permit no

 If, as is but natural, we ask, how Christ came so strictly to enjoin
 what was almost impossible, Luther replies that He gave His command
 only for Christians, and that real Christians were few in number: “In
 point of fact Christ is speaking only to His dear Christians [when He
 says, ‘that Christians must not go to law,’ etc.], and it is they
 alone who take it and carry it out; they make no mere Counsel of it
 as the Sophists do, but are so transformed by the Spirit that they do
 evil to no one and are ready willingly to suffer evil from anyone.”
 But the world is full of non-Christians and “them the Word does not
 concern at all.”[217] Worldlings must needs tread a very different
 way: “All who are not Christians belong to the kingdom of the world
 and are under the law.” Since they know not the command “Resist not
 evil,” “God has given them another government different from the
 Christian estate, and the Kingdom of God.” There ruleth coercion,
 severity, and, in a word, the Law, “seeing, that, amongst a thousand,
 there is barely one true Christian.” “If anyone wished to govern the
 world according to the Gospel ... dear heart, what would the result
 be! He would be loosening the leashes and chains of the wild and
 savage beasts, and turning them astray to bite and tear everybody....
 Then the wicked would abuse the Christian freedom of the Gospel and
 work their own knavery.”[218]

 Luther clung to the very end of his life to this congeries of
 contradictory theories, which he advocated in 1523, in his passionate
 aversion to the ancient doctrine of perfection. In 1539 or 1540 he put
 forth a declaration against the “Sophists” in defence of his theory of
 the “Counsels,” directed more particularly against the Sorbonne, which
 had insisted that the “_consilia evangelica_,” “were they regarded as
 precepts, would be too heavy a burden for religion.”[219] “They make
 out the Counsels,” he says, “i.e. the commandments of God, to be not
 necessary for eternal life and invite people to take idolatrous, nay,
 diabolical vows. To lower the Divine precepts to the level of counsels
 is a horrible, Satanic blasphemy.” As a Christian “you must rather
 forsake and sacrifice everything”; to this the first table of the Law
 (of Moses, the Law of the love of God) binds you, but, on account of
 the second table (the law of social life), you may and must preserve
 your own for the sake of your family. As a Christian, too, you must
 be willing to suffer at the hands of every man, “but, apart from your
 Christian profession, you must resist evil if you wish to be a good
 citizen of this world.”[220]

 “Hence you see, O Christian brother,” he concludes, “how much you
 owe to the doctrine which has been revived in our day, as against a
 Pharisaical theology which leaves us nothing even of Moses and the Ten
 Commandments, and still less of Christ.”

“Such honour and glory have I by the grace of God—whether it be to
the taste or not of the devil and his brood—that, since the days of
the Apostles, no doctor, scribe, theologian or lawyer has confirmed,
instructed and comforted the consciences of the secular Estates so well
and lucidly as I have done by the peculiar grace of God. Of this I
am confident. For neither St. Augustine nor St. Ambrose, who are the
greatest authorities in this field, are here equal to me.... Such fame
as this must be and remain known to God and to men even should they go
raving mad over it.”[221]

It is true that his theories contain many an element of good and, had
he not been able to appeal to this, he could never have spoken so
feelingly on the subject.

The good which lies buried in his teaching had, however, always
received its due in Catholicism. Luther, when contrasting the Church’s
alleged aversion for secular life with his own exaltation of the
dignity of the worldly calling, frequently speaks in language both
powerful and fine of the worldly office which God has assigned to
each one, not only to the prince but even to the humble workman and
tiller of the field, and of the noble moral tasks which thus devolve
on the Christian. Yet any aversion to the world as he conceives it had
never been a principle within the Church, though individual writers
may indeed have erred in this direction. The assertion that the olden
Church, owing to her teaching concerning the state of perfection and
the Counsels, had not made sufficient allowance for the dignity of the
secular calling, has already been fully dealt with.

It is true that Luther, to the admiration of his followers, confronted
the old Orders founded by the Church with three new Orders, all
Divinely instituted, viz. the home, the State and the Church.[222] But,
so far from “notably improving” on the “scholastic ethics” of the past,
he did not even contrive to couch his thoughts on these “Orders” in
language as lucid as that used long before his day by the theologians
and moralists of the Church in voicing the same idea; what he says of
these “Orders” also falls short of the past on the score of wealth
and variety.[223] Nevertheless the popular ways he had of depicting
things as he fain would see them, proved alluring, and this gift of
appealing to the people’s fancy and of charming them by the contrast
of new and old, helped to build up the esteem in which he has been
held ever since; his inclination, moreover, to promote the independence
of the individual in the three “Orders,” and to deliver him from all
hierarchical influence must from the outset have won him many friends.

_Divorce of Religion and Morals_

Glancing back at what has already been said concerning Luther’s
abasement of morality and considering it in the light of his theories
of the Law and Gospel, of assurance of salvation and morality, we find
as a main characteristic of Luther’s ethics a far-reaching, dangerous
rift between religion and morals. Morality no longer stands in its old
position at the side of faith.

Faith and the religion which springs from it are by nature closely and
intimately bound up with morality. This is shown by the history of
heathenism in general, of modern unbelief in particular. Heathenism or
unbelief in national life always signifies a moral decline; even in
private life morality reacts on the life of faith and the religious
feeling, and _vice versa_. The harmony between religion and morality
arises from the fact that the love of God proceeds from faith in His
dominion and Fatherly kindness.

Luther, in spite of his assurances concerning the stimulus of the
life of faith and of love, severed the connection between faith and
morality and placed the latter far below the former. His statements
concerning faith working by love, had they been more than mere words,
would, in themselves, have led him back to the very standpoint of the
Church he hated. In reality he regards the “Law” as something utterly
hostile to the “pious” soul; before the true “believer” the Law shrinks
back, though, to the man not yet justified by “faith,” it serves as a
taskmaster and a hangman. The “Law” thus loses the heavenly virtue with
which it was stamped. In Luther’s eyes the only thing of any real value
is that religion which consists in faith in the forgiveness of sins.

 “This,” he says, “is the ‘_Summa Summarum_’ of a truly Christian life,
 to know that in Christ you have a Gracious God ready to forgive you
 your sins and never to think of them again, and that you are now a
 child of everlasting happiness, reigning with Christ over heaven and

 It is true he hastens to add, that, from this saving faith, works of
 morality would “assuredly” flow.[224]

 “Assuredly”? Since Albert Ritschl it has been repeated countless times
 that Luther did no more than “assert that faith by its very nature is
 productive of good works.” As a matter of fact “he is wont to speak in
 much too uncertain a way of the good works which follow faith”; with
 him “faith” is the whole man, whereas the Bible says: “Fear God _and_
 keep His commandments [i.e. religion _plus_ morality]; this is the
 whole man.”[225]

 Luther’s one-sided insistence on a confiding, trusting faith in God,
 at the cost of the moral work, has its root in his theory of the utter
 depravity of man and his entire lack of freedom, in his low esteem
 for the presuppositions of morality, in his conviction that nature
 is capable of nothing, and, owing to its want of self-determination,
 is unable on its own even to be moral at all. If we desire, so he
 says frankly, to honour God’s sublime majesty and to humble fallen
 creatures as they deserve, then let us recognise that God works all
 in all without any possibility of any resistance whatsoever on man’s
 part, God’s action being like to that of the potter on his clay. Just
 as Luther was unable to recognise justification in the sense in which
 it had been taught of yore, so also he entirely failed to appreciate
 the profounder conception of morality.

 His strictures on morality—which had ever been esteemed as the
 voluntary keeping of the Law by man, who by a generous obedience
 renders to God the freedom received—point plainly to the cause of
 his upheaval of the whole field of dogma. At the outset he had set
 himself to oppose self-righteousness, but in doing so he dealt a blow
 at righteousness itself; he had attacked justice by works, but justice
 itself had suffered; he declared war on the wholly imaginary phantom
 of a self-chosen morality based on man-made ordinances and thereby
 degraded morality, if he did not indeed undermine its very foundations.

 What Möhler says of the reformers and their tendency to set aside
 the commands of morality applies in particular to Luther and his
 passionate campaign. It is true he writes, that “the moral freedom
 they had destroyed came to involve the existence of a freedom from
 that moral law which concerns only the seen, bounded world of time,
 but fails to apply in the eternal world, set high above all time and
 space. This does not mean, however, that the reformers were conscious
 of what lay at the base of their system; on the contrary, had they
 seen it, had they perceived whither their doctrines were necessarily
 leading, they would have rejected them as quite unchristian.”[226]

 The following reflection of the famous author of “Catholic Symbolism”
 may also be set on record, the better to safeguard against
 misapprehension anything that may have been said, particularly as it
 touches upon a matter to which we repeatedly have had occasion to

 “No one can fail to see the religious element in Protestantism,” he
 says, “who calls to mind the idea of Divine Providence held by Luther
 and Melanchthon when they started the work of the Reformation.... All
 the phenomena of this world [according to it] are God’s own particular
 work and man is merely His instrument. Everything in the history of
 the world is God’s invisible doing which man’s agency merely makes
 visible. Who can fail to see in this a truly religious outlook on all
 things? All is referred back to God, Who is all in all.... In the
 same way the Redeemer also is all in all in the sense that He and His
 Spirit are alone active, and faith and regeneration are solely due to

 Möhler here relates how, according to Luther, Staupitz had said of
 the new teaching at its inception, “What most consoles me is that it
 has again been brought to light how all honour and praise belong to
 God alone, but, to man, nothing at all.” This statement is quite in
 keeping with the vague, mystical world of thought in which Staupitz,
 who was no master of theology or philosophy, lived. But it also
 reflects the impression of many of Luther’s contemporaries who,
 unaware of his misrepresentation of the subject, were attracted by
 the advantage to religion and morality which seemed to accrue from
 Luther’s effort to ascribe all things solely to God.

Where this tendency to subordinate all to God and to exalt the merits
of Christ finds more chastened expression in Luther’s writings, when,
in his hearty, homely fashion, he paints the love of the Master or
His virtues as the pattern of all morality, or pictures in his own
peculiar realistic style the conditions of everyday life the better to
lash abuses, then the reader is able to appreciate the better side of
his ethics and the truly classic example he sometimes sets of moral
exhortations. It would surely be inexplicable how so many earnest
Protestant souls, from his day to our own, should have found and still
find a stimulus in his practical works, for instance, in his Postils,
did these works not really contain a substratum of truth, food for
thought and a certain gift of inspiration. Even the man who studies
the long list of Luther’s practical writings simply from the standpoint
of the scholar and historian—though he may not always share Luther’s
opinions—cannot fail to acknowledge that the warmth with which Luther
speaks of those Christian truths accepted by all, leaves a deep
impression and re-echoes within the soul like a voice from our common

On the one hand Luther rightly retained many profoundly religious
elements of the mediæval theology, indeed, owing to his curious way of
looking at things, he actually outdid in mediævalism the Middle Ages
themselves, for he merged all human freedom in the Divine action, a
thing those Ages had not dared to do.

And yet, on the other hand, to conclude our survey of his “abasement of
practical Christianity,” he is so ultramodern on a capital point of his
ethics as to merit being styled the precursor of modern subjectivism as
applied to morals. For all his new ethical precepts and rules, beyond
the Decalogue and the Natural Law, are devoid of objective obligation;
they lack the sanction which alone would have rendered them capable of
guiding the human conscience.

_The Lack of Obligation and Sanction_

Luther’s moral instructions differed in one weighty particular from
those of the olden Church.

As he himself insists at needless length, they were a collection of
personal opinions and exhortations which appeared to him to be based
on Holy Scripture or the Law of Nature—and in many instances, though
not always, actually did rest on this foundation. When he issued new
pronouncements of a practical character, for instance, concerning
clandestine espousals, or annulled the olden order of public worship,
the sacraments, or the Commandments of the Church, he was wont to
say, that, it was his intention merely to advise consciences and to
arouse the Evangelical consciousness. He took this line partly because
he was conscious of having no personal authority, partly because he
wished to act according to the principles proclaimed in his “Von der
Freyheyt eynes Christen Menschen,” or, again, in order to prevent the
rise of dissent and the resistance he always dreaded to any attempt
to lay down categorical injunctions. Thus his ethical regulations,
so far as they differed from the olden ones, amounted merely to so
many invitations to act according to the standard set up, whereas the
character of the ethical legislation of Catholicism is essentially
binding. Having destroyed the outward authority of the Church, he
had nothing more to count upon than the “ministry of the Word,” and
everything now depended on the minister’s being able to convince the
believer, now freed from the ancient trammels.

 He himself, for instance, once declared that he would “assume no
 authority or right to coerce, for I neither have nor desire any
 such. Let him rule who will or must; I shall instruct and console
 consciences as far as I am able. Who can or wants to obey, let him do
 so; who won’t or can’t, let him leave it alone.”[228]

 He would act “by way of counsel,” so he teaches, “as in conscience
 he would wish to serve good friends, and whoever likes to follow
 his advice must do so at his own risk.”[229] “He gives advice
 agreeably to his own conscience,” writes Luthardt in “Luthers Ethik,”
 “leaving it to others to accept his advice or not on their own

 Nor can one well argue that the requisite sanction for the new moral
 rules was the general sanction found in the Scriptural threats of
 Divine chastisements to overtake transgressors. The question is
 whether the Law laid down in the Bible or written in man’s heart is
 really identical with Luther’s. Those who were unable of themselves to
 prove that this was the case were ultimately (so Luther implies) to
 believe it on his authority and conform themselves to his “Evangelical
 consciousness”; thus, for instance, in the matter of religious vows,
 held by Luther to be utterly detestable, and by the Church to be both
 permissible and praiseworthy.

In but few points does the purely subjective character of the new
religion and morality advocated by Luther stand out so clearly as
in this absence of any objective sanction or higher authority for
his new ethics. Christianity hitherto had appealed to the divine,
unchangeable dignity of the Church, which, by her infallible teaching,
her discipline and power to punish, insured the observance of law and
order in the religious domain. But, now, according to the new teaching,
man—who so sadly needs a clear and definite lead for his moral
life—besides the Decalogue, “clear” Bible text and Natural Law, is
left with nothing but “recommendations” devoid of any binding force;
views are dinned into his ears the carrying out of which is left solely
to his feelings, or, as Luther says, to his “conscience.”

Deprived of the quieting guidance of an authority which proclaims
moral obligations and sees that they are carried out, conscience and
personality tend in his system to assume quite a new rôle.

6. The part played by Conscience and Personality. Luther’s warfare with
his old friend Caspar Schwenckfeld

Protestants have confidently opined, that “Luther mastered anew the
personal foundation of morality by reinstating conscience in its
rights”; by insisting on feeling he came to restore to “personality
the dignity” which in previous ages it had lost under the ban of a
“legalism” devoid of “morality.”

To counter such views it may be of use to give some account of the way
in which Luther taught conscience to exercise her rights. The part he
assigns to the voice within which judges of good and evil, scarcely
bears out the contention that he really strengthened the “foundation
of morality.” The vague idea of “personality” may for the while be
identified with conscience, especially as in the present connection
“person” stands for the medium of conscience.[231]

_On Conscience and its Exercise in General_

To quiet the conscience, to find some inward support for one’s actions
in the exercise of one’s own will, this is what Luther constantly
insists on in the moral instructions he gives, at the same time
pointing to his own example.[232] What was the nature of his own
example? His rebellion against the Church’s authority was to him the
cause of a long, fierce struggle with himself. He sought to allay the
anxiety which stirred his soul to its depths by the reassuring thought,
that all doubts were from the devil from whom alone all scruples
come; he sternly bade his soul rest secure and as resolutely refused
to hearken to any doubts regarding the truth of his new Evangel. His
new and quite subjective doctrines he defended in the most subjective
way imaginable and, to those of his friends whose consciences were
troubled, he recommends a similar course of action; he even on
several occasions told people thus disturbed in mind whom he wished
to reassure, that they must listen to his, Luther’s, voice as though
it were the voice of God. This was his express advice to his pupil
Schlaginhaufen[233] and, in later days, to his friend Spalatin, who
also had become a prey to melancholy.[234] He himself claimed to have
been delivered from his terrors by having simply accepted as a God-sent
message the encouraging words of Bugenhagen.[235]

 “Conscience is death’s own cruel hangman,” so he told Spalatin; from
 Ambrose and Augustine the latter should learn to place all his trust
 not in conscience but in Christ.[236] It scarcely needs stating that
 here he is misapplying the fine sayings of both these Fathers. They
 would have repudiated with indignation the words of consolation
 which not long after he offered the man suffering from remorse of
 conscience, assuring him that he was as yet a novice in struggling
 against conscience, and had hitherto been “too tender a sinner”; “join
 yourself to us real, big, tough sinners, that you may not belittle
 and put down Christ, Who is the Saviour, not of small, imaginary
 sinners, but of great and real ones”; thus it was that he, Luther,
 had once been consoled in his sadness by Staupitz.[237] Here he is
 applying wrongly a perfectly correct thought of his former Superior.
 Not perhaps quite false, but at any rate thoroughly Lutheran, is the
 accompanying assurance: “I stand firm [in my conscience] and maintain
 my attitude, that you may lean on me in your struggle against Satan
 and be supported by me.”

 Thus does he direct Spalatin, “who was tormented by remorse, to
 comfort himself _against_ his conscience.”[238]

 “To comfort oneself against one’s conscience,” such is the task which
 Luther, in many of his writings, proposes to the believer. Indeed, in
 his eyes the chief thing of all is to “get the better of sin, death,
 hell and our own conscience”; in spite of the opposition of reason to
 Luther’s view of Christ’s satisfaction, we must learn, “through Him
 [Christ] to possess nothing but grace and forgiveness,” of course, in
 the sense taught at Wittenberg.[239]

 A former brother monk, Link, the apostate Augustinian of Nuremberg,
 Luther also encourages, like Spalatin the fallen priest, to kick
 against the prick of conscience: “These are devil’s thoughts and not
 from us, which make us despair,” they must be “left to the devil,” the
 latter always “keeps closest to those who are most pious”; to yield
 to such despairing thoughts “is as bad as giving in and leaving Satan

 When praising the “sole” help and consolation of the grace of Christ
 he does not omit to point out, directly or otherwise, how, “when in
 despair of himself,” and enduring frightful inward “sufferings” of
 conscience, he had hacked his way through them all and had reached
 a firm faith in Christ minus all works, and had thus become a
 “theologian of the Cross.”[241]

 Even at the commencement of the struggle, in order to encourage
 wavering followers, he allowed to each man’s conscience the right
 to defy any confessor who should forbid Luther’s writings to such
 of his parishioners who came to him: “Absolve me at my own risk,”
 they were to say to him, “I shall not give up the books, for then I
 should be sinning against my conscience.” He argues that, according
 to Rom. xiv. 1, the confessor might not “urge them against their
 conscience.” Was it then enough for a man to have formed himself a
 conscience, for the precept no longer to hold? His admonition was,
 however, intended merely as a counsel for “strong and courageous
 consciences.” If the confessor did not prove amenable, they were
 simply to “go without scruple to the Sacrament,” and if this, too, was
 refused them then they had only to send “Sacrament and Church” about
 their business.[242] Should the confessor require contrition for sins
 committed, this, according to another of his statements, was a clear
 attack on conscience which does not require contrition for absolution,
 but merely faith in Christ; such a priest ought to have the keys taken
 out of his hands and be given a pitchfork instead.[243]

In the above instances the Catholic could find support for his
conscience in the infallible authority of the Church. It was this
authority which forbade him Luther’s writings as heretical, and, in the
case of contrition—which Luther also brings forward—it was likewise
his religious faith, which, consonantly with man’s natural feeling,
demanded such sorrow for sin. In earlier days authority and faith were
the reliable guides of conscience without which it was impossible
to do. Luther left conscience to itself or referred it to his own
words and his reading of Scripture, though this again, as he himself
acknowledged, was not an absolute rule; thus he leaves it a prey to
a most unhappy uncertainty—unless, indeed, it was able to “find
assurance” in the way he wishes.

 Quite early in his career he also gave the following instruction to
 those of the clergy who were living in concubinage on how to form
 their conscience; they were “to salve their conscience” and take the
 female to their “wedded wife,” even though this were against the law,
 fleshly or ghostly. “Your soul’s salvation is of more account than
 any tyrannical laws.... Let him who has the faith to take the risk
 follow me boldly.” “I will not deceive him,” he adds apologetically,
 but at least he had “the power to advise him regarding his sins and
 dangers”; he will show them how they may do what they are doing, “but
 with a good conscience.”[244] For as Luther points out in another
 passage, even though their discarding of their supposed obligation of
 celibacy had taken place with a bad conscience, still the Bible-texts
 subsequently brought forward, read according to the interpretation
 of the new Evangelist, avail to heal their conscience.[245] At any
 rate, so he tells the Teutonic Knights when inviting them to break
 their vow of chastity: “on the Word of God we will risk it and do it
 in the teeth of and contrary to all Councils and Churches! Close eyes
 and ears and take God’s Word to heart.”[246] Better, he cries, go on
 keeping two or three prostitutes than seek of a Council permission to

 These were matters for “those to risk who have the faith,” so we have
 heard him say. In reality all did depend on people’s faith ... in
 Luther, on their conviction that his doctrine and his moral system
 were right.

But what voice was to decide in the case of those who were wavering?

On the profoundest questions of moral teaching, it is, according to
Luther, the “inward judgment” that is to decide what “spirit” must
be followed. “For every Christian,” he writes, “is enlightened in
heart and conscience by the Holy Ghost and by God’s Grace in such
a way as to be able to judge and decide with the utmost certainty
on all doctrines.” It is to this that the Apostle refers when he
says: “A spiritual man judges all things” (1 Cor. iii. 15). Beyond
this, moreover, Scripture constitutes an “outward judgment” whereby
the Spirit is able to convince men, it being a “ghostly light, much
brighter than the sun.”[248] It is highly important “to be certain” of
the meaning of the Bible,[249] though here Luther’s own interpretation
was, needless to say, to hold the field. The preachers instructed by
him were to say: “I know that the doctrine is right in God’s sight” and
“boast” of the inward certainty they shared with him.[250]

Luther’s rules for the guidance of conscience in other matters were
quite similar. Subjectivism becomes a regular system for the guidance
of conscience. In this sense it was to the person that the final
decision was left. But whether this isolation of man from man, this
snatching of the individual from dutiful submission to an authority
holding God’s place, was really a gain to the individual, to religion
and to society, or not rather the reverse, is only to be settled in
the light of the history of private judgment which was the outcome of
Luther’s new principle.

 Of himself Luther repeats again and again, that his knowledge and
 conscience alone sufficed to prove the truth of his position;[251]
 that he had won this assurance at the cost of his struggles with
 conscience and the devil. Ulenberg, the old writer, speaking of these
 utterances in his “Life of Luther,”[252] says that his hero mastered
 his conscience when at the Wartburg, and, from that time, believed
 more firmly than ever that he had gained this assurance by a Divine
 revelation (“_cœlesti quadam revelatione_”), for which reason he had
 then written to his Elector that he had received his lead solely from

 In matters of conscience wherever the troublesome “Law” comes in we
 can always trace the devil’s influence; we “must come to grips with
 him and fight him,”[254] only the man who has been through the mill,
 as he himself had, could boast of having any certainty: “The devil is
 a juggler. Unless God helps us, our work and counsel is of no account;
 whether we turn right or left he remains the Prince of this world. Let
 him who does not know this just try. I have had some experience of
 this. But let no one believe me until he too has experienced it.”[255]

 Not merely in the case of his life-work in general, but even in
 individual matters of importance, the inward struggles and “agonies”
 through which he had passed were signs by which to recognise that he
 was in the right. Thus, for instance, referring to his hostile action
 in Agricola’s case, Luther says: “Oh, how many pangs and agonies did I
 endure about this business. I almost died of anxiety before I brought
 these propositions out into the light of day.”[256] Hence it was
 plain, he argued, how far he was from the palpable arrogance displayed
 by his Antinomian foe, and how evidently his present conduct was
 willed by God.

_The Help of Conscience at Critical Junctures_

It was the part played by subjectivism in Luther’s ethics that led
him in certain circumstances to extend suspiciously the rights of

In the matter of the bigamy of Philip of Hesse he soothed the Elector
of Saxony by telling him he must ignore the general outcry, since the
Landgrave had acted “from his need of conscience”; in his “conscience”
the Prince regarded his “wedded concubine” as “no mere prostitute.” “By
God’s Grace I am well able to distinguish between what by way of grace
and before God may be permitted in the case of a troubled conscience
and what, apart from such need of conscience, is not right before God
in outward matters.”[257] In his extreme embarrassment, consequent
on this matrimonial tangle, Luther deemed it necessary to make so
hair-splitting a distinction between lawfulness and permissibility when
need of conscience required it. The explanation—that, in such cases,
something must be conceded “before God and by way of grace”—which he
offers together with the Old-Testament texts as justifying the bigamy,
must look like a fatal concession to laxity.

He also appealed to conscience in another marriage question where he
made the lawfulness of bigamy depend entirely on the conscience.

 A man, who, owing to his wife’s illness was prevented from matrimonial
 intercourse, wished, on the strength of Carlstadt’s advice, to take a
 second wife. Luther thereupon wrote to Chancellor Brück, on Jan. 27,
 1524, telling him the Prince should reply as follows: “The husband
 must be sure and convinced in his own conscience by means of the Word
 of God that it is lawful in his case. Therefore let him seek out such
 men as may convince him by the Word of God, whether Carlstadt [who was
 then in disgrace at Court], or some other, matters not at all to the
 Prince. For if the fellow is not sure of his case, then the permission
 of the Prince will not make him so; nor is it for the Prince to decide
 on this point, for it is the priests’ business to expound the Word
 of God, and, as Zacharias says, from their lips the Law of the Lord
 must be learned. I, for my part, admit I can raise no objection if a
 man wishes to take several wives since Holy Scripture does not forbid
 this; but I should not like to see this example introduced amongst
 Christians.... It does not beseem Christians to seize greedily and
 for their own advantage on everything to which their freedom gives
 them a right.... No Christian surely is so God-forsaken as not to be
 able to practise continence when his partner, owing to the Divine
 dispensation, proves unfit for matrimony. Still, we may well let
 things take their course.”[258]

 On the occasion of his own marriage with Bora we may remember how he
 had declared with that defiance of which he was a past master, that
 he would take the step the better to withstand the devil and all his
 foes. (Vol. ii., p. 175 ff.)

 A curious echo of the way in which he could set conscience at defiance
 is to be met with in his instructions to his assistant Justus Jonas,
 who, as soon as his first wife was dead, cast about for a second.
 Luther at first was aghast, owing to Biblical scruples, at the scandal
 which second marriages on the part of the regents of the Church would
 give and entreated him at least to wait a while. When he found it
 impossible to dissuade Jonas, he warned him of the “malicious gossip
 of our foes,” “who are ever eager to make capital out of our example”;
 nevertheless, he goes on to say that he had nothing else to urge
 against another union, so long as Jonas “felt within himself that
 spirit of defiance which would enable him, after the step, to ignore
 all the outcry and the hate of all the devils and of men, and not to
 attempt, nay, to scorn any effort to stop the mouths of men, or to
 crave their favour.”[259]

The “spirit of defiance” which he here requires as a condition for the
step becomes elsewhere a sort of mystical inspiration which may justify
an action of doubtful morality.

 Granted the presence of this inspiration he regards as permissible
 what otherwise would not be so. In a note sent to the Elector of
 Saxony at the time of the Diet of Augsburg regarding the question
 whether it was allowed to offer armed resistance to the Emperor, we
 find this idea expressed in remarkable words. Till then Luther had
 looked upon resistance as forbidden. The predicament of his cause, now
 endangered by the warlike threats of the Emperor, led him to think of
 resistance. He writes: If the Elector wishes to take up arms “he must
 do so under the influence of a singular spirit and faith (‘_vocante
 aliquo singulari spiritu et fide_’). Otherwise he must yield to
 superior force and suffer death together with the other Christians of
 his faith.”[260] It is plain that there would have been but little
 difficulty in finding the peculiar mystical inspiration required;
 no less plain is it, that, once this back door had been opened
 “inspiration” would soon usurp the place of conscience and justify
 steps, that, in themselves, were of a questionable character.

_Conscience in the Religious Question of the Day_

The new method of dealing with conscience is more closely connected
with Luther’s new method of inducing faith than might at first sight

 The individualism he proclaimed in matters of faith embodied the
 principle, that “each one must, in his own way, lay hold on religious
 experience and thus attain religious conviction.”[261] Luther often
 says, in his idealistic way, that only thus is it possible to arrive
 at the supreme goal, viz. to feel one’s faith within as a kind of
 inspiration; our aim must ever be to feel it “surely and immutably”
 in our conscience and in all the powers of our soul.[262] Everything
 must depend on this experience, the more so as to him faith means
 something very different from what it means to Catholics; it is, he
 says, “no taking it all for true”; “for that would not be Christian
 faith but more an opinion than faith”; on the contrary, each one
 must believe that “he is one of those on whom such grace and mercy
 is bestowed.”[263] Now, such a faith, no matter how profound and
 immutable the feeling be, cannot be reached except at the cost of a
 certain violence to conscience; such coercion is, in fact, essential
 owing to the nature of this faith in personal salvation.

 What, according to Luther, is the general character of faith? Fear and
 struggles, so he teaches, are not merely its usual accompaniments,
 but are also the “sure sign that the Word has touched and moved
 you, that it exercises, urges and compels you”; nay, Confession and
 Communion are really meant only for such troubled ones, “otherwise
 there would be no need of them”—i.e. they would not be necessary
 unless there existed despair of conscience and anxiety concerning
 faith. It was a mistaken practice, he continues, for many to refrain
 from receiving the Sacrament, “preferring to wait until they feel
 the faith within their heart”; in this way all desire to receive is
 extinguished; people should rather approach even when they feel not at
 all their faith; then “you will feel more and more attracted towards
 it”[264]—though this again, according to Luther, is by no means quite

 The “inward experience of faith” too often becomes simply the dictate
 of one’s whim. But a whim and order to oneself to think this or that
 does not constitute faith as the word is used in revelation, nor does
 a command imposed on the inward sense of right and wrong amount to a
 pronouncement of conscience.

 Though Luther often held up himself and his temptations regarding
 faith, as an example which might comfort waverers, Protestants have
 nevertheless praised him for the supposed firmness of his faith and
 for his joy of conscience. But was not his “defiant faith” really
 identical with that imposition he was wont to practise on his
 conscience and to dignify by the name of inspiration?

 Yet, in spite of all, he never found a secure foundation. “I know
 what it costs me, for I have daily to struggle with myself,” he told
 his friends in 1538.[265] “I was scarcely able to bring myself to
 believe,” he said in a sermon of the same year, “that the doctrine
 of the Pope and the Fathers was all wrong.”[266] His faith was as
 insecurely fixed, so he quaintly bewailed on another occasion, “as
 the fur trimming on his sleeve.”[267] “Who believes such things?”
 he asks, wildly implicating all people in general, at the conclusion
 of a note jotted down in a Bible and alluding to the hope of life
 everlasting.[268] In 1529 he repeatedly describes to his friends how
 Satan tempts him (“_Satanas fatigat_”) with lack of faith and despair,
 how he was sunk in unspeakable “bitterness of soul,” and, how, for
 this reason as he once says, he was scarce able “with a trembling
 hand” to write to them.[269]

 Calvin, too, was aware of the frequent terrors Luther endured. When
 Pighius, the Catholic writer, alleged Luther’s struggles of conscience
 and temptations concerning the faith as disproving his authority,
 Calvin took good care not to deny them. He boldly replied that this
 only redounded to Luther’s honour since it was the experience of all
 devout people, and particularly of the most famous divines.[270]

Was it possible, according to Luther, to be conscientiously opposed
to his teaching on faith and morals? At least in theory, he does go
so far in certain statements as to recognise the possibility of such
conscientious scruples. In these utterances he would even appear to
surrender the whole weight and authority of his theological and ethical
discoveries, fundamental though they were to his innovations. “I have
served the Church zealously with what God has given me and what I owe
to Him. Whoever does not care for it, let him read or listen to others.
It matters but little should they feel no need of me.”[271] With regard
to public worship, it is left “to each one to make up his conscience
as to how he shall use his freedom.” “I am not your preacher,” so he
wrote to the “Strasburg Christians,” who were inclined to distrust his
exclusiveness; “no one is bound to believe me; let each man look to
himself”;[272] all are to be referred “from Luther,” “to Christ.”[273]

Such statements, however, cannot stand against his constant insistence
on his Divine mission; they are rather of psychological interest as
showing how suddenly he passes from one idea to another. Moreover, his
statement last mentioned, often instanced by Protestants as testifying
to his breadth of mind, is nullified almost on the same page by the
solemn assurance, that, his “Gospel is the true Gospel” and that
everything that contradicts it is “heresy,” for, indeed, as had been
foretold by the Apostle Paul (1 Cor. xi. 19), “heresies” must needs

And, in point of fact, those teachers who felt themselves bound in
conscience to differ from him and go their own way—for instance,
the “Sacramentarians” in their interpretation of the words of
consecration—were made to smart. Of this the example of Schwenckfeld
was a new and striking proof.

The contradiction presented on the one hand by Luther’s disposition
to grant the most absolute freedom of conscience, and on the other
by his rigid exclusiveness, is aptly described by Friedrich Paulsen:
“In the region of morals Luther leaves the decision to the individual
conscience as instructed by the Word of God. To rely on human
authority in questions of morals appeared to him not much better than
blasphemy.... True enough, however, this very Luther, at a later date,
attacked those whose conscience found in God’s Word doctrines at all
different from those taught at Wittenberg.”[275]

Hence, neither to the heretics in his own camp nor to the adherents
of the olden faith would he allow the right of private judgment, so
greatly extolled both by himself and his followers. Nothing had been
dearer to the people of mediæval times, who for all their love of
freedom were faithful children of the Church, than regard and esteem
for the rights of personality in its own domain. Personality, denoting
man’s unfettered and reasonable nature stamped with its own peculiar
individuality, is assuredly something noble. The Catholic Church,
far from setting limits to the development of personality, promoted
both its real freedom and the growth of individuality in ways suited
to man’s nature and his supernatural vocation. Even the monastic
life, so odious to Luther, was anything but “hostile to the ideal of
personality.” An impartial observer, prepared to disregard fortuitous
abuses, could have seen even then, that the religious life strives
after the fairest fruits of ethical personality, which are fostered by
the very sacrifice of self-will: Obedience is but a sacrifice “made in
the interests of personality.”[276] Mere wilfulness and the spirit of
“defiance,” ever ready to overstep the bounds set by reason and grace,
creates, not a person, but a “superman,” whose existence we could well
spare; of such a being Luther’s behaviour reminds us more than once.

After all we have said it would be superfluous to deal in detail with
the opinion expressed above (p. 66) by certain Protestant judges, viz.
that Luther reinstated conscience, which had fallen into the toils
of “legalism,” and set it again on its “true basis,” insisting on
“feeling” and on real “morality.” Nor shall we enquire whether it is
seriously implied, that, before Luther’s day, people were not aware
that the mere “legality” of a deed did not suffice unless first of all
morality was recognised as the true guide of conduct.

We may repeat yet once again that Luther was not the first to brand
“outward holiness-by-works” in the sphere of morality.[277] Berthold
of Ratisbon, whose voice re-echoed through the whole of Germany,
summing up the teaching of the mediæval moral theologians, reprobates
most sternly any false confidence in outward deeds. No heaping up of
external works, no matter how eager, can, according to him, prove
of any profit to the soul, not even if the sinner, after unheard-of
macerations, goes loaded with chains on a pilgrimage to Jerusalem and
there lays himself down to die within the very sepulchre of the Lord;
all that, so he points out with an eloquence all his own, would be
thrown away were there lacking the inward spirit of love and contrition
for the sins committed.

The doctrine on contrition of the earlier Catholic theologians and
popular writers, which we have already had occasion to review, forms
an excellent test when compared with Luther’s own, by which to decide
the question: Which is the outward and which the inward morality?
Their doctrine is based both on Scripture and on the traditions of
antiquity. Similarly the Catholic teaching on moral self-adaptation to
Christ, such as we find it, for instance, in St. Benedict’s Prologue
to his world-famous Rule, that textbook of the mediæval ascetics, in
the models and examples of the Fathers and even in the popular Catholic
works of piety so widely read in Luther’s day, strikingly confutes
the charge, that, by the stress it laid on certain commandments and
practices, Catholicism proved it had lost sight of “the existence of
a living personal morality” and that it fell to Luther once more to
recall to life this ideal. The imitation of Christ in the spirit of
love was undoubtedly regarded as the highest aim of morality, and this
aim necessarily included “personal morality” in its most real sense,
and Luther was not in the least necessity of inaugurating any new
ideals of virtue.

_Luther’s Warfare with his old friend Caspar Schwenckfeld_

Caspar Schwenckfeld, a man of noble birth hailing from Ossig near Lüben
in Silesia, after having studied at Cologne, Frankfurt-on-the-Oder and
perhaps also at Erfurt, was, in 1519, won over by Luther’s writings
to the religious innovations. Being idealistically inclined, the
Wittenberg preaching against formalism in religion and on the need of
returning to a truly spiritual understanding of the Bible roused him to
enthusiasm. He attempted, with rather more logic than Luther, to put
in practice the latter’s admonitions concerning the inward life and
therefore started a movement, half pietist, half mystic, for bringing
together those who had been really awakened.

Schwenckfeld was a man of broad mind, with considerable independence
of judgment and of a noble and generous disposition. His good position
in the world gave him what many of the other Lutheran leaders lacked,
viz. a free hand. His frank criticism did not spare the faults in
their preaching. The sight of the sordid elements which attached
themselves to Luther strengthened him in his resolve to establish
communities—first of all in Silesia—modelled on the very lines
roughly sketched by Luther, which should present a picture of the
apostolic age of the Church. The Duke of Silesia and many of the
nobility were induced to desert Catholicism, and a wide field was won
in Silesia for the new ideals of Wittenberg.

In spite of his high esteem for Luther, Schwenckfeld wrote, in 1523:
It is evident “that little improvement can be discerned emerging from
the new teaching, and that those who boast of the Evangel lead a bad
and scandalous life.... This moves us not a little, indeed pierces our
heart when we hear of it.”[278] To the Duke he dedicated, in 1524,
a writing entitled: “An exhortation regarding the misuse of sundry
notable Articles of the Evangel, through the wrong understanding
of which the common man is led into the freedom of the flesh and
into error.” The book forms a valuable source of information on the
religious state of the people at the time of the rise of Lutheranism.
Therein he laments, with deep feeling and with an able pen, that so
many Lutherans were being influenced by the most worldly of motives,
and that a pernicious tendency towards freedom from social restrictions
was rife amongst them.[279]

Though Schwenckfeld was all his life equally averse to the demagogue
Anabaptist movement and to Zwinglianism with its rationalistic
tendency, yet his fate led him into ways very much like theirs.
Together with his associate Valentine Krautwald, a former precentor,
he attacked the Real Presence of Christ in the Sacrament, giving,
however, a new interpretation of the words of Institution., different
from that of Zwingli and Œcolampadius. To the fanaticism of the
Anabaptists he approximated by his opposition to any organised Church,
to the sacraments as means of grace, and to all that appeared to him to
deviate from the spirit of the Apostolic Church.

He besought Luther in a personal interview at Wittenberg, on Dec. 1,
1525, to agree to his doctrine of the Sacrament, explaining to him at
the same time its affinity with his supposedly profounder conception
of the atonement, the sacraments and the life of Christ as followed
in his communities; he also invited him in fiery words to throw over
the popular churches in which all the people received the Supper and
rather to establish congregations of awakened Christians. Luther,
though in no unfriendly manner, put him off; throughout the interview
he addressed him as “Dear Caspar,” but he flatly refused to give any
opinion. According to Schwenckfeld’s own account he even allowed that
his doctrine of the Sacrament was “plausible” ... if only it could
be proved, and, on parting, whispered in his ear: “Keep quiet for a

When, however, the Sacramentarian movement began to assume alarming
dimensions, and the Swiss started quoting Schwenckfeld in favour of
their view of the Sacrament, Luther was exasperated and began to
assail his Silesian fellow-worker. His indignation was increased by
certain charges against the nobleman which reached him from outside
sources. He replied on April 14, 1526, to certain writings sent him by
Schwenckfeld and Krautwald by an unconditional refusal to agree, though
he did so briefly and with reserve.[281] On Jan. 4, of the same year,
referring to Zwingli, Œcolampadius and Schwenckfeld in a writing to
the “Christians of Reutlingen” directed against the Sacramentarians he
said: “Just behold and comprehend the devil and his coarseness”; in it
he had included Schwenckfeld, though without naming him, as a “spirit
and head” among the three who were attacking the Sacrament.[282]

From that time onward the Silesian appeared to him one of the most
dangerous of heretics. He no longer admitted in his case the rights
of conscience and private judgment which Luther claimed so loudly
for himself and defended in the case of his friends, and to which
Schwenckfeld now appealed. It was nothing to him that on many
occasions, and even till his death, Schwenckfeld expressed the highest
esteem for Luther and gratitude for his services in opening up a better
way of theology.

 “Dr. Martin,” Schwenckfeld wrote in 1528, “I would most gladly have
 spared, if only my conscience had allowed it, for I know, praise be to
 God, what I owe to him.”[283]

 It was his purpose to pursue the paths along which Luther had at first
 striven to reach a new world. “A new world is being born and the old
 is dying,” so he wrote in 1528.[284] This new world he sought within
 man, but with the same mistaken enthusiasm with which he taught the
 new resurrection to life. The Divine powers there at work he fancied
 were the Holy Ghost, the Word of God and the Blood of the all-powerful
 Jesus. The latter he wished to reinstate in person as the sole ruler
 of the Church; in raising up to life and in supporting it, Jesus
 was ministering personally. According to him Christ’s manhood was
 not the same as a creature’s; he deified it to such an extent as to
 dissolve it, thus laying himself open to the charge of Eutychianism.
 Regeneration in baptism to him seemed nothing, compared with Christ’s
 raising up of the adult to life.

 He would have it that he himself had passed, in 1527, through an
 overwhelming spiritual experience, the chief crisis of his life,
 when God, as he says, made him “partaker of the heavenly calling,
 received him into His favour, and bestowed upon him a good and joyful
 conscience and knowledge.”[285] On his “conscience and knowledge”
 he insisted from that time with blinded prejudice, and taught
 his followers, likewise with a joyful conscience to embrace the
 illumination from on high. He adhered with greater consistency than
 Luther to the thesis that everyone who has been enlightened has the
 right to judge of doctrine; no “outward office or preaching” might
 stand in the way of such a one. To each there comes some upheaval
 of his earthly destiny; it is then that we receive the infusion of
 the knowledge of salvation given by the Spirit, and of faith in the
 presence of Christ the God-man; it is a spiritual revelation which
 fortifies the conscience by the absolute certainty of salvation and
 guides a man in the freedom of the Spirit through all the scruples of
 conscience he meets in his moral life. His system also comprises a
 theory of practically complete immunity from sin.[286]

 No other mind has given such bold expression as Schwenckfeld to the
 individualism or subjectivism which Luther originally taught; no one
 has ever attempted to calm consciences and fortify them against the
 arbitrariness of religious feeling in words more sympathetic and

 Carl Ecke,[287] his most recent biographer, who is full of
 admiration for him, says quite truly of the close connection between
 Schwenckfeld and the earlier Luther, that the chief leaders of the
 incipient Protestant Church, estimable men though some of them were,
 nevertheless misunderstood and repulsed one of the most promising
 Christians of the Reformation age. When he charged them with want of
 logic in their reforming efforts they regarded it as the fanaticism of
 an ignoramus.... In Schwenckfeld 16th-century Protestantism nipped in
 the bud the Christian individualism of the early ages rediscovered by
 Luther, in which lay the hope of a higher unity.[288]

In 1529, two years after his great interior experience, Schwenckfeld
left his home, and, on a hint from the Duke of Silesia, severed his
connection with him, being unwilling to expose him to the risk of
persecution. Thereafter he led a wandering existence for thirty years;
until his seventy-second year he lived with strangers at Strasburg,
Esslingen, Augsburg, Spires, Ulm and elsewhere. After 1540, when
the Lutheran theologians at Schmalkalden published an admonition
against him, his history was more that of a “fugitive” than a mere

Still, he was untiringly active in furthering his cause by means of
lectures and circular letters, as well as by an extensive private
correspondence. He scattered the seeds of his peculiar doctrines
amongst the nobility in particular and their dependents in country
parts. Many people of standing either belonged or were well-disposed to
his school, as Duke Christopher of Würtemberg wrote in 1564; according
to him there were many at Augsburg and Nuremberg, in the Tyrol,
in Allgäu, Silesia and one part of the Mark.[290] “The well-known
intolerance of the Reformation and of its preachers,” remarks the
Protestant historian of Schwenckfeld, “could not endure in their body a
man who had his own views on the Sacraments and refused for conscience
sake to take part in the practices of their Church.... He wandered,
like a hunted deer, without hearth or home, through the cities and
forests of South Germany, pursued by Luther and the preachers.”[291] As
late as 1558 Melanchthon incited the authorities against him, declaring
that “such sophistry as his requires to be severely dealt with by the

Not long after Schwenckfeld departed this life at Ulm in 1561. His
numerous following in Silesia migrated, first to Saxony, then to
Holland and England, and finally to Pennsylvania, where they still
exist to this day.

Luther’s indignation against Schwenckfeld knew no bounds. In
conversation he spoke of him as Swinesfield,[293] and, in his addresses
and writings, still more commonly as Stinkfield, a name which was also
repeatedly applied by his followers to the man they so disliked.[294]

 In his Table-Talk Luther refers to that “rascal Schwenckfeld,” who
 was the instigator of numerous errors and deceives many people with
 his “honeyed words.”[295] He, like the fanatics, so Luther complains,
 despises “the spoken word,” and yet God willed “to deal with and work
 in us by such means.”[296]

 In 1540 he told his friends that Schwenckfeld was unworthy of being
 refuted by him, no less unworthy than Sebastian Frank, another gifted
 and independent critic of Luther and Lutheranism.[297]

 In 1543, when Schwenckfeld attempted to make advances to Luther
 and sent him a tract together with a letter, Luther sent down to
 the messenger a card on which he acknowledged the receipt of the
 book, but declared that “the senseless fool, beset as he is by the
 devil, understands nothing and does not even know what he is talking
 about.” He had better leave him, Luther, alone and not worry him with
 his “booklets, which the devil himself discharges through him.” In
 the last lines he invokes a sort of curse on Schwenckfeld, and all
 “Sacramentarians and Eutychians” of whom it had been said in the Bible
 (Jer. xxiii. 21): “I did not send prophets, yet they ran: I have not
 spoken to them, yet they prophesy.”[298]

 When giving vent to his grudge against Schwenckfeld in his Table-Talk
 shortly after this, he declared: “He is a poor creature, with neither
 talent nor an enlightened spirit.... He bespirts the people with the
 grand name of Christ.... The dreamer has stolen a few phrases from
 my book, ‘_De ultimis verbis Davidis_’ [of 1543], and with these the
 poor wretch seeks to make a great show.” It was on this occasion that
 Catherine Bora took exception to a word used by her husband, declaring
 that it was “too coarse.”[299]

In his “Kurtz Bekentnis vom heiligen Sacrament” (1545) Luther again
gives vigorous expression to his aversion to the “Fanatics and foes
of the Sacrament, Carlstadt, Zwingli, Œcolampadius and ‘Stinkfield’”;
they were heretics “whom he had warned sufficiently” and who were to be
avoided.[300] He had refused to listen to or to answer that “slanderer
Schwenckfeld” because everything was wasted on him. “This you may well
tell those among whom, no doubt, Stinkfield makes my name to stink. I
like being abused by such slanderers.” If by their attacks upon the
Sacrament they call the “Master of the house Beelzebub, how should they
not abuse His household?”[301]

7. Self-Improvement and the Reformation of the Church

Self-betterment, by the leading of a Christian life and, particularly,
by striving after Christian perfection, had in Catholic times been
inculcated by many writers and even by first-rank theologians. In this
field it was usual to take for granted, both in popular manuals and in
learned treatises, as the general conviction, that religion teaches
people to strive after what is highest, whether in each one’s ordinary
duties of daily life, or in the ecclesiastical or religious state. The
power of the moral teaching was to stand revealed in the struggle after
the ideal thus set forth.

_Did Luther Found a School of True Christian Life?_

Luther, of set purpose, refused to make any attempt to found, in
the strict sense of the term, a spiritual school of Christian life
or perfection. He ever found it a difficult matter even to give any
methodical instructions to this end.

Though he dealt fully and attractively with many details of life, not
only in his sermons and commentaries, but also in special writings
which still serve as inspirations to practical Christianity, yet he
would never consent to draft anything in the shape of a system for
reaching virtue, still less for attaining perfection. On one occasion
he even deliberately refused his friend Bugenhagen’s request that he
would sketch out a rule of Christian life, appealing to his well-known
thesis that “the true Christian has no need of rules for his conduct,
for the spirit of faith guides him to do all that God requires and that
brotherly love demands of him.”[302]

It may indeed be urged that his failure to bequeath to posterity any
regular guide to the spiritual life was due to lack of time, that
his active and unremitting struggle with his opponents left him no
leisure, and, in point of fact, it is quite true that his controversy
did deprive him of the requisite freedom and peace of mind. It may also
be allowed that no one man can do everything and that Luther had not
the methodical mind needed for such a task, which, in his case, was
rendered doubly hard by his revolution in doctrine. The main ground,
however, is that there were too many divergent elements in his moral
teaching which it was impossible to harmonize; so much in it was false
and awry that no logical combination of the whole was possible. Hence
his readiness to invoke the theory, which really sprung from the very
depths of his ethics, viz. that the true Christian has no need of rules
because everything he has to do is the natural outcome of faith.

In his “Sermon von den guten Wercken” (1520), he expressed this in a
way that could not fail to find a following, though it could hardly
be described as in the interests of moral effort. Each one must take
as his first rule of conduct, not on any account to bind himself, but
to keep himself free from all troublesome laws. The very title of the
tract in question, so frequently reprinted during Luther’s lifetime,
would have led people to expect to find in it his practical views on
ethics. Characteristically enough, instead of attempting to define the
exact nature and value of moral effort, Luther penned what, in reality,
was merely an appendix to his new doctrine on faith. He himself, in his
dedication of it to Duke Johann of Saxony, admits this of the first and
principal part: “Here I have striven to show how we must exercise and
make use of faith in all our good works and consider it as the chiefest
of works. If God allows me I shall at some other time deal with faith
itself, how we must each day pray and speak it.”[303]

As, however, no other of Luther’s writings contains so many elements
of moral teaching drawn from his theology, some further remarks on it
may here be in place, especially as he himself set such store on the
sermon, that, while engaged on it, referring evidently to the first
part, he wrote to Spalatin, that, in his opinion it “would be the best
thing he had yet published.”[304] Köstlin felt justified in saying:
“The whole sermon may be termed the Reformer’s first exposition and
vindication of the Evangelical teaching on morals.”[305]

 Starting from his doctrine that good works are only those which God
 has commanded, and that the highest is “faith, or trust in God’s
 mercy,”[306] he endeavours to show, agreeably to his usual idea, that
 from faith the works proceed, and for this reason he lingers over the
 first four commandments of the Decalogue. He explains the principle
 that faith knows no idleness. By this faith the believer is inwardly
 set free from the laws and ceremonies by which men were driven to
 perform good works. If faith reigned in all, then of such there would
 no longer be any need. The Christian must perform good works, but he
 is free to perform works of any kind, no man being bound to one or any
 work, though he finds no fault with those who bind themselves.[307]
 “Here we see, that, by faith, every work and thing is lawful to a
 Christian, though, because the others do not yet believe, he bears
 with them and performs even what he knows is not really binding.”[308]
 Faith issues in works and all works come back to faith, to strengthen
 the assurance of salvation.[309]

 His explanation of the 3rd Commandment, where he speaks of the ghostly
 Sabbath of the soul and of the putting to death of the old man, seems
 like an attempt to lay down some sort of a system of moral injunction,
 and incidentally recalls the pseudo-mystic phase through which Luther
 had passed not so long before. Here we get just a glimpse of his
 theory of human unfreedom and of God’s sole action, so far as this was
 in place in a work intended for the “unschooled laity.”[310]

 In man, because he is “depraved by sin, all works, all words, all
 thoughts, in a word his whole life, is wicked and ungodly. If God is
 to work and live in him all these vices and this wickedness must be
 stamped out.” This he calls “the keeping of the day of rest, when our
 works cease and God alone acts within us.” We must, indeed, “resist
 our flesh and our sins,” yet “our lusts are so many and so diverse,
 and also at times under the inspiration of the Wicked One so clever,
 so subtle and so plausible that no man can of his own keep himself in
 the right way; he must let his hands and feet go, commend himself to
 the Divine guidance, trusting nothing to his reason.... For there is
 nothing more dangerous in us than our reason and our will. And this
 is the highest and the first work of God in us, and the best thing we
 can do, for us to refrain from work, to keep the reason and the will
 idle, to rest and commend ourselves to God in all things, particularly
 when they are running smoothly and well.” “The spiritual Sabbath is
 to leave God alone to work in us and not to do anything ourselves
 with any of our powers.”[311] He harks back here to that idea of
 self-surrender to the sole action of God, under the spell of which he
 had formerly stood: “The works of our flesh must be put to rest and
 die, so that in all things we may keep the ghostly Sabbath, leaving
 our works alone and letting God work in us.... Then man no longer
 guides himself, his lust is stilled and his sadness too; God Himself
 is now his leader; nothing remains but godly desires, joy and peace
 together with all other works and virtues.”[312]

 Though, according to the peculiar mysticism which speaks to the
 “unschooled laity” out of these pages, all works and virtues spring up
 of themselves during the Sabbath rest of the soul, still Luther finds
 it advisable to introduce a chapter on the mortification of the flesh
 by fasting.

 Fasting is to be made use of for the salvation of our own soul, so
 far but no further, as or than each one judges it necessary for the
 repression of the “wantonness of the flesh” and for the “putting to
 death of our lust.”[313] We are not to “regard the work in itself.” Of
 corporal penance and mortification, and fasting in particular, he will
 have it, that they are to be used exclusively to “quench the evil”
 within us, but not on account of any law of Pope or Church. Luther
 dismisses in silence the other motives for penance recommended by the
 Church of yore, in the first place satisfaction for sins committed and
 the desire to obtain graces by reinforcing our prayers by self-imposed

 He fancies that a few words will suffice to guard against any abuse
 of the new ascetical doctrine: “People must beware lest this freedom
 degenerate into carelessness and indolence ... into which some indeed
 tumble and then say that there is no need or call that we should fast
 or practise mortification.”[315]

 When, in the 3rd Commandment, he comes to speak of the practice of
 prayer one would naturally have expected him to give some advice and
 directions concerning its different forms, viz. the prayer of praise,
 thanksgiving, petition or penitence. All he seems to know is, however,
 the prayer of petition, in the case of temporal trials and needs, and
 amidst spiritual difficulties.[316]

 Throughout the writing Luther is dominated by the idea that faith in
 Christ the Redeemer, and in personal salvation, must at all costs be
 increased. At the same time he is no less certain that the Papists
 neither prayed aright, nor were able to perform any good works because
 they had no faith.

His exhortations to a devout life (some of them fine enough in
themselves, for instance, what he says on the trusting prayer of the
sinner, on the prayers of the congregation which cry aloud to heaven
and on patience under bitter sufferings), are, as a rule, intermingled
to such an extent with polemical matter, that, instead of a school of
the spiritual life, we seem rather to have before us the turmoil of
the battlefield.[317] To understand this we must bear in mind that he
wrote the book amidst the excitement into which he was thrown by the
launching of the ban.

In the somewhat earlier writing on the Magnificat, which might equally
well have served as a medium for the enforcing of virtue and which in
some parts Luther did so use,[318] we also find the same unbridled
spirit of hatred and abuse. Nor is it lacking even in his later works
of edification. The most peaceable ethical excursus Luther contrives
to disfigure by his bitterness, his calumnies and, not seldom, by his

In the Sermon on Good Works as soon as he comes to speak of prayer he
has a cut at the formalism of the prayer beloved of the Papists;[319]
he then proceeds to abuse the churches and convents for their mode
of life, their chanting and babbling, all performed in “obstinate
unbelief,” etc. At least one-half of his instruction on fasting
consists in mockery of the fasting as practised by the Papists. His
anger, however, reaches its climax in the 4th Commandment, where
he completely forgets his subject, and, losing all mastery over
himself, wildly storms against the spiritual authorities and their
disorders.[320] The only allusion to anything that by any stretch
of imagination would be termed a work, is the following:[321] The
rascally behaviour of the Church’s officers and episcopal or clerical
functionaries “ought to be repressed by the secular sword because no
other means is available.” “The best thing, and the only remaining
remedy, would be, that the King, Princes, nobles, townships and
congregations should take the law into their hands, so that the bishops
and clergy might have good cause to fear and therefore to obey.” For
everything must make room for the Word of God.

“Neither Rome, nor heaven, nor earth” may decree anything contrary to
the first three Commandments.

In dealing with these first three Commandments the booklet releases
the reader at one stroke from all the Church’s laws hitherto observed.
“Hence I allow each man to choose the day, the food and the amount of
his fasting.”[322] “Where the spirit of Christ is, there all is free,
for faith does not allow itself to be tied down to any work.”[323]

“The Christian who lives by faith has no need of any teacher’s good
works.”[324] Here we can see the chief reason why Luther’s instructions
on virtue and the spiritual life are so meagre.

_A Lutheran Theologian on the Lack of any Teaching Concerning
“Emancipation from the World”_

Even from Protestant theologians we hear the admission that Luther’s
Reformation failed to make sufficient allowance for the doctrine of
piety; he neglected, so they urge, the question of man’s “emancipation
from the world,” so that, even to the present day, Protestantism,
and traditional Lutheran theology in particular, lacks any definite
rule of piety. According to these critics, ever since Luther’s day
practical and adequate instructions had been wanting with regard to
what, subsequent to the reconciliation with the Father brought about by
Justification, still remains “to be done in the Father’s house”; nor
are we told how the life in Christ is to be led, of which nevertheless
the Apostle Paul speaks so eloquently, though this is in reality the
“main question in Christianity” and concerns the “vital interests of
the Church.”

 The remarks just quoted occur in an article by the theologian Julius
 Kaftan, Oberkonsistorialrat at Berlin, published in the “Zeitschrift
 für Theologie und Kirche” in 1908 under the title, “Why does the
 Evangelical Church know no doctrine of the Redemption in the narrower
 sense, and how may this want be remedied?” We all the more gladly
 append some further remarks by a theologian, who, as a rule, is by no
 means favourably disposed to Catholicism.

 According to Kaftan, Luther indeed supplied “all the elements” for the
 upbuilding of a doctrine of “redemption from the world”; he gave “the
 stimulus” to the thought; it is “not as though we had no conception of

 But he, and the Reformation as a whole, failed to furnish any “actual,
 detailed doctrine” on this subject because their attack was directed,
 and had to be directed, against the ideal of piety as they found
 it in the Church’s monastic life; they destroyed it, so the author
 opines, because it was only under this distorted monkish shape that
 the “Christian idea of redemption from the world was then met.”[325]
 The Reformation omitted to replace it by a better system. It suffers
 from having fallen into the way of giving “too great prominence to
 the doctrine of Justification,” whereas the salvation “bestowed by
 Christ is not merely Justification and forgiveness of sins,” as the
 traditional Lutheran theology seems on the surface to assume even
 to-day, but rather the “everlasting possession” to be reached by a
 Christ-like life; Justification is but the road to this possession.
 Because people failed to keep this in view the doctrine of the real
 “work of salvation” has from the beginning been made far too little of.

 A further reason which explains the neglect is, according to Kaftan,
 the following: In Catholicism it is the Church which acts as the
 guide to piety and supplies all the spiritual aids required; she acts
 as intermediary between God and the faithful. But “the Evangelical
 teaching rejected the Church (in this connection) as a supernatural
 agency for the dispensation of the means of salvation. In her place
 it set the action of the Spirit working by means of the Word of
 God.” Since this same teaching stops short at the Incarnation and
 Satisfaction of Christ, it has “no room for any doctrine of redemption
 (from the world) as a work of God.”[326] Pietism, with all its
 irregularities, was merely an outcome of this deficiency; but even the
 Pietists never succeeded in formulating such a doctrine of redemption.

 It is to the credit of the author that he feels this want deeply and
 points out the way in which theology can remedy it.[327] He would fain
 see introduced a system of plain directions, though framed on lines
 different from those of the “ostensibly final doctrinal teaching”
 of the Formula of Concord,[328] i.e. instructions to the devout
 Christian how to manifest in his life in the world the death and
 resurrection of Christ which St. Paul experienced in himself. Much too
 much emphasis had been laid in Protestantism on Luther’s friendliness
 to the world and the joy of living, which he was the first to teach
 Christians in opposition to the doctrine of the Middle Ages; yet the
 other idea, of redemption from the world, must nevertheless retain a
 lasting significance in Christianity. Although, before Luther’s day,
 the Church had erroneously striven to attain to the latter solely
 in the monastic life, yet there is no doubt “that the most delicate
 blossoms of pre-Reformation piety sprang from this soil, and that
 the best forces in the Church owed their origin to this source.” Is
 it merely fortuitous, continues the author, “that the ‘Imitation
 of Christ,’ by Thomas à Kempis, should be so widely read throughout
 Christendom, even by Evangelicals? Are there not many Evangelical
 Christians who could witness that this book has been a great help
 to them in a crisis of their inner life? But whoever knows it knows
 what the idea of redemption from the world there signifies.” All this
 leads our author to the conclusion: “The history of Christianity and
 of the Church undoubtedly proves that here [in the case of the defect
 in the Lutheran theology he is instancing] it is really a question of
 a motive power and central thought of our religion.”[329] He points
 out to the world of our day, “that growing civilisation culminates in
 disgust with the world and with civilisation.” “Then,” he continues,
 “the soul again cries for God, for the God Who is above all the world
 and in Whom alone the heart finds rest. As it ever was, so is it still

It is a satisfaction to hear this call which must rejoice the heart
of every believer. The same, however, had been heard throughout
the ancient Church and had met with a happy response. Not in the
“Imitation” only, but in a hundred other writings of Catholics, mystic
and ascetic, could our author have found the ideals of Christian
perfection and of the rest in God which comes from inward severance
from the world, all expressed with the utmost clearness and the warmest
feeling. Nor was Christian perfection imprisoned within the walls of
the monasteries; it also flourished in the breezy atmosphere of the
world. The Church taught the universality of this ideal of perfect love
of God, of the imitation of Christ and of detachment from the world,
and she recommended it indiscriminately to all classes, inviting people
to practise it under all conditions of life and expending liberally
in all directions her supernatural powers in order to attain her aim.
Among the best of those whose writings inaugurated a school of piety
may be classed St. Bernard and Gerson, in whom Luther had found light
and edification when still a zealous monk. With him, however, the
case was very different. Of the works he bequeathed to posterity the
Protestant theologian referred to above, says regretfully: They contain
neither a “doctrine” nor a definite “scheme of instruction” on “that
side of life which faces God.” “No clear, conclusive thoughts on this
all-important matter are to be found.”

On the other hand it must be added that there is no want of “clear,
conclusive thoughts” to a quite opposite effect; not merely on
enjoyment of the world, but on a kind of sovereignty over it which is
scarcely consistent with the effort after self-betterment.

_The Means of Self-Reform and their Reverse Side_

Self-denial as the most effective means of self-education in the good,
and self-conquest in outward and inward things, receive comparatively
small attention from Luther; rather he is set on delivering people from
the “anxiety-breeding,” traditional prejudice in favour of spiritual
renunciation, obedience to the Church and retrenchment in view of
the evil. This deliverance, thanks to its alluring and attractive
character, was welcomed, in spite of Luther’s repeated warnings against
any excess of the spirit of the world. His abandonment of the path of
perfection so strongly recommended by Christ and his depreciation of
“peculiar” works and “singular” practices were more readily understood
and also more engaging than his words in favour of real works of faith.
He set up his own inward experiences of the difficulty and, as he
thought, utter futility of the conflict with self, together with his
hostility to all spiritual efforts exceeding the common bounds, as the
standard for others, and, in fact, even for the Church; in the Catholic
past, on the other hand, the faithful had been taught to recognise the
standard of the Church, their teacher and guide, as the rule by which
to judge of their own experiences.

Here to prove what we have said, would necessitate the repetition of
what has already been given elsewhere.

Luther’s writings, particularly his letters, also contain certain
instructions, which, fortunately, have not become the common property
of Protestants, but which everybody must feel to be absolutely
opposed to anything like self-betterment. We need only call to mind
his teaching, that temptations to despondency and despair are best
withstood by committing some sin in defiance of the devil, or by
diverting the mind to sensual and carnal distractions.[331] The words:
“What matters it if we commit a fresh sin?”[332] since through faith
we have forgiveness, and the other similar utterance, “Be a sinner and
sin boldly, but believe more boldly still,” are characteristic of him,
though he would have been unwilling to see them pressed or taken too
literally. By these and other statements he did, however, seriously
endanger the ethical character of sin; in reality he diminished the
abhorrence for sin, though no doubt he did not fully perceive the
consequences of his act.[333]

       *       *       *       *       *

To the man who had become sensible of the ensnaring influence of the
world and of its evil effects upon himself, or who on account of his
mental build felt himself endangered by it, Catholic moralists advised
retirement, recollection, self-examination and solitude. Luther was
certainly not furthering the cause of perfection when he repeatedly
insisted, with an emphasis that is barely credible, that solitude must
be avoided as the deadly foe of the true life of the soul, and that
what should be sought was rather company and distraction. Solitude
was a temptation to sin. “I too find,” so he says, “that I never fall
into sin more frequently than when I am alone.... Quietude calls forth
the worst of thoughts. Whatever our trouble be, it then becomes much
more dangerous,” etc.[334] Of course, in the case of persons of gloomy
disposition Luther was quite right in recommending company, but it was
just in doing so that he exceeded the bounds in his praise of sensual
distractions;[335] of his own example, too, he makes far too much. On
the other hand, all the great men in the Church had sought to find the
guiding light of self-knowledge in solitude; this they regarded as a
school for the subjugation of unruly emotions.

Not only were self-control and self-restraint something strange to
Luther,[336] but he often went so far as to adduce curious theoretical
reasonings of his own to prove that they could have no place in
his public life and controversies, and why he and his helpers were
compelled to give the reins to anger, hatred and abuse. Thus the work
of self-improvement was renounced in yet another essential point.

Then again with regard to prayer. His exhortations thereto are numerous
enough and he himself prayed frequently. But it is not necessary to be
an ascetic to see that several things are wanting in his admonitions
to prayer. The first is the salt of contrition and compunction. He
was less alive to the wholesome underlying feeling of melancholy
that characterises the soul which prays to God in the consciousness
of having abused its free-will, than he was to the suggestions of
self-confidence and assurance of salvation. The second thing wanting
is the humility which should permeate prayer even when exalted to the
highest limits of trusting confidence. If man, as Luther taught, is
incapable of any work, then of course there can be no sense of shame
at not having done more to please God and to merit greater grace from
Him. Moreover, Luther indirectly encouraged people to pray in the bold
consciousness of being justified and to look for the keeping of the
law as a natural consequence of such “faith.” Lastly, and this sums
up everything, we miss the spirit of love in his often so strongly
worded and eloquent exhortations to prayer; the spirit which should
have led him to resignation to God’s designs, and to commit his life’s
work to the Will of God with a calm indifference as to its eventual
success.[337] Hardly ever do we find any trace of that zeal for souls
which embraces the whole of God’s broad kingdom even to the heathen,
in short, the whole of the Church’s sphere.[338] On the other hand,
however, he expressly exhorts his followers to increase the ardour of
their prayers, after his own example, by interspersing them with curses
on all whose views were different.[339]

In place of the pleasing variety of the old exercises of prayer—from
the Office recited by the clergy with its daily commemoration of
the Saints down to the multifarious devotions of the people, to say
nothing of the great Sacrifice of the Altar, the very heart’s pulse
of the Church—he recommends as a rule only the Our Father, the Creed
and the Psalms—prayers indeed rich beyond all others and which will
ever hold the first place among Christian devotions. But had they not
been brought closer to the heart formerly in the inner and outer
life of prayer dealt with in the writings of the Catholic masters of
the spiritual life, and exemplified in the churches and monasteries,
and even in private houses and the very streets? But behind all this
rich display Luther saw lurking the demon of “singular works.” The
monk absorbed in contemplation was, in Luther’s eyes, an unhappy
wretch sitting “in filth” up to his neck. Thus he restricts himself
to recommending the old short formulas of prayer. In accordance with
his doctrine that faith alone avails, he desires that sin, and the
intention of sinning, should be withstood by the use of the Our Father:
“That you diligently learn to say the Our Father, the Creed and the Ten
Commandments.”[340] “Grant, O God (thus must you pray), that Thy Name
be hallowed by me, Thy Kingdom come to me, and Thy Will be done in me”;
in this wise they would come to scorn “devil, death and hell.”[341] He
indeed kept in touch with the people by means of the olden prayers,
but, even into them, he knew how to introduce his own new views; the
Kingdom of God, which to him is forgiveness of sins,[342] “must come
to us by faith,” and the chief article of the whole Creed with which
to defy “death, devil and hell” was the “_remissio peccatorum_.” These
remarks must not, however, be understood as detracting from the value
of his fine, practical, and often sympathetic expositions of the Our
Father, whether in his special work on it in 1518 or in the Larger

Of the numerous “man-made laws” which he banished at one stroke by
denying the Church’s authority there is no need to speak here. Without
a doubt the overturning of all these barriers erected against human
lusts and wilfulness was scarcely conducive to the progress of the

Nor does the absence of any higher standard of life in his own
case[344] serve to recommend his system of ethics. Seeing that, as has
been already pointed out,[345] he himself is disposed to admit his
failings, the apparent confidence with which, in order to exalt his
reform of ethics, he appeals to the biblical verity, that the truth of
a doctrine is proved by its moral fruits, is all the more surprising.

       *       *       *       *       *

Of this confidence we have a remarkable example in a sermon devoted
to the explanation of the 1st Epistle of St. John. At the same time
the exceptional boldness of his language and the resolute testimony
he bears in his own favour constitute striking proof of how the very
firmness of his attitude impressed his followers and exercised over
many a seductive spell. The weakness of the Reformer’s ethics seems all
at once to vanish before his mighty eloquence.

 The discourse in question, where at the same time he vindicates his
 own conduct, belongs to 1532. About that time he preached frequently
 at Wittenberg on St. John’s sublime words concerning the love of
 God and our neighbour (1 Jo. iv. 16-21). His object was to cleanse
 and better the morals of Wittenberg, the low standard of which he
 deplores, that the results of justification by faith might shine forth
 more brightly. At that very time he was treating with the Elector and
 the Saxon Estates in view of a new visitation of all the parishes to
 be held the next year, which might promote the good of morality. The
 sermons were duly reported by his pupil Cruciger, whose notes were
 published at Wittenberg in 1533 under the general title of “A Sermon
 on Love.”[346]

 Dealing therein with ethical practice he starts by proclaiming that,
 according to the “pious Apostle” whose doctrines he was expounding,
 everything depends on Christians proving by their fruits whether
 they really “walk in love.” Of many, however, who not only declared
 themselves well acquainted with the principles of faith and ethics but
 even professed to be qualified to teach them, it was true that, “if we
 applied and manifested in our lives their ethics after their example,
 then we should be but poorly off.”[347] Such men must, nevertheless,
 be tested by their works. Nor does he exempt himself from this duty of
 putting ethics to a practical test.

 Nowhere else does he insist more boldly than in these sermons on proof
 by actual deeds, even in his own case. According to the words of John,
 so he says, a life of love would give them “confidence in the Day of
 Judgment” (iv. 17). Confidence, nay, a spirit of holy defiance, even
 in the presence of death and judgment, must fill the hearts of all
 who acted aright, owing to the very testimony of their fellow-men to
 the blamelessness of their lives. “We must be able to boast [with
 Christ, ‘the reconciliation for our sins’] not before God alone but
 before God and all Christendom, and against the whole world, that no
 one can truthfully condemn or even accuse us.” “We must be able to
 assure ourselves that we have lived in such a way that no one can take
 scandal at us”; we must have this testimony, “that we have walked on
 earth in simplicity and godly piety, and that no one can charge us
 with having been given to ‘trickery.’” In this wise had Paul countered
 false doctrines by boasting, just as Moses and Samuel had already done
 under the Old Covenant.[348]

 Coming to his own person the speaker thinks he can honestly say the
 same of himself, though, like the rest, he too must confess to being
 still in need of the article of the forgiveness of sins. There were
 false teachers who could not appeal so confidently to the morality
 of their lives, “proud, puffed-up spirits who lay claim to a great
 and wonderful holiness, who want to reform the whole world and to do
 something singular in order that all may say that they alone are true
 Christians. This sort of thing lasts indeed for a while, during which
 they parade and strut, but, when the hour of death comes, that is the
 end of all such idle nonsense.”[349] He himself, with the faithful
 teachers and good Christians, is in a very different case: “If I must
 boast of how I have acted in my position towards everyone then I will
 say: I witness before you and all the world, and know that God too
 witnesses on my behalf together with all His angels, that I have not
 falsified God’s Word, His Baptism or the Sacrament but have preached
 and acted faithfully as much as was in me, and suffered all ill solely
 for God’s and His Word’s sake. Thus must all the Saints boast.”[350]

 He lays the greatest stress on the unanimous testimony which the
 preacher must receive from his fellow-men and from posterity. He must
 be able to say, “you shall be my witnesses,” he “must be able to call
 upon all men to bear him witness”; they must bear us witness on the
 Last Day that we have lived aright and shown by our deeds that we were
 Christians. If this is the case, if they can point to their practice
 of good works, then the preaching of good works can be insisted on
 with all the emphasis required.[351] It is natural, however, that
 towards the end Luther lays greater stress on his teaching than on his

 On his preaching of the value of good works he solemnly assures us:
 “We can testify before the whole world that we have preached much more
 grandly and forcefully on good works than even those who calumniate

_Self-Reform and Hatred of the Foe_

In speaking of Luther, his staunch friends are wont to boast of
his lifelong struggle against the fetters of the Papacy and of the
overwhelming power of his assault on the olden Church; this, so they
imply, redounded to his glory and showed his moral superiority.

In what follows we shall therefore consider some of the main ethical
features of this struggle of Luther’s and of the attitude he adopted
in his conflict with Popery. His very defence of himself and of the
moral effects of his preaching, which we have just heard him pronounce
subsequent to the Diet of Augsburg, invites us to consider in the light
of ethics his public line of action, as traced in his writings of that
period. These years represent a turning-point in his life, and here,
if anywhere, we should be able to detect his higher moral standard
and the power of his new principles to effect a change first of all
in himself. In the sermon of 1532 (above, p. 96) he had said: The new
Gospel which he had “preached rightly and faithfully” made those who
accepted it “to walk in simplicity and godly piety” according to the
law of love, and to stand forth “blameless before all the world.” Could
he truthfully, he, the champion of this Gospel, really lay any claim to
these qualities as here he seems to do, at least indirectly?

His controversial tracts dating from that time display anything but
“simplicity and godly piety.” His hate was without bounds, and his
fury blazed forth in thunderbolts which slew all who dared to attempt
to bridge the chasm between him and the Catholic Church. Reproaching
voices, about him and within him, seemed to him to come from so many
devils. The Coburg, where he stayed, was assuredly “full of devils,”
so he wrote.[353] There, in spite of his previous attempts to jest
and be cheerful,[354] and notwithstanding the violent and distracting
labours in which he was engaged, the devil had actually established an
“embassy,” troubling him with many anxieties and temptations.[355]

The devil he withstood by paroxysms of that hate and rage which he
had always in store for his enemies. “The Castle may be crammed with
devils, yet Christ reigneth there in the midst of His foes!”[356]
He includes in the same category the Papists, and the Turks who then
were threatening Europe: Both are “monsters,” both have been “let
loose by the fury of the devil,” both represent a common “woe doomed
to overwhelm the world in these last days of Christendom.”[357] These
“stout jackasses” (of the Diet of Augsburg), so he cried from the
ramparts of his stronghold, “want to meddle in the business of the
Church. Let them try!”[358] “The very frenzy and madness of our foes of
itself alone proves that we are in the right.”[359] “Their blasphemy,
their murders, their contempt of the Gospel, and other enormities
against it, increase day by day and must bring the Turk into the field
against us.”[360] “I am a preacher of Christ,” so he assures us, “and
Christ is the truth.”—But is hatred a mark of a disciple of Christ, or
of a higher mission for the reformation of doctrine and worship?

Elsewhere Luther himself describes hate as a “true image of the devil;
in fact, it is neither human nor diabolical but the devil himself whose
whole being is nothing but an everlasting burning,” etc. “The devil is
always acting contrary to love.” “Such is his way; God works nothing
but benefits and deeds of charity, while he on the contrary performs
nothing but works of hate.”[361] On other occasions in his sermons he
speaks in familiar and at the same time inspiring words of the beauty
of Christian love. “Love is a great and rich treasure, worth many
hundred thousand gulden, or a great kingdom. Who is there who would
not esteem it highly and pursue it to the limit of his power, nay,
pour out sweat and blood for it if he only hoped or knew how to obtain
it!... What is sun, moon, heavens or all creation, all the angels, all
the saints compared with it? Love is nothing but the one, unspeakable,
eternal good and the highest treasure, which is God Himself.”[362]

But his “Vermanũg an die geistlichen versammelt auff dem Reichstag
zu Augsburg” (which he wrote from the Coburg) was the fruit, not
of love, but of the most glowing hate.[363] In a private letter he
calls it quite rightly, not an “exhortation” (Vermanũg), but “an
invective” against the clergy,[364] and, in another letter, admits
the “violent spirit” in which he had written it; when composing it
the abusive thoughts had rushed in on him like an “uninvited band of
moss-troopers.”[365] But, that he drove them back as he declares he
did, is not discernible from the work in question.

 In the booklet under discussion he several times uses what would seem
 to be words of peace, and, in one passage, even sketches a scheme
 for reunion; but, as a Protestant critic of the latter says, not
 altogether incorrectly, the “idea was of its very nature impossible
 of execution.”[366] Indeed, we may say that Luther himself could see
 well enough that the idea was a mere deception; the best motto for the
 writing would be: Enmity and hatred until death!

 The Catholic members of the Diet are there represented as “obstinate
 and stiff-necked,” and as “bloodhounds raging wantonly”; they had
 hitherto, but all to no purpose, “tried fraud and trickery, force
 and anger, murder and penalties.” To the bishops he cries: “May the
 devil who drives them dog their footsteps, and all our misfortunes
 fall on their head!” He puts them on a level with “procurers and
 whoremongers,” and trounces them as “the biggest robbers of benefices,
 bawds and procurers to be found in all the world.”[367]—There had
 been many cases of infringement of the law of celibacy among both
 lower and higher clergy previous to Luther’s advent, while the
 Wittenberg spirit of freedom set free in the German lands helped
 considerably to increase the evil amongst the ranks of the Catholic
 clergy; but to what unheard-of exaggerations, all steeped in hate,
 did not Luther have recourse the better to inflame the people and to
 defend the illicit marriages of those of the clergy who now were the
 preachers of the new religion? He was about “to sweep out of the house
 the harlots and abducted spouses” of the bishops, and not merely to
 show up the bishops as real “lechers and brothel-keepers” (a favourite
 expression of his), but to drag them still deeper in the mire. It was
 his unclean fancy, which delighted to collect the worst to be found
 in corrupt localities abroad, that led him to say: “And, moreover, we
 shall do clean away with your Roman Sodom, your Italian weddings, your
 Venetian and Turkish brides, and your Florentine bridegrooms!”[368]

 The pious founders of the bishoprics and monasteries, he cries, “never
 intended to found bawdy-houses or Roman robber-churches,” nor yet
 to endow with their money “strumpets and rascals, or Roman thieves
 and robbers.” The bishops, however, are set on “hiding, concealing
 and burying in silence the whole pot-broth of their abominations and
 corrupt, unepiscopal abuses, shame, vice and noxious perversion of
 Christendom, and on seeing them lauded and praised,” whereas it is
 high time that they “spat upon their very selves”; their auxiliary
 bishops “smear the unschooled donkeys with chrism” (ordain priests)
 and these in turn seek “to rise to power”; yet revolt against them
 and against all authority is brewing in the distance; if the bloody
 deeds of Münzer’s time were repeated, then, he, Luther, would not be
 to blame; “men’s minds are prepared and greatly embittered and, that,
 not without due cause”; if you “go to bits” then “your blood be upon
 your own head!” Meanwhile it is too bad that the bishops “should go
 about in mitres and great pomp,” as though we were “old fools”; but
 still worse is it that they should make of all this pomp “articles of
 faith and a matter of conscience, so that people must commit sin if
 they refuse to worship such child’s play; surely this is the devil’s
 own work.” Of such hateful misrepresentations, put forward quite
 seriously, a dozen other instances might be cited from this writing.
 “But that we _must_ look upon such child’s play as articles of faith,
 and befool ourselves with bishops’ mitres, from that we cannot get
 away, no matter how much we may storm or jeer.”[369]

The writing culminates in the following outburst: “In short we and you
alike know that you are living without God’s Word, but that, on our
side, we have God’s Word.”

“If I live I shall be your bane; if I die I shall be your death! For
God Himself has driven me to attack you! I must, as Hosea says, be to
you as a bear and a lion in the way of Assur. You shall have no peace
from me until you amend or rush to your own destruction.”[370]

At a later date, of the saying “If I live,” etc., Luther made the Latin
couplet: “_Pestis eram vivus moriens ero mors tua papa_.” In life,
O Pope, I was thy plague, in dying I shall be thy death. He first
produced this verse at Spalatin’s home at Altenburg on his return
journey from the Coburg; afterwards he frequently repeated it, for
instance, at Schmalkalden in 1537, when he declared, that he would
bequeath his hatred of the Papacy as an heirloom to his disciples.[371]

 As early as 1522 he had also made use of the Bible passage concerning
 the lion and the bear in his “Wyder den falsch genantten geystlichen
 Standt” with the like assurance of the Divine character of his
 undertaking, and in a form which shows how obsessed he was by the
 spirit of hate: He was sure of his doctrine and by it would judge even
 the angels; without it no one could be saved, for it was God’s and not
 his, for which reason his sentence too was God’s and not his: “Let
 this be my conclusion. If I live you shall have no peace from me, if
 you kill me, you shall have ten times less peace; and I shall be to
 you as Oseas says, xiii. 8, a bear in the path and a lion in the road.
 However you may treat me you shall not have your will, until your
 brazen front and iron neck are broken either unwillingly or by grace.
 Unless you amend, as I would gladly wish, then we may persist, you in
 your anger and hostility and I in paying no heed.”[372]

On another occasion he tells us how he would gladly have left
Wittenberg with Melanchthon and the others who were going by way of
Nuremberg to the Diet of Augsburg, but a friend had said to him: “Hold
your tongue! Your tongue is an evil one!”[373]

After the publication of the “Vermanũg an die Geistlichen,” or
possibly even before, Melanchthon seems to have written to him,
re-echoing the observations of startled and anxious friends, and
saying that the writing had been “variously” appreciated, in itself
a significant remark; Luther himself at that time certainly dreaded
the censure of his adherents. Still, he insists as defiantly as ever
on his “invective”: “Let not your heart be troubled,” he admonishes
Melanchthon, “My God is a God of fools, Who is wont to laugh at the
wise. Whence I trouble myself about them not the least bit.”[374] On
the contrary, he even came near regarding his writing as a special work
of God.

As we have already pointed out, the defiant and violent steps he took,
only too often became in his eyes special works of God. His notorious,
boundless sense of his own greatness, to which this gave rise, is the
first of the phenomena which accompanied his hate; these it will now
be our duty briefly to examine in order better to appreciate the real
strength of his ethical principles in his own case.

_Companion-Phenomena of his Hate_

As a matter of fact Luther’s sense of his superiority was so great that
the opponents he attacked had to listen to language such as no mortal
had ever before dreamed of making use of against the Church.

The Church is being reformed “in my age” in “a Divine way, not after
human ways.” “Were we to fall, then Christ would fall with us.”[375]

Whenever he meets with contradiction, whenever he hears even the hint
of a reproach or accusation, he at once ranges himself—as he does, for
instance, in the “Vermanũg”—on the side of the persecuted “prophets
and apostles,” nay, he even likens himself to Christ.[376] He stood
alone, without miracles, and devoid of holiness, as he himself candidly
informed Henry VIII. of England; nevertheless he pits himself against
the heads of both Church and Empire assembled at the Diet.

All he could appeal to was his degree of Doctor of Theology: “Had I
not been a Doctor, the devil would have given me much trouble, for it
is no small matter to attack the whole Papacy and to charge it” (with
error).[377] In the last instance, however, his self-confidence recalls
him to the proud consciousness of his entire certainty. “Thus our cause
stands firm, because we know how we believe and how we live.”[378]

With these words from his “Vermanũg” he defies the whole of the present
and of the past, the Pope and all his Councils.

He knows—and that suffices—that what he has and proclaims is God’s
Word; “and if you have God’s Word you may say: Now that I have the Word
what need have I to ask what the Councils say?”[379] “Among all the
Councils I have never found one where the Holy Spirit rules.... There
will never be no Council [_sic_], according to the Holy Spirit, where
the people have to agree. God allows this because He Himself wills to
be the Judge and suffers not men to judge. Hence He commands every man
to know what he believes.”[380] Luther only, and those who follow him,
know what they believe; he takes the place of all the councils, Doctors
of the Church, Popes and bishops, in short, of all the ecclesiastical
sources of theology.

“The end of the world may now come,” he said, in 1540, “for all that
pertains to the knowledge of God has now been supplied” (by me).[381]

 With this contempt for the olden Church he combines a most imperious
 exclusiveness in his treatment even of those who like him were
 opposed to the Pope, whether they were individuals or formed schools
 of thought. They must follow his lead, otherwise there awaits them
 the sentence he launched at the Zwinglians from the Coburg: “These
 Sacramentarians are not merely liars but the very embodiment of lying,
 deceit and hypocrisy; this both Carlstadt and Zwingli prove by word
 and deed.” Their books, he says, contain pestilential stuff; they
 refused to retract even when confuted by him, but simply because they
 stood in fear of their own following; he would continue to put them
 to shame by those words, which so angered them: “You have a spirit
 different from ours.” He could not look upon them as brothers; this
 was duly expressed in the article in which he went so far as to
 promise them that love which was due even to enemies. On his own
 authority he curtly dubs them “heretics,” and is resolved in this
 way to tread unharmed with Christ through Satan’s kingdom and all
 his lying artifices.[382] Luther’s aggravating exclusiveness went
 hand-in-hand with his overweening self-confidence.

 In consequence of this treatment the Swiss, through the agency of
 Bullinger, Zwingli’s successor, complained to Bucer, “Beware of not
 believing Luther readily or of not yielding to him! He is a scorpion;
 no matter how carefully he is handled he will sting, even though to
 begin with he seems to caress your hand.”[383] To this Bucer, who
 had also ventured to differ from Luther, wrote in his reply: “He has
 flung another scathing book at us.... He speaks, and means to speak,
 much more harshly than heretofore.” “He will not now endure even the
 smallest contradiction, and I am sure that, were I to go any further,
 I should cause such a tragedy that all the churches would once more
 be convulsed.”[384] Another Protestant voice we hear exclaiming with
 a fine irony: “Luther rages, thunders and lightens as though he were
 a Jupiter and had all the bolts of heaven at his command to launch
 against us.... Has he then become an emperor of the Christian army on
 the model of the Pope, so as to be able to issue every pronouncement
 that his brain suggests?”[385] “He confuses the two Natures in Christ
 and brings forward foolish, nay godless, statements. If we may not
 condemn this, then what, pray, may be condemned?”[386]

His natural lack of charity, of which we shall have later on to
add many fresh and appalling examples to those already enumerated,
aggravated his hatred, his sense of his own greatness and his
exclusiveness. What malicious hatred is there not apparent in his
advice that Zwingli and Œcolampadius should be condemned, “even though
this led to violence being offered them.”[387] It is with reluctance
that one gazes on Luther’s abuse of the splendid gifts of mind and
heart with which he had been endowed.

 A recent Protestant biographer of Carlstadt’s laments the “frightful
 harshness of his (Luther’s) polemics.” “How deep the traces left by
 his mode of controversy were, ought not to be overlooked,” so he
 writes. “From that time forward this sort of thing took the place of
 any real discussion of differences of opinion between members of the
 Lutheran camp, nor did people even seem aware of how far they were
 thus drifting from the kindliness and dignity of Christian modes of
 thought.”[388] What is here said of the treatment of opponents within
 the camp applies even more strongly to Luther’s behaviour towards

 The following episode of his habitual persecution of Albert,
 Archbishop and Elector of Mayence, illustrates this very well.

 On June 21, 1535, the Archbishop in accordance with the then law
 and with the sentence duly pronounced by the judge, had caused Hans
 von Schönitz, once his trusted steward, to be executed; the charge
 of which he had been proved guilty was embezzlement on a gigantic
 scale. The details of the case, which was dealt with rather hurriedly,
 have not yet been adequately cleared up, but even Protestant
 researchers agree that Schönitz deserved to be dealt with as a “public
 thief,”[389] seeing that “in the pecuniary transactions which he
 undertook for Albert he was not unmindful of his own advantage”;[390]
 “there is no doubt that he was rightly accused of all manner of
 peculation and cheating.”[391] Luther, however, furiously entered
 the lists on behalf of the executed man and against the detested
 Archbishop who, in spite of his private faults, remained faithful
 to the Church and was a hindrance to the spread of Lutheranism in
 Germany. Luther implicitly believed all that was told him, of Hans’s
 innocence and of Albert’s supposed abominable motives, by Schönitz’s
 brother and his friend Ludwig Rabe—who himself was implicated in the
 matter—and both of whom came to Wittenberg. “Both naturally related
 the case from their own point of view.”[392] Luther sent two letters
 to the Cardinal, one more violent than the other.[393] The second
 would seem to have been intended for publication and was sent to
 the press, though at present no copy of it can be discovered. In it
 in words of frightful violence he lays at the door of the Prince of
 the Church the blood of the man done to death. The Archbishop was a
 “thorough-paced Epicurean who does not believe that Abel lives in God
 and that his blood still cries more loudly than Cain, his brother’s
 murderer, fancies.” He, Luther, like another Elias, must call down
 woes “upon Achab and Isabel.” He had indeed heard of many evil deeds
 done by Cardinals, “but I had not taken your Cardinalitial Holiness
 for such an insolent, wicked dragon.... Your Electoral Highness may
 if he likes commit a nuisance in the Emperor’s Court of Justice,
 infringe the freedom of the city of Halle, usurp the sword of Justice
 belonging to Saxony, and, over and above this, look on the world and
 on all reason as rags fit only for the closet”—such is a fair sample
 of the language—and, moreover, treat everything in a Popish, Roman,
 Cardinalitial way, but, please God, our Lord God will by our prayers
 one day compel your Electoral Highness to sweep out all the filth

 In the first letter he had threatened fiercely the hated Cardinal
 with publishing what he knew (or possibly only feigned to know)
 of his faults; he would not “advise him to stir up the filth any
 further”; here in the second letter he charges him in a general
 way with robbery, petty theft and fraud in the matter of Church
 property, also with having cheated a woman of the town whom he used
 to keep; he deserved to be “hanged on a gallows three times as high
 as the Giebichstein,” where Schönitz had been executed. Incidentally
 he promises him a new work that shall reveal all his doings. The
 threatened work was, however, never published, Albert’s family, the
 Brandenburgs, having raised objections at the Electoral Court of
 Saxony. Albert, however, offered quite frankly to submit the Schönitz
 case and the grievances raised by his relatives to the judgment of
 George of Anhalt, one of the princes who had gone over to Lutheranism,
 who was perfectly at liberty to take the advice of Jonas, nay, even
 of Luther himself. “In this we may surely see a proof that he was not
 conscious of being in the least blameworthy.”[394] At any rate he
 seems to have been quite willing to lay his case even before his most
 bitter foe.[395]

       *       *       *       *       *

Such was Luther’s irritability and quickness of temper, even in private
concerns, that, at times, even in his letters, he would pour forth the
most incredible threats.

 On one occasion, in 1542, when a messenger sent by Justus Jonas
 happened to offend him, he at once wrote an “angry letter” to Jonas
 and on the next day followed it up with another in which he says, that
 his anger has not yet been put to rest; never is Jonas to send such
 people into his house again or else he will order them to be gagged
 and put under restraint. “Remember this, for I have said it. This
 man may scold and do the grand elsewhere, but not in Luther’s house,
 unless indeed he wants to have his tongue torn out. Are we going to
 allow such caitiffs as these to play the emperor?”[396]—He had, as
 we already know, a sad experience with a certain girl named Rosina,
 whom he had engaged as a servant, but who turned out to be a person
 of loose morals and brought his house into disrepute. “She shall
 never again have the chance of deceiving anyone so long as there is
 water enough in the Elbe,” so he writes of her to a judge. In letters
 to other persons he accuses her of “villainy and fornication”; she
 had “shamed all the inmates of his house with the [assumed] name of
 Truchsess”; he could only think that she had been “foisted on him by
 the Papists as an arch-prostitute—the god-forsaken minx and lying
 bag of trouble, who has damaged my household from garret to cellar ...
 accursed harridan and perjured, thieving drab that she is!” Away with
 her “for the honour of the Evangel.”[397]

 Even in younger days he had been too much accustomed to give the reins
 to his excitement, as his two indignant letters (his own description
 of them) to his brother monks at Erfurt show.[398] Even his upbringing
 of his own children, highly lauded as it has been, suffered from this
 same lack of self-control. “The mere disobedience of a boy would stir
 him to his very depths. For instance, he admits of a nephew he had
 living with him—a son of his brother James—that once ‘he angered me
 so greatly as almost to be the death of me, so that for a while I lost
 the use of my bodily powers.’”[399]—So exasperated was he with the
 lawyers who treacherously deceived the people that he went so far as
 to demand that their tongues should be torn out. At times he confesses
 his hot temper, owning and acknowledging that it was “sinful”; to
 such fits of passion he was still subject, but, as a rule, his anger
 was at least both right and called for, for he could not avoid being
 angry where it was “a question of the soul and of hell.” Anger, he
 also says, refreshed his inner man, sharpened his wits and chased away
 his temptations; he had to be angry in order to write, preach or pray

 Repeatedly he seemed on the point of quitting Wittenberg for ever
 in revenge for all the neglect he met with there; “I can no longer
 contain my anger and disappointment.”[401] It was to this depression
 of spirits that he was referring when he said, that, often, in
 his indignation, he had “flung down the keys on Our Lord God’s
 threshold.”[402] He sees his inability to change his surroundings
 and how Popery refuses to be overthrown; yet, as he told us, he is
 determined to “rain abuse and curses on the miscreants [the Papists]
 till he is carried to the grave,” and to provide the “thunder and
 lightning for the funeral” of the foe.[403]

A gloomy, uncanny passion often glows in his words and serves to fire
the fanatism of the misguided masses.

“Lo and behold how my blood boils and how I long to see the Papacy
punished!” And what was the punishment he looked for? Just before
he had said that the Pope, his Cardinals and all his court should
have “the skins of their bodies drawn off over their heads; the hides
might then be flung into the healing bath [the sea] at Ostia, or into
the fire,” unless indeed they found means to pay back all the alien
property that the Pope, the “Robber of the Churches, had stolen only to
waste, lose and squander it, and to spend it on whores and their ilk.”
Yet even this punishment fell short of the crime, for “my spirit knows
well that no temporal penalty can avail to make amends even for one
Bull or Decree.”[404]

 Side by side with language so astonishing we must put other sayings
 which paint his habitual frame of mind in a light anything but
 favourable: “It is God’s Word! Let what cannot stand fall ... no
 matter what!”[405] “The Word is true, or everything crumbles into
 ruin!”[406] “Even if _you_ will not follow”—such were his words to
 Staupitz as early as 1521, “at least suffer _me_ to go on and be
 carried away [’_ire et rapi_’].” “I have put on my horns against the
 Roman Antichrists”;[407] in these words Luther compares himself to a
 raving bull.

 This frame of mind tended to promote his natural tendency to violence,
 hitherto repressed. His proposal to flay all the members of the Roman
 Curia was not by any means his first hint at deeds of blood; such
 allusions occur in other shapes in earlier discourses, particularly
 in his predictions of the judgments to come. The Princes, nobility
 and towns, so he declared, must put their foot down and prevent the
 shameful abuses of Rome: “If we mean to fight against the Turks let us
 begin at home where they are worst; if we do right in hanging thieves
 and beheading robbers, why then do we let Roman avarice go scot free,
 when all the time it is the biggest thief and robber there ever has
 been or will ever be upon the earth.” Whoever comes from Rome bringing
 in his pocket a collation to a benefice ought to be warned either “to
 desist, or else to jump into the Rhine or the nearest pond, and give
 the Roman Brief—letter, seals and all, a cold bath.”[408] Not without
 a shudder can one read the description in his “Bapstum vom Teuffel
 gestifft,” written in his last days, of the kinds of death best suited
 to the Pope and his Curia, of which the flaying and the “bath” at
 Ostia is only one example. (Cp. below, xxx., 2.) True enough he is
 careful to point out that such a death will be theirs only should they
 refuse to amend their ways and accept the Lutheran Evangel!

 Ten years previously, in 1535, he had written to Melanchthon, who
 shrank from acts of violence with what appeared to Luther too great
 timidity: “Oh, that our most venerable Cardinals, Popes and Roman
 Legates had more Kings of England to put them to death!”[409] These
 words he penned soon after Henry VIII of England had sacrificed the
 lives of John Fisher, bishop of Rochester, and his Chancellor, Sir
 Thomas More, to his sensual passions and his thirst for blood. Luther
 adds, of the Pope and the Curia, with the object of vindicating the
 sentence of death he had passed on them, “They are traitors, thieves,
 robbers and regular devils.... They are out and out miscreants to
 the very bottom of their hearts. May God only grant you too to see

 Fury had stood by the cradle of Luther’s undertaking and under its
 gloomy auspices his cause continued to progress. Without repeating
 what has already been said, it may suffice to point out how his
 excitement frequently led him to take even momentous steps which he
 would otherwise have boggled at. Only too frankly he admitted to
 his friend Lang in 1519 and soon after to Spalatin, that Eck had so
 exasperated him that he would now shake himself loose and write and do
 things from which he would otherwise have refrained. His early “jest”
 at Rome’s expense would now become a real warfare against her[411]—as
 though Rome was to be made to suffer for Eck and his violence. In
 1521, from apprehension of his violence and out of consideration for
 the Court, Spalatin had kept back two of Luther’s writings which the
 latter wished to be printed. “I shall get into a towering rage,” so
 the author wrote to him, “and bring out much worse things on this
 subject afterwards if my manuscripts are lost, or you refuse to
 surrender them. You cannot destroy the spirit even though you destroy
 the lifeless paper.”[412]—This incident at so early a date shows
 how deeply seated in him was his tendency to violence; even at the
 outset it was to some extent personal animus which led him to shape
 his action as he did. Self-esteem and the plaudits of the mob had even
 then begun to dim his mental vision.

The part played by the first person is great indeed in Luther’s

“We should all have fallen back into the state of the brute!” “Not for
a thousand years has God bestowed such great graces on any bishop as on
me.” “I, wonderful monk that I am,” have, by God’s grace, overthrown
the devil of Rome; “I have stamped off the heads of more than twenty
factions, as though they had been worms.” Countless other such
utterances are to be found in what has gone before.[413] “He,” so he
declares, “was surely far too learned to allow himself to be taught
by the Swiss theologians”; this was one of the sayings that led the
friends of the latter to speak of his “tyrannical pride.”[414]

Here come the fractious Sacramentarians, he says, and want a share
in my fame; they want to celebrate a “glorious victory” as though it
was not from me that they got everything. This is how things turn
out, “one labours and some other man takes the fruit.”[415] Carlstadt
comes forward and seeks to become a new doctor; “he is anxious to
detract from my importance and to introduce among the people his own

A character where the first person asserted itself so imperiously could
not but be a disputatious one. Down to his very last years Luther’s
whole life was filled with strife: quarrels with the jurists; with
his own theologians; with the Jews; with the Princes and rapacious
nobility; with the Popish foemen and with his own colleagues and
followers, even with the preachers and writers dearest to him.

Luther sought to safeguard his cause on every side, even at the cost of
concessions at variance with his duty, or by grovelling subserviency
to the Princes, whether he actually granted their desire,[417] or, as
in the case of the bigamy of Henry VIII of England, merely threw out a

His new ethical principles should surely have been attested in his own
person, above all by truthfulness. In this connection we must, however,
recall to mind the observations made elsewhere. (Above, vol. iv., p. 80

Who is the lover of truth who does not regret the advice Luther gave
from the Coburg to his followers at the Diet of Augsburg, viz. to
make use of cunning when the cause seemed endangered? Where does
self-betterment come in if “tricks and lapses” are to form a part of
his life’s task, even though “with God’s help” they were afterwards
to be amended;[419] if, when treating of the most important church
matters, “reservation and subterfuge (‘_insidiæ_’)” are not only to be
used but even to be represented as the work of Christ? Wherever the
principle holds: Against the malice of our opponents everything is
lawful,[420] there, undoubtedly, the least honest will always have the
upper hand. As to how far Luther thought himself justified in going in
order to conceal his real intentions we may see from his letters to the
Pope, particularly from the last letter he addressed to him, where the
public assertion of his devotion to the Roman Church coincides with his
private admission to friends that the Pope was Antichrist and that he
had sworn to attack him.[421]

       *       *       *       *       *

In his relentless polemics against the Church—where he does not
hesitate to bring the most baseless of charges against both her
dignitaries and her institutions—we might dismiss as not uncommon
his tendency to see only what was evil, eagerly setting this in the
foreground while passing over all that was good; his eyes also served
to magnify and distort the dark spots into all manner of grotesque
shapes. But what tells more heavily against him is his having evolved
out of his own mind a mountain of false doctrines which he foists on
the Church as hers, though in reality not one of them but the very
opposite was taught in and by the Church.

 The Pope, he writes, for instance, in his “Vermanũg” from the Coburg,
 wants to “forbid marriage” and teaches that the “love of woman”
 is to be despised; this is one of the abominations and plagues of
 Antichrist, for God created woman for the honour and help of man.[422]
 The state of celibacy, willingly embraced by many under the Papacy,
 Luther decried in the same violent writing as a “state befitting
 whores and knaves,”[423] and he even connects with it unmentionable

 He had declared “contempt of God” to be the mark of the Papal
 Antichrist, but, in the booklet in question, and elsewhere, we find
 him tirelessly charging with utter forgetfulness of God, hatred of
 religion, nay, complete absence of Christian faith not only the Pope
 and his advisers—who, none of them rose above an Epicurean faith—but
 all his opponents, particularly those who by their pen had damaged his
 doctrine. “Willingly enough would I obey the Pope and all the bishops,
 but they require me to deny Christ and His Gospel and to take of God
 a liar, therefore I prefer to attack them.”[424] When, in addition to
 this, he tries in all seriousness to make the people believe that at
 Rome the Gospel and all it contained was scoffed at; that the Papists
 were all sceptics; that their Doctors did not even know the Ten
 Commandments; that their priests were quite unable to quiet any man’s
 conscience; that the popish doctrine spelt nothing but murder, and
 that indeed every Papist must be a murderer, etc.,[425] one is tempted
 to seek for a pathological explanation of so strange a phenomenon.
 Such explanations will, it is true, be forthcoming in due course and
 will furnish grounds for a more lenient judgment. Here it may suffice
 to instance the terrific strength of will which dominated Luther’s
 fiery warfare, and which at times made him see things that others,
 even his own followers, were absolutely unable to see. Fortunately his
 mad statements concerning the Papists’ love of murder found little
 credence, any more than his repeated assurance that the Papists were
 at heart on his side, at any rate their leaders, writers and educated

 He seems, however, also to believe many other monstrous things: it
 was his discovery, that, “in the Papacy, men sought to find salvation
 in Aristotle”; this belief he attempted to instil into the people in
 a sermon of 1528.[426] In 1542 he assured his friends in tones no
 less confident that the Papists had succeeded in teaching nothing but
 idolatry, “for every work [as taught by them] is idolatry. What they
 learnt was nothing but holiness-by-works.... Man was to perform this
 or that; to put on a cowl or get his head shaved; whoever did not do
 or believe this was damned. Yet, on the other hand, even if a man did
 all this they were unable to say with certainty whether thereby he
 would be saved. Fie, devil, what sort of doctrine was this!”[427]

 The cowl and tonsure of the monks were particularly obnoxious to
 him. He cherished the view that he had for ever extirpated monkery;
 he declared that even the heads of Catholicism would not in future
 endure these hateful guests. To have been instrumental in preparing
 such a fate for the sons of the most noble-minded men, of St. Francis
 of Assisi and St. Dominic, and for all the monks generally, who had
 been the trustiest supports of the faith, of the missions and of
 civilisation, this appears to him a triumph, which he proceeds to
 magnify out of all proportion the better to gloat over it.

 “No greater service has ever been rendered to the bishops and
 pastors,” so he writes in his “Vermanũg,” “than that they should thus
 be rid of the monks; and I venture to surmise that there is hardly
 anyone now at Augsburg who would take the part of the monks and beg
 for their reinstatement. Indeed the bishops will not permit such bugs
 and lice again to fasten on their fur [their cappas], but are right
 glad that I have washed the fur so clean for them.”[428]—The untruth
 of this is self-evident. If some few short-sighted or tepid bishops
 among them were willing to dispense with the monks, still this was
 not the general feeling towards those auxiliaries of the Church, whom
 Luther himself on the same page dubs the “Pope’s right-hand men.” But
 the lie was calculated to impress those who possessed influence.

 Further untruths are found in this booklet: Hitherto, the monks, not
 the bishops, had “governed the churches”; it was merely his peaceable
 teaching and the power of the Word that had “destroyed” the monks;
 this the bishops, “backed by the might of all the kings and with all
 the learning of the universities at their command had not been able to
 do.”[429] Let no one accuse him of “preaching sedition,” so he goes
 on; he had merely “taught the people to keep the peace”;[430] he would
 much rather have preferred to end his days in retirement; “for me
 there will be no better tidings than to hear that I had been removed
 from the office of preacher”; better and more pious heretics than the
 Lutherans had never before been met with; he cannot deny that there
 is nothing lacking in his doctrine and in that of his “followers ...
 whatever their life may be.”[431]

We have here a row of instances of the honesty of his polemics and
of the way in which he treated with the State authorities concerning
the deepest matters of the Church’s life. Often enough his polemics
consist solely of unwarrantable statements concerning his own pacific
intentions and salutary achievements, supported by revolting untruths,
misrepresentations and exaggerations tending to damage his opponents’

Beyond this we frequently find him having recourse to low and unworthy
language, and to filthy and unmannerly abuse. (Vol. iv., p. 318 ff.)

 “When they are most angry I say to the Papists,” he cries in his
 “Warnunge an seine lieben Deudschen,” “My dear sirs, leave the wall,
 relieve yourselves into your drawers and sling it round your neck....
 If they do not care to accept my services, then the devil may well be
 thankful to them!” etc.[432] “Oh, the shameful Diet, such as has never
 before been held or heard of ... an everlasting blot on the whole
 Empire! What will the Turk say ... to our allowing the accursed Pope
 with his minions to fool and mock at us, to treat us as children, nay,
 as clouts and blocks, to our behaving contrary to justice and truth,
 nay, with such utter shamelessness in open Diet as regards their
 blasphemies, their shameful and Sodomitic life and doctrines?”[433]
 These were the words in which he described the Diet of Augsburg in

 We may here recall the saying of Valentine Ickelsamer the Anabaptist.
 At one time he had thought of espousing Luther’s cause, but “owing to
 the diabolical abuse” which he piled on “erring men” it was possible
 to regard him only “as a non-Christian.” Luther wanted to overthrow
 his opponents simply by words “of abuse”; these “Saxon rogues of
 Wittenberg,” “when unable to get what they want by means of a few kind
 words, invoke on you all the curses of the devil.”

 Heinrich Bullinger complains repeatedly, and quite as bitterly, of the
 frightful storm into which Luther’s eloquence was apt to break out. It
 is noteworthy that he applies what he says to Luther’s polemics, not
 merely against the Swiss, but against other opponents. “Here all men
 have in their hands Luther’s King Harry of England, and another Harry
 as well, in his unsavoury Hans Worst; _item_, they have Luther’s book
 on the Jews with its hideous letters of the Bible dropped from the
 posterior of the pig, which the Jews may swallow, indeed, but never
 read; then, again, there is Luther’s filthy, swinish Schemhamphorasch,
 for which some small excuse might have been found had it been written
 by a swine-herd and not by a famous pastor of souls.”[434]

 “And yet most people,” so Bullinger says, “even go so far as to
 worship the houndish, filthy eloquence of the man. Thus it comes
 that he goes his way and seeks to outdo himself in vituperation....
 Many pious and learned people take scandal at his insolence, which
 really is beyond measure.” He should have someone at his side to keep
 a check on him, so Bullinger tells Bucer, for instance, his friend
 Melanchthon, “so that Luther may not ruin a good cause with his
 wonted invective, his bitterness, his torrent of bad words and his

 And yet Luther at this very time, in his “Warnunge,” calls himself
 “the German Prophet” and “a faithful teacher.”[436]

 The following words of Erasmus contain a general censure: “You wish to
 be taken for a teacher of the Gospel. In that case, however, would it
 not better beseem you not to repel all the prudent and well-meaning
 by your vituperation nor to incite men to strife and revolt in these
 already troubled times?”[437]—“You snarl at me as an Epicurean. Had
 I been an Epicurean and lived in the time of the Apostles and heard
 them proclaim the Gospel with such invective, then I fear I should
 have remained an Epicurean.... Whoever is conscious of teaching a holy
 doctrine should not behave with insolence and delight in malicious
 misrepresentation.”[438]—“To what class of spirits,” he had already
 asked him, “does yours belong, if indeed it be a spirit at all? And
 what unevangelical way is this of inculcating the holy Gospel? Has
 perchance the risen Gospel done away with all the laws of public order
 so that now one may say and write anything against anyone? Does the
 freedom you are bringing back to us spell no more than this?”[439]

_Kindlier Traits and Episodes_

The unprejudiced reader will gladly turn his gaze from pictures such as
the above to the more favourable traits in Luther’s character, which,
as already shown elsewhere,[440] are by no means lacking.

Whoever has the least acquaintance with his Kirchenpostille and
Hauspostille will not scruple to acknowledge the good and morally
elevating undercurrent which runs below his polemics and peculiar
theories. For instance, his exhortations, so warm and eloquent, to
give alms to the needy; his glowing praise of Holy Scripture and of
the consolation its divine words bring to troubled hearts; again, his
efforts to promote education and juvenile instruction; his admonitions
to assist at the sermon and at Divine worship, to avoid envy, strife,
avarice and gluttony, and private no less than public vice of every

The many who are familiar only with this beautiful and inspiring side
of his writings, and possibly of his labours, must not take it amiss
if, in a work like the present, the historian is no less concerned with
the opposite side of Luther’s writings and whole conduct.

As a matter of fact, gentler tones often mingle with the harsher notes,
while the unpleasant traits just described alter at times and tend
to assume a more favourable aspect. This is occasionally true of his
severity, his defiant and imperious behaviour. He not seldom, thanks
to this art of his, achieved good and eminently creditable results,
particularly in the protection of the poor or oppressed. Many who
were in dire straits were wont to apply to him in order to secure his
powerful intervention with the authorities on their behalf.

During the famine of 1539, when the nobles avariciously cornered the
grain, Luther made strong representations to the Elector and begged him
to come to the assistance of the town. Nor, in the same year, did he
hesitate to address a severe “warning” to the Electoral steward, the
Knight Franz Schott of Coburg, when the town-council at his instigation
was moved to take too precipitate action.[441]

Best known of all, however, was his powerful intervention in the case
of a certain man whose misdeeds were the plague of the Saxon Electorate
from 1534 to 1540; this was Hans Kohlhase, a Berlin merchant. He had
been overreached in a matter of two horses by a certain Saxon squire
of Zaschwitz, and had afterwards lost his case in the courts. In order
to obtain satisfaction Kohlhase formally gave out, that he would
“rob, burn, capture and hold to ransom” the Saxons until he obtained
redress. Incendiary fires broke out shortly after in Wittenberg and
the neighbourhood which were laid to the charge of Kohlhase’s men. The
Elector could think of no better plan than to suggest a settlement
between the merchant, now turned robber-knight, and the heirs of the
above-mentioned squire; it was then that Kohlhase appealed to Luther
for advice.

Luther replied with authority and dignity, not hesitating to rebuke
him for his unprincipled action. He would not escape the wrath of God
if he continued to pursue his unheard-of course of private revenge,
since it stands written that “Vengeance is mine”; the shameful acts of
violence which had been perpetrated by his men would be put down to his
account. He ought not to take the devil as his sponsor. If in spite of
all peaceful efforts he failed to succeed in obtaining his due, then
nothing was left but for him to submit to the Divine decree, which was
always for our best, and to suffer in patience. He consoled him at the
same time in a friendly way for such injury and outrage as he might
have endured; nor was it wrong to seek redress, but this must be done
within the right bounds.[442]

The well-meaning letter, which does Luther credit, had unfortunately no

The attempted arbitration, owing to the leniency of the Electoral
agent, Hans Metzsch, ended so much to the advantage of Kohlhase that
the Elector, partly owing to his strained relations with Brandenburg,
refused to ratify it. Kohlhase’s bands came from Brandenburg and fell
upon the undefended castles and villages in the Saxon Electorate.
Their raids were also to some extent connived at by the Elector of
Brandenburg. They excited great terror even at Wittenberg itself owing
to sudden attacks made in the vicinity of the town. New attempts to
reach a settlement brought them to a standstill for a while, but soon
the strange civil war—an echo of the Peasant Rising and Revolt of the
Knights—broke out anew and lasted until 1539.

Luther told his friends that such things could never have taken place
under the Landgrave of Hesse; that, as the principal actor had shed
blood, he would himself die a violent death. In 1539 he invited the
Elector of Saxony by letter to act as the father of his country; he
should come to the assistance of his people who were at the mercy of a
criminal, nor should he leave the Elector of Brandenburg a free hand if
it were true that he was implicated in the business.[443]

Finally Kohlhase, after committing excesses even in Brandenburg itself,
was executed at Berlin on March 22, 1540, being broken on the wheel.

On Luther’s admonition to the robber, Protestant legend soon laid
hold, and, even in the second half of the 16th century, we find it
further embellished. There is hardly a popular history of Luther to-day
which does not give the scene where Kohlhase, in disguise, knocks at
Luther’s door one dark night and on his reply to the question, “Art
thou Kohlhase?” is admitted by the latter, explains his quarrel in the
presence of Melanchthon, Cruciger and others and is reconciled with God
and his fellow-men; he then promises to abstain from violence in future
as Luther and his people are willing to help him to his rights, and the
romantic visit closes by the repentant sinner making his confession and
receiving the Supper.

The only chronicler of the March who relates this at the date mentioned
above fails to give any authority for his narrative, nor can it,
as Köstlin-Kawerau points out, be assigned its place “anywhere in
Kohlhase’s life-story as otherwise known to us.”[444] Luther’s own
statements concerning the affair, particularly his last ones, do not
agree with such an ending; throughout he appears as the champion of
outraged justice against a public offender. The not unkindly words in
which Luther had answered Kohlhase’s request were probably responsible
for the legend, which sprang up all the easier seeing that numerous
instances were known where Luther’s powerful intervention had succeeded
in restraining violence and in securing victory for the cause of
justice against the oppressor.[445]

_The Reformation of the Church and Luther’s Ethics_

The defenders of the ancient faith urged very strongly that the first
step towards a real moral reformation of the Church was to depict the
Church as she was to be in accordance with Christ’s institution and
the best traditions, and then, with the help of this standard, to see
how far the Church of the times fell short of this ideal; in order to
reform any institution, so they argued, we must be acquainted with its
primitive shape so as to be able to revert to it.

This they declared they had in vain asked of Luther, who, on the
contrary, seemed bent on subverting the whole Church. They even failed
to see that he had suggested any means wherewith to withstand the moral
shortcomings of the age. In their eyes the radical and destructive
changes on which he so vehemently insisted spelt no real improvement;
the discontent with prevailing conditions which he preached to
the people could not but create a wrong atmosphere; nor could the
abolishing of the Church’s spiritual remedies, the slighting of her
commands and the revolting treatment of the hierarchy serve the cause
of prudent Church reform.

Luther himself, in his so-called “Bull and Reformation,” put forth
his demands for the reform of ecclesiastical conditions as they
presented themselves to his mind during the days of his fiercest
struggle.[446] The “Bull” does not, however, afford any positive scheme
of reformation, as the title might lead one to suppose. It is made up
wholly of denials and polemics, and the same is true of his later works.

According to this writing the bishops are “not merely phantoms and
idols, but folk accursed in God’s sight”; they corrupt souls, and,
against them, “every Christian should strive with body and substance.”
One should “cheerfully do to them everything that they disliked, just
as though they were the devil himself.” All those who now are pastors
must repudiate the obedience which they gave “with the promise of
chastity,” seeing that this obedience was promised, not to God, but to
the devil, “just as a man must repudiate a compact he has made with the
devil.” “This is my Bull, yea, Dr. Luther’s own,” etc.

In this Luther was striking out a new road. Christ and his Apostles had
begun the moral reform of the world by preaching the doing of “penance,
for the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand.” True enough such a preaching can
never have been so popular with the masses as Luther’s invitation to
overthrow the Church.

Luther’s “Reformation” did not, however, consist merely in the
overthrow of the olden ecclesiasticism; it also strove to counteract
much that was really amiss.

His action had this to recommend it, that it threw into the full light
of day the shady side of ecclesiastical life; after all, knowledge
of the evil is already a step towards its betterment. For centuries
few had had the courage to point a finger at the Church’s wounds so
insistently as Luther; at the ills rampant in the clergy, Church
government and in the faith and morals of the people. His piercing
glance saw into every corner, and, assisted by expert helpers, some of
them formerly officials of the Curia, he laid bare every regrettable
disorder, needless to say not without exaggerating everything to his
heart’s content. Practically, however, Luther’s revelations represent
what was best in the movement which professed to aim at a reform of
morals. Had he not embittered with such unspeakable hate the long list
of shortcomings with which he persistently confronted the olden Church,
had he used it as a means of amendment and not rather as a goad whereby
to excite the masses, then one might have been even more thankful to

It cannot be gainsaid that, particularly at the outset, ethical motives
were at work in him; that he like others felt the burden of the evil,
was certainly no lie.

Yet it must not be forgotten that he attacked the Pope and the Church
so violently, not on account of any refusal to amend, but in order to
clear a path for his subversive views of theology and for the “Evangel”
which had been condemned by ecclesiastical authority. The very
magnitude of the attack he led on the whole conception of the Church,
in itself proves that it was no mere question of defending the rights
of Christian ethics; the removal of moral disorders from Christendom
was to him but a secondary concern, and, moreover, he certainly did
everything he could to render impossible any ordered abolishment of
abuses and any real improvement.

One may even ask whether he had any programme at all for the betterment
of the Church. The question is made almost superfluous by the history
of the struggle. He himself never set up before his mind any regular
programme for his work, whether ecclesiastical, social or even ethical,
when once he had come to see that the idealist scheme in his “An
den christlichen Adel” was impossible of realisation. Hence, when
he had succeeded in destroying the old order in a small portion of
the Church’s territory, he had perforce to begin an uncertain search
after something new whereby to replace it; nothing could be more
hopeless than his efforts to build up from the ruins a new Church and
a new society, a new liturgy and a new canon law, and to improve the
morals of the adherents of his cause. In spite of Luther’s aversion
to the scheme, it came about that the whole work of reformation was,
by the force of circumstances, left to the secular authorities; from
the Consistories down to the school-teachers, from the Marriage
Courts down to the guardians of the poor, everything came into the
hands of the State. Luther had been wont to complain that the Church
in olden days had drawn all secular affairs to herself. Since his
day, on the other hand, everything that pertained to the Church was
secularised. The actual result was a gradual alienation of secular
and ecclesiastical, quite at variance with the theories embodied in
the faith. In this it is impossible to see a true reformation in any
moral meaning of the word, and Luther’s ethics, which made all secular
callings independent of the Church, failed in the event to celebrate
any triumph.

The better to appreciate certain striking contrasts between the
olden Church and her ratification of morality on the one hand and
Luther’s thought on the other, we may glance at his attitude towards
canonisation and excommunication.

Canonisation and excommunication are two opposite poles of the
Church’s life; by the one the Church stamps her heroes with the seal
of perfection and sets them up for the veneration of the faithful; by
the other she excludes the unworthy from her communion, using thereto
the greatest punishment at her command. Both are, to the eye of faith,
powerful levers in the moral life.

Luther, however, laughed both to scorn. The ban he attacked on
principle, particularly after he himself had fallen under it; in this
his action differed from that of Catholic writers, many of whom had
written against the ban though only to lament its abuse and its too
frequent employment for the defence of the material position of the

 The Pope, according to Luther, had made such a huge “mess in the
 Church by means of the Greater Excommunication that the swine could
 not get to the end with devouring it.”[447] Christians, according to
 him, ought to be taught rather to love the ban of the Church than
 to fear it. We ourselves, he cries, put the Pope under the ban and
 declare that “the Pope and his followers are no believers.”

 Later on, however, he came to see better the use of ghostly penalties
 for unseemly conduct and made no odds in emphasising the right of the
 community as such to make use of exclusion as a punishment; in view of
 the increase of disorders he essayed repeatedly to reintroduce on his
 own authority a sort of ban in his Churches.[448]

 As early as 1519 Luther had expressed his disapproval of the
 canonising of Saints by the Church, a practice which stimulated
 the moral efforts of the faithful by setting up an ideal and by
 encouraging daily worship; he added, however, that “each one was
 free to canonise as much as he pleased.”[449] In 1524, however, he
 poured forth his wrath on the never-ending canonisations; as a rule
 they were “nothing but Popish Saints and no Christian Saints”;[450]
 the foundations made in their honour served “merely to fatten lazy
 gluttons and indolent swine in the Churches”; before the Judgment Day
 no one could “pronounce any man holy”; Elisabeth, Augustine, Jerome,
 Ambrose, Bernard and Francis, even he regarded as holy, though he
 would not stake his life on it, seeing there was nothing about them in
 Holy Scripture; “but the Pope, nay, all the angels, had not the power
 of setting up a new article of faith not contained in Scripture.”[451]

 On May 31, 1523, was canonised the venerable bishop Benno of Meissen,
 a contemporary of Gregory VII. Luther was incensed to the last degree
 at the thought of the special celebration to be held in 1524 in the
 town—the Duchy being still Catholic—in honour of the new Saint. He
 accordingly published his “Against the new idol and olden devil about
 to be set up at Meyssen.”[452] His use of the term “devil” in the
 title he vindicates as follows on the very first page: Now, that, “by
 the grace of God, the Gospel has again arisen and shines brightly,”
 “Satan incarnate” is avenging himself “by means of such foolery” and
 is causing himself to be worshipped with great pomp under the name
 of Benno. It was not in his power to prevent Duke George setting up
 the relics at Meissen and erecting an artistic and costly altar in
 their honour. The only result of Luther’s attack was to increase the
 devotion of clergy and people, who confidently invoked the saintly
 bishop’s protection against the inroads of apostasy. The attack also
 led Catholic writers in the Duchy to publish some bitter rejoinders.
 The rudeness of their titles bears witness to their indignation.
 “Against the Wittenberg idol Martin Luther” was the title of the
 pamphlet of Augustine Alveld, a Franciscan Guardian; the work of Paul
 Bachmann, Abbot of Alte Zelle, was entitled “Against the fiercely
 snorting wild-boar Luther,” and that of Hieronymus Emser, “Reply to
 Luther’s slanderous book.” The last writer was to some extent involved
 in the matter of the canonisation through having published the Legend
 of the famous Bishop. This he had done rather uncritically and without
 testing his authorities, and for this reason had been read a severe
 lesson by Luther.

Luther’s opposition to this canonisation was, however, by no means
dictated by historical considerations but by his hatred of all
veneration of the Saints and by his aversion to the ideal of Christian
self-denial, submissive obedience to the Church and Catholic activity
of which the canonised Saints are models. He himself makes it easy to
answer the question whether it was zeal for the moral reformation of
the Church which drove him to assail canonisation and the veneration
of the Saints; nowhere else is his attempt to destroy the sublime
ideal of Christian life which he failed to understand and to drag down
to the gutter all that was highest so clearly apparent as here. The
real Saints, so he declared, were his Wittenbergers. Striving after
great holiness on the part of the individual merely tended to derogate
from Christ’s work; the Evangelical Counsels fostered only a mistaken
desertion of the world.

Judging others by his own standard, he attempted to drag down the
Saints of the past to the level of mediocrity. Real Saints must be
“good, lusty sinners who do not blush to insert in the Our Father the
‘forgive us our trespasses.’” It was “consoling” to him to hear, that
the Apostles, too, even after they had received the Holy Ghost, had
at times been shaky in their faith, and “very consoling indeed” that
the Saints of both Old and New Covenant “had fallen into great sins”;
only thus, so he fancies, do we learn to know the “Kingdom of Christ,”
viz. the forgiveness of sins. Even Abraham, agreeably with Luther’s
interpretation of Josue xxiv. 2, was represented to have worshipped
idols, in order that Luther might be able to instance his conversion
and say: Believe like him and you will be as holy as he.[453]

_The Reformation in the Duchy of Saxony considered as typical_

In 1539, after the death of Duke George, at Luther’s instance, the
protestantising of the duchy of Saxony was undertaken with unseemly
haste; to this end Henry, the new sovereign, ordered a Visitation on
the lines of that held in the Saxon Electorate and to be carried out
by preachers placed at his disposal by the Elector. Jonas and Spalatin
now became the visitors for Meissen. Before this, on the occasion
of the canonisation of St. Benno, Spalatin, in a letter to Luther,
had treated the canonisation as a laughing matter. On July 14, the
visitors, alleging the authority of the Duke, summoned the Cathedral
Chapter at Meissen to remove the sepulchre of St. Benno. On this being
met by a refusal armed men were sent to the Cathedral the following
night. “‘They broke into fragments the richly ornamented sepulchre of
the Saint, together with the altar,’ to quote the words of the bishop’s
report to the Emperor, ‘they decapitated a wooden statue of St. Benno
and stuck it up outside as a butt for ridicule.’”[454]

Luther, for his part, in a letter to Jonas of August 14 of the
same year, has his little joke about the visitors’ undoing of the
canonisation of Benno. “You have unsainted Benno and have shown no fear
of Cochlæus, Schmid, nor of the Nausei and Sadoleti, who teach the
contrary. They are indignant with you, ultra-sensitive men that they
are, knowing so little of grammar and so much less of theology.”[455]

Nor did the progress of the overthrow of the Church throughout the
Duchy bear the least stamp of moral reform. The very violence used
forbids our applying such a term to the work. The Catholic worship at
the Cathedral was at once abolished and replaced by Lutheran services
and preaching. The priests were driven into exile, the bishop alone
being permitted to carry on “his godless papistical abominations and
practices openly in his own residence” (the Castle of Stolpen). At the
demand of the Wittenbergers the professors at Leipzig University who
refused to conform to the Lutheran doctrine were dismissed. Melanchthon
insisted, that, if they refused to hold their tongues, they must be
driven out of the land as “blasphemers.” The new preachers publicly
abused the friends, clerical and lay, of the late Duke to such an
extent that the Estates were moved to make a formal complaint. Churches
and monasteries were plundered and the sacred vessels melted down.[456]

Maurice, the son of Duke Henry, who succeeded in 1541, showed himself
even more violent and relentless in extirpating the olden system.

The profoundly immoral character of this reformation, the interference
with the people’s freedom of conscience, the destruction of religious
traditions which the peaceable inhabitants had received a thousand
years before from holy missionaries and bishops, merely on the strength
of the new doctrines of a man who claimed to have a better Gospel—all
this was expressly sanctioned and supported by Luther.

 He wrote in a memorandum on the proceedings: “There is not much room
 here for discussion. If my gracious Duke Henry wishes to have the
 Evangel, then His Highness must abolish idolatry, or not afford it
 protection ... otherwise the wrath of heaven will be too great.” As
 a “sovereign appointed by God” the ruler “owed it to Him to put down
 such horrible, blasphemous idolatry by every means in his power.” This
 was nothing more than “defending Christ and damning the devil”; an
 example had been given by the “former kings of Juda and Israel,” who
 had abolished “Baal and all his idolatry,” and later by Constantine,
 Theodosius and Gratian. For it was as much the duty of princes and
 lords as of other people to serve God and the Lord Christ to the
 utmost of their power. Away, therefore, with the abbots and bishops
 “since they are determined to remain blasphemers ... they are blind
 leaders of the blind; God’s wrath has come upon them; hence we must
 help in the matter as much as we can.”[457]

 Yet the Christian emperors here appealed to could have furnished
 Luther with an example of forbearance towards heathen Rome and its
 religious works of art which might well have shamed him. He did not
 know that at Rome the defacing and damaging of temples, altars or
 statues was most strictly forbidden, and that, for instance, Pope
 Damasus († 384) had been formally assured by the city-prefect that
 never had a Christian Roman appeared before his tribunal on such
 a charge.[458] Elsewhere, however, such acts of violence were not

 Luther’s spirit of persecution was quite different from the spirit
 which animated those Roman emperors who came over to Christianity.
 It was their desire to hasten the end of an outworn religion of
 superstition, immorality and idolatry. With them it was a question
 of defending and furthering a religion sent from heaven to renew the
 world and which had convincingly proved the divinity of its mission by
 miracles, by the blood of martyrs and by the striking holiness of so
 many thousands of confessors.

It was against the faithful adherents of this very religion that, on
the pretext of the outward corruption under which it groaned, Luther
perpetrated so many acts of violence regardless of the testimony of
a thousand years of beneficent labours. His ingratitude towards the
achievements of the olden Church in the education of the nations, his
deliberate ignoring of the great qualities which distinguished her and
in his day could still have enabled her to carry out her own moral
regeneration from within, are incompatible with his having been a true
moral reformer.

_The Aims of the Reformation and the Currents of the Age_

Looking at the state of the case from the standpoint of the olden
Catholic Church a closer historical examination shows that what she
needed above all was a strengthening of her interior organisation.[459]

In view of the tendency to split up into separate States, in view of
the decay of that outward bond of the nations under the Empire which
had once been her stay, and of the rise of all sorts of new elements
of culture requiring to be exploited for the glory of God and the
spiritual betterment of mankind, a consolidation of the Church’s
structure was essential. The Primacy indeed was there, exercised its
functions and was recognised, but what was needed was a more direct
recognition of a purified Papacy. The bond of unity between the nations
within the Church needed to be more clearly put in evidence. This could
best be done by allowing the significance of a voluntary submission to
the authority appointed by God, and of the Primacy, to sink more deeply
into the consciousness of Christendom. This was all the more called
for, now that the traditional devotion to Rome had suffered so much
owing to the great Schism of the West, to the reforming Councils and
the prevalence of Gallican ideas, and that the splendour of the Papacy
seemed now on the wane. The excessive concern of the Popes in politics
and the struggle they had waged in Italy in the effort to establish
themselves more securely had by no means contributed to increase
respect for the power of the keys in its own peculiar domain, viz. the

Thus any reformer seeking to improve the Church’s condition had
necessarily to face this task first of all.—Many other moral
requirements arising out of the then state of society had, however,
also to be borne in mind.

It was necessary to counteract, by laying stress on what had been
handed down, the false subjectivism and universal scepticism which
the schools of philosophy had let loose on the world; also to oppose
the cynicism, lack of discipline and love of destruction which
characterised Humanism, by infusing into education the true spirit
of the Church. Both these tasks could, however, be accomplished only
by men filled with respect for tradition who while on the one hand
broad-mindedly accepting the new learning, i.e. without questioning
or distrusting reason and its rights, on the other hand possessed the
power and the will to spiritualise the new culture. The disruptive
tendency of the nations, the counterpart in international politics
of the prevalent individualism, required to be corrected by laying
stress on the underlying common ground. The undreamt-of enlargement
of the Church through the discovery of new lands had to be met
by organisations, the members of which were filled with love of
self-denial and zeal for souls. At the same time the materialism, which
was a consequence of the great increase of wealth brought from foreign
lands, had to be checked. To oppose the alarming growth of Turkish
power it was necessary to preach self-sacrifice, manly courage and
above all Christian unity amongst those in power, amongst those who in
former times had sallied forth against the East strong in the feeling
of being one family in the faith. A still worse foe to Christian
society was to be found in moral discouragement and exhaustion; there
was need of a new spirit to awaken the motive force of religious life
and to stir men to a more active use of the means of grace.

If we compare the moral aims and motives which inspired Luther’s
reformation, with the great needs of the times, as just described, we
cannot fail to see how far short he fell of the requirements.

Most of the aims indicated were quite strange to him. Judging from the
standpoint of the olden Church, he frequently sought the very opposite
of what was required. Some few instances may be cited.

So little did Luther’s reformation tend to realise the sublime moral
principle of the union and comradeship of the nations, that, on the
contrary, he encouraged nationalism and separatist tendencies even
in Church matters. Where his idea of a National Church prevailed,
there the strongest bond of union disappeared completely.[460] The
more the authority of the Empire was subverted by the separatists, by
religious Leagues and violent inroads of princes and sovereign towns
within the Empire, the more the idea of unity, which at one time had
been so great a power for good, had to suffer. He complained that the
nations and races were as unfriendly to each other as devils. But for
him, the rude Saxon, to abuse all who dwelt outside his borders in
the most unmeasured terms, and to pour out the vials of his wrath and
vituperation on the Latin nations because they were Catholic could
hardly be regarded as conducive to better harmony. When he persistently
declared in his writings and sermons that the real Turks were to be
found at home, or when he fanned the flames of fraternal hatred against
the Papists within the Fatherland, such action could scarcely promote a
more effectual resistance to the danger looming in the East. The Bible,
according to him, was to serve as the means of uniting the people of
God. He flung it amongst the people at a time when everything was
seething with excitement; yet he himself, in spite of all his praise
of Bible study, was moved to execrate the results. It seemed, so he
declared, as though it had been done merely “in order that each one
might bore a hole where his snout happened to be.”[461]

As to subjectivism, the dominant evil of the age, he himself carried
it to its furthest limits, relentlessly condemning everywhere whatever
did not appeal to him and exalting his personal views and feelings into
a regular law; subjectivism pervades and spoils his whole theology,
and, in the domain of ethics, puts both personality and conscience on
a new and very questionable basis.[462] The subjective principle as
used by him and exalted into an axiom, might be invoked equally by any
religious faction for its own ends. We need only recall Luther’s theory
of the lonely isolation of the individual in the matter of faith.

Again, if that transition period between mediæval and modern times was
suffering from moral and religious exhaustion and was inclined to be
pessimistic concerning spiritual goods, and if, for its moral reform,
what was needed was a leader deeply imbued with faith in revelation,
able by the very strength of his faith to arouse the world of his
day, and to inspire the lame and timid with enthusiasm and delight
in the ancient treasures of religion—then, again, one is forced
to ask whether such a man as Luther, even apart from his new and
erroneous doctrines, had the requisite strong and overbearing devotion
to supernatural truths? Is it not Luther who speaks so often of the
weakness of his faith, of his doubts and his inward trials, and who, in
order to reassure himself, declares that everyone, even the Apostles,
the martyrs and the saints, were acquainted with the like?

Not only did he not fight against pessimism, but, as the years went
by, he even built it into a truly burdensome system. Towards the end
of his life, owing both to his theories and to his experiences, he
became a living embodiment of dejection, constituting himself its
eloquent advocate. His view of the history of the kingdom of Christ
was the gloomiest imaginable. Everywhere he saw the power of the devil
predominant throughout the whole course of the world’s history.

 Not only is everything in the world outside of Christ Satanic, but
 even the ancient people of God, chosen with a view to the coming
 Redeemer, according to Luther, “raged and stormed” against the faith.
 But “the fury of the Jews” was exceeded by the “malice” which began
 to insinuate itself into the first Church not very long after its
 foundation. What the Jews did was “but a joke and mere child’s play”
 compared with the corruption of the Christian religion by means of
 “human ordinances, councils and Papistry.” Hardly had the light
 enkindled by Christ begun to shine before it gradually flickered out,
 until lighted again by Luther. In the East prevailed the rule of the
 Turks, those devils incarnate, whilst the West groaned under the
 Papacy, which far exceeds even the Islam in devilry.[463]

 His pessimism sees the origin of the corruption in the Church in the
 fact, that, already in the first centuries, “the devil had broken into
 Holy Scripture and made such a disturbance as to give rise to many
 heresies.” To counteract these the Christians surrendered themselves
 to human ordinances; “they knew of no other way out of the difficulty
 than to set up a multitude of Councils side by side with Scripture.”
 “In short, the devil is too clever and powerful for us; everywhere he
 is an obstacle and a hindrance. If we go to Scripture, he arouses so
 much dissension and strife that we grow sick of the Word and afraid to
 trust to it. Yet if we rely on human councils and counsels, we lose
 Scripture altogether and become the devil’s own, body and soul.” This
 evil was not solely due to setting up human ordinances in the place of
 Scripture, but also to the preference shown in theory to works which
 arose when people saw, that “works or deeds did not follow” from the
 preaching of the Apostles, “as they should have done.” “Hence the
 new disciples set to work to improve upon the Master’s building and
 proceeded to confuse two different things, viz. works and faith. This
 scandal has been a hindrance to the new doctrine of faith from the
 beginning even to the present day.”

 From all this one would rather gather that the fault lay more in the
 nature of Christianity than in the devil.

 Luther’s pessimistic tendency also expresses itself in the conviction,
 that it was the “gruesome, frightful and boundless anger of God”
 that was the cause of the desolation of Christendom during so many
 centuries, though he assigns no reason for such anger on the part of

 His gloomy view of the world, exercising an increasing domination over
 him, led him to take refuge in fatalistic grounds for consolation,
 which, according to his wont, he even attributed to Christ who had
 inspired him with them. Haunted by his diabolical visions he finally
 became more deeply imbued with pessimism than any present-day
 representative of the pessimistic philosophy.

 “Here you are living,” so he writes to one of his friends, “in the
 devil’s own den of murderers, surrounded by dragons and serpents. Of
 two things one must happen; either the people become devils to you, or
 you yourself become a devil.”[464]

Formerly he had looked forward with some courage and confidence to
the possibility of a change. But even his courage, particularly at
critical junctures, for instance, at the Coburg and during the Diet of
Augsburg, more resembled the wanton rashness of a man who seeks to set
his own fears at defiance. At any rate his peculiar form of courage in
faith was not calculated to give a fresh stimulus, amid the general
relaxation and exhaustion, to religious enthusiasm and the spirit of
cheerful self-sacrifice for the highest aims of human life. On the
other hand, his success was largely due to the discouragement so widely
prevalent. We meet with a mournful echo of this discouragement in the
sayings of certain contemporary Princes of the Church, who seem to
have given up everything for lost. Many who had been surprised and
overwhelmed by the sudden bursting of the storm were victims of this

       *       *       *       *       *

Luther not only failed to direct the unfavourable tendencies of the age
into better channels, but even to some extent allowed himself to be
carried away by them.

Even so strong a man as he, was keenly affected by the spirit of
the age. In some respects it is true his work exercised a lasting
effect on the prevalent currents, but in others he allowed his work
to be dominated by the spirit then abroad. To the nominalistic
school of Occam he owed not only certain of his doctrines but also
his disputatious and subversive ways, and his method of ignoring the
general connection between the truths of faith and of making the most
of the grounds for doubt. Pseudo-mystic influences explain both his
subjectivism and those quietistic principles, traces of which are
long met with in his writings. Humanism increased his aversion to the
old-time scholasticism, his animosity to the principles of authority
and tradition, his contempt for all things mediæval, his lack of
appreciation for, and unfairness to, the religious orders no less
than the paradox and arrogance of his language. A strain of coarse
materialism runs through the Renaissance. In Luther, says Paulsen,
“we are reminded of the Renaissance by a certain coarse naturalism
with which the new Evangel is spiced, and which, in his attacks on
celibacy and the religious life, occasionally leads Luther to speak as
though to abstain from carnal works was to rebel against God’s Will
and command.”[465] To the tendency of the Princes to exalt themselves
Luther yielded, even at the expense of the liberties and well-being of
the people, simply because he stood in need of the rulers’ support. The
spirit of revolt against the hierarchy which was seething amongst the
masses and even among many of the theologians, and which the disorders
censured in the _Gravamina_ of the various Diets had brought almost to
the point of explosion, carried Luther away; even in those writings
which contemporaries and aftercomers were to praise as his greatest
achievement and, in fact, in his whole undertaking in so far as it
involved separation from Rome, he was simply following the trend of his

8. The Church Apart of the True Believers

Luther’s sad experiences in establishing a new Church led him for
several years to cherish a strange idea; his then intention was to
unite the true believers into a special band and to restrict the
preaching of the Gospel to these small congregations which would then
represent the real Church.

This idea of his of gathering together the true Christians has already
been referred to cursorily elsewhere,[466] but it is of such importance
that it may well be dealt with somewhat more in detail.

_Luther’s Theory of the Church Apart prior to 1526_

On the whole the idea which Luther, previous to 1526, expressed over
and over again as clearly as could be desired and never rejected later,
viz. of uniting certain chosen Christians—the true believers—in a
“congregation apart” and of regarding the remainder, i.e. the ordinary
members of the flock which followed him, or popular Church as it was
termed, as a mere lump still to be kneaded, gives us a deep insight
into the development which his conception of the Church underwent and
into his opinion of the position of his congregations generally. The
idea was an outcome more of circumstances than of reflection, more a
fanciful expedient than a consequence of his theories; thus it was that
it suffered shipwreck on the outward conditions which soon showed that
the plan was impossible of realisation. It really originated in the
moral disorders rampant in the new Church, particularly at Wittenberg.
So few of those who followed him allowed their hearts to be touched
by the Evangel, and yet all, none the less, claimed not merely to be
called Evangelicals but even to share in the Supper. Luther saw that
this state of things was compromising the good name of the work he had

After the refusal of the Princes and nobles to listen to his appeal
to amend the state of Christendom, he determined to take his stand
on the congregational principle. He fondly expected that, thanks
to the supposed inward power of reform in the new communities, all
his proposals would soon be put into execution, the old system of
Church government swept away and a new order established more in
accordance with his views. Hence in the writing to the magistrates
and congregation of Prague, “_De instituendis ministris ecclesiæ_”
(Nov., 1523), which, without delay, he caused to be translated into
German,[467] he strove to show, how, everywhere, the new Church system
was to be established from top to bottom by the selection of pastors
by members of the congregation filled with faith (“_iis qui credunt,
hæc scribimus_”).[468] According to this writing, the Visitors and
Archbishop yet to be chosen by the zealous clergy, were to live only
for the sake of the pastors and the congregations, whom they had to
better by means of the Word. The faithful congregations “will indeed
be weak and sinful”—Luther had no hope of setting up a Church of
the perfect—but, “seeing they have the Word, they are at least not
ungodly; they sin indeed, but, far from denying, they confess the
Word.”[469] “Luther’s optimism,” says Paul Drews, “saw already whole
parishes converted into congregations of real Christians, realising
anew the true Church of the Apostolic ideal.”[470]

 In the same year, 1523, on Maundy Thursday, he for the first time
 spoke publicly, in a sermon delivered at Wittenberg, of the plan he
 had long cherished of segregating the “believing” Christians from the
 common herd. This was when publishing a new rule on the receiving of
 the Supper, making Penance, or at least a general confession of sin,
 a condition of reception. In future all were no longer to be allowed
 to approach the Sacrament indiscriminately, but only those who were
 true Christians; hence communion was to be preceded by an examination
 in faith, i.e. by the asking of certain questions on the subject. The
 five questions, and the answers, which were printed with a preface
 by Bugenhagen, practically constituted an assurance of a sort to the
 dispensers of the Sacrament that the communicants approached from
 religious motives and that they received the Body and Blood of Christ
 as a sign of the forgiveness of their sins.

 “It must be a faith,” says Luther in this sermon, “which God works
 in you, and you must know and feel that God is working this in you.”
 But did it come to a “serious self-examination you would soon see how
 few are Christians and how few there would be who would go to the
 Sacrament. But it might be arranged and brought about, as I greatly
 wish, for those in every place who really believe to be set apart
 and distinguished from the others. I should like to have done this
 long ago, but it was not feasible; for it has not been sufficiently
 preached and urged as yet.” Meanwhile, instead of “separating” the
 true believers (later on he speaks of private sermons for them to
 be preached in the Augustinian minster) he will still address his
 discourse to all, even though it be not possible to know “who is
 really touched by it,” i.e. who really accepts the Gospel in faith;
 but it was thus that Christ and the Apostles had preached, “to the
 masses, to everyone; ... whoever can pick it up, let him do so.... But
 the Sacrament ought not thus to be scattered broadcast amongst the
 people in the way the Pope did.”[471]

 In the “_Formula missæ_” from about the beginning of Dec., 1523, he
 again speaks of the examination of the communicants, and adds that
 it was enough that this should take place once a year, while, in the
 case of educated people, it might well be omitted altogether; the
 examination by the “bishop” (i.e. the pastor) must however extend
 also to the “life and conduct” of the communicants. “If he sees a
 man addicted to fornication, adultery, drunkenness, gambling, usury,
 cursing or any other open vice he is to exclude him from the Supper
 unless he has given proof of amendment.” Moreover, those admitted
 to the Sacrament are to be assigned a special place at the altar
 in order that they may be seen by all and their moral conduct more
 easily judged of all. He would, however, lay down no commands on such
 matters, but leave everything, as was his wont, to the good will of
 free Christian men.[472]

 The introduction of the innovation was, moreover, to depend entirely
 on the consent of the congregation, agreeably with his theory of their
 rights. This he said in a sermon of Dec. 6, 1523.[473] It was probably
 in that same month that the plan was tried.

These preliminary attempts at the formation of an assembly of true
Christians were no more crowned with success than his plan for the
relief of the poor by means of the so-called common box, or his
efforts to establish a new system of penalties. Hence he declared,
that, owing to the Wittenbergers’ want of preparation, he was obliged
to put off its execution “until our Lord God forms some Christians.”
For the time being “we have not got the necessary persons.” In 1524 he
told them that “neither charity nor the Gospel could make any headway
amongst them.”[474] In the Wittenberg congregation he could “not yet
discern a truly Christian one.”[475] He nevertheless permitted the
whole congregation to take its share, when, in the autumn of 1523,
the town-council appointed Bugenhagen to the office of parish-priest;
this he did agreeably with his ideas concerning the rights of the

Meanwhile, however, the ideal of a whole parish of true believers
seemed about to be realised elsewhere. Full of apparent zeal for the
new Evangel, the magistrates and burghers of Leisnig on the Mulde
drafted a scheme for a “common box” and begged Luther to send them
something confirming their right to appoint a minister—the town having
refused to accept the lawfully presented Catholic priest—and also a
reformed order for Divine worship. The instructive incident has already
been mentioned.[476]

Luther seized eagerly on the opportunity of calling into existence at
Leisnig a community which might in turn prove a model elsewhere. From
the establishment of such congregations he believed there would result
a system of new Churches independent indeed, though supported by the
authorities, which might then take the place of the Papal Church now
thought on the point of expiry. The idealistic dreams with which, as
his writings show, the proceedings at Leisnig filled his mind would
seem to have been responsible both for his project for Wittenberg and
for his letter to the Bohemians previously referred to. The fact that
they belonged to the same time is at any rate a remarkable coincidence.

He promised the town-council of Leisnig (Jan. 29, 1523) that he would
have their scheme for the establishment of a common fund printed,[477]
and this he did shortly after, adding an introduction of his own.[478]

 In the introduction he expresses his conviction that true
 Christianity, the right belief such as he desiderated, had taken up
 its abode with them. For had they not made known their willingness to
 enforce strict discipline at Leisnig? “By God’s grace,” he tells them,
 “you are yourselves enriched by God,” hence you have “no need of my
 small powers.” Still, he was far from loath to draw up for them and
 for others, too, first the writing which appeared in print in 1523
 (possibly at the beginning of March), “Von Ordenung Gottes Dienst
 ynn der Gemeyne,”[479] and then, about Easter, 1523, another booklet
 destined to become particularly famous and to which we have already
 frequently referred, “Das eyn Christliche Versamlung odder Gemeyne
 Recht und Macht habe, alle Lere zu urteylen,” etc.[480]

 In the first, speaking of public worship “to real, heartfelt,
 holy Christians,” he says the model must surely be sought in the
 “apostolic age”; at least the clergy and the scholars, if not the
 whole congregation, were to assemble daily, and on Sundays all were
 to meet; then follow his counsels—he took care to lay down no actual
 rules—for the details of public worship, where the Word and the
 awakening of faith were to be the chief thing. These matters the
 congregation were to arrange on their own authority.

 The second booklet lays it down that it is the congregation and not
 the bishops, the learned or the councils who have the right and
 duty of judging of the preacher and of choosing a true preacher to
 replace him who does not proclaim the Word of God aright—needless
 to say, regardless of the rights of church patronage. A minority
 of true “Christians” is at liberty to reject the parish priest and
 appoint a new one of the right kind, whom it then becomes their duty
 to support. Even “the best preachers” might not be appointed by the
 bishops or patrons “without the consent, choice and call of the
 congregation.”—There can be no doubt, that, if every congregation
 acted as was here proposed, this would have spelt the doom of the old
 church system. This too was what Luther’s vivid fancy anticipated
 from the power of that Word which never returns empty-handed,
 though he preferred simply to ignore the huge inner difficulties
 which the proposal involved. The tidings that new congregations and
 town-councils were joining his cause strengthened him in his belief.
 His statements then, concerning the near overthrow of the Papacy by
 the mere breath of Christ’s mouth, are in part to be explained by this
 frame of mind.

At Leisnig, however, events did not in the least justify his sanguine

The citizens succeeded in making an end of their irksome dependence on
the neighbouring Cistercian monastery, and the town-council promptly
sequestrated all the belongings and foundations of the Church; it
then became apparent, however, that, particularly on the side of the
council, the prevalent feeling was anything but evangelical; the
councillors, for instance, refused to co-operate in the establishment
of a common poor-box or to apply to this object the endowments it had
appropriated. Grave dissensions soon ensued and Luther sought in vain
the assistance of the Elector. Of any further progress of the new
religious-community ideal we hear nothing. The fact is, the fate at
Leisnig of the model congregation and “common fund” scheme was a great
disappointment to Luther. Elsewhere, too, attempts at establishing a
common poor-box were no less unsuccessful. Of these, however, we shall
treat later.[481]

Luther’s next detailed statements concerning the “assembly of true
Christians” are met in 1525. Towards the end of that year Caspar
Schwenckfeld, a representative of the innovations in Silesia, visited
him, and various theological discussions took place in the presence
of Bugenhagen and Jonas,[482] of which Schwenckfeld took notes which
have come down to us.[483] With the help of what Luther said then,
supplemented by some later explanations, the history of the remarkable
plan can be followed further.

 In the discussion then held with Schwenckfeld the latter voiced his
 conviction, that true Christians must be separated from the false,
 “otherwise there was no hope” of improvement; excommunication, too,
 must “ever go hand in hand with the Gospel,” otherwise “the longer
 matters went on the worse they would get, for it was easy to see
 the trend throughout the world; every man wanted to be Evangelical
 and to boast of the name of Christ. To this he [Luther] replied: it
 was very painful to him that no one showed any sign of amendment”;
 he had, however, already taken steps concerning the separation of
 the true believers and had announced “publicly in his sermons” his
 intention of keeping a “register of Christians” and of having a watch
 set over their conduct, also “of preaching to them in the monastery”
 while a “curate preached to the others in the parish.”[484] It was a
 disgrace, remarked Luther, how, without such helps, everything went to
 rack and ruin. Not even half a gulden had he been able to obtain for
 the poor.

 Concerning the ban, however, “he refused to give a reply” even when
 repeatedly pressed by Schwenckfeld; he merely said: “Yes, dear Caspar,
 true Christians are not yet so plentiful; I should even be glad to see
 two of them together; for I do not feel even myself to be one.” And
 there the matter rested.[485]

 Hence, even then, he still had a quite definite intention of forming
 such a congregation of true believers at Wittenberg.[486]

 During the last months of 1525 Luther concluded a writing entitled
 “Deudsche Messe und Ordnung Gottis Diensts,” which was published in
 1526, in which he speaks at length of the strange scheme which was
 ever before his mind. Its reaction on his plans for Mass and Divine
 worship may here be passed over.[487] What more nearly concerns us now
 is the distinction he makes between those present at Divine worship.
 If the new Mass, so he says, “is held publicly in the churches before
 all the people” many are present “who as yet neither believe nor are
 Christians.” In the popular Church, such as it yet is, “there is no
 ordered or clearly cut assembly where the Christians can be ruled
 in accordance with the Gospel”; to them worship is merely “a public
 incentive to faith and Christianity.” It would be a different matter
 if we had the true Christians assembled together, “with their names
 registered and meeting together in some house or other,” where prayer,
 reading, and the receiving of the Sacrament would be assiduously
 practised, general almsgiving imposed and “penalties, correction,
 expulsion or the ban made use of according to the law of Christ.” But
 here again we find him complaining: “I have not yet the necessary
 number of people for this, nor do I see many who are desirous of
 trying it.” “Hence until Christians take the Word seriously, find
 their own legs and persevere,” the carrying out of the plan must be
 delayed. Nor did he wish, so he says, to set up “anything new in
 Christendom.” As he put it in a previous sermon: “It is perfectly true
 that I am certain I have and preach the Word, and am called; yet I
 hesitate to lay down any rules.”[488]

This hesitation cannot be explained merely by the anxiety to which he
himself refers incidentally lest commands should arouse the spirit
of opposition and give rise to “factions,”[489] for the absence of
authority was evident; it must also have sprung from the author’s own
sense of the indefiniteness of the plan. His pious wish to establish an
organisation on the apostolic model was not conspicuous for practical
insight, however great the stress Luther laid on the passages he
regarded as authoritative (2 Cor. ix., 1 Cor. xiv., Mt. xviii. 2, and
Acts vi.). “This much is clear,” rightly remarks Drews, “that Luther
was uncertain and wavered in the details of his plan. He had but little
bent to sketch out organisations even in his head; to this he did not
feel himself called.”[490]

Others, not alone from the ranks of such as inclined to fanatism,
were also to some extent to blame for the persistence with which he
continued to revert to this pet idea. Nicholas Hausmann, pastor of
Zwickau, and an intimate friend, approached him at the end of 1526 on
the subject of the ban, which he regarded as indispensable for the
cause of order. On Jan. 10, 1527, Luther replied, referring him to
the Visitation which the Elector had promised to have held. “When the
Churches have been constituted (‘_constitutis ecclesiis_’) by it, then
we shall be able to try excommunication. What can you hope to effect so
long as everything is in such disorder?”[491]

Here we reach a fresh stage in the efforts to establish a new system of
Church organisation. Luther waited in vain for the birth of the ideal
community. Everything remained “in disorder.”[492] The intervention of
the State introduced in the Visitation was, however, soon to establish
an organisation and thus to improve discipline.

_The Church Apart replaced by the Popular Church Supported by the State_

 Luther hoped much from the Visitation of 1527; it was not merely to
 constitute parishes but also to serve the cause of the “assembly of
 Christians” and of discipline; the segregation of the true believers
 was to be effected within the parishes, at least when the parishes
 were not prepared to go over as a whole to the true Church, as, for
 instance, Leisnig had once promised to do. Luther again wrote, on
 March 29, 1527, to Hausmann, the zealous Zwickau Evangelical: “We hope
 that it [the ‘assembly of Christians’] will come about through the
 Visitation.” Then, he fancies, “Christians and non-Christians would no
 longer be found side by side” as at the ordinary gatherings in church;
 but, once they were “separated and formed an assembly where it was the
 custom to admonish, reprove and punish,” church discipline could soon
 be applied to individuals too.[493]

 But the “hope” remained a mere hope even when the Visitation was over.

 Nothing whatever is known of any further attempt of Luther in this
 direction, though, as Drews points out, “it is evident that he was
 unable to understand how Christians who had reached the faith could
 fail to feel themselves impelled to assemble in communities organised
 on the Apostolic model.”[494] He had to look on helplessly while the
 followers of the new preaching formed a great congregation, of which
 many of the members were, as he had said, “not Christians at all,” and
 whose prayer-gatherings were no more than “an incentive to faith and
 Christianity.” (Above, p. 139.)

 In Hesse alone had steps been taken—independently of the Visitation
 in the Saxon Electorate and previous to it—to bring about a condition
 of things more in accordance with Luther’s ideal. Moreover, Luther
 himself preferred to remain entirely neutral in respect of this novel
 attempt, destined to become famous in the history of Protestant
 church-organisation. The prime mover in the Hessian plan was the
 preacher, Lambert of Avignon, an apostate Friar Minor; his draft was
 submitted to Landgrave Philip by a Synod held at Homberg at the end
 of 1526.[495] Philip forwarded it to Luther in order to hear his
 opinion. Among the proposals made in the draft were the following:
 After preaching for a while to the whole of the people, they were to
 be asked individually whether they wished to join the assembly of true
 believers and submit themselves to the discipline prevailing amongst
 them; those, however few in number, who give in their names are the
 Christians; as for the others they must be looked upon as pagans;
 the former have their meetings and choose their pastors because it
 is the duty of the flock to decide in what voice the shepherds shall
 speak. All the clergy were annually to meet the delegates of the
 congregations, nobles and princes in synod and to elect a committee
 and three Visitors for the direction and supervision of the whole
 Church of the land; these were also to ratify the election of all the
 clergy chosen by the people.[496]

 Luther advised the Landgrave “not as yet to allow this order to appear
 in print, for I,” he adds, “dare not yet be so bold as to introduce so
 great a number of laws amongst us and with such high-sounding words.”
 He did not, however, by any means reject the plan absolutely. On the
 contrary he writes, that, in his opinion, it were better to allow
 the project to grow up gradually “from force of habit”; a few of the
 pastors, “say one, three, six, or nine” might well make a beginning;
 otherwise they were sure to find that “the people were not yet ripe
 for it,” and that “much would have to be altered.”[497]

 As Landgrave Philip, after receiving from Luther this rather
 discouraging reply, proceeded no further, the “plan for the
 realisation of Luther’s ideas” was carried stillborn to the
 grave.[498] “And yet it was the only practical plan which at all
 corresponded with the theories of the Reformer prior to 1525.”[499]
 Later on Philip adopted the Saxon Reformation-book for the organising
 of the Church of Hesse.

That the project of esoteric congregations of true believers still
survived in Luther’s mind long after, in spite of the consolidation
of the popular Church in the form of a State Church, is plain from a
letter of his on June 26, 1533, to Tilemann Schnabel and the other
Hessian clergy (“_episcopi Hassiæ_”), again sitting in assembly at
Homberg. Schnabel was a whilom Provincial of the Saxon Augustinians and
had taken part in the abortive attempt to establish a community of true
Christians at Leisnig of which he was pastor. Finally, want, misery
and his own instability of character drove him from the country.[500]
From 1526 onwards he had been living at Alsfeld in Hesse. The new
assembly at Homberg had submitted to Luther, for his approval, the
draft of a scheme of church discipline, most probably inspired by
Schnabel himself. Luther’s reply is of the utmost importance for the
understanding of his opinion of the conditions then prevailing in the

He is, at bottom, quite at one with the Hessian preachers, but, on
practical grounds, chiefly on account of the lack of the “_veri
Christiani_,” he rejects the well-meant proposals as too far-reaching
and incapable of execution.

The time, according to him, “is not yet ripe for the introduction of
discipline.” “Verily one must let the peasants run riot a little ...
and then things will right themselves.” We have not as yet taken root
in the earth; when the branches and leaves shall have appeared, then we
shall be better able to oppose the mighty. The Hessian preachers, so
he tells them, instead of rushing in with the Greater Excommunication
involving such serious civil consequences, would do better to begin
with the so-called “Lesser Excommunication” in use at Wittenberg,
simply excluding the unworthy from Communion and from the right to
stand as sponsors; for “the Greater Excommunication does not come
within our jurisdiction (‘_quod non sit nostri iuris_’), and, moreover,
concerns only those who desire to be real Christians; nor are we in
these times in a position to make use of the Greater Excommunication;
it would merely make us look silly were we to attempt it before we have
the necessary power. You seem to hope that the Prince will take the
enforcing of it into his own hands; but this is very uncertain, and it
is better he should have nothing to do with it.”

Thus, though Luther did not believe in the feasibility of a community
of real Christians there and then, or that it was likely soon to be
realised, yet the idea had not quitted his mind. The great mass of
those belonging to his party meanwhile constituted a sort of popular
Church. But such a popular Church was not in Luther’s eyes the real
institution intended by the Gospel. It consisted of the masses “who
must first be left their own way for a while” before the Church can be
established. Drews justly observes of the above statement: “Luther did
not relinquish the ideal of a really Christian congregation because
he had come to see that it was mistaken, the ideal had simply lost
its practical value in his eyes because it now seemed impossible of
realisation. Luther resigned himself to take things as they were. As he
had always regarded it as his mission, not to organise, but merely to
preach the Evangel, he was easily able to console himself. At any rate
it would be quite wrong to say that the popular Churches which now grew
up at all corresponded with his ideal.”[502]

The popular Church throve, nevertheless, and, soon, owing to the
co-operation of numerous factors, became a State institution.

The result was the Lutheran State-Church, to be considered later in
another connection, was something widely different from the original
idea of its founder; he frequently grumbled about it, without, however,
being able to check its development, which, indeed, he himself had been
the first to urge.[503] The sovereigns on their side, particularly the
Saxon Elector in the very birthplace of the innovations, did their best
to make ecclesiastical order, so far as externals, its organisation and
control went, depend upon themselves.[504]

The Visitation of 1527, for which Luther himself had asked, furnished
the Elector Johann with a welcome pretext for such action.

Even when giving his formal consent to the Visitation the Elector says,
speaking of the “erection of parishes”: “We have considered and weighed
the matter and have come to the conclusion that it becomes us as ruler
of the land to see to the business.”[505] Luther, moreover, for the
sake of securing some order in the new Church by the only means at his
command, outdid himself in assurances to the Elector, that, he, being
the principal member of the Church, must take in hand the adjusting of
the parishes and the appointment of suitable clergy; that his very love
of his country obliged him to this, and, that, owing to the pressing
needs of the time, he was a sort of “makeshift bishop” of the Church.
This last title is significant of the reserve Luther still maintained;
he was loath to see the Church’s authority simply merged in that of the
State; he did, nevertheless, speak of the sovereign as the head of the
new congregations and, little by little, allowed him so large a share
in their government that, even in his own day, the secular sovereign
was to all intents and purposes supreme head of the episcopate.[506]

9. Public Worship. Questions of Ritual

The ordering of public worship, particularly at Wittenberg, was a
source of much anxiety to Luther. He was not blind to the difficulties
which his reformation had to face in this department.

The soul of every religion must be sought in its public worship. Hence,
in Catholicism, the bishops, from earliest times, had bestowed the most
diligent and pious care on worship. A proof of this is to be found in
the grand liturgies of antiquity and the prayers, lessons and outward
rites with which they so lovingly surround the eucharistic sacrifice.

To build up a new liturgy from the very foundation was far from
Luther’s thoughts. He was not the “creator” of any new form of
public worship. He preferred to make the best of the Roman Mass,
for one reason, as he so often insists, because of the weak, i.e.
so as not needlessly to alienate the people from the new Church by
the introduction of novelties.[507] From the ancient rite he merely
eliminated all that had reference to the sacrificial character of the
Mass, the Canon, for instance, and the preceding Offertory. He also
thought it best to retain the word “Mass” in both the writings in which
he embodied his adaptation: “_Formula missæ et communionis pro ecclesia
Wittenbergensi_” 1523,[508] and “Deudsche Messe und Ordnung Gottis
Diensts” 1526.[509]

By the introduction of the German Mass in the latter year “the whole
Pope was flung out of the Church,”[510] to use Spalatin’s words. It
is noteworthy that Luther, in announcing this latest innovation to
the inhabitants of Wittenberg, admitted that he had been urged by the
sovereign to make the change.[511]

 In Luther’s “German Mass,” as in his even more traditional Latin
 one, we find at the beginning the Introit, Kyrie Eleison, Gloria and
 a Collect; then follows the Epistle for the Sunday together with a
 Gradual or Alleluia or both; then the Gospel and the Credo, followed
 by the sermon. “After the sermon the Our Father is to be publicly
 explained and an exhortation given to those intending to approach the
 Sacrament,”[512] then comes the Consecration. The Secret was omitted
 with the Offertory. The Preface was shortened. Of the whole of the
 hated “Canon”[513] the “priest” was merely to pronounce aloud over the
 Bread and Wine the words of consecration as given in 1 Cor. xi. 23-25,
 saying then the Sanctus and Benedictus. The Elevation came during the
 Benedictus.[514] The Our Father and the Pax follow, then the communion
 of the officiating clergyman and the faithful, under both kinds. To
 conclude there was another collect and then the blessing.

       *       *       *       *       *

 Some of the portions mentioned were sung by the congregation and great
 use was made of German hymns.[515] Whatever had been retained in Latin
 till 1526 was after that date put into German. For the sake of the
 scholars who had to learn Latin Luther would have been in favour of
 continuing to say the Mass in that language. The old ecclesiastical
 order of the excerpts of the Epistles and Gospels read in church was
 retained, though the selection was not to Luther’s tastes; it seemed
 to him that the passages in Holy Scripture which taught saving faith
 were not sufficiently to the fore; he was convinced that the man
 who originally made the selection was an ignorant and superstitious
 admirer of works;[516] his advice was that the deficiency should at
 any rate be made good by the sermon. The celebration of Saints’ days
 was abolished, saving the feasts of the Apostles and a few others, and
 of the feasts of the Virgin Mary only those were retained which bore
 on some mystery of Our Lord’s life. In addition to the Sunday service
 short daily services were introduced consisting of the reading and
 expounding of Holy Scripture; these were to be attended at least by
 the scholars and those preparing themselves for the preaching office.
 At these services Communion was not to be dispensed as a general rule
 but only to those who needed it.

Alb and chasuble continued to be worn by the clergyman at the “Mass”
in the parish church of Wittenberg, though no longer in the monastic
church. The Swiss who visited Wittenberg were struck by this, and, in
their reports, declared that Luther’s service was still half Popish.
At Augsburg where Zwinglianism was rampant the “puppet show” of
the Saxons, with their priestly vestments, candles, etc., seemed a
“foolish” and scandalous thing.[517] Luther wished the use of lights
and incense to be neither enjoined nor abolished.

As he frequently declared, the utmost freedom was to prevail in
matters of ritual in order to avoid a relapse into the Popish practice
of man-made ordinances. Even the adoption of the “Deudsche Messe,
etc.,” was to be left to the decision of the congregations and the
pastors.[518] If they knew of anything better to set up in its place,
this was not to be excluded; yet in every parish-congregation there
must at least be uniformity. The chief thing is charity, edification
and regard for the weak. Above all, the “Word must have free course and
not be allowed to degenerate into singing and shouting, as was formerly
the case.”[519]

Of the whole of the Wittenberg liturgical service, he says in his
“Deudsche Messe”—to the surprise of his readers who expected to find
in it a work for the believers—that it did not concern true believers
at all: “In short we do not set up such a service for those who are
already Christians.”[520] He is thinking, of course, of the earnest,
convinced Christians whom, as stated above (p. 133 f.), he had long
planned to assemble in special congregations. They alone in his eyes
constituted the true Church, however imperfect and sinful they might
be, provided they displayed faith and good-will.

 “They” (the true believers), he here says of his regulations, “need
 none of these things, for which indeed we do not live, but rather
 they for the sake of us who are not yet Christians, in order that
 we may become Christian; true believers have their service in the
 spirit.”[521] In the case of the particular assemblies he had in
 mind for the latter, they would have to “enter their names and meet
 in some house or other for prayer, reading, baptism, receiving of
 the Sacrament and other Christian works.” “Here there would be no
 need of loud or fine singing. They could descant a while on baptism
 and the Sacrament, and direct everything towards the Word and prayer
 and charity. All they would need would be a good, short catechism
 on faith, the Ten Commandments and the Our Father.” Amongst them
 ecclesiastical discipline and particularly excommunication would be
 introduced; such assemblies would also be well suited for “common
 almsgiving,” all the members helping in replenishing the poor-box.[522]

 Until such “congregations apart” had come into being the service, and
 particularly the sermon, according to Luther, must needs be addressed
 to all. “Such a service there must be for the sake of those who are
 yet to become Christians, or need strengthening ... especially for the
 sake of the simple-minded and young ... on their account we must read,
 sing and preach ... and, where this helps at all, I would have all the
 bells rung and all the organs played.” He boasts of having been the
 first to impart to public worship this aim and character, “to exercise
 the young and to call and incite others to the faith”; the “popish
 services,” on the other hand, were “so reprehensible” because of the
 absence of any such character.—In his Churches he sees “many who do
 not yet believe and are no Christians; the greater part stand there
 gaping at the sight of something new, just as though we were holding
 an open-air service among the Turks or heathen.” Hence it seems to him
 quite necessary to regard the worship in common as simply a public
 encouragement to faith and Christianity.[523]

 As for those Christians who already believed, Luther cannot loudly
 enough assert their freedom.

As his highest principle he sets up the following, which in reality
is subversive of all liturgy: In Divine worship “it is a matter for
each one’s conscience to decide how he is to make use of such freedom
[the freedom of the Christian man given by the Evangel]; the right to
use it is not to be refused or denied to any.... Our conscience is
in no way bound before God by this outward order.”[524] This has the
true Lutheran ring. Beside this must be placed his frequently repeated
assertion, that we can give God nothing that tends to His honour, and
that every effort on our part to give Him anything is merely an attempt
to make something of man and his works, which works are invariably
sinful.[525] He also teaches elsewhere that not only does real and true
worship consist in a life of faith and love, but that the outward
worship given in common is in reality a sacrifice of praise and
thanksgiving (a gift to God after all) made in common solely because
of all people’s need to express their faith and love;[526] he also
calls it a “_sacrificium_,” naturally, not in the Catholic, but in the
widest sense of the word. Even the expression “eucharistic sacrifice,”
i.e. sacrifice of praise, is not inacceptable to him; but at least the
sacrifice must be entirely free.

With such a view the form of worship described above seems scarcely
to tally. A well-defined outward order of worship was first proposed,
and then prescribed; it would, according to Luther’s statement, have
imposed itself even on the assemblies of true believers. It is true,
he says, that only considerations of charity and public order compel
such outward regulations, that it was not his doing nor that of
any other evangelical authority. Still it is a fact that they were
enjoined, that a service according to the choice of the individual
was, even in Luther’s day, regarded with misgivings, and that even in
the 16th century it fell to the secular prince to sanction the form
of worship in church and to punish those who stayed away, those who
failed to communicate and those who did not know their catechism.[527]
We have here another instance of the same contradiction apparent
in matters of dogma, where Luther bound down the free religious
convictions of the individual—supposed to be based on conscience
and the Bible—in cast-iron strands in his catechism and theological
hymns. The catechism, even in the matter of confession, and likewise
the theology of the hymns, closely trenched on the regulations for
Divine worship. The Ten Commandments, the Our Father, etc., were also
put into verse and song. Moreover, those who presented themselves for
communion had to submit at least to a formal examination into their
faith and intentions, and also to a certain scrutiny of their morals—a
strange limitation surely of Evangelical freedom and of the universal
priesthood of all believers.

According to Kawerau, the best Protestant liturgical writers agree,
that a “false, pedagogic conception of worship” finds expression in
Luther’s form of service.[528] To make the aim of the public worship
of the congregation—whatever elements the latter might comprise—a
mere exercise for the young and a method of pressing “Christianity” on
non-believers was in reality to drag down the sublime worship of God,
the “sacrifice of praise and thanksgiving” as Luther himself sometimes
calls it, to an undeservedly low level.

This degradation was, however, intimately bound up with the fact, that
Luther had robbed worship of its most precious and essential portion,
the eucharistic sacrifice, which, according to the Prophet Malachias,
was to be offered to the Lord from the rising till the going down of
the sun as a pure and acceptable oblation. To the Catholic observer
his service of the Mass, owing to the absence of this all-important
liturgical centre, appears like a blank ruin. As early as 1524 he was
told at Wittenberg that his service was “dreary and all too sober.”
Although it was his opposition to the Holy Sacrifice and its ceremonies
which called forth this stricture, yet at the same time his objection
to any veneration of the Saints also contributed to the lifeless
character of the new worship. It was, however, above all, the omission
of the sacrifice which rendered Luther’s clinging to the ancient
service of the Mass so unwarrantable.[529]

Older Protestant liturgical writers like Kliefoth spoke of the
profound, mystical value of Luther’s liturgy and even of certain
elements as being quite original. Recourse to the old scheme of the
Mass, duly expurgated, was, however, a much simpler process than they
imagined. We must also bear in mind, that Luther himself was not so
rigid in restricting the liturgy to the forms he himself had sketched
out as they assumed. On the contrary, he left room for development, and
allowed the claims of freedom. Hence it is not correct to say, that he
curtailed the tendency towards “free liturgical development,” as has
been asserted of him by Protestants in modern times.[530] For it was
no mere pretence on his part when he spoke of freedom to improve. The
progress made in hymnology owing to this freedom is a proof that better
results were actually arrived at.

 How easy it was, on the other hand, for liberty to lead to serious
 abuses is plain from the history of the Evangelical churches in
 Livonia. Melchior Hofmann, the preacher, had come from that country to
 Wittenberg complaining that the reformed service had given rise to the
 worst discord among both people and clergy. Luther composed a circular
 letter addressed to the inhabitants of Livonia, entitled “Eyne
 christliche Vormanung von eusserlichem Gottis Dienste unde Eyntracht
 an die yn Lieffland,” which was printed together with a letter from
 Bugenhagen and another from Hofmann.[531] Therein he admits with
 praiseworthy frankness his embarrassment with regard to ceremonial

 “As soon as a particular form is chosen and set up,” he says, “people
 fall upon it and make it binding, contrary to the freedom brought
 by faith.” “But if nothing be set up or appointed, the result is as
 many factions as there are heads.... One must, however, give the
 best advice one can, albeit everything is not at once carried out
 as we speak and teach.” He accordingly encourages those whom he is
 addressing to meet together amicably “in order that the devil may not
 slink in unawares, owing to this outward quarrel about ceremonies.”
 “Come to some agreement as to how you wish these external matters
 arranged, that harmony and uniformity may prevail among you in your
 region,” otherwise the people would grow “confused and discontented.”
 Beyond such general exhortations he does not go and thus refuses to
 face the real difficulty.

 When seeking to introduce uniformity nothing was to be imposed as
 “absolute command,” but merely to “ensure the unity of the Christian
 people in such external matters”; in other words, “because you see
 that the weak need and desire it.” The people, however, were “to
 inure themselves to the breaking out of factions and dissensions. For
 who is able to ward off the devil and his satellites?” “When you were
 Papists the devil, of course, left you in peace.... But now that you
 have the true seed of the divine Word he cannot refrain from sowing
 his own seed alongside.”

 The writing did no good, for the confusion continued. It was only in
 1528 that the Königsberg preacher, Johann Briesmann, at the request
 of the authorities and with Luther’s help, established a new form of
 church government in Livonia.

Were one to ask which was the principal point in Luther’s Mass, the
Supper or the sermon, it would not be easy to answer.

The term Mass and the adaptation of the olden ritual would seem to
speak in favour of the Supper.[532] If, however, the service was to
consist principally of the celebration of the Supper it was necessary
there should always be communicants. Without communions there was,
according to Luther, no celebration of the Sacrament. Now at Wittenberg
there were not always communicants, nor was there any prospect of the
same presenting themselves at every Sunday service, or that things
would always remain as in 1531 when Luther boasted, that “every Sunday
the hundred or so communicants were always different people.”[533]

At the weekly services, communion in any case was very unusual. The
custom had grown up under Luther’s eyes that, on Sundays, as soon
as the sermon was over, the greater part of the congregation left
the church.[534] From this it is clear that the ritual involved a
misunderstanding. In practice the celebration of the Supper became
something merely supplementary, whereas, according to Luther himself,
it ought to have constituted either the culmination of the service,
or at least an organic part of Divine worship; under him, however,
it was soon put on the same level with the sermon though the organic
connection between the two is not clear. Indeed, it would be more
accurate to say that predominance was assigned to the sermon,[535]
which undoubtedly was only right if, as Luther maintains, worship was
intended only for instruction.

In our own day some have gone so far as to demand that the sermon
should be completely sundered from the Supper; and also to admit, that
the creation of a real Lutheran liturgy constitutes “a problem still to
be solved.”[536]

It is a fact of great ethical importance, that, what was according to
Luther the Sacrament of His Real Presence instituted by Christ Himself,
had to make way for preaching and edification by means of prayers and
hymns. Even the Elevation had to go. From the beginning its retention
had aroused “misgivings,”[537] and, to say the least, Luther’s reason
for insisting on it, viz. to defy Carlstadt who had already abolished
it, was but a poor one. It was abrogated at Wittenberg only in
1542; elsewhere, too, it was discontinued.[538] Thus the Sacrament
receded into the background as compared with other portions of the
service. But, like prayer and hymn-singing, preaching too is human and
subject to imperfections, whereas the Sacrament, even though it be no
sacrifice, is, even according to Luther, the Body of Christ. Luther
was, indeed, ready with an answer, viz. that the sermon was also the
Word of God, and, that, by means of both Sacrament and sermon, God was
working for the strengthening of faith. Whether this reply gets rid of
the difficulty may here be left an open question. At any rate the ideal
Word of God could not be placed on the same footing with the sermons
as frequently delivered at that time by expounders of the new faith,
capable or otherwise, sermons, which, according to Luther’s own loud
complaints, contained anything but the rightful Word of God, and were
anything but worthy of being classed together with the Sacrament as one
of the two component parts of Divine worship.

 Three charges of a general character were made by Luther against
 Catholic worship. First, “the Word of God had not been preached ...
 this was the worst abuse.” Secondly, “many unchristian fables and
 lies found their way into the legends, hymns and sermons.” Finally,
 “worship was performed as a work whereby to win salvation and God’s
 grace; and so faith perished.”[539]

 Of these charges it is hard to say which is the most unjust. His
 assertion that the Word of God had not been preached and that there
 was no Bible-preaching, has been refuted anew by every fresh work
 of research in the history of preaching at that time. Nor was the
 Bible-element in preaching entirely lacking, though it might not have
 been so conspicuous. The truth is, that, in many places, sermons were
 extremely frequent.[540]

 Luther’s second assertion, viz. that Catholic worship was full
 of lying legends, does not contain the faintest trace of truth,
 more particularly there where he was most radical in his work
 of expurgation, i.e. in the Canon. The Canon was a part of the
 Mass-service, which had remained unaltered from the earliest times. It
 was only into the sermons that legends had found their way to a great

 If finally, as seems likely, Luther, by his third charge, viz. that
 the olden Church sought to “win salvation and God’s Grace” through her
 worship, means that this was the sole or principal aim of Catholic
 worship, here, too, he is at sea. The real object had always been
 the adoration and thanksgiving which are God’s due, offered by means
 of the sublime sacrifice united with the spiritual sacrifice of the
 whole congregation. Adoration and thanksgiving found their expression
 above all in the sublime Prefaces of the Mass. The thought already
 appears in the “_Sursum corda_, _Gratias agamus_, etc., _Dignum et
 iustum est_,” whereupon the priest, taking up again the “_Dignum et
 iustum est_,” proceeds: “_Æquum et salutare, nos tibi semper et ubique
 gratias agere ... per Christum Dominum nostrum_.” It is not without
 significance that “_dignum_,” “_iustum_” and “_æquum_” stand first,
 and that “_salutare_” comes after; praise and thanksgiving are what
 it becomes us first of all to offer in presence of God’s Majesty, but
 they are also profitable to us because they render God gracious to

The ritual of the Catholic sacrifice, dating as it does from the
Church’s remotest past, expresses adequately the highest thoughts of
Christian ethics, viz. the adoration of the Creator by the creature
through the God-man Christ, Who alone worthily honours Him. To this
idea Luther’s attempt at a liturgy does not do justice.

10. Schwenckfeld as a Critic of the Ethical Results of Luther’s

Caspar Schwenckfeld, the Silesian nobleman (see above, p. 78 ff.), is
a type of those men who attached themselves to Lutheranism with the
utmost enthusiasm, but, who, owing to the experience they met with and
in pursuance of those very principles which Luther himself had at first
advocated, came to strike out new paths of their own.

In spite of his pseudo-mystical schemes for the establishment of
a Church on the Apostolic model; in spite of his abandonment of
doctrines to which Luther clung as to an heirloom of the ancient
Church; regardless of his antagonism to Luther—which the latter repaid
with relentless persecution—this cultured fanatic expressed in his
numerous writings and letters his lasting gratitude to, and respect
for, Luther on account of the services which the latter had in his
opinion rendered in the restoration of truth. He extols his “wonderful
trumpet-call,”[542] and without any trace of hypocrisy, says: “What
Martin Luther and others have done aright, for instance in the
expounding of Holy Scripture ... I trust I will, with God’s help, never

At the same time, however, he is not slow to express it as his
conviction, that, “At the beginning of the present Evangel the said
[Lutheran] doctrine was far better, purer and more wholesome than it
is now.”[544] “Dr. Martin led us out of Egypt, through the Red Sea and
into the wilderness, and there he left us to lose ourselves on the
rough roads; yet he seeks to persuade everybody that we are already in
the Promised Land.” This he said in 1528.[545]

“Although Luther has written much that is good,” “that has been and
still may be profitable to believers, for which we give praise and
thanks to God the Lord, still he has also written much that is evil,
and in the end it will be proved that his and his people’s doctrine
or _theologia_ was neither apostolic, nor pure, nor perfect ... which
certainly might have been seen long since by its fruits.”[546]

His criticisms of Luther, which, in spite of his harsh treatment at
the latter’s hands, are throughout temperately expressed and with a
certain aristocratic reticence, deal on the one hand with the fruits
of the Wittenberg Reformation, and, on the other, with certain main
features of the ethical teaching of his master and one-time friend; his
strictures thus form a recapitulation of what has gone before.

_On the hoped-for Moral Revival_

“The reformation of life has not taken place,” this is what Carl Ecke,
Schwenckfeld’s latest biographer, represents as the honest conviction
of the “apostolic” preacher of the faith in Silesia.[547] “The religion
of Lutheranism as it then was did not, in Schwenckfeld’s opinion, as
a whole reach the standard of Bible Christianity.”[548] “The greater
part of the common herd,” says Schwenckfeld, “who are called Lutherans
do not know to-day how they stand, whether with regard to works, or in
relation to God and to their own conscience.”[549]

Schwenckfeld’s own standard was certainly somewhat one-sided and
his own Apostolic Church, so far as it ever saw the light, fell
considerably short of the ideal. His insight into the ethical
conditions and doctrines was, however, keen enough and his judgment was
at least far calmer and clearer than that of Carlstadt and Luther’s
other more hot-headed antagonists. He was also able to base his
definite and oft-repeated statements on the experience he had gained
during his wide travels and in intercourse with all sorts of men.

 Thus he writes: “If by God’s grace I see the great common herd and the
 poor folk on both sides, as they really are, then I must fain admit,
 that, under the Papacy and in spite of all its errors, there are
 more pious, godfearing men than in Lutheranism. I also believe that
 they might more easily be improved than some of our Evangelicals who
 are now trying to hide themselves and their sinful life behind Holy
 Scripture, nay, behind a fictitious faith and Christ’s satisfaction,
 and in whom no fear of God is left.”[550]

 Many of Schwenckfeld’s more specific complaints are supported by
 other witnesses. We may compare what Luther himself and his friends
 report of the conditions at Wittenberg[551] with what Schwenckfeld
 says a little later: “It is credibly asserted concerning their Church
 at Wittenberg, that there such a mad, dissolute life prevails as is
 woeful to see; there is no discipline whatever, no fear of God, and
 the people are wild, impudent and unmannerly, particularly Philip’s
 students, so that even Dr. Major not long since (1556) is himself said
 to have complained of it there in a sermon, saying: Our Wittenberg is
 so widely talked of that strangers fancy there are only angels here;
 when, however, they come they find only devils incarnate. If Philip,
 who sends out his disciples as Apostles ‘_in omnem terram_’ does not
 found any better Churches than these, he has but little to boast of
 before God.”[552]

 “What harm and damage to consciences such Lutheran teaching has
 brought into Christendom it is easier to bewail with many tears than
 to describe.” Though Luther’s “Evangel and office has discovered and
 made an end of much false worship and a great apostasy, for which we
 give thanks to God the Lord,” yet “it has but little of the power of
 grace, of the Holy Spirit, or of blessing, for bringing sinners to
 repentance and true conversion.”[553]

 “Thus we have Schwenckfeld’s witness that he had seen nothing of any
 real awakening or revival among the people generally. Whole classes,
 the merchant class, for instance, remained inwardly untouched by
 the glad tidings; even where the ‘Word’ was preached, there the bad
 sermons, of which Schwenckfeld had complained as early as 1524, often
 produced evil fruits.” Thus writes Ecke.[554] Schwenckfeld, however,
 does not lay all the blame on the preachers, but rather directly on
 the ethical principles resulting from Luther’s doctrines, which had
 filled the utterances of the new preachers with so much that was
 dangerous and misleading. “Oh, how many of our nobles have I heard
 say: ‘I cannot help it,’ ‘it is God’s Will,’ ‘God does all, even my
 sin, and I am not answerable’; ‘if He has predestined me I shall be
 saved.’” “How many have I heard, who all appealed to the Wittenberg
 writings, and, who, alas, to-day, are ten times worse than before the
 Evangel began to be preached.”[555]

 Whenever he exhorted his Lutheran co-religionists to conversion and
 holiness of life, so he declares in 1543, he always received some
 reply such as the following: “We are poor sinners and can do nothing
 good.” “Faith alone without works saves us.” “We cannot keep God’s
 law”; “have no free-will.” “Amendment is not in our power.” “Christ
 has done enough for us; He has overthrown sin, death, hell and
 the devil; that is what we have to believe.”[556] When he preached
 sanctification he was dubbed a “Papist.” “That the Lutherans accuse me
 of being more a Papist than a Lutheran is due mainly to good works and
 the stress I lay on them.”[557]

Even in 1524 he had published an essay on practical ethics entitled,
“An Exhortation regarding the misuse of sundry Articles of the Evangel,
etc.” (Above, 79 f.) In 1547 he found it necessary to publish another
work on the “Misuse of the Evangel.” To this misuse he attributes
most of the above excuses of his “Lutheran co-religionists.” Luther
himself, so he declares here, was much to blame for the confusion that
prevailed. He quotes many passages from Luther’s Church-postils, from
the edition printed at Wittenberg in 1526 with prefaces by Luther and
Stephen Roth. He also makes use of the same work in another book,
“On Holy Scripture,” which he also wrote in 1547.[558] Many of the
incriminated passages were “wickedly omitted” in the next editions of
the Church-postils.[559]

_Further Complaints of Schwenckfeld’s. The Ethical Doctrines_

Schwenckfeld, in his strictures on Luther’s preaching and its results,
deals with the ethical side of the new teaching concerning the Law and
the Gospel.

Luther had said, that, with the law, God “wished to do no more than
make us feel our helplessness, our weakness and our sickness.”[560]
The critic asks: “Why not also to make us eschew evil and do good,
1 Peter iii.?” On the other hand, Luther will have it that the “Law
makes all of us sinners so that not even the smallest tittle of these
commandments can be kept even by the most holy.” “Such is in short
Luther’s doctrine concerning the Law and the Commandments of God. There
he lets it rest, as though the ground and contents of the Law and God’s
intention therein—which was centred on Christ—were nothing.... Of
this doctrine, particularly, the common people can make nothing save
that God has given us His commandments, not in order that we may keep
them by means of His Grace, but only that we may thereby come to the
knowledge of sin.”[561]

“Why should we hate our life in this world ... and follow Christ?
Nay, why take pains at all to enter in at the narrow gate and to seek
the strait way to life everlasting (Mt. vii.) if it is possible to
reach heaven along the broad way on which so many walk who are called
Lutherans, and to enter in through the wide gate which they make for

Two other points of doctrine which in the same connection Schwenckfeld
censures in the strongest terms as real stumbling blocks in ethics, are
the preaching of predestination and the denial of free-will.

 How, at the outset, the “learned had soared far too high” with their
 article of predestination “and, by means of their human wisdom,
 reached a philosophical, heathen conception [presumably the ancient
 ‘_fatum_’] can readily be seen from their books, especially from
 Luther’s against free-will and Melanchthon’s first Commentary on the
 Epistle to the Romans.”[563]

 “Luther writes that no one is free to plan either good or evil, but
 only does as he is obliged; that, as God wills, so we live.... _Item_,
 that the man who does evil has no control over himself, that it is
 not in man’s power to do evil or not, but that he is forced to do it,
 ‘_nos coacti facimus_.’” “God,” so Philip tells us, “does all things
 by His own power.”[564]

 “They have treated of predestination in accordance with heathen
 philosophy, forgetful of Christ and the Grace of the Gospel now made
 manifest; they wrote of it from a human standpoint; and though Luther
 and Philip, after they had seen the evil results, would gladly have
 retracted it, yet because what they had formerly taught was very
 pleasing to the flesh, it took root in men’s hearts so deeply that
 what they afterwards said passed almost unheard.”[565]

 “This aberration,” says Ecke, “was to Schwenckfeld a further sign that
 their method of reformation was not that of good missionaries.”[566]

 Schwenckfeld complains rightly: “Instead of beginning, after the
 Apostles’ example, by preaching penance in the name of Christ ...
 they preferred vehemently to urge such lofty matters as predestination
 and the Divine election together with the denial of free-will.”[567]

The universal priesthood as commonly preached and understood by the
people furnishes Schwenckfeld with a further cause for grumbling. “They
have also been in the habit of preaching and shouting to the multitudes
that all of them were already Christians, children of God and spiritual
kings and princes. What corruption of conscience and abuse of the
Evangel has resulted from all this we see and hear to-day from many ...
who thereby have fallen into a bold and godless manner of life.”[568]

Finally there was Luther’s ethical attitude towards sin. “Look at the
second sermon for Easter Day in Luther’s Church-sermons [where he
says]: ‘Where now is sin? It is nailed to the cross.... If only I hold
fast to this, I shall have a good conscience of being, like Christ
Himself, without sin; then I can defy death, devil, sin and hell.’”

 Schwenckfeld continues: “And again: ‘Seeing that Christ allowed
 Himself to be put to death for sin, it cannot harm me. Thus does faith
 work in the man who believes that Christ has taken away sin; such a
 one feels himself to be without sin like Christ, and knows that death,
 devil and hell have been conquered and cannot harm him any more.’ _Hæc
 ille._ This has proved a scandal to many.”[569]

 He is angered by what Luther says in his sermon for the 8th Sunday
 after Trinity, that “no work can condemn a man, that unbelief is the
 only sin, and that it was the comfort of Christians to know that sins
 do not harm them. _Item_, that only sinners belong to the Kingdom of
 God.”—He is much shocked at such sayings as, “If you but believe you
 are freed from sin.... If we believe then we have a Gracious God and
 only need to direct our works to the advantage of our neighbour so
 that they may be profitable to him.”[570]

 Such a form of neighbourly love does not suffice to reassure
 Schwenckfeld as to the method of justification taught by Luther. “We
 see here that repentance, the renewal of the heart and the crucifixion
 of the flesh with its lusts and concupiscences, as well as the
 Christian combat ... are all forgotten.” “How is it possible that such
 easy indulgence and soft and honeyed sermons should not lead to little
 account being made of sin, seeing the people are told that God winks
 at the sins of all those who believe?”[571]

 Again and again he returns to the patent fact that “the result of such
 shameless preaching and teaching is nothing but a grave and damnable
 abuse of the Evangel of Jesus Christ, since people now make but little
 account even of many and great sins.”[572]

 For Luther to point to the Crucified and tell the believer that “sin
 is nothing but a devilish spectre and a mere fancy,” was to speak
 “fanatically.” Luther might write what he pleased, but here, at any
 rate, he was himself guilty of that fanatism of which he was fond of
 accusing others.[573] Schwenckfeld himself had been numbered by the
 preachers among the crazy fanatics.

The Silesian also ruthlessly attacked the imputation of the merits of
Christ by means of the _Sola Fides_.

 The Lutherans, even the best of them, imagine their righteousness to
 be nothing else “but the bare faith, since they believe God accounts
 them righteous, even though they remain as they were before.” “They
 should, however, be exhorted to search Holy Scripture and to ask
 themselves in their hearts whether such faith and righteousness are
 not rather a human persuasion, mere imposition and self-delusion ...
 which men invent to justify an impenitent life; not a true, living
 faith, the gift of the Holy Ghost ... which, as Scripture says,
 purifies the heart, Acts xv. ..., reconciles consciences, Rom. v. ...,
 and brings Christ into our hearts, Eph. iii., Gal. ii.”[574]

An instructive parallel and at the same time a severe censure on
Luther’s method of building up “faith” on inward assurance is afforded
by Schwenckfeld’s account of the experiences and spiritual trials on
which he himself had founded his faith. The preachers, insisting on
the outward Word, urged that he had no right to appeal to his mere
feelings; yet, as he points out, this very thing had been proclaimed
from Wittenberg as the right, nay the duty of all.

 “In addition to all this they reject the ghostly feeling and that
 inward sense of the Grace of God which Luther at the outset ...
 declared to be necessary for salvation, writing that: ‘No one can
 rightly understand God or the Word of God unless he has it direct
 from the Holy Ghost.’ No one, however, can receive it from the Holy
 Ghost unless he experiences it, makes trial of it and feels it; in
 this experience the Holy Ghost is teaching us as in His own school,
 outside of which nothing is learned but all is mere delusion, words
 and vapouring.”[575]

 “How would Dr. Luther’s own gloss stand,” Schwenckfeld asks elsewhere,
 “which he gives on the words of the New Testament, 1 Cor. xi.: ‘Let a
 man prove himself,’ and where he says: ‘to prove oneself is to feel
 one’s faith,’ etc.? But the man who feels his faith will assuredly
 by such a faith—which is a power of God and the very being of the
 Holy Ghost—have forgiveness of sins and bear Christ in his believing

 He reproaches Luther with having in later days failed to distinguish
 between the outward Word or preaching and the inward living Word
 of God. The blunt assertion of the preachers—which was encouraged
 by “Luther’s unapostolic treatment of the problem of Christian
 experience”[577]—that faith referred solely to the written Word and
 was elicited merely by preaching,[578] leads in practice to neglect
 of those passages of Scripture which speak of the Divine character of
 faith and of its transmission by the Holy Ghost; owing to the lack
 of a faith really felt, there was also wanting any “holiness of life
 worked by the Spirit, and any moral justice and sanctification.”[579]

_Schwenckfeld on the Popular Church and the New Divine Service_

The system of a State Church then being set up, the externalism of
the Lutheran Popular Church and the worship introduced were naturally
looked at askance by the promoter of the Church Apart of true
believers; at the same time his strictures are not unduly biassed.[580]

He looks at the matter from the standpoint of Lutheran freedom, or
as Carl Ecke expresses it, of “the early Christian individualism
rediscovered by Luther.”[581] From this point of view Schwenckfeld can
detect in the official Lutheran Church only a shadow of the Apostolic
Church. Not merely the principle of the multitude, but also the appeal
to the authorities for help and coercion was opposed to the spirit of
Christ, at least according to all he had learnt from Luther.

 “He raises the question whether that can possibly be the true Church
 of Christ where human coercion, force, commands and prohibitions,
 rather than Christian freedom and willingness, rule over faith and
 conscience.... The secular sword has no place in the Churches of
 Christ, but belongs to the secular authorities for the punishment of
 the wicked.... As little as it is in the power of the authorities to
 bestow the faith on anyone, to strengthen or increase it, so little
 does it befit it to force, coerce or urge.... What the authorities
 do here [in matters of faith] is nothing but violence, insolence and

 But “we always want to attract the great crowd!”[583] “They saw
 the great multitude and feared lest the churches should dwindle
 away.”[584] How were they to keep “Mr. Omnes, the common people,
 faithful to their churches without the help of the secular arm?”[585]
 They do not even think of first honestly instructing the magistrates
 how to become Christians and what the duty of a Christian is.... I am
 unable in conscience to agree with those who make idols of them so
 speedily and persuade them that they already have that, which their
 own conscience tells them they have never received.[586]

 At the Supper, too, so he complains, owing to the want of proper
 discrimination between the converted and unconverted, “a false
 security of conscience is aroused, whereby people are led away
 from true repentance; for they teach that it is a source of grace,
 indulgence, ablution of sin, and salvation, whereas it is plain that
 no one receives anything of the kind.”[587] In his view it is not
 right to say that the Supper leads man to reconciliation with God by
 enlivening his faith, and that even that man “who is full of sin or
 has a bad conscience gnawed and bitten by his sins” should receive
 it, as the preachers teach;[588] on the contrary, only those who are
 reconciled have the right to approach. “Not the man who wants to
 be holy [the unjustified], but he who has already been hallowed by
 Christ, is fit for the Supper.”[589]

 From the standpoint of his own peculiar doctrine he characterises
 it as a downright error on Luther’s part to have “put Justification
 even into the Sacrament”—Schwenckfeld himself had thrown all the
 sacraments overboard.—He also reproaches Luther with teaching, that:
 “Forgiveness of sins, which is only to be found in Christ as ruler, is
 to be sought in the Sacrament.”[590]

Now, Schwenckfeld was far from advising people to forsake the official
Church; he did not recommend that the church service and its ceremonies
and sermons should be shunned, he feared lest such advice might play
into the hands of the Anabaptists. He recommends as necessary an
“external practice of godliness.”[591] Yet, according to him, this was
more readily carried out in private conventicles, i.e. in some sort
of congregation apart of the true believers such as Luther himself
had long dreamt of, and in conversation with Schwenckfeld, in 1525,
regretted his inability to establish owing to the fewness of true
Christians. (Above, p. 138 f.)

Luther in the meantime had become reconciled to the outer, Popular,
Church, and, with his preachers’ help, had made of the outward Word a

The imperious behaviour of Luther and the preachers in the matter of
the outward Word was, however, odious to Schwenckfeld. He protested
strongly against being tied down to professions of faith liable at
any moment to be rendered obsolete by new discoveries in Scripture
truth.[592] Interest in things Divine was regarded as a privilege of
the pastor’s office and the layman was kept in ignorance on the ground,
that “one must believe blindly.”[593] Luther “is setting up a new
tyranny, and wishes to tie men to his doctrine.”[594]



1. The Great Victories of 1540-1544.

THE opening of the Diet of Ratisbon in 1541[595] coincided with the
advance of Protestantism in one of the strongholds of the power and
influence of Albert of Mayence. The usual residence of the Archbishop
and Elector was at Halle, in his diocese of Magdeburg. Against this
town accordingly all the already numerous Protestants in Albert’s sees
of Magdeburg and Halberstadt directed their united efforts. Albert was
compelled by the local Landtag to abolish the Catholic so-called “Neue
Stift” at Halle, and to remove his residence to Mayence. Thereupon
Jonas, Luther’s friend, at once, on Good Friday, 1541, commenced to
preach at the church of St. Mary’s at Halle. He then became permanent
preacher and head of the growing movement in the town, while two other
churches were also seized by Lutheran preachers.

The town and bishopric of Naumburg, which had been much neglected
by its bishop, Prince Philip of Bavaria, who resided at Freising,
fell a prey to the innovations under the Elector Johann Frederick of
Saxony; this in spite of being an imperial city under the immediate
protection of the Emperor. The Elector had taken advantage of his
position as arbitrator, thanks to his influence and to the authority
he soon secured, gradually to establish himself in Naumburg. By his
orders, in 1541, as soon as Philip was dead, Nicholas Medler began
to preach at the Cathedral as “Superintendent of Naumburg”; Julius
Pflug, the excellent Provost, who had been elected bishop by the
Cathedral chapter, was prevented by the Elector from taking possession
of the see. Even the Wittenberg theologians were rather surprised
at the haste and violence with which the Elector proceeded to upset
the religious conditions there, and—a matter which concerned him
deeply—to seize the city and the whole diocese. (See below, p. 191 f.)

The storm was already gathering over the archbishopric of Cologne under
the weak and illiterate Archbishop, Hermann von Wied. This man, who was
in reality more of a secular ruler, after having in earlier days shown
himself kindly disposed to the Church, was won over, first by Peter
Medmann in 1539 and then by Martin Bucer in 1541, and persuaded to
introduce Lutheranism. Only by the energetic resistance of the chapter,
and particularly of the chief Catholics of the archdiocese, was the
danger warded off; to them the Archbishop owed, first his removal, and
then his excommunication.

On March 28, 1546, shortly before the excommunication, the Emperor
Charles V said to Landgrave Philip of Hesse, who had been pleading the
cause of Hermann: “Why does he start novelties? He knows no Latin, and,
in his whole life, has only said three Masses, two of which I attended
myself. He does not even understand the Confiteor. To reform does not
mean to bring in another belief or another religion.”[596]

“We are beholders of the wonders of God,” so Luther wrote to Hermann
Bonn, his preacher, at Osnabrück; “such great Princes and Bishops
are now being called of God by the working of the Holy Ghost.”[597]
He was speaking not only of the misguided Archbishop of Cologne but
also of the Bishop of Münster and Osnabrück, who had introduced the
new teaching at Osnabrück by means of Bonn, Superintendent of Lübeck.
Luther, however, was rather too sanguine. In the same year he announced
to Duke Albert of Prussia: “The two bishops of ‘Collen’ and Münster,
have, praise be to God, accepted the Evangel in earnest, strongly
as the Canons oppose it. Things are also well forward in the Duchy
of Brunswick.”[598] As a matter of fact he turned out right only as
regards Brunswick. Henry, the Catholic Duke, was expelled in 1542 by
the Elector of Saxony and the Landgrave of Hesse after the war which
broke out on account of Goslar had issued in his loss of the stronghold
of Wolfenbüttel; thereupon with the help of Bugenhagen the churches of
the land were forcibly brought over to Lutheranism.

In 1544 the appointment at Merseburg of a bishop of the new faith in
the person of George of Anhalt followed on Duke Maurice of Saxony’s
illegal seizure of the see. So barefaced was this act of spoliation
that even Luther entered a protest against “this rapacious onslaught on
Church property.”[599] The appointment of an “Evangelical bishop” at
Naumburg took place in 1542 under similar circumstances.

From Metz, where the preacher Guillaume Farel was working for the
Reformation, an application was received for admission into the
Schmalkalden League. The Lutherans there received at least moral
support from Melanchthon who, in the name of the League, addressed a
writing to the Duke of Lorraine. Not only distant Transylvania, but
even Venice, held correspondence with Luther in order to obtain from
him advice and instructions concerning the Protestant congregations
already existing in those regions.

Thus the author of the religious upheaval might well congratulate
himself, when, in the evening of his days, he surveyed the widespread
influence of his work.

He was at the same time well aware what a potent factor in all this
progress was the danger which menaced Germany from the Turks. The
Protestant Estates continued to exploit the distress of the Empire to
their own advantage in a spirit far from loyal. They insisted on the
Emperor’s granting their demands within the Empire before they would
promise effectual aid against the foe without; their conduct was quite
inexcusable at such a time, when a new attack on Vienna was momentarily
apprehended, and when the King of France was quite openly supporting
the Turks.

In the meantime as a result of the negotiations an Imperial army was
raised and Luther published his prudent “Vermanunge zum Gebet wider den
Türcken.” In this he advised the princes to do their duty both towards
God and the Evangel and towards the Empire by defending it against
the foe. The Pope is as much an enemy as the Turk, and the world has
reached its close, for the last Judgment is at hand.[600]

The Emperor found it advisable to show himself even more lenient
than before; the violent encroachments of the Protestants, which
so unexpectedly strengthened their position, were allowed to pass
unresisted; the ecclesiastical and temporal penalties pronounced
against the promoters of the innovations remained a dead letter, and
for the time being the Church property was left in their hands. At
the Diet of Spires, in 1544, the settlement was deferred to a General
Council which the Reichsabschied describes as a “Free Christian Council
within the German Nation.”

As was only to be expected, Paul III, the supreme head of Christendom,
energetically protested against such a decision. With dignity, and in
the supreme consciousness of his rights and position, the Pope reminded
the Emperor that a Council had long since been summoned (above, vol.
iii., p. 424) and was only being delayed on account of the war. It did
not become the civil power, nor even the Emperor, to inaugurate the
religious settlement, least of all at the expense of the rights of
Church and Pope as had been the case; to the Vicar of Christ and the
assembly summoned by him it fell to secure the unity of the Church and
to lay down the conditions of reunion; yet the civil power had left the
Pope in the lurch in his previous endeavours to summon a Council and to
establish peace in Germany; “God was his witness that he had nothing
more at heart than to see the whole of the noble German people reunited
in faith and all charity”; “willingly would he spend life and blood, as
his conscience bore him witness, in the attempt to bring this about in
the right way.”[601]

These admonitions fell on deaf ears, as the evil work was already
done. The consent, which, by dint of defiance and determination, the
Protestant princes wrung from Empire and Emperor, secured the triumph
of the religious revolution in ever wider circles.

2. Sad Forebodings

In spite of all his outward success, Luther, at the height of his
triumph, was filled with melancholy forebodings concerning the future
of his work.

He felt more and more that the new Churches then being established
lacked inward stability, and that the principle on which they were
built was wanting in unity, cohesion and permanence. Neither for the
protection of the faith nor for the maintenance of an independent
system of Church government were the necessary provisions forthcoming.
Indeed, owing to the very nature of his undertaking, it was impossible
that such could be effectually supplied; thus a vision of coming
disunion, particularly in the domain of doctrine, unrolled itself
before his eyes; this was one of the factors which saddened him.

As early as the ‘thirties we find him giving vent to his fears of an
ever-increasing disintegration. In the ‘forties they almost assume the
character of definite prophecies.

 In the Table-Talk of 1538, which was noted down by the Deacon
 Lauterbach, he seeks comfort in the thought that every fresh revival
 of religion had been accompanied by quarrels due to false brethren, by
 heresies and decay; it was true that now “the morning star had arisen”
 owing to his preaching, but he feared “that this light would not
 endure for long, not for more than fifty years”; the Word of God would
 “again decline for want of able ministers of the Word.”[602] “There
 will come want and spiritual famine”; “many new interpretations will
 arise, and the Bible will no longer hold. Owing to the sects that will
 spring up I would rather I had not printed my books.”[603]

 “I fear that the best is already over and that now the sects will
 follow.”[604] The pen was growing heavy to his fingers; there “will
 be no end to the writings,” he says; “I have outlived three frightful
 storms, Münzer, the Sacramentarians and the Anabaptists; these are
 over, but now others will come.” “I wish not to live any longer since
 no peace is to be hoped for.”[605] “The Evangel is endangered by the
 sectarians, the revolutionary peasants and the belly servers, just as
 once the Roman empire was at Rome.”[606]

 “On June 27 [1538],” we read, “Dr. Luther and Master Philip were
 dining together at his house. They spoke much, with many a sigh,
 of the coming times when many dangers would arise.” The greatest
 confusion would prevail. No one would then allow himself to be guided
 by the doctrine or authority of another. “Each one will wish to be his
 own Rabbi, like Osiander and Agricola. From this the worst scandals
 and the greatest desolation will come. Hence it would be best [one
 said], that the Princes should forestall it by some council, if only
 the Papists would not hold back and flee from the light. Master Philip
 replied: The Pope will never be brought to hold a General Council....
 Oh, that our Princes and the Estates would bring about a council and
 some sort of unity in doctrine and worship so as to prevent each one
 undertaking something on his own account to the scandal of many, as
 some are already doing. The Church is a spectacle of woe, with so much
 weakness and scandal heaped upon her.”[607]

 Shortly after this Luther instituted a comparison—which for him must
 have been very sad—between the “false Church [of the Pope] which
 stands erect, a cheerful picture of dignity, strength and holiness,”
 and the Church of Christ “which lies in such misery and ignominy, sin
 and insignificance as though God had no care for her.” He fancied he
 could find some slight comfort in the Article of the Creed: “I believe
 in the Holy Church,” for, so he observes, “because we don’t see it,
 therefore we believe in it.”[608]

 In the midst of the great successes of those years he still gives
 utterance to the gloomiest of predictions for the future of his
 doctrine, which dissensions would eat to the very core. His pupil
 Mathesius reports him as holding forth as follows:

 “Alas, good God,” he groaned in 1540, “how we have to suffer
 from divisions!... And many more sects will come. For the spirit
 of lies and murder does not sleep.... But God will save His
 Christendom.”[609]—In 1542 someone remarked in his presence: “Were
 the world to last fifty years longer many things would happen.”
 Thereupon Luther interjected: “God forbid, things would get worse than
 ever before; for many sects will arise which yet are hidden in men’s
 hearts, so that we shall not know how we stand. Hence, dear Lord, come
 with Thy Judgment Day, for no further improvement is now to be looked
 for!”[610]—After instancing the principal sects that had arisen up to
 that time he said, in 1540: “After our death many sects will arise,
 God help us!”[611] “But whoever after my death despises the authority
 of this school—so long as the Church and the school remain as they
 are—is a heretic and an evil man. For in this school [of Wittenberg]
 God has revealed His Word, and this school and town can take a place
 side by side with any others in the matter of doctrine and life, even
 though our life be not yet quite above reproach.... Those who flee
 from us and secretly contemn us have denied the faith.... Who knew
 anything five-and-twenty years ago [before my preaching started]?
 Alas for ambition; it is the cause of all the misfortunes.”[612]

 Frequently he reverts to the theory, that the Church must needs put
 up with onsets and temptations to despair. “Now even greater despair
 has come upon us on account of the sectarians,” he said in 1537;
 “the Church is in despair according to the words of the Psalmist
 (cviii. 92): ‘Unless Thy Law had been my meditation I had then perhaps
 perished in my abjection.’”[613]

 At an earlier period (1531) a sermon of Luther’s vividly pictures this
 despair: “If, in spiritual matters, it comes about, that the devil
 sows his seed in Christ’s kingdom and it springs up both in doctrine
 and life, then we have a crop of misery and distress. In the preaching
 it happens, that although God has appointed _one_ man and commanded
 him to preach the Evangel, yet others are found even amongst his
 pupils who think they know how to do it ten times better than he....
 Every man wants to be master in doctrine.... Now they are saying: ‘Why
 should not we have the Spirit and understand Scripture just as well
 as anyone else?’ Thus a new doctrine is at once set up and sects are
 formed.... Hence a deadly peril to Christendom ensues, for it is torn
 asunder and pure doctrine everywhere perishes.”[614] Christ had indeed
 “foretold that this would happen”; true enough, it is not forbidden to
 anyone “who holds the public office of preacher to judge of doctrine”;
 but whoever has not such an office has no right to do so; if he does
 this of “his own doctrine and spirit,” then “I call such judging of
 doctrine one of the greatest, most shameful and most wicked vices to
 be found upon earth, one from which all the factious spirits have

 Duke George of Saxony unfeelingly pointed out to the innovator that
 his fear, that many, very many indeed, would say: “Do we not also
 possess the Spirit and understand Scripture as well as you?” would
 only too surely be realised.

 “What man on earth,” wrote the Duke in his usual downright fashion,
 “ever hitherto undertook a more foolish task than you in seeking to
 include in your sect all Christians, especially those of the German
 nation? Success is as likely in your case as it was in that of those
 who set about building a tower in Babylonia which was to reach the
 very heavens; in the end they had to cease from building, and the
 result was seventy-two new tongues. The same will befall you; you also
 will have to stop, and the result will be seventy-two new sects.”[616]

Luther’s letters speak throughout in a similar strain of the divisions
already existing and the gloomy outlook for the future; in the ‘forties
his lamentation over the approaching calamities becomes, however, even
louder than usual in spite of the apparent progress of his cause. Much
of what he says puts us vividly in mind of Duke George’s words just

Amidst the excitement of his struggle with the fanatics he wrote as
early as 1525 to the “Christians at Antwerp”: “The tiresome devil
begins to rage amongst the ungodly and to belch forth many wild and
mazy beliefs and doctrines. This man will have nothing of baptism, that
one denies the Sacrament, a third awaits another world between this and
the Last Day; some teach that Christ is not God; some say this, some
that, and there are as many sects and beliefs as there are heads; no
peasant is so rude but that if he dreams or fancies something, it must
forsooth be the Holy Spirit which inspires him, and he himself must be
a prophet.”[617]

 After the bitter experiences of the intervening years we find in a
 letter of 1536 this bitter lament: “Pray for me that I too may be
 delivered from certain ungodly men, seeing you rejoice that God has
 delivered you from the Anabaptists and the sects. For new prophets are
 constantly arising against me one after the other, so that I almost
 wish to be dissolved in order not to see such evils without end, and
 to be set free at last from this kingdom of the devil.”[618]

 Even in the strong pillars of the Evangel, in the Landgrave of Hesse
 and Bucer the theologian, he apprehended treason to his cause and
 complains of them as “false brethren.” At the time of the negotiations
 at Ratisbon, in 1541, he exclaims in a letter to Melanchthon: “They
 are making advances to the Emperor and to our foes, and look on our
 cause as a comedy to be played out among the people, though as is
 evident it is a tragedy between God and Satan in which Satan’s side
 has the upper hand and God’s comes off second best.... I say this with
 anger and am incensed at their games. But so it must be; the fact that
 we are endangered by false brethren likens us to the Apostle Paul,
 nay, to the whole Church, and is the sure seal that God stamps upon

 In spite of this “seal of God,” he is annoyed to see how his Evangel
 becomes the butt of “heretical attacks” from within, and suffers from
 the disintegrating and destructive influence of the immorality and
 godlessness of many of his followers.

 This, for instance, he bewails in a letter of condolence sent in 1541
 to Wenceslaus Link of Nuremberg. At Nuremberg according to Link’s
 account the evil seemed to be assuming a menacing shape. Not the foe
 without, writes Luther, but rather “our great gainsayers within, who
 repay us with contempt, are the danger we must fear, according to the
 words of the common prophecy: ‘After Antichrist has been revealed men
 will come who say: There is no God!’ This we see everywhere fulfilled
 to-day.... They think our words are but human words!”[620]

 About this time he often contemplates with sadness the abundance of
 other crying disorders in his Churches,[621] the wantonness of the
 great and the decadence of the people; he cries: “Hasten, O Jesus, Thy
 coming; the evils have come to a head and the end cannot be delayed.
 Amen.”[622] “I am sick of life if this life can be called life....
 Implacable hatred and strife amongst the great ... no hopes of any
 improvement ... the age is Satan’s own; gladly would I see myself
 and all my people quickly snatched from it!”[623] The evil spirit of
 apostasy and fanatism which had raged so terribly at Münster, was now,
 according to him, particularly busy amongst the great ones, just as
 formerly it had laid hold on the peasants. “May God prevent him and
 resist him, the evil spirit, for truly he means mischief.”[624]

 And yet he still in his own way hopes in God and clings to the idea of
 his call; God will soon mock at the devil: “The working of Satan is
 patent, but God at Whom they now laugh will mock at Satan in His own

We can understand after such expressions descriptive of his state of
mind, the assurance with which, for all his confidence of victory, he
frequently seems to forecast the certain downfall of his cause. In the
German Table-Talk, for instance, we read: “So long as those who are
now living and who teach the Word of God diligently are still with us,
those who have seen and heard me, Philip, Pomeranus and other pious,
faithful and honest teachers, all may be well; but when they all are
gone and this age is over, there will be a falling away.”[626] He also
sees how two great and widely differing parties will arise among his
followers: unbelievers on the one hand and Pietists and fanatics on the
other; we have a characteristic prophecy of the sort where he says of
the one party, that, like the Epicureans, they would acknowledge “no
God or other life after this,” and of the other, that many people would
come out of the school of enthusiasm, “following their own ideas and
speculations and boasting of the Spirit”; “drunk with their own virtues
and having their understanding darkened,” they would “obstinately
insist on their own fancies and yield to no one.”[627]

And again he says sadly: “God will sweep His threshing-floor. I pray
that after my death my wife and children may not long survive me; very
dangerous times are at hand.”[628] “I pray God,” he frequently said,
“to take away this our generation with us, for, when once we are gone,
the worst of times will follow.”[629] The preacher, “M. Antonius Musa
once said,” so he recalls: “We old preachers only vex the world, but on
you young ones the world will pour out its wrath; therefore take heed
to yourselves.”[630]

This is not the place to investigate historically the fulfilment
of these predictions. We shall content ourselves with quoting, in
connection with Musa, the words of another slightly later preacher.
Cyriacus Spangenberg saw in Luther a prophet, for one reason because
his gloomiest predictions were being fulfilled before the eyes of all.
In the third sermon of his book, “Luther the Man of God,” he shows
to what frightful contempt the preachers of Luther’s unadulterated
doctrine were everywhere exposed, just as he himself (Spangenberg) was
hated and persecuted for being over-zealous for the true faith of the
“Saint” of Wittenberg. “Ah,” he says in a sermon in 1563 couched in
Luther’s style, “Shame on thy heart, thy neck, thy tongue, thou filthy
and accursed world. Thy blasphemy, fornication, unchastity, gluttony
and drunkenness ... are not thought too much; but that such should be
scolded is too much.... If this be not the devil himself, then it is
something very like him and is assuredly his mother.”[631]

3. Provisions for the Future

Luther failed to make the effectual and systematic efforts called for
in order to stave off the fate to which he foresaw his work would be
exposed. He was not the man to put matters in order, quite apart from
the unsurmountable difficulties this would have involved, seeing he
possessed little talent for organisation. He was very well aware that
one expedient would be to surrender church government almost entirely
into the hands of the secular authorities.

_A Protestant Council?_

The negotiations which preceded the Œcumenical Council of the Catholic
Church, had for one result not only to impress the innovators with
a sense of their own unsettled state, but to lead them to discuss
the advisability of holding a great Protestant council of their own.
Luther himself, however, wisely held aloof from such a plan, nay his
opposition to it was one of the main obstacles which prevented its

When the idea was first mooted in 1533 it was rejected by Luther
and his theologians Jonas, Bugenhagen and Melanchthon in a joint
memorandum. “Because it is plain,” so they declare, “that we ourselves
are not at one, and must first of all consider how we are to arrive
at unity amongst ourselves. In short, though an opposition council
might be good and useful it is needless to speak of such a thing just

In 1537 the Landgrave of Hesse, and more particularly the Elector of
Saxony, again proposed at Schmalkalden that Luther, following the
example of the Greeks and the Bohemians, should summon a council of
his own, a national Evangelical council, to counteract the Papal
Council.[633] The Elector proposed that it should be assembled at
Augsburg and comprise at least 250 preachers and men of the law; the
Emperor might be invited to attend and a considerable army was also to
be drafted to Augsburg for the protection of the assembly. At that time
Luther’s serious illness saved him from an embarrassing situation.

Bucer and Melanchthon were now the sole supporters of the plan of a
council. Both were men who believed in mediation and Melanchthon may
really have hoped for a while, that the “philosophy of dissimulation,”
for which he stood,[634] might, even in a council, palliate the inward
differences and issue in something tolerably satisfactory. Luther
himself was never again to refer to the Evangelical Council.

 It was the theologians headed by Martin Bucer, who, at the Diet
 of Schmalkalden in 1540 at which Luther was not present, lodged a
 memorandum on the advisability of holding a council. The petitioners
 declared it “very useful and called for, both for the saving of unity
 in doctrine and for the bettering of many other things, that, every
 one or two years, the Estates should convene a synod.” Visitors
 chosen there were to “silence any errors in doctrine” that they might
 discover.[635] The Estates, however, did not agree to this proposal;
 it was easy to foresee that it would be unworkable and productive of
 evil. It was only necessary to call to mind the fruitlessness of the
 great assemblies at Cassel and Wittenberg which had brought about the
 so-called Wittenberg Concord and the disturbances to which the Concord
 gave rise.[636]

 Bucer keenly regretted the absence of any ecclesiastical unity and
 cohesion amongst his friends.

 “Not even a shadow of it remains,” so he wrote to Bullinger. “Every
 church stands alone and every preacher for himself. Not a few shun all
 connection with their brethren and any discussion of the things of
 Christ. It is just like a body the members of which are cut off and
 where one cannot help the other. Yet the spirit of Christ is a spirit
 of harmony; Christ wills that His people should be one, as He and the
 Father are one, and that they love one another as He loved us....
 Unless we become one in the Lord every effort at mending and reviving
 morals is bound to be useless. For this reason,” he continues, “it
 was the wish of Œcolampadius when the faith was first preached at
 Basle, to see the congregations represented and furthered by synods.
 But he was not successful even amongst us [who stood nearest to him
 in the faith]. I cannot say that to-day there is any more possibility
 of establishing this union of the Churches; but the real cause of our
 decline certainly lies in this inability. Possibly, later on, others
 may succeed where we failed. For, truly, what we have received of the
 knowledge of Christ and of discipline will fade away unless we, who
 are Christ’s, unite ourselves more closely as members of His Body.”

 He proceeds to indicate plainly that one of the main obstacles to
 such a union was Luther’s rude and offensive behaviour towards the
 Swiss theologians: Luther had undoubtedly heaped abuse on “guiltless
 brethren.” But with this sort of thing, inevitable in his case, it
 would be necessary to put up. “Will it not be better for us to let
 this pass than to involve so many Churches in even worse scandals?
 Could I, without grave damage to the Churches, do something to stop
 all this vituperation, then assuredly I should not fail to do so.”[637]

 Unfortunately the peacemaker’s efforts could avail nothing against a
 personality so imperious and ungovernable as Luther’s.

 Bucer continued nevertheless to further the idea of a Protestant
 council, though, so long as Luther lived, only with bated breath. He
 endeavoured at least to interest the Landgrave of Hesse in his plan
 for holding small synods of theologians.

 It was the want of unity in the matter of doctrine and the visible
 decline of discipline that drove him again and again to think of
 this remedy. On Jan. 8, 1544, he wrote to Landgrave Philip: In so
 many places there is “no profession of faith, no penalties, no
 excommunication of those who sin publicly, nor yet any Visitation or
 synod. Only what the lord or burgomaster wished was done, and, in
 place of one Pope, many Popes have arisen and things become worse
 and worse from day to day.” He reminds the Prince of the proposal
 made at Schmalkalden; because nothing was done to put this in effect,
 scandals were on the increase. “We constantly find that scarcely a
 third or fourth part communicate with Christ. What sort of Christians
 will there be eventually?”[638]—In the same way he tells him later:
 Because no synods are held “many things take place daily which ought
 really greatly to trouble all of us.”[639] In Würtemberg and in
 some of the towns of Swabia the authorities were dissuaded by the
 groundless fear lest the preachers should once more gain too much
 influence; this was why the secular authorities were averse to synods
 and Visitations; but “on this account daily arise gruesome divisions
 in matters of doctrine and unchastity of life; we find some who are
 daily maddened with drink and who give such scandal in other matters
 that the enemies of Christ have a terrible excuse for blaspheming and
 hindering our true Gospel.... At the last Schmalkalden meeting all the
 preachers were anxious that synods and Visitations should be ordered
 and held everywhere. But who has paid any heed to this?” And yet this
 is the best means whereby “our holy religion might be preserved and
 guarded from the new Papists amongst us, i.e. those who do not accept
 the Word of God in its purity and entirety, but explain it away, pull
 it to pieces, distort and bend it as their own sensual passions and
 temptations move them.”[640]

 Once the main obstacle had been removed by Luther’s death, Bucer,
 who was very confident of his own abilities, again mooted the idea
 of a great council. In the same letter to Landgrave Philip of
 Hesse in which he refers to the death of Luther, “the father and
 teacher of us all,” which had occurred shortly before, he exhorts
 the Landgrave more emphatically than ever to co-operate, so that
 “first of all a general synod may be held of our co-religionists of
 every estate,” to which all the sovereigns should despatch eminent
 preachers and councillors—i.e. be formally convened by the secular
 authorities—and, that, subsequently “particular synods be held in
 every country of the Churches situated there.”[641] “Short of this the
 Churches will assuredly fare badly.”[642]

 The Landgrave was not averse, yet the matter never got any further.
 The terrible quarrels amongst the theologians in the camp of the new
 faith after Luther’s decease[643] put any general Protestant council
 out of the question.

We can imagine what such a council would have become, if, in addition
to the theologians, the lay element had been represented to the extent
demanded at a certain Disputation held at Wittenberg under Luther’s
presidency in 1543.[644] From the idea of the whole congregation taking
its share in the government of the Church, Luther could never entirely
shake himself free. Nevertheless it is probable, that, in spite of this
Disputation, he had not really changed his mind as to the impossibility
of an Evangelical council.

If, with Luther’s, we compare Melanchthon’s attitude towards the
question of a Lutheran council we find that the latter’s wish for
such a council and his observations about it afforded him plentiful
opportunity for voicing his indignation at the religious disruption
then rampant.[645]

“Weak consciences are troubled,” he said in 1536, “and know not which
sect to follow; in their perplexity they begin to despair of religion
altogether.”[646]—“Violent sermons, which promote lawlessness and
break down all barriers against the passions, are listened to greedily.
Such preaching, more worthy of cynics than of Christians, it is which
thunders forth the false doctrine that good works are not called for.
Posterity will marvel that there should ever have been an age when such
madness was received with applause.”[647]—“Had you made the journey
with us,” he writes on his return from a visit to the Palatinate and
Swabia, “and, like us, seen the woeful desolation of the Churches in
so many places, you would doubtless long with tears and sighs that the
Princes and the learned should confer together how best to come to
the help of the Churches.”[648]—Later again we read in his letters:
“Behold how great is everywhere the danger to the Churches and how
difficult their government; for everywhere those in the ministry
quarrel amongst themselves and set up strife and division.” “We live
like the nomads, no one obeys any man in anything whatsoever.”[649]

Two provisions suggested by Luther for the future in lieu of the
impracticable synods were, the establishment of national consistories
and the use of a sort of excommunication.

_Luther’s Attitude towards the Consistories introduced in 1539_

With strange resignation Luther sought to persuade himself that, even
without the help of any synods and general laws, it would still be
possible to re-establish order by means of a certain supervision to
be exercised with the assistance of the State, backed by the penalty
of exclusion. Against laws and regulations for the guidance of the
Church’s life, he displayed an ever-growing prejudice, the reason for
this being partly his peculiar ideas on the abrogation of all governing
authority of the Church, partly the experiences with which he had met.

“So long as the sense of unity is not well rooted in the heart
and mind”—he wrote in 1545, i.e. after the establishment of the
consistories—“outward unity is not of much use, nor will it last
long.... The existing observances [in matters of worship] must not
become laws. On the contrary, just as the schoolmaster and father
of the family rule without laws, and, in the school and in the home,
correct faults, so to speak only by supervision, so, in the same way,
in the Church, everything should be done by means of supervision, but
not by rules for the future.... Everything depends on the minister
of the Word being prudent and faithful. For this reason we prefer to
insist on the erection of schools, but above all on that purity and
uniformity of doctrine which unites minds in the Lord. But, alas,
there are too few who devote themselves to study; many are just
bellies and no more, intent on their daily bread.... Time, however,
will mend much that it is impossible to settle beforehand by means of

“If we make laws,” he continues, “they become snares for consciences
and pure doctrine is obscured and set aside, particularly if those who
come after are careless and unlearned.... Already during our lifetime
we have seen sects and dissensions enough under our very noses, how
each one follows his own way. In short, contempt for the Word on
our side and blasphemy on the other [Catholic] side proclaim loudly
enough the advent of the Last Day. Hence, above all, let us have pure
and abundant preaching of the Word! The ministers of the Word must
first of all become one heart and one soul. For if we make laws our
successors will lay claim to the same authority, and, fallen human
nature being what it is, the result will be a war of the flesh against
the flesh.”[651]

In other words Luther foresaw a war of all against all as likely sooner
or later to be the result of any thoroughgoing attempt to regulate
matters by means of laws as the Catholics did in their councils. He and
his friends were persuaded that laws could only be made effectual by
virtue of the power of the State.

Melanchthon declared: “Unless the Court supports our arrangements, what
else will they become but Platonic laws, to use a Greek saying?”[652]

The idea to which Luther had clung so long as there was any hope,
viz. to make the congregations self-governing, was but a fanciful
and impracticable one; when again, little by little, he came to seek
support from the secular authority, he did so merely under compulsion;
he felt it to involve a repudiation of his own principles, nor could he
control his jealousy when the far-reaching interference of the State
speedily became manifest.

In the Saxon electorate the consistories had been introduced in 1539,
not so much at the instance of Luther as of the committee representing
the Estates. They were to deal with ecclesiastical affairs and
disputes, with complaints against, and grievances of, the clergy,
but chiefly with the matrimonial cases. The earlier “Visitors” had
lacked executive powers. The consistory established by the Elector
at Wittenberg for the whole electorate was composed of two preachers
(Jonas and Agricola), and two lawyers. Luther raised many objections,
particularly to the consistory’s proposed use of excommunication;
he feared that, unless they stuck to his theological views, the
consistories would lead to “yet another scrimmage.” Later, however, he
gave the new organisation his support. It was not till 1541 that the
work of the consistories was more generally extended.[653]

 Luther consoled himself and Spalatin as follows for the loss of
 dignity which they apprehended: “The consistory will deal only with
 matrimonial cases, with which we no longer will or can have any more
 to do; also with the bringing back of the peasants to some sort of
 discipline and the payment of stipends to the preachers.”[654]

 For the Wittenberg consistory to relieve him of the matrimonial
 cases was in many respects just what he desired. He had himself
 frequently dealt with these cases according to the dictates of his
 own ever-changing views on marriage, so far as he was allowed by
 his frequent quarrels with the lawyers who questioned his right to
 interfere. He now declared: “I am glad that the consistoria have been
 established, especially on account of the matrimonial cases.”[655] As
 early as 1536, he had written: “The peasants and rude populace who
 seek nothing but the freedom of the flesh, and likewise the lawyers,
 who, whenever possible, oppose our decisions, have wearied me so much
 that I have flung aside the matrimonial cases and written to some
 telling them that they may do just as they please in the name of all
 the devils; let the dead bury their dead; for though I give much
 advice, I cannot help the people when afterwards they are robbed and
 teased [by the lawyers]. If the world will have the Pope then let it
 have him if otherwise it cannot be.”

 “So far I have not found one single lawyer,” he continues, speaking of
 a certain matrimonial question, “who would hold with me against the
 Pope in this or any similar case.... We theologians know nothing, and
 are not supposed to count.”[656]

 It was in part nausea and wounded vanity, in part also his abhorrence
 for the ecclesiastical and sacramental side of marriage which
 caused him repeatedly to declare: “I would we were rid of the
 matrimonial business”;[657] “marriage and all its circumstances is a
 political affair” (both statements date from 1538);[658] “leave the
 matrimonial cases to the secular authorities, for they concern, not
 the conscience, but the external law of the Princes and magistrates”

 Of the ecclesiastical powers of the sovereign he declared however
 (1539), “We must make the best of him as bishop, since no other bishop
 will help us.”[660]

 “But if things come to such a pass that the Courts try to rule as they
 please,” so he wrote at a time when this principle had already begun
 to bear its bitter fruit, “then the last state will be worse than
 the first ... in that case let the Lords themselves be our pastors
 and preachers, let them baptise, visit the sick, give communion and
 perform all the other offices of the Church! Otherwise let them stop
 confusing the two callings, attend to their own Courts and leave the
 Churches to the clergy.... It is Satan who in our day is seeking
 to introduce into the Church the counsels and the authority of the
 government officials; we shall, however, resist him and keep the two
 callings separate.”[661]

Yet the “two callings,” the secular and the ecclesiastical, were to
become more and more closely intermingled. As was inevitable, the weak
spiritual authority set up by Luther was soon absorbed by a strong
secular authority well aware of its own aims; the secular power treated
the former as its sacristan charged with carrying out the services of
the Church, and gradually assumed exclusive control, even in matters of
doctrine. A moral servitude such as had never been seen at any period
in the history of the German Church was the consequence of the State
government of the Church, brought about by the consistories.

 In order to understand Luther’s attitude towards the consistories and
 to gauge rightly his responsibility, some further particulars of their
 rise and earliest form are called for.

 In 1537 the “Great Committee of the Torgau district” demanded, that
 the Elector should establish four consistories in his lands. On
 these would devolve the looking after of “all _ecclesiasticæ causæ_,
 the preaching office, the churches and ministers, their vindication
 _contra injurias_, all that concerned their conduct and life, and
 particularly the matrimonial suits.” Some such court was essential
 in the case of these suits, because, since the dissolution of the
 bishops’ courts, the utmost disorders had prevailed and nobody even
 knew by which code the questions pending were to be judged, whether by
 the old canon law with which the lawyers were familiar, or according
 to the doctrine and statutes of Luther which were quite a different
 thing. The disciplinary system too had become so lax that some
 revision of the Church judiciary appeared inevitable.

 As for the principles which were to direct the new organisation:
 Luther was inclined at times to be forgetful of his theory, that his
 Churches should have no canon law of their own;[662] even at this
 grave crisis he does not seem to have been distinctly conscious of
 it; at the same time his jealousy made him unwilling to see all the
 authority for governing the new Churches conferred directly by the
 State, though, with his usual frankness, he admitted it was impossible
 for things to continue as they were. The most influential men of his
 circle were, however, determined to have so-called ecclesiastical
 courts introduced by the sovereign, which should then govern in his
 name; hitherto, they urged, it was the purely secular courts which
 had intervened, which was a mistake, as had been shown in practice by
 their failure. Thus, as R. Sohm put it, “did Melanchthon’s ideas, from
 about 1537, gradually oust those of Luther in the government of the
 Lutheran Church.”[663]

 It was from this standpoint that, in his Memorandum of 1538 addressed
 to the Elector, Jonas, the lawyer and theologian, supported the
 above-mentioned proposal of the Torgau assembly.

 He points out that “the common people become daily more savage and
 uncouth,” and that “no Christian Church can hope to stand where such
 rudeness and lawlessness prevail.” According to him the authority of
 the consistories was to embrace the whole domain of Church government.
 They were, however, to derive their authority direct from the
 sovereign, “through, and by order of, the prince of the land.” Hence
 “their _iudices_ were to have the right to enforce their decisions”;
 they were to be in a position to wield the Greater Excommunication
 with its temporal consequences, also to inflict bodily punishment,
 fines and “suitable terms of imprisonment,” and therefore to have
 “men-at-arms” and “a prison” at their disposal.[664]

 Jonas and those who agreed with him fancied that what they were
 setting up with the help of the secular power was a spiritual court;
 in reality, however, they were advocating a purely secular, coercive

 Luther’s views differed from those of his friends in so far
 as he wished to see the new courts—which he frowned at and
 distrusted—merely invested with full powers for dealing with
 matrimonial suits; even here, however, he made a reservation,
 insisting on the abrogation of canon law. The Elector’s edict of 1539
 appointing the consistories, out of consideration for Luther, was
 worded rather vaguely. The consistories were, “until further notice,”
 to see to the “ecclesiastical affairs” which “have occurred so far or
 shall yet occur and be brought to your cognisance.”[665] According to
 this their authority was received only “until further notice” from the
 ruler, to whom it fell to bring cases to their “cognisance,” and, who,
 naturally kept the execution of the sentence in his own hands.

 Luther, it is true, accepted the new arrangement, because, as he said,
 it represented a “Church court” which could take over the matrimonial
 cases. But forthwith he found himself in conflict with the lawyers
 attached to the courts because they insisted on taking their stand
 on canon law. To his very death, even in his public utterances, he
 lashed the men of the law for thus submitting themselves to the Pope
 and to the code against which his life’s struggle had been directed.
 Yet the lawyers were driven to make use of the old statutes, since
 they alone afforded a legal basis, and because Luther’s propositions
 to the contrary—on secret marriages, for instance—lacked any general
 recognition. The result of Luther’s opposition to the consistories
 was, that, so long as he lived, they remained without any definite
 instructions, devoid of the authority which had been promised them,
 and without the coercive powers they so much needed; for the nonce
 they were spiritual courts without any outward powers of compulsion,
 the latter being retained by the sovereign to use at his discretion.

 After Luther’s death things were changed. The consistories both in
 the Saxon Electorate and in most other places where they had been
 copied became exclusively organs of Church government by the State,
 though still composed of theologians and lawyers. In 1579 and 1580 the
 end which Luther had foreseen arrived. “The last things became, as a
 matter of fact, worse than the first,” as he himself had predicted,
 nay, as the result of his own action; Satan has introduced “into the
 Church the counsels and the authority of government officials” (above,
 p. 182).

 This change, which in reality was the realisation of the ideas of
 Jonas, Melanchthon and Chancellor Brück, leads Rud. Sohm, after having
 portrayed in detail the circumstances, to exclaim: “The sovereign as
 head of the Church! How can such a thing be even imagined? The Church
 of Christ, governed solely by the word of Christ ... and by command
 of the ruler of the land.”[666] Speaking of the disorder in Luther’s
 Church, which recognised no canon law, the Protestant canonist says:
 “Canon law was needed to assist the Word; well, it came, but only
 to establish the lord of the land as lord also of the Church.” “The
 State government of the Church is in contradiction with the Lutheran
 profession of faith.” “If, however, the Church is determined to be
 ruled by force, then the ruler must be the secular authority.”[667]

The secular authorities to which Protestantism looked for support
had been well organised throughout the Empire by the League of
Schmalkalden. Subsequent to 1535 the warlike alliance had been extended
for a further ten years. In 1539 the state of things became so
threatening, that Luther feared lest the Catholic princes should attack
the Protestants. In a sermon he referred to the “fury of Satan amongst
the blinded Papists who incite the Emperor and other kings against the
Evangel”; he, however, also added, that “we, by our boundless malice
and ingratitude, have called down the wrath of God.” They ought to
pray, “that the Emperor might not turn his arms against us who have the
pure Word of Christ.”[668] As a matter of fact, however, the Emperor
and the Empire were not in a position even to protect themselves
against the wanton behaviour of the innovators.

Amongst the outward provisions made for the future benefit of the new
Church, the League of Schmalkalden deserves the first place. In the
very year before his death Luther took steps to ensure the prolongation
of this armed alliance.[669]

Among the efforts made at home to improve matters a place belongs to
Luther’s attempts to introduce a more frequent use of excommunication.

_Luther seeks to introduce the so-called Lesser Excommunication_

The introduction of the ban engrossed Luther’s attention more
particularly after 1539, but without any special results. In 1541
we find the question raised under rather peculiar circumstances in
one of the numerous letters in which Luther complains of the secular
authorities. At Nuremberg, Wenceslaus Link had threatened certain
persons of standing with excommunication, whereupon one of the
town-councillors hurled at him the opprobrious epithet of “priestling.”
Full of indignation, Luther wrote: “It is true the civil authorities
ever have been and always will be enemies of the Church.... God has
rejected the world and, of the ten lepers, scarcely one takes His
side, the rest go over to the prince of this world.” “Excommunication
is part of the Word of God.” If they look upon our preaching as the
Word of God then it is a disgrace that they should refuse to hear of
excommunication, despise the ministers of the Word and hate the God
Whom they have confessed; they wickedly blaspheme in thus hurling the
term ‘priestling’ at His ministers.[670]

Here we get a glimpse of the difficulty which attended the introduction
of the ban: “They refuse to hear of excommunication.”

With the Greater Excommunication which involved civil disabilities, and
in particular exclusion to some extent from social intercourse, Luther
had no sympathy; he was interested in the reintroduction merely of
the Lesser Excommunication prohibiting the excommunicate to take part
in public worship, or at least to receive the Supper or to stand as
godparent. In his view the Greater Excommunication was a matter for the
sovereign and did not in the least concern the ministers of the Church;
this he points out in his Schmalkalden Articles.[671] He even was
inclined to look upon any such action of the ruler with a jealous eye;
from anything of the sort it were better for the sovereign to abstain
for fear of any awkward confusion of the spiritual with the secular

The “Unterricht der Visitatorn,” printed in 1528, had already suggested
to the ministers the use of a kind of Lesser Excommunication, but, in
the absence of anything definite, the proposal remained practically
a dead letter. We learn, however, that Luther pronounced his first
ban of this sort against some alleged witches.[673] Subsequently he
had strongly urged at the Court of the Elector that the authorities
should at least threaten gross contemners of religion with “exile and
punishment” as in the case of blasphemers, and that then the pastors,
after instruction and admonition had proved of no avail, should proceed
to exclude such men from church membership[674] as “heathen to be
shunned.” When mentioning this he fails to state whether or to what
extent his proposal was carried out.[675] On the other hand, he often
declares that the actual state of the masses rendered quite impossible
any ordering of ecclesiastical life according to the Gospel; he is also
fond of speaking of the danger there would be of falling back into
the Popish regulations abolished by the freedom of the Gospel, were
disciplinary measures reintroduced.

What moved Luther in 1538 to advocate the use of the ban was, first,
the action of the Elector’s haughty Captain and Governor, Hans Metzsch
at Wittenberg, who, in addition to Luther’s excommunication, was
threatened with dismissal from his office, or, as Luther expresses it,
with the Greater Excommunication of the ruler (1538), and, secondly,
the doings of a Wittenberg burgher who (Feb., 1539) dared to go to the
Supper in spite of having committed homicide. In the case of Metzsch
a form of minor excommunication was resorted to, Luther declaring
invalid the absolution and permission to communicate granted by the
Deacon Fröschel; whether or not, after this, he pronounced a further
excommunication, this much is certain, viz. that, not long after the
pair were reconciled.[676]

Many of the well-disposed on Luther’s side were in favour of the ban
as a disciplinary measure; others were intensely hostile to it. Of his
latest intention, Luther speaks at some length in a sermon of Feb.
23, 1539. He there explains how the whole congregation must be behind
the clergy in enforcing the ban; they were to be notified publicly of
any man who proved obstinate and were to pray against him; then was
to follow the formal expulsion from the congregation; re-admission to
public worship was also to take place publicly.

The plan of using the ban as a disciplinary measure was, however,
brought to nought by the efforts of the Court and the lawyers, who
wished all proceedings of the sort to devolve upon the government as
represented in the consistories.[677] Luther also encountered the
further difficulty, that, in many cases, the ban was simply ignored,
even greater scandal arising out of this public display of contempt.
Hence, owing to his experience, he came to enjoin the greatest caution.

 To his former pupil, Anton Lauterbach, preacher at Pirna, he sent
 the following not over-confident instructions: “Hesse’s example of
 the use of excommunication pleases me. If you can establish the same
 thing, well and good. But the centaurs and harpies of the Court will
 look at it askance. May the Lord be our help! Everywhere licence and
 lawlessness continue to spread amongst the people, but it is the fault
 of the secular authorities.”[678]

 The example of Hesse to which Luther referred was the Hessian
 “Regulations for church discipline,” enacted in 1539 at the instance
 of Bucer, in which, amongst other things, provision was made for
 excommunication. So-called “elders,” appointed conjointly by the
 town authorities and the congregation, were to watch over the faith
 and morals of all, preachers inclusive; to them, together with the
 preacher, it fell, after seeking advice of the Superintendent, to
 pronounce the ban over the obdurate sinner. In the Saxon Electorate,
 however, so Luther hints, this would hardly be feasible on account
 of the attitude of the authorities and the utter lawlessness of the

 In 1538 the Elector himself had well put the difficulty which would
 face any such disciplinary measure: “If only people could be found
 who would let themselves be excommunicated!” He had, as Jonas related
 at Luther’s table, listened devoutly to the sermon at Zerbst and then
 expressed himself strongly on the universal decline in morals, the
 “outrageous wickedness, gluttony and drunkenness,” etc.; he had also
 said that excommunication was necessary, but had then uttered the
 despairing words just quoted.[679]

 Yet in spite of all Luther still continued at times to hold up the
 ban and its consequences as a threat: “I shall denounce him from the
 pulpit as having been placed under the ban”—this of a burgher who had
 absented himself from the Sacrament for fifteen years—“and will give
 notice that he is to be looked upon as a dog; if, after this, anyone
 holds intercourse or has anything to do with him, he will do so at
 his own risk; if he dies he is to be buried on the rubbish-heap like
 a dog; we formally make him over to the authorities for their justice
 and their laws to do their worst on him.”[680]—“As for our usurers,
 drunkards, libertines, whoremongers, blasphemers and scoffers,” he
 says, “they do not require to be put under the ban, as they have done
 so themselves; they are in it already up to their ears.... When they
 are about to die, no pastor or curate may attend them, and when they
 are dead let the hangman drag them out of the town to the carrion
 heap.... Since they wish to be heathen, we shall look upon them as

 Such self-imposed excommunication was so frequent that the other, viz.
 that to be imposed by the preacher, was but rarely needed.—“This
 is the true and chief reason why the ban has everywhere fallen
 into disuse,” Luther declares, echoing the Elector, “because real
 Christians are everywhere so few, so small a body and so insignificant
 in number.”[682] He too could exclaim with a sigh: “If only there were
 people who would let themselves be banned.”

 But even had such people been forthcoming, those who would have to
 pronounce the ban were too often anything but perfect. What was
 needed was prudent, energetic and disinterested preachers, for, in
 order “to make use of the ban, we have need of good, courageous,
 spiritual-minded ministers; we have too many who are immersed in
 worldly business.” “I fear our pastors will be over-bold and grasp at
 temporalities and at property.”[683]

_The want of a Hierarchy. Ordinations_

Sebastian Franck of Donauwörth, a man responsible for some fanatical
doctrines, but a good observer of events, wrote in 1534 in his
“Cosmography”: “Every sect has its own teacher, leader and priest, so
that now no one can write of the German faith, and a whole volume would
be necessary, and indeed would not suffice, to enumerate all their
sects and beliefs.” “Men will and must have a Pope,” he says, “they
will steal one or dig one out of the earth, and if you take one from
them every day they will soon find a new one.”[684]

It was not, however, exactly a “Pope” that the various sects desired;
the great and commanding name of the author of the schism could endure
none other beside it, quite apart from the impossibility of anything of
the sort being realised. On the other hand, the appointment of bishops
to the new Churches, i.e. the introduction of a kind of hierarchy, had
been discussed since about 1540.

Luther saw well enough what a firm foundation the Church of the
“Papists” possessed in its episcopate. Would not the introduction of
eminent Lutheran preachers into the old German episcopal sees and
their investment with the secular authority and quality of bishops,
serve to strengthen the cause of the Evangel where it was weakest?
The Superintendents did not suffice, though these officers, first
introduced in the Saxon Visitation of 1527, held a post of supervision
duly recognised in the Church.

 “The Papists boast of their bishops,” said Luther, “and of their
 spiritual authority though it is contrary to God’s ordinances.”[685]
 “They are all set on retaining the bishops, and simply want to reform
 them.”[686] “In Germany the bishops are wealthy and powerful, they
 have a position and authority and they rule of their own power.”[687]
 “If only we had one or two bishops on our side, or could induce them
 to come over to us!”[688]

 On Ascension Day, May 15, 1539, we are told that “Luther dined with
 his Elector and assisted at a council. It was there resolved to
 maintain the bishops in their authority, if only they would renounce
 the Pope and were pious persons devoted to the Gospel, like Speratus.
 In that case,” said Luther, “we shall grant them the right and the
 power to ordain ministers.” When Melanchthon attempted to dissuade
 him, pointing out that it would be difficult to make sure of them
 by examination, he replied: “They are to be tested by our people
 and then consecrated by the laying on of hands, just as I am now a
 bishop.”[689] Instead of the words “as I am now a bishop” a more
 likely rendering is, “as we have already done as bishops here at
 Wittenberg.”[690] The resolution indicated would seem to have been
 merely provisional and non-committal, possibly a mere project. Nor is
 it likely that Melanchthon can have been very averse to it.

 As a matter of fact, Luther had, like a bishop, already ordained or
 inducted into office such men as had been “called” to the ministry,
 viz. by the congregations or the authorities; this he did for the
 first time in 1525 in the case of George Rörer, who had been called
 to the archdiaconate of Wittenberg. The ordination took place with
 imposition of hands and prayer. Since 1535 there existed a Wittenberg
 oath of ordination to be taken by the preachers and pastors who should
 be appointed, by which they bound themselves to preserve and to teach
 the “Catholic” faith as taught at Wittenberg.[691]

 Luther did not think that any consecration at the hands of the
 existing episcopate was necessary for a new bishop;[692] such
 necessity was incompatible with his conception of the Church, the
 hierarchy and the common priesthood; as for the Sacrament of Orders in
 the usual sense of the word, it no longer existed.

 A welcome opportunity for setting up a Protestant “bishop” was
 presented to the Elector of Saxony and to Luther when the bishopric of
 Naumburg-Zeitz fell vacant (above, p. 165 f.).

 Johann Frederick, the Elector, not satisfied with his rights as
 protector, laid claim also to actual sovereignty, and as the
 innovations had, as stated above, already secured a footing in
 Naumburg, he determined to introduce a Lutheran preacher as bishop
 and to seize upon the rights and lands in spite of the Chapter and
 larger part of the nobility still being true to the Catholic faith.
 He appealed to the fact that the kings of England, Denmark and
 Sweden, and likewise the Duke of Prussia, had set their bishops in
 “order.”[693] The noble and scholarly Julius Pflug, whom wisely the
 Chapter at once elected to the vacant see, was, as related above,
 never to be allowed to ascend the episcopal throne.

4. Consecration of Nicholas Amsdorf as “Evangelical Bishop” of Naumburg

At first Luther was loath under the circumstances to advise the setting
up in Naumburg of a bishop of the new faith. To him and to his advisers
the step appeared too dangerous. Nevertheless, on hearing of the
election of Pflug, he wrote as follows to the Elector: These Naumburg
canons “are desperate people and the devil’s very own. But what cannot
be carried off openly, may be won by waiting. Some day God will let it
fall into your Electoral Highness’s hands, and the devil’s wiseacres
will be caught in their own wisdom.”[694]

When, however, the Elector obstinately insisted on putting into
execution his plan, contrary to justice and to the laws of the Empire
as it was, and when his agents had already begun to govern the new
territory, Luther’s views and those of the Wittenberg theologians
gradually changed. It was difficult, they wrote, to “map out beforehand
the order” of the German Church; the question whether they would have
bishops, or do without, had not yet been decided; meanwhile the Prince
had better establish a consistory. Later on, however, they advised the
appointment of a bishop, for the Church cannot be without its bishop
and the Chapter had forfeited its rights; there was, nevertheless,
to be a real and genuine election at which the faithful were to be

Luther and his friends wanted to have as bishop Prince George of
Anhalt, Canon of Magdeburg and Merseburg, who shared the Wittenberg

To the Elector, however, who had other plans of his own, it seemed,
that, owing to his position, this Prince might not prove an easy tool
in his sovereign’s hands. Nicholas Amsdorf, preacher at Magdeburg,
who for long years had been Luther’s associate, was accounted one of
his most determined supporters and, as time went on, even gained for
himself the reputation of being “more Lutheran than Luther,” appeared
a more likely candidate. It was no difficult matter to secure Luther’s
consent. He gave Amsdorf the following testimonial: “He was richly
endowed by God, learned and proficient in Holy Scripture, more so than
the whole crowd of Papists; also a man of good life and faithful and
upright at heart.” The fact that he was unmarried was a recommendation
for the post, even from the point of view of “Papal law.”[696]

It has already been mentioned that Amsdorf was later on to write the
book “That good works are harmful to Salvation,” and that, previously,
about 1525, he was active in making matches between the escaped nuns
and the leaders of the innovations. Melanchthon, writing to Johannes
Ferinarius, says: “He was an adulterer, and lay with the wife of his
deacon at Magdeburg”; of this we hear from the Luther researcher J. K.
Seidemann, who quotes from a Dresden MS.[697]

_The Ceremony at Naumburg_

The 20 Jan., 1542, was appointed for the “consecration” of the bishop.
Two days before, the Elector of Saxony made his solemn entry into the
little town on the Saale escorted by some three hundred horsemen, the
gentlemen all clothed in decorous black. His brother Johann Ernest
and Duke Ernest of Brunswick were in his train. Luther, Melanchthon
and Amsdorf also took part in the procession. It was a mere formality
when the Chapter (or rather the magistrates of the towns of Zeitz and
Naumburg, and the knights, though only such as were Protestant) were
asked to cast their votes in favour of Amsdorf; in reality the will of
Johann Frederick was law. Their scruples concerning the oath they had
taken under the former bishop, of everlasting fidelity to the Catholic
Chapter were, at their desire, dealt with by Luther himself, who
argued that no oath taken by the sheep to the wolves could be of any
account, and that no duty “could be binding which ran counter to God’s
commandment to do away with idolatrous doctrine.”[698]

The “consecration” then took place on the day appointed, within the
venerable walls of the mediæval Cathedral of Naumburg, ostensibly
according to the usage of the earliest ages, when the Church had not
as yet fallen away from the Gospel. The Blessing and imposition of
hands were to signify that the Church of Naumburg, i.e. the whole
flock, was wedded to its bishop; he too, in like manner, would
ceremonially proclaim his readiness to take charge of this same flock.
The bishops of the adjoining sees, who, in accordance with the custom
of antiquity should have assembled to perform the consecration, were
represented by three superintendents and one apostate Abbot. “At this
consecration [to quote Luther’s own words] the following bishops, or
as we shall call them parsons, shall officiate: Dr. Nicholas Medler,
parson and super-attendant of Naumburg, Master George Spalatin, parson
and super-attendant at Aldenburg [the former preacher at the Court of
the Elector], Master Wolfgang Stein, parson and super-attendant at
Weissenfels”[699] (also Abbot Thomas of St. George’s near Naumburg).

Luther is silent concerning the two requirements which, according to
the olden views, were the most essential for the consecration of a
bishop, viz. the ritual consecration, which only a consecrated bishop
could impart, and the jurisdiction or authority to rule, only to be
derived from bishops yet more highly placed in the hierarchy, or from
the Pope. Both these Luther himself had to supply.

At the outset of the ceremony Nicholas Medler announced the deed which
was about to be undertaken “through God’s Grace,” to which the people
assented by saying “Amen.” After this Luther preached a sermon on the
Bible-text addressed to the Church’s heads: “Take heed to yourselves
and to the whole flock, wherein the Holy Ghost hath placed you bishops
to rule the church of God which He hath purchased with His own blood”
(Acts xx. 28). After the sermon Amsdorf knelt before the altar
surrounded by the four assistants and the “_Veni Creator_” was sung.
Luther admonished the future bishop concerning his episcopal duties,
and, on the latter giving a satisfactory answer, in common with the
four others, he laid his hands on his head; after this Luther himself
offered a prayer for him. The “_Te Deum_” was then sung in German.
Hence the bishop’s consecration took place in much the same way as the
ordination of the preachers, viz. by imposition of hands and prayer.

Luther himself had some misgivings concerning the step and its
far-reaching consequences.

He wrote not long after to Jacob Probst, pastor at Bremen, whom he
here addresses as bishop: “I wonder you have not heard the news, how,
namely, on Jan. 20, Dr. Nicholas Amsdorf was ordained by the heresiarch
Luther bishop of the church of Naumburg. It was a daring act and will
arouse much hatred, animosity and indignation against us. I am hard
at work hammering out a book on the subject. What the result will be
God knows.” He adds: “Jonas is working successfully for the kingdom of
Christ at Halle [where he had been appointed pastor] in spite of the
accursed Heinz and Meinz [Duke Henry of Brunswick and Archbishop Albert
of Mayence]. My own lordship and Katey my Moses greet you and your
spouse. Pray for me that I may die at the right hour, for I am sick of
this life, or rather of this unspeakably bitter death.”[700]

_Luther’s booklet on the Consecration of Bishops_

The bitter work which Luther, at the request of the Elector and
the Naumburg Estates, “hammered out,” in vindication of this act
of violence, appeared in the same year, i.e. 1542, under the title
“Exempel einen rechten Christlichen Bischoff zu weihen.”[701]

 The title itself shows that the pamphlet was no mere attempt to
 justify himself and those who had taken part in the act but aims at
 something more; Luther’s apologia becomes a violent attack; a breach
 was to be made in the wall which so far had hindered Protestants from
 appropriating the Catholic bishoprics of Germany. “Our intention,”
 says Luther quite plainly, “is to establish an example to show how the
 bishoprics may be reformed and governed in a Christian manner.”[702]

 The opening lines show that the book was intended to inflame and
 excite the masses. The jocular tone blatantly contrasts with the
 august subject of the episcopate and supplies a good “example” of the
 author’s mode of controversy. The work begins: “Martin Luther, Doctor.
 We poor heretics have once more committed a great sin against the
 hellish, unchristian Church of our most fiendish Father the Pope by
 ordaining and consecrating a bishop for the see of Naumburg without
 any chrism, without even any butter, lard, fat, grease, incense,
 charcoal or any such-like holy things.” Cheerfully indeed did he own,
 acknowledge and confess this sin against those, who “have shed our
 blood, murdered, hanged, drowned, beheaded, burnt, robbed and driven
 us into exile, and inflicted on us every manner of martyrdom, and now,
 with Meinz and Heinz, have taken to sacking the land.”

 With a couple of Bible passages he bowls over the legal difficulties
 arising out of the expulsion of the bishop-elect and the oath of the
 Estates: “Thou shalt have none other Gods before me”; “Beware of
 false prophets who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are
 ravening wolves,” etc. We must sweep away the “wolf-bishops whom the
 devil ordains and thrusts in.” “Oath and obedience stand untouched,”
 for they “could take no [valid] oath to the wolf.”[703] The further
 question, “whether it was right to accept consecration or ordination
 from such damnable heretics [i.e. as he], was disposed of by saying,
 that the Evangel was no heresy, and that though he understood Holy
 Scripture but little, yet at any rate he understood it far better—and
 also knew better how to consecrate a Christian bishop—than the Pope
 and all his men, who one and all were foes of Holy Writ and of the
 Word of God.”[704]

 This screed stands undoubtedly far below many of Luther’s other
 productions. It tends to be diffuse and to harp tediously on the same
 ideas. Luther had already overwritten himself, and when engaged on it
 was struggling with bad health, the forerunner of his fatal sickness
 three years later. His disgust with life spoiled his work.

 The “Popes, cardinals, bishops, abbots, canons and parsons” he
 implores to look rather to the beam in their own eye, to the “simony,
 favouritism, sharp practices, agreements, conventions and other
 horrible vices” which prevailed at their own consecrations, than
 at the mote in the eye of the Lutherans. “You strainers at gnats
 and swallowers of camels, wipe yourselves first—you know where I
 mean—before coming and telling us to wipe our noses. It is not
 fitting that a sow should teach a dove not to eat any unclean grain
 of corn while itself it loves nothing better than to feed on the
 excreta which the peasants leave behind the hedge. As for the rest you
 understand it well enough.”[705] “Let us stop our ears and not listen
 to their shouting, barking, bellowing, their complaints and their
 abuse,” with which I have “put up for many a year from Dr. Sow [Dr.
 Eck], from Witzel, Tölpel, Schmid, from Dr. Dirtyspoon [Cochlaeus],
 Tellerlecker, ‘Brünzscherben,’ Heinz and Meinz and whatever else they
 may be.... The [Last] Day is approaching for which we hope and which
 they must needs fear, however obstinately they may affect to despise
 it. Against their defiance we pit ours; at least we may look forward
 to The Day with a happy, cheerful conscience. On that day we shall be
 their judges, unless indeed there is really no God in heaven or on
 earth as the Pope and his followers believe.”[706]

How little Luther really knew of the cunning policy of his sovereign
is plain from his assuring his reader in the same booklet, apparently
in the best of faith, that it was no motive of self-interest that had
led the Elector to intervene in the Naumburg business; “the lands
were to remain the property of the see,” the Elector did not wish “to
subjugate it, to deprive it of its liberty, or alienate it from the
Empire,” etc.[707] He declares that whatever reports Julius Pflug was
spreading to the contrary were a “stinking lie.” Yet the Elector had
ousted the rightful occupant of the see, as he had intended to do all
along, and those who ventured to oppose his commands he was to punish
by sequestration of lands and even by imprisonment.

The Protestant bishop was assigned a miserable pittance of six hundred
Gulden so that Amsdorf, as Luther declared, had been better off at
Magdeburg.[708] Practically nothing was done by the sovereign for the
ordering of the Church. Luther bewailed to Amsdorf: “The negligence of
our government gives me great concern. They so often take rash steps
and, then, when we are down in the mire, snore idly and leave us on the
lurch. I intend, however, to open the ears of Dr. Pontanus [Chancellor
Brück] and of the Prince and give them some plain speaking.”[709]

“How is this?” Luther wrote about this time to Justus Jonas, who, at
Halle, had gone through much the same experience, “We pray against the
Turk, we are the teachers of the people and their intercessors with God
and yet those who wish to be accounted ‘Evangelicals’ rashly excite
the wrath of God by their avarice, their robbing and plundering of the
Church. The people let us go on teaching, praying and suffering while
they heap sin upon sin!”[710]

_Excerpts from Luther’s Letters to the New “Bishop”_

Luther’s correspondence with his friend Amsdorf affords an instructive
psychological insight into the working of his mind. During those last
years of his life he took refuge more and more in a certain fanatical
mysticism. He sought comfort in the thought of his exalted calling
and in a kind of inspiration; yet all he could do availed but little
against his inward gloom.

 Amsdorf, the whilom Catholic priest, found little pleasure in his
 episcopal status and felt bitterly both his isolation and the contrast
 between a pomp that was irksome to him and the real emptiness of
 his position; Luther, accordingly, in the letters of consolation he
 wrote him, appealed to the Divine inspiration, which had led to his
 appointment as bishop. The consecration was surely undertaken at the
 express command of God which no man may oppose. “In these Divine
 matters,” he writes, “it is far safer to allow oneself to be carried
 away than to take any active part; this is what happened in your case,
 and yours is a noble and unusual example. We are never in worse case
 than when we fancy we are acting with discernment and understanding,
 because then self-complacency slinks in; but the blinder we are,
 the more God acts through us. He does more than we can think or
 understand.” We have here the same principle to which he had been so
 fond of appealing in the early days of his career so as to be able
 to attribute to God the unforeseen and far-going consequences of his
 deeds, and to reassure himself and urge himself on.

 “We must never seek to know,” he said to Amsdorf, “what God wills to
 accomplish through us.” “The most foolish thing is the wisest.”[711]
 “God rules the world by means of fools and children, He will finish
 His work [in you] by our means, just as in the Book of Proverbs (xxx.
 2), where we are called the greatest fools on earth.”[712]

 “It is the counsel of a fool,” so Luther said in his “Exempel” of his
 intentions regarding the bishops’ sees, “and I am a fool. But because
 it is God’s counsel, therefore it is at least the counsel of a wise

 This pseudo-mystical bent though usual enough in Luther seems to
 have become very much stronger in him at that time. To this his sad
 experiences contributed. More than ever convinced, on the one hand,
 that everything in the world was of the devil and that “Satan and his
 whole kingdom, full of a terrible wrath, were harassing” the Elector,
 as he declares in a letter to Amsdorf,[714] he tends, on the other,
 to fall back with a fanatical enthusiasm on the Evangel “revealed” to
 him. More than one statement which is no mere empty form, shows that
 he was really anxious to find consolation in the Divine truths; again
 and again he strove to rouse himself to a firm confidence. He is also
 more diligent in his peculiar sort of prayer and strongly urges his
 friends, notably Amsdorf to whom he frankly imparts his fears and
 hopes, to seek for help in prayer. His words are really those of one
 who feels in need of assistance.

 Amidst the trials of increasing bodily ailments and in other temporal
 hardships he knows how to encourage his life’s partner, Catharine
 Bora, whose anxiety distressed him: “You want to provide for your
 God,” he says to her in one of his letters, “just as though He were
 not all-powerful and able to create ten Dr. Martins should your
 old one get drowned in the Saale, or smothered in the coal-hole or
 elsewhere. Do not worry me with your cares; I have a better caretaker
 than even you or all the angels. He lies in the crib and sucks at a
 Virgin’s breast, but nevertheless is seated at the right hand of God
 the Father Almighty. Hence be at peace, Amen.”[715] “Do you pray,” he
 admonishes her not long after, “and leave God to provide, for it is
 written: ‘Cast thy care upon the Lord and He shall sustain thee,’ Ps.

 Such ready words of encouragement do not however prevent him,
 when dealing with other more stout-hearted friends who were aware
 of the precarious state of the cause, from giving full voice to
 the depression, nay despair, which overwhelmed him. The following
 example from his correspondence with the “bishop” of Naumburg is

 After an attempt to parry the charge brought against him of being
 responsible for the public misfortunes which had arisen through the
 religious revolt, and to reassure Amsdorf, and incidentally himself
 too, he goes on gloomily to predict the coming chastisement: “Were we
 the cause of all the evils that have befallen us [and others], how
 much blood should we have already shed!... It is, however, Christ’s
 business to see to this, since He Himself by His Word has called
 forth so much evil and such great hatred on the part of the devil.
 All this, so they fancy, is a scandal and a disgrace to our teaching!
 Nevertheless ingratitude for God’s proffered grace is so great, the
 contempt for the Word goes such lengths, vice, avarice, usury, luxury,
 hatred, perfidy, envy, pride, godlessness and blasphemy are increasing
 by such leaps and bounds that it is hard to believe God can much
 longer deal indulgently and patiently with Germany. Either the Turk
 will chastise us [‘while we brood full of hate over the wounds of our
 brethren’] or some inner misfortune [civil war] will break over us.
 It is true we feel the chastisement, we pay the penalty in grief and
 tears, but yet we remain sunk in terrible sins whereby we grieve the
 Holy Ghost and rouse the anger of God against us.”

 What faithful Catholics feared for him owing to his obstinacy, this,
 in his sad blindness, he now predicts for the foes of his Evangel.
 “Who can wonder,” he cries, “should God, as Holy Scripture says,
 laugh at our destruction in spite of the weeping and sighing of the
 guilty.... The worst end awaits the impenitent.”

 “Let none of us expect the least good of the future. Our sins cry
 aloud to heaven and on earth and there is no hope of any good. Now,
 in a time of peace, Germany affords the eye a terrible spectacle,
 seeing that God’s honour is outraged everywhere by so many wicked men
 and that the churches and schools are being destroyed.... Meanwhile,
 we at least [the despised preachers of the truth] will bewail our own
 sins and those of Germany; we will pray and humble our souls, devote
 ourselves to our office, teaching, exhorting and consoling. What
 else can we do? Germany has become blind and deaf and rises up in
 insolence; we cannot hope against hope.”

 “But do you be brave and give thanks to the Lord for the holy calling
 He has deigned to bestow upon us; He has willed to sunder us from
 these reprobates, who are bent on ruining others too, to preserve us
 clean and blameless in His pure and holy Word, and will continue so
 to preserve us. Let us, however, weep for the foes of the cross of
 Christ, even though they mock at our tears. Though we be filled with
 grief on account of their misery still our grief will be assuaged by
 the holy joy which will attend the again-rising of the Lord on the day
 of our salvation, Amen.”

 He concludes this curious letter, written on Easter Sunday, with
 the following benediction: “May the Lord be with you to support and
 comfort you together with us. Outside of Christ, in the kingdom of the
 raging devil, there is nothing but sadness to be seen or heard.” Thus,
 at the close, he returns to the opening thought suggested by the very
 object of the letter. Amsdorf had deplored the warlike acts undertaken
 by Duke Maurice of Saxony against the Elector. Luther, in turn, had
 informed him, that “here, we are quite certain that what the Duke is
 doing is the direct work of Satan.”[717]

5. Some Further Deeds of Violence. Fate of Ecclesiastical Works of Art

_End of the Bishopric of Meissen_

The Elector of Saxony, after having been so successful in seizing the
bishopric of Naumburg, sought to obtain control of that of Meissen also.

Here, however, there was another Protestant claimant in the field in
the person of the young Duke Maurice of Saxony, successor of the late
Duke Henry. As for the chartered rights, temporal and spiritual, of
the bishop of Meissen they were simply ignored. The Elector, by a
breach of the peace, sent a military force on March 22, 1542, to occupy
the important town of Wurzen, where there was a collegiate Chapter
depending on Meissen. The Chapter was “reformed” by compulsion, the
prebendaries who were faithful to the Church being threatened with
deposition and corporal penalties, and many sacred objects being flung
out of their church. When eventually war threatened to break out
between the two branches of the house of Saxony, Landgrave Philip of
Hesse stepped in as mediator in the interests of the new Evangel. He
twice sent express messengers to summon Luther to intervene. But, even
before this, the latter, horrified at the prospect of the “dreadful
disgrace” which civil war between two Evangelical princes would bring
upon the Evangel, had addressed a long and earnest letter of admonition
to both combatants: It was the devil who was seeking to kindle a great
fire from such a spark; both sides should have recourse to law instead
of falling upon each other over so insignificant a matter, like tipsy
yokels fighting in a tap-room over a broken glass; if they refused to
do this, he would take the part of the one who first suffered acts of
violence at the hands of the other and would free all the latter’s
followers from their duty and oath of obedience in the war.[718] The
writing, which was intended for publication and to be forwarded “to
both armies,” was only half-printed when the Landgrave intervened. The
author withdrew it in order to be able to take up a different attitude
in the struggle and to proceed at once to denounce Maurice.

 Luther it is true admitted to Brück, the electoral chancellor, that
 certain people at Wittenberg did not consider the Elector’s claims
 at all well-founded.[719] At the Landgrave’s instigation he also
 addressed a friendly request to the Elector, “not to be too hard and
 stiff”; of the temporal rights of the case he was ignorant; seeing,
 however, that there was a dispute the question could not be clear; at
 any rate Duke Maurice was acting wrongfully in “pressing his rights by
 so bloodthirsty an undertaking. At times there may be a good reason
 for pulling one’s foot out of the tracks of a mad dog or for burning a
 couple of tapers at the devil’s altar.”[720] But on the whole he took
 the part of his Elector against Maurice, who, even before this, had
 appeared to him lax and wavering in his support of the new faith. In
 his history of Maurice of Saxony, G. Voigt gives as his opinion that:
 “In this matter Luther neither showed himself unbiased nor did he act
 uprightly and honourably.”[721]

 To Amsdorf, who had helped to fan the flame of mutual hate, Luther
 speaks of Duke Maurice as “a proud and furious young fellow, in whom
 we undoubtedly see the direct work of Satan”; it is not he (Luther)
 or Amsdorf who have to reproach themselves with the conflagration; he
 is to be quite at rest on this score. Rather, it is Christ Who—by
 His Word—has given rise to the mischief and to all the hatred of the
 demons against us. His Word alone is to blame, not we, that so many
 confessors of our faith have been slain, drowned and burnt. “In vain
 do they impute to us the bloody deeds which have taken place owing to
 Münzer, Carlstadt, Zwingli and the [Anabaptist] King of Münster.”

 “At first Maurice was not regarded by Luther, Melanchthon and most
 of their contemporaries as of such importance, whether for good or
 for evil, as he soon after showed himself to be; they fancied him far
 more dependent on his nobles and councillors than he really was.”[722]
 Luther thought he detected the evil influence of the councillors
 in the twin businesses of Wurzen and Meissen. In his reply to the
 Landgrave concerning the attempt to bring the matter to a peaceful
 issue, without having as yet examined the cause, he speaks of Duke
 Maurice as a “stupid bloodhound.”[723] To his own Court he wrote,
 on April 12, as though the Duke were without question in the wrong:
 “May God strengthen, console and preserve my most Gracious Lord and
 you all in His Grace and in a good conscience, and bring down on the
 heads of the hypocritical bloodhound of Meissen what Cain and Absalom,
 Judas and Herodes deserved. Amen and again Amen, to the glory of His
 name Whom Duke Maurice is outraging to the utmost by this abominable
 scandal, and singing meanwhile so blasphemous a hymn of praise to the
 devil and all the foes of God.”[724]

In the meantime, owing to Philip’s exertions, a compromise was effected
between the two parties ready for the fray; by this it was agreed that
each should have a free hand in one of the two portions of the diocese,
the Elector retaining Wurzen; as for the defenceless bishop of Meissen,
who was not even informed of this, he had simply to bow to his fate.
Maurice, however, was so greatly angered that he soon after abandoned
the League of Schmalkalden and began to make advances to the Emperor.

After the conclusion of peace “the Elector had all the images in the
chief church of Wurzen destroyed, except those which were overlaid
with gold or which represented ‘serious events,’ and the rest buried
in the vaults.” The new teaching was then introduced throughout the
diocese.[725] Maurice on his part carried off from the cathedral of
Meissen, which had fallen to his share, all the gold and silver vessels
richly studded with jewels and precious stones and all the treasures
of art. He was taking them, he said, under his protection “because the
times were so full of risk and danger.” After he had taken them into
his “care” all trace of them disappeared for all time.

_Destruction of Church Property_

The fate of the treasures of Meissen Cathedral resembles that which
befell the riches of many churches at that time.

We are still in possession of the inventory made by Blasius Kneusel of
Meissen which gives us a glimpse of the wealth and magnificence of the
treasures of mediæval German art and industry which perished in this

 The list contains the following entries among others: “One gold cross
 valued by Duke George at 1300 florins; in it there is a diamond valued
 at 16,000 florins, besides other precious stones and pearls with which
 the cross is covered.” “A second gold cross, worth 6000 florins. A
 third is worth 1000 florins, besides the precious stones and pearls
 of which the cross is full. I value the gold table and the credence
 table, without the precious stones, at 1000 florins in gold. The
 large bust of St. Benno weighs 36-1/2 lbs.; it is set with valuable
 stones; it was made by order of the church and all the congregation
 contributed towards it. The small cross with the medallions of the
 Virgin Mary and St. John weighs about 50 lbs.”

 The number of these treasures of art which fell a prey to the
 plunderer amounted to fifty-one.[726]

 Two years later Luther wrote to Duke Ernest of Saxony to seek help
 on behalf of two fallen monks then studying theology at Wittenberg:
 in order to support men who “may eventually prove very useful” “the
 chalices and monstrances might well be melted down.”[727]

 The ruthless handling of the Black Monastery at Wittenberg, which
 had been bestowed on Luther after the dissolution of the Augustinian
 community, was to set a bad example. The fittings of the church there
 were scattered and the mediæval images and vestments which, though
 perhaps only of small material value, would yet be carefully treasured
 by any museum to-day, were calmly devoted by Luther to destruction.

 “Now at last,” he says, “I have sold the best of the pictures that
 still remained, but did not get much for them, fifty florins at the
 most, and with this I have clothed, fed and provided for the nuns and
 the monks—the thieves and rascals.” He had already remarked that the
 best of the “church ornaments and vessels” had gone; at the “beginning
 of the Evangel everything had been laid waste” and “even to this very
 day they do not cease from carrying off ... each man whatever he can
 lay hands on.”[728]

No one can adequately describe the material damage which the Catholic
parsonages and benefices, convents and bishoprics had to suffer on
their suppression. A simple list of the spoliations from the hundreds
of cases on record, would give us a shocking picture of the temporal
consequences involved in the ecclesiastical upheaval. Apart from
the injustice of thus robbing the churches and, incidentally, the
numberless poor who looked to the Church for help, it was regrettable
that there was no other institution ready to take the place of the
olden Church, and assume possession of the properties which fell
vacant. The Catholic Church was a firmly knit and well-established
community, capable of possessing property. The new Churches on the
contrary did not constitute an independent and united body; the
universal priesthood, the invisibility of the Church of Christ and its
utter want of independence were ideas altogether at variance with the
legal conception of ownership upon which, in the topsyturvydom of that
age of transition it was more than ever necessary to insist.

Hence the secular element had necessarily to assume the guardianship
of the property. But of the secular authorities, which was to take
control? For these authorities, which all were looking forward
expectantly to their share of the church property heaped up by their
Catholic ancestors, were not one but many: There was the sovereign with
his Court, the civil administration, the towns with their councils,
not to speak of other local claimants; to make the confusion worse
there were the church patrons, the trustees of monasteries, the
founders of institutions, and their heirs, and also those endowed with
certain privileges under letters patent. Moreover, the leaders of
the religious innovations insisted that the property acquired was to
be devoted to the support of the preachers, the schools and the poor.
Hence to the above already lengthy list of claimants must be added
the preachers, or the consistories representing them, likewise the
administrators of the relief funds, the governors of the schools, and
the senates of the universities which had to furnish the preachers.

The war-council of the town of Strasburg, in 1538, addressed a
letter to Luther concerning their prospects or intention of securing
a share of the church property there. On Nov. 20 of that year he
replied, peremptorily telling them to do nothing of the sort; under
the conditions then prevailing they must “_de facto_ stand still.”
Yet no less plain was his hint to them to warn Catholic owners “who
hold church property but pay no heed to the cure of souls,” to amend
and to accept the new Evangel; if they “wished to go,” i.e. preferred
banishment, so much the better, otherwise they must once for all by
some means be “at last brought to see that further persistence in their
wantonness” was out of question.[729]

       *       *       *       *       *

To add to the general chaos in many places the powerful nobles, as
Luther frequently laments, without a shadow of a right, set violent
hands on the tempting possessions, and, by entering into possession,
frustrated all other claims.

The leading theologians of Wittenberg gradually gave up in despair
their attempts to interfere, and contented themselves with exhortations
to which nobody paid much heed.

They saw how the lion’s share fell to the strongest, i.e. to the
Elector, and how everywhere the State took the pennies of the devout
and the poor, using them for purposes of its own, which often enough
had nothing whatever to do with the Church.

Nowhere do we find any evidence to show that the theologians made
use of the authority on which on other occasions they laid so much
stress, or made any serious attempt to check arbitrary action and to
point out the way to a just distribution, or to lay down some clear
and general rules in accordance with which the graduated claims of the
different competitors might have been settled. They might at least
have associated themselves with the lawyers in the Privy Council and
formulated some rule whereby the rights of the State, of the towns
and of the church patrons could have been protected against the worst
attacks of the plunderers. But no check of this sort was imposed by the
theologians on the prevailing avarice and greed of gain. It is plain
that they despaired of the result, and, possibly, silence may not have
been the worst policy. No one can be blind to the huge difficulties
which attended interference, but who was after all to blame for these
and so many other difficulties which had arisen in public order, and
which could be solved only by the use of force?

When an exceptionally conscientious town-council sent a messenger to
Luther in 1544 to ask for advice and instructions how to deal with the
property of two monasteries which had been suppressed, the “honourable,
prudent and beloved masters and friends” received from him only a short
and evasive answer: “We theologians have nothing to do with this ...
such things must be decided by the lawyers ... our theology teaches
us to obey the worldly law, to protect the pious and to punish the

If, however, the lawyers were to follow the jurisprudence in which they
had been trained, then they could but insist upon the property being
restored to its rightful owners, who had never ceased to claim it for
the Church, and had even appealed to the imperial authority. Luther’s
reply constituted a formal retreat from the domain of moral questions,
questions indeed which had become burning largely through the action
of his theologians. It was an admission that their theology was of no
avail to solve an eminently practical question of ethics coming well
within its purview which was the safeguarding of the moral law, and for
which, indeed, this theology was itself responsible. In this, however,
as in so many other instances, they sowed the wind, but when the
whirlwind came they ran for shelter to their theological cell.[731]

Still, the question of church property caused Luther so much
heart-burning in his old age that his death was hastened thereby.

The lamentations wrung from him in 1538, his description of himself as
“tormented” and the “unhappiest of all unhappy mortals,”[732] were due
in no small measure to the rapacity he had seen in connection with the
church lands. The bulwarks he strove to erect against this disorder
were constantly being torn down afresh by the unevangelical disposition
of the Evangelicals, and yet he refused to admit, even to himself,
that he had been the first to open the way to such arbitrary action.
As in his own house he had set an example of destruction of church
property, so in his turn he met with bitter experiences even in his own
dwelling and in the case of his own private concerns. His tenure of the
Black Monastery at Wittenberg was uncertain, and, as already stated,
hostile lawyers at Court even questioned his right to dispose of his
possessions by Will on the ground that his marriage was null in law,
whether canon or civil. The Monastery had been given him by the Prince,
and Luther and Catherine Bora used it both as their residence and as a
boarding-house for lodgers. It had not, however, been given to Luther’s
family, and from this the difficulty arose. He was most careful to
note down in his account books the things that were to be Katey’s
inalienable property on his death, but, when he was no more, Katey and
her children had in their turn to make acquaintance with the poverty
and vicissitudes endured by so many churchmen whose means of livelihood
had been filched from them.

_Luther and the Images_

Can the charge be brought against Luther’s teaching of being in
part responsible for the outbreaks of iconoclastic violence which
accompanied the spread of the Reformation in Germany? Did his writings
contribute to the destruction of those countless, admirable and often
costly creations of art and piety which fell a prey to the blind fury
of the zealot, or to greed of gain?

Assuredly he would, had he seen them, have disapproved of many of the
acts of vandalism which history tells us were perpetrated against
Catholic churches, monasteries and institutions. Generally speaking
the ideas of Carlstadt and Zwingli, wherever they gained the upper
hand, proved far more destructive to ecclesiastical works of art
than Luther’s gentler admonitions against the veneration of images.
Nevertheless, his exhortations, though more guarded, made their way
among both the mighty and the masses, and were productive of much harm.

He himself declared frankly, about the end of 1524, that “by his
writings he had done more harm to the images than Carlstadt with all
his storming and fanaticism will ever do.”[733] In the course of
the next year he boasted of having “brought contempt” on the images
even before Carlstadt’s time. He had repudiated the latter’s acts of
violence and his ill-judged appeal to the law of Moses;[734] on the
other hand, he had undermined the very foundations of image-worship by
his Evangelical doctrines; this was a better kind of “storming,” for in
this way those who once had bowed to images now “refused to have any
made.” As much as the most fanatical of the iconoclasts, he too wished
to see the images “torn out of men’s hearts, despised and abolished,”
but he “destroyed them [the images] outwardly and also inwardly,”[735]
and so went one better than Carlstadt, who attacked them only from the

He had, so he continues, speaking to the German people, “consented”
that the images should be “done away with outwardly so long as this
took place without fanaticism and violence, and by the hand of the
proper authorities.”[736] “We drive them out of men’s hearts until the
time comes for them to be torn down by the hands of those whose duty it
is to do this.”[737] Meanwhile, however, it was “every man’s duty” to
“destroy them by the Evangel,” “especially the images of God and other
idolatrous ones.”[738]

In his Church-sermons he makes his own the complaint, that, though
these images which attracted a great “concourse of people” should be
“overthrown,” the bishops were actually attaching indulgences to them
and thus increasing the disorder.[739]

In his sermons against Carlstadt at Wittenberg he had said things, and
afterwards disseminated them in print, little calculated to impose
restraint on the zeal of the multitude: “It were better we had none
of these images on account of the tiresome and execrable abuse and

The iconoclasts at Wittenberg were anxious, he says, to set about
hewing down the images. His reply was: “Not yet! For you will not
eradicate the images in this way, indeed you will only establish them
more firmly than ever.”[741]

Accordingly it was then his own opinion that they should be “abolished”
and “overthrown,” particularly such images as were held in peculiar
veneration; in 1528 he again admitted that this was his object, when
once more proposing his own less noisy and more cautious policy as the
more effectual; in his sermons on the Ten Commandments printed at this
time he declared that the way to “hew down and stamp out the images was
to tear and turn men’s hearts away from them.”[742] Then the “images
would tumble down of their own accord and fall into disrepute; for they
[the faithful] will say: If it is not a good work to make images, then
it is the devil who makes them and the pictures. In future I shall keep
my money in my pocket or lay it out to better advantage.”[743]—“The
iconoclasts rush in and tear down the images outwardly. To this I do
not object so much. But then they go on to say that it must be so, and
that it is well pleasing to God”; this, however, is false; it is a
mistake to say that such a Divine command exists to tear them down.[744]

The grounds on which he opposed the old-time use of images were the
following: By erecting them people sought to gain merit in God’s sight
and to perform good works; they also trusted in images and in the
Saints instead of in Christ, Who is our only ground for confidence;
finally—a reason alleged by him but seldom—people adored the
images and thus became guilty of idolatry. Here it is plain how much
his peculiar theology on good works and the worship of the saints
contribute to his condemnation of the ancient Catholic practice. In his
zeal against the existing abuses he overlooks the fact, that to invoke
before their images the Saints’ intercession with Christ was not in
the least opposed to belief in Christ as the one mediator. As for the
charge of adoring the images to which he resorts exceptionally—more
with the object of making an impression and shielding himself—it
amounted to an act of injustice against all his forefathers to accuse
them of having been so grossly stupid as to confuse the images with the
divinity; even he himself had elsewhere sufficiently absolved them of
the charge of adoring saints, let alone images.[745]

The real cause of this premature attack on images found in these
sermons was the storm called forth by Carlstadt, which Luther hoped
to divert and dominate[746] by the attitude he assumed; otherwise it
is very likely he would have refrained from assailing the religious
feelings of the people in so sensitive a spot for many years to come,
or at any rate would not have done so in the manner he chose by way of
reply to Carlstadt.

Nor assuredly would he have gone so far had he himself ever vividly
realised the profoundly religious and morally stimulating character of
the veneration of images, and its sympathetic and consoling side as
exemplified at many of the regular places of pilgrimage at that time.
Owing to the circumstances of his early years he had never enjoyed the
opportunity of tasting the refreshment and the blessings to be found in
those sacred resorts visited by thousands of the devout, where those
suffering from any ill of soul or body were wont to seek solace from
the cares and trials of life. Indeed it was particularly against such
images as were the object of special devotion and to which the people
“flocked” with a “false confidence” that his anger was directed.

His animosity to image-worship would also appear to have been
psychologically bound up with two tendencies of his: first, with the
desire to attack the hated Church of the Papists at those very spots
where her influence with the people was most apparent; secondly, with
his plan to bring everything down to a dead level, which led him on the
specious pretext of serving the religion of the spirit to abolish, or
to curtail, the most popular and cheering phenomena of outward worship.

 It is a reprehensible thing, he says, even in his sermons against
 Carlstadt, to have an image set up in the church, because the believer
 fancies “he is doing God a service thereby and pleasing Him, and has
 thus performed a good work and gained merit in God’s sight, which
 is sheer idolatry.” In their zeal for their damnable good works
 the princes, bishops and big ones of the earth had “caused many
 costly images of silver and gold to be set up in the churches and
 cathedrals.” These were not indeed to be pulled down by force since
 many at least made a good use of them; but it was to be made clear
 to the people that if “they were not doing any service to God, or
 pleasing Him thereby,” then they would soon “tumble down of their own

 It was a mistake, so he declared in 1528 concerning the grounds of
 his verdict against the images, to “invoke them specially, as though
 I sought to give great honour or do a great service to God with the
 images, as has been the case hitherto.” The “trust” placed in the
 images has cost us the loss of our souls; the Christians whom he had
 instructed were now opposed to this “trust” and to the opinion “that
 they were thereby doing a special service to God.”[748] Amongst them
 memorial images might be permitted, i.e. such as “simply represent,
 as in a glass, past events and things” but “are not made into objects
 of devotion, trust or worship.”[749]—It is dreadful to make them a
 pretext for “idolatry” and to place our trust in anything but God.
 “Such images ought to be destroyed, just as we have already pulled
 down many images of the Saints; it were also to be wished,” he adds
 ironically, “that we had more such images of silver, for then we
 should know how to make a right Christian use of them.”[750]—“I
 will not pay court to such idols; the worship and adoration must
 cease.”[751] Whoever “with his whole heart has learnt to keep” the
 First Commandment would readily despise “all the idols of silver and
 gold.”[752]—Yet of the “adoration” of the images he had said in a
 letter of 1522 to Count Ludwig von Stolberg, that the motive of his
 opposition was not so much fear of adoration, because adoration of the
 Saints—so he hints—might well occur without any images; what urged
 him on was, on the contrary, the false confidence and the opinion of
 the Catholics that “they were thereby doing a good work and a service
 to God.”[753]

We have just quoted Luther’s reservation, viz. that he was willing to
tolerate the use of images which “simply represent, as in a glass,
past events and things.” Statements of this sort occur frequently
in his writings. They go hand in hand with a radical insistence on
inward disdain for image-worship, and a tendency to demand its entire
suppression in the churches. It was on these lines that the Elector
of Saxony acted when ordering the destruction of the images in the
principal church of Wurzen (above, p. 202); images which represented
“serious events” and those overlaid with gold were not to be hewn to

 In the book “Against the Heavenly Prophets” Luther, in the same
 sense, writes: “Images used as a memorial or for a symbol, like
 the image of the Emperor” on the coins, were not objectionable;
 even in conversation images were employed by way of illustration;
 “memorial pictures or those which bear testimony to the faith,
 such as crucifixes and the images of the Saints,” are honest and
 praiseworthy, but the images venerated at places of pilgrimage are
 “utterly idolatrous and mere shelters of the devil.”[754] And in the
 “Vom Abendmal Christi Bekentnis” (1528) he says: “Images, bells, mass
 vestments, church ornaments, altars, lights and such like I leave
 optional; whoever wishes may discard them, although pictures from
 Scripture and representations of sacred subjects I consider very
 useful, though I leave each one free to do as he pleases; for with the
 iconoclasts I do not hold.”[755]

 In one passage of his Church-postils he entirely approves the use of
 the crucifix; we ought to contemplate the cross as the Israelites
 looked upon the serpent raised on high by Moses; we should “see Christ
 in such an image and believe in Him.”[756] “If it be no sin,” he says
 elsewhere, “to have Christ in my heart, why should it be a sin to have
 it [His image] before my eyes?”[757]

 But Catholics were saying much the same thing in defence of the
 veneration of images, though to this Luther paid no attention: If
 it be no sin to have in our hearts the saints who are Christ’s own
 friends or Mary who is His Mother, how then should it be sinful to
 have their images before our eyes and to honour them?

 As years went by Luther became more and more liberal in recommending
 the use of historical and, in particular, biblical representations.
 In 1545, when he published his Passional with his little manual of
 prayers, he said in the preface, alluding to the woodcuts contained in
 the book: Such pictures ought to be in the hands of Christians, more
 particularly of children and of the simple, who can “better be moved
 by pictures and figures”; there was no harm “in painting such stories
 in rooms and apartments, together with the texts”; he was in favour
 of the “principal stories of the whole Bible” being pictorially
 shown, though he was opposed to all “abuse of and false confidence in”

Such kindlier expressions did not, however, do full justice to the
veneration of images as practised throughout the olden Church, nor did
they counteract what he had said of the idols of silver and gold, of
the uselessness and harmfulness of bestowing money on sacred pictures
and religious works of art to be exposed for the devotion of the
people. All was drowned in his incitement to “destroy,” “break in
pieces,” “pull down” and “fall upon” the images, first by means of the
Evangel, and, then through the action of the authorities. It is plain
what fate was in store particularly for those religious works of art
which served as symbols of, or to extol, those dogmas and institutions
peculiarly odious to him, for instance, the sacrifice of the Mass,
around which centred the ornaments of the altar, the fittings of the
choir, and, more or less, all the decorations of the church. As for the
sacred vessels, often of the most costly character, and all else that
pertained to the dispensing of the sacraments, their destruction had
already been decreed.

_Further details regarding the Fate of the Works of Art and of Art

The account already given above of the squandering and destruction of
ecclesiastical works of art, in particular of the valuable images of
the Saints in the towns of Meissen and Wurzen,[759] may be supplemented
by the reports from Erfurt of the damage done there at the coming
of the religious innovations; we must also bear in mind, that the
suppression of Catholic worship in this town which looms so large in
Luther’s life, took place under his particular influence and with the
co-operation of preachers receiving their instructions from Wittenberg.

Before the lawless peasants entered the town on April 28, 1525, the
Council had already “taken into safe custody” the treasures of the
churches and monasteries; chalices and other vessels of precious metal
were on this occasion carried away in “tubs and trogs,” and eventually
the public funds were enriched with the profit derived from their

Amongst the objects taken, were: a silver censer in the shape of a
small boat, the silver caskets containing the heads of Saints Severus,
Vincentia and Innocentia, the silver reliquary with the bones of SS.
Eobanus and Adolarius in which they were carried in solemn procession
every seven years. This art-treasure which belonged to St. Mary’s,
was, not long after, melted down by the town-council when pressed for
money, “and cast into bars which were taken to the mint at Weimar.” The
silver pennies minted from them were later on called coffin pennies.
Other valuables which the Council had taken in charge were put up
for auction secretly, without their owners learning anything of the
matter. “The prebendaries were well-justified in urging,” writes the
Protestant historian who has collected these data, “as against these
high-handed proceedings that the Council should first have laid hands
on the valuables belonging to the burghers, or at the very least
have summoned the rightful owners to be present at the sale of their
property, in order that they might make a note of the prices obtained
and thus be able to claim compensation later. The Council suffered a
moral set-back, while at the same time reaping no appreciable material

Not only the Council but the peasants too, led by the Lutheran
preachers, were greatly to blame for the destruction of art treasures
wrought at Erfurt in that same year. When, in order to put an end to
the rule over the town of the Elector, Albert of Brandenburg, they
stormed the so-called Mainzer Hof at Erfurt, “all the jewels, gold,
silver and valuable household stuff were carried off.” Shortly after
“the peasants, thanks to their sharpness, managed to unearth a pastoral
staff in silver, worth 300 florins [in the then currency], which had
been concealed in the privy attached to the room of the master cook
to save it from the greed of the robbers.”[762] At the Mainzer Hof
they removed all monumental tablets, pictures and statues as well
as the elaborate coats of arms bearing witness to the Archbishop’s
sovereignty. A stone effigy of St. Martin which stood in front of the
Rathaus and the ancient symbols of the sovereignty of Mayence were
pulled down and smashed to bits. In place of these they scrawled on
the new stone edifice which had been erected there another coat of
arms in chalk and charcoal, having a plough, coulter and hoe in the
shield and in the field a horse-shoe. “During all this Adolarius
Huttner [with Eberlin of Günzburg, the apostate Franciscan] and other
Lutheran preachers were going to and fro amongst them.” The whole row
of priests’ houses standing alongside the torrent was searched and the
valuables plundered.[763]

“The people of Erfurt did almost as much damage as the peasants.”[764]

As a matter of fact the citizens frequently outdid the agricultural
population in this work of destruction. The chronicles of the times
relate, that they broke down the walls of the vaults of the two
collegiate churches in hopes of finding hidden treasure behind them,
and, then, in their disappointment, sacrilegiously tore open the
tabernacles, threw the holy oils to the dogs and treated the things in
the churches in such a manner as is “heartrending beyond description.”
The mob destroyed not merely the books and parchments in which their
obligations were recorded, but a number of others of importance for
literature and learning were also wantonly spoiled.

From another contemporary source we have the following on the
destruction of the old writings: “And besides all this on St. Walpurgis
Day in the Lauwengasse the peasants and those who were with them tore
up more than two waggonloads of books, and threw them out of the houses
into the street. These the burgher folk carried home in large baskets.
While gathering up the torn books as best they could, putting them into
baskets and binding them with ropes as one does straw, a whirlwind
sprang up and lifted the torn books, letters and papers high into the
air and over all the houses, so that many of them were afterwards found
sticking to the poles in the vineyards.”[765]

       *       *       *       *       *

In very many instances, particularly during the Peasant War, the
destruction and scattering of ecclesiastical works of art went much
beyond Luther’s injunctions. We shall hear him protest, that many
were good Evangelicals only so long as there were still chalices,
monstrances and monkish vessels to be had.[766] It was naturally a
very difficult task to check the greed of gain and wanton love of
destruction once this had broken loose, particularly after the civil
authorities had tasted the sweets to be derived from the change of
religion, and after the peasants in the intoxication of their newly
found freedom of the Gospel, and in their lust for plunder, had begun
to lay violent hands on property.

It was in accordance with Luther’s express injunctions that the “proper
authorities” proceeded to destroy such images as were not a record of
history. They went further, however, nor was the zeal confined solely
to the authorities.

 In Prussia, the land of the Teutonic Order, the crosses and the images
 of the Saints had been doomed to destruction by the revolution of
 1525; the silver treasures of art in the churches were hammered into
 plate for use at the new Lutheran Duke’s dining-table. The Estates
 of his country, when he had asked them to vote supplies, retorted
 that he might as well help himself to the treasures of the churches.
 The result was, so the chronicler of that day relates, “that all the
 chalices and other ornaments” were removed from the houses of God,
 barely one chalice being left in each church; some of the country
 churches were even driven to use pewter chalices. “When they had taken
 all the silver they fell upon the bells”; they left but one in each
 village, the rest being carried off to Königsberg and sold to the
 smelters.[767] At Marienwerder only did the prebendaries, appealing
 to the King of Poland, make a stand for the retention of their church
 plate and other property, until they themselves were sent in chains to

 In 1524, during the fair, the images were dragged out of the churches
 at Riesenburg in Pomerania, shamelessly dishonoured and finally burnt.
 The bishop-elect, a dignitary whom the Pope had refused to confirm and
 who was notoriously a “zealous instrument of the Evangel,” excused the
 proceeding. In other towns similar outrages were perpetrated by the

 On the introduction of Lutheranism at Stralsund almost all the
 churches and monasteries were stormed, the crucifixes and images being
 broken up in the presence of members of the town-council (1525).[769]

 In 1525 the Lutherans at Dantzig took possession of the wealthy church
 of St. Mary’s, which was renowned for the number of its foundations
 and had 128 clergy attached to it. A list of the articles confiscated
 or plundered comprises: ten chalices of gold with precious stones
 of great value, and as many bejewelled gold patens and ampullae; a
 ciborium of gold with corals and gems, two gold crosses with gems, an
 image of the Virgin Mary with four angels in gold, a silver statue
 of the same, silver statues of the Apostles, four and twenty silver
 ciboriums, six and forty silver chalices, two dozen of them of
 silver-gilt, twelve silver and silver-gilt ampullae, eleven ungilt
 silver ampullae, twenty-three silver vessels, twelve of them being
 gilt, twelve silver-gilt chalices with lids, twelve silver-gilt
 crosses with corals and precious stones, two dozen small silver
 crosses, eight large and ten small silver censers, etc., twelve
 chasubles in cloth of gold with pearls and gems, twelve of red silk
 with a gold fringe, besides this eighty-two silk chasubles, twelve
 cloth-of-gold antependiums with pearls and gems, six costly copes,
 twelve other silk copes, six and forty albs of gold and silver
 embroidered flower-pattern, sixty-five other fine albs, eighty-eight
 costly altar covers, forty-nine gold-embroidered altar cloths,
 ninety-nine less elaborate altar cloths.[770]

 When Bugenhagen had secured the triumph of Lutheranism in the town
 of Brunswick the altars were thrown down, the pictures and statues
 removed, the chalices and other church vessels melted down and the
 costly mass vestments sold to the highest bidder at the Rathaus
 (1528). Bugenhagen, Luther’s closest spiritual colleague, laboured
 zealously to sweep the churches clean of “every vestige of Popish
 superstition and idolatry.” Only the collegiate churches of St.
 Blasius and St. Cyriacus, and the monastery of St. Egidius, of which
 Duke Henry of Brunswick was patron, remained intact.[771]

 The wildest outbreak of iconoclasm took place in 1542 in the Duchy of
 Brunswick, when the Elector Johann Frederick of Saxony and Landgrave
 Philip of Hesse occupied the country and proceeded to extirpate the
 Catholic worship still prevalent there. Within a short while over four
 hundred churches had been plundered, altars, tabernacles, pictures and
 sculptures being destroyed in countless numbers.[772]

 During this so-called “Evangelical War” five thousand burghers and
 mercenaries of the town of Brunswick, shouting their war-cry: “The
 Word of God remaineth for ever,” set out, on July 21, 1542, against
 the monastery of Riddaghausen; there they broke down the altars,
 images and organs, carried off the monstrances, mass vestments and
 other treasures of the church, plundering generally and perpetrating
 the worst abominations. The mob also broke in pieces the images
 and pictures in the monastery of Steterburg and then demolished
 the building. Nor did the abbey of Gandersheim fare much better.
 The prebendaries there complained to the Emperor, that all the
 crucifixes and images of the Saints had been destroyed together with
 other objects set up for the adornment of the church and churchyard

 The Lutheran preacher, K. Reinholdt, looking back two decades later on
 the devastation wrought in Germany, reminded his hearers that Luther
 himself had repeatedly preached that, “it would be better that all
 churches and abbeys in the world were torn down and burnt to ashes,
 that it would be less sinful, even if done from criminal motives,
 than that a single soul should be led astray into Popish error and be
 ruined”; “if they would not accept his teaching, then, so Luther the
 man of God had exclaimed, he would wish not merely that his doctrine
 might be the cause of the destruction of Popish churches and convents,
 but that they were already lying in a heap of ashes.”[774]

 At Hamburg iconoclastic disturbances began in Dec., 1528. The
 Cistercian convent, Harvestehude, where the clergy still dare to say
 Mass, was rased to the ground.[775]

 At Zerbst, in 1524, images and church fittings were destroyed,
 part of these being used to “keep up the fire for the brewing of
 the beer”;[776] stone sculptures were mutilated and then used in
 the construction of the Zerbst Town-Hall, whence they were brought
 to light at a much later date, when a portion of the building was
 demolished. The statues, headless, indeed, but still gleaming
 with gold and colours, gave, as a narrator of the find said, “an
 insight into the horrors of the iconoclasm which had run riot in the
 neighbouring churches.”[777]

 The chronicler Oldecop describes how, at Hildesheim in 1548, the
 heads of the stone statues of St. Peter and St. Paul which stood at
 the door of the church of the Holy Rood were hewn off and replaced
 by the heads of two corpses from the mortuary; they were then stoned
 by the boys. The magistrates, indeed, fined the chief offender, but
 only because forced to do so.[778] Hildesheim had been protestantised
 in great part as early as 1524. At that time the mob plundered the
 churches and monasteries, rifled the coffins of the dead in search of
 treasure, destroyed the crucifixes and the images of the Saints, tore
 down the side altars in most of the churches and carried off chalices,
 monstrances and ornaments, and even the silver casket containing the
 bones of St. Bernward.[779] From St. Martin’s, a church belonging
 to the Franciscans, the magistrates, according to the inventory,
 removed the following: sixteen gilt chalices and patens, eleven silver
 chalices, one large monstrance with bells, one large gilt cross,
 three silver crosses with stands, a silver statue of Our Lady four
 feet in height, a silver censer, two silver ampullae, a silver-gilt
 St. Lawrence gridiron, a big Pacifical from the best cope, all the
 bangles from the chasubles, seventeen silver clasps from the copes,
 “the jewellery belonging to our dear ladies the Virgin Catherine and
 Mother Anne,” and, besides, ten altars and also a monument erected
 to Brother Conrad, who was revered as a Saint, were destroyed; the
 copper and lead from the tower was carried off together with a small

 When the Schmalkalden Leaguers began to take up arms for the Evangel
 the Evangelical captain Schärtlin von Burtenbach, commander-in-chief
 of the South-German towns, suddenly fell upon the town of Füssen on
 July 9, 1546, abolished the Catholic worship and threw the “idols” out
 of the churches. Before his departure he plundered all the churches
 and clergy, and “set the peasants on to massacre the idols in their
 churches”; the proceeds “from the chalices and silver plate he devoted
 to the common expenses of the Estates.”

 This was only the beginning of Schärtlin’s plundering. After joining
 hands with the Würtemberg troops his raiding expeditions were carried
 on on a still larger scale.[781]

 During the Schmalkalden campaign the soldiers of Saxony and Hesse on
 their retreat from the Oberland, acting at the behest of the Elector
 of Saxony and the Landgrave of Hesse, carried off as booty all the
 valuable plate belonging to the churches and monasteries. Chalices,
 monstrances, Mass vestments and costly images, none of them were
 spared. In Saxony similar outrages were perpetrated.

 In Jan., 1547, the Elector caused all the chalices, monstrances,
 episcopal crosses and other valuables that still remained at Halle
 and either were the property of the Archbishop of Magdeburg, Johann
 Albert, or had been presented to the place by him, to be brought to
 Eisleben and either sold or coined. The Elector’s men-at-arms and the
 mob destroyed the pictures and statues in the Dominican and Franciscan
 friaries. When, shortly after this, Merseburg, as well as Magdeburg
 and Halberstadt, was occupied by the Saxon troops, the leaders robbed
 the Cathedral church (of Merseburg) of its oldest and most valuable
 art treasures, amongst which was the golden table which the Emperor
 Henry II had presented to it.[782]

 Magdeburg was the rallying-place of Lutheran zealots, such as Flacius
 Illyricus, and was even called the “chancery of God and His Christ,”
 by Aquila in a letter to Duke Albert of Prussia;[783] before it was
 besieged in the Emperor’s name by Maurice of Saxony and was yet under
 the rule of a Council banned by the Empire, it passed through a
 period of wild outrage directed against the Catholic churches and
 convents, both within and outside the walls. The appeal addressed by
 the cathedral Chapter on Aug. 15, 1550, to the Estates of the Empire
 assembled at Augsburg gives the details.[784] The town, “for the
 protection of the true Christian religion and holy Evangel,” laid
 violent hands on the rich property of the churches and cloisters, and
 committed execrable atrocities against defenceless clerics. Bodies
 were exhumed in the churches and cemeteries. Never, so the account
 declares, would the Turks have acted with such barbarity. Even the
 tomb of the Emperor Otto, the founder of the archdiocese, was, so the
 Canons relate, “inhumanly and wantonly broken open and desecrated with
 great uproar.”

 Several thousand men set out from the town for the monastery of
 Hamersleben, situated in the diocese of Halberstadt. They forced
 their way into the church one Sunday during Divine service, wounded
 or slaughtered the officiating priests, trampled under foot the
 Sacred Host and ransacked church and monastery. Among the images and
 works of art destroyed was some magnificent stained glass depicting
 the Way of the Cross. No less than 150 waggons bore away the plunder
 to Magdeburg, accompanied by the mob, who in mockery had decked
 themselves out in the Mass vestments and habits of the monks.[785]

 Hans, Margrave of Brandenburg-Küstrin, was one who had war against the
 Catholic clergy much at heart. In a letter to the Elector Maurice he
 spoke of the clergy as “priests of Baal and children of the devil.”
 It was a proof of his Evangelical zeal, that, on July 15, 1551, he
 ordered the church of St. Mary at Görlitz to be pillaged and destroyed
 by Johann von Minckwitz. All the altars, images and carvings were
 hacked to pieces, all the costly treasures stolen. Minckwitz had great
 difficulty in rescuing the treasures from the hands of a drunken mob
 of peasants who were helping in the work, and conveying them safely to
 the Margrave at Küstrin.[786]

 In the spring of 1552, when Maurice of Saxony levied a heavy fine on
 the town of Nuremberg for having revolted against the Emperor, the
 magistrates sought to indemnify themselves by taking nearly 900 lbs.
 weight of gold and silver treasures out of the churches of Our Lady,
 St. Lawrence and St. Sebaldus and ordering them to be melted down or

 In June and July, 1552, Margrave Albert of Brandenburg-Kulmbach laid
 waste the country around Mayence with fire and sword to such an
 extent, that the bishop of Würzburg, in order to raise the unheard-of
 sums demanded, had, as we find it stated in a letter of Zasius to King
 Ferdinand dated July 10, to lump together “all the gold and silver
 plate in the churches, the jewels, reliquaries, monstrances, statues
 and vessels of the sanctuary” and have them minted into thalers. “At
 Neumünster one reliquary was melted down which alone was worth 1000
 florins.”[788] The citizens of Würzburg were obliged to give up all
 their household plate and the cathedral itself the silver statue of
 St. Kilian, patron of the diocese.[789]

 When the commanders and the troops of the Elector Maurice withdrew
 from the Tyrol after the frustration of their undertaking owing to the
 flight of the Emperor to Carinthia, all the sacred objects of value in
 the Cistercian monastery of Stams in the valley of the upper Inn were
 either broken to pieces or carried off. The soldiers broke open the
 vault, where the earthly remains of the ruling Princes had rested for
 centuries, dragged the corpses out of their coffins and stripped them
 of their valuables.[790] The inventory of the treasures of art made
 of precious metal and other substances which perished at Stams must
 be classed with numerous other sad records of a similar nature dating
 from that time.[791]

 After the truce of Passau, Margrave Albert of Brandenburg, with the
 help of France, turned his attention to Frankfurt, Mayence and Treves.
 At Mayence, after making a vain demand for 100,000 gold florins from
 the clergy, he gave orders to ransack the churches, and set on fire
 the churches of St. Alban, St. Victor and Holy Cross, the Charterhouse
 and the houses of the Canons. He boasted of this as a “right princely
 firebrand we threw into the damned nest of parsons.” In Treves all
 the collegiate churches and monasteries were “sacked down to the very
 last farthing,” as an account relates; the monastery of St. Maximin,
 the priory of St. Paul, the castle of Saarburg on the Saar, Pfalzel
 and Echternach were given to the flames.[792] “Such proceedings were
 incumbent on an honourable Prince who had the glory of God at heart
 and was zealous for the spread of the Divine Gospel, which God the
 Lord in our age has allowed to shine forth with such marvellous
 light.” So Albert boasted to an envoy of the Archbishop of Mayence on
 June 27, 1552, when laying waste Würzburg.[793]

 “The archbishoprics of Treves and Mayence, the bishoprics of Spires,
 Worms and Eichstätt are laid waste with pillage,” wrote Melchior von
 Ossa the Saxon lawyer, “the stately edifices at Mayence, Treves and
 other places, where lay the bones of so many pious martyrs of old, are
 reduced to ashes.”[794] The complaints of a Protestant preacher who
 had worked for a considerable time at Schwäbisch-Hall ring much the
 same: “Our parents were willing to contribute towards the building
 of churches and to the adornment of the temples of God.... But now
 the churches have been pilfered so badly that they barely retain a
 roof over them. Superb Mass vestments of silk and velvet with pearls
 and corals were provided for the churches by our forefathers; these
 have now been removed and serve the woman-folk as hoods and bodices;
 indeed so poor have some of the churches become under the rule of the
 Evangel, that it is impossible to provide the ministers of the Church
 even with a beggarly surplice.”[795]

The wanton waste and destruction which took place in the domain of
art under Lutheran rule during the first fifty years of the religious
innovations, great as they were, do not by any means approach in
magnitude the losses caused elsewhere by Zwinglianism and Calvinism.

Yet two things in Lutheranism had a disastrous effect in checking the
revival of religious art, even when the first struggles for mastery
were over: first, there was the animosity against the Sacrifice of
the Mass and the perpetual eucharistic presence of Christ in the
tabernacle; this led people to view with distrust the old alliance
existing between the Eucharistic worship and the liberal arts for
exalting the dignity and beauty of the churches. After the Mass had
been abolished and the Sacrament had ceased to be reserved within the
sacred walls, respect for and interest in the house of God, which had
led to so much being lavished on it, began to wane. The other obstacle
lay in Luther’s negative attitude towards the ancient doctrine and
practice of good works. The belief in the meritoriousness of works
had in the past been a stimulus to pecuniary sacrifices and offerings
for the making of pious works of art. Now, however, artists began to
complain, that, owing to the decline of zeal for church matters their
orders were beginning to fall off, and that the makers of works of art
were being condemned to starvation.

In a protocol of the Council of Strasburg, dated Feb. 3, 1525, we read
in a petition from the artists: “Painters and sculptors beg, that,
whereas, through the Word of God their handicraft has died out they may
be provided with posts before other claimants.” The Council answered
that their appeal would “be borne in mind.”[796]

The verses of Hans Sachs of Nuremberg are well-known:

  “Bell-founders and organists,
    Gold-beaters and illuminists,
  Hand-painters, carvers and goldsmiths,
    Glass-painters, silk-workers, coppersmiths,
  Stone-masons, carpenters and joiners,
    ’Gainst all these did Luther wield a sword.
  From Thee we ask a verdict, Lord.”

In the poet’s industrious and artistic native town the decline must
have been particularly noticeable. According to the popular Lutheran
poet of Nuremberg the fault is with the complainants themselves, who,

  “With scorn disdain
  From greed of gain”

the Word of Christ. “They must cease worrying about worldly goods like
the heathen, but must seek the Kingdom of God with eagerness.”[797]

It is perfectly true that the words that Hans Sachs on this occasion
places in the mouth of the complainant are unfair to Luther:

  “All church building and adorning he despises,
          Treats with scorning,
            He not wise is.”[798]

For in spite of his attacks on the veneration of images, on the
Catholic doctrine of the Eucharist and the meritoriousness of pious
foundations, Luther was, nevertheless, not so “unwise” as to despise
the “building and adorning” of the churches, where, after all, the
congregation must assemble for preaching, communion and prayer.[799]

That Luther was not devoid of a sense of the beautiful and of its
practical value in the service of religion is proved by his outspoken
love of music, particularly of church-music, his numerous poetic
efforts, no less than by that strongly developed appreciation of
well-turned periods, clearness and force of diction so well seen in his
translation of the Bible. His life’s struggle, however, led him along
paths which make it easy to understand how it is that he has so little
to say in his writings in commendation of the other liberal arts. It
also explains the baldness of his reminiscences of his visit to Italy
and the city of Rome; the young monk, immersed in his theology, was
even then pursuing quite other interests than those of art. It is true
Luther, once, in one of the rare passages in favour of ecclesiastical
art, speaking from his own point of view, says: “It is better to paint
on the wall how God created the world, how Noah made the ark and
such-like pious tales, than to paint worldly and shameless subjects;
would to God I could persuade the gentry and the rich to have the whole
Bible story painted on their houses, inside and out, for everyone’s
eye to see; that would be a good Christian work.”[800] Manifestly he
did not intend his words to be taken too literally in the case of
dwelling-houses. A fighter such as Luther was scarcely the right man to
give any real stimulus in the domain of art. The heat of his religious
polemics scorched up in his soul any good dispositions of this sort
which may once have existed, and blighted in its very beginnings the
growth of any real feeling for art among his zealous followers. Hardly
a single passage can be found in which he expresses any sense of
satisfaction in the products of the artist.

It is generally admitted that in the 16th century German art suffered
a severe set-back. For this the bitter controversies which for the
while transformed Germany into a hideous battlefield were largely
responsible; for such a soil could not but prove unfavourable for
the arts and crafts. The very artists themselves were compelled to
prostitute their talents in ignoble warfare. We need only call to mind
the work of the two painters Cranach, the Elder and the Younger, and
the horrid flood of caricatures and base vilifications cast both in
poetry and in prose. “The rock on which art suffered shipwreck was not,
as a recent art-writer says, the fact that ‘German art was too early
severed from its bond with the Church,’ but that, with regard to its
subject-matter and its methods of expression, it was forced into false
service by the intellectual and religious leaders.”[801]



1. His Persistent Depression in Later Years Persecution Mania and
Morbid Fancies

AMONG the various causes of the profound ill-humour and despondency,
which more and more overshadowed Luther’s soul during the last ten
years of his life, the principal without a doubt was his bitter

He was disappointed with what he himself calls the “pitiable spectacle”
presented by his Church no less than with the firmness and stability
of the Papacy. Not only did the Papal Antichrist refuse to bow to the
new Evangel or to be overthrown “by the mere breath of Christ’s mouth,”
as Luther had confidently proclaimed would be the case, but, in the
evening of his days, it was actually growing in strength, its members
standing shoulder to shoulder ready at last to seek inward reform by
means of a General Council.

The melancholy to which he had been subject in earlier years had
been due to other thoughts which not seldom pressed upon him, to his
uncertainty and fear of having to answer before the Judge. In his old
age such fears diminished, and the voices which had formerly disquieted
him scarcely ever reached the threshold of his consciousness; by
dint of persistent effort he had hardened himself against such
“temptations.” The idea of his Divine call was ever in his mind,
though, alas, it proved only too often a blind guide incapable of
transforming his sense of discouragement into any confidence worthy of
the name. At times this idea flickers up more brightly than usual; when
this happens his weariness seems entirely to disappear and makes room
for the frightful outbursts of bitterness, hate and anger of a soul at
odds both with itself and with the whole world.

Doubtless his state of health had a great deal to do with this,
for, in his feverish activity, he had become unmindful of certain
precautions. Lost in his exhausting literary labours and public
controversies his state of nervous excitement became at last unbearable.

The depression which is laying its hand on him manifests itself in
the hopeless, pessimistic tone of his complaints to his friends,
in his conviction of being persecuted by all, in his superstitious
interpretations of the Bible and the signs of the times, in his
expectation of the near end of all, and in his firm persuasion that the
devil bestrides and rules the world.

_His Depression and Pessimism_

Disgust with work and even with life itself, and an appalling unconcern
in the whole course of public affairs, are expressed in some of his
letters to his friends.

 “I am old and worked out—‘old, cold and out of shape,’ as they
 say—and yet cannot find any rest, so greatly am I tormented every day
 with all manner of business and scribbling. I now know rather more of
 the portents of the end of this world; that it is indeed on its last
 legs is quite certain, with Satan raging so furiously and the world
 becoming so utterly beastly. My only remaining consolation is that the
 end cannot be far off. Now at last fewer false doctrines will spring
 up, the world being weary and sick of the Word of God; for if they
 take to living like Epicureans and to despising the Word, who will
 then have any hankering after heresies?... Let us pray ‘Thy will be
 done,’ and leave everything to take its course, to fall or stand or
 perish; let things go their own way if otherwise they will not go.”
 “Germany,” he says, “has had its day and will never again be what it
 once was”; divided against itself it must, so he fancies, succumb to
 the devil’s army embodied in the Turks. This to Jakob Probst, the
 Bremen preacher.[802] Not long after he wrote to the same: “Germany
 is full of scorners of the Word.... Our sins weigh heavily upon us as
 you know, but it is useless for us to grumble. Let things take their
 course, seeing they are going thus.”[803]

 To Amsdorf he says in a letter that he would gladly die. “The world is
 a dreadful Sodom.” “And, moreover, it will grow still worse.” “Could
 I but pass away with such a faith, such peace, such a falling asleep
 in the Lord as my daughter [who had just died]!”[804] Similarly, in
 another letter to Amsdorf we read: “Before the flood the world was as
 Germany now is before her downfall. Since they refuse to listen they
 must be taught by experience. It will cry out with Jeremias [li. 9]:
 ‘We would have cured Babylon, but she is not healed; let us forsake
 her.’ God is indeed our salvation, and to all eternity will He shield

 “We will rejoice in our tribulation,” so he encourages his former
 guest Cordatus, “and leave things to go their way; it is enough that
 we, and you too, should cause the sun of our teaching to rise all
 cloudless over the wicked world, after the example of God our Father,
 Who makes His sun to shine on the just and the unjust. The sun of our
 doctrine is His; what wonder then if people hate us.” “Thus we can
 see,” so he concludes, that “outwardly we live in the kingdom of the

Plunged in such melancholy he is determined, without trusting in
human help, so he writes to his friend Jonas, “to leave the guidance
of all things to Christ alone”; of all active work he was too weary;
everything was “full of deception and hypocrisy, particularly amongst
the powerful”; to sigh and pray was the best thing to do; “let us put
out of our heads any thought and plans for helping matters, for all is
alike useless and deceitful, as experience shows.”[807]

Christ had taken on Himself the quieting of consciences, hence, with
all the more confidence, “might they entrust to Him the outcome of
the struggle between the true Church and the powers of Satan.” “True,
Christ seems at times,” he writes to his friend Johann August, “to
be weaker than Satan; but His strength will be made perfect in our
weakness (2 Cor. xii. 9), His wisdom is exalted in our foolishness,
His goodness is glorified in our sins and misdeeds in accordance with
His wonderful and inscrutable ways. May He strengthen you and us, and
conform us to His likeness for the honour of His mercy.”[808]

During such a period of depression his fears are redoubled when he
hears of the atrocities perpetrated by the Turks at Stuhlweissenburg;
the following is his interpretation of the event: “Satan has noticed
the approach of the Judgment Day and shows his fear. What may be his
designs on us? He rages because his time is now short. May God help
us manfully to laugh at all his fury!” He laments with grim irony the
greed for gain and the treachery of the great. “Devour everything
in the devil’s name,” he cries to them, “Hell will glut you,” and
continues: “Come, Lord Jesus, come, hearken to the sighing of Thy
Church, hasten Thy coming; wickedness is reaching its utmost limit;
soon it must come to a head, Amen.”

Even this did not suffice and Luther again adds: “I have written the
above because it seems better than nothing. Farewell, and teach the
Church to pray for the Day of the Lord; for there is no hope of a
better time coming. God will listen only when we implore the quick
advent of our redemption, in which all the portents agree.”[809]

The outpourings of bitterness and disgust with life, which Antony
Lauterbach noted while a guest at Luther’s table in 1538, find a still
stronger echo in the Table-Talk collected by Mathesius in the years
subsequent to 1540.

 In Lauterbach’s Notes he still speaks of his inner struggles with the
 devil, i.e. with his conscience; this was no longer the case when
 Mathesius knew him: “We are plagued and troubled by the devil, whose
 bones are very tough until we learn to crack them. Paul and Christ had
 enough to do with the devil. I, too, have my daily combats.”[810] He
 had learnt how hard it was “when mental temptations come upon us and
 we say, ‘Accursed be the day I was born’”; rather would he endure the
 worst bodily pains during which at least one could still say, “Blessed
 be the Name of the Lord.”[811] The passages in question will be quoted
 at greater length below.

 But according to Lauterbach’s Notes of his sayings he was also very
 bitter about the general state of things: “It is the world’s way to
 think of nothing but of money,” he says, for instance, “as though on
 it hung soul and body. God and our neighbour are despised and people
 serve Mammon. Only look at our times; see how full all the great ones,
 the burghers too, and the peasants, are with avarice and how they
 stamp upon religion.... Horrible times will come, worse even than
 befell Sodom and Gomorrha!”[812]—“All sins,” he complains, “rage
 mightily, as we see to-day, because the world of a sudden has grown so
 wanton and calls down God’s wrath upon its head.” In these words he
 was bewailing, as Lauterbach relates, the “impending misfortunes of
 Germany.”[813]—“The Church to-day is more tattered than any beggar’s
 cloak.”[814] “The world is made up of nothing but contempt, blasphemy,
 disobedience, adultery, pride and thieving; it is now in prime
 condition for the slaughter-house. And Satan gives us no rest, what
 with Turk, Pope and fanatics.”[815]

 “Who would have started preaching,” he says in the same year,
 oppressed by such experiences, “had he known beforehand that such
 misfortune, fanatism, scandal, blasphemy, ingratitude and wickedness
 would be the sequel?”[816] To live any longer he had not the slightest
 wish now that no peace was to be hoped for from the fanatics.[817] He
 even wished his wife and children to follow him to the grave without
 delay because of the evil times to come soon after.[818]

       *       *       *       *       *

 In the conversations taken down by Mathesius in the ‘forties Luther’s
 weariness of life finds even stronger expression, nor are the words
 in which he describes it of the choicest: “I have had enough of the
 world and it, too, has had enough of me; with this I am well content.
 It fancies that, were it only rid of me, all would be well....” As I
 have often repeated: “I am the ripe shard and the world is the gaping
 anus, hence the parting will be a happy one.”[819] “As I have often
 repeated”; the repulsive comparison had indeed become a favourite
 one with him in his exasperation. Other sayings in the Table-Talk
 contain unmistakable allusions to the bodily excretions as a term
 of comparison to Luther’s so ardently desired departure from this
 world.[820] The same coarse simile is met in his letters dating from
 this time.[821]

 The reason of his readiness to depart, viz. the world’s hatred for
 his person, he elsewhere depicts as follows; the politicians who were
 against him, particularly those at the Dresden court, are “Swine,”
 deserving of “hell-fire”; let them at least leave in peace our
 Master, the Son of God, and the Kingdom of Heaven also; with a quiet
 conscience we look upon them as abandoned bondsmen of the devil, whose
 oaths though sworn to a hundred times over are not the least worthy of
 belief; “we must scorn the devil in these devils and sons of devils,
 yea, in this seed of the serpent.”[822]

 “The gruff, boorish Saxon,”[823] as Luther calls himself, here comes
 to the fore. He seeks, however, to refrain from dwelling unduly on
 the growing lack of appreciation shown for his authority; he was even
 ready, so he said, “gladly to nail to the Cross those blasphemers and
 Satan with them.”[824]

 “I thank Thee, my good God,” he once said in the winter 1542-43 to
 Mathesius and the other people at table, “for letting me be one of
 the little flock that suffers persecution for Thy Word’s sake; for
 they do not persecute me for adultery or usury, as I well know.”[825]
 According to the testimony of Mathesius he also said: “The Courts
 are full of Eceboli and folk who change with the weather. If only a
 real sovereign like Constantine came to his Court [the Elector’s]
 we should soon see who would kiss the Pope’s feet.” “Many remain
 good Evangelicals because there are still chalices, monstrances and
 cloistral lands to be taken.”[826] That a large number, not only of
 the high officials, but even of the “gentry and yokels,” were “tired”
 of him is clear from statements made by him as early as 1530. Wishing
 then to visit his father who lay sick, he was dissuaded by his friends
 from undertaking the journey on account of the hostility of the
 country people towards his person: “I am compelled to believe,” so he
 wrote to the sick man, “that I ought not to tempt God by venturing
 into danger, for you know how both gentry and yokels feel towards
 me.”[827] “Amongst the charges that helped to lessen his popularity
 was his supposed complicity in the Peasant War and in the rise of the

 “Would that I and all my children were dead,” so he repeats, according
 to Mathesius,[829] “_Satur sum huius vitae_”; it was well for the
 young, that, in their thoughtlessness and inexperience, they failed to
 see the mischief of all the scandals rampant, for else “they would not
 be able to go on living.”[830]—“The world cannot last much longer.
 Amongst us there is the utmost ingratitude and contempt for the Word,
 whilst amongst the Papists there is nothing but blood and blasphemy.
 This will soon knock the bottom out of the cask.”[831] There would be
 no lack of other passages to the same effect to quote from Mathesius.

_Some of the Grounds for His Lowness of Spirits_

Luther is so communicative that it is easy enough to fix on the various
reasons for his depression, which indeed he himself assigns.

 To Melanchthon Luther wrote: “The enmity of Satan is too Satanic
 for him not to be plotting something for our undoing. He feels that
 we are attacking him in a vital spot with the eternal truth.”[832]
 Here it is his gloomy forebodings concerning the outcome of the
 religious negotiations, particularly those of Worms, which lead him
 so to write. The course of public events threw fresh fuel on the
 flame of his anger. “I have given up all hope in this colloquy....
 Our theological gainstanders,” so he says, “are possessed of Satan,
 however much they may disguise themselves in majesty and as angels of
 light.”[833]—Then there was the terrifying onward march of the Turks:
 “O raging fury, full of all manner of devils.” Such is his excitement
 that he suspects the Christian hosts of “the most fatal and terrible

 The devil, however, also lies in wait even for his friends to
 estrange them from him by delusions and distresses of conscience;
 this knowledge wrings from him the admonition: “Away with the sadness
 of the devil, to whom Christ sends His curse, who seeks to make out
 Christ as the judge, whereas He is rather the consoler.”[835] Satan
 just then was bent on worrying him through the agency of the Swiss
 Zwinglians: “I have already condemned and now condemn anew these
 fanatics and puffed-up idlers.” Now they refuse to admit my victories
 against the Pope, and actually claim that it was all their doing.
 “Thus does one man toil only for another to reap the harvest.”[836]
 These satellites of Satan who work against him and against all
 Christendom are hell’s own resource for embittering his old age.

 Then again the dreadful state of morals, particularly at Wittenberg,
 under his very eyes, makes his anger burst forth again and again;
 even in his letter of congratulation to Justus Jonas on the latter’s
 second marriage he finds opportunity to have a dig at the easy-going
 Wittenberg magistrates: “There might be ten trulls here infecting
 no end of students with the French disease and yet no one would
 lift a finger; when half the town commits adultery, no one sits
 in judgment.... The world is indeed a vexatious thing.” The civic
 authorities, according to him, were but a “plaything in the devil’s

 At other times his ill-humour vents itself on the Jews, the lawyers,
 or those German Protestant Reformers who had the audacity to hold
 opinions at variance with his. Carlstadt, with his “monstrous
 assertions”[837] against Luther, still poisons the air even when
 Luther has the consolation of knowing, that, on Carlstadt’s death (in
 1541), he had been fetched away by the “devil.” Carlstadt’s horrid
 doctrines tread Christ under foot, just as Schwenckfeld’s fanaticism
 is the unmaking of the Churches.

 Then again there are demagogues within the fold who say: “I am your
 Pope, what care I for Dr. Martin?” These, according to him, are in
 almost as bad case as the others. Thus, “during our lifetime, this
 is the way the world rewards us, for and on this account and behalf!
 And yet we are expected to pray and heed lest the Turk slay such
 Christians as these who really are worse than the Turks themselves!
 As though it would not be better, if the yoke of the Turk must indeed
 come upon us, to serve the Turkish foeman and stranger rather than the
 Turks in our own circle and household. God will laugh at them when
 they cry to Him in the day of their distress, because they mocked
 at Him by their sins and refused to hearken to Him when He spoke,
 implored, exhorted, and did everything, stood and suffered everything,
 when His heart was troubled on their account, when He called them
 by His holy prophets, and even rose up early on their account (Jer.
 vii. 13; xi. 7).”[838] But such is their way; they know that it is God
 Whose Word we preach and yet they say: “We shan’t listen. In short,
 the wildest of wild furies have broken into them,” etc.[839]

Thus was he wont to rave when “excited,” though not until, so at least
he assures us, having first “by dint of much striving put down his
anger, his thoughts and his temptations.” “Blessed be the Lord Who has
spoken to me, comforting me: ‘Why callest thou? Let things go their
own way.’” It grieves him, so he tells us, to see the country he loves
going to rack and ruin; Germany is his fatherland, and, before his
very eyes, it is hastening to destruction. “But God’s ways are just,
we may not resist them. May God have mercy on us for no one believes
us.” Even the doctrine of letting things go their own way—to which
in his pessimism Luther grew attached in later life—he was firmly
convinced had come to him directly from the Lord, Who had “consolingly”
whispered to him these words. Even this saying reeks of his peculiar

All the above outbursts are, however, put into the shade by the
utter ferocity of his ravings against Popery. Painful indeed are the
effects of his gloomy frame of mind on his attitude towards Rome. The
battle-cries, which, in one of his last works, viz. his “Wider das
Babstum vom Teuffel gestifft,” Luther hurls against the Church, which
had once nourished him at her bosom, form one of the saddest instances
of human aberration.

Yet, speaking of this work, the author assures a friend that, “in this
angry book I have done justice neither to myself nor to the greatness
of my anger; but I am quite aware that this I shall never be able
to do.”[840] “For no tongue can tell,” so he says, “the appalling
and frightful enormities of the Papal abomination, its substance,
quantity, quality, predicaments, predicables, categories, its species,
properties, differences and accidents.”[841]

The more distorted and monstrous his charges, the more they seem to
have pleased him when in this temper.

 In a morbid way he now heaps together his wonted hyperboles to such
 an extent, that, at times, it becomes very tiresome to read his
 writings and letters; no hateful image or suspicion seems to him
 sufficiently bad. “Though God Himself were to offer me Paradise for
 living another forty years, I should prefer to hire an executioner to
 chop off my head, for the world is so wicked; they are all becoming
 rank devils.”[842] He compares his own times to those which went
 before the Flood; the “rain of filth will soon begin”; he goes on to
 say that he no longer understands his own times and finds himself as
 it were in a strange world; “either I have never seen the world, or,
 while I am asleep, a new world is born daily; not one but fancies
 he is suffering injustice, and not one but is convinced he does no
 injustice.”[843] With a strange note of contempt he says: “Let the
 world be upset, kicked over and thrust aside, seeing it not only
 rejects and persecutes God’s Word, but rages even against sound common
 sense.... Even the seven devils of Cologne, who sit in the highest
 temple, and who, like some of the council, still withstand us, will
 God overthrow, Who breaks down the cedars of Lebanon. On account of
 this [the actual and hoped-for successes at Cologne] we will rejoice
 in the Lord, because by His Word He does such great things before our
 very eyes.”[844]

Here, as elsewhere too, in spite of all his ill-humour, the progress
of his Evangel inspires him with hope. Nor is his dark mood entirely
unbroken, for, from time to time, his love of a joke gets the better
of it. His chief consolation was, however, his self-imposed conviction
that his teaching was the true one.

A certain playfulness is apparent in many of his letters, for instance,
in those to Jonas, one of his most intimate of friends: “Here is a
conundrum,” writes Luther to him, “which my guests ask me to put to
you. Does God, the wise administrator, annually bestow on the children
of men more wine or more milk? I think more milk; but do you give
your answer. And a second question: Would a barrel that reached from
Wittenberg to Kemberg be large and ample enough to hold all the wine
that our unwise, silly, foolish God wastes and throws away on the most
ungrateful of His children, setting it before Henries and Alberts, the
Pope and the Turk, all of them men who crucify His Son, whereas before
His own children He sets nothing but water? You see that, though I
am not much better than a corpse, I still love to chat and jest with

In the Table-Talk, recently published by Kroker from the notes
taken by Mathesius in the last years of Luther’s life, the latter’s
irrepressible and saving tendency to jest is very apparent; his humour
here is also more spontaneous than in his letters, with the possible
exception of some of those he wrote to Catherine Bora.[846]

_Suspicion and Mania of Persecution_

A growing inclination to distrust, to seeing enemies everywhere and to
indulging in fearsome, superstitious fancies, stamps with a peculiar
impress his prevailing frame of mind.

His vivid imagination even led him, in April, 1544, to speak of “a
league entered into between the Turks and the most holy, or rather most
silly, Pope”; this was undoubtedly one of the “great signs” foretold by
Christ; “these signs are here in truth and are truly great.”[847] “The
Pope would rather adore the Turk,” he exclaims later, “nay, even Satan
himself, than allow himself to be put in order and reformed by God’s
Word”; he even finds this confirmed in a new “Bull or Brief.”[848]
He has heard of the peace negotiations with the Turks on the part of
the Pope and the Emperor, and of the neutrality of Paul III towards
the Turcophil King of France; he is horrified to see in spirit an
embassy of peace, “loaded with costly presents and clad in Turkish
garments,” wending its way to Constantinople, “there to worship the
Turk.” Such was the present policy of the Roman Satan, who formerly
had used indulgences, annates and countless other forms of robbery
to curtail the Turkish power. “Out upon these Christians, out upon
these hellish idols of the devil!”[849]—The truth is that, whereas
the Christian States winced at the difficulties or sought for delay,
Pope Paul III, faithful to the traditional policy of the Holy See,
insisted that it was necessary to oppose by every possible means the
Turk who was the Church’s foe and threatened Europe with ruin. The only
ground that Luther can have had for his suspicions will have been the
better relations then existing between the Pope and France which led
the Turkish fleet to spare the Papal territory on the occasion of its
demonstration at the mouth of the Tiber.[850]

But Luther was convinced that the Pope had no dearer hope than to
thwart Germany, and the Protesters in particular. It was the Pope and
the Papists whom he accused to Duke Albert of Prussia of being behind
the Court of Brunswick and of hiring, at a high price, the services of
assassins and incendiaries. To Wenceslaus Link he says, that it will
be the priests’ own fault if the saying “To death with the priests” is
carried into practice;[851] to Melanchthon he also writes: “I verily
believe that all the priests are bent on being killed, even against our
wish.”[852]—It was the Papists sure enough, who introduced the maid
Rosina into his house, in order that she might bring it into disrepute
by her immoral life;[853] they had also sent men to murder him, from
whom, however, God had preserved him;[854] they had likewise tried to
poison him, but all to no purpose.[855] We may recall how he had said:
“I believe that my pulpit-chair and cushion were frequently poisoned,
yet God preserved me.”[856] “Many attempts, as I believe, have been
made to poison me.”[857]

 He had even once declared that poisoning was a regular business with
 Satan: “He can bring death by means of a leaflet from off a tree; he
 has more poison phials and kinds of death at his beck and call than
 all the apothecaries in all the world; if one poison doesn’t work he
 uses another.”[858] He had long been convinced that the devil was
 able to carry through the air those who made themselves over to him;
 “we must not call in the devil, for he comes often enough uncalled,
 and loves to be by us, hardened foe of ours though he be.... He is
 indeed a great and mighty enemy.”[859] Towards the end of his life, in
 1541, it came to his ears that the devil was more than usually busy
 with his poisons: “At Jena and elsewhere,” so he warns Melanchthon,
 “the devil has let loose his poisoners. It is a wonder to me why
 the great, knowing the fury of Satan, are not more watchful. Here
 it is impossible any longer to buy or to use anything with safety.”
 Melanchthon was therefore to be careful when invited out; at Erfurt
 the spices and aromatic drugs on sale in the shops had been found
 to be mixed with poison; at Altenburg as many as twelve people had
 died from poison taken in a single meal. Anxious as he was about his
 friend, his trust was nevertheless unshaken in the protection of God
 and the angels. I myself am still in the hands of my Moses (Katey), he
 adds, “suffering from a filthy discharge from my ear and meditating in
 turn on life and on death. God’s Will be done. Amen. May you be happy
 in the Lord now and for ever.”[860]

 “A new art of killing us,” so he tells Melanchthon in the same year,
 had been invented by Satan, viz. of mixing poison with our wine and
 milk; at Jena twelve persons were said to have died of poisoned wine,
 “though more likely of too much drink”; at Magdeburg and Nordhausen,
 however, milk had been found in the possession of the sellers that
 seemed to have been poisoned. “At any rate, all things lie under
 Christ’s feet, and we shall suffer so long and as much as He pleases.
 For the nonce we are supreme and they [the Papist ‘monsters’] are
 hurrying to destruction.... So long as the Lord of Heaven is at the
 helm we are safe, live and reign and have our foes under our feet.
 Amen.” Casting all fear to the winds he goes on to comfort Melanchthon
 and his faint-hearted comrades in the tone of the mystic: “Fear
 not; you are angels, nay, great angels or archangels, working, not
 for us but for the Church, nay, for God, Whose cause it is that you
 uphold, as even the very gates of hell must admit; these, though they
 may indeed block our way, cannot overcome us, because at the very
 beginning of the world the hostile, snarling dragon was overthrown by
 the Lion of the tribe of Juda.”[861]

The hostility of the Papists to Lutheranism, had, so Luther thought,
been manifestly punished by Heaven in the defeat of Henry of Brunswick;
it had “already been foretold in the prophecies pronounced against
him,” which had forecasted his destruction as the “son of perdition”;
he was a “warning example set up by God for the tyrants of our days”;
for every contemner of the Word is “plainly a tyrant.”[862]

Luther was very suspicious of Melanchthon, Bucer and others who leaned
towards the Zwinglian doctrine on the Supper. So much had Magister
Philippus, his one-time right-hand man, to feel his displeasure and
irritability that the latter bewails his lot of having to dwell as
it were “in the very den of the Cyclopes” and with a real “tyrant.”
“There is much in one’s intercourse with Luther,” so Cruciger said
confidentially, in 1545, in a letter to Veit Dietrich, “that repels
those who have a will of their own and attach some importance to their
own judgment; if only he would not, through listening to the gossip of
outsiders, take fire so quickly, chiding those who are blameless and
breaking out into fits of temper; this, often enough, does harm even in
matters of great moment.”[863] Luther himself was by no means unwilling
to admit his faults in this direction and endeavoured to make up for
them by occasionally praising his fellow-workers in fulsome terms; Yet
so deep-seated was his suspicion of Melanchthon’s orthodoxy, that he
even thought for a while of embodying his doctrine on the Sacrament in
a formulary, which should condemn all his opponents and which all his
friends, particularly those whom he had reason to mistrust, should be
compelled to sign. This, according to Bucer, would have involved the
departure of Melanchthon into exile. Bucer expressed his indignation at
this projected “abominable condemnation” and at the treatment meted out
to Melanchthon by Luther.[864]

Bucer himself was several times the object of Luther’s wrath, for
instance, for his part in the “Cologne Book of Reform”: “It is nothing
but a lot of twaddle in which I clearly detect the influence of that
chatterbox Bucer.”[865] When Jakob Schenk arrived at Wittenberg after a
long absence Luther was so angry with him for not sharing his views as
to refuse to receive him when he called; he did the same in the case
of Agricola, in spite of the fact that the latter brought a letter of
recommendation from the Margrave of Brandenburg; in one of his letters
calls him: “the worst of hypocrites, an impenitent man!”[866] From
such a monster, so he said, he would take nothing but a sentence of
condemnation. As for his former friend Schenk, he ironically offers
him to Bishop Amsdorf as a helper in the ministry. On both of them he
persisted in bestowing his old favourite nicknames, Jeckel and Grickel
(Jakob and Agricola).

_Luther’s Single-handed Struggle with the Powers of Evil_

Owing to the theological opinions reached by some of his one-time
friends Luther, as may well be understood, began to be oppressed by a
feeling of lonesomeness.

The devil, whom he at least suspected of being the cause of his bodily
pains,[867] is now backing the Popish teachers, and making him to be
slighted. But, by so doing, thanks to Luther’s perseverance and bold
defiance, he will only succeed in magnifying Christ the more.

 “He hopes to get the better of us or to make us downhearted. But,
 as the Germans say, _cacabimus in os eius_. Willy-nilly, he shall
 suffer until his head is crushed, much as he may, with horrible
 gnashing of teeth, threaten to devour us. We preach the Seed of the
 woman; Him do we confess and to Him would we assign the first place,
 wherefore He is with us.”[868] In his painful loneliness he praises
 “the heavenly Father Who has hidden these things [Luther’s views on
 religion] from the wise and prudent and has revealed them to babes and
 little ones who cannot talk, let alone preach, and are neither clever
 nor learned.”[869] This he says in a sermon. The clever doctors, he
 adds, “want to make God their pupil; everyone is anxious to be His
 schoolmaster and tutor. And so it has ever been among the heretics....
 In the Christian churches one bishop nags at the other, and each
 pastor snaps at his neighbour.... These are the real wiselings of whom
 Christ speaks who know a lot about horses’ bowels, but who do not
 keep to the road which God Himself has traced for us, but must always
 go their own little way.” Indeed it is the fate of “everything that
 God has instituted to be perverted by the devil,” by “saucy folk and
 clever people.” “The devil has indeed smeared us well over with fools.
 But they are accounted wise and prudent simply because they rule and
 hold office in the Churches.”[870]

 Let us leave them alone then and turn our backs on them, no matter
 how few we be, for “God will not bear in His Christian Churches men
 who twist His Divine Word, even though they be called Pope, Emperor,
 Kings, Princes or Doctors.... We ourselves have had much to do with
 such wiselings, who have taken it upon themselves to bring about unity
 or reform.”[871] “They fancy that because they are in power they have
 a deeper insight into Scripture than other people.”[872] “The devil
 drives such men so that they seek their own praise and glory in Holy
 Scripture.” But do you say: I will listen to a teacher “only so long
 as he leads me to the Son of God,” the true master and preceptor, i.e.
 in other words, so long as he teaches the truth.[873]

 In his confusion of mind Luther does not perceive to what his proviso
 “so long as” amounts. It was practically the same as committing the
 decision concerning what was good for salvation to the hands of every
 man, however ignorant or incapable of sound judgment. Luther’s real
 criterion remained, however, his own opinion. “If anyone teaches
 another Gospel,” he says in this very sermon,[874] “contrary to that
 which we have proclaimed to you, let him be anathema” (cp. Gal. i.
 8). The reason why people will not listen to him is, as he here tells
 them, because, by means of the filth of his arch-knaves and liars,
 “the devil in the world misleads and fools all.”

Luther was convinced that he was the “last trump,” which was to herald
in the destruction, not only of Satan and the Papacy, but also of the
world itself. “We are weak and but indifferent trumpeters, but, to the
assembly of the heavenly spirits, ours is a mighty call.” “They will
obey us and our trump, and the end of the world will follow. Amen.”[875]

Meanwhile, however, he notes with many misgivings the manifestations of
the evil one. He even intended to collect in book form the instances
of such awe-inspiring portents (“_satanæ portenta_”) and to have them

 For this purpose he begged Jonas to send him once more a detailed
 account of the case of a certain Frau Rauchhaupt, which would have
 come under this category; he tells his friend that the object of his
 new book is to “startle” the people who lull themselves in such a
 state of false security that not only do they scorn the wholesome
 marvels of the Gospel with which we are daily overwhelmed, but
 actually make light of the real “furies of furies” of the wickedness
 of the world; they must read such marvellous stories, for “they
 are too prone to believe neither in the goodness of God nor in the
 wickedness of the devil, and too set on becoming, as indeed they are
 already, just bellies and nothing more.”[876]—Thus, when Lauterbach
 told him of three suicides who had ended their lives with the halter,
 he at once insisted that it was really Satan who had strung them up
 while making them to think that it was they themselves who committed
 the crime. “The Prince of this world is everywhere at work.” “God,
 in permitting such crimes, is causing the wrath of heaven to play
 over the world like summer lightning, that ungrateful men, who fling
 the Gospel to the winds, may see what is in store for them.” “Such
 happenings must be brought to the people’s knowledge so that they may
 learn to fear God.”[877] Happily the book that was to have contained
 these tales of horror never saw the light; the author’s days were

 The outward signs, whether in the heavens or on the earth, “whereby
 Satan seeks to deceive,” were now scrutinised by Luther more
 superstitiously than ever.

 Talking at table about a thunder-clap which had been heard in winter,
 he quite agreed with Bugenhagen “that it was downright Satanic.”
 “People,” he complains, “pay no heed to the portents of this kind
 which occur without number.” Melanchthon had an experience of this
 sort before the death of Franz von Sickingen. Others, whom Luther
 mentions, saw wonderful signs in the heavens and armies at grips; the
 year before the coming of the Evangel wonders were seen in the stars;
 “these are in every instance lying portents of Satan; nothing certain
 is foretold by them; during the last fifteen years there have been
 many of them; the only thing certain is that we have to expect the
 coming wrath of God.”[878] Years before, the signs in the heavens and
 on the earth, for instance the flood promised for 1524, had seemed
 to him to forebode the “world upheaval” which his Evangel would

 Luther shared to the full the superstition of his day. He did not
 stand alone when he thus interpreted public events and everyday
 occurrences. It was the fashion in those days for people, even in
 Catholic circles, superstitiously to look out for portents and signs.

 In 1537[880] Luther relates some far-fetched tales of this sort.
 The most devoted servants of the devil are, according to him, the
 sorcerers and witches of whom there are many.[881] In 1540 he related
 to his guests how a schoolmaster had summoned the witches by means of
 a horse’s head.[882] “Repeatedly,” so he told them in that same year,
 “they did their best to harm me and my Katey, but God preserved us.”
 On another occasion, after telling some dreadful tales of sorcery, he
 adds: “The devil is a mighty spirit.” “Did not God and His dear angels
 intervene, he would surely slay us with those thunder-clubs of his
 which you call thunderbolts.”[883] In earlier days he had told them,
 that, Dr. “Faust, who claimed the devil as his brother-in-law, had
 declared that ‘if I, Martin Luther, had only shaken hands with him he
 would have destroyed me’; but I would not have been afraid of him, but
 would have shaken hands with him in God’s name and reckoning on God’s

According to him, most noteworthy of all were the diabolical deeds then
on the increase which portended a mighty revulsion and a catastrophe
in the world’s history. Everything, his laboured calculations on the
numbers in the biblical prophecies included, all point to this. Even
the appearance of a new kind of fox in 1545 seemed to him of such
importance that he submitted the case to an expert huntsman for an
opinion. He himself was unable to decide what it signified, “unless it
be that change in all things which we await and for which we pray.”[885]

The change to which he here and so often elsewhere refers is the end of
the world.

2. Luther’s Fanatical Expectation of the End of the World. His hopeless

The excitement with which Luther looks forward to the approaching end
of the world affords a curious psychological medley of joy and fear,
hope and defiance; his conviction reposed on a wrong reading of the
Bible, on a too high estimate of his own work, on his sad experience
of men and on his superstitious observance of certain events of the
outside world.

The fact that the end of all was nigh gradually became an absolute
certainty with him. In his latter days it grew into one of those ideas
around which, as around so many fixed stars, his other plans, fancies
and grounds for consolation revolve. To the depth of his conviction
his excessive credulity and that habit—which he shared with his
contemporaries—of reading things into natural events contributed not a

 A remarkable conjunction of the planets in 1524,[886] “other signs
 which have been described elsewhere, such as earthquakes, pestilences,
 famines and wars,” a predicted flood[887]—“all these signs
 agree”[888] in announcing the great day; never have “more numerous
 and greater signs” occurred during the whole course of the world’s
 history to vouch for the forthcoming end of the world.[889] “All the
 firmaments and courses of the heavens are declining and coming to an
 end; the Elbe has stood for a whole year at the same low level, this
 also is a portent.”[890] Such signs invite us to be watchful.[891]
 Over and above all this we have the “many gruesome dreams of the Last
 Judgment” with which he was plagued in later years.[892]

 He describes to his friends quite confidently the manner of the coming
 of the end such as he pictures it to himself: “Early one morning,
 about the time of the spring equinox, a thick black cloud, three
 lightning flashes and a thunder-clap, and, presto, everything will
 lie in ruins,” etc. “I am ever awaiting the day.”[893] “Things may go
 on for some years longer,”[894] perhaps for “five or six years,” but
 no more, because “the wickedness of men has increased so dreadfully
 within so short a time.”[895] “We shall live to see the day”; Aggeus
 (ii. 7 f.) says: “Yet a little while and I will shake the heaven and
 the earth”; look around you; “surely the State is being shaken ...
 the household too, and even the very mob, item our own very sons and
 daughters. The Church too totters.”[896]

 “All the great wonders have already taken place; the Pope has been
 unmasked; the world rages. Nor will things improve until the Last Day
 comes. I hope, however, now that the Evangel is so greatly despised,
 that the Last Day is no longer far distant, not more than a hundred
 years off. God’s Word will again decline ... and the world will become
 quite savage and epicurean.”[897]

_Reason and Ground of Luther’s Conviction of the near End of the World_

The actual origin and basis of this strange idea are plainly expressed
in the statement last quoted: “The Pope is unmasked” as Antichrist,
such was Luther’s starting-point. Further, “the Evangel is despised,”
by his own followers no less than by his foes; this depressing sight,
together with the sad outlook for religion generally, formed the ground
on which Luther’s conviction of the coming cataclysm grew, particularly
when the fall of the Papacy seemed to be unduly delayed, and its
strength to be even on the increase. The Bible texts which he twists
into his service are an outcome rather than the cause of his conviction
concerning Antichrist, while the “signs” in the heavens and on earth
also serve merely to confirm a persuasion derived from elsewhere.

The starting-point of the idea and the soil on which it grew deserve to
be considered separately.

Luther’s views on the unmasking of Antichrist and the approaching end
of the world carry us back to the early years of his career. Soon after
beginning his attack on the Church, he, over and over again, declared
that he had been called to reveal the Pope as Antichrist.[898] His
breach with the ecclesiastical past was so far-reaching that he could
not have expressed his position and indicated the full extent of his
aims better than by so radical an apocalyptic announcement. Nor did
it sound so entirely strange to the world. Even according to Wiclif
the Papal power was the power of “Antichrist” and the Roman Church the
“Synagogue of Satan”; John Hus likewise taught, that it was Antichrist
who, by means of the Papal penalties, was seeking to affright those who
were after “unmasking” him.

The idea of Antichrist in Luther’s mind embodied all the wickedness of
the Roman Church which it was his purpose to unmask, all the religious
perversion of which he wished to make an end, and, in a word, the
dominion of the devil against which he fancied he was to proclaim the
last and decisive combat. When, by dint of insisting in his writings,
over and over again, and in the most drastic of ways, on the Papal
Antichrist, the idea came to assume its definitive shape in his own
mind, his announcement of the end of the world could not be any longer
delayed; for, according to the generally accepted view, Antichrist
was directly to precede the coming of Christ to Judgment, or at least
the latter’s coming would not be long delayed after the revelation of
Antichrist in his true colours.[899] As a rule Antichrist was taken to
be a person; Luther, however, saw Antichrist in the Papacy as a whole.
Antichrist had had a long spell of life; the last Pope would, however,
soon fall, he, Luther, with Christ’s help, was preparing his overthrow,
then the end would come—such is the sum of Luther’s eschatological
statements during the first period of his career.

 Speaking of the end of the world he often says, that the fall of
 the Papacy involves it. “Assuredly,” he says, the end will shortly
 follow on account of the manifest wickedness of the Pope and the
 Papists. According to him, the Bible itself teaches that, “after the
 downfall of the Pope and the deliverance of the poor, no one on earth
 would ever again be a tyrant and inspire fear.” “This would not be
 possible,” so Luther thinks, “were the world to go on after the fall
 of the Pope, for the world cannot exist without tyrants. And thus the
 Prophet agrees with the Apostle, viz. that Christ, when He comes,
 will upset the Holy Roman Chair. God grant it may happen speedily.

 In his fantastic interpretation of the Monk-Calf he declares in a
 similar way, that the near end of the world is certain in view of the
 abominations of the sinking Papacy and its monkish system, which last
 is symbolised in the wonderful calf: “My wish and hope are that it may
 mean the Last Day, since many signs have so far coincided, and the
 whole world is as it were in an uproar,”[901] the source of the whole
 to-do being his triumphant contest with Antichrist. In the same way
 his conviction of the magnitude and success of his mission against the
 foe of Christ gives the key to his curious reading of Daniel and the
 Epistle to the Thessalonians with regard to the time of Antichrist’s
 advent and the end of the world, which we find set forth quite
 seriously in his reply to Catharinus.[902] In short, “Antichrist will
 be revealed whatever the world may do; after this Christ must come
 with His Judgment Day.”[903]

When the Papacy, instead of collapsing, began to gather strength and
even proceeded to summon a Council, Luther did not cease foretelling
its fall; he predicts the end of the world in terms even stronger
than before, though the reason he assigns for his forebodings is more
and more the “contempt shown for the Word,” i.e. for his teaching and
exhortations. Disgust, disappointment and the gloomy outlook for the
future of his work are now his chief grounds for expecting the end of
all and for ardently hoping that the Day will soon dawn.... It is the
self-seeking and vice so prevalent in his own fold which wrings from
him the exclamation: “It must soon come to a head,”[904] for things
cannot long go on thus.

 The last temptation which shall assail the faithful, he says, will
 be “an undisciplined life”; then we shall “grow sick of the Word
 and disgusted with it.” “Not even the Word of God will they endure;
 ... the Gospel which they [his own people] once confessed, they now
 look upon as merely the word of man.” “Do you fancy you are out of
 the world, or that Satan, the Prince of this world, has died or been
 crucified in you?”[905] It is bitter experience that causes him to
 say: “The day will dawn when Christ shall come to free us from sin and
 death.”[906] “May the world go to rack and ruin and be utterly blotted
 out,” “the world which has shown me such gratitude during my own
 lifetime!”[907] “May the Lord call me away, for I have done, and seen,
 and suffered enough evil.”[908] “Would that the Lord would put an end
 to the great misery [that among us each one does as he pleases]! Oh
 that the day of our deliverance would come!”[909] “The people have
 waxed cold towards the Evangel.... May Christ mend all things and
 hasten the Day of His Coming.”[910]

 “It is a wonder to me what the world does to-day,” he said, alluding
 to the turmoil in the newly acquired bishopric of Naumburg; he then
 goes on to complain in the words already given (p. 233), that a new
 world is growing up around him; no one will admit of having done
 wrong, of having lied or sinned; those only who meet with injustice
 are reputed unrighteous, liars and sinners. Verily it would soon rain
 filth. “The day of our redemption draweth nigh. Amen.” “The world will
 rage, but good-bye to it”![911]—“The world is indeed a contemptible
 thing,” he groans, after describing the morals of Wittenberg.[912]

 The conduct of the great ones at the Saxon Court led him to
 surmise that “soon,” after but a few days, hell would be their
 portion.[913] For those who infringe the rights of his Church he
 has a similar sentence ready: “Hell will be your share. Come, Lord
 Jesus, come, listen to the groaning of Thy people, and hasten Thy
 coming!”—“Farewell and teach your people to pray for the day of the
 Lord; for of better times there is no longer any hope.”[914]

 “During our lifetime,” he laments in 1545, “and under our very eyes,
 we see sects and dissensions arising, each one wishing to follow
 his own fancy. In short, contempt for the Word on our own side and
 blasphemy on the other seem to me to announce the times of which
 John the Baptist spoke to the people, saying: ‘The axe is laid to
 the root of the tree,’ etc. Accordingly, since the end at least of
 this happy age is imminent, there seems no call to bother much about
 setting up, or coming to an understanding regarding, those troublesome

In fact, he is determined not “to bother much,” not merely about the
“ceremonies,” but about the whole question of Church organisation,
for of what use doing so when the signs of the general end of all are
increasing at such a rate? “To set up laws” is, according to him, quite
impracticable; let everything settle itself “according to the law of
God by means of the inspection.”[916]

“To Luther the end which Christ was about to put to this wicked world
seemed so near,” so we read in Köstlin-Kawerau’s biography,[917]
“that he never contemplated any progressive development and expansion
of Christendom and the Church, nor was he at all anxious about the
possible ups and downs which might accompany such development.... It is
just in his later years that we find him more firmly established than
ever in the belief, that the world will always remain the world and
that it must be left to the Lord to take what course He pleases with
it and with His Christendom, until the coming of the ‘longed-for Last

At any rate, since the sectarians in his own camp and the various
centrifugal forces inherent in his creation made impossible any real
organisation, he was all the more ready to welcome the thought of the
end of the world in that it distracted his mind from the sad state of

On the top of the schisms and immorality of the people there was also
the avarice of those in high places, which roused his hatred and
contributed to make him sigh for the coming of the Day.

 “They all rage against God and His Messias.” “This is the work of
 those centaurs, the foes of the Church, kept in store for the latter
 days. They are more insatiable than hell itself. But Christ, Who will
 shortly come in His glory, will quiet them, not indeed with gold, but
 with brimstone and flames of hell, and with the wrath of God.”[918]
 It was his displeasure against some of the authorities which wrung
 from him the words: “But the end is close at hand,” the end which will
 also spell the end of “all this seizing—or rather thieving greed
 for Church property—of the Princes, nobles and magistrates, hateful
 and execrable that it is.”[919] Taking this in conjunction with the
 attitude of the Catholic rulers he could say with greater confidence
 than ever: “Nothing good is to be hoped for any more but this alone,
 that the day of the glory of our great God and our Redeemer may
 speedily break upon us.” “From so Satanic a world” he would fain be
 “quickly snatched,” longing as he does for the Day and for the “end of
 Satan’s raging.”[920]

_The End of the World in the Table-Talk_

In the above we have drawn on Luther’s letters. If we turn to his
Table-Talk, particularly to that dating from his later years, we find
that there, too, his frequent allusions to the approaching end of the
world are as a rule connected with his experience of the corruption in
his surroundings, especially at Wittenberg. The carelessness of the
young is sufficient to make him long for the Last Day, which alone
seemed to promise any help.

 To Melanchthon, who, with much concern, had drawn his attention to the
 lawlessness of the students, Luther poured out his soul, as we read in
 Lauterbach’s Diary: As the students were growing daily wilder he hoped
 that, “if God wills, the Last Day be not far off, the Day which shall
 put an end to all things.”[921] “The ingratitude and profanity of the
 world,” he also says, “makes me apprehend that this light [of the
 Evangel] will not last long.” “The refinement of malice, thanklessness
 and disrespect shown towards the Gospel now revealed” is so great
 “that the Last Day cannot be far off.”[922]

 In his Table-Talk, where Luther is naturally more communicative than
 in his letters, we see even more plainly how deeply the idea of the
 approaching Day of Judgment had sunk into his mind and under how
 curious a shape it there abides. “Things will get so bad on this
 earth,” he says, for instance, “that men will cry out everywhere:
 O God, come with Thy Last Judgment.” He would not mind “eating the
 agate Paternoster” (a string of beads he wore round his neck) if only
 that would make the Day “come on the morrow.”[923] “The end is at the
 door,” he continues, “the world is on the lees; if anyone wants to
 begin something let him hurry up and make a start.”[924] “The next
 day he again spoke much of the end of the world, having had many evil
 dreams of the Last Judgment during the previous six months”; it was
 imminent, for Scripture said so; the present hangs like a ripe apple
 on the tree; the Roman Empire, “the last sweet-william” would also
 soon tumble to the ground.[925]

 In 1530 Luther was disposed to regard the Roman Empire under Charles
 V with a rather more favourable eye. His impression then was that the
 Empire, “under our Emperor Carol, is beginning to look up and becoming
 more powerful than it was for many a year”; yet strange to say he knew
 how to bring even this fact into connection with the Judgment Day; for
 this strengthening of the Empire “seems to me,” so he goes on, “like a
 sort of last effort; for when a light or wisp of straw has burnt down
 and is about to go out it sends up a flame and seems just about to
 flare up bravely when suddenly it dies out; this is what Christendom
 is now doing thanks to the bright Evangel.”[926] Hence all he could
 see was the last flicker both of the Empire and of the new teaching
 before final extinction.

 The noteworthy utterance about the last flicker of the Lutheran
 Evangel occurs also in the Table-Talk collected by Mathesius dating
 from the years 1542 and 1543. “I believe that the Last Day is not far
 off. The reason is that we now see the last effort of the Evangel;
 this resembles a light; when a light is about to expire it sends up
 at the last a sudden flame as though it were going to burn for quite
 a long while and thereupon goes out. And, though it appears now as
 though the Evangel were about to be spread abroad, I fear it will
 suddenly expire and the Last Day come. It is the same with a sick man;
 when at the point of death he seems quite cheerful and on the high
 road to recovery, and, then, suddenly, he is gone.”[927]

 The Table-Talk from the Mathesius collection recently published by
 Kroker, among other curious utterances of Luther’s on the end of the
 world, contains also the following:

 In view of the dissensions by which the new Evangel was torn the
 speaker says, in 1542-43: “If the world goes on for another fifty
 years things will become worse than ever, for sects will arise which
 still lie hidden in the hearts of men, so that we shall not know where
 we stand. Hence, dear Lord, come! Come and overwhelm them with Thy
 Judgment Day, for no improvement is any longer to be looked for.”[928]

 Here too he repeatedly declares that he himself is tired of the world:
 “I have had enough of the world,” he says, and goes on to introduce
 the ugly comparison alluded to above.[929] He adds: “The world fancies
 that if only it were rid of me all would be well.” He is saddened to
 see that many of his followers make little account of him: “If the
 Princes and gentry won’t do it, then things will not last long.”[930]
 Of the want of respect shown to his preachers he says: “Where there
 is such contempt of the Divine Word and of the preachers, shall not
 God smite with His fist?” “But if we preachers were to meet and
 agree amongst ourselves, as has been done in the Papacy, there would
 be less need for this. The worst of it is that they are not at one
 even amongst themselves.” He finds a makeshift consolation for the
 divergency in teaching in the thought that “so it always was even from
 the beginning of the world, preachers always having disagreed amongst
 themselves.” “There is a bad time coming, look you to it”; things may
 go on for another fifty years now that the young have been brought up
 in his doctrine, but, after that, “let them look out. Hence, let no
 one fear the plague, but rather be glad to die.”[931] Not only did he
 look forward to his own death, but, as we know, to that of “all his
 children,” seeing that strange things would happen in the world.[932]

 We have heard him say, that it was a mercy for the young, that, being
 thoughtless and without experience, they did not see the harm caused
 by the scandals, “else they could not endure to live.”[933] And, that
 the world could “not possibly last long.” Its hours are numbered, for,
 thanks to me, “everything has now been put straight. The Gospel has
 been revealed.”[934]

 “Christ said, that, at His coming, faith would be hard to find on
 the earth (Luke xviii. 8). That is true, for the whole of Asia and
 Africa is without the Evangel, and even as regards Europe no Gospel is
 preached in Greece, Italy, Hungary, Spain, France, England or Poland.
 The one little bright spot, the house of Saxony, will not hinder the
 coming of the Last Day.”[935]

 “Praise be to God Who has taught us to sigh after it and long for it!
 In Popery everybody dreads it.”[936]

 “Amen, so be it, Amen!” so he sighed in 1543 in a letter to Amsdorf
 alluding to the end of the world. “The world was just like this before
 the Flood, before the Babylonian captivity, before the destruction of
 Jerusalem, before the devastation of Rome and before the misfortunes
 of Greece and Hungary; so it will be and so it is before the ruin of
 Germany too. They refuse to listen, so they must be made to feel. I
 should be glad to console ourselves both, by discussing this thought
 [of the contempt of the Papists for us] with you by word of mouth.”
 “We will leave them in the lurch” and cease from attempting their
 conversion. “Farewell in the Lord, Who is our Helper and Who will help
 us for ever and ever. Amen.”[937]

 “Under the Pope,” we read in the Colloquies, “at least the name of
 Christ was retained, but our thanklessness and presumptuous sense
 of security will bring things to such a pass that Christ will be no
 longer even named, and so the words of the Master already quoted will
 be fulfilled according to which, at His coming, no faith will remain
 on the earth.”[938]

 As to the circumstances which should accompany the end of the world,
 he still expected the catastrophe to take place most likely about
 Easter time, “early in the morning, after a thunderstorm of an hour or
 perhaps a little more.”[939]

 Here he no longer gives the world “a bare hundred years more,” nor
 even something “not more than fifty years”;[940] he almost expects
 the end to come before the completion of his translation of the Bible
 into German.[941] The world will certainly not last until 1548, so
 he declared, “for this would run counter to Ezechiel.”[942] He is
 not quite sure whether the Golden Age begins in 1540 or not, though
 such was the contention of the mathematicians; but “we shall see the
 fulfilment of Scripture,”[943] or at any rate, as he prudently adds
 elsewhere, our descendants will. But before this can come the “great
 light” of faith would have to be dimmed still more.[944]

 Luther concludes by saying that he is unable to suggest anything
 further; he had done all he could; God’s vengeance on the world was
 so great, he declares, that he could no longer give any advice; for
 “amongst us whom God has treated so mercifully and on whom He has
 bestowed all His Graces there is nothing left that is not corrupted
 and perverted.”[945] “On divine authority we began to amend the world,
 but it refuses to hearken; hence let it crumble to ruins, for such is
 its fate!”[946]

In his predictions concerning the end of the world Luther did not
sufficiently take to heart the mishap which befell his pupil and friend
Michael Stiefel, though he himself had been at pains to reprove him.
Stiefel had calculated that the end of the world would come at 8 a.m.
on Oct. 19, 1533, at which hour he and his parishioners awaited it
assembled in the church at Lochau. Their watch was, however, in vain;
the world continued to go its way and the Court judged it expedient to
remove the preacher for a while from his post.

Taking these eschatological ideas or rather ardent wishes of Luther’s
later life in all their bearings, and giving due weight to the almost
unbounded dominion they exercised over his mind, one might well incline
to see in them signs of an unhealthy and overwrought mind. They seem to
have been due to excessive mental strain, to the reaction following on
the labours of his long life’s struggle in the cause of his mission. It
is not unlikely that pathology played some part in the depression from
which he suffered.

His early theological development also throws some light on the
psychological problem, owing to a parallel which it affords.

The middle-point and mainstay of his theology, viz. his doctrine of
Justification, was wholly a result of his own personal feelings; after
cutting it, so to speak, to his own measure he proceeded to make it
something of world-wide application, a doctrine which should rule every
detail of religious life, and around which all theology should cluster
if it is to be properly understood. In a similar way, after beginning
by adapting to his own case the theory of the near end of the world—to
which he was early addicted—he gradually came to find in it the clue
wherewith to unravel all the knotty problems which began to present
themselves. It became his favourite plan to regard everything in the
light of the end of the world and advent of Christ. Just as he was fond
of asseverating, in spite of all the contradictions it involved, that
he could find in his dogma of Justification endless comfort for both
himself and the faithful, so, too, he came to regard the Last Day, in
spite of all its terrors, as the source of the highest, nay, of the
only remaining, joy of life, for himself and for all. With a vehemence
incomprehensible to sober reason he allowed himself to be carried away
by this idea as he had been by others. Such was his temperament that he
could rejoice in the coming of the Judge, Who should deliver him from
the bonds of despair.

Hence Luther’s expectation of the end of the world was something very
different from that of certain Saints of whom Church-history tells
us. Pope Gregory I or Vincent Ferrer were not moved to foretell the
approaching end of the world by disgust with life, by disappointment,
or as a result of waging an unequal struggle with the Church of their
day, nor again because they regarded the destruction of the world as
the only escape from the confusion they had brought about. Nor do they
speak of the end of the world with any fanatical expectation of their
own personal salvation, but rather with a mixture of fear and calm
trust in God’s bounty to the righteous; they have none of Luther’s
pessimism concerning the world, and, far from desiring things to “take
their course,”[947] they exerted every nerve to ensure the everlasting
salvation of as many of their fellow-creatures as possible before the
advent of the Judge; to this end they had recourse to preaching and
the means of grace provided by the Church and insisted greatly on the
call for faith and good works. Above all, they gave a speaking proof
of their faith by their works and by the inspiring example of heroic

3. Melanchthon under the Double Burden, of Luther’s Personality and his
own Life’s Work

The personality of Luther counts for much among the trials which
embittered Melanchthon’s life.

The passages already quoted witnessing thereto[948] must here be
supplemented by what he himself says of his experiences at Luther’s
side, in a letter he wrote in 1548 to the councillor Carlowitz and the
Court of Saxony. There was some doubt as to what attitude Melanchthon
would adopt towards Maurice of Saxony, the new sovereign, the victor of
the Schmalkalden War, and to his demands in the matter of religion.

 In the letter, which to say the least is very conciliatory,
 Melanchthon says that he will know how to keep silence on any
 ecclesiastical regulations, no matter how distasteful to him they
 may be: for he knew what it was “to endure even a truly ignominious
 bondage, Luther having frequently given the rein to his own natural
 disposition, which was not a little quarrelsome, instead of showing
 due consideration for his own position and the general welfare.”
 He goes on to explain the nature of the habit of silence he had
 so thoroughly mastered; it meant no sacrifice of his own doctrine
 and views (“_non mutato genere doctrinæ_”). For twenty long years,
 so he complains, he had been obliged to bear the reproaches of the
 zealots of the party because he had toned down certain doctrines
 and had ventured to differ from Luther; they had called him ice and
 frost, accused him of being in league with the Papists, nay, of
 being ambitious to secure a Cardinal’s hat. Yet he had never had the
 slightest inclination to go over to the Catholics, for they “were
 guilty of cruel injustice.” He must, however, say that he, who by
 nature was a lover of peace and the quiet of the study, had only been
 drawn into the movement of which Luther was the leader because he,
 like many wise and learned contemporaries, thought he discerned in
 it a striving after that truth for which he thirsted and for which
 he lived. Luther it was true, had, from the very first, introduced a
 “rougher element into the cause”; he himself, however, had made it his
 aim to set up only what was true and essentially necessary; he had
 also done much in the way of reforms, and, to boot, had waged a war
 against the demagogues (“_multa tribunitia plebs_”) which, owing to
 the attacks of enemies at Court, had drawn down on him the displeasure
 of the sovereign and had even put his life in jeopardy.

 Coming finally to speak of the concessions, speculative and practical,
 which he was prepared to make in addition to preserving silence, he
 mentions “the authority to be conceded to the bishops and the chief
 bishop in accordance with the Augsburg Confession.” He adds: “Mayhap
 I am by nature of a servile turn of mind” (“_fortassis sum ingenio
 servili_”), but, after all there is a real call to be humble and open
 to advances. He also refers to the defeat of the Evangelical Princes,
 but only to assure Carlowitz that he attributes this, “not to blind
 fate, but rather admit that we have drawn down the chastisement on
 ourselves by many and great misdeeds.”[949]

 This is the oft-quoted declaration which Protestant writers as a whole
 regret more on Melanchthon’s than on Luther’s account. It was “an
 unhappy hour” in which Melanchthon wrote the letter “which gives us
 so profound an insight into his soul”;[950] he forgot that he was “a
 public character”; “in this letter not only what he says of Luther
 and of his relations with him, but even his account of the share he
 himself took in the Reformation,” “is scarcely to his credit.”[951]

 Another Protestant holds, however, a different view. In this letter
 we have, as a matter of fact, “the expression of feelings which for
 long years Melanchthon had most carefully kept under restraint locked
 up in his heart.... From it we may judge how great was the vexation
 and bitterness Melanchthon had to endure.... In an unguarded moment
 what had been so long pent up broke out with elemental force.”
 The historian we are quoting then goes on to plead for a “milder
 sentence,” especially as “almost every statement which occurs in the
 letter can be confirmed from Melanchthon’s confidential correspondence
 of the previous twenty years.”[952]

_Some of Melanchthon’s Deliverances_

It is quite true, that, in his confidential correspondence, Melanchthon
had long before made allusions to the awkwardness of his position.

He says, for instance, in a letter to the famous physician Leonard
Fuchs, who wanted him to take up his abode at Tübingen: “Some
Fate has, as it were, bound me fast against my will, like hapless
Prometheus,” bound to the Caucasian rock, of whom the classic myth
speaks. Nevertheless, he had not lost hope of sometime cutting himself
free; happy indeed would he account himself could he find a quiet home
amongst his friends at Tübingen where he might devote his last years to

On a later occasion, when bewailing his lot, the image of Prometheus
again obtrudes itself on the scholar.[954]

Melanchthon’s uneasiness and discontent with his position did not
merely arise from the mental oppression he experienced at Luther’s
side; it was, as already pointed out, in part due to sundry other
factors, such as the persecution he endured from disputatious
theologians within the party, the sight of the growing confusion which
met his eye day by day, the public dangers and the moral results of
the religious upheaval, and, lastly, the depressing sense of being out
of the element where his learning and humanistic tastes might have
found full and unhampered scope. His complaints dwell, now on one,
now on some other of these trials, but, taken together, they combine
to make up a tragic historical picture of a soul distraught; this is
all the more surprising, since, owing to the large share he had in
the introduction of the new Evangel, the cheering side of the great
religious reform should surely have been reflected in Melanchthon.

“It is not fitting,” writes the Protestant theologian Carl Sell, “to
throw a veil over the sad close of Melanchthon’s life, for it was
but the logical consequence of his own train of thought.” Luther’s
theology, of the defects of which Melanchthon was acutely conscious,
had, according to Sell, “already begun to break down as an adequate
theory of life”;[955] of the forthcoming disintegration Luther’s
colleague already had a premonition.

 In Aug., 1536, when Melanchthon paid a visit to his home and also to
 Tübingen, he became more closely acquainted with the state of the
 Protestant Churches, both in the Palatinate and in Swabia. It was at
 that time that he wrote to his friend Myconius: “Had you travelled
 with us and seen the woeful devastation of the Churches in many
 localities you would undoubtedly long, with tears and groans, for the
 Princes and the learned to take steps for the welfare of the Churches.
 At Nuremberg the good attendance at public worship and the orderly
 arrangement of the ceremonies pleased me greatly; elsewhere, however,
 lack of order and general barbarism is wonderfully estranging the
 people [from religion; ‘_[Greek: ataxia] et barbaries mirum in modum
 alienat animos_’]. Oh, that the authorities would see to the remedying
 of this evil!”[956]

 After he had reluctantly resumed the burden of his Wittenberg office
 he continued to fret about the dissensions in his own camp. “Look,”
 he wrote to Veit Dietrich in 1537, “how great is the danger to which
 the Churches are everywhere exposed and how difficult it is to govern
 them, when those in authority are at grips with one another and set
 up strife and confusion, whereas it is from them that we should look
 for help.... What we have to endure is worse than all the trials of
 Odysseus the sufferer.”[957]

 In the following year he told the same friend the real evil was, that
 “we live like gipsies, no one being willing to obey another in any
 single thing.”[958]

 In the name of Wittenberg University he wrote to Mohr, the Naumburg
 preacher, who was quarrelling with his brethren in the ministry, “What
 is to happen in future if, for so trivial a matter, such wild and
 angry broils break out amongst those who govern the Church?”[959]

 The growing tendency to strife he describes in 1544 in these words:
 “There are at present many people whose quarrels are both countless
 and endless, and who everywhere find a pretext for them.”[960]

 Many of his complaints concerning the morals of the time, as Döllinger
 remarks, sound very much like those of a “sworn Catholic criticising
 the state of affairs brought about by the Reformation.” Döllinger
 also calls attention to the saying of 1537: “The only glory remaining
 in this iron age is that of boldly breaking down the barriers of
 discipline (‘_audacter dissipare vincula disciplinæ_’) and of
 propounding to the people new opinions neatly cut and coloured.”[961]
 A similar dictum dates from 1538. “Our age, as you can see, is full of
 malice and madness, and more addicted to intrigue than any previous
 one. The man who is most shameless in his abuse is regarded as the
 best orator. Oh, that God would change this!”[962] The growing evils
 made him more and more downhearted. “People have become barbarians,”
 he exclaims twelve years later to his friend Camerarius, “and,
 accustomed as they are to hatred and contempt of law and order, fear
 lest any restraint be put on their licentiousness (‘_metuunt frenari
 licentiam_’). These are the evils decreed for the last age of the

 Over and over again we can see how the timorous man endeavours
 to clear the religious innovations of any responsibility for the
 prevalent lawlessness, which, as he says, deserved to be bewailed with
 floods of tears; after all, the true Church _had_ been revived; this
 edifice, this temple of God, still remained amidst all the chaos; even
 in Noe’s day it had been exposed to damage.[964] At times, though less
 frequently than Luther, he lays all the blame on Satan; the latter, by
 means of the scandals, was seeking to scare people away from the true
 Evangel now brought to light, and to vex the preachers into holding
 their tongues.

 Pessimistic consideration of the “last age of the world” was quite
 in his line; the dark though not altogether unfriendly shadow of the
 approaching end of all was discernible in the moral disorders, in the
 unbelief and anti-christian spirit of the foe. He would not dwell, so
 he once said, on the state of things among the people towards whom he
 was willing to be indulgent, but it could not be gainsaid that, “among
 the learned open contempt for religion was on the increase; they
 lean either towards the Epicureans or towards universal scepticism.
 Forgetfulness of God, the wickedness of the times, the senseless fury
 of the Princes, all unite in proving that the world lies in the pains
 of travail and that the joyous coming of Christ is nigh.”[965] It was
 his hopelessness and the great solace he derived from the approaching
 end of all things that called forth this frame of mind. It is also
 plain that he saw no prospect of improvement. “In these last days,”
 he says, even a zealous preacher can no longer hope for success,
 though this does not give him the right to quit his post.[966] The
 poetic reference to the frenzied old age of the world (“_delira mundi
 senecta_”) is several times met with in his letters.

In 1537 he grumbled to Johann Brenz, the preacher, of the hostility of
the theologians, especially of the Luther-zealots; he had seen what
hatred the mitigations he had introduced in Luther’s doctrines had
excited. “I conceal everything beneath the cloak of my moderation,
but what shall I do eventually faced by the rage of so many (‘_in
tanta rabie multorum_’)?”[967] “I seek for a creephole,” he continues,
“may God but show me one, for I am worn out with illness, old age and

Of Amsdorf he learnt with pain that he had warned Luther against him as
a serpent whom he was warming in his bosom.[968]

Andreas Osiander likewise wrote of Melanchthon to Besold at Nuremberg,
that, since Apostolic times, no more mischievous and pernicious man
had lived in the Church, so skilful was he in giving to his writings
the semblance of wholesome doctrine while all the time denying its
truth. “I believe that Philip and those who think like him are nothing
but slaves of Satan.” On another occasion the same bitter opponent
of Melanchthon inveighs against the religious despotism which now
replaced at Wittenberg the former Papal authority, a new tyranny which
required, that “all disputes should be submitted to the elders of the
Church.”[969]—It was men such as these who repaid him for the labours
he had reluctantly undertaken on behalf of the Church. Of their bitter
opposition he wrote, that, even were he to shed as many tears as there
was water in the flooded Elbe, he would still not be able to weep away
his grief.[970]

_Melanchthon’s Strictures on Luther. His “Bondage”_

If we consider more closely Melanchthon’s relations with Luther we
find him, even during Luther’s lifetime, indignantly describing the
latter’s attacks on man’s free-will as “_stoica et manichæa deliria_”;
he himself, he declares, in spite of Luther’s views to the contrary,
had always insisted that man, even before regeneration, is able by
virtue of his free-will to observe outward discipline and, that, in
regeneration, free-will follows on grace and thereafter receives from
on High help for doing what is good. Later, after Luther’s death, he
declared, with regard to this denial of free-will which shocked him,
that it was quite true that “Luther and others had written that all
works, good and bad, were inevitably decreed to be performed of all
men, good and bad alike; but it is plain that this is against God’s
Word, subversive of all discipline and a blasphemy against God.”[971]

 In a letter of 1535 to Johann Sturm he finds fault with the harshness
 of Luther’s doctrine and with his manner of defending it, though,
 from motives of caution, he refrains from mentioning Luther by name.
 He himself, however, was looked upon at the Court of the Elector as
 “less violent and stubborn than some others”; it was just because they
 fancied him useful as a sort of valve, as they called it, that they
 refused to release him from his professorial chair at Wittenberg. And
 such is really the case. “I never think it right to quarrel unless
 about something of great importance and quite essential. To support
 every theory and extravagant opinion that takes the field has never
 been my way. Would that the learned were permitted to speak out more
 freely on matters of importance!” But, instead of this, people ran
 after their own fancies. There was no doubt that, at times, even some
 of their own acted without forethought. “On account of my moderation
 I am in great danger from our own people ... and it seems to me that
 the fate of Theramenes awaits me.”[972] Theramenes had perished on the
 scaffold in a good cause—but before this had been guilty of grievous
 infidelity and was a disreputable intriguer. Of this Melanchthon can
 scarcely have been aware, otherwise he would surely have chosen some
 less invidious term of comparison. He was happier in his selection
 when, in 1544, he compared himself to Aristides on account of the risk
 he ran of being sent into exile by Luther: “Soon you will hear that I
 have been sent away from here as Aristides was from Athens.”[973]

 Especially after 1538, i.e. during the last eight years of Luther’s
 life, Melanchthon’s stay at Wittenberg was rendered exceedingly
 unpleasant. In 1538 he reminds Veit Dietrich of the state of bondage
 ([Greek: doulotês]) of which the latter had gleaned some acquaintance
 while in Wittenberg (1522-35); “and yet,” he continues, “Luther has
 since become much worse.”[974] In later letters he likens Luther to
 the demagogue Cleon and to boisterous Hercules.[975]

Although it was no easy task for Luther, whose irritability increased
with advancing years, to conceal his annoyance with his friend for
presuming to differ from him, yet, as we know, he never allowed matters
to come to an open breach. Melanchthon, too, owing to his fears and
pusillanimity, avoided any definite personal explanation. Both alike
were apprehensive of the scandal of an open rupture and its pernicious
effects on the common cause. Moreover, Luther was thoroughly convinced
that Melanchthon’s services were indispensable to him, particularly in
view of the gloomy outlook for the future.

The matter, however, deserves further examination in view of the
straightforwardness, clearness and inexorableness which Luther is
usually supposed to have displayed in his doctrines.

When important interests connected with his position seemed to call
for it, Luther could be surprisingly lenient in questions of doctrine.
Thus, for instance, we can hardly recognise the once so rigid Luther in
the Concord signed with the Zwinglians, and again, when, for a while,
the English seemed to be dallying with Lutheranism. In the case of the
Zwinglian townships of South Germany, which were received into the
Union by the Wittenberg Concord the better to strengthen the position
of Lutheranism against the Emperor, Luther finally, albeit grudgingly,
gave his assent to theological articles which differed so widely from
his own doctrines that the utmost skill was required to conceal the
discrepancy.[976] As for the English, Kolde says: “How far Luther was
prepared to go [in allowing matters to take their course] we see, e.g.
from the fact that, in his letter of March 28, 1536, to the Elector,
he describes the draft Articles of agreement with the English—only
recently made public and which (apart from Art. 10, which might at a
pinch be taken in the Roman sense) are altogether on the lines of the
‘_Variata_’—as quite in harmony with our own teaching.”[977] The terms
of this agreement were drawn up by Melanchthon. As a matter of fact “we
find little trace of Luther’s spirit in the Articles. We have simply
to compare [Luther’s] Schmalkalden Articles of the following year to
be convinced how greatly Luther’s own mode of thought and expression
differed from those Articles.” “They show us what concessions the
Wittenberg theologians, as a body, were disposed to make in order to
win over such a country as England.”[978]

Concerning Luther’s attitude towards the alterations made by
Melanchthon in the Confession of Augsburg (above, vol. iii., p. 445 f.)
we must also assume “from his whole behaviour, that he was not at all
pleased with Melanchthon’s action; yet he allowed it, like much else,
to pass.”[979] This, however, does not exclude Luther’s violence and
narrowness having caused an estrangement between them, Melanchthon
having daily to apprehend outbursts of anger, so that his stay became
extremely painful. The most critical time was in the summer of 1544, in
consequence of the Cologne Book of Reform (vol. iii., p. 447). Luther,
who strongly suspected Melanchthon’s orthodoxy on the Supper, prepared
to assail anew those who denied the Real Presence. Yet the storm which
Melanchthon dreaded did not touch him; Luther’s “Kurtz Bekentnis vom
heiligen Sacrament,” which appeared at the end of September, failed to
mention Melanchthon’s name. On Oct. 7, Cruciger was able by letter to
inform Dietrich, that the author no longer displayed any irritation
against his old friend.[980] Here again considerations of expediency
had prevailed over dogmatic scruples, nor is there any doubt that the
old feeling of friendship, familiarity and real esteem asserted its
rights. We may recall the kindly sympathy and care that Luther lavished
on Melanchthon when the latter fell sick at Weimar, owing to the
trouble consequent on his sanction given to the Hessian bigamy.[981]

Indeed we must assume that the relations between the two were often
more cordial than would appear from the letters of one so timid and
faint-hearted as Melanchthon; the very adaptability of the latter’s
character renders this probable. In Nov., 1544, Chancellor Brück
declared: “With regard to Philip, as far as I can see, he and Martin
are quite close friends”; in another letter written about that time
he also says Luther had told him that he was quite unaware of any
differences between himself and Melanchthon.[982]

The latter, whenever he was at Wittenberg, also continued as a rule to
put in an appearance at Luther’s table, and there is little doubt that,
on such occasions, Luther’s frank and, open conversation often availed
to banish any ill-feeling there may have been. We learn that Magister
Philip was present at the dinner in celebration of Luther’s birthday
in 1544, together with Cruciger, Bugenhagen, Jonas and Major, and that
they exchanged confidences concerning the present and future welfare of
the new religion.[983]

When Melanchthon was away from Wittenberg engaged in settling
ecclesiastical matters elsewhere he was careful to keep Luther fully
informed of the course of affairs. He occasionally expressed his thanks
to the latter for the charity and kindness of his replies; Luther in
his turn kept him posted in the little intimacies of their respective
families, in the occurrences in the town and University of Wittenberg,
and almost always added a request for prayer for help in his struggles
with “Satan.” This intimate correspondence was carried on until the
very month before Luther’s death. Even in his last letters Luther calls
the friend with whom he had worked for so many years “My Philip”;
Melanchthon, as a rule, heads his communications in more formal style:
“_Clarissimo et optimo viro D. Martino Luthero, doctori theologiæ,
instauratori puræ evangelicæ doctrinæ ac patri suo in Christo reverendo
et charissimo_.”[984]

The great praise which Melanchthon bestows on the deceased immediately
after his death is indeed startling, but we must beware of regarding it
as mere hypocrisy.

 The news of Luther’s death which took place at Eisleben on Feb. 14,
 1546, was received by Melanchthon the very next day. In spite of all
 their differences it must have come as a shock to him, the more so
 that the responsibility for the direction of his friend’s work was now
 to devolve on him.

 The panegyric on Luther which Melanchthon delivered at Wittenberg
 boldly places him on the same footing with Isaias, John the Baptist,
 the Apostle of the Gentiles, and Augustine of Hippo. In it the
 humanistic element and style is more noticeable than the common
 feeling of the friend. He hints discreetly at the “great vehemence”
 of the departed, but does not omit to mention that everyone who
 was acquainted with him must bear witness that he had always shown
 himself kind-hearted towards his friends, and never obstinate or
 quarrelsome.[985] Though this is undoubtedly at variance with what
 he says elsewhere, still such a thing was expected in those days in
 panegyrics on great men, nor would so smooth-tongued an orator have
 felt any scruple about it. In his previous announcement of Luther’s
 death to the students he had exclaimed: “The chariot of Israel and
 the driver thereof have been taken from us, the man who ruled the
 Church in these days of the world’s senile decay.”[986]

_Melanchthon’s Last Years_

 After Luther’s death Melanchthon had still to endure fourteen years
 of suffering, perhaps of even more bitter character than he had yet
 tasted. Whilst representing Lutheranism and taking the lead amongst
 his colleagues he did so with the deliberate intention of maintaining
 the new faith by accommodating himself indulgently to the varying
 conditions of the times. Our narrative may here be permitted to
 anticipate somewhat in order to give a clear and connected account of
 Melanchthon’s inner life and ultimate fate.[987]

 His half-heartedness and love of compromise were a cause of many
 hardships to him, particularly at the time of the so-called Interims
 of Augsburg and Leipzig. It was a question of introducing the Augsburg
 Interim into the Saxon Electorate after the latter, owing to the War
 of Schmalkalden, had come under the rule of the new Elector Maurice.
 Melanchthon had at first opposed the provisions of this Interim, by
 means of which the Emperor hoped gradually to bring the Protestants
 back to the fold. In Dec., 1548, however, he, together with other
 theologians, formally accepted the Leipzig articles, which, owing
 to their similarity with the Augsburg Interim, were dubbed by his
 opponents the “Leipzig Interim,”[988] In this the “moot observances
 (Adiaphora), i.e. those which may be kept without any contravention
 of Divine Scripture,” were extended by Melanchthon so as to include
 the reintroduction of fasting, festivals, not excluding even Corpus
 Christi, images of the Saints in the churches, the Latin liturgy, the
 Canonical Hours in Latin and even a sort of hierarchy. Melanchthon
 also agreed to the demand for the recognition of the seven sacraments.
 By strongly emphasising his own doctrine of synergism, he brought the
 Wittenberg teaching on Justification much nearer to Catholic dogma; he
 even dealt a death-blow to the genuine doctrine of Luther by appending
 his signature to the following proposition: “God does not deal with
 man as with a block of wood, but so draws him that his will also
 co-operates.” In addition to this the true character of Luther’s _sola
 fides_, or assurance of salvation, was veiled by Melanchthon under the
 formula: “True faith accepts, together with other articles, that of
 the ‘Forgiveness of Sins.’”

 Hence when Flacius Illyricus, Amsdorf, Gallus, Wigand, Westphal and
 others loudly protested against Melanchthon as though he had denied
 Luther’s doctrine, they were not so very far wrong. The result of
 their vigorous opposition and of the number of those who sided with
 them was that Melanchthon gradually ceased to be the head of the
 Lutheran Church, becoming merely the leader of a certain party.

 Later on, in 1552, when the position of public affairs in Germany was
 more favourable to Protestantism, Melanchthon admitted that he had
 been wrong in his views concerning the Adiaphora, since, after all,
 they were not so unimportant as he had at first thought. In order to
 pacify his opponents he included the following proposition in his form
 of examination for new preachers: “We ought to profess, not the Papal
 errors, Interim, etc. ... but to remain faithful to the pure Divine
 teaching of the Gospel.”[989]

 Opposition to the “Papal errors” was indeed the one thing to which he
 steadfastly adhered; this negative side of his attitude never varied,
 whatever changes may have taken place in his positive doctrines.

 Nevertheless during the ensuing controversies he was regarded as a
 traitor by the stricter Lutherans and treated with a scorn that did
 much to embitter his last years. The attitude of his opponents was
 particularly noticeable at the conference of Worms in 1557. Even
 before this, they, particularly the Jena theologians, had planned
 an outspoken condemnation of all those who “had departed from the
 Augsburg Confession,” as Melanchthon had done. They now appeared at
 Worms with others of the same way of thinking. “I desire no fellowship
 with those who defile the purity of our doctrine,” wrote one of them;
 “we must shun them, according to the words of the Bible: ‘If any man
 come to you and bring not this doctrine, receive him not into the
 house nor say to him, God speed you.’”[990] The friends of Flacius
 Illyricus at the very first meeting made no secret of their unanimous
 demand, so that Melanchthon in his justificatory statement could well
 say: “I see plainly that all this is directed solely against me.” He
 opposed any condemnation of Zwingli or of Calvin on account of their
 doctrine on the Supper; this, he said, was the business of a synod.

 At the very outset of the disputations with the Catholics it
 became evident anew that the divergency of the Protestants in the
 interpretation of Holy Scripture was too great to allow of the
 points under discussion being satisfactorily settled in conference;
 the abrogation of an ecclesiastical authority for the exposition
 of Scripture had resulted in an ever-growing want of unity in the
 interpretation of the Bible. Peter Canisius, the Catholic spokesman,
 pointed out emphatically what obstacles were presented by the
 contradictory opinions on doctrine amongst the Protestants; where
 every man traced his opinions back to Scripture, how was it possible
 to arrive at any decision?[991] It was from Canisius, “who during the
 course of the conference distinguished himself as the leader of the
 Catholic party and later repeatedly proved himself a sharp observer
 of the religious conditions in Germany,”[992] that the suggestion
 came, that the Protestants should define their position more clearly
 by repudiating certain divergent sects. This led the followers of
 Flacius to demand that all the Evangelicals should unite in condemning
 Zwinglianism, Osianderism, Adiaphorism and Majorism, and also Calvin’s
 doctrine on the Supper. To this Melanchthon and his friends absolutely
 refused to agree. The result was that the followers of Flacius
 departed greatly incensed, and the conference had to be broken off.
 “The contradictions in the very heart of Protestantism were thus
 revealed to the whole world.”[993]

 “No greater disgrace befell the Reformation in the 16th century.”[994]

 From that time Melanchthon was a broken man. His friend Languet wrote
 to Calvin, “Mr. Philip is so worn out with old age, toils, calumnies
 and intrigues that nothing is left of his former cheerfulness.”[995]

 Melanchthon characterised the Book of Confutation published by
 the Duke of Saxony in 1558, and finally revised by Flacius, as a
 “congeries of sophisms” which he had perused with great pain, and
 as “venomous sophistry.” He therefore once more begged for his

 His longing for death as a happy release from such bitter affliction
 we find expressed in many of his letters. To Sigismund Gelous of
 Eperies in Hungary he wrote, on May 20, 1559, that he was not averse
 to departing this life owing to the attacks on his person, and in
 order that he might behold “the light of the Heavenly Academy” and
 become partaker of its wisdom.[997] He looked forward, so he writes
 to another, to that light “where God is all in all and where there
 is no more sophistry or calumny.”[998] Only a few days before his
 death he solaced himself by drawing up some notes entitled: “Reasons
 why you should fear death less.” On the left of the sheet he wrote:
 “You will escape from sin, and will be delivered from all trouble
 and the fury of the theologians (‘_liberaberis ab ærumnis et a rabie
 theologorum_’)”; and, on the right: “You will attain to the light, you
 will behold God, you will look on the Son of God, you will see into
 those wonderful mysteries which you have been unable to comprehend
 in this life, such as why we are created as we are, and how the two
 natures are united in Christ.”[999] He finally departed this life on
 April 19, 1560, from the results of a severe cold.

_Review of Melanchthon’s Religious Position as a whole_

Melanchthon’s last work was a “strong protest against Catholicism,”
which at the same time embodied an abstract of his whole doctrine—such
as it had become during the later years of his life. This work he calls
his “Confession”; it is professedly aimed at the “godless Articles of
the Bavarian Inquisition,” i.e. was intended to counteract the efforts
of Duke Albert of Bavaria to preserve his country from the inroads of

 In this “Confession,” dating from the evening of his days, the
 “so-peaceful” Melanchthon bluntly describes the Pope and all his
 train (_satellites_) as “defenders of idols”; according to him they
 “withstand the known truth, and cruelly rage against the pious.”[1001]
 This book, with its superficial humanistic theology, justifies,
 like so many of his earlier works, the opinion of learned Catholic
 contemporaries who regretted that the word of a scholar devoid of any
 sound theological training should exercise so much influence over the
 most far-reaching religious questions of the day.

 Writing to Cardinal Sadoleto, Johann Fabri, Bishop of Vienna, says,
 “Would that Melanchthon had pursued his studies on the lines indicated
 by his teacher Capnion [Reuchlin]! Would that he had but remained
 content with the rhetoric and grammar of the ancients instead of
 allowing his youthful ardour to carry him away, to turn the true
 religion into a tragedy! But alas ... when barely eighteen years
 of age he began to teach the simple, and, by his soft speeches, he
 has disturbed the whole Church beyond measure. And even after so
 many years he is still unable to see his error or to desist from
 the doctrines once imbibed and from furthering such lamentable
 disorders.”[1002] To this letter Fabri appended excerpts from various
 writings of Melanchthon’s as “specimens of what his godless pen had
 produced against the truth and the peace of the Church.”

 Others, for instance Eck and Cochlæus, in their descriptions of
 Melanchthon dwell on the traits that displeased them in their personal
 intercourse with him.

 Johann Eck compares the way in which Melanchthon twice outwitted
 Cardinal Campeggio to the false arts of Sinon the Greek, known to us
 from Virgil’s account of the introduction of the wooden horse into
 Troy.[1003] Johann Cochlæus, who had met him at Augsburg, calls him
 the “fox,” and once warns a friend: “Take care lest he cheat you with
 his deceitful cunning, for, like the Sirens, he gains a hearing by
 sweet and honeyed words; he makes a hypocritical use of lying; he is
 ever planning how he may win men’s hearts by all manner of wiles, and
 seduces them with dishonest words.”[1004] About the same time in a
 printed reply to Melanchthon’s “Apologia,” he drew an alarming picture
 of the latter’s trickery at the Diet of Augsburg. By worming himself
 into the confidence of the Princes and great men present, Melanchthon
 learned, so he says, things that were little to the credit of the
 Catholic Church; these he afterwards retailed to Luther, who at once,
 after duly embellishing them, flung the tales broadcast amongst the
 people by means of the press. Melanchthon made not the slightest
 attempt to correct his statements, as he was in duty bound to do,
 and his honeyed words merely fed the flames.[1005] “Most people,” he
 writes elsewhere, “if not all, have hitherto supposed Melanchthon to
 be much milder and more moderate than Luther”; such persons should,
 however, study his writings carefully, and then they would soon see
 how unspeakably bitter was his feeling against Catholics.[1006]

 The latter assertion is only too fully confirmed by the extracts
 already put before the reader, particularly by those from his
 Schmalkalden tract on the Pope, from his Introduction to the new
 edition of Luther’s “Warnunge” and from the “Confession” just alluded
 to.[1007] Here there glows such deep hatred of the faith and practices
 of the Catholic Church that one seeks in vain for the common ground on
 which his professed love for union could thrive.

 His conciliatory proposals were, however, in fact nothing more than
 the vague and barren cravings of a Humanist.

In connection with this a characteristic, already pointed out, which
runs through the whole of Melanchthon’s religious attitude and strongly
differentiates him from Luther, merits being emphasised anew. This is
the shallow, numbing spirit which penetrates alike his theology and
his philosophy, and the humanistic tendency to reduce everything to
uniformity. That, in his theological vocabulary he is fond of using
classical terms (speaking, for instance, of the heavenly “Academy”
where we attend the “school” of the Apostles and Prophets)[1008] is a
detail; he goes much further and makes suspiciously free with the whole
contents of the faith, whether for the sake of reducing it to system,
or for convenience, or in order to promote peace.[1009] It would have
fared ill with Melanchthon had he applied to himself in earnest what
Luther said of those who want to be wiser than God, who follow their
crazy reason and seek to bring about an understanding between Christ
and ... the devil. But Melanchthon’s character was pliant enough not
to be unduly hurt by such words of Luther’s. He was able, on the one
hand, to regard Bucer and the Swiss as his close allies on the question
of the Supper and, on the other, while all the time sticking fast to
Luther, he could declare that on the whole he entirely agreed with the
religious views of Erasmus, the very “antipodes of Luther.” It was only
his lack of any real religious depth which enabled him so to act. In
a sketch of Erasmus which he composed for one of his pupils in 1557,
he even makes the former, in spite of all his hostility to Luther, to
share much the same way of thinking, a fact which draws from Kawerau
the complaint: “So easy was it for Melanchthon to close his eyes to the
doctrinal differences which existed even amongst the ‘_docti_.’”[1010]

A similar lack of any just and clear appreciation of the great truths
of the faith is also apparent in Melanchthon’s letters to Erasmus, more
particularly in the later ones. Here personal friendship and Humanist
fellow-feeling vie with each other in explaining away in the most
startling manner the religious differences.[1011] Many elements of
theology were dissolved by Melanchthon’s subjective method of exegesis
and by the system of philosophy he had built up from the classical
authors, particularly from Cicero. Melanchthon’s philosophy was quite
unfitted to throw light on the doctrines of revelation. To him the two
domains, of philosophy and theology, seemed, not only independent, but
actually hostile to each other, a state of things absolutely unknown to
the Middle Ages. If, as Melanchthon avers, reason is unable to prove
the existence of God on philosophical grounds, then, by this very fact,
the science of the supernatural loses every stay, nor is it possible
any longer to defend revelation against unbelief.

It is the merest makeshift, when, like other of his Humanist
contemporaries, Melanchthon seeks to base our knowledge of God’s
existence on feeling and on a vague inward experience.[1012]

Thus we can quite understand how old-fashioned Protestantism, after
having paid but little attention to Melanchthon either in the days
of orthodox Lutheranism or of Pietism, began to have recourse to
him with the advent of Rationalism. The orthodox had missed in him
Luther’s sparkling “strength of faith” and the courageous resolve to
twit the “devil” within and without; the Pietists failed to discern
in him the mysticism they extolled in Luther. Rationalists, on the
other hand, found in him many kindred elements. Even of quite recent
years Melanchthon has been hailed as the type of the easy-going
theologian who seeks to bridge the chasm between believing and infidel
Protestantism; at any rate, Melanchthon’s positive belief was far more
extensive than that of many of his would-be imitators.

_Melanchthon Legends_

The tale once current that, at the last, Melanchthon was a Lutheran
only in name, is to-day rejected by all scholars, Protestant and

Concerning the “honesty of his Protestantism” “no doubts” are raised
by Protestant theologians, who call his teaching a “modification and
a toning down” of that of Luther; nor can we conclude that “he was at
all shaky in his convictions,” even should the remarkable utterance
about to be cited really emanate from him.[1013] A Catholic historian
of the highest standing agrees in saying of him: “Even though Luther’s
teaching may not have completely satisfied Melanchthon, yet there is
no reason to doubt, that, on the whole, he was heart and soul on the
side of the innovations.... We may now and then come upon actions on
his part which arouse a suspicion as to his straightforwardness, but on
the whole his convictions cannot be questioned.”[1014]

 In Catholic literature, nevertheless, even down to the present day,
 we often find Melanchthon quoted as having said to his mother,
 speaking of the relative value of the old and the new religion: “_Hæc
 plausibilior, illa securior_; Lutheranism is the more popular, but
 Catholicism is the safer.”[1015]

 This story concerning Melanchthon assumed various forms as time went
 on. We must dismiss the version circulated by Florimond de Raemond
 in 1605, to the effect that the words had been spoken by Melanchthon
 on his death-bed to his mother who had remained a Catholic, when the
 latter adjured him to tell her the truth;[1016] his mother, as a
 matter of fact, died at her home at Bretten in the Lower Palatinate
 long before her son, in 1529, slightly before July 24, being then in
 her fifty-third year.[1017]

 Nor is there much to be said in favour of another version of the
 above story which has it that Melanchthon’s mother, after having been
 persuaded by him to come over, visited him in great distress of mind,
 and received from him the above reply.

 Melanchthon called on her at Bretten in May, 1524, during his stay in
 his native place, and _may_ have done so again in 1529 in the spring,
 when attending the Diet of Spires. A passage in his correspondence
 construed as referring to this visit is by no means clear,[1018]
 though the illness and death of his mother would seem to make such a
 flying visit likely. On a third occasion Melanchthon went to Bretten
 in the autumn of 1536.

 We shall first see what Protestant writers have to say of the supposed
 conversation with the mother.

 K. Ed. Förstemann, who, in 1830,[1019] dealt with the family records
 of the Schwarzerd family, says briefly of the matter: “Strobel was
 wrong in declaring this story to be utterly devoid of historical
 foundation.”[1020] C. G. Strobel, in his “_Melanchthoniana_” (1771),
 had expressed his disbelief in the tale under the then widespread
 form, according to which Melanchthon had spoken the words, when
 visiting his dying mother in 1529; he had been much shocked to hear it
 told in rhetorical style by M. A. J. Bose of Wittenberg in a panegyric
 on Melanchthon. Bose, whose leanings were towards the Broad School,
 had cited the story approvingly as an instance of Melanchthon’s
 large-mindedness in religion.[1021] Against the account Strobel
 alleges several _a priori_ objections of no great value; his best
 argument really was that there was no authority for it.

 Förstemann’s brief allusion was not without effect on the authors
 of the article on Melanchthon in the “Realenzyklopädie für
 protestantische Theologie”; there we read: “The tale is at least not
 unlikely, though it cannot be proved with certainty”;[1022] even G.
 Ellinger, the latest of Melanchthon’s biographers, declares: “We may
 assume that Melanchthon treated the religious views of his mother, who
 continued till the end of her life faithful to the olden Church, with
 the same tender solicitude as he displayed towards her in the later
 conversation in 1529.”[1023]

 It is first of all necessary to settle whether the conversation
 actually rests on reliable authority. Förstemann, like Strobel,
 mentions only Melchior Adam († 1622), whose “_Vitæ theologorum_” was
 first published in 1615 (see next page).

 Adam, a Protestant writer, gives no authority for his statement.
 Ægidius Albertinus, a popular Catholic author, writing slightly
 earlier, also gives the story in his “Rekreation” (see next page),
 published in 1612 and 1613, likewise without indicating its source.

 Earlier than either we have Florimond de Raemond, whose “Histoire,”
 etc. (above, p. 270, n. 3) contains the story even in the 1605
 edition; he too gives no authority. So far no earlier mention of the
 story is known. It seems to have been a current tale in Catholic
 circles abroad and may have been printed. Strange to say the work of
 the zealous Catholic convert and polemic, de Raemond (completed and
 seen through the press by his son), contains the story under the least
 likely shape, the dying Melanchthon being made to address the words to
 his mother, who really had died long before.

 It is quite likely that Ægidius Albertinus, the well-read priestly
 secretary to the Munich Council, who busied himself much with
 Italian, Spanish and Latin literature, was acquainted with this
 passage. He nevertheless altered the narrative, relating how
 Melanchthon’s “aged mother came to him” after he had “lived long in
 the world and seen many things, and caused many scandals by his life.”
 He translates as follows the Latin words supposed to have been uttered
 by Melanchthon: “The new religion is much pleasanter, but the old one
 is much safer.”[1024]

 Next comes the Protestant Adam. The latter gives a plausible
 historical setting to the story by locating it during the time of
 Melanchthon’s stay at Spires, though without mentioning that the
 mother was then at death’s door. “When asked by her,” so runs his
 account, which is the commonest one, “what she was to believe of the
 controversies, he listened to the prayers [she was in the habit of
 reciting] and, finding nothing superstitious in them, told her to
 continue to believe and to pray as heretofore and not be disturbed
 by the discussions and controversies.”[1025] Here we do not meet the
 sentence _Hæc plausibilior, illa securior_. The fact that Adam, who
 as a rule is careful to give his authorities, omits to do so here,
 points to the story having been verbally transmitted; for it is hardly
 likely that he, as a Protestant, would have taken over the statements
 of the two Catholic authorities Albertinus and Raemond, which were
 so favourable to Catholicism and so unfavourable to Protestantism.
 Probably, besides the Catholic version there was also a Protestant
 one, which would explain here the absence of the sentence ending with
 “_securior_.” Both may have risen at the time of the Diet of Spires,
 where Catholics and Protestants alike attended, supposing that the
 visit to Bretten took place at that time.

 All things considered we may well accept the statement of the
 “Realenzyklopädie,” that the story, as given by Adam, apart from the
 time it occurred, is “not unlikely, though it cannot be proved with
 certainty.” Taking into account the circumstances and the character
 of Melanchthon, neither the incident nor his words involve any
 improbability. He will have seen that his beloved mother—whether then
 at the point of death or not—was in perfect good faith; he had no
 wish to plunge her into inward struggles and disquiet and preferred to
 leave her happy in her convictions; the more so since, in her presence
 and amid the recollections of the past, his mind will probably have
 travelled to the days of his youth, when he was still a faithful son
 of the Church. He had never forgotten the exhortation given by his
 father, nine days before his death, to his family “never to quit the
 Church’s fold.”[1026] The exact date of the incident (1524 or 1529)
 must however remain doubtful. N. Müller in his work on Melanchthon’s
 brother, Jakob Schwarzerd, says rightly: “Nothing obliges us to place
 the conversation between Melanchthon and his mother—assuming it to
 be historical—in 1529, for it may equally well have taken place in

Two unsupported stories connected with Melanchthon’s Augsburg
Confession must also be mentioned here. The twofold statement,
frequently repeated down to the present day, takes the following shape
in a recent historical work by a Protestant theologian: “When the
Confession was read out, the Bishop of Augsburg, Christoph von Stadion,
declared, ‘What has just been read here is the pure, unvarnished
truth’; Eck too had to admit to the Duke of Bavaria, that he might
indeed be able to refute this work from the Fathers of the Church,
but certainly not from Scripture.” So convincing and triumphant was
Melanchthon’s attitude at the Diet of Augsburg.

 The information concerning Stadion is found only in the late,
 Protestant history of the Diet of Augsburg written by George
 Cœlestinus and published in 1577 at Frankfurt; here moreover the
 story differs slightly, relating, that, during the negotiations
 on the Confession on Aug. 6, Stadion declared: “It was plain that
 those who inclined to the Lutheran views had, so far, not infringed
 or overthrown a single article of the faith by what they had put
 forward in defence of their views.”[1028] Any decisive advocacy of
 the Catholic cause was of course not to be expected from this bishop,
 in view of his general bearing. A good pupil of Erasmus, he had made
 the latter’s reforming ideas his own. He was in favour of priestly
 marriage, and was inclined to think that Christ had not instituted
 auricular confession. There is, however, no proof that he went so
 far in the direction of the innovations as actually to approve the
 Lutheran teaching. It is true that the words quoted, even if really
 his, do not assert this; it was one thing to say that no article of
 the faith had been infringed by the Confession or by what had been
 urged in vindication of Lutheranism, and quite another to say that the
 Confession was nothing but the pure, unvarnished truth. At any rate,
 in the one form this statement of Stadion’s is not vouched for by any
 other authority before Cœlestinus and, in the other, lacks any proof
 whatever. F. W. Schirrmacher, who relates the incident in his “Briefen
 und Akten zur Geschichte des Reichstags zu Augsburg” on the authority
 of Cœlestinus, admits that “its source is unknown.”[1029] Moreover
 an historian, who some years ago examined into Stadion’s attitude at
 Augsburg, pointed out, that, in view of the further circumstances
 related by Cœlestinus, the story “sounds a little fabulous.”[1030] He
 tells us how on the same occasion the bishops of Salzburg and Augsburg
 fell foul of one another, the former, in his anger at Stadion’s
 behaviour, even going so far as to charge the latter before the whole
 assembly with immorality in his private life. All this, told at great
 length and without mention of any authority, far from impressing us
 as historically accurate, appears at best as an exaggerated hearsay
 account of some incident of which the truth is no longer known.

 As for what Johann Eck is stated to have said, viz. that he could
 refute Melanchthon’s Confession from the Fathers but not from the
 Bible, no proof whatever of the statement is forthcoming. The oldest
 mention of it merely retails a piece of vague gossip, which may
 well have gone the rounds in Lutheran circles. It is met with in
 Spalatin’s Notes and runs: “_It is said_” that Eck, referring to
 the whole doctrine of Melanchthon and Luther, told Duke William: “I
 would not mind undertaking to refute it from the Fathers, but not
 from Scripture.”[1031] It is true these notes go back as far as the
 Diet of Augsburg, but they notoriously contain much that is false or
 uncertain, and often record mere unauthenticated rumours. Neither
 Melanchthon nor Luther ever dared to appeal to such an admission on
 the part of their opponent, though it would certainly have been of the
 utmost advantage to them to have done so.

 Not only is no proof alleged in support of the saying, but it is in
 utter contradiction with Eck’s whole mode of procedure, which was
 always to attack the statements of his opponents, first with Scripture
 and then with the tradition of the Fathers. This is the case with the
 “_Confutatio confessionis_,” etc., aimed at Melanchthon’s Confession,
 in the preparation of which Eck had the largest share and which he
 presented at the Diet of Augsburg.

 According to his own striking account of what happened at the
 religious conference of Ratisbon in 1541, it was to his habitual and
 triumphant use of biblical arguments against Melanchthon’s theses that
 Eck appealed in the words he addressed to Bucer his chief opponent:
 “Hearken, you apostate, does not Eck use the language of the Bible and
 the Fathers? Why don’t you reply to his writings on the primacy of
 Peter, on penance, on the Sacrifice of the Mass, and on Purgatory?”

 What also weighs strongly against the tale is the fact that a charge
 of a quite similar nature had been brought against Eck ten years
 before the Diet of Augsburg by an opponent, who assailed him with
 false and malicious accusations. What Protestant fable came wantonly
 to connect with Melanchthon’s “Confession” had already, in 1520, been
 charged against the Ingolstadt theologian by the author of “_Eccius
 dedolatus_.” There he is told, that, in his view, one had perforce
 (on account of the Bible) to agree with Luther secretly, though,
 publicly, he had to be opposed.[1033]

 Theodore Wiedemann, who wrote a Life of Eck and who at least hints at
 the objection just made, was justified in concluding with the query:
 “Is it not high time to say good-bye to this historic lie?”[1034]
 When, as late as 1906, the story was once more burnished up by a
 writer of note, N. Paulus, writing in the “Historisches Jahrbuch,”
 could well say: “Eck’s alleged utterance was long ago proved to be
 quite unhistorical.”[1035]

4. Demonology and Demonomania

“Come O Lord Jesus, Amen! The breath of Thy mouth dismays the
diabolical gainsayer.” “Satan’s hate is all too Satanic.”[1036]

Oh, that the devil’s gaping jaws were crushed by the blessed seed of
the woman![1037] How little is left for God.[1038] “The remainder
is swallowed by Satan who is the Prince of this world, surely an
inscrutable decree of Eternal Wisdom.”[1039] “Prodigies everywhere
daily manifest the power of the devil!”[1040]

Against such a devil’s world, as Luther descried, what can help save
the approaching “end of all”?

“The kingdom of God is being laid waste by Turk and Jew and Pope,”
the chosen tools of Satan; but “greater is He Who reigns in us
than he who rules the world; the devil shall be under Christ to
all eternity.”[1041] “The present rage of the devil only reveals
God’s future wrath against mankind, who are so ungrateful for the
Evangel.”[1042] “We cannot but live in this devil’s kingdom which
surrounds us”;[1043] “but even with our last breath we must fight
against the monsters of Satan.”[1044] Let the Papists, whose glory
is mere “devil’s filth,” rejoice in their successes.[1045] As little
heed is to be paid to them as to the preachers of the Evangel who
have gone astray in doctrine, like Agricola and Schwenckfeld; they
calmly “go their way to Satan to whom indeed they belong”;[1046]
“they are senseless fools, possessed of the devil.” The devil “spues
and ructates” his writings through them; this is the devil of heresy
against whom solemnly launch the malediction: “God’s curse be
upon thee, Satan! The spirit that summoned thee be with thee unto

Luther’s letters during his later years are crammed with things of this

The thought of the devil and his far-spread sphere of action, to which
Luther had long been addicted, assumes in his mind as time goes on a
more serious and gloomy shape, though he continues often enough to
refer to the Divine protection promised against the powers of darkness
and to the final victory of Christ.

In his wrong idea of the devil Luther was by no means without
precursors. On the contrary, in the Middle Ages exaggerations had long
prevailed on this subject, not only among the people but even among
the best-known writers; on the very eve of Luther’s coming forward
they formed no small part of the disorders in the ecclesiastical life
of the people. Had people been content with the sober teaching of Holy
Scripture and of the Church on the action of the devil, the faithful
would have been preserved from many errors. As it was, however, the
vivid imagination of laity and clergy led them to read much into the
revealed doctrine that was not really in it; witness, for instance,
the startling details they found in the words of St. Paul (Eph. vi.
12): “For our wrestling is not against flesh and blood: but against
principalities and powers, against the rulers of the world of this
darkness, against the spirits of wickedness in the high places.” Great
abuses had gradually crept into the use of the blessings and exorcisms
of the Church, more particularly in the case of supposed sorcery.
Unfortunately, too, the beliefs and practices common among the people
received much too ready support from persons of high standing in the
Church. The supposition, which in itself had the sanction of tradition,
that intercourse with the devil was possible, grew into the fantastic
persuasion that witches were lurking everywhere, and required to have
their malicious action checked by the authority of Church and State.
That unfortunate book, “The Witches’ Hammer,” which Institoris and
Sprenger published in 1487, made these delusions fashionable in circles
which so far had been but little affected by them, though the authors’
purpose, viz. to stamp out the witches, was not achieved.

It is clear that at home in Saxony, and in his own family, Luther had
lived in an atmosphere where the belief in spirits and the harm wrought
by the devil was very strong; miners are credited with being partial
to such gloomy fancies owing to the nature of their dangerous work in
the mysterious bowels of the earth. As a young monk he had fancied he
heard the devil creating an uproar nightly in the convent, and the
state of excitement in which he lived and which accompanied him ever
afterwards was but little calculated to free him from the prejudices
of the age concerning the devil’s power. His earlier sermons, for
instance those to be mentioned below on the Ten Commandments, contain
much that is frankly superstitious, though this must be set down in
great part to the beliefs already in vogue and above which he failed
to rise. Had Luther really wished to play the part of a reformer of
the ecclesiastical life of his day, he would have found here a wide
field for useful labour. In point of fact, however, he only made bad
worse. His lively descriptions and the weight of his authority merely
served to strengthen the current delusions among those who looked to
him. Before him no one had ever presented these things to the people
with such attractive wealth of detail, no one had brought the weight of
his personality so strongly to bear upon his readers and so urgently
preached to them on how to deal with the spirits of evil.

Among non-Catholics it has been too usual to lay the whole blame on
the Middle Ages and the later Catholic period. They do not realise how
greatly Luther’s influence counted in the demonology and demonomania
of the ensuing years. Yet Luther’s views and practice show plainly
enough, that it was not merely the Catholic ages before his day that
were dishonoured with such delusions concerning the devil, and that it
was not the Catholics alone, of his time and the following decades, who
were responsible for the devil-craze and the bloody persecutions of the
witches in those dark days of German history in the 17th century.[1048]

_The Mischief Wrought by the Devil_

Luther’s views agree in so far with the actual teaching of the olden
Church, that he regards the devils as fallen angels condemned to
eternal reprobation, who oppose the aims of God for the salvation of
the world and the spiritual and temporal welfare of mankind. “The devil
undoes the works of God,” so he says, adding, however, in striking
consonance with the teaching of the Church and to emphasise the devil’s
powerlessness, “but Christ undoes the devil’s works; He, the seed [of
the woman] and the serpent are ever at daggers drawn.”[1049] But Luther
goes further, and depicts in glaring and extravagant colours the harm
which the devil can bring about. He declares he himself had had a taste
of how wrathful and mighty a foe the devil is; this he had learned
in the inward warfare he was compelled to wage against Satan. He was
convinced that, at the Wartburg, and also later, he had repeatedly to
witness the sinister manifestations of the Evil One’s malignant power.

Hence in his Church-postils, home-postils and Catechism, to mention
only these, he gives full vent to his opinions on the hostility and
might of Satan.

 In the Larger Catechism of 1529,[1050] “when enumerating the evils
 caused by the devil,” he tells of how he “breaks many a man’s neck,
 drives others out of their mind or drowns them in the water”;[1051]
 how he “stirs up strife and brings murder, sedition and war, _item_
 causes hail and tempests, destroying the corn and the cattle, and
 poisoning the air,” etc.;[1052] among those who break the first
 commandment are all “who make a compact with the devil that he may
 give them enough money, help them in their love-affairs, preserve
 their cattle, bring back lost property, etc., likewise all sorcerers
 and magicians.”[1053]

 In his home-postils he practically makes it one of the chief dogmas
 of the faith, that all temporal misfortune hails from the devil; “the
 heathen” alone know this not; “but do you learn to say: This is the
 work of the hateful devil.” “The devil’s bow is always bent and his
 musket always primed, and we are his target; at us he aims, smiting
 us with pestilence, ‘Franzosen’ [venereal disease], war, fire, hail
 and cloudburst.” “It is also certain that wherever we be there too is
 a great crowd of demons who lie in wait for us, would gladly affright
 us, do us harm, and, were it possible, fall upon us with sword and
 long spear. Against these are pitted the holy angels who stand up in
 our defence.”[1054]

 The devil, so he teaches in his Church-postils, a new edition of which
 he brought out in 1543 towards the end of his life, could either
 of himself or by the agency of others “raise storms, shoot people,
 lame and wither limbs, harrow children in the cradle, bewitch men’s
 members, etc.”[1055] Thanks to him, “those who ply the magic art are
 able to give to things a shape other than their own, so that what in
 reality is a man looks like an ox or a cow; they can make people to
 fall in love, or to bawd, and do many other devilish deeds.”[1056]

 How accustomed he was to enlarge on this favourite subject in his
 addresses to the people is plain from a sermon delivered at the Coburg
 in 1530, which he sent to the press the following year: “The devil
 sends plagues, famines, worry and war, murder, etc. Whose fault is it
 that one man breaks a leg, another is drowned, and a third commits
 murder? Surely the devil’s alone. This we see with our own eyes and
 touch with our hands.” “The Christian ought to know that he sits in
 the midst of demons and that the devil is closer to him than his coat
 or his shirt, nay, even than his skin, that he is all around us and
 that we must ever be at grips with him and fighting him.” In these
 words there is already an echo of his fancied personal experiences,
 particularly of his inward struggles at the time of the dreaded
 Diet of Augsburg, to which he actually alludes in this sermon; the
 subjective element comes out still more strongly when he proceeds in
 his half-jesting way: “The devil is more at home in Holy Scripture
 than Paris, Cologne and all the godless make-believes, however learned
 they may be. Whoever attempts to dispute with him will assuredly be
 pitched on the ash heap, and when it comes to a trial of strength,
 there too he wins the day; in one hour he could do to death all the
 Turks, Emperors, Kings and Princes.”[1057] “Children should be taught
 at an early age to fear the dangers arising from the devil; they
 should be told: ‘Darling, don’t swear, etc.; the devil is close beside
 you, and if you do he may throw you into the water or bring down
 some other misfortune upon you.’”[1058] It is true that he also says
 children must be taught that, by God’s command, their guardian angel
 is ever ready to assist them against the devil; “God wills that he
 shall watch over you so that when the devil tries to cast you into the
 water or to affright you in your sleep, he may prevent him.” Still one
 may fairly question the educational value of such a fear of the devil.
 Taking into account the pliant character of most children and their
 susceptibility to fear, Luther was hardly justified in expecting that:
 “If children are treated in this way from their youth they will grow
 up into fine men and women.”

 According to an odd-sounding utterance of Luther’s, every bishop who
 attended the Diet of Augsburg brought as many devils to oppose him “as
 a dog has fleas on its back on Midsummer Day.”[1059] Had the devil
 succeeded in his attempt there, “the next thing would have been that
 he would have committed murder,”[1060] but the angels dispatched by
 God had shielded him and the Evangel.

 When a fire devastated that part of Wittenberg which lay beyond the
 Castle gate, Luther was quite overwhelmed; watching the conflagration
 he assured the people that, “it was the devil’s work.” With his eyes
 full of tears he besought them to “quench it with the help of God and
 His holy angels.” A little later he exhorted the people in a sermon to
 withstand by prayer the work of the devil manifested in such fires.
 One of his pupils, Sebastian Fröschel, recalled the incident in a
 sermon on the feast of St. Michael. After the example and words of
 the “late Dr. Martin,” he declares, “the devil’s breath is so hot and
 poisonous that it can even infect the air and set it on fire, so that
 cities, land and people are poisoned and inflamed, for instance by the
 plague and other even more virulent diseases.... The devil is in and
 behind the flame which he fans to make it spread,” etc.[1061] This
 tallies with what Luther, when on a journey, wrote in later years to
 Catherine Bora of the fires which were occurring: “The devil himself
 has come forth possessed with new and worse demons; he causes fires
 and does damage that is dreadful to behold.” The writer instances the
 forest fires then raging (in July) in Thuringia and at Werda, and
 concludes: “Tell them to pray against the troublesome Satan who is
 seeking us out.”[1062]

 Madness, in Luther’s view, is in every case due to the devil; “what
 is outside reason is simply Satanic.”[1063] In a long letter to his
 friend Link, in 1528, dealing with a case raised, he proves that
 mad people must be regarded “as teased or possessed by the devil.”
 “Medical men who are unversed in theology know not how great is
 the strength and power of the devil”; but, against their natural
 explanations, we can set, first, Holy Scripture (Luke xiii. 16; Acts
 x. 38); secondly, experience, which proves that the devil causes
 deafness, dumbness, lameness and fever; thirdly, the fact that he can
 even “fill men’s minds with thoughts of adultery, murder, robbery and
 all other evil lusts”; all the more easily then was he able to confuse
 the mental powers.[1064] In the case of those possessed, the devil,
 according to Luther, either usurps the place of the soul, or lives
 side by side with it, ruling such unhappy people as the soul does the

 Thus it is the devil alone who is at work in those who commit suicide,
 for the death a man fancies he inflicts on himself is nothing but the
 “devil’s work”;[1066] the devil simply hoodwinks him and others who
 see him. To Frederick Myconius he wrote, in 1544: “It is my habit to
 esteem such a one as killed ‘_simpliciter et immediate_’ by the devil,
 just as a traveller might be by highwaymen.... I think we must stick
 to the belief that the devil deceives such a man and makes him fancy
 that he is doing something quite different, for instance praying, or
 something of the sort.”[1067] In the same sense he wrote to Anton
 Lauterbach, in 1542, when the latter informed him of three men who
 had hanged themselves: “Satan, with God’s leave, perpetrates such
 abominations in the midst of our congregation.... He is the prince
 of this world who in mockery deludes us into fancying that those men
 hanged themselves, whereas it was he who killed them. By the images he
 brought before their mind, he made them think that they were killing
 themselves”—a statement at variance with the one last given.[1068]
 Whereas in this letter he suggests that the people should be told of
 such cases from the pulpit so that they may not despise the “devil’s
 power from a mistaken sense of security,” previously, in conversation
 he had declared, that it ought not to be admitted publicly that such
 persons could not be damned not having been masters of themselves:
 “They do not commit this wilfully, but are impelled to it by the
 devil.... But the people must not be told this.”[1069] Speaking of a
 woman who was sorely tempted and worried, he said to his friends, in
 1543: “Even should she hang herself or drown herself through it, it
 can do her no harm; it is just as though it all happened in a dream.”
 The source of this woman’s distress was her low spirits and religious

_On all that the Devil is able to do_

Many, in Luther’s opinion, had been snatched off alive by the devil,
particularly when they had made a compact or had dealings with him, or
had given themselves up to him.

 For instance, he had carried off Pfeifer of Mühlberg, not far from
 Erfurt, and also another man of the same name at Eisenach; indeed,
 the devil had fetched the latter away in spite of his being watched
 by the preacher Justus Menius and “many of his clergymen,” and though
 “doors and windows had been shut so as to prevent his being carried
 away”; the devil, however, broke away some tiles “round the stove” and
 thus got in; finally he slew his victim “not far from the town in a
 hazel thicket.”[1071] Needless to say it is a great crime to bargain
 with the devil.[1072] This Dr. Eck had done and likewise the Elector
 Joachim I of Brandenburg († 1535), who wanted to live another fifteen
 years; this, however, the devil did not allow.[1073] Amsdorf too was
 dragged into the diabolical affair; one night at an inn two dead men
 appeared to him, thanks to some “Satanic art,” and compelled him to
 draw up a document in writing and hand it over to Joachim. Two spirits
 assisted on the occasion, bearing candles.[1074]

 During battles the devil is able to carry men off more easily, but
 then the angels also kill by Divine command, as the Old Testament
 bears witness, for there “one angel could cause the death of many
 persons.”[1075] In war the devil is at work and makes use of the
 newest weapons “which indeed are Satan’s own invention,” for these
 cannon “send men flying into the air” and that “is the end of
 all man’s strength.”[1076] It is also the devil who guides the
 sleep-walkers “so that they do everything as though wide awake,” “but
 still there is something wanting and some defect apparent.”[1077]

 Elsewhere too Luther discerns the work of the devil; for instance,
 when Satan sends a number of strange caterpillars into his
 garden,[1078] pilfers things, hampers the cattle and damages the
 stalls[1079] and interferes with the preparation of the cheese and
 milk.[1080] “Every tree has its lurking demon.[1081] You can see how,
 to your damage, Satan knocks down walls and palings that already
 totter;[1082] he also throws you down the stairs so as to make a
 cripple of you.”[1083]

 In cases of illness it is the devil who enables the Jews to be so
 successful in effecting cures, more particularly in the case of the
 “great and those of high standing”;[1084] on the other hand he is
 also able maliciously to hinder the good effect of any medicine, as
 Luther himself had experienced when he lay sick in 1537. He can alter
 every medicine or medicament in the boxes, so that what has served its
 purpose well once or twice no longer works at all; “so powerful is
 the devil.”[1085] Luther, as his pupils bear witness, had frequently
 maintained that many of his bodily ailments were inflicted on him
 solely by the devil’s hatred.

 Satan is a great foe of marriage and the blessing of children.
 “This is why you find he has so many malicious tricks and ways of
 frightening women who are with child, and causes such misfortune,
 cunning, murder, etc.”[1086] “Satan bitterly hates matrimony,” he
 says in 1537,[1087] and, in 1540, “he has great power in matrimonial
 affairs, for unless God were to stand by us how could the children
 grow up?”[1088] In matrimonial disputes “the devil shows his finger”;
 the Pope gets along easily, “he simply dissolves all marriages”; but
 we, “on account of the contentions instigated by the devil,” must have
 “people who can give advice.”[1089]

 Not him alone but many others had the devil affrighted by the “noisy
 spirits.”[1090] These noisy spirits were, however, far more numerous
 before the coming of the Evangel. They were looked upon, quite
 wrongly, as the souls of the dead, and Masses and prayers were said
 and good works done to lay them to rest;[1091] but now “you know
 very well who causes this; you know it is the devil; he must not be
 exorcised[1092], we must despise him and waken our holy faith against
 him;[1093] we must be willing to abide the ‘spooks and spirits’ calmly
 and with faith if God permits them to ‘exercise their wantonness on
 us’ and ‘to affright us.’”[1094] Nevertheless, as he adds with much
 truth, “we must not be too ready to give credence to everyone, for
 many people are given to inventing such things.”[1095]

 At the present time the noisy spirits are not so noticeable;
 “among us they have thinned”;[1096] the chief reason is, that the
 devils now prefer the company of the heretics, anabaptists and
 fanatics;[1097] for Satan “enters into men, for instance into the
 heretics and fanatics, into Münzer and his ilk, also into the
 usurers and others”;[1098] “the fanatic spirits are greatly on the
 increase.”[1099] The false teachers prove by their devilish speech how
 greatly the devil, “clever and dangerous trickster that he is,” “can
 deceive the hearts and consciences of men and hold them captive in his
 craze.” “What is nothing but lies, idle error and gruesome darkness,
 that they take to be the pure, unvarnished truth!”[1100]

 If the devil can thus deceive men’s minds, surely it is far easier
 for him to bewitch their bodily senses. “He can hoax and cheat all
 the senses,”[1101] so that a man thinks he sees something that he
 can’t see, or hears what isn’t, for instance, “thunder, pipes or
 bugle-calls.” Luther fancies he finds an allusion to something of the
 sort in the words of Paul to the Galatians iii. 1: “Who hath bewitched
 you before whose eyes Jesus Christ hath been set forth [that you
 should not obey the truth]?”[1102] Children can be bewitched by the
 evil eye of one who is under a spell, and Jerome was wrong when he
 questioned whether the illness of children in a decline was really
 due to the evil eye.[1103] It is certain that “by his great power
 the devil is able to blind our eyes and our souls,” as he did in the
 case of the woman who thought she was wearing a crown, whereas it was
 simply “cow dung.”[1104] He tells how, in Thuringia, eight hares were
 trapped, which, during the night, were changed into horses’ heads,
 such as we find lying on the carrion heap.[1105] Had not St. Macarius
 by his prayers dispelled the Satanic delusion by which a girl had
 been changed into a cow in the presence of many persons, including
 her own parents? The distressed parents brought their daughter in the
 semblance of a cow to Macarius “in order that she might recover her
 human shape,” and “the Lord did in point of fact dissolve the spell
 whereby men’s senses had been misled.” Luther several times relates
 this incident, both in conversation and in writing.[1106]

There is certainly no lack of marvellous tales of devils either in his
works or in his Table-Talk.[1107]

The toils of the sorcerer are everywhere. Magic may prove most
troublesome in married life, more particularly where true faith
is absent; for, as he told the people in a sermon on May 8, 1524,
“conjugal impotence is sometimes produced by the devil, by means of
the Black Art; in the case of [true] Christians, however, this cannot

_On the Abode of the Devil; his Shapes and Kinds_

It is worth while to glance at what Luther says of the dwelling-places
of the devil, the different shapes he is wont to assume, and the
various categories into which demons may be classed.

 First, as to his abode. In a sermon recently published, and dating
 from June 13, 1529, Luther says: “The devil inhabits the forests, the
 thickets, and the waters, and insinuates himself amongst us everywhere
 in order to destroy us; sleep he never does.” Preaching in the hot
 weather, he warns his hearers against the cool waters in which the
 devil lurks: “Be careful about bathing in the cold water.... Every
 year we hear of people being drowned [by the devil] through bathing in
 the Elbe.”[1109]

 In another sermon incorporated in the Church-postils he explains how
 in countries like ours, “which are well watered,” the devils are fond
 of infesting the waters and the swamps; they sometimes drown those who
 venture there to bathe or even to walk. _Item_, in some places Naiades
 are to be met with who entice the children to the water’s edge, drag
 them in and drown them: all these are devils.[1110] Such devils can
 commit fornication with the maidens, and “are able to beget children
 which are simply devils”;[1111] for the devil will often drag a girl
 into the water, get her with child and keep her by him until she has
 borne her baby; he then lays these children in other people’s cradles,
 removing the real children and carrying them off.[1112]

 Elsewhere the devils prefer “bare and desolate regions,” “woods and
 wildernesses.”[1113] “Some are to be found in the thick black clouds,
 these cause hailstorms, thunder and lightning, and poison the air, the
 pastures, etc.” Hence “_philosophi_” ought not to go on explaining
 these phenomena as though they were natural.[1114] Further, the devil
 has a favourite dwelling-place deep down in the earth, in the mines,
 where he “pesters and deceives people,” showing them for instance what
 appears to be “solid silver, whereas it is nothing of the kind.”[1115]
 “Satan hides himself in the apes and long-tailed monkeys,” who lie in
 wait for men and with whom it is wrong to play.[1116] That he inhabits
 these creatures, and also the parrots, is plain from their skill in
 imitating human beings.[1117]

 In some countries many more devils are to be found than in others.
 “There are many evil spirits in Prussia and also in Pilappen
 [Lapland].” In Switzerland the devils make a “frightful to-do” in the
 “Pilatus tarn not far from Lucerne”; in Saxony, “in the Poltersberg
 tarn,” things are almost as bad, for if a stone be thrown in, it
 arouses a “great tempest.”[1118] “Damp and stuffy places” are however
 the devils’ favourite resort.[1119] He was firmly convinced that in
 the moist and swampy districts of Saxony all the devils “that Christ
 drove out of the swine in Jerusalem and Judæa had congregated”;
 “so much thieving, sorcery and pilfering goes on that the Evil One
 must indeed be present in person.”[1120] The fact of so many devils
 inhabiting Saxony was perhaps the reason, so he adds quaintly enough,
 “why the Evangel had to be preached there, i.e. that they might be
 chased away.” It was for this reason, so he repeats, “that Christ came
 amongst the Wends [Prussians], the worst of all the nations, in order
 to destroy the work of Satan and to drive out the devils who there
 abide among the peasants and townspeople.”[1121] That he was disposed
 to believe that a number, by no means insignificant, of devils could
 assemble in one place is plain from several statements such as, that
 at the Wartburg he himself had been plagued by “a thousand devils,”
 that at Augsburg every bishop had brought as many devils with him to
 the Diet as a dog has fleas in hot weather, and, finally, that at
 Worms their number was probably not far short of the tiles on the

       *       *       *       *       *

 The forms the devil assumes when he appears to men are very varied; to
 this the accounts sufficiently bear witness.

 He appeared as a goat,[1122] and often as a dog;[1123] he tormented a
 sick woman in the shape of a calf from which Luther set her free—at
 least for one night.[1124] He is fond of changing himself into cats
 and other animals, foxes, hares, etc., “without, however, assuming
 greater powers than are possessed by such animals.”[1125] The
 semblance of the serpent is naturally very dear to the devil. To a
 sick girl at Wittenberg with whom Luther happened to be, he appeared
 under the form of Christ, but afterwards transformed himself into a
 serpent and bit the girl’s ear till the blood came.[1126] The devil
 comes as Christ or as a good angel, so as to be the better able to
 tempt people. He has been seen and heard under the guise of a hermit,
 of a holy monk, and even, so the tale runs, of a preacher; the latter
 had “preached so earnestly that the whole church was reduced to
 tears”; whereupon he showed himself as the devil; but “whether this
 story be true or not, I leave you to decide.”[1127] The form of a
 satyr suits him better, what we now call a hobgoblin; in this shape
 he “frequently appeared to the heathen in order to strengthen them in
 their idolatry.”[1128] A prettier make under which he appears is that
 of the “brownie”; it was in this guise that he was wont to sit on a
 clean corner of the hearthstone beside a maid who had strangled her
 baby.[1129] From the behaviour of the devils we may infer that, “so
 far they are not undergoing any punishment though they have already
 been sentenced, for were they being punished they would not play so
 many roguish tricks.”[1130]

       *       *       *       *       *

 Amongst the different kinds of devils he enumerates, using names which
 recall the humorous ones common in the old folk-lore of Germany, are
 not merely the stupid, the playful, the malicious and the murderous
 fiends, but also the more sightly ones,[1131] viz. the familiar and
 friendly demons; then again there are the childish little devils who
 allure to unchastity and so forth though not to unbelief or despair
 like the more dangerous ones.[1132] He is familiar with angelic,
 shining, white and holy devils, i.e. who pretend to be such, also
 with black devils and the “supreme majestic devil.” The majestic
 devil wants to be worshipped like God, and, in this, being “so
 quick-witted,” he actually succeeded in the ages before Luther’s day,
 for “the Pope worshipped him.”[1133] The devil repaid the Pope by
 bewitching the world in his favour; he brought him a large following
 and wrought much harm by means “of lies and magic,” doing on a vast
 scale what the “witches” do in a smaller way.[1134]

 There are further, as Luther jestingly explains, house-devils,
 Court-devils and church-devils; of these “the last are the
 worst.”[1135] “Boundless is the devils’ power,” he says elsewhere,
 “and countless their number; nor are they all childish little devils,
 but great national devils, devils of the sovereigns, devils of the
 Church, who, with their five thousand years’ experience, have grown
 very knowing ... in fact, far too cunning for us in these latter
 days.”[1136] “Satan knows his business and no one but Jesus Christ can
 cope with him.”[1137] Very dangerous indeed are the Court-devils, who
 “never rest,” but “busy themselves at Court, and work all the mischief
 in the councils of the kings and rulers, thwarting all that is good;
 for the devil has some fine rakehells at Court.”[1138] As for the
 noisy devils, they had troubled him even in his youth.[1139]

 The Papists have their own devils who work supposed miracles on
 their behalf, for the wonders which occur amongst them at the places
 of pilgrimage or elsewhere in answer to their prayers are not real
 miracles but devil’s make-believe. In fact, Satan frequently makes a
 person appear ill, and, then, by releasing him from the spell, cures
 him again.[1140]

The above ideas Luther had to a large extent borrowed from the past,
indeed we may say that the gist of his fancies concerning the devil
was but part of the great legacy of credulity, folk-lore and the
mistaken surmises of theologians handed down verbally and in writing
from the Middle Ages. Only an age-long accumulation of prejudice,
rife particularly among the Saxon people, can explain Luther’s rooted
attachment to such a congeries of wild fancies.

Assisted by the credulity of Melanchthon and other of his associates
Luther not only added to the number of such ideas, but, thanks to his
gift of vivid portraiture, made them far more strong and life-like
than before. Through his widely-read works he introduced them into
circles in which they were as yet scarcely known, and, in particular,
established them firmly in the Lutheran world for many an age to come.

_The Devil and the Witches_

“It is quite certain,” says Paulus in his recent critical study of the
history of witchcraft, “that Luther in his ideas on witchcraft was
swayed by mediæval opinion.” “In many directions the innovators in the
16th century shook off the yoke of the Middle Ages; why then did they
hold fast to the belief in witches? Why did Luther and many of his
followers even outstrip the Middle Ages in the stress they laid on the
work of the devil?”[1141]

 Paulus here touches upon a question which the Protestant historian,
 Walter Köhler, had already raised, viz.: “Is it possible to explain
 the Reformers’ attachment to the belief in witchcraft simply on the
 score that they received it from the Middle Ages? How did they treat
 mediæval tradition in other matters? Why then was their attitude
 different here?”[1142]

 G. Steinhausen, in his “Geschichte der deutschen Kultur,” writes: “No
 one ever insisted more strongly than Luther on his role [the devil’s];
 he was simply carried away by the idea.... Though in his words and the
 stories he tells of the devil he speaks the language of the populace,
 yet the way in which he weaves diabolical combats and temptations into
 man’s whole life is both new and unfortunate. Every misfortune, war
 and tempest, every sickness, plague, crime and deformity emanates from
 the Evil One.”[1143]

 Some of what Luther borrowed from the beliefs of his own day goes back
 to pre-Christian times. The belief in witches comprised much heathen
 tradition too deeply rooted for the early missionaries to eradicate.
 Moreover, certain statements of olden ecclesiastical writers
 incautiously exploited enabled even the false notions of the ancient
 Græco-Roman world to become also current. Fear of hidden, dangerous
 forces, indiscriminating repetition of alleged incidents from the
 unseen, the ill-advised discussions of certain theologians and
 thoughtless sermons of popular orators, all these causes and others
 contributed to produce the crass belief in witches as it existed even
 before Luther’s day at the close of the Middle Ages, and such as we
 find it, for instance, in the sermons of Geiler von Kaysersberg.

 The famous Strasburg preacher not only accepted it as an undoubted
 fact, that witches were able with the devil’s help to do all kinds of
 astounding deeds, but he also takes for granted the possibility of
 their making occasional aerial trips, though it is true he dismisses
 the nocturnal excursions of the women with Diana, Venus and Herodias
 as mere diabolical delusion. He himself never formally demanded the
 death-penalty for witches, but it may be inferred that he quite
 countenanced the severe treatment advocated in the “Witches’ Hammer.”
 In his remarks on witches he follows partly Martin Plantsch, the
 Tübingen priest and University professor, partly, and still more
 closely, the “_Formicarius_” of the learned Dominican Johannes Nider

Concerning the witches and their ways Luther’s works contain an
extraordinary wealth of information.

In the sermons he delivered on the Ten Commandments as early as 1516
and 1517, and which, in 1518, he published in book form,[1145] he took
over an abundance of superstition from the beliefs current amongst
the people, and from such writers as Geiler. In 1518 and 1519 were
published no less than five editions in Latin of the sermons on the
Decalogue; the book was frequently reprinted separately and soon made
its appearance in Latin in some collections of Luther’s writings; later
on it figures in the complete Latin editions of his works; six German
editions of it had appeared up to 1520 and it is also comprised in the
German collections of his works. In his old age, when the “evils of
sorcery seemed to be gaining ground anew,” he deemed it “necessary,”
as he said,[1146] “to bring out the book once more with his own hand”;
certain tales, amongst which he instances one concerning the devil’s
cats and a young man, might serve to demonstrate “the power and malice
of Satan” to all the world. One cannot but regard it as a mistake on
Luther’s part, when, in his sermons on the Ten Commandments, he takes
his hearers and readers into the details of the magic and work of
the witches, though at the same time emphasising very strongly the
unlawfulness of holding any communication with Satan. This stricture
tells, however, as much against many a Catholic writer of that day.

 It is in his commentary on the 1st Commandment that he gives us a
 first glimpse into the world of witches which later was to engross his
 attention even more.

 He is anxious to bring home to the “weaklings” how one can sin against
 the 1st Commandment.[1147] He therefore enumerates all the darkest
 deeds of human superstition; of their reality he was firmly convinced,
 and only seldom does he speak merely of their “possibility,” or say,
 “it is believed” that this or that took place. He also divides into
 groups the people who sin against the virtue of Divine love, doing so
 according to their age, and somewhat on the lines of a Catechism, in
 order that “the facts may be more easily borne in mind.”

 “The third group,” he says, “is that of the old women, etc.” “By their
 magic they are able to bring on blindness, cause sickness, kill,
 etc.”[1148] “Some of them have their fireside devil who comes several
 times a day.” “There are _incubi_ and _succubi_ amongst the devils,”
 who commit lewdness with witches and others. Devil-strumpetry and
 ordinary harlotry are amongst the sins of these women. Luther also
 speaks of magic potions, desecration of the sacrament in the devil’s
 honour, and secret incantations productive of the most marvellous

 His opinion he sums up as follows: “What the devil himself is unable
 to do, that he does by means of old hags”;[1149] “he is a powerful
 god of this world”;[1150] “the devil has great power through the
 sorceresses.”[1151] He prefers thus to make use of the female sex
 because, “it comes natural to them ever since the time of Mother Eve
 to let themselves be duped and fooled.”[1152] “It is as a rule a
 woman’s way to be timid and afraid of everything, hence they practise
 so much magic and superstition, the one teaching the other.”[1153]
 Even in Paradise, so he says, the devil approached the woman rather
 than the man, she being the weaker.[1154]

 It is worthy of note that he does not merely base his belief in
 witchcraft on the traditions of the past but preferably on Scripture
 directly, and the power of Satan to which it bears witness.

 In 1519 he had attempted to prove on St. Paul’s authority against the
 many who refused to believe in such things, that sorcery can cause
 harm, omitting, however, to make the necessary distinctions.[1155]
 In 1538 he declares: “The devil is a great and powerful enemy. Verily
 I believe, that, unless children were baptised at an early age no
 congregations could be formed; for adults, who know the power of
 Satan, would not submit to be baptised so as to avoid undertaking the
 baptismal vows by which they renounce Satan.”[1156]

 In the Commentary on Galatians he not merely appeals anew to the
 apostolic authority in support of his doctrine concerning the devil,
 but also directly bases his belief in witchcraft on the principle,
 that it is plain that Satan “rules and governs the whole world,” that
 we are but guests in the world, of which the devil is prince and god
 and controls everything by which we live: food, drink, clothing, air,
 etc.[1157] By means of sorcery he is able to strangle and slay us;
 through the agency of his whores and sorceresses, the witches, he is
 able to hurt the little children, with palpitations, blindness, etc.
 “Nay, he is able to steal a child and lay himself in the cradle in its
 stead, for I myself have heard of such a child in Saxony whom five
 women were not able to supply with sufficient milk to quiet it; and
 there are many such instances to be met with.”[1158]

 The numerous other instances of harm wrought by witches with which he
 is acquainted, such as the raising of storms, thefts of milk, eggs
 and butter,[1159] the laying of snares to entrap men, tears of blood
 that flow from the eyes, lizards cast up from the stomach,[1160]
 etc., all recede into the background in comparison with the harlotry,
 substitution of children, etc., which the devil carries out with the
 witches’ help. “It is quite possible that, as the story goes, the Evil
 Spirit can carnally know the sorceresses, get them with child and
 cause all manner of mischief.”[1161] Changeling children of the sort
 are nothing but a “lump of flesh without a soul”; the devil is the
 soul, as Luther says elsewhere,[1162] for which reason he declared, in
 1541, such children should simply be drowned; he recalls how he had
 already given this advice in one such case at Dessau, viz. that such a
 child, then twelve years of age, should be smothered.[1163]

 It sometimes happens, so he says, that animals, cats for instance,
 intent on doing harm, are wounded and that afterwards the witches
 are found to have wounds in the same part of the body. In such case
 the animals were all sham.[1164] A mouse trying to steal milk is hurt
 somewhere, and the next day the witch comes and begs for oil for the
 wound which she has in the very same place.[1165] If milk and butter
 are placed on coals the devil, he says, will be obliged to call up the
 witches who did the mischief.[1166] “It is also said that people who
 eat butter that has been bewitched, eat nothing but mud.”[1167]

 In such metamorphoses into animals it was not, however, the witches
 who underwent the change, nor were the animals really hurt, but it was
 “the devil who transformed himself into the animal” which was only
 apparently wounded; afterwards, however, “he imprints the marks of the
 wounds on the women so as to make them believe they had taken part
 in the occurrence.”[1168] At any rate this is the curiously involved
 explanation he once gives of the difficult problem.

 In some passages he, like others too, is reluctant to accept the
 theory that afterwards grew so prevalent, particularly during the
 witch persecutions in the 17th century, viz. that the witches were in
 the habit of flying through the air. In 1540 he says that this, like
 the changes mentioned above, was merely conjured up before the mind
 by the devil, and was thus a delusion of the senses and a Satanic
 deception.[1169] Yet in 1538 he assumes that it was in Satan’s power
 to carry those who had surrendered themselves to him bodily through
 the air;[1170] he had heard of one instance where even repentance and
 confession could not save such a man, when at the point of death,
 from being carried off by the devil. At an earlier date he had
 spoken without any hesitation of the witches who ride “on goats and
 broom-sticks and travel on mantles.”[1171]

 The witches are the most credulous and docile tools of the devil; they
 are his hand and foot for the harm of mankind. They are “devil’s own
 whores who give themselves up to Satan and with whom he holds fleshly

“Such persons ought to be hurried to justice (‘_supplicia_’). The
lawyers want too much evidence, they despise these open and flagrant
proofs.” When questioned on the rack they answer nothing, “they are
dumb, they despise punishment, the devil will not let them speak. Such
deeds are, however, evidence enough, and for the sake of frightening
others they ought to be made an example.”[1173]

“Show them no mercy!” so he has it on another occasion. “I would burn
them myself, as we read in the Law [of Moses] that the priests led the
way in stoning the evildoer.”[1174] And yet here all the ado was simply
about ... a theft of milk! But sorcery as such was regarded by him
as “lèse majesté” [against God], as a rebellion, a crime whereby the
Divine Majesty is insulted in the worst possible of ways. “Hence it is
rightly punished by bodily pains and death.”[1175] He first expresses
himself in favour of the death-penalty in a sermon in 1526,[1176] and
to this point of view he adhered to the end.[1177]

Luther’s words and his views on witches generally became immensely
popular. The invitation to persecute the witches was read in the German
Table-Talk compiled by Aurifaber and published at Eisleben in 1566. It
reappeared, together with the rest of the contents, in the two reprints
published at Frankfurt in 1567, also in the new edition which Aurifaber
himself undertook in 1568, as well as in the Frankfurt and Eisleben
editions of 1569.[1178] Not only were the people exhorted to persecute
the witches, but, intermixed with the other matter, we find all
sorts of queer witch-stories just of the type to call up innumerable
imitations. He relates, for instance, the experiences of his own mother
with a neighbour who was a “sorceress,” who used to “shoot at her
children so that they screamed themselves to death”; also the tale told
him by Spalatin, in 1538, of a little maid at Altenburg over whom a
spell had been cast by a witch and who “shed tears of blood.”

The demonological literature which soon assumed huge proportions and
of which by far the greater part emanated from the pen of Protestant
writers, appealed constantly to Luther, and reproduced his theories and
stories, and likewise his demands that measures should be taken for
the punishment of the witches. It may suffice to draw attention to the
curious book entitled “Pythonissa, i.e. twenty-eight sermons on witches
and ghosts,” by the preacher Bernard Waldschmidt of Frankfurt. He
demonstrates from Luther’s Table-Talk that the devil was able to assume
all kinds of shapes, for instance, of “cats, goats, foxes, hares,
etc.,” just as he had appeared at Wittenberg in Luther’s presence,
first as Christ, and then as a serpent.[1179]

 Many Lutheran preachers and religious writers were accustomed to
 remind the people not only of the tales in the Table-Talk, but also of
 what was contained in the early exposition of the Ten Commandments,
 in the Prayer-book of 1522 and in the Church-postils, Commentary on
 Galatians, etc. Books of instances such as those of Andreas Hondorf
 in 1568 and Wolfgang Büttner in 1576 made these things widely known.
 David Meder, Lutheran preacher at Nebra in Thuringia, in his “Eight
 witch-sermons” (1605), referred in the first sermon to the Table-Talk,
 also to Luther’s exposition of the Decalogue, to his Commentary
 on Genesis and his work “Von den Conciliis und Kirchen.” Bernard
 Albrecht, the Augsburg preacher, in his work on witches, 1628, G. A.
 Scribonius, J. C. Gödelmann and N. Gryse all did the same.

 In what esteem Luther’s sayings were held by the Protestant lawyers
 is plain from certain memoranda of the eminent Frankfurt man of law,
 Johann Fischart, dating from 1564 and 1567. Fischart was against the
 “Witches’ Hammer” and the other Catholic productions of an earlier
 day, such as Nider’s “_Formicarius_,” yet he expresses himself in
 favour of the burning of witches and appeals on this point to Luther
 and his interpretation of Holy Scripture.

 Holy Scripture and Luther were as a rule appealed to by the
 witch-zealots on the Protestant side, as is proved by the writings
 of Abraham Saur (1582) and Jakob Gräter (1589), of the preacher
 Nicholas Lotichius and Nicholas Krug (1567), of Frederick Balduin
 of Wittenberg (1628)—whose statements were accepted by the famous
 Saxon criminalogist Benedict Carpzov, who signed countless death
 sentences against witches—and by J. Volkmar Bechmann, the opponent
 of the Jesuit Frederick von Spee. We may pass over the many other
 names cited by N. Paulus with careful references to the writings in

 It must be pointed out, however, that an increase in the severity
 of the penal laws against witches is first noticeable in the Saxon
 Electorate in 1572, when it was decreed that they should be burnt at
 the stake, even though they had done no harm to anyone, on account
 of their wicked compact with the devil.[1181] As early as 1540, at
 a time when elsewhere in Germany the execution of witches was of
 rare occurrence, four persons were burnt at Wittenberg on June 29 as
 witches or wizards.[1182] Shortly before this Luther had lamented that
 the plague of witches was again on the increase.[1183]

Even the Catholic clergy occasionally quoted Luther’s statements
on witches, as given in his widely read Table-Talk; thus, for
instance, Reinhard Lutz in his “True Tidings of the godless Witches”
(1571).[1184] This writing, at the very beginning and again at the
end, contains a passage from the Table-Talk dealing with witches,
devils’ children, incubi and succubi; on the other hand, it fails to
refer either to the “Witches’ Hammer” of 1487 or to the Bull, “_Summis
desiderantes_,” of Innocent VIII (1484).

Thus the making of this regrettable mania was in great part Luther’s
doing.[1185] And yet a reformer could have found no nobler task than to
set to work to sweep away the abusive outgrowths of the belief in the
devil’s power.

We still have instructive writings by Catholic authors of that day
which, whilst by no means promoting the popular ideas concerning the
devil, are unquestionably rooted in the Middle Ages. Such a work is
the Catechism of Blessed Peter Canisius. One particular in which
the “Larger” Canisian Catechism differs from Luther’s Larger German
Catechism is, that, whereas in the latter the evil power of Satan
over material things is dealt with at great length, the Catechism
of Canisius says never a word on the material harm wrought by the
devil. While Luther speaks of the devil sixty-seven times, Canisius
mentions him only ten times. Canisius’s book was from the first widely
known amongst German-speaking Catholics and served down to the last
century for purposes of religious instruction.[1186] Though this is
true of this particular book of Canisius, the influence of which was
so far-reaching, it must in honesty be added that even a man like
Canisius, both in his other writings and in his practical conduct, was
not unaffected by the prevailing ideas concerning the devil.

_Luther’s Devil-mania; its Connection with his Character and his

Had Luther written his Catechism during the last period of his life he
would undoubtedly have brought the diabolical element and his belief in
witches even more to the fore. For, as has been pointed out (above, pp.
227, 238), Luther’s views on the power the devil possesses over mankind
and over the whole world were growing ever stronger, till at last they
came to colour everything great or small with which he had to deal;
they became, in fact, to him a kind of fixed idea.

 In his last year (1546), having to travel to Eisleben, he fancies so
 many fiends must be assembled there on his account, i.e. to oppose
 him, “that hell and the whole world must for the nonce be empty of
 devils.”[1187] At Eisleben he even believed that he had a sight of the
 devil himself.[1188]

 Three years before this he complains that no one is strong enough in
 belief in the devil; the “struggle between the devils and the angels”
 affrights him; for it is to be apprehended that “the angels whilst
 fighting for us often get the worst for a time.”[1189] His glance
 often surveys the great world-combat which the few who believe wage
 on Christ’s side against Satan, and which has lasted since the dawn
 of history; now, at the very end of the world, he sees the result
 more clearly. Christ is able to save His followers from the devil’s
 claws only by exerting all His strength; they, like Luther, suffer
 from weakness of faith, just as Christ Himself did in the Garden of
 Olives(!); they, like Luther, stumble, because Christ loves to show
 Himself weak in the struggle with the devil; mankind’s and God’s
 rights have come off second best during the age-long contest with the
 devil. In Jewry, for which Luther’s hatred increases with age, he sees
 men so entirely delivered over to the service of the devil that “all
 the heathen in a lump” are simply nothing in comparison with the Jews;
 but even the “fury of the Jews is mere jest and child’s play” compared
 with the devilish corruption of the Papacy.

 “The devil is there; he has great claws and whosoever falls into them
 him he holds fast, as they find to their cost in Popery. Hence let
 us always pray and fear God.” This in 1543.[1190] But we must also
 fear the devil, and very much too, for, as he solemnly declares in
 1542: “Our last end is that we fear the devil”; for the worst sins are
 “delusions of the devil.”[1191] “The whole age is Satanic,”[1192] and
 the “activity of the devil is now manifest”; the speaker longs for
 “God at length to mock at Satan.”[1193] “The devil is all-powerful at
 present, several foreign kings are his train-bearers.... God Himself
 must come in order to resist the proud spirit.... Shortly Christ will
 make an end of his lies and murders.”[1194]

 The whole of his work, the struggle for the Evangel, seems to him at
 times as one long wrestling with the boundless might of Satan.[1195]
 All his life, so he said in his old age, he had forged ahead
 “tempestuously” and “hit out with sledge-hammer blows”; but it was
 all against Satan. “I rush in head foremost, but ... against the
 devil.”[1196] As early as 1518, however, he knew the “thoughts of

It is not difficult to recognise the different elements which, as
Luther grew older, combined permanently to establish him in his

Apart from his peculiar belief in the devil, of which he was never
to rid himself, there was the pessimism which loomed so large in his
later years;[1198] there was also his habit of regarding himself and
his work as the pet aversion and chief object of Satan’s persecution,
for since, according to his own contention, his great struggle against
Antichrist was in reality directed against the devil, the latter
naturally endeavoured everywhere to bar his way. If great scandals
arise as the result of his sermons, it is Satan who is to blame; “he
smarts under the wounds he receives and therefore does he rage and
throw everything into confusion.”[1199] The disorderly proceedings
against the Catholics at Erfurt which brought discredit on his teaching
were also due to the devil. The Wittenberg students who disgrace him
are instigated by the devil. Dr. Eck was incited against him by Satan.
The Catholic princes who resist him, like Duke George of Saxony, have
at least a “thousand devils” who inspire them and assist them. Above
all, it is the devil himself who delivers his oracles through the
mouthpiece of those teachers of the innovations who differ from Luther,
deluding them to such an extent that they lose “their senses and their
reason.”[1200] If Satan can do nothing else against the Evangel he
sends out noisy spirits so as to bolster up the heresy of the existence
“of a Purgatory.”[1201]

Such ideas became so habitual with him, that, in later years, the
conviction that the devil was persecuting his work developed into an
abiding mania, drawing, as it were, everything else into its vortex.

Everywhere he hears behind him the footsteps of his old enemy, the

 “Satan has often had me by the throat.... He has frequently beset
 me so hard that I knew not whether I was dead or alive ... but with
 God’s Word I have withstood him.”[1202] He lies with me in my bed,
 so he says on one occasion; “he sleeps much more with me than my
 Katey.”[1203] His struggle with him degenerates into a hand-to-hand
 brawl, “I have to be at grips with him daily.”[1204] His pupils
 related, that on his own giving, when he was an old man “the devil
 had walked with him in the dormitory of the [former] monastery ...
 plaguing and tormenting him”; that “he had one or two such devils
 who were in the habit of lying in wait” for him, and, “that, when
 unable to get the better of his heart, they attacked and troubled his
 head.”[1205] Whether the narrators of these accounts are referring to
 actual apparitions or not does not much matter.

 Later on, when dealing with his delusions, we shall have to speak of
 the diabolical apparitions Luther is supposed to have had. There is
 no doubt, however, that Luther’s first admirers took his statements
 concerning his experiences with the devil rather more seriously than
 he intended, as, for instance, when Cyriacus Spangenberg in his
 “Theander Lutherus”[1206] relates a disputation on the Winkle-Mass
 which he supposed Luther to have actually held with the devil, and
 even goes so far as to prove from the bruises which the devil in
 person inflicted on him that Luther was “really a holy martyr.”[1207]
 Even some of his opponents, like Cochlæus, fancied that because
 Luther said “in a sermon that he had eaten more than one mouthful of
 salt with the devil, he had therefore most probably been in direct
 communication with the devil himself, the more so since some persons
 were said to have seen the two hobnobbing together.”[1208] Here we
 shall merely point out generally that to Luther the power of Satan,
 his delusions and persecutions, were something that seemed very
 near,[1209] an uncanny feeling that increased as he grew older and as
 his physical strength gave out.

 “The devil is now very powerful,” he says in 1540, “for he no longer
 deals with us through the agency of others, of Duke George, for
 instance, or the Englishman [Henry VIII], or of the Mayence fellow
 [Albert], but fights against us visibly. Against him we must pray
 diligently.”[1210] “Didn’t he even ride many grand and holy prophets.
 Was not David a great prophet? And yet even he was devil-ridden, and
 so was Saul and ‘Bileam’ too.”[1211]

We must, moreover, not overlook the link which binds Luther’s
devil-mania to his doctrinal system as a whole, particularly to his
teaching on the enslaved will and on justification.

Robbed of free-will for doing what is good, when once the devil assumes
the mastery, man must needs endure his anger and perform his works.
Luther himself found a cruel rider in the devil. Again, though man by
the Grace of God is justified by faith, yet the old diabolical root of
sin remains in him, for original sin persists and manifests itself in
concupiscence, which is essentially the same thing as original sin. All
acts of concupiscence are, therefore, sins, being works of our bondage
under Satan; only by the free grace of Christ can they be cloaked
over. The whole outer world which has been depraved by original sin
is nothing but the “devil’s own den”; the devil stands up very close
(“_propinquissimus_”)[1212] even to the pious, so that it is no wonder
if we ever feel the working of the spirit of darkness. “Man must bear
the image either of God or of the devil.” Created to the image of God
he failed to remain true to it, but “became like unto the devil.”[1213]

Hence his doctrines explain how he expected every man to be so keenly
sensible of “God’s wrath, the devil, death and hell”; everyone should
realise that ours is “no real life, but only death, sin and power of
the devil.”[1214] It is true that in his doctrine faith affords a man
sufficient strength, and even makes him master of the devil; but, as
he remarks, this is “in no wise borne out by experience and must be
believed beforehand.” Meanwhile we are painfully “sensible” that we are
“under the devil’s heel,” for the “world and what pertains to it must
have the devil for its master, who also clings to us with all his might
and is far stronger than we are; for we are his guests in a strange

_The Weapons to be used against the Devil_

On the fact that faith gives us strength against all Satanic influences
Luther insists frequently and in the strongest terms.

He tries to find here a wholesome remedy against the fear that presses
on him. He describes his own attempts to lay hold on it and to fill
himself with Christ boldly and trustfully. Even in his last days such
words of confidence occasionally pierce the mists of his depression.
“We see well,” he says, “that when the devil attacks a [true] Christian
he is put to shame, for where there is faith and confidence he has
nothing to gain.” This he said in 1542 when relating the story of
an old-time hermit who rudely accosted the devil as follows, when
the latter sought to disturb him at his prayers: “Ah, devil, this
serves you right! You were meant to be an angel and you have become a

 “We must muster all our courage so as not to dread the devil.”[1217]
 We must “clasp the faith to our very bosom” and “cheerfully fling
 to the winds the apparitions of the spirits”; “they seek in vain to
 affright men.”[1218] Contempt of the devil and awakening of faith are,
 according to Luther, the best remedies against all assaults of the
 devil.[1219] A man who really has the faith may even set an example
 that others cannot imitate.[1220] Luther knows, for instance, of a
 doctor of medicine who with boundless faith stood up to Satan when the
 latter, horns and all, appeared to him; the brave man even succeeded
 in breaking off the horns; but, in a similar case, when another tried
 to do the same in a spirit of boasting, he was killed by Satan.[1221]
 Hence let us have faith, but let our faith be humble!

 But, provided we have faith and rely on Christ, we may well show the
 devil our contempt for him, vex him and mock at his power and cunning.
 He himself, as he says, was given to breaking out into music and song,
 the better to show the devil that he despised him, for “our hymns are
 very galling to him”; on the contrary, he rejoices and has a laugh
 when we are upset and cry out “alas and alack!”[1222] To remain alone
 is not good. “This is what I do”; rather than be alone “I go to my
 swine-herd Johann or to see the pigs.”[1223]

 In this connection Luther can tell some very coarse and vulgar jokes,
 both at his own and others’ expense, in illustration of the contempt
 which the devil deserves; they cannot here be passed over in silence.

 Thus, on April 15, 1538, he relates the story of a woman of Magdeburg
 whom Satan vexed by running over her bed at night “like rats and
 mice. As he would not cease the woman put her a—— over the bedside,
 presented him with a f—— (if such language be permissible) and said:
 ‘There, devil, there’s a staff, take it in your hand and go pilgriming
 with it to Rome to the Pope your idol.’” Ever after the devil left
 her in peace, for “he is a proud spirit and cannot endure to be
 treated contemptuously.”[1224] According to Lauterbach, who gives
 the story in somewhat briefer form, Luther sapiently remarked: “Such
 examples do not always hold good, and are dangerous.”[1225]

 He himself was nevertheless fond of expressing his contempt for the
 devil after a similar way when the latter assailed him with remorse of

 “I can drive away the devil with a single f——.”[1226] “To shame
 him we may tell him: Kiss my a——”,[1227] or “Ease yourself into
 your shirt and tie it round your neck,” etc.[1228] On May 7, 1532,
 when troubled in mind and afraid lest “the thunder should strike
 him, he said: ‘Lick my a——, I want to sleep, not to hold a
 disputation.’”[1229] On another occasion he exclaims: “The devil shall
 lick my a—— even though I should have sinned.”[1230] When the devil
 teased him at night, “suggesting all sorts of strange thoughts to
 him,” he at last said to him: “Kiss me on the seat! God is not angry
 as you would have it.” Of course, seeing that the devil “‘fouls’ the
 knowledge of God,” he must expect to be “fouled” in his turn. Luther
 frequently said, so the Table-Talk relates, that he would end by
 sending “into his a—— where they belonged” those “twin devils” who
 were in the habit of prying on him and tormenting him mentally and
 bodily; for “they had brought him to such a pass that he was fit for
 nothing.”[1231] The Pope had once played him (Luther) the same trick:
 “He has stuck me into the devil’s behind”;[1232] “for I snap at the
 Pope’s ban and am his devil, therefore does he hate and persecute

 He relates, in May, 1532, according to Schlaginhaufen’s Notes, his
 method of dismissing the devil by the use of stronger and stronger
 hints: When the devil came to him at night in order to plague him, he
 first of all told him to let him sleep, because he must work during
 the day and needed all the rest he could get. Then, if Satan continued
 to upbraid him with his sins, he would answer mockingly that he had
 been guilty of a lot more sins which the devil had forgotten to
 mention, for instance, he had, etc. (there follows the choice simile
 of the shirt as given above); thirdly, “if he still goes on accusing
 me of sins I say to him contemptuously: ‘_Sancte Satanas ora pro me_;
 you have never done a wrong and you alone are holy; be off to God and
 get grace for yourself.’”[1234]

 The way in which Bugenhagen or Pomeranus, the pastor of Wittenberg,
 with Luther’s fullest approval, drove the devil out of the butter
 churn (vol. iii., p. 229 f.) became famous at Wittenberg, and, thanks
 to the Table-Talk, elsewhere too. It may here be remarked that the
 incident was no mere joke. For when, in 1536, the question of the
 harm wrought by the witches was discussed amongst Luther’s guests,
 and Bartholomew Bernhardi, the Provost, complained that his cow had
 been bewitched for two years, so that he had been unable to get any
 milk from her, Luther related quite seriously what had taken place
 in Bugenhagen’s house. (“Then Pommer came to the rescue, scoffed at
 the devil and emptied his bowels into the churn,” etc.). According
 to Lauterbach’s “Diary” Luther returned to the incident in 1538 and
 stamped the whole proceeding with his approval: “Dr. Pommer’s plan
 is the best, viz. to plague them [the witches] with muck and stir it
 well up, for then all their things begin to stink.”[1235] What is even
 more remarkable than the strange practice itself is the way in which
 Luther comes to speak of “Pommer’s plan.” It is his intention to show
 that the method of combating witches had made progress since Catholic
 times. For, in Lauterbach, the passage runs: “The village clergy and
 schoolmasters had a plan of their own [for counteracting spells] and
 plagued them [the witches] not a little, but Dr. Pommer’s plan, etc.
 (as above).”[1236] Hence not only did Luther sanction the superstition
 of earlier ages, but he even sought to improve on it by the invention
 of new practices of his own.

 Luther is also addicted to the habit dear to the German Middle Ages
 of using the devil as a comic figure; as he advanced in age, however,
 he tended to drop this habit and also the kindred one of chasing
 the devil away by filthy abuse; the truth is that the devil had now
 assumed in his eyes a grimmer and more tragic aspect.

 Formerly he had been fond of describing in his joking way how the
 devil, “though he had never actually taken his doctor’s degree,”[1237]
 proved himself an “able logician” in his suggestions and disputations;
 when he brought forward objections Luther would reply: “Devil, tell
 me something new; what you say I already know.”[1238] In his book on
 the “Winkle-Mass,” pretending to “make a little confession,” he tells
 how, “on one occasion, awakening at midnight,” the devil began a
 disputation against the Mass with the words: “Hearken, oh most learned
 Doctor, are you aware that for some fifteen years you said such
 Winkle-Masses nearly every day?”[1239] Whereupon he had “seized on
 the old weapons” which “in Popery he had learnt to put on and to use”
 and had sought an excuse. “To this the devil retorted: ‘Friend, tell
 me where this is written, etc.’”[1240] Formerly he had been fond of
 poking fun at the Papists by telling them how they “were beset merely
 by naughty little devils, legal rather than theological ones;[1241]
 that they were tempted only to homicide, adultery and fornication,”
 in short, to sins of the second table of the Law, by “puny fiendkins
 and little petty devils,” whereas we on the other hand have “by us the
 great devils who are _doctores theologiæ_”; “these attack us as the
 leaders of the army, for they tempt us to the great sins against the
 first table,” to question the forgiveness of sins, to doubts against
 faith and to despair.[1242]

 He was very inventive and quite indefatigable in devising new epithets
 with the help of the devil’s name; his adversaries were, according to
 him, “full of devils, on whose backs moreover lived other and worse
 devils”; it seems to him to fall all too short of the truth to say
 they are “endevilled,” “perdevilled,” or “superdevilled” and “the
 children of Satan.”[1243] The devil’s mother, grandmother and brothers
 and sisters are frequently alluded to by Luther, particularly when in
 a merry mood. In hours of gloom or emotion he could, however, curse
 people with such words as “may the devil take you,”[1244] “May the
 devil pay you out,” or “May he tread you under foot!”

He was perfectly aware, nevertheless, of the failings of his tongue,
and even expressed his regret for them to his friends. During his
illness, in 1527, we are told how he begged pardon for and bewailed the
“hasty and inconsiderate words he had often used the better to dispel
the sadness of a weak flesh.”[1245]

Melancholy is “a devil’s bath” (“_balneum diaboli_”), so he remarked on
another occasion, against which there is no more effective remedy than
cheerfulness of spirit.[1246]

5. The Psychology of Luther’s Jests and Satire

Joking was a permanent element of Luther’s psychology. Often, even in
his old age, his love of fun struggles through the lowering clouds of
depression and has its fling against the gloomy anxiety that fills his
mind, and against the world and the devil.

Gifted with a keen sense of the ridiculous, it had been, in his
younger days, almost a second nature to him to delight in drollery
and particularly to clothe his ideas in playful imagery. His mind was
indeed an inexhaustible source of rich and homely humour.

Nature had indeed endowed Luther from his cradle with that rare talent
of humour which, amidst the trials of life, easily proves more valuable
than a gold mine to him who has it. During his secular studies at
Erfurt he had been able to give full play to this tendency as some
relief after the hardships of early days. His preference for Terence,
Juvenal, Plautus and Horace amongst the classic poets leads us to
infer that he did so; and still more does Mathesius’s description, who
says that, at that time, he was a “brisk and jolly fellow.” Monastic
life and, later, his professorship and the strange course on which he
entered must for a while have placed a rein on his humour, but it broke
out all the more strongly when be brought his marvellous powers of
imagination and extraordinary readiness in the use of the German tongue
to the literary task of bringing over the masses to his new ideas.

Anyone desirous of winning the hearts of the German masses has always
had to temper earnestness with jest, for a sense of humour is part of
the nation’s birthright. The fact that Luther touched this chord was
far more efficacious in securing for him loud applause and a large
following than all his rhetoric and theological arguments.

_Humour in his Writings and at his Home_

It was in his polemics that Luther first turned to account his gift of
humour; his manner of doing so was anything but refined.

 The first of his German controversial works against a literary
 opponent was his “Von dem Bapstum tzu Rome wider dem hochberumpten
 Romanisten tzu Leiptzk”[1247] (the Franciscan Alveld or Alfeld),
 dating from May and June, 1520. Here he starts with a comical
 description of the “brave heroes in the market place at Leipzig,
 so well armed as we have never seen the like before. Their helmets
 they wear on their feet, their swords on their heads, their shields
 and breastplates hang down their back, and their lances they grip
 by the blade.... If Leipzig can produce such giants then that land
 must indeed be fertile.” On the last page of the same writing he
 puts the concluding touch to his work by telling Alveld, the “rude
 miller’s beast,” that he does “not yet know how to bray his hee-haw,
 hee-haw”; were I, says Luther, “to permit all the wantonness of these
 thick-heads even the very washerwomen would end by writing against
 me.” “What really helps it if a poor frog [like this fellow] blows
 himself out? Even were he to swell himself out to bursting-point he
 would never equal an ox.”

 In his first German booklet against Emser, viz. his “An den Bock zu
 Leyptzck” (1521),[1248] he plays on the motto of Emser’s coat-of-arms
 “Beware of the goat.” There was really no call for Emser to inscribe
 these words on his note-paper, for from his whole behaviour there was
 no doubt that he was indeed a goat, and also that he could “do no more
 than butt.” Luther’s reply to all his threats would be: “Dear donkey,
 don’t lick! But God save the poor nanny-goats, whose horns are wrapped
 in silk, from such a he-goat; as for me, so God wills, there is no
 fear. Have you never heard the fable of the ass who tried to roar as
 loud as the lion? I myself might have been afraid of you had I not
 known you were an ass,” etc.

 It is certainly not easy to believe his assertion, that it was only
 against his will that he had recourse to all this derision which
 he heaped on his adversaries in religious matters of such vital
 importance. He has it that his words, “though maybe biting and
 sarcastic,” are really “spoken from a heart that is breaking with
 grief and has been obliged to turn what is serious into abuse.”[1249]
 As a matter of fact the temptation to use just such weapons was too
 great, and the prospect of success too alluring for us to place much
 reliance in such an assurance. His “grief” was of quite another kind.

 At a later date his humour, or rather his caustic and satirical manner
 of treating his opponents, looked to him so characteristic of his
 way of writing, that as he said, it would be quite easy to tell at a
 glance which were the polemical tracts due to his pen, even though
 they did not bear his name. This was his opinion of his “satirical
 list” of the relics of the Cardinal of Mayence.[1250] Writing of this
 work to his friend Jonas he says: “Whoever reads it and has ever been
 familiar with my ideas and my pen will say: Here is Luther; the
 Cardinal too will say: This is the work of that scamp Luther!... But
 never mind; if they pipe then I insist on dancing, and, if I survive,
 I hope one day to tread a measure with the bride of Mayence [the
 Cardinal].” He had still “some sweet tit-bits” which he would like “to
 lay on her red and rosy lips.”[1251] This last quotation may serve as
 a specimen of the rough humour found in his controversial letters.

 The reader already knows how the Papacy had to bear the brunt of such
 jests and of an irony which often descends to the depths of vulgarity.
 (Above, vol. iii., p. 232-235; vol. iv., pp. 295 f., 304 f, 318 ff.)

But it was not only in his polemics that his jests came in useful. The
jovial tone which often characterises his domestic life, the humour
that seasons his Table-talk (even though too often it oversteps the
bounds of the permissible) and makes itself felt even in his business
letters and intimate correspondence with friends, appears as Luther’s
almost inseparable companion, with whose smile and whose caustic irony
he cannot dispense.

The monotony and the hardships of his daily life were alleviated by his
cheerfulness. His intercourse with friends and pupils was rendered more
stimulating and attractive, and in many cases more useful. Under cover
of a jest he was often able to enforce good instruction more easily and
almost without its being noticed. His cheerful way of looking at things
often enabled Luther lightheartedly to surmount difficulties from which
others would have shrunk.

There is not the slightest doubt that his extraordinary influence over
those who came into contact with him was due in no small part to his
kindly addiction to pleasantry. It was indeed no usual thing to see
such mighty energy as he devoted to the world-struggle, so agreeably
combined with a keen gift of observation, with an understanding for
the most trivial details of daily life, and, above all, with such
refreshing frankness and such a determination to amuse his hearers.

 In order to dispel the anxiety felt by Catherine Bora during her
 husband’s absence, he would send her letters full of affection and of
 humorous accounts of his doings. He tells her, for instance, how, in
 consequence of her excessive fears for him “which hindered her from
 sleeping,” everything about him had conspired to destroy him; how a
 fire “at our inn just next door to our room” had tried to burn him,
 how a heavy rock had fallen in order to kill him; “the rock really
 had a mind to justify your solicitude, but the holy angels prevented
 it.”[1252] In such cheerful guise does he relate little untoward
 incidents. “You try to take care of your God,” he writes to her in a
 letter already quoted, “just as though He were not Almighty and able
 to create ten Dr. Martins were the old one to be drowned in the Saale,
 suffocated in the coal-hole, or eaten up by the wolf.”[1253]

 He was also joking, when, about the same time, i.e. during his stay
 with the Counts of Mansfeld, he used the words which recently were
 taken all too seriously by a Catholic polemist and made to constitute
 a charge against Luther’s morals: “At present, thank God, I am well,
 only that I am so beset by pretty women as once more to fear for my

 The irony with which he frequently speaks and writes of both himself
 and his friends is often not free from frivolity; we may recall, for
 instance, his ill-timed jest concerning his three wives;[1255] or
 his report to Catherine from Eisleben: “On the whole we have enough
 to gorge and swill, and should have a jolly time were this tiresome
 business to let us.”[1256] The last passage reminds us of his words
 elsewhere: I feed like a Bohemian and swill like a German.[1257]
 Among other jests at Catherine’s expense we find in the Table-Talk
 the threat that soon the time will come when “we men shall be allowed
 several wives,” words which perhaps are a humorous echo of the
 negotiations concerning the Hessian bigamy.[1258]

 Now and again Luther, by means of his witticisms, tried to teach his
 wife some wholesome lessons. The titles by which he addresses her
 may have been intended as delicate hints that her management of the
 household was somewhat lordly and high-handed: My Lord Katey, Lord
 Moses, my Chain (Kette) (“_catena mea_”). To seek to infer from this
 that she was a “tyrant,” or to see in it an admission on his part that
 he was but her slave, would be as mistaken as to be shocked at his
 manner of addressing her elsewhere in his letters, e.g. “to the holy,
 careful lady, the most holy lady Doctor; to my beloved lady Doctor
 Self-martyr; to the deeply-learned Lady Catherine,” etc.

It has already been pointed out that many of the misunderstandings
of which Luther’s opponents were guilty are due to their inability
to appreciate his humour; they were thereby led to take seriously
as indicative of “unbelief,” statements which in reality were never
meant in earnest.[1259] On the other hand, however, certain texts and
explanations of Luther’s have, on insufficient grounds, been taken as
humorous even by Protestant writers, often because they seemed in some
way to cast a slur upon his memory. For instance, his interpretation of
the Monk-Calf was quite obviously never intended as a joke,[1260] nor
can it thus be explained away as some have recently tried to do. Nor,
again, to take an example from Luther’s immediate circle, can Amsdorf’s
offer of the nuns in marriage to Spalatin[1261] be dismissed as simply
a broad piece of pleasantry.

_Humour a Necessity to Luther in his Struggle with Others and with

There can be no doubt that a remarkable psychological feature is
afforded by the combination in Luther of cheerfulness with intense
earnestness in work, indeed the persistence of his humour even in later
years when gloom had laid a firm hold on his soul constitutes something
of a riddle; for even the sufferings of the last period of his life did
not avail to stifle his love of a joke, though his jests become perhaps
less numerous; they serve, however, to conceal his sadder feelings, a
fact which explains why he still so readily has recourse to them.

First of all, a man so oppressed with inner difficulties and mental
exertion as Luther was, felt sadly the need of relaxation and
amusement. His jests served to counteract the strain, physical and
mental, resulting from the rush of literary work, sermons, conferences
and correspondence. In this we have but a natural process of the
nervous system.

A further explanation of his cheerfulness is, however, to be found
in the wish to prove against his own misgivings and his theological
opponents how joyous and confident he was at heart concerning his cause.

 He hints at this himself. I will answer for the “Word of Christ,” so
 he assures Alveld in his writing against him, “with a cheerful heart
 and fresh courage, regardless of anyone; for which purpose God too
 has given me a cheerful, fearless spirit, which I trust they will be
 unable to sadden to all eternity.”[1262] He often gives the impression
 of being anxious to show off his cheerfulness. He is fond of speaking
 of his “steadfast and undaunted spirit”; let Emser, he says, take note
 and bite his lips over the “glad courage which inspires him day by

 Seeking to display this confidence in face of his opponents he
 exclaims satirically in a writing of 1518: “Here I am.” If there be an
 inquisitor in the neighbourhood he had better hurry up.[1263]

 His courage and entire confidence he expressed as early as 1522 to
 the Elector Frederick of Saxony who had urged him to fight shy of
 Duke George: “Even if things at Leipzig were indeed as bad as at
 Wittenberg [they think they are], I should nevertheless ride thither
 even though—I hope your Electoral Highness will excuse my foolish
 words—for nine days running it were to rain Duke Georges, each one
 nine times as furious as he. He actually looks upon my Lord Christ as
 a man of straw!”[1264] In such homely words did he speak, even to his
 own sovereign whose protection counted for so much, in order to make
 it yet clearer, that he was quite convinced of having received his
 Evangel, “not from man, but solely from heaven through our Lord Jesus
 Christ”; the Prince, his protector, should know, that God, “thanks to
 the Evangel, has made us happy lords over death and all the devils.”
 For this reason, according to his famous boast, he would still have
 ridden to Worms in defiance of the devils, even had they outnumbered
 the tiles on the roofs.[1265]

 From the castle of Coburg, though himself a prey to all sorts of
 anxiety, he addressed the following ironical, though at the same time
 encouraging, admonition to faint-hearted Melanchthon: Why don’t you
 fight against your own self? “What more can the devil do than slay
 us? What then? You fight in every other field, why not then fight
 also against your own self, viz. your biggest enemy who puts so many
 weapons against you in Satan’s hands?”[1266] It was thus that Luther
 was wont to fight against himself and to rob the devil of his fancied

Often enough did he find salvation in humour alone, for instance, when
he had to overcome serious danger, or to beat down difficulties or
the censure of his friends and followers. The plague was threatening
Wittenberg; hence he jokes away his own fears and those of others with
a jest about his “trusty weathercock,” the governor Metzsch; the latter
had a nose which could detect the plague while yet five ells below the
ground; as he still remained in Wittenberg they had good reason to know
that no danger existed. On the same occasion he laughs and cries in
the same breath over the behaviour of the schoolboys, all the schools
having been already closed as a measure of precaution; the plague had
got into their pens and paper so that it would be impossible to make of
them “either preachers, pastors,. or schoolmasters; in the end swine
and dogs will be our best cattle, towards which end the Papists are
busily working.”[1267]

Further instances of jests of this sort, made under untoward
circumstances, are met with in connection with his marriage. His union
with Catherine Bora, as the reader already knows, set tongues wagging,
both in his own camp and outside. The resentment this aroused in him he
attempted to banish by a sort of half-jesting, half-earnest defiance.
“Since they are already cracked and crazy, I will drive them still
madder and so have done with it!”[1268] He jests incidentally over the
suddenness of his marriage, over the proof needed to convince even
himself that he was really a married man, over his surprise at finding
plaits of hair beside him when he awoke; he also makes merry over his
not very seemly play on the words Bore and bier.[1269]

At a later date he found the arrangement of the new ritual very
irksome, both on account of the difficulty of introducing any sort of
uniformity and also owing to the petty outside interests which intruded
themselves. Here again he tries to throw such questions to the winds
by the use of humour: “Put on three copes instead of one, if that
pleases you,” he wrote to Provost George Buchholzer of Berlin, who had
sent him an anxious letter of inquiry; and if Joachim, the Brandenburg
Elector, is not content with one procession “go around seven times as
Josue did at Jericho, and, if your master the Margrave does not mind,
His Electoral Highness is quite at liberty to leap and dance, with
harps, kettledrums, cymbals and bells as David did before the ark of
the Lord.”[1270]

During the whole of his career he felt the embarrassment of being
called upon by the Catholics to produce proof of his higher mission.
At times he sought to escape the difficulty, so far as miracles went,
by arguing on, and straining for all they were worth, certain natural
occurrences; on other occasions, however, he took refuge in jests.
On one occasion he even whimsically promised to perform a manifest
miracle. This was at a time when he was hard put to provide lodgings
for the nuns who had fled to Wittenberg and when it was rumoured that
he had undertaken a journey simply to escape the trouble. “‘I shall arm
myself with prayer,’ he said, ‘and, if it is needful, I shall assuredly
work a miracle.’ And at this he laughed,” so the notes of one present

Luther frequently lays it down that merry talk and good spirits are a
capital remedy against temptations to doubts on the faith and remorse
of conscience.

 He exhorts Prince Joachim of Anhalt, who had much to suffer from the
 “Tempter” and from “melancholy,” to be always cheerful, since God
 has commanded us “to be glad in His presence.” “I, who have passed
 my life in sorrow and looking at the black side of things, now seek
 for joy, and find it whenever I can. We now have, praise be to God,
 so much knowledge [through the Evangel] that we can afford to be
 cheerful with a good conscience.” It was perfectly true—so he goes on
 in a strangely shamefaced manner, to tell the pious but faint-hearted
 Prince—that, at times, he himself still dreaded cheerfulness, as
 though it were a sin, just as the Prince was inclined to do; “but
 God-fearing, honourable, modest joy of good and pious people pleases
 God well, even though occasionally there be a word or merry tale too

 “Nothing does more harm than a sadness,” he declares in 1542. “It
 drieth up the bones, as we read in Prov. xvii. [22]. Therefore let
 a young man be cheerful, and for this reason I would inscribe over
 his table the words ‘Sadness hath killed many, etc.’” (Eccles. xxx.
 25).[1273]—“Thoughts of fear,” he insists on another occasion, “are
 the sure weapons of death”; “Such thoughts have done me more harm than
 all my enemies and all my labours.” They were at times so insistent
 that my “efforts against them were in vain.” ... “So depraved is our
 nature that we are not then open to any consolation; still, they must
 be fought against by every means.”[1274]

 For certain spells, particularly in earlier years, Luther nevertheless
 succeeded so well in assuming a cheerful air and in keeping it up for
 a considerable while, in spite of the oppression he felt within, that
 those who came into contact with him were easily deceived. Of this
 he once assures us himself; after referring to the great “spiritual
 temptations” he had undergone with “fear and trembling” he proceeds:
 “Many think that because I appear outwardly cheerful mine is a bed of
 roses, but God knows how it stands with me in my life.”[1275]

 In a word, we frequently find Luther using jocularity as an antidote
 against depression. As he had come to look upon it as the best
 medicine against what he was wont to call his “temptations” and had
 habituated himself to its use, and as these “temptations” practically
 never ceased, so, too, he was loath to deprive himself of so welcome
 a remedy even in the dreariest days of his old age. In 1530, to all
 intents and purposes, he openly confesses that such was the case. In
 a letter to Spalatin, written from the Coburg at a time when he was
 greatly disturbed, he describes for his friend’s amusement the Diet
 which the birds were holding on the roof of the Castle. His remarks he
 brings to a conclusion with the words: “Enough of such jests, earnest
 and needful though they be for driving away the thoughts that worry
 me—if indeed they can be driven away.”[1276]

 Still deeper is the glimpse we get into his inmost thoughts when,
 in his serious illness of 1527, he voiced his regret for his free
 and offensive way of talking, remarking that it was often due to his
 seeking “to drive away the sadness,” to which his “weak flesh” was

 One particular instance in which he resorted to jest as a remedy is
 related in the Table-Talk; “In 1541, on the Sunday after Michaelmas,
 Dr. Martin was very cheerful and jested with his good friends at
 table.... He said: Do not take it amiss of me, for I have received
 many bad tidings to-day and have just read a troublesome letter.
 Things are ever at their best,” so he concludes defiantly, “when the
 devil attacks us in this way.”[1277]—It is just the same sort of
 defiance, that, for all his fear of the devil, leads him to sum up
 all the worst that the devil can do to him, and then to pour scorn
 upon it. During the pressing anxieties of the Coburg days at the time
 of the Diet of Augsburg, it really seemed to him that the devil had
 “vowed to have his life.” He comforts himself with the words: “Well,
 if he eats me, he shall, please God, swallow such a purge as shall
 gripe his belly and make his anus seem all too small.”[1278]

It is a matter of common knowledge that people addicted to melancholy
can at certain hours surpass others in cheerfulness and high spirits.
When one side of the scale is weighed down with sadness many a man
will instinctively mend things by throwing humour into the other; at
first, indeed, such humour may be a trifle forced, but later it can
become natural and really serve its purpose well. The story often told
might quite well be true: an actor consulted a physician for a remedy
against melancholy; the latter, not recognising the patient, suggested
that he might be cheered by going to see the performance of a famous
comedian—who was no other than the patient himself.

_More on the Nature of Luther’s Jests_

The character of Luther’s peculiar and often very broad and homely
humour is well seen in his letter-preface to a story on the devil which
he had printed in 1535 and which made the round of Germany.[1279]

 The devil, according to this “historia ... which happened on Christmas
 Eve, 1534,” had appeared to a Lutheran pastor in the confessional, had
 blasphemed Christ and departed leaving behind a horrible stench. In
 the Preface Luther pretends to be making enquiries of Amsdorf, “the
 chief and true Bishop of Magdeburg,” as he calls him, as to the truth
 and the meaning of the apparition. He begs him “to paint and depict
 the pious penitent as he deserves,” though quite aware that Amsdorf,
 the Bishop, would refer back the matter to him as the Pope (“which
 indeed I am”). He had ready the proper absolution which Amsdorf was
 to give the devil: “I, by the authority of Our Lord Jesus Christ and
 the most holy Father Pope Luther the First, deny you the grace of God
 and life everlasting and herewith consign you to hell,” etc. Meanwhile
 he himself gives his view of the tale, which he assumes to be true,
 and, as so often elsewhere when he has to do with the devil, proceeds
 to mingle mockery of the coarsest sort with bitter earnest. When the
 Evil One ventures to approach so close to the Evangel, every nerve of
 Luther is strung to hatred against the devil and his Roman Pope, both
 of whom he overwhelms with a shower of the foulest abuse.

 “The devil’s jests are for us Christians a very serious matter”;
 having a great multitude of kings, princes, bishops and clergy on
 his side he makes bold to mock at Christ; but let us pray that he
 may soil himself even as he soiled himself in Paradise; our joy, our
 consolation and our hope is, that the seed of the woman shall crush
 his head. Hence, so he exclaims, the above absolution sent to Amsdorf
 is amply justified. Like confession, like absolution; “as the prayer,
 so the incense,” with which words he turns to another diabolical
 apparition, which a drunken parson had in bed; he had meant to
 conclude the canonical hours by reciting Compline in bed, and, while
 doing so, “_se concacavit_,”[1280] whereupon the devil appeared to him
 and said: “As the prayer, so also is the incense.”[1281]

 He applies the same “humorous” story to the Pope and his praying monks
 in his “An den Kurfursten zu Sachsen und Landgraven zu Hesse von dem
 gefangenen H. von Brunswig” (1545).[1282] “They neither can pray nor
 want to pray, nor do they know what it is to pray nor how one ought to
 pray, because they have not the Word and the faith”; moreover, their
 only aim is to make the “kings and lords” believe they are devout and
 holy.[1283] “On one occasion when a tipsy priest was saying Compline
 in bed, he heaved during the recital and gave vent to a big ‘bombart’;
 Ah, said the devil, that’s just right, as the prayer so also is the
 incense!” All the prayers of the Pope and “his colleges and convents”
 are not one whit better “than that drunken priest’s Compline and
 incense. Nay, if only they were as good there might still be some hope
 of the Pope growing sober, and of his saying Matins better than he did
 his stinking Compline. But enough of this.”[1284]

Of this form of humour we have many specimens in Luther’s books,
letters and Table-Talk, which abound in unsavoury anecdotes,
particularly about the clergy and the monks. He and his friends,
many of whom had at one time themselves been religious, seem to have
had ready an inexhaustible fund of such stories. Some Protestants
have even argued that it was in the convent that Luther and his
followers acquired this taste, and that such was the usual style of
conversation among “monks and celibates.” It is indeed possible that
the sweepings of the monasteries and presbyteries may have furnished
some contributions to this store, but the truth is that in many cases
the tales tell directly against the monks and clergy, and are really
inventions made at their expense, some of them in pre-Reformation
times. Frequently they can be traced back to those lay circles in
which it was the fashion to scoff at the clergy. In any case it would
be unjust, in order to excuse Luther’s manner of speech, to ascribe
it simply to “cloistral humour” and the “jokes of the sacristy.” The
evil had its root far more in the coarseness on which Luther prided
himself and in the mode of thought of his friends and table companions,
than in the monastery or among the clergy. Nearly everywhere there
were regulations against foul speaking among the monks, and against
frivolous conversation on the part of the clergy, though, of course,
the existence of such laws does not show that they were always complied
with. That Luther’s manner of speech was at all general has still to
be proved. Moreover, the reference to Luther’s “monkish” habits is all
the less founded, seeing that the older he gets and the dimmer his
recollections become, the stronger are the proofs he gives of his love
for such seasoning; nor must we forget that, even in the monastery, he
did not long preserve the true monastic spirit, but soon struck out a
way of his own and followed his own tastes.

Luther was in high spirits when he related in his Table-Talk the
following tales from the Court of Brandenburg and the city of Florence.
At the Offertory of the Mass the grandfather of Margrave Casimir of
Brandenburg, attended by a trusty chamberlain, watching the women as
they passed up to make their offering at the altar, amused themselves
by counting up the adulteresses, supposed or real; as each passed the
Margrave told the chamberlain to “draw” a bead of his rosary. The
chamberlain’s wife happening to pass, the Margrave, to his courtier’s
mortification, told him to draw a bead also for her. When, however,
the Margrave’s mother came forward the chamberlain had his revenge and
said: Now it’s your turn to draw. Upon which the Margrave gathered up
his rosary indignantly with the words: “Let us lump all the whores
together!”[1285]—The Florentine storiette he took from a book entitled
“The Women of Florence.” An adulteress was desirous of entering
into relations with a young man. She accordingly complained quite
untruthfully to his confessor, that he had been molesting her against
her will; she also brought the priest the presents she alleged he had
brought her, and described how by night he climbed up to her window by
means of a tree that stood beneath it. The zealous confessor thereupon,
no less than three times, takes the supposed peccant lover to task;
finally he speaks of the tree. Ah, thinks the young man, that’s rather
a good idea, I might well try that tree. Having learned of this mode
of entry he accordingly complies with the lady’s wishes. “And so,”
concludes Luther, “the confessor, seeking to separate them, actually
brought them together. Boundless indeed is the poetic ingenuity and
cunning of woman.”[1286]

       *       *       *       *       *

Strong as was Luther’s whimsical bent, yet we are justified in asking
whether the delightful and morally so valuable gift of humour in its
truest sense was really his.

“Genuine humour is ever kindly,” rightly says Alb. Roderich, “and only
savages shoot with poisoned darts.” Humour as an ethical quality is
the aptitude so to rise above this petty world as to see and smile
at the follies and light sides of human life; it has been defined as
an optimistic kind of comedy which laughs at what is funny without,
however, hating it, and which lays stress on the kindlier side of what
it ridicules.

Of this happy, innocent faculty gently to smooth the asperities of
life Luther was certainly not altogether devoid, particularly in
private life. But if we take him as a whole, we find that his humour
is as a rule disfigured by a bitter spirit of controversy, by passion
and by hate. His wit tends to pass into satire and derision. Here we
have anything but the overflowing of a contented heart which seeks to
look at everything from the best side and to gratify all. He may have
delighted his own followers by his unmatched art of depreciating others
in the most grotesque of fashions, of exaggerating their foibles, and,
with his keen powers of imagination, of giving the most amusingly
ignominious account of their undoing, but, when judged impartially from
a literary and moral standpoint, his output appears more as irritating
satire, as clever, bitter word-play and sarcasm, rather than as real



1. On Luther’s “Temptations” in General

AN account given by Luther himself in 1537 and taken down by his pupils
from his own lips is the best introduction to the subject now to be

“He spoke of his spiritual sickness (‘_morbus spiritualis_’). For a
fortnight he had tasted neither food nor drink and had had no sleep.
‘During this time,’ so he said, ‘I wrestled frequently with God and
impatiently upbraided Him with His promises.’” While in this state he
had been forced to complain, with the sick and troubled Job, that God
was killing him and hiding His countenance from him; like Job, however,
he had learnt to wait for His assistance, for here too his case was
like that of the “man crushed, and delivered over to the gates of
death” and on whom the devil had poured forth his wrath. How many, he
adds, have to wrestle like he and Job until they are able to say “I
know, O God, that Thou art gracious.”[1287]

 Other statements of Luther’s at a later period supply us with further
 information. Lauterbach notes, on Oct. 7, 1538, the complaint
 already quoted: “I have my mortal combats daily. We have to struggle
 and wrangle with the devil who has very hard bones, till we learn
 how to crack them. Paul and Christ had hard work enough with the
 devil.”[1288] On Aug. 16 of the same year Lauterbach takes down the
 statement: “Had anyone else had to undergo such temptations as I,
 he would long since have expired. I should not of my own have been
 able to endure the blows of Satan, just as Paul could not endure the
 all-too-great temptations of Christ. In short, sadness is a death in

 With the spiritual sickness above mentioned was combined, as has been
 already pointed out (above, p. 226 f.), a growing state of depression:
 “I have lived long enough,” he said in 1542; “the devil is weary of
 my life and I am sick of hating the devil.”[1290] Terrible thoughts
 of the “Judgment of God” repeatedly rose up before him and caused him
 great fear.[1291]

 Before this, according to other notes, he had said to his table
 companions, that he was daily “at grips with Satan”;[1292] that during
 the attacks of the devil he had often not known whether he were “dead
 or alive.”[1293] “The devil,” so he assures them, “brought me to such
 a pitch of despair that I did not even know if there was a God.”[1294]
 “When the devil finds me idle, unmindful of God’s Word, and thus
 unarmed, he assails my conscience with the thought that I have taught
 what is false, that I have rent asunder the churches which were so
 peaceful and content under the Papacy, and caused many scandals,
 dissensions and factions by my teaching, etc. Well, I can’t deny that
 I am often anxious and uneasy about this, but, as soon as I lay hold
 on the Word, I again get the best.”[1295]

 To the people he said, in a sermon in 1531: “The devil is closer to
 us than we dream. I myself often feel the devil raging within me.
 Sometimes I believe and sometimes I don’t, sometimes I am cheerful
 and sometimes sad.”[1296]—A year later he describes in a sermon how
 the devil, who “attacks the pious,” had often made him “sweat much
 and his heart to beat,” before he could withstand him with the right
 weapon, viz. with God’s Word, namely, the office committed to him
 and the service he had rendered to the world, “which it was not his
 to belie!”[1297] Some ten years before this he had spoken still more
 plainly to his hearers at Wittenberg, telling them, strange to say,
 of his experience in early days of the good effects of confession:
 “I would not for all the treasures of the world give up private
 confession, for I know what strength and comfort it has been to me.
 No one knows what it can do unless he has fought often and much with
 the devil. Indeed, the devil would long ago have done for me, had
 not confession saved me.” In fact whoever tells his troubles to his
 brother, receives from him, as from God, comfort “for his simple
 conscience and faint heart”; seldom indeed did one find a “strong,
 firm faith” which did not stand in need of this; hardly anyone could
 boast of possessing it. “You do not know yet,” he concludes, “what
 labour and trouble it costs to fight with and conquer the devil. But I
 know it well, for I have eaten a mouthful or two of salt with him. I
 know him well, and so does he know me.”[1298]

After all these remarkably frank admissions there can remain no doubt
that a heavy mist of doubts and anxieties overshadowed Luther’s inner

A closer examination of this darker side of his soul seems to promise
further information concerning his inner life. Here, too, it is
advisable to sum up the phenomena, retracing them back to their very
starting-point. Though much of what is to be said has already been
mentioned, still, it is only now, towards the end of his life, that the
various traits can in any sense be combined so as to form something
as near a complete picture as possible. We have to thank Luther’s
communicativeness, talkativeness and general openness to his friends,
that a tragic side of his inner life has been to some extent revealed,
which otherwise might for ever have been buried in oblivion.

It is true that, to forestall what follows, few nowadays will be
disposed to follow Luther and to look on the devil as the originator
of his doubts and qualms of conscience. His fantastic ideas of the
“diabolical combats” he had to wage, form, as we shall see (below, p.
329 ff.), part of his devil-mania. Nevertheless his many references
to his ordinary, nay, almost daily, inward combats or “temptations,”
as he is accustomed to style them, are not mere fabrications, but
really seem to come from a profoundly troubled soul. In what follows
many such utterances will be quoted, because only thus can one reach
a faithful picture of his changing moods which otherwise would seem
barely credible. These utterances, though usually much alike, at times
strike a different note and thus depict his inner life from a new and
sometimes surprising side.

2. The Subject-matter of the “Temptations”

The spiritual warfare Luther had to wage concerned primarily his
calling and his work as a whole.

“You have preached the Evangel,” so the inner voice, which he
describes as the devil’s tempting, says to him; “But who commanded you
to do so, ‘_quis iussit_?’ Who called upon you to do things such as no
man ever did before? How if this were displeasing to God and you had to
answer for all the souls that perish?”[1299]

 “Satan has often said to me: How if your own doctrine were false which
 charges the Pope, monks and Mass-priests with such errors? Often he so
 overwhelmed me that the sweat has poured off me, until I said to him,
 go and carry your complaints to my God Who has commanded me to obey
 this Christ.”[1300]—“The devil would often have laid me low with his
 argument: ‘Thou art not called,’ had I not been a Doctor.”[1301]—“I
 have had no greater temptation,” he said after dinner on Dec. 14,
 1531, “and none more grievous than that about my preaching; for I
 have said to myself: You alone are at the bottom of this; if it’s
 all wrong you have to answer for all the many souls which it brings
 down to hell. In this temptation I have often myself descended into
 hell till God recalled me and strengthened me, telling me that it was
 indeed the Word of God and true doctrine; but it costs much until
 one reaches this comfort.”[1302]—“Now the devil troubles me with
 other thoughts [than in the Papacy], for he accuses me thus: Oh, what
 a vast multitude have you led astray by your teaching! Sometimes
 amidst such temptation one single word consoles me and gives me fresh

 Not merely does he say this in the Table-Talk but even writes it in
 his Bible Commentaries. In his exposition of Psalm xlv. he speaks of
 an “argumentation and objection” which the devil urges against him:
 “Lo, you stand all alone and are seeking to overthrow the good order
 [of the Church] established with so much wisdom. For even though the
 Papacy be not without its sins and errors, what about _you_? Are _you_
 infallible? Are _you_ without sin? Why raise the standard of revolt
 against the house of the Lord when you yourself can only teach them
 what you yourself are full of, viz. error and sin? These thoughts,” he
 continues, “upset one very much.... Hence we must learn that all our
 strength lies in hearing God’s Word and laying hold on it, in seeing
 God’s works and believing in them. Whoever does not do this will be
 taken captive by the devil and overthrown.” He is fully cognisant of
 the strength of the objection which dogs his footsteps: Though sins
 and faults are to be met with in individual members of the hierarchy,
 still we must honour their “office and authority.”[1304]

Among Luther’s peculiar doctrines the principal ones which became the
butt of “temptations” were his fundamental theses on Justification, on
the Law and on good works.

 With regard to his doctrine of Justification, on Dec. 14, 1531, he
 gave his pupil Schlaginhaufen, who also failed to find comfort in it,
 some advice as to how he was to help himself. The devil was wont “to
 come to him” [Luther] with righteousness and to “insist on our being
 actively righteous,” and since none of us are, “no one can venture
 to stand up to him”; what one should do was, however, resolutely to
 fall back on passive righteousness and to say to Satan: Not by my own
 righteousness am I justified, but by the righteousness of the man
 Christ. “Do you know Him?” In this way we vanquish him by “the Word.”
 Another method, also a favourite one of his,[1305] so he instructs
 his anxious pupil, was to rid oneself of such ideas by “thinking of
 dancing, or of a pretty girl; that also is good, eating and drinking
 are likewise helpful; for one who is tempted, fasting is a hundred
 times worse than eating and drinking.”[1306]—“This is the great
 art,” he repeats at the beginning of the following year, looking back
 upon his own bitter experiences, “to pass from my sin to Christ’s
 righteousness to know that Christ’s righteousness is mine as surely as
 I know that this body is mine.... What astonishes me is that I cannot
 learn this doctrine, and yet all my pupils believe they have it at
 their finger-tips.”[1307]

 The doctrine of the Law in its relation to the Gospel, a point which
 he was never able to make quite clear to himself, constituted in his
 case an obstacle to peace of mind.[1308] In consequence of his own
 experience he warns others from the outset against giving way to any
 anxious thoughts about this: “Whoever, Law in hand, begins to dispute
 with the devil is already a beaten man and a prisoner.... Hence let
 no one dare to dispute with him about the Law, or about sin, but let
 him rather desist in good time.”[1309] “When Satan reproaches me and
 says: ‘The Law is also the Word of God,’ I reply: ‘God’s Word is only
 the promise of God whereby He says: Let me be Thy God. In addition to
 this, however, He also gives the Law, but for another purpose, not
 that we may be saved thereby.”[1310]

 But God, as Luther was well aware, will, as He threatens, judge people
 by their fulfilment of the Law and only grant salvation to those who
 keep it.

 The stern and clear exhortations of Scripture on fidelity to the Law
 and on penance for its transgression often filled his soul with the
 utmost terror, and so did the text: “Unless you do penance, you shall
 all likewise perish” (Luke xiii. 3). Even in one of his sermons he
 confessed to the people in this connection, that he was acquainted
 from experience “with the cunning of the devil and his malicious
 tricks, how he is wont to upbraid us with the Law ... to make a real
 hell for us so that the wide world seems all too narrow to hold us”;
 the devil depicts Christ “as though He were angry with sinners”; “he
 grabs a text of Holy Scripture, or one of Christ’s warnings, and
 suddenly stabs us so hard in the heart ... that we actually believe
 it, nay, our conscience would swear to it a thousand times,” that “it
 was indeed Christ Who inspired such thoughts, whereas all the while
 it was the devil himself.” “Of what I say I have had some experience
 myself.”[1311] He then goes on to quote the above exhortation to
 penance as an instance of the sort of warning on which the devil
 seizes, though these words have ever been regarded by God-fearing
 Christians as a powerful incentive to religion and not at all as
 productive of excessive fear, at least in those who put their trust
 in grace. Luther, however, thinks it right to add: “By fear the devil
 fouls and poisons with his venom the pure and true knowledge of

 Hence it is useless, or at best but a temporary expedient, to refrain
 from disputing with Satan on the Law. Nor is Luther’s invitation much
 better: “When a man is tempted, or is with those who are tempted,
 let him slay Moses and throw every stone at him on which he can lay

       *       *       *       *       *

 His doctrine of good works was no less a source of disquietude to
 Luther. He declared that Satan was sure of an “easy victory” “once
 he gets a man to think of what he has done or left undone.” What one
 had to do was to retort to the devil, strong in one’s fiducial faith:
 “Though I may not have done this or that good work, still I am saved
 by the forgiveness of sins, as baptised and redeemed by the flesh and
 blood of Christ”; beyond this he should not go: “Faith ranks above
 deeds”; still, so he adds, before a man reaches this point, all may
 be over for him. “It is hard in the time of temptation to get so far;
 even Christ found it difficult”; “it is hard to escape from the idea
 of works,” i.e. from believing that they as much as faith are required
 for salvation and that they are meritorious.[1313]

The “devil” also frequently twitted Luther, so he declares, with the
consequences of his doctrines.

 “Often he tormented me,” he says, “with words such as these: ‘Look at
 the cloisters; formerly they enjoyed a delightful peace, of which you
 have made an end; who told you to do such a thing?’” On one occasion,
 when making some such admissions concerning the effect of his teaching
 on the religious vows, one interrupted him and tried to show that he
 had merely insisted that God was not to be worshipped by the doctrines
 and commandments of men (Mt. xv. 9), and that the dissolution of the
 monasteries was not so much his work as a consequence ordained by God;
 Luther replied frankly: “My friend, before such a thought would have
 occurred to me during such temptations I should indeed have been in a
 fine sweat.”[1314]

 “When Satan finds me idle and not armed with the Word,” so we read
 in the notes made of one of his sermons,[1315] “he puts it into my
 conscience that I am a disturber of the public order, a preacher of
 false doctrines and a herald of revolt. This he often does. But as
 soon as I make use of the Word as a weapon I get the best, for I
 answer him.... It is written you must hear this man [the Son of God]
 or everything falls. God heeds not the world, even were there ten
 rebellious worlds. It was thus that Paul, too, had to console himself
 when accused of preaching sedition against God and the Emperor.”[1316]
 In this wise does Luther seek to fall back on Christ and on his divine

 He frequently, indeed usually, appeals to this source of consolation,
 and it is therefore due to him to quote a few more such statements. He
 struggles, in spite of all his fears, not to relinquish his peculiar
 trust in Christ.

 Yet, as he often complains in this connection, “the devil knows well
 how to get me away.”[1317]

 “He says to me: See how much evil arises from your doctrine. To which
 I reply: Much good has also come of it. Oh, says he, that is a mere
 nothing! He is a fine talker and can make a great beam of a little
 splinter, and destroy what is good and dissolve it into thin air. He
 has never been so angry in his life.... I must hold fast to Christ and
 to the Evangel. He frequently begins to dispute with me about this,
 and well knows how to get me away. He is very wroth, I feel it and
 understand it well.”[1318]—The moral consequences of the religious
 innovations, and the disunion so rife undoubtedly weighed heavily on
 Luther. “We, who boast of being Evangelical,” so he is impelled to
 exclaim in 1538, “fling the most holy Gospel to the winds as though it
 were but a quotation from Terence.” “Alas, Good God, how bitter the
 devil must be against us, to incite the very ministers of the Word
 against each other and to inspire them with mutual hatred!”[1319]

Misgivings as to his own salvation also constituted a source of
profound anxiety for Luther.

So repeatedly did he hear in fancy the devil announcing to him in a
voice of thunder his eternal damnation, that he was, as he confesses,
almost reduced to despair and to blasphemy.

“When we are thus tempted to blasphemy on account of God’s judgment,”
so he said on June 18, 1540, “we fail to see either that it is a sin,
or how to avoid it,” “such abominable thoughts does the prince of this
world suggest to the mind: Hatred of God, blasphemy, despair; these are
the devil’s own fiery darts; St. Paul understood them to some extent
when he felt the sting of the devil in his flesh [2 Cor. xii. 7].
These are the high temptations [which, as he explains elsewhere, were
reserved for himself and for his preachers]. No Pope has known them.
These stupid donkeys were familiar with no other temptations than those
of carnal passion.... To such they capitulated, and so did ‘Jeronimus.’
Yet such temptations are easily to be remedied while virgins and women
remain with us.”[1320]—But in that other sort of temptation it is hard
to “keep cheerful” and to tell the devil boldly: “God is not angry as
you say.”[1321]

On one occasion Melanchthon watched him during such a struggle, when he
was battling against despair and the appalling thought that he had been
delivered over to the “wrath of God and the punishment of sin.” Luther,
he says, was in “such sore terror that he almost lost consciousness,”
and sighed much as he wrestled with a text of Paul on unbelief and

Several incidents and many utterances noted down from Luther’s own
lips give us an even better insight into the varying character of his
“temptations” and into their nature as a whole.

3. An Episode. Terrors of Conscience become Temptations of the Devil

_Schlaginhaufen and Luther_

Johann Schlaginhaufen, the pupil of Luther whom we have had so frequent
occasion to mention, complained to his master in the winter of 1531
of the deep anxiety from which he could not shake himself free, which
led him to fear for the salvation of his soul. Luther sought in vain to
comfort the troubled man by pointing to his own case.[1323] The fact
that the master attributed the whole matter to the devil only added
to the confusion of his unfortunate pupil. So much was Schlaginhaufen
upset, that on one occasion, on New Year’s Eve, 1531, he actually
swooned whilst on a visit to Luther’s house. Luther, nothing abashed,
promptly exorcised the devil who had brought on the fainting-fit, using
thereto the Bible words: “The Lord rebuke thee, Satan” (Zach. iii. 2:
“_Increpet te Dominus_”); he added: “He [the devil], who should be an
angel of life, is an angel of death. He tries us with lying and with

 Schlaginhaufen, after having been put to bed, began to come to,
 whereupon Luther consoled him thus: “David suffered such temptations;
 I too have often experienced similar ones, though to-day I have
 been free from them and have had nothing to complain of save only a
 natural weakness of the head. Let the godless, Cochlæus, Faber and the
 Margrave [Joachim I of Brandenburg] be afraid and tremble. This is a
 temptation of the spirit; it is not meant for us, for we are ministers
 and vicars of God.” Here Schlaginhaufen groaned: “Oh, my sins!” Luther
 now tried to make him understand that he must turn to the thought
 of grace and forget all about the Law. “Oh, my God,” replied the
 young man, echoing his master’s own thoughts, “the tiniest devil is
 stronger than the whole world!” But Luther pointed out that there were
 even stronger good angels present for the Christian’s protection. He
 went on, “Satan is as hostile as can be to us. Were we only to agree
 to worship the Pope, we should be his dear children, enjoy perfect
 peace and probably become cardinals. It is not you alone who endure
 such temptations; I am inured to them, and Peter too and Paul were
 acquainted with them.... We must not be afraid of the miscreant.” When
 Schlaginhaufen had sufficiently recovered to return to his lodgings
 close by, Luther paternally admonished him to mix more freely with
 others and, for the rest, to trust entirely in his teacher. His
 own waverings did not prevent him from giving the latter piece of

 Of the temptations by which he himself was visited, “to despair, and
 to dread the wrath of God,” he had already said to Schlaginhaufen,
 on Dec. 14, 1531: Had it not been for them he would never have been
 able to do so much harm to the devil, or to preserve his own humility;
 now, however, he knew to his shame that “when the temptation comes I
 am unable to get the better of a single venial sin. Thanks to these
 temptations I have attained to such knowledge and to such gifts, that,
 with the help of God, I won that glorious victory (‘_illam præclaram
 victoriam_’), vanquishing my monkish state, the vows, the Mass and all
 those abominations.” “After that I had peace,” he says, speaking of
 those earlier years, “so that I even took a wife, such good days had
 I.”[1325]—Yet his own contemporary statements show that inward peace
 was not his at the time when he took a wife.[1326]

 An incident related of Luther by Schlaginhaufen shows how a single
 text of Scripture, and the train of ideas it awakened, could reduce
 him, and Bugenhagen too, to a state verging on distraction. “The devil
 on one occasion,” so Luther said to him, “tormented and almost slew
 me with Paul’s words to Timothy [1 Tim. v. 11-12], so that my heart
 melted in my bosom; the reason was the abandoning by so many monks and
 nuns of the religious state in which they had vowed to God to live.”
 (Paul, in the passage cited, has strong things to say of widows who
 prove unfaithful to the widowhood in which they had promised to live.)
 “The devil,” he continues concerning his attitude towards the devil at
 that time, “hid from my sight the doctrine of Justification so that I
 never even thought of it, and obtruded on me the text; he led me away
 from the doctrine of grace to dispute on the Law, and then he had me
 at his mercy. Bugenhagen happened to be near at the time. I submitted
 it to him and went with him into the corridor. But he too began to
 doubt, for he did not know that I was so hard put about it. Thereupon
 I was at first much upset and passed the night with a heavy heart.
 Next day Bugenhagen came to me. ‘I am downright angry,’ he said, ‘I
 have now looked into that text more closely, and, right enough, the
 argument is ridiculous!’ Thus he [the devil] is always on the watch
 for us. But nevertheless we have Christ!”[1327]—We are not told why
 the argument from this Bible-passage, which insists so solemnly on the
 sacred character of vows, was regarded as “ridiculous.”

The last incident reminds us of the scene between Luther and Bugenhagen
on June, 1540, narrated in the Table-Talk; there Luther declares: “No
sooner am I assailed by temptation than the flesh begins to rebel even
though I understand the spirit.... Gladly would I be formally just,
but I do not find it in me.” And Bugenhagen chimed in: “Herr Doctor,
neither do I.”[1328]

_From Remorse of Conscience to Onslaughts of the Devil_

The actual cause of Luther’s anxiety, as is plain from the above, was
a certain quite intelligible disquiet of conscience. Yet, he chose to
regard all reproaches from within as merely the sting of the Evil One.
As time went on this became more and more his habit; it is always the
evil spirit who is at his heels, at whose person and doings, Luther,
following his bent, pokes his jokes.

Hieronymus Weller, another pupil tormented with inner pangs, once,
without any beating about the bush, put down all his sadness to his
conscience; he declared in Luther’s presence in the spring of 1532:
“Rather than endure such troubles of conscience I would willingly go
through the worst illnesses.”[1329] Luther tried his best to pacify him
with the assurance that the devil was “a murderer,” and that “God’s
Mercy endureth for ever and ever.”

Yet Luther himself had admitted to his friend Wenceslaus Link, that
“it is extremely difficult thoroughly to convince oneself that such
thoughts of hopelessness emanate from Satan and are not our very own,
but the best help is to be found in this conviction. One must by a
supreme effort contrive to turn one’s mind to other things and chase
such thoughts away.” “But you can guess how hard it is,” he continues,
“when the thoughts refer to God and to our eternal salvation; they are
of such a nature that our conscience can neither tear itself away from
them nor yet despise them.”[1330] Simply to tear itself away from such
disquieting thoughts was certainly not possible for a conscience in so
luckless a position as Luther’s, oppressed as it was with the weight of
a world catastrophe.

Luther once, in 1532, says quite outspokenly and not without a certain
reference to himself: “The spirit of sadness is conscience itself”;
here, however, he probably only means that we are always conscious
within ourselves of a painful antagonism to the Law, for he at once
goes on: “This we must ever endure,” we must necessarily be ever in
a state of woe because in this life we “lie amidst the throes of
childbirth that precede the Last Day;” but the devil who condemns us
inwardly “has not yet condemned” Christ. Those who are thus tempted
“do not feel those carnal temptations, which are so petty compared with
the spiritual.”[1331]

At any rate, so he will have it, there was a call to struggle most
earnestly against all the inward voices that make themselves heard
against the new teaching and the apostasy, just as though they came
from the devil.[1332]

He was helped in this, on the one hand, by his terrible energy, and, on
the other, by a theological fallacy: “God has commanded that we should
look to Christ for forgiveness of our sins; hence whoever does not do
so makes God a liar; I must therefore say to the devil: Even though I
be a scamp, yet Christ is just.”[1333]

Thus we find him declaring, for instance, in July, 1528: “to yield to
such disquiet of conscience is to be overcome by Satan, nay, to set
Satan on the throne!” “Such thoughts may appear to be quite heavenly
and called for, but they are nevertheless Satanic and cannot but be
so.” When they refuse to depart, even though spurned by us, and we
endure them patiently, then do we indeed “present a sublime spectacle
to God and the angels.”[1334]—“Away with the devil’s sadness!” so, at
a later date, in 1544, he exhorts his old friend Spalatin; “conscience
stands in the cruel service of the devil; a man must learn to find
consolation even against his own conscience.”[1335]

4. Progress of his Mental Sufferings until their Flood-tide in 1527-1528

If we glance at the history of Luther’s so-called “temptations”
throughout the whole course of his career, we shall find that they
were very marked at the beginning of his enterprise. Before 1525 they
had fallen off, but they became again more frequent during the terrors
of the Peasant War and then reasserted themselves with great violence
in 1527. After abating somewhat for the next two years they again
assumed alarming proportions in 1530 in the solitude of the Coburg
and thus continue, with occasional breaks, until 1538. From that time
until the end of his life he seemed to enjoy greater peace, at least
from doubts regarding his own salvation, though, on the other hand,
gloomy depression undoubtedly darkened the twilight of his days, and
he complains more than ever of the weakness of his own faith; we miss,
however, those vivid accounts of his struggles of conscience which he
had been wont to give.

_The Period Previous to 1527_

Let us listen first of all to Luther’s self-reproach in the early days
of his public labours; we may recall those words of 1521 where he
confesses, that, before he had grown so bold and confident, “his heart
had often quaked with fear,” when he thought of the words of his foes:
“Are you alone wise and are all others mistaken? Is it likely that so
many centuries were all in the wrong? Supposing, on the contrary, you
were in the wrong and were leading so many others with you into error
and to eternal perdition!”[1336] He admits similarly that he had still
to fight with his conscience even after having passed through the storm
in which, “amidst excitement and confusion of conscience,” he had
discovered the true doctrine of salvation.[1337] That discovery did
not bring him into a haven of rest even though we have his word that,
for a while, he was quite overcome with joy. “Oh, what great trouble
and labour did it cost me, even though grounded on Holy Scripture, to
convince my conscience that I had a right to stand up all alone against
the Pope, and denounce him as Antichrist, the Bishops as his Apostles
and the Universities as his brothels.”[1338]

The days he spent in the Wartburg and the opportunity they afforded
him to look back on his past, awakened anew these self-reproaches;
whilst in the solitude, we hear him complaining, that his “distress
of soul still persisted and that his former weakness of spirit and
of faith had not yet left him.”[1339] Later on he remembered having
had to battle with every kind of despair (“_omnibus desperationibus_”)
for three long years.[1340] At a much later date, in 1541, he reminds
his friends of the many inward struggles (“_tot agones_”) the first
proclamation of the Evangel and his crusade against the word of man had
cost him.[1341]

About 1521 he must have arrived at a pitch of “despair and temptation
regarding the wrath of God” such as he never before had tasted; for he
told one of his pupils, on Dec. 14, 1532, that it was “about ten years
since he had felt this struggle so severely; after that better days had
dawned, but later the difficulties began anew.”[1342]

But, as he often admits, he was all too addicted to thoughts of
despair, thanks to the devil who was ever lying in wait for him; as for
the “better days” they might easily be counted. “When these thoughts
come upon me I forget everything about Christ and God, and even begin
to look upon God as a miscreant”; the “_Laudate_” stops, so he says,
and the “_Blasphemate_” begins as soon as we begin to think of the fate
to which from all eternity we are predestined.[1343]

Subsequent to 1525 his new state of life with its domestic cares
and distractions, added to his satisfaction with the growing damage
inflicted on the Papacy, appear to have contributed to diminish his
trouble of mind.

Later, however, in 1527, it “began anew.”

 Atrocious suffering of mind and bitter anxiety concerning the abuses
 in the new Church—“a vinegar sourer than all other vinegars, as he
 calls it,”—immediately preceded his illness which began about July
 7, 1527.[1344] Mental uneasiness and self-reproaches accompanied the
 fainting-fits which at that time seemed to threaten his life. His
 inward struggles were so severe that Bugenhagen, who tried to comfort
 him, compares them with the darkness of the soul “so frequently
 mentioned in the Psalms as illustrative of the spiritual pangs of
 hell.” “Dr. Martin,” writes the latter, who was pastor at Wittenberg
 and Luther’s “confessor,” “had in all likelihood been through other
 such temptations, but none had ever been so severe; this he admitted
 on the following day to Dr. Jonas, to Dr. Christian [Schurf] and to
 me. He said they were worse and more dangerous than the bodily ailment
 which befell him on that same Saturday evening about five o’clock
 and which was so serious that we feared he would succumb under it.”
 Luther himself, in those critical days, declared “that he would not
 retract his doctrine,” and, after making his confession to Bugenhagen
 as the latter relates, “spoke at considerable length of the spiritual
 temptation he had been through the same morning, with such fear and
 trembling as could not be described in words.”[1345] It was then that
 the curious complaint was involuntarily wrung from him that those who
 saw his outward behaviour fancied he “lay on a bed of roses, though
 God knew how it stood with him.” Bugenhagen and Jonas have embellished
 their accounts of this illness of their friend with many pious
 utterances supposed to have been spoken by him then.[1346]

_The Height of the Storm, 1527-28_

The worst struggles, lasting over many months, followed upon Luther’s
illness of 1527.

Hardly had he recovered his normal health than we find his letters
full of sad allusions to his abiding state of despair and to his fears
concerning the faith, probably the most melancholy outpourings of his
whole life.

 “For more than a week I have been tossed about between death and
 hell,” he writes to Melanchthon, “so that I still tremble in
 every limb and feel utterly broken. Waves and storms of despair
 and blasphemy against God broke over me and I lost Christ almost
 entirely. But, at the intercession of the saints [his friends] God has
 begun to take pity on me and has delivered my soul from the lowest
 hell.”[1347]—“This struggle,” he writes to Justus Menius, “goes
 beyond my strength.... I am tried not only in body but still more, and
 worst of all, in soul. God allows Satan and his angels thus to torment

 In a letter of Aug. 21, addressed to Johann Agricola, then still his
 friend, he informed him that the fight was not yet at an end. “Satan
 rages against me with all his might. Like another Job (Job xvi.
 12), God has set me up as a mark, and He tempts me with intolerable
 weakness of spirit. The prayers of holy men indeed save me from
 remaining in his hands, but the wounds I have received in my heart
 will be hard to heal. I trust that my strivings will turn to the
 salvation of many.” He concludes by saying that those in power (the
 Catholics) were unable to get at him, but that so much the more was he
 plagued in spirit “by the Prince of this world.”[1349] He writes in
 much the same vein on Aug. 26 to Nicholas Hausmann.

 Truly, so he again wrote to Johann Agricola, on Aug. 31, “neither
 world nor reason can understand how hard it is to realise that Christ
 is our righteousness, so deeply rooted in us is the doctrine of works,
 which has grown up with us and become part of us. That Christ may
 strengthen me I commend myself to your prayers.”[1350] Hence it was
 his chief dogma, the very rock of his Evangel, that “Satan” was then
 tampering with. The call for good works was, as he felt, beyond even
 his power to deny.

 “For wellnigh three months I have been feeling wretched,” he wrote
 on Oct. 8, “not so much in body as in soul, so that I have written
 little or nothing, so greatly has Satan tossed me in the sieve [Luke
 xxii. 31]”[1351]—“God has not yet completely restored me to health,”
 he announces on Oct. 19, “but in His wisdom leaves me a prey to
 Satan who assails me and buffets me; but God also sends help and

 He speaks of himself, on Oct. 27, as “a wretched and abject worm,
 harassed by the spirit of sadness,” “I seek and thirst for nought else
 than for a gracious God, for as such He reveals Himself even to His
 enemies and contemners.”[1353] Luther had claimed, that, through his
 new doctrine and through flinging aside his monkish frock he had found
 “a gracious God,” and proclaimed Him to men for their reconciliation;
 this has been extolled as the greatest gain achieved by the Lutheran
 schism; yet here we have his word for it that the solace of a Gracious
 God was still withheld from him.—“I have always been in the habit of
 comforting others,” he says in a letter to Amsdorf on Nov. 1; “and now
 I myself stand in desperate need of such consolation; only one thing,
 however, do I wish, viz. never to be the foe of Christ, although I
 have offended Him by many and great sins. Satan tries to make a Job
 of me; he would like to sift me like Peter and his brethren. Oh, that
 God would say to him: ‘Yet spare his life’ [Job ii. 6], and to me:
 ‘I am thy salvation’ [Ps. xxxiv. 3]. Even now I still hope that His
 anger at my sins will not last for ever.... Meanwhile fighting goes on
 outside and fears reign within, yea, very bitter ones indeed.”[1354]

 Thus in spite of everything he tries to buoy himself up with hope.

 Yet his lamentations continue. “Hardly can I breathe for storms
 and faintheartedness.... My Katey, however, is strong in faith and
 in good health.... As for me, my body is whole but I am tempted”
 (Nov. 4).[1355]—“From several sides at once fears rush in on me. My
 temptations torment me ... for months storms and faintness of spirit
 have never left me; pray that my faith may not fail” (Nov. 7).—“I
 have surely troubles enough already, please do not add to them by
 crucifying me with your dissensions” (Nov. 9).—“Erasmus and the
 Sacramentarians are now come to stamp me under foot, to persecute a
 man already utterly worn out in spirit!”[1356]—“I endure God’s wrath
 because I have sinned against Him. My sins, death, and Satan with his
 angels all rage against me without a break; and now Pope and Emperor,
 Princes, Bishops and the whole world too storms in upon me, making
 common cause with the crew who vex me”; everything would be endurable
 provided only Christ—for Whose sake he, the “most abject of all
 sinners,” was hated—did not desert one “whom God has smitten”[1357]
 and whom they persecute (Nov. 10).—“I believe that it is no mere
 fiend from the ranks of the devil’s hosts who fights with me, but the
 Prince of the demons himself; so powerful is he and so armed to the
 teeth with Bible-texts that my knowledge of the Bible is left stranded
 and I am obliged to have recourse to the words of others; from this
 you may get some idea of the devil’s height, as they say” (Nov. 17).

 “I am well in body, but as to how it stands with me in spirit I am
 not certain.... I seek only for a gracious Christ.... Satan wants to
 prevent me from writing and to drag me down with him to hell. May
 Christ tread him under foot, Amen!” (Nov. 22).[1358]

 His work and his doctrine must, according to him, be pleasing to
 heaven; the difficulties and the attacks from without and from within,
 all these he attributes to Satan’s raging and sees in them proofs
 “that our word is the Word of God; this alone it is that makes him so
 furious against us” (Dec. 30).—It has been said that Luther held fast
 to this with a “bold faith”; it would, however, be more correct to say
 that he catches at such thoughts as a drowning man does at a straw, a
 phenomenon which of itself throws a lurid light on his delusions and
 the misty trend of his thoughts. He is determined to be sure of his
 cause—and at this very time, with the help of the State, he has a
 Coburg Zwinglian put to silence, because the latter “neither is nor
 can be sure of his cause.”[1359]

 “I myself am weak and in wretchedness,” he again confesses. “If only
 Christ does not forsake me.... Satan expends his fury on me because I
 have attacked him by deed, and word, and writing; but I feel consoled
 when I boldly believe (‘_fortiter credo_’) that what I did was
 pleasing to the Lord and to His Christ. I am tossed about between the
 two warring princes [Christ and Satan] till all my bones are sore.
 Many works of Satan have I done and still do, nevertheless I hope to
 please my Christ Who is merciful and inclined to forgive; but from
 Satan I desire no forgiveness for what I have done against him and
 for Christ. He is a murderer and the father of lies.... I feel in the
 depths of my soul how, with unbelievable wrath, he plots against me,
 assuming even the guise of Christ, to say nothing of that of the angel
 of light” (Nov. 27, 1527).—The “guise of Christ” and of the “angel
 of light,” to which he here alludes, are sufficient to show those who
 look below the surface that what was troubling him was something not
 very different from the inner voice of conscience.

 How far he could go in deluding himself the better to appease his
 conscience is plain from what he says in his letter “to the Christians
 at Erfurt”: During the whole time he had spent at Erfurt in his
 Catholic days he had longed in vain to hear “a Gospel or even a little
 Psalm”; there, as was everywhere the case in Popery, Holy Scripture
 lay buried deep, and “no one had even thought of preaching a really
 Christian sermon.”[1360]

 No less vain than this consolation from the past was that which he
 sought in the future. He clung wildly to his delusion that the end of
 all was at hand; “Satan,” he cries, “has but a short respite before
 being completely overthrown, therefore does he make such furious and
 incredible efforts” (Dec. 31).

 “Now that the Word is preached Satan plainly comes off second best;
 hence he persecutes me secretly; he is unchained, and, with all his
 engines he seeks to tear Christ from me.” Thus (on Nov. 28).—“I am
 the wretched ‘off-scourings of Christ’” (Nov. 29).—“I am to all
 intents and purposes dead, as the Apostle calls it, yet still I live”
 (Dec. 10).

The long and terrible year was drawing to a close. He had almost grown
accustomed to his inward troubles. “I have not yet shaken off my
temptation, nor do I desire to be free if it is to God’s glory. The
devil rages against me simply because Christ has vanquished him through
me, his most wretched of vessels” (Dec. 14).—“Well in body, in soul I
am as Christ wills, to Whom I am now bound only by a slender thread.
The devil on the other hand is moored to me with mighty cords, nay,
real cables; he drags me down into the depths, but the weak Christ has
still the upper hand owing to your prayers, or at least He puts up a
brave fight” (Dec. 29).

_The Trouble Continues_

Even his lectures on the 1st Epistle of St. John testify to Luther’s
inward excitement during that unhappy year (1527). The Preface to the
commentary as preserved in the Vatican MS. (Palat., 1825) is dated Aug.
19, and begins: “You know that we are so placed by God in this life as
to be exposed to all the darts of Satan. And not Satan alone storms
against us, but also the world, and our heart, and our flesh. Hence
we must despair of peace so long as we remain here below. Against all
these evils God has given us no other weapon than His Word which He
commands us to preach, who live in the midst of wolves.... Thus, since
we are exposed to all these dangers, to death, sin, heretics and the
whole might of Satan, I have undertaken to expound this Epistle.”

 Amidst all this inward woe there was a cheerier side of things to look
 at. A little daughter had been born to him at the end of 1527. He and
 his family had happily been spared by the plague. He had succeeded
 in imposing silence on most of his opponents among the preachers
 of the new faith. His sovereign too was more than ever resolved to
 support him in his work. In the German lands, and even beyond, the
 Evangel was daily gaining new ground. Hence there was every reason for
 self-gratulation. In spite of all this what he says to his friends
 retains a tone of bitterness and apprehension: “Help me in my agony!”
 “At times indeed the temptation becomes less severe, but then again it
 overwhelms me more relentlessly than before” (Dec. 30).—“We are all
 well excepting Luther himself, who, though he feels well in body, is
 tormented outwardly by the whole world and inwardly by the devil and
 all his angels.” “Satan gnashes his teeth furiously all around us”
 (Dec. 31).—“I have been well acquainted with such temptations from my
 youth upwards, but that they could assume such dimensions I had never
 dreamed. Christ holds His own with the utmost difficulty, yet so far
 He has been victorious. I commend myself to your prayers and those of
 your brethren. I have saved others and cannot save myself. Praised
 be my Christ,” he adds, convinced in spite of all that he was in the
 right, “praised be He in the midst of despair, death and blasphemy....
 It is our glory to have lived in the world agreeably with the will of
 Christ, forgetful of our former very evil life. Let it suffice that
 Christ is our life and our righteousness, though this is indeed a hard
 truth and one which the flesh knows not. It is a bitter chalice that I
 must drink as the end of the world draws nigh” (Jan. 1, 1528).

After this sad New Year’s letter Luther’s complaints of his pains
of soul cease for a while, though, not long after, they reappear at
intervals in an even more startling form.

That bodily sickness was not entirely responsible is clear from his
frequent allusions to his good state of health even during such spells
of stress; in the end, too, he got the better of these fears, not as
the result of any improvement in bodily health, but thanks to the
defiant spirit with which he clung to what he deemed was his Divine
mission. Everybody knows how much a forceful will is able to do, even
in the profoundest depths of the soul. Nevertheless the unhappy victory
he ultimately succeeded in gaining over his own self has a right to be
accounted something quite out of the common, something of which few in
his position would have been capable. Hardly ever has a man had such
Titanic forces at his disposal as Luther. He neither could nor would
go back, the gap was already too wide; the inward voices spoke in vain
which urged him to put away the “hard truth” of the doctrine he had
discovered, and to return to the Church which he had spurned.

On the contrary, quite in his own fashion, he declared, on Jan. 27,
1528, that “he was determined still further to provoke Satan, who was
raging against him with the utmost fury,” and thus make an end once
for all of his struggles and fears. “But after I am dead,” so he begs
his friends, “then do you who survive me avenge me on Satan and his
apostles” (Jan. 6).

In the same year, on the strength of his own experience, he gave his
friend Wenceslaus Link detailed directions for those followers of
the Evangel who are “tempted in faith and hope.” They are to make the
“greatest efforts” against the devil who is so plainly to be discerned;
they are to build blindly on the certainty that all thoughts to the
contrary are mere devil’s treason. Further, they are to cling to the
Word of a good man as to a voice from God in Heaven, just as he himself
had often found strength by revolving in mind Bugenhagen’s simple
words: “You must not despise our consolation.”[1361] Luther seems to
have sent Link several such letters on the means of escaping from
“despair.”[1362] He knew only too well the fears which many underwent
in the new Evangel.[1363]

“Our conscience tells us,” so he says in one of his sermons, “I am a
sinner, it goes ill with me, and this I have richly deserved. Then the
conscience begins to quake and says: It will not be well with me when I
die. Such is fear of death.”[1364]

       *       *       *       *       *

The return of his friends to Wittenberg in 1528 and social intercourse
with his own circle gradually changed his frame of mind. He was very
susceptible to the influence of cheerful conversation and to the
exhilarating effects of drink. The new and important tasks which
confronted him also tended to take his mind from the trouble that
reigned within him.

“My Satan,” he was able to write on Feb. 25, 1528, “is now rather more
bearable; your prayers are taking effect.”[1365]

But, in the following year (1529), it became apparent that the storm
was not yet over. As early as Feb. 12 he again asks his friend Amsdorf
for the help of his prayers that he may not “be delivered into Satan’s
hand.”[1366]—Curiously enough, on the very day that the famous
Protest of Spires was made (April 19, 1529), Luther was again passing
through one of the worst bouts of his “wrestling with the devil”; he
poured out his heart and conscience to his friend Jonas: If it was
really an apostolic attribute to be “in deaths often” (2 Cor. xi.
23) then indeed he was in this respect a “very Peter or Paul”; but,
unfortunately, he had other less apostolic qualities, “qualities better
fitting robbers, publicans, whores and sinners.”[1367]—Elsewhere he
indeed compares himself with the Apostle Peter, but with Peter while
still weak in the faith and wavering, as he was before the descent of
the Holy Ghost: “Though I feel fairly well in body yet I am weak in the
spirit, and, like Peter’s, my faith is shaky”[1368] (July 31).

When he wrote this he had already consented to take part in the Marburg
Conference with Zwingli. We already know how, outwardly at least, he
triumphed over Zwingli at Marburg; yet, when returning home in good
health and spirits, the “temptations” suddenly came upon him again at
Torgau in Oct., 1529, with such violence, that he admitted he had “only
with difficulty (‘_vix et ægre_’) continued his journey to Wittenberg,
after having given up all hope of again seeing his family.”[1369] Very
likely apprehension of danger from the Turks contributed to this. He
himself says: “It may be that, by this combat (‘_agon_’), I myself am
doing my bit in enduring and conquering the Turk, or at least his god,
viz. the devil.”[1370] Just before this, however, and on this very
journey home, he had composed the so-called Articles of Schwabach,
which contain not a trace of his doubts and self-reproaches, but, on
the contrary, are full of that firm defiance which characterises his
other writings. They insist most strongly on his views as against those
of both Zwinglians and Catholics.

Before reaching Torgau Luther preached several sermons, including one
at Erfurt.

_Outbursts and Relief_

At Erfurt, as though to relieve his fears, Luther stormed against
the Evangelical fanatics, and likewise against the monks and the
holy-by-works. Maybe the sight of the town where he had passed his
youth set him thinking of the zealous and peaceful years he had spent
in the monastery and thus added to his sense of disquiet. Nor was this
the first time that his anger had gushed forth on Erfurt in one of
those outbursts by which he was wont to forestall the reproaches of his

 One such eruption of an earlier date may serve as an instance of the
 fits of rage to which he was liable when battling with his temptations.

 The Erfurt Evangelicals had failed to silence the Franciscan preacher,
 Dr. Conrad Kling. That this valiant friar, the ablest priest at
 Erfurt and a powerful pulpit orator, should continue to attract large
 crowds, annoyed Luther exceedingly. In his writing to the “Christians
 at Erfurt” of Jan. or Feb., 1527, he invoked “God’s anger and
 judgments” upon them and threatened all with Christ’s warnings against
 “Capharnaum, Chorozain and Bethsaida” unless at the order of their
 Councillors they expelled the preacher and in this way safeguarded the
 “great fulness and wealth of the Word” which he himself had proclaimed
 to them. Satan, verily, was not asleep in their midst, as they could
 very well see from the working of that “doctor of darkness,” the
 shameless monk.[1371]

 Kling, who was much esteemed by the Catholics, and was seeking to save
 the last remnants of the faithful, was pictured by the fanatism of his
 furious opponent as a glaring example of that most dreadful of all
 sins, viz. the sin against the Holy Ghost. Now that the world, by the
 preaching of the Evangel, has been delivered from the lesser sins of
 “blindness, error and darkness,” so Luther told the people of Erfurt,
 “why do we rage with the other sin against the Holy Ghost and provoke
 God’s wrath to destroy us in time and for all eternity? God will not
 forgive this sin, nor can He endure it; there is no need to say more.”
 “When they start wantonly fighting against the plain, known truth,
 then there is no further help or counsel.”[1372]

 Such action can only be explained by a quite peculiar mental state.
 Boundless irritation, probably not unconnected with his struggles of
 conscience, combined with a positive infatuation for his own ideas,
 was the cause of the following outbursts, which almost remind us of
 the ravings of a maniac.

 In 1528, in the preface to a book of Klingenbeyl, he inveighs against
 the celibacy of the clergy: “They are devils in human skins and so are
 all who knowingly and wilfully hold with them.” “Amongst themselves
 they are the worst of all whoremongers, adulterers, women-stealers and
 girl-spoilers, so that their shameless record of sins fills the heaven
 and the earth.” Their wickedness is matched only by their stupidity.
 “The people [the Papists] have become a Pope-Ass, so that they are and
 remain donkeys however much we may boil them, roast them, flay them,
 turn them over, baste them, or break them; all they can do is abuse
 Luther.... And because I have driven them to Scripture and they can
 neither understand nor make use of it, God help us what a wild bawling
 and outcry I have caused. Here one howls about the sacrament under
 one kind, there another bellows against the marriage of the clergy;
 one shrieks about the Mass, and another yells about good works.” “The
 vermin and the ugly crew I have rounded up understands not a bit even
 its own noise and howling.” “Hence you may see how they love justice,
 viz. their own tyranny.”

 To the measure of their viciousness, stupidity and obstinacy must
 be added vulgar impudence of the worst sort: “They shamelessly and
 scandalously relieve themselves of their filth in front of all the
 world.” “Such rude fellows remind me of a coarse clod-hopper who
 would ease himself in the marketplace before everyone, all the while
 pointing to a house where a little child is modestly and privily
 relieving nature, and who would imagine that he had thereby excused
 himself and provoked everybody to laugh at the child.” “Ought not such
 rascals to be hunted down with hounds and driven out with rods.... Let
 them go, blind leaders of the blind that they are! God’s endless wrath
 has come upon them so that now they can no longer see anything.”[1373]

       *       *       *       *       *

 According to recent research it is to this trying time of inward
 conflict, after his recovery from his illness in 1527, that Luther’s
 famous Hymn “A safe stronghold our God is still” (“Ein’ feste Burg”)
 belongs. This “great hymn of the evangelical community,” as Köstlin
 termed it, proclaims, in the words of the Psalmist, that God is the
 strong bulwark and sure refuge of Luther’s cause.

  “The ancient Prince of Hell
    Hath risen with purpose fell;
  Strong mail of Craft and Power
    He weareth in this hour,
      On Earth is not his fellow.

         *       *       *       *       *

  And were this world all devils o’er,
    And watching to devour us,
  We lay it not to heart so sore,
    Not they can overpower us.

         *       *       *       *       *

  God’s Word, for all their craft and force,
    Shall not one moment linger.”[1374]

 “This hymn came from the very bottom of his heart,” says Köstlin,
 “being written with a bold faith under stress of temptation.” The
 first trace of the hymn is now believed to be found in a recently
 discovered Leipzig hymnbook, which is supposed to be a reprint of
 the Wittenberg “Gesangbüchlein” of 1528, in which this hymn may have

A Protestant researcher, P. Tschackert, has pointed out, that, in that
same year (1528), the Wittenbergers went in fear of an attack on the
Evangelicals by the Catholic Estates. Luther’s attitude towards the
supposed menace, intensified as it was by his inward struggles about
that time, calls for some further remarks.

The alleged disclosures of Otto von Pack to the Landgrave of Hesse
concerning the secret plans of the Catholics to dethrone the Protestant
Princes by force of arms had proved to be a mere fabrication.[1376]
Luther, nevertheless, stormed against the Duke of Saxony who was
supposed to be implicated most deeply in the business. He wrote: “Duke
George is a foe of my doctrine, hence he rages against the Word of God;
I must therefore believe he rages against God Himself and His Christ.
But if he rages against God, then, privily, I must believe him to be
possessed of the devil. If he is possessed of the devil, then in my
heart I must believe that he cherishes the worst of intentions.”[1377]
Thanks to such dialectics, Luther again formulates the charges embodied
in the Pack disclosures. As Tschackert points out, Luther persisted in
crediting his opponents with all that was worst.

 In 1528 he preached on John xvii.; in the tone of these sermons,
 printed in 1530, we find several remarkable echoes of Luther’s hymn
 “Ein’ feste Burg.”[1378]

 The preacher speaks to his hearers both of inward temptations and of
 outward hardships, and uses words which recall, now his complaints of
 his experiences with the devil, now the trustful defiance he voices in
 his hymn on the “Safe stronghold.”

 “We must know that there is no way of resisting the devil’s
 temptations than by holding fast to the plain word of Scripture and
 not thinking or speculating further.... Whoever does not do this
 will be disappointed, and err, and have a fall.”[1379] If you do not
 simply believe in the Word, he repeats to the people, you will “rush
 in headlong and be overthrown; for the devil is able to persuade our
 heart that he is God, and to disguise himself in great splendour and
 majesty”; “in the assumption of prudence, holiness and majesty no one
 in the world excels him”; “hence no one can cheat him better than by
 tying himself to the tree where God has placed him; otherwise, if he
 seizes you, you are lost and he will carry you off as the hawk does
 the chick from under the wing of the clucking hen.”[1380]

 In the same sermon, however, he also prophesies the shame and
 destruction of “our wrathful foes who seek to stifle the Evangel and
 to stamp out the Christians, many of whom they have already burned and
 murdered; for even prouder kings and lords—in comparison with whom
 our princes and lords are the merest beggars[1381]—have come to grief
 over the Evangel and been wrecked by it.” Speaking of the Catholic
 princes headed by the Emperor Charles V, he exclaims: “Our furious
 tyrants, when they abuse the Evangel, and persecute, murder and burn
 all our people are termed Christian princes, and defenders of the
 Church; this exonerates whatever shameful and wicked practices they
 may commit against both God and man.”[1382]

 Again he extols the Word, making Christ say: “I have given them the
 Word whereby Thy Name has been made known to them” (“Das Wort sie
 sollen lassen stahn,” as the original of the hymn runs); “but neither
 the Papacy nor any other fanatics will accept it,” i.e. the knowledge
 of Christ; “for this reason we are forced unceasingly to wrangle,
 grapple and fight with them and the devil.”[1383] Still, “all our
 protection, our redemption from sin, death, the world and the devil’s
 power is comprised in the Word alone”; holding fast to this we have
 all the prophets, martyrs, apostles and the whole of Christendom on
 our side. But Christendom is a “powerful lady, Empress of heaven and
 earth, at whose feet devil, world, death and hell must fall as soon as
 she drops a word.” “For,” so he continues, thinking of himself, “who
 can check or harm a man who has so defiant a spirit?” “Whether the
 devil attacks singly a weak member of Christendom and fancies he has
 gobbled him up [cp. the use of this same word below, p. 347] or even
 Christendom as a whole,” he must nevertheless “tremble and fall to the
 ground.” “If a sin attacks him [the Christian], and seeks to affright,
 gnaw, and oppress his conscience and threaten him with devil, death
 and hell, then God and His multitude [the saints and angels] will say:
 ‘Good sin, let him be; death, do not slay him; hell, do not swallow

 “But here faith comes in,” he at once goes on, “for, to the eyes
 of the world and to reason, everything seems just the reverse.”
 [“And were the world all devils o’er,” sings the hymn on the “Safe

 The outside menace from the Papists and their princes, and the inward,
 “sudden, baneful attacks of the devil in our conscience,” Luther
 writes in his interpretation of John xviii. (v. 28), all “this is
 written to put to blush our high-priests and elders, viz. the bishops
 and princes who go about the world with noses in the air as though
 they were pious and holy, whereas they drive out of their land the
 pious, God-fearing Christians and preachers. Who in the devil’s name
 gave them power to pass judgment on the teaching of the Evangel?”
 But the devil, too, persecutes us with his machinations. “When he
 finds some poor conscience that would fain be pious, he attacks it
 with trifles.... Amongst us Evangelicals there is not one who has
 not great, big sins and difficulties, such as doubts, and waverings
 in the faith, and other awkward knots. But such big sins and great
 difficulties the devil is willing to discard while he attacks us about
 some paltry thing ... and torments and plagues our conscience.” But
 when thereby we are “upset and become troubled” we ought to “console
 ourselves and say: ‘If Our Lord God can have patience with me even
 though my faith in Him be not firm, but often wavering and doubtful,
 why then do you torment me, you devil, with other petty matters and
 sins? I can see through all your artfulness and wicked malice; you
 cloak over the great sins and big difficulties so that I may not
 heed them, or make any conscience of them, nor seek forgiveness for
 them....’ Therefore a Christian must learn not to allow himself to be
 too easily troubled with remorse of conscience; but if he believes in
 Christ, wishes to be pious, strives against sin as far as he is able
 and yet occasionally makes mistakes, stumbles and falters, he must not
 allow such stumbling to upset him in conscience, but rather he must
 say: Away with this error and this stumbling! Let it join my other
 faults and crimes and be included among the other sins of which the
 Creed teaches us the forgiveness.”[1385]

The further course of Luther’s inner history will show more clearly
how far the article of the forgiveness of sins served its purpose in
his own case and how he contrived to prop up a faith, which, during
the years 1527 and 1528, was so distressingly inclined to “doubt and

5. The Ten Years from 1528-38. How to win back Peace of Conscience

_The Years Previous to 1537_

During the time when the Diet of Augsburg was in preparation Luther’s
complaints about his inward struggles recede somewhat into the
background, outward events engrossing all his attention.

Matters changed, however, when the Diet actually began its sessions and
he himself took up his residence in the fortress of Coburg. There he
was a prey to overwhelming suffering both of body and of mind.

His nervous ailments, particularly the noises in his head, became
much worse at that time, owing partly to his deep concern for his
cause, partly to his too great literary output during his sojourn
in the solitude. Against his inner anxieties he tried the weapon of
humour.[1386] But all in vain. The “spiritual temptations” set in, and
his loneliness made them even worse. It was at the beginning of May
that he received Satan’s famous “embassy.” Because he had been left
quite alone (in the absence of Veit Dietrich and Cyriacus Kaufmann),
so he says, Satan had so far got the better of him that he had been
obliged to flee from the room and to seek the society of men. When
writing to Melanchthon about this he uses some strange-sounding words:
“Hardly can I await the day when I shall at last behold the tremendous
power of this spirit and his majesty, which, in its kind, is quite
divine (‘_planeque divinam maiestatem quandam_’).”[1387] Here he is
presumably alluding to the time of his death and of the judgment when
he would behold Satan. He had, however, not to wait so long, for, in
the following month and while still at the Coburg, he was vouchsafed
a glimpse of the Enemy under a certain shape; at least such was his
belief; the actual vision will be described later (vol. vi., xxxvi., 3).

He must have suffered grievously from his fears whilst in the castle;
he compares himself to the parched country surrounding it, so greatly
was he tried inwardly by storms and heat;[1388] but “our cause is safe
if our Word is true, and that it is true is sufficiently demonstrated
by the ferocity and frenzy of our foes.”[1389] He was visited by
thoughts of death, and, during these, he sought, as he related later,
the spot in the castle chapel where he would be laid to rest.[1390]
Then, when his disquiet of mind began to abate, intense bodily weakness
again made him think of death; this too, in his opinion, was Satan’s
doing. When ultimately he left the Coburg he felt himself a broken man
and began to sigh more and more over his burden of years, though, as a
matter of fact, he was still comparatively young.

Nevertheless, in a letter to Melanchthon of June 29, 1530, he praised
the comfort of his place of residence. Above all he was able to report
that “the spirit who formerly beat me with fists [in mind] seems to be
losing heart.”[1391] Yet, alluding to his bodily pains, he says sadly:
“I fancy that another has taken his [the other tormentor’s] place and
plagues my body; but I prefer to endure this torture of the body rather
than that hangman of the spirit. But he has sworn to have my life, this
I feel plainly, and will never stop until he has gobbled me up.”[1392]

But when he had returned safe and sound to Wittenberg he was disposed
to look back with utter horror on what he had gone through, physically
and mentally, when at the Coburg. “Now my shoulders are really
beginning to feel the weight of my years,” he writes to trusty Amsdorf;
“and my powers are going. The angel of Satan has indeed dealt hardly
with me.”[1393]

“My thoughts did me more harm than all my work,” he said, in May,
1532, speaking of those which came by night (“_curæ nocturnæ_”).[1394]
Nothing, so he says elsewhere, had brought him so nigh to death as
these; with them all his labours, to which the great numbers of letters
he received bore witness, were not to be compared.[1395] To young
Schlaginhaufen Veit Dietrich related, as a memory of the Coburg days,
how Luther had said to him there: “Were I to die now and be cut open,
my heart would be found all shrivelled up in consequence of my distress
and sadness of spirit.”[1396]

His having to wrestle with such moods is also in great part responsible
for the stormy and extravagant tone of the works he wrote during, or
shortly after, his stay at the Coburg.[1397]

“_I should have Died without any Struggle_”

In 1537, in his second serious illness, at Schmalkalden, and on the
return journey from this town to Wittenberg, Luther displayed the same
stubborn spirit as in 1527. In 1537 it was an attack of stone which
brought him to the brink of the grave. Later on he himself declared
of this crisis, that he would have died quite easily and trustfully.
Into his deepest feelings at that time we have, of course, no means of
probing, but it may be, that, by dint of persistently repressing his
earlier scruples, he had indeed reached the state of calm resignation
he depicts. At the same time his great bodily exhaustion will probably
have reacted on his spirit, his very weakness thus explaining the
silence of the inward voices.

 “At Gotha [on my way back],” so he told his friends in 1540, “I was
 quite certain I was to die; I said good-bye to all, called Bugenhagen,
 commended to him the Church, the school, my wife and all else, and
 begged him to give me absolution.... Thus I should have died in Christ
 with a perfectly quiet soul and without a struggle. But the Lord
 wished to preserve me in life. My ‘_Catena_’ [Katey] too,” so he goes
 on to speak of one of his wife’s illnesses, “when once we had already
 given up all hopes for her life, would have died gladly, and readily,
 and with a quiet soul; she merely repeated a thousand times over the
 words: ‘In Thee, O Lord, have I hoped, I shall not be confounded
 for ever.’” From such experiences in her case and in his own Luther
 draws the conclusion, that “at times the devil desists from tempting
 to blasphemy.” “At other times God allows him,” so he thinks, “to
 try us thereby, so that we may not become indolent but may learn to
 fight. At the end of our life, however, all such temptations cease;
 for then the Holy Spirit is at the side of the faithful believer,
 restrains the devil by force and pours into the heart perfect peace
 and security.”[1398]

 Such was his interpretation of the case.

 At other times Luther expresses wonder at the wrong-headed sectarians
 who can with such confidence look even death itself in the face.
 He refuses to apply to them what has just been said; it is no real
 peace that they die in, rather they are blinded by Satan’s delusions.
 “This new sect of the Anabaptists,” he says indignantly, “grows
 marvellously, they live with a great show [of the spirit] and boldly
 face death by fire and water.”[1399] He is thinking of the Anabaptists
 who were executed in 1527—“May God have mercy on these poor captives
 of Satan.... They cannot be coerced either by fire or by the sword; so
 greatly does Satan rage in this hour because it is his last.” And yet
 the whole thing was little more than a joke of Satan’s.

 “With me, however, he certainly does not jest; I believe that I am
 pleasing to God and displeasing to Satan.”[1400]

 He overlooks the fact that the Anabaptists, too, fancied they were
 pleasing Christ, nay, were passionately convinced that they were
 living for Christ and not for Satan; they even exposed themselves of
 their own accord to the worst torments of the executioner before they
 passed out of life, obstinately declaring that it was impossible for
 them to recant. The words in which Luther complains of their obstinacy
 are a two-edged sword.

 He is fond of bewailing the stubbornness of the heretics; it was a
 subject of wholesome fear for all; it penetrated “like water into
 their inward parts and like oil into their bones”: so far do they go
 that they see “salvation and blessing” in their own doctrine alone;
 few are they who “come right again,” “the others remain under their
 own curse.” “Neither have I ever read,” he assures us, “of any teacher
 who originated a heresy being converted”; “the true Evangel which
 teaches the contrary of their doctrine is and always will be to them
 a devil’s thing.”[1401]—“No heretic,” he cries, “will let himself
 be talked over.... A man is soon done for when the devil thus lays
 hold of him.”[1402] Such a one boasts that, “he is quite certain of
 things”; “No Christian ever held so fast to his Christ as a Jew or a
 fanatic does to his pet doctrine.”[1403] He also believes his opponent
 to be a liar “as surely as God is God.”[1404] And yet, so Luther
 argues, the sectarian or fanatic can never be certain at all; not one
 of his gainsayers is sure of his cause; not one has “felt the struggle
 and been at grips with the devil” like himself.[1405]

 But I, “I am certain that my word is not mine but the word of Christ,”
 and “every man who speaks the word of Christ is free to boast that
 his mouth is the mouth of Christ.”[1406]—“Had not the devil attacked
 us with such power and cunning during all these years,” he says in his
 second exposition of the 1st Epistle of Peter (published in 1539), “we
 should never have acquired this certainty on doctrine.”[1407] It is to
 his awful “temptations,” that, as we have heard him repeatedly assure
 us, he owes the strength of his faith.[1408] Unceasingly did he strive
 to acquire a feeling of strong certainty in defiance of the devil,
 as indeed his theology demanded: We must by fiducial faith have made
 our position secure against the devil, otherwise we have no stay at

 “Even though I stumble yet I am resolved to stand by what I have
 taught.” And, as though to falter in this way was inevitable, he
 continues: “for although a Christian holds fast until death to his
 doctrine, yet he often stumbles and begins to doubt; but it is not
 so with the fanatics, they stand firm.”[1410] And yet, according to
 Luther, everyone must “stand firm,” for in theology there is no room
 for “fears and doubts. And we must have certainty concerning God. But
 in conversing with other men we must be modest and say, ‘If anyone
 knows better let him say so.’”[1411]

_The “Struggles by Day and by Night” gradually Wane_

Hardly had Luther recovered from his second bout of illness than the
gloomy thoughts once more emerged from their hiding-place and began
again to dog his footsteps, though perhaps not quite so persistently as
after his recovery from his previous sickness ten years earlier. It is
as though on both occasions the sight of the gaping jaws of death had
set free the troubled spirits within, and as though the spell which
momentarily restrained his terrors of soul had been loosed as soon as
his bodily powers returned. This was the last great attack he had to
endure, or at least from this time onward definite allusions to his
struggles of conscience are not forthcoming as before.

In 1537 he lay for a fortnight under the stress of that “spiritual
malady” (above, p. 319), during which he “disputed with God,” was
scarcely able to take food, to sleep or to preach, in spite of his
“understanding a little” “the Psalter and its consolation,” viz. that
one must be patient.[1412]—On Oct. 7, 1538, he bewails his “daily
agony.”[1413] In the same year he wrings some comfort out of Paul, who
also had been unable to “lay hold of” what was right;[1414] he also has
a poke at the devil: “Why arraign us so sternly before God as though
you were quite holy, and the highest judge!”[1415]

He then realised in his own person how one thus oppressed with terrors
of soul could be tempted, like Job (iii. 1 ff.), to curse the day of
his birth. After having, during the night of Aug. 1, 1538, suffered
severe pains in the joints of the arm, he said next day, that such
pains were tolerable in comparison with others: “The flesh can get used
to this sort of thing. But when the spiritual temptations come and the
‘Cursed be the day I was born’ follows, that is a harder matter. Christ
was tried in a similar way in the Garden of Olives.... He, on account
of His temptations, is our best advocate in all temptations.... Let us
but cling fast to hope!”[1416]

It cannot be established that he was speaking seriously or was prompted
by despair when he wished that “he had died as a child,” nay, “had
never been born,” and stated that he would gladly see “all his books
perish.” We must beware of laying too great stress on occasional
deliverances spoken in moments of irritation, or on little tricks of
speech such as his depreciatory remarks concerning his books.[1417]

 It may be to the purpose to quote here some undated statements of
 Luther’s which paint in lurid style his frequent struggles of mind and
 his manner of resistance.

 Jerome, Augustine and Ambrose had “carnal and childish temptations”;
 “these are nothing compared with Satan who strikes us, the
 [Greek: skolops], that, as it were, fastens us to the gallows;
 then Jerome’s and the others’ child-temptations are chased away
 entirely.”[1418]—“On one occasion I was greatly tempted in my garden
 near the bush of lavender, whereupon I sang the hymn ‘Now praise we
 Christ the Holy One,’ otherwise I should have expired on the spot.
 Hence, when you feel such a thought, say, ‘This is not Christ.’ ...
 This I preach and write, but I am not yet at home in this art when
 tempted in this way.”[1419]

 The worst temptations of all are those when “one does not know whether
 God is the devil or the devil God.”[1420] “The Apostle Judas, when the
 hour [of temptation] came, walked into the snare and knew not how to
 get out. But we who have taken the field against him [the devil] and
 are at grips with him know, by God’s grace, how to meet and resist
 him.”[1421]—“The devil can affright me to such an extent that in my
 sleep the sweat breaks out all over me; otherwise I do not trouble
 about dreams or signs.... Sad dreams are the work of the devil. Often
 has he driven me from prayer and put such thoughts into my head that I
 have run away; the best fights I have had with him were in my bed by
 the side of my Katey.”[1422]

 Elsewhere, however, he says: “I have found the nocturnal encounters
 far harder than the daylight ones”; “but, that Christ is master, this
 I can show not merely by Holy Scripture but also by experience”; “God
 gives richly of both. But all has become bitter to me through these
 temptations.”[1423]—“I know from my own experience what we read of
 in the Psalms (vi. 7): ‘Every night I will wash my bed: I will water
 my couch with my tears.’ In my temptations I have often wondered and
 asked myself whether I had any heart left in my body, so great a
 murderer is Satan; but he will not long keep the upper hand, for he
 has indeed burnt his fingers on Christ.”[1424]

To add to the terrors of such struggles came thoughts of suicide. When
Leonard Beyer, an Augustinian, who had become pastor of Guben, spoke to
Luther of his temptations to take his own life, and of the voice which
occasionally whispered to him “Stick a knife into yourself,” Luther
answered: “This used to be the same with me. No sooner did I take a
knife in my hand, than such thoughts came to me; nor could I kneel
down to pray without the devil driving me out of the room. We have to
suffer from the great devils, the ‘_theologiæ doctores_’; but the Turks
and Papists have only the little devils” to tempt them.[1425] It would
indeed be no wonder if Luther in his excited frame of mind was for a
while troubled by such thoughts of suicide. By thoughts of the sort
sufferers of gloomy disposition are often tormented quite involuntarily
and without any fault of their own. It is hardly worth our while to
prove that another passage, which occurs in Cordatus, is not at all
to the point though it has been quoted against Luther as showing his
inclination to suicide. There, in his usual vein of exaggeration, he
says that he “would hang himself on the nearest tree” were Satan to
succeed in dragging down Christ from heaven. Surely there was just
as little likelihood of his being his own hangman as of the enemy
succeeding in this.[1426] And yet some Catholic polemists who believed
in the fable that Luther killed himself, seized on such passages in
order to show that Luther had long been bent on suicide.

_How to find Peace of Conscience_

If, towards the end of the ‘thirties, Luther was more successful in
countering his inward anxieties, this may have been due to the means
he used and the efficacy of which he frequently extols. Some of the
remedies to which he had recourse appear comparatively innocent, and
had even been recommended by Catholic spiritual writers to be used
when the circumstances demanded. Others, however, must be described as
doubtful and even dangerous, particularly considering what his moral
position was.

Above all he recommends distraction; people tempted should engage in
cheerful intercourse, or in games; in his own case he had urgently
desired the return of his friends, “in order that Satan may no longer
rejoice that we are so far apart.”[1427] He also bears witness to the
improvement which resulted from cheerful, animated conversation.

He also advises people to awaken some “stronger emotion so as to
counteract the disquieting thoughts.”[1428] For instance, it is a good
thing “to break out into scolding,”[1429] or to give vent to a “brave
outburst of anger.”[1430]

Further, animal pleasures are, according to him, of advantage; he
himself, on his own admission, sought to distract his thoughts by
sensual joys of the most material kind.[1431] In the case of gloomy
thoughts “a draught of beer” was, so he avers, of much greater use
than, e.g. astrology.[1432]

Sensuality, however, is not always sufficiently powerful or effective.
It is better to have recourse from the beginning to religious remedies.
“If I but seize the Scripture [text] I have gained the day,”[1433] but,
unfortunately, the verse wanted often won’t come. In general, what is
required is prayer, much patience and the arousing of confidence.[1434]
One’s patience may be fortified by the thought that “perhaps, thanks
to these temptations, I shall become a great man,” as he himself had
actually become, thanks largely to his temptations.[1435]

Further, the words of “great and learned men to one who is tempted
may serve him as an oracle or prophecy, which indeed they may really
be.”[1436] To hold fast to a single word spoken by a stranger had
often proved very helpful. We may recall how he compared Bugenhagen’s
words to him: “You must not despise our consolation,” to “a voice from
heaven.”[1437] Another saying of his same friend and confessor, had,
so he declares, greatly strengthened him. “Surely enough, God thinks:
‘What more can I do for this man [Luther]? I have given him such
excellent gifts and yet he despairs of my grace!’”[1438]

In these “temptations,” whether in his own case or in that of others,
he hardly gives a thought to penance and mortification, such as olden
Churchmen had always recommended and employed. On the contrary, ascetic
remedies of the sort would, according to him, only make things worse.
Needless to say, even Catholics were anxious that such remedies should
not be applied without discretion, since lessening of the bodily
powers might conceivably weaken the resistance of the spirit, nay,
even promote fears and temptations. Luther says, in 1531: “Were I to
follow my inclination I should [when in this state] go three days
without eating anything. This then is a double fasting, to eat and
drink without the least appetite. When the world sees it, it looks on
it as drunkenness, but God will judge whether it is drunkenness or
fasting. They will have fasts, but not as I fast. Therefore keep head
and belly full. Sleep also helps.”[1439] Sleep seemed to him especially
important, not merely as a condition for hard work, but also to enable
one to resist low spirits. It was when unable to sleep, that, as he
tells us, “the devil had annoyed him until he said: ‘_Lambe mihi
nates_,’ etc. We have the treasure of the Word; God be praised.”[1440]

His practice and teaching with regard to inward sources of troubles
were indeed miles apart from those of earlier Catholic times, and
even from what in his own day Catholic masters of the first rank
in the spiritual life had written for the benefit of posterity.
Everybody knows how these writers are, above all, desirous to provide
their readers with a method whereby they may discern between, on the
one hand, the voice of conscience, whether it warns us to desist
from wrong or encourages us to do what is good, and, on the other,
the promptings of the Evil Spirit. They say that it is the devil’s
practice alternately to disquiet and to cheer, though in a way very
different from that of the spirits from above. It was unfortunate for
Luther that he chose to close his eyes to any such “discerning of the
spirits.” He resolutely steeled his conscience once for all against
even wholesome disquietude and anxiety, and of set purpose he bore down
all misgivings. Of one thing he was determined to be convinced: “Above
all hold fast to this, that thoughts bad and sad come, not from God,
but from the devil;” “make it your wont at once to tell all inward
reproaches: ‘You were not sent by God.’”

“At first,” he adds, as though describing his own case, “this struggle
is hard, but practice makes it easier.”[1441]

He claimed that, owing to the amount of practice he had had in inward
combats, his “faith had been much strengthened”; the “temptations”
had won for him a “wealth of Divine gifts,” had taught him humility
and qualified him for his task, nay, had set a Divine seal on his
mission;[1442] his “_theologia_” he had learnt in the school of the
devil’s temptations; without such a devil to help, one remains a mere
speculative theologian.[1443]

Such sayings lead us to ask whether his life of faith really underwent
a strengthening as he advanced in years.

6. Luther on his Faith, his Doctrine and his Doubts, particularly in
his Later Years

Whoever would judge correctly of the remarkable statements made by
Luther which we are now about to consider must measure them, at least
in the lump, by the standard of his doctrine on faith. If anything in
him calls for explanation and consideration in the light of the views
on doctrine which he held, surely this is especially the case with the
mental state now under discussion to which he alludes so frequently in
both public and private utterances. At the same time it must not be
overlooked that occasionally he is speaking with his wonted hyperbole
and love of paradox, and that sometimes what he says is not meant quite
seriously; moreover, that sometimes, when apparently blaming himself,
he is really only trying to describe the heights which he fain would
attain; the true standard by which to judge all these many statements
which are yet so remarkably uniform must, however, be sought in the
theological groundwork of his attitude towards faith.

_Luther’s Notion of Faith_

As we already know, by faith he understands on the one hand the
accepting of all the verities of revelation as true; more often,
however, he means by it simply a believing trust in salvation through
Christ, a certainty of that justification by faith which constitutes
his “Evangel.”[1444]

For faith in the former sense he rightly appeals to the firm and
immovable foundation of God’s truth. But, as regards the source whence
mankind obtains its knowledge of revealed truth, he practically
undermines the authority of Scripture—which he nevertheless esteems so
highly—first, by his wanton rejection of whole books of the Bible and
by his neglect of the criteria necessary for determining which books
belong to Holy Scripture and for recognising which are canonical;[1445]
secondly, by his interpretation of the Bible, more particularly in
ascertaining the Divine truths therein contained, he flings open the
door to subjectivism and leaves each one to judge for himself, refusing
even to furnish him with any sure guidance.[1446] He set aside the
teaching office of the Church, which had been for the Catholic the
authentic exponent of Scripture, and at the same time had guaranteed
the canonicity of each of its parts. Of the Church’s olden creeds he
retained only a fragment, and even this he interpreted in his own

Thus, under the olden name of faith in revelation he had really
introduced a new objective faith, one utterly devoid of any stay.

It is sufficient to consider certain of his quite early theses to
appreciate the blow dealt at the Church’s traditional view of faith.
To these theses he was moved by his polemics against certain, to him,
distasteful dogmas of the ancient Church, but from the very outset his
attack was, at bottom, directed against all barriers of dogma, and,
even later, continued to threaten to some extent the very foundations
of that religious knowledge which he held in common with all other
Christians.[1448] The unrestrained freedom of opinion which many
Protestants claim to-day as part of the heirloom of Christianity they
are wont to justify by citing passages from Luther’s writings, e.g.
from his work of 1523, “Das eyn Christliche Versamlung odder Gemeyne
... Macht habe, alle Lere zu urteylen,” etc.[1449]

       *       *       *       *       *

The fact of having taught faith in the second sense mentioned above,
and of having put it in the place of faith in the first and olden sense
is, according to many moderns, the achievement that more than any other
redounds to Luther’s credit.—He made an end of the “unevangelical idea
of faith as a mere holding for true, and of the submission of the most
inward and tender of questions to the decision of courts of law”;[1450]
in the trustful belief in Christ he rediscovered the only faith
deserving of the name and thereby brought back religion to mankind.

This trusting faith, however, by its very nature and according to
Luther’s express admission is, as has already been pointed out in
detail, also devoid of any true stay, is ever exposed to wavering
and uncertainty and is wholly dependent on feeling; above all, for a
conscience oppressed with the sense of guilt to lay hold on the alien
righteousness of Christ by faith alone is a task scarcely within its
power; it admittedly involves an unceasing struggle;[1451] lastly, true
faith, according to Luther, comes only from God, from whom man, who has
no free-will, can only passively look for it,[1452] nay, it belongs in
the last instance only to the Revealed God, for of the dispensations
of the Hidden Will of God concerning our future in heaven or in hell we
are entirely ignorant.[1453]

Here too, then, we have a new kind of faith.

This explains how it is that in Luther’s statements concerning his
personal faith, his preaching, his absorption in the religious point of
view he has discovered, his doubts and his fears, we meet with so much
that sounds strange. We say strange, for they cannot but unpleasantly
surprise anyone accustomed to regard faith in the truths of religion
as a firm possession of the mind and heart, above all a Catholic
believer. Before Luther’s day scarcely can a single Christian teacher
be instanced who was so open in speaking of the weakness of his own
faith or who so frequently and so persistently insisted on pitting his
own experience against the calm inward certainty with which God ever
rewards a humble and heartfelt faith, even in those most beset with

When, in spite of this, we find Luther throughout his life plainly and
indubitably accepting as true a large portion of the common body of
faith (as we have repeatedly admitted him to have done),[1454] then
it is easy to see that in so doing he is not taking his stand on his
new and shaky foundations, but on the old and solid basis to which he
reverts with a happy want of logic, often perhaps unconsciously. We
should see him taking his stand on this foundation even more frequently
had not his sad breach with the whole past moved his soul to its very
depths. There can be no doubt that his terrors of conscience, or
“struggles with the devil,” had much to do in inducing the condition in
which he reveals himself to the reader of what follows.

_Luther as Pictured by Himself during Later Years_

It is clear that, in order to judge of Luther’s life of faith, stress
must not be laid on isolated statements of his torn from their context,
but that they must be taken in the lump.

 When speaking of his temptations, as a man of fifty-six, he bewailed
 the prevailing unbelief, at the same time including himself: “If only
 we could believe concerning the [Divine] promises that it was God
 Who spoke them! If only we paid heed to His Word we should esteem it
 highly. But when we hear it [God’s Word] from the lips of a man, we
 care no more for it than for the lowing of a cow.”[1455]—Shortly
 before this, again including all, he consoles himself as follows: Our
 weakness was ever disposed to doubt of God’s mercy, and even Paul
 felt his shortcomings. “I am comforted when I see that even Paul did
 not rise high enough. Away with the ambitious who pretend they have
 succeeded in everything! We have God’s words to strengthen us and yet
 even we do not believe.”[1456] “I have preached for five-and-twenty
 years,” so he said about that time, “and do not yet understand the
 text ‘The just man liveth by faith.’”[1457]

 Of his trusting belief in his personal salvation he admits, in 1543,
 that he did not feel it to be very steadfast, and that it still lagged
 behind that of ordinary believers. He speaks of a woman at Torgau who
 had told him that she looked upon herself as “lost,” and shut out
 from salvation, because she was unable to believe (i.e. trust). He
 had thereupon asked her whether she did not hold fast to the Creed,
 and when she assured him that she did he had said: “My good woman, go
 in God’s name! You believe more and better than I do.” “Yes, dear Dr.
 Jonas,” so he said, turning to his friend, “yes, if a man could verily
 believe it as it there stands, his heart would indeed jump for joy!
 That is certain.”[1458]

 So strongly did he express himself on this point on May 6, 1540,
 that, taking the words as they stand, he would _seem_ to deny his
 belief in Christ’s miracles and work. “I cannot believe it and yet
 I teach others. I know it is true, but I am unable to believe it. I
 think sometimes: ‘Sure enough you teach aright, for you are in the
 sacred ministry and are called, you are helpful to many and glorify
 Christ; for we do not preach Aristotle or Cæsar, but Jesus Christ.’
 But when I consider my weakness, how I eat, drink, joke and am a merry
 man about the town, then I begin to doubt. Oh, if only a man could
 believe it!”[1459] These words were spoken on Ascension-Day, after
 Luther had expressed his marvel at the strong faith of the Apostles
 in the Divinity of Him Who was ascending into heaven. “Wonderful; I
 cannot understand it nor can I believe it, and yet all the Apostles
 believed.”[1460] “I am fond of Jonas [who was seated near him] but if
 he were to ascend into heaven here and now, and disappear out of our
 sight, what should I think?”

 “Oh, if only a man could believe it!”

 It is evident that he did not wish by such words to give himself
 out as an unbeliever or a sceptic in religious matters. What he was
 painfully aware of was the fact that that strong, clear faith in the
 ordinary truths of revelation and matters of faith, which he himself
 was wont to depict as essential, was absent in his own case. His
 former violent struggles of conscience seem in later years to have
 been replaced by this uncomfortable feeling.

 The depressing sense of the feebleness of his religious belief was
 not removed by the frequent references Luther was so fond of making
 in his old age to the coming of the Redeemer and Judge of the world,
 and to the nighness of the devil’s downfall, who is the Lord of this
 world.[1461] We know already the psychological reasons for the stress
 he lays on such expectations. Yet all the unnatural ardour he showed
 in voicing them could not disguise the fact that his faith lacked any
 real strength or fervour. Spiritual coldness could quite well co-exist
 with a virulent hatred of the devil and a longing desire for the end
 of the world.

 “The devil is an evil spirit ... as I do not fail to realise day after
 day; for a man waxes cold, and the more so the longer he lives.” Thus
 to Count Albert of Mansfeld in 1542.[1462]—He was “in pain and very
 morose,” he tells Jonas in 1541, “feeling disgusted with everything,
 especially with his illnesses.”.[1463] In 1544, and frequently about
 that time, he declares that he was quite tired of the devil and of his
 struggles with him; his only wish was to see the “end of his raging,”
 and to “die a good and wholesome death.”[1464] “God Himself may see
 to my soul’s lodging”; He loved souls, says Luther, and it was a good
 thing that his salvation was not in his own hands, otherwise he “would
 soon be gobbled up by Satan”; but God’s care and the “many mansions”
 in His gift were a sufficient consolation (1539).[1465]

 On one occasion, in 1542, he mentioned that, unless he had escaped
 from certain “thoughts and temptations,” he would have been drowned in
 them and would have long ago found himself in hell; for such “devilish
 thoughts” breed “desperate people,” and “contemners of God.”[1466]

 “Though, towards the end of life, such temptations are wont to cease,”
 he says, in 1540, yet other inward worries remain: “I am often angry
 with myself because I find so much in me that is unclean. But what can
 I do? I cannot strip off my nature. Meanwhile Christ looks upon us as
 righteous because we desire to be righteous, abhor our uncleanliness,
 and love, and confess the Word.”[1467]—Others, like Spalatin, in
 their old age, felt the bite of conscience more strongly than did
 Luther; they had not been through the same violent struggles and
 mental gymnastics as Luther, nor had they learnt how to suppress the
 voice from within. It was to Spalatin, then sunk in melancholy, that,
 in 1544, Luther addressed the words already quoted: He (Spalatin) was
 “too timid a sinner” (“_nimis tener peccator_”). “Unite yourself with
 us great and hardened sinners, in a believing trust in Christ!”[1468]

_Earlier Undated Statements_

Many utterances and confidences of Luther’s still exist, about the
meaning of which there can be no doubt, though it is difficult
correctly to place them. Some of these concern the subject now under
discussion; several may well date from Luther’s later years, and thus
throw light on his interior in his old age. We shall give first of all
his statements concerning St. Paul in their bearing upon himself.

Speaking once of a pet view of his in which he seems to have found
great consolation, viz. that even Paul had not believed firmly (_neque
Paulum fortiter credidisse_), Luther went so far as to question the
apostle’s belief in the “crown of justice” which he professed to
look for, as “laid up for him in heaven” (2 Tim. iv. 8). Jonas, who
was present, had declared “he could not bestow any credence on this
statement of Paul’s.” Luther replied: It is quite true that Paul did
not believe it firmly, “for it was above him. I too am unable to
believe as I preach, although they all think I believe these things
firmly.” He goes on to allege the Divine Clemency, and jestingly says:
Were we to fulfil the will of God _perfectly_ we should be cheating
God of His Godhead; and what would then become of the article of the
forgiveness of sins?[1469] At any rate he would fain have believed his
own doctrines more strongly and vividly.

 “Temptations against the faith,” says Luther, “are St. Paul’s goad and
 sting of the flesh [2 Cor. xii. 7], a great skewer and roasting-spit
 which pierces right through both spirit and flesh, both body and
 soul.”[1470]—And elsewhere: “At times I think: I really do not know
 where I stand, whether I preach aright or not. This was also St.
 Paul’s temptation and martyrdom, which, as I believe, he found it
 hard to speak of to many.” Yet, so Luther opines, Paul sufficiently
 hinted at it in the words “I die daily” (1 Cor. xv. 31).—The fact
 is, the Apostle is far from attributing to himself doubts on the
 faith either here or elsewhere. Luther, however, would gladly have us
 believe, that, with his doubts, he had been through precisely that
 experience to which St. Paul refers when he says, “I die daily”;
 he, too, has his agonies, he, too, has descended into hell.[1471]
 Not merely in this does he resemble Paul, but also in his inability
 to distinguish between the Law and the Gospel: “Paul and I have
 never been able to manage this.”[1472] He saw also another point of
 similarity between himself and the Apostle of the Gentiles. For, like
 him, St. Paul, too, “had been much bothered by the objection, that,
 one should listen to the Fathers (cp. Rom. ix. 5) and not oppose the
 whole world single-handed.”[1473]

 Not Paul alone, according to Luther, but all the other Apostles too
 had been assailed by doubts.

 He was always consoled to find new and illustrious companions in his
 misery. Christ, he declares, had foretold this to the Apostles; He had
 also spoken to them of this sort of persecution: “Your conscience will
 grow weak so that you will often think: ‘Who knows whether I have been
 right? Alas, have I not gone too far?’ Thus in the eyes of the world
 and to your own conscience you will seem to be in the wrong”; it had,
 however, been the duty of the Holy Ghost to comfort the Apostles in
 all such trials.[1474]

 And did not “even the man Christ have His momentary failing in the
 Garden?”[1475] Did not Christ then confess: “‘I know not how I stand
 with God, or whether I am doing right or not.’ This occurred even in
 the case of Christ.”[1476] “All who are tempted must set Christ, Who
 also was tempted in everything, as a model before their eyes; but it
 was much harder for Him than for us and for me.”[1477] Luther fails
 to take into account the world-wide difference between the sadness of
 Christ, Who could never waver in the Truth, and his own doubts and
 wavering in the faith.

 “O, my God,” he said on another occasion, “the article on faith won’t
 go home; hence so many sad moods arise. Often I have to take myself to
 task for failing to master such moods when they come, I who have so
 often taught in lectures, sermons and writings how such temptations
 are to be overcome.”[1478]

 His pupil Mathesius relates the following in his sermons on Luther,
 the preface to the printed edition of which he wrote in 1565: “Antony
 Musa, pastor of Rochlitz, told me that he once complained bitterly
 to the Doctor of being unable to believe himself what he preached
 to others. ‘Praise and thanks be to God,’ replied the Doctor, ‘that
 this also happens to others. I fancied it was true only in my case.’
 All his life Musa never forgot this consolation.”[1479] So full of
 admiration for Luther was Mathesius, and probably so well schooled by
 his master in the theory and practice of a faith which has ever to
 strive after firmness, that he saw in this statement nothing at all
 unfavourable to his hero. On the contrary, he includes the story in a
 list of “all manner of wise sayings” which had fallen from the lips of
 Luther. He even assures us at the beginning of these notes that, “The
 man was full of grace and of the Holy Ghost, hence all who went to
 him for advice as to a prophet of God found what they sought.”[1480]
 Judging by this Mathesius must have been very easily satisfied in the
 matter of firmness of faith. Perhaps had his faith been stronger it
 would have fared better with him in the melancholy which came upon him
 towards the end of his life.[1481]

 “Ah,” said Dr. Martin, so we read elsewhere in Notes made by his
 pupils, “I used to believe every single thing that the Pope and the
 monks chose to say, but now I actually cannot believe even what Christ
 says, Who assuredly does not lie. This is very sad and distressing.
 Never mind, we must and will keep it for that Day.”[1482]—“When the
 words of the prophet Hosea, ‘Thus saith the Lord,’ set to music by
 Josquinus, were sung at Dr. Martin Luther’s table, the Doctor said
 to Dr. Jonas: ‘As little as you believe this singing to be good, so
 little do I believe theology to be true.... I do indeed love Christ,
 but my faith ought to be much stronger and warmer.”[1483]—“Many boast
 of having at their fingers’ ends the doctrine of the forgiveness of
 sins, and I, wretch that I am, find so little comfort in the passion,
 resurrection, and forgiveness of sins! One thing indeed I can do, viz.
 eat our Lord God’s bread and drink His beer; but to take that far
 more necessary treasure which is the free forgiveness of sins, this I
 cannot succeed in doing.”[1484]

Not merely does he ascribe his own experiences to the first followers
of Christ, viz. to Paul and the other Apostles, but again and again
he seeks to make them out to be an evil common to all, an heritage
of all Christians, nay, something actually involved in the idea of
faith. Often he speaks of faith as of something altogether mystical
and intangible of the presence of which no man can be conscious.
Faith, he thinks, might well not be present at all just when a man
fancies he possesses it; again, it might exist in the man who thought
he lacked it; or “at any rate such is the case in times of stress and
temptation; for it often happens with faith that he who fancies he
believes, believes nothing at all, while the man who thinks he believes
nothing and lies in despair, really believes the most.... He who has
it, has it. We must believe, but we neither must nor can know it for
certain” [i.e. whether we really believe]. Thus in 1528.[1485] Needless
to say this theory of his was far removed from the strong, simple and
perfectly conscious faith of so many thousands even of the humblest
followers of the olden religion.

Some years before this, in a work intended for all, he had made a
practical application to himself of this curious doctrine of the
frequent impossibility of saying whether one really has the faith.
Owing to his temptations he admitted that he was not qualified to be
reckoned an authority on this question, nor “even a disciple, much less
a master.”

“Whoever boasts,” he says in his work on Psalm cxvii., “that he knows
very well we must be saved without our works by the grace of God,
does not know what he is saying”; “it is an art which keeps us ever
schoolboys,” a scent after which we must “sniff and run.” “Let anyone
who chooses take me as an example of this, which I admit myself to
be. Several times, when I was not thinking of this cardinal doctrine,
the devil has caught me and plagued me with texts from Scripture till
heaven and earth seemed too tight to hold me. Then human works and laws
would seem quite right and not an error would be noticed in the whole
of Popery. In short, no one but Luther had ever erred; and all my best
works, doctrines, sermons, books were condemned.... You hear now how
I am confessing to you and admitting what the devil was able to do
against Luther, who of all men ought surely to have been a very adept
in this art. For he has preached, told, written, spoken, sung and read
so much about it and yet remains a tyro in it, and is at times not even
a disciple, much less a master.”[1486]

What he is trying to impress on the reader is, that even if you “can
do all things,” take care that “your art does not fail you.”

Thus he did not enjoy the happiness which, according to the testimony
of Catholics both learned and unlearned, was shared by all the faithful
so long as they paid attention to their religious duties. Guided from
their youth by the hand of the Church they were acquainted with no
fears and uncertainties, for, thanks to her divine commission and
gift of infallibility, she could make up for the insufficiency of
human knowledge. Catholics did not look for salvation in a blind and
unattainable trust in an imputation of Christ’s righteousness.

Their attitude indeed presents a striking contrast to Luther’s restless
struggle after faith.

Not only in the last cold, barren years of his life but even at an
earlier period we notice in him a tendency to regard this clutching
at faith as the one great matter. In some quite early statements he
depicts himself as on the look-out for a believing trust, as violently
striving to clasp it to his breast, and, generally, as making this the
end of all religious effort.

 Even in 1517 in his unpublished Commentary on Hebrews we find a
 remarkable and oft-repeated admonition which bears on the subject in
 hand. He sees the troubled conscience “in fear and oppressed whichever
 way it turns”; hence it must learn to embrace faith in the power of
 Christ’s blood: “By faith conscience is cleansed and put to rest.”
 It is this faith in the blood of Christ which we must seek with all
 our powers to reach. It follows, “that the best of contemplating the
 sufferings of Christ is that it awakens in the soul this faith or
 believing trust.” “The oftener he dwells on the Passion, the more
 strongly will every man believe that the blood of Christ was shed for
 his own sins. This is ‘to eat and drink spiritually,’ i.e. to feed on
 Christ in faith and thus become one body with Him.”[1487]

 On the other hand, the teaching of antiquity concerning meditation on
 Christ’s Passion and likewise the hints contained in the language of
 the Church’s liturgy, do not stop short at such an arousing of faith.
 Taking for granted the Christian’s faith, what they seek to awaken is
 a real love; meditation on the sufferings and death of our Lord was
 above all to stimulate the faithful to feelings of loving gratitude,
 holy compassion and self-sacrifice; in wholesome compunction people
 were wont, by dwelling on the sufferings of the innocent Lamb, to
 rouse themselves to a sense of shame, to a holy desire to imitate
 Christ by good works of self-conquest and by zeal for souls. The
 ancient hymn, the “_Stabat Mater_,” which is at the same time so
 profound and wonderful a prayer, says never a word of faith, precious
 as this grace is, but, taking it for granted as the groundwork, it
 teaches us to pray: “_Fac ut tecum lugeam—fac ut ardeat cor meum in
 amando Christum Deum—passionis fac consortem_,” etc. This is surely
 something higher than that mere appropriation of trusting faith in
 which Luther sums up all the heights and depths of our union with

 Luther, in his exaggerated language, declares that it was something
 “almost Gentile” for a man when contemplating the Passion of Christ to
 “strive after anything else but faith”; this statement, however, he
 refutes in practice by himself occasionally introducing other good and
 moral reflexions on the Passion, though he is always chiefly concerned
 with its bearing on his own peculiar view of faith.

 He was too ready to confuse the sentiment of faith with actual faith.

 Religious writers before Luther’s day, when dealing with distrust and
 unbelief, had been careful to distinguish between the involuntary acts
 of man’s lower nature which do not rise above the realm of feeling,
 and those which have the definite consent of the will and which
 alone they regarded as grievous sins against faith or the virtue of
 hope. With Luther everything is sin; he bewails the actual distrust,
 and real weakness of faith springing from a fault of the will; but,
 according to him, the involuntary movements of our corrupt nature also
 deserve God’s signal anger; original sin whereby we bring this upon
 ourselves must daily be cloaked over by means of the faith wrought by
 God. But since it is God alone Who works this faith Luther might well
 have excused himself even had he lost the faith completely. When he
 is upset and begins to reproach himself as he often does on account
 of the weakness of his faith, he is really saying good-bye to his own
 teaching and again reverting to the standpoint of the olden faith, for
 only the assumption of man’s free-will can justify self-reproaches.

 “Sin” and “the devil” are made to bear the blame for the deeds of man
 who lacks free-will.

 “The sin which still persists in us,” says Luther, in his last sermon
 at Eisleben,[1488] “compels us not to believe.” “Because we have it
 daily before our eyes and at our door, it goes in at one ear and out
 at the other.” “This is what the rude, savage folk do who care nought
 for God and place no trust in Him; we, the best of Christians, also
 do the same.” “We are too prone to obey original sin, the taint of
 evil which yet sticks to our flesh, and although we would willingly
 believe, and are fond of hearing and reading God’s Word, still we
 cannot rise as high as we ought.”[1489] Before this he had said: “If a
 man were to ask you: Good fellow, do you believe that the Son of God
 ... died for your sins? and that it is really true? You would have to
 say—did you wish to answer right and truthfully and as you really
 feel—and confess with dismay, that you cannot after all believe it so
 strongly and indubitably.... You would have to say.... Alas, I see and
 feel that I do not ... believe as I ought.”[1490] Later he returns to
 this thought which evidently was much before his mind: “Although we
 cannot now believe so strongly as we should, still God has patience
 with us.”[1491] Yet “we ought to go on and believe more firmly and
 be angered with ourselves and say: Heavenly Father, is it true that
 I must believe that Thou didst send Thine only-begotten Son into the
 world?... And when I hear that there is no doubt, then I shall go on
 to say: Well, for this shall I thank God all the days of my life and
 praise and extol Him.”[1492]

 In reality, according to him, we should “run and jump for joy”
 because by faith “we hear the Lord Christ speaking.” “The life of the
 Christian ought, by rights, to be all joy and delight, but there are
 few who really feel this joy.” The martyrs, with their glad, nay, even
 jubilant confession of faith amidst their torments, are to him an
 example of a sound, hardy, unshaken faith, for in them the Word was
 strong and the teaching of the Gospel all-powerful.[1493] But, as he
 had remarked in another of his Eisleben sermons, “We, owing to the
 weakness of our faith, feel doubts and fears, as by our very nature we
 cannot help doing”; yet we must “have wisdom enough again and again
 to run to Christ and cry aloud and awaken Him with our shouts and

 Luther’s farewell address where these words occur furnishes at the
 same time an example of how, throughout his life, when assailed by
 doubts and fears, or when the Evangel was in danger, as it then was
 owing to the Emperor’s warlike preparations, he carried out his
 injunction of “running to Christ.” He seeks to pour into his faith a
 little of the strengthening cordial of defiance, and calls upon all
 his followers to do the same: “Christ says.... Obey me; if you have My
 Word, hold fast to it.... Leave Pope, Emperor, the mighty and learned
 to be as wise as ever they please, but do not you follow them.... Do
 not that which even the angels in heaven may not do.... The poor,
 wretched creatures, the Pope, Emperor, kings and all the sects fear
 not to presume this; but God has set His Son at His right hand and
 said, Thou art My Son, I have given Thee all the kings and the whole
 world for Thy possession, etc. To Him you kings and lords must
 hearken.” “I will give you courage,” Christ says, “to laugh when the
 Turk, Pope and Emperor rage and storm their very worst; come ye only
 to me. Though you be burdened, faced by death or martyrdom, though
 Pope and Turk and Emperor attack you, fear ye not.”[1495]

 It is, in fact, quite characteristic of his faith, that, when in
 difficulties, the more he becomes conscious of its lack of theological
 foundation and of its purely emotional character, the more he arms
 himself with the weapons of defiant violence. On the one hand he can
 say, as he does in the Table-Talk of Cordatus: “Had I such great faith
 as I ought to have, I should long ago have slain the Turk and curbed
 every tyrant.”[1496] “I have indeed tormented myself greatly about
 them. But my faith is wanting.” And yet on another occasion, with a
 sadness which does him credit, he expresses his envy of the “pure and
 simple faith” of the children, and laments: “We old fools torment
 ourselves and make our hearts heavy with our disputations on the Word,
 whether this be true, or whether that be possible.”[1497]

_Luther’s Pretended Condemnations of his whole Life-work_

Certain controversialists have alleged that Luther came outspokenly
to disown his doctrine and his work; they tell us that he expressed
his regret for ever having undertaken the religious innovation. Words
are even quoted as his which furnish “the tersest condemnation of the
Reformation by the Reformer himself.”

No genuine utterances of his to this effect exist.

 The first abjuration of the whole of his life’s work is supposed to
 be contained in the statement: “Well, since I have begun it I will
 carry it through, but, not for the whole world would I begin it again
 now.”[1498] But why was he disinclined to begin again anew? Not by a
 single word does Luther give us to understand the reason to be that
 he regarded what he had done as reprehensible; on the contrary, he
 explains that he would not begin it again “on account of the great and
 excessive cares and anxieties this office brings with it.” That he
 by no means regarded the office itself as blameworthy is plain from
 the words that immediately follow: “If I looked to Him Who called
 me to it, then I would not even wish not to have begun it; nor do
 I now desire to have any other God.” And before this, in the same
 passage, extolling his office, he had said: Moses had besought God
 as many as six times to excuse him from so arduous a mission. “Yet
 he had to go. And in the same way God led me into it. Had I known
 about it beforehand He would have had difficulty in inducing me to
 undertake it.” It was Luther’s wont thus to represent the beginning
 of his undertaking as having been entirely directed by God. He is
 fond of saying that he had foreseen neither its final aims nor its
 immense difficulties and then to proceed: My ignorance was a piece
 of luck and a dispensation of providence, for, otherwise, affrighted
 by the dangers, I should have drawn back from my labours. Here his
 idea is much the same, and is as far removed as possible from any
 self-condemnation. Of course the question, whether his idea that
 God alone was responsible for his work was based on truth, is quite
 another one.

 The second utterance of Luther’s which has been brought forward
 against him merely voices anew his disappointment with this wicked
 world and his complaint of the cold way in which people had received
 his Evangel though it is the Word of God: “Had I known when I first
 began to write what I have now seen and experienced, namely that
 people would be so hostile to the Word of God and would so violently
 oppose it, I would assuredly have held my tongue, for I should never
 have been so bold as to attack and anger the Pope and indeed all
 mankind.”[1499] Here, moreover, we have little more than a rhetorical
 exaggeration of the difficulties he had overcome.

 Nor is it hard to estimate at its true value a third utterance wrung
 from him: “I can never rid myself of the thought and wish, that I
 had better never have begun this business.”[1500] The feeling which
 prompted this deliverance is plainly expressed in what follows
 immediately: “Item, I would rather be dead than witness such contempt
 of God’s Word and of His faithful servants.” Here again he is simply
 giving vent to his ill-temper, that his preaching of the divine truths
 should receive such scant attention; not in the least can this be read
 as an admission of the falsehood of his mission.

 Two other curious statements which have further been cited, besides
 having been spoken under the influence of the disappointment above
 referred to, also bear the stamp of his peculiar rhetoric which alone
 can explain their tenor. The context at any rate makes it impossible
 to find in them any repudiation of his previous conduct.

 One of these sayings of Luther’s does indeed ring strange: “The
 tyrants in the Papacy” “plagued the world with their violence”; but
 the people, now that they have been delivered from them, refuse to
 lend an ear to those who preach “at God’s command,” but prefer to run
 after seducers. “Hence I am going to help to set up again the Papacy
 and raise the monks on high, for the world cannot get along without
 such clowns and comedians.”—The truth is, however, that Luther never
 seriously contemplated carrying out such a threat or countenancing
 the rule of “Antichrist.” People simply misapprehended him when they
 read into this jest of his a real intention to re-establish “the Papal

 In the other saying brought up against him he states: “Had I now to
 begin to preach the Evangel, I would set about it otherwise.” Here he
 is referring to a preceding remark, viz. that a preacher must have
 great experience of the world. He then proceeds: “I would leave the
 great, rude masses under the dominion of the Pope, for they are no
 better off for the Evangel but only abuse its freedom. But I should
 preach the Evangel and its comfort to the troubled in spirit and
 the meek, to the despondent and the simple-minded.” A preacher, he
 declares, could not paint the world in colours bad enough, seeing that
 it belongs altogether to the devil; he must not be such a “simple
 sheep” as he himself (Luther) had been at the outset when he had
 expected all “at once to flock to the Evangel.”[1501]—Thus there is
 again no question of any repentant condemnation of the whole work
 of his lifetime. He clothes in his strange “rhetoric” an idea which
 is indeed peculiar to him, viz. the special value of his Evangel
 for those troubled in mind. It is his sad experiences, his personal
 embitterment and also a certain irritation with his own party that
 lead him here to lay such stress on the preference to be shown to
 troubled consciences, even to the abandonment of all others. Of his
 own exaggeration he himself was perfectly aware, for he also makes
 far too much of his simplicity and lack of prudence. The resemblance
 between what we have just heard him say and his theory of the Church
 Apart of the True Believers, can hardly escape the reader.[1502]

       *       *       *       *       *

 The wish Luther is supposed to have expressed, viz. never to have
 been born, and some other strong things to which he gave vent, when
 in a state of depression, have likewise been quoted in support of the
 assertion that he himself branded his work “more cruelly than any foe
 dared to do.” If, however, we take the statements in their setting
 we find they have quite a different meaning. As an instance we may
 quote one passage from a tract of 1539 “Against the Antinomians”[1503]
 where, apparently, he curses the day of his birth and regrets that all
 his writings had not been destroyed. Alluding to Johann Agricola, an
 opponent within the camp, he writes: “I might in good sooth expect my
 own followers to leave me in peace, having quite enough to do with the
 Papists. One might well cry out with Job and Jeremias: ‘Would that I
 had never been born!’ and in the same way I am tempted to say: ‘Would
 I had never come with my books,’ I care nothing for them, I should not
 mind had they all been destroyed and did the works of such great minds
 [as Agricola] outsell them in all the booksellers’ shops—as they
 would like, being so desirous of being fed up with honour.”

 Here both his good wishes to his adversary and his repudiation of
 his own books are the merest irony, though, reading between the
 lines, we get a glimpse of his pain and annoyance at the hostility
 he encountered. In the same vein of mingled grief and sarcasm he
 continues: Christ too (like himself) had complained through the
 Prophet (Isaias xlix. 4): “I have laboured in vain”; but it was plain
 (so little does he condemn his own preaching), that “the devil is
 master of the world” since the Gospel of the “beloved master of the
 house,” which Luther taught, was so violently attacked. “We must and
 shall strive and suffer,” so he cries, “for it cannot fare better with
 us than with the dear prophets and apostles who also had to bear these
 things.” Seeing that, throughout the tract, he is inveighing against
 “devilish” deformations of his doctrine, is it likely that here he is
 cursing the day of his birth out of remorse for his teaching?[1504]

       *       *       *       *       *

 An old story that has repeatedly found its way even in recent times
 into popular writings tells how Luther, in conversation, sadly
 admitted to Catherine that “heaven is not for us.”

 “One fine evening,” so the tale goes, “Luther was in the garden
 with Catherine and both were looking up at the starlit sky. ‘Oh,
 how beautiful heaven is,’ Catherine exclaimed. ‘Yes,’ said Luther
 ruefully, ‘but I fear it will not be ours.’ ‘Will not be ours?’ cried
 Catherine, ‘then in God’s name let us retrace our steps.’ ‘It is too
 late,’ replied Luther, and went back into his study with a heavy

 A recent work against Luther quotes in support of the legend a modern
 Danish writer, Pastor Stub. It would have been better to cite J. M.
 Audin, an uncritical French author of a “Vie de M. Luther,” who helped
 to spread the story.[1505] Audin, on his side, refers to George
 Iwanek, S. J.(† 1693), who relates it in his “_Norma Vitæ_”[1506];
 also to Johannes Kraus, S. J., author of a rather credulous polemical
 work entitled “_Ovicula ex lutheranismo redux_.”[1507] Kraus certainly
 took it from Iwanek, but from what source the latter had it we do not
 know. He mentions no authority and probably took the legend on hearsay
 and gave it too ready credence. As Luther seems occasionally to have
 said his night prayers in the open air, and as he frequently enough
 admits his struggles of conscience, the two together may have given
 rise to the legend.

Far from being sorry for the work he had undertaken Luther, on
the contrary, is ever throwing on the devil the blame for all its
drawbacks. He it is who has to bear the blame for Luther’s own
wretchedness, for inward wavering no less than for the lack of order,
faith and morals among the Evangelical preachers and laity. He so
works upon me “that I sometimes believe, and sometimes do not.”[1508]
He could not view Satan’s raging as of small account; it was far more
to be dreaded than all the persecution of men. “You see from my books
what scorn I have for those men who withstand me. I look upon them as
fools”; even the lawyers I am ready to defy; “but when these fellows,
the evil spirits, come, then the congregation must back me up in the
fight,” for then the devil, the very “Lord of the world,” is entering
the lists against me.[1509] A glance at what has gone before shows how
these “combats” must be understood.

The tone he adopts, though frequently humorous and satirical, does not
conceal the deep depression which unquestionably underlies many of his

Such depression would quite well explain passing fits of real sorrow
for all he had done. But that he really felt such sorrow is not
sufficiently attested, so that all one can say is, that the ground
for such a feeling of remorse was there. A discouraging sense of the
instability of his doctrine and “reformation” might well have aroused
contrition, for Luther himself saw only too plainly, as Döllinger
rightly remarks, that, though he was strong enough to bring about
an apostasy from the ancient Church yet he was powerless to effect
a moral regeneration, or even to preserve religious order.[1510]
Döllinger adds very truly: The reasons for his doubts were, “first
of all the recognition of the evil effects produced by his doctrine,
then the consciousness of having cut himself adrift from the Church
for the sake of a new doctrine previously unknown, and lastly the
inward contradictions from which his doctrinal system suffered and the
impossibility of squaring it with the many Bible passages which embody
or presuppose a contrary doctrine.”[1511]

The words “agonies” and “nocturnal combats” which Luther so often used
to describe his struggles of conscience remain to testify to their

In the years immediately preceding Luther’s death, these seem to have
become less violent. Remorse of conscience, as experience teaches,
however great it may at one period have been, can in progress of time
be lulled to rest. We may quote in this connection the words of one
of the most highly esteemed of the older Catholic spiritual guides,
without however applying them unconditionally to Luther, as it is
always difficult to gauge the extent and working of inward prejudice
in the various stages of a man’s mental growth, particularly in the
case of such a man as Luther. “Sometimes God withdraws himself from the
soul,” writes this author, “on account of secret grievous sins which
have been committed from culpable ignorance, or from that ignorance
which, at the instigation of the Evil One, seeks to hide itself beneath
a mantle of virtue. God then departs from the man, though the latter
is not aware of it, and may remain unaware for the rest of his life
until the night of death comes. The deluded man fancies he possesses
God, but, to his infinite pain and loss, ultimately finds that he has
been all the while without Him. In the Book of Proverbs (xiv. 12) it
is written: ‘There is a way which seemeth just to a man, but the ends
thereof lead to death.’”[1512]

Who would venture to determine in Luther’s case when exactly he
first clearly realised his moral responsibility, and when exactly he
succeeded in forming himself a false conscience? Though on the one hand
it is certain to every Catholic that at first, and for a considerable
while, his attack on the Church was extremely culpable, still one
cannot close one’s eyes to the fact that Luther himself was convinced
that he was in the right, and that this conviction grew with advancing
years. (See vol. iv., p. 306 f.) It was, however, of his own free-will
that he persisted in the unhappy attitude of apostasy and revolt which
had become a habit with him and thus, in itself, his burden of moral
responsibility remained.[1513]



1. Steps taken and Tracts Published subsequent to 1537 against the
Council of the Church

AT the meeting held in 1537 by the protesting Princes and Estates at
Schmalkalden the General Council, which had been suggested as a means
of bringing about a settlement and of establishing religious peace,
was most outspokenly rejected, and that in a way very insulting to
Rome.[1514] In its blunt refusal the assembly was more logical than
Luther and his theologians, who as yet were averse to an absolute
repudiation of the Council. The hatred of the Pope which Luther himself
had been so earnest in inculcating at Schmalkalden caused those with
whom the decision rested to overlook certain considerations of prudence
and diplomacy.

If Luther opposed a thoroughgoing rejection of the Council it was not
because he had the slightest intention of accepting any Council that
did not at once declare in his favour. He knew very well that under the
conditions on which he insisted there could be no question of a real
Council as the Church had always understood it. The real motive for
his hesitation was that, for him and his followers, it was a delicate
matter, in view of the attitude they had previously adopted on this
question, to oppose too abruptly the idea of a Council. He foresaw
that the Catholic Imperialists would overwhelm the Protestants with
most righteous and bitter reproaches for now turning their backs upon
the Council after having at one time been loudest in their demands for
it, and outdone themselves in complaints and murmurs on account of its
postponement. What impression would the attitude of the protesting
Princes make on the Emperor, who was now full of plans for the Council?
And would not many be scared away who were still halting at the
parting of the ways and were inclined to delay their decision until
the looked-for Council? “The Papists assert that we are so reprobate,”
wrote Luther, “that we refuse to listen to anybody, whether Pope,
Church, Emperor, or Empire, or even the Council which we had so often
called for.”[1515] Such considerations, however, were not strong enough
to prevent him at once lending the whole weight of his voice in support
of the resolution arrived at by the Schmalkalden Leaguers.

After so offensive a rejection of any further attempts at reunion, the
armed conflict with the Emperor which had so long been threatening now
seemed bound to come. Luther, putting all subterfuge aside, looked this
contingency boldly in the face. In a memorandum to his Elector dating
from the end of January, 1539, he expressed himself even more strongly
than before in favour of the right of armed resistance to the Emperor
and the Empire; should the former have recourse to violent measures
against the Evangel, then there would be no difference between the
Emperor and a hired assassin; if the overlord attempts to impose on his
subjects blasphemy and idolatry, he must expect to meet with bloody
resistance on the part of those attacked.[1516]

While negotiations on which hung war or peace were in progress at
Frankfurt, and while, in consequence of this, the question of the
Council receded once more into the background, Luther was putting the
finishing touch to his “Von den Conciliis und Kirchen,” which appeared
in the spring of 1539.[1517] In spite of being weak and unwell his
powers of work seemed inexhaustible; his own troubles and worries
were all forgotten when it was a question of entering the lists as
the leader of the movement. The work was intended to forestall the
Œcumenical Council should it ever become an accomplished fact, and to
frustrate as far as possible its harmful effects on himself. In it
with the utmost audacity the author pits his own authority against
that of the highest secular and ecclesiastical powers; his tone is at
once so self-confident and so coarse that here again it provides the
psychologist with an enigma.

 With his projected Council, so he says at the commencement, the Pope
 in reality only wanted to deal the Emperor and all Christians “a blow
 on the snout.” He held out the Council to them just as, in playing
 with a dog, we offer him a morsel on the point of a knife, and, when
 he snaps at it, we hit him with the handle. He declares roundly that,
 “the Papists would not and could not hold a Council unless indeed they
 first took captive the Emperor, the kings and all the princes.”[1518]
 If the Emperor and the Princes wished “reprobates to slap their
 cheeks,” then let them continue to debate about the Council. The
 alleged impossibility of the Council he proclaims still more rudely,
 asserting that, the Papists being what they are, the whole world must
 despair of any amelioration of the Church: “They would rather leave
 Christendom to perish, and have the devil himself for their God and
 Lord, than accept Christ and give up even one jot of their idolatry.”
 Hence we must look for reformation from Christ our Lord, “and let them
 fare devilwards as they are bent on doing.”[1519]

 He then goes on to explain that amendment was impossible on the olden
 principles of the Fathers and canons, but could come about only by
 means of Holy Scripture; the Fathers and canons were not at one;
 even the first four Œcumenical Councils—the history of which he
 treats summarily though with little real historical knowledge—had
 only been able to ratify the belief laid down in Scripture; for
 faith a surer and more stable foundation was necessary than that of
 ecclesiastical Councils ever subject to make mistakes. At the same
 time he has nothing but scorn for the claims of the ancient and
 universal Church to be the permanent infallible teacher on matters
 of faith; he has no eye for her divinely guaranteed power as it had
 been exemplified in the General Councils, so solemnly representing the
 Churches of the whole world. On the other hand, his own pretensions
 are far above question. He knows, so he asserts, much more about the
 ancient Councils than all the Papists in a lump. He could instruct
 the Council, should one actually be summoned, on its procedure and
 its standards. It has, according to him, no power in the Church save
 to reject new errors which do not agree with Scripture (as though
 a Council had ever adopted any other course). Even the office of a
 clergyman or schoolmaster may, he says, be compared with that of the
 Councils in so far as, within their own small sphere, they judge human
 opinions and human rules by the standard of the Word of God, and seek
 to oppose the devil. But just as, in the case of these, he cannot
 guarantee that they will always read Holy Scripture aright, so also in
 the case of the Councils.

 If, however, such a solemn Council was convened—and such a thing
 might conceivably be of some use—then the first requirement, so he
 declares with surprising frankness, was “that, in the Council, the
 Pope should not merely lay aside his tyranny of human law, but also
 hold with us.... The Emperor and the kings must also help in this
 and compel the Pope should he refuse.”[1520] This he wrote for the
 disabusal of the infatuated, for at that time, strange to say, some
 Germans of the greatest influence still fancied it possible to pave
 the way for a reconciliation by means of negotiations and religious
 conferences, and were anxious to leave the Lutheran question in
 suspense until a General Council should meet. Luther further demands,
 that “the thoroughly learned in Holy Scripture ... and a few prudent
 and well-disposed laymen ... should also be invited to the Council.
 Then the abominations of the Pope would speedily be condemned.”

 He adds: “Yes, you will say, but of such a Council there is no hope.
 That is what I think too.”[1521]

 He is ready, however, to be content with a Provincial Council of the
 same sort held in Germany, and expresses the strange hope, that “the
 other monarchs would in time approve and accept the decisions of
 such a Council.” With this reference to the Provincial Council he is
 dallying with a proposal made by some short-sighted imperial advisers,
 viz. that a “free, German Council” should attempt to settle the

 The author then proceeds to set forth his jumbled theories on the
 “Church” and finally brings the lengthy work to a conclusion with a
 protestation that his doctrine forms the very pillars on which the
 Church rests: “Whoever teaches differently, even were he an angel from
 heaven, let him be anathema” (Gal. i. 8). “We are determined to be the
 Pope’s master and to tread him under foot, as Psalm xci. [13] says:
 Thou shalt walk upon the asp and the basilisk and thou shalt trample
 under foot the lion and the dragon.”[1522]

In many parts of the “Von den Conciliis und Kirchen” Luther is inclined
to repeat himself, whilst the style exhibits a certain dreariness and
monotony often met with in this class of Luther’s productions, at least
when the ardour of his polemics begins to fail, or when his object in
view is not popular instruction and edification. He himself on its
completion wrote of it to Melanchthon who was attending the meeting at
Frankfurt: “The book sadly vexes me, I find it weak and wordy.”[1523]
At any rate with many who lacked any real discernment it no doubt
served to cover Luther’s and his friends’ retreat from a position they
had so long and persistently defended, viz. that a Council was the
chief thing called for.

The fruitless meetings of Frankfurt and Hagenau and the equally
fruitless conferences of Worms and Ratisbon were followed, in 1541,
by the Ratisbon Interim. This, as might have been foreseen, satisfied
neither party. As for the Council it had been repeatedly postponed by
Paul III on account of the embroilments between the Emperor and France
and the opposition of the Protestants.

At last, on May 22, 1542, the Pope convened a General Synod to begin
in the town of Trent on Nov. 1 of that same year. The head on earth
of the Catholic Church, in the Bull summoning the Council, spoke
of the political obstacles now at last happily removed. The aim of
the assembly was to be to debate, and by the light of divine wisdom
and truth, settle on such steps “as might appear effective for the
safeguarding of the purity and truth of the Christian religion, for
the restoration of good morals and the amendment of the bad, for
the establishing of peace, harmony and concord among Christians,
both rulers and ruled, and lastly for opposing the inroads of the
unbelievers [the Turks].” The Pope most earnestly implores the Emperor
and the other Christian monarchs “by the mercy of our Lord Jesus
Christ, Whose faith and religion are being most violently assailed both
from within and from without,” not to forsake God’s cause but by active
co-operation to support it in every way.

The grand project of a Council was, however, further delayed by the war
which suddenly broke out between Charles V and France. Only on Dec. 13,
1545, could the first session be held at Trent. It was then indeed high
time, for the Emperor Charles V, in the hope of securing a united front
against the French, had shown himself much too disposed to yield to the
German Protestants, as is evident from the Reichsabschied of Spires in

As to Luther: up to the very last moment he scoffed at the efforts of
Rome, as though her proposals for reform were all mere sham. Under this
cloak of contempt he concealed his real annoyance at the opening of the

 As soon as the new Bull of Convocation for 1545 appeared he wrote to
 his old friend, Wenceslaus Link: “I have seen the Pope’s writing and
 the Bull convening the Council to Trent for Lætare Sunday. May Christ
 laugh last at the reprobates who laugh at Him. Amen.”[1524] A few
 days later he said in a letter to his confidant, Justus Jonas: “To
 believe the Pope’s promises would be like placing faith in the father
 of lies whose own darling son he is.”[1525]—“The Pope is mad and
 foolish from top to toe,” so he informs his Elector.[1526] A “Feast
 of Fools”[1527] is the only fit word with which he can describe the
 assembly of the ablest and most learned men in the Church, who came
 from every land, honourably intent on bringing peace to Christians and
 gaining a victory for truth. Luther had not the slightest doubt where
 the real well-spring of truth undefiled was to be found; on the same
 day that he wrote to his Elector the words just quoted, in a letter
 to Nicholas Amsdorf, the “true and genuine bishop of the Church of
 Naumburg,” as he styles him, he says: “I glory in the fact that this
 at least is certain: The Son of God is seated at the right hand of
 the Father and by His Spirit speaks most sweetly to us here below,
 just as He spoke to the Apostles; we, however, are His disciples
 and hear the Word from His lips. Praise be to God Who has chosen us
 unworthy sinners to be thus honoured by His Son and has permitted us
 to hearken to His Majesty through the Word of the Evangel. The angels
 and the whole of God’s creation wish us luck; but the Pope, Satan’s
 own monster, grieves and is affrighted, and all the gates of hell
 shake. Let us rejoice in the Lord. For them the Day approaches and
 the end. I have in mind another book against Popery, but the state
 of my head and my endless correspondence hinders me. Yet with God’s
 help I shall set about it shortly.”[1528] What he is thinking of is a
 continuation—which death prevented him from carrying out—of a new
 book with which we must now deal.

2. “Wider das Bapstum zu Rom vom Teuffel Gestifft.” The Papacy renews
its Strength

Luther’s anger against the Papacy had been kindled into a glowing flame
by the sight of the unity displayed by the Catholic Church in view of
the Council. It seemed incredible to him that the old body which he had
pronounced dead should again sit in Council and prepare to infuse new
life into itself, to revive ecclesiastical discipline and to condemn
the Church he himself had founded. His soreness at such a consolidation
of Catholicism he relieved by a sort of last effort in his book
“Against the Roman Papacy founded by the devil.”[1529]

It was only his broken health, a foretoken of approaching death, and
his many cares that prevented his following it up as he had threatened
in his letter to Amsdorf just quoted. As he says there, he only hopes
that God will give him “bodily strength and ghostly energy enough” to
enable him, “like Samson of old, to wreak one act of vengeance on these
Philistines.” The simile is truly a horrible one; the unhappy man,
broken down from the effects of a life of tireless labour and endless
excitement, still burns with the desire once more to shake the pillars
of the ancient Church so as to bury all faithful Catholics beneath her
ruins. As to what would be his, the blind Samson’s, fate beneath the
ruins he does not consider as seriously as the true members of the
ancient Church would have wished him to do.

The occasion of the book was the following. Pope Paul III had sent to
the Emperor two briefs in quick succession to dissuade him from making
perilous concessions to the Protestants, and, in particular, in the
interests of the Œcumenical Council, to oppose the project of holding a
German National Council. Luther received from two different quarters an
invitation to write against the supposed interference of the Pope. His
Elector, through Chancellor Brück, requested, “that the said Martin may
deal with the Pope’s writing, particularly as the formal announcement
of the Council is now to hand; for we have no doubt that he is well
able to do this. The same might then be printed and launched into the
public.”[1530] Another invitation to the same effect, supported by
information to be used against the Pope, reached Luther indirectly
from the Imperial chancery itself through the intermediary of Nicholas
Perrenoti, a councillor; some of the officials seem to have been
anxious to avenge themselves on Paul III for crossing their plans.[1531]

The work was published on March 26, 1545. As early as April 13,
Marsupino, Secretary to King Ferdinand, was able to present a copy
to the Papal Legates at the Council of Trent. Justice Jonas at once
brought out a Latin translation entitled “_Contra papatum romanum a
diabolo inventum_.” Thus at the very time the General Council made its
bow before the world, Luther’s attack was brought to the notice of
educated readers of all nations. No great harm was done to Catholic
interests by Luther’s hanging up the drastic picture of himself,
depicted in this scurrilous writing, as a warning to the whole world;
humanistic culture and the grand classic idiom had, however, scarcely
ever before suffered such degradation as in the Latin rendering of this
foul book.

The first and chief part of the work was to prove, that it was both
wrong and presumptuous for the Popes to style themselves heads of
Christendom, and that it was the devil alone who had put such a notion
into their heads. In the second part it is demonstrated that in
particular the claim made by the Popes that no one had the right to
judge or to depose them was of fiendish origin. Finally, in the third,
it is shown that the alleged handing over of the Roman Empire by the
Greeks to the Germans through the instrumentality of the Popes was also
a mere hellish lie.

Sincere admirers of Luther read with amazement this book, which, for
all its ferocity, is so reminiscent of the gutter. Some, even of his
followers, again openly expressed the opinion that by it he had harmed
himself more than any foe could have done—so unmeasured are his words
and so utterly crazy the things he propounds. At times the pages seem
to have been written in nothing short of a paroxysm of hate, and can
only be understood by bearing in mind the author’s frightful state of
inward turmoil.

 The very first words give us a glimpse of what is to come: “The most
 hellish Father, St. Paulus Tertius, as though he were Bishop of the
 Roman Churches, has written two briefs to Carolus Quintus, our Lord
 Emperor.... He has also, to speak by permission, issued a Bull almost
 for the fifth time, and now once more the Council is to meet at Trent;
 no one, however, may attend it but only his own brew, the Epicureans
 and those who please him.” Luther proceeds to ask whether this can
 really be a Council, which is ruled by the “gruesome abomination at
 Rome, who styles himself Pope,” and not rather some “puppet-show got
 up during the Carnival to tickle the Pope’s fancy.”

 The fury of the writer increases as he proceeds and he goes on to
 make the following demands: “Now let Emperor, kings, princes, lords
 and whoever can, set the axe to the root, and may God give no luck
 to hands that hang idle. First of all let them take from the Pope,
 Rome, Romandiol, Urbino, Bononia and all that he holds as Pope.... He
 won them by blasphemy and idolatry, and has laid waste the kingdom
 of Christ, wherefore he is termed the abomination of desolation [Mt.
 xxiv. 15]. After this the Pope himself, the Cardinals and the whole
 scoundrely train of his idolatrous Popish Holiness should be seized,
 and, as blasphemers, have their tongues torn from their throats and
 nailed in a row on the gallows-tree, in like manner as they affix
 their seals in a row to their Bulls; though even this would be but
 slight punishment for all their blasphemy and idolatry. After this
 let them hold as many Councils as they please on the gallows, or in
 hell with all the demons.... They are criminal, shameless, obstinate

 The gloomy fancy that inspires his furious pen has, however, another
 kind of death in readiness for such opponents. “Were I Emperor I
 know full well what I should do: I would couple together all the
 blasphemous knaves, Pope, Cardinals and all the Popish crew, bind them
 and take them down to Ostia where there is a little stretch of water
 called in Latin the Mare Tyrrhenum.... Into it I would drop the lot
 and give them a good bath, along with the keys with which they bind
 and loose everything.... They might also take their pastoral staves
 so as to be able to smite the face of the waters.... And, lastly,
 as refreshing fodder and drink, they might have all the decrees,
 decretals, bulls, indulgences, etc. What do you wager that after half
 an hour in this healing bath all their diseases would cease?... On it
 I would risk Christ our Lord.”[1533]

 “The Pope,” so he exclaims on the same page, “is the head of the
 accursed Churches of all the worst knaves upon earth, a Vicar of
 the devil, a foe of God, an adversary of Christ and a destroyer of
 His Churches, a teacher of all lies, blasphemy and idolatry, an
 arch-church-thief and robber of the Church’s keys, a murderer of kings
 and an inciter to all kinds of bloodshed, a whoremonger above all
 whoremongers and the author of every kind of immorality, even of that
 which may not be mentioned, an antichrist, a man of sin, a child of
 destruction, a real werewolf. Whoever refuses to believe this, let him
 fare away with his God, the Pope.”[1534]

 “As an elect teacher and preacher to the Churches of Christ bound
 to speak the truth, I have herewith done my part. He who is set
 on stinking may go on stinking.... Let a Church be where it may
 throughout the world it can have no other Gospel ... than we have here
 in our Churches at Wittenberg.”[1535]

 As to how high Luther as a preacher and man of learning set himself
 and his Church above the Pope and his, we can see from what follows:
 “The whole Roman mob is nothing else but a stable full of great,
 rude, loutish, shameless donkeys, who know nothing of Holy Scripture,
 or of God, or of Christ, or what a bishop is, what God’s Word, or
 the Spirit, or baptism is, or what are sacraments, the keys and good
 works.... I, Dr. Martin, am still living, and having been brought up
 in the Pope’s school and donkey’s stable became a Doctor of Theology,
 and was even accounted a good and learned Doctor, which I assuredly
 was, so that I can truly testify how deep, and high, and broad, and
 long is their skill in Holy Scripture.”[1536]—And lest someone should
 object: “Have you any right to judge?” he replies lightheartedly: “It
 is enough for us to know that the Pope-Ass has been condemned by God
 Himself and all the angels.” “We cannot be heretics, for we have
 believed and confessed the Scriptures.”[1537]

 An earlier saying of his to the effect that: “I am carried away and
 know not by what spirit” (“_rapior nescio quo spiritu_”), comes before
 the mind of the reader when Luther describes yet a third form of death
 for the Pope and his courtiers. He would fain see him, the Cardinals
 and the whole court, dealt with according “to fox-law, their hides
 being dragged over their heads, that they may thus be taught to pay
 with their skins; after this the hides may be thrown into the healing
 bath of Ostia, or into the fire.” “See and behold,” he exclaims, “how
 my blood boils! How it longs to see the Papacy punished though my
 spirit is well aware that no temporal penalty can make amends, even
 for one single Bull or decree!”[1538]

 Luther’s defenders have, strange to say, thought it necessary to
 lay stress on the fact that these three proposals cannot have been
 seriously meant.[1539] Everyone will admit that they are not a
 settled plan, for the carrying out of one would have rendered the
 others difficult or unfeasible. But does this fact modify in any way
 the revolting character of these words or cancel the invitation to
 make use of violence? It would be better to argue, that, owing to
 his fanatism about which only a pathologist can judge, he was not
 fully aware of what he was doing.—Some Catholics have suggested
 that the abnormal virulence of many pages of this book was due to
 the excitement caused by intoxicating liquors. Of this unfortunately
 there is no proof. That the reason for his horrible language must be
 sought rather in mental overstrain, in the preponderance just then of
 an abnormal side of his spiritual life, seems fairly clear also from
 the other quotations from this work which we were obliged to adduce

Some time before the work in question was written, Brück, the
Chancellor, had written to the Elector that, if the Council convened
by the Pope “were to resume and continue its knavery” it would be
necessary for Luther “to put the axe to the root of the tree, which by
the Grace of God he is better able to do than other men”; this he wrote
on Jan. 20, 1545.[1541]

At that same time a calmer scene was being enacted in Saxony. On
Jan. 14, the Wittenberg theologians, headed by Luther, presented
to the Elector the so-called Wittenberg Reformation, drawn up at
the sovereign’s request. This work had a close connection with the
Œcumenical Council. It is true it was merely written in view of the
approaching negotiations at the Diet, to facilitate one of those
“religious compromises” which had now become so common. It was,
however, at the same time, so to speak, a theological manifesto of the
Protestants called forth by the Council. Hence it had been drawn up by
Melanchthon (and not by Luther) in terms cautious and moderate. “The
theologians,” wrote Brück, “have drawn up their ‘Reformation’ very
courteously, nor is there any trace of Dr. Martin’s boisterousness” in

The “Reformation” treats successively of “doctrine true and undefiled,”
which it asserts is to be found in the Confession of Augsburg, “of the
right use of the sacraments,” of the preaching office and episcopal
government, of the ecclesiastical courts and spiritual jurisdiction,
of learning and the schools, and of the defence and support of the
churches. Many useful elements which meet the actual needs of the time
are found scattered through the document. Stress is laid on the need
of some direction and supervision of the preachers in such a way as to
suggest the recognition of episcopal authority; the German episcopate
is to be retained ... provided it accepts Luther’s doctrine![1543]

It would in many respects be instructive to draw a parallel between
the “Wittenberg Reformation” and the Catholic reformation proclaimed
by the Council of Trent in the course of its successive sessions. We
shall emphasise only one point. In the case of proceedings against
“false doctrine” the Wittenbergers go much further than the Council
in their demands for submission on the part of the individual.
According to them the ecclesiastical courts (Consistories) were to
lend their firm support to Luther’s own doctrine and interpretation
of the Bible—for which, as a matter of fact, his name offered the
sole guarantee—these courts were moreover to comprise “God-fearing
men, chosen from among the laity of high standing in the Church.” The
question of any deviation from the faith, was, with their assistance,
“first to be examined into and then judgment pronounced in the ordinary
way.” So painful a subordination of the individual to private opinions
concerning faith, and so uncalled-for an introduction of the lay
element into the spiritual courts, never entered the mind of any
member of the Council.

       *       *       *       *       *

Conscious of its divine right the Council of Trent, even during
Luther’s lifetime, solemnly laid the foundations of those decisions on
doctrine which are now, and for ever will be, binding on the Catholic
Church. It rose far above the quarrels of the day and the personal
attacks on the successor of Peter and the venerable hierarchy; in what
it laid down it was careful ever to preserve intact the great bond with
the past.

It was but a few days before Luther departed this life that the “Holy
Œcumenical and General Synod legitimately called together in the Holy
Ghost,” as in accordance with ancient usage it styles itself, declared
in its third session, that its highest task was to oppose the heresies
of the day and to reform the morals of the people. During this session,
on Feb. 4, 1546, the Council renewed the creed of the Roman Church as
the “basis on which all who confess the faith of Christ are agreed
and as the one firm foundation against which the gates of hell cannot

As the opposing camp had the habit of constantly appealing to Holy
Writ so the Council, in its next session, held after Luther’s death on
April 8, 1546, solemnly declared Holy Scripture to be the “Spring of
wholesome truth and discipline of morals,” though at the same time,
agreeably to the ancient and uninterrupted teaching of the Church,
it also included tradition: “Which truth is contained in the written
books, and the unwritten traditions which the Apostles received from
the lips of Christ ... and which, having been as it were handed down,
have survived to our own day”; it, on the one hand, declared the sacred
books of both Old and New Testament, the Canon of which it fixed anew,
to have God for their author (“_Deus auctor_”) and to be worthy of
equal affection and reverence; on the other, it reasserted the rights
of the teaching office of the Church and of the tradition handed down
from ages past, both of which Protestantism had questioned. To prevent
any abuse of the Word of God, it also enacted that no member of the
Church, relying on his own prudence, should, in matters of faith and
morals, twist Holy Writ so as to make it mean anything else “than Holy
Mother Church held and holds, seeing that it is hers to interpret
Scripture” in accordance “with the unanimous consensus of the Fathers.”
The Council’s first reforming decree also seeks to safeguard the
treasure of Holy Scripture by forbidding any profanation of it or its
use for superstitious purposes.

After long adjournments, necessitated by the state of public affairs
and after the ground had been prepared by careful study of the Bible,
the Fathers and the Schoolmen, there followed, in 1546 and 1547, the
weighty discussions on original sin and justification. In the final
Canon on the justification of the sinner by grace (vol. iii., p. 185),
the point on which all the questions raised by the innovations turned,
the Synod pronounces an anathema on any man who shall declare that the
Catholic doctrine it has just laid down “detracts from the glory of God
or the merits of Jesus Christ our Lord, and does not rather enhance the
truth of our faith and the glory of God and of Jesus Christ.” There
followed resolutions concerning the sacraments in general, then, in
1551, on the Holy Eucharist and the Sacrament of Penance; and finally,
to pass over other points, in 1562 and 1563, the decrees on Communion,
the Sacrifice of the Mass, the Sacrament of priestly ordination, and on
Marriage. The 25th and last session, on Dec. 4, 1563, was devoted to
the doctrine of Purgatory, of the veneration of the saints and relics,
indulgences, fast-days and festivals, and also to the drawing up of
various far-reaching regulations on discipline.

The Synod had striven throughout to make its disciplinary decrees keep
pace with its doctrinal promulgations. Thereby it provided a lasting
and effectual foundation for the reform of the Church. This, taken in
connection with so clear a statement of the unanimity of the Church’s
teaching throughout the ages, deprived the separatists of every pretext
for remaining estranged from the unity of the faith. The main point was
that the Church, purified from the many abuses to which human frailty
had given rise, or at least earnestly resolved to remove those still
remaining, stood forth again as the city on the hill, visible afar off
in her splendour and calling all to her in order to make them sharers
in the hope of life. She was confident that He Who had said: “I will be
with you all days, even to the consummation of the world,” had extended
His protecting Hand over the assembly, and had spoken through it for
the instruction of the faithful and also of the erring brethren. The
infallibility of such general Councils was never questioned by any

A fresh outburst of zeal was the result, and the ancient Church soon
showed that she had within her unsuspected powers for self-improvement.

3. Some Sayings of Luther’s on the Council and his own Authority

“They now seek to get at us under cover of a nominal Council,” says
Luther, “in order to be able to shriek at us.... This is Satan’s wisdom
as against the foolishness of God. How will God extricate Himself from
their cunning schemes? Still, he is the Lord Who will mock at His
contemners. If we are to submit to this Council we might as well have
submitted twenty-five years since to the lord of the Councils, viz.
the Pope and his Bulls. We shall not consent to discuss the matter
until the Pope admits that the Council stands above him, and until the
Council takes sides [with us] against the Pope, for even the Pope’s
own conscience already reproaches him. They are mad and crazy. ‘_Deo

A series of similar utterances may be quoted.

 “The Papists are ashamed of themselves and stand in fear of their own
 conscience. Us they do not fear because, like Virgil of old, they
 console themselves with having already survived worse things. The
 paroxysm will cease suddenly.... They put to death the pious John Hus,
 who never departed in the least from the Papacy but only reproved
 moral disorders.”[1545] “For it was then not yet the time to unmask
 the [Roman] beast” (this having been reserved for me). “I, however,
 have not attacked merely the abuses but even the doctrine, and have
 bitten off the [Pope’s] heart. I don’t think the Pope will grow
 again.... The article of Justification has practically taken the shine
 out of the Pope’s thunderbolts.”[1546]

 “Our Church by the grace of God comes quite near to that of the
 Apostles, because we have the pure doctrine, the catechism, the
 sacraments and the [right] use of government, both in the State and
 in the home. If the Word, which alone makes the Church, stands and
 flourishes, then all is well. The Papists, however, who seek to
 erect a Church on conciliar decrees and decretals will only arouse
 dissensions among themselves and ‘wash the tiles’—however much they
 may pride themselves on their reason and wisdom.”[1547]

 “I must for once boast, for it is a long while since I did so last. A
 Council whereby the Church might be reformed has long been clamoured
 for. I think I have summoned such a Council as will make the ears
 of the Papists tingle and their heart burst with malice: for I take
 it, that, even should the Pope hold a General Council, he will not
 be able to effect so much by it. First, I have driven the Papists
 to their books, particularly to Scripture, and deposed the heathen
 Aristotle and the ‘Summists.’ ... Secondly, I have made them to be
 more reserved about their indulgences. Thirdly, I have almost put an
 end to the pilgrimages and field-devilry.” Only look, he says, at
 the reduction of the monasteries and the many other things which no
 Council could ever have achieved but which have been brought about by
 “our people.” Everything had been lost, the “Our Father, the Creed,
 the Ten Commandments, Penance, Baptism, Prayer [etc., he enumerates
 twenty-one similar things].” “No institution, no monastery, university
 or presbytery” taught even one of these articles aright; now, however,
 “I have set all things in order.”[1548]

 I can “write books as well as the Fathers and the Councils,” and this
 I may say “without pride.”[1549] This is because I have “exercised
 myself” in the Word of God by “prayer, meditation and temptations”
 (“_oratio, meditatio, tentatio_”).[1550] In my “temptation” the
 devil raged against me in every way, but God in a wonderful manner
 “kept alight His torch so that it did not go out.”[1551] Persecution
 overtook me “like the Apostles,” who “fared no better than their
 Lord and Master.”[1552] But the devil has entered into His foes
 the Papists, to whom, “in spite of all our good and well-meant
 admonitions, prayers and entreaties,”[1553] they have surrendered
 themselves; and rightly so, for the Papists (as I know from my own
 youthful experience when I did the same myself) refuse even to
 recognise the Gospel as a mystery.[1554] They simply make an end of
 all religion.

 But, all this notwithstanding, as the Council shall learn “I am really
 a defender and prop of the Pope. After my death the Pope will suffer a
 blow which he will be unable to withstand. Then they will say: Would
 that we now had Luther to give some advice; but if anyone offers
 advice now they refuse it; when the hour is passed God will no longer
 be willing.”[1555]

 After “God had given me that splendid victory which enabled me to get
 the better of my monkish vocation, the vows, masses and all the other
 abominations ... Pope and Emperor were alike unable to stop me.” It
 is true that I still have temptations to humble me, “but we remain
 victorious and shall conquer.”[1556]

 “These Italians [at Trent they were present in large numbers] are
 profane men and Epicureans. No Pope or cardinal for the last six
 hundred years has read the Bible. They understand less of the
 catechism than does my little daughter. May God preserve us from such
 blindness and leave us His divine Word.”[1557]

This was the frame of mind in which Luther confronted the Council.

We shall be better able to appreciate the strangeness of his attitude
if we imagine Luther, attended by a few theologians of his own circle,
journeying to the Council at Trent and there holding converse with the
foreign prelates, as he had done at Wittenberg with the Legate Vergerio.

In his wonted fashion he would not have hesitated to express plainly
his views concerning his own authority. Some examples of his opinions
of himself have already been given.[1558] What impression would the
Wittenberger’s novel claims have made on bishops and theologians from
distant lands where the Church was still in perfect peace, and where
the spiritual supremacy of the hierarchy was unquestioned? With what
astonishment would they have listened to those strange replies, which
the Saxon had always ready in plenty, to such objections as they might
have raised on the score of his disturbance of the peace of both Church
and State, of the disorders within his own fold and of his own private
life and that of his followers?

A number of other statements taken from his writings and conversations
with his intimates may help to make the picture even more vivid.

 “I have the Word,” we can hear him saying to the bishops in his usual
 vein, “that is enough for me! Were even an angel to come to me now I
 should not believe him.”[1559]

 “Whoever obtrudes his doctrine on me and refuses to yield, must
 inevitably be lost; for I must be right, my cause being not mine, but
 God’s, Whose Word it also is. Hence those who are against it must go
 under. Hence my unfailing defiance.... I have risked my life on it and
 will die for it. Therefore whoever sets himself against me must be
 ruined if a God exists at all.”[1560]

 To friend and foe I can only say: “Take in faith what Christ says to
 you through me; for I am not deceived, so far as I know. It is not the
 words of Satan that I speak. Christ speaks through me.”[1561]

 “Though there are many who regard my cause as diabolical and condemn
 it, yet I know that my word and undertaking is not of me but of God,
 and neither death nor persecution will teach me otherwise.”[1562]

 And before anyone can slip in a word of rejoinder he, again, as his
 way was, appeals to his personal knowledge. “I know that God together
 with all His angels bears me witness that I have not falsified
 His Word, baptism or sacrament, but have preached rightly and

 This doctrine I learnt in my “temptations,” during which “I had to
 ponder ever more and more deeply.” “What is lacking to the fanatics
 and the mob is that they have not that real foeman who is the devil;
 he certainly teaches a man thoroughly.”[1564]

 The hostility met with, particularly from false brethren, is also
 “God’s sure seal upon us”; by such “we have become like St. Paul, nay,
 like the whole Church.”[1565]

 The chief thing for me, however, so he continues, is conscience and
 conviction. “Take heed,” such is my axiom, “not to make mere play
 of it. If you wish to begin it, then begin it with such a clear
 conscience that you may defy the devil.... Be a man and do everything
 that goes against and vexes them [the opponents] and omit everything
 that might please them.”[1566]

 To those who ask whether his conscience did not upbraid him for
 breaking the peace and for overthrowing all order, he replies: It is
 quite true “Satan makes my conscience to prick me for having by false
 doctrine thrown the world into confusion and caused revolts.... But I
 meet him with this: The doctrine is not mine, but the Son of God’s;
 whole worlds are nothing to God, even should ten of them be rent
 by rebellion and go headlong to destruction. It is written in Holy
 Scripture [Mt. xvii. 5], ‘Hear ye Him’ (Christ), or everything will
 fall into ruins, and again [Ps. ii. 10], ‘Hearken, ye kings,’ or else
 ye shall perish. It was thus that Paul too had to console himself,
 when, in the Acts, he was accused of treason against God and Cæsar.
 God wills that the article of Justification shall stand, and if men
 accept it then no State or government will perish, but, if not, then
 they alone are the cause of their misfortune.”[1567]

 With no less confidence is he prepared to counter the other
 objections. My doctrine breeds evil? “After the proclamation of the
 Evangel it is true we see in the world great wickedness, ingratitude
 and profanation; this followed on the overthrow of Antichrist [which
 I brought about]; but in reality it is only, that, formerly, before
 the dawn of the Evangel, we did not see so plainly these sins which
 all were already there, but now that the morning star has risen the
 whole world awakens, as though from a drunken sleep, and perceives
 the sins which previously, while all men were asleep and sunk in the
 gloom of night, they had failed to recognise. But [in view of all the
 wickedness] I set my hopes on the Last Day being not far distant;
 things cannot go on for more than a hundred years; for the Word of
 God will again grow weaker; owing to lack of ministers of the Word
 darkness will arise. Then the whole world will grow savage and so lull
 itself into a state of security. After this the voice will resound
 (Mt. xxv. 6): ‘Behold, the bridegroom cometh.’ Then God will not be
 able to endure it any longer.”[1568]

 Is our own life any objection? It is no question of life but of
 doctrine, “and, as to the doctrine, it is indubitable that it is
 the Word of God. ‘The words that I speak,’ saith the Lord [John
 xiv. 10], ‘are not mine but the Father’s.’” Certainly “I should not
 like God to judge me by my life.”[1569]—“My doctrine is true and
 includes the forgiveness of sins, because my doctrine is not mine;
 Christ also says, ‘My doctrine is not Mine.’ My doctrine stands fast,
 be my life what it may.”[1570] “True enough, it is hard when Satan
 comes and upbraids us saying: You have laid violent hands on this
 marvellous edifice of the Papacy,” you, “a man full of error and
 sin.” “But Paul also, according to Rom. ix., had at times to endure
 similar reproaches.” “We answer: We do not attack the Pope on account
 of his personal errors and trespasses; we must indeed condemn them,
 but we will overlook them and forgive them as we ourselves wish to
 be forgiven. Thus it is not a question for us of the Pope’s personal
 faults and sins, but of his doctrine and of submission to the Word.
 The Pope and his followers, quite apart from their own sins, offend
 against the glory and the grace of God, nay, against Christ Himself,
 of whom the Father says: Hear ye Him. But the Pope would have men’s
 ears attentive only to what he says!”[1571]

 But, because my doctrine is true, so he concludes, this had
 to come about, “as I had long ago foreseen; in spite of the
 purity of my theology I [like Paul] was alleged to have preached
 ‘scandal’ to the holy Jews and ‘foolishness’ to the sapient
 heathen.”[1572]—Nevertheless, “whoever teaches otherwise than I
 have taught, or condemns me, condemns God and must remain a child of
 hell.”[1573]—“For the future I will not do the Papists the honour,”
 of permitting them, “or even an angel from heaven, to judge of my
 doctrine, for we have had too much already of foolish humility.”[1574]

 With what wonder and perplexity at so unaccountable an attitude would
 the foreign bishops have listened to words such as these!

4. Notable Movements of the Times accompanied by Luther with “Abuse and
Defiance down to the very Grave.” The Caricatures

_Brunswick, Cleves, the Schmalkalden Leaguers_

Luther followed with great sympathy and perturbation the warlike
proceedings instituted by the Elector of Saxony and the Landgrave of
Hesse against Duke Henry of Brunswick, whom he had himself already
attacked with the pen in his “Wider Hans Worst.” They made war on the
Duke in the summer of 1542, seized upon his lands and of their own
initiative introduced the innovations, their troops at the same time
committing unexampled excesses.

Luther acclaimed the victory as a deed of God; such a proceeding could
not be described as the work of man; such a success foreboded the
approach of the Day of Judgment and retribution.[1575]

The Imperial Chamber of Justice protested against the violent
appropriation of the country by the Schmalkalden Leaguers, and, on Sep.
3, summoned the two princes and their confederates to Spires to answer
for the breach of the peace committed at the expense of Duke Henry.
Thereupon all the members of the League of Schmalkalden repudiated
their obedience to the “wicked, dissolute, Popish rascals,” as the
Landgrave Philip politely styled the Imperial Court. In this he was at
one with Luther, who, in former years, had called the Imperial Chamber
“a devil’s whore.”[1576]

A new war of the Leaguers on Henry, who was anxious to recover his
lands, was crowned in 1545 by a still more notable success on the
part of the rebels, who this time contrived to take the Duke himself
prisoner. When, however, Philip of Hesse, out of consideration
for the Emperor, seemed inclined to set the captive free, Luther
intervened with a circular letter addressed to Philip and his own
Elector. He was determined to characterise any idea of setting free
the “mischievous, wild tool of the Roman idol” as an open attack
not merely on the Evangel, but even on the manifest will of God as
displayed in the recent war which had been waged “by His angels.” Here
his pseudo-mysticism is again much to the fore. The circular letter was
soon printed and spread broadcast.[1577]

Without any deep insight into the real state of affairs, either
political or ecclesiastical, unmindful even of diplomacy, Luther seeks
to work on the fears of the Protestant princes by an extravagant
description of the Divine Judgments which were overtaking blasphemers,
and tells them they will be sharers in the sin of others if, now that
God had “broken down the bulwark” of the Papacy, they were to set it up

To the Papists he says: “Stop, you mad fools, Pope and Papists, and
do not blow the flame that God has kindled. For it will turn against
yourselves so that the sparks and cinders will fly into your eyes. Yes,
indeed, this is God’s fire, Who calls Himself a consuming fire. You
know and are convinced in your own conscience that your cause is wicked
and lost and that you are striving against God.”[1578]

He writes confidently: We on this side, without causing either Emperor
or Pope “to raise a hair, have unceasingly prayed, implored, besought
and clamoured for peace, as they very well know; this, however, we
have never been able to obtain from them, but have had daily to endure
nothing but insults, attacks and extermination.” The defensive alliance
of the Catholic Princes and Estates became in his eyes a robber-league,
established under pretext of religion; “what they wanted was not the
Christian religion but the lands of the Elector and Landgrave.”[1579]
The captive Duke had obtained help from Italy, very likely from the
Pope. “In short, we all know that the Pope and the Papists would gladly
see us dead, body and soul, whereas we for our part would have them all
to be saved body and soul together with us.”[1580] The whole writing,
with its combination of rage and mysticism, and likewise much else
dating from that period, may well raise grave doubts as to the state
of the author’s mind.

The inroad into Brunswick was merely a preliminary to the religious
wars soon to break out and ravage Germany. No sooner had Luther
closed his eyes in death than they began on a larger scale with the
Schmalkalden War, which was to prove so disastrous to the Protestants.
His words just quoted to the princes of his party were repeated almost
word for word in the Protestant manifestos during the religious wars.

It is possible that he may have been roused to make such attacks on
the Catholics by certain disagreeable events which occurred from 1541
onwards. Political steps were being taken which were unfavourable to
Lutheranism and not at all adequately balanced by the Protestants’
victory in Brunswick and elsewhere.

Luther was made painfully aware of the unexpected weakening of the
League of Schmalkalden which resulted from the bigamy of Landgrave
Philip of Hesse. By virtue of a secret compact with the Emperor, into
which Philip of Hesse had found himself forced (June 13, 1541),[1581]
the latter, in his position of head of the German Protestants, had
bound himself not to consent that Duke William of Cleves, who inclined
to Protestantism, should be admitted into the Schmalkalden League; he
had also to refuse any assistance to the Duke when the Emperor Charles
V took the field against him on account of the union of Guelders with
Cleves. The progress of Protestantism in these districts was checked by
the Emperor’s victory in 1543. The formal introduction of the new faith
into Metz was frustrated by the Emperor; at Cologne too the Reformers
saw all their efforts brought to naught.

The Diet of Spires, in 1544, it is true brought the Protestants an
extension of that peace which was so favourable to their interests,
but the campaign which Charles V thereupon undertook against François
I—whom Philip of Hesse and the Schmalkaldeners were compelled by the
above-mentioned compact to leave on the lurch—led to the humiliation
of the Frenchman, who was compelled to make peace at Crespy on Sep. 14,
1544. There the King of France promised the Emperor never again to
side with the German Protestants.

Luther was also troubled by the dissensions within the League of
Schmalkalden, by the refusal of Joachim II of Brandenburg, of Louis,
Elector of the Palatinate, and especially of Duke Maurice of Saxony
to join the League; the last sovereign’s intimate relations with the
Emperor were also a source of anxiety. At Wittenberg it was clearly
seen what danger threatened Lutheranism should the Imperial power
gather strength and intervene on behalf of the Roman Church.

The Roman Church, so Luther exclaims fretfully in his “Kurtz Bekentnis”
(1545), is made up of “nothing but Epicureans and scoffers at the
Christian faith.” The Pope, “the greatest foe of Christ and the
real Antichrist, has made himself head of Christendom, nay, the
very hind-piece and bottom-hole of the devil through which so many
abominations of Masses, monkery and immorality are cacked into the

_The Zwinglian “Sacramentarians”_

One controversy which greatly excited Luther at this time was that with
the Swiss Sacramentarians. Once more his old feud with Zwinglianism was
to break out and embitter his days. When, in 1542, the elevation was
abolished in the parish church of Wittenberg (to some extent out of
deference to the wishes of the Landgrave of Hesse who objected to this
rite), some people too hastily concluded that Luther was renouncing
his own doctrine in favour of that of the Swiss; hence he deemed it
necessary once more to deny, in language too clear to be mistaken, any
intention to make common cause with a company, which, as he puts it,
had been “infected and intoxicated with an alien spirit.”

Moreover, Caspar Schwenckfeld, with the object of moving the feelings
of Luther’s opponents, made known to them Luther’s rude and so
discreditable letter.[1583] The animosity of the Swiss and of their
South German sympathisers now assumed serious dimensions. Luther
accordingly determined to address the reply which he had been planning
for some time to the Sacramentarians as a body, declaring that that
“slanderer” Schwenckfeld was not worth a single line.

 He was also very desirous of once more before his death giving
 vigorous and lasting expression to the positive faith which he still
 shared and to which he was wont eagerly to fly when hard pressed
 by the devil. The spectre of scepticism of which, as many of his
 statements show, he dreaded the advent among his followers as soon as
 he himself had been taken away, was to be exorcised beforehand.

 The writing against the Swiss is the work just alluded to, which
 appeared at the end of Sep., 1544, under the title “Kurtz Bekentnis
 vom heiligen Sacrament.”[1584]

 After briefly disposing of their arguments, with which he had
 already sufficiently dealt, the work culminates in a most outspoken
 condemnation of the errors and arbitrary opinions of the Swiss, the
 most striking sentence of all being the following: “Hence, in a word,
 either believe everything fully or else nothing at all.”[1585] This
 was practically what the Catholic Church had said to him at his own
 apostasy: The principle of faith permits of no picking and choosing
 between the truths revealed by God and guaranteed by the Church’s
 teaching authority; one must choose between either accepting the whole
 body of the Church’s doctrines, or leaving her.[1586]

 For the rest the writing was another bad example of the boundless fury
 and offensiveness of his mode of controversy. In the first lines he
 declares: “It is quite the same to me ... when the accursed mob of
 fanatics, Zwinglians and the like praise or abuse me, as when Jews,
 Turks, Pope or all the devils in unison scold or laud me. For I, who
 am now about to go down into the grave, am determined to bring this
 testimony and this boasting with me to the Judgment-seat of my dear
 Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, that I have with the utmost earnestness
 condemned and shunned the fanatics and Sacramentarians, Carlstadt,
 Zwingli, Œcolampadius, Stinkfield and their disciples, whether at
 Zürich or wherever else they were, according to His command, Titus
 iii. 10: ‘A man that is a heretic avoid.’”[1587]—He goes on to call
 the Zwinglian Sacramentarians “devourers and murderers of souls, who
 have an endevilled, perdevilled, supradevilled and blasphemous heart
 and a lying jaw.” “Hence no Christian can or ought to pray for the
 fanatics or to assist them. They are reprobates.... They want to have
 nothing to do with me, and I want to have nothing to do with them.
 They boast that they have nothing from me, for which I heartily thank
 God: I have borrowed even less from them, for which, too, God be

 In this writing against the Zwinglians Luther also attacks the Papacy
 with unspeakable coarseness. Was it perhaps that he was seeking to
 atone in this way for his apparent agreement with the Catholics
 in their belief in the Presence of Christ in the Sacrament? This
 agreement with the Papacy was, however, as he boasts, only due to his
 holding fast to the ancient doctrine, to that doctrine which the “true
 olden Christian Church has held for fifteen hundred years.”[1589]
 He did not bethink himself of his treatment of many other doctrines
 of this “true, olden Church.” Moreover, even his doctrine of the
 Sacrament was but a shadow of the ancient one. He insisted on denying
 any change of substance in the Bread and on affirming that the Body of
 Christ is actually and everywhere in heaven and on earth present as a
 body. He is also known to have praised Calvin for a writing in which
 the latter belied the “local presence” of Christ in the Bread,[1590]
 and that he declared his readiness to “learn something from so able
 a mind.” Thus what he retained was but a distorted fragment of the
 ancient doctrine of the Sacrament, salved from the shattered treasure
 of his former Catholic convictions.


Very different from that which he displayed towards Zwingli and his
co-religionists was Luther’s attitude towards Calvin, the head of the
theocracy of Geneva, whose power in the “Swiss Rome” had developed so
amazingly since 1541, when he had returned after six years’ exile at
Strasburg in the companionship of Bucer.

Thanks to Bucer, Calvin’s opinions, which in the main had always been
Lutheran, had been directed more towards that form of Lutheranism
represented by Bucer and Melanchthon, his earlier humanistic education
making this all the easier. On account of his views some have, not
so wrongly, dubbed him the “South-German Lutheran,”[1591] though
his stiffness and harshness were not at all in keeping with the
South-German character. Being in close touch with Lutheranism he had
frequently visited Germany during his theological wanderings, and as
the representative of the Strasburg Protestants. He had taken a part
in the negotiations at the Frankfurt Convention and at the religious
conferences at Hagenau, Worms and Ratisbon.

Calvin esteemed Luther far higher than Zwingli. “If we compare them,”
he wrote to his friend Guillaume Farel, “Luther towers far above him,
as you yourself are well aware.”[1592]

 Calvin’s doctrine, as exemplified in his frequently quoted
 “_Institutio religionis christianæ_” (1536) and in his later writings,
 like that of Luther, excludes any participation of the human will in
 the work of salvation; all freedom is abolished, everything being
 enacted by the unchangeable “_Providentia Dei_” in the deterministic
 sense; with him, as with Luther, Adam’s fall was inevitable, owing to
 the divine Predestination, and so was the consequent enthralling of
 the whole of the human race under the bondage of sin.[1593]

 On the elect, however, more particularly on those who follow Calvin’s
 doctrines and admonitions, the assurance of salvation is infallibly
 bestowed, just as he possesses it himself. Those thus predestined
 cannot be lost, while such as are predestined to hell must inevitably
 incur the penalty of eternal suffering; amongst the latter are not
 only all the heathen, but also those who oppose the new belief; they
 are a reprobate mass of humanity who have forfeited all right to live
 by rising up against God and the authorities.[1594] In his doctrine of
 predestination Calvin, who is the more logical of the two, sets aside
 the distinction insisted on by Luther between the Revealed Will of God
 that all men should be saved and His Hidden Will which nullifies it.
 The predestinarian ideas of both are at bottom identical, but with
 Luther, as Friedrich Loofs expresses it, “reprobation tends to recede
 more and more into the background and thus to hold only a secondary
 place; Calvin, on the other hand, is ever and of set purpose dwelling
 on this background, because (according to him) it is also part of the
 revealed doctrine of salvation, and also because it is only another
 aspect of predestination.”[1595]

 Calvin taught Justification in the same way as Luther, and, like him,
 denied entirely any merit to good works.

It was with unmixed joy that Luther saw “so able a mind” coming forward
as a champion of the new theology against the Roman errors.

       *       *       *       *       *

This explains how Melanchthon could announce to Bucer at Strasburg,
in a note evidently intended for Calvin himself, that, though certain
persons had tried to incite Luther against Calvin on account of a
statement [on the Supper] which was at variance with Luther’s views,
“Calvin stands in high favour [with Luther]” (“_magnam gratiam
iniit_”). Calvin himself with great satisfaction quoted this passage
in a letter to Farel.[1596] As for Luther, writing to Bucer on Oct.
14, 1539, he sent his “respectful greetings” to Calvin and mentioned
that he had perused “with peculiar pleasure”[1597] his writing (the
“_Responsio_” against Jacopo Sadoleto in which was the incriminated

When, in April, 1545, Luther glanced through a newly published Latin
translation of Calvin’s principal work on the Supper, “Petit traicté de
la sainte cene” (1541), he observed, that the author was a learned and
pious man; had Œcolampadius and Zwingli expressed themselves in this
way from the beginning, then no such quarrel would have arisen. Thus
Luther accepted the Genevese theologian’s essay “in a friendly way and
without misgiving”—though “in it, Calvin recognised a bodily presence
in Luther’s sense as little as before.”[1598] On the contrary, Calvin
agrees in the main with Zwingli’s denial of the Real Presence, though
he insists very strongly on the spiritual working of the Body of
Christ enthroned in heaven on the recipients of the Supper, so strongly
indeed as to speak of the “real substance of His Body and Blood” which
Christ communicates.[1599] As Loofs puts it: “He had come nearer to
Luther’s view, at least so far as terminology went.” Later on, however,
so Loofs adds, “the delusive terminological approximation to Luther
disappeared”; in support of this Loofs quotes from the 1559 edition
of the “_Institutio_”: “Christ breathes life into our souls from the
substance of His Flesh ... though the flesh of Christ does not enter

It was fortunate for the relations between the leaders at Wittenberg
and Geneva that Luther was no longer amongst the living when Calvin
expressed such a view of the Supper.

The amenities and courtesies between the two heads would have ceased
and Luther’s wrath would have once again asserted itself. As a
matter of fact the ambiguity of which Calvin had learnt the use in
Bucer’s school came to an end very shortly after Luther’s death, when
Calvin and Farel reached an agreement with Bullinger of Zürich (The
“_Consensus Tigurinus_”); here the Genevese without any reservation put
forward the theses: “Any idea of a local presence of Christ [in the
Sacrament] must be set aside ... it is a wrong and godless superstition
to circumscribe Christ as man under elements of this world.”[1601]
The words “This is My Body” are, on the contrary, to be understood by
metonymy, the name of the thing represented being transferred to the
“sign.”—Now it was just the fact that Zwingli and the sacramentarians
made of the Eucharist nothing more than a “sign” that had kept alive
Luther’s indignation against them even till his last hour.

“_On the Jews and their Lies._” “_On Shem Hammephorash_,” 1543

Amongst the prominent events of the day in Central Germany the Jewish
movement deserves a place; on the one hand there was an increase in
the influence and power of the Jews, and, on the other, repressive
measures secured their banishment from several territories. In this
movement Luther took a leading part.

In the Saxon Electorate the expulsion of the Jews had taken place
in 1536 by virtue of an edict of Johann Frederick’s. They were even
refused the usual safe conduct through the country and threatened
with the severest penalties should they be caught within the borders.
In the matter of this regulation Luther sided with the sovereign.
When the Jew, Josel Rosheim, a zealous advocate of his race, besought
Luther repeatedly in the most urgent manner by letter to procure him
an audience with the Elector, Luther not only refused to do anything
for him, on the grounds that the Jews were hostile to Christianity, but
even declared his intention to attack their obstinacy in print as soon
as God granted him time and opportunity.[1602]

It was the accounts he received towards the close of 1542 of the
intrigues and the spread of the so-called Sabbatarians, a sect of
Christians settled in Moravia who had been led astray by the Jews to
introduce circumcision, the observance of the Saturday-Sabbath and
other Mosaic ceremonies, which prompted him to undertake a slashing
work against the Jews.

 He had been acquainted with the sect since 1532. In his lectures on
 Genesis he lamented that the plague of Sabbatarianism was flourishing
 greatly in those districts where the madness of the Catholic rulers
 would not permit of the Evangel taking root; the Sabbatarians were
 the very apes of the Jews and were busy Judaising Austria and
 Moravia.[1603] In March, 1538, he had sent to the press his “Brieff.
 ... wider die Sabbather” in which he proves that the Messias had
 already come and had abrogated the Mosaic law.[1604] In the preface
 which Justus Jonas prefixed to his Latin translation of the letter it
 was pointed out, that the treasure of Holy Scripture had been unlocked
 in this age by the preaching of the Evangel; that it was the duty of
 the Evangelical teachers to strive to bring the Jews into the right
 path by means of the new light; and that the Jews in every country
 would be well advised to be guided by Luther’s booklet.[1605]

 The idea of defending Christianity in detail by the light of the new
 knowledge of the Scriptures against the madness of the Jews took firm
 hold on Luther’s imagination; he cherished the idea that “perchance
 some among them might be won over.”[1606] He was greatly incensed
 against Ferdinand, the German King, who, as he said, was laying waste
 the Evangelical Churches, while permitting the Jews—who in their
 insolence oppress the Christians—to reside in his lands.[1607] On
 May 18, 1542, he received news of the expulsion of the Jews from
 Bohemia and other territories. But later in the year a writing of the
 Sabbatarians was sent him, which, in dialogue form, attacked him and
 proselytised for the sect. This Jewish movement began also to gain
 ground outside the borders of Moravia.

This gave the necessary stimulus “to the fanatical campaign against the
Jews which the Reformer started in the winter of 1542.”[1608]

At the end of 1542 he published his “Von den Jüden und jren Lügen,” and
in March, 1543, his “Vom Schem Hamphoras.”[1609]

In the first he begins by proving against the Jews the Messianic
character of Christ, answers their objections and lays bare their
falsehoods, after which he considers how the Jews should be dealt
with. In the second he discusses the Jewish legend concerning Christ’s
miracles, and in particular scourges the superstitions connected with
the use of the “Shem Hammephorash”; he then examines the genealogies
of Christ in the Gospels in order to refute the objections of the Jews
in this connection, and again discusses the proofs that Christ was the
Messias, at the same time defending in detail His birth of a Virgin.
Both writings he addresses to the Christians in order to strengthen
them in the faith in view of the dangers which threatened from Judaism.

Full of zeal for the defence of the fundamental doctrines of
Christianity, the coming and the benefits bestowed by the Messias,
he refutes at great length the supposed learned proofs of his Jewish
opponents. On the other hand, he thunders furiously against the
blasphemies, the unseemly behaviour and the usury of the Jews who
stood in high favour at several of the Courts; he even demands with
“great earnestness” that their synagogues and private houses, the
scene of their blasphemies, be set on fire and levelled to the ground
(“Let whoever can, throw brimstone and pitch upon them”[1610]), that
their books be taken away from them and “not one page left,” that
their Rabbis be forbidden on pain of death to teach henceforth, and
that all be hindered from “praising God publicly, thanking Him,
praying or teaching”;[1611] further, that the streets and highways be
closed against them, that they be forbidden to practise usury, and be
expelled from the land unless indeed willing to earn their bread at
the sweat of their brow with axe and spade, spindle and distaff. All
these counsels were, of course, addressed primarily to the authorities,
but, such was their nature, that they might easily have provoked the
people to an unchristian persecution of their Jewish fellow-citizens.
These writings, with their unmeasured vituperation and their obscenity,
also bear painful witness to the deterioration of his language with
advancing years.

 “Fie on you,” he cries, “fie on you wherever you be, you damned Jews,
 who dare to clasp this earnest, glorious, consoling Word of God to
 your maggoty, mortal, miserly belly, and are not ashamed to display
 your greed so openly.”[1612]—“Whenever you see or think of a Jew, say
 to yourself: Look, that mouth that I see before me has every Saturday
 cursed, execrated and spat upon my dear Lord Jesus Christ Who redeemed
 me with His precious Blood, and also invoked malediction on my wife
 and child and all Christians that they might be murdered and perish
 miserably; he himself would gladly do it if he could, if only in order
 to get hold of our goods; mayhap he has already to-day many times spat
 on the ground, as it is their custom to do, when the name of Jesus is
 mentioned, so that his venomous spittle still hangs about his mouth
 and beard and leaves scarcely room to spit again. Were I to eat, drink
 or speak with such a devilish mouth, I might as well eat and drink
 out of a can or vessel brimful of devils, and thus become partaker
 with the devils who dwell in the Jews and spit at the Precious Blood
 of Christ. From which may God preserve me.”[1613]

 “I, accursed ‘Goi’ that I am, cannot understand whence they [the Jews]
 have this great art, unless it is, that, when Judas Scharioth hanged
 himself and his bowels gushed forth, and, as happens in such cases,
 his bladder also burst, the Jews were ready to catch the Judas-water
 and the other precious things, and that then they gorged and swilled
 on the merd among themselves, and were thereby endowed with such a
 keenness of sight that they can perceive glosses in the Scripture
 such as neither Matthew, nor Isaias himself, nor all the angels, not
 to speak of us accursed ‘Goiim,’ would be able to detect; or perhaps
 they looked into the loins of their God ‘Shed’ and found these things
 written in that smokehole.”[1614]

 “Where are they now, those dissolute Christians who have been made or
 wish to become Jews? Here for a kiss! The devil has eased himself and
 emptied his belly again. That is a real halidom for Jews and would-be
 Jews to kiss, batten on, swill and adore; and then the devil in his
 turn also devours and swills what these good pupils spue and eject
 from above and from below. Hosts and guests are indeed well met and
 the dishes are well-cooked and served.” The devil should have been an
 angel but “became a devil, who with his angelic snout devours what
 exudes from the oral and anal apertures of the Jews; this is indeed
 his favourite dish on which he battens like a sow behind the hedge
 about St. Margaret’s Day; that is just as he would have it! Therefore
 the Jews have got their deserts.” They renounced their dignity as the
 chosen mouthpiece of God, therefore the “devil defiles and bespatters
 them so much that nothing but devil’s ordure bursts forth from him
 everywhere; this indeed is quite to their taste, and they wallow in it
 like the swine.”[1615]

In this way Luther unloads himself of his fury against both devil and
Jews; two things are characteristic of his hatred of the Jews; first,
that the devil is made to bear the greater share,[1616] though the
latter promptly shifts the burden back on to the shoulders of the Jews;
secondly, that the presumption of the Jews in seeking to be first
everywhere is castigated with all Luther’s native coarseness.

 “It is thus that the wicked, scoundrelly foe mocks at his captive
 Jews; he makes them say ‘Schem Hamphoras’ and believe and expect
 great things from it; he, however, means ‘Scham Hamperes,’ i.e.
 ‘hither filth,’ not that which lies in the gutters, but that which
 forthcomes from the belly.... The devil has taken the Jews captive
 so that they must do his will (as St. Paul says) and deceive, lie,
 blaspheme as also curse God and everything that is God’s. In return
 for this he makes a mock of them with his ‘Scham Hamperes,’ and leads
 them to believe that this and all their other lying and tomfoolery is
 something precious.”[1617]

 The blinded presumption of the Jews is nevertheless so great that they
 fancy themselves far superior to the Christians. “Do you think a Jew
 is so badly off? God in heaven and all the angels must laugh and dance
 when they hear a Jew ructate, that you, accursed ‘Goi,’ may know for
 the future how fine a thing it is to be a Jew.” And yet they lie and
 use bad language if a man ventures to hold up to public obloquy, as
 an “arch prostitute,” one of his pious cousins.[1618]—“Have I not
 told you above, what a grand and precious gem a Jew is; he has but to
 break wind, for God to dance and all His angels, and even were he to
 do something even grosser, it would still be looked upon as a golden
 Talmud; what such a man voids, whether from above or from below, that
 the accursed ‘Goiim’ are forsooth to regard as a holy thing.”[1619]

 “Nay, were a Rabbi to ease himself into a vessel under your nose, both
 thick and thin, and to say: ‘Here you have a delicious conserve, you
 would have to say you had never tasted a better dish in your life.
 Risk your neck and say differently! For if a man has the power to say
 [like the Rabbis] that right is left and left right, regardless of God
 and all His creatures, he can just as well say that his anus is his
 mouth, that his belly is a pudding-dish and that a pudding-dish is his

In exoneration of Luther it has been said that, in this case, in making
use of such “shocking comparisons,” he was not merely following his
natural bent, on the contrary, “in his angry zeal he deliberately
sought for them.” It is perfectly true that neither his angry zeal nor
his deliberate intention can be denied any more than his desire to
“stir up the world against what was in itself shameful and disgusting,”
and his longing to do something towards its removal. But surely there
was another kind of language and a different tone with the help of
which he might have effected more, such, for instance, as had been used
by great and pious men in the past whose inspired and glowing words
contrast glaringly with Luther’s hideous obscenities.

The results achieved by Luther with these two writings were but of
trifling importance.

We hear practically nothing of any conversions of Jews or apostate
Christians being due to them. Luther had been wise himself to declare
that he did not expect any conversions to result from them. In the
Saxon Electorate, however, the unjust enactment of 1536 was, on May
6, 1543, revived against the Jews by a public mandate abrogating
that mitigation of it which Josel Rosheim had been successful in
obtaining. “Official reports go to prove that the cruel persecution
of the Jews [in the Saxon Electorate] was no mere paper measure; only
after Luther’s death did things settle down.”[1621] In Hesse a severe
decree against the Jews, issued in 1543, seems to have owed its origin
“to the writings of the Reformer. This being so the rebuff with which
Luther met in the Electorate of Brandenburg must have been all the more

One of the lasting effects of these two screeds was, that, in the
subsequent anti-Jewish risings the charges there contained, and couched
in language so fervid and eloquent, were constantly appealed to in
vindication of the measures used. No distinction was made between what
was true and what was false, or between the horrible exaggerations and
the actual fact, though the unreliability of many of the statements is
often quite palpable.

 Even in the few passages we had room to quote the reader may have seen
 how Luther’s charges against the Jews amount to calumnies; the Jews,
 he alleges, were in the habit of cursing and blaspheming God and all
 that is God’s; “regardless of God” they made out right to be left and
 left right. His love of exaggeration leads him to say that all Jews
 curse the Christians every Sabbath, and are ever desirous of stabbing
 them and their wives and children. Theft and robbery he makes into
 crimes common to every Jew; all of them he accuses indiscriminately
 of murder; “all their most heartfelt sighing, hopes and longings are
 set on this, viz. to be able to treat us heathen as they treated the
 heathen in Persia in the days of Esther ... for they fancy they are
 the chosen people in order that they may murder and slay the heathen
 ... just as they had made this plain to the world by the way they had
 treated us Christians in the beginning, and would still gladly do even
 now were they able, yea, have often done so.”[1623]

 It is true he refuses credulously to believe all the crimes with
 which rumour charged them, for instance, their poisoning of the
 wells.[1624] The calumnies he made his own were, nevertheless, so
 great, that, after the magistrates of Strasburg had been repeatedly
 approached by Josel von Rosheim with the proposal to forbid the
 circulation of the two writings, they finally decided to prohibit
 their being printed in the city. The councillors were of opinion that
 the very enormity of the assertions would prove the best refutation.
 They wrote, that it was better to keep silence and to leave the
 calumnies to sink into oblivion; to this the petitioner agreed.[1625]

Josel von Rosheim, the zealous spokesman of the Jews, achieved a
brilliant success with the Emperor Charles V. Certain extensive
privileges were guaranteed him on April 3, 1544, and were made public
in 1546, whereby all the rights and liberties of the Jews were

Nor was there any lack of condemnation of these two writings of Luther
at the hands of the Protestants themselves.

 On Dec. 8, 1543, Bullinger of Zürich made to Bucer his complaint
 already referred to, concerning the “lewd and houndish eloquence”
 of the Wittenberger; he adds that such effusions were unseemly in a
 theologian already advanced in years; no one could tolerate a work
 so obscenely (“_impurissime_”) written, as “Vom Schem Hamphoras”;
 Reuchlin, were he still alive, would declare, that, in Luther, all the
 old foes of the Jews—Tungern, Hoogstraaten and Pfefferkorn—had come
 to life again [though their language fell short of Luther’s]: he was
 sorry for Luther’s murderous hatred of the Hebrew commentators and for
 the undue stress he laid on his own German translation, which was far
 from being devoid of prejudice.[1626] Bullinger expressed himself much
 more strongly, in 1545, when the split between Zürich and Wittenberg
 had been accentuated by Luther’s “Kurtz Bekentnis”: No one writing on
 questions of faith and matters of grave importance had ever expressed
 himself in a way so utterly at variance with propriety and modesty as
 Luther, etc.[1627]

 The Nuremberg preacher, Andreas Osiander, at that time one of the
 greatest authorities on Hebrew and on Rabbinic writings, wrote so
 strong a letter about the untruth of certain of Luther’s anti-Jewish
 strictures that no one ventured to bring it under the Reformer’s
 notice. Cruciger relates that Osiander afterwards withdrew some of
 the strongest things he had said in the letter, but that he still
 maintained that Luther had not in the least understood what the Shem
 Hammephorash meant to educated Jews.[1628]

The Shem Hammephorash or “peculiar name” was, according to Luther, a
cabalistic formula of the Jews, supposed to be endowed with the most
marvellous magic power; it was made up of seventy-two three-lettered
names of angels, themselves formed from a rearrangement of the letters
of the Scripture text, Ex. xiv. 19-21, concerning the pillar of cloud
that went before the Jews on their departure from Egypt. To each of
these angelic names was appended a verse from the Psalter with the
“great name of God, Jehovah, also called the Tetragrammaton.” So great
was the power of this magic formula that it could strike blind or dumb
all Christians everywhere in the world, could drive them mad, nay,
kill them outright, if only the words were rightly uttered and in a
mood pious enough. Even the superstitious use of the Tetragrammaton
alone, was, according to Luther, responsible, in the case “of the
devil and the Jews,” for “much sorcery and all kinds of abuse and
idolatry.”[1629] They call it the Tetragrammaton because they are
chary of pronouncing the four consonants of the all-too-sacred name of
Jehovah, but, “in their heart they abuse and blaspheme God.” They do
not see that they are “using the Holy Name in the shameful abuse they
practise with their ‘Scham Hamperes.’”[1630]

The cause of the mad aberrations of the Jews is, however, in Luther’s
eyes, due to the “Word of God not enlightening them and showing them
the way.” Now, however, God’s Word has risen and shines brightly;
it even casts its beam into those parts where the Papacy reigns ...
for there “thick darkness, lies and abominations were worshipped
with Masses, Purgatory, Invocation of Saints, monkery and one’s own
works.”[1631] It was a great and godly work that he had undertaken in
unmasking not only these but also the many Jewish abominations.

       *       *       *       *       *

As to the sources whence Luther derived his information, he
uncritically took his material mainly from anti-Jewish writings. The
book “_Victoria adversus impios Hebrœos_” of the Carthusian, Porchetus
de Salvaticis, dating from the beginning of the 14th century, provided
him with the Jewish blasphemies against Christ, and in particular with
the supposed mysteries of the Shem Hammephorash; Antonius Margaritha
supplied him with more recent material in his work “Der gantz
jüdisch Glaub” of 1530. It is probable that he also made use of the
“_Dialogus_” against the Jews by Paul of Burgos (1350-1435), which he
quotes in his lectures on Genesis. He also mentions incidentally as his
authorities Jerome, Eusebius, and Sebastian Münster.[1632]

_Comparison with an earlier Jewish writing of Luther’s_

A more accurate insight into the psychological and historical
significance of the two screeds against Judaism is obtained by
comparing them with an earlier writing of Luther’s, dating from 1523,
which is perfectly fair to the Jews. The comparison will lead the
reader to ask what was the real reason for his extraordinary change of

Filled as yet with great and unrealisable hopes of that conversion of
the whole Jewish race which he fancied he saw coming, Luther had, in
1523, published a booklet entitled “Das Jhesus Christus eyn geborner
Jude sey.”[1633]

 In it he points out that the Jews were blood-relations, cousins and
 kinsmen of the Saviour. No other people, so he warmly declared, had
 been so marked out by God, hence they must be dealt with amicably and
 soberly instructed out of Holy Scripture and not be scared away by
 pride and contempt, as had hitherto been the wont; the fools, Popes,
 bishops, sophists and monks, the great dunderheads, had hitherto
 indeed behaved in such a way that any good Christian would have
 preferred to become a Jew. Hence he exerts himself in this work, in a
 calm and friendly way, to prove to the Jews from the Bible, that their
 Messias had already come. At the same time he indignantly scourges
 “the lying tales” and false charges brought against them, as for
 instance, that, “to repress their stench they must have the blood of
 Christians.” The main thing was to treat them according to Christian,
 not Popish, charity.

 So far was he disposed to go the better to win over the Jews, that he
 was even desirous that Christ should not at the outset be put before
 them as the God-man, but merely as the Messias. He also declared
 in a sermon shortly after, that, when instructing a Jew on Christ,
 the catechumen was only to be told that Christ was a man like other
 men, sent by God to do good to mankind; only when the heart had been
 stirred to love of Him was mention to be made of His Godhead.[1634]

 “The Jews merely interest him,” says Reinhold Lewin, speaking of this
 book, “as subjects for conversion; this is the standpoint from which
 he regards the whole Jewish question.” “Should the new method not
 succeed and kindness prove of no avail ... then it will not be worth
 while any longer to make use of it; harsher measures will then serve
 the purpose better.”[1635] The same writer also quotes the preface to
 the Latin translation by Justus Jonas as expressive of the wish of the
 Wittenbergers: “May the Jewish business speed its way as rapidly as
 the outspreading of the Word of God which has wrought so marvellous a
 change and so sublime a work of God.”[1636]

It is perfectly true that, had the optimistic expectations of Luther
and his friends been realised, it would have been of incalculable
advantage to their cause, for they would have succeeded where the
ancient Church had failed. “The conversion of the Jews,” says Lewin,
“an idea which can be read between Luther’s lines without any danger
of forcing them—is to be the coping-stone of the grand edifice he had
erected; the Papacy [in Luther’s view] had failed, not merely because
it had recourse to wrong methods but above all because its foundations
rested on forgery and falsehood.”[1637]

The fact is, however, that no increase in the number of conversions
took place. This disappointing experience, the sight of the growing
insolence of the Jews, their pride and usury, not to speak of personal
motives, such as certain attempts he suspected them to have made on his
life at the instigation of the Papists, brought about a complete change
in Luther’s opinions in the course of a few years. As early as 1531
or 1532, when a Hebrew baptised at Wittenberg had brought discredit
upon him by relapsing into Judaism, he gave vent to the angry threat,
that, should he find another pious Jew to baptise he would take him
to the bridge over the Elbe, hang a stone round his neck and push him
over with the words: I baptise thee in the name of Abraham; for “those
scoundrels,” so he adds, “scoff at us all and at our religion.”[1638]

From that time he begins to put the Jews in the same category with the
Turks and the Papists.

The more he studies the text of the Old Testament, and the Old Jewish
commentators, the more indignant he grows at the misrepresentations
and trivialities to be met with in the works of the Rabbis. According
to him, they are oxen and donkeys; they are as bad as the monks; with
their droppings they make of Holy Scripture, as it were, a sink into
which to empty their obscenity and stupid imaginings.[1639] He is also
aghast to discover that they led astray even great churchmen like St.
Jerome, and Nicholas of Lyra of whom he was particularly fond.[1640]
What was even worse, they were ensnaring learned contemporaries who
were familiar with Hebrew, particularly those who fancied they could
improve upon Luther’s translation of the Old Testament thanks to their
closer acquaintance with the original text, men, for instance, of the
type of Sebastian Münster of Basle (the pupil of the Jewish grammarian
Elia Levita). Münster, according to Luther, was a regular “Judaiser,”
seeing that he paid heed neither to the faith, nor to the words, nor
to their setting; albeit hostile to the Jews, he, too, was undermining
the New Testament. Much of Luther’s anger in his writings against the
Jews was intended for their Judaising pupils. Hence on the publication
of the work “Von den Jüden und jren Lügen” we hear him declaring: “We
have been at great pains with the Bible and been careful that the sense
should agree with the grammar. This has not pleased Münster. Oh, those
Hebrews—including even our own—are great Judaisers; hence I had them
also in mind when I wrote my booklet against the Jews.”[1641]

_Some special motives for his Polemics against the Jews_

The real cause of Luther’s deadly hostility, voiced in his later
writings against the Jews, was the blasphemous infidelity displayed in
their treatment of Scripture and in their life as a whole.

“The Jews with their exegesis,” he says, “are like swine that break
into the Scripture”; the end and object of their life and intercourse
with us, is, as the movement started in Moravia proves, to make us
all Jews; “they never cease trying to entice Christians over.”[1642]
They are quite at liberty to prefer, as indeed they do, the law of
Moses to the Papal decretals and their mad articles,[1643] but they
have no right to prefer it to the pure Evangel. Sooner than this let
us have a struggle to the death!—Such were the thoughts uppermost in
his mind when he sat down to pen those two writings which constitute a
phenomenon in the history of literature.

On the other hand, Luther’s most recent biographer is wrong when he
explains the whole controversy by saying: “There can be no doubt that
the radical change in his attitude on the Jewish question was an
outcome of his increasing depression.”[1644] That, on the contrary, it
was Luther’s religious excitement which was the prime psychological
mover is plain from many of the effusions contained in both these
writings. That, however, his state of depression had some share in it
is perfectly true.

 “The wrath of God has come upon them,” he writes in one such passage,
 “of which I do not like to think, nor has this book been a cheerful
 one for me to write, for I have been forced to avert my eyes from the
 terrible picture, sometimes in anger, sometimes in scorn; and it is
 painful to me to have to speak of their horrible blasphemies against
 our Lord and His dear Mother, to which we Christians are loath indeed
 to listen; I can well understand what St. Paul means in Romans x. 1,
 when he says that his heart was sore when he thought of them; such
 is the case with every Christian who earnestly dwells, not on the
 temporal misery and misfortune of which the Jews complain, but on
 their addiction to blasphemy, to cursing, to spitting at God Himself
 and all that is God’s, even to their eternal damnation, and who yet
 refuse to listen or lend an ear but will have it that all they do
 is done out of zeal for God. O God, our Heavenly Father, turn aside
 Thy wrath and let there be an end of it for the sake of Thy dear Son.

 “O my God,” he groans elsewhere, “my beloved Creator and Father, do
 Thou graciously take into account my unwillingness to have to speak
 so shamefully of Thine accursed enemies, the devil and the Jews. Thou
 knowest I do so out of the ardour of my faith and to the glory of Thy
 Divine Majesty, for it pierces me to the very quick.”[1646]

If, however, we look more closely into the matter we shall see that the
“ardour of his faith” was also fed from other sources. There was, for
instance, the reaction of his own protracted struggle in defence of the
new doctrines and against the Papacy, a struggle which left deep marks
on all his labours and on all his writings.

Towards the end of a career which had worked such untold disaster to
the Christianity of the past he feels keenly the need of vindicating
the dignity of Christ if only to soothe his own conscience; he was
resolved to hammer it in with the utmost defiance, just as formerly
he had clung to the idea that, by his doctrine, he was defending the
rights of Christ against the Pope. He is now resolved again to take
his stand on this, his efforts becoming the more violent the more the
sight of the ruin wrought by his own work affrights him. Hence his
eagerness to take advantage of Jewish attacks on the pillars of the
faith in order, while triumphing over them, to enjoy the sense of
his comradeship with Christ, the Son of God now so soon to come in
Judgment. Here again he allows his vanity to mislead him and to paint
his intervention on behalf of the great truth of Christianity as far
more successful than that of any of the Popes; this helps him to close
his eyes to the wounds which the inner voice tells him he had inflicted
on the Christian truths and on the public life of Christendom. For was
he not doing for Christ what the Pope was quite unable to do? Indeed,
“the world, the Turk, the Jew and the Pope are all raging blasphemously
against the name of the Lord, laying waste His Kingdom and deriding
His Will; but ‘greater is He that is with us than he that is with
the world’; He triumphs,” so he wrote at that time to some foreign
sympathisers, “and will triumph in you to all eternity; may He console
you by His Holy Spirit in which He has called you to oneness with His

 It is true, so he says elsewhere, that the Pope admits the existence
 of Christ, but, in spite of this, neither Jews nor Turks are quite
 so bad; the Jews have far better arguments than the Papists for
 themselves and their religion; the foundations of the latter are
 easily shaken; the Papist Church is a worse “den of murderers” than
 Turks, Tartars, or Jews.[1648]

 All the more glorious and creditable to the new Evangel is therefore
 the victory won by Luther over the Jews; it may serve to show the
 world that his school’s study of the Bible could furnish the weapons
 to bring about such a result. The Pope, with his unbiblical treatment
 of the Jews, had merely succeeded in making them doubly un-Christian;
 but to us God has unlocked the Holy Books, hence on us devolves
 the duty of pointing out to the Jews their errors.[1649] Luther
 accordingly claims, that his “Von den Jüden” was the first real
 work of instruction on Judaism, one which “might teach us Germans
 from history what a Jew is and warn our Christians against them as
 against veriest devils.” It was only fitting that he who had unearthed
 Scripture should also “wipe clean the holy old Bible from Jewish
 ‘Hamperes’ and ‘Judas-water.’”[1650]

Nevertheless everything else—even his yeoman service in the cause of
the Bible, and his shaming of the Papacy, which had so ineffectively
struggled against the Jews—recedes into the background before his
determination to crown his whole life-work by snatching from the Jewish
devil the honour of Christ our one Salvation.

This was admittedly his motive for taking up his pen yet a third time.

_The Third Work against the Jews, 1543_

As early as June, 1543, Luther was engaged on a new polemical work
against the Jews entitled “On the last words of David.”[1651] It is
a lengthy essay on 2 Kings xxiii. 1-7, and certain other striking
passages, with the object of proving that the Messias was to be a
God-man and of vindicating the mystery of the Trinity.

 He intended to show by these examples how helpful Hebrew learning
 and Bible study can be in defending Scripture against the attacks
 of unbelievers; he also wanted to establish that neither Jews nor
 Papists possessed the real key to the Bible, viz. the knowledge of
 Christ; “for in this all sticks, and lies, and rests: Whosoever has
 not or will not have this man called Jesus Christ, the Son of God,
 whom we Christians preach [the new Evangel undefiled], let him avoid
 the Bible; such is my conscientious advice, else he will certainly
 come a cropper, and become ever blinder and more crazy the more he

 In David’s final words on the Messias, Luther saw something peculiarly
 solemn; David, when “about to die and depart,” gives his parting
 injunction and adds: “This is my firm belief; on this I stand fast and
 immoveable.... Hence I am joyful, and will gladly live or die as and
 when God wills.”[1653]

 “Whoever can boast [like David] that the Spirit of the Lord speaks
 through him, and that His word is on his tongue, must indeed be very
 sure of his cause.”[1654]

In this writing the Jews are not attacked in such unmeasured language
as in the two others just considered; the tone of the whole is much
calmer, indeed comparatively kind. It may be that the representations
made to him concerning his violence had not been without some effect.

The end, like the beginning, expresses the wish that, without suffering
ourselves to be led astray by the false readings of the Jews, we should
“plainly and clearly find and recognise our dear Lord and Saviour in
Holy Writ.”[1655] This is what leads Melanchthon to praise the work
as enjoyable reading, because there is nothing sweeter to the pious
than to deepen their knowledge of the God-man and to learn the art of
real prayer so different from that of the heathen, the Jew and the

_Against the Turks_

The honour of Christianity and of its Divine Founder was also what
Luther had at heart in the two books which in his later years he was
instrumental in publishing against the Turks, viz. his “Vermanunge zum
Gebet wider den Türcken” (1541) and his new edition (1542) of an old
work against the Koran, the “Verlegung des Alcoran Bruder Richardi.”

In one passage of the Vermanunge he even couches this thought in the
form of a prayer:

 “Yes, indeed, this is our offence against them [the Turks], that we
 preach, believe and confess Thee, God the Father, as the only True
 God, and Thy Beloved Son our Lord Jesus Christ and the Holy Ghost as
 one eternal God.” “Thou knowest, God the Father Almighty, that we have
 not sinned in any other way against the devil, Pope or Turk and that
 they have no right or power to punish us.” Most fervently, as in the
 very presence of God, he declares that he must withstand the devil who
 is helping the Turk to set up “his Mahmed in the stead of Jesus Christ
 Thy Beloved Son.”[1657] Speaking of prayer against the Turk he makes
 every Christian say to God: “Thou tellest, nay, compellest, me to pray
 in the name of Thy Beloved Son Our Lord Jesus Christ.”[1658]

In this writing he strongly reprobates both the public disorders on
the side of the new Evangel and the Papists’ obstinate resistance to
the Word of God; both would be terribly punished by means of the Turks
unless people set about amending their lives and giving themselves up
to earnest prayer. Now, after the Evangel had been preached for so
many years, “everyone knew, thank God, what each class and individual
man should do or leave undone, which, alas, formerly we did not know,
though we would gladly have done it.”[1659] Should our prayer fail to
achieve the desired object, “then let us say a longer and a better
one.” “How happy should we be were our prayers against the Turk again
to prove of no avail, but, instead, the Last Day came—which indeed
cannot any longer be far off—spelling the end of both Turk and Pope as
I do not for a moment doubt.”[1660]

At any rate Luther might have used better weapons against the Turks
than he actually did in this so-called admonition.

About the time he wrote it we hear Luther occasionally expressing a
hope that the Turks may be converted to the Evangel, now shining so
brightly and convincingly.

“I should like to see the Evangel make its way amongst the Turks, which
may indeed very well happen.” “It is quite in God’s power to work a
miracle and make them listen to the Evangel.... If a ‘Wascha’ [Pasha]
were to accept the Gospel we should soon see what effect it would have
on the Grand Turk; and as he has many sons it is quite likely one of
them might reach it.”—He despaired of the overthrow of the Turkish
empire, but was fond of dreaming of the coming of a “good man who
should withstand the dogma of Mohamed.”[1661]

“The Turk rules more mightily by his religion than by arms”; such was
Luther’s opinion. He had to be confronted with the belief in Christ,
that belief which Luther had learnt “amidst the bitter pangs of death,”
viz. “that Christ is God”; in great temptations nothing could help us
but this faith, “the most powerful consolation that is bestowed on
us”; this same article of faith God was vindicating, even by miracles,
against Turk and Pope. To this he too would cleave in spite of any
objections of reason.[1662]

He did not, however, patiently wait till the “good man” came who was to
oppose the dogma of the Turks; he himself set about this undertaking
in March, 1542.[1663] After having, shortly before, become acquainted
with the Koran in a poor translation, he proceeded himself to translate
into German a work against the Koran, written in 1300, by the Dominican
Richardus (Ricoldus). To it he appended a preface of his own and a
“Treue Warnung.”[1664]

He had undertaken, so he says, to disclose and answer the
devil-inspired “infamies” contained in the Alcoran, “the better to
strengthen us in our Christian faith.”[1665]—This out-of-date book
of a mediæval theologian was, however, hardly the work to furnish an
insight into the Koran, particularly as it built far too much on badly
read texts and doubtful stories uncritically taken for granted; from
such defects the refutation was bound to suffer.

 Some of Luther’s own additions are characteristic.

 Here he gives up all hope of any conversion of the Moslem; he likewise
 despairs of the success of the Christian armies.[1666]—“Mahmet,” so
 he teaches, “leads people to eternal damnation as the Pope also did
 and still does.” He reigns “in the Levant” as the Pope does “in the
 land of the setting sun,” thanks to a system of “wilful lying.”[1667]
 “Oh, Lord God! Let all who can, pray, sigh and implore that of God’s
 anger we may see an end,” as Daniel says (Dan. xi. 36).[1668]

 Bad as Mahmet was, Luther was loath to see in him Antichrist; “the
 Pope, whom we have with us, he is the real Antichrist, with his
 ‘Drecktal,’ Alcoran and man-made doctrines.” “The chaste Pope takes
 no wife, but all women are his.... Obscene Mahmet at least makes no
 pretence of chastity.... As for the other points such as murder,
 avarice and pride, I will not enumerate them, but here again the Pope
 far outdoes Mahmet.” “May God give us His grace and punish both the
 Pope and Mahmet together with their devils. I have done my part as a
 faithful prophet and preacher.”[1669]

Words such as these were certainly as little calculated to further
the common cause of the Christians against the Turks as had been the
somewhat similar thoughts which, at an earlier date, he had been wont
to weave into his exhortations to resist the Turks.[1670]

As a last straw Luther in the “Treue Warnung” goes on to declare,
that, unless Christians mend their life, are converted to the Evangel
and live up to it, it is to be hoped that the Turkish arms will prove

 For amongst those who “pretend to be Christians and to constitute
 the holy Church” there are, so he declares, so many who “knowingly
 and wantonly despise and persecute the known truth and vindicate
 their open and notorious idolatry, lying and unrighteousness.” Such
 Christians, of whom the forces that had been raised chiefly consisted,
 formed, so he thought, an army which might itself well be styled
 Turkish. “If then two such ‘Turkish’ armies were to advance against
 one another, the one called Mahmetish and the other dubbing itself
 Christian, then, good friend, I should suggest you might give Our
 Lord God some advice, for He would assuredly need it, as to which
 Turks He is to help and carry to victory. I, the worst of advisers,
 would counsel Him to give the victory to the Mahmetish Turks over the
 Christian Turks, as indeed He has done hitherto without any advice
 from us and even contrary to our prayers and complaints. The reason
 is, that the Mahmetish Turks have neither God’s Word nor those who
 might preach it.... Had they preachers of the Godly Word they might
 perhaps, some of them at least, be presently changed from swine into
 men. But our Christian Turks have the Word of God and preachers, and
 yet they refuse to listen, and from men become mere swine.”[1671]

The public danger which threatened owing to the advance of the Turks
caused Luther, however, about this time to promote the sale of the
Latin translation and confutation of the Koran brought out under
Melanchthon’s auspices by Bibliander (Buchmann) of Zürich. In a popular
hymn which he composed he also took care to couple the Turkish danger
with that to be apprehended from the Papists. This short hymn, “which
became a favourite with the German Evangelicals” (Köstlin), begins:

  “In Thy Word preserve us, Lord,
  Ward off Pope and Turkish sword.”

The picture which Luther incidentally paints of himself in his
effusions against the Jews and the Turks, receives its final touch in
his last great and solemn pronouncement against Popery which the lines
just quoted may serve to introduce.

_The Hideous Caricatures of “Popery Pictured”_

One cannot contemplate without sadness Luther’s last efforts against
the Papacy.

Fortunately for literature the projected continuation of the frightful
book “Wider das Bapstum vom Teuffel gestifft” never saw the light;
Luther’s intention had been to make it even worse than the first part.

His final labours, aimed directly at the Pope and the Council
of Trent, consisted in suggesting the subjects and drafting the
versified letterpress for a number of woodcuts, designed expressly
to ridicule and defame the Papal office in the eyes of the lower
classes. Even apart from the verses the caricatures were vulgar enough
in all conscience. Nudities in the grossest postures alternate with
comicalities the better to ensure success with the populace.

An attempt has been made to exonerate him of direct responsibility for
the pictures, and to set them down to the account of the draughtsman
who, according to a passage in a letter of Luther’s, was believed to be
his friend, the famous painter Lucas Cranach.

That the whole was really a child of Luther’s own mind is proved,
however, by the very title-page “Popery Pictured by Dr. M. Luther,”
Wittenberg, 1545, as well as by his clear and outspoken statement
shortly before his death to Pastor Matthias Wanckel of Halle. “I
still have much that ought to be told the world concerning the Pope
and his kingdom, and for this reason I have published these images
and figures, each of which stands for a separate book to be written
against the Pope and his kingdom. I wanted to witness before the
whole world what I thought of the Pope and his devil’s kingdom; let
them be my last Will and Testament.” “I have greatly vexed the Pope
with these nasty pictures,” “Oh, how the sow will lift her tail! But,
even should they kill me, they must gorge on the filth that the Pope
holds in his hand. I have placed a golden thing in the Pope’s hands
[i.e. in the picture to be described immediately] that he may pledge
them in it.”[1672]—Again, in a letter to Amsdorf, he alludes to a
scene in which the Furies figure, saying that he had designed them
(“_appingerem_”), and describing in detail what he meant the figures to
stand for.[1673]

Hence it is impossible to contest Luther’s real authorship.

It is true that, on one occasion, he speaks of Cranach the painter as
the draughtsman of one of the pictures; he may, however, have simply
meant that it originated in his studio. According to expert opinion the
technique of the woodcuts differs so much from the master’s that they
cannot be attributed to him; they may, however, have been executed by
one of his pupils under his direction.[1674]

We may now glance at the nine pictures which make up the “Abbildung des
Bapstum,” commencing with that just referred to.[1675]

 The picture with the Furies to which Luther refers is that which
 represents the “birth and origin of the Pope,” as the Latin
 superscription describes it. Here is depicted, in a peculiarly
 revolting way, what Luther says in his “Wider das Bapstum vom Teuffel
 gestifft,” viz. the Pope’s being born from the “devil’s behind.” The
 devil-mother is portrayed as a hideous woman with a tail, from under
 which Pope and Cardinals are emerging head foremost. Of the Furies one
 is suckling, another carrying, and the third rocking the cradle of
 the Papal infant, whom the draughtsman everywhere depicts wearing the
 tiara. These are the Furies Megæra, Alecto and Tisiphone.[1676]

 Another picture shows the “Worship of the Pope as God of the World.”
 This, too, expresses a thought contained in the “Wider das Bapstum,”
 where Luther says: “We may also with a safe conscience take to the
 closet his coat of arms with the Papal keys and his crown, and use
 them for the relief of nature.”[1677] As a matter of fact in this
 picture we see on a stool decorated with the papal insignia a crown or
 tiara set upside down on which a man-at-arms is seated in the action
 of easing himself; a second, with his breeches undone, prepares to do
 the same, while a third who has already done so is adjusting his dress.

 The picture with the title “The Pope gives a Council in Germany”
 shows the Pope in his tiara riding on a sow and digging his spurs
 into her sides. The sow is Germany which is obliged to submit to such
 ignominious treatment from the Papists; as for the Council which the
 Pope is giving to the German people it is depicted as his own, the
 Pope’s, excrement, which he holds in his hand pledging the Germans
 in it, as Luther says in the passage quoted above (p. 422). The Pope
 blesses the steaming object while the sow noses it with her snout.
 Underneath stands the ribald verse:

  “Sow, I want to have a ride,
  Spur you well on either side.
  Did you say ‘Concilium’?
  Take instead my ‘merdrum.’”[1678]

 “Here the Pope’s feet are kissed,” are the words over another picture,
 and, from the Pope who is seated on his throne with the Bull of
 Excommunication in his hand, two men are seen running away, showing
 him, as Köstlin says, “their tongues and hinder parts with the utmost
 indecency.”[1679] The inscription below runs:

  “Pope, don’t scare us so with your ban;
  Please don’t be so angry a man;
  Or else we shall take good care
  To show you the ‘Belvedere.’”

 Köstlin’s description must be supplemented by adding that the two men,
 whose faces and bared posteriors are turned towards the Pope, are
 depicted as emitting wind in his direction in the shape of puffs of
 smoke; from the Pope’s Bull fire, flames and stones are bursting forth.

 Of the remaining woodcuts one reproduces the scene which formed the
 title-page to the first edition of the “Wider das Bapstum,” viz. the
 gaping jaws of hell, between the teeth of which is seen the Pope
 surrounded by a cohort of devils, some of whom are crowning him with
 the tiara; another portrays the famous Pope-Ass, said to have been
 cast up by the Tiber near Rome; it shows “what God Himself thinks
 of Popery,”[1680] yet another depicts a pet idea of Luther’s,[1681]
 viz. the “reward of the ‘_Papa satanissimus_’ and his cardinals,”
 i.e. their being hanged, while their tongues, which had been torn out
 by the root, are nailed fast to the gallows. “How the Pope teaches
 faith and theology”; here the Pope is shown as a robed donkey sitting
 upright on a throne and playing the bagpipes with the help of his
 hoofs. “How the Pope thanks the Emperors for their boundless favours”
 introduces a scene where Clement IV with his own hand strikes off the
 head of Conradin. “How the Pope, following Peter’s example, honours
 the King” is the title of a woodcut where a Pope (probably Alexander
 III) sets his foot on the neck of the Emperor (Frederick Barbarossa
 at Venice).[1682] It is not necessary to waste words on the notorious
 falsehoods embodied in the last two pictures. Luther, moreover,
 further embellished the accounts he found, for not even the bitterest
 antagonist of the Papacy had ever dared to accuse Clement IV of having
 slain with his own hand the last of the Staufens. Among the ignorant
 masses to whom these pictures and verses were intended to appeal,
 there were, nevertheless, many who were prepared to accept such tales
 as true on the word of one known as the “man of God,” the Evangelist,
 the new Elias and the Prophet of Germany.

       *       *       *       *       *

 In the “Historien des ehrwirdigen in Gott seligen thewren Mannes
 Gottes,” Mathesius says of Luther: “In the year [15]45 he brought out
 the mighty, earnest book against the Papacy founded by the devil
 and maintained and bolstered up by lying signs, and, in the same
 year, also caused many scathing pictures to be struck off in which he
 portrayed for the benefit of those unable to read, the true nature and
 monstrosity of Antichrist, just as the Spirit of God in the Apocalypse
 of St. John depicted the red bride of Babylon, or as Master John Hus
 summed up his teaching in pictures for the people, of the Lord Christ
 and of Antichrist.” “The Holy Ghost is well able to be severe and
 cutting,” says Mathesius of this book and the caricatures: “God is a
 jealous God and a burning fire, and those who are driven and inflamed
 by His Spirit to wage a ghostly warfare against the foes of God
 show themselves worthy foemen of those who withstand their Lord and
 Saviour.”[1683] Mathesius, like many others, was full of admiration
 for the work.

The woodcuts pleased Luther so well that he himself wrote autograph
inscriptions above and below a proof set, and hung them up in his

“The devil knows well, that, when the foolish people hear high-sounding
words of abuse, they are taken in and blindly believe them without
asking for any further grounds or reasons.” The words are Luther’s own,
though written at an earlier date.[1685] That they applied even more to
caricatures Luther was well aware, nor was this the first time that he
had flung such pictures amongst the masses the better to excite them.
As early as 1521, at Luther’s instigation, with the help of Cranach’s
pencil, Melanchthon and Schwertfeger had done something of the sort in
the “Passional Christi und Antichristi.”[1686] In a booklet of 1526,
“Das Bapstum mit seinen Gliedern,” containing sixty-five caricatures
and scurrilous doggerel verses composed by Luther, everything
religious, from the Pope down to the monks and nuns, was held up to

The use of caricature was, it is true, not unusual in those days of
violent controversy, nor were Catholics slow to have recourse to it
against Luther; Cochlæus, for instance, in his “_Lutherus Septiceps_”
has a crude illustration of a figure with seven heads. But everything
of this nature, his own earlier productions included, was put into the
shade by Luther’s final pictures of the Papacy.

 At the end of his “Wider das Bapstum” Luther had ventured to hope that
 he would be able to go even further in another booklet, and, that,
 should he die in the meantime, God would raise up another man who
 would “make things a thousand times hotter.” His threat he practically
 carried out in his “Popery Pictured,” in what Paul Lehfeldt calls
 his “highly offensive and revolting woodcuts,” which “certainly
 made things a thousand times worse seeing the appeal they made to
 the imagination.”[1688] The fact, that, “in spite of the numerous
 reprints,” very few copies indeed have survived is attributed by
 Lehfeldt to the indignation felt in both camps, Lutheran and Catholic,
 which led to the wholesale destruction of the book.

 So pleased was the Elector of Saxony with the “Wider das Bapstum”
 that he helped to push it; he bought twenty florins’ worth of copies
 and had them distributed; this Luther hastened to tell Amsdorf with
 all the greater satisfaction, seeing that he had heard that others
 were expressing their disapproval of the book.[1689] It may be that
 the Elector also helped to spread the caricatures. If we may believe
 a sermon by Cyriacus Spangenberg, some of Luther’s own friends
 nevertheless made representations and begged him “to desist from
 publishing such figures, as of late he had caused to be circulated
 against the Pope.”[1690] Yet three years after Luther’s death the
 fanatical Flacius Illyricus, in bringing out a new edition of the
 caricature of the Pope on the sow, with a fresh description of it,
 characterised it as a “prophetic picture by Elias the Third of blessed
 memory,” and took severely to task all who felt otherwise.[1691] He
 has it, that “Many who walk according to the flesh rather than in the
 wisdom, piety and retirement of the spirit, did a few years ago [1545]
 actually dare to call these and certain other like figures shameless
 prints, and fancies of a brainless old fool.” The writer thinks he
 has proved, that, “far from being an outcome of wanton stupidity they
 proceeded from a ghostly, godly wisdom and zeal.”[1692]

Such attempts at vindication only prove that Luther was not alone in
allowing himself to be dominated, and his mind darkened by such morbid

       *       *       *       *       *

The psychology reflected in these much-debated woodcuts deserves more
careful scrutiny.

Those undoubtedly take too superficial a view of the matter, who, in
their desire to exonerate Luther, refuse to see in these caricatures
anything more than the exuberant effusions of ridicule gone mad. On the
other hand, some of Luther’s enemies are no less wrong in failing to
see that the indignation which speaks from these drawings is meant in
bitter earnest.

If, as is only right, we view this frivolous imagery in the light of
Luther’s mental state at the time and of his whole attitude then, it
will stand out as a sort of confession of faith on the part of the
author, appalling indeed, but absolutely truthful, a picture of his
deepest thoughts and feelings, steeped as they were in his sombre
pseudo-mysticism and devil-craze. The same holds good likewise of the
“Wider das Bapstum” of which this set of illustrations is a sort of

The revolting images which rise before his mind like bubbles to the
surface of the fermenting tan, seem to him so true to fact that he
protests that the cuts are in no sense defamatory; “should anyone feel
offended or hurt in his feelings by them I am ready to answer for their
publication before the whole Empire.”[1693]

 So much had he brooded over the illustrations, that, as is shown by
 his answer to Amsdorf concerning the Furies, he could describe their
 every detail with an enthusiasm and minuteness such as few artists
 could equal, even when descanting on their own work. In the midst of
 his sufferings of body and mind and of all his toil, he finds leisure
 to explain to his friend how: The first Fury, Megæra, assists at the
 birth of the Pope-Antichrist, because she is the incarnation of hate
 and envy and thus shows that the Pope “as the true imitator, nay, ape,
 of Satan hinders all that is good”; the second, Alecto, according to
 classic teaching, has the special task of symbolising that “the Pope
 works all that is evil”; in this he is helped by the “old serpent of
 Paradise”; the latter it is who is to blame for all the misfortunes
 of the human race from the beginning, and for still “daily filling
 the world with new misfortunes by means of the Pope, Mohamed, the
 Cardinals, the Archbishop of Mayence, etc.; and who simply can’t
 cease its sad abominations”; as for the third Fury, Tisiphone, she
 is passive, she arouses God’s anger, whereby the tyrants and the
 wicked, as, for instance, Cain, Saul and Absalom, are punished for
 the doings of the two other Furies, etc. “Such is the devil of those
 possessed and of the insane, who also blaspheme God. This Fury rules
 more particularly in the opinions of the Pope and the heretics
 and in their blasphemous doctrines which fall under a well-merited

 It is characteristic of the mental attitude of the writer that, in
 the very next letter to the same friend, he replies to a question of
 Amsdorf’s regarding a fox of abnormal shape recently caught; according
 to Luther “it might well portend the end of all things”; this end he
 will “pray for and await”; but “of any Council or negotiations” he is
 determined “to hear nothing, believe nothing, hope nothing and think
 nothing.” “Vanity of vanities,” such is his greeting to Trent; as for
 Germany, he can only discern “the spark of the coming fire prepared
 for its chastisement, the decline of all justice, the undermining of
 law and order and the end of the Empire.” “May God remove us and ours
 before the desolation comes!”[1695]

 When in such a mood he is convinced that the fresh revelation of
 Antichrist in the new engravings constitute a grand service to the
 Kingdom of God. He knows already the exalted reward of their faith
 prepared for himself and his faithful followers. “I have this great
 advantage: my Master is called Shevlimini [see above, vol. iv., p.
 46]; He told us: ‘I will raise you up at the last day’; then He will
 say: ‘Dr. Martin, Dr. Jonas, Mr. Michael, come forth,’ and summon us
 all by our names as Christ says in John: ‘And He calls them all by
 name.’ Therefore be not affrighted.” This he said shortly before his
 death, reviewing his last publications.[1696]

 By a similar misuse of the words of the Bible he invites all his
 followers, and that too in the name of the “Spirit,” to do to the Pope
 just what the three rude fellows are doing over the inverted tiara of
 the Pope in the woodcut entitled “The worship of the Pope as God of
 the world.” The verses below the picture are scarcely credible:

  “To Christ’s dear Kingdom the Pope has done
  What they are doing to his own crown.
  Says the Spirit: Give him quits,
  Fill it brimful as God bids.”

 In the margin express reference is made to the solemn words of God
 (Apoc. xviii. 6), where the voice from heaven proclaims judgment on
 Babylon: “Render to her as she also hath rendered to you, and double
 unto her double according to her works: in the cup wherein she hath
 mingled, mingle ye double unto her.”

 It would surely be hard to find anywhere so filthy a parody of the
 sacred text as Luther here permits himself.

 The same must be said of the utter hatred which gleams from every
 one of the pictures. Into it we gain some insight from a letter of
 Luther’s to Jonas: To console his suffering colleague he has a fling
 at the Council of Trent: “God has cursed them as it is written:
 ‘Cursed be he who trusts in man.’” God, says he, will surely destroy
 the Council, legates and all.[1697] Jonas was ailing from stone,
 besides being tormented with “dire fancies.”[1698] Luther, who himself
 suffered severely from stone, exclaimed to his friend Amsdorf:
 Would that the stone would pass into the Pope and these Gomorrhaic
 cardinals![1699] A prey to anger and depression, to hatred, defiance
 and fear of the devil, he is yet determined to mock at Satan who is
 ever at his heels in small matters as well as in great. “I shall,
 please God, laugh at Satan though he seeks to deride me and my

Such, judging by the letters he wrote in that period, was the soil
which produced both the caricatures and the “Wider das Bapstum vom
Teuffel gestifft.”

So deeply seated in Luther’s devil-lore, not to say devil-mania,
was the tendency that inspired the woodcuts, that, when once his
conscience pri