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Title: Luther, vol. 6 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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                 EDM. CAN. SURMONT,
                    _Vic. Gen._

                    _Westmonasterii, die 12 Martii, 1917._



                          HARTMANN GRISAR, S.J.



                              E. M. LAMOND

                                EDITED BY

                            LUIGI CAPPADELTA

                                VOLUME VI

                 KEGAN PAUL, TRENCH, TRUBNER & 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).

 “We have nothing but commendation for the translation.”—_The Tablet_
 (Vol. V).

 “Another volume of Father Grisar’s ‘Life of Martin Luther’ …
 confirms the belief that it will remain the standard ‘Life,’ and
 rank amongst the most valuable contributions to the history of the
 Reformation.”—_Yorkshire Post._


   EDUCATION (_continued from Vol. V._)                     _pages_ 3-98


  Luther’s appeals on behalf of the schools; polemical
  trend of his appeals; his ideal of elementary
  education; study of the Bible and the classics. The
  decline in matters educational after the introduction
  of the innovations; higher education before Luther’s
  day; results achieved by Luther                           _pages_ 3-41


  Organised charity in late mediæval times. Luther’s
  attempts to arrange for the relief of the poor; the
  “Poor-boxes”; Bugenhagen’s work; the sad effects of the
  confiscation of Church-property; and of the doctrine
  that good works are valueless                            _pages_ 42-65


  Whether Luther’s claim can stand that he was the
  first to preach the dignity of worldly callings? His
  depreciation of the several classes of the nation due
  to his estrangement from them. Attitude towards the
  merchant-class. His Old-Testament ideas react on his
  theories about usury and interest; his views on the
  lawfulness of permanent investments, etc.                _pages_ 65-98

   HIS AILMENTS                                           _pages_ 99-186


  Fits of fear, palpitations, swoons, nervousness; his
  temptations no mere morbid phenomena                    _pages_ 99-112


  Temptations to despair. The shadow of pseudo-mysticism.
  Temptations of the flesh                               _pages_ 112-122


  The statements regarding Luther’s intercourse with the
  beyond and his visions of the devil. The misunderstood
  reference to his disputation with the devil on the
  Mass. His belief in possession and exorcism            _pages_ 122-140


  His conviction that he was the recipient of a special
  revelation; his apparent withdrawals of this claim. His
  so-called “temptations” viewed by him as confirming his
  mission; his persuasion that the Pope is Antichrist,
  that his opponents are all egged on by the devil and
  that no man on earth can compare with him. His tendency
  to self-contradiction; his changeableness, his feverish
  polemics                                               _pages_ 141-171


  Whether Luther’s mind was abnormal, or whether all
  his symptoms are to be explained by uric acid, or by
  degeneracy                                             _pages_ 172-186

  OF HIS EARLY LIFE                                      _pages_ 187-236


  The legend about his first appearance on the field
  of history. His supposed excessive holiness-by-works
  during his monastic days                               _pages_ 187-205


  Inward peace and happiness in his monastic days; his
  vows and their breach; some peculiarities of his
  humility; his feverish addiction to his work; the facts
  around which his later legend grew                     _pages_ 205-229


  Forged in the solitude of the Coburg. His
  characteristic passage from the “I” to the “we.” His
  monkish “experience” useful to him                     _pages_ 229-236

  CHURCH-UNSEEN AND THE VISIBLE CHURCH-BY-LAW            _pages_ 237-340


  Freedom as Luther’s early watchword. Intolerance
  towards Catholics, in theory, and in practice.
  Sanguinary threats against all papists; the
  death-penalty pronounced against “sectarians” at home;
  his justification: blasphemy must be put down. The
  people driven to the new preaching; no freedom of
  conscience allowed: Luther’s intolerance imitated by
  his friends                                            _pages_ 237-279


  The pigheadedness and arrogance of all the
  “sectarians.” None of them are sure of their cause;
  none of them can work miracles                         _pages_ 279-289


  Luther’s invisible Church; her marks; only the
  predestined are members; his shifting theory           _pages_ 290-308


  The Church materialises in Articles and a Ministry
  set up by Wittenberg with the sovereign as
  “emergency-bishop.” The results of State-interference  _pages_ 309-325


  The Erfurt preachers at variance with the Town-Council.
  Luther shifts his ground in his controversies with
  the Catholics. How the Church, in spite of Christ’s
  promises, contrived to remain plunged in error for over
  a thousand years. Luther’s interpretation of Christ’s
  words “On this rock”                                   _pages_ 325-340

 CHAPTER XXXIX. END OF LUTHER’S LIFE                     _pages_ 341-386


  His depression gets the better of him and he leaves the
  town “for ever.” Change of air sweetens his temper and
  he returns and resumes his work with new ardour        _pages_ 341-351


  Quarrels with the Swiss and with New Believers nearer
  home; with the lawyers regarding clandestine marriages;
  the State proves a cause of vexation on account of its
  interference in matters which concern the preachers.
  Luther’s fears for the future; encroachments of human
  reason; the coming collapse of morals                  _pages_ 351-369


  Thoughts of death. His last visit to Mansfeld, to act
  as arbitrator between the Counts. The versions of his
  last moments                                           _pages_ 370-381


  The tale of Luther’s suicide, of the disappearance of
  his body, etc. Who was responsible for the habit of
  concocting such stories                                _pages_ 381-386

 CHAPTER XL. AT THE GRAVE                                _pages_ 387-462


  Extracts from the panegyrics and early biographies;
  medals struck in his honour; his epitaphs              _pages_ 387-394


  Luther’s defiance of the whole world, whilst evoking
  their wonder, failed to secure the admiration of
  Catholics. Whether Luther’s undoubted strength of will
  makes of him a “great man.” The part played by other
  factors in the movement he inaugurated                 _pages_ 394-407


  Defeat of the Schmalkalden Leaguers. Osiandric,
  Majorite, Adiaphoristic, Synergistic and
  Cryptocalvinist controversies                          _pages_ 407-423


  The Lutherans are induced to adopt the Formula of
  Concord as a counterblast against the Council of Trent.
  Catholic theology benefits by the new controversies;
  the Church’s religious life is deepened; progress in
  catechetical instruction, in matters educational,
  Bible-study and Church-history                         _pages_ 423-439


  Their “mediæval” attitude. Luther the “Prophet of the
  Germans,” a New Elias and John the Baptist             _pages_ 440-444


  Each in their own way make of Luther their forerunner
  and breathe into him their own ideals                  _pages_ 444-448


  The Romanticists; liberal theologians; independent
  historians; the Janus-Luther, with one face looking
  back on the Middle Ages and the other turned to the
  coming world. Ritschl, E. M. Arndt. Luther the hero
  of Kultur? Houston S. Chamberlain’s picture of the
  “Political Luther.” Conclusion                         _pages_ 449-462

   ORDER                                                 _pages_ 465-495



  The Scala Santa; the General Confession; Oldecop’s
  account of Luther’s petition to be secularised; the
  outcome for the Order of Luther’s visit to Rome        _pages_ 496-497

     CONFLICT WITH HIS BROTHER FRIARS                    _pages_ 497-501

  4. ATTACK UPON THE “SELF-RIGHTEOUS”                    _pages_ 501-503


  6. THE TOWER INCIDENT                                  _pages_ 504-510

  7. THE INDULGENCE-THESES                                    _page_ 510

  8. THE TEMPTATIONS AT THE WARTBURG                          _page_ 511

  9. PRAYER AT THE WARTBURG                              _pages_ 511-512

 10. LUTHER’S STATE DURING HIS STAY AT THE COBURG             _page_ 512

 11. LUTHER’S MORAL CHARACTER                            _pages_ 512-513

 12. LUTHER’S VIEWS ON LIES                              _pages_ 513-515

 13. LUTHER’S LACK OF THE MISSIONARY SPIRIT              _pages_ 515-516

 14. Notes: Pope Alexander VI “the Maraña”; from Bishop
     Maltitz’s letters to Bishop Fabri                        _page_ 516

 General Index to the six volumes                        _pages_ 517-551




CHAPTER XXXV (_Continued_)


3. Elementary Schools and Higher Education

_Luther’s Appeals on Behalf of the Schools_

In a pamphlet of 1524, on the need of establishing schools, Luther spoke
some emphatic and impressive words.[1]

There could be nothing worse, he declared, than to abuse and neglect the
precious souls of the little ones; even a hundred florins was not too
much to pay to make a good Christian of a boy; it was the duty of the
magistrates and authorities to whom the welfare of the town was confided
to see to this, the parents being so often either not pious or worthy
enough to perform this office, or else too unlearned or too much hampered
by their business or the cares of their household. The well-being of
a town was not to be gauged by its fine buildings, but rather by the
learning, good sense, and honourable behaviour of the burghers; given
this the other sort of prosperity would never be lacking. Luther dwells
on the urgent need of studying languages and sees an act of Providence
in the dispersion of the Greeks whose presence in the West had been the
means of giving a fresh stimulus to the study of Greek, and even to the
cultivation of other languages. Without schools and learning no men would
be found qualified to rule in the ecclesiastical or even in the secular
sphere; even the management of the home and the duties of women to their
families and households called for some sort of instruction.[2]

Owing to their innate leaning to savagery the German people, above all
others, could ill afford to dispense with the discipline of the school.
All the world calls us “German beasts”; too long have we been German
beasts, let us therefore now learn to use our reason.[3]

He speaks of the educational value not only of languages but of history,
mathematics and the other arts, but above all of religion, which, now
that the true Evangel is preached, must take root in the hearts of the
young, but which could not be maintained unless care was taken to ensure
a supply of future preachers.

He gives an excellent answer to the objection: “What is the good of going
to school unless we are thinking of becoming parsons?” The wholesale
secularisation of ecclesiastical benefices had resulted in a great
falling off in the number of scholars, the parents often thinking too
much of the worldly prospects of their children. Luther, however, points
out that even the secular offices deserve to be filled with men of
education. “How useful and called for it is, and how pleasing to God,
that the man destined to govern, whether as Prince, lord, councillor
or otherwise, should be learned and capable of performing his duty as
becomes a Christian.”[4]

       *       *       *       *       *

This booklet, which is of great interest for the history of the schools,
was translated into Latin in the same year by Vincentius Obsopœus (Koch)
and published at Hagenau, with a preface by Melanchthon.[5] It also
became widely known throughout Germany, being frequently reprinted in the
original tongue. As the title shows, Luther addressed himself in the work
“To the Councillors of _all_ the townships,” viz. even to the Catholic
magistrates among whom he stood in disfavour. He declares that it was a
question of the “salvation and happiness of the whole German land. And
were I to hit upon something good, even were I myself a fool, it would be
no disgrace to anyone to listen to me.”[6]

In thus calling for the founding of schools Luther was but reiterating
the admonition contained in his writing “To the German Nobility.” Such
exhortations were always sure to win applause, and served to recommend
not only his own person but even, in the case of many, his undertaking
as a whole.[7] In his rules for the administration of the poor-box
at Leisnig Luther had been mindful of the claims of the schools, nor
did he forget them in the other regulations he drew up later. In his
sermons, too, he also dwelt repeatedly on the needs of the elementary
schools; when complaining of the decay of charity he is wont to instance
the straits, not only of the parsonages and the poor, but also of
the schools. “Only reckon up and count on your fingers what here [at
Wittenberg] and elsewhere those who bask in the Evangel give and do for
it, and see whether, were it not for us who are still living, there would
remain a single preacher or student.… Are there then no poor scholars who
ought to be studying and exercising themselves in the Word of God?” But
“hoarding and scraping” are now the rule, so that hardly a town can be
found “that collects enough to keep a schoolmaster or parson.”[8]

Many wealthy towns had, however, to Luther’s great joy, taken in hand the
cause of the schools. Their efforts were to prove very helpful to the new
religious system.

In the same year that the above writing appeared steps were taken at
Magdeburg for the promotion of education, and Cruciger, Luther’s own
pupil, was summoned from Wittenberg to assume the direction. Melanchthon
and Luther repaired to Eisleben in 1525, where Count Albert of Mansfeld
had founded a Grammar School. In some towns the Councillors carried
out Luther’s proposals, in others, where the town-council was opposed
to the innovators and their schools, the burghers “set at naught the
Council,” as Luther relates, and erected “schools and parsonages”; in
other words, they established schools as the best means to further
the new Evangel.[9] At Nuremberg Melanchthon, a zealous promoter of
education, exerted himself for the foundation of a “Gymnasium” which was
to serve as a model of the new humanistic schools of the Evangelicals,
and which was generously provided for by the town. May 6, 1526, saw the
opening of this new school. Learned masters were appointed, for instance,
Melanchthon’s friend Camerarius, the poet Eobanus Hessus and the humanist
Michael Roting. In 1530 Luther speaks of it in words meant to flatter the
Nurembergers as “a fine, noble school,” for which the “very best men”
had been selected and appointed. He even tells all Germany, that “no
University, not even that of Paris itself, was ever so well provided in
the way of lecturers”; it was in no small measure owing to this school
that “Nuremberg now shone throughout the whole of Germany like a sun,
compared with which others were but moon and stars.”[10]

Yet it was certain disagreeable happenings at Nuremberg itself which
led him to write in 1530 his second booklet in favour of the schools.
In the flourishing commercial city there were many wealthy burghers who
refused to send their children to the “Gymnasium,” thinking that, instead
of learning ancient languages, they would be more usefully occupied in
acquiring other elements of knowledge more essential to the mercantile
calling; by so doing they had raised a certain feeling against the new
school. Many were even disposed to scoff at all book-learning and roundly
declared, as Luther relates, “If my son knows how to read and reckon then
he knows quite enough; we now have plenty German books,” etc.[11]

In July of the above year, Luther, in the loneliness of the Coburg,
penned a sermon having for its title “That children must be kept at
school.” The sermon grew into a lengthy work; Luther himself was, later
on, to bewail its long-windedness.[12] This writing, taken with that of
1524, supplies the gist of Luther’s teaching with regard to the schools.

 In the preface, printed before the body of the work, he dedicates the
 writing to the Nuremberg “syndic” or town-clerk, Lazarus Spengler,
 an ardent promoter of the new teaching. A town like Nuremberg, he
 there says, “must surely contain more men than merchants, and also
 others who can do more than merely reckon, or read German books.
 German books are principally intended for the common people to read at
 home; but for preaching, governing and administering justice in both
 ecclesiastical and temporal sphere all the arts and languages in the
 world are not sufficient.” Already in the preface he inveighs against
 those who assert that arithmetic and a knowledge of German were quite
 enough: These small-minded worshippers of Mammon failed to take into
 consideration what was essential for “ruling”; both the civil and the
 ecclesiastical office would suffer under such a system.[13]

 In this writing his style follows his mood, being now powerful, now
 popular and not seldom wearisome. He dwells longest on the spiritual
 office, expressing his fear, that, should the lack of interest in
 the schools become general, and the people continue so niggardly in
 providing for their support, there would result such a spiritual
 famine with regard to the Word of God, that ten villages would be left
 in the charge of a single parson. Passing on to the secular office
 he points out how the latter upholds the “temporal, fleeting peace,
 life and law.… It is an excellent gift of God Who also instituted and
 appointed it and Who demands its preservation.” Of this office “It is
 the work and glory that it makes wild beasts into men and keeps them
 in this state.… Do you not think that if the poor birds and beasts
 could speak and were able to see the action of the secular rule among
 men they would say: Dear fellows, you are no men but gods compared
 with us; how secure you sit and live, enjoying all good things,
 whereas we are not safe from each other for a single hour as regards
 our life, our home or our food.”[14]

 “Such rule cannot continue, but must go to rack and ruin unless the
 law [the Roman law and the law of the land] is maintained. And what
 is to maintain it? Fists and blustering cannot do so, but only brains
 and books; we must learn to understand the wisdom and justice of our
 secular rule.” Speaking of the lawyers’ office for which the young
 must prepare themselves, he groups under it the “chancellors, clerks,
 judges, advocates, notaries and all others who are concerned with
 the law, not to speak of the great Johnnies who sport the title of
 Hofrat.”[15] On the calling of the physician he only touches lightly,
 showing that this “useful, consoling and health-giving” profession
 demands the retention of the Latin schools, short of which it must
 fall into decay.

 The following hint was a practical one: Seeing that, in Saxony
 alone, about 4000 men of learning were needed—what with chaplains,
 schoolmasters and readers—those who wished to study had good prospects
 of “great honours and emoluments since two Princes and three townships
 were all ready to fight for the services of one learned man.” He urges
 that assistance should be given to poor parents out of the Church
 property so as to enable them to send their children to school, and
 that the rich should make foundations for this purpose.

 In this writing, as in that of 1524, he addresses himself to the
 secular authorities and even demands that they should compel their
 subjects to send their children to school in order that the supply
 of capable men might not fail in the future. I consider, he says,
 “that the authorities are bound to force those under them to see to
 the schooling of their children, more particularly those just spoken
 of [the more gifted]; for it is undoubtedly their duty to see to the
 upkeep of the above-mentioned offices and callings.” If in time of war
 they could compel their subjects to render assistance and resist the
 enemy, much more had they the right to coerce them in respect of the
 children, seeing that this was a war against the devil who wished to
 despoil the land and the townships of able men, so as to be able “to
 cheat and delude them as he pleased.”[16]

As regards the question whether _all_ children were to be forced to
go to school, in this writing Luther does not speak of any universal
compulsion; only “when the authorities see a capable lad”[17] does he
wish coercion to be applied to the parents. In his first writing on the
schools likewise, he had not advocated universal compulsion but had
merely pointed out that it was “becoming” that the authorities should
interfere where the parents neglected their duty;[18] he does not
say how they are to “interfere,” but merely suggests that one or two
“schoolmasters” should be provided whose salary should not be grudged.

“Hence it is incorrect,” rightly remarks Kawerau, “to represent Luther as
the harbinger of universal compulsory education.”[19]

Fr. Lambert of Avignon, in his ecclesiastical regulations dating from
1526, indeed sought to establish national schools throughout Hesse, but
his proposals were never enforced. It was only at the beginning of the
17th century that Wolfgang Ratke (Ratichius, †1635), a pedagogue educated
in the Calvinistic schools, established the principle of universal
education which then was incorporated in the educational regulations
of Weimar in 1619.[20] But the Thirty Years’ War put an end to these
attempts, and it was only in the 18th century that the principle of
compulsory State education secured general acceptance, and then, too,
owing chiefly to non-Lutheran influences.

Before entering further into the details of Luther’s educational plans
we must cast a glance at a factor which seems to permeate both the above

_Polemical Trend of Luther’s Pedagogics_

If we seek to characterise both the writings just spoken of we find
that they amount to an appeal called forth by the misery of those times
for some provision to be made to ensure a supply of educated men for
the future. Frederick Paulsen describes them, particularly the earlier
one, as nothing more than a “cry for help, wrung from Luther by the
sudden, general collapse of the educational system which followed on the
ecclesiastical upheaval.”[21] They were not dictated so much by a love
for humanistic studies as such or by the wish to further the interests
of learning in Germany, as by the desire to fill the secular-government
berths with able, “Christian” men, and, above all, to provide preachers
and pastors for the work Luther had commenced and for the struggle
against Popery. The schools themselves were unobtrusively to promote
the new Evangel amongst the young and in the home. Learning, according
to Luther, as a Protestant theologian expressed it, was to enter “into
the service of the Evangel and further its right understanding”; “the
religious standpoint alone was of any real interest to him.”[22]

Melanchthon’s attitude to the schools was more broadminded. To some
extent his efforts supplied what was wanting in Luther.[23] His
object was the education of the people, whereas, in Luther’s eyes,
the importance of the schools chiefly lay in their being “_seminaria
ecclesiarum_,” as he once calls them. With him their aim was too much
the mere promoting of his specific theological interests, to the
“preservation of the Church.”[24]

 According to Luther the first and most important reason for
 promoting the establishment of schools, was, as he points out to the
 “Councillors of all the Townships,” to resist the devil, who, the
 better to maintain his dominion over the German lands, was bent on
 thwarting the schools; “if we want to prick him on a tender spot then
 we may best do so by seeing that the young grow up in the knowledge of
 God, spreading the Word of God and teaching it to others.”[25] “The
 other [reason] is, as St. Paul says, that we receive not the grace of
 God in vain, nor neglect the accepted time.” The “donkey-stables and
 devil-schools” kept by monks and clergy had now seen their day; but,
 now that the “darkness” has been dispelled by the “Word of God,” we
 have the “best and most learned of the youths and men, who, equipped
 with languages and all the arts, can prove of great assistance.” “My
 dear, good Germans, make use of God’s grace and His Word now you have
 it! For know this, the Word of God and His grace is indeed here.”[26]

 In many localities preachers of the new faith were in request,
 moreover, many of the older clergy, who had passed over to Luther’s
 side, had departed this life or had been removed by the Visitors on
 account of their incapacity or moral shortcomings. Those who had
 replaced them were often men of no education whatever. The decline of
 learning gave rise to many difficulties. Schoolmasters were welcomed
 not only as simple ministers but, as we have heard Luther declare,
 even as the candidates best fitted for the post of superintendent.[27]
 How frequently people of but slight education were appointed pastors
 is plain from the lists of those ordained at Wittenberg from 1537
 onwards; amongst these we find men of every trade: clerks, printers,
 weavers, cobblers, tailors, and even one peasant. Seven years later,
 when the handicraftsmen had disappeared, we constantly find sextons
 and schoolmasters being entrusted with the ministerial office.[28]

 This sad state of things must be carefully kept in mind if we are to
 understand the ideas which chiefly inspired the above writings, and as
 these have not so far been sufficiently emphasised we may be permitted
 to make some reference to them.

 “We must have men,” says Luther in his first writing, viz. that
 addressed to the councillors, “men to dispense to us God’s Word and
 the sacraments and to watch over the souls of the people. But whence
 are we to get them if the schools are allowed to fall to ruin and
 other _more Christian_ ones are not set up?”[29] “Christendom has
 always need of such prophets to study and interpret the Scriptures,
 and, when the call comes, to conduct controversy.”[30] Similar appeals
 occur even more frequently in the other writing, viz. that dedicated
 by Luther to his friend at Nuremberg. Already in his first writing,
 Luther, as the ghostly counsellor of Germany “appointed” in Christ’s
 name, boldly faces all other teachers, telling the Catholics, that
 what he was seeking was merely the “happiness and salvation” of
 the Fatherland.[31] In the second he expressly states that it is
 to all the German lands that he their “prophet” is speaking: “My
 dear Germans, I have told you often enough that you have heard your
 prophet. God grant that we may obey His Word.”[32] So entirely does
 he identify the interests of his Church with those of the schools.
 Well might those many Germans who did not hold with him—and at that
 time Luther was an excommunicate outlaw—well might they have asked
 themselves with astonishment whence he had the right to address them
 as though he were the representative and mouthpiece of the whole of
 Germany. Such exhortations have, however, their root in his usual
 ideas of religion and in the anxiety caused by the urgent needs of the

 At the Coburg the indifference, coldness and avarice of his followers
 appears to him in an even darker light than usual. He well sees that
 if the schools continue to be neglected as they have been hitherto
 the result will be a mere “pig sty,” a “hideous, savage horde of
 ‘Tatters’ and Turks.” Hence he fulminates against the ingratitude
 displayed towards the Evangel and against the stinginess which, though
 it had money for everything, had none to spare for the schools and the
 parsons; the imagery to which he has recourse leaves far behind that
 of the Old Testament Prophets.

 Here we have the real Luther whom, as he himself admits, though in
 a different sense, stands revealed in this writing penned at the
 Coburg.[33] “Is this not enough to arouse God’s wrath?… Verily it
 would be no wonder were God to open wide the doors and windows of hell
 and rain and hail on us nothing but devils, or were He to send fire
 and brimstone down from heaven and plunge us all into the abyss of
 hell like Sodom and Gomorrha … for they were not one-tenth as wicked
 as Germany is now.”[34] Has then Christ, the Son of God, deserved
 this of us, he asks, that so many care nothing for the schools and
 parsonages, and “even dissuade the children from becoming ministers,
 that this office may speedily perish, and the blood and passion of
 Christ be no longer of any avail.”[35] Here again his chief reason
 for maintaining the schools is his anxiety: “What is otherwise to
 become of the ghostly office and calling.”[36] Only after he has
 considered this question from all sides and demonstrated that his
 Church’s edifice stands in need not merely of “worked stones” but
 also of “rubble,” i.e. both of clever men and of others less highly
 gifted,[37] does he come in the second place to the importance of
 having learned men even in the secular office.

 He had begun this writing with an allusion to the devil, viz. to “the
 wiles of tiresome Satan against the holy Evangel”; he also concludes
 it in the same vein, speaking of the “tiresome devil,” who secretly
 plots against the schools and thereby against the salvation of both
 town and country.[38]

 The author goes at some length into the question of languages and
 declares that the main reason for learning them was a religious one.

 Languages enable us “to understand Holy Scripture,” he says, “this was
 well known to the monasteries and universities of the past, hence they
 had always frowned on the study of languages”; the devil was afraid
 that languages would make a hole “which afterwards it would not be
 easy for him to plug.” But the providence of God has outreached him,
 for, by “making over Greece to the Turks and sending the Greeks into
 exile, their language was spread abroad and an impetus was given even
 to the study of other tongues.” And now, thanks to the languages, the
 Gospel has been restored to its “earlier purity.” Hence, for the sake
 of the Bible and the Word of God, let us hark back to the languages.
 His excellent observations on the importance of the study of languages
 for those in secular authority, though perfectly honest, hold merely a
 secondary place. The chief use of the languages is as a weapon against
 the Papacy. “The dearer the Evangel is to us, the more let us hold
 fast to the languages!”

 So anxious is he to see the future schools thoroughly “Christian,”
 i.e. Evangelical and all devoted to the service of his cause, that he
 expressly states that otherwise he “would rather that not a single
 boy learnt anything but remained quite dumb.” Hence the earlier
 “universities and monasteries” must be made an end of. Their way of
 teaching and living “is not the right one for the young.” “It is
 my earnest opinion, prayer and wish that these donkey-stables and
 devil-schools should either sink into the abyss or else be transformed
 into Christian schools. But now that God has bestowed His grace upon
 us so richly and provided us with so many well able to teach and bring
 up the young, we are actually in danger of flinging the grace of God
 to the winds.” “I am of opinion that Germany has never heard so much
 of God’s Word as now.… God’s Word is a streaming downpour, the like of
 which must not be expected again.”[39]

Hence the two writings differ but little from his usual polemical and
hortatory works. They do not make of Luther the “father of the national
schools,” as he has been erroneously termed, because, what he was after
was not the real education of the masses but something rather different;
still less do the booklets, with their every page reeking of the Word of
God which he preached, make him the father of the modern undenominational

In fact, elementary schools as such have scarcely any place in these
writings. What concerns him is rather the Latin grammar schools, and only
as an afterthought does he passingly allude to the other schools in which
children receive their first grounding.[41]

Luther’s standpoint as to the Church’s need of Grammar Schools is always
the same, even when he speaks of them in the Table-Talk.

“When we are dead,” he says for instance, “where will others be
found to take our place unless there are schools? For the sake of the
Churches we must have Christian schools and maintain them.”[42]—“When
the schools multiply, things are going well and the Church stands
firm.”[43]—“By means of such cuttings and saplings is the Church sown and
propagated.”—“The schools are of great advantage in that they undoubtedly
preserve the Churches.”[44]

“Hence a reformation of the schools and universities is also called for,”
so he writes in a memorandum,[45] immediately after having declared, that
“it is necessary to have good and pious preachers; all will depend on men
who must be educated in the schools and universities.”[46]

For this reason, viz. on account of the preparation they furnished, he
even has a kind word for the schools of former days.

He recalls to mind, that, even in Popery “the schools supplied parsons
and preachers.” “In the schools the little boys learnt at least the Our
Father and the Creed and the Church was wonderfully preserved by means of
the tiny schools.”[47]—Of a certain hymn he remarks, that it was “very
likely written and kept by some good schoolmaster or parson. The schools
were indeed the all-important factor in the Church and the ‘_ecclesia_’
of the parson.”[48]

_Luther’s Educational Plans_

When, in his exhortations, Luther so warmly advocated the study of
Latin and of languages generally, he was merely keeping to the approved
traditional lines. Although he values ancient languages chiefly as a
means for the better understanding of Scripture, he is so prepossessed
in their favour in “worldly matters” that he even praises Latin at the
expense of German. He is particularly anxious that Latin works should
be read; among themselves the boys were to speak Latin. Recommending
the study of tongues, he says: “If we make such a mistake, which God
forbid, as to give up the study of languages, we shall not only lose the
Gospel but come to such straits as to be unable to read or write aright
either Latin or German.” The education of earlier days had not only led
men away from the Gospel owing to the neglect of languages, but “the
wretched people became mere brutes, unable to read or write either Latin
or German correctly, nay, had almost lost the use of their reason.”
It was statements such as these which drew from Friedrich Paulsen the
exclamation: “Hence Christianity and education, nay, even sound common
sense itself, all depend on the knowledge of languages!”[49]

Well founded as were Luther’s demands for a Latin education, yet we find
in him a notable absence of discrimination between schools and schools.

Even in the preparatory schools he was anxious to see the study of
languages introduced, and that for the girls too. Boys and girls, he
says, ought to be instructed “in tongues and other arts and subjects.”
He was of opinion, that, in this way, it would be possible from the very
first to pick out those best fitted to pursue the study of languages and
to become later “schoolmasters, schoolmistresses or preachers.”[50] He
even appeals to the example of olden Saints such as Agnes, Agatha and
Lucy when urging that the more talented girls should receive a grounding
in languages.[51] “It would undoubtedly have been quite enough had the
less ambitious children been taught merely to reckon, and to read and
write German.” “Luther’s action in having as many children of the people
as possible taught languages … and his warfare against the use of German
in the schools, whether in the towns, the villages, or the hamlets, was
all very unpractical.… He had come to the conclusion that German schools,
for one reason or another, were unsuited to be nurseries for the Church
(‘_seminaria ecclesiæ_’), hence his effort to transplant into the Latin
grammar schools every sapling on which he could lay hands.”[52]

 The injunctions appended to Melanchthon’s Visitation rules (1538),
 which were sanctioned and approved of by Luther, lay such stress on
 the teaching of languages that the humbler schools were bound to
 suffer. When dealing with “the schools” their only object seems to
 be the “upbringing of persons fit to teach in the churches and to
 govern.” And this aim, moreover, is pursued onesidedly enough, for
 we read: “The schoolmasters are in the first place to be diligent
 to teach the children only Latin, not German, or Greek, or Hebrew,
 as some have hitherto done, thus overburdening the poor children’s
 minds.” The regulations then proceed to prescribe in detail the
 studies to be undertaken in the lowest form: “In order that the
 children may get hold of many Latin words, they are to be made to
 learn some words every evening, as was the way in the schools in
 former days.” After the children have learnt to spell out the handbook
 containing the “Alphabet, the Our Father, Creed and other prayers they
 are to be set to Donatus and Cato … so that they may thus learn a
 number of Latin words and gain a certain readiness of speech (‘_copia
 dicendi_’).” Apart from this the lowest form is to be taught only
 writing and “music.”

 The next class was to learn grammar (needless to say Latin grammar)
 and to be exercised in Æsop’s Fables, the “_Pedologia_” of Mosellanus
 and the “_Colloquia_” of Erasmus, such of the latter being selected
 “as are useful for children and not improper.” “Once the children have
 learnt Æsop they are to be given Terence, which they must learn by
 heart.” There is no mention made here of any selection, this possibly
 being left to the teacher; in the case of Plautus, who was to follow
 Terence, this is expressly enjoined.—Of the religious instruction we
 read: Seeing it is necessary to teach the children the beginnings of
 a Godly, Christian life, “the schoolmaster is to catechise the whole
 [2nd] class, making the children recite one after the other the Our
 Father, the Creed and the Ten Commandments.” The schoolmaster was to
 “explain” these and also to instil into the children such points as
 were essential for living a good life, such as the “fear of God,
 faith and good works.” The schoolmaster was not to get the children
 into the habit of “abusing monks or others, as many incompetent
 masters do.” Finally, it was also laid down that those Psalms which
 exhort to the “fear of God, faith and good works” were to be learnt
 by heart, especially Psalms cxii., xxxiv., cxxviii., cxxv., cxvii.,
 cxxxiii. (cxi., xxxiii., cxxvii., cxxiv., cxxvi., cxxxii.), the Gospel
 of St. Matthew was also to be explained and perhaps likewise the
 Epistles of Paul to Timothy, the 1st Epistle of John and the Book of

 In the 3rd class, in addition to grammar, versification, dialectics
 and rhetoric had to be studied, the boys being exercised in Virgil and
 Cicero (the “_Officia_” and “_Epistolæ familiares_”). “The boys are
 also to be made to speak Latin and the schoolmasters themselves are as
 far as possible to speak nothing but Latin with them in order thus to
 accustom and encourage them in this practice.”[53]

In his two appeals for the schools in 1524 and 1530 Luther is less
explicit in his requirements than the regulations for the Visitation.
According to him, apart from the languages, it is the text of Scripture
which must form the basis of all the instruction.

Holy Scripture, especially the Gospel, was to be everywhere “the chief
and main object of study.” “Would to God that every town had also a
school for girls where little maids might hear the Gospel for an hour a
day, either in German or in Latin.… Ought not every Christian at the age
of nine or ten to be acquainted with the whole of the Gospel? Young folk
throughout Christendom are pining away and being pitiably ruined for want
of the Gospel, in which they ought always to be instructed and exercised.”

“I would not advise anyone to send his child where Holy Scripture is not
the rule. Where the Word of God is not constantly studied everything must
needs be in a state of corruption.”[54]

In the event, the Bible, together with Luther’s Catechism which had to
be committed to memory, and the hymn-book, became the chief manuals in
the Lutheran schools. On these elements a large portion of the young
generation of Germany was brought up.

 For the study of languages Luther, like Melanchthon, recommended
 the “_Disticha_” ascribed to Cato and Æsop’s Fables. “It is by the
 special mercy of God,” he says, “that Cato’s booklet and the Fables
 of Æsop have been preserved in the schools.”[55] We shall describe
 elsewhere the efforts he himself made to expurgate the editions of
 Æsop which had become corrupted by additions offensive to good morals.
 Various Latin classics which Humanists were wont to put in the hands
 of the scholars he characterised in his Table-Talk as unsuitable for
 school use. “It would be well that the books of Juvenal, Martial,
 Catullus and also Virgil’s ‘_Priapeia_’ were weeded out of the land
 and the schools, banished and expelled, for they contain coarse and
 shameless things such as the young cannot study without grievous
 harm.”[56] Of the Roman writers (with the Greeks he is much less at
 home) he extols Cicero, Terence and Virgil as useful and improving.
 As a whole, however, Luther always remained “at heart a stranger to
 true Humanism.… Though not altogether inappreciative of elegance of
 style, he is far from displaying the enthusiasm of the Humanists.”[57]
 Although he shows himself fairly well acquainted with the writings of
 the three authors just mentioned, and though he owed this education
 to his early training, yet, in his efforts to belittle the olden
 schools, he complains, that “no one had taught him to read the poets
 and historians,” but, that, on the other hand, he had been obliged to
 study the “devil’s ordure and the philosophers.”[58]

 It must not be overlooked that he, like the Instructions for the
 Visitors, recommends that Terence and other olden dramatists should
 be given to the young to be read, and even acted, though, as he
 admits, they “sometimes contain obscenities and love stories.” This
 advice he further emphasised in 1537 by declaring that a Protestant
 schoolmaster of Bautzen was in the right, when, regardless of the
 scandal of many, he had Terence’s “_Andria_” performed. Luther agreed
 with Melanchthon in thinking that the picture of morals given in this
 piece was improving for the young; also that the disclosure of the
 “cunning of women, particularly of light women,” was instructive;
 the boys would thus learn how marriages were arranged, and, after
 all, marriage was essential for the continuance of society: Even Holy
 Scripture contained some love stories. “Thus our people ought not to
 accuse these plays of immorality or declare that to read or act them
 was prohibited to a Christian.”[59]

 The regulations for the Protestant schools, in following Luther
 in this matter, merely trod in the footsteps of the older German
 Humanists, who had likewise placed Terence and Plautus in the hands
 of their pupils. On the contrary Jakob Wimpfeling, the “Teacher of
 Germany,” was opposed to them and wished to see Terence banished from
 the schools in the interests of morality. At a later date in the
 Catholic Grammar schools this author was on moral grounds forbidden to
 the more youthful pupils, and only read in excerpts.[60]

In his suggestions on the instruction to be given in the Latin schools
(for in reality it was only of these that he was thinking) Luther
classes with languages and other arts and sciences “singing, music
and mathematics as a whole.”[61] Greek and Hebrew no less than Latin
would also be indispensable for future scholars. He further wished
the authorities to establish “libraries” to further the studies; not,
however, such libraries as the olden ones, containing “mad, useless,
harmful, monkish books”—“donkey’s dung introduced by the devil”—“but Holy
Scripture in Latin, Greek, Hebrew and German, and any other languages
in which it might have been published; besides these the best and
oldest commentaries in Greek, Hebrew and Latin, and furthermore such
books as served for the study of languages, for instance, the poets and
orators,” etc. “The most important of all were, however, the chronicles
and histories … for these are of wonderful utility in enabling us to
understand the course of events, for the art of governing, as also for
perceiving the wonderful works of God. Oh, how many fine stories we ought
to have about what has been done and enacted in the German lands, of
which we, sad to say, know nothing.” In his appreciation of the study
of history and of the proverbial philosophy of the people Luther was in
advance of his day.

Owing to his polemics the judgment he passed on the olden libraries was
very unjust; the remaining traces of them and the catalogues which have
been published of those that have been dispersed show that, particularly
from the early days of Humanism, the better mediæval collections of books
had reached and even passed the standard Luther sets up in the matter of
history and literature.

Very modest, not to say entirely inadequate, is the amount of time
Luther proposes that the children should daily spend in the schools. Of
the lower schools, in which Latin was already to be taught, he says, it
would be enough for “the boys to go to such a school every day for an
hour or two and work the rest of their time at learning a trade, or doing
whatever was required of them.… A little girl, too, could easily find
time to attend school for an hour daily and yet thoroughly perform her
duties in the house.” Only the “pick” of the children, those, namely,
who gave good promise, were to spend “more time and longer hours” in

From all the above it is plain that there is good reason for not
accepting the extravagant statement that Luther’s writings on education
constitute the “charter of our national schools.” Others have extolled
him as the founder of the “Gymnasium” on account of his reference in
these works to the Latin schools. But even this is scarcely true, for, in
them, the author either goes beyond the field covered by the Gymnasium or
else fails to reach it. The Protestant pastor, Julius Boehmer, says in
the popular edition of Luther’s works:[63] “It will not do to regard the
work (”An die Radherrn“) as the ‘Charter of the Gymnasium,’ as has often
been done, seeing that, as stated above, it is concerned with both the
Universities and the lower-grade schools.”[64]

As to attendance at the Universities, of which Luther also speaks, he
asks the authorities to forbid the matriculation of any but the “clever
ones,” though among the masses “every fellow wanted a doctorate.”[65]

What he says of the various Faculties at the Universities is also
noteworthy. With the object of reforming philosophy and the Arts
course he wishes that of all the writings of Aristotle, that blind
heathen master, who had hitherto led astray the Universities, only the
“_Logica_,” “_Rhetorica_” and “_Poetica_” should be retained; “the
books: ‘_Physicorum_,’ ‘_Metaphysicæ_,’ ‘_De anima_’ and ‘_Ethicorum_’
must be dropped”; curiously enough these are the very works on which
Melanchthon was later on to bestow so much attention. We know how hateful
Aristotle was to Luther, because, in his heathen way, he teaches nothing
of grace and faith, but, on the other hand, extols the natural virtues.
Luther’s impulsive and unmethodical mode of thought was also, it must be
said, quite at variance with the logical mind of the Stagirite.

According to Luther “artistic education must be wholly rooted out as a
work of the devil; the very most that can be tolerated is the use of
those works which deal with form, but even these must not be commented on
or explained.”[66]

“The physicians,” he says, “I leave to reform their own Faculty; I shall
see myself to the lawyers and theologians; and, first of all, I say
that it would be a good thing if the whole of Canon Law from the first
syllable to the last were expunged, more particularly the Decretals.
We are told sufficiently in the Bible how to conduct ourselves in all
matters.” Secular law, so he goes on, has also become a “wilderness,” and
accordingly he is in favour of drastic reforms. “Of sensible rulers in
addition to Holy Scripture there are plenty”; national law and national
usage ought certainly not to be subordinated to the Imperial common law,
or the land “governed according to the whim of the individual.… Justice
fetched from far afield was nothing but an oppression of the people.”
Theology, according to him, must above all be Biblical, though now
everything is made to consist in the study of the Book of Sentences of
the schoolman, Peter Lombard, and of his commentators, the Gospel in both
schools and courts of justice being left “forlorn” in the dust under the

He rightly commends the Disputations, sometimes termed “_circulares_,”
held at the Universities by the students under the direction of their
professor; it pleased him well that the students should bring forward
their own arguments, even though they were sometimes not sound; for
“stairs can only be ascended step by step.” The Disputations, in his
view, also accustomed young men to “reflect more diligently on the
subjects discussed.”[68]

To conclude, we may say a few words concerning the incentives he uses
when urging parents to entrust their children to the schools.

Here Luther considerably oversteps the limits. In one passage, for
instance, he thinks it his right to threaten the parents with the worst
punishments of hell should they refuse to allow gifted children to study,
in order to place them later at the service of the pure Word of God, or
of the Christian rulers, as though forsooth parents and children had no
right in the sight of God to choose their own profession. “Tell me what
hell can be deep and hot enough for such shameful wickedness as yours?”
“If you have a child who studies well, you are not free to bring him up
as you please, nor to treat him as you will, but must bear in mind that
you owe it to God to promote His two rules.” Should the father refuse to
allow the boy to become a preacher, he says, then, so far as in him lies,
he was really consigning to hell all those whom the budding preacher
might have assisted; compared with such a crime against the common weal
the “outbreaks of the rebellious peasants were mere child’s play.” This
he says in a printed letter addressed in 1529 to the town commandant,
Hans Metzsch of Wittenberg, which served as a prelude to his pamphlet
“Das man Kinder zur Schulen halten solle.”[69] The writing is solely
dictated by Luther’s bitter annoyance at the dearth of pastors and the
indifference displayed within his fold.

In this letter, as in both his works on the schools, Luther, whilst
dealing with the excuses of the parents, at the same time throws some
interesting sidelights on the decline in learning and its causes.

_The Decline of the Schools Following in the Wake of the Innovations_

In the above letter to Metzsch Luther briefly gives as follows the
principal reason for the decay of learning: People were in the habit of
saying, “If my son has learnt enough to gain his living then he is quite
learned enough.”[70]

The contempt for learned studies was “largely due to the strongly
utilitarian temper of the age.” “Owing in the first place to the
flourishing state of the towns in the 13th and 14th century, and further
to the influence of the great political upheaval which resulted from
the discoveries and inventions of the day, a sober, practical spirit,
directed solely to material gain, had been aroused throughout a wide
section of the German nation. Preference was shown for the German schools
where writing and reckoning were taught and which prepared children for
the calling of the handicraftsman or the merchant.”[71] Against this
tendency of the day Luther enters the lists particularly in his second
work on the schools dedicated to the syndic of Nuremberg; at the same
time he deals, not in the best of tempers, with the objections advanced
by the merchant and industrial classes.[72] He speaks so harshly as
almost to place in the same category those who refused to bring up their
children “to art and learning” and those who turned them “into mere
gluttons and sucking pigs, intent on food alone” (to Metzsch). “The world
would thus become nothing but a pig-sty”; these “gruesome, noxious,
poisonous parents were bent on making simple belly servers of their
children,” etc.[73]

It is a question, however, whether the development of the material trend,
so surprisingly rapid, with its destructive influence on study was not
furthered by the religious revolution with which it coincided. Luther had
sapped the respect which had obtained for the clerical life and for those
callings which aimed at perfection, while at the same time, by belittling
good works he loosened the inclinations of the purely natural man; by his
repudiation of authority he had produced an intellectual self-sufficiency
or rather self-seeking, which, in the case of many, passed into mere
material egotism, though, of course, Luther’s work cannot be directly
charged with the utilitarianism of the day.

What, however, made his revolt to contribute so greatly to the decline
of learning was its destruction of the wealth of clergy and monks, and
its confiscation of so many livings and foundations established for
educational purposes. By far the greater number of students had always
consisted of such as wished to obtain positions in the Church among
her secular clergy, or to become priests in some monastery. The ranks
of these students had been thinned of late years now that the Catholic
posts no longer existed, that the foundations which formerly provided for
the upkeep of students had disappeared and that an avalanche of calumny
and abuse had descended on the monasteries, priests and monks.[74] In
addition to this there was the fear aroused in Catholic parents and
pastors by the unhappy controversies on religion, lest the young should
be infected in the higher schools these being so frequently hot-beds of
the modern spirit, of hypercriticism and apostasy. Then, again, there
was the distrust, springing from a similar motive, felt by the Catholic
authorities for the centres of learning, and their niggardliness in
making provision for them, an attitude which we meet with, for instance,
in Duke George of Saxony. This was encouraged in the case of the rulers
by the fear of social risings, such as they had experienced in the
Peasant War, and which they laid to the charge of the new ideas on

Among those favourable to Lutheranism the Wittenberg professor himself
awakened a distaste for the Universities by telling them they must
not allow their sons to study where Holy Scripture “did not rule” and
“where the Word of God was not unceasingly studied.”[75] No one ever
depreciated the Universities as much as Luther, who principally because
their character was still Catholic, was never tired of calling them the
“gates of hell,” and places worse than Sodom and Gomorrha.[76] Nor did
he stop short at the condemnation of their religious attitude. Luther’s
antagonism to the whole system of philosophy, which the Universities,
following the example of Aristotle and the schoolmen, had been so
criminal as to admit, to the liberty they allowed to crazy human reason
in spiritual matters, and to their championship of natural truth and
natural morality as the basis of the life of faith, all this, when
carried to its logical conclusion, necessarily brought Lutheranism into
fatal conflict with the learned institutions.

 As Friedrich Paulsen points out: “Luther shared all the superstitions
 of the peasant in their most pronounced form; the methods of natural
 science were strange to him and any scattering of the prevalent
 delusions he would have looked upon as an abomination.”[77] The latter
 part of the quotation certainly holds good in those cases where Luther
 fancied that Holy Scripture or his explanation of it was ever so
 slightly impugned. When, on June 4, 1539, the conversation at table
 turned on Copernicus and his new theory concerning the earth, of which
 the latter had been convinced since 1507, Luther appealed (just as
 later opponents of the theory were to do) to Holy Scripture, according
 to which “Josue bade _the sun_ to stand still and _not the earth_.”
 The new astronomer wants to prove that the earth moves. “But that is
 the way nowadays: whoever wishes to seem clever, pays no attention to
 what others do, but must needs advance something of his own; and what
 he does must always be the best. The idiot is bent on upsetting the
 whole art of astronomy.”[78]

 Luther’s condemnation of philosophy found a strong echo among the
 Pietists, who were an offshoot of Lutheranism, and even claimed to
 be its truest representatives. The loud denunciations of Aristotle
 were, for instance, taken up by the theologian Zierold.[79] But even
 from the common people who looked up to him we hear such sayings as
 the following: “What is the use of our learning the Latin, Greek
 and Hebrew tongues and other fine arts seeing we might just as well
 read in German the Bible and the Word of God which suffices for our
 salvation?” Luther was not at a loss for an answer. He says first:
 “Yes, I know, alas, that we Germans must always remain beasts and
 senseless animals.” Then he falls back on his usual plea, viz. that
 languages “are profitable and advantageous” for a right understanding
 of Scripture; he forgets that he has here to do with the common
 people, and that a critical or philosophical interpretation of the
 Bible was of small use to them. Such a thing might be profitable to
 those who were being trained for the ministry, though many even of
 the preachers themselves declared that the illumination from above
 sufficed, together with the reading of the Bible.[80]

 Carlstadt was even opposed to the Wittenberg graduations because they
 promoted pride of learning and the worldly spirit instead of humble
 Bible faith. Melanchthon, at a time when he was still full of Luther’s
 early ideas, i.e. in Feb., 1521, in a work written under the pseudonym
 of Didymus Faventinus, attempted to vindicate against Hieronymus Emser
 his condemnation of the whole philosophy of the universities; physics
 as taught there consisted merely of monstrous terms and contradicted
 the teaching of the Bible; metaphysics were but an impudent attempt
 to storm the heavens under the leadership of the atheist Aristotle.
 “My complaint is against that wisdom by which you have drawn away
 Christians from Scripture to reason. Go on, he-goat,” he says to
 Emser, “and deny that the philosophy of the schools is idolatry”; your
 ethics is diametrically opposed to Christ; at the Universities human
 reason had degraded the Church to Sodomitic vices. Nothing more wicked
 and godless than the Universities had ever been invented; no pope, but
 the devil himself was their author; this even Wiclif had declared, and
 he could not have said anything wiser or more pious. The Jews offered
 young men to Moloch, a prelude to our Universities where the young are
 sacrificed to heathen idols.[81]

 To such an extent had the darksome pseudo-mysticism which seethed in
 Luther’s mind laid hold for a while upon his comrade—glaringly though
 it contradicted the humanistic tendency found in him both earlier and

If we look more closely into the decline of the schools, we shall find
that it came about with extraordinary rapidity, a fact which proves it to
have been the result of a movement both sudden and far-reaching.

 “The immediate effect of the Wittenberg preaching,” wrote in 1908 the
 Protestant theologian F. M. Schiele in the “Preussische Jahrbücher”
 of Berlin, in a strongly worded but perfectly true account of the
 situation, “was the collapse of the educational system which had
 flourished throughout Germany; the new zeal for Church reform, the
 growth of prosperity, the ambition in the burghers, the pride and
 fatherly solicitude of the sovereigns who were ever gaining strength,
 had resulted in the foundation on all sides of school after school,
 university after university. Students flocked to them in multitudes,
 for the prospects of future gain were good. Scholasticism provided a
 capable teaching staff, Humanism a brilliant one. Humanism also set up
 as the new ideal of education a return to the fountain-head and the
 reproduction of ancient civilisation by means of original effort on
 similar lines. Wide tracts of Germany lay like a freshly sown field,
 and many a harvest seemed to be ripening. Then, suddenly, before it
 was possible to determine whether the new crops consisted of wheat
 or of tares, a storm burst and destroyed all prospects of a harvest.
 The upheaval that followed in the wake of the Reformation, and other
 external causes which coincided with it, above all the reaction among
 the utilitarian-minded laity against the unpopular scholarship of
 the Humanists emptied the class rooms and lecture halls.… Now all is
 over with the priestlings; why then should we bind our future to a
 lost and despised cause?… Nor was this merely the passing result of a
 misapprehension of Luther’s preaching, for it endured for scores of

 As to the common opinion among Protestants, viz. that “Luther’s
 reformation gave a general stimulus to the schools and to education
 generally,” Schiele dismisses it in a sentence: “The alleged
 ‘stimulus’ is seen to melt away into nothing.”[83]

Eobanus Hessus, a Humanist friendly to Luther, who lectured at Erfurt
University, was so overcome with grief at sight of the decline that was
making itself felt there that, in 1523, he composed an Elegy on the decay
of learning entitled “_Captiva_” and sent it to Luther. The melancholy
poem of 428 verses was printed in the same year under the title “Circular
letter from the sorrowful Church to Luther.” Luther replied, praising the
poem and assuring the sender that he was favourably disposed towards the
humanistic studies and practices. He even speaks as though still full of
the expectation of a great revival; his depression is, however, apparent
from the very reasons he gives for his hopes: “I see that no important
revelation of the Word of God has ever taken place without a preliminary
revival and expansion of languages and erudition.” The present decline
might, however, he thought, be traced to the former state of things when
they did not as yet possess the “pure theology.”[84]

But Hessus had complained, and with good reason, of the evil doings
of the new believers, instances of which had come under his notice at
Erfurt, and which had caused many to declare sadly: “We Germans are
becoming even worse barbarians than before, seeing that, in consequence
of our theology, learning is now going to the wall.”[85] At Erfurt the
Lutheran theology had won its way to the front amidst tumults and revolts
since the day when Crotus had greeted Luther on his way to Worms with his
revolutionary discourse.[86] Since then there had been endless conflicts
of the preachers with the Church of Rome and amongst themselves. Some
were to be met with who inveighed openly against the profane studies at
the Universities, and could see no educative value in anything save in
their own theology and the Word of God. Attendance at the University had
declined with giant strides since the spread of Lutheranism. Whereas from
May 1520 to 1521 the names of 311 students had been entered, their number
fell in the following year to 120 and in 1522 to 72; five years later
there were only 14.

Hessus wrote quite openly in 1523: “On the plea of the Evangel the
runaway monks here in Erfurt have entirely suppressed the fine arts … our
University is despised and so are we.”

His colleague, Euricius Cordus, a learned partisan of Luther, expresses
himself with no less disgust concerning the state of learning and
decline of morals among the students.[87] “All those who have any
talent,” we read in the Academic Year-Book in 1529, “are now forsaking
barren scholarship in order to betake themselves to more remunerative
professions, or to trade.”[88]

As at Erfurt, so also at other Universities, a rapid diminution in the
number of students took place during those years. “It has been generally
remarked,” a writer who has made a special study of this subject says,
“that in the German Universities in the ’twenties of the 16th century
a sudden decrease in the number of matriculations becomes apparent.”
He proves from statistics that at the University of Leipzig from 1521
to 1530 the number of those studying dropped from 340 to 100, at the
University of Rostock from 123 to 33, at Frankfurt-on-the-Oder from 73
to 32 and, finally, at Wittenberg from 245 to 174.[89] The attendance
at Heidelberg reached its lowest figure between 1521 and 1565, “this
being due to the religious and social movements of the Reformation which
proved an obstacle to study.” Of the German Universities generally the
following holds good: “The religious and social disturbances of the
Reformation brought about a complete interruption in the studies. Some of
the Universities were closed down, at others the hearers dwindled down to
a few.”[90]

“The Universities, Erfurt, Leipzig and the others stand deserted,” Luther
himself says as early as 1530, gazing from the Coburg at the ruins, “and
likewise here and there even the boys’ schools, so that it is piteous to
see them, and poor Wittenberg is now doing better than any of them. The
foundations and the monasteries, in my opinion, are probably also feeling
the pinch.”[91] He speaks at the same time of the decline of the Grammar
schools and the lower-grade schools which also to some extent shared the
fate of the Universities.

In the Catholic parts of Germany the clergy schools and monastic schools
suffered severely under the general calamity, as Luther had shrewdly
guessed. Nor was the set-back confined to the Universities, but even the
elementary schools suffered.

It was practically the universal complaint of the monasteries, so
Wolfgang Mayer, the learned Cistercian Abbot of Alderspach in Bavaria,
wrote in 1529, that they were unable to continue for lack of postulants;
“in consequence of the Lutheran controversy the schools everywhere are
standing empty and no one is willing any longer to devote himself to
study. The clerical and likewise the religious state is despised by all
and no one is inclined to offer himself for this life.” “Oh, God who
could ever have anticipated the coming of such a time! Everything is
ruined, everything is in confusion, and there is nothing but sunderings,
splits and heresies everywhere!” Yet these words come from the same
author, who, in 1518, in the introduction to his Annals of Alderspach,
had been so enthusiastic about the state of learning in Germany and had
said: “Germany is richly blessed with the gifts of Minerva and disputes
the palm in the literary arena with the Italians and the Greeks.”
Whereas, between the years 1460-1514 no less than eighty brethren had
entered Alderspach, Mayer, in his thirty years of office as Abbot,
clothed only seventeen novices with the habit of St. Bernard, and, of
these, five broke their vows and left the monastery. He expresses his
fear that soon his religious house will be empty and ascribes the lack of
novices largely to the fate which had overtaken the schools owing to the

“Throughout the whole of the German lands,” as Luther himself admits: “No
one will any longer allow his children to learn or to study.”[93] At the
same time contemporaries bitterly bewailed the wildness of the students
who still remained at the Universities. With regard to Wittenberg
itself we have grievous complaints on this score from both Luther and

The disorder in the teaching institutions naturally had a bad effect on
the education of the people, so that Luther’s efforts on behalf of the
schools may readily be understood. The ecclesiastical Visitors of the
Saxon Electorate had been forced to adopt stern measures in favour of the
country schools. The Elector called to mind Luther’s admonitions, that
he, as the “principal guardian of the young,” had authority to compel
such towns and villages as possessed the means, to maintain schools,
pulpits and parsonages, just as he might compel them to furnish bridges,
high roads and footpaths.… “If, moreover, they have not the means,”
so Luther had said, “there are the monastic lands which most of them
were bestowed for this very purpose.”[95] But in spite of the measures
taken by the Elector and the urgent demands of the theologians for State
aid, even in towns like Wittenberg the condition of the intermediate
educational institutions was anything but satisfactory. In the case of
his own sons Luther had grudgingly to acknowledge that he was “at a loss
to find a suitable school.”[96] He accordingly had recourse to young
theologians as tutors.

The disappointment of the Humanists was keen and their lot a bitter one.
They had cherished high hopes of the dawn of a new era for classical
studies in Germany. Many had rejoiced at the alliance which had at first
sprung up between the Humanist movement and the religious revolution,
believing it would clear the field for learning. They now felt it all
the more deeply seeing that the age, being altogether taken up with arid
theological controversies and the pressing practical questions of the
innovations, had no longer the slightest interest in the educational
ideals of antiquity. The violent changes in every department of life
which the religious upheaval brought with it could not but be prejudicial
to the calm intellectual labours of which the Humanists had dreamed; the
prospect of Mutian’s “_Beata tranquillitas_” had vanished.

Mutian, at one time esteemed as the leader of the Thuringian Humanists,
retired into solitude and died in the utmost poverty (1526) after the
Christian faith had, as it would appear, once more awakened in him.
Eminent lawyers among the Humanists, Ulrich Zasius of Freiburg and
Christopher Scheurl of Nuremberg, openly detached themselves from the
Wittenbergers. Scheurl, who had once waxed so enthusiastic about the
light which had dawned in Saxony, now declared confidentially to Catholic
friends that Wittenberg was a cesspool of errors and intellectual
darkness.[97] The reaction which the recognition of Luther’s real aims
produced in other Humanists, such as Willibald Pirkheimer, Crotus
Rubeanus, Ottmar Luscinius and Henricus Glareanus, has already been
referred to.[98] It is no less true of the Humanists favourable to the
Church than of those holding Lutheran views, that German Humanism was
nipped in the bud by the ecclesiastical innovations. As Paulsen says:
“Luther usurped the leadership [from the Humanists] and theology [that of
the Protestants] drove the fine arts from the high place they had just
secured; at the very moment of their triumph the Humanists saw the fruits
of victory snatched from their grasp.”[99]

The event of greatest importance for the Humanists was, however,
Erasmus’s open repudiation of Luther in 1523, and his attack on that
point so closely bound up with all intellectual progress, viz. Luther’s
denial of free-will.

Quite independent of this attack were the many and bitter complaints
which the sight of the decline of his beloved studies drew from Erasmus:
“The Lutheran faction is the ruin of our learning.”[100] “We see that the
study of tongues and the love of fine literature is everywhere growing
cold. Luther has heaped insufferable odium on it.”[101] He regrets the
downfall of the schools at Nuremberg: “All this laziness came in with
the new Evangel.”[102] He wished to have nothing more to do with these
Evangelicals, he declares, because, through their doing, scholarship was
everywhere being ruined. “These people [the preachers] are anxious for a
living and a wife, for the rest they do not care a hair.”[103]

In the above year, 1523, at the beginning of his public estrangement with
Erasmus, Luther had written: “Erasmus has done what he was destined to
do; he has introduced the study of languages and recalled us from godless
studies (‘_a sacrilegis studiis_’). He will in all likelihood die like
Moses, in the plains of Moab [i.e. never see the Promised Land]. He is
no leader to the higher studies, i.e. to piety”; in other words, unlike
Luther, he was not able to lead his followers into the land of promise,
where the enslaved will rules.[104]

Luther’s use of the term “_sacrilega studia_” invites us to cast a glance
on the state of education before his day.

_Higher Education before Luther’s Day_

The condition of the schools before Luther, as described in our available
sources, was very different from what Luther pictured to his readers in
his works.

 According to Luther’s polemical writings, learning in earlier days
 could not but be sacrilegious because Satan “was corrupting the young”
 in “his own nests, the monasteries and clerical resorts”; “he, the
 prince of this world, gave the young his good things and delights;
 the devil spread out his nets, established monasteries, schools and
 callings, in such a way that no boy could escape him.”[105] With this
 fantastic view, met with only too frequently in Luther under all sorts
 of shapes, goes hand in hand his wholesale reprobation and belittling
 of the olden methods and system of education. The professors at the
 close of the Middle Ages were only able, according to Luther, to
 “train up profligates and greedy bellies, rude donkeys and blockheads;
 all they could teach men was to be asses and to dishonour their wives,
 daughters and maids.” “People studied twenty or forty years and yet
 at the end of it all knew neither Latin nor German.” “Those ogres and
 kidnappers” set up libraries, but they were filled “with the filth and
 ordure of their obscene and poisonous books”; “the devil’s spawn, the
 monks and the spectres of the Universities” when conferring doctorates
 decked out “great fat loutish donkeys in red and brown hoods, like
 a sow pranked out with gold chains and pearls.” “The pupils and
 professors were as mad as the books on which they lectured. A jackdaw
 does not hatch out doves nor can a fool beget wise offspring.”

 It is in his “An die Radherrn,” the object of which was to raise the
 standard of education, that we find such coarse language.

 What is of more importance is that Luther seems here to be seeking to
 conceal the decline in learning which he had brought about, and to lay
 the blame solely on the olden schools. If the corruption had formerly
 been so great then some excuse might be found for the ruin which had
 followed his struggle with the Church.—Such an excuse, however, does
 not tally with the facts.

That, on the contrary, education, not only at the Universities, but
also in the Latin schools, which Luther had more particularly in view,
was in a flourishing condition and full of promise before it was so
rudely checked by the religious disturbances which emptied all the
schools, has been fully confirmed to-day by learned research. “The
increased attendance at the Universities in the course of the 15th and
the commencement of the 16th century is a very rapid one,” writes Franz
Eulenburg. “Hence the decline in the ’twenties of the latter century is
all the more noticeable.”[106] “At the beginning of the 16th century,”
says Friedrich Paulsen, “everyone of any influence or standing, strength
or courage, devoted himself to the new learning: prelates, sovereigns,
the townships and, above all, the young”; but, shortly after the outbreak
of the ecclesiastical revolution, “everything became changed.”[107]

What had contributed principally to a salutary revival had been the
sterling work of the older Humanists. Eminent and thoroughly religious
men of the schools—men like Alexander Hegius and his pupils and
successors Rudolf von Langen, Ludwig Dringenberg, Johannes Murmellius
and, particularly, Jakob Wimpfeling, who, on account of his epoch-making
pedagogic work, was called the teacher of Germany—zealously made their
own the humanistic ideal of making of the classics the centre of the
education of the young, and of paving the way for a new intellectual
life, by means of the instruction given in the schools.[108] An attempt
was made to combine classical learning with devotion to the old religion
and respect for the Church. They also strove to carry out—though not
always successfully—the task which was assigned to the schools by the
Lateran Council held under Leo X; the aim of the teacher was to be not
merely to impart grammar, rhetoric and the other sciences, but at the
same time to instil into those committed to their charge the fear of God
and zeal for the faith.[109] The sovereigns and the towns placed their
abundant means at the disposal of the new movement and so did the Church,
which at that time was still a wealthy organisation.

The number of the schools and scholars in itself proves the interest
taken by the nation in the relative prosperity of its education.

 To take some instances from districts with which Luther must have
 been fairly well acquainted: Zwickau had a flourishing Latin school
 which, in 1490, numbered 900 pupils divided into four classes. In
 1518 instruction was given there in Greek and Hebrew, and bequests,
 ecclesiastical and secular, for its maintenance continued to be made.
 The town of Brunswick had two Latin schools and, besides, three
 schools belonging to religious communities. At Nuremberg, towards
 the close of the 15th century, there were several Latin schools
 controlled by four rectors and twelve assistants; a new “School of
 Poetry” was added in 1515 under Johann Cochlæus. Augsburg also had
 five Church schools at the commencement of the 16th century, and
 besides this private teachers with a humanistic training were engaged
 in teaching Latin and the fine arts. At Frankfurt-on-the-Main there
 were, in 1478, three foundation schools with 318 pupils; the college
 at Schlettstadt in Alsace numbered 900 pupils in 1517 and Geiler of
 Kaysersberg and Jakob Wimpfeling were both educated there. At Görlitz
 in Silesia, at the close of the 15th century, the number of scholars
 varied between 500 and 600. Emmerich on the lower Rhine had, in 1510,
 approximately 450 pupils in its six classes, in 1521 about 1500.
 Münster in Westphalia, owing to the labours of its provost, Rudolf
 von Langen, became the focus and centre of humanistic effort, and,
 subsequent to 1512, had also its pupils divided into six classes.[110]

 The “Brothers of the Common Life” established their schools over the
 whole of Northern Germany. Their institutions, with which Luther
 himself had the opportunity of becoming acquainted at Magdeburg, sent
 out some excellent schoolmasters. The schools of these religious at
 Deventer, Zwolle, Liège and Louvain were famous. The school of the
 brothers at Liège numbered in 1521 1600 pupils, assorted into eight

 In the lands of the Catholic princes many important grammar-schools
 withstood the storms of the religious revulsion, so that Luther’s
 statements concerning the total downfall of education cannot be
 accepted as generally correct, even subsequent to the first decades of
 the century.

 Nor were even the elementary schools neglected at the close of the
 Middle Ages in most parts of the German Empire. Fresh accounts of such
 schools, in both town and country, are constantly cropping up to-day
 in the local histories. Constant efforts for their improvement and
 multiplication were made at this time. About a hundred regulations
 and charters of schools either in German, or in Dutch, dating from
 1400-1521 have been traced. The popular religious handbooks were
 zealous in advocating the education of the people.[111] Luther himself
 tells us it was the custom to stir up the schoolmasters to perform
 their duty by saying that “to neglect a scholar is as bad as to seduce
 a maid.”[112]

_Luther’s Success_

Did Luther, by means of the efforts described above, succeed in bringing
about any real improvement in the schools, particularly the Latin
schools? The affirmative cannot be maintained. At least it was a long
time before the reform which he desiderated came, and what reform took
place seems to have been the result less of Luther’s exhortations than of
Melanchthon’s labours.

On the whole his hopes were disappointed. The famous saying of
Erasmus: “Wherever Lutheranism prevails, there we see the downfall of
learning,”[113] remained largely true throughout the 16th century, in
spite of all Luther’s efforts.

Schiele says: Where Melanchthon’s school-regulations for the Saxon
Electorate were enforced without alteration, Latin alone was taught,
“but neither German nor Greek nor Hebrew,” that the pupils might not be
overtaxed. Instruction in history and mathematics was not insisted on at
all. Bugenhagen added the rudiments of Greek and mathematics. Only about
twenty years after Luther’s “An die Radherrn” do we hear something of
attempts being made to improve matters in the Lutheran districts. As a
rule all that was done even in the large towns was to amalgamate several
moribund schools and give them a new charter. “Even towns like Nuremberg
and Frankfurt were unable, in spite of the greatest sacrifices, to
introduce a well-ordered system into the schools. The two most eminent,
practical pedagogues of the time, Camerarius and Micyllus, could not
check the decline of their council schools.”[114]

Nuremberg, the highly praised home of culture, may here be taken as a
case in point, because it was to the syndic of this city that Luther
addressed his second writing, praising the new Protestant gymnasium which
had been established there (above, p. 6). Yet, in 1530, after it had
been in existence some years, this same syndic, Lazarus Spengler, sadly
wrote: “Are there not any intelligent Christians who would not be highly
distressed that in a few short years, not Latin only, but all other
useful languages and studies have fallen into such contempt? Nobody,
alas, will recognise the great misfortune which, as I fear, we shall
soon suffer, and which even now looms in sight.”[115] In the Gymnasium,
which he had so much at heart, instruction was given free owing to the
rich foundations, nevertheless but very few pupils were found to attend
it. Eobanus Hessus, who was to have lent his assistance to promoting
the cause of Humanism, left the town again in 1533. When Hessus before
this complained to Erasmus that he had given offence to the town by his
complaints of the low standard to which the school had fallen (above, p.
32), the latter replied in 1531, that he had received his information
from the learned Pirkheimer and other friends of the professors there.
He had indeed written that learning seemed to be only half alive there,
in fact, at its last gasp, but he had done so in order by publishing the
truth to spur them on to renewed zeal. “This I know, that at Liège and
Paris learning is flourishing as much as ever. Whence then comes this
torpor? From the negligence of those who boast of being Evangelicals.
Besides, you Nurembergers have no reason to think yourselves particularly
offended by me, for such complaints are to be heard from the lips of
every honest man of every town where the Evangelicals rule.”[116]
Camerarius, whom Melanchthon wished to be the soul of the school, turned
his back on it in 1535 on account of the hopeless state of things. J.
Poliander said in 1540: In Nuremberg, that populous and well-built city,
there are rich livings and famous professors, but owing to the lack
of students the institution there has dwindled away. “The lecturers
left it, which caused much disgrace and evil talk to the people of
Nuremberg, as everybody knows.”[117] When Melanchthon stayed for a
while at Nuremberg in 1552 by order of the Elector, the Gymnasium
was a picture of desolation. In the school regulations issued by the
magistrates the pupils were reproached with contempt of divine service,
blasphemy, persistent defiance of school discipline, etc., and with being
“barbarous, rude, wild, wanton, bestial and sinful.” Camerarius even
wrote from Leipzig advising the town-council to break up the school.[118]

There is no doubt that in other districts where Lutheranism prevailed
Latin schools were to be found where good discipline reigned and where
masters and pupils alike worked with zeal; the records, however, have
far more to say of the decline.

 Many statements of contemporaries well acquainted with the facts speak
 most sadly of the then conditions. Melanchthon complained more and
 more that shortsighted Lutheran theologians stood in the way of the
 progress of the schools. Camerarius, in a letter to George Fabricius,
 rector of Meissen, said in 1555 that it was plain everything was
 conspiring for the destruction of Germany, that religion, learning,
 discipline and honesty were doomed. As one of the principal causes
 he instances “the neglect and disgust shown for that learning,
 which, in reality, is the glory and ornament of man.” “It is looked
 upon as tomfoolery and a thing fit only for children to play with.”
 “Education, and life in general, too, has become quite other from what
 we were accustomed to in our boyhood.” Of the Catholic times he speaks
 with enthusiasm: “What zeal at one time inspired the students and in
 what honour was learning held; what hardships men were ready to endure
 in order to acquire but a modicum of scholarship is still to-day a
 matter of tradition. Now, on the other hand, learned studies are so
 little thought of owing to civil disturbances and inward dissensions
 that it is only here and there that they have escaped complete

 What he says is abundantly confirmed by the accounts of the failure of
 educational effort at Augsburg, Esslingen, Basle, Stuttgart, Tübingen,
 Ansbach, Heilbronn and many other towns.

 The efforts made were, however, not seldom ill-advised. If it be
 really a fact that the Latin “_Colloquia_” of Erasmus, which Luther
 himself had condemned for its frivolity, “played a principal part
 in the education of the schoolboys,”[120] then, indeed, it is not
 surprising that the results did not reach expectations. The crude
 polemics against the olden Church and the theological controversies
 associated with the names of Luther and Melanchthon, which penetrated
 into the schools owing to the squabbles of the professors and
 preachers, also had a bad effect. Again education was hampered by
 being ever subordinated to the interests of a “pure faith” which was
 regarded as its mainstay, but which was itself ever changing its shape
 and doctrines.[121]

 “The form of education required for future ministers,” says Schiele,
 “became the chief thing, and education as such was consequently
 obliged to take a back seat.” “At the Universities it was only
 theology that flourished,” the olden Hellenists died out and the
 young were, in many places, only permitted to attend the “orthodox”
 Universities. Among the Lutherans the Latin schools were soon no
 longer able to compete with the colleges of the Jesuits and the
 Calvinists. Not a single Lutheran rector or master of note is recorded
 in the annals of the history of education. It is true that the
 so-called Küster-schools spread throughout the land simultaneously
 with the spread of orthodoxy. But when we see how the orthodox clergy
 despised their catechetical duties as of secondary importance,
 and hastened to delegate them as far as possible to the Küster
 [parish-clerk], it becomes impossible for us to regard such schools
 as a proof of any interest in education on the part of the orthodox,
 rather the contrary. How otherwise can we explain, even when we take
 into account the unfavourable conditions of the age, that, a hundred
 years after Luther’s day, far fewer people were able to read his
 writings than at the time when he first came forward.[122]

In the elementary schools which gradually came into being the
parish-clerk gave instruction in reading and writing, and, in addition,
tried to teach the catechism by reciting it aloud and making the children
repeat it after him. The earliest definite regulations which imposed this
duty on the clerk in addition to the catechism were those issued by Duke
Christopher of Würtemberg in 1559, who also devoted his attention to the
founding of German schools. The latter, however, were not intended for
the smaller villages, nor did they receive any support from the “poor
box.” Nor did all the children attend the schools kept by the clerk. The
school regulations issued by the Protestant Duke were in themselves good,
but their effect was meagre.[123] In the Saxon Electorate it was only
in 1580 that the parish-clerks of the villages were directed to keep a

Finally, to come to the Protestant Universities; it was only in the
latter part of the 16th century that the attendance, which, as we saw
above, had fallen so low, began once more to make a better show.

In 1540 Melanchthon expressed himself as satisfied with the condition of
learning which prevailed in them.[125] But among others whose opinion
was less favourable we find Luther’s friend Justus Jonas, who, two
years before this, in 1538, wrote, that, since the Evangel had begun
to make its way through Germany, the Universities were silent as the
grave.[126] The testimony of Rudolf Walther, a Swiss, who had visited
many German Universities and been on terms of intimacy with eminent
Protestant theologians, must also receive special attention. In 1568
he wrote—though his words may perhaps be somewhat discounted by his
own theological isolation—“The German Universities are now in such
a state that, to say nothing of the conceit and carelessness of the
professors and the impudent immorality which prevails, they are in no way
remarkable. Heidelberg, however, is praised more than the others, for the
attacks which menace her on all sides do not allow this University to

Heidelberg was the chief educational centre of those who held Calvinistic
views. Since 1580 the attendance at the University had notably increased
owing to the influx of students from abroad. Towards the close of the
century, with Wittenberg and Jena, it headed the list of the Universities
of the new faith in respect of the number of matriculations. Jena, like
its sister Universities of Marburg, Königsberg and Helmstädt, had been
founded as a seminary of Protestant theology and at the same time of
Roman law, which served to strengthen the absolutism of the princes.
Since the appointment of Flacius Illyricus in 1557 it had become a
stronghold of pure Lutheranism. The theological squabbles within the
bosom of Protestantism, here as in the other Universities, were,
however, disastrous to peace, and any healthy progress. Characteristic
of the treatment meted out to the professors by Protestant statesmen
of a different opinion, even when they were not summarily dismissed,
is the discourse of the Saxon Chancellor, Christian Brück, to the
professors of the theological Faculty at Jena in 1561: “You black, red
and yellow knaves and rascals! A plague upon you all you shameless
scamps and rebels! Would that you were knocked on the head, disgraced and

The University of Wittenberg now registered the largest number of
students. Although on Luther’s first public appearance crowds of students
had been attracted by the fame of his name, yet these decreased to such
an extent that between 1523 and 1533 not a single theological degree
was conferred. About 1550, however, the Faculties again numbered about
2000 students, thanks chiefly to Melanchthon. In 1598 the number is even
given as exceeding 2000. Throughout the whole of the century, from the
beginning of the ecclesiastical schism, a considerable percentage of
students had poured in from abroad. Of the wantonness of the Wittenberg
students of the various Faculties, contemporaries as well as official
documents wax so eloquent that the University would seem to have enjoyed
an unenviable notoriety in this respect among the Protestant educational
establishments.[129] The fact that, as just mentioned, the students
were largely recruited from other countries must be taken into account.
Wittenberg suffered more than the other Universities from the quarrels
which, according to Luther, tore to pieces Protestant theology. What was
said in a sermon in 1571 on the words “Peace be with you” is peculiarly
applicable to Wittenberg: “Only see what quarrelling and envy, hatred,
and persecution, and expulsion there has been, and still is, among the
professors at Wittenberg, Jena, Frankfurt-on-the-Oder, Königsberg and
indeed all the Universities which really should be flourishing in the
light of our beloved Evangel; it would indeed be a great and heavenly
work of God if all the young men at these Universities did not fall into
such vices, and even become utterly corrupted.”[130]

4. Benevolence and Relief of the Poor

Luther’s attitude towards poor relief, which ever since the rise of
Protestantism has been the subject of extravagant eulogies, can only be
put in its true light by a closer examination of the state of things
before his day.[131]

_At the Close of the Middle Ages_

Indications of the provision made by the community for relief of the poor
are found in the Capitularies of Charles the Great, indeed even in the
6th century in the canons of a Council held at Tours in 567. Corporate
relief of the poor, later on carried out by means of the guilds, and
the care of the needy in each particular district undertaken by unions
of the parishes, were of a public and organised character. It has been
justly remarked concerning the working of the mediæval institutions: “The
results achieved by our insurance system were then attained by means of
family support, corporations, village clubs and unions of the lords of
the manors.… Such organised relief of the poor made any State relief
unnecessary. The State authorities concerned themselves only negatively,
viz. by prohibiting mendicancy and vagabondage.”[132] Private benevolence
occupied the first place, since the very nature of Christian charity
involves love of our neighbour. Its work was mainly done by means of the
ecclesiastical institutions and the monasteries. Special arrangements
also were made, under the direction of the Church, to meet the various
needs, and such were to be found in considerable numbers both in large
places and in small; all, moreover, was carried out on the lines of a
careful selection of deserving cases and a wise control of expenditure.

The share taken by the Church in the whole work of charity was, generally
speaking, a guarantee that the work was managed conscientiously.

Though among both monks and clergy scandalous instances of greed and
self-seeking were not wanting, yet there were many who lived up to their
profession and were zealous in assisting in the development of works
of charity. The mendicant Orders, by the very example of the poverty
prescribed by their rule, helped to combat all excessive avarice; their
voluntary privations taught people how to endure the trials of poverty
and they showed their gratitude for the alms bestowed on them by their
labours for souls in the pulpit and in the school, and by doing their
utmost to promote learning.

Every Order was exhorted by its Rule to fly idleness and to perform works
of neighbourly charity.

There are plentiful sermons and works of piety dating from the close of
the Middle Ages which prove how the faithful were not only urged to be
charitable to the needy, but also to obey God’s command and to labour,
this exhortation referring particularly to the poor themselves, who were
not unnecessarily to become a burden to others. Again and again are the
words of the Bible emphasised: “In the sweat of thy brow shalt thou eat
thy bread,” and “Whoever will not work neither let him eat” (Gen. iii.
19; 2 Thes. iii. 10).

In spite of this, lack of industrial occupation, the difficulty and even
sometimes the entire absence of public supervision, and, in part also,
the ease with which alms were to be had, bred a large crop of beggars,
who moved about from place to place and who, in late mediæval times,
became a perfect plague throughout the whole of Germany. Hence all the
greater towns in the 15th century and early years of the 16th issued
special regulations to deal with the poor. In the matter of these laws
for the regulation of charity the city-fathers acted independently,
strong in the growing consciousness of their standing and duties. Lay
Guardians of the Poor were appointed by the magistrates and poor-boxes
were established, the management of which devolved on the municipal
authorities. The Catholic Netherlands set an excellent example in this
respect by utilising the old hospital regulations and, with their help,
drawing up new and independent organisations. Antwerp, Brussels, Louvain,
Mechlin, Ghent, Bruges, Namur and other towns already possessed a
well-developed system of poor relief.

 “The admirable regulations for the relief of the poor at Ypres”
 (1525), to which reference is so often made, “a work of social reform
 of the first rank” (Feuchtwanger), sprang from such institutions,
 and these, in turn, were by Charles V in 1531 made the basis of his
 new Poor Law for the whole of the Netherlands. The Ypres regulations
 declared, that, according to the divine command, everyone is obliged
 to gain his living as far as he can. All begging was strictly
 prohibited, charitable institutions and private almsgiving were not
 allowed to have their way unchecked, admission of strangers was made
 difficult and other salutary restrictions were enforced, yet, on the
 other hand, Christian charity towards those unable to earn a living
 was warmly welcomed and set in the right channels.[133]

 In the Netherlands, Humanism, which had made great progress in
 Erasmus’s native land, co-operated in the measures taken, and it was
 here that the important “_De subventione pauperum_” of Juan Ludovico
 de Vives, a friend of Erasmus, of Pope Hadrian IV and of Sir Thomas
 More, and a zealous opponent of Lutheranism, was published in 1526.

 In the Catholic towns of Germany, particularly in the south, it was
 not merely the stimulus of Humanism but still more the economic and
 political development which, towards the end of the Middle Ages and
 during the transition to modern times, led to constant fresh efforts
 in the domain of the public relief of the poor. The assistance of
 the poor was, in fact, at that time “one of the principal social
 questions, poor relief being identical with social politics. To
 provide for the sick members of the guilds, for the serf incapable
 of work, for the beggar in the street, for the guest in the hostel,
 for the poor artisan to whom the city magistrates gave a loan free of
 interest, for the burgher who received cheap grain from the council,
 all this was, to give freely, to bestow alms and to perform works well
 pleasing to God.”[134]

 The gaping rift in the German lands and the chaotic conditions which
 accompanied the transition from the agrarian to the commercial system
 of economy were naturally not favourable to the peaceful work of
 alleviating poverty. It was, however, eventually to the advantage of
 the towns to form themselves into separate administrations, able to
 safeguard their own charitable institutions by means of an efficient
 police system. Thus the town councils took over what had been formerly
 to a great extent the function of the Church, but this they did
 without any animosity towards her. They felt themselves to be acting
 as beseemed “Christian authorities.” They were encouraged in this by
 that interference, in what had once been the domain of the Church, of
 the territorial princes and the cities, which had become the rule in
 the 15th century. The more or less extensive suzerainty in Church
 matters which had prevailed even previous to the religious schism in
 Saxony, Brandenburg and many of the Imperial cities may be called to
 mind. In towns such as Augsburg, Nuremberg, Strasburg and Ratisbon
 the overwhelming increase which had taken place in the class which
 lived from hand to mouth, called for the prohibitive measures against
 beggary and the other regulations spoken of above.

 At Augsburg the town council issued orders concerning the poor-law
 system in 1459, 1491 and 1498. Those of 1491 and 1498 sought to
 regulate and prevent any overlapping in the distribution of the
 municipal doles, the “holy alms which are compassionately given and
 bestowed daily in many different parts and corners of the city”; to
 these were subjoined measures for enforcing strict supervision of
 those who received assistance and for excluding the undeserving;
 whoever was able to work but refused to do so was shut out, in order
 that the other poor people might not “be deprived of their bodily
 sustenance.” A third and still better set of poor-law regulations
 appeared in 1522. They provided for a stricter organisation of the
 distribution of the monies, and made the supervision of those in
 receipt of help easier by the keeping of registers of the poor and by
 house to house visitations. Beggars at the church doors were placed
 under special control. No breach with the ecclesiastical traditions of
 the past is apparent in the rules of 1522, in spite of the influence
 of the religious innovations in this town. From the civil standpoint,
 however, they, like the poor laws generally drawn up at the close of
 the Middle Ages, display a “thorough knowledge of the conditions and
 are true to a well-tried tradition of communal policy.” The principal
 author of this piece of legislation was Conrad Peutinger, the famous
 lawyer and statesman who since 1497 had been town clerk. He died
 greatly esteemed in 1547, after having done more to further than to
 check the religious innovations in his native town by his uncertain
 and vacillating behaviour.

 From the Nuremberg mendicancy regulations Johannes Janssen quotes
 certain highly practical enactments which belong to the latter half of
 the 14th century. The so-called “meat and bread foundations,” which
 had been enriched by the Papal Indulgences granted to benefactors,
 were not available for any public beggars, but only for the genuine
 poor. In 1478 the town council issued a more minute mendicant
 ordinance. Here we read: “Almsgiving is a specially praiseworthy,
 virtuous work, and those who receive alms unworthily and unnecessarily
 lay a heavy burden of guilt on themselves.” Those allowed to beg were
 also obliged at least “to spin or perform some other work according to
 their capacity.” Beggars from foreign parts were only permitted to beg
 on certain fixed days in the year. Conrad Celtes, the Humanist, in his
 work on Nuremberg printed in 1501, boasts of the ample provision for
 widows and orphans made by the town, the granaries for the purpose of
 giving assistance and other arrangements whereby it was distinguished
 above all other towns; families of the better class who had met with
 misfortunes received yearly a secret dole to tide them over their
 difficult time.[135]

 New regulations concerning the poor, more comprehensive than the
 former, appeared at Nuremberg in 1522. These deal with the actual
 needs and are in close touch with the maxims of government and old
 traditions of the Imperial cities. In them all the earlier charitable,
 social and police measures are codified: the restriction of begging,
 the management of the hospitals, the provision of work and tools,
 advances to artisans in difficulties, granaries for future famines,
 the distribution of alms, badges for privileged beggars, etc. The
 whole is crowned by the Bible text, so highly esteemed in the Catholic
 Middle Ages: “Blessed is he that hath pity on the poor and needy,
 for the Lord will deliver him in the evil day.” “Our salvation,” so
 we read when mention is made of the relief funds, “rests solely in
 keeping and performing the commandments of God which oblige every
 Christian to give such help and display such fraternal charity
 towards his neighbour.”[136] At Nuremberg the new teaching had
 already taken firm footing yet the olden Catholic conception of the
 meritorious character of almsgiving is nevertheless recognisable in
 the regulations of 1522.[137]

 At Strasburg a new system, dating from 1523, for regulating the
 distribution of the “common alms” was established in harmony with the
 great traditions of the 15th century, and above all with the spirit
 and labours of the famous Catholic preacher Geiler of Kaysersberg
 (†1510). Janssen has given us a fine series of witnesses, from
 Geiler’s sermons and writings, of the nature at once religious and
 practical of his exhortations to charity.[138] Charity, he insists,
 must show itself not merely in the bestowal of temporal goods; it
 is concerned above all with the “inward and spiritual goods, the
 milk of sound doctrine, and instruction of the unlearned, the milk
 of devotion, wisdom and consolation.” He repeatedly exhorts the
 authorities to stricter regulations on almsgiving.

 After various improvements had been introduced in the poor law at
 Strasburg subsequent to 1500, the magistrates—the clergy and the
 monasteries not having shown themselves equal to their task—issued a
 new enactment, though even this relied to a great extent on the help
 of the clergy. The regulations of Augsburg and Nuremberg were the most
 effectual. It was only later, after the work of Capito, Bucer and
 Hedio at Strasburg, that, together with the new spirit, changes crept
 into the traditional poor-law system of the town.

All the enactments, dating from late mediæval times prior to the
religious innovations, for the poor of the other great German towns, for
instance, of Ratisbon (1523), Breslau (1525) and Würzburg (1533) are of
a more or less similar character. Thus, thanks to the economic pressure,
there was gradually evolved, in the centres of German prosperity and
commercial industry, a sober but practical and far-sighted poor-law

It was not, indeed, so easy to get rid of the existing disorders;
to achieve this a lengthy struggle backed by the regulations just
established would have been necessary. Above all, the tramps and
vagabonds, who delighted in idleness and adventure and who often
developed dangerous proclivities, continued to be the pest of the land.
The cause of this economic disorder was a deep-seated one and entirely
escapes those who declare that beggary sprang solely from the idea
foisted on the Church, viz. that “poverty was meritorious and begging a
respectable trade.”

_Luther’s Efforts. The Primary Cause of their Failure_

The spread of Lutheranism had its effect on the municipal movement for
the relief of the poor, nor was its influence all for the good.

In 1528 and 1529 Luther twice published an edition of the booklet “On the
Roguery of the False Beggars” (“_Liber vagatorum_”), a work dating from
the beginning of the 16th century; in his preface to it he says, that
the increase in fraudulent vagrancy shows “how strong in the world is
the rule of the devil”; “Princes, lords, town-magistrates and, in fact,
everybody” ought to see that alms were bestowed only on the beggars and
the needy in their own neighbourhood, not on “rogues and vagabonds” by
whom even he himself (Luther) had often been taken in. Everywhere in both
towns and villages registers should be kept of the poor, and strange
beggars not allowed without a “letter or testimonial.”[140]

He was, however, not always so circumspect in his demands and principles.
In a passage of his work “An den Adel” he makes a wild appeal, which in
its practicability falls short of what had already been done in various
parts of Germany. The only really new point in it is, that, in order
to make an end of begging and poverty, the mendicant Orders should be
abolished, and the Roman See deprived of their collections and revenues.
Of the ordinary beggars he says, without being sufficiently acquainted
with the state of the case, that they “might easily be expelled,” and
that it would be an “easy matter to deal with them were we only brave and
in earnest enough.” To the objection that the result of violent measures
would be a still more niggardly treatment of the poor he replied in 1520:
“It suffices that the poor be fairly well provided for, so that they die
not of hunger or cold.” With a touch of communism he exaggerates, at the
expense of the well-to-do and those who did no work, an idea in itself
undoubtedly true, viz. that work is man’s portion: “It is not just that,
at the expense of another’s toil, a man should go idle, wallow in riches
and lead a bad life, whilst his fellow lives in destitution, as is now
the perverted custom.… It was never ordained by God that anyone should
live on the goods of another.”[141]

In itself it could only have a salutary effect when Luther goes on to
speak, as he frequently does, against begging among the class whose duty
it was to work with their hands, and when he attempts both to check their
idleness and to rouse a spirit of charity towards the deserving.[142]
He even regards the Bible text, “Let there be no beggar or starving
person amongst you,” as universally binding on Christians. Only that
he is oblivious of the necessary limitations when he exclaims: “If God
commanded this even in the Old Testament how much more is it incumbent on
us Christians not to let anyone beg or starve!”[143]

The latter words refer to those who are really poor but quite willing
to work (a class of people which will always exist in spite of every
effort); as for those who “merely eat” he demands that they be driven out
of the land. This he does in a writing of 1526 addressed to military men;
here he divides “all man’s work into two kinds,” viz. “agricultural work
and war work.” A third kind of work, viz. the teaching office, to which
he often refers elsewhere, is here passed over in silence. “As for the
useless people,” he cries, “who serve neither to defend us nor to feed
us, but merely eat and pass away their time in idleness, [the Emperor or
the local sovereign] should either expel them from the land or make them
work, as the bees do, who sting to death the drones that do not work but
devour the honey of the others.”[144] His unmethodical mind failed to see
to what dire consequences these hastily penned words could lead.

With the object of alleviating poverty he himself, however, lent a hand
to certain charitable institutions, which, though they did not endure,
have yet their place in history. Such were the poor-boxes of Wittenberg,
Leisnig, Altenburg and some other townships. This institution was closely
bound up with his scheme of gathering together the “believing Christians”
into communities apart. These communities were not only to have their own
form of divine worship and to use the ecclesiastical penalties, but were
also to assist the poor by means of the common funds in a new and truly
Evangelical fashion.

The olden poor-law ordinances of mediæval times had been revised at
Wittenberg and embodied in the so-called “Beutelordnung.”[145] Carlstadt
and the town-council, under the influence of Luther’s earlier ideas,
substituted for this on Jan. 24, 1522, a new “Order for the princely town
of Wittenberg”; at the same time they reorganised the common funds.[146]
These regulations Luther left in force, when, on his return from the
Wartburg, he annulled the rest of Carlstadt’s doings; the truth is, that
they were not at variance even with his newer ideals.

In 1523 he himself promoted a similar but more highly developed
institution for the relief of the poor in the little Saxon town of
Leisnig on the Freiberg Mulde; this was to be in the hands of the
community of true believers into which the inhabitants had formed
themselves at the instigation of the zealous Lutheran, Sebastian von
Kötteritz. At Altenburg also, doubtless through Luther’s doing, his
friend Wenceslaus Link, the preacher in that town, made a somewhat
similar attempt to establish a communal poor-box. In many other places
efforts of a like nature were made under Lutheran auspices.

How far such undertakings spread throughout the Protestant congregations
cannot be accurately determined. We know, however, the details of the
scheme owing to our still having the rules drawn up for Leisnig.[147]

 According to this the whole congregation, town-councillors, aldermen,
 elders and all the inhabitants generally, were to bind themselves to
 make a good use of their Christian freedom by the faithful keeping
 of the Word of God and by submitting to good discipline and just
 penalties. Ten coffer-masters were to be appointed over the “common
 fund” and these were three times a year to give an account to the
 “whole assembly thereto convened.” Into this fund was to be put not
 merely the revenue of the earlier institutions which hitherto had
 been most active in the relief of the poor, viz. the brotherhoods and
 benevolent associations, as also that of most of the guilds, and,
 moreover, the whole income drawn by the parish from the glebes, pious
 foundations, tithes, voluntary offerings, fines, bridge dues and
 private industrial concerns. Thus it was not merely a relief fund but
 practically a trust comprising all the wealth of the congregation,
 which chiefly consisted in the extensive Church property it had
 annexed. In keeping with this is the manner in which the income was
 to be apportioned. Only a part was devoted to the relief of the poor,
 i.e. to the hospital, orphanage and guest-houses. Most of the money
 was to go to defray the stipend of the Lutheran pastor and his clerk,
 to maintain the schools and the church, and to allow of advances being
 made to artisans free of interest; the rest was to be put by for times
 of scarcity. The members of the congregation were also exhorted to
 make contributions out of charity to their neighbour.

 The scheme pleased Luther so well that he advised the printing of the
 rules, and himself wrote a preface to the published text in which
 he said, he hoped that “the example thus set would prove a success,
 be generally followed, and lead to a great ruin of the earlier
 foundations, monasteries, chapels and all other such abominations
 which hitherto had absorbed all the world’s wealth under a show of

 Hence here once more his chief motive is a polemical one, viz. his
 desire to injure Popery.

 He invites the authorities on this occasion to “lay hands on” such
 property and to apply to the common fund all that remained over after
 the obligations attaching to the property had been complied with, and
 restitution made to such heirs of the donors as demanded it on account
 of their poverty. In giving this advice he was anxious, as he says,
 to disclaim any responsibility in the event of “such property as had
 fallen vacant being plundered owing to the estates changing hands
 and each one laying hold on whatever he could seize.” “Should avarice
 find an entry what then can be done? It must not indeed be given up in
 despair. It is better that avarice should take too much in a legal way
 than that there should be such plundering as occurred in Bohemia. Let
 each one [i.e. of the heirs of the donors] examine his own conscience
 and see what he ought to take for his own needs and what he should
 leave for the common fund!”[148]

 The setting up of such a “common fund” was also suggested in other
 Lutheran towns as a means of introducing some sort of order into the
 confiscation of the Church’s property. The direct object of the funds
 was not the relief of the poor. This was merely included as a measure
 for palliating and justifying the bold stroke which the innovators
 were about to take in secularising the whole of the Church’s vast

 This, however, makes some of Luther’s admonitions in his preface to
 the regulations for the Leisnig common fund sound somewhat strange,
 for instance, his injunction that everything be carried out according
 to the law of love. “Christian charity must here act and decide; laws
 and enactments cannot settle the difficulties. Indeed I write this
 counsel only out of Christian charity for the Christians.” Whoever
 refuses to accept his advice, he says at the conclusion, may go his
 own way; only a few would accept it, but one or two were quite enough
 for him. “The world must remain the world and Satan its Prince. I
 have done what I could and what it was my duty to do.” He was half
 conscious of the unpractical character of his proposals, yet any
 failure he was determined to attribute to the devil’s doing.

His premonition of failure was only too soon realised at Leisnig. The
new scheme could not be made to work. The magistrates refused to resign
the rights they claimed of disposing of the foundations and similar
charitable sources of revenue or to hand over the incomings to the
coffer-masters, for the latter, they argued, were representatives, not
of the congregation but of the Church. Hence the fund had to go begging.
Luther came to words with the town-council, but was unable to have his
own way, even though he appealed to the Elector.[149] He lamented in 1524
that the example of Leisnig had been a very sad one, though, as the first
of its kind,[150] it should have served as a model. Of Tileman Schnabel,
an ex-Augustinian and college friend of Luther’s at Erfurt, who had been
working at Leisnig as preacher and “deacon,” Luther wrote, that he would
soon find himself obliged to leave if he did not wish to die of hunger.
“Incidents such as these deprive the parsonages of their best managers.
Maybe they want to drive them back to their old monasteries.”[151]

Thus the parochial fund of Leisnig, which some writers have extolled so
highly, really never came into existence. It lives only in the directions
given by Luther.

So ill were parson and schoolmaster cared for at Leisnig, in spite of
all the Church property that had been sequestered, that, according to
the Visitation of 1529, the preacher there had been obliged to ply a
trade and gain a living by selling beer. In 1534, so the records of the
Visitations of that date declare, the schoolmaster had for five years
been paid no salary.

Link, the Altenburg preacher, was also unsuccessful in his efforts to
carry out a similar scheme. He complained as early as 1523, in a writing
entitled “Von Arbeyt und Betteln,” that this Christian undertaking had
so far “not only not been furthered but had actually gone backward” in
spite of all his efforts from the pulpit. He, too, addresses himself to
the “rulers” and reminds them that it is their duty “to the best of their
ability to provide for the poverty of the masses.”[152]

To Luther’s bitter grief and disappointment Wittenberg (see above,
p. 49) also furnished anything but an encouraging example. Here the
incentive to the introduction of the common fund by Carlstadt had been
the resolve of the town council “to seize on the revenues of the Church,
the brotherhoods and guilds and divert them into the common fund, to be
employed for general purposes, and for paying the Church officials.…
No less than twenty-one pious guilds were to be mulcted.”[153] Yet the
Wittenberg measures were so little a success, in spite of all Luther’s
efforts, that in his sermons he could not sufficiently deplore the
absence of charity and prevalence of avarice and greed amongst both
burghers and councillors.[154] The Beutelordnung continued indeed in
existence, but merely as an administrative department of the town council.

It is not surprising therefore that Luther gave up for the while any
attempt at putting into practice the Leisnig project elsewhere; his
scheme for assembling the true Christians into a community had also
perforce to betake itself unto the land of dreams. Only in his “Deudsche
Messe” of 1526 does the old idea again force itself to the front: “Here
a general collection for the poor might be made among the congregation;
it should be given willingly and distributed amongst the needy after the
example of St. Paul, 2 Cor. ix.… If only we had people earnestly desirous
of being Christians, the manner and order would soon be settled.”[155]

Subsequent to 1526, however, Bugenhagen drafted better regulations and
poor laws for Wittenberg and other Protestant towns, founded this time on
a more practical basis. (See below, p. 57 f.)

       *       *       *       *       *

Luther, nevertheless, continued to complain of the Wittenbergers. The
indignation he expresses at the lack of all charitable endeavours
throughout the domain of the new Evangel serves as a suitable background
for these complaints.

Want of charity and of neighbourly love was the primary and most
important cause of the failure of Luther’s efforts.

 “Formerly, when people served the devil and outraged the Blood of
 Christ,” he says in 1530 in “Das man die Kinder zur Schulen halten
 solle” (see above, p. 6), “all purses were open and there was no end
 to the giving, for churches, schools and every kind of abomination;
 but now that it is a question of founding true schools and churches
 every purse is closed with iron chains and no one is able to give.”
 So pitiful a sight made him beg of God a happy death so that he might
 not live to see Germany’s punishment: “Did my conscience allow of it I
 would even give my help and advice so as to bring back the Pope with
 all his abominations to rule over us once more.”[156]

 What leads him to such admissions as, that, the Christians, “under the
 plea of freedom are now seven times worse than they were under the
 Pope’s tyranny,” is, in the first place, his bitter experience of the
 drying up of charity, which now ceases to care even for the parsonages
 and churches. Under the Papacy people had been eager to build churches
 and to make offerings to be distributed in alms among the poor, but,
 now that the true religion is taught, it is a wonder how everyone has
 grown so cold.—Yet the people were told and admonished that it was
 well pleasing to God and all the angels, but even so they would not
 respond.—Now a pastor could not even get a hole in his roof mended
 to enable him to lie dry, whereas in former days people could erect
 churches and monasteries regardless of cost.—“Now there is not a
 single town ready to support a preacher and there is nothing but
 robbery and pilfering amongst the people and no one hinders them.
 Whence comes this shameful plague? ‘From the doctrine,’ say the
 bawlers, ‘which you teach, viz. that we must not reckon on works or
 place our trust in them.’ This is, however, the work of the tiresome
 devil who falsely attributes such things to the pure and wholesome
 teaching,” etc.[157]

 He is so far from laying the blame on his teaching that he exclaims:
 What would our forefathers, who were noted for their charity, not have
 done “had they had the light of the Evangel which is now given to us”?
 Again and again he comes back to the contrast between his and older
 times: “Our parents and forefathers put us to shame for they gave
 so generously and charitably, nay even to excess, to the churches,
 parsonages and schools, foundations, hospitals,” etc.[158]—“Indeed
 had we not already the means, thanks to the charitable alms and
 foundations of our forefathers, the Gospel itself would long since
 have been wiped out by the burghers in the towns, and the nobles and
 peasants in the country, so that not one poor preacher would have
 enough to eat and drink; for we refuse to supply them, and, instead,
 rob and lay violent hands on what others have given and founded for
 the purpose.”[159]

 To sum up briefly other characteristic complaints which belong
 here, he says: Now that in accordance with the true Evangel we are
 admonished “to give without seeking for honour or merit, no one can
 spare a farthing.”[160]—No one now will give, and, “unless we had
 the lands we stole from the Pope, the preachers would have but scant
 fare”; they even try “to snatch the morsels out of the parson’s
 mouth.” The way in which the “nobles and officials” now treat what
 was formerly Church property amounts to “a devouring of all beggars,
 strangers and poor widows; we may indeed bewail this, for they eat
 up the very marrow of the bones. Since they raise a hue and cry
 against the Papists let them also not forget us.… Woe to you peasants,
 burghers and nobles who grab everything, hoard and scrape, and pretend
 all the time to be good Evangelicals.”[161]

 He is only too well acquainted with the evils of mendicancy and
 idleness, and knows that they have not diminished but rather
 increased. Even towards the end of his life he alludes to the
 “innumerable wicked rogues who pretend to be poor, needy beggars and
 deceive the people”; they deserve the gallows as much as the “idlers,”
 of whom there are “even many more” than before, who are well able
 to work, take service and support themselves, but prefer to ask for
 alms, and, “when these are not esteemed enough, to supplement them by
 pilfering or even by open, bare-faced stealing in the courtyards, the
 streets and in the very houses, so that I do not know whether there
 has ever been a time when robbery and thieving were so common.”[162]

Finally he recalls the enactments against begging by which the
“authorities forbade foreign beggars and vagabonds and also idlers.” This
brings us back to the attempts made, with the consent of the authorities
in the Lutheran districts, to obviate the social evils by means similar
to those adopted at Leisnig.

_A Second Stumbling Block: Lack of Organisation_

It was not merely lack of charity that rendered nugatory all attempts
to put in force regulations such as those drafted for Leisnig, but also
defects in the inner organisation of the schemes. First, to lump all
sorts of monies intended for different purposes into a single fund could
prove nothing but a source of confusion and diminish the amount to be
devoted directly to charitable purposes; this, too, was the effect of
keeping no separate account of the expenditure for the relief of the poor.

Then, again, the intermingling of secular and spiritual which the
arrangement involved was very unsatisfactory. We can trace here more
clearly than elsewhere the quasi-mystic idea of the congregation of true
believers which retained so strong a hold on Luther’s imagination till
about 1525. With singular ignorance of the ways of the world he wished to
set up the common fund on a community based on faith and charity in which
the universal priesthood was supposed to have abolished all distinction
between the spiritual and secular authorities, nay, between the two very
spheres themselves. He took for granted that Evangelical rulers would be
altogether spiritual simply because they possessed the faith; faith, so
he seemed to believe, would of itself do everything in the members of the
congregation; under the guidance of the spirit everything would be “held
in common, after the example of the Apostles,” as he says in the preface
of the Leisnig regulations. But what was possible of accomplishment owing
to abundance of grace in Apostolic times was an impossible dream in the
16th century. “The old ideal of an ecclesiastical commonwealth on which,
according to the preface, Luther wished to construct a kind of insurance
society for the relief of the poor, could not subsist for a moment in the
keen atmosphere of a workaday world where men are what they are.”[163]

Hence the latest writer on social politics and the poor law, from whom
the above words are taken, openly expresses his wonder at the “utopian,
religio-communistic foundation on which the Wittenberg and Leisnig
schemes, and those drawn up on similar lines, were based,” at the
“utopian efforts” with their “absurd system of expenditure,” which, owing
to their “fundamental defects and the mixing of the funds, were doomed
sooner or later to fail.” This “travesty of early Christianity” tended
neither to promote the moral and charitable sense of the people nor to
further benevolent organisation. “Any rational policy of poor law” was,
on the contrary, shut out by these early Lutheran institutions; the
relief of the poor was thereby placed on an “eminently unstable basis”;
the poor-boxes only served “to encourage idleness.” “Not in such a way
could the modern poor-law system, based as it is on impersonal, legal
principles, be called into being.”

“No system of poor law has ever had less claim to be placed at the head
of a new development than this one [of Leisnig].”[164]

The years 1525 and 1526 brought the turning point in Luther’s attitude
towards the question of poor relief, particularly owing to the effect of
the Peasant War on his views of society and the Church.

The result of the war was to bring the new religious system into much
closer touch with the sovereigns and “thus practically to give rise to a
theocracy.”[165] In spite of the changes this produced, Luther’s schemes
for providing for the poor continued to display some notable defects.

 For all “practical purposes Luther threw over the principle of
 the universal priesthood which the peasants had embraced as a
 socio-political maxim, and, by a determined effort, cut his cause
 adrift from the social efforts of the day.… He worked himself up
 into a real hatred of the mob, of ‘Master Omnes,’ the ‘many-headed
 monster,’ and indeed came within an ace of the socio-political
 ideas of Machiavelli, who advised the rulers to treat the people so
 harshly that they might look upon those lords as liberal who were not
 extortionate.” After the abrogation of episcopal authority and canon
 law, of hierarchy and monasteries “there came an urgent call for the
 establishment of new associations with practical aims and for the
 construction of the skeleton of the new Christian community; we now
 hear no more of that ideal community of true believers which, thanks
 to its heartfelt faith, was to carry on the social work of preventing
 and alleviating poverty.”

The whole of the outward life of the Church being now under the direction
of the Protestant sovereign, the system of poor relief began to assume
a purely secular character, having nothing but an outward semblance
of religion. The new regulations were largely the work of Bugenhagen,
who was a better organiser than Luther. The many enactments he was
instrumental in drafting for the North German towns embody necessary
provisions for the relief of the poor.

Officials appointed by the sovereign or town-council directed, or
at least supervised, the management, while the “deacons,” i.e. the
ecclesiastical guardians of the fund, were obliged to find the necessary
money and, generally, to bear all the odium for the meagreness and
backwardness of the distribution. The members of the congregation had
practically no longer any say in the matter. The parish’s share in the
relief of the poor was made an end of even before it had lost the other
similar rights assigned to it by Luther, such as that of promulgating
measures of discipline, appointing clergy, administering the Church’s
lands, etc. Just as the organisation of the Church was solely in the
hands of the authorities to the complete exclusion of the congregations,
so poor relief and the ecclesiastical regulations on which it was based
became merely a government concern.

What Bugenhagen achieved, thanks to the ecclesiastical regulations
for poor relief, for which he was directly or indirectly responsible,
gave “good hopes, at least at first, of bringing the difficult social
problem of those days nearer to a solution.” At any rate they were a
“successful attempt to bring some order into the whole system of relief,
by means of the authorities and on a scale not hitherto attempted by
the Church.”[166] It is true that he, like those who were working on
the same lines, e.g. Hedio, Rhegius, Hyperius, Lasco and others, often
merely transplanted into a new soil the rules already in vogue in the
Catholic Netherlands and the prosperous South German towns. Hedio of
Strasburg, for instance, translated into German the entire work of Vives,
the opponent of Lutheranism, and exploited it practically and also sought
to enter into epistolary communication with Vives. The prohibition of
mendicancy, the establishment of an independent poor-box apart from
the rest of the Church funds, and many other points were borrowed by
Bugenhagen and others from the olden Catholic regulations.

Such efforts were in many localities supplemented by the kindliness of
the population and, thanks to a spirit of Christianity, were not without

As, however, everybody, Princes, nobles, townships and peasants, were
stretching out greedy hands towards the now defenceless possessions
of the olden Church, a certain reaction came, and the State, in the
interests of order, saw fit to grant a somewhat larger share to the
ecclesiastical authorities in the administration of Church property and
relief funds. The Lutheran clergy and the guardians of the poor were
thus allowed a certain measure of free action, provided always that
what they did was done in the name of the sovereign, i.e. the principal
bishop. The new institutions created by such men as Bugenhagen soon lost
their public, communal or State character, and sank back to the level
of ecclesiastical enterprises. Institutions of this stamp had, however,
“been more numerous and better endowed in the Middle Ages and were so
later in the Catholic districts.”

Owing in part to a technical defect in the Protestant regulations,
dishonesty and carelessness were not excluded from the management and
distribution of the poor fund, the administration falling, as a matter
of course, into the hands of the lowest class of officials. Catholics
had good reason for branding it as a “usury and parson’s box.”[167] The
reason why, in Germany, Protestant efforts for poor relief never issued
in a satisfactory socio-political system capable of relieving the poor
and thus improving the condition of both Church and State, lay, not
merely in the economic difficulties of the time, but, “what is more
important, in the social and moral working of the new religion and new
piety which Luther had established.”[168]

_Influence of Luther’s Ethics. Robbery of Church Property Proves a Curse_

Not only had the Peasant Rising and the reprisals taken by the rulers
and the towns brought misery on the land and hardened the hearts of the
princes and magistrates, not only had the means available for the relief
of the poor been diminished, first by the founding of new parishes in
place of the old ones, which had in many cases been supported by the
monasteries and foundations, secondly, by the demands of Protestants for
the restitution of many ecclesiastical benefices given by their Catholic
forefathers, thirdly, by the drying up of the spring of gifts and
donations, but “the common fund, which had been swelled by the shekels of
the Church, had now to bear many new burdens and only what remained—which
often enough was not much—was employed for charitable purposes.” In
the same way, and to an even greater extent, must the Lutheran ethics
be taken into account. Luther’s views on justification by faith alone
destroyed “that impulse of the Middle Ages towards open-handed charity.”
This was “an ethical defect of the Lutheran doctrine”; it was only owing
to his “utter ignorance of the world” that Luther persisted in believing
that faith would, of itself and without any “law,” beget good works and
charity.[169] “It was a cause of wonder and anxiety to him throughout his
life that his assumption, that faith would be the best ‘taskmaster and
the strongest incentive to good works and kindliness,’ never seemed to
be realised.… The most notable result of Luther’s doctrine of grace and
denial of all human merit was, at least among the masses, an increase of
libertinism and of the spirit of irresponsibility.”[170]

The dire effects of the new principles were also evident in the large
and wealthy towns, the exemplary poor-law regulations of which we have
considered above. After the innovations had made their way among them we
hear little more of provisions being made against mendicancy, for the
promotion of work and for the relief of poverty. Hence, as regards these
corporations … the change of religion meant, according to Feuchtwanger,
“a decline in the quality of their social philanthropy.” (Cp. above, vol.
iv., p. 477 ff.)

From some districts, however, we have better reports of the results
achieved by the relief funds. In times of worst distress good Christians
were always ready to help. Much depended on the spirit of those concerned
in the work. In general, however, the complaints of the preachers of the
new faith, including Melanchthon, wax louder and louder.[171] They tell
us that the patrimony of the poor was being carried off by the rapacity
of the great or disappearing under the hands of avaricious and careless
administrators, whilst new voluntary contributions were no longer
forthcoming. We find no lack of those, who, like Luther’s friend Paul
Eber, are given to noting the visible, palpable consequences of the wrong
done to the monasteries, brotherhoods and churches.[172]

 A long list of statements from respected Protestant contemporaries
 is given by Janssen, who concludes: “The whole system of poor relief
 was grievously affected by the seizure and squandering of Church
 goods and of innumerable charitable bequests intended not only for
 parochial and Church use but also for the hospitals, schools and
 poor-houses.”[173] The testimonies in question, the frankness of
 which can only be explained by the honourable desire to make an end
 of the crying evil, come, for instance, from Thomas Rorarius, Andreas
 Musculus, Johann Winistede, Erasmus Sarcerius, Ambrose Pape and the
 General Superintendent, Cunemann Flinsbach.[174] They tend to show
 that the new doctrine of faith alone had dried up the well-spring of
 self-sacrifice, as indeed Andreas Hyperius, the Marburg theologian,
 Christopher Fischer, the General Superintendent, Daniel Greser, the
 Superintendent, Sixtus Vischer and others state in so many words.

 The incredible squandering of Church property is proved by official
 papers, was pilloried by the professors of the University of Rostock,
 also is clear from the minutes of the Visitations of Wesenberg in
 1568 and of the Palatinate in 1556 which bewail “the sin against
 the property set aside for God and His Church.”[175] And again,
 “The present owners have dealt with the Church property a thousand
 times worse than the Papists,” they make no conscience of “selling
 it, mortgaging it and giving it away.” Princes belonging to the new
 faith also raised their voice in protest, for instance, Duke Barnim
 XI in 1540, Elector Joachim II of Brandenburg in 1540 and Elector
 Johann George, 1573. But the sovereigns were unable to restrain their
 rapacious nobles. “The great Lords,” the preacher Erasmus Sarcerius
 wrote of the Mansfeld district in 1555, “seek to appropriate to
 themselves the feudal rights and dues of the clergy and allow their
 officials and justices to take forcible action.… The revenues of the
 Church are spent in making roads and bridges and giving banquets, and
 are lent from hand to hand without hypothecary security.”[176] The
 Calvinist, Anton Prætorius, and many others not to mention Catholic
 contemporaries, speak in similar terms.

 Of the falling off in the Church funds and poor-boxes in the 16th
 century in Hesse, in the Saxon Electorate, in Frankfurt-on-the-Main,
 in Hamburg and elsewhere abundant proof is met with in the official
 records, and this is the case even with regard to Würtemberg in
 the enactments of the Dukes from 1552 to 1562, though that country
 constituted in some respects an exception;[177] at a later date Duke
 Johann Frederick hazarded the opinion that the regulations regarding
 the fund “had fallen into oblivion.”

 The growth of the proletariate, to remedy the impoverishment of which
 no means had as yet been discovered, was in no small measure promoted
 by Luther’s facilitation of marriage.

 Luther himself had written, that “a boy ought to have recourse to
 matrimony as soon as he is twenty and a maid when she is from fifteen
 to eighteen years of age, and leave it to God to provide for their
 maintenance and that of their children.”[178] Other adherents of the
 new faith went even further, Eberlin of Günsburg simply declared:
 “As soon as a girl is fifteen, a boy eighteen, they should be given
 to each other in marriage.” There were others like the author of a
 “Predigt über Hunger- und Sterbejahre, von einem Diener am Wort”
 (1571), who raised strong objections against such a course. Dealing
 with the causes of the evident increase of “deterioration and ruin” in
 “lands, towns and villages,” he says, that “a by no means slight cause
 is the countless number of lightly contracted marriages, when people
 come together and beget children without knowing where they will get
 food for them, and so come down themselves in body and soul, and bring
 up their children to begging from their earliest years.” “And I cannot
 here approve of this sort of thing that Luther has written: A lad
 should marry when he is twenty, etc. [see above]. No, people should
 not think of marrying and the magistrates should not allow them to
 do so before they are sure of being able at least to provide their
 families with the necessaries of life, for else, as experience shows,
 a miserable, degenerate race is produced.”[179]

 What this old writer says is borne out by modern sociologists. One
 of them, dealing with the 16th and 17th centuries, says: “These
 demands [of Luther and Eberlin] are obviously not practicable from
 the economic point of view, but from the ethical standpoint also they
 seem to us extremely doubtful. To rush into marriage without prospect
 of sufficient maintenance is not trusting God but tempting Him.
 Such marriages are extremely immoral actions and they deserve legal
 punishment on account of their danger to the community.” “Greater evil
 to the world can scarcely be caused in any way than by such marriages.
 Even in the most favourable cases such early marriages must have a
 deteriorating influence on the physical and intellectual culture of

 Owing to the neglect of any proper care for the poor the plague of
 vagabondage continued on the increase. Luther’s zealous contemporary,
 Cyriacus Spangenberg, sought to counteract it by reprinting the
 Master’s edition of the “_Liber vagatorum_.” He says: “False begging
 and trickery has so gained the upper hand that scarcely anybody is
 safe from imposture.” The Superintendent, Nicholas Selnecker, again
 republished the writing with Luther’s preface in 1580, together with
 some lamentations of his own. He complains that “there are too many
 tramps and itinerant scholars who give themselves up to nothing but
 knavery,” etc.[181]

Adolf Harnack is only re-echoing the complaints of 16th century
Protestants when he writes: “We may say briefly that, alas, nothing of
importance was achieved, nay, we must go further: the Catholics are
quite right when they assert that they, not we, lived to see a revival
of charitable work in the 16th century, and, that, where Lutheranism
was on the ascendant, social care of the poor was soon reduced to a
worse plight than ever before.”[182] The revival in Catholic countries
to which Harnack refers showed itself particularly in the 17th century
in the activity of the new Orders, whereas at this time the retrograde
movement was still in progress in the opposite camp. “For a long time the
Protestant relief system produced only insignificant results.” It was not
till the rise of Pietism and Rationalism, i.e. until the inauguration
of the admirable Home Missions, that things began to improve. But
Pietism and Rationalism are both far removed from the original Lutheran

_Some Recent Excuses_

It has been remarked in excuse of Luther and his want of success, that,
“with merit and the hope of any reward, there also vanished the stimulus
to strive after the attainment of salvation by means of works,” and that
this being so, it was “not surprising” that charity—the selfless fruit of
faith—was wanting in many; “for new, albeit higher moral motives, cannot
at once come into play with the same facility as the older ones which
they displace; there comes a time when the old motives have gone and when
the new ones are operative only in the case of a few; the leaven at first
only works gradually.” The history of the spread of “the higher motives
of morality” not only at the outset of Christianity but at all times,
shows, however, as a rule these to be most active under the Inspiration
of the Divine Spirit at the time when first accepted. Nor does the
comparison with the leaven in the passage quoted apply to a state of
decline and decay, where, for a change to be effected, outside and
entirely different elements were needed. We are told that the new motives
could not at once take effect, but, where the delay extends over quite a
century and a half, the blame surely cannot be laid on the shortness of
the time of probation.

Again, when we hear great stress laid on the fact that Luther at least
paved the way for State relief of the poor and, thus, far outstrode
the mediæval Church, one is justified in asking, whether in reality
State relief of the poor, with compulsory taxation, non-intervention of
Christian charity, or individual effort, or without any morally elevating
influence, is something altogether ideal; whether, on the other hand,
voluntary charity, as practised particularly by associations, Orders or
ecclesiastics, does not deserve a much higher place and take precedence
of, or at least stand side by side with, the forced “charity” of the
State. Even to-day Protestantism is seeking to reserve a place for
voluntary charitable effort. Considerations as to the value of mere State
charity would, however, carry us too far. We must refer this matter to

That, before Luther’s day, the authorities took a reasonable and even
larger share in the relief of the poor than he himself demanded, is
evident from what has been said above (p. 43 ff.).

As a matter of fact, judging by what has gone before, the assertion that
the system of State relief of the poor was originated by Luther or by
Protestantism calls for considerable “revision.” “The reformation,” so
the sociological authority we have so frequently quoted says, “created
neither the communal nor the governmental system of poor relief.”[185]
This he finds borne out by the different schemes for the relief of the
poor contained in the old ecclesiastical constitutions. It is true, he
says, that, “according to the idea in vogue, the origin of our present
Poor Law can be traced back directly” to the Reformation. Nevertheless,
the changes that took place in the social care of the poor subsequent to
Luther’s day, though certainly “far-reaching enough,” were “exclusively
negative”;[186] owing to his exertions the Church property and that
set aside for the relief of the poor was secularised, and the previous
free-handed method of distribution ceased; all further growth of
legislation on the subject in the prosperous and independent townships
was effectually hindered; out of the mass of property that passed into
alien hands only a few scraps could be spared by the secular rulers and
handed over to the ministers for the benefit of the poor.

This was no State-regulation of poor relief as we now understand it.
Still, the way was paved for it in so far as the props of the olden
ecclesiastical system of relief had been felled and had eventually to be
replaced by something new. In this sense it may be said that Luther’s
work “paved the way” for the new conditions.[187]

5. Luther’s Attitude towards Worldly Callings

An attempt has been made to prove the truth of the dictum so often met
with on the lips of Protestants, viz. that “Luther was the creator
of those views of the world and life on which both the State and our
modern civilisation rest,” by arguing, that, at least, he made an end
of contempt for worldly callings and exalted the humbler as well as
the higher spheres of life at the expense of the ecclesiastical and
monastic. What Luther himself frequently states concerning his discovery
of the dignity of the secular callings has elsewhere been placed in its
true light (and the unhistoric accounts of his admirers are all in last
resort based on his). This was done in the most suitable place, viz. when
dealing with “Luther and Lying,” and with his spiteful caricature of the
mediæval Church.[188] Still, for the sake of completeness, the claims
Luther makes in this respect, and some new proofs in refutation of them,
must be briefly called to mind in the present chapter. It is not unusual
for his admirers to speak with a species of awe of Luther’s achievements
in this respect:

 “_One of the most Momentous Achievements of the Reformation_”

The claims Luther makes in respect of his labours on behalf of the
worldly callings are even greater than his admirers would lead one to
suppose. His actual words reveal their hyperbolical character, or rather
untruth, by their very extravagance.

Luther we have heard say: “Such honour and glory have I by the grace of
God, that, since the time of the Apostles no doctor … has confirmed and
instructed the consciences of the secular estates so well and lucidly
as I.”[189]—It was quite different with the “monks and priestlings”!
They “damned both the laity and their calling.” These “revolutionary
blasphemers” condemned “all the states of life that God instituted and
ordained”; on the other hand, they extol their self-chosen and accursed
state as though outside of it no one could be saved.[190]

The phantom of a Popish, monkish holiness-by-works never left him. In his
Commentary on Genesis, though he holds that he has already taught the
Papists more than they deserve on the right appreciation of the lower
callings and labours, yet he once more informs them of his discovery,
“that the work of the household and of the burgher,” such as hospitality,
the training of children, the supervision of servants, “despised though
they be as common and worthless,” are also well-pleasing to God. “Such
things must be judged according to the Word [of God], not according
to reason!… Let us therefore thank God that we, enlightened by the
Word, now perceive what are really good works, viz. obedience to those
in authority, respect for parents, supervision of the servants and
assistance of our brethren.” “These are callings instituted by God.”
“When the mother of a family provides diligently for her family, looks
after the children, feeds them, washes them and rocks them in the
cradle,” this calling, followed for God’s sake, is “a happy and a holy

Luther is never tired of claiming as his peculiar teaching that even
the most humble calling—that of the maid or day-labourer—may prove a
high and exalted road to heaven and that every kind of work, however
insignificant, performed in that position of life to which a man is
called is of great value in God’s sight when done in faith. He is fond
of repeating, that a humble ploughman can lay up for himself as great
a treasure in heaven by tilling his field, as the preacher or the
schoolmaster, by their seemingly more exalted labours.

There is no doubt, that, by means of this doctrine, which undoubtedly
is not without foundation, he consoled many of the lower classes, and
brought them to a sense of their dignity as Christians. It is true that
it was his polemics against monasticism and the following of the counsels
of perfection which led him to make so much of the ordinary states of
life and to paint them in such glowing colours. Nevertheless, we must
admit that he does so with real eloquence and by means of comparisons and
figures taken from daily life which could not but lend attraction to the
truth and which differ widely from the dry, scholastic tone of some of
his Catholic predecessors in this field.

He does not, however, really add a single fresh element to the olden
teaching, or one that cannot be traced back to earlier times.

Either Luther was not aware of this, or else he conceals it from his
hearers and readers. It would have been possible to confront him with a
whole string of writers, ancient and mediæval, and even from the years
when he himself began his work, whose writings teach the same truths,
often, too, in language which leaves nothing more to be wished for on the
score of impressiveness and feeling.[192] So many proofs, from reason
as well as from revelation, had always been forthcoming in support of
these truths that it is hard for us now to understand how the idea gained
ground that Christians had forgotten them. Those who, down to the
present day, repeat Luther’s assertions make too little account of this
psychological riddle.

Here we shall merely add to what has already been brought forward a few
further proofs from Luther’s own day.

 Andreas Proles (†1503), Vicar General of the Saxon Augustinian
 Congregation and founder of the reformed branch which Luther himself
 joined on entering the monastery, reminds the working classes in one
 of his sermons of the honour, the duty, and the worth of work. “Since
 man is born to labour as the bird to fly, he must work unceasingly
 and never be idle.” He warmly exhorts the secular authorities to
 prayer, but reminds them still more emphatically of the requirements
 and the dignity of their calling: “The life of the mighty does not
 consist in parade but in ruling and discharging their duties towards
 their people.” He praises voluntary chastity and clerical celibacy,
 but also points out powerfully that the married state “is for many
 reasons honourable and praiseworthy in the sight of God and all

 Gottschalk Hollen, the preacher of Westphalia, was also an
 Augustinian. In his sermons published at Hagenau in 1517 he displays
 the highest esteem for the worldly callings. Those classes who worked
 with their hands did not seem to him in the least contemptible, on the
 contrary the Christian could give glory to God even by the humblest
 work; ordinary believers frequently allowed their calling to absorb
 them in worldly things, but these are not evil or blameworthy. In
 a special sermon on work he represents such cares as a means of
 attaining to everlasting salvation. He insists everywhere on a man’s
 performing the duties of his calling and will not allow of their being
 neglected for the sake of prayer or of out-of-the-way practices, such
 as pilgrimages.[194]

 Just before Luther made his public appearance two German works of
 piety described the dignity and the honour of the working state and
 at the same time insisted on the obligation of labour. They speak of
 the secular callings as a source of moral and religious duty and the
 foundation of a happy life well pleasing to God.

 The “Wyhegertlin,” printed at Mayence in 1509, says: “When work is
 done diligently and skilfully both God and man take pleasure in it,
 and it is a real good work when skilful artisans contribute to God’s
 glory by their handicraft, by beautiful buildings and images of
 every kind, and soften men’s hearts so that they take pleasure in the
 beautiful, and regard every art and handicraft as a gift of God for
 the profit, comfort and edification of man.”—“For seeing that the
 Saints also worked and laboured, so shall the Christian learn from
 their example that by honourable labour he can glorify God, do good
 and, through God’s mercy, save his own soul.”[195]

 In an “Ermanung” of 1513, which also appeared at Mayence, we read:
 “To work is to serve God according to His command and therefore all
 must work, the one with his hands, in the field, the house or the
 workshop, others by art and learning, others again as rulers of
 the people or other authorities, others by fighting in defence of
 their country, others again as ghostly ministers of Christ in the
 churches and monasteries.… Whoever stands idle is a despiser of God’s

 These instances must suffice. Though many others could be quoted,
 Protestants will, nevertheless, still be found to repeat such
 statements as the following: “Any appreciation of secular work as
 something really moral was impossible in the Catholic Church.” “The
 Catholic view of the Church belittled the secular callings.” “The
 ethical appreciation of one’s calling is a significant achievement
 of the reformation on which rests the present division of society.”
 Luther it was who “discovered the true meaning of callings … which has
 since become the property of the civilised world.” “The modern ethical
 conception of one’s calling, which is common to all Protestant nations
 and which all others lack, was a creation of the reformation,” etc.

 Others better acquainted with the Middle Ages have argued, that,
 though the olden theologians expressed themselves correctly on the
 importance of secular callings, yet theirs was not the view of
 the people.—But the above passages, like those previously quoted
 elsewhere, do not hail from theologians quite ignorant of the world,
 but from sermons and popular writings. What they reflect is simply the
 popular ideas and practice.

 That errors were made is, of course, quite true. That, at a time
 when the Church stood over all, the excessive and ill-advised zeal
 of certain of the clergy and religious did occasionally lead them to
 belittle unduly the secular callings may readily be admitted; what
 they did furnished some excuse for the Lutheran reaction.

 What above all moved Luther was, however, the fact that he himself had
 become a layman.

 To assert that even the very words “calling” or “vocation” in their
 modern sense were first coined by him is not in agreement with the
 facts of the case.

 On the contrary, Luther found the German equivalents already current,
 otherwise he would probably not have introduced them into his
 translation of the Bible, as he was so anxious to adapt himself to
 the language in common use amongst the people so as to be perfectly
 understood by them.[197] It is true that Ecclus. xi. 22, in the
 pre-Lutheran Bible, e.g. that of Augsburg dating from 1487, was
 rendered: “Trust God and stay in thy _place_,” whereas in Luther’s—and
 on this emphasis has been laid—we read: “Trust in God and abide by
 thy _calling_.” All that can be said is, however, that Luther’s
 translation here brings out the same meaning rather better. That the
 word was not coined by Luther, but was common with the people, is
 clear from what Luther himself says incidentally when speaking of 1
 Cor. vii. 20, where the word _vocatio_ (κλῆσις) is used of the call
 to faith. “And you must know,” he writes, “that the word ‘calling’
 does not here mean the state to which a man is called, as when we
 say your calling is the married state, your calling is the clerical
 state, etc., each one having his calling from God. It is not of such a
 calling that the Apostle here speaks,” etc. The expression “as we say”
 shows plainly that Luther is speaking of a quite familiar term which
 there was no need for him to invent when translating Ecclus. xi. 22.
 Much less did he, either then or at any time, invent the “conception
 of a calling.”

_Luther’s Pessimism Regarding Various Callings. The Peasants_

When olden writers dealt with the relation between the Gospel and the
worldly callings as a rule they pointed out with holy pride, that
Christianity does not merely esteem every calling very highly but
embraces them all with holy charity and cherishes and fosters the various
states as sons of a common father. Nothing was so attractive in the
great exponents of the Gospel teaching and renovators of the Christian
people—for instance in St. Francis of Assisi—as their sympathy, respect
and tenderness for every class without exception. The Church’s great men
knew how to discover the good in every class, to further it with the
means at their disposal and indulgently to set it on its guard against
its dangers. They wished to place everything lovingly at the service of
the Creator.

Had Luther in reality brought back to humanity the Gospel true and
undefiled, as he was so fond of saying, then he should surely have
striven, in the spirit of charity and good will, to make known its
supernatural social forces to all classes of men, and to become, as the
Apostle says, “All things to all men.”

Now, although Luther uses powerful words to describe the dignity of the
different worldly callings, on the other hand, he tends at times to
depreciate whole classes, this being especially the case when he allows
his disappointment to get the better of him. Nor is the contempt openly
expressed here counterbalanced by any sufficient recognition of the
good, such as might have mollified his hearers and made them forget the
ungracious abuse he thundered from his pulpit.

 He speaks bitterly of the common people, the proletariate of to-day,
 to which, according to him, belonged all the lower classes in the
 towns. Although himself of low extraction he displays very little
 sympathy for the people. “We must not pipe too much to the mob, for
 they are fond of raging.… They have no idea of self-restraint or how
 to exercise it, and each one’s skin conceals five tyrants.”[198] “A
 donkey must taste the stick and the mob must be ruled by force; of
 this God was well aware, hence in the hands of the authorities He
 placed, not a fox’s brush, but a sword.”[199]

 He only too frequently accuses the artisan and merchant class, as
 a whole, of cheating, avarice and laziness. At Wittenberg they
 may possibly have been exceptionally bad, yet he does not speak
 sufficiently of their less blameworthy side.

 For the soldiers, it is true, he has friendly words of appreciation of
 their calling; it was for them that he wrote in 1526 a special work,
 where he replied in the affirmative to the question contained in the
 title: “Can even men-at-arms be in a state of grace?” Yet even here he
 does not shrink from bringing forward charges against their calling:
 “A great part of the men-at-arms are the devil’s own and some of them
 are actually crammed with devils.… They imagine themselves fire-eaters
 because they swear shamefully, perpetrate atrocities, and curse and
 defy the God of Heaven.”[200]

 Of the nobles he says in 1523, wishing to promote more frequent
 marriages between them and those of lower birth:[201] “Must all
 princes and nobles who are born princes and nobles remain for ever
 such? What harm is there if a prince takes a burgher’s daughter to
 wife and contents himself with a burgher’s modest dowry? Or, why
 should not a noble maid give her hand to a burgher? In the long run it
 will not do for the nobles always to intermarry with nobles. Although
 we are not all equal in the sight of the world yet before God we all
 are equal, all of us children of Adam, creatures of God, and one man
 as good as another.” These words certainly do not express any lively
 conviction of the importance of the existing distinctions of rank for

 It is perfectly true, that, occasionally, Luther has words of praise
 and recognition for the good qualities of the “fine, pious nobles,”
 if only on account of those who were inclined to accept his teaching.
 But far more often he trounces them unmercifully because they either
 failed to respond or were set on thwarting him. The language in
 which he writes of them sometimes becomes unspeakably coarse. “They
 are called nobles and ‘von so-and-so.’ But merd also comes ‘von’
 the nobles and might just as well boast of coming from their noble
 belly, though it stinks and is of no earthly use. Hence this too has
 a claim to nobility.” Then follows his favourite saying: “We Germans
 are Germans and Germans we shall remain, i.e. swine and senseless

 The rulers and the great ones of the Empire were the first to win
 his favour. The writing “An den Adel,” the first of his so-called
 “reformation writings,” he addresses to the nobles in the hope of
 thus attaining his aims by storm. When, however, he was disappointed,
 and they refused to meet him half-way, he abused the princes and all
 the secular authorities in Germany and wrote: “God Almighty has made
 our princes mad”; “such men were formerly rated as knaves, now we are
 obliged to call them obedient, Christian princes.” To him they were
 “fools,” simply because they were against him and thus belonged to the
 multitude who “blasphemed” the Divine Majesty.[203]

After the defeat of the peasants in 1525 he supported those princes
favourable to his teaching at the expense of the peasants, so that the
latter were loud in their complaints of him. In this connection, looking
back at the overthrow of the Peasant Revolt, he wrote to those in power:
“Who opposed the peasants more vigorously by word and writing than I? …
and, if it comes to boasting, I do not know who else was the first to
vanquish the peasants, or to do so most effectually. But now those who
did the least claim all the honour and glory of it.”[204]

After the Peasant War he was so filled with hatred of the peasant class
and so conscious of their dislike for himself personally, as to be hardly
able to speak of them without blame and reproach. “The peasants do not
deserve,” he says, “the harvests and fruits that the earth brings forth
and provides.”

Of all classes the peasants around Wittenberg incurred his displeasure
most severely. “They are all going to the devil,” he says when lamenting
that, “out of so many villages, only one man taught his household from
the Word of God”; with the young country folk “something” could be
done, but the old peasants had been utterly corrupted by the Pope; this
was also the complaint of the Evangelical deacons who came in touch
with them.[205]—“I am very angry with the peasants,” he wrote in 1529,
“who are anxious to govern themselves and who do not appreciate their
good fortune in being able to sleep in peace owing to the help and
protection of the rulers. You helpless, boorish yokels and donkeys,” he
says to them, “will you never learn to understand? May the lightning
blast you!—You have the best of it.… You have the Mark and yet are
so ungrateful as to refuse to pray for the rulers or to give them

As a matter of fact, however, the great ones did not wait for the
peasants to “give” anything.

They oppressed the country people and plundered them. Melanchthon wrote,
particularly after 1525, of the boundless despotism of the authorities
over the people on the land. Since the overthrow of the social revolution
very sad changes had taken place among the agriculturists. The violent
“laying of the yokels” became a general evil, and, in place of the small
holdings of the peasant class—the most virile and largest portion of
the nation—arose the large estates of the nobles. Not merely where the
horrors of war had raged, but even elsewhere, e.g. in the north-east
of Germany, the peasant found himself deprived of his rights and
left defenceless in the hands of the Junkers and knights.[207] “The
reformation-age made his rights to his property and his standing more
parlous than before.”[208]

What Luther says of serfdom, the oppression and abuse of which had
led to the Peasant Rising, is worthy of record: “Serfdom,” he says,
“is not contrary to Christianity, and whoever says it is tells a
lie!”[209]—“Christ does not wish to abolish serfdom. What cares He how
the lords or princes rule [in secular matters]?”[210]

He makes a strict application of this in his sermons on Genesis, where
he even represents serfdom as a desirable state. Luther delivered these
sermons in 1524 and they were printed from notes in 1527. In his preface
he declares, that he was “quite willing” they should be published
because they express his “sense and mind.” He relates in one passage how
Abimelech had bestowed “sheep and oxen, men-servants and maid-servants”
on Abraham (xx. 14), and then goes on to say of the people made over:
“They too were all personal property like other cattle, so that their
owners might sell them as they liked, and it would verily be almost best
that this stage of things should be revived, for nobody can control
or tame the populace in any other way.” Abraham did not set free the
men-servants and maid-servants given him, and yet he was accounted
amongst the “pious and holy” and was “a just ruler.” He proceeds: “They
[the patriarchs] might easily have abolished it so far as they were
concerned, but that would not have been a good thing, for the serfs would
have become too proud had they been given so many rights, and would have
thought themselves equal to the patriarchs or to their children. Each
one must be kept in his place, as God has ordained, sons and daughters,
servants, maids, husbands, wives, etc.… If compulsion and the law of the
strong arm still ruled (in the case of servants and retainers) as in the
past, so that if a man dared to grumble he got a box on the ear—things
would fare better; otherwise it is all of no use. If they take wives,
these are impertinent people, wild and dissolute, whom no one can use or
have anything to do with.”[211]

_The Psychological Background. Luther’s Estrangement from Whole Classes
of Society_

Both in Luther’s treatment of the peasants of his day and in his whole
attitude to different classes of society, we find the traces of a
profound and general depression which had seized upon him and which
seems to accord ill with the sense of triumph one would have expected in
him at the continued progress of his work, and at the apostasy from the
Roman Church. Such expressions of dissatisfaction become more frequent as
years go by and serve to some extent to explain and excuse his pessimism
concerning the different classes.

This feeling had its origin, apart from other causes, in the fact that
Luther little by little lost touch with whole classes of the people,
while to many of the new conditions he remained a stranger. He, who had
held in his hands the destiny of so many, was, in fact, becoming to a
great extent isolated, particularly since the actual direction of the
new Church had been taken out of his hands and vested in the princes or
municipal authorities.

Not only did the rift which separated him from the peasants subsequent
to 1525 become ever more pronounced, but he found hostility and dislike
growing between himself and other classes of society.

Under the influence of the adverse wind blowing from Wittenberg many of
the Humanists had given up their at one time enthusiastic friendship
and turned against him. Catholic scholars who had once been disposed
to favour the reform but had been disappointed in their hopes withdrew
from him in increasing numbers. In other districts which had been
recently Protestantised the country clergy remained faithful to the
olden Church, as we see, for instance, from a letter of Luther’s dated
Sep. 19, 1539, where he speaks of “over five hundred parsons, poisonous
Papists,” who had “been left unexamined and now are raising their horns
in defiance”—but who, he hopes, will soon be forcibly sent about their
business.[212] In his own camp, again, there were Anabaptists and other
sectarians; there were also theologians who refused to fall into line and
either failed to preach on faith and works as harshly as he wished, or,
running to the opposite extreme like the Antinomians, went much further
than he himself. In the Saxon Electorate Luther felt grievously the
decease of those Councillors, like Pfeffinger and Feilitzsch, who had
been well disposed towards him, whose places were now taken by “greedy
Junkers and skinflints, who looked upon the ecclesiastical revolution as
a good opportunity for increasing their family estates and for running
riot at others’ expense.”[213] Among the princes who had apostatised
from the Church he also detected to his bitter vexation an ever-growing
tendency to separate themselves from Wittenberg, partly owing to the
influence of Zwinglianism, partly in consequence of their independent
Church regulations. Such was, for instance, the action of Berlin, where
the Protestant Elector, Joachim II of Brandenburg, declared in an address
to his clergy: “As little as I mean to be bound to the Roman Church,
so little do I mean to be bound to the Church of Wittenberg. I do not
say: ‘_credo sanctam Romanam_’ or ‘_Wittenbergensem_,’ but ‘_catholicam
ecclesiam_,’ and my Church here at Berlin or at Cöllen is just as much a
true Christian Church as that of the Wittenbergers.”[214]

In the sermon Luther preached at Wittenberg on June 18, 1531, he pours
forth the vials of his wrath on the nobles and peasants of the new
faith. He was then doing duty for Bugenhagen, the absent pastor, and
devoting himself to preaching, though he describes himself in a letter
as “old, sickly and tired of life,” and elsewhere, alluding to his many
employments, says: “I am not only Luther, but Pomeranus, Vicar-General,
Moses, Jethro and I know not who else besides.”[215]

 In this sermon the Gospel of Dives and Lazarus recalls to his mind the
 fact that, in the Saxon Electorate, he and his preachers were being
 treated very much as Lazarus, whom the rich man left lying at his gate
 and who had to get his fill of the crumbs that fell from the rich
 man’s table. “When we complain to the great, we get only kicks,” he
 exclaims indignantly; “our foes would gladly put a stop to the Evangel
 with the sword, whilst our own people would no less gladly cut off our
 head, like John the Baptist, only that the sword they use is want,
 misery and hunger.” If we preach against their wickedness they say
 we are trying to defy and contradict them! Let the devil defy them.
 They declare we want to set ourselves up against them, and to rule,
 and to bring them under our feet. For preaching against the rebellious
 peasants we are thanked by being called the Pope of Germany, as though
 we were playing the master. Not indeed that they mean this in earnest,
 but they are anxious to bring us to preach as they wish, otherwise
 they punish us with starvation. “The poor preachers they tread
 under foot, take the bread out of their mouths and abuse them most
 shamefully.” “This ingratitude is worse than any tyranny!” He tells
 them finally that their fate will be that of Dives, viz. hell-fire;
 then they will long in vain even for a drop of water.[216]

 The world hates me, we read in another sermon, for it ever “hates the
 good.” “They refuse to have anything to do with the ministers [of
 religion], there is hardly a place where they suffer the preacher,
 much less support him. My opponents declare that: Did I preach the
 truth, the people would become pious.” This is the Anabaptists’ way of
 concealing their own errors. “But do not wonder,” so he consoles his
 hearers, for “the purer the Word, the worse almost all become; only a
 few become good. This is a sure sign that the doctrine is true; … for
 Satan, who is stung by the truth, tries to wreck it by corruption of
 morals.… He it is who sets himself up in defiance of it.” “But there
 are some few who are faithful and in earnest.” Nevertheless, the world
 must heap ingratitude and bitterness upon us otherwise it would not be
 the world. “By my preaching I have helped several, but what can I do?
 If you wait till the world honours you, then you wait a long time and
 only prepare a cross for yourself.”[217]

 In a sermon on Jan. 22 of the same year he had quoted a saying current
 at that time about Rome, applying it to Wittenberg: “The nearer
 to Rome, the worse the Christians.” “For wherever the Evangel is,
 there it is despised.” “The Lord Himself says in to-day’s Gospel: ‘I
 have not found such faith as this in Israel.’ The chosen people do
 not believe, though some few do.… In other regions Christ may find
 adherents with a stronger faith than any in our principalities.” “At
 Court and elsewhere things go ill.… We tread the pearls under foot.”
 “So great is their shamelessness, ingratitude and hate that it is a
 sign that God is getting ready to show us something; the persecution
 of the Evangel in our principality is worse than ever. I am already
 sick of preaching (‘_iam tædet me prædicatio_’).” “Those who refuse
 the offered kingdom may go to the devil, etc.”[218] The faults of the
 government and the increase in the prices of necessaries drew from him
 bitter words in a sermon of April 23 of the same year: “There is no
 government, the biggest criminals (‘_pessimi nebulones_’) rule; this
 we have deserved by our sins.” “When things become cheaper then war
 and pestilence will come upon us.”[219]

Thus the ill will gathering within him was poured forth, as occasion
offered, on the various classes indiscriminately.

It seemed to him as though little by little the whole world was becoming
a hostel of which the devil was the landlord and where wickedness and
lust reigned supreme—above all because it was so slow to receive his
preaching.[220] Even the supreme Court of Justice of the Empire became in
1541 a “devil’s whore,”[221] because the judges and imperial authorities
were against him and stood for the old order of things. It was also at
this time that his pent-up anger broke out against the Jews.[222] Here it
will be sufficient to give a few new quotations.

 He put himself in the place of a ruler in whose lands the Jews
 blasphemed Christianity and exclaimed: “I would summon all the
 Jews and ask them,” whether they could prove their insulting
 assertions. “If they could, I would give them a thousand florins;
 if not I would have their tongues torn out by the root. In short,
 we ought not to suffer Jews to live amongst us, nor eat or drink
 with them.”[223]—“They are a shameful people,” he says on another
 occasion, “they swallow up everything with their usury; where they
 give a gentleman a thousand florins, they suck twenty thousand out of
 his poor underlings.”[224] The demands with which his anger against
 the Jews inspires him found only too strong an echo amongst his
 followers. “It would be well,” wrote the Lutheran preacher Jodokus
 Ehrhardt in 1558, after complaining of the usury of the Jews, “if
 in all places they were proceeded with as Father Luther advised and
 enjoined when, amongst other things, he wrote: ‘Let their synagogues
 and schools be set on fire … and let who can throw brimstone.… Refuse
 them safe conduct and all freedom to travel. Let all their ready money
 and treasures of gold and silver, etc., be taken from them,’ etc.
 Such faithful counsels and regulations were given by our divinely
 enlightened Luther.”[225]

After all that has been said it would be very rash to apply to Luther’s
attitude towards the different callings and professions the words which
St. Paul wrote of himself when considering humanity as a whole, i.e.
of the power of God by which he had striven with endless patience and
charity to bring home the Gospel to both Jew and Greek: “To the Greeks
and to the barbarians, to the wise and to the foolish I am a debtor.” “I
have become all things to all men in order to save all.”

_The Merchant Class_

The opening up of many previously unknown countries, the discovery
of new trade routes, and the new industries called forth by new
inventions brought about a sudden and quite unforeseen revival in trade
and prosperity at the time of the religious schism. An alteration in
the earlier ideas on political economy was bound to supervene. The
upsetting of the mediæval notions which now could no longer hold and the
uncertainty as to what to build on in future led to a deal of confusion
in that period of transition.

What was chiefly needed in the case of one anxious to judge of things
from their ethical and social side was experience and knowledge of
the world joined with prudence and the spirit of charity. Annoyance
was out of place; what was called for was a capacity to weigh matters

Among the Humanists there were some, who, because the new era of commerce
turned men’s minds from learning, condemned it absolutely. Thus Eobanus
Hessus of Nuremberg laments, that, there, people were bent on acquiring
riches rather than learning; the world dreamt of nothing but saffron and
pepper; he lived, as it were, among “empurpled monkeys” and would rather
make his home with the peasants of his Hessian fatherland than in his
present surroundings.[226]—What was Luther’s attitude towards the rising
merchant class and its undertakings?

In his case it was not merely the injury done to the schools and to
“Christian” posterity, and the ever growing luxury that prejudiced
him against commerce, but, above all, the constant infringement of
the principles of morality, which, according to him, was a necessary
result of the new economic life and its traffic in wares and money. He
exaggerated the moral danger and failed entirely to see the economic side
of the case. We do not find in him, says Köstlin-Kawerau, “a sufficient
insight into the existing conditions and problems,”[227] nevertheless he
did not shrink from the harshest and most uncharitable censure.

It was his deliberate intention, so he says, “to give scandal to many
more people on this point by setting up the true doctrine of Christ.”
This we find in a letter he wrote after the Leipzig Disputation when
putting the finishing touch to his first works on usury (1519).[228]
Because no attention was paid to his “Evangelical” ideas on usury he
came to the conclusion that, “now, in these days, clergy and seculars,
prelates and subjects are alike bent on thwarting Christ’s life, doctrine
and Gospel.”[229] Hence he must once again vindicate the Gospel. He,
however, distorts the Christian idea by making into strict commands
what Christ had proposed as counsels of perfection. There is reason to
believe that the mistake he here makes under the plea of zeal for the
principles of the Gospel is bound up not merely with his antipathy to the
idea of Evangelical Counsels,[230] but also with his older, pseudo-mystic
tendency and with his conception of the true Christian. We cannot help
thinking of his fanciful plan of assembling apart the real Christians
when we hear him in these very admonitions bewailing that “there are so
few Christians”; if anyone refused to lend gratis it was “a sign of his
deep unbelief,” since we are assured that by so doing “we become children
of the Most High and that our reward is great. Of such a consoling
promise he is not worthy who will not believe and act accordingly.”[231]

In any case it was a quite subjective and unfounded application of Holy
Scripture, when, in his sermon on usury, he makes the following the chief
point to be complied with:

“Christian dealings with temporal possessions,” he there says, “consist
in three things, in giving for nothing, lending free of interest and
lovingly allowing our belongings to be taken from us [Matt. v. 40, 42;
Luke vi. 30]; for there is no merit in your buying something, inheriting
it, or gaining possession of it in some other honest way, since, if this
were piety, then the heathen and Turks would also be pious.”[232]

This extravagant notion of the Christian’s duties led to his rigid and
untimely vindication of the mediæval prohibition of the charging of
interest, of which we shall have to speak more fully later. It also led
him to assail all commercial enterprise.

Greatly incensed at the action of the trading companies he set about
writing his “Von Kauffshandlung und Wucher” (1524).

 Here, speaking of the wholesale traders and merchants, he says: “The
 foreign trade that brings wares from Calicut, India and so forth, such
 as spices and costly fabrics of silk and cloth of gold, which serve
 only for display and are of no use, but merely suck the money out of
 our country and people, would not be allowed had we a government and
 real rulers.” The Old Testament patriarchs indeed bought and sold, he
 says, but “only cattle, wool, grain, butter, milk and such like; these
 are God’s gifts which He raises from the earth and distributes among
 men”; but the present trade means only the “throwing away of our gold
 and silver into foreign countries.”[233]

 Traders were, according to him, in a bad case from the moral point
 of view: “Let no one come and ask how he may with a good conscience
 belong to one of these companies. There is no other counsel than
 this: ‘Drop it’; there is no other way. If the companies are to go
 on, then that will be the end of law and honesty; if law and honesty
 are to remain, then the companies must cease.” The companies, so
 he had already said, are through and through “unstable and without
 foundation, all rank avarice and injustice, so that they cannot even
 be touched with a good conscience.… They hold all the goods in their
 hands and do with them as they please.” They aim “at making sure of
 their profit in any case, which is contrary to the nature, not only of
 commercial wares but of all temporal goods which God wishes to be ever
 in danger and uncertainty. They, however, have discovered a means of
 securing a sure profit even on uncertain temporal goods.” A man can
 thus “in a short time become so rich as to be able to buy up kings and
 emperors”; such a thing cannot possibly be “right or godly.”[234]

 As a further reason for condemning profit from trade and money
 transactions he points out, that such profit does not arise from the
 earth or from cattle.[235]

 With both these arguments he is, however, on purely mediæval ground.
 He pays but little regard to the new economic situation, though he
 has a keen eye for the abuses and the injustice which undoubtedly
 accompanied the new commerce. Instead, however, of confining his
 censure to these and pointing out how things might be improved,
 he prefers to take his stand on an already obsolete theory—one,
 nevertheless, which many shared with him—and condemn unconditionally
 all such commercial undertakings with the violence and lack of
 consideration usual in him.[236]

In his remarks we often find interesting thoughts on the economic
conditions; we see the remarkable range of his intellect and occasionally
we may even wonder whence he had his vast store of information. It is
also evident, however, that the other work with which he was overwhelmed
did not leave him time to digest his matter. Often enough he is right
when he stigmatises the excesses, but on the whole he goes much too
far. As Frank G. Ward says: “Because he was incapable of passing a
discriminating judgment on the abuses that existed he simply condemned
all commerce off-hand.”[237] He was too fond of scenting evil usury
everywhere. A contemporary of his, the merchant Bonaventura Furtenbach,
of Nuremberg, having come across one of Luther’s writings on the subject,
possibly his “Von Kauffshandlung,” remarked sarcastically: “Were I to
try to write a commentary on the Gospel of Luke everyone would say, you
are not qualified to do so. So it is with Luther when he treats of the
interest on money; he has never studied such matters.”[238] A Hamburg
merchant also made fun of Luther’s economics, and, as the Hamburg
Superintendent Æpinus (Johann Hock) reported, quoted the instance of the
Peripatetician Phormion, who gave Hannibal a scholastic lecture on the
art of war, for which reason it is usual to dub him who tries to speak
of things of which he knows nothing, a new Phormion.[239]

In his “An den Adel” Luther had shown himself more reticent, though even
here he inveighs against interest and trading companies, and says: “I am
not conversant with figures, but I cannot understand how, with a hundred
florins, it is possible to gain twenty annually.… I leave this to the
worldly wise. I, as a theologian, have only to censure the appearance of
evil concerning which St. Paul says [1 Thess. v. 22] ‘from all appearance
of evil refrain!’ This I know very well,” he continues, speaking from
the traditional standpoint, “that it would be much more godly to pay
more attention to tilling the soil and less to trade.” Yet, even in this
writing, he goes so far as to say: “It is indeed high time that a bit
were put in the mouth of the Fuggers and such-like companies.”[240]

More and more plainly he was, however, forced to realise that it was
not within his power to check the new development of commerce; he,
nevertheless, stuck by his earlier views. He was also, and to some extent
justifiably, shocked at the growing luxury which had made its way into
the burgher class and into the towns generally in the train of foreign
trade. Instead of “staying in his place and being content with a moderate
living,” “everyone wants to be a merchant and to grow rich.”[241]

 “We despise the arts and languages,” he says, “but refuse to do
 without the foreign wares which are neither necessary nor profitable
 to us, but [the expenses of] which lay our very bones bare. Do
 we not thereby show ourselves to be true Germans, i.e. fools and
 beasts?”[242] God “has given us, like other nations, sufficient wool,
 hair, flax and everything else necessary for suitable and becoming
 clothing, but now men squander fortunes on silk, satin, cloth of gold
 and all sorts of foreign stuffs.… We could also do with less spices.”
 People might say he was trying to “put down the wholesale trade
 and commerce. But I do my duty. If things are not improved in the
 community, at least let whoever can amend.”[243]

 “I cannot see that much in the way of good has ever come to a country
 through commerce.”[244]

 He refused to follow the more luxurious mode of living which had
 become the rule in the towns as a result of trade, but insisted
 on leading the more simple life to which he had throughout been
 accustomed. For the good of the people, poverty or simplicity was
 on the whole more profitable than riches. “People say, and with
 truth, ‘It takes a strong man to bear prosperity,’ and ‘A man can
 endure many things but not good fortune.’ … If we have food and
 clothing let us esteem it enough. For the cities of the plain which
 God destroyed it would have been better, if, instead of abounding in
 wealth, everything had been of the dearest, and there had been less
 superfluity.”[245]—“What worse and more wanton can be conceived of
 than the mad mob and the yokels when they are gorged with food and
 have the reins in their hands.”[246]

Hence he took a “tolerable maintenance” as he expresses it, i.e. the
mode of living suitable to a man’s state, as the basis of a fair wage.
The question of wages must in the last instance, he thinks, depend on
the question of maintenance. Luther, like Calvin, did not go any further
in this matter. “Their conservative ideas saw in high wages only the
demoralisation of the working classes.”[247]

Luther’s remarks on this subject “recall the words of Calvin, viz. that
the people must always be kept in poverty in order that they may remain

According to his view “the price of goods was synonymous with their
barter value expressed in money; money was the fixed, unchangeable
standard of things; it never occurred to anyone that an alteration in the
value of money might come, a mistake which led to much confusion. Again,
the barter value of a commodity was its worth calculated on the cost of
the material it contained and of the trouble and labour expended on its
manufacture. This calculation excluded the subjective element, just as
it ignored competition as a factor in the determining of prices.”[249]
Thus, according to Luther, the merchant had merely to calculate “how
many days he had spent in fetching and acquiring the goods, and how
great had been the work and danger involved, for much labour and time
ought to represent a higher and better wage”; he should in this “compare
himself to the common day-labourer or working-man, see what he earns in
a day, and calculate accordingly.” More than a “tolerable maintenance”
was, however, to be avoided in commerce, and likewise all such profit
“as might involve loss to another.”[250] It would have pleased him best
had the authorities fixed the price of everything, but, owing to their
untrustworthiness, this appeared to him scarcely to be hoped for. The
principle: “I shall sell my goods as dear as I can,” he opposed with
praiseworthy firmness; this was “to open door and window to hell.”[251]
He also inveighed rightly and strongly against the artificial creation of
scarcity. Here, too, we see that his ideas were simply those in vogue in
the ranks from which he came.

“His economic views in many particulars display a retrograde
tendency.”[252]—“In the history of economics he cannot be considered
as either an original or a systematic thinker. We frequently find him
adopting views which were current without seriously testing their truth
or their grounds.… His exaggerations and inconsequence must be explained
by the fact that he took but little interest in worldly business. His
interpretation of things depended on his own point of view rather than on
the actual nature of the case.”[253]

The worst of it is that his own “point of view” intruded itself far too
often into his criticisms of social conditions.

_Influence of Old-Testament Ideas_

Excessive regard for the Old-Testament enactments helped Luther to adopt
a peculiar outlook on things social and ethical.

 He says in praise of the Patriarchs: “They were devout and holy men
 who ruled well even among the heathen; now there is nothing like
 it.”[254] He often harks back to the social advantages of certain
 portions of the Jewish law, and expressly regrets that there were no
 princes who had the courage to take steps to reintroduce them for the
 benefit of mankind.

 In 1524, under the influence of his Biblical studies, he wrote to
 Duke Johann Frederick of Saxony, praising the institution of tithes
 and even of fifths: “It would be a grand thing if, according to
 ancient usage, a tenth of all property were annually handed over to
 the authorities; this would be the most Godly interest possible.…
 Indeed it would be desirable to do away with all other taxes and
 impose on the people a payment of a fifth or sixth, as Joseph did in
 Egypt.”[255] At the same time he is quite aware that such wishes are
 impracticable, seeing that, “not the Mosaic, but the Imperial law is
 now accepted by the world and in use.”

 Partly owing to the impossibility of a return to the Old Covenant,
 partly out of a spirit of contradiction to the new party, he opposed
 the fanatics’ demand that the Mosaic law should be introduced as
 near as possible entire, and the Imperial, Roman law abrogated as
 heathenish and the Papal, Canon law as anti-Christian. Duke Johann,
 the Elector’s brother, was soon half won over to these fantastic ideas
 by the Court preacher, Wolfgang Stein, but Luther and Melanchthon
 succeeded in making him change his mind.[256] The necessity Luther
 was under of opposing the Anabaptists here produced its fruits; his
 struggle with the fanatics preserved him from the consequences of his
 own personal preference for the social regulations of the Old Covenant.

 In what difficulties his Old-Testament ideas on polygamy involved him
 the history of the bigamy of Philip of Hesse has already shown.[257]
 Had such ideas concerning marriage been realised in society the
 revolution in the social order would indeed have been great.

 Luther’s esteem for the social laws of the Old Testament finds its
 best expression in his sermons on Genesis, which first saw the light
 in 1527.

 He says, for instance, of the Jewish law of restitution and general
 settlement of affairs, in the Jubilee Year: “It is laid down in Moses
 that no one can sell a field in perpetuity but only until the Jubilee
 Year, and when this came each one recovered possession of his field or
 the property he had sold, and thus the lands remained in the family.
 There are also some other fine laws in the Books of Moses which well
 might be adopted, made use of and put in force.” He even wishes that
 the Imperial Government would take the lead in re-enacting them “for
 as long as is desired, but without compulsion.”[258]

His views on interest and usury were likewise influenced by his one-sided
reading of certain Old- and New-Testament statements.

_Usury and Interest_

On the question of the lawfulness of charging interest Luther not only
laid down no “new principles” which might have been of help for the
future, but, on the contrary, he paved the way for serious difficulties.
He was not to be moved from the traditional, mediæval standpoint which
viewed the charging of any interest whatever on loans as something
prohibited. His foe, Johann Eck, on the other hand, in a Disputation at
Bologna, had defended the lawfulness of moderate interest.[259]

After having repeatedly attacked by word and pen usury and the charging
of any interest[260]—led thereto, as he says, by the grievous abuses in
the commercial and financial system, he published in 1539 his “An die
Pfarherrn wider den Wucher zu predigen,” whence most of what follows has
been taken. As it was written towards the end of his life, we may assume
it to represent the result of his experience and the final statement of
his convictions.

In this writing, after a sad outburst on the increase of usury in
Germany, he begins his “warnings” by urging that “the people should be
told firmly and plainly concerning lending and borrowing, and that when
money is lent and a charge made or more taken back than was originally
made over, this is usury, and as such is condemned by every law. Hence
those are usurers who charge 5, or 6, or more on the hundred on the
money they lend, and should be called idolatrous ministers of avarice or
Mammon, nor can they be saved unless they do penance.… To lend is to give
a man my money, property or belongings so that he may use them.… Just
as one neighbour lends another a dish, a can, a bed, or clothes, and in
the same way money, or money’s worth, in return for which I may not take

The writer of these words, like so many others who, in his day and
later, still adhered to the old canonical standpoint, failed to see,
that, as things then were, to lend money was to surrender to the
borrower a commodity which was already bringing in some return, and
that, in consequence of this, the lender had a right to demand some
indemnification. As this had not generally speaking been the case in the
Middle Ages, the prohibition of charging interest was then a just one.
Nevertheless, within certain limits, it was slowly becoming obsolete and,
as the economic situation changed for that of modern times and money
became more liquid, the more general did lending at interest become.

Luther was well aware that to lend at interest was already “usual”
and even “common in all classes.”[262] It was also, as a Protestant
contemporary complained in 1538, twice as prevalent in the Lutheran
communities than among the Catholics.[263] Still Luther insists
obstinately that, “it was a very idle objection, and one that any village
sexton could dispose of when people pleaded the custom of the world
contrary to the Word of God, or against what was right.… It is nothing
new or strange that the world should be hopeless, accursed, damned; this
it had always been and would ever remain. If you obey its behests, you
also will go with it into the abyss of hell.”[264]

 Though in his instructions to the pastors he condemns
 indiscriminately, as a “thief, robber and murderer,” everyone who
 charges interest, still he wants his teaching to be applied above
 all to the “great ogres in the world, who can never charge enough
 per cent.” “The sacrament and absolution” were to be denied them,
 and “when about to die they were to be left like the heathen and not
 granted Christian burial” unless they had first done penance. To the
 “small usurer it is true my sentence may sound terrible, I mean to
 such as take but five or six on the hundred.”[265]

 All, however, whether the percentage they charge be small or great, he
 advises to bring their objections to him, or to some other minister,
 “or to a good lawyer,”[266] so as to learn the further reasons
 and particulars concerning the prohibition of receiving interest.
 Every pastor was to preach strongly and fearlessly on its general
 unlawfulness in order that he may not “go to the devil” with those of
 his flock who charge interest.

 Not that Luther was very hopeful about the results of such preaching.
 “The whole world is full of usurers,” he said in 1542 in the
 Table-Talk, and to a friend who had asked him: “Why do not the princes
 punish such grievous usury and extortion?” Luther answers: “Surely,
 the princes and kings have other things to do; they have to feast,
 drink and hunt, and cannot attend to this.” “Things must soon come to
 a head and a great and unforeseen change take place! I hope, however,
 that the Last Day will soon make an end of it all.”[267]

 As to his grounds for condemning interest, he declares in the same
 conversation: “Money is an unfruitful commodity which I cannot sell
 in such a way as to entitle me to a profit.” He is but re-echoing
 the axiom “_Pecunia est sterilis_,” etc., maintained all too long in
 learned Catholic circles. Hence, as he says in 1540, “Lending neither
 can nor ought to be a true trade or means of livelihood; nor do I
 believe the Emperor thinks so either.” Besides, “it is not enough in
 the sight of heaven to obey the laws of the Emperor.”[268] According
 to him God had positively forbidden in the Old Testament the charging
 of any interest, as contrary to the natural law and as oppressive and
 unlawful usury (Ex. xxii. 25; Lev. xxv. 36; Deut. xxiii. 19, etc.).
 In the New Testament Christ, so Luther thinks, solemnly confirmed the
 prohibition when He said in St. Matthew’s gospel: “Give to him that
 asketh thee and from him that would borrow of thee turn not away” (v.
 42), and in St. Luke (vi. 35) still more emphatically: “Lend, hoping
 for nothing.”[269]

 In the Old Law, however, the charging of interest was by no means
 absolutely forbidden to the Jews (Deut. xxiii. 19 f.), so that it
 could not be regarded as a thing repugnant to the natural law, though
 the Mosaic Code interdicted it among the Jews themselves. As for the
 New-Testament passages Luther had no right to infer any prohibition
 from them. Our Saviour, after speaking of offering the other cheek
 to the smiter, of giving also our cloak to him who would take away
 our coat, and of other instances of the exercise of extraordinary
 virtue, goes on to advise our lending without hope of return. But many
 understood this as a counsel, not as a command. Luther indeed says
 that thereby they were making nought of Christ’s doctrine. He insists
 that all these counsels were real commands, viz. commands to be ever
 ready to suffer injustice and to do good; the secular authorities
 were there to see that human society thereby suffered no harm. The
 Papists, however, and the scholastics looked upon these things in a
 different light. “The sophists had no reason for altering our Lord’s
 commands and for making out that they were ‘_consilia_’ as they term
 them.”[270] “They teach that Christ did not enjoin these things on
 all Christians, but only on the perfect, each one being free to keep
 them if he desires.” In this way the Papists do away with the doctrine
 of Christ; they thereby condemn, destroy and get rid of good works,
 whilst all the time accusing us of forbidding them; “hence it is that
 the world has got so full of monks, tonsures and Masses.”[271]—Yet,
 even if we take the words of Christ, as quoted, let us say, by St.
 Luke, and see in them a positive command, yet they would refer only
 to the social and economic conditions prevailing among the Jews at
 the time the words were spoken. According to certain commentators,
 moreover, the words have no reference to the question of interest,
 because, so they opine, “it was a question of relinquishing all claim
 not merely on the interest but on the capital itself.”[272]

The Jesuit theologians of the 16th and 17th centuries as a rule were
careful to instance a number of cases in which the canonical prohibition
of charging even a moderate rate of interest does not apply. They thus
paved the way for the abrogation of the prohibition. Of this we have
an instance in Iago Lainez, who in principle was strongly averse to
the charging of interest. This theologian, who later became General
of the Jesuits, when a preacher at the busy commercial city of Genoa,
wrote (1553-1554) an essay on usury embodying the substance of his
addresses to the merchants.[273] Lainez there points out that any damage
accruing to the lender from the loan, and also the temporary absence of
profit on it, constitutes a sufficient ground for demanding a moderate
interest.[274] He also strongly insists that the lender, in compensation
for his willingness to lend, may accept from the borrower a “voluntary”
premium;[275] the lender, moreover, has a perfect right to safeguard
himself by stipulating for a fine (_pœna conventionalis_) from the
borrower should repayment be delayed. All this comes under the instances
of “apparent usury,” which he enumerates: “_Casus qui videntur usurarii
et non sunt_” (cap. 10).

Luther devotes no such prudent consideration to those exceptional cases.
He was more inclined by nature harshly to vindicate the principles he
had embraced than to seek how best to limit them in practice. “He did
not take into account loans asked for, not from necessity, but for the
purpose of making profit on the borrowed money”;[276] yet, after all,
this was the very point on which the question turned in the early days of
economic development. He discusses the lawfulness of a voluntary premium
and comes to the conclusion that it is wrong. He scoffs at the lender, as
a mere hypocrite, who argues: “The borrower is very thankful for such a
loan and freely and without compulsion offers me 5, 6 or even 10 florins
on the hundred.” “But even an adulteress and an adulterer,” says Luther
in his usual vein, “are thankful and pleased with each other; a robber,
too, does an assassin a great service when he helps him to commit highway
robbery.” The borrower does the lender a similar criminal service and
spiritual injury, for which no premium can make compensation.[277] As
regards the case where the loan is not repaid at the specified time,
Luther is, of course, of opinion that any real loss to the owner must be
made good by the borrower. But now, he says, “they accept reimbursement
for losses which they never suffered at all,” they simply calculate the
interest on a loss which they may possibly suffer from not having back
the money when the time comes for buying or paying. “In its efforts to
make a certainty of what is uncertain, will not usury soon be the ruin of
the world!”[278]

In the Table-Talk a friend, in 1542, raised an objection: If a man trades
with the money lent him and makes 15 florins yearly, he must surely pay
the lender something for this. Of this Luther, however, will not hear.
“No, this is merely an accidental profit, and on accidentals no rule can
be based.”[279] That the profit was “accidental” was, however, simply his

 In spite of all this Luther did make exceptions, though, in view of
 his rigid theory and reading of the Bible, it is difficult to see how
 he could justify them.

 Thus, he is willing to allow usury in those cases where the charging
 of interest is “in reality a sort of work of mercy to the needy, who
 would otherwise have nothing, and where no great injury is done to
 another.” Thus, when “old people, poor widows or orphans, or other
 necessitous folk, who have learned no other way of making a living,”
 were only able to support themselves by lending out their money, in
 such cases the “lawyers might well seek to mitigate somewhat the
 severity of the law.” “Should an appeal be made to the ruler,” then
 the proverb “Necessity knows no law” might be quoted. “It might
 here serve to call to mind that the Emperor Justinian had permitted
 such mitigated usury [he had sanctioned the taking of 4, 6 or 8 per
 cent], and in such a case I am ready to agree and to answer for it
 before God, particularly in the case of needy persons and where usury
 is practised out of necessity or from charity. If, however, it was
 wanton, avaricious, unnecessary usury, merely for the purpose of trade
 and profit, then I would not agree”; even the Emperor himself could
 not make this legitimate; for it is not the laws of the Emperor which
 lead us to heaven, but the observance of the laws of God.[280]

 It follows from this that even the so-called “_titulus legis_” found
 no favour in his sight in the case of actual money loans, for it is of
 this, not of “purchasable interest,” that he speaks in the writing to
 the pastors. A real, honest purchase, so he there says quite truly, is
 no usury.[281]

 A remarkable deflection from his strict principles is to be found
 not only in the words just quoted but also in his letter to the town
 council of Erfurt sent in 1525 at the time of the rising in that
 town and the neighbourhood. The mutineers refused among other things
 to continue paying interest on the sums borrowed. For this refusal
 Luther censures them as rebels, and also refuses to hear of their
 “deducting the interest from the sum total” (i.e. the capital). He
 here vindicates the lenders as follows: “Did I wish yearly to spend
 some of the total amount I should naturally keep it by me. Why should
 I hand it over to another as though I were a child, and allow another
 to trade with it? Who can dispose of his money even at Erfurt in such
 a way that it shall be paid out to him yearly and bit by bit? This
 would really be asking too much.”[282]

 Luther also relaxed his principles in favour of candidates for the
 office of preacher. When, in 1532, the widow of Wolfgang Jörger, an
 Austrian Governor, offered him 500 florins for stipends for “poor
 youths prosecuting their studies in Holy Scripture” at Wittenberg, at
 the same time asking him how to place it, he unhesitatingly replied
 that it should be lent out at interest; “I, together with Master
 Philip and other good friends and Masters, have thought this best
 because it is to be expended on such a good, useful and necessary
 work.” He suggested that the money “should be handed in at the
 Rathaus” at Nuremberg to Lazarus Spengler, syndic of that town; if
 this could not be, then he would have it “invested elsewhere.” Such
 “good works in Christ” are, he says, unfortunately not common amongst
 us “but rather the contrary, so that they leave the poor ministers to
 starve; the nobles as well as the peasants and the burghers are all
 of them more inclined to plunder than to help.”[283] Thus it was his
 desire to help the preachers that determined his action here.

 A writer, who, as a rule, is disposed to depict Luther’s social ethics
 in a very favourable light, remarks: “When his attention was riveted
 on the abuses arising from the lending of money [and the charging of
 interest] he could see nothing but evil in the whole thing; on the
 other hand, if some good purpose was to be served by the money, he
 regarded this as morally quite justifiable.”[284] That Luther “was not
 always true to his theories,” and that he is far from displaying any
 “striking originality” in his economic views, cannot, according to
 this author, be called into question.[285]

_Luther on Unearned Incomes and Annuities_

A great change took place in Luther’s views concerning the buying of the
right to receive a yearly interest, nor was the change an unfortunate
one. He was induced to abandon his earlier standpoint that such purchase
was wrong and to recognise, that, within certain limits, it could be
perfectly lawful.

The nature of this sort of purchase, then very common, he himself
explains in his clear and popular style: “If I have a hundred florins
with which I might gain five, six or more florins a year by means of
my labour, I can give them to another for investment _in some fertile
land_ in order that, not I, but he, may do business with them; hence I
receive from him the five florins I might have made, and thus he sells
me the interest, five florins per hundred, and I am the buyer and he
the seller.”[286] It was an essential point in the arrangement that the
money should be employed in an undertaking in some way really fruitful
or profitable to the receiver of the capital, i.e. in real estate,
which he could farm, or in some other industry; the debtor gave up the
usufruct to the creditor together with the interest agreed upon, but was
able to regain possession of it by repayment of the debt. The creditor,
according to the original arrangement, was also to take his share in the
fluctuations in profit, and not arbitrarily to demand back his capital.

At first Luther included such transactions among the “fig-leaves” behind
which usury was wont to shelter itself; they were merely, so he declared
in 1519 in his Larger Sermon on Usury, “a pretty sham and pretence by
which a man can oppress others without sin and become rich without labour
or trouble.”[287] In the writing “An den Adel” he even exclaimed: “The
greatest misfortune of the German nation is undoubtedly the traffic in
interest.… The devil invented it and the Pope, by sanctioning it, has
wrought havoc throughout the world.”[288] It is quite true that the
arrangement, being in no wise unjust, had received the conditional
sanction of the Church and was widely prevalent in Christendom. Many
abuses and acts of oppression had, indeed, crept into it, particularly
with the general spread of the practice of charging interest on money
loans, but they were not a necessary result of the transaction. Luther,
in those earlier days, demanded that such “transactions should be utterly
condemned and prevented for the future, regardless of the opposition of
the Pope and all his infamous laws [to the condemnation], and though
he might have erected his pious foundations on them.… In truth, the
traffic in interest is a sign and a token that the world is sold into the
devil’s slavery by grievous sins.”[289] Yet Luther himself allows the
practice under certain conditions in the Larger Sermon on Usury published
shortly before, from which it is evident that here he is merely voicing
his detestation of the abuses, and probably, too, of the “Pope and his
infamous laws.”

In fact his first pronouncements against the investing of money are
all largely dictated by his hostility to the existing ecclesiastical
government; “that churches, monasteries, altars, this and that,” should
be founded and kept going by means of interest, is what chiefly arouses
his ire. In 1519 he busies himself with the demolition of the objection
brought forward by Catholics, who argued: “The churches and the clergy
do this and have the right to do it because such money is devoted to the
service of God.”

In his Larger Sermon on Usury he gives an instance where he is ready to
allow transactions at interest, viz. “where both parties require their
money and therefore cannot afford to lend it for nothing but are obliged
to help themselves by means of bills of exchange. Provided the ghostly
law be not infringed, then a percentage of four, five or six florins may
be taken.”[290] Thus he here not only falls back on the “ghostly law,”
but also deviates from the line he had formerly laid down. In fact we
have throughout to deal more with stormy effusions than with a ripe,
systematic discussion of the subject.

Later on, his general condemnations of the buying of interest-rights
become less frequent.

He even wrote in 1524 to Duke Johann Frederick of Saxony: Since the
Jewish tithes cannot be re-introduced, “it would be well to regulate
everywhere the purchase of interest-rights, but to do away with them
altogether would not be right since they might be legalised.”[291] As
a condition for justifying the transaction he requires above all that
no interest should be charged without “a definitely named and stated
pledge,” for to charge on a mere money pledge would be usury. “What is
sterile cannot pay interest.”[292] Further the right of cancelling the
contract was to remain in the hands of the receiver of the capital. The
interest once agreed upon was to be paid willingly. He himself relied
on the practice and once asked: “If the interest applied to churches
and schools were cut off, how would the ministers and schools be

With regard to the rate of interest allowable in his opinion, he says in
his sermons on Matt. xviii. (about 1537): “We would readily agree to the
paying of six or even of seven or eight on the hundred.”[294] As a reason
he assigns the fact that “the properties have now risen so greatly in
value,” a remark to which he again comes back in 1542 in his Table-Talk
in order to justify his not finding even seven per cent excessive.[295]
He thus arrives eventually at the conclusion of the canonists who, for
certain good and just reasons, allowed a return of from seven to eight
per cent.

 In his “An die Pfarherrn” he took no account of such purchases but
 merely declared that he would find some other occasion “of saying
 something about this kind of usury”; at the same time a “fair, honest
 purchase is no usury.”[296]

 All the more strongly in this writing, the tone of which is only
 surpassed by the attacks on the usury of the Jews contained in his
 last polemics, does he storm against the evils of that usury which
 was stifling Germany. The pastors and preachers were to “stick to the
 text,” where the Gospel forbids the taking of anything in return for
 loans.[297] That this will bring him into conflict with the existing
 custom he takes for granted. In his then mood of pessimistic defiance
 he was anxious that the preachers should boldly hurl at all the
 powers that be the words of that Bible which cannot lie: where evil
 is so rampant “God must intervene and make an end, as He did with
 Sodom, with the world at the Deluge, with Babylon, with Rome and such
 like cities, that were utterly destroyed. This is what we Germans are
 asking for, nor shall we cease to rage until people shall say: Germany
 _was_, just as we now say of Rome and of Babylon.”[298]

 He nevertheless gives the preachers a valuable hint as to how they
 were to proceed in order to retain their peace of mind and get over
 difficulties. Here “it seems to me better … for the sake of your own
 peace and tranquillity, that you should send them to the lawyers
 whose duty and office it is to teach and to decide on such wretched,
 temporal, transitory, worldly matters, particularly when they [your
 questioners] are disposed to haggle about the Gospel text.”[299] “For
 this reason, according to our preaching, usury with all its sins
 should be left to the lawyers, for, unless they whose duty it is to
 guard the dam help in defending it, the petty obstacles we can set up
 will not keep back the flood.” But, after all, “the world cannot go on
 without usury, without avarice, without pride … otherwise the world
 would cease to be the world nor would the devil be the devil.”[300]

The difficulties which beset Luther’s attitude on the question of
interest were in part of his own creation.

 “In the question of commerce and the charging of interest,” says
 Julius Köstlin in his “Theologie Luthers,” “he displays, for all
 his acumen, an unmistakable lack of insight into the true value for
 social life of trade—particularly of that trade on a large scale with
 which we are here specially concerned—in spite of all the sins and
 vexations which it brings with it, or into the importance of loans
 at interest—something very different from loans to the poor—for the
 furthering of work and the development of the land.”[301]

 With reference to what Köstlin here says it must, however, be again
 pointed out that Luther’s lack of insight may be explained to some
 extent “by the great change which was just then coming over the
 economic life of Germany.” It must also be added, that, in Luther’s
 case, the struggle against usury was in itself a courageous and
 deserving work, and, that, hand in hand with it, went those warm
 exhortations to charity which he knew so well how to combine with
 Christ’s Evangelical Counsels.

 In his attack on the abuses connected with usury his indignation at
 the mischief, and his ardent longing to help the oppressed, frequently
 called forth impressive and heart-stirring words. Though, in what
 Luther said about usury and on the economic conditions of his day, we
 meet much that is vague, incorrect and passionate, yet, on the other
 hand, we also find some excellent hints and suggestions.[302]

It is notorious that the controversy regarding the lawfulness of
interest, even of 5 per cent, on money loans, went on for a long time
among theologians both Catholic and Protestant. The subject was also
keenly debated among the 16th-century Jesuits. No theologian, however,
succeeded in proving the sinfulness of the charging of a five per cent
interest under the circumstances which then obtained in Germany. Attempts
to have this generally prohibited under severe penalties were rejected
by eminent Catholic theologians, for instance, in a memorandum of the
Law and Divinity Faculties at Ingolstadt, dated August 2, 1580, which
bore the signatures of all the professors.[303] On the Protestant side
the contest led to disagreeable proceedings at Ratisbon, where, in 1588,
five preachers, true to Luther’s injunctions, insisted firmly on the
prohibition on theological grounds. They were expelled from the town by
the magistrates, though this did not end the controversy.[304]

There was naturally no question at any time of enforcing the severe
measures which Luther had advocated against those who charged interest;
on the contrary the social disorders of the day promoted not merely
the lending at moderate interest, but even actual usury of the worst
character. When even Martin Bucer showed himself disposed to admit the
lawfulness of taking twelve per cent interest George Lauterbecken, the
Mansfeld councillor, wrote of him in his “Regentenbuch”: “What has become
of the book Dr. Luther of blessed memory addressed to the ministers on
the subject of usury, exhorting them most earnestly,” etc., etc.? Nobody
now dreamt, so he complains, of putting in force the penalties decreed
by Luther. “Where do we see in any of our countries which claim to be
Evangelical anyone refused the Sacrament of the altar or Holy Baptism on
account of usury? Where, agreeably to the Canons, are they forbidden to
make a will? Where do we see one of them buried on the dungheap?”[305]



The struggles of conscience which we already had occasion to consider
(vol. v., p. 319 ff.) were not the only gloomy elements in Luther’s
interior life. Other things, too, must be taken into our purview if we
wish to appreciate justly the more sombre side of his existence, viz.
his bodily ailments and the mental sufferings to which they gave rise
(e.g. paroxysms of terror and apprehension), his temptations, likewise
his delusions concerning his intercourse with the other world (ghosts,
diabolical apparitions, etc.), and, lastly, the revelations of which he
fancied himself the recipient.

1. Early Sufferings, Bodily and Mental

It is no easy task to understand the nature of the morbid phenomena which
we notice in Luther. His own statements on the subject are not only very
scanty but also prove that he was himself unable to determine exactly
their cause. Nevertheless, it is our duty to endeavour, with the help of
what he says, to glean some notion of what was going on within him. His
gloomy mental experiences are so inextricably bound up with his state of
health, that, even more than his “agonies of conscience” already dealt
with, they deserve to take their place on the darker background of his
psychic life. Here again, duly to appreciate the state of the case, we
shall have to review anew the whole of Luther’s personal history.

_Fits of Fear; Palpitations; Swoons_

What first claims our attention, even in the early days of Luther’s
life as a monk, are the attacks of what he himself calls fears and
trepidations (“_terrores_, _pavores_”). It seems fairly clear that these
were largely neurotic,—physical breakdowns due to nervous worry.

According to Melanchthon, the friend in whom he chiefly confided, Luther
gave these sufferings a place in the forefront of his soul’s history.
The reader may remember the significant passage where Melanchthon says,
that, when oppressed with gloomy thoughts of the Divine Judgments,
Luther “was often suddenly overwhelmed by such fits of terror (‘_subito
tanti terrores_’)” as made him an object of pity. These terrors he had
experienced for the first time when he decided to enter the monastic
life, led to this resolution by the sudden death of a dearly loved

 We hear from Luther himself of the strange paroxysms of fear from
 which he suffered as a monk. On two occasions when he speaks of them
 his words do not seem to come under suspicion of forming part of
 the legend which he afterwards wove about his earlier history (see
 below, xxxvii.). These statements, already alluded to once, may be
 given more in detail here. In March, 1537, he told his friends: “When
 I was saying Mass [his first Mass] and had reached the Canon, such
 terror seized on me (_ita horrui_) that I should have fled had not the
 Prior held me back; for when I came to the words, ‘Thee, therefore,
 most merciful Father, we suppliantly pray and entreat,’ etc., I
 felt that I was speaking to God without any mediator. I longed to
 flee from the earth. For who can endure the Majesty of God without
 Christ the Mediator? In short, as a monk I experienced those terrors
 (_horrores_); I was made to experience them before I began to assail
 them.”[307] Incidentally it may be noted that “Christ the Mediator,”
 whom Luther declares he could not find in the Catholic ritual, is, as
 a matter of fact, invoked in the very words which follow those quoted
 by Luther: “Thee, therefore, most merciful Father, we suppliantly pray
 and entreat through Jesus Christ Thy Son our Lord to accept and bless
 these gifts,” etc. Evidently when Luther recorded his impressions he
 had forgotten these words and only remembered the groundless fear and
 inward commotion with which he had said his first Mass.

 Something similar occurred during a procession at Erfurt, when he had
 to walk by the side of Staupitz, his superior, who was carrying the
 Blessed Sacrament. Fear and terror so mastered Luther that he was
 hardly able to remain. Telling Staupitz of this later in Confession,
 the latter encouraged him with the words: “Christ does not affright,
 He comforts.” The incident must have taken place after 1515, the
 Eisleben priory having been founded only in that year.[308]

 If we go back to the very beginning of his life in the monastery we
 shall find that the religious scruples which assailed him at least
 for a while, possibly also deserve to be reckoned as morbid. We shall
 return below to the voice “from heaven” which drove him into the

 Unspeakable fear issuing in bodily prostration was also at work in
 him on the occasion of the already related incident in the choir of
 the Erfurt convent, when he fell to the ground crying out that he was
 not the man possessed. Not only does Dungersheim relate it, on the
 strength of what he had heard from inmates of the monastery,[309] but
 Cochlæus also speaks of the incident, in his “Acta,” and, again, in
 coarse and unseemly language in the book he wrote in 1533, entitled
 “Von der Apostasey,” doubtless also drawing his information from the
 Augustinian monks: “It is notorious how Luther came to be a monk;
 how he collapsed in choir, bellowing like a bull when the Gospel
 of the man possessed was being read; how he behaved himself in the
 monastery,” etc.[310] We may recall, how, according to Cochlæus, his
 brother monks suspected Luther, owing to this attack and on account of
 a “certain singularity of manner,” of being either under diabolical
 influence or an epileptic.[311] The convulsions which accompanied the
 fit may have given rise to the suspicion of epilepsy, but, in reality,
 they cannot be regarded as sufficient proof. Epilepsy is well-nigh
 incurable, yet, in Luther’s case, we hear of no similar fits in later
 life. In later years he manifested no fear of epileptic fits, though
 he lived in dread of an apoplectic seizure, such as, in due course,
 was responsible for his death. A medical diagnosis would not fail to
 consider this seeming instance of epileptic convulsions in conjunction
 with Luther’s state of fear. For the purpose of the present work it
 will be sufficient to bring together for the benefit of the expert the
 necessary data for forming an opinion on the whole question, so far as
 this is possible.

 From the beginning Luther seems to have regarded these “states of
 terror” as partaking to some extent of a mystic character.

 To what a height they could sometimes attain appears from the
 description he embodied in his “_Resolutiones_” in 1518, and of which
 Köstlin opines that, in it Luther portrayed the culminating point to
 which his own fears had occasionally risen. It is indeed very probable
 that Luther is referring to no other than himself when he says in the
 opening words of this remarkable passage: “I know a man who assures me
 that he has frequently felt these pains.”[312] G. Kawerau also agrees
 with Köstlin in assuming that Luther is here speaking of himself,[313]
 a view which is, in fact, forced upon us by other similar passages.
 Walter Köhler declares: “Whether Luther intended these words to refer
 to himself or not, in any case they certainly depict his normal

 Luther, after saying that, “many, even to the present day,” suffer
 the pangs of hell so often described in the Psalms of David, and [so
 Luther thinks], by Tauler, goes on to describe these pangs in words
 which we shall now quote in full, as hitherto only extracts have been

 “He often had to endure such pains, though in every instance they were
 but momentary; they were, however, so great and so hellish that no
 tongue can tell, no pen describe, no one who has not felt them believe
 what they were. When at their worst, or when they lasted for half
 an hour, nay, for the tenth part of an hour, he was utterly undone,
 and all his bones turned to ashes. At such times God and the whole
 of creation appears to him dreadfully wroth. There is, however, no
 escape, no consolation either within or without, and man is ringed
 by a circle of accusers. He then tearfully exclaims in the words of
 Holy Scripture: ‘I am cast away, O Lord, from before Thy eyes’ [Ps.
 xxx. 23], and does not even dare to say: ‘Lord, chastise me not in
 Thy wrath’ [Ps. vi. 1]. At such a time the soul, strange to tell, is
 unable to believe that it ever will be saved; it only feels that the
 punishment is not yet at an end. And yet the punishment is everlasting
 and may not be regarded as temporal; there remains only a naked
 longing for help and a dreadful groaning; where to look for help the
 soul does not know. It is as it were stretched out [on the cross] with
 Christ, so that ‘all its bones are numbered.’ There is not a nook in
 it that is not filled with the bitterest anguish, with terror, dread
 and sadness, and above all with the feeling that it is to last for
 ever and ever. To make use of a weaker comparison: when a ball travels
 along a straight line, every point of the line bears the whole weight
 of the ball, though it does not contain it. In the same way, when the
 floods of eternity pass over the soul, it feels nothing else, drinks
 in nothing else but everlasting pain; this, however, does not last
 but passes. It is the very pain of hell, is this unbearable terror,
 that excludes all consolation!… As to what it means, those who have
 experienced it must be believed.”[316]

A physical accompaniment of these fears was, in Luther’s case, the
fainting fits referred to now and again subsequent to the beginning of
his struggle against the Church.

On the occasion of the attack of which we are told by Ratzeberger the
physician, when he was found by friends lying unconscious on the floor,
he had been “overpowered by melancholy and sadness.” It is also very
remarkable that when his friends had brought him to, partly by the help
of music, he begged them to return frequently, that they might play to
him “because he found that as soon as he heard the sound of music his
‘_tentationes_’ and melancholy left him.”[317] According to Kawerau
the circumstances point to this incident having taken place in 1523 or

On the occasion of a serious attack of illness in 1527 his swoons again
caused great anxiety to those about him. This illness was preceded by a
fit in Jan., 1527. Luther informs a friend that he had “suddenly been
affrighted and almost killed by a rush or thickening of the blood in the
region of the heart,” but had as quickly recovered. His cure was, he
thinks, due to a decoction of milk-thistle,[319] then considered a very
efficacious remedy. The rush of blood to the heart, of which he here
had to complain, occurred at a time when Luther had nothing to say of
“temptations,” but only of the many troubles and anxieties due to his

The more severe bout of illness began on July 6, 1527, at the very
time of, or just after, some unusually severe “temptation.”[320] Jonas
prefaces his account of it by saying that Luther, “after having that
morning, as he admitted, suffered from a burdensome spiritual temptation,
came back partially to himself (‘_utcunque ad se rediit_’).” The words
seem to presuppose that he had either fainted or been on the verge of
fainting.[321] Having, as the same friend relates, recovered somewhat,
Luther made his confession and spoke of his readiness for death. In the
afternoon, however, he complained of an unendurable buzzing in his left
ear which soon grew into a frightful din in his head. Bugenhagen, in his
narrative, is of opinion that the cause of the mischief here emerges
plainly, viz. that it was the work of the devil. A fainting fit ensued
which overtook Luther at the door of his bedchamber. When laid on his bed
he complained of being utterly exhausted. His body was rubbed with cloths
wrung out of cold water and then warmth was applied. The patient now felt
a little better, but his strength came and went. Amongst other remarks
he then passed was one, that Christ is stronger than Satan. When saying
this he burst into tears and sobs. Finally, after application of the
remedies common at that time, he broke out into a sweat and the danger
was considered to be over.

There followed, however, the days and months of dreadful spiritual
“temptations” already described (vol. v., p. 333 ff.). At first the
bodily weakness also persisted. Bugenhagen was obliged to take up his
abode in Luther’s house for a while because the latter was in such dread
of the temptations and wished to have help and comfort at hand. For a
whole week Luther was unable either to read or to write.

At the end of August and again in September the fainting fits recurred.

His friends, however, were more concerned about Luther’s mental anguish
than about his bodily sufferings. The latter gradually passed away,
whereas the struggles of conscience continued to be very severe. On Oct.
17, Jonas wrote to Johann Lang: “He is battling amidst the waves of
temptation and is hardly able to find any passage of Scripture wherewith
to console himself.”[322]

In 1530 again we hear of Luther’s life being endangered by a fainting
fit, though it seems to have been distinct from the above attack of
illness. This also occurred after an alarming incident during which he
believed he had actually seen the devil. It was followed the next day by
a loud buzzing in the head. Renewed trouble in the region of the heart,
accompanied by paroxysms of fear, is reported to have been experienced
in 1536.[323] After this we hear no more of any such symptoms till just
before Luther’s death. In the sudden attack of illness which brought his
life to a close he complained chiefly of feeling a great oppression on
the chest, though his heart was sound.[324]

_Nervousness and other Ailments_

Quite a number of Luther’s minor ills seem to have been the result of
overwrought nerves due partly to his work and the excitement of his life.
Here again it is difficult to judge of the symptoms; unquestionably some
sort of connection exists between his nervous state and his depression
and bodily fears;[325] the fainting fits are even reckoned by some as
simply due to neurasthenia.

There can be no doubt that his nervousness was, to some extent inherited,
to some extent due to his upbringing. His lively temper which enabled him
to be so easily carried away by his fancy, to take pleasure in the most
glaring of exaggerations, and bitterly to resent the faintest opposition,
proves that, for all the vigour of his constitution, nerves played an
important part.

Already in his monastic days his state was aggravated by mental
overstrain and the haste and turmoil of his work which led him to neglect
the needs of the body. His uninterrupted literary labours, his anxiety
for his cause, his carelessness about his health and his irregular mode
of life reduced him in those days to a mere skeleton. At Worms the
wretchedness of his appearance aroused pity in many. It is true that when
he returned from the Wartburg he was looking much stronger, but the years
1522-25, during which he led a lonely bachelor’s life in the Wittenberg
monastery, without anyone to wait on him, and sleeping night after night
on an unmade bed, brought his nervous state to such a pitch that he was
never afterwards able completely to master it. On the contrary, his
nervousness grew ever more pronounced, tormenting him in various ways.

So little, however, did he understand it that it was to the devil that he
attributed the effects, now dubiously, now with entire conviction.

Among these effects must be included the buzzing in the head and singing
in the ears, to which Luther’s letters allude for many a year. When, at
the end of Jan., 1529, the violent “agonies and temptations” recurred,
the buzzing in the ears again made itself felt. He writes: “For more
than a week I have been ailing from dizziness and humming in the head
(‘_vertigo et bombus_’), whether this be due to fatigue or to the malice
of the devil I do not know. Pray for me that I may be strong in the
faith.”[326] He also complains of this trouble in the head in the next
letter, dating from early in Feb.[327] He was then unable to preach or to
give lectures for nearly three weeks.[328]

He goes on to say of himself: “In addition to the buffets of the angel
of Satan [the temptations] I have also suffered from giddiness and
headache.”[329] It was, however, as he himself points out, no real
illness: “Almost constantly is it my fate to feel ill though my body is

In the new kind of life he had to lead in the Castle of Coburg in 1530,
when, to want of exercise, was added overwork and anxiety of mind, these
neurasthenic phenomena again reappeared. He compares the noises in his
head to thunder, or to a whirlwind. There was also present a tendency
to fainting. At times he was unable even to look at any writing, or to
bear the light owing to the weakness of his head.[331] Simultaneously
the struggle with his thoughts gave him endless trouble; thus he writes:
“It is the angel of Satan who buffets me so, but since I have endured
death so often for Christ, I am quite ready for His sake to suffer this
illness, or this Sabbath-peace of the head.”[332] “You declare,” he
says laughingly in a letter to Melanchthon, “that I am pig-headed, but
my pig-headedness is nothing compared with that of my head (‘_caput
eigensinnigissimum_’); so powerfully does Satan compel me to make holiday
and to waste my time.”[333] Towards the middle of August his head
improved, but the tiresome buzzing frequently recurred. Luther complained
later that, during this summer, he had been forced to waste half his

When, from this time onwards, “we hear him ever saying that he feels
worn-out (‘_decrepitus_’), weary of life and desirous of death … all
this is undoubtedly closely bound up with these nerve troubles.”[335]
The morning hours became for him the worst, because during them he often
suffered from dizziness. After his “_prandium_,” between nine and ten
o’clock, he was wont to feel better. As a rule he slept well.

The attacks which occurred early in 1532 must also be noted.

In Jan., so his anxious pupil Veit Dietrich writes, Luther had a
foreboding of some illness impending and fancied it would come in March;
in reality it came on on Jan. 22. “Very early, about four o’clock, he
felt a violent buzzing in his ears followed by great weakness of the
heart.” His friends were summoned at his request as he did not wish to
be alone. “When, however, he had recovered and had his wits about him
(‘_confirmato animo_’), he proceeded to storm against the Papists, who
were not yet to make gay over his death.” “Were Satan able,” he says, “he
would gladly kill me; at every hour he is at my heels.” “The physician
declared,” so the account goes on, “after having examined the urine, that
Luther stood in danger of an attack of apoplexy, which indeed he would
hardly escape.” The prediction was, however, not immediately verified
and the patient was once more able to leave his bed. On Feb. 9, however
(if the date given in the Notes be correct),[336] after assisting at a
funeral in the church of Torgau, he was again seized with such a fit
of giddiness as hardly to be able to return to his lodgings. When he
recovered he said: “Do not be grieved even should I die, but continue to
further the Word of God after my death.… It may be we are still sinners
and do not perform our duty sufficiently; if so we shall cloak it over
with the forgiveness of sins.” This time again he was not able to work
for a whole month.

What he at times endured from the trouble in his head we learn from a
statement in the Notes of the Table-Talk made by Cordatus: “When I awake
and am unable to sleep again on account of the noise in my ears, I often
fancy I can hear the bells of Halle, Leipzig, Erfurt and Wittenberg, and
then I think: Surely you are going to have a fit. But God frequently
intervenes and gives me a short sleep afterwards.”[337]

No notable improvement took place until the middle of 1533.

The noises in the head began again in 1541. He fancied then that he could
hear “the rustling of all the trees and the breaking of the waves of
every sea” in his head.[338] When he wrote this he was also suffering
from a discharge from the ear, which, for the time, deprived him of his
hearing; so great was the pain as to force tears from him. Alluding to
this he says that his friends did not often see him in tears, but that
now he would gladly weep even more copiously; to God he had said: “Let
there be an end either of these pains or of me myself,” but, now that
the discharge had ceased, he was beginning to read and write again quite

From the commencement of his struggle, however, until the end of his
life his extreme nervous irritability found expression in the violence
of what he said and wrote. There can be no question that, had he not
been in a morbidly nervous state, he would never have given way to such
outbursts of anger and brutal invective. “There was a demoniacal trait,”
says a Protestant Luther biographer, “that awakened in him as soon as
he met an adversary, at which even his fellow-monks had shuddered,
and which carried him much further than he had at first intended.”
He became the “rudest writer of his age.” In his controversy with
the Swiss Sacramentarians he “was domineering and high-handed.” “His
disputatiousness and tendency to pick a quarrel grew ever stronger in
him after his many triumphs.”[340]—But, even among his friends and in
his home, he was careless about controlling his irritation. We find him
exclaiming: “I am bursting with anger and annoyance”; as we know, he
excited himself almost “to death” about a nephew and threatened to have a
servant-maid “drowned in the Elbe.”[341] (Cp. the passages from A. Cramer
quoted below, towards the end of section 5.)

Other maladies and indispositions, of which the effects were sometimes
lasting, also deserve to be alluded to. Of these the principal and worst
was calculus of which we first hear in 1526 and then again in 1535, 1536
and 1545. In Feb., 1537, Luther was overtaken by so severe an attack
at Schmalkalden that his end seemed near.—In 1525 he had to complain
of painful hæmorrhoids, and at the beginning of 1528 similar troubles
recurred. The “_malum Franciæ_,” on the other hand, cursorily mentioned
in 1523,[342] is not heard of any more. The severe constipation from
which he suffered in the Wartburg also passed away. Luther was also
much subject to catarrh, which, when it lasted, caused acute mental
depression. The “discharge in his left leg” which continued for a
considerable while[343] during 1533 had no important after-effects.

The maladies just mentioned, to which must be added an attack of the
“English Sweat,” in 1529, do not afford sufficient grounds for any
diagnosis of his physical and mental state in general.[344] On the
other hand, the oppression in the præcordial region and his nervous
excitability are of great importance to whoever would investigate his
general state of health.

_The so-called Temptations no Mere Morbid Phenomena_

Anyone who passes in review the startling admissions Luther makes
concerning his struggles of conscience (above, vol. v., pp. 319-75),
or considers the dreadful self-reproaches to which his apostasy and
destruction of the olden ecclesiastical system gave rise, reproaches
which lead to “death and hell,” and which he succeeded in mastering only
by dint of huge effort, cannot fail to see that these mental struggles
were something very different from any physical malady. Since, however,
some Protestants have represented mere morbid “fearfulness” as the
root-cause of the “temptations,” we must—in order not to be accused of
evading any difficulties—look into the actual connection between natural
timidity and the never-ending struggles of soul which Luther had to wage
with himself on account of his apostasy.

Luther’s temptations, according to his own accurate and circumstantial
statements, consisted chiefly of remorse of conscience and doubts about
his undertaking; they made their appearance only at the commencement
of his apostasy, whereas the morbid sense of fear was present in him
long before. Of such a character were the “_terrores_” which led him to
embrace monasticism, the unrest he experienced during his first zealous
years of religious life, and the dread of which he was the victim while
saying his first Mass and accompanying Staupitz in the procession;
this morbid fear is also apparent in the monk’s awful thoughts on
predestination and in his subsequent temptations to despair. Moreover,
such crises, characterised by temptations and disquieting palpitations
ending in fainting fits, were in every case preceded by “spiritual
temptations,” and only afterwards did the physical symptoms follow.
Likewise the bodily ailments occasionally disappeared, leaving behind
them the temptations, though Luther seemed outwardly quite sound and able
to carry on his work.[345]

Hence the “spiritual temptations” or struggles of conscience were of a
character in many respects independent of this morbid state of fear.

They occur, however, on the one hand, in connection with other physical
disorders, as in the case of the attack of the “English Sweat” or
influenza which Luther had in 1529, and which was accompanied by severe
mental struggles; on the other hand, they appear at times to excite the
bodily emotion of fear and in very extreme cases undoubtedly tended
to produce entire loss of sleep and appetite, cardiac disturbance and
fainting fits. Luther himself once said, in 1533, that his “gloomy
thoughts and temptations” were the cause of the trouble in his head and
stomach;[346] in his ordinary language the temptations were, however,
“buffets given him by Satan.”[347] He is fond of clothing the temptations
in this Pauline figure and of depicting them as his worst trials, and
only quite exceptionally does he call his purely physical sufferings
“_colaphi Satanæ_,” they, too, coming from Satan. Now we cannot of
course entirely trust Luther’s own diagnosis—otherwise we should have to
reduce all his maladies to a work of evil spirits—yet his feeling that
the “temptations” were on the one hand a malady in themselves and on the
other a source of many other ills, should carry some weight with us.

It is also clear that, in the case of an undertaking like Luther’s, and
given his antecedents, remorse of conscience was perfectly natural even
had there been no ailment present. It was impossible that a once zealous
monk should become faithless to his most solemn vows and, on his own
authority and on alleged discoveries in the Bible, dare to overthrow
the whole ecclesiastical structure of the past without in so doing
experiencing grave misgivings. Add to this his violence, his “wild-beast
fury” (J. von Walther), his practical contradictions and the theological
mistakes which he was unable to hide. Hence we need have no scruple about
admitting what is otherwise fairly evident, viz. that his ghostly combats
stand apart and cannot be attributed directly to any bodily ailment.

It remains, however, true that such struggles and temptations throve
exceedingly on the morbid fear which lay hidden in the depths of his
soul. It must also be granted that neurasthenia sometimes gives rise to
symptoms of fear similar to those experienced by Luther, as we shall hear
later on from an expert in nervous diseases, whom we shall have occasion
to quote (see section 5 below). Consideration for such facts oblige the
layman to leave the question open as to how much of Luther’s fear is to
be attributed to nervousness or to other physical drawbacks.

We do not think it desirable here to enter further into the views of
the older Catholic polemics, already referred to, who looked upon
Luther as possessed (as labouring under an “_obsessio_” or at least a
“_circumsessio_”). The fits of terror he endured both before and after
his apostasy seemed to them to prove that he was really a demoniac. As
already pointed out above (vol. iv., p. 359), this field is too obscure
and too beset with the danger of error to allow of our venturing upon
it.[348] Quite another matter is it, however, with regard to temptations,
with which, according to Holy Scripture and the constant teaching of
the Church, the devil is allowed to assail men, and to discuss which in
Luther’s case we will now proceed, using his own testimonies.

2. Psychic Problems of Luther’s Religious Development

From the beginning of his apostasy and public struggle we find in Luther
no peace of soul and clearness of outlook; rather, he is the plaything of
violent emotions. He himself complains of having to wrestle with gloomy
temptations of the spirit. It is these that we now propose to investigate
more narrowly. In so doing we must also examine how his nervous state
reacted on these temptations, whereby we shall, maybe, discern more
clearly than before the connection of Luther’s doctrine with his distress
of soul.

_Temptations to Despair_

As to the temptations admitted by Luther to be such, we must first of
all recall the involuntary thoughts of despair which occurred to him in
the convent and the inclination he felt, against his will, to abandon
all hope of his salvation and even to blaspheme God. Everybody in the
least acquainted with the spiritual life knows that such darkening of the
soul may be caused by the Spirit of Evil and often accompanies certain
morbid conditions of the body. When the two, as is often the case, are
united, the effects are all the more far-reaching. Now, on his own
showing, this was precisely the case with the unhappy inmate of the
Erfurt monastery. Luther felt himself compelled, as he says, to lay bare
his temptations (the “_horrendæ et terrificæ cogitationes_”) to Staupitz
in confession.[349] The latter comforted him by pointing out the value of
such temptations as a mental discipline. Staupitz, and others too, had,
however, also told him that his case was to some extent new to them and
beyond their comprehension.[350] Hence, understood by none, he passed his
days sunk in sadness. All to whom he applied for consolation had answered
him: “I do not know.”[351] His fancy must, indeed, have strayed into
strange bypaths for both Pollich, the Wittenberg professor, and Cardinal
Cajetan expressed amazement at the oddness of his thoughts.

His theological system finally became the pivot around which his
thoughts revolved; to it he looked for help. He had created it under
the influence of other factors to which it is not here needful to refer
again; particularly it had grown out of his own relaxation in the virtues
of his Order and religious life.[352] His system, however, had for its
aim to combat despair, overmastering concupiscence and the consciousness
of sin by means of a self-imposed tranquillity. He was determined to
arrive by main force at peace and certainty. Only little by little, so
he wrote in 1525, had he discovered, “God leads down to hell those whom
He predestines to heaven, and makes alive by slaying”; whoever had read
his writings “would understand this now very well”; a man must learn to
despair utterly of himself, and allow himself to be helplessly saved by
the action of God, i.e. by virtue of the forgiveness won by fiducial
faith.[353] How he himself was led by God down to hell he sets forth in
his “_Resolutiones_,” in the account of his mental sufferings given above
(p. 101 f.), a passage which transports the reader into the midst of the
pains which Luther endured in his anxiety.

 The man most deeply initiated into the darker side of Luther’s
 temptations and struggles was the friend of his youth, the
 Augustinian, Johann Lang. He, too, apparently suffered severely
 beneath the burden of temptations regarding predestination and the
 forgiveness of sins. It was in a letter to him, that, not long after
 the nailing up of the Wittenberg Theses, Luther penned those curious
 words: They would pray earnestly for one another, “that our Lord Jesus
 may help us to bear our temptations which no one save us two has ever
 been through.”[354] Shortly before this Luther had commended to the
 care of his friend, then prior at Erfurt, a young man, Ulrich Pinder
 of Nuremberg, who had opened his heart to him at Wittenberg; on this
 occasion he wrote that Pinder was “troubled with secret temptations
 of soul which hardly anyone in the monastery with the exception
 of yourself understands.”[355] He also alludes to the temptations
 peculiar to himself in that letter to Lang, in 1516, in which he
 describes his overwhelming labours, which “seldom leave him due time
 for reciting the hours or saying Mass.” On the top of his labours, he
 says, there were “his own temptations from the world, the flesh and
 the devil.”[356] To this same recipient of his confidences Luther was
 wont regularly to give an account of the success attending his attacks
 on the ancient Church and doctrine; he kindled in him a burning
 hatred of those Augustinians at Erfurt who were well disposed towards
 scholasticism and Aristotle, and forwarded him the controversial
 Theses for the Disputations at the Wittenberg University embodying
 his new doctrine of the necessity of despairing of ourselves and of
 mystically dying, viz. the new “Theology of the Cross.”

 Some mysterious words addressed to Staupitz, in which Luther hints
 at his inward sufferings, find their explanation when taken in
 conjunction with the above. He assured Staupitz (Sep. 1, 1518) in a
 letter addressed to him at Salzburg, that the summons to Rome and
 the other threats made not the slightest impression on him: “I am
 enduring incomparably worse things, as you know, which make me look
 upon such fleeting, shortlived thunders as very insignificant.”[357]
 His temptations against God and His Mercy were of a vastly different
 character. By the words just quoted he undoubtedly meant, says
 Köstlin, “those personal, inward sufferings and temptations, probably
 bound up with physical emotions, to which Staupitz already knew him
 to be subject and which frequently came upon him later with renewed
 violence. They were temptations in which, as at an earlier date, he
 was plunged into anxiety concerning his personal salvation as soon as
 he started pondering on the hidden depths of the Divine Will.”[358]

_The Shadow of Pseudo-Mysticism_

In this connection it will be necessary to return to Luther’s earlier
predilection for a certain kind of mysticism.[359]

 As we know, at an early date he felt drawn to the writings of the
 mystics, for one reason, because he seemed to himself to find there
 his pet ideas about spiritual death and wholesome despair. Their
 description of the desolation of the soul and of its apparent
 abandonment by God appeared to him a startling echo of his own
 experiences. He did not, however, understand or appreciate aright the
 great mystics, particularly Tauler, when he read into them his own
 peculiar doctrine of passivity.

 To a certain extent throughout his whole life he stood under the
 shadow of this dim, sad mysticism.

 He will have it that he, like the mystics, had frequently been plunged
 in the abyss of the spirit, had been acquainted with death and with
 states weird and unearthly. He refuses to relate all he has been
 through and actually gives as his ground for silence the very words
 used by St. Paul when speaking of his own revelations: “But I forbear,
 lest any man should think of me above that which he seeth in me, or
 anything he heareth from me” (2 Cor. xii. 6). When speaking thus of
 the mystic death he fails to distinguish between such thoughts and
 feelings as may have been the result solely of a morbid state of fear,
 or of remorse of conscience, and the severe trials through which the
 souls of certain great and holy men had really to pass.

 It is indeed curious to note how he was led astray by a combination of
 fear, mysticism and temptation.

 He was deluded into seeing in his own states just what he desired,
 viz. the proof of the truth of his own doctrine and exalted mission
 to proclaim it; he will not hear of this being a mere figment of
 his own brain. On the contrary, he is convinced that he, like the
 inspired Psalmist, has passed through every kind of the terrors which
 the latter so movingly describes. Like the Psalmist, he too must
 pray, “O Lord, chastise me not in thy wrath,” and like him, again, he
 is justified in complaining that his bones are broken and his soul
 troubled exceedingly (Ps. vi.). He even opines that those who have
 endured such things rank far above the martyrs; David, according to
 him, would much rather have perished by the sword than have “endured
 this murmuring of his soul against God which called forth God’s

 There is no doubt that Johann Lang might have been able to tell us
 much about these gloomy aberrations of Luther’s, for he had a large
 share in Luther’s development.

 It is worthy of note that it was to this bosom friend that Luther
 sent his edition of “Eyn Deutsch Theologia.”[361] “_Taulerus tuus_”
 (“Your Tauler”[362]) so he calls the German mystic when writing to
 his friend, and in a similar way, in a letter to Lang, he speaks of
 the new theology built entirely on grace and passive reliance as “our
 theology.” “Our theology and St. Augustine,” he says, “are progressing
 bravely at our University and gaining the upper hand, thanks to the
 working of God, whereas Aristotle is now taking a back seat.”[363] We
 must not be of those who, “like Erasmus, fail to give the first place
 to Christ and grace,” so he writes to Lang, knowing that here he would
 meet with a favourable response. The man who “knows and acknowledges
 nothing but grace alone” judges very differently from one “who
 attributes something to man’s free-will.”[364]

It was not long before Luther’s pseudo-mysticism translated itself
into deeds. He persuades himself that he is guided in all his actions
and resolutions by a sort of Divine inspiration. A singular sort of
super-naturalism and self-sufficiency gleams in the words he once wrote
to Lang. After reminding him of the unquestioned truth, that “man must
act under God’s power and counsel and not by his own,” he goes on to
explain defiantly, that, for this reason, he scorns once and for all any
objections the Erfurt Augustinians might urge against the “paradoxical
theses” he had sent them a little earlier, also their charge that he
had shown himself hasty and precipitate: God was enough for him; of
their counsel and instruction he stood in no need.[365] As though
real wisdom and true mysticism did not teach us to welcome humbly the
opinion of well-meaning critics, and not to trust too implicitly our own
ideas, particularly in fields where one is so liable to trip. But the
“Theology of the Cross,” sealed by his fears, now seemed to him above all
controversy. During his temptations he had come to see its truth, and
it also fell in marvellously with his changed views on the duties of a
religious and with his renunciation of humility and self-denial.

 At a time when mysticism and the study of Tauler still exercised a
 powerful influence over him he was wont in his fits of terror to
 revert to Tauler’s misapprehended considerations on the inward trials
 of the soul.

 In pursuance of this idea and hinting at his own mental state he
 declares in his “_Operationes in psalmos_” (1519-21), that, according
 to St. Paul (Rom. v. 3 f.), tribulations work in us patience
 and trial and hope, and thus the love of God and justification;
 tribulation, however, consisted chiefly of inward anxiety, and trial
 called for patience and calm endurance of this anxiety; the greater
 the tribulation, the higher would hope rise in the soul. “Thus it is
 plain that the Apostle is speaking of the assurance of the heart in
 hope,[366] because, after anxiety cometh hope, and then a man feels
 that he hopes, believes and loves.” “Hence Tauler, the man of God,
 and also others who have experienced it, say that God is never more
 pleasing, more lovable, sweeter and more intimate with His sons than
 after they have been tried by temptation.”[367] It is quite true that
 Tauler said this; he also teaches that the greater the desolation
 by which God tries the souls of the elect, the higher the degree of
 mystical union to which He wishes to call them; for death is the road
 to life. It is quite another thing, however, whether Tauler would have
 approved of Luther’s application of what he wrote.

 Luther also refers both to Tauler and to himself elsewhere in the
 “Operationes,” where he speaks of the fears of conscience regarding
 the judgment of God which no one can understand who had not himself
 experienced them; Job, David, King Ezechias and a few others had
 endured them; “and finally that German theologian, Johannes Tauler,
 often alludes to such a state of soul in his sermons.”[368] Tauler,
 however, when speaking of such afflictions, is thinking of those souls
 who seek God and are indeed united to Him in love, but who are tried
 and purified by the withdrawal of sensible grace, and by being made to
 feel a sense of separation from Him and the burden of their nature.

 In his church-postils he again summons Tauler to his aid in order to
 depict the fears with which he was so familiar, seeking consolation,
 as it were, both for himself and for others. In his sermon for the
 2nd Sunday in Advent (1522) he speaks of “those exalted temptations
 concerning death and hell, of which Tauler wrote.” Evidently speaking
 from experience he says: “This temptation destroys flesh and blood,
 nay, penetrates into the marrow of the bones and is death itself, so
 that no one can endure it unless marvellously borne up. Some of the
 patriarchs tasted this, for instance, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, David and
 Moses, but, towards the end of the world, it will become more common.”
 Finally, he assures his hearers, that, there were such as were “still
 daily tried” in this way, “of which but few people are aware; these
 are men who are in the agony of death, and who grapple with death”;
 still Christ holds out the hope that they are not destined to death
 and to hell; on the other hand, it is certain that the “world, which
 fears nothing, will have to endure, first death, and, after that,

_Other Ordeals_

Other temptations that assailed Luther must be taken into account.
Unfortunately he does not say what “new” form of temptation it was
of which he wrote to Johann Lang in 1519. He says: A temptation had
now befallen him which showed him “what man was, though he had fondly
believed that he was already well enough aware of this before”; he
felt it even more severely than the trials he had to endure before the
Leipzig Disputation; he would discuss it with him only by word of mouth
when Lang came to see him.[370] Is he here referring to temptations of
the flesh of an unusual degree of intensity? We have already heard him
bewail his temptations to ambition and hate. Moreover, in this very year
he speaks of temptations against chastity in his Sermon on Marriage:
It is a “shameful temptation,” he says; “I have known it well, and I
imagine you too are acquainted with it; ah, I know well how it is when
the devil comes and excites and inflames the flesh.… When one is on
fire and the temptation comes I know well what it is; then the eye is
already blind.”[371] Already before this he had had to fight against
“very many temptations” of the sort, which are “wont to attend the age
of youth.”[372] Later on they startled him by their waxing strength. Of
the temptations of the senses (“_titillatio_”) to which he was exposed
he had complained, for instance, in the same year (1519) in a letter to
his superior Staupitz,[373] and the worldly intercourse into which he
was drawn, “the social gatherings, excessive indulgence in the pleasures
of the table, and general lukewarmness,” of which he speaks on the same
occasion, make such temptations all the more likely in the case of a
young man of a temper so lively and impressionable, especially as his
lukewarmness took the shape of neglect of prayer and the means of grace,
and of the help he might have derived from the exercises of the Order.

Such fleshly temptations he bewailed even more loudly when at the
Wartburg. There, as we may recall, he became the plaything of evil lust
(“_libido_”) and the “fire of his untamed flesh.” “Instead of glowing in
spirit, I glow in the flesh.”[374] Admitting that he himself “prayed and
groaned too little for the Church of God,” he exclaims: “Pray for me,
for in this solitude I am falling into the abyss of sin!”[375] Though in
bodily health and well cared for, he is “being well pounded by sins and
temptations,” so he wrote to his old friend Johann Lang.

To all this was still added great trouble of conscience concerning his
undertaking as a whole. When he was passionately declaring that his
misgivings were from the devil and resolving never to flinch in his
antagonism to the hated vow of chastity he was himself falling into the
state which he himself describes: “You see how I burn within (‘_quantis
urgear æstibus_’).” This to Melanchthon, after having explained to him
the struggle waging within between his feelings and his knowledge of
the Bible in the matter of the vow of chastity. He is being carried
away to take action, and yet is unable, as he here admits, to prove
his object by means of the text of Scripture.[376] He feels himself
to be “the sport of a thousand devils” in the Wartburg on account of
this and other temptations; he falls frequently, yet the right hand of
God upholds him.[377] The castle is full of devils, so he wrote from
within its walls, and very cunning devils to boot, who never leave him
at peace but behave in such a way that he “is never alone” even when he
seems to be so.[378] Hence he was writing “partly under the stress of
temptation, partly in indignation.” What he was writing was his “_De
votis monasticis_,” by means of which, as he here says, he is about “to
free the young folk from the hell of celibacy.”[379]

Ten years later he still recalls the “despair and the temptation
concerning God’s wrath” which had then been raging within him.[380]

His temptations at that time must have been rendered even worse by the
morbid conditions then awakening in him, by the dismal, racking sense
of fear that peopled his imagination with thousands of devils, and the
mental confusion resulting from his state of nervous overstrain.

It would carry us too far to pursue the diabolical temptations to despair
(or what he held to be such) throughout the rest of his life, and to
examine their connection with his maladies. We shall only remark, that,
even at a later date, when we find him the butt of severe temptations
of this sort, an under-current of other trouble is frequently to be
detected. The “terrors” he endured in his youthful years indeed moderated
but never altogether disappear. The “spiritual sickness” of 1537 of which
he speaks, when for a whole fortnight he could scarcely eat, drink or
sleep, shows the degree to which these thoughts of despair and struggles
of conscience could reach.


To sum up what we have said of Luther’s temptations, a distinction must
be made between the temptations of the Evil One, which Luther himself
regarded as such, and certain other things the real nature of which he
failed to grasp. Moreover, there are those “temptations” which bore on
his work and doctrines and which he wrongly regarded as temptations of
the devil, whereas they were no more than the prick of conscience. All
three are at times reacted on by a morbid state which he likewise failed
rightly to understand, but which was made up of that predisposition
to anxiety to which his nature was so prone and a kind of nervous
irritability due to his struggles and over-great labours. Only those of
the first and second class have any title to be regarded as temptations.

To the first class, i.e. to the temptations he felt and described as
such, belongs first of all that despair which often disquieted him even
in his later years; then again the temptations of the flesh of which we
have also heard him speak. Though he ascribes both to the machinations
of the Evil One, yet his method of fighting them was fatally mistaken.
The temptations to despair he withstood by his erroneous doctrine of
grace and faith alone, and, the more such thoughts torment him, the more
defiantly does he stand by this doctrine. In the case of the temptations
against chastity he failed to make sufficient use of the remedies of
Christian penance and piety; on the contrary, under the stress of their
allurements, he finally saw fit to demolish even the barrier raised by
solemn vows made unto God.

The second class of temptations, which to him, however, did not seem to
be such, includes all the mental aberrations we have had occasion to
note during the course of his life story, particularly at the beginning
of his apostasy. Here we shall only indicate the more important. It
may be allowed that many of them masqueraded under specious pretexts
and the appearance of good (“_sub specie boni_”). Thus, e.g. there was
something fine and inspiring in his plans of exalting the grace of
Christ at the expense of the mere works of the faithful; of giving the
religious freedom of the Christian full play, regardless of unwarranted
human ordinances; of improving the cut-and-dry theology of the day by
a deeper and more positive study of the Bible; and of stopping the
widespread decline in ecclesiastical learning and ecclesiastical life by
stronghanded reforms. He allowed himself, however, to be altogether led
astray in both the conception and the carrying out of these plans.

There was grave peril to himself in that sort of spiritualism, thanks
to which he so frequently attributes all his doings to the direct
inspiration and guidance of Almighty God; real and enlightened dependence
on God is something very different; again, there was danger in his
perverted interpretation of the teaching of the mystics of the past,
in his exaggeration of the strength of man’s sinful concupiscence and
neglect of the remedies prescribed in ages past, particularly of the
practices of his own Order, also in his passionate struggles against the
so-called holiness-by-works prevalent among the Augustinians, in his
characteristic violence and tendency to pick a quarrel, and, above all,
in the working of his inordinate self-esteem and unbounded appreciation
of his own achievements as the leader of the new movement, which led him
to exalt himself above all divinely appointed ecclesiastical authority.

In the above we were obliged to hark back to Luther’s earlier days, and
this we shall again have to do in the following pages. The truth is,
that many of the secrets of his earlier years can be explained only in
the light of his later life, whilst, conversely, his youth and years of
ripening manhood assist us in solving some of the riddles of later years.
Hence we cannot be justly charged with repeating needlessly incidents
that have already been related.

       *       *       *       *       *

Just as the Wartburg witnessed the strongest temptations that Luther
had ever to bear, so, too, it formed the stage of certain of those
manifestations from the other world of which he fancied himself the
recipient. Such manifestations, which lead one to wonder whether Luther
suffered from hallucinations, are of frequent occurrence in his story. We
shall now proceed to review them in their entirety.

3. Ghosts, Delusions, Apparitions of the Devil

In investigating the many ghostly apparitions with which Luther believed
he had been favoured, our attention is perforce drawn to the Wartburg.
We must, however, be careful to distinguish the authentic traditions
from what has been unjustifiably added thereto. As to the explaining
and interpreting of such testimonies as have a right to be regarded as
historical, that will form the matter of a special study. In order that
the reader may build up an opinion of his own we shall meanwhile only
set on record what the sources say, the views of those concerned being
given literally and unabridged. This method, essential though it be for
the purposes of an unbiassed examination, has too often been set aside,
recourse being had instead to mere assertions, denials and pathological

_The Statements Concerning Luther’s Intercourse with the Beyond_

On April 5, 1538, Luther, in the presence of his friends, spoke of the
personal “annoyance” to which the devil had subjected him while at the
Wartburg by means of visible manifestations. The pastor of Sublitz,
then staying at Wittenberg, had complained of being pestered at his
home by noisy spooks; they flung pots and pans at his head and created
other disturbances. Referring to such outward manifestations of the
spirit-world, Luther remarked: “I too was tormented in my time of
captivity in Patmos, in the castle perched high up in the kingdom of the
birds. But I withstood Satan and answered him in the words of the Bible:
God is mine, Who created man and ‘set all things under his feet’ (Ps.
viii. 7). If thou hast any power over them, try what thou canst do.”[381]

On another occasion he related before his friend Myconius and in the
presence of Jonas and Bugenhagen, “how the devil had twice appeared at
the Wartburg in the shape of a great dog and had tried to kill him.”
It is Myconius who relates this, mentioning that it had been told him
by Luther at Gotha in 1538,[382] “in the house of Johann Löben, the

Of one of these two apparitions, the physician Ratzeberger, Luther’s
friend, had definite information. He, however, quotes it only as an
instance of the many ghostly things which Luther had experienced there:
“Because the neighbourhood was lonely many ghosts appeared to him
and he was much troubled by disturbances due to noisy spooks. Among
other incidents, one night, when he was going to bed, he found a huge
black bull-dog lying on his bed that refused to let him get in. Luther
thereupon commended himself to our Lord God, recited Ps. viii. [the same
as that mentioned above], and when he came to the verse ‘Thou hast set
all things under his feet’ the dog at once disappeared and Luther passed
a peaceful night. Many other ghosts of a like nature visited him, all of
whom he drove off by prayer, but of which he refused to speak, for he
said he would never tell anyone how many spectres had tormented him.”[383]

According to the account of his pupil Mathesius, Luther often “called to
mind how the devil had tormented him in mind and caused him a burning
pain which sucked the very marrow out of his bones.”[384] Of visible
apparitions Mathesius has, however, very little to say: “The Evil
Spirit,” so we read in his account of Luther’s sayings, “most likely
wished to affright me palpably, for on many nights I heard him making a
noise in my Patmos, and saw him at the Coburg under the form of a star,
and in my garden in the shape of a black pig. But my Christ strengthened
me by His Spirit and Word so that I paid no heed to the devil’s
spectre.”[385] Mathesius, in his enthusiasm, actually goes so far as to
compare such things to Satan’s tempting of Christ in the wilderness.

The encounter with the great black dog in the Wartburg is related in an
old edition of Luther’s Table-Talk with a curious addition, which tells
how Luther, on one occasion, calmly lifted from the bed the dog, which
had frequently tormented him, carried him to the window, and threw him
out without the animal even barking. Luther had not been able to learn
anything about it afterwards from others, but no such dog was kept in the

 Of the strange din by which the devil annoyed him within those walls
 Luther speaks more in detail in the German Table-Talk. “When I was
 living in Patmos … I had a sack of hazel nuts shut up in a box. On
 going to bed at night I undressed in my study, put out the light, went
 to my bedchamber and got into bed. Then the nuts began to rattle over
 my head, to rap very hard against the rafters of the ceiling and bump
 against me in bed; but I paid no attention to them. After I had got to
 sleep there began such a din on the stairs as though a pile of barrels
 was being flung down them, though I knew the stairs were protected
 with chains and iron bars so that no one could come up; nevertheless,
 the barrels kept rolling down. I got up and went to the top of the
 stairs to see what it was, but found the stairs closed. Then I said:
 ‘If it is you, so be it,’ and commended myself to our Lord Christ of
 Whom it is written: ‘Thou shalt set all things under his feet,’ as
 Ps. viii. says, and got into bed again.” All this, so the account
 proceeds, had been related by Luther himself at Eisenach in 1546.[387]
 Cordatus, however, must have heard the story of the nuts from his own
 lips even before this. He tells it in 1537 as one of the numerous
 instances of the persecution Luther had had to endure from the spooks
 of the Wartburg: “Then he [the devil] took the walnuts from the table
 and flung them up at the ceiling the whole night long.”[388]

 It also happened (this supplements an incident touched upon above in
 vol. ii., p. 95), so Luther related on the above occasion, in 1546,
 that the wife of Hans Berlips, who “would much have liked to see
 [Luther], which was, however, not allowed,” came to the Castle. His
 quarters were changed and the lady was put into his room. “That night
 there was such an ado in the room that she fancied a thousand devils
 were in it.”[389] This story is not quite so well authenticated as the
 incidents which Luther relates as having happened to himself, for
 it is clear that he had it directly, or indirectly, only from this
 lady’s account. Her anxiety to see Luther would seem to stamp her as
 a somewhat eccentric person, and it may also be that she went into
 a room, already reputed to be haunted, quite full of the thought of
 ghosts and that her imagination was responsible for the rest.

 Luther goes on to allude to another ghostly visitation, possibly a
 new one. He says: “On such occasions we must always say to the devil
 contemptuously: “If you are Christ’s Master, so be it!” For this is
 what I said at Eisenach.”[390] Nothing further is known, however, of
 any such occurrence having taken place at Eisenach. He may quite well
 have taken Eisenach as synonymous with the Wartburg.

       *       *       *       *       *

 To pass in review the other ghostly apparitions which occurred during
 his lifetime, we must begin with his early years.

 When still a young monk at Wittenberg Luther already fancied he heard
 the devil making a din. “When I began to lecture on the Psalter, and,
 after we had sung Matins, was seated in the refectory studying and
 writing up my lecture, the devil came and rattled in the chimney three
 times, just as though someone were heaving a sack of coal down the
 chimney. At last, as it did not cease, I gathered up my books and went
 to bed.”[391] “Once, too, I heard him over my head in the monastery,
 but, when I noticed who it was, I paid no attention, turned over and
 went to sleep again.”[392]

 Luther can tell some far more exciting stories of ghosts and
 “Poltergeists,” of which others, with whom he had come in contact in
 youth or manhood, had been the victims. Since, however, he seems to
 have had them merely on hearsay, they may be passed over. Of himself,
 however, he says: “I have learnt by experience that ghosts go about
 affrightening people, preventing them from sleeping and so making them

 We find also the following statement: “The devil has often had me by
 the hair of my head, yet was ever forced to let me go”;[394] from the
 context this, however, may refer to mental temptations.

 He says, however, quite definitely of certain experiences he himself
 had gone through in the monastery: “Oh, I saw gruesome ghosts and
 visions.” This was probably at the time when “no one was able
 to comfort” him.[395] He was referring to incidents to which no
 definite date can be assigned, when, anxious to refute their claim to
 illumination by the spirits, he told the fanatics: “Ah, bah, spirits …
 I too have seen spirits!”

 The Table-Talk relates how on one occasion Luther himself, in a
 strange house, was witness of a remarkable spectral visitation. He
 is said to have related the incident and to “have seen it with his
 own eyes as did also many others.”[396] A maiden, a friend of the
 old proctor [at the University], was lying in bed ill at Wittenberg.
 She had a vision; Christ appearing to her under a glorious form,
 whereupon she joyfully adored her visitor. A messenger was at once
 sent “from the college to the monastery” to fetch Luther. He came
 and exhorted the young woman “not to allow herself to be deceived by
 the devil.” She thereupon spat in the face of the apparition. “The
 devil then disappeared and the vision turned into a great snake which
 made a dash at the maiden in her bed and bit her on the ear so that
 the drops of blood trickled down, after which the snake was seen
 no more.” This story was introduced into the German Table-Talk by
 Aurifaber (1566).[397] The young woman was probably hysterical and was
 the only beholder of the vision. In all likelihood what the others
 saw was merely the blood, which might quite well have come from a
 scratch otherwise caused. The story has been quoted as a proof of the
 dispassionate way in which Luther regarded visions.

 As a further proof of the “sobriety which he coupled with a faith
 so ardent and enthusiastic” Köstlin quotes the following:[398] “He
 himself related this tale,” the Table-Talk says [the date is uncertain
 but it was after he had already begun to preach the “Word”]; “he was
 once praying busily in his cell, and thinking of how Christ had hung
 on the cross, suffered and died for our sins, when suddenly a bright
 light shone on the wall, and, in the midst, a glorious vision of the
 Lord with His five wounds appeared and gazed at him, the Doctor, as
 though it had been Christ Himself. When the Doctor saw it he fancied
 at first it was something good, but soon he bethought him it must be
 a devilish spectre, because Christ appears to us only in His Word and
 in a lowly and humble form, just as He hung in shame upon the cross.
 Hence the Doctor adjured the vision: ‘Begone thou shameless devil! I
 know of no other Christ than He Who was crucified, and Who is revealed
 and preached in His Word,’ and soon the apparition, which was no
 less than the devil in person, disappeared.”[399]—This story told by
 his pupils must refer to some statement made by Luther, though the
 dramatic liveliness of its imagery may well lead us to suspect that
 it has been touched up. Some natural effect of light and shade might
 well account for the appearance which the young monk so “busy” at his
 prayers thought he saw.

ed., 58, p. 129.

 It is hardly possible to suppress similar doubts concerning other
 accounts we have from his lips; his statements also refer to events
 which occurred long previous. At any rate, in a select circle of his
 pupils, the opinion certainly prevailed that Luther was tried by
 extraordinary other-world apparitions, and this conviction was the
 result of remarks dropped by him.

Greater stress must be laid on those statements of his which bear on
inward experiences, where the most momentous truths were concerned and
which occurred at certain crises of his life.

In Nov., 1525, he assured Gregory Casel, the Strasburg theologian, in so
many words, that “he had frequently had inward experience that the body
of Christ is indeed in the Sacrament; he had seen dreadful visions; also
angels (‘_vidisse se visiones horribiles, sæpe se angelos vidisse_’), so
that he had been obliged to stop saying Mass.”[400]

He spoke in this way in the course of the official negotiations with
Casel, the delegate of the Protestant theologians of Strasburg. The words
occur in Casel’s report of the interview published by Kolde. It is true
that Luther also speaks here of the outward “Word” as the support of his
doctrine, particularly on the Sacrament. “We shall,” he says, “abide
quite simply by the words of Scripture—until the Spirit and the unction
teach us something different.” He avers that the Strasburgers who denied
the Sacrament come with their “Spirit” and wish to explain away the words
of the Bible concerning the body of Christ in the Bread. This, however,
is not the “light of the Spirit,” but the “light of reason”; he himself
had long since learnt to reject reason in the things of God. They were
not convinced of their cause as he was, otherwise they would defend their
teaching publicly as he did, for he would rather the whole world were
undone than be silent on God’s doctrine, because it was God’s business to
watch over it.

 His opponents declared they had their own inward experience. “How many
 inward experiences have I not had,” he replies, “at those times when
 my mind was idle (‘_cum eram otiosus_’)! All sorts of things came
 before my mind and everything seemed as reasonable as could be. But,
 by God’s grace, I addressed myself to greater and more earnest matters
 and began to distrust reason. I too, like them, was ‘in dangers’ [2
 Cor. xi. 26], and in even greater ones. And if it is a question of
 piety of life, I hope that there, too, we are blameless.” Coming back
 once more to the spirit which the Strasburgers had set up against the
 Word of God, he describes in his own defence the “terrors of death
 he himself had been through (‘_mortis horrorem expertus_’)” and then
 speaks of the angelic visions referred to above which had disturbed
 him even at the Mass.[401]

 He also will have it that at other times he had been consoled by
 angels, though he does not tell us that he had seen them. In 1532 he
 said to Schlaginhaufen: “God strengthened me ten years ago by His
 angels, in my struggles and writings.”[402]

 Luther, repeatedly and in so many words, appeals to his realisation of
 the divine truths, and it may be assumed he imagined he felt something
 of the sort within him, or that he thus interpreted certain emotions.
 “I am resolved to acknowledge Christ as Lord. And this I have not only
 from Holy Scripture but also from experience. The name of Christ has
 often helped me when no one was able to help. Thus I have on my side
 the deed and the Word, experience and Scripture. God has given both
 abundantly. But my temptations made things sour for me.”[403]

The Table-Talk assures us that, “Dr. Martin proved it from his own
experience that Jesus Christ is truly God; this he also confessed openly;
for if Christ were not God then there was certainly no God at all.”[404]
It was no difficult task for him to include himself in the ranks of those
“who had received the first fruits of the spirit.”[405]

In addition to this, however, as will be shown below,[406] he thinks his
doctrine has been borne in upon him by God through direct revelation.
More than once, without any scruple, he uses the word “_revelatum_”; he
is also fond of setting this revelation in an awesome background: it had
been “strictly enjoined on him (‘_interminatum_’) under pain of eternal
malediction” to believe in it.[407]

In fact a certain terror is the predominating factor in this gloomy
region where he comes in touch with the other world. He has not merely
had experience that there are roving spirits who affright men,[408]
but, in a letter from the Wartburg, he insists quite generally, that,
“the visions of the Saints are terrifying.” Of course, as we well know,
delusions and hallucinations very often do assume a terrifying character.

Luther also asserts that “divine communications” are always accompanied
by inward tortures like unto death, words which give us a glimpse into
his own morbid state.[409] And yet he fully admits elsewhere the very
opposite, for he is aware that God is, above all things, the consoler.
“It is not Christ Who affrights us”;[410] and “it is Satan alone who
wounds and terrifies.”[411] But, in practice, according to him, things
work differently; there the fear from which he and others suffer comes
to the fore. “We are oftentimes affrighted even when God turns to us the
friendliest of glances.”[412]

This change of standpoint reminds us of another instance of the same
sort. Luther’s teaching on the terrifying character of the divine
action is much the same as his theological teaching that fear is the
incentive to good deeds. While, as a rule, he goes much too far in
seeking to rid the believer of any fear of God as the Judge, preaching an
unbounded confidence and even altogether excluding fear from the work of
conversion, yet, elsewhere, he emphasises most strongly this same fear,
as called for and quite indispensable; this he did in his controversies
with the Antinomians and, even earlier, as on the occasion of the
Visitations, on account of its religious influence on the people.

No change or alteration is, however, apparent in the accounts he gives
above of the cases in which he came in touch with the other world; he
sticks firmly by his statement that he had experienced such things both
mentally and palpably. Hence the difficulty of coming to any decision
about them.

       *       *       *       *       *

But there are further alleged experiences, also detailed at length, which
have a place here, viz. the apparitions of the devil himself.

 In 1530 Luther was thrown into commotion by a glimpse of the devil,
 under the shape of a fiery serpent, outside the walls of the Coburg.
 One evening in June, about nine o’clock, as his then companion Veit
 Dietrich relates, Luther was looking out of the window, down on the
 little wood surrounding the castle. “He saw,” says this witness, “a
 fiery, flaming serpent, which, after twisting and writhing about,
 dropped from the roof of the nearest tower down into the wood. He
 at once called me and wanted to show me the ghost (‘_spectrum_’) as
 I stood by his shoulder. But suddenly he saw it disappear. Shortly
 after, we both saw the apparition again. It had, however, altered
 its shape and now looked more like a great flaming star lying in the
 field, so that we were able to distinguish it plainly even though
 the weather was rainy.” Here the pupil undoubtedly did his best to
 see something. On his master, however, the firm conviction of having
 seen the devil made a deep impression. He had just enjoyed a short
 respite after a bout of ill-health. The night after the apparition he
 again collapsed and almost lost consciousness. On the following day he
 felt, so Dietrich says, “a very troublesome buzzing in the head”; the
 apparition leads the narrator to infer that Luther’s bodily trouble,
 which now recommenced in an aggravated form, had been entirely “the
 work of the devil.”[413] So certain was Luther of having seen the
 devil that he mentioned the occurrence in 1531 at one of the meetings
 held for the revision of his translation of the Psalms. The words of
 the Psalmist concerning “_sagittæ_” and “_fulgura_,” etc. (Ps. xviii.
 (xvii.) 15), he applies directly to his own personal experiences and
 to the incident in question, “Just as I saw my devil flying over
 the wood at the Coburg.”[414] He means by this the fading away and
 disappearance of the above-mentioned fiery shape; this psalm speaks of
 a “_materia ignita_,” which no doubt suggested his remarks.—Later, as
 Mathesius relates, he said he had seen the “evil spirit at the Coburg,
 in the form of a star.”[415] Kawerau terms the apparition an “optical

By the word hallucination is understood an apparent perception of an
external object not actually present. That the “apparition” at the Coburg
and other similar ones already mentioned or yet to be referred to were
hallucinations is quite possible though not certain. It is true that
the excessive play Luther gave to his imagination, particularly at the
Wartburg and, later, at the Coburg, was such that it is quite within the
bounds of possibility that he fancied he saw or heard things which had
no real existence. On the other hand, moreover, we know what a large
share his superstition had in distorting actual facts. Hence, generally
speaking, most of the ghosts or visions he is said to have seen can be
explained by a mistaken interpretation of the reality, without there
being any need to postulate an hallucination properly so-called. Much
of what has been related might come under the heading of illusions,
though, probably, not everything. To analyse them in detail is, however,
impossible as the circumstances are not accurately known. Certainly no
one, however much inclined to the supernatural, who is familiar with
Luther and his times, will be content, as was once the case, to believe
that the devil sought to interfere visibly and palpably with his person
and his teaching.

 As to the apparition of the devil at the Coburg in the shape of a
 flame, a serpent and a star, we may point out that the whole may well
 have been caused simply by a lantern or torch carried by somebody in
 that lonely neighbourhood. We might also be tempted to think of St.
 Elmo’s fire, except that the form of the apparition presents some
 difficulty.—So, too, the black dog in the Wartburg was most likely
 some harmless intruder. The noise of the nuts flying up against the
 ceiling may have been produced by the creaking of a weather-cock, or
 of a door or shutter in the wind [or by the rats]. Other tales again
 may be rhetorical inventions, simple fictions of Luther’s brain, not
 involving the least suggestion of any illusion or hallucination, for
 instance, when he speaks of the angels who appeared to him at Mass.
 Such an apparition was a convenient weapon to use against opponents
 who alleged they were under the influence of the “Spirit.” Moreover,
 some of these tales were told so long after the event as to leave a
 wide scope to the imagination.

To proceed with the accounts of the apparitions of the devil: About the
reality of two of such, Luther is quite positive.

 One of these took place close to his dwelling. The devil he then
 espied in the shape of a wild-boar in his garden under his window.
 “Once Martin Luther was looking out of the window,” so an account
 dating from 1548 tells us, “when a great black hog appeared in the
 garden.” He recognised it as a diabolical apparition and jeered at
 Satan who appeared in this guise, though he had once been a “beautiful
 angel.” “Thereupon the hog melted into nothing.”[417] He himself
 refers to this apparition in the words already recorded, in which he
 classes it with the work of the noisy spirits in the Wartburg and the
 “appearance of the star” at the Coburg.[418]

 Indeed the hog and the flaming vision at the Coburg even found their
 way into his printed sermons. We read in the home-postils: “The devil
 is always about us in disguise, as I myself witnessed, taking, e.g.
 the form of a hog, of a burning wisp of straw, and such like”[419]
 (cp. above, vol. v., p. 287 ff.).

 The other apparition, the one which possibly suggests most strongly
 an hallucination, was that which he experienced at Eisleben at the
 time he was trying to adjust the quarrels between the Counts of
 Mansfeld, i.e. just before his death. We have accounts of this from
 two different quarters, based on statements made by Luther; first
 that of Michael Cœlius, a friend who was present at his death, in the
 funeral oration he delivered immediately after at Eisleben on Feb. 20,
 and, secondly, that of Luther’s confidant, the physician Ratzeberger.
 The former in his address recounts for the edification of the people
 how Luther “during his lifetime” had suffered trials and persecutions
 at the hands of the devil before going to his eternal rest; hence in
 this world he had been “disturbed and troubled in his peace of mind”
 by Satan. It was true that latterly he had “enjoyed some happiness”
 at Eisleben, but “that had not lasted long; one evening indeed,” so
 Cœlius continues, “Luther had lamented with tears, that, while raising
 his heart to God with gladness and praying at his open window, he had
 seen the devil, who hindered him in all his labours, squatting on the
 fountain and making faces at him. But God would prove stronger than
 Satan, that he knew well.”[420]—Ratzeberger’s account quite agrees
 with this as to the circumstances; he had learnt that Luther “related
 the incident to Dr. Jonas and Mr. Michael Cœlius.” His information
 is not derived from the funeral oration just mentioned, but clearly
 from elsewhere. He is right in implying that it was Luther’s habit to
 say his night prayers at the window; he has, however, some further
 particulars concerning the behaviour of the devil: “It is said that
 when Dr. Martin Luther was saying his night prayers to God at the open
 window, as his custom was before going to bed, he saw Satan perched
 on the fountain that stood outside his dwelling, showing him his
 posterior and jeering at him, insinuating that all his efforts would
 come to nought.”[421] The first place, however, belongs to the account
 of Cœlius, who, by his mention of the tears Luther shed, sets vividly
 before the reader the commotion into which the apparition, which had
 occurred shortly before, had thrown him.

 Excitement and trouble of mind were then pressing heavily on the aging
 man. His frame of mind was caused not merely by the quarrel between
 the “wrangling Counts” of Mansfeld with whom “no remonstrances or
 prayers brought any help,”[422] not merely by his usual “temptations,”
 but also, as Ratzeberger tells us, by the healing up of the incision
 in the left leg, he (Ratzeberger) had made, and which now led to
 bodily disorders. The disorders now made common cause with his
 “annoyance melancholy and grief.” The “violent mental excitement,”
 together with the bad effects of the healing up of the artificial
 wound, were, according to this physician, what “brought about his
 death.” Ratzeberger was not, however, then at Eisleben and we are in
 possession of more accurate accounts of the circumstances attending
 Luther’s death.

 In explanation of Luther’s singular delusion regarding the jeering
 devil we may remark that he is fond of attributing the obstacles
 in the way of peace to the devil’s wrath and envy. “It seems to me
 that the devil is mocking us,” he writes of the difficulties on Feb.
 6, “may God mock at him in return!”[423] The Eisleben councillor,
 Andreas Friedrich, writes to Agricola on Feb. 17 (18) of these same
 concerns, that Luther, when he found there was still no prospect of
 a settlement, had complained: “As I see, Satan turns his back on me
 and jeers as well.”[424] Here, curiously enough, we have exactly what
 occurred at the fountain. If the apparition, as is highly probable,
 belongs somewhat later, then we may assume that the vivid picture
 of the devil under this particular shape with which Luther was so
 familiar led finally to some sort of hallucination. His extravagant
 ideas of Satan generally might, in fact, have been sufficient.
 Everything that went against him was “Satanic,” and his only hope is
 that “God will make a mockery of Satan.”[425]

 The account Luther gives in his Table-Talk of the two devils who, in
 his old age, accompanied him whenever he went to the “sleep-house” may
 be dealt with briefly. In this passage he is alluding in his joking
 way to his bodily infirmities.[426] Hence the “one or two” devils who
 dogged his footsteps are here described as quite familiar and ordinary
 companions, which is not in keeping with the idea of true apparitions;
 they were the nicer sort, i.e. pretty, well-mannered devils; they
 “attacked his head” and thus caused the malady to which he was most
 subject, hence in his usual style he threatens to “bid them begone
 into his a⸺,” in short he is here merely jesting. This forbids our
 taking the statement as meant in earnest though it is twice quoted in
 the German Table-Talk quite seriously. In the early days, immediately
 after Luther’s death, the statements concerning the “two devils” were,
 strange to say, reverently repeated by his pupils as an historic fact;
 in reality they were all too eager to unearth miraculous incidents in
 his life.

 At a later period, when rationalism had made some headway, Protestant
 biographers of Luther as a rule preferred to say nothing about the
 apparitions Luther had met with, or to treat them as pious, harmless
 jests misinterpreted by his pupils. This, however, is not at all in
 accordance with historic criticism. Luther admirers of an earlier
 date, on the other hand, went too far in the contrary direction and
 showed themselves only too ready to follow their master into the other
 world, or to represent him as holding intercourse with it. Cyriacus
 Spangenberg (1528-1604), a Luther zealot, is an instance in point. In
 his “Theander Lutherus,” speaking of Luther “the real holy martyr,”
 he says: He deserved to be termed a martyr on account of the visible
 hostility of the devil; one or two devils had been in the habit of
 accompanying him in his walks in the dormitory in order to attack him,
 and his illnesses were caused simply by the devil. Needless to say, he
 does not allow the incidents mentioned above to escape him: Satan had
 tormented him at the Coburg in the shape of a fiery star and in the
 garden under that of a hog; he had tried to deceive him in his cell
 under the dazzling image of Christ, had affrighted him in the Wartburg
 by making a devilish noise with the nuts, and, finally, even in his
 monkish days had driven the student at a late hour from his studies by
 the din he made.[427]

It is a fact worthy of note that the older Protestant writers, when
speaking of the apparitions Luther had, never mention any such or any
revelations of a consoling character, but merely terrifying stories of
devils and diabolical persecutions. This agrees with the observation
already made above (p. 128 f.). It is evident that as good as nothing
was known of any consoling apparitions; nor would the mild and friendly
angels have been in place in the warlike picture which his friends
transmitted of Luther. That he did not think himself a complete stranger
to such heavenly communications has, however, been proved above, and it
may be that his imagination would have had more to relate concerning this
friendlier world above had he not had particular reasons for being chary
about speaking of such visions.

_The Disputation with the Devil on the Mass_

In Spangenberg even Luther’s famous disputation with the devil on private
Masses is also made to do duty among the other apparitions. He, like many
others, takes it as an actual occurrence and represents it as further
proof of the “real martyrdom” of his hero.[428] As, conversely, this
disputation also plays a part in the works of Luther’s adversaries, it
may be worth while to examine it somewhat more narrowly. It is urged
that Luther admits he had been instructed by the devil regarding the
falsity of the Catholic doctrine of the Mass, and, that, by thus tracing
it back to the devil, he stamps with untruth an important portion of his
teaching, seeing, that, from the father of lies, nothing but lies can be

What then are we to believe concerning this disputation, judging from
Luther’s own words which constitute our sole source? The only possible
answer is, that Luther is merely making use of a rhetorical device.

 It is true, that, in his “Von der Winckelmesse” (1533), Luther speaks
 in so elusive a way of his dispute with the devil, and of the truth
 he had learnt from the latter, that the incident was taken literally,
 not merely by Spangenberg and other of Luther’s oldest friends, but
 actually by Cochlæus too, and was, at a later date, made the subject
 of many disquisitions. Yet, if we look into the matter carefully, we
 shall find he speaks from the very outset not of any actual apparition
 of the devil, but merely of his inward promptings: “On one occasion,”
 so he introduces the story, “I woke up at midnight and the devil began
 a disputation with me _in my heart_,” such as he has with me “many a
 night.”[429] He then goes on, however, to describe the disputation as
 graphically as had it been a real incident.

 Luther’s object with the writing in question is to fling at the
 Papists his arguments against private Masses under a new and striking
 form. He pretends that the Papists would be at a loss to answer
 Satan, but would be forced to despair “were he to bring forward
 these and other arguments against them at the hour of death.” Hence
 he introduces himself and shows how the devil had driven him into
 a corner on account of his former celebration of Mass. As for the
 arguments they are his usual ones. Here, put in the mouth of the
 devil, they are to overwhelm him with despair for his former evil
 wont of saying Masses. The only reason he can espy why he should not
 despair is that he has now repented and no longer says the Mass.

 He himself alludes to the artifice; writing to a friend, he says, that
 by the introduction of the devil he intends to attack the Papists
 “with a pamphlet of a new kind”; even those friendly to the Evangel
 would be astonished at his new way of writing; they were, however, to
 be told that this was merely a challenge thrown to the Papists; that
 it only represented himself as driven into a corner by the devil on
 account of the Masses he had formerly said, in order to induce the
 Papists to examine their consciences and see how they could vindicate
 themselves with regard to the Mass.[430]—Thus, for once, the devil
 might well figure as an upholder of Luther’s doctrine.

 In the course of the drama the devil never grows weary of proving,
 that, owing to the Masses Luther had said, and the idolatry he had
 thus practised, he had been brought to the verge of everlasting
 destruction. The devil’s arguments are given at great length and
 Luther concedes everything save that he refuses to despair. The
 statement that he should, so he urges, is worthy of the devil, who,
 in his temptations, constantly confuses the false with the true.[431]
 Luther, here, even introduces the devil in a quasi-comic light: “Do
 you hear, you great, learned man?” etc. “Yes, my dear chap, that is
 not the same,” etc. In a similar tone Luther then turns on the Papists
 who say to him: “Are you a great Doctor and yet have no answer ready
 for the devil?”

Certain Protestant writers, even down to our own times, have, however,
insisted that, at any rate inwardly, the devil had sought to reduce
Luther to despair on account of his celebration of Mass as a Catholic;
that the spirit of darkness had attached so much importance to the
suppression of the Gospel, that he attempted to disquiet Luther with
such self-reproaches.[432] It is true Luther once says that the devil
reproached him with his “misdeeds, for instance, with the sacrifice of
the Mass,” and other Catholic practices of which he had formerly been
guilty.[433] On other occasions, however, he quite absolves the devil
of any change concerning the Mass. He says, e.g.: “The devil is such a
miscreant that he does not reproach me with my great and awful crimes
such as the celebration of Mass,”[434] etc. Thus he had persuaded himself
quite independently of the devil that the Mass was a grievous crime. We
have, in fact, in Luther’s statements concerning his inward experiences
a crying instance of his changeableness. We shall return below to his
self-reproach on account of his celebration of Mass (see section 4).

_Possession and Exorcism_

We may conclude our examination of diabolical apparitions by some
statements concerning the exorcisms Luther undertook and his treatment of
cases of possession.

His first followers believed he had been successful in 1545 in driving
out Satan in the case of a person possessed. The testimony of two
witnesses of the incident must here come under consideration, both young
men who were present on the occasion, viz. Sebastian Fröschel, Deacon at
Wittenberg, and Frederick Staphylus, a man of learning who afterwards
abandoned Lutheranism and became Superintendent of the University of
Ingolstadt.[435] The latter knows nothing of any success having attended
Luther’s efforts, whereas the former boasts that such was the case,
though he somewhat invalidates his testimony by saying nothing of the
embarrassing situation in which Luther found himself at the close of
the scene. According to both accounts the incident was more or less as

 A girl of eighteen from Ossitz in the neighbourhood of Meissen who was
 said to be possessed was brought one Tuesday to Luther, and, while at
 his bidding reciting the Creed, was “torn” by the devil as soon as she
 reached the words “and in Jesus Christ.” Luther hesitated at first to
 set about the work of liberation and expressed his contempt for the
 devil whom he “well knew.” The next day, after his sermon, he caused
 the “possessed” girl to be brought to him in the sacristy of the
 parish church of Wittenberg by the above-mentioned Fröschel.

 We hear nothing of any regular examination as to whether it was a
 case of possession, or not rather hysteria, as seems more likely.
 At any rate, the unhappy girl when passing from the church through
 the entrance to the sacristy, was seen to “fall down and hit about
 her.” The door of the sacristy, where several doctors, ecclesiastics
 and students were gathered, was locked. Luther delivered an address
 on his method of driving out the devil: He did not intend to do this
 in the way usual in Apostolic time, in the early Church and later,
 viz. by a command and authoritative exorcism, but rather by “prayer
 and contempt”; the Popish exorcism was too ostentatious and of it the
 devil was not worthy; at the time when exorcism had been introduced
 miracles were necessary for the confirmation of the faith, but this
 was now no longer the case; God Himself knew well when the devil had
 to depart and they ought not to tempt Him by such commands, but, on
 the contrary, pray until their prayers were answered. Thus Luther, not
 unwisely, refused to perform any actual “driving out of the devil.”

 The Church’s ritual for exorcism was, however, not so ostentatious as
 Luther pretends, and combined commands issued in a tone of authority
 in the name of Christ (Matt. x. 8; Mark xvi. 17) with an expression
 of contempt for the devil and reprobation of his evil deeds. Fröschel
 noted down the address in question together with everything that
 occurred and said later in a sermon, that Luther’s action ought to
 serve as a model in future cases.

 In the sacristy the Creed and Our Father were recited, two passages on
 prayer (from John xvi. and xiv.) were also read aloud by Luther. Then
 he, together with the other ecclesiastics present, laid hands on the
 head of the girl and continued reciting prayers. When no sign appeared
 of the devil’s departure, Luther wished to go, but first took care to
 spurn the girl with his foot, the better to mark anew his disdain for
 the devil. The poor creature whom he had thus insulted followed him
 with threatening looks and gestures. This was all the more awkward
 since Luther was unable to escape, the key of the sacristy door having
 been mislaid; hence he was obliged, he the devil’s greatest and
 best-hated foe on earth, to remain cheek by jowl with the Evil One.

 The satirical description Staphylus gives of the situation cannot be
 repeated here, especially as the writer seems to have added to its
 colour.[436] Luther was unable to jump out of the window, so he says,
 because it was protected with iron bars; “hence he had to remain shut
 up with us until the sacristan could pass in a strong hatchet to us
 through the bars; this was handed to me, as I was young, for me to
 burst open the door, which I then did.” In place of all this, Fröschel
 merely says of the girl, who was taken home the following day, that
 afterwards “on several occasions” reports came to Wittenberg to the
 effect that the evil spirit no longer “tormented and tore her as

 In the pulpit the Deacon immortalised the incident for his Wittenberg
 hearers and made it known to the whole world in his printed sermon
 “Vom Teuffel.”[437]

Luther himself says nothing of it, though disposed in later life to lay
great stress on stories of the devil.[438] Earlier than this, in 1540,
he had hastened to tell his Katey of the supposed deliverance of a girl
at Arnstadt from the devil’s power through the ministrations of the
Evangelical pastor there; the latter had “driven a devil out of the girl
in a truly Christian manner.”[439] He does not, however, mention this
incident in his published works.

On the other hand we have in the Table-Talk a full account of his
treatment of a woman “possessed,” or, rather, clearly ailing from a
nervous disorder. Her symptoms were regarded, as was customary at a time
when so little was known of this class of maladies, as “purely the work
of the devil, as something unnatural, due to fright and devil-spectres,
seeing that the devil had overlaid her in the shape of a calf.” Luther,
on visiting the woman thus “bodily persecuted by the devil,” again laid
great stress on the need of praying that she might be rid of her guest,
though this time he did not scorn the use of the formula of exorcism.
“The night after, she was left in peace, but, later, the weakness
returned. Finally, however, she was completely delivered from it;”[440]
in other words, the malady simply took its natural course.

Another much-discussed case which occurred after the middle of the
’thirties was that of a girl at Frankfurt-on-the-Oder, a report of which
came to Luther from Andreas Ebert, the Lutheran pastor there (see above,
vol. iii., p. 148). In his reply to the circumstantial account of how the
“possessed” girl was able to produce coins by magic Luther shows himself
in so far cautious that he is anxious to have it made clear whether the
story is quite true and whether the coins are real. Nevertheless, he
does not hesitate to declare, that, should the incident be proved, it
would be a great omen (“_ostentum_”), as Satan, with God’s permission,
was thus setting before them a picture of the greed of money prevailing
among certain of the princes. He was loath to see exorcism resorted
to, “because the devil in his pride laughs at it”; all the more were
they to pray for the girl and against the devil, and this, with the help
of Christ, would finally spell her liberation; meanwhile, however, he
expresses his readiness to make public all the facts of the case that
could be proved. In his sermons he spoke of the occurrence to his hearers
as a “warning.”[441]

Theodore Kirchhoff, who, in the “Allgemeine Zeitschrift für Psychiatrie,”
mentions “Luther’s exorcisms of hysterical women folk,” not without
bewailing his error, points out that it was in part his own fancied
experience with the devil which led him to regard “similar phenomena
in others as diabolical”; “his many nervous ailments,” he says,
“strengthened his personal belief in the devil.” “Indeed, so far did he
go in his efforts to drive out the devil that once he actually proposed
that an idiot should be done to death.”[442] “Such a doctrine [on the
devil’s action], backed by the authority of so great a man, took deep
root.” It would be incorrect, writes Kirchhoff, to say, that Luther
inaugurated a healthier view of “possession”; on the contrary his
opinion is, “that, owing to Luther’s hard and fast theories, the right
understanding and treatment of the insane was rendered more difficult
than ever; for, if we consider the immense spread of his writings and
what their influence became, it is but natural to infer that this also
led to his peculiar view becoming popular.”[443] Needless to say, other
circumstances also conspired to render difficult the treatment of the
mentally disordered; long before Luther’s day they had been regarded by
many as possessed, and as the physicians would not undertake to cure
possessions, this condition was neglected by the healing art. In many
instances, too, the relatives were against any cure being attempted by

4. Revelation and Illusion. Morbid Trains of Thought

One ground for considering the question of Luther’s revelations
in connection with the darker side of his life lies in the gloomy
and unearthly circumstances, which, according to his own account,
accompanied the higher communications he received (“_sub æternæ iræ
maledictione_”),[444] or else preceded them, inducing within his soul
a profound disturbance (“_ita furebam._”…), “I was terrified each

A further reason is the unfortunate after-effect that the supposed
revelations from above had upon his mind. Outwardly, indeed, he seemed an
incarnation of confidence, but, inwardly, the case was very different.
Chapter xxxii. (vol. v.) of the present work will have shown how it was
his new doctrines, and his overturning of the Church which accounted for
his “agonies of soul,” his “pangs of hell” and “nightly combats” with the
devil, or rather with his own conscience. “Why do you raise the standard
of revolt against the house of the Lord?… Such thoughts upset one very
much.”[446] His irritation, melancholy and pessimism were largely due
to his disappointment with the results of his revelations. “They know
it is God Whose Word we preach and yet they say: We shan’t listen.”
“We are poor and indifferent trumpeters, but to the assembly of the
heavenly spirits ours is a mighty call.” “My only remaining consolation
is that the end of all cannot be far off.” “It must soon come to a head.
Amen.”[447] And yet, for all that, he insisted on his divine mission so
emphatically (above, vol. iii., p. 109 ff.).

The revelations which confirmed him in the idea of his mission deserve
more careful examination than has hitherto been possible to us in the
course of our narrative.

That Luther ever laid claim to having received his doctrine by a personal
revelation from God has been several times denied in recent times by his
defenders. They urge that he merely claimed to have received his doctrine
from above, “in the same way that God reveals it to all true Christians”;
in this and in no other sense, does he speak of his revelations, nor
does he ascribe to himself any “peculiar mission.”

It is true Luther taught that the content of the faith to which every
true Christian adheres had come into the world by a revelation bestowed
on mankind; he also taught that the Holy Ghost lends His assistance
to every man to enable him to grasp and hold fast to this revelation:
“This is a wisdom such as reason has never framed, nor has the heart
of man conceived it, no, not even the great ones of this world, but
it is revealed from heaven by the Holy Ghost to those who believe the
Gospel.”[448]—This, however, is not the question, but rather, whether
he never gave out that he had reached his own fresh knowledge, and
that reading of the Bible which he sets up against all the rest of
Christendom, thanks to a private and particular illumination, and whether
he did not base on such a revelation his claim to infallible certainty?

_Luther’s Insistence on Private Revelation_

Luther certainly never dreamt of making so bold and hazardous an
assertion so long as a spark of hope remained in him that the Church of
Rome would fall in with his doctrines. It was only gradually that the
phantom of a personal revelation grew upon him, and, even later, its sway
was never absolute, as we can see from our occasional glimpses into his
inward struggles of conscience.

We may begin with one of his latest utterances, following it up with
one of his earliest. Towards the end of his life he insisted on the
suddenness with which the light streamed in upon him when he had at
last penetrated into the meaning of Rom. i. 17 (in the Tower), thus
setting the coping-stone on his doctrines by that of the certainty of
salvation.[449] Again, at the outset of his public career, we meet with
those words of which Adolf Harnack says: “Such self-reliance almost fills
us with anxiety.”[450]

The words Harnack refers to are those in which Luther solemnly assures
his Elector that he had “received the Evangel, not from man, but from
heaven alone, through our Lord Jesus Christ.” This he wrote in 1522 when
on the point of quitting the Wartburg.[451]

In the same year in his “Wyder den falsch genantten geystlichen Standt,”
full of the spirit he had inhaled at the Wartburg, he declared that he
could no longer remain without “name or title” in order that he might
rightly honour and extol the “Word, office and work he had from God.”
For the Father of all Mercies, out of the boundless riches of His Grace,
had brought him, for all his sinfulness, “to the knowledge of His Son
Jesus Christ and set him to teach others until they too saw the truth”;
for this reason he had a better right to term himself an “Evangelist by
the Grace of God” than the bishops had to call themselves bishops. “I am
quite sure that Christ Himself, Who is the Master of my doctrine, calls
and regards me as such.” Hence he will not permit even “an angel from
heaven to judge or take him to task concerning his doctrine”; “since
I am certain of it I am determined to be judge, not only of you, but,
as St. Paul says (Gal. i. 8), even of the angels, so that whoever does
not accept my doctrine cannot be saved; for it is God’s and not mine,
therefore my judgment also is not mine but God’s own.”[452]

Such Wartburg enthusiasm, where all that is wanting is the actual word
revelation, agrees well with his statement about the sort of ultimatum
(“_Interminatio_”) sent him by God: “Under pain of eternal wrath it had
been enjoined on him from above,” that he must preach what had been given
him; he describes this species of vision as one of the greatest favours
God had bestowed on his soul.[453] Nor did he scruple to make use of the
word “revelation.”

 The dispute he had with Cochlæus in the presence of others at Worms
 in 1521 shows not only that he had sufficient courage to do this but
 also, that, previously, from whatever cause, he had hesitated to do
 so. We have Cochlæus’s already quoted account of the incident in
 the detailed report of his encounter with Luther.[454] It is true
 he only published it in 1540, but it is evidently based on notes
 made by the narrator at the time. In reply to the admonition, not
 to interpret Holy Scripture “arbitrarily, and against the authority
 and interpretation of the Church,” Luther urged that there might be
 circumstances where it was permissible to oppose the decrees of the
 Councils, for Paul said in 1 Corinthians: “If anything be revealed
 to another sitting, let the first hold his peace,”[455] though, so
 Luther proceeded, he had no wish to lay claim to a revelation. In the
 event, however, as he was always harking back to this instance of
 revelation mentioned by the Apostle it occurred to Cochlæus to pin him
 down to this expression. Hence, without any beating about the bush,
 he asked him: “Have _you_ then received a revelation?” Luther looked
 at him, hesitated a moment and then said: “Yes, it has been revealed
 to me, ‘_Est mihi revelatum._’” His opponent at once reminded him
 that, before this, he had protested against being the recipient of
 any revelation. Luther, however, said: “I did not deny it.” Cochlæus
 rejoined: “But who will believe that you have had a revelation? What
 miracle have you worked in proof of it? By what sign will you confirm
 it? Would it not be possible for anyone to defend his errors in this
 way?” The text in question speaks of a direct revelation. It was in
 this sense that Luther had appealed to it before, and that Cochlæus
 framed his question. It is impossible to understand Luther’s answer
 as referring to a revelation common to all true Christians. Either
 Luther made no answer to Cochlæus’s last words or it was lost in
 the interruption of his friend Hieronymus Schurf.[456] In any case
 his position was a difficult one and it was simpler for him when he
 repeated the same assertion later in his printed writings quietly to
 treat all objections with contempt. At any rate he never accused the
 above account given by Cochlæus of being false.

 Again, in 1522, Luther declares in his sermons at Wittenberg,[457]
 that “it was God Who had set him to work on this scheme” (the reform
 of the faith), and had given him the “first place” in it. “I cannot
 escape from God but must remain so long as it pleases God my Lord;
 moreover, it was to me that God first revealed that the Word must be
 preached and proclaimed to you.” Hence his revelation was similar to
 that of the prophets, for he is alluding to the prophet Jonas when he
 says that he could “not escape from God.”[458] The Wittenbergers, he
 says, ought therefore to have consulted him before rashly undertaking
 their own innovations under Carlstadt’s influence: “We see here that
 you have not the Spirit though you may have an exalted knowledge of
 Scripture.”[459] Hence, on the top of his knowledge of Scripture, he
 himself possesses the “Spirit.”

 From the twelvemonth that followed Luther’s spiritual baptism at the
 Wartburg also date the asseverations he makes, that his doctrine was,
 not his, but Christ’s own,[460] and that it was “certain he had his
 doctrines from heaven.”[461]

 “By Divine revelation,” as we learn from him not long after, “he had
 been summoned as an anti-pope to undo, root out and sweep away the
 kingdom of malediction” (the Papacy).[462] In 1527 he assures us:
 This doctrine “God has revealed to me by His Grace.”[463] And, at a
 later period, though rather more cautiously, he does not shrink from
 occasionally making use of the word revelation. From the pulpit in
 1532 he urged opponents in his own camp to lay aside their peculiar
 doctrines, because, “God has enjoined and commanded _one man_ to teach
 the Evangel,” i.e. himself.[464]

 So familiar is this idea to him that it intrudes itself into his
 conversations at home. It was the “Holy Ghost” who had “given” to him
 his doctrine, so he told his friends and pupils in his old age.[465]
 At Wittenberg, according to his own words which Mathesius noted down,
 they possessed, thanks to him, the divine revelation. “Whoever, after
 my death, despises the authority of the Wittenberg school, provided
 it remains the same as now, is a heretic and a pervert, for in this
 school God has revealed His Word.” He also complains in the same
 passage that the sectarians within the new fold who turned against him
 had fallen away from the faith.[466]

 At that time, i.e. during the ’forties, the idea of an inspiration
 grew stronger in him. He boasts that his understanding of Romans i.
 17 was due to the “illumination of the Holy Ghost,” and tells how he
 suddenly felt himself “completely born anew,” as if he had passed
 “through the open portals into Paradise itself,” and how, “at once,
 the whole of Scripture bore another aspect.”[467]

 Thus his idea of the revelation with which he had been favoured
 gradually assumed in his mind a more concrete shape.

 According to the funeral oration delivered by his friend Jonas on
 Feb. 19, 1546, at Eisleben, Luther often spoke to his friends of his
 revelations, hinting in a vague and mysterious way at the sufferings
 they had entailed. Jonas tells the people in so many words, “that
 Martin himself had often said: ‘What I endure and have endured for
 the doctrine of the beloved Evangel which God has again revealed to
 the world, no one shall learn from me here in this world, but on That
 Day it will be laid open.’ Only at the Last Day will he tell us what
 during his life he ever kept sealed up in his heart, viz. the great
 victories which the Son of God won through him against sin, devil,
 Papists and false brethren, etc. All this he will tell us and also
 what sublime revelations he had when he began to preach the Evangel,
 so that verily we shall be amazed and praise God for them.”[468]

 Hence Luther had persuaded his friends that he had been favoured with
 particular revelations.

From all the above it becomes clear that the revelation which Luther
claimed was regarded by him throughout as a true and personal
communication from above, and not merely as a knowledge acquired by
reflection and prayer under the Divine assistance common to all. It was
in fact only by considering the matter in this light that he was able
effectually to refute the objections of outsiders and to allay to some
extent the storms within him. The very character of his revolt against
the Church, against the tradition of a thousand years, against the
episcopate, universities, Catholic princes and Catholic instincts of the
nation demanded something more than could have been afforded by a mere
appeal to the revelation common to all. Of what service would it have
been to him in his struggles of conscience, and when contending with the
malice and jealousy of the sects, to have laid claim to a vague, general

Nevertheless, the appeals Luther makes to the revelation he had received
are at times somewhat vague, as some of the passages quoted serve to
prove. We shall not be far wrong if we say that he himself was often not
quite clear as to what he should lay claim. His ideas, or at any rate his
statements, concerning the exalted communications he had received, vary
with the circumstances, being, now more definite, now somewhat misty.

Here, as in the parallel case of his belief in his mission, his
assertions are at certain periods more energetic and defiant than at
others (see above, vol. iii., p. 120 ff.).

However this may be, the idea of a revelation in the strict sense was
no mere passing whim; it emerges at its strongest under the influence
of the Wartburg spirit, and, once more, summons up all its forces
towards the end of his days, when Luther seeks for comfort amid his sad
experiences and for some relief in his weariness. Yet, in him, the idea
of a revelation always seems a matter of the will, something which he can
summon to his assistance and to which he deliberately holds fast, and
which, as occasion requires, is decked out with the necessary adjuncts
of angels descending from heaven, visions, spirits, inward experiences,
inward menaces, or triumphs over the temptations of the devil.

_Some Apparent Withdrawals_

Various apparently contradictory statements, such as the reader must
expect to meet with in Luther, are not, however, wanting, even concerning
his revelations.

Discordant statements of the sort do not, indeed, occur in the passages,
where, as in the quotations given above, he is defending his theological
innovations against the authority of the Church. Often they are a mere
rhetorical trick to impress his hearers with his modesty. In his sermons
at Wittenberg in 1522, for instance, he declared that he was perfectly
willing to submit his “feeling and understanding” to anyone to whom “more
has been revealed”; by this, however, he does not mean his doctrine but
merely the practical details of the introduction of the new ritual of
public worship, then being discussed at Wittenberg. This is clear from
the very emphasis he here lays on his teaching, thanks to which the
Wittenbergers now have the “Word of God true and undefiled,” and from his
description of the devil’s rage who now sees that “the sun of the true
Evangel has risen.”[469]

Again, when, in his later revision of the same course of sermons, we hear
him say: “You must be disciples, not of Luther, but of Christ,”[470]
and: “You must not say I am Luther’s, or I am the Pope’s, for neither
has died for you nor is your master, but only Christ,”[471] he has not
the least intention of denying the authority of the doctrine revealed
to him, on the contrary, on the same page, he has it that, “Luther’s
doctrine is not his but Christ’s own”;[472] he had already said, “Even
were Luther himself or an angel from heaven to teach otherwise, let
it be anathema.”[473] He is simply following St. Paul’s lead[474] and
pointing out to his hearers the supreme source of truth; he still remains
its instrument, the “Prophet,” “Evangelist” and “Ecclesiastes by the
grace of God,” favoured, like the inspired Apostle of the Gentiles, with

Nevertheless, we cannot shut our eyes to the fact, that, subsequent to
1525, Luther tended at times to be less insistent on his revelations.
From strategic considerations he was careful to keep more in the
background his revelations from the Spirit now that the fanatics were
also claiming their own special enlightenment by the “Spirit.” His eyes
were now opened to the danger inherent in such arbitrary claims to
revelation, and, accordingly, he now begins to insist more on the outward

It is true, that, in Nov., 1525, in refutation of the Zwinglian
theologians of Strasburg, he still appealed not merely to his visions of
angels (see above, p. 127) but also to the certain light of his doctrine
inspired by the Holy Ghost, and to his sense of the “Spirit.” “I see
very well,” he says, “that they have no certainty, but the Spirit is
certain of His cause.”[476] Even then, however, a change had begun and
he preferred to appeal to Holy Scripture, which, so he argued, spoke
plainly in his favour, rather than to inspirations and revelations. Hence
his asseveration that this outward Word of God has much more claim to
consideration than the inward Word, which can so easily be twisted to
suit one’s frame of mind. He now comes unduly to depreciate the inward
Word and the Spirit which formerly he had so highly vaunted, though, on
the other hand, he continues to teach that the Spirit and the inward
enlightening of the Word are necessary for the interpretation of Holy

His Commentary on Isaias contains a delightful attack on the “all-too
spiritual folk, who, to-day, cry Spirit, Spirit!” “Let us not look
for any private revelations. It is Christ who tells us to ‘search
the Scriptures’ [John v. 39]. Revelations puff us up and make us
presumptuous. I have not been instructed,” so he goes on, “either by
signs or by special revelations, nor have I ever begged signs of God;
on the contrary I have asked Him never to let me become proud, or be
led astray from the outward Word through the devil’s tricks.” He then
launches out against those who pretend they have “particular revelations
on the faith,” being “misled by the devil.” These words occur in the
revised and enlarged Scholia on Isaias published in 1534. It may,
however, be that they did not figure in Luther’s lectures on Isaias
(1527-30) but were appended somewhat later.[477]

After thus apparently disowning any title to private revelation and
a higher light Luther’s inevitable appeal to the certainty of his
doctrine only becomes the more confident. Thanks to his temptations and
death-throes, he had become so certain, that he can declare: Possessed of
the “Word” as I am, I have not the least wish “that an angel should come
to me, for, now, I should not believe him.”

“Nevertheless, the time might well come,” so he continues in this passage
of the Table-Talk, “when I might be pleased to see one [an angel] on
certain matters.” “I do not, however, admit dreams and signs, nor do I
worry about them. We have in Scripture all that we require. Sad dreams
come from the devil, for everything that ministers to death and dread,
lies and murder is the devil’s handiwork.”[478]

It is true Luther was often plagued by terrifying dreams, and as he
numbered them among his “anxieties and death-throes” what he says about
them may fittingly be utilised to complete the picture of his inward
state. To such an extent was the devil able to affright him, so he says,
that he “broke out into a sweat in the midst of his sleep”; thus “Satan
was present even when men slept; but angels too were also there.”[479] He
assures us, that, in his sleep, he had witnessed even the horrors of the
Last Judgment.

_The “Temptations” as one of Luther’s Bulwarks_

The states of terror and the temptations he underwent were to Luther
so many confirmations of his doctrine. Some of his utterances on this
subject ring very oddly.

 To be “in deaths often” was, according to him, a sort of “apostolic
 gift,” shared by Peter and Paul. In order to be a doctor above
 suspicion, a man must have experienced the pains of death and the
 “melting of the bones.” In the Psalms he hears, as it were, an echo
 of his own state of soul. “To despair where hope itself despairs,”
 and “to live in unspeakable groanings,” “this no one can understand
 who has not tasted it.” This he said in 1520 in a Commentary on the
 Psalms.[480] And, later, in 1530, when engaged at the Coburg in
 expounding the first twenty-five psalms: “‘My heart is become like
 wax melting in the midst of my bowels’ [Ps. xxi. 15]. What that was
 no one grasps who has not felt it.”[481] “In such trouble there must
 needs be despair, but, if I say: ‘This I do simply and solely at God’s
 command,’ there comes the assurance: Hence God will take your part and
 comfort you. It was thus we consoled ourselves at Augsburg.”[482]

 Many others who followed him were also overtaken by similar distress
 of mind. Struggles of conscience and gloomy depression were the fate
 of many who flocked to his standard (cp. above, vol. iv., pp. 218-27).
 Johann Mathesius, Luther’s favourite pupil, so frequently referred to
 above, towards the end of his life, when pastor at Joachimsthal, once
 declared, when brooding sadly, that the devil with his temptations was
 sifting him as it were in a sieve and that he was enduring the pangs
 of hell described by David. The very mention of a knife led him to
 think of suicide. He was eager to hold fast to Christ alone, but this
 he could not do. After the struggle had lasted two or three months his
 condition finally improved.[483]

 Such were Luther’s temptations, of which, afterwards, he did not
 scruple to boast. “Often did they bring us to death’s door,” he says
 of the mental struggles in which his new doctrine and practice of
 sheltering himself behind the merits of Christ involved him. But,
 nevertheless, “I will hold fast to that Man alone, even though it
 should bring me to the grave!”[484]

 Again, in 1532, we hear him making his own the words: “Out of the
 depths have I cried unto thee, O Lord” (Ps. cxxix. 1). The prophet
 is not complaining of any mere “worldly temptations,” but of “that
 anguish of conscience, of those blows and terrors of death such as the
 heart feels when on the brink of despair and when it fancies itself
 abandoned by God; when it both sees its sin and how all its good works
 are condemned by God the angry Judge.… When a man is sunk in such
 anxiety and trouble he cannot recover unless help is bestowed on him
 from above.… Nearly all the great saints suffered in this way and were
 dragged almost to the gates of death by sin and the Law; hence David’s
 exclamation: ‘Out of the depths have I cried unto thee, O Lord!’”—The
 whole trend of what he says, likewise the counsels he gives on the
 remedies that may bring consolation, show plainly his attachment to
 this dark night of the soul and his conviction that he is but treading
 in the footsteps of the “great Saints” and “Prophets.”[485]

At any rate there is no room for doubt that this opened out a rich
field for delusion; what he says depicts a frame of mind in which
hallucinations might well thrive; we shall, however, leave it to others
to determine how far pathological elements intervene.

In the certainty that his cause was inspired he calmly awaits the
approach of the fanatics; they can serve only to strengthen in him his
sense of confidence. Of them and their “presumptuous certainty” he makes
short work in a conversation noted down by Cordatus:[486] Marcus Thomae
(Stübner) he requests to perform a miracle in proof of his views, warning
him, however, that “My God will assuredly forbid your God to let you work
a sign”; he also hurls against him the formula of exorcism: “God rebuke
thee, Satan” (Zach. iii. 2).[487] Nicholas Storch and Thomas Münzer,
so he assures us, openly show their presumption. A pupil of Stübner was
anxious to set himself up as a teacher, but the fellow had only been able
to talk fantastic rubbish to him. Of people such as these he had come
across quite sixty. Campanus, again, is simply to be numbered among the
biggest blasphemers. Carlstadt, who wanted to be esteemed learned, was
only distinguished by his arrogant mouthing. Nowhere was there profundity
or truth. “Not one of you has endured such anxieties and temptations
as I.”[488] “And yet Carlstadt wanted us to bow to his teaching.… Like
Christ, however, I say: ‘My doctrine is not mine but his that sent me’
(John vii. 16). I cannot betray it as the world would have me do. The
malice of all these ministers of Satan only serves my cause and exercises
me in indomitable firmness.”[489] Hence he derives equal benefit from the
malice of his opponents within the fold and from the inward apprehensions
of which Satan was the cause.

The manifold errors which had sprung from the seed of his own principles,
in any other man would have elicited doubts and scruples; Luther,
however, finds in them fresh support for his dominating conviction:
My glorious sufferings at the devil’s hands are being multiplied and,
thereby, too, the witness on behalf of my doctrine is being strengthened.

The mystical halo of the “man of suffering” certainly made a great
impression on some of his young followers and admirers such as
Spangenberg, Mathesius, Cordatus and Veit Dietrich. On others of his
circle the effect was not so lasting.

Melanchthon, for instance, was well acquainted with Luther’s fits of
mystic terror, yet how severe is the criticism he passes on Luther’s
ground-dogmas, particularly after the latter’s death.

The doctrine of man’s entire unfreedom in doing what is good may serve as
an instance.

This palladium of the new theology had been discovered by Luther when
overwhelmed with despair; by it he sought to commit himself entirely
into God’s hands and blindly and passively to await salvation from Him;
this he regarded as the only way out of inward trials; no man could
face the devil with his free will; he himself, so he wrote, “would not
wish to have” free-will, even were it offered him (“_nollem mihi dari
liberum arbitrium_”), in order that he might at least be safe from the
devil; nay, even were there no devil, free-will would still be to him an
abomination, because, with it, his “conscience would never be safe and
at rest.” The words occur in the work he declared to be his very best
and a lasting heirloom for posterity.[490] This particular doctrine,
Melanchthon was, however, so far from regarding as a “revelation,” that
he wrote in 1559: “Both during Luther’s lifetime and also later, I
withstood that Stoical and Manichæan delusion which led Luther and others
to write, that all works whether good or evil, in all men whether good
or bad, take place of necessity. Now it is evident that this doctrine
is contrary to God’s Word, subversive of all discipline and a blasphemy
against God.”[491] Melanchthon did not even scruple to call upon the
State to intervene and prohibit such things being said. In his Postils,
dealing with the question whether heretics should be put to death, he
declares: “By divine command the public authorities must proceed against
idolaters and also interdict blasphemous language, as, for instance,
when a man teaches that good or evil takes place of necessity and under

He could not well have said anything more deadly against the foundation
on which Luther’s whole edifice was reared.

In spite of all, Luther always stood by his pseudo-mystic idea of his
having received revelations. Without it he could never have ventured to
threaten as he did the secular and ecclesiastical authorities who opposed
his dogmas, with “extermination” and “great revolts,” or to proclaim so
confidently that they would fall, blown over by the breath of Christ’s
mouth, or to prophesy that, even beyond the grave, he would be to the
impenitent Papists, what, according to the prophet Osee, God threatened
to be to Israel, viz. “a bear in the road and a lion in the path.”[493]

His whole process of thought was, as it were, held captive in the heavy
chains of this idea.

_Three Perverted Theories Dominating Luther’s Outlook_

In order to enter even more deeply into Luther’s mentality three
categories of ideas by which he determined his life well deserve
consideration here. Only at the point we have now reached can some of his
statements be judged of aright.

Among his strange ideas must be reckoned his threefold conviction, first,
that he was called to be the opponent of Antichrist, secondly, that
Popery was a thing of boundless and utter depravity, thirdly, that in
his own personal experiences and gifts he was blessed beyond all other
men. Here again we shall have to refer to many passages already quoted
and also to some fresh ones of Luther’s which afford a glimpse into his
perverted mode of thought and incredible prejudice.

His obstinate belief in his mission against Antichrist keeps the thought
of a mortal combat ever before his mind; a decisive battle at the
approaching end of all, between heaven and hell, between Christ and the
dragon. This struggle, such as he viewed it, needless to say existed only
in his imagination. If, according to him, the devil fights so furiously
that at times Christ Himself seems on the point of succumbing, this is
only because Luther’s cause does not thrive, or because Luther himself
is again the butt of gloomy fears. As early as 1518, as we know, he
fancied he had detected the Papal Antichrist, and could read the thoughts
of Satan, who was at work behind his opponents.[494] In this idea he
subsequently confirmed himself by his reading of the Old-Testament
prophecies, on which, till almost the very end of his life, he was wont
laboriously to base new calculations. From the dawn of his career it has
been borne in on him with ever-growing clearness how Christ, using Luther
as His tool, will overthrow, as though in sport, this “man of sin” of
which Popery is the embodiment; at the very close of his days, when the
sight of the evils rampant in Germany was causing him the utmost anxiety,
he seems to hear the trump that heralds the Coming of the Judge.

Using images that suggest a positive obsession, he depicts the world as
full of the traces of Antichrist and the devil his forerunner. Yet all
the machinations of the old serpent avail only to strengthen the defiance
with which he opposes Satan and all his myrmidons. The signs in the
heavens above and on the earth below all point to him, the great, albeit
unworthy, champion of God’s cause. Though Antichrist and the powers
that are his backers in this world may for the time have the better of
the struggle this is but the last flicker of the dying flame which, by
prophecy and vision, he had been predestined to extinguish (above, vol.
iii., p. 165 ff., etc.).

Hence his confidence in unveiling the action of Antichrist as portrayed
in the birth of the Monk-Calf; like some seer he hastens to pen a special
work for the instruction of the people in the meaning of the Calf’s
anatomy.[495] His growing uncanny imagination goes on to describe, in
colours more and more glaring, the abominations of that Antichrist from
whom he has torn the veil. The fury of the Turk is but child’s play to
the horror of the Papal Antichrist. That portion of the Table-Talk which
deals with Antichrist, comprising no less than 165 sections brimful of
the maddest fancies, begins with the description of Antichrist’s head.
“The head is at the same time the Pope and the Turk. A living animal must
have both soul and body. The spirit or soul of Antichrist is the Pope,
his flesh or body the Turk”;[496] the concluding words on the subject
are in the same vein: “The blood of Abel cries for vengeance on them,”
viz. on the followers of the Pope-Antichrist.[497] These chapters of the
Table-Talk dealing with Antichrist scarcely do credit to the human mind.
We can, however, understand them, for to Luther nothing is plainer than
that the “nature of his foes is utterly devilish”; all he sees is the
claws, paws, horns and poison-fangs of Antichrist.[498]

Luther revealed the anti-Christian nature of the Pope, in accordance with
the prophet Daniel whom he read on the principle: “_Sic volo, sic iubeo,
sit pro ratione voluntas_”; “Nevertheless we attach but little importance
to our deliverance and are very ungrateful. This, however, is our
consolation, viz. that the Last Day cannot now be long delayed. Daniel’s
prophecy is fulfilled to the letter and paints the Papacy as plainly as
though it had been written _post factum_.”[499]

In spite of Antichrist and “all that is mighty” the Article concerning
Holy Scripture and the Cross still holds the field. And, so Luther
proceeds in the Table-Talk, “I, a poor monk, had to come,” with “an
unfortunate nun” [Catherine Bora who doubtless was present], and “seize
upon it and hold it. Thus ‘_verbum_’ and ‘_crux_’ are the conquerors;
they make us confident.”[500]

The reason why Luther longed with such ardour for the coming of the
Last Day has already been shown to have been his growing pessimism and
the depression resulting from the sad experiences with which he had met
(above, vol. v., p. 245 ff.). In his elastic way he, however, manages,
when preaching to the people, to give a rather different reason for
his prediction of the fall of Antichrist and the coming of the end. In
Popery, he declares, we were not allowed to speak of the Last Judgment;
“how we dreaded it”; “we pictured Christ to ourselves as a Judge to Whom
we had to give account. To that we came, thanks to our works.” But now
it is quite otherwise. “Now on the contrary I should be glad if the Last
Day were to come, because there is no greater consolation.”[501] Here
he speaks as though inspired solely by the purest of intentions when he
looked forward to the coming of the vanquisher of Antichrist.

       *       *       *       *       *

The wickedness of his opponents and the weapons to be used against them
constitute a second group of ideas. Here, once again, the psychological
or pathological appreciation of Luther’s strange and morbid train of
thought makes imperative a further investigation of certain points
already discussed in other connections.

Often Luther seems unable to stem the torrent of charges and insults
that streams from him as soon as adversaries appear in his field of
vision. Frequently it almost looks as though some superhuman agency
outside himself had opened the sluice-gates of his terrible eloquence.
He is determined to rage against them “even to the very grave”; his
wrath against them “refreshes his blood.” It is actually when expressing
his hatred in the most incredible language that he is most sensible of
the “nearness of God.” Do not his Popish foes deserve even worse than
he, a mere man, is able to heap on them? Those scoundrels who “only
seek a pretext for telling lies against us and misleading simple folk,
though quite well aware that they are in the wrong.”[502] Their palpable
obstinacy, in spite of their better judgment, was so great, so he argued,
that it was only because Luther advocated it that they refused to hear of
any moral reform, for instance, of the clergy marrying, etc., otherwise
they would have held it “quite all right.” He does not shrink from
demanding that such roguery should “be hunted down with hounds,” no less
than the wickedness of these “most depraved of brothel-keepers, open
adulterers, stealers of women and seducers of maidens.”[503]

The most curious thing, however, one, too, that must weigh heavily in the
balance when judging of his mental state, is that, as shown elsewhere, by
dint of repeating this he actually came to believe that his caricature
of Catholicism was perfectly true to fact. The calumnies become part of
his mental framework, the very frequency and heat of his charges blinding
him to all sense of their enormity, and clouding his outlook. What is
even worse is, that, even when he occasionally glimpses the truth he
yet believes it lawful to deviate from it where this suits his purpose.
Thus he came to formulate the dangerous theory of the lie of necessity
and the useful lie which we have already described in his own words. He
goes so far as to say, that the nature of his foes was utterly devilish
(above, p. 155, n. 4), and, when assailing the wickedness of Popery, he
considers “everything lawful for the salvation of souls” (“_omnia nobis
licere arbitramur_”).[504] Our “tricks, lies and stumblings” may “easily
be atoned for, for God’s Mercy watches over us.”[505]

On other occasions his opponents become “a pack of fools”; they deserve
nothing but scorn and no heed should be paid to their objections. Even
should the world write against him he will only pity them. All earlier
ages and “a thousand Fathers and Councils of the Church” cannot rob him
of the golden grains of truth which he alone possesses.

No sooner does he speak of the Papists and their religion, than,
irresistibly, there rises up before his mind the picture of the
“tonsures, cowls, frocks and bawling in the choir,” in short the
so-called holiness-by-works, on which he seizes to load ridicule on all
that is Popish.

 This Luther is apt to do even when treating of subjects quite alien to
 this sort of polemics.

 In his “Von den Conciliis und Kirchen” (1539) he has a lengthy
 dissertation on the marks of the Church; the subject being a wide
 one he is anxious to get on with it, yet, even so, his pen again
 and again wanders off into vituperation. He apostrophises himself
 incidentally as follows: “But how is it that I come again to speak of
 the infamous, filthy menials of the Pope? Let them begone, and, for
 ever,” etc. With these words he breaks off a wild outburst in which he
 had declared that the Pope and his men were persecuting the Word of
 God, i.e. Luther’s doctrine, “though well aware of its truth; very bad
 Apostles, Evangelists and Prophets must they be, like the devil and
 his angels.”[506]

 Yet, on the very next page, the same subject crops up again. A lay
 figure serves to introduce it. To him Luther says: “There you come
 again dragging in your Pope with you, though I wanted to have no more
 to do with you. Well, as you insist on annoying me with your unwelcome
 presence I shall give you a thoroughly Lutheran reception.” He then
 proceeds to enlarge in “Lutheran” fashion on the fact, that the Pope
 “condemns the wedded life of the bishops and priests.” “If a man
 has seduced a hundred maidens, violated a hundred honourable widows
 and has besides a hundred prostitutes behind him, he is allowed to
 be not merely a preacher or parson but even a bishop or Pope, and
 though he keeps on in his evil ways he would still be tolerated in
 such an office.” “Are you not mad and foolish? Out on you, you rude
 fools and donkeys!… Truly Popes and bishops are fine fellows to be
 the bridegrooms of the Churches. Better suited were they to be the
 bridegrooms of female keepers of bawdy houses, or of the devil’s own
 daughter in hell! True bishops are the servants of this bride and she
 is their wife and mistress.” According to you “matrimony is unclean,
 and a merdiferous sacrament which cannot please God”; at the same
 time it is supposed to be right and a sacrament. “See how the devil
 cheats and befools you when he teaches you such twaddle!” Further on
 he begins anew: “To violate virgins, widows and married women, to
 keep many prostitutes and to commit all sorts of hidden sins, this he
 is free to do, and thereby becomes worthy of the priestly calling;
 but this is the sum total of it all: The Pope, the devil and his
 Church are enemies to the married state as Dan. (xi. 37) says, and
 are determined to abuse it in this way so that the priestly office
 may not thrive. This amounts to saying that the state of matrimony is
 adulterous, sinful, impure and abominated of God.”

 Bidding farewell to Popery, Luther gives it a truly “Lutheran” send
 off: “So for the present let us be done with the Ass-Pope and the
 Pope-Ass, and all his asinine lawyers. We will now get back to our own

 This, however, he only partially succeeds in doing. After discussing
 the 6th and 7th mark of the Church the “spirit” once more seizes
 him. The caricature of Popery with which he is wont to pacify his
 conscience here again figures with the whole of the inevitable
 paraphernalia: “[Holy] water, salt, herbs, tapers, bells, images,
 Agnus Dei, pallia, altar, chasubles, tonsures, fingers, hands. Who can
 enumerate them all? Finally the monks’ cowls,” etc. A page further we
 again read: “Holy water, Agnus Dei, bulls, briefs, Masses and monks’
 cowls.… The devil has decked himself out in them all.”

 Weary as he is at the end of the lengthy work, he is still anxious to
 “tread under foot the Pope, as Psalm xci. [xc., verse 13] says: ‘Thou
 shalt walk upon the asp and the basilisk, and shalt trample under foot
 the lion and the dragon’; this we will do with the help and strength
 of the Seed of the woman that has crushed and still crushes the
 serpent’s head, albeit we know that he will turn and bite our heel. To
 the same blessed Seed of the woman be all praise and glory together
 with the Father and the Holy Ghost, One True God and Lord for ever and
 ever. Amen.”

 Here, in the few pages we have selected for quotation, the whole
 psychological Luther-problem unrolls itself.

In the pictures his imagination conjures up, the sacrifice of the
Mass—the most sacred mystery of Catholic worship—occupies a special
place. It is the idolatrous abomination foretold by the prophet, or
rather the idol Moasim itself (above, vol. iv., p. 524). One wonders
whether he really succeeded in persuading himself that his greatest sin,
a sin that cried to heaven for vengeance and deserved eternal damnation
(above, p. 136; cp. vol. iv., p. 509), was his having—as a monk and at
a time when he knew no better—celebrated the sacrifice of the Mass? It
is true that, in the solemn profession he makes of his belief in the
Sacrament (1528), when resolved to confess his faith “before God and the
whole world,” he says: “These were my greatest sins, that I was such a
holy monk and for over fifteen years angered, plagued and martyred my
dear Master so gruesomely by my many Masses.” The words occur at the
close of his “Vom Abendmal Christi Bekentnis,” with the asseveration,
that he would stand firm in this faith to the very end; “and were I,
which God forbid, under stress of temptation or in the hour of death to
say otherwise, then [what I might say] must be accounted as nought and I
hereby openly proclaim it to be false and to come from the devil. So help
me My Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ Who is blessed for ever and ever.

According to what he once remarked in 1531 (above, p. 136 f.) it was,
however, not the devil who was prompting him to despair by calling up his
crying sin of having said Mass. If Luther is indeed telling the truth,
and if his doings as a zealous monk really seemed to him to be his worse
sins, then we can only marvel at his confusion of mind having gone so
far. From other admissions we should rather gather that what disquieted
his conscience was more the subversion of the olden worship, the ruin of
the religious life and, in fact, the whole working of the innovations.
And yet, here, we have a solemn assurance that the very contrary was the

It is in itself a problem how he contrives to make such frightful sins
of his monastic life—into which, on his own showing, he had entered
in ignorance—and of the Masses which he had said all unaware of their

But, in his polemics, such is the force with which he is swept along,
that he does not pause to consider his blatant self-contradictions, or
how much he is putting himself at the mercy of his opponents, or how
inadequately his rhetoric and all his playing to the gallery hides the
lack of valid proofs and the deficiencies of his reading of Scripture.

As for his foes, in his mind’s eye he sees them wavering and falling,
blown over, as it were, by the strength of his reasoning, even when they
are not overtaken and slain by the righteous judgment of God. When need
arises he has ready a list of deaths, particularly of sudden ones, by
which opponents had been snatched away.[508] The “blessed upheaval,”
however, which is one day to carry them all off together, is, so at least
his morbid fancy tells him, still delayed by his prayers.

       *       *       *       *       *

As for himself personally, he stood under the spell of a train of thought
displaying pathological symptoms, which, taken in the lump, must raise
serious questions as to the nature of his changing mental state.

Being chosen by God for such great things, being not merely the “prophet
of the Germans” but also destined to bring back the Gospel to the whole
Christian world, Providence, in his opinion, has equipped him with
qualities such as have hitherto rarely graced a man. This he does not
tire of repeating, albeit he ever refers his gifts to God. He is fond
of comparing himself not merely with the Popish doctors of his day but
also with the most famous of bygone time. In the same way he is fond of
measuring foes within the fold by the standard of his own greatness. He
is thus betrayed into utterances such as one usually hears only from
those affected with megalomania; this sort of thing pleases him so well,
that, intent on his own higher mission, he fails to see the bad taste of
certain of his exaggerations and how repulsive their tone is.[509]

God at all times has saved His Church “by means of individuals and for
the sake of a few”; this Luther pointed out to his friends in 1540,
instancing Adam, Abraham, Moses, Elias, Isaias, Augustine, Ambrose and
others. “God also did something by means of Bernard and now again through
me, the new Jeremias. And so the end draws nigh!”[510] The end, however,
for which he has made everything ready, may now come quite peacefully and
speedily, for he has not merely done “something,” but “everything that
pertains to the knowledge of God has been restored”; “the Gospel has been
revealed and the Last Day is at the door.”[511]

Fancying himself the passive tool of Divine Providence, it becomes lawful
for him deliberately to scatter over the world his literary bomb-shells,
exclaiming: God wills it, for, did He not, He could prevent it! He
flings broadcast atrocious charges of a character to arouse men’s worst
passions, and, at the same time, writes to his friends: If it is too
much, God at our prayer must provide a remedy.[512] Hence it is God Who
must bear the blame for everything, seeing that He works through Luther.
God made him a Doctor of Holy Scripture, let Him therefore see to it.

 He “throws down the keys at the door” of God when the work goes ill.
 Why did He will it? “I cannot stop the course of events,” he says
 somewhat more truly in 1525, “for matters have gone too far”; he adds,
 however: “I will shut my eyes and leave God to act; He will do as He

 This way of thinking was nothing new in Luther, but may be traced in
 his earliest literary efforts, which only shows how deeply it was
 rooted in his mind. “In all I do I wish to be led, not by the rede and
 deed of man, but by the rede and deed of God!” so he said in 1517,
 when declining the advice of those who only wished to serve his best
 interests; yet, in the same letter in which these words occur, he
 confesses his “precipitancy, presumption and prejudice,” qualities “on
 account of which he was blamed by all.”[514]

 Later, too, as we know, he saw in things both great and small the hand
 of God at work in him; all his efforts and even his very mistakes were
 God’s, not his. It was by God that, while yet a monk, he had been
 “forcibly torn from the Hours,”[515] i.e. freed from the duty of
 reciting the Divine Office; God had led him like a blinkered charger
 into the midst of the battle; it was God, again, Who had “flung him
 into matrimony” and Who had laid upon him, the “wonderful monk,” the
 burden of preaching to the great ones and the tenor of his message.
 “Hence you ought to believe my word absolutely … but, even to this
 day, people do not believe that my preaching is the Word of God.… But,
 on it I will stake my soul, that I preach the true and pure Word of
 God, and for it I am also ready to die.… If you believe it you will be
 saved, if you don’t you will be damned.”[516]

 Seeing the tumults and disorders that had arisen through him, he
 cries: “It is the Lord Who does this”; “we see God’s plan in these
 things”; “It was God Who began it”; “in our doings we are guided by
 the Divine Counsel alone.”[517]

 It is when in such a frame of mind that he detects those signs and
 wonders that witness against his foes; given the magnitude of the war
 he was waging whilst waiting for the coming of the Judge, these signs
 were no more to be wondered at than the obstinacy of his foes: “Now
 that the end of the world is coming the people [the Papists] storm and
 rage against God most gruesomely, blaspheming and condemning the Word
 of God, though knowing it to be indeed the Word and the Truth. And,
 on the top of this, are the many dreadful signs and wonders in the
 skies and among almost all creatures, which are a terrible menace to

Though quite full of the idea that his own doctrine was alone right,
yet, as already shown, he went in early days so far as to grant to every
man freedom of belief and the right to read Scripture according to his
lights; for to him every Christian is a judge of Holy Scripture, a doctor
and a tool of the Holy Ghost. The assumption underlying this, viz. that,
in spite of all, the necessary unity of doctrine would be preserved, is
not easy to explain. When, however, experience stepped in and disproved
the assumption, Luther’s behaviour became even more inexplicable.
He was by nature so disposed to ignore the claims of logic that the
contradiction between his demand that all should bow to his doctrine,
and such theories as that the Bible is, for all, the true and only fount
of knowledge, and that no other outward ecclesiastical authority exists,
never seems to have troubled him. Though he claimed to be the “liberator
of minds and consciences,” he, nevertheless, called on the authorities to
put down all other doctrines.[519]

The dignity of his chair at Wittenberg is exalted by him to giddy
heights. “This university and town,” he said of Wittenberg, may vie with
any others. “All the highest authorities of the day are at one with
us, like Amsdorf, Brenz and Rhegius. Such men are our correspondents.”
In comparison, the sects are simply ludicrous in their insignificance.
Woe to those within the fold who dare to run counter to Luther, “like
‘Jeckel’ and ‘Grickel’; they imagine that they alone are clever and
that they, like ‘Zwingel’ also, never learnt anything from us! Yet who
knew anything 25 years ago? Who stood by me 21 years since, when God,
against both my will and my knowledge, led me into the fray? Alas, what
a misfortune is ambition!” This he said in 1540,[520] but already eight
years before he had complained bitterly: “Each one wants to make himself
out to be alone in knowing everything.… Everywhere we find the same
Master Wiseacre, who is so clever that he can lead a horse by its tail.”
Though one alone has received from God the mission of preaching the
Gospel, yet “there are others, even among his pupils, who think they know
ten times more about it than he.… Then, hey presto, another doctrine is
set up.”[521] “Deadly harm” to Christianity is the result; nevertheless,
according to Christ’s prophecy, “factions and sects” there must be; but
their source is and remains the devil[522]—who, according to Luther, is
the true God of this world in which indeed his finger can everywhere be
seen. (See above, vol. v., p. 275 ff.)

Strange indeed is the frame of mind here presented to the observer. So
much is Luther the plaything of his fancy and the feeling of the moment,
that, at times he seems the victim of a sort of self-suggestion and to be
following blindly the idea which happens to hold the field.

His judgment being seen to be so confused, it becomes easier to estimate
at their right value certain of his ideas, particularly his conviction
that he and his cause owed their preservation to a series of palpable
miracles. He contrived to spread among his pupils the belief that “holy
Luther” was the greatest prophet since the time of the Apostles.[523] Yet
anyone who reflects how Luther could devote a special tract to proving
that so everyday an occurrence as the “escape” of a nun from her convent
was worthy of being deemed a great miracle for all time, can only marvel
at the facility with which Luther could delude himself.[524]

_Other Abnormal Lines of Thought and Behaviour_

Luther’s action presents many other problems to the psychologist, for
instance, in its waverings and contradictions. Strong in his belief in
his Divine mission, he roundly abuses kings and princes in the vilest
terms, and yet, at the same time, he teaches respect and obedience
towards them and even sets himself up as a model in this respect, all
according to his mood and as they happen to be favourable to him or
the reverse. On the one hand, he presumes to incite the people to acts
of violence, and, on the other, he preaches no less cogently the need
of calmness and submission. He boasts of the courage with which he had
dashed into the very jaws of Behemoth, and of his utter contempt for his
foes; yet this same Luther is obsessed by the idea that his own life is
threatened by poison and sorcery, just as his party is menaced by the
hired assassins of the monks and Papists. While he extols the University
of Wittenberg as the bulwark of theological unity, he is at the same time
so distrustful of the doctrine of his friends that his intercourse with
them suffers, and, to at least one of his intimates, Wittenberg becomes a
“cave of the Cyclops.”

Such contradictions and many of the like combined to induce in him an
abnormal state of mind. Harmony and consistency of thought and feeling
was something he never knew. Hence the charge brought against him, not
merely by opponents, but even by many of his own followers, viz. of being
muddled, illogical and not sure of his ground.

While he is perfectly able at times to speak and write with such
candour and truth that one cannot but admire the wholesome sense, and
sober, witty, cheery style of his literary productions, yet their tone
and character change entirely as soon as it becomes a question of his
polemics or of his Evangel. Then his mind becomes overcast, his thoughts
pursue one another like storm-clouds, assuming meanwhile the strangest
shapes and the reader is over whelmed by a torrent of mingled abuse
and paradox. His very proofs are caught up in the whirl and become so
distorted that it is often impossible even to tell whether they are meant
in earnest or are merely in the nature of a challenge.

 According to Luther, to mention only a few of the strangest of his
 sayings, his doctrine of justification and the forgiveness of sins is
 present “in all creatures” and is confirmed by analogy.[525] The very
 doctrine of creation rests on the doctrine of justification as on “its
 foundation.”[526] “If the article of our souls’ salvation is embraced
 and adhered to with a firm faith, then the other articles follow
 naturally, for instance, that of the Trinity.”[527]

 Marriage he finds stamped on the whole of nature, “even on the hardest
 stones.” New-born infants he assumes capable of eliciting an act of
 faith in baptism; simply because he could not otherwise defend against
 the Anabaptists the traditional infant baptism and at the same time
 maintain that the efficacy of the sacraments depends on faith. His
 doctrine of the spiritual omnipresence of the body of Christ is an
 absurdity involving the presence of Christ in all food; but even this
 is not too much for him if it enables him to defend his theory of the
 Supper. His imputation-theory led him to that considered utterance
 which has shocked so many: “Be a sinner and sin boldly, but believe
 more boldly still.”[528] “_Sic volo, sic iubeo, sit pro ratione
 voluntas_,” was elsewhere his answer to another objection.[529]

 He made no odds about declaring rhetorically, of all classes of men
 and all branches of religious knowledge: that, “in a word, before
 me no one knew anything.”[530] Of the daring eloquence he can use
 when expressing such ideas we have a sample in the statement: “Were
 the Papists, particularly those who are now bawling at me in their
 writings, all stamped together in the wine-press and then boiled down
 and distilled seven times over, not a quarter would be left capable
 of using their tongues to teach even one article [of the Catechism],
 nor from the whole of their doctrine could so much be drawn as would
 serve to teach a manservant how to behave in God’s sight towards his
 master or a maid towards her mistress.”[531] He alone, Luther, it was,
 who had brought to all ranks and classes throughout the world “a good
 conscience and order.”[532]

Finally we have the paradox apparent in his practical instructions and
the curious behaviour into which his belief in his mission occasionally
led him. We may recall the means to be employed for overcoming
temptations, one of the mildest of which was a good drink,[533] and the
measures to be taken to induce peace of soul. “Break out into abuse,”
such is his advice, and that will bring inward peace.[534] If this does
not work, then coarse humour will often succeed, one of those jests, for
instance, where the sacred and sublime is vulgarised simply to raise
a laugh. “Against the devil Luther makes use of ‘stronger buffoonery’
and dismisses him curtly, nay, often rudely.”[535] Pointless jests
often spoil the force of his words. For instance, he found himself in
a difficulty about the second wife whom one of Carlstadt’s followers,
acting on Luther’s own principles, wished to take in addition to his
ailing spouse; whilst stipulating that the man must first “feel his
conscience assured and convinced by the Word of God,” and doing his
best to dissuade him from taking such a step, Luther adds in a jesting
tone, that it were perhaps better to let the matter take its course, as
at Orlamünde (under the rule of Carlstadt and his Old-Testament ideas)
they would soon be introducing circumcision and the Mosaic Law in its

His instability of mind and ever-changing feeling ended by impressing a
peculiar stamp on his whole mentality.

At one time he is delighted to see all things subject to the new Evangel,
and extols the gigantic success of his efforts; at another he complains
bitterly that the world is turning its back on the Word and deserting
the little flock of true Evangelicals. Thus the world could promptly
assume in his mind quite contradictory aspects. Of his alternating moods
of confidence and despair he told his friends: “My moods vary quite a
hundred times a day—nevertheless I stand up to the devil.”[537] Hence he
was aware of his vacillations, though on the same occasion he declares
that he knows right well how Holy Scripture strengthens him against
them. He also feels and acknowledges his inconsistency, in being, for
all his changeableness, so rigid and obstinate in his dealings with his
friends. They knew his character, he said, and called it “obstinate.”[538]

Profound depression can alone account for the step he took in 1530, when,
for a while, he discontinued his sermons at Wittenberg because he was
sick of the indifference of his hearers to the Word of God and disgusted
with their conduct. The editor of the sermons of this year, which have
only recently been published, remarks justly, that “the only possible
explanation of this step is a pathological one.”[539] Luther even went
so far as to declare from the pulpit that he was “not going to be a
swine-herd.”[540] Yet, a little after, during the journey to the Coburg,
a sudden change occurred, and we find Luther making jokes and writing in
a quite optimistic vein, and, no sooner had he reached his new abode,
than he plunged into new literary labours. Nevertheless, whilst at the
Castle, he was again a victim of intense depression, was visited by
Satan’s “embassy” and even vouchsafed a glimpse of the enemy of God. On
his departure from the Coburg good humour again got the better of him,
as we see from his jovial letter to Baumgärtner of Oct. 4, 1530, and on
reaching Wittenberg, he was soon up to his ears in work, so that he could
write: “I am not only Luther, but Pomeranus, Vicar-General, Moses, Jethro
and I know not who else besides.”[541] The facility with which his moods
altered is again apparent when, in his last days, he left Wittenberg
in disgust only to return again forthwith in the best of spirits. (See
below, xxxix., 1.)

Yet in his attitude to the olden Church this same man, who otherwise
shows himself so instable, knows how to display such defiant obstinacy
that Protestants who look too exclusively at this side of his character
have even been able to speak of his inflexible firmness. What steels him
here is his ardent belief in his calling.

The idea of his vocation ever serves to help him over his difficulties.
An instance of that marvellous elasticity of mind with which he seizes
on his calling to pacify both himself and his friends, is to be found in
an intimate conversation held after the “greatest of his temptations”
in 1527, and recorded by Bugenhagen. After Luther had declared that he
saw nothing to regret in his severity towards his foes he went on to
speak, with tears in his eyes, of the sects that would spring up and
which his friends would not be able to withstand. He proceeded to admit
that “he was sorry if he had given scandal by his buffoonery and by
his vituperation,[542] but that the cause could not be displeasing to
the pious, for he loved mankind [this is Bugenhagen’s remark] too much
and was an enemy to all hypocrisy.” “God had not ordained” that he, so
Luther here declares, “should appear as a stern and austere figure. The
world finds no sins (‘_crimina_’) wherewith to reproach me, but, because
it follows its own judgment, it takes great offence at me, as I see.
Possibly,” so he goes on, “God wishes to delude the blind and ungrateful
world (‘_mundum stultum facere_’) so that it may perish in its contempt
and never see what excellent gifts God has bestowed on me alone out of
so many thousands, wherewith I am to minister unto those who are His
friends. Thus the world, which refuses to acclaim the word of salvation
which God sends through me, will find in me, according to the divine
counsel, what offends it and is to it a stumbling-block. For this God
is answerable; for I shall pray that I may never be to any a cause of
scandal by my sins.”

“This I learnt with wondrous joy from his own lips,” adds
Bugenhagen.[543] Others will, however, find Luther’s enigmatical train of
thought more difficult to understand.

       *       *       *       *       *

The above are but a few instances of an abnormal turn of mind; of the
like the present work contains others in abundance. Anyone desirous of
penetrating further into the folds and windings of a mind so involved
should study Luther’s letters, particularly those dating from 1517 to
1522 and from 1540 to 1546. He will there find much of the same sort,
which can hardly be termed either sane or reasonable; but even the
passages we have quoted suffice to reveal in him an uncanny power of
self-deception such as few historic characters display. Many a great
genius has betrayed psychological peculiarities, indeed it seems at
times to be the fate of those endowed with eminent gifts to overstep
the boundaries and to venture further than the reason and reflection
of thinking men can follow.[544] That Luther carried certain mental
peculiarities to their utmost limit is plain from what we have seen, nor
can it be right to close one’s eyes to the fact.

Luther showed the defects of a “genius” not least in his vituperation
and in the other far from commendable methods he used in his polemics.
It was precisely these defects which led Erasmus to question whether he
was quite in his right mind. “Had a man said this in the delirium of
fever, could he have uttered anything more insane?” Thus Erasmus in his
“Hyperaspistes.”[545] He often speaks of his opponent’s feverish fancies.
He denies that his spirit is a “sober” one, and maliciously supposes
that he was drunk. In spite of his usual moderation and reticence, the
scholar, when dealing with Luther’s assertions, constantly uses such
words as “_delirus_,” “_insanus_,” “_lymphatus_,” “_sine mente_,” “_mera
insania_.” On one occasion he says of the “devils, spectres, ‘_lamiæ_,’
‘_megæræ_’ and other more than tragic words” which Luther was addicted to
flinging at his foes, that such a habit was a “sign of coming madness”
(“_venturæ insaniæ præsagia_”); elsewhere he views with misgiving the
sort of compulsion (“_non agere sed agi_”) which urges Luther to abuse
all who differ from him.[546]

In other circles, too, the opinion prevailed that Luther was suffering
from some sort of mental disease. We may recall the remarks of Boniface
Amerbach, who was not unkindly disposed to Luther, in sending the
latter’s tract of 1534 against Erasmus, to his brother Basil (above, vol.
iv., p. 183).

In Luther’s immediate surroundings we also find traces of a fear that the
Master stood in some danger of losing his mind.

A thoroughgoing investigation of the matter by some unbiassed expert in
mental diseases would, however, be of immeasurably greater value than the
mere opinions of contemporary admirers and opponents. But the difficulty
is to find an impartial expert. Protestant theologians will not easily be
found ready to agree with Catholic writers regarding the process which
made of a quondam monk the founder of the Protestant faith, or to see
Luther’s scruples in quite the same light. Entire agreement would seem
for ever excluded, owing to differences of outlook so deep-seated. If,
to some, Luther appears as a “new Paul,” and as one who removed every
obstacle to free religious research, then the view they take of his
inward change and later spiritual life must perforce be coloured to some
extent by this idea.

Nor must the fact be lost to sight that many of the apparently suspicious
symptoms were, in Luther’s case, quite wilful. Thus his outbreaks of
fury against Popery, the psychological origin of which we have already
described (vol. iv., p. 306 ff.), are largely an outcome of the feelings
of hatred he deliberately encouraged, and a reaction against his earlier
and better convictions. Again, self-deception and lack of self-control,
i.e. moral elements, played a great part in him. Since, however, even at
the outset of his career he already displayed these moral defects, they
must be carefully distinguished from his morbid states and no less from
his doubts and remorse of conscience.

At the very least, however, we should give to the purely historical facts
such unbiassed, broadminded recognition as that editor of the great
Weimar Edition of Luther’s works (see above, p. 168), who, as we heard,
spoke of the “pathological” explanation of certain acts and statements
of Luther’s as the only one possible. The word “pathological,” and other
similar ones, had, however, been used even earlier, and, that, even by
non-Catholics, as descriptive of certain of Luther’s states, nor was
the remark entirely new, that in many a great genius we find something

5. Luther’s Psychology according to Physicians and Historians

It is not our intention in the following to criticise the opinions
quoted; they have been collected chiefly with the object in view of
providing those qualified to judge with matter on which to exercise their
wits. Nevertheless, we have no intention of depriving ourselves of the
right of making occasional observations. Thus Hausrath’s opinion, to be
given immediately, calls for some revision, as will be clear even to the
lay mind. No disturbance of Luther’s intellectual functions or mental
malady amounting to actual “psychosis” can be assumed at any period of
his life. This, however, is a quite different thing from admitting that
his case was not entirely normal.

“The psychology of men, who, like him, are engaged in such a struggle,”
rightly remarks a Protestant theologian, “is exceedingly complicated.
Discrepancies are to be met with side by side, and, according to the
circumstances, now one element now another comes to the fore.”[548] In
Luther’s case the co-existence of bouts of illness with the unfettered
use of his powers, of fundamental delusions with true though misapplied
ideas, of frivolity, sensuality and temptations to despair, and, on the
top of all this, the contradictory statements he himself makes about
himself, i.e.—he, the only man who could have told us how the facts
really stood—all these circumstances render any sure conclusion extremely

No Protestant hitherto has used terms so strong to describe Luther’s
overwrought nerves as his most recent biographer, Hausrath, the
Heidelberg theologian, in his first edition of his “Life of Luther.”
His assertions do undoubtedly err on the side of exaggeration.[549] For
instance, when he says, that, owing to his illness in the monastery
Luther had more than once been in danger of sinking into “the abyss of
religious melancholia.”[550] Erroneously regarding the “temptations”—in
reality mere remorse of conscience—from which Luther suffered, as the
outcome of his morbid bodily and mental state, he even ventures to hint
expressly at the nature of the malady: “The regularity with which the
attacks return during all the years spent in the monastery and after he
had commenced his public career, leads us to infer a recurrent psychosis,
the attacks of which became less frequent after his marriage, but never
altogether ceased.”[551]

In recent times, apart from Hausrath, two other writers, both of them
non-Catholics, have looked more closely into Luther’s pathology. Dr.
Berkhan in an article in the “Archiv für Psychiatrie” entitled “Die
nervösen Beschwerden Luthers,” and Gustav Kawerau in the study “Etwas
vom kranken Luther,” printed in the “Deutsch-evangelische Blätter.” The
two Protestants, Küchenmeister and Ebstein, who also dealt with Luther’s
maladies,[552] failed to discuss the psychological phenomena here under
consideration; what interested them was more Luther’s ordinary illnesses
though, it is true, they bring forward various data which may prove of
interest here; these, nevertheless, must be cautiously used, as the
authors are somewhat deficient in historical criticism. Older writers
who treated of Luther’s illnesses, e.g. the Protestant pastor Friedrich
Siegmund Keil, Garmann, the Chemnitz physician and an anonymous writer in
the “Neues Hannöversche Magazin” are even less satisfactory.

Of the two first mentioned, Kawerau supplies a careful review of those
statements of Luther’s which concern his nervous maladies, not, however,
carrying them back to his earliest years. He gives us the picture “of
a man occupying a most responsible position, ever in friction with his
surroundings” and “in a state of nervous overstrain due to too much
work of body and mind.”[553] With these words he seeks to pave the way
for a psychological appreciation of all that, as he says, “so often
appears repulsive or regrettable in Luther, for instance, his waxing
irritability, his unbridled anger, the excesses he commits by word and
pen, and his sudden changes of mood.” He even opines that “the spiritual
temptations may be accounted for by his all-too-great labours and
anxieties, and their effect upon his constitution”;[554] his conclusion
is that a fuller knowledge of Luther’s ailments “helps us to understand
him aright and better to appreciate his greatness.”[555]

The other writer, Dr. Berkhan, a Brunswick physician, had, previous
to Kawerau, attempted to lift the veil which shrouds the “anomalies”
presented by Luther; he did not, however, properly sift his materials,
nor did he consider the various symptoms in their complexus.[556] He
comes to the conclusion that some of Luther’s troubles, for instance,
his “hallucinations,” “must be ascribed to an affection of the nerve
centres.” These “hallucinations” he attributes to “fluxions” due to
overwork. Such hallucinations, according to him, were, in Luther’s case,
of two kinds; some optical and some auditory. They were induced, so he
thinks, not only by the permanent excitement of Luther’s life, but also
by “his doubts and controversies.” What Luther terms temptations Berkhan
also regards as, in the main, mere psychic depression bound up with nerve
disturbance. In view of certain other symptoms he diagnoses a case of
præcordial trouble.[557]

After Kawerau and Berkhan we must refer to P. J. Möbius, the Leipzig
expert in mental ailments. He is known in connection with his highly
original studies on Rousseau, Goethe, Schopenhauer and Nietzsche; on
Luther he has not expressed his views at any great length, but, such as
they are, they are drastic enough.[558]

 Möbius points out[559] that “in Luther’s case the pathological element
 is of the utmost significance.” “Even Luther’s recent biographer,
 Professor Hausrath,” he writes, “spoke of ‘recurrent psychosis.’[560]
 According to what Kraepelin now says, it would be better to term it a
 mild form of maniacal depression.[561] The main point is that Luther,
 from his youth upwards, suffered at times from the dumps without any
 apparent cause, was oppressed with gloomy forebodings, sadness, fear
 and despair. The melancholic phases may easily be traced throughout
 Luther’s life; probably, too, the periods when he felt his power and
 gave vent to his boundless wrath should be regarded as morbid and
 maniacal. We may take it that, in Luther’s case, the morbid mood
 made the illness, and that his fantastic interpretation of certain
 incidents—combats with the devil, intercourse with spirits and Divine
 inspirations—are to be explained, not as delusions, but as the
 explanations he sought in the ideas then current.”

 “The present writer,” continues Möbius, “does not in the least believe
 that Luther suffered from hallucinations. It seems always to have been
 a case of placing a superstitious interpretation on real phenomena.
 The black pig in the garden and the black dog on his bed, were, most
 likely, of flesh and blood. In many instances (the wrestling with
 the demon, and so forth) the language is simply figurative. With
 Luther the pathological element made history. His morbid fear led
 him to brood over justification; the sense of his own utter weakness
 convinced him that man can do nothing of his own strength and by
 his own works, and that the only possible course is to stretch out
 yearning hands and seize on Grace. In his melancholic state he fell
 in with the doctrine of justification by faith alone of St. Paul (who
 himself suffered from the same ailment [!]), and, around this centre,
 his theological ideas grouped themselves, and, with ‘_sola fides_’ as
 his war-cry, he proceeded to do battle with the ancient Church. Thus,
 from the monk’s melancholia, sprang the Reformation.”

 Proceeding on similar lines, Professor Willy Hellpach, of Carlsruhe,
 observed in the Berlin “Tag” (“Psychologische Rundschau,” Jan. 18,
 1912): “Several years ago the Jesuit scholar, Pater Grisar, published
 in the ‘Kölnische Volkszeitung’ an article entitled ‘Ein Grundproblem
 aus Luthers Seelenleben.’ Of this work Möbius said, and quite rightly,
 that it was the best account so far given of the pathology of Luther’s
 mind. That Luther’s mind was at times morbidly depressed without any
 reasonable cause has never been doubted by any who knew him, even when
 they happened to be Evangelicals. Hausrath, in his biography, had
 spoken of ‘recurrent psychosis’ a statement, which, it is true, he
 modified later on account of the storm of indignation which broke out
 among those queer folk who seem to look upon a gifted man’s malady as
 a worse blot than the greatest crime.” Hellpach points out that laymen
 are wrong when they imagine that “psychosis” involves “an absolute
 derangement of the power of thought.”

Wilhelm Ebstein, a Professor of Medicine,[562] recently, and not without
reason, registered a protest against the view of those who maintain that
Luther was actually out of his mind. Himself interested in the treatment
of cases of gout and calculus, he comes to the conclusion that Luther’s
chief sufferings were caused by uric acid and faulty digestion, the two
together constituting the principal trouble, and being accompanied, as
is so often the case with gout, by “neurasthenic symptoms which at times
recall psychosis”;[563] his “hypochondriacal depression which passed
all bounds” was entirely due to these ailments. Not only these “nervous
symptoms,” but also the other ailments of which Luther had to complain,
his palpitations, headaches, dizziness, sore-throat, defective hearing,
impaired digestion, fainting fits, and particularly his oppression in the
region of the heart and the feelings of fear which accompanied it, all
these were, according to Ebstein, due more or less to gout and the other
troubles resulting from the presence of uric acid.[564]

 There can be no doubt that this learned physician gives us many useful
 observations, but he has not himself selected his historical matter
 and carefully tested its source. Much of it comes from Küchenmeister,
 whereas, at the present stage of research, a medical opinion, to carry
 real weight, must necessarily enter at greater length into the facts
 more recently brought to light. Some of Küchenmeister’s opinions have,
 however, been revised by Ebstein, and not without good reason.

 Among those of Ebstein’s statements that must be characterised
 as historically untenable are the following, viz. that Luther’s
 hallucinations and visions occurred “almost without exception at a
 time when he was yet under the influence of the asceticism of the
 monastery, with its night-vigils, spiritual exercises and strenuous
 mental labours,” i.e. in his Catholic days; likewise, that, in the
 monastery, he had striven “most diligently to outdo the other monks in
 the matter of fasting, watching,” etc.; that, in later days, he had
 “_always_ been able to master his morbid states, and to bid defiance
 to his moods of depression,” and that these latter had “in no way
 detracted” from his mental labours; that his method of controversy had
 never been a morbid one, as Küchenmeister had asserted on insufficient
 grounds, and that, when even Luther referred to mental sufferings and
 temptations, his “bodily ailments” _always_ occupied the first place
 and constituted the leading factor.[565]

 His theory that Luther suffered from gout is also eminently doubtful.

 Of any symptoms of gout, for instance, of gouty swellings, we hear
 nothing from Luther[566] though he was wont to expatiate on his
 complaints, and though, according to Ebstein, he possessed a “rare
 knowledge of medical matters.”[567] Nor did Luther permanently suffer
 from sluggishness and constipation of the bowels; we hear of it only
 at Worms and at the Wartburg in 1521, and then again in 1525. To put
 down “his moodiness, melancholia and depression” as Ebstein terms the
 remorse of conscience experienced in 1528 at the time of his greatest
 “temptations” to an attack of piles, described by Luther in a letter
 to his friend Jonas on Jan. 6, 1528, is to misapprehend the facts of
 the case; for, actually, it was three years before this that Luther
 had for a while been troubled with hæmorrhoids, as is evident both
 from the text of the inquiry made by Jonas (“_ante triennium_”), and
 from Luther’s answer: “My illness _was_ as follows,” etc.[568]

 Moreover, Luther was not suffering from stone in 1521, and it is only
 in 1526 that we hear him speaking of it for the first time; after this
 the malady was for a long time in abeyance,[569] until, between 1537
 and 1539, it once more attacked him severely; it is again referred to
 in 1543.

 Hence we must still await a more accurate medical diagnosis to
 determine—if indeed this be possible—how far the history of Luther’s
 outward and inward troubles was dependent on uric acid.[570] Maybe,
 eventually, greater stress than hitherto will be laid on Luther’s
 heart troubles; if so, then it will become necessary to find out what
 the so-called “cardiogmus” was, from which, according to Melanchthon,
 Luther suffered severely early in 1545; for, in his friend’s opinion,
 it was to this that Luther’s death later on was due.[571] Ebstein
 himself says of the oppression in the region of the heart and the
 resultant anxiety[572] from which Luther suffered, until his death
 was ultimately brought about by “heart failure,” that it “leads us
 to diagnose some heart affection”; this, according to his theory,
 was due, in part directly to gout, in part also to the obstinate
 constipation which accompanied it. According to him the periodic
 attacks of heart-oppression suggest heart asthma or angina pectoris,
 which, notoriously, often co-exists with gout.

As regards Luther’s mental sufferings, Ebstein will not hear of Berkhan’s
hypothesis of “fluxions”; he himself, however,—and herein lies his
principal fault,—does not make sufficient account of his patient’s
frequent nervous states. He thinks that Luther’s black outlook, which,
according to him, resulted from gout, was not bound up directly with
any sufferings.[573] As regards the “hallucinations of sight and
hearing,”[574] which Luther regarded as the work of the devil, he
declares, that Luther, from time to time, fell into a condition of
“weakness and irritability which make the temporary disturbance of his
brain-powers quite intelligible”; as to the cause of the lapses, Ebstein
finds it in “the strenuous mental labour” leading to a “condition of
inanition.”[575] He also allows, that, even as a monk, and in early
life, Luther was a victim of moodiness.[576] He is, however, quite right
when he says: “Insanity cannot be thought of, nor even epilepsy.”[577]
In his admiration for Luther, he also credits him with having in his
lifetime endured “more days of suffering than of well-being.” To make
this statement entirely true it would, however, be necessary to include
amongst the days of suffering, those when he was so paralysed by remorse
of conscience as to be incapable of work. At any rate we quite admit with
Ebstein that, in Luther, we have “a man, during a great part of his life,
sorely tried by bodily ailments,”[578] a fact which can only make one
wonder the more at the extent of his labours.

       *       *       *       *       *

To pass now to some older Catholic writers. In 1874 Bruno Schön, of
Vienna, published an essay in which he depicted Luther as mentally

 The author, who was chaplain to a lunatic asylum, was not merely no
 historian and still less an expert in mental disease, but lacked even
 a proper acquaintance with Luther’s life and writings. His historical
 groundwork he took from second-rate works, and his opinion was biassed
 by his conviction that Luther could not but be insane. He makes no
 real attempt to prove such a thing; all he does is to give us an
 account, clothed in psychiatric terminology, of the different forms
 of madness from which Luther suffered; in the first place he was
 afflicted with megalomania and the mania of persecution, two forms of
 insanity frequently found together.—But nervous irritability, anxiety,
 moodiness, excitability, a too high opinion of himself, perversion
 of judgment and even hallucinations—could such be proved in Luther’s
 case—all these would not entitle us to say that he was ever really
 insane. Nervous derangement, says Kirchhoff, is not psychosis, and
 people subject to hallucinations are not always insane.[580]

Long before this other Catholic writers had instanced certain
peculiarities in Luther’s mental state, though they, like almost all
recent writers, with the exception of Hausrath, were ignorant of one
of the most remarkable elements to be taken into consideration, viz.
the fits of terror to which Luther had been subject from early youth.
The treatment of this matter was made all the harder by the fact that
Luther’s extravagant after-accounts of his life in the monastery, and
the growth of his ideas, were received with too much credulity, and that
his letters, his Table-Talk and many details of his life were but little

Maximilian Prechtl, Abbot of Michaelfeld (†1832), though he refuses
to regard Luther as insane, nevertheless calls attention to the many
“phantoms of a sick brain” which he had seen; “Luther believed,”
so he says, “that he often saw the devil, and that under different
shapes.”[581] The learned Abbot brought out a new annotated edition of
Luther’s “Against the Papacy founded by the Devil,” which he published
at the time of the Reformation-Festival in 1817, in order to show the
mad fury, hate and mental confusion to which its author had fallen a
victim. Luther’s writing betrays, so he opines, “no common fury but the
insane passion of the man, then almost at death’s door.”[582] Too great
stress must not be laid on some of the opinions he here advances, which
overstep the limits he himself had traced and appear to credit Luther
with insanity. Prechtl spoke out more strongly in his “Rejoinder” to the
attacks made on his remarks. He emphasises “the incontrovertible proofs”
to be found in Luther “of a troubled fancy,” and asserts that “he was not
always in his right mind.”

Somewhat earlier, in 1810, the Catholic layman Friedrich von Kerz, who
continued Stolberg’s “Geschichte der Religion Christi,” published a book
“Über den Geist und die Folgen der Reformation” in which he comes to a
far too unfavourable opinion of Luther’s mental state, which he seeks to
bolster up by statements incapable of historical proof. In a nutshell,
what he tentatively advances is, that, “owing to the shock following the
death of a friend struck down at his side, Luther had lost his reason”;
“the symptoms of a twisted mind soon became apparent.” “Luther not seldom
appears in the light of an inexplicable moral enigma, so that we are
led, not indeed willingly, to wonder whether a certain recurrent mental
aberration and periodic madness was not in reality the first and perhaps
the only source of his vocation as a Reformer, of all his public acts
and of the greater part of his reforms.”[583]

As against Kerz, Schön and even Prechtl, we must urge that we have no
proof that Luther was actually the slave of his morbid fancies, or
mentally diseased; no such proof to support the hypothesis of insanity
is adduced by any of the writers named. Of the temporary clouding of the
mind they make no mention.

As for the kind of megalomania met with in Luther, when he insists on
his being the mouthpiece of revelation, this is not the sort usual in
the case of the mentally deranged, when the patient appears to be held
captive under the spell of his delusion. Luther often wavered in his
statements regarding his special revelation, indeed sometimes went so
far as to deny it; in other words he was open to doubt. Moreover, at the
very times when he clung (or professed to cling) to it with the greatest
self-complacency, he was suffering from severe attacks of depression,
whereas it is not usual for megalomania and depression to exist side
by side. As for the periodic fits of insanity suggested by Hausrath
his moods alternated too rapidly. His morbid ideas do not constitute a
paranoic system of madness, and still less is it possible to attribute
everything to mere hypochondriacal lunacy.

The theory of Luther’s not being a free agent is excluded not only by his
doubts and remorse of conscience, but also by the bitter determination
with which at the very beginning he persuades himself of his ideas,
insists upon them later when doubts arise, and finally surrenders himself
to their spell by systematic self-deception. Such behaviour does not
accord with that of a man who is not free. It must also be noted that
the morbid symptoms of which Schön speaks, in whatever light they be
regarded, do not occur simultaneously; some disappear while others become
more marked as time goes on. This, however, also makes it difficult and
wellnigh impossible to discover what were the components which originally
went to make up Luther’s mentality before it had been seared by the
errors and inward commotion of his later passionate life. Above all a
fact repeatedly pointed out already must not be overlooked, viz. that,
throughout, wilful giving way to passion, lack of self-control and too
high an opinion of himself, united with self-deception played a great
part with him, particularly in those outbreaks of fury against Pope and
Papists in which one might be tempted to see the work of a maniac. In
view of Luther’s aptitude to pass rapidly from craven fear to humorous
self-confidence it would be necessary in order to prove his insanity,
to show clearly as far as possible—a demonstration which has not yet
been attempted—that periods of depression or fear really alternated with
periods of exaltation, and what the duration of these periods was.

We cannot too much impress on those who may be inclined to assume that,
at least at times, Luther was not in his right mind the huge and truly
astounding powers of work displayed by the man. Only comparatively
seldom do we hear of his being disinclined to labour or incapable of
work, and almost always the reason is clear. Even were the advocates
of intermittent insanity ready to allow the existence of lengthy lucid
intervals still so extraordinary a power for work would prevent our
agreeing with them any more than with Schön, Möbius, Hausrath and the
older authors referred to above.

As to the question of the possibility of such a disability having been
inherited either from his father or his mother—a matter into which modern
psychiaters are always anxious to inquire: Here, again, we find nothing
to support the theory of mental derangement. Hans Luther, his father,
was a stern, rude man of violent temper, and his wife, Margaret, would
also appear to have been a harsh woman, without any joy in life and
displaying small traces of the more winning traits of affection. Neither
of the pair did much to sweeten the lad’s hard boyhood and youth. This
certainly explains to some extent the thread of depression and pessimism
which runs side by side with the lively and more cheerful one in the
monk and university professor. Of greater importance to the question
in hand is the irritability and violence of temper which showed itself
in his father. If the latter really committed manslaughter in a fit of
anger, as seems probable, and as has also been admitted by Protestant
scholars,[584] then the son’s irritability, and his startling tendency
to break out into foaming rage against his opponents, may doubtless be
traced back in part to the effects of heredity. In 1906 the fact came
to light that another Hans Luther, besides Martin’s father, resided at
Mansfeld, and the latter, according to the records of the law-courts,
would appear to have borne a bad character and to have been frequently
punished for brawling and for being too ready with his knife. If the
latter, as the name would imply, was a relative of Martin’s we have
here one more argument to prove that the family was exceptionally

Luther’s nervous irritability ought, indeed, to be made more account of
than it has hitherto been.

_Addendum. Some Medical Opinions on Nervous Degeneration, and Abnormal

What was said above about Luther’s “nervousness” (p. 105 ff) may here
be supplemented by some quotations from August Cramer, the expert
psychiater, now of Berlin. It is true that what we shall quote is not
intended to refer to Luther, yet what he says may serve to explain
certain of Luther’s symptoms, and, possibly, to show that some which were
put down to mental derangement may have been due rather to a form of

 “Even perfectly normal children are sometimes inclined in their
 growing period to display great variations of temper, and to be
 violent and changeable in their affections about the age of puberty.
 This, however, is far more noticeable in the case of people of a
 strongly developed nervous temperament. Groundless outbreaks of
 anger, marked pathological absence of mind and entire inability to
 concentrate their thoughts are often the result. Fits of oppression
 and anxiety are not unknown; headaches are fairly frequent and the
 patients seem at times not to be masters of themselves. They also
 tend to swing from an exaggerated idea of their own importance to a
 despondent lack of self-confidence. In their bents and friendships
 they are very fickle.” Hence we have here already in a very marked
 degree that instability which von Magnan has pointed out as
 characteristic of degenerates.

 In later life, too, such highly strung temperaments are often, at
 least in the worse cases, predisposed to sudden changes of views,
 and to fly to extremes, their varying moods tend at times to become
 periodic, they are over-sensitive, are frequently unable to bear
 alcohol, their sexual inclinations are abnormal and they are often
 addicted from an early age to masturbation.… Thus the predominant
 characteristic of the degenerate is lack of constancy (p. 175).

 Of “nervosity” where it is combined with fear the same author says:
 “The change of mood is often entirely without cause and is by no
 means of a regular type, though instances of a periodic character
 are occasionally to be met with.… We meet, for example, persons whom
 we cannot possibly describe as ill, who at times are exceptionally
 capable, lively and good-tempered, and yet at other times give the
 impression of being downhearted, self-centred and scarcely able to get
 through their daily tasks.”

 “Apart from those who are habitually depressed, there are others who
 suffer from time to time, without any outward cause, from slight fits
 of depression, mostly accompanied by more or less severe fits of
 anxiety. Looking more carefully into these various types, we shall
 find that they belong almost exclusively to strongly marked nervous
 temperaments.… In bad cases the periodic changes of mood may become
 stronger and stronger, and lead eventually between the fortieth and
 sixtieth year to actual ‘_folie circulaire_.’ Anxiety is, of course,
 common to all nervous people, but in many cases it plays the prominent
 part.… Often the patients complain of all kinds of accompanying
 symptoms, not seldom of palpitations, weakness in the legs, headaches,
 attacks of dizziness, and, particularly, of the paralysing effects
 of their vague dreads. When this anxiety overtakes them they become
 unable to work as usual, and their spirit of enterprise is checked”
 (p. 207 ff.).

As to how far what Cramer says is applicable to Luther’s mental
states may here be left open. The same holds good of what we shall
quote below from C. Wernicke and H. Friedmann. What the former says
of “autochthonous” ideas may conceivably be applicable to Luther’s
conviction of the private revelations he had received and of which he
speaks so strongly above (p. 142 ff.) as even to suggest actual auditory
hallucination; that there was no real hallucination seems more likely
for the reason that Luther elsewhere is disposed to regard the incidents
as of an inward character and is not quite so wholly under their sway as
would have been the case had they been strictly speaking hallucinatory.

As to “exalted ideas,” of which both speak, they put us in mind of some
of Luther’s ideas concerning his own person, position, achievements and
persecutions (cp. our summary in vol. iv., pp. 329-41).

It must, however, be noted that “exalted ideas” can be present in a mind
otherwise perfectly sound, and that, consequently, even if Luther had
such ideas it would not prove him to have been mentally deranged; the
same holds good of “autochthonous” ideas, which, occurring singly, are no
warrant of insanity.

Again, even should Luther’s idea of his revelations turn out to be
originally “autochthonous,” yet the reception he accorded it, the
interpretation he placed on it and the use he made of it seem, as we have
already set forth, to have been both deliberate and responsible. This
is confirmed by the circumstance that, in time, his keen sense of such
impressions waned under the objections brought against them, and that his
insistence on the “revelations” and his interpretation of them no longer
found quite the same vigorous expression as before. Nevertheless, we
repeat it once more: It is for experts to pass a definite judgment, but,
in order to do so fairly, they must not submit to the microscope merely
one class of Luther’s mental manifestations, but consider him as a whole,
as monk no less than as Reformer, and examine his mentality on all its

 Writing of certain kinds of abnormal ideas, viz. those which he
 calls “autochthonous,” Carl Wernicke says:[587] “The patient becomes
 aware of ideas springing up in his mind that are alien to him and
 not his own, i.e. which have not arisen along the normal ideas and
 on the ordinary lines of association.” Speaking of those actually
 suffering from mental derangement, Wernicke again alludes to this
 class: “Objective observers, who are quite conscious of the alien
 character of the autochthonous ideas and attach no fundamental
 importance to them, are only to be found as the exception among those
 who are really mentally unsound. Almost always the ideas are conceived
 as ‘ready-made,’ as ‘forced upon the mind,’ as ‘inspired,’ or as
 ‘derived,’ but, from whom, depends entirely on the individuality of
 the patient and on the nature of the autochthonous idea (which is
 not uninfluenced by the former). Pious thoughts are inspired by God,
 evil thoughts by the devil; more enlightened people have recourse to
 material remedies and put their case in the hands of a doctor.”

 Of the so-called “exalted ideas” Wernicke says: “These are sharply
 defined from autochthonous ideas by the fact that they are in no
 way regarded by the patient himself as alien intruders into his
 consciousness: on the contrary, he sees in them the stamp of his
 innermost self, and fancies that, in vindicating them, he is in
 reality asserting his own personality.”

 “One has to determine in each individual case whether the idea
 is truly morbid and ‘exalted,’ or does not come within normal
 bounds.”[588] On the next page he declares: “That almost any incident
 may give rise to an ‘exalted idea,’ that the nature of the emotion
 may be of the most varied character, and that ideas exist, which,
 though in themselves normal, are nevertheless able so to determine the
 individual’s action as to impress on it a morbid stamp.”

 H. Friedmann[589] says of the same class of ideas: “According to its
 origin the ‘exalted’ idea … may find a place in the mental process
 without any apparent cause. A strong emotion may, so to speak, fling
 itself on a single idea, and, without any actual derangement of the
 mind, allow it, and it alone, to assume a morbid supremacy.” A few
 pages further we read:[590] “Hence, as a matter of fact, in the case
 of the ‘exalted’ idea, we have not an isolated monomaniacal affection
 but a general disturbance of the emotions and judgment. The result,
 likewise, is not an _idée fixe_ as in the case of mania, but merely a
 strong belief.”



In later life, looking back on his past, Luther was in the habit
of depicting certain of its principal phases in a way which is at
variance with the facts, and which even Protestants in recent times
have characterised, as “a picture in which he becomes a myth unto

It will be no matter for surprise to the dispassionate observer that the
memory of the vows Luther had broken and the thought of his early days
in the monastery—which presented so striking a contrast with his later
life—were subject-matters of warped and distorted images. Particularly is
this true of his monastic years which he insists on depicting as one long
night of sadness and despair.

Not merely in the fictions in which he came to shroud the more fervent
days of his life as a monk, but also in his explanations of the
various stages of his apostasy, Luther affords us fresh data for the
psychological study of his personality, and thus the present chapter
may serve to supplement the previous one. Only after having studied the
legend he wove around himself and compared it with the truth as otherwise
known, will it be possible to arrive at a considered judgment concerning
Luther’s mental states.

1. Luther’s later Picture of his Convent Life and Apostasy

What Luther says of his life as a monk is what will chiefly interest us,
but, before proceeding to consider his words and the strange problems
they present, we must first refer to the legendary traits comprised in
his statements on the first period of his struggle; how false they are
to the facts will be clearly perceived by whoever has read the detailed
accounts already given.

_The Legend about his First Public Appearance_

“Not only have the dates been altered,” says Hausrath, of Luther’s later
statements concerning his first public appearance, “but even the facts.
No sooner does the elderly man begin to tell his tale than the past
becomes as soft wax in his hands. The same words are placed on the lips,
now of this, now of that, friend or foe. The opponents of his riper years
are depicted as his persecutors even in his youth. Albert of Mayence
had never acted otherwise towards him than as a liar and deceiver. Even
previous to the Worms visit he had sought to annul his safe-conduct.… Of
Tetzel he now asserts, that, unless Duke Frederick had pleaded for him to
the Emperor Max, he would have been put in a sack and drowned in the Inn
on account of his dissolute life.… The same holds good of the [equally
untrue] statement that Tetzel had sold indulgences for sins yet to be
committed.… It is also an exaggeration of his old age when Luther asserts
that, in his youth, the Bible had been a closed book to all.… To the old
Reformer almost everything in the monastery appears in the blackest of

 “The reason of my journey to Rome,” he declares, “was to make a
 confession from the days of my boyhood and to become pious.”[593]
 “But at Rome I came across the most unlearned of men.”[594]—God
 “led me, all unwittingly, into the game [his struggle].”[595]
 “I behaved with moderation, yet I brought the greatest ruin on
 them all.”[596] “I thought I was doing the Pope a service yet I
 was condemned.”[597]—“One, and that not the least of my joys and
 consolations, is, that I never put myself out of the Papacy. For I
 held fast to the Scarlet Woman and served the murderess in all things
 most humbly. But she would have none of me, banished me and drove
 me from her.”[598] “I only inveighed against abuses and against the
 godless collectors of alms and [indulgence] commissioners from whom
 even Canon Law itself protects the Pope. The Pope wanted to defend
 them contrary to his own laws; this annoyed me. Had he thrown them
 over I should in all likelihood have held my tongue, but the hour
 had rung for his downfall; hence there was nothing to be done for
 him, for when God intends to bring about a man’s fall He blinds and
 hardens him.”[599] “I was utterly dead to the world until God thought
 the time had come; then Junker Tetzel stung me with his indulgences,
 and Dr. Staupitz spurred me on against the Pope.”[600] “Silvester
 [Prierias] thereupon entered the lists and sought to overwhelm me with
 the thunders of the following syllogism: Whoever raises doubts against
 any word or deed of the Roman Church is a heretic; Martin Luther
 doubts, etc. With that the ball began.”[601]

Generally speaking, however, Luther prefers to trace the whole of his
quarrel with the Church back to Tetzel and to his righteous censure
of the abuse of indulgences. He seems to have completely forgotten
the deep theological chasm that separated him from the Church even
before his quarrel with Tetzel. His theological attitude at that time,
the starting-point of his whole undertaking, has disappeared from his
purview; he has forgotten his burning desire to win the day for his
own doctrines against free-will, against the value of works, against
justification as taught by Catholic tradition, and for his denial
of God’s Will that all men should be saved. His early antagonism to
the theological schools and to Canon Law as a whole has lapsed into

 In the preface to the 1545 edition of his Latin works Luther asserts,
 as a fact, that he had been estranged from the Church only through the
 indulgence controversy.

 He had, so we there read, taken his vocation as a monk quite in
 earnest; he “feared and dreaded the Day of Judgment and yet had longed
 with all his heart to be saved.… It was not my fault that I became
 involved in this warfare, as I call God Himself to witness.”

 In order to make the “beginning of the business” plain to all he goes
 on to relate to the whole world, how, as a young Doctor in 1517,
 relying on the Pope’s approval, he had raised his voice in protest
 against the “shamelessness” of the indulgence-preachers; how, when his
 small outcry passed unheeded, he had published the indulgence-theses
 and, then, in the “Resolutions,” “for the Pope’s own sake,” had
 advocated works of neighbourly charity as preferable to indulgences.
 Here was the cause of all the world’s hostility! His teaching was
 alleged “to have disturbed the course of the heavenly spheres and to
 be setting the world in flames. I was delated to the Pope and then
 summoned to Rome; the whole might of Popery was up in arms against
 poor me.”

 He records his trial at Augsburg, the intervention of Miltitz and the
 Leipzig Disputation, but records it in a way all his own. At that date
 he already knew almost the entire Bible by heart and “had already
 reached the beginning of the knowledge and faith of Christ, to wit,
 that we are saved and justified, not by works, but by faith in Christ,
 and that the Pope is not the head of the Church by right Divine; but
 I failed to see the inevitable consequence of all this, viz. that the
 Pope must needs be of the devil.” Like the “blameless monk” that he
 was, his only trouble in life was his keen anxiety as to whether God
 was gracious to him and whether he could “rest assured that he had
 conciliated Him by the satisfaction he had made.” The words of the
 Bible on the justice of God had angered him because he had erroneously
 taken this to mean His punitive justice instead of the justice
 whereby God makes us just. Then, when he was setting about his second
 Commentary on the Psalms (1518-19), amidst the greatest excitement
 of conscience (“_furebam ita sæva et perturbata conscientia_”) the
 light from above had dawned on him which brought him to a complete
 understanding of the Divine justice whereby we are justified. Paul’s
 words concerning the just man who lives by faith (Rom. i. 17) had
 then, and only then, become clear to him (through his discovery of the
 assurance of salvation).

 After referring to the Diet of Worms he again reverts to his pet
 subject, viz. the indulgence-controversy: “The affair of the
 controversy regarding indulgences dragged on till 1520-21; then
 followed the question of the Sacrament and that of the Anabaptists.”

This is how Luther wrote—confusing the events and suppressing the
principal point—when, towards the end of his life, he penned for
posterity a record of what had occurred. Otto Scheel, in a compilation of
the texts bearing on Luther’s development prior to 1519, rightly places
this later account, together with the other statements made by him in
old age, under the heading: “second and third rate authorities.”[603]
What, however, are we to think when the considered narrative, written
by a man of such eminence, of events in which he was the chief actor,
has to be relegated to the category of second-rate and even third-rate

To enumerate some other misrepresentations not connected with his monkish
days: Luther assures us that sundry opponents of his “had blasphemed
themselves to death”; men who had the most peaceful of deathbeds he
alleges to have died tortured by remorse of conscience and railing at
God. He boasts aloud that it was the Papists who made a “good theologian”
of him, since, “at the devil’s instigation,” they had so battered,
distressed and frightened him out of his wits, that he necessarily came
to obtain a more profound knowledge.[605] Boldly and exultingly he points
to the many “miracles” whereby the Evangel had been proved.[606] He says
of the Diets, that the Papists always succeeded in wriggling out of a
hole by dint of lies, so that they looked quite white and “without ever a
stain.”[607] Of his own writings he says, that he “would gladly have seen
all his books unwritten and consigned to the fire.”[608] This in 1533,
and again in 1539.[609] Before this, however, he had declared he would
not forswear any of his writings, “not for all the riches of the world,”
and that, at least as a good work wrought by God, they must have some

In such wise does the picture he gives of his life vary according to his
moods. He does not hesitate to sacrifice the sacred rights of truth when
this seems to the advantage of his polemics (see above, vol. iv., p. 80
ff.), and, owing to the peculiar constitution of his mind, the fiction
he so often repeats becomes eventually stamped as a reality to which he
himself accords credence.

_The Legend about his Years of Monkish Piety_

We may now turn to Luther’s fictions regarding his monkish days,
prefacing our remarks with the words of Luther’s Protestant biographer,
Adolf Hausrath. “The picture of his youth is forced to tally more and
more with the convictions of his older years. What he now looks upon as
pernicious, he declares he had found in those days to be so by his own
experience.… The oftener he holds up to his listening guests the warning
picture of the monk sunk in the abyss of Popery, the more gloomy and
starless does the night appear to him in which he once had lived.”[611]

That the use hitherto made of Luther’s statements concerning his convent
life calls for correction has already been admitted by several Protestant
students of reformation history. As early as 1874 Maurenbrecher protested
strongly against the too great reliance placed on Luther’s own later
statements, which, however, at that time, constituted almost the only
authority for his early history. “How wrong it is to accept on faith and
repeat anew Luther’s tradition is quite obvious. Whoever wishes to relate
Luther’s early history must first of all be quite clear in his mind as to
this characteristic of the material on which he has to work.… The history
of Luther’s youth is still virgin soil awaiting the labours of the
critic.”[612] The objections recently brought forward by Catholics have
drawn from W. Friedensburg the admission that we have unreliable, and,
“in part, misleading statements of Luther’s concerning himself.”[613]
G. Kawerau also at least goes so far as to admit that the historian of
Luther at the present day “is inevitably confronted by a number of new
questions.”[614] The publication of Luther’s Commentary on Romans of
1515-16 finally proved how necessary it is to regard the theology of his
early years as the chief authority for the history of his development.
Hence, in the account of his youth given above in vol. i., we took this
Commentary as our basis.

A preliminary sketch of the picture he handed down in his later sayings
is given us by Luther himself in the following:

 God had caused him to become a monk, he says, “not without good
 reasons, viz. that, taught by experience, he might be able to
 write against the Papacy,” after having himself most rigidly
 (“_rigidissime_”) abided by its rules.[615]—“This goes on until
 one grows quite weary”; “now my other preaching has come: ‘Christ
 says: Take this from me: You are not pious, I have done it all for
 you, your sins are forgiven you.’”[616] According to the “Popish
 teaching,” however, one cannot be sure “whether he is in a state
 of grace”; hence, when in the cloister, though I was such a “pious
 monk,” I always said sorrowfully to myself: “I know not whether God
 is well pleased or not. Thus I and all of us were swallowed up in

 Hence churches and convents are nothing but “dens of murderers”
 because they “pervert and destroy doctrine and prayer.” “Indeed no
 monk or priestling can do otherwise, as I know, and have myself
 experienced”; “I never knew in the least how I stood with God”;
 “I was never able to pray aright.”[618] This holiness-by-works of
 Popery, in which I was steeped, was nothing but “idolatry and godless

 “Learn,” he says, thus unwittingly laying bare the aim of his fiction,
 “learn from my example.” “The more I scourged myself, the more was I
 troubled by remorse of conscience.”[620] “We did not then know what
 original sin was; unbelief we did not regard as sin.”[621] Their
 “unbelief,” however, consisted in that we Papists fancied “that we had
 to add our own works” (to the merits of Christ).[622] “Hence, for all
 my fervour, I lost the twenty years I spent in the cloister.”[623]
 But I did not want to “stick fast and die in sin and in this false
 doctrine”;[624] for such a pupil of the law must in the end say to
 himself “that it is impossible for him to keep the Law”; indeed he
 cannot but come to say: “would there were no God.”[625]

Roughly, this is the tone of the testimony he gives of himself. It is
not our intention here simply to spurn it, but to examine whether there
is any call to accept it unconditionally—simply because it comes from
Luther’s lips—and whether it comprises a certain quota of truth.[626]

First, it must be noted that he represents himself as a sort of fanatical
martyr of penance. He assures us: Even the heroic works of mortification
I undertook brought me no peace in Popery: “_Ergo_,” etc. He here opens
an entirely new page in his past. He tells his friends, for instance: “I
nearly killed myself by fasting, for often, for three days on end, I did
not take a bite or a sip. I was in the most bitter earnest and, indeed,
I crucified our Lord Christ in very truth; I was not one of those who
merely looked on, but I actually lent a hand in dragging Him along and
nailing Him. May God forgive me! … for this is true: The more pious the
monk the worse rogue he is.”[627]

 “I myself,” he says in his Commentary on Genesis, “was such an one [a
 pious monk]. I nearly brought about my death by fasting, abstinence
 and penance in work and clothing; my body became dreadfully emaciated
 and was quite worn out.”[628]

 The menace of death is also alluded to in a sermon of 1537: “For more
 than twenty years I was a pious monk,” “I said Mass daily and so
 weakened my body by prayer and fasting that I could not have lived
 long had I continued in this way.”[629] Elsewhere he says that he had
 allowed himself only two more years of life, and that, not he alone,
 but all his brethren were ripe for death: “In Popery in times bygone
 we howled for everlasting life; for the sake of the kingdom of heaven
 we treated ourselves very harshly, nay, put our bodies to death, not
 indeed with sword or weapon, but, by fasting and maceration of the
 body we begged and besought day and night. I myself—had I not been set
 free by the consolation of Christ in the Evangel—could not have lived
 two years more, so greatly did I torment myself and flee God’s wrath.
 There was no lack of sighs, tears and lamentations, but it all availed
 us nothing.”[630]

 “Why did I endure such hardships in the cloister? Why did I torment my
 body by fasting, vigils and cold? I strove to arrive at the certainty
 that thereby my sins were forgiven.”[631] The martyrdom he endured
 from the cold alone was agonising enough: “For twenty years I myself
 was a monk and tormented myself with praying, fasting, watching
 and shivering, the cold by itself making me heartily desirous of

Besides his penances another main feature of his later picture is his
extraordinary, albeit misguided, piety and virtue.

 It is not enough for Luther to say that he had been a pious monk,
 “an earnest monk,” who “would not have taken a farthing without the
 Prior’s permission,” and who “prayed diligently day and night”;[633]
 he will have, that “if ever a monk got to heaven by monkery then I
 should have got there; of this all my brother monks will bear me

 He had been more diligent in his monastic exercises of piety than any
 of the Papists who took the field against him.[635]

 Nay, “he had been one of the very best.”[636] He “confessed daily” [Is
 this a reference to the Confession made in the Mass?] and “tried hard”
 to find peace, but did not succeed.[637] Daily, he tells us, he “said
 Mass and imposed on himself the severest hardships,” in order, “by
 his own works, to attain to righteousness.”[638] It was because the
 devil had remarked his righteousness, that he tempted him when engaged
 in prayer in his cell by appearing to him in the shape of Christ, as
 already narrated.[639] God, however, tried him by temptations just
 as He tries those of the elect through whom He intends to do great
 things for the salvation of mankind.[640] He, like the other cloistral
 Saints, had been so penetrated with his sanctity, that, after Mass,
 he “did not thank God for the Sacrament but rather God had to thank
 him.”[641] He fancied himself in “the angel-choirs,” but had all the
 while been “among the devils.”[642] Cloistral life was indeed “a
 latrine and the devil’s own sweet Empire.”[643]

Other characteristic lines of the picture are, first, the dreadful way
in which his mind was torn by doubts concerning his own salvation,
doubts arising simply from his works of piety, and, secondly, his speedy
deliverance from such sufferings and attainment of peace and tranquillity
as soon as he had discovered the Evangel of faith. He cannot find colours
sombre enough in which to paint his former state of misery, which is also
the inevitable experience of all pious Papists.

 “In the convent I had no thought of goods, wealth or wife, but my soul
 shuddered and quaked at the thought of how to make God gracious to me,
 for I had fallen away from the faith and my one idea was that I had
 angered God and had to soothe Him once more by my good works.”[644]
 “As a young Master at Erfurt I always went about oppressed with
 sadness.”[645] But, after his discovery he had felt himself “born
 anew,” as though “through an open door he had passed into Paradise.”
 The words Justice of God suddenly became “very sweet” to him and the
 Bible doctrine in question a “very gate of heaven.” “Holy Scripture
 now appeared to me in quite a new light.”[646]

 He had, indeed, studied the Bible diligently in his early monkish
 years, but he had, nevertheless, been greatly tempted and plagued by
 the “real difficulties”; his confessors had not understood him. “I
 said to myself: No one but you suffers from this temptation.” And he
 had become “like a corpse,” so that his comrades asked him why he was
 “so mournful and downhearted.”[647]

 Particularly the doctrine of penance had, he says, so borne him down
 that “it was hardly possible for him, at the price of great toil and
 thanks to God’s grace, to come to that hearing that gives joy [Ps. 1.
 10].” For “if you have to wait until you have the requisite contrition
 then you will never come to that hearing of joy, as, in the cloister,
 I often found to my cost; for I clung to this doctrine of contrition,
 but the more I strove after rue, the more I smarted and the more
 did the bite of conscience eat into me. The absolution and other
 consolations given me by my confessors I was unable to take because
 I thought: Who knows if such consolations are to be trusted.”[648]
 On one occasion, however, the master of novices strengthened and
 encouraged him amidst his tears by asking him: Have you forgotten that
 the Lord Himself commanded us to hope?[649]

 Nevertheless, according to the strange description given by Luther
 in a sermon in 1531, his keen anxiety about his confessions lasted
 until after his ordination. “I, Martin Luther,” so he told the people,
 “when I went up to the altar after confession and contrition felt
 myself so weighed down by fear that I had to beckon to me another
 priest. After the Mass, again, I was no more reassured than before.”
 His trouble—which was possibly caused, or at any rate heightened,
 by the spirit of obstinacy and scepticism he describes—was, however
 (and it is on this that he lays stress), common to all Papists whose
 consciences could never be at rest. “They became its victims chiefly
 at the hour of death. How much did we dread the Last Judgment!… That
 was our reward for our works.”[650] The truth is, that, on his own
 showing, he scarcely knew what inward contrition was, and that he
 remained too much a stranger to the motive of holy fear.[651]

 To the period subsequent to his ordination must be assigned assurances
 such as the following, the tone of which becomes more and more crude
 the older he grows. “From that time [of his first Mass] I said Mass
 with great horror, and thank God that He has delivered me from
 it.”[652] “When I looked on [a figure of] Christ I fancied I was
 looking at the devil. That is why we say: O, Mary, pray for us to thy
 beloved Son and appease His wrath.” If I follow the principles of the
 monks and Papists, then “I lose Christ my Healer and Consoler and make
 Him into the taskmaster and hangman of my poor soul.”[653]

 “As long as I remained a Papist I should have blushed with shame to
 speak of Christ; Jesus is a womanish name; we preferred to speak of
 Aristotle or Bonaventure.”[654] He also says: “Often have I trembled
 at the name of Jesus; when I saw Him on the cross it was like a
 thunderbolt and when His Name was mentioned I would rather have heard
 the devil invoked, for I raved that I had to go on doing good works
 until I had thereby made Christ friendly and gracious to me.”[655]

 They used to say: “Scourge yourself until you have yourself blotted
 out your sin. Such is the Pope’s doctrine and belief.”[656] Thus, in
 the monastery, I had “long since lost Christ and His baptism. I was of
 all men the most wretched, day and night there was nothing but howling
 and despair which no one was able to calm. Thus I was bathed and
 baptised in my monkery and went through the real sweating sickness.
 Praise be to God that I did not sweat myself to death.”[657]

Those Protestants who take Luther’s statements too readily, without
probing them to the bottom and eliminating the rhetorical and fabulous
element, are apt to urge that Luther’s descriptions of the monastic state
show that nothing but mental derangement could result from such a life.

Dr. Kirchhoff, a medical man, basing his remarks on Luther’s accounts, is
inclined to assume the existence of some severe temperamental malady. He
even goes so far as to say that, at any rate, countless numbers of monks
lost their reason. “In the course of time,” he adds, Luther “acquired a
greater power of resisting the temptations, and, possibly, in his quieter
after-life the physical causes may have diminished; it would appear that
the accompanying conditions disquieted him greatly.”[658]

The fact is that Protestant authors as a rule fight shy of undertaking
any criticism of Luther’s account of himself. They accord it far too
ready credence and usually see in it a capital pretext for attacking the
olden Church.

If Luther is to be taken literally and is right in his generalisations,
then we should have to go even further than such writers and argue that,
one and all, those who sought to be pious in the religious life were mad,
or at least on the verge of insanity; the Church, by her doctrine of
works, of satisfaction and of man’s co-operation with Grace, infects all
who address themselves zealously to the performance of good works with
the poison of a subtle insanity.

We need waste no further words here on the falsehood of Luther’s
objections against the Catholic doctrine of works.[659]

We may pass over the countless clear and authentic proofs furnished by
Luther’s elders and contemporaries, and even by Luther himself previous
to his apostasy, which place the Catholic doctrine on works in a very
different light. The Church, in point of fact, always refused to hear
of works done solely by man’s strength being efficacious for salvation,
and regarded only those works performed by the aid of God’s supernatural
Grace as of any value—and that through the merits of Christ—whether for
the purpose of preparing for justification or for winning an everlasting
reward; she always recognised faith, hope and charity as conditions for
forgiveness and justification, and as the threefold spring whereby good
works are rendered fruitful.

There can be no question that Luther’s picture of his holiness-by-works
in Popery is meant to include all his earnest brother monks and their
mistaken way of life, and the doctrine and religious practices of Popery
as such. The fiction serves a twofold purpose. On the one hand, as its
author gives us to understand quite openly, it was his excuse for having
shaken off the yoke of the religious life, on the other, it was to be
used as a weapon against the olden doctrine of the importance of works
for personal salvation. To be true to history, one must judge of his
account of his Catholic life from these two standpoints. How extremely
unreliable it is will then be more apparent. The following observations
on the contrast his account presents with historical truth, particularly
with the well-authenticated incidents of his development, and even with
the elements of truth which he introduces into the legend, will place the
grave shortcomings of the latter in an even clearer light.

 Since Luther would have us believe that God caused him to become a
 monk, in order that, taught by his own experience, he might write
 against the Papacy,[660] no sooner does he begin to speak of himself
 than he includes in the same condemnation his brother monks and all
 those Christians who were zealous in the practice of works.

 Under the Pope’s yoke he and all other Papists had been made to feel
 to their “great and heavy detriment” what it spelt when one tried
 to become pious by means of works. We grew more and more despondent
 concerning sin and death.… For the more they do the worse their state
 becomes.[661] “Thus I, and all those in the convent, were bondsmen
 and captives of Satan.”[662]—“We hoped to find salvation through
 our frock.”[663]—With us all it was “rank idolatry,” for I did not
 believe in Christ, etc.[664]—Because we endured so many “sufferings
 of heart and conscience and performed so many works,” no one must now
 come and seek to excuse Popery.[665]—“We fled from Christ as from the
 very devil, for we were taught that each one would be placed before
 the judgment seat of Christ with his works”[666]—a teaching which is,
 indeed, almost word for word that of St. Paul (2 Cor. v. 10).

 Remembering the other utterances in which he makes all Papists share
 in his alleged experiences, for instance, in his “unbelief,” we soon
 perceive how unreliable are all such statements of his concerning the
 history of his personal development. The whole is seen to be primarily
 but a new form of controversy and self-vindication; only by dint
 of cautious criticism can we extract from it certain traits which
 possibly serve to illustrate the course of his mental growth in the

Again, several details of the picture—quite apart from the obvious
effort to burden the olden Church with a monstrous system of
holiness-by-works—warn us to be sceptical. First of all there is the
customary rhetoric and playing to the gallery. The palpable exaggeration
it contains, its references to the howling by day and by night, to the
scourgings, to the tortures of hunger and cold, to the endless prayers
and watchings, and to the ravings of the woebegone searchers after peace,
do not prepossess us in favour of the truth of the account. Luther, in so
much of what he says on the point, has shown us how little he is to be
taken seriously, that one cannot but wonder how his statements, even when
exaggerated to the verge of the ludicrous, can ever have been regarded in
the light of real authorities.

 He is not telling the truth when he assures us that, as Doctor of
 Divinity, he had never rightly understood the Ten Commandments, and
 that many other famous doctors had not known “whether there were
 nine, or ten, or eleven of them; much less did we know anything
 of the Gospel or of Christ.”[667] After outward works, indeed, we
 ran, but “what God has commanded, that we omitted … for the Papists
 trouble themselves about neither the Commandments nor the promises
 of God.”[668] In choir the community daily chanted Psalm li. (l.),
 in which joy in the Lord is extolled, but “there was not one who
 understood what joy to the pious is a firm trust in God’s Mercy.”[669]

 We have, for instance, his remarkable saying, that he had looked upon
 it as a deadly sin for a monk ever to come out of his cell without
 his scapular, even though otherwise fully dressed. Yet no reasonable
 man acquainted with the religious life, however observant he might
 be, would have been capable of such fears. Luther declares that he
 had seen a sin in every infringement of the rule of his Order; yet
 the Rule was never intended to bind under pain of sin, as indeed was
 expressly stated. He asserts that he had believed, that, had he made
 but a slight mistake or omission in the Mass, he “would be lost”; yet
 no educated priest ever believed such a thing, or thought that small
 faults amounted to mortal sins.

 As an instance of the Papal tyranny over consciences he was wont to
 tell in his old age how he had tortured himself on the Saturday by
 reciting the whole of the Breviary that he had omitted to say during
 the week owing to his other occupations. “This is how we poor folk
 were plagued by the Pope’s decretals; of this our young people know
 nothing.” His account[670] of these repetitions varies considerably in
 the telling. He expects us to believe he was not aware of the fact,
 familiar to every beginner in theology, that the recitation of the
 Hours and the Breviary is imposed as an obligation for the day, which
 expires as soon as the day is over, so that its omission cannot be
 afterwards made good by repetition. From his account it would on the
 contrary appear that the “Pope’s decrees” had imposed such subsequent
 making good. Even should he really, in his earlier days when he first
 began to neglect the Breviary, have occasionally repeated the task
 subsequently, yet it is too bad of him to make it part of the monkish
 legend and an instance of how “we poor fellows were tormented.”[671]

“It is an astonishing and dreadful thing,” he proceeds, “that men
should have been so mad!” Those who live in the religious life and
according to man-made ordinances “do not deserve to be called men nor
even swine”;[672] a “hateful and accursed life” was it, with “all their

The young monk too—could we trust Luther’s account—must have been
seriously wanting in discretion where mortification was concerned, and
a like indiscretion was evinced by all others who took the religious
vocation in earnest. But the extravagant asceticism such as Luther would
have us believe he practised, and the theological assumption underlying
it, viz. that salvation depends on bodily mortification, are quite
against the older teaching in vogue in his time. We may quote a few
instances of the teaching to the contrary.

 Thomas Aquinas declares: “Abstinence from food and drink in itself
 does not promote salvation,” according to Rom. xiv. 17, where we read:
 “The kingdom of heaven is not meat and drink.” He recognises only the
 medicinal value of fasting and abstinence, and points out that by
 such practices “concupiscence is kept in check”; hence he deduces the
 necessity of discretion (“_ad modicum_”) and warns people against the
 “vain glory” and other faults which may result from these practices.
 Not by such works, nor by any works whatsoever, is a man saved and
 justified, but “man’s salvation and justice,” so he teaches, “consist
 mainly in inward acts of faith, of hope and of charity, and not in
 outward ones.… Man may scorn all measure where faith, hope and charity
 are concerned, but, in outward acts, he must make use of the measure
 of discretion.”[674]

 But perhaps the best ascetical writer to refer to in this connection
 is John Gerson of Paris, who was so much read in the monasteries and
 with whom Luther was well acquainted. He assigns to outward works,
 particularly to severe acts of penance, the place they had, even from
 the earliest times, held in the Church. He bids Religious care above
 all for inward virtue, which they are to regard as the main thing, for
 self-denial and for obedience out of love of God. He appeals to the
 Fathers and warns his readers that “indiscreet abstinence may more
 easily lead to a bad end than even over-feeding.” Discretion could not
 be better practised than in humility and obedience, by forsaking one’s
 own notions and submitting to the advice of the expert; such obedience
 was never more in place than in a Religious.[675]

These are but two notable witnesses taken from the endless tale of those
whose testimony is at variance with the charges implied in Luther’s
legend, that the monks were regardless of discretion where penance was

That Luther is guilty of self-contradiction in attributing to the
Catholic teachers and monks of his day such mistaken views and practices
and the doctrine of holiness-by-works generally is fairly obvious.

 If the young monk really “kept the Rule,” then his extravagant
 penances for the purpose of gaining a gracious God can have had no
 existence outside his brain; the Rule prohibited all exaggeration in
 fasting and maceration, wilful loss of sleep and senseless exposure
 to cold. The Augustinian Rule, devised expressly as it was, to be
 not too severe in view of the exacting labours involved by preaching
 and the care of souls, had been further mitigated on the side of its
 penitential exercises by Staupitz’s new constitutions in 1504.[676]
 It was true the prior might sanction something beyond what the Rule
 enjoined, but it is scarcely credible that a beginner like Luther
 should have been allowed to exceed to such an extent the limit of
 what was adapted to all. His bodily powers were already sufficiently
 taxed by his studies, the more so since he threw himself into them
 with such impetuous ardour. It is all the less likely that any such
 special permission was given him, seeing that, as we know, Staupitz
 had, in consideration of his studies, dispensed the young monk from
 the performance of the humbler duties of the monastery.

 If what has been said holds good of the years spent at Erfurt, much
 less can there be any question of his having indulged in excessive
 rigour during his Wittenberg period. Here Luther began at an early
 date to inveigh against what he thought was excessive strictness on
 the part of his brother monks, against their observance and against
 all so-called holiness-by-works. In his sermons and writings of that
 time we have an echo of his vexation at the too great stress laid
 on works;[677] but such a frame of mind, which was by no means of
 entirely new growth, surely betrays laxity rather than over-great
 zeal. The doctrine of the all-sufficiency of faith alone and of
 Christ’s Grace was already coming to the front.

 Yet he continued—even after he had set up his new doctrine and
 completely broken with the Church—to recommend works of penance
 and mortification, declaring that they were necessary to withstand
 sinful concupiscence; nor does he even forget, agreeably with the
 Catholic view, to insist on the need of “discretion.” He also knows
 quite well what is the true purpose of works of penance in spite of
 all he was to say later in his subsequent caricature of the Catholic
 doctrine and practice. We hear him, for instance, saying in a sermon
 of 1519, when speaking of the fight to be waged against concupiscence:
 “For this purpose are watching, fasting, maceration of the body and
 similar works; everything is directed towards this end, nay, the
 whole of Scripture but teaches us how this grievous malady may be
 alleviated and healed.”[678] And, in his Sermon on Good Works (1520),
 he says: Works of penance “were instituted to damp and deaden our
 fleshly lusts and wantonness”; yet it is not lawful for one to “be
 one’s own murderer.”[679] All this militates against his own tale,
 that, in the convent, discretion had never been preached, and that,
 thanks to the trashy holiness-by-works, he had been on the highroad
 to self-destruction. The Sermon in question was preached some five
 years before the end of those “twenty years” during which, to use his
 later words, he had been his own “murderer” through his excessive and
 misguided penances.

 It may, however, be, that, for a short while, e.g. in the time of his
 first fervour as a novice, he may have failed now and then by excess
 of zeal in being moderate in his exercise of penance. This would also
 have been the time, when, tormented by scruples, he was ever in need
 of a confessor. To a man in such a state of unrest, penance, however,
 even when practised with discretion, may easily become a source of
 fresh confusion and error, and, when undertaken on blind impulse and
 used to excess, such a one tends to find excuses for himself for
 disregarding the prohibition both of the Rule and of his spiritual

It is interesting to note the varying period during which Luther,
according to his later sayings, was addicted to these excessive penances
and to holiness-by-works. We already know that it was only gradually that
he broke away from his calling, and that he had in reality long been
estranged from it when he laid aside the Augustinian habit.

 According to one dictum of his, he had been a strict and right pious
 monk for fifteen years, i.e. from 1505-20, during which time he had
 never been able “to do enough” to make God gracious to him.[680]
 Again, elsewhere, he assures us that the period of misery during which
 he sought justification through his works had lasted “almost fifteen
 years.”[681] On another occasion, however, he makes it twenty years
 (i.e. up to 1525): “The twenty years I spent in the convent are lost
 and gone; I entered the cloister for the good and salvation of my soul
 and for the health of my body, and I fondly believed … that it was
 God’s Will that I should abide by the Rule.”[682] What a contrast this
 alleged lengthy period of fifteen or even twenty years during which
 he kept the Rule presents to the reality must be sufficiently clear
 to anyone who remembers the dates of the events in his early history.
 To make matters worse, in one passage[683] he actually goes so far as
 apparently to make the period even longer during which he had “been
 a pious monk,” and had almost brought about his death by fasting,
 thus bringing us down to 1526 or 1527 if the reading in the text be
 correct. It certainly makes a very curious impression on one who bears
 in mind the dates to see Luther, the excommunicate, after his furious
 attack on religious vows and the laws of the Church, and after his
 marriage, still depicted as an over-zealous and pious monk, whose
 fasting is even bringing his life into jeopardy. But if Luther was so
 careless about his dates does not this carelessness lead one to wonder
 whether the rest of the statements he makes in conjunction with them
 are one whit more trustworthy?

 “For over thirty years,” he says in a sermon of 1537, “I knew nothing
 but this confusion [between Law and Gospel] and was unable to believe
 that Christ was gracious to me, but rather sought to attain to
 justification before God by means of the merits of the Saints.”[684]
 This statement is again as strange as his previous ones, always
 assuming that the account of the sermon in question, which Aurifaber
 bases on three separate reports, is reliable. In this passage he is
 speaking not of the years he spent in the convent but of the whole
 time during which he was a member of the Popish Church. If this be
 calculated from his birth it brings us down to about 1515, i.e. to
 about the date of his Commentary on Romans where the new doctrine of
 how to find a Gracious God is first mooted. But what then of the other
 account he gives of himself, according to which, for more than ten
 years subsequent to 1515, his soul remained immersed in the bitter
 struggle after holiness-by-works? If, on the other hand, we reckon the
 thirty years from the first awakening of the religious instinct in his
 boyhood and youth, i.e. from about 1490 or 1495, we should come down
 to 1520 or 1525 and find ourselves face to face with the still more
 perplexing question as to how the darkness concerning the Law could
 have subsisted together with the light of his new discovery.

Luther’s versatile pen is fond of depicting the quiet, retiring monk of
those days. As early as 1519 he wrote to Erasmus that it had always been
his ardent wish “to live hidden away in some corner, ignored alike by the
heavens and the sun, so conscious was he of his ignorance and inability
to converse with learned men.”[685] These words in their stricter sense
cannot, however, be taken as applicable to the period when they were
written but rather to the first years of his life as a monk.

The historical features of his earlier life in the monastery deserve,
however, to be examined more carefully in order better to understand the

2. The Reality. Luther’s Falsification of History

The legend of Luther’s abiding misery during his life as a monk previous
to his change of belief contradicts the monk’s own utterances during that

_Monastic Days of Peace and Happiness. The Vows and their Breach_

The fact is, that, for all his sufferings and frequent temptations,
Luther for a long while felt himself perfectly at ease in monasticism.
In the fulness of his Catholic convictions he extolled the goodness of
God, who, in His loving-kindness, had bestowed such spiritual blessings
on him. In 1507 he wrote that he could never be thankful enough “for
the goodness of God towards him, Who of His boundless mercy had raised
him, an unworthy sinner, to the dignity of the priesthood.”[686] The
elderly friend to whom he thus opened his heart was the same Johannes
Braun, Vicar of the Marienstift at Eisenach, to whom he again gave an
account of his welfare in 1509. To him he then wrote: “God is God; man
is often, in fact nearly always, wrong in his judgments. God is our
God, and will guide us sweetly through everlasting ages.”[687]—The
inward joy which he found in the monastery gave him strength to bear
his father’s displeasure. He not only pointed out to him that it was “a
peaceful and heavenly life,”[688] but he even tried so to paint the happy
life he led in his cell as to induce his friend and teacher Usingen to
become an Augustinian too.[689] We may also recall his praise of his
“preceptor” (i.e. novice master), whom he speaks of as a “dear old man”
and “a true Christian under the damned frock.” He repeats some of his
beautiful, witty sayings and was always grateful to him for his having
lent him a copy, made by his own hand, of a work by St. Athanasius.[690]
The exhortations addressed to him by Staupitz when he was worried by
doubts and fears, for instance his excellent allusion to the wounds of
Christ,[691] found an echo in Luther’s soul, and, in spite of his trouble
of mind, brought him back to the true ideal of asceticism. We also know
how he praised Usingen, his friend at Erfurt, as the “best paraclete
and comforter,” and wrote to a despondent monk, that his words were
helpful to troubled souls, provided always that they laid aside all

Hence, for a considerable part of his life in the monastery, Luther was
not entirely deprived of consolations; apart from the darker side of
his life, on which his legend dwells too exclusively, there was also a
brighter side, and this is true particularly of his earlier years.

 The effort to attain to perfection by the observance of poverty,
 chastity and obedience was at first so attractive to Luther, that,
 for a while, as we have already pointed out, he really allowed it to
 cost him something. Some years later, when he had already begun to
 paint in stronger hues his virtues as a monk, he said, perhaps not
 exaggerating: “It was no joke or child’s play with me in Popery.” His
 zealous observance was, however, confined to his first stay at Erfurt.
 A brother monk of his whom Flacius Illyricus chanced to meet in that
 town in 1543 also bore witness to Luther’s piety there as a monk. The
 “old Papist,” then still a faithful Augustinian, had told him, writes
 Flacius, how he had spent forty years in the Erfurt monastery where
 Luther had lived eight years, and that he could not but confess that
 Luther had led a holy life, had been most punctilious about the Rule
 and had studied diligently. To Flacius this was a new proof of the
 “mark of holiness” in the new Church.[693]

 Nor are statements on the part of the young monk wanting which
 prove, in contradiction with the legend he invented later, that his
 theoretical grasp of the religious life was still correct even at a
 time when he had already ceased to pay any great attention to the

 Even as late as 1519, i.e. but two years before he wrote his book
 against monastic vows, he still saw in these vows a salutary
 institution. In a sermon he advised whoever desired “by much practice”
 to keep the grace of baptism and make ready for a happy death “to
 bind himself to chastity or join some religious Order,”[695] the
 Evangelical Counsels still appeared to him, according to statements
 he made in that same year, “a means for the easier keeping of the

 It was only after this that he began to think of tampering with the
 celibacy of the priesthood, and that only in the hope of winning many
 helpers in his work of apostasy. A little later he attacked with equal
 success the sacred obligations freely assumed by the monks. Yet we
 find nothing about the legend in his writings and letters of this
 time, though it would have been of great service to him. Everything,
 in fact, followed a much simpler and more normal course than the
 legend would have us imagine: The spirit of the world and inordinate
 self-love, no less than his newly unearthed doctrine, were what led to
 the breaking of his vows.

 Many of his brother monks had already begun to give an example of
 marrying when, in the Wartburg (in Sep., 1521), while busy on his work
 against monastic vows he put to Melanchthon this curious question:
 “How is it with me? Am I already free and no more a monk? Do you
 imagine that you can foist a wife on me as I did on you? Is this to
 be your revenge on me? Do you want to play the Demea [the allusion is
 to Terence] and give me, Mitio, Sostrata to wife? I shall, however,
 keep my eyes open and you will not succeed.”[697] Melanchthon was,
 of course, neither a priest nor a monk. Luther, who was both, was
 even then undoubtedly breaking away at heart from his vows. This he
 did on the pretext—untenable though it must have appeared even to
 him—that his profession had been vitiated by being contrary to the
 Gospel, because his intention had been to “save his soul and find
 justification through his vows instead of through faith.” “Such a
 vow,” he says, “could not possibly be taken in the spirit of the
 Gospel, or, if it was, it was sheer delusion.” Still, for the time
 being, he only sanctioned the marriage of other monks who were to be
 his future helpers; as for himself he was loath to give the Papists
 “who were jawing” him the pleasure of his marriage. He also denied in
 a public sermon that it was his intention to marry, though he felt
 how hard it was not to “end in the flesh.” All these are well-known
 statements into which we have already gone in detail, which militate
 against Luther’s later legend of the holy monk, who tormented himself
 so grievously solely for the highest aims.

 When, nevertheless, yielding to the force of circumstances, he took
 as his wife a nun who had herself been eighteen years in the convent,
 his action and the double sacrilege it involved plunged him into new
 inward commotion. His statements at that time throw a strange light on
 the step he had taken. By dint of every effort he seeks to justify the
 humiliating step both to himself and to others.

 In his excitement he depicts himself as in the very jaws of death
 and Satan. Fear of the rebellious peasants now so wroth with him,
 and self-reproach on account of the marriage blamed by so many even
 among his friends, inflamed his mind to such a degree that his
 statements, now pessimistic, now defiant, now humorous, now reeking
 with pseudo-mysticism, furnish a picture of chaos. The six grounds
 he alleges for his marriage only prove that none of them was really
 esteemed by him sufficient; for, that it was necessary for him to
 take pity on the forsaken nun, that the Will of God and of his own
 father was so plain, and that he was obliged to launch defiance at the
 devils, the priestlings and the peasants by his marriage, all this had
 in reality as little weight with him as his other pleas, such as, that
 the Catholics looked on married life as unevangelical, and that it
 was his duty to confirm the Evangel by his marriage even in the eyes
 of his Evangelical critics.[698] To many of his friends his marriage
 seemed at least to have the advantage of shutting the mouths of those
 who calumniated him. He himself, however, preferred to say, that he
 had had recourse to matrimony “to honour God and shame the devil.”[699]

 When once Luther had entered upon his new state of life all remaining
 scruples regarding his vows had necessarily to be driven away.

 As was his wont he tried to reassure himself by going to extremes.
 “The most successful combats with the devil,” so he tells us, are
 waged “at night at Katey’s side”; her “embraces” help him to quell
 the foe within.[700] He declares even more strongly than before,
 that marriage is in fact a matter of downright necessity for man; he
 fails to think of the thousands who cannot marry but whose honour is
 nevertheless untarnished; he asserts that “whoever will not marry must
 needs be a fornicator or adulterer,” and that only by a “great miracle
 of God” is it possible for a man here and there to remain chaste
 outside the wedded state; more and more he insists, as he had already
 done even before, that “nothing rings more hatefully in his ear than
 the words monk and nun.”[701] He seizes greedily on every tale that
 redounds to the discredit of the monasteries, even on the silly story
 of the devils dressed as spectral monks who had crossed the Rhine at
 Spires in order to thwart him at the Diet.

In all this we can but discern a morbid reaction against the disquieting
memory of his former state of life, not, as the legend asserts, peace
of mind and assurance of having won a “Gracious God,” thanks to his
change of religion. The reaction was throughout attended by remorse of

These struggles of soul in order to find a Gracious God, which lasted, as
he himself says (above, vol. v., pp. 334 f.; 350 f.), even down to his
later years, constitute a striking refutation from his own lips, of the
legend of the wonderful change which came over him in the monastery.

On the other hand, the story of his long-drawn devotion to the monastic
practice of good works is no less at variance with the facts. On the
contrary, no sooner did Luther begin his official career as a monk at
Wittenberg, than he showed signs of his aversion to works; the trend of
his teaching was never in favour of strictness and penance, which, as he
declared, could only fill the heart with pride. (Above, vol. i., pp. 67
ff., 117 ff.) At a later date, however, he sought to base this teaching
on his own “inner experiences” and with these the legend supplied him
(above, vol. iv., p. 404, n. 2).

_Some Doubtful Virtues_

It is worth while to examine here rather more narrowly than was
possible when giving the history of his youth, the zeal for virtue and
the self-sacrificing industry for which, according to the legend, the
youthful monk was so conspicuous. What in our first volume was omitted
for the sake of brevity may here find a place in order to throw a clearer
light on his development. Two traits are of especial importance: first
humility as the crown of all virtue, on account of the piety Luther
ascribes to himself, and, secondly, the exact character of his restless,
feverish industry.

Luther’s humility presents some rather remarkable features. In
the documents we still possess of his we indeed find terms of
self-depreciation of the most extravagant kind. But his humility and
forced self-annihilation contrast strangely with his intense belief in
his own spiritual powers and the way in which he exalts himself above all
authorities, even the highest.

 This comes out most strongly at the time when, as a young professor
 at Wittenberg, Luther first dipped into the writings of the mystics.
 The latter, so one would have thought, ought rather to have led him to
 a deeper appreciation and realisation of the life of perfection and

 He extols the books of certain mystics as a remedy for all the
 maladies of the soul and as the well-spring of all knowledge. To the
 Provost of Leitzkau, who had asked for his prayers, he expressed his
 humility in the language of the mystics: “I confess to you that daily
 my life draws nigh to hell (Ps. lxxxvii. 4) because daily I become
 more wicked and wretched.”[702] At the same time he exhorts another
 friend in words already quoted, taken from the obscure and suspicious
 “Theologia Deutsch,” “to taste and see how bitter is everything that
 is ourselves” in comparison with the possession of Christ.[703] “I am
 not worthy that anyone should remember me,” so he writes to the same,
 “and I am most thankful to those who think worst of me.”[704]

 Yet mystical effusions are intermingled with charges against the
 opponents of his new philosophy and theology which are by no means
 remarkable for humility. “For nothing do my fingers itch so much,”
 he wrote about this time,[705] “as to tear off the mask from that
 clown Aristotle.” The words here uttered by the monk, as yet scarcely
 more than a pupil himself, refer to a scholar to whom even the
 greatest have ever looked up, and, who, up till then, had worthily
 represented at the Universities the wisdom of the ancients. The young
 man declares, that “he would willingly call him a devil, did he not
 know that he had had a body.” Luther also has a low opinion of all the
 Universities of his day: “They condemn and burn the good books,” he
 exclaims, “while fabricating and framing bad ones.”[706]

 Self-confidence had been kindled in the monk’s breast by a conviction
 of future greatness. He speaks several times of this inkling he had
 whilst yet a secular student at the Erfurt University; when ailing
 from some illness of which we have no detailed account, the father of
 one of his friends cheered him with certain words which sank deeply
 into his memory: “My dear Bachelor, don’t lose heart, you will live to
 be a great man yet.” In 1532 Luther related to his pupil Veit Dietrich
 this utterance which he still treasured in his memory.[707] How
 strong an impression such lightly spoken words could make on his too
 susceptible mind is evident from a letter of 1530 where he speaks of
 his vivid recollection of another man, who, when Luther was consoling
 him on the death of his son, had said to him: “Martin, you may be sure
 that some day you will be a great man.” Since, on the same occasion,
 he goes on to refer to the remark made by Staupitz, viz. that he was
 called to do great things, and declares that this prediction had been
 verified, it becomes even clearer that this idea had taken root and
 thriven in his mind even from early years.[708] But how does all this
 harmonise with the humility of the true religious, and with the pious
 self-forgetfulness of the mystic? There can be no doubt that it is
 more in accordance with the quarrelsomeness and exclusiveness, the hot
 temper and lack of consideration for others to which the testimonies
 already recorded have repeatedly borne witness. (Above, vol. i.,

There is a document in existence, on which so far but little attention
has been bestowed, which is characteristic of his language at one time.
Its tone of exaggeration makes it worthy to rank side by side with the
mystical passage quoted above, in which Luther professes to have himself
experienced the pangs of hell which were the earthly lot of chosen
souls.[709] Owing to its psychological value this witness to his humility
must not be passed over.

 Luther had received from Christopher Scheurl of Nuremberg, a learned
 lawyer and humanist, a letter dated Jan. 2, 1517, in which this warm
 partisan and admirer of the Augustinians, who was also a personal
 friend of Staupitz after a few words in praise of his virtue and
 learning, of which Staupitz had told him, expressed the wish to enter
 into friendly correspondence with him.[710] The greater part of
 Scheurl’s letter is devoted to praising Staupitz, rather than Luther.
 Yet the young man was utterly dumbfounded even by the meagre praise
 the letter contained. His answer to it was in an extravagant vein,
 the writer seemingly striving to express his overwhelming sense of
 humility in the face of such all-too-great praise.[711]

 The letter of one so learned and yet so condescending, so Luther
 begins, while greatly rejoicing him had distressed him not a
 little. He rejoiced at his eulogies of Staupitz, in whom he simply
 extolled Christ. “But how could you sadden me more than by seeking
 my friendship and decking me out in such empty titles of honour? I
 cannot allow you to become my friend, for my friendship would bring
 you, not honour but rather harm, if so be that the proverb is true:
 ‘Friends hold all in common.’ If what is mine becomes yours then you
 will receive only sin, unwisdom and shame, for these alone can I call
 mine; but such things surely do not merit the titles you give them.”
 Scheurl, indeed, would say, so he goes on in the same pathetic style,
 that it was only Christ he admired in him; but Christ cannot dwell
 together with sin and folly; hence he must be mindful of his own
 honour and not fall so low (‘_degeneres_’) as to become the friend
 of Luther. Even the Father-Vicar Staupitz praises him (Luther) too
 much. He made him afraid and put him in peril by persisting in saying:
 “I bless Christ in you and cannot but believe Him present with you
 now.” Such a belief was, however, hard, and the more eulogies and
 friends, the greater the danger in which the soul stood (then follow
 three superfluous quotations from Scripture). The greater the favour
 bestowed by men the less does God bestow His. “For God wills to be
 either the only friend or else no friend at all. To make matters
 worse, if a man humbles himself and seeks to fly praise and favour,
 then praise and favour always come, to our peril and confusion. Oh,
 far more wholesome,” he cries, “are hatred and disgrace than all
 praise and love.” The danger of praise he elucidates by a comparison
 with the cunning of the harlot mentioned in Proverbs vii. He is
 writing all this to Scheurl, not by any means to express contempt for
 his good-will but out of real anxiety for his own soul. Scheurl was
 only doing what every pious Christian must do who does not despise
 others but only himself; and this, too, he himself would also do.

 And, as though he had not yet said enough of his love of humility,
 the writer makes a fresh start in order to explain and prove what he
 has said. Not on account of learning, ability and piety does a true
 Christian honour his fellow-men; such a thing had better be left to
 the heathen and to the poets of to-day; the true Christian loved the
 helpless, the poor, the foolish, the sinful and the wretched. This he
 proves first from Ps. xli., then from the teaching of Christ and from
 His words: “For that which is high to men is an abomination before
 God” (Luke xvi. 15). “Do not make of me such an abomination,” so he
 goes on, “do not plunge me into such misery if you would be my friend.
 But, from so doing you will be furthest if you forbear from praising
 me either before me or before others. If, however, you are of opinion
 that Christ is to be extolled in me, then use His Name and not mine.
 Why should the cause of Christ be besmirched by my name and robbed of
 its own name? To everything should be given its right name; are we
 then to praise what is Christ’s without using His Name? Behold,” so
 he breaks off at last very aptly, “here you have your ‘friend’ and
 his flood of words; have patience friendly reader”—words which may
 apply to the modern reader of this effusion no less than to its first
 addressee. It cannot well be gainsaid that something strange lay in
 this kind of humility. It would be difficult to find an exact parallel
 to such language in the epistles of the humanists of that day, and
 still less in the correspondence of truly pious souls. What may,
 however, help us to form our opinion is the fact that, in the letters
 written immediately after the above, we again find the young professor
 condemning wholesale everything that did not quite agree with his own
 way of thinking.

The passion, precipitancy and exaggeration which inspired him during
his monkish days is the other characteristic which here calls for
consideration. His fiery and unbridled zeal was of such a character as to
constitute a very questionable virtue in a monk.

 We may recall what has already been said of the youthful Luther’s
 passionate and unmeasured abuse, even in public, of the “Little
 Saints” and “detractors” in his Order, for instance at the Chapter of
 the Order held at Gotha in 1515. Bitter exaggerations are met with
 even in his first lectures. In the controversy with the Observantines
 he goes so far as to make the bold assertion, that it was just the
 good works of his zealous brother monks that were sinful, though they
 in their blindness refused to believe it.[712] In his Commentary on
 the Psalms in 1513-15 he even goes so far as to denounce as “rebellion
 and disobedience” their vindication of strict observance in the
 Order.[713] His imagination makes him fancy that they are guided by
 a light kindled specially for them by “the devil.”[714] Such is his
 ardour when thundering against the abuses in the Order that he forgets
 to make the needful distinctions, and actually, in the presence of the
 young Augustinians who were his pupils, attacks the very foundations
 of their Mendicant Order. Yet elsewhere, in the narrowest spirit of
 party prejudice, he inveighs against worthy scholars who happened to
 belong to other Orders, for instance, against Wimpfeling, on whom he
 heaps angry invective.[715] The slightest provocation was enough to
 rouse his ire.

 Soon his passion began to vent itself on the Church outside. In his
 lectures on the Psalms he laments that Christianity was hardly to
 be found anywhere, such were the abuses; he can but weep over the
 evil; all pious men were, according to him, full of sorrow that
 the Incarnation and Passion of Christ had come to be so completely
 forgotten. We know how the young religious, from the abyss of his
 inexperience, declared in the most general terms, as though he had
 been familiar with all classes and all lands, that the desecration
 of what was most sacred in the Church had gone so far that they
 had sunk below even the Turk; “owing to the unchastity, pomp and
 pride of her priests, the Church was suffering in her property, in
 the administration of her sacraments and of the Word of God, in
 her judicial authority and finally in her government,” etc., “the
 Sanctuary was, so to speak, being hewn down with axes,” churchmen
 doing spiritually what the Turk was doing both spiritually and
 materially; in vain was the Word of God preached “seeing that every
 entrance was closed to it.”

 Holy men, of real zeal, had always been able to discern the good side
 by side with the bad. But the youthful Luther sees on every side, and
 everywhere nothing but false teaching (“_scatet totus orbis_,” etc.),
 nay, a very “deluge of filthy doctrines.”[716] To be made a bishop is
 to him tantamount to branding oneself a “Sodomite”; so full of vice
 is the episcopate that those wearers of the mitre were the best who
 had no sin on their conscience beyond avarice.[717] As for the men of
 learning, they rank far below Tauler, and, thanks to their narrowness,
 had made the age “one of iron, nay, of clay.”[718] When setting faith
 and grace against the alleged heathenism of the scholars he goes
 so far as to say, that his man is he “who outside of grace knows
 nothing.”[719] As early as 1515 he thinks himself qualified to attack
 the authorities and the highest circles because “his teaching-office
 lent him apostolic power to say and to reveal what was being done

 Why, we may, however, ask, did not the reformer of the Church begin
 with himself, seeing that, in the lectures on the Psalms just
 mentioned, he already laments the coldness of his own religious
 life?[721] Even then he felt temptations pressing upon him; already
 in consequence of his manifold and distracting labours he had lapsed
 into a state in which prayer became distasteful to him, and of which
 he writes to an intimate friend in 1523: “In body I am fairly well
 but I am so much taken up with outward business that the spirit is
 almost extinguished and rarely takes thought for itself.”[722] These
 words and other earlier admissions (above, vol. i., p. 275 ff.) throw
 a strange light on the legend according to which he had wrestled in
 prayer by day and by night.

 Even in his devotion to his studies and in his manner of writing on
 learned subjects his natural extravagance stands revealed. His love
 for study was all passion; his mode of thought and expression was
 simply grotesque. It was the young monk’s passion for learning which
 led him on the occasion of his visit to Rome to petition the Pope to
 be allowed for a term of several years to absent himself from home
 and devote himself in the garb of a secular priest to his studies
 at the Universities. At Wittenberg we find him in the refectory pen
 in hand in the silent watches of the night when all the other monks
 had gone to rest, and, in his excited state, he fancies he hears the
 devil making an uproar. Though, according to his admission of Oct. 26,
 1516, he was so busy and overwhelmed with literary work, as “rarely to
 have time to recite the Hours or to say Mass,”[723] yet he still had
 time enough to inveigh against the “sophists of all the Universities”
 as he had, even then, begun to term the professors of his day. He
 professed his readiness, were it necessary, to find time to go to
 Erfurt in order to defend in a public disputation there the Theses set
 up at Wittenberg in his name by his pupil Franz Günther; the Erfurt
 Augustinians were not to denounce these propositions as “paradoxical,
 or actually cacodoxical,” “for they are merely orthodox.” “I wait
 with eagerness and interest to see what they will put forward against
 these our paradoxes.”[724] In April, 1517, when Carlstadt caused some
 commotion by publishing his erroneous views on nature and grace in
 152 theses, Luther called them in one of his letters the paradoxes
 of an Augustine, excelling the doctrine in vogue as much as Christ
 excels Cicero; there were some who declared these propositions to be
 paradoxical rather than orthodox, but this was “shameless insolence”
 on the part of men who had studied and understood neither Augustine
 nor Paul; “to those who understand, however, the theses ring both
 pleasantly and beautifully, indeed to me they seem to have an
 excellent sound.”[725]

 His restless style and love of emphasis is characteristic of his own
 inner restlessness and excitement. He himself was quite aware of
 the source of this disquiet, at least so far as it was the result
 of a moral failing. In 1516 he lays his finger deliberately on his
 besetting fault when he admits to a friend, that the “root of all
 our unrest is nowhere else to be found than in our belief in our own
 wisdom”; “I have been taught by my own experience! Oh, with how much
 misery has this evil eye [belief in my own wisdom] plagued me even to
 this very day!”[726]

 And yet he takes for one of his guiding principles the curious idea
 that the opposition of so many confirmed the truth of what he said.
 His work on the Penitential Psalms, so he wrote to his friend Lang
 on March 1, 1517, would “then please him best if it displeased
 all.”[727] And, two years later, he said to Erasmus, when speaking of
 the system he followed in this respect: “I am wont to see in what is
 displeasing to many, the gifts of a Gracious God as against those of
 an Angry God”; hence, so he assures him, the hostility under which
 Erasmus himself was suffering, was, for him, a proof of his real

 His burning enthusiasm at the time when he thought he had discovered
 the sense of the passage: “The just man lives by faith,” has already
 been described elsewhere.[729] This and other incidents just touched
 upon recall those morbid sides of his character referred to in the
 previous chapter.

As we might expect, during the first years of his great public struggle
his restlessness was even more noticeable than before. The predominance
of the imagination has hardly ever been so fatally displayed by any other
man, though, of course, it is not every man whose life is thrown amid
times so stirring. “Because,” so he wrote in 1541, recalling his audacity
in publishing the Indulgence-Theses and the fame it brought him, “all the
Bishops and Doctors kept silence [concerning the abuse of indulgences]
and no one was willing to bell the cat.… Luther was vaunted as a doctor,
and as the only man who was ready to interfere. Which fame was not at all
to my taste.”[730] This latter assertion he is fond of making to others,
but his letters of that time show how greatly the charm of notoriety
contributed to unbridle his stormy energy. It was his opponents’ defiance
which first opened the flood-gates of his passionate eloquence. At the
very outset he warns people that contradiction will only make his spirit
more furious and lead him to have recourse to even stronger measures;
elsewhere he has it: “The more they rage, the further I shall go!”[731]

We may recall his reference to the “gorgeous uproar,” and the passages
where he assures his friends: “I am carried away and know not by what
spirit,”[732] and “God carries me away, I am not master of myself.”[733]

In the light of his pathological fervour the contradictions in which he
involves himself become more intelligible, for instance, what he wrote to
Pope Leo X in his letter of May, 1518,[734] which so glaringly contrasted
with his other words and deeds. His unrest and love of exaggeration
caused him to overlook this and the many other contradictions both with
himself and with what he had previously written.

       *       *       *       *       *

The picture of the monk which we have been compelled to draw differs
widely from the legendary one of the pious young man shut up in the
cloister, who, according to Luther’s account at a later date, led a
fanatical life of penance and, because he saw Popish piety to be all too
inadequate, “sought to find a Gracious God.”

_Luther’s Alterations of the Facts_

It was not altogether arbitrarily that Luther painted the picture of the
monk forced by his trouble of mind to forsake Popery. Rather he followed,
possibly to some extent unconsciously, the lines of actual history,
though altering them to suit his purpose.

He retained intact not a few memories of his youth, which, under the
stress of his bitterness and violence, and with the help of a lively
imagination unfettered by any regard for the laws of truth, it was no
difficult task to transform. Among these memories belong those of his
time of fervour during his Noviciate and early days as a priest. They it
was which evidently formed the groundwork of his later statements that
he had been throughout an eminently pious monk. Then again, among the
remarkable traits which made their appearance somewhat later, the two
elements just described have a place in his legend, viz. his extravagant
self-conscious humility and his fiery zeal. In his later controversies he
is disposed to represent this strange sort of humility as real humility
and as a sign of genuine piety. The pious, humble monk hidden in a corner
had all unwittingly grown into a great prophet of the truth. In the same
way the ardour of those years which he never afterwards forgot, was
transformed in his fancy into a fanatical hungering and thirsting after
Popish holiness-by-works, in discipline and fasting, watching, cold and

In addition to these there were memories of the transition period of
religious scruples, of temptations to doubts about predestination, of his
passing paroxysms of terror, gloom and inherited timidity. These elements
must be considered separately.

Scrupulosity, with the doubts and nervousness it brings in its train,
probably only troubled him for a short time during the first period of
his life in the cloister. The admonitions of his novice-master, given
above (p. 206), may refer to some such passing condition through which
the young man went, and which indeed is by no means uncommon in the
spiritual life. The profound impression made by these first inward
experiences seems to have remained with him down to his old age; indeed
it is the rule that the struggles of one’s younger days leave the deepest
impression on both heart and memory. His quondam scruples and groundless
fear of sin, eked out by his ideas of the virtues of a religious,
probably served as the background for the picture of the young monk
“sunk” in Popish holiness-by-works and yet so profoundly troubled at

But all this would not suffice to explain the legend of his mental
unrest, of his sense of being forsaken by God, of his howling, etc.

What promoted this portion of the legend was the recollection of
those persistent temptations to despair which arose from his ideas on
predestination during the time of his mystical aberrations.

The dreadful sense of being predestined by God to hell had for many years
stirred the poor monk’s soul to its lowest depths, even long before he
had thought out his new doctrine. It is no matter for surprise, if,
later, carried away by his polemics, he made the utmost use in his legend
of his former states of fear the better to depict the utter misery of
the monk bent on securing salvation by the practice of good works. The
doctrine of faith alone which he had discovered and the new Evangelical
freedom were, of course, supposed to have delivered him from all trouble
of mind, and thus it was immaterial to him later to what causes his fears
and sadness were assigned.

Yet his supposed new theological discoveries became for him, according to
the testimony of the Commentary on Romans, in many respects a new source
of fear and terror. The doctrine of the Divine imputation or acceptation
did not sink into his mind without from its very nature causing
far-reaching and abiding fears. His then anxieties, which, as a matter of
fact, were in striking contrast with his later assertion of his sudden
discovery of a Gracious God, together with the mystical aberrations in
which he sought in vain for consolation, doubtless furnished another
element for the legend of the terrors he had endured throughout his life
as a monk.

 We need only refer to the passage in the Commentary where he declares:
 Our so-called good works are not good, but God merely reckons
 (“_reputat_”) them as good. “Whoever thinks thus is ever in fear
 (‘_semper pavidus_’), and is ever awaiting God’s imputation; hence he
 cannot be proud and contentious like the proud self-righteous, who
 trust in their good works.”[735]

 What is curious, however, is that, here and elsewhere in the
 Commentary, the so-called self-righteous, both in the cloister and
 the world, appear to be quite “confident” and devoid of fear; they
 at least fancy they may enjoy peace; hence, as depicted in the
 Commentary, they are certainly not the howling and anxious spirits of
 whom the later legend speaks. On the contrary it is Luther alone who
 is sunk in sadness, and whose melancholy pessimism presents a strange
 contrast to all the rest. His mysticism also veils a deep abyss.

 Almost on the same page the pessimistic mystic speaks of that
 resignation to hell which has a place in his new system of theology.
 “Because we have sin within us we must flee happiness and take on
 what is repugnant, and that, not merely in words and hypocritically;
 we must resign ourselves to it with full consent, must desire to be
 lost and damned. What a man does to him whom he hates, that we must
 do to ourselves. Whoever hates, wishes his foe to be undone, killed
 and damned, not merely seemingly but in reality. When we thus, with
 all our heart, destroy and persecute ourselves, when we give ourselves
 over to hell for the sake of God and His Justice, then indeed we have
 already satisfied His Justice and He will deliver us.”[736] It can
 hardly be considered normal that a monk should wish to live—among
 brethren, who rejoiced in the promises of Christ and in the Church’s
 means of grace—the life of a lonely mystic sunk in the depths of an
 abyss, where “a man does not strive after heaven but is perfectly
 ready never to be saved, but rather to be damned, and where, after
 having been reconciled by grace, a man fears, not God’s punishments,
 but simply to offend Him.”[737]

Luther’s recollections of the mental ailments he went through as a monk
also undoubtedly had their effect on the legend. We know that Luther
never rightly understood the nature of these ailments and that he
regarded his fits of terror, his nervousness and his gloom as anything
but what they really were. It would appear that, in his old age, he
simply lumped all his sad experiences together as typical of the sort of
poison which Popery and Monkery, owing to their false doctrines, offered
to their adepts. Nothing seemed to him to show better from what horrors
he had snatched mankind. Whether involuntary self-deception played a part
here, or whether, by dint of constant repetition, he came to believe in
the truth of his tale, who can now venture to say? In any case his spirit
of bitterness led him to make of his own sufferings a sort of spectre
of terror common to all, who, like himself, had raved that they were
zealously serving God whether in the monastery or in Popery at large.
Even “great Saints” had, according to him, lived amidst the “devil’s
factions and errors, under Rules and in monasteries and institutions,”
but had finally “cut themselves loose and been saved by faith in Jesus

He completely shuts his eyes to the fact that both his fears concerning
predestination and his morbid states of terror accompanied by fainting
fits recurred in his case even in later life, and, that, after his
apostasy he had in addition to suffer from remorse of conscience on
account of his doings against the Church. Nor does he seem to see that
he himself betrays the falsity of what he says of the general depression
to which all monks were subject when he relates above, that _he alone_
had gone about in the monastery labouring under such oppression and that
no one had understood him or been able to console him (above, p. 113);
hence, according to this, his brother monks cannot have suffered from the
terrors he afterwards attributed to them.

_The Monkish Nightmare_

The strange “terrors” under which he was labouring when he first knocked
at the gate of the Augustinian convent at Erfurt were, according to
Melanchthon’s definite assurance already quoted, closely bound up with
his habitual states of fear. They were extraordinary states of mental
perturbation (“_terrores_”) and can only be explained when looked at
in the light of his other mental troubles.[739] Of the incidents that
impelled him to enter the convent[740] Luther himself says in a passage
which has also been quoted above, that (on the occasion of his first
Mass) he had tried to reassure his father Hans by pointing out that he
had been called “by terrors from heaven” (“_de coelo terrores_”); to
which his father had harshly replied: “Oh, that it may not have been a
delusion and a diabolical vision” (“_illusio et præstigium_”).[741] The
happenings immediately previous to his entering the monastery are of a
rather mysterious character. The inmates of the Erfurt convent declared
at that time in consequence of what they had gathered from Luther, that
he, like “another Paul, had been miraculously converted by Christ.”[742]
Oldecop, who began his studies at Wittenberg in 1514, speaks in his
Chronicle of “strange fears and spectres” on account of which Luther
had taken the habit.[743] Still more remarkable is the report based on
the account of Luther’s intimate friend Jonas, and dating from 1538. He
says: When Luther, as a student, was returning to Erfurt after having
been to Gotha to buy some books “there came a dreadful apparition from
heaven which he then interpreted as signifying that he was to become a
monk.”[744] If these statements were correct it would appear as though
we have here already an instance of hallucination worthy of being classed
with the “sights and visions” elsewhere mentioned. Even his earliest
monastic days would assume a suspiciously pathological character if, even
then, he was convinced of having been the recipient of heavenly messages.
It must, however, remain doubtful whether Jonas’s report means exactly
what it seems to mean and whether his sources are to be relied upon.

The possibility of his having been the victim of hallucination at such an
early date also raises the question whether his later abnormal states can
be explained by heredity or his upbringing.

By their “harsh treatment,” so Luther says on one occasion, his parents
had “driven him into the monastery”; here we have an entirely new version
of the motives of his choice of the religious life; he adds that, though
they meant well by him, yet he had known nothing but faintheartedness
and despondency.[745] Poverty still further darkened his early youth.
It is quite possible that the young monk may have suffered for some
considerable time from feelings of timidity and depression as a result of
his education and mode of life. The natural timidity which was apparent
during a part of his youth may also have contributed its quota to the
rise of the legend of the monk who was ever sad. But all this does not
explain as well as an hereditary malady would the terrors or seeming
hallucinations. Unfortunately the question of heredity is still quite
obscure, though the highly irritable temper of his father referred to
above (p. 182) may have some bearing on it. Luther, however, says very
little about his parents and even less of his manner of bidding good-bye
to the world.

 The statements he makes, whether in jest or in earnest, concerning his
 vow to enter a religious Order, differ widely.

 He declares he made the vow to God in honour of St. Anne, but that God
 had “taken it in the Hebrew meaning,” Anne signifying grace, and had
 understood that Luther wished to become a monk “under grace and not
 under the Law,” in fact not a monk at all.[746] Very likely it is no
 jest, however, when he adds that, “he had soon regretted his vow, the
 more so since many sought to dissuade him from entering the convent”;
 he had, nevertheless, persisted, in spite of the objections of his
 father and, after that, he had had no further thought of quitting the
 convent, “until God deemed the time had come” (to thrust him out of

 On another occasion he assures us he had entered the convent only
 “because he despaired of himself.”[748] And again: “God let me become
 a monk,” “though I entered forcibly and contrary to my father’s
 wishes”;[749] for I had “to learn to know the Pope’s trickery.”[750]
 As a rule, however, he leaves God out of the matter. He had taken the
 vow only “under compulsion,” so he says in self-defence; he had not
 become a monk “gladly and willingly”; he did not then know that a
 father had to be obeyed, or that vows rested only on “the commandments
 of men, on hypocrisy and superstition,”[751] but, during his life in
 the cloister, the suspicion of his father, who had now been reconciled
 with him, about the possibility of its having all been a diabolical
 delusion had sunk deeply into his mind; in his father’s words he had
 perforce to recognise the Voice of God.[752]

Again, the legend makes out the monk, in the time of his first fervour,
to have looked more like a corpse than a man; yet, so far as we can
judge, it was only after he had begun his public struggle, i.e.
subsequent to 1517, that he began to show signs of physical exhaustion
and emaciation, and this, too, was only owing to the way in which he went
to work. On the other hand, on March 17, 1509, i.e. nearly four years
after his entry into the religious life, when about to quit Erfurt, he
wrote, that, “as to himself, by God’s grace, all was going well.” The
expression he uses seems to imply that, not merely his spiritual, but
also his bodily, state was satisfactory.[753]

       *       *       *       *       *

In his legend Luther speaks repeatedly of certain morbid states from
which he had suffered and which he duly uses to lash the Popish
conception of holiness. They are too closely bound up with other facts
in his mental life to be set aside as simple inventions, though it must
also be added that they contain an element of uncertainty.

In the case of people who have been brought up as Christians but
who suffer from certain nervous disorders, particularly when their
temperament is of the melancholy variety, a notable aversion for sacred
objects may occasionally be observed. “Many such patients cannot bear
the sight of a cross, cannot listen to prayers, stop their ears at the
ringing of the Angelus, cannot mention the word ‘sacrament,’ but use some
circumlocution instead.” “Among perfectly normal people we do not meet
with this sort of thing, still it is nothing extraordinary.”[754]

Now, oddly enough, we find Luther, in 1532, telling the people quite
seriously in his sermons on Matt. v.-vii., that, as a novice, he had not
been able to endure the sight of the crucifix. “When I saw a picture or
statue of Christ hanging on the Cross, etc., I was so affrighted that I
averted my eyes.”[755] And, again, in the same sermons: “When I looked at
Him on the Cross He seemed to me like a flash of lightning.” He also adds
that he “had often been affrighted at the name of Jesus.”[756] “The Last
Day,” he says in a sermon of 1534, he could not bear to hear spoken of,
and “my hair stood on end when I thought of it.”[757] These statements
are doubtless exaggerations, but Luther has others even stronger: He
would “rather have heard the devil spoken of than Christ”; he would
rather have seen “the devil than the Crucified”; “rather have heard of
the devils in hell than of the Last Day.” It may be queried whether the
above were simply inventions designed to vilify the monastic life and the
faith in which he had grown up. Nevertheless, whoever calls to mind the
“terrors” Luther experienced at his first Mass and in the procession with
Staupitz, whoever keeps before him the part played by Luther’s “fears”
even at a later date,[758] will certainly not think it beyond the bounds
of possibility that, at times, he should have shuddered at the sight of
the cross or at the mention of Christ or of the Last Judgment.

To all this, his bodily condition may have contributed, yet, in his
legend, Luther makes of these doubtless morbid states of his the
inevitable result of the holiness-by-works practised in the convent and
taught by Catholic doctrine. It was because they had known Christ only
as the Judge, Who must be placated by works, that he had so dreaded the
Crucifix and the very mention of the Judgment. He says that he could not
but tremble at the sight of the Crucifix, because, like the rest of the
Papists, he had been taught to think that “I must go on performing good
works until I have thereby made Christ my friend and gracious toward
me.”[759] For this reason alone he had “so often shrunk back affrighted
at the name of Jesus” and at the “Cross” as at a “flash of lightning,”
because he, like all the rest, had lost his faith; “I had fallen away
from the faith and had no other thought than that I had angered God Whom
I must once more propitiate by my works.” “But praise and thanks be to
God that now we have His Word once more, which leads us to Christ and
depicts Him as our Righteousness”; our heart need no longer “tremble and

After assuring us that he was often unable to gaze upon the Cross, he
also at once proceeds to make capital out of this against the olden
Church: “For,” so he continues, “my mind was poisoned by this Popish
doctrine,” a doctrine according to which “Christ, our Healer, had been
turned into a devil.”[761]

Nor does he hesitate to make out that the sight of the Saviour was
likewise terrifying to all the zealous and earnest “saints-by-works”
in the religious life and Popery generally.[762] In another passage he
speaks of the dreadful emotion all felt at the mention of the coming
Judgment and the Last Day: “And so we were all sunk in the filth of our
own holiness and fancied that, by our life and works, we could pacify the
Divine Judgment”; formerly they used to start “if anyone spoke of death
or of the life to come”; but, since the light of the Evangel has risen,
it is otherwise.

It is true that the way in which Luther here allows his prejudice to
exploit these terrifying experiences may raise doubts as to whether
they had ever actually existed even in his own case, or whether he did
not rather invent them with the object of afterwards ascribing them to
all. At the same time it is easier to believe in their existence than to
credit him with having deliberately evolved them out of his own fancy.

The utmost caution must indeed be exercised in accepting his assertions
on this subject. We cannot sufficiently express our amazement at the
credulity with which Luther’s rhetorical statements about his life in the
convent have often been accepted, for instance even by Köstlin. The fact
is, that the ground on which Luther’s later account rests, the elements
that he introduces into his transformation of the facts, and above all
the bitter and aggressive spirit which directs and permeates everything,
have not been adequately recognised and thus the mythological nature of
his fiction has remained undetected. Otherwise it would surely have been
impossible to assert, that, just as Paul had been through the mill of
the Law, so Luther also had been through that of the religious life, in
order, by virtue of his experience, to discover the supreme truth.

       *       *       *       *       *

Various traits in the picture he drew, which, owing to its difficulties,
has puzzled many people, may, as we have seen, be explained by his
misapprehension or misinterpretation of the phenomena of his own morbid,
melancholy mind. Other moral factors have, however, also to be taken into

As already pointed out, his depression of mind, due primarily to physical
causes, became so pronounced owing to his refusal to submit to proper

His dissatisfaction was increased by his growing impatience with the
religious life, by remorse of conscience arising from his tepidity and
worldliness, and by his growing antipathy to his vocation.

       *       *       *       *       *

It may be said, that, had the convent been wisely governed, Luther would
never have been admitted to profession but have been quietly dismissed
while yet a novice. Both for his superiors and for himself this would
have been the better course. A morbid temperament such as his, whatever
may have been its cause, was not suited for the religious life, even
apart from the obstacles in Luther’s character. The monotony and the
penances of the monastic life, the self-discipline and obedience; also
the annoyances with which he had to put up from his brother monks, whose
habits and upbringing were not his, must necessarily have aggravated his
case, particularly as he refused to submit to guidance. His superiors
should have foreseen that this brother would be a source of endless
difficulties. Instead of this, Staupitz, the vicar, clung to his
favourite. He even gave him to understand that he would make of him a
great scholar and an ornament of the Order. Had he remained in the world,
in a different and freer sphere of action, Luther might possibly have
succeeded in shaking off his ailments and the resultant depression. But,
in the convent, particularly as he went his own way, he became the victim
of ideas and imaginations which promoted the growth of his doctrine and
helped to pave the way for his apostasy. Nevertheless, his morbid states
could not annul the vows he had taken in the Order, hence his leaving and
his breach of the vows cannot be excused on the ground of his illness,
though the latter may help to explain his step.

From all the above it is plain how unwarrantable is the assumption that
to set aside Luther’s legend is to shut one’s eyes to the severe inward
struggles through which he went previous to making his great decision.

There can be no doubt that, previous to his unhappy change of religion,
the monk had to wage a hard fight with himself. He was striving against
his conscience, and, by overcoming it, he consciously and deliberately
incurred the guilt of his apostasy. “A frightful struggle of soul,”[763]
may, and indeed must, be assumed, though a very different one from that
usually pictured by Protestants and by Luther himself. It would indeed
be “stupid” (to use the words of a Protestant biographer of Luther) to
seek to “obliterate from history” the deep-down inward struggle which,
“maybe, lasted longer than we think.” It is, however, gratifying to
find that the same author admits that, as a monk in the Erfurt priory,
Luther “found some inward contentment,” in other words, that the legend
is false in this particular; he also grants that, at least “in this
or that statement,” Luther, in his later accounts, has been guilty of
“exaggeration”; that his “development” did not proceed quite on the lines
he fancied later, at least that the “change was not quite so sudden,”
and, finally, that “physical overstrain” had something to do with his

3. The Legend receives its last touch; how it was used

It is only after 1530 that we find Luther’s legend of his monkish life
fully developed. Before this we see only the first hints of the tale.

It cannot be argued that, till then, he had been silent on his inward
experiences as a monk, or that the MSS. of the Table-Talk only commence
subsequent to 1530. That, even before this, he had frequently spoken of
his earlier spiritual experiences is evident from the passages already
quoted, and might be proved by many others; moreover the absence of any
recorded Table-Talk is a detail, since the latter is far from being our
sole source in the present question.

We are justified in assuming that the idea matured in 1530, during his
stay at the Castle of Coburg where he had to wage so severe a struggle
with himself. Amid the trials he endured during his days of retirement
at the Wartburg he had found time to pen his violent attack on monastic
vows; so also, it was in the quiet of the Coburg, amidst the ghostly
conflicts and delusions, that he wove the caricature of his own monkish
life into the web of his history. At the very time when Luther was at
the Coburg the burning question of German monasticism was being debated
at the Diet of Augsburg; the Catholic Estates hoped that recognition
might again be won for it from the Protestants, or that it might at least
secure toleration in the districts where allegiance was divided. It was
also at the Coburg that Luther penned many of the furious passages of his
“Warning to the Clergy forgathered at Augsburg.”

He there says: “For the monks I know not how to plead. For I am well
aware you would rather they were all of them given over to the devil,
please God, whether they take wives or not.”[765] In these words he
erroneously takes for granted that all ecclesiastics shared his own
hatred for the monks. He boasts in this writing that he “had destroyed
the monks by his teaching”;[766] he trusts that “the Bishops will not
allow such bugs and lice to be stuck again on their fur cappas.”[767]
The reason why his doctrine had destroyed the monks was, because it
had revealed how they were merely “intent upon works.” “For what else
could come of it? If a conscience is intent on its works and builds on
them, then it is stablished on loose sand which is ever slipping and
sliding away; it must ever be seeking for works, for one and then for
another and ever more and more, until at last even the dead are clothed
in monks’ cowls the better to reach heaven.”[768] The last words are
a caricature, a misrepresentation of a pious custom by which no one
ever dreamt infallibly to win heaven. The “loose sand” is, however, a
favourite expression with him when speaking of his teaching on works. It
is the same teaching that he wants to bring before the eyes of all by
means of his fiction. How, at that time, his thoughts were harking back
to his former life in the convent is plain from a letter of consolation
he then wrote to his “tempted” pupil Weller. He tells him that he
himself had also had his sadnesses and temptations, but that what he had
suffered as a monk had in the end proved a schooling for his present high

Had he really been the butt of such “temptations” as the legend depicts
and contrived so successfully to vanquish them by his doctrine on
justification, then we might expect to find some trace of this in
his first writings subsequent to his change of outlook. Now, in the
Commentary on Romans we have a vivid document bearing on his change of
opinions, yet, full as it is of information about the author, we may seek
in vain for the legend. On the contrary it breathes a high esteem for
the religious state.[770] In the “Resolutions” to the Indulgence-Theses
likewise, Luther speaks of the phases through which he had passed and of
the mystical sufferings he had endured.[771] Yet here again the features
of the legend are wanting. Is it not somewhat remarkable that an author
usually so candid and talkative as Luther should have kept silence about
those experiences of which, just at that time, i.e. at the beginning of
his public struggle, he must have been so full?

Nor is the legend to be found in Luther’s writings dating from between
1520 and 1530. All the passages quoted above date from a later period.

Had the tale it tells been based on history he would surely have made
capital out of it during this long spell of controversy with the monks
and Papists. Thus, in his violent “_De votis monasticis_” of 1521, he as
yet has nothing to say of his supposed so pious life, of his excessive
penance, misguided holiness-by-works, and the despair he endured in the
convent, though, in the Preface, he alludes to his own life as a monk.
Nor, again, in his “_De servo arbitrio_” of 1525, does he as yet put
forward the actual legend. It is true that here, when explaining his
doctrine of Predestination, he refers to the fears from which as a monk
he had suffered regarding his election, fear which arose from his doubts
as to the fate decreed for him by God from all eternity. As it is also
here that he for the first time airs his theory that his doctrine of
absolute predestination and his dogma of justification were alone able
to give peace,[772] this would seem to have been the place to give an
account of his own life in the monastery and its attendant circumstances.
But the legend was not as yet ready. We have merely a hint of what is
to come: The Catholic doctrine that heaven may be won by works spells
the end of all peace; “this is proved by the experience of all the
holy-by-works, and this, to my cost, I also learnt by the experience
of many years.”[773] About his heroic works of penance, his vigils,
fastings, extraordinary piety, and the sudden and gratifying change, he
has not a word to say.

Heralds of the legend are certain statements met with in a sermon of
1528 where he describes himself as having been a “very pious monk,” who
was, however, wanting in constancy and like a “shaking reed,” not being
firmly rooted in Christ;[774] again at the end of his “Vom Abendmal
Bekentnis” he declares his “greatest sins” were his having “been such
a holy monk and having plagued God for more than fifteen years with so
many masses.”[775] In the latter writing he at least admits that “many
great saints had lived in the monasteries”;[776] he even thinks that “it
would indeed be a fine thing if the monasteries and foundations were
retained, to the end that young folk might there be taught God’s Word,
the Scriptures and how to live a Christian life,” in short as educational
establishments for both boys and girls. “But, to seek in them the road to
salvation, that is the devil’s own doctrine and belief.”[777]

Finally, in the sermons on John vi.-viii. which he began in 1530 after
his return from the Coburg to Wittenberg and continued till 1532 we
have the legend more or less complete: He had been a monk and had kept
the nightly watches (i.e. had chanted the usual matins), had “fasted
and prayed, scourged his body and tormented it”; he had been one of
the pious and earnest monks who took their life seriously, “who, like
me, were at some pains and examined and plagued themselves, and wanted
to attain to what Christ is in order to be saved. But what did they
gain thereby?”[778] At the same time he begins to enlarge in the most
incredible way on the beliefs and habits of the Papists with regard to
their own merits and the merits of Christ. All had held their tongues
concerning the Saviour, so he says, and he emphasises his statement by
adding: “I myself, I should have blushed to say that Christ was the
Saviour.” Thus in a sermon of Dec., 1530.[779]

 In the period that follows, what he says of his piety, and especially
 of his works of penance, grows more and more emphatic. The argument
 at the back of his mind is this: “If even so mortified, penitent,
 and holy a monk as he could find no peace in Popery but only black
 despair, must not then all admit that he was in the right in
 protesting against both the Church and her vows?”

 So strictly had he kept his Rule, that, if ever monk got to heaven, it
 should have been he; he had plagued himself to death with watching,
 prayer, study and other labour.[780] This was the time when he “sought
 to be a holy monk and to be reckoned among the most pious.”[781] “If
 ever a monk was earnest then it was I.… I was at the utmost pains to
 keep the ordinances” (of the Fathers).

 He “had been one of the best”[782] and was “wholly given over” to
 “fasting, watching and prayer”;[783] “I nearly killed myself with
 fasting, watching and cold … so mad and foolish was I.”[784] By
 fasting, sleeplessness, hard work and coarse clothing “my body was
 dreadfully broken and worn out.”[785]

 In short, he had “sunk deeper into the quagmire [of mortification,
 obedience to the Church and monastic piety] than many an other”; so
 much so that “it had been hard and bitter” to him to cut himself
 adrift from the ordinances of the Pope; “God knows how hard I found

As he himself gradually came to believe in his extraordinary
“holiness-by-works” it may be that his thoughts dwelt too exclusively
to his earlier days as a monk, i.e. on those passed at Erfurt, during
which he certainly was more zealous than in later years, though never
such a fanatic as he afterwards makes out. He may also have compared his
life as a monk with the small efforts after virtue he made subsequent to
his public apostasy, and the contrast may have led him to make too much
of his piety in the convent. The contrast, indeed, often troubled him,
and we find him seeking for grounds to excuse his later lukewarmness in
prayer, so different from his earlier fervour.[787] This also helps us to
explain the line of thought followed in the legend.

 The true character of the legend becomes clearer when Luther begins
 to exploit it in his polemics. He depicts himself as a sort of
 “caricature of the monastic saint,”[788] and then complains: This
 damnable life could not but keep me ever in a state of fear, and yet
 the Popish Church recommends and sanctions it; the more zealous I grew
 the further I withdrew from Christ—nay, brought even my baptism into
 danger! He had never been able to “find comfort in it,” nay, he had
 been compelled to “lose” it, to “lend a hand in denying it.” “This is
 the upshot and reward of their doctrine of works.”[789] He even goes
 so far as to say that the Papists “truly and indeed made nought of
 the baptism” of Christ, for which reason “their doctrine is as baneful
 as that of the Anabaptists”; they “make of us Jews or Turks, as though
 we had never been baptised.”

 Luther’s persistent and obtrusive exploitation of his legend in his
 controversies must not be lost to sight.

 In his new-found zeal he not only as a rule passes too confidently
 from the _I_ (_I_ did so and so) to the _we_, or _they_, the better
 to clap the blame attaching to himself on the monks in general, the
 Pope and all the Papists, and then to conclude with the praise of the
 new Evangel, but—and this reveals even more plainly the origin of the
 invention,—he also follows the reverse order, speaking first of the
 New Evangel, then of the senseless martyrdom endured by all the monks
 with their works, and, lastly, of his own personal experiences, as
 though they had been necessarily implied in his earlier premisses.

 _I_ cruelly disciplined my body, he says, and goes on: “_They_ plagued
 and tormented themselves”; for all that, “did they find Christ? Christ
 says: ‘You shall die in your sins.’ To this they came.” “The Pope,
 too, labours and seeks,” to find what Christ is; “but never will he
 find it.” All this leads to the conclusion: “But now God has given His
 Grace, so that every town and thorp has the Gospel.”[790]

 Above we heard him speak of the “quagmire” in which he was sunk;
 in the same connection he remarks: “_We_ wore out the body with
 fasting,” etc., “and some even went crazy through it.” Then follows
 the inference: “And, at last, _we_ lost our very souls.” For, to our
 “great and notable injury,” _we_ were made to feel “in our anxious and
 troubled conscience” what it means “to try to become pious by works
 and so to redeem ourselves from sin.” “_We_ would gladly have had a
 cheerful conscience,” but “it was all of no use, and _we_ naturally
 became more and more downhearted about sin and death, so that no folk
 more unhappy are to be found on earth than the priestlings, monks and
 nuns who are wrapped up in their works.” “The more _they_ do, the
 worse things fare with them.” But, since my doctrine has come into
 the world, people have unlearnt their faintheartedness: “_We_ run to
 the Man Who is called Christ and say: Yes indeed, we must take it
 from the Man without any merit whatsoever [on our part].… He gives me
 freely that for which formerly I had to pay a high price. He gives me,
 without any works or merit, that for which formerly I had to stake
 body, strength and health.”[791]

His supposed experiences as a monk are even made to do service in his
interpretation of Holy Scripture. In order to understand the Scriptures,
so he argues, deep inward experience is called for. This he maintained
when withstanding the fanatics and their system of illuminism. Here he
actually carries back the beginning of his own experience to his convent

Already in the convent, so he declares, he had been compelled to bow to
the idol of scepticism, because he, and all the rest, knew nothing of any
real faith in the Gospel. Far less had he learned to pray Evangelically.

 “That Christ was a mystery, as St. Paul says, I looked upon formerly,
 when I had to submit to being called a Doctor of Holy Scripture, as a
 lying statement which I very well understood. But now that, praise be
 to God, I have once more become a poor student of Holy Writ, and that,
 the longer I live, the less I know of it, I begin to see the marvel of
 such sayings, and find by experience that they must necessarily remain
 mysteries.… Our experience must bear witness to this, how amply, fully
 and clearly we now possess this same Word of Christ.”[792] But, by the
 Pope, it was “gruesomely murdered.”[793]

 Of the Saints of their Order the monks made their God, and of their
 miracles they made their Gospel. “For know you this, that I, Dr.
 Martin Luther, who am now living and write this, was also one of
 the crowd who were forced to believe and worship such things [lying
 fables]. And had anyone been so bold as to doubt one whit of it, or
 to raise a finger against it, he would have gone to the stake or to
 some other evil end.”[794] That the latter was an exaggeration and the
 merest invention Luther was perfectly well aware.

 He also speaks untruthfully of the manner of prayer in the convent.
 That he himself, when once he had fallen away from his vocation, no
 longer prayed in a right spirit is very likely. He, however, says:
 “I and all the others had not the right conception” (of prayer);
 it was no true “raising of the heart to God because we fled from
 God (‘_fugiebamus Deum_’).… We only prayed ‘conditionally’ and
 ‘hypothetically,’ not ‘categorically.’” This he said in 1537,
 admitting, however, with regard to his own then family prayers,
 that they “were not so fervent, because he was always forced to
 protest,” i.e. to pour out his anger against the Papists; but, “in the
 congregation as a whole, it comes from the heart and also serves its

 His wilful misrepresentation of the truth becomes more pronounced,
 when, in the exploitation of the legend, he seeks to moderate the
 monks’ practices of penance and mortification—with the help of Terence
 and Aristotle.

 In his Commentary on Genesis he complains: “The religious life of the
 monk is so crooked that no exception (‘_epikia_’) is allowed, nor any
 moderation. Hence it is all wickedness and unrighteousness. No heed is
 paid to the object of the Law, or to charity.… And yet what Terence
 says is still true: ‘_summum ius esse summam iniuriam_.’ God does not
 wish the body to be put to death, but that it be preserved for each
 one’s calling and for the service of our neighbour.”[796] “Learn,
 therefore, that peace and charity must govern and direct all virtues
 and laws, as Aristotle points out in the 5th book of his Ethics.”[797]

 Now, as a matter of fact, the Rule of the Hermits of St. Augustine,
 with which he was thoroughly conversant, enjoined consideration for
 the health of the individual.[798] Brother Jordan of Saxony, whose
 book was regarded as a standard work in the Order, insists on care
 being taken of the body and only permits penitential exercises “in
 moderation, with the superiors’ approval and without scandal to the

His falsehoods are coupled with the outbursts of fury against Catholicism
into which he was so prone to fall when attempting to describe the
religious life he had forsaken.

 Because we endured so much “pain and such martyrdom of heart and
 conscience” no one must now seek to excuse the Papacy; on the contrary
 “we cannot blame and scold the Pope enough”; “that he should have so
 wasted the beautiful years of my youth, and martyred and plagued my
 conscience is really too bad.” Popery is the “scarlet whore of Rome,
 the arch-whore, the French whore, chock-full of blasphemies”; “we must
 thank our Lord God that He has revealed and discovered to us the Pope
 as the dragon with his head, belly and tail.”[800]—The monks are a
 “devilish crew,” and monkery a “hellish cauldron”; by day and by night
 Christ is to all monks a “hangman and devil”; even the best and most
 learned, and St. Thomas of Aquin himself, were all driven to despair
 and died of the ghostly poison.[801] The last words occur in the work
 he wrote in self-defence against Duke George of Saxony (1533), who had
 twitted him with having committed perjury in breaking his religious

 The thought of his own infidelity and his abuse of the graces of the
 religious life was at times quite enough in itself to fill him with
 fury. At any rate his whole picture of his earlier years is steeped in
 polemics and the spirit of hate.



1. From Religious Licence to Religious Constraint

_Freedom as the Watchword_

In the early days of his public protest against the olden Church, when
Luther proclaimed the “universal priesthood of all Christians,” there
could as yet be no question of any compulsion in matters of doctrine,
seeing that he expressly conceded to the Christian congregations the
right and power to weigh all doctrines and “to set up or send adrift
their teachers and soul-herds.” Every Christian, so he wrote, who saw
that a true teacher was lacking, was taught and consecrated by God as a
priest and was also bound, “under pain of the loss of his soul and of
incurring the Divine displeasure, to teach the Word of God.”[802] It
is not necessary after all we have already said[803] to point out how
impossible it is to square such far-reaching concessions to freedom with
any idea of a positive body of doctrine. The concessions may, however,
have appealed to him particularly because he himself was disposed to
claim the utmost freedom in respect of the dogmas of Catholicism. In
those days he was delighted to hear himself extolled as the champion
of freedom and the right of private judgment. The interests of his
party made such extravagant toleration commendable, for any attempt at
compulsion in doctrinal matters, particularly at the beginning, would
have lost him many friends. He was also anxious that it should be said of
the new Church that it had spread of its own accord and only owing to the
power of the Word.

 In the sermon he preached at Erfurt in 1522 in support of the change
 of religion in that town he had declared, that every Christian, thanks
 to his kingly priesthood, was an “image of Christ” and a “cleric,” and
 “able to judge of all things”; to his decision, based on the Word of
 Christ, “the Pope and all his followers were subject”; “he judges all
 things and is judged of none.”[804]

 Even two years later, in words proclaiming universal freedom of
 belief, he had dissuaded the Saxon Princes from taking violent
 measures against the fanatics: “Let the spirits fall upon each other
 and clash!” What cannot stand must in any case succumb in the fight,
 and only those who fight rightly are assured of the crown. “Just let
 them preach as they please!”[805]

 In 1525 he told Carlstadt and the Sacramentarians that each one was
 free to follow his own conscience and to question the Sacrament or
 refuse to receive it.[806] This agrees with his statement of 1521: “No
 one must be forced into the faith, but the Gospel must be set before
 everyone and all be admonished to believe, yet left free to obey or
 not. All the Sacraments must be free to everyone.”[807]

Luther registered a formal protest against the ancient right of
proceeding against heretics by means of temporal penalties, particularly
that of death. “To burn heretics is against the will of the Holy Ghost,”
so he declared in 1518 and again in 1520.[808] In 1520 he said: “Heretics
must be overcome by argument, not by fire.”[809]

Most of what he was to say subsequently on the question of public
toleration refers to the bearing of the authorities, especially towards
the Anabaptists and Zwinglians. That he himself, however, and every
follower of his Evangel, were bound to regard all opinions which diverged
from his own as godless heresies and brand them as such, that he had
never doubted from the moment he had discovered his new Evangel. In
accordance with this he proceeds to demand more and more strongly of the
“heretics” within the pale unconditional acceptance of all the articles
of faith.[810]

What were the authorities to do faced by teachings so divergent? In 1523,
in a writing indeed intended mainly for the Catholic rulers and opponents
of his doctrine, Luther is decidedly quite against any interference on
the part of the authorities: “To resist heretics, that is the bishops’
duty to whom this office is committed, not the princes’; for heresy can
never be overborne by a strong hand.… Here God’s Word must fight.”[811]
In April, 1525, in the midst of the Peasant War, in his “Ermanunge,” he
enunciates, not without some thought of his personal ends, this general
principle—“Yes, the authorities must not oppose what each one chooses to
believe and teach, whether it be Gospel or lie; it is enough that they
hinder the preaching of feud and lawlessness.”[812]

Boehmer justly points out, that Luther’s standpoint and doctrine as a
whole, essentially spelt not only “unfettered freedom of teaching, but
also entire freedom of worship.”

Meanwhile, however, Luther had already repeatedly urged those in power,
especially his own sovereign, to do their supposed duty, and back up the
new Evangel by their authority and by forbidding Catholic worship, the
Mass and Catholic sermons.

In what follows we shall deal with Luther’s behaviour towards the
Catholics, as distinguished from his attitude towards sectarians within
his own camp.

_Intolerance Towards Catholics in Theory and Practice_

We should be making a serious mistake were we to judge of Luther’s
tolerance towards the olden religion from his statements above on behalf
of freedom. In Protestant literature, even to the present day, such a
one-sided view has found a place, though it has long since been rejected
by clear-sighted historians of that faith. In the course of the above
narrative instances have been met with repeatedly of Luther’s intolerance
in theory and practice with regard to those who thought differently. Here
we shall refer concisely to various details already set on record and
then draw some new facts and utterances from the abundant store bearing
on the matter in hand.

 It was “his duty to oppose false teachers,” Luther had written to his
 Elector on May 8, 1522, of the Canons of Altenburg.[813] In the same
 way, with much storming, he had insisted that the secular power should
 make an end of Catholic worship in the collegiate church of Wittenberg.

 From the standpoint of his principles it is rather remarkable that,
 when the persecuted Canons of Wittenberg appealed to the Elector’s
 authority, Luther retorted: “What has the Elector to do with us in
 such things?”[814] and that, later, in one of his sermons, he boldly
 replied to their objections in law: “What care we about the Elector?
 He commands only in worldly matters.”[815] In making a stand against
 the celebration of Mass at Wittenberg he had frankly declared: “It
 is the duty of the authorities to resist and to punish such public
 blasphemy,” just as they are bound to punish the blasphemies uttered
 in the streets by godless men. The Elector and his Councillors were
 quite aware of the contradictions involved in Luther’s teaching.
 Hence, at the Prince’s instance, the Court pointed out to him on Nov.
 24, 1524, that “he himself preached that the Word should be left to
 fight its own way, and that this it would do in its own good time, so
 God willed”; he ought himself to be the first “to practise what he
 taught and preached.”[816] In spite of this Luther, soon after, was
 successful in violently making a clean sweep of the Catholic Mass at

 The theory that the Evangelical ruler must use force to root out
 Catholic worship was proclaimed by the Court chaplain Spalatin, a
 man “standing altogether under Luther’s influence, and who, as a
 rule, merely voiced his views”;[818] this he did in a letter of May
 1, 1525, where he cites the prescriptions of the Mosaic law (Deut.
 vii.). According to this the secular authorities are bound “by the Law
 of God to abrogate idolatrous and blasphemous worship”; any further
 toleration on the part of the Elector of “idolatry” in his lands would
 be a great sin; on the other hand it would be a “great, consoling and
 Christian work” were he “to put the Christian bit in the mouth of
 all the clergy.” “Ah, that would indeed be a noble work!”[819] To the
 successor of the then Elector who died shortly after this, Spalatin
 wrote on Oct. 1, 1525: “Dr. Martin also says, that Your Electoral
 Highness ought in no way to suffer anyone to proceed any longer with
 the unchristian ceremonies, or to set them up again”;[820] on Jan.
 10, 1526, he, together with two Altenburg preachers, backed up the
 petition to the Elector for the extirpation of “idolatry” by pointing
 to the example of the pious kings of the Jews.[821] At Altenburg and
 elsewhere such exhortations were crowned all too speedily with success.

“A secular ruler,” Luther himself wrote to the Elector Johann on Feb. 9,
1526, “must not permit his underlings to be led into strife and discord
by contumacious preachers, for this may issue in uproar and sedition, but
in each locality there must be but one kind of preaching.”[822]

On such grounds, however, Protestantism itself might just as well have
been denied a hearing, seeing that it had come to disturb the peace, the
“one kind of preaching” and the one faith. The princes, however, spurred
on by their theologians, seized only too eagerly on this principle, using
it in favour of the innovations. The Elector Johann declared as early as
Feb. 31, 1526, that he had “graciously taken note of the Memorandum” and
would, “for the future, conduct himself in such matters as beseemed a
Christian”;[823] and he kept his word.

The intolerance shown to Catholics and their systematic oppression in
Saxony stands in blatant contrast with the claim made, that Luther by
his preaching had won religious freedom for the German lands. Banishment
was the punishment incurred by those who chose to remain steadfast in
their attachment to the Catholic faith. Thus, in 1527, it was expressly
laid down in the regulations for the Saxon Visitation, that: “Whoever is
suspected in the matter of the Sacraments, or of any other error in the
faith” is to “be summoned and questioned, and, if necessary, witnesses
against him are also to be called.” “Such an ‘inquisition’ is also to
be instituted by the Visitors in the case of the laity.”[824] If they
refuse to abjure their “errors” they are to be given a certain time to
sell their possessions and to quit the land, with a “warning of the
severe penalties” with which any ecclesiastic or layman will be visited
who is again found in the country.[825] Bearing in mind the difficulty
emigration presented at that time, particularly in the case of the people
on the land, one can appreciate the injustice of the measure.

 Luther and his followers frequently enough appealed to theological
 grounds in support of such measures, above all to the Old Testament
 enactments against blasphemers and contemners of religion. One-sidedly
 they simply applied to their own day and to their own controversial
 purposes, the exceptional regulations of the Mosaic dispensation which
 sought to preserve the religion of the chosen people in the midst of a
 heathen world. In this connection Luther appeals to Moses without the
 slightest hesitation though, as a rule, armed with the New Testament,
 he is ready enough to assail the Mosaic Law; he also set up the pious
 “Kings of Juda and Israel” as patterns. Wenceslaus Link did much the
 same when he summoned the Altenburg Town-Council to make a stand
 against Catholicism and abrogate the “lies and fond inventions of the
 idolaters”;[826] nor did Spalatin hesitate to point out to the Saxon
 Elector the commendation the pious rulers of the Jews had earned from
 God for their bloody repression of idolatry.[827]

 Another ground for compulsion, to which Spalatin gives expression in
 a letter to the Elector, was, that: They must not forget how “many a
 poor man would more readily come to the Evangel, were that wretched
 system [of Popery and its idolatry] no longer in existence.” In other
 words, were Catholic worship rooted out, Catholics would more easily
 be won over to the Evangel.[828] It was on such a standpoint as this
 that the Augsburg declaration of 1530 made by the theologians of
 the Saxon Electorate was based. The Emperor had demanded from the
 Protesting Princes toleration of the Catholic worship for those of
 their subjects who chose to remain Catholic. The theologians thereupon
 expressed themselves against such an arrangement, and urged that, in
 this case, Lutheran proselytism would be hampered: “Were it to be
 said that the rulers were not to hinder it, though the preachers were
 to preach against it, it is clear of what [small] good would be all
 the teaching and preaching of the ministers.”[829]

In the Duchy of Saxony, as everybody knows, the introduction of
Lutheranism was opposed by Duke George. His severity he justified by
appealing to the thousand-year-old law of the one great world-wide
Church, the Church of the Apostles, of the Fathers and martyrs and
Œcumenical Councils and great missioners of all ages, a law, moreover,
sanctioned by the Empire. When, in 1533, a number of Lutherans were
banished from the Duchy[830] Luther seized upon this as a pretext for
controversy. Roundly scolding the “Ducal tyrant,” he declared this
sentence of banishment to be “a devilish and criminal thing.” The
authority of the sovereign, so he now wrote, again contradicting himself,
“only extends over life and property in secular matters.”[831] But, after
George’s death in 1539 and the accession of his brother Henry, Luther’s
tone changed, for Henry held Lutheran views. In a letter he sent about
that time to the Elector Johann Frederick, he is angry because more than
500 of the Saxon clergy, all of them “venomous Papists,” had not yet been
driven out. “For the sake of the poor souls, many thousands of whom live
neglected under such parsons,” he urges the Elector to do his best “to
help and promote a Visitation.”[832] He demands that Duke Henry, as the
sovereign and protector of the bishopric of Meissen, should “put a damper
on the blasphemous idolatry” as best he could, for “the Princes who are
able to do so should at once abolish Baal and all idolatry.”[833] He also
wished that the bishop of Meissen, though a Prince of the Empire, should
“at once bow his head to the Evangel”; in this matter there is no need
for “much disputing.”

It was but natural that such intolerance often led to scenes of
brutality; such was the case in the cathedral of Meissen, where the
splendid tomb of Benno, the saintly bishop of Meissen, was hewn in
pieces, and the statue of the patron, which was an object of veneration
to all the people, was set up headless at the church door as a
laughing-stock for the Lutherans.[834]

Hand in hand with such legal coercion, which he both approved and
furthered, went Luther’s declaration—which, though seeming to promote
freedom, really constituted a new encroachment on the rights of
conscience—viz. that: No one was to be forced to believe in his heart,
but that “the people were to be driven to the sermons for the sake of the
Ten Commandments, so that they might at least learn the outward works
of obedience.”[835] “It would be grand,” so he told Margrave George of
Brandenburg, “if your Serene Highness on the strength of your secular
authority enjoined on both parsons and parishioners under pain of
penalties the teaching and learning of the Catechism, in order, that, as
they are Christians and wish to be called such, they may, please God, be
compelled to learn and to know what a Christian ought to know, whether
he believes it or not.”[836] At his instance attendance at the sermons
was imposed on all people in the Saxon Electorate under pain of penalty,
whatever they might think of the preaching.[837]

 God Himself has abrogated “all authority and power where it is
 opposed to the Evangel,”[838] so, as early as 1522, ran one of the
 principles he used for the violent suppression of Catholic worship. Of
 the Catholic foundations he says in the same year: “If the preacher
 does not make men pious (i.e. does not preach according to Luther’s
 doctrine), the goods are no longer his.”[839] Violent interference
 with the Mass was, according to him, no revolt when it came from the
 established authorities.[840] “It is the duty of the sovereign, as
 ruler and brother Christian, to drive away the wolves,”[841] and those
 who do not preach the Evangel are “wolves”; it is “an urgent duty
 to drive away the wolf from the sheepfold.”[842] The Pope himself,
 however, deserves the worst fate, for he is the “werwolf who devours
 everything. Just as all seek to kill the werwolf, and very rightly,
 so is it a duty to suppress the Pope by force.”[843]

 “Not only the spiritual but also the secular power must yield to the
 Evangel, whether cheerfully or otherwise.”[844]

 Hence it follows that the salvation of his soul requires of a
 Christian prince the prohibition of the Popish worship.[845] If it is
 his duty to resist the Turk far more must he oppose the Pope: “What
 harm does the Turk do?” It is clear that, “as regards both body and
 soul the government of the Pope is ten times worse than that of the

 “Whoever wishes to live amongst the burghers must keep the laws of the
 borough and not dishonour or abuse them, else he must pack and go.”
 The authorities are not to “allow themselves and their people to be
 forced into idolatry and falsehood.”[847] Hence “let the authorities
 step in and try the case and whichever party does not agree with
 Scripture, let him be ordered to hold his tongue.”[848] The Prince
 must behave like David, and hold that, as regards “God and the service
 of His Sovereignty everything must be equal and made to intermingle,
 whether it be termed spiritual or secular,” being “kneaded together
 into one cake.”[849] How many false teachers had David, his model, not
 been forced “to expel or in other ways stop their mouths.”[850]

 It is not, however, enough to impose silence on them. They must—so
 Luther began to teach about 1530—be treated as public blasphemers and
 punished accordingly:[851] They “must not be suffered but must be
 banished as open blasphemers.” Thus must we act with those who “teach
 that Christ did not die for our sins but that each one must atone
 for them on his own; for this also is a public blasphemy against the
 Gospel.”[852] Hundreds of times does he charge the Catholics with
 thus robbing the saving death of Christ of all significance by their
 doctrine of good works.

These intolerant principles, which could not but lead to persecution,
were made even worse by the abuse and invective which Luther publicly
showered on the representatives of Catholicism. He taught the mob to
call them “blasphemous ministers of the Babylonian whore,” knaves,
bloodhounds, hypocrites and murderers. In the Articles of Schmalkalden
which found a place among the Symbolic Books, he introduces the Pope as
the “dragon” who leads astray the whole world, as the “real Antichrist”
and as the “devil himself” whom it was impossible to “worship as Master
or as God,” for which reason he would not suffer the Pope as “Head or
Lord”; they must say to him: “May God rebuke thee, Satan!” (Zach. iii.
2).[853] Among his monstrous caricatures of the Pope he also included
one depicting the “well-deserved reward of the Most Satanic Pope and his
Cardinals,” as the inscription runs below. Here the Pope is seen on the
gallows with three Cardinals; their tongues which have been torn out by
the root are nailed to the gibbet and devils are scurrying off with their
souls. The picture is embellished with the following doggerel:

    “Did Pope and Card’nal here below
    Their due reward receive,
    Then would their tongues to gibbets cleave,
    As our draughtsman’s lines do show.”[854]

_Threats of Bloody Reprisals against Papists, Priestlings and Monks_

At the right moment let us fall upon the Turks “and the priests and smite
them dead!” Only then shall we be successful against the Turks! So runs
one of Luther’s sayings in the Table-Talk.[855]

“Oh, that our Right Reverend Cardinals, Popes and Roman Legates had more
kings of England to put them to death!”[856] This he wrote in 1535, after
the execution of Thomas More and John Fisher by Henry VIII.

As early as 1520 he had exclaimed against Prierias: If thieves are
punished by the rope, murderers by the sword and heretics by fire,
why not proceed against “these noxious teachers of destruction—these
Cardinals, Popes and the whole swarm of the Roman Sodom, who are ever
ceaselessly destroying the Church of God—with every kind of weapon, and
wash our hands in their blood?”[857]

 Towards the end of his life, in 1545, he showed that he was still
 faithful to such views in spite of all the changes which had come
 over some of his other leading ideas. Let “the Pope, the Cardinals
 and the whole scoundrelly train of his idolatrous, Popish Holiness
 be seized,” so he declares in “Das Bapstum vom Teuffel gestifft,” and
 put to the death they deserve, either on the gallows to which their
 tongues may be nailed, or by drowning the “blasphemous knaves” in the
 Sea at Ostia.[858]

 “It pleases me,” he wrote on Dec. 2, 1536, to King Christian of
 Denmark, “that Your Majesty has extirpated the bishops who never cease
 to persecute God’s Word and to worry the secular power; I shall do my
 best to explain and vindicate your action.”[859] At Wittenberg, as we
 see from a letter of a Wittenberg theologian, the report was current
 that the Danish king had “struck off the heads of six bishops.”[860]
 This false account “seems to have been credited by Luther.”[861] If
 this be so, then it seems that he was perfectly ready to justify so
 cruel a deed. The truth is, that, King Christian, after having had the
 bishops arrested (Aug. 20, 1536), released them as soon as they had
 promised to resign their bishoprics.

 In the summer of 1540 Luther had it that the Pope and the monks were
 to blame for the many fires in Northern and Central Germany. “If this
 turns out true, then there will be nothing left for us but to take up
 arms in common against all the monks and shavelings; I too shall join
 in, for it is right to slay the miscreants like mad dogs.”[862] The
 worst of the lot, according to him, were the Franciscans. “If I had
 all the Franciscan friars in one house,” he said a few days later, “I
 would set fire to it, for, in the monks the good seed is gone, and
 only the chaff is left. To the fire with them!”[863]

No one, in the least familiar with Luther’s writings, will be so foolish
as to believe that it was really his intention to kill the Catholic
clergy and monks. His bloodthirsty demands were but the violent outbursts
of his own deep inward intolerance. They were called forth occasionally
by other alleged misdeeds of Popery, of its advocates and friends, for
instance, by the burdensome taxes imposed by the Church, by her use
of excommunication, and by the action taken against the Lutherans,
particularly by the resolutions of the Diets for the suppression of
Protestantism. Nor must we forget that the religious dissensions grew
into a sort of permanent warfare and that war tends to produce effusions
such as would be unthinkable in times of peace; nor was the warlike
feeling a monopoly of the Lutheran side.

But who was it who was responsible for having provoked the war?

Occasional counsels to patience and endurance, to self-restraint and
consideration were indeed given by Luther from time to time[864] (they
have been diligently collected by his modern supporters), but, generally
speaking, they are drowned in the din of his controversial invective.

What was to be expected when the people, who were already profoundly
excited by the social conditions, were told: “Better were it that all
bishops were put to death, and all foundations and convents rooted
out than that one soul should be seduced” by Popish error.[865] “What
better do they deserve than to be stamped out by a great revolt?”[866]
If his reforms were rejected then it was to be wished that monasteries
and foundations “were all reduced to one great heap of ashes.”[867]
“A grand destruction of all the monasteries, etc., would be the best
reformation!”[868] What wonder “were the Princes, the nobles and the
laity to hit Pope, bishop, priest and monk on the head and drive them out
of the land?”[869] The “Rhine would hardly suffice to drown” the many
“bull-mongers,” Cardinals and “knaves.”[870]

_The Death-Penalty Sectarians within the New Fold_

In the above we have dealt with Luther’s intolerance in theory and
practice towards the Catholic Church. It remains for us to look at his
attitude towards the sects within his own camp.

The question, how far they were to be tolerated, or whether it would be
better forcibly to suppress them was first brought home to Luther by
the Anabaptist movement under Thomas Münzer. Sure of the upper hand,
Luther decided, as we know, at the end of July, 1524, to advise the Saxon
Princes to leave the Anabaptists in peace so far as their doctrines were
concerned. “Let them preach as they please,” was his advice, for “there
‘must needs be heresies’” (1 Cor. xi. 19).[871] He explained to Lazarus
Spengler of Nuremberg on Feb. 4, 1525, that the Anabaptists were not
to be punished, particularly with “bodily penalties,” because, in his
opinion, they were no real blasphemers, but merely “like the Turks or
straying Christians.”[872] In May of the same year he showed himself
disposed to universal toleration. “The authorities are not to hinder
anyone from teaching and believing what he pleases”;[873] a principle
which, as we have shown above (p. 239), he himself had contravened in
practice as early as 1522, and was finally to set aside altogether.

As for the Anabaptists, in 1527 Luther was not yet in favour of the
“putting to death” and bloody “rooting out” of these sectarians. In 1528
he even taught in his exposition of the Parable of the Good Seed and
the Tares that “we are not to fight the fanatics with the sword.”[874]
What made him hesitate to advise the putting to death of these heretics
was, as he told his friend Wenceslaus Link of Nuremberg in 1528, the
apprehension that this might lead to abuses; he feared lest, in the time
to come, we might turn the sword against the best “among us.”[875] But
without a doubt he approved of the Edict of the Elector Johann (Jan. 17,
1528) which proscribed the writings of the Anabaptists, Sacramentarians
and fanatics throughout the land—if indeed the Edict itself may not be
traced directly to Luther, as Zwingli suspected.[876] In 1528 it also
seemed to him right to decree the penalty of banishment in the case of
the Anabaptists.[877]

When, however, the danger had become more evident, which the Anabaptist
heresy spelt both to the land-frith and the foundations of Christianity,
not to speak of the Lutheran teaching, Luther adopted a sterner line of

His views altered in 1530. After a Mandate had been issued in the Saxon
Electorate against the “secret preachers and conventicles, Anabaptists
and other baneful novel teaching,” six Anabaptists were executed early in
the year at Reinhardsbrunn in the duchy of Saxe-Gotha. The discussion
which took place on this event gave Melanchthon occasion to declare in
Feb., 1530, that, “even though the Anabaptists do not advocate anything
seditious or openly blasphemous” it was, “in his opinion, the duty of
the authorities to put them to death.”[878] In the spring of 1530, with
the Anabaptists in his mind, Luther, in his commentary on Ps. lxxxii.
dealt with the question whether the authorities “ought to forbid strange
teachings or heresies and punish them, seeing that no one should or can
force men into the Faith.”[879]

 His detailed reply to the question which it was then impossible any
 longer to blink, centres round the distinction he makes of two kinds
 of heretics, viz. those who were seditious, and those who merely
 “teach the opposite of some clear article of faith.” Of the latter,
 i.e. the non-revolutionary, he says expressly: “These also must not
 be allowed but must be punished like public blasphemers.” Of those,
 who, though holding no office, force themselves in as preachers, and
 thus imperil the faith and lead to risings, he writes, that their oath
 of allegiance obliged the burghers not to listen to them but rather
 to report them either to their parson or to the authorities. If such
 a one will not desist “then let the authorities hand over knaves
 of that ilk to their proper master, to wit Master Hans” (i.e. the
 hangman).[880] As for those Anabaptists who preached open revolt, they
 had, in his opinion, by that very fact incurred the penalties of the
 law. At any rate it was not merely on account of their sedition that
 Luther wished to see the Anabaptists punished.

 Another statement of his has come down to us from an outside source.
 Luther’s friend, Lazarus Spengler of Nuremberg, had a little before
 this, on March 17, 1530, sought to secure from Luther, through Veit
 Dietrich, some directions on how to deal with heretics. Dietrich
 verbally obtained from his master the desired instructions and
 promptly sent them to Spengler by letter.[881] They were to the effect
 that not merely the heretics who offend against public order were
 to be punished, but also those who merely do harm to religion, such
 as the Sacramentarians (Zwinglians) and Papists; as they are to be
 looked upon as blasphemers, they cannot be suffered. It is noteworthy,
 that, in Luther’s correspondence in 1530, in a letter from the Coburg
 to Justus Jonas, we find him congratulating himself on the report
 (a false one) of the execution of a certain heretic. On receiving
 the announcement that Johannes Campanus, the anti-Trinitarian, had
 suffered death as a heretic at Liége, Luther wrote: “I learnt this
 with joy” (“_lætus audivi_”).[882]

 Early in October, 1531, agreeably with the Saxon Elector’s Mandate,
 a number of persons suspected of holding Anabaptist views were taken
 to Eisenach for punishment and were there put to the torture; it was
 now judged advisable to obtain a fresh memorandum from the Wittenberg

Accordingly, at the end of 1530, Melanchthon at the instance of the
Electoral Court once more took the matter in hand. He drafted a
memorandum on the duty of the secular authorities in the matter of
religious differences, with particular reference to the Anabaptists.
In it he set forth at length the grounds for a regular system of
coercion by the sword. Luther, too, set his name to the document with
the words: “It pleases me, Martin Luther.” In it the sectarians were
reprobated as blasphemers because they reject “the public preaching
office [the ministry] and teach that men can become holy without any
preaching and ecclesiastical worship.” They ought to be visited with
death by the public authorities whose duty it is to “befriend and uphold
ecclesiastical order”; and in like manner should their adherents and
those whom they have led astray be dealt with, who insist, “that our
baptism and preaching is not Christian and therefore that ours is not the
Church of Christ.”[883] Nevertheless, we can see from the words Luther
adds after his signature that the decision, or at least its severity,
aroused some misgivings in him. He says: “Though it may appear cruel to
punish them by the sword, yet it is even more cruel of them to condemn
the preaching office and not to teach any certain doctrine, to persecute
the true doctrine, and, over and above all this, to seek to destroy the
kingdoms of this world.”

It is quite true that Luther and Melanchthon had an eye on the seditious
character of these sects, yet present-day Protestant theologians are
not justified when they try to explain and excuse their severity on
this ground. On the contrary, as we have already pointed out, the texts
plainly show that they were chiefly concerned with the punishment of
the sectarians’ offences against the faith. This was made the principal
point, as we see in Melanchthon’s memorandum just referred to. He says,
for instance: “Though many Anabaptists do not openly teach any seditious
doctrines,” yet “it was both sedition and blasphemy for them to condemn
the public ministry.” It was therefore the duty of the authorities, above
all “on account of the second commandment of the Decalogue, to uphold the
public ministry” and to take steps against them. If, to boot, they also
taught seditious doctrines then it was “all the easier to judge them,”
as we read in another memorandum of the Wittenberg theologians (1536) of
which Melanchthon was also the draughtsman.[884]

To N. Paulus belongs the credit of having thrown light on the true state
of affairs, for, even previous to the publication of his “Protestantismus
und Toleranz im 16 Jahrhundert” (1911) he had discussed Luther’s attitude
both in his shorter writing, “Luther und die Gewissensfreiheit” (1905)
and in various articles in reviews. After him, the Protestant historian
P. Wappler took up the same views, particularly in his “Die Stellung
Kursachsens … zur Täuferbewegung” (1910). In the “Neues Archiv für
sächsische Geschichte” (1911) O. A. Hecker also quite agrees in rejecting
the opinion of certain recent Protestant theologians, who, as he says,
“all try to exonerate Luther from any hand in the executions for heresy,
though they can only do so by dint of forced interpretations, as Paulus
pointed out.”[885]

 Between 1530 and 1532 Luther’s intolerance comes yet more to the fore;
 it was indeed his way, when once he had made any view his own, to
 urge it in the strongest terms. Thus, at the end of 1531, he again
 alludes to Master Hans: “Those who force themselves in without any
 office or commission are not worthy of being called false prophets but
 are vagrants and knaves, who ought to be handed over to the tender
 mercies of Master Hans.”[886] “It is not allowed that each one should
 proceed according to his own ideas and set up his own doctrine and
 fancy himself a sage, and dictate to, and find fault with, others.”
 “This I call judging of doctrine, which is one of the greatest and
 most scatheful vices on earth, whence indeed all the fanatics have
 sprung.” The two last sentences occur in his sermons on St. Matthew’s

 Still more striking is the demand he makes of Duke Albert of Prussia
 concerning the Zwinglians; here his zeal against these heretics
 seems to blind him, for his arguments recoil against himself,
 though apparently he does not notice it. Every Prince, he says in a
 psychologically remarkable passage, who does not wish “most gruesomely
 to burden his conscience” must cast out the Zwinglians from his land,
 because, by their denial of the presence of Christ in the Supper, they
 set up a doctrine “contrary to the traditional belief held everywhere
 and to the unanimous testimony of all.”

 But how many doctrines had not Luther himself set up contrary to the
 ancient faith and to the unanimous testimony of all? It was, so he
 goes on, “both dangerous and terrible” to “believe anything contrary
 to the unanimous testimony, belief and teaching of the whole of the
 Holy Christian Church, which, from the beginning and for more than
 1500 years, had been universally received throughout the world.” This
 was tantamount to “not believing in the Christian Church at all, and
 not merely to condemn the whole of the Holy Christian Church as a
 damned heretic, but also Christ Himself together with all the Apostles
 and Prophets, who had formulated the Article which we now recite, ‘I
 believe one Holy Christian Church,’ and borne such powerful witness to

“The worldly authorities bear the sword,” so Luther said in his
Home-Postils, “with orders to prevent all scandal, so that it may not
intrude and do harm. But the most dangerous and horrible scandal is
where false doctrine and worship finds its way in.… For this reason the
Christian authorities must be on the look-out for such scandal.… They
must resist it stoutly and realise that nothing else will do save they
make use of the sword and of the full extent of their power in order to
preserve the doctrine pure and the worship clean and undefiled.”

“Then everything will go well.”[889]

We have also his exposition of Ps. ci. (1534), where there occurs the
eulogy of David, the “scourge of heretics.”[890]

How he was in the habit of dealing with the Sacramentarians at a later
date the following instance may serve to show, which at the same time
reveals his coarseness and his reliance on the secular authorities. To
Luther’s doctrine that Christ was bodily present, not only in the Host,
but throughout the world, the Sacramentarians had rejoined: Good, then we
shall partake of Him everywhere, in “spoon, plate and beer-can!”[891] To
this Luther’s reply ran: See “what graceless swine we abandoned Germans
for the most part are, lacking both manners and reason, who, when we
hear of God, esteem it a fairy tale.… All seek to do their business into
it and to wipe their back parts on it. The temporal authorities ought
to punish such blasphemers.… God knows I write of such high things most
unwillingly because they must needs be set before such dogs and swine.…
Hearken you, you pig, dog, or fanatic, or whatever brainless donkey you
may be: Though Christ’s body is everywhere, yet you will not be able to
lay hold of it so easily.… Begone to your pigsty and wallow in your own
muck! … there is a distinction between His Presence and your laying hold
of Him; He is free and nowhere bound,” etc.—Luther himself was, however,
very far from making clear what the distinction was. After much else not
to the point he concludes: “Oh, how few there are, even among the highly
learned, who have ever meditated so profoundly on this article concerning

       *       *       *       *       *

The treatment of the sectarians in the Saxon Electorate was in keeping
with the theories and counsels of Luther and his theologians.

Relentless measures were taken against them on account of their deviation
from the faith even when no charge of sedition was forthcoming. On Jan.
15, 1532, the Elector Johann admitted the following as his guiding
principle for interfering: “It is the duty of the authorities to punish
such teachers and seducers, with God and with a good conscience.… For
were heretics and contemners of the Word of God not punished we should
be acting against the prescribed laws which we are in every way bound to

 As early as 1527 twelve men and one woman, who had received baptism at
 each other’s hands, were beheaded.[894] Similar executions took place
 in 1530, 1532 and 1538.[895]

 In 1539 the members of the Wittenberg High Court wrote concerning
 three Anabaptists then in prison at Eisenach: “If they do not recant
 or allow themselves to be reduced to obedience, it will be right and
 proper that they be put to death by the sword, on account of such
 blasphemy and because they have allowed themselves to be baptised
 elsewhere.” Of any seditious teaching there was no question in these

 One Anabaptist, Fritz Erbe, who had only gone astray in matters
 of faith, was kept in jail from 1530 to 1541, when death set him
 free.[897] Hans Sturm and Peter Pestel, both of Zwickau, were harmless
 sectarians without any seditious leanings; the first was put in prison
 in 1529 and died there; the latter was beheaded on June 16, 1536.[898]
 Hans Steinsdorf and Hans Hamster, were condemned to death in 1538 as
 “stubborn blasphemers.”[899] In the ’forties Duke Henry of Saxony
 caused an Anabaptist to be burnt as a heretic at Dresden.[900]

The Saxon lawyer, Matthias Coler (†1587), taught in his “_Decisiones
Germaniæ_,” that, according to the laws of Saxony those were to be
punished by death at the stake (“_de iure saxonico cremandi veniunt_”)
who openly denied either the Divinity of Christ, or other important
truths of faith; before being burnt they were, however, to be questioned
under torture concerning their confederates in order that the land might
be purged of such wicked men.[901]

In thus interfering the sovereigns were well aware that they had the
warm official approval of Luther and his fellows. To this, for instance,
the Elector Johann Frederick appealed in 1533 when milder measures were
suggested. He referred to the memorandum which his father had obtained
from the Wittenberg theologians and lawyers concerning the execution of
the Anabaptists; their decision had been, “that His Highness might with
a good conscience cause those charged with Anabaptism to be punished by
death,” and, soon after, several of them were executed.[902] The person
who had thought otherwise, and to whom this vindication was accordingly
addressed, was no less a man than Landgrave Philip of Hesse.

Luther himself, too, had been obliged on various occasions to justify the
severity of his opinions.

_Luther’s Self-justification and Excuses_

Philip of Hesse, though he treated Catholics with the utmost intolerance,
refused to hear of punishing the Anabaptists with death unless indeed
they were the cause of public disturbances. “We cannot find it in our
conscience to put anyone to death by the sword on account of religion
unless we have sufficient proof of other crimes as well.” Such was the
declaration he made in 1532 to Elector Johann of Saxony, and which
he emphasised in 1545 to the latter’s successor: “Were all those to
be executed who are not of our faith what then should we do to the
Papists, to say nothing of the Jews, who err even more greatly than the

Luther was apparently far surer of his case. He is as confident,
subsequent to 1530, in drawing from Scripture the principles for the
treatment of the heretics as he is in defending them against the obvious
objections so often brought against them.

Luther had it that the line of action for which he stood was not coercion
to any definite religious practices. “Our Princes,” so he sought to
reassure himself as early as 1525, “do not force people to the faith and
to the Evangel but merely set a term to outward abominations.”[904]

The Elector, as was to be expected, expressed himself likewise: “Though
it is not our intention to prescribe to anyone what he must hold or
believe, yet, in order to guard against harmful uprisings and other
disorders, we refuse to recognise or permit any sects or schisms within
our Princedom.”[905]

 Many a one amongst the new Doctors had begun, as a Protestant
 historian of Saxony points out,[906] “to claim for his conscience the
 same right” (as Luther), while “following other paths than Luther
 had trodden” (in his search after God). May not, indeed, must not,
 such a one, so ran the objection, follow his conscience, seeing that
 Luther himself tells us to consult our conscience? Yes, he may, is
 Luther’s reply, but, if he be truthful, then he will admit my plain
 interpretation of the Bible as the right one, for “I have floored and
 overcome all my foes on the sure groundwork of Holy Scripture.”[907]

 Moreover, might not the Princes holding Popish views seize on the
 coercion taught by the Lutherans as a pretext for similar measures
 against the Lutherans in their territories?

 No, replies Luther, they must not do so for they would be committing
 the same sin as the Kings of Israel when they “slew the true
 prophets”; but on account of the injustice of such slaughter, we
 are not to make nought of the law or refrain from stoning the false
 prophets. “Pious authorities will not punish anyone unless they see,
 hear, learn or know for certain that they are blasphemers.”[908]—Even
 should Kaiser Charles come and tell us, that he is convinced that
 “the doctrine of the Papists is true, and that he must therefore, in
 accordance with God’s command, use all his power to extirpate our
 heretical doctrines in his Empire,” we must answer, that: “We know he
 is not certain of this, and, in fact, cannot be certain.”[909]

 But does this not come to much the same as imposing faith by some sort
 of compulsion?

 No, is his answer. “The faith is not thereby forced on anyone, for he
 is free to believe what he pleases. He is only forbidden to indulge
 in that teaching and blaspheming whereby he seeks to rob God and
 Christians of their doctrine and Word, whilst all the while enjoying
 their protection and all temporal advantages. Let him go where there
 are no Christians and have things his way there.”[910]

The severity of his demands is hardly mitigated or excused by the right
he gives people to leave the country. At any rate those who do not see
eye to eye with him must get themselves gone, for, as he frequently
remarks, whoever wishes to dwell among the burghers must not disregard
the laws of the borough.[911]

“By all this, however,” so he says on another occasion, “no one is forced
into the faith but the common man is merely set free from troublesome and
obstinate spirits, and the knavery of the hole-and-corner preachers is
checked.”[912] Thus, if the man who thinks otherwise wishes to lock up
his convictions in his own breast, he is quite free to do so. Within, he
may enjoy the most far-reaching freedom, since no earthly power extends
to his thoughts. The reply of those concerned was, however, obvious;
what right, they asked, had the new religious tribunal to prevent a man
from revealing his convictions and openly living up to them, and was not
the order to keep silence tantamount to a stifling of conscience and to
forcing people to become hypocrites?

Hence, in the ensuing discussions, we find that Luther and his friends
were ever making fresh efforts to meet the objections; in itself this
was a sign of the weakness of the exclusivism adopted by the Lutherans,
in spite of all they had formerly said, as soon as they had succeeded in
winning the favour of the State.

“Some argue,” we read in the memorandum of the Wittenbergers published in
1536, “that the secular authorities have no concern whatever with ghostly
matters. This is going much too far.… The rulers must not only protect
the life and belongings of their underlings, but their highest duty is
to promote the honour of God and to prevent blasphemy and idolatry,”

The memorandum was intended for Philip of Hesse. As Luther was aware that
the Landgrave was loath to proceed to extremities with the Anabaptists,
he added to the memorandum a note of his own. “Seeing that His Serene
Highness the Landgrave reports that certain leaders and teachers of the
Anabaptists … have not kept their promise (viz. to quit the land) Your
Serene Highness may with a good conscience cause them to be punished with
the sword, for this reason also, to wit, that they have not kept their
oath or promise. Such is the rule. Yet Your Serene Highness, needless to
say, may at all times allow justice to be tempered with mercy, according
to the circumstances.”[914]

If meant in earnest the latter recommendation to mercy does the speaker
credit and is the more noteworthy because, in his later years, we do not
often hear him pleading for the heretics. As a rule he is all too intent
on emphasising the wickedness of what he terms “blasphemy and idolatry,”
i.e. of whatever was at variance with his own teaching.

 But what—and this is the main objection—entitles Luther’s doctrine
 to be regarded as the standard of belief? This point Luther usually
 evaded. He says: Those heretics are to be punished “whose teaching
 is at variance with the public articles of the faith which are
 plainly grounded on Scripture and believed throughout the world by
 the whole of Christendom.”[915] “Such articles, common to the whole
 of Christendom, have already been sufficiently tested, examined,
 proved and determined by Scripture and by the confession of the whole
 of Christendom, confirmed by many miracles, sealed by the blood of
 the holy Martyrs, witnessed to and defended by the books of all
 the Doctors and are not now to become the prey of faultfinders or
 cavillers.”[916] A sharp answer, one very much to the point, was given
 by Bullinger of Zürich, who spoke of it as “truly laughable” that his
 opponent should suddenly appeal to the fact “of the Church having so
 long held this.” “If Luther’s argument, based on longstanding usage,
 be admitted, then is Popery quite in the right when it harps on the
 Church and her age. But then the whole of Luther’s own doctrine
 tumbles over, for his teaching is not that which the Roman Church
 has held for so long.”[917]—Nor is it easy to tell which points of
 doctrine Luther, in his elastic fashion, included among the articles
 “clearly founded on Scripture” and held unquestioningly by the whole
 of Christendom. His words occasionally presuppose that all divergent
 doctrines, not only those of the Sacramentarians and Anabaptists, but
 even those of the Papists, were to be punished by the authorities.
 If everyone is to be punished who teaches “that Christ has not died
 for our sins but that each one must himself make satisfaction for
 them,”[918] (a doctrine unjustly foisted on the Papists by Luther),
 or who “condemns the public ministry and draws the people away from
 it,” or who “insists that our baptism and preaching are not Christian
 and therefore that our Church is not the Church of Christ,”[919]
 etc.,—then many Catholics could not but fall victims to the sword of
 the authorities. How often did not Luther designate every specifically
 Catholic doctrine as rank “blasphemy,” and stigmatise every Catholic
 practice as idolatry? Blasphemy and idolatry were, however, according
 to him, to be rooted out by violence. Truly his words gave promise of
 an abundant harvest of persecution.

As a reason of his animus against heretics within his own fold Luther
finally brings forward those personal considerations which are familiar
to all who have followed his controversies.

 His natural foes are those who in their “peculiar wisdom” “seek to
 teach something besides Christ and beyond our preaching.”[920] Hence
 he was fond of insisting that Christ was slaying the Papacy through
 him, and of rejecting all who “make a great pother” and “claim to know
 something new.” They come, and, like Carlstadt, want to “seize upon
 the prize and poach upon my preserves.” Had not Carlstadt come along
 “with the fanatics, Münzer and the Anabaptists, all would have gone
 well with my undertaking.”[921] These men want to “darken the sun of
 the Evangel” so that the world “may forget all that has hitherto been
 taught by us.”[922]

 “They want to have nothing to do with me,” he complains of the
 fanatics, “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 praised.”[923]
 The rupture with the Swiss came about because they “wished to be

 In all these dissensions he finds many a one saying to the Christians:
 “I am your Pope, what care I for Dr. Martin.” And yet he alone had the
 right to call himself the “great Doctor” “to whom God first revealed
 His Word to preach.”[925]

But did not his very self-reliance finally broaden the ideas of the
preacher of coercion? Did not Luther in a sermon preached at Eisleben on
Feb. 7, 1546, as good as repudiate his former exclusivism?

 It is true that this has been confidently asserted by Protestants,
 but the text of this sermon, known only through Aurifaber’s Notes,
 does not justify such an inference.[926] In it the preacher is not
 treating of the attitude of the Christian authorities towards heresy,
 but is only showing how the faithful and the preachers must behave,
 surrounded as they are by wicked folk, by Anabaptists and sectarians.
 The occasion for speaking of this was supplied by the Sunday Gospel of
 the Tares, Matt. xiii. 24-30, which grow up together with the wheat in
 God’s field, and which the Lord wishes to be left undisturbed until
 the Day of Judgment. Hence he explains how this must be understood,
 the local conditions probably supplying him with a particular reason
 for doing so, seeing that, in the County of Mansfeld, there must
 still have been some Catholics and that the Jews stood in favour. The
 greater part of the Sermon on the Tares is devoted to describing the
 passions and lusts which Christians must fight against in their own
 hearts with patience and perseverance. It is only towards the end
 that he speaks of the wickedness rampant in the world. He refutes
 the opinion of those, who “would have a Church in which there is no
 evil but where all are prudent and pious, and pure and holy”; thus
 “the Anabaptists, Münzer and such like, wish to root out and put to
 death everything that is not holy.” Hence “how are we to suffer the
 heretics and yet not to suffer them? How am I to act? If I tear up
 or root out the tares in one place then I spoil the wheat [according
 to the Parable], and the weeds will still grow up again elsewhere.
 Thus if I root out one heretic, yet the same devil-sown seed springs
 up again in ten other places.” Hence we must look to it that we do
 not make matters worse by violence and suppression. “Papists and
 Jews will ever be with us.” “You will not succeed in this world in
 entirely separating the heretics and false Christians from the just.”
 “Look to it that you remain master in your own household; see to it,
 you preachers, parsons and hearers [it is only to these that he is
 addressing himself, not to the State authorities], that heretics and
 seditious men, such as Münzer was, do not rule or dominate; grumble
 in a corner, that indeed they may do, but that they should mount the
 rostrum, get into the pulpit or go up to the altar, that, so far as
 in you lies, you must not allow.” Care must be taken that the “pulpit
 and the Sacrament are kept undefiled.” “By human might and power we
 cannot root them out, or make them different. For, in this point, they
 are often far superior to us, can get themselves a following, draw the
 masses to them, and, on the top of it all, they have on their side the
 prince of this world, viz. the devil.”

 The main thing therefore is that the heretics “should not rule in our

 But what are we to do against the tares, against the Papists and
 Sophists, against Cologne, Louvain and the devil’s other thistles? Of
 boils it holds good: “Let them swell until they burst. So too it is in
 secular and domestic government: Where [whether in the Town Council or
 among the servants] we cannot get rid of the wicked without harm or
 detriment, there we must put up with them until the time is ripe.”

 In this much-discussed Sermon on the Tares Luther is very far from
 wishing to give the authorities directions as to how to treat the
 sectarians. On the contrary he makes it plain that some other line
 of action than that described by him must be followed even by the
 faithful and the preachers, and much more so by the Christian
 authorities, whenever the heretics come out of their “corner” and try
 to climb into the pulpit or mount the altar. What was to be done that
 the pulpit and the Sacrament might remain undefiled, he had already
 sufficiently explained elsewhere. Naturally, a sermon on the Gospel
 which tells us to leave the Tares until the harvest was scarcely the
 place for Luther to expound his severer theories on the treatment to
 be meted out to unbelievers and misbelievers, so that his silence here
 cannot be taken as a repudiation of the measures for which he so long
 had stood. At the close of the next sermon, the last he was ever to
 preach, addressing himself to the nobility, he speaks very harshly
 of the Jews. “If they refuse to be converted, then, as blasphemers,
 they deserve that we should not suffer or endure them among us.” “You
 Lords ought not to tolerate but rather expel them.” This duty he bases
 on his usual principle: “Were I to tolerate the man who dishonours,
 blasphemes and curses Christ my Master, I should be making myself a
 partaker in the sins of others.”

 His system of coercing and punishing heretics he certainly never

_Compulsory Attendance at Church_

“Facts have shown,” Luther wrote to Spalatin in 1527 of the conditions
in his new churches, “that men despise the Evangel and insist on being
compelled by the law and the sword.”[927] He was very anxious to make
attendance at the Lutheran preaching a matter of obligation.

According to his earlier statements, attendance at the preaching had
been voluntary, for the matter of the sermons was to be judged by the
hearers, in order that they might avoid what was harmful; his subsequent
practice of driving all to the preaching made an end of this freedom,
or rather duty. Through the authorities, so far as his influence went,
he insisted on this principle: “Even though they do not believe they
must nevertheless, for the sake of the Ten Commandments, be driven
to the preaching, so that they may at least learn the outward work
of obedience.” He wrote this at a time when he had already justified
such coercion at Wittenberg, viz. on Aug. 26, 1529, in a letter to the
“strict and steadfast” Joseph Levin Metzsch of Mila, who was shortly
after appointed by the Elector to take part in the Visitation.[928]
Instructions sent by Luther on the same day to Thomas Löscher, pastor of
the same locality, are to the same effect (“_cogendi sunt ad conciones …
audiant etiam inviti_”).[929] The orders of the authorities concerning
public worship were represented in the Visitation Rules for the pastors
(1528) as universally binding: “All secular authority is to be obeyed
because the secular powers are not ordering a new worship but enforcing
peace and charity.”[930] The Preface of the Smaller Catechism (1531) was
on the same lines. “Although we neither can nor should force anyone into
the faith, yet the masses must be held and driven to it in order that
they may know what is right or wrong in those among whom they live.”[931]

In the same year Luther advised Margrave George of Brandenburg to
compel the people to attend the Catechism “at the behest of the secular
authority,” for, since they “are Christians and wish to be so called,” it
was only fitting “they should be obliged to learn what a Christian ought
to know.” The Ansbach preachers embodied this requirement in the same
year in the alterations they proposed in the church-regulations.[932]

Wittenberg served as the pattern. It was to Wittenberg that Leonard Beyer
addressed himself when he succeeded Luther’s friend, Nicholas Hausmann,
as pastor of Zwickau. Luther answered his letter by describing the system
of coercion practised in Wittenberg and the neighbourhood when people
persistently neglected to attend the sermons: “With the authority and in
the name of our Most Noble Prince it is our custom to affright those who
disregard all piety and fail to attend the preaching, and to threaten
them with banishment and the law. This is the first step. Then, if they
do not amend, the pastors are enjoined by us to ply them for a month or
more with instructions and representations, and, finally, in the event
of their still proving contumacious, to excommunicate them, and to break
off all intercourse with them as though they were heathen.” He concludes:
“The words of the Bible [Matt. xviii. 17; 2 Thes. iii. 6] concerning the
avoidance of heretics are quite clear.”[933]—He, however, forgets to add
that neither he nor the pastors had ever been quite successful in their
attempts at excommunication.

The above regulations of the authorities were to remain in force. In
1533 the Prince once more insisted that: No one is to be permitted
to absent himself from the “common church-going,” everyone must be
“earnestly reminded of this.”[934] In the General Articles of 1557 it
was determined by the Elector August, that, whoever absented himself
without permission from the sermon on Sundays and festivals, whether in
the morning or afternoon, “more particularly in the villages” was to be
fined, or, if he was poor, “to be punished with the pillory, either at
the church or at some prison.”[935] The parsons, however, were to notify
the authorities of any who contemned the preaching and the sacraments,
or who obstinately persisted in their false opinion. Even the practice
of auricular confession was, at a later date, made a strict law; whoever
evaded confession and the Supper was liable to banishment.[936] The
Saxon lawyer, Benedict Carpzov (1595-1666) in his “_Iurisprudentia
ecclesiastica_” defended as self-evident the legal principle based
on the practice of Luther’s own country: “Those, who, after repeated
admonitions, maliciously absent themselves from the Supper, are to be
expelled from the land; they are to be compelled to sell their goods and
emigrate.”[937] The same scholarly lawyer elsewhere alludes to the Saxon
custom of condemning seditious and blasphemous heretics to die at the

       *       *       *       *       *

At Wittenberg strong ramparts were set up for the protection of the
Lutheran doctrine and to prevent divergent opinions finding their way in.

 The Statutes of the Theological Faculty, probably drawn up in 1533 by
 Melanchthon with Luther’s approval,[939] made it strictly incumbent
 on the teachers to preach the pure doctrine in accordance with the
 Confession of Augsburg; in the event of any difference of opinion a
 commission of judges was to decide; “after that the false opinion
 shall no longer be defended; if anyone obstinately persists in so
 doing, he is to be punished with such severity as to prevent him any
 more spreading abroad his wicked views.”[940] “The same Luther,” says
 Paulsen of this, “who, twelve years before, had declared that his
 conscience would not allow of his conceding to Christendom assembled
 in Council the right to determine the formula of faith, now claimed
 for the Wittenberg faculty—for this is what it amounts to—the
 unquestionable right to decide on faith. From 1535 to the day of his
 death Luther was without a break Dean of this Faculty.”[941]

 Again, subsequent to 1535, the preachers and pastors sent out or
 officially recommended by Wittenberg had to take the so-called
 “Ordination Oath” which had been suggested by the Elector in order
 to exclude false preachers. The ministers to be appointed within
 the Electorate, and likewise those destined to take up appointments
 elsewhere, had to submit at Wittenberg to a searching examination on
 doctrine; only after passing it and taking an oath as to the future
 could they receive their commission. The examination is referred
 to in the Certificate of Ordination. Thus, in the Certificate of
 Heinrich Bock (who was sent to Reval in Livonia) which is dated May
 17, 1540, and signed by Luther, Bugenhagen, Jonas and Melanchthon,
 it is set forth that he had undertaken to “preach to the people
 steadfastly and faithfully the pure doctrine of the Gospel which
 our Church confesses.” It is also stated that he adheres to the
 “consensus” of the “Catholic Church of Christ,” and, for this reason,
 is recommended to the Church of Reval.[942] A similar Certificate for
 the schoolmaster Johann Fischer, who had received a call to Rudolstadt
 “to the ministry of the Gospel,” is dated a month earlier. His
 doctrine, so it declares, had been found on examination to be pure and
 in accordance with the Catholic doctrine of the Gospel as professed
 by the Wittenbergers; a promise had also been received from him to
 teach the same faithfully to the people; for this reason “his call has
 been confirmed by public ordination.”[943] Fischer had received the

 As early as 1535 we read of the solemn ordination of a certain Johann
 (Golhart?), “examined by us and publicly ordained in the presence of
 our Church with prayers and hymns.” He was “ordained and confirmed by
 order of our sovereign,” having been called and chosen as “assistant
 minister” at Gotha by the local congregation headed by their pastor

The doctrine of the punishment of heretics was afterwards incorporated by
Melanchthon in 1552, in the Wittenberg instructions composed by him and
entitled: “The Examination of Ordinands.”[945]

_Opinions of Protestant Historians_

The above account of Luther’s intolerance is very much at variance with
the Protestant view still current to some extent in erudite circles, but
more particularly in popular literature. Luther, for all the harshness
of his disposition, is yet regarded as having in principle advocated
leniency, as having been a champion of personal religious freedom, and
having only sanctioned severity towards the Anabaptists because of the
danger of revolt. Below we shall, however, quote a series of statements
from Protestant writers who have risen superior to such party prejudice.

Walther Köhler, in his “Reformation und Ketzerprozess” (1901), wrote:

 “In Luther’s case it is impossible to speak of liberty of conscience
 or religious freedom.” “The death-penalty for heresy rested on the
 highest Lutheran authority.”[946] According to Köhler there can
 be no doubt that prosecution for heresy among the Protestants was
 practically Luther’s doing. “The views of the other reformers on
 the persecution and bringing to justice of heretics were merely the
 outgrowth of Luther’s plan, they contributed nothing fresh.”[947] The
 same writer is of opinion that the question, whether Luther would have
 approved of the execution of Servetus “must undoubtedly be answered
 in the affirmative.”[948] “It is certain that Luther would have
 agreed to the execution of Servetus; heresy as heresy is according
 to him deserving of death.”[949] One observation made by Köhler
 is significant enough, viz. “that, when the preaching of the Word
 proved ineffectual against the heretics,” Luther had recourse to the
 intervention of the secular authorities.[950]

The matter has been examined with equal frankness by P. Wappler
in various studies in which he utilises new data taken from the

 “That Luther in principle regarded the death penalty in the case of
 heretics as just, even where there was no harm done to the ‘_regna
 mundi_,’” says Wappler, “is plain from the advice given by him on
 Oct. 20, 1534, to Prince Johann of Anhalt in reply to his inquiry
 concerning the attitude to be adopted towards the Anabaptists at
 Zerbst.” “The fact is, that from the commencement of 1530 the
 reformers cease to make any real distinction between the two classes
 of heretics [the seditious ones and those who merely taught false
 doctrines]. Heretics who merely ‘blasphemed’ were always regarded by
 them, at least where they remained obdurate, as practically guilty
 of sedition, and, consequently, as deserving the death penalty.”
 “The principal part in this was played by Luther, Melanchthon being
 merely the draughtsman of the memoranda in which Luther’s ideas on
 the question of heretics were reduced to a certain system.”[952]
 “The many executions, even of Anabaptists who are known to have
 not been revolutionaries and who were put to death on the strength
 of the declarations of the Wittenberg theologians, refute only too
 plainly all attempts to deny the clear fact, viz. that Luther himself
 approved of the death penalty even in the case of such as were merely

 Wappler, after showing how Luther’s wish was, that everyone who
 preached without orders should be handed over to “Master Hans,”
 adds: “And what he said, was undoubtedly meant in earnest; shortly
 before this, on Jan. 18, 1530, as Luther had doubtless learned from
 Melanchthon, at Reinhardsbrunn near Gotha, six such persons had
 been handed over to Master Hans, i.e. to the executioner, and duly
 executed.” Wappler regards it as futile to urge that: “Luther could
 not prevent executions taking place in the Saxon Electorate”; it is
 wrong to put the blame on Melanchthon rather than on Luther for the
 putting to death of heretics.[954]

 Speaking of the execution of Peter Pestel at Zwickau, the same
 author[955] declares that it was “a sad sign of the unfortunate
 direction so early [1536] taken by the Lutheran reformation that its
 representatives should allow this man, who had neither disseminated
 his doctrine in his native land nor rebaptised … to die a felon’s
 death.” “Even contempt of the outward Word,” he says, “carelessness
 about going to church and contempt of Scripture—in this instance
 contempt for the Bible as interpreted by Luther—was now regarded as
 ‘rank blasphemy,’ which it was the duty of the authorities to punish
 as such. To such lengths had the vaunted freedom of the Gospel now
 gone.”[956] The introduction of the Saxon Inquisition (See above, vol.
 v., 593) leads him to remark: “The principle of evangelical freedom of
 belief and liberty of conscience, which Luther had championed barely
 two years earlier, was here most shamefully repudiated, particularly
 by this lay inquisition, and yet Luther said never a word in

 In 1874 W. Maurenbrecher expressed it as his opinion that “Luther’s
 tolerance in theory as well as in practice amounted to this: The
 Church and her ministers were to denounce such as went astray in the
 faith, whereupon it became the duty of the secular authorities to
 chastise them as open heretics.”[958] In 1885 L. Keller declared:
 “It merely displays ignorance of the actual happenings of that
 epoch, when many people, even to-day, take it for granted that such
 executions and the wholesale persecution of the Anabaptists were only
 on account of sedition, and that the reformers had no hand in these
 things.”[959] “Luther indeed demands toleration,” says K. Rieker, “but
 only for the Evangelicals; he demands freedom, but merely for the
 preaching of the Evangel.”[960] According to Adolf Harnack “one of the
 Reformer’s most noticeable limitations was his inability either fully
 to absorb the cultural elements of his time, or to recognise the right
 and duty of unfettered research.”[961]

 In Saxony, so H. Barge, Carlstadt’s biographer, complains, “the
 police-force was mobilised for the defence of pure doctrine”;
 “and Luther played the part of prompter” to the intolerant Saxon
 government.[962] “Luther’s harsh, violent and impatient ways” and
 their “unfortunate” outcome are admitted unreservedly by P. Kalkhoff,
 another Luther researcher.[963] G. Lœsche calls Paulus’s studies on
 Strasburg a “Warning against the edifying sentimentality of Protestant
 make-believe.”[964] Luther “demanded freedom for himself alone and
 for his doctrine,” remarks E. Friedberg, “not for those doctrines,
 which he regarded as erroneous.”[965] Neander, the Protestant
 Church-historian, speaking of Luther’s views in general as given by
 Dietrich, says they “would justify all sorts of oppression on the
 part of the State, and all kinds of intellectual tyranny, and were in
 fact the same as those on which the Roman Emperors acted when they
 persecuted Christianity.”[966]

 Two quotations from Catholic authors may be added. The above passage
 from Köhler reads curiously like the following statement of C.
 Ulenburg, an olden Catholic polemic; writing in 1589 he said: “When
 Luther saw that his disciples were gradually falling away from him
 and, acting on the principle of freedom of conscience, were treating
 him as he had previously treated the olden Church, he came to think of
 having recourse to coercion against such folk.”[967]

 “Historically nothing is more incorrect,” wrote Döllinger in his
 Catholic days, “than the assertion that the Reformation was a movement
 in favour of intellectual freedom. The exact contrary is the truth.
 For themselves it is true, Lutherans and Calvinists claimed liberty
 of conscience as all men have done in every age, but to grant it to
 others never occurred to them so long as they were the stronger side.
 The complete suppression and extirpation of the Catholic Church, and
 in fact of everything that stood in their way, was regarded by the
 reformers as something entirely natural.”[968]—Luther’s principles,
 aided by the arbitrary interference of the secular power in matters
 of faith, especially where Catholics were concerned, led both in his
 age and in the following, “to a despotism” “the like of which,” as
 Döllinger expresses it, “had not hitherto been known; the new system
 as worked out by the theologians and lawyers was even worse than the
 Byzantine practice.”[969]

_Luther’s Spirit in his Fellows_

The question concerning Melanchthon raised by Protestant historians,
viz. whether it was he who converted Luther to his intolerance, or,
whether, on the other hand, he himself was influenced by Luther, cannot,
on the strength of the documents, be answered either affirmatively or
negatively. In some respects Melanchthon struck out his own paths, in
others he merely followed in Luther’s wake.[970] He was by no means loath
to making use of coercion in the case of doctrines differing from his
own. His able pen had the doubtful merit of expressing in fluent language
what Luther thought and said in private, as we see from the Memoranda
still extant. His ill-will with the Papacy and the hostile sects within
the new fold, was, it is true, as a rule not so blatant as Luther’s; he
was fond of displaying in his style that moderation dear to the humanist;
yet we have spontaneous outbursts of his which sound a very harsh note
and which doubtless were due to his old and intimate spiritual kinship
with Luther.

 For instance, we have the wish he expressed, that God would send
 King Henry VIII a “valiant murderer to make an end of him,”[971]
 and, again, his warm approval of Calvin’s execution of the heretic
 Michael Servetus in 1554 (a “pious and memorable example for all
 posterity”)[972]. He himself wrote about that time a special treatise
 in defence of the use of the sword against those who spread erroneous

 With regard to Melanchthon A. Hänel says: To Protestantism “religious
 freedom was denied at every point.” When Melanchthon wrote to Calvin
 in praise of the execution of Servetus, his letter, according to
 Hänel, “was not, as has been imagined, dictated by the mere passion of
 the moment, but was the harsh consequence of a harsh doctrine.”[974]
 It must be admitted, remarks the Protestant theologian A. Hunzinger,
 “that Melanchthon was wont to lose no time in having recourse to
 fire and sword. This forms a dark blot on his life. Many a man fell
 a victim to his memorandum, who certainly had no wish to destroy the
 ‘_regna mundi_.’”[975]

 In consequence of the precipitate and often brutal intervention of
 the authorities against real or alleged heretics Melanchthon had
 afterwards abundant reason to regret his appeal to the secular power.
 He himself, as early as Aug. 31, 1530, had foretold, “that, later,
 a far more insufferable tyranny would arise than had ever before
 been known,” viz. the tyranny due to the interference of the Princes
 in whose hands the power of persecution had been laid. Hence his
 exclamation: “If only I could revive the jurisdiction of the bishops!
 For I see what sort of Church we shall have if the ecclesiastical
 constitution is destroyed.”[976] As we know, he was anxious gradually
 to graft the old ecclesiastical constitution on Luther’s congregations.

Coming from Luther and fostered by Melanchthon, these intolerant ideas
profoundly influenced all their friends.

Not as though there was ever any lack of opponents of the theory of
coercion among the Protestants, or even in Luther’s own flock. On the
contrary there were some who had the sense of justice and the courage
to resist the current of intolerance coming from Wittenberg. Indeed it
was the protests which Luther encountered at Nuremberg which led him to
emphasise his harsh demands.

 Already in 1530 Luther’s follower Lazarus Spengler wrote from
 Nuremberg to Veit Dietrich begging him to seek advice of Luther and to
 request his literary help; in the town there were some who opposed any
 measures of coercion against the divergent doctrines, “some of ours,
 who are not fanatics but are regarded as good Christians,” desire that
 neither the “Sacramentarians nor the Anabaptists” should be prosecuted
 so long as they do not “stir up revolt,” nor yet the errors prohibited
 of “the preachers of the godless Mass and other idolatries”; “they
 appeal on behalf of this to Dr. Luther’s booklet, which he some while
 ago addressed to Duke Frederick the Elector of Saxony against the
 fanatic Thomas Münzer, in which he approves this view and admits it to
 be quite sound.”[977]

 At Augsburg (1533) the Lutheran lawyer, Conrad Hel, siding with his
 Catholic-minded confrères Conrad Peutinger and Johann Rehlinger[978]
 openly and courageously denied the Town-Councils any rights in the
 matter. In 1534 Christoph Ehem, a patrician of Augsburg, who also held
 Lutheran views, wrote a little work in which he demanded universal
 and unconditional toleration and invited the Council to place some
 “bridle and restraint” on the new preachers.[979] At that time (1536)
 the Lutheran preacher Johann Forster protested very strongly against
 Bucer, and refused to hear of the forcible suppression of Catholic
 worship in Cathedral churches outside the jurisdiction of the civic
 authorities; he appealed in this matter to Luther. Bucer just then
 was bent on suppressing the Catholic worship with the help of the
 magistrates. Forster was finally silenced by dint of “ranting, raging
 and shouting” and was indignantly asked: “Whether he wished to
 tolerate Popery and submit to such idolatry?”[980]

 At Strasburg in 1528 the Protestant Town-Clerk, Peter Butz, set a
 brave example by openly and severely condemning in the Council the
 system of coercion planned by some of the preachers. Against the
 intolerance towards sectarians advocated by Bucer, preachers and
 scholars like Anton Engelbrecht, Wolfgang Schultheiss, Johann Sapidus
 and Jacob Ziegler were not slow to protest,[981] though they had
 nothing to say against the violent abolition of Catholic worship.

 At Coire the preacher Johann Gantner came into conflict with Bullinger
 on account of the coercive measures favoured by the latter; he
 reproached the inhabitants of Zürich and Berne with having fallen
 away from the freedom of the Evangel into the Mosaic bondage. Gantner
 and others, in support of their protest, usually appealed against the
 prevailing tendency to Sebastian Franck’s “Chronica,” published at
 Strasburg in 1531.[982]

Sebastian Franck, the witty and learned opponent of Luther, “after Luther
himself, the best and most popular German prose writer of the day,” took
the line of pushing to its bitter end Luther’s subjectivism. He declared
that the new preachers had made of Holy Scripture a paper idol for the
benefit of their private views, and that the Lutheran Church was the
invisible kingdom of Christ and as such numbered among its members men
of every sect; hence he argued that what was termed false doctrine and
false worship should not be interfered with.[983] As Kawerau points
out, Franck found in the 16th century “not a few readers wherever
dissatisfaction prevailed with the Papacy of the theologians”;[984]
nevertheless, in 1531, he was expelled from Strasburg on account of
his liberal views; later on, when he had taken up his residence at
Ulm, Melanchthon wrote thither, in 1535, that he should be “dealt with
severely” (“_severe coercendum_”) no less than Schwenckfeld.[985] Driven
from Ulm he went to Basle in 1539, but even there the echo of the verdict
of the Wittenbergers reached him; in March, 1540, the theologians
assembled at Schmalkalden, condemned him and charged him with “inducing
people to seek the spirit while neglecting the ‘Word’”; they themselves,
they added, had broken with the Churches of the Pope because of their
idolatry, but there was “no reason whatever for throwing over the
ministry in our own Churches.”[986]

As we have already shown, Landgrave Philip of Hesse was likewise
disposed to be less intolerant than Luther, at least with regard to
the Anabaptists. Relentlessly as he refused any public toleration to
the Catholic faith and banished those Catholics who persisted in their
religious practices, yet, in a letter of 1532, addressed to Elector
Johann of Saxony, he declared himself against the execution of the
Anabaptists; the actual words have been quoted above (p. 256). In another
letter, in 1545, to the Elector Johann Frederick, he also points out,
that: “If this sect be punished so severely by us, then we, by our
example, give our foes, the Papists, reason to treat us in the same way,
for they regard us as no better than the Anabaptists.”[987]

       *       *       *       *       *

These and similar remonstrances were unavailing to change the views which
had taken root at Wittenberg.

George Major, Professor of theology at Wittenberg University, was a
learned and zealous disciple of Luther’s. He, like Melanchthon, on
hearing of the execution of Servetus at Geneva, declared that Calvin
was to be commended for having put to death the heretic, and, at a
Disputation held in 1555, expressly defended the thesis, that it was
the duty of the authorities to punish contumacious heretics with death.
They must “get rid of blasphemers, perjurers and wizards. Amongst the
blasphemers must, however, be reckoned those who persistently defend
idolatrous worship, or heresies which clearly disagree with the articles
of the faith.”[988]

Luther’s code of penalties for any deviation from the Wittenberg teaching
fitted in well with Bugenhagen’s natural harshness, who showed himself
only too ready to make his own the words of Moses concerning the slaying
of unbelievers. We may recall how, in conversation, when Luther mentioned
the difficulties he had with Carlstadt, Agricola and Schenk, Bugenhagen
broke in with the remark: “Sir Doctor, we ought to do what is commanded
in Deuteronomy where Moses says they should be put to death.”[989]
Bugenhagen, in the many places into which he brought the new faith, was
relentlessly severe in enforcing against the Catholics the principles
he had carried with him from Wittenberg. Very characteristic is the
tone in which he reported to Luther that the Mass had been forbidden
in Denmark and the monks driven out of the land as “seditionmongers”
and “blasphemers.”[990] Not only had the bishops been imprisoned, but,
according to the account of Peter Palladius the superintendent, some of
the monks “had been hanged.”[991]

Justus Jonas began his labours at Halle in 1542 by a written invitation
to the Town-Council “completely to purge the town of false doctrine
and every kind of idolatrous worship”; Luther and Melanchthon had
sufficiently proved in their works that this “was incumbent on Christian
magistrates.” He declared that the monks still living in the town were
“obstinate and impenitent idolaters,” “adders and snakes” whom he “must
reduce to silence with the use of the gag”; already, throughout the
whole neighbourhood, “merely at the exhortations of the preachers, the
monasteries, with their Masses and idolatrous worship, had crumbled
into ruins.”[992] Later, in a memorandum addressed to the Town-Council
in 1546, Jonas again inveighed against the remaining handful of
well-disposed and zealous monks, and called to mind how “our beloved
father, Dr. Martin, in the very last sermon he preached at Halle
shortly before his decease, had exhorted the Town-Council and the whole
Church with all his burning, stormy earnestness to rid themselves of
the crawling things.”[993] Jonas appealed to his own “conscience” and
threatened to report matters to the Elector of Saxony and “his Electoral
Highness’s scholars at Wittenberg.”[994] With the outbreak of the
Schmalkalden war, when the Electoral troops laid waste the monasteries
his hopes at last found their fulfilment. He announced on March 3, 1547,
that, at Halle, the “Papistic idolatry” had now been swept away;[995]
when he wrote this he did not expect the change in the position of the
Catholics in the town, for which the defeat of the Elector’s troops in
the following month was responsible.

We are reminded how greatly Spalatin was imbued with Luther’s exclusivism
and spirit of intolerance by his words concerning the “Christian bit”
which he wished placed in the mouths of all the clergy.[996] He was
at great pains to press upon the sovereign that he was not to permit
“unchristian ceremonies” and “idolatry.”[997]

The Elector Johann was merely giving expression to the views with which
Spalatin and Luther had inspired him when he declared that, “heretics
and contemners of the Word” must in every instance be punished by the
authorities.[998] His successor, Johann Frederick, likewise followed
obediently the “Wittenberg theologians and lawyers,” as he terms his
authorities.[999] He instructed Melanchthon in 1536 to write and have
printed a popular “Answer to sundry unchristian articles” against the
Anabaptists, which was to be read aloud from the pulpit every third
Sunday, and which insisted that the secular authorities were bound to
punish “all contempt of Scripture and the outward Word” as “blatant

 At the Religious Conference at Worms in 1557 quite a number of
 respected Lutheran theologians (J. Brenz, J. Marbach, M. Diller,
 J. Pistorius, J. Andreæ, G. Karg, P. Eber and G. Rungius) signed
 a lengthy statement by Melanchthon aimed at the Anabaptists. As
 one of the errors of the sect is instanced their teaching that God
 communicates Himself without the intermediary of the ministry, of
 preaching or the Sacrament. Those “heads and ringleaders” of the
 sect who persisted in their doctrines were “to be condemned as
 guilty of sedition and blasphemy and put to death by the sword”; the
 death penalty prescribed in Leviticus for blasphemers was asserted
 to be a “natural law, binding, by virtue of their office, on all in
 authority,” hence “the judges had done the right thing” when they
 condemned to death the heretic Servetus at Geneva.[1001]

 Johann Brenz, who helped to promote Lutheranism in Würtemberg, had,
 in 1528, written and published a pamphlet in which he deprecated the
 Anabaptists’ being put to death “merely on account of heresy” when
 not guilty of sedition.[1002] He was for this reason regarded by
 Melanchthon as “too mild.”[1003] His later writings, however, show
 that the intolerant spirit of Wittenberg finally seized on him too.
 In his treatment of Catholics—both previous to 1528, and, even more
 so when the olden worship had been suppressed at Schwäbisch-Halle and
 he had been called to Stuttgart—he was in the forefront in advising
 violent measures against Catholic practices. When he reorganised the
 Church in Würtemberg, in 1536, after the victory of Duke Ulrich,
 attendance at the Protestant sermons was made obligatory on the
 Catholics of Stuttgart under pain of a fine, or of imprisonment in
 the tower on bread and water.[1004] Brenz, though widely extolled
 as tolerant and broadminded, in his quality of spiritual adviser to
 Duke Christopher, stooped to the meanest and most petty regulations
 in order to induce the nuns who still remained faithful to their
 religion—many of whom were of high birth and advanced in years—to
 accept the new faith; they were compelled to attend the sermons and
 religious colloquies, deprived of their books of devotion, their
 correspondence was supervised, they had to entertain Protestant guests
 at table and to be served by Lutheran maids, etc.[1005]

       *       *       *       *       *

 The unenviable distinction of having most thoroughly assimilated
 Luther’s intolerant views was enjoyed by two men in close mental
 kinship with him, viz. Justus Menius and Johann Spangenberg.

 Johann Spangenberg, an enthusiastic pupil of Luther’s, and, later,
 Superintendent at Eisleben, when preacher at Nordhausen declared in
 a tract that “fear of God’s wrath and His extreme displeasure” had
 rightly led the Town-Council to forbid Catholics to attend Catholic
 sermons, because, there, souls were “horribly murdered”; even
 Nabuchodonosor and Darius had set the authorities an example of how
 “blasphemy against religion” was to be treated.[1006]

 Justus Menius, Luther’s friend, who worked as superintendent at
 Eisenach and Gotha, followed Luther in qualifying the Anabaptists as
 the emissaries of the devil, as “rebels and murderers,” who had fallen
 under the ban of the authorities because they did not “profess the
 true faith according to the Word of God” and live a “godly life.” Of
 the authorities who were negligent in punishing them he exclaims: “The
 devil rides such rulers so that they sin and do what is unrighteous.”
 Luther himself wrote laudatory prefaces to his works on the subject.
 In 1552 Menius demanded from Duke Albert of Prussia a severe
 prohibition against the new believers’ teaching or writing anything
 that was at variance with the Confession of Augsburg. When, however,
 his opponents secured the ear of the Court he had himself to suffer;
 the ruler pointed out to him that, in accordance with his own theories
 of the supremacy of the sovereign, it was the duty of the authorities,
 by virtue of their princely office, to withstand false doctrine and,
 consequently, he himself must either submit or go to prison; upon this
 Menius made his escape to Leipzig (†1558).[1007]

 Urban Rhegius, appointed General Superintendent by Duke Ernest of
 Brunswick-Lüneburg after the Diet of Augsburg, not only defended
 in his writings a relentless system of compulsion whereby Catholic
 parents were no longer permitted even in their homes to instruct
 their children in the Catholic faith, but also allowed “Zwinglians
 and Papists to be beaten with rods and banished from the town.” The
 authorities he invited to appropriate the property of the clergy. The
 inglorious war he waged against the nuns of Lüneburg, who, in spite of
 every kind of persecution, stood true to their religion, has recently
 been brought to light, and that, thanks to Protestant research;
 it forms one of the blackest pages in the history of Lutheran

 A memorial of the Strasburg preachers dating from 1535 (printed in
 1537) which might be termed the fullest and most complete exposition
 of the Royal Supremacy in church affairs drafted in that period,
 is the work of Wolfgang Capito, a preacher often extolled for his
 moderation and prudence.[1009] In it we have the picture of a
 Government-Church with a “Caliph” (Döllinger’s expression) at its
 head, who combines in himself the highest secular and spiritual

Martin Bucer though differing from Luther in much else was yet at one
with him in asserting that it was the duty of the secular authority to
abolish “false doctrine and perverted ceremonials,” and that, as the
sole authority, it was to be obeyed by “all the bishops and clergy.”
Though anxious to be regarded as considerate and peaceable, he defended
the prohibition against Catholic sermons issued at Augsburg by the
City-Council in 1534, and even incited it to still more stringent
measures against the Catholics. He advocated quite openly “the power of
the authorities over consciences.”[1010] “Among us Christians,” he asks,
“is injury and slaughter of souls by false worship of less importance
than the ravishing of wives and daughters?”[1011] He never rested until,
in 1537, with the help of such hot-heads as Wolfgang Musculus, he brought
about the entire suppression of the Mass at Augsburg. At his instigation
“many fine paintings, monuments and ancient works of art in the churches
were wantonly torn, broken and smashed.”[1012] Whoever refused to submit
and attend public worship was obliged within eight days to quit the
city-boundaries. Catholic citizens were forbidden under severe penalties
to attend Catholic worship elsewhere, and special guards were stationed
at the gates to prevent any such attempt.[1013]

In other of the Imperial cities Bucer acted with no less violence and
intolerance, for instance, at Ulm, where he supported Œcolampadius and
Ambrose Blaurer in 1531, and at Strasburg where he acted in concert with
Capito, Caspar Hedio, Matthæus Zell and others. Here, in 1529, after
the Town-Council had prohibited Catholic worship, the Councillors were
requested by the preachers to help to fill the empty churches by issuing
regulations prescribing attendance at the sermons. Bucer adhered till
his death (1551), as his work “_De Regno Christi_” (1550) proves, to
the principle of the rights and duties of authorities towards the new

In the above survey of those who preached religious intolerance only
Luther’s own pupils and followers have been considered; the result would
be even less cheering were the leaders of the other Protestant sects
added to the list.

At Zürich, Zwingli’s State-Church grew up much as Luther’s did in
Germany; Œcolampadius at Basle and Zwingli’s successor, Bullinger, were
strong compulsionists. Calvin’s name is even more closely bound up
with the idea of religious absolutism, while the task of handing down
to posterity his harsh doctrine of religious compulsion was undertaken
by Beza in his notorious work “_De hæreticis a civili magistratu
puniendis_.” The annals of the Established Church of England were
likewise at the outset written in blood.

The sufferings endured by the Catholics in Germany owing to the wave of
intolerance which spread from Wittenberg are reflected in the countless
complaints we hear at that time. Many writings still tell to-day of
the injustice under which they groaned. In a “Manual of Complaint and
Consolation for all oppressed Christians” we read as follows: “Oh, what
a mockery it is that these tyrants and abusers of power should exclaim
everywhere that their gospel is Christian freedom, that they have no wish
to tyrannise over consciences when there could never have been worse
tyrants than those men who do not scruple to go on unceasingly tormenting
the consciences of the people, robbing them of the consolation of the
holy sacraments of the religious ministrations of consecrated priests,
of all their prayer-books and devotional works, and, even on their
death-beds, in spite of their piteous entreaties refusing them the Holy
Viaticum!”[1015] This touching complaint is made more particularly in the
name of those most defenceless members of society, who were devoid of
legal protection and whose very poverty made emigration impossible. “All
the iniquities committed in German lands and cities are attested at the
Judgment-Seat of God by the souls of thousands of consecrated nuns, who
never did wrong to anyone and who asked for nothing more than permission
to live and die in their ancient faith, even though their worldly
goods should be taken away from them and they shut up within closed

2. Luther as Judge

It must not be overlooked that Luther’s severity towards heretics within
his fold is to be set down largely to his nervous irritability arising
partly out of his natural temperament, partly out of his unceasing
labours, so that, if we are to be just to him, his conviction that his
doctrine was the only authorised one must not be held to be entirely
responsible for his behaviour. At the same time it is plain how deeply he
was affected by belief in his higher mission. Thus he practically made
himself a religious dictator, when, in 1542, he demanded that the Meissen
nobles who had come over to him should not only ratify their new belief
by doing penance, but also should “signify their approval of everything
which has hitherto been done by us and shall be done in the future.”[1017]

Another point on which we must also do him justice is the service
performed by him in his controversies with rivals, in the field both
of theology and Scripture-exegesis, by repressing with such energy and
general success the dangerous tendencies apparent in the Anabaptist
heresy and the Antinomianism of Johann Agricola. In the attacks of
the Antinomians on all law, even on the Decalogue, there undoubtedly
lay a great danger for morality and religion. Certain of Luther’s
own principles were carried to rash, nay, foolhardy, lengths by the
Antinomians. Hence it was not unfortunate that Agricola found pitted
against him so redoubtable an opponent as Luther who, as was his wont,
interfered and nipped the evil in the bud.

_The Conceit and the Obstinacy of the “Heretics”_

Luther bitterly accuses of boundless presumption all the heretics within
the New Faith, but particularly Agricola. The latter might even be
classed with those doctors who might most fittingly be compared with
Arius and treated in the same way.

 “This man,” he says of Agricola, “is presumption itself. Neither with
 the flute nor with tears is he to be won.… I see it is my goodness
 that puffs him up. He says he is a guiltless Abel. He is, forsooth,
 being made a martyr at my hands.…” But, so Luther continues, he will
 be such a martyr as was Arius and Satan.[1018]

 In 1542, when the conversation at table turned on the teachers of the
 New Faith whose opinions differed from Luther’s, a good many names
 were mentioned, “Those at Zürich” (Zwingli’s pupils), Carlstadt, Bucer
 and Capito, “Grickel and Jeckel”—some of them living and some of them
 already dead—all of whom were insufferably presumptuous. It was then
 that Bugenhagen, who was present, could not refrain from quoting the
 passage in the Old Testament where Moses had commanded in God’s name
 “That prophet shall be slain because he spoke to draw you away from
 the Lord your God.… If thy brother would persuade thee (to serve other
 gods), thou shalt presently put him to death. Let thy hand be the
 first upon him and afterwards the hands of all the people. With stones
 shall he be stoned to death: because he would have withdrawn thee
 from the Lord thy God. If in one of the cities thou hear that some
 have withdrawn the inhabitants of their city, inquire carefully and
 diligently the truth of the thing by looking well into it, and if thou
 find that which is said to be certain and that this abomination hath
 been committed, thou shalt forthwith kill the inhabitants of that city
 with the edge of the sword, and shalt destroy it and all things that
 are in it, even to the cattle.”[1019]

 Hence it was perhaps rather lucky that the Wittenberg tribunal
 was presided over by the sovereign of the land, and that the
 sentences pronounced at Luther’s table or in the learned circles
 of the Theological Faculty required subsequent ratification by the

 Luther’s complaints elsewhere about the pride of the heretics throw
 still further light on the jealousy which was at work in him (above,
 p. 260).

 “How is it that all the insurgents say ‘I am the man?’ They want all
 the glory for themselves and hate and are grim with all others, just
 like the Pope who also wants to stand alone.”[1020] Zwingli appears to
 be one of the foremost among those desirous of robbing him of his due
 glory. “He was ambitious through and through.”[1021] On hearing that
 Zwingli had said that, in three years, he would have France, Spain and
 England “on his side and for his share,” Luther became very bitter
 and several times complained of Zwingli’s intention to seize upon his
 harvest; such words seemed to him the “boasting of a braggart.”[1022]
 “Œcolampadius, too, fancied himself the doctor of doctors and far
 above me, even before he had ever heard me.” And in the same way
 Carlstadt said: “As for you, Sir Doctor, I don’t care a snap! Münzer,
 too, preached against two Popes, the old one and the new,[1023]
 said I must be a Saul, and that though I had made a good beginning,
 the Spirit of God had left me.… Hence let all the theologians and
 preachers look to it and diligently beware lest they seek their glory
 in Holy Scripture and in God’s Word; otherwise they will have a
 fall.”[1024]—“Mr. Eisleben [Johann Agricola] labours under great pride
 and presumption; he wants to be the only one, and, with his pride and
 his puffed-up spirit, to surpass all others.”[1025] “They are scamps,”
 so he abuses them in another passage, “fain would they get at us and
 surpass us, as though forsooth we were blind and could not see through
 their tricks.”[1026]

 Elsewhere in the Table-Talk we read: “My best friends,” said Dr.
 Martin, with a deep sigh, “seek to stamp me under foot and to trouble
 and besmirch the Evangel; hence I am going to hold a disputation.”
 “Alas, that, in my own lifetime, I should see them strutting about and
 seeking to rule.” It was with him as with St. Paul to whom God wished
 to show how much he must suffer for His Name’s sake (Acts ix. 16).
 Some indeed were trying to persuade him that these foes in his own
 household were not really against Luther, but only against Cruciger,
 Rörer, etc. But this was false. “For the Catechism, the Exposition
 of the Ten Commandments and the Confession of Augsburg are mine, not
 Cruciger’s or Rörer’s.”[1027]

 Of those near him “Mr. Eisleben” (Agricola) seemed to him his chief
 rival; those abroad troubled him less; for a while Luther was obsessed
 by the idea that Agricola, “with his cool head, was set on securing
 the reins and was seeking to become a great lord.”[1028]

 Of Carlstadt Luther once said, referring to the rivalry between
 the pair: “He persuaded himself that there was no more learned man
 on earth than he; what I write that he imitates and seeks to copy
 me.” After a profession of personal humility, Luther concludes: “And
 yet, by God’s Grace, I am more learned than all the Sophists and
 theologians of the Schools.”[1029]

Though Luther never grows weary of insisting against the heretics at
home on the “public, common doctrine,” and of instancing the fell
consequences of pride and obstinacy, even going so far as to predict that
they will in all likelihood never be converted because founders of sects
rarely retrace their steps and recant,[1030] yet he never seems to have
perceived that the point of all this might equally well have been turned
against himself.

The blindness of such heretics he describes in a tract of 1526 dedicated
to Queen Mary of Hungary:

 “Here we may all of us well be afraid, and particularly all heretics
 and false teachers.… Such a temper [obstinacy in sticking to one’s
 own opinion] penetrates like water into the inmost recesses and like
 oil into the very bone, and becomes our daily clothing. Then it comes
 about that one party curses the other, and the doctrine of one is rank
 poison and malediction to the other, and his own doctrine nothing
 but blessing and salvation; this we now see among our fanatics and
 Papists. Then everything is lost. The masses are not converted; a few,
 whom God has chosen, come right again, but the others remain under
 the curse and even regard it as a precious thing.… Nor have I ever
 read of heresiarchs being converted; they remain obdurate in their
 own conceit, the oil has gone into the bone … and has become part of
 their nature. They allow none to find fault with them and brook no
 opposition. This is the sin against the Holy Ghost for which there is
 no forgiveness.”[1031]

 In the same writing he describes the heretics’ way of speaking: “The
 heretics give themselves up to idle talk so that one hears of nothing
 but their dreams.… They overflow with words; all evildoers tend to
 become garrulous. As a boiling pot foams and bubbles over, so they too
 overflow with the talk of which their heart is full.… They stand stiff
 upon their doctrine about which there is no lack of ranting.”[1032]

 The description (which seats so well on Luther himself) proceeds:
 “Those are heretics and apostates who follow their own ideas rather
 than the common tradition of Christendom, who transgress the teaching
 of their fathers and separate themselves from the common ways and
 usages of the whole of Christendom, who, out of pure wantonness,
 invent new ways and methods without cause, and contrary to Holy
 Writ.”[1033]—“They misread the Word of God according to their whim and
 make it mean what they please. In short they undertake something out
 of the common and invent a belief of their own, regardless of God’s
 Word.… God must put up with their doctrine and life as being alone
 holy and Godly.”[1034]

 Again and again he brands pride as the cause of all heresy: “This
 is the reason; they think much of themselves, which, indeed, is the
 cause and well-spring of all heresies, for, as Augustine also says,
 ‘Ambition is the mother of all heresies.’ Thus Zwingli and Bucer
 now put forward a new doctrine.… So dangerous a thing is pride in
 the clergy.”[1035]—“We cannot sufficiently be on our guard against
 this deadly vice. Vices of the body are gross, and we feel them to
 be such, but this vice can always deck itself out with the glory of
 God, as though it had God’s Word on its side. But beneath the outward
 veil there is nothing but vain glory.”[1036]—“Lo, here you have in
 brief the cause and ground of all idolatry, heresy, hypocrisy and
 error, what the prophets inveigh against, and what was the cause of
 their being put to death, and against which the whole of Scripture
 witnesses. It all comes from obstinacy and conceit and the ideas of
 natural reason which puffs itself up … and fancies it knows enough,
 and can find its way for itself, etc.”[1037]

Such statements of Luther’s are of supreme importance for judging of his
Divine Mission. In his frame of mind it became at last an impossibility
for him to realise that his hostility and intolerance towards “heretics”
within his fold could redound on himself, or that he was contradicting
himself in continuing to proclaim freedom, or at least in continuing
to make the fullest use of it himself. In reality he was living in a
world of his own, and his mental state cannot be judged of by the usual

_“Heretics” who cannot be sure of their Cause_

Apart from the “pride of the heretics,” another idea of Luther’s deserves
attention, viz. that those teachers who differed from him, in their heart
of hearts, knew him to be in the right, or at least neither were nor
could be quite certain of their own doctrines. Of any call in their case
there could be no question; his call, however, was above doubt, seeing
his certainty. Hence, in his dealings with the “sectarians” we once
again find the same strange attitude, as he had exhibited towards the
“Papists,” who, according to him, likewise were withstanding their own
conscience and lacked any real call.

To a man so full of such fiery enthusiasm for his cause and so dominated
by his imagination as Luther, it seems to have been an easy task to
persuade himself ever more and more firmly, that all his opponents’
doings were against their own conscience.

 The “teachers of faith,” he says, speaking of the sectarians, ought
 first of all “to be certain about their mission. Otherwise all is
 up with them. It was this [argument] that killed Œcolampadius. He
 could not endure the self-accusation: How if you have taught what is
 false?”[1038] Concerning Œcolampadius Luther professed to know that,
 even in his prayers, he had been doubtful of his own doctrine. But,
 so he argues, if a man goes so far as to pray for the spread of his
 doctrine he must surely first be “quite certain and not doubt thus
 of the Word and of his doctrine, for doubts and uncertainty have
 no place in theology, but a man must be certain of his case in the
 face of God.” Before the world, indeed, he continues, with a strange
 limitation of his previous assertion, “it behoves one to be humble,
 to proceed gently and to say: If anyone knows better, let him say so;
 to God’s Word I will gladly yield when I am better instructed.”[1039]
 Yet, in the same works, where seemingly he professes such willingness
 to listen to others, he himself proclaims most emphatically his great
 mission and its exclusive character.[1040]

 All heretics, he once remarked, were disarmed by this one question:
 “My friend, is it the command of our Lord God [that you should teach
 thus]? At this, one and all are struck dumb.”[1041] Only by dint
 of lying are they able to boast of their inward assurance of their
 cause. Here we have Campanus for instance: “He boasts that he is
 as sure as sure can be of his cause and that it is impossible for
 him to be mistaken.” “But he is an accursed lump of filth whom we
 ought to despise and not bother our heads about writing against, for
 this only makes him more bold, proud and brave.… Whereupon Master
 Philip [Melanchthon] said: his suggestion would be that he should be
 strung up on the gallows, and this he had written to his lord [the

 With his own “certainty” Luther triumphantly confronts his opponents
 who at heart were uncertain: “Every man who speaks the Word of Christ
 is free to boast that his mouth is the mouth of Christ”; such a one,
 confiding in his certainty, may help to “tear Antichrist out of men’s
 hearts, so that his cause may no longer avail.”[1043]—“But, now,
 the articles of pure doctrine are proved [by me] from Scripture in
 the clearest way, and yet it carries no weight with them; never has
 an article of the faith been preached which has not more than once
 been attacked and contradicted by heretics, who, nevertheless, read
 the same Scriptures as we.”[1044]—“In short, ‘heretics must needs
 arise’ (1 Cor. xi. 19), and that cannot be stopped, for it was so
 even in the Apostles’ time. We are no better off than our fathers;
 Christ Himself was persecuted.”[1045] “No heretic allows himself to
 be convinced. They neither see nor hear anything, like Master Stiffel
 [Michael Stiefel]; he saw me not nor heard me.… It is forbidden to
 curse, swear, etc., far more to cause heresy.”[1046]—Then one becomes
 hardened against God the Holy Ghost; these fanatics “do not even
 doubt”—which is astonishing—“they stand firm.” He had warned the
 Anabaptist Marcus (Stübner), so he relates, “to beware lest he err,”
 to which he answered that “God Himself shall not dissuade me from

 In short, since Luther’s own cause is so clear and certain, those who
 disagree, particularly the sectarians, must simply have discarded the
 faith. For instance, “of Master Jeckel [Jacob Schenk] I hold that he
 believes nothing.”[1048] He, Luther, has “at all times taught God’s
 Word in all simplicity; to this I adhere, and will surrender myself
 a prisoner to it or else—become a Pope who believes neither in the
 again-rising of the dead nor in life everlasting.”[1049] Thus he sees
 no middle course between the most frivolous unbelief and the Word of
 God as he believes and interprets it. Hence, with heretics, whether
 among the Pope’s men or in his own flock, “he will have nothing to do
 outside of Scripture—unless indeed they start working miracles.”

_Where are your Miracles?_

The stress Luther lays on miracles as a proof of doctrine is another
trait to add to the picture of his psychology. Again and again he
repeated anew what he had already, in 1524, said of Münzer and some of
the preachers: They must be told to corroborate their mission by signs
and wonders, or else be forbidden to preach; for whenever God wills
to change the order of things He always works miracles.[1050] There
is something almost tragic in the courage with which he appealed to
miracles in this connection, when we bear in mind his own difficulties,
in accounting for their absence in his own case.[1051] Here it is
enough to recall Hier. Weller’s words: “I still remember right well,”
Weller writes, “how he once said that he had never thought of asking
God for the gift of raising the dead, or of performing other miracles,
though he did not doubt he might have obtained such of God had he
wished; he had, however, preferred to be content with the rich gift of
Scripture-interpretation; he further said that he had raised two persons
from the dead, one of them being Philip Melanchthon and the other a
God-fearing man.”[1052]

As against the sects and fanatics, Luther urges that he himself laid
no claim to any extraordinary mission; as they, however, did make such
a claim, they must vindicate it by miracles. “I have never preached or
sought to preach unless I was asked and called for by men, for I cannot
boast as they do that God has sent me from heaven without means; they
run of their own accord, though no one sends them, as Jeremias writes
[xxiii. 21]; for this reason they work no good.”[1053] Neither here nor
elsewhere does he explicitly state by whom it is necessary to be “asked”
or “called.” His account of the source whence he derives his mission also
varies, being now the Wittenberg magistrates, now his Doctor’s degree,
now the sovereign, now the enthusiastic hearers and readers of his

Such was his confidence that Luther forgot that it was by no means
difficult for the “false brethren” within his camp to pick out the
weak spots in his doctrine. He refused to recognise that much of
their criticism was valid; on the negative side it even took the
place of miracles. It was not every Catholic polemic who succeeded in
demonstrating so clearly and convincingly the anomalies in Luther’s
views, for instance, on the Law and Gospel, as the Antinomian, Johann

On the other hand, Luther could well note with satisfaction the inability
of the heretics to bring forward anything positive of importance.
They were dwarfs compared with him. With his knowledge of the Bible
it was child’s play to him to overthrow the fanatics’ often ludicrous
applications of Scripture. Of Zwingli, too, it was easy for him to get
the better by dint of sticking to the literal sense of Christ’s words
of institution: “This is My Body.” Luther was not slow in pointing out
the blemishes of the “fanatics,” their vanity and blind obedience to
ambition and self-will, and the impracticability of their fantastic, and
often revolutionary, theories. The very truth of his strictures, for all
his lack of miracles, raised him in his own eyes, far above these clumsy
teachers; this perhaps enables us to understand better the utter contempt
he expresses for them.

_His Anger with Lemnius and Others_

One had but to praise those whom he condemned to call forth Luther’s
implacable anger.

This was the experience in 1538 of the humanist, Simon Lemnius (Lemchen)
of Wittenberg, a man otherwise kindly disposed to the new teaching. A
humanist above all, he had won Melanchthon’s favour on account of his

 Lemnius had thoughtlessly dared to publish two books of epigrams in
 which he not only attacked with biting sarcasm certain Wittenberg
 personages, but actually ventured to praise Archbishop Albert of
 Mayence, Luther’s powerful opponent. The poet, no doubt, was anxious
 to curry favour with the Archbishop so as to find in him a Mæcenas;
 he even went so far as to extol him as the man who “had kept alive
 the olden faith.” The censorship for which Melanchthon as Rector of
 the University was then responsible, was caught napping. Lemnius
 was indeed arrested by the University, but he escaped and fled from
 Wittenberg. On Trinity Sunday, June 16th, Luther read out from the
 pulpit a Mandate in which he abused Archbishop Albert in disgraceful
 terms, and scourged as a criminal act the praise bestowed in the
 “shameful, shocking book of lies” on Bishop Albert, “a devil out of
 whom it made a saint.” In it he also declared that, “by every code of
 law, and no matter whither the fugitive knave had fled, his head was
 forfeit.”[1055] Thus Lemnius was as good as outlawed—though no Court
 of Justice had yet sentenced him. On July 4th Melanchthon formally
 expelled him from the University on account of “faithlessness, perjury
 and slander.”[1056] The “perjury” consisted in his having fled, in
 defiance of the obedience he owed to the University, so as to evade
 the harsh penalties he had reason to apprehend. The whole edition of
 the Epigrams was destroyed.

 “It is the devil who hatches out such knaves,” remarked Luther,
 “particularly among the Papists, through whom he attacks and thwarts
 us.… Because we preach Christ alone he persecutes us in every way he
 can.” The bishops deserve to be called “lost and godless knaves and
 foes of God,” hence “those must not be tolerated here who praise them
 in verse and prose.”[1057]

 When Lemnius had a second edition of the Epigrams printed at
 Wittenberg this also was suppressed. He had added a third book,
 devoted to abuse of Luther and containing the famous “Merd-Song” on
 Luther, who was then ailing from diarrhœa. Luther retorted with a
 “Merd-Song” of his own on Lemnius. His verses he read aloud to his
 friends and they became public property through being incorporated in
 Lauterbach’s notes of the Table-Talk.[1058]

 Lemnius, whose career had been wrecked by Luther’s anger and revenge,
 then wrote an “Apologia against the unjust and lying decree” which the
 Wittenberg University had published against him at the instigation
 (“_imperio et tyrannide_”) of Martin Luther and Justus Jonas. He still
 retained his loose humanistic style after his return in 1538 to his
 native Switzerland, where he obtained a position as schoolmaster at

 The above Apologia was printed at Cologne, it would seem in 1539,
 but very few copies survive owing to the energy shown in their
 suppression. It is only of recent years that the complete text has
 become generally known;[1059] till then Protestants like Schelhorn
 and Hausen had only ventured to give fragments of the work. In it
 the writer complains bitterly that Luther “has published a pamphlet
 against him [the mandate read aloud in the church] in which, playing
 both the judge and the sovereign, Luther had condemned and abused
 him.” “Such authority in civil matters” does this soul-herd arrogate
 to himself. He robs the bishops of their secular power, but he himself
 is a tyrant. The charges against Luther’s private life made in this
 work are glaring, and they come, moreover, from a man who knew his
 Wittenberg, but it must not be forgotten that he was now a bitter foe
 of Luther.[1060] He goes so far as to declare that Luther’s shameless
 attacks on the sovereigns, for instance on the Elector of Mayence,
 gave grounds for apprehending contempt of all authority and the
 outbreak of a war that would spell the ruin of Germany.

 Meanwhile “Luther sits like a dictator at Wittenberg and rules;
 what he says must be taken as law.”[1061] He calls his opponent the
 “Wittenberg Pope” (“_Papa Albiacus_”), who had been faithless to his

In order rightly to appreciate, from their psychological side, Luther’s
angry outbursts against the heretics in his party we must above all
remember his fears of a coming collapse of theology among his following;
that he foresaw something of the sort has already been shown above.[1062]

He was also keenly alive to the harm these dissensions were doing to
his reputation. Nor must we forget the threatening and highly insulting
behaviour of many of these heretics. Taking all things together, it is
easy to understand how a temper such as his was lashed to fury when
denouncing the “presumption and foolhardiness” of his foes.[1063]

 “A muddled and obstinate head” sits on the neck of the fanatics’
 ringleader; “his horns must be blunted.”[1064]—“Carlstadt and Zwingli
 behave with insolence and defiance”; “We must needs decry the fanatics
 as damned”; “they actually dare to pick holes in our doctrine; ah,
 the scoundrelly rabble do a great injury to our Evangel even in the
 outland and enable our foes to scoff at us.”[1065]—“Their pride and
 audacity will bring about their downfall.”[1066]

 In truth, he says, “Carlstadt blasphemed himself to
 death.”[1067]—Œcolampadius saw the “curse” of God fulfilled in
 himself, “and withered away with fear the night after Zwingli had been
 struck down” (at Cappel).[1068] Zwingli himself, like the rest, was
 urged on merely by “his boundless ambition.”[1069]—Egranus (Johann
 Wildenauer) was a “proud donkey.”[1070]—Bucer is a “gossip,”[1071]
 “a miscreant through and through, in every case, inflection and rule
 of grammar; I trust him not at all, for Paul says [Titus iii. 10]
 ‘A man that is a heretic, after the first and second admonition,
 avoid.’”[1072]—Sebastian Franck is a “wicked, venomous knave and it
 is a wonder to me that those at Ulm care to keep him.”[1073] “He only
 loved to do harm, is inconstant and boasts of the spirit; but his
 wife has plenty of spirit and it is she who inspirits him with her
 spirit.”[1074]—Schwenckfeld deserves as little as Franck to be written
 against. “Agricola is only puffed up with hatred and ambition.”[1075]

 He “is and should be called a godless man who denies God, which
 is what the Sacramentarians do.”[1076]—“Of false brethren we must
 above all things beware.”[1077]—With such a one “there is no hope of
 repentance; he is bold, impudent.”[1078]—“He remains obdurate,” he
 says of one of these heretics, “a cunning, evil-minded scoffer”; he
 betrays us as “Judas betrayed Christ.”[1079]

The depth of the yawning abyss between the heretics and Luther and also
the hatred they bore him on account of his treatment of them is plain
from the words of Münzer and Ickelsamer already quoted.[1080]

3. The Church-Unseen, its Origin and Early History

His doctrine of the Church may in many respects be regarded as the
key-stone and centre of the rest of Luther’s theology.

It is practically important in that it affords a clue to anyone desirous
of ascertaining to which of the competing religious bodies he should
belong. It was usually to this article on the Church that those who
afterwards returned to Catholicism appealed in vindication of their step.
It was also the practice of Catholic writers, in their controversies
with Luther, to appeal to the doctrine of the one Church which has never
erred in dogma in order to convict him more speedily of the guilt of his
separation. All of them started from the old definition, according to
which the Church is the visible commonwealth of the faithful, founded by
Christ on Peter, the Rock, which confesses the same Christian belief and
unites in the same Sacraments under the guidance of its lawful pastors,
in particular of the successors of St. Peter.

Luther himself was fully aware of the supreme importance of this
doctrine; he frequently enough brings his opponents on the scene “crying
Church, Church!”[1081] Among the Papists, he says, they do nothing
but shriek Church, Church, Church, and this is the chief obstacle to
reunion.[1082] “Hence there is indeed need that we should see what the
Holy Christian Church is. If it is the clergy and their mob, then the
devil has won and we two, God and His Word, are the losers.”[1083] “The
Pope quotes this text [John xiv. 17: ‘The spirit of truth shall remain
with you’] strongly and impressively.… They have become so certain of
their cause that they take their stand on it as on a wall of iron.… This
we ourselves must believe and say, viz. that the Holy Ghost is with
the Church which is certainly on earth and will remain.”[1084] But was
Luther’s Church a visible or an invisible one?

_Invisibility of Luther’s Church_

Bearing in mind the religious compulsion practised by Luther, the
question would seem already answered. His practice involved the existence
of an outward ecclesiastical authority with outward rules, a congregation
to which it was impossible to belong without submitting to the doctrine
of a visible head or corporation. Of the visible nature of this Church
there can be no question. It is with this tangible authority that he
confronts the Anabaptists, for instance when he says: “The presumption
of these fanatics is unbearable, for they altogether repudiate the
authority of the Church and will have it all their own way.”[1085]
The best-grounded maxims of the best teachers are despised by them,
so he complains, and they only esteem the opinions they themselves
have rummaged for in Scripture! “Yet great heed should be paid to the

Nevertheless, according to Luther’s own views which had not changed much
since 1519, the Church is in reality invisible.

The Church is not an outward, tangible institution, with a divinely
appointed spiritual government and direction, such as it had been to
Catholics through all the ages; rather it is the ghostly congregation of
true believers known to Christ alone, Who alone is their head, guide and
teacher. Men holding “office” in the Church there must indeed be, but
only in order to preach and to dispense the sacraments; any spiritual
authority with full powers for legislating and guiding the faithful is
non-existent.[1087] It is the “true” faith and the possession of the
“right” sacraments that constitute the Church. It is accordingly clear to
him that the Holy Church in which we are to believe, must be a “ghostly,
not a bodily one,” “for what we believe,” so he proceeds, “is not bodily
but ghostly. The outward Roman Church we can all of us see, hence she
cannot be the true Church in which we believe which is a congregation
or assembly of the saints in faith; but no one can see who is a saint
or who has the faith.” This he said in his “Von dem Bapstum tzu Rome”

 “The Church is altogether in the spirit,” so he again says in the
 following year, “she is altogether a spiritual thing.”[1089] “Christ,”
 so he says later, “works in the spirit so that it is hardly possible
 to smell His Church and bishops from afar, and the Holy Ghost behaves
 as though He were not there”; but that Church which is so close at
 hand “that it is possible to lay hold on her,” as is the case with
 the Popish Church, is only the Church of the devil.[1090] “Who will
 show us the Church,” he asks, “seeing that she is hidden in the spirit
 and is only believed in, just as we say: ‘I believe in one Holy
 Church.’”[1091] “The Church is _believed_ in but she is not seen,
 and for the most part she is oppressed and hidden, under weakness,
 crosses and scandals.”[1092] In short, as a Lutheran theologian puts
 it, “he is speaking merely of a Holy Church or congregation whose real
 complement of Saints is not apparent, and which is therefore termed
 invisible.”[1093] Nor could he speak otherwise, for the absence of
 a divinely appointed hierarchy, and likewise his principle of the
 free examination of Scripture, could not but lead him to assume an
 invisible Church which lives only in the hearts of those who share the
 faith and the possession of the Holy Ghost.

Although, as the theologian in question points out, in Luther’s idea
of the Church visible elements are not lacking, e.g. preaching and
the sacraments, yet the actual congregation of Saints is visible to
God alone; indeed the Church would still be there even should her
only members consist of “babes in the cradle.”[1094] For instance,
according to him, the Church before his day comprised very few people,
and those unknown, who kept the Gospel undefiled and thus preserved the
Church; some “elect souls must needs have come back, at least on their
death-beds, to the true path.”[1095]—“Such persons [inspired by the Holy
Ghost] there must always be on earth, even though there should only be
two or three, or just the children. Of the old there are, alas, but few.
Such as do not belong to this class have no right to look upon themselves
as Christians; nor are they to be consoled as though they were Christians
by much talk of the forgiveness of sins and the Grace of Christ.”[1096]

Thus, in so far as the visible elements were recognised by Luther,
Protestants are justified in teaching that Luther’s Church-Unseen was
“not a mere idea or empty phantom”; if, however, they go on to say that,
according to Luther, the Church is “the living sum total of all who are
united in the Spirit,” one sees at a glance that, though, mentally, we
can make a class of all who come under the category of “believers,” this
implies no actual relation between such, and consequently no “Church” or
real though invisible _society_.[1097]

_The Marks of the Church. Gradual Disappearance of the Old Conception of
the Church_

It is a matter of common knowledge that the marks or “_notæ_” of the
Church had been the subject of many disquisitions before Luther’s day.
We may now inquire whether Luther himself also admitted the existence of
these “marks,” by which the true Church of Christ might be known.

Though the admission of such marks seems incompatible with his theory of
the Church-Unseen, Luther repeatedly seeks to prove the truth of his own
Church and the falsehood of Catholicism by this means. Especially is this
the case in his “Von den Conciliis und Kirchen” (1539).

 Thus he asks: How can “a poor, blundering man know where to find this
 holy Christian folkdom [the Church]? For we are told that it is [to
 be found] in this life and on this earth … where it will also remain
 till the end of time.”[1098] This leads him to speak of the marks of
 the true Church.

 “First of all the holy Christian people can be told by its having
 the Holy Word of God.” Luther forgets to say how the latter is to be
 recognised, though on this all depends; for he was far from being the
 only one who laid claim to possessing the pure Word of God. Hence
 many were not slow in pointing out how useless it was on his part to
 say: “Where you hear or see this Word preached, believed, confessed
 and acted upon, have no doubt that there, assuredly, must be the true
 ‘_ecclesia sancta catholica_,’ and the Holy Christian people, even
 though in number they be but few.”[1099] Nor did his theological
 opponents think any more highly of the other marks of the true Church
 which he sets up in the same work. They urged that the distinguishing
 marks should surely be clearer than what was to be distinguished, and
 patent and evident even to the unlearned. Concerning the marks set
 up by Luther, however, there was doubt even among those who had cut
 themselves adrift from Catholicism.

 For instance, the second mark was “the Sacrament of Baptism where it
 is rightly taught and believed, and administered according to Christ’s
 ordinance.”[1100] But, among the Zwinglians and Anabaptists, baptism,
 so at least they claimed, was also rightly administered according to
 the ordinance of Christ; and, as for the Popish Church, Luther himself
 admits that she had always preserved baptism in its purity. Hence,
 here again, we have no clear, distinctive mark.

 The other marks, according to Luther’s “Von den Conciliis,” were,
 thirdly, “the Sacrament of the Altar where it is rightly given,
 believed and received according to the institution of Christ”;
 and, fourthly, “the keys [forgiveness through faith] of which they
 make public use.” “Fifthly, the Church is known outwardly by her
 consecrating or calling of ministers of the Church, to the offices
 which it is her duty to fill.” Sixthly, “by her public prayer, praise,
 and thanks to God.” “Seventhly, the Christian people is recognised
 outwardly by the sacred emblem of the holy Cross since it has to
 suffer misfortune and persecution, all kinds of temptation and
 trouble—as we learn from the Our Father—from the devil, the world
 and the flesh; must be inwardly in pain, foolish and affrighted, and
 outwardly poor, despised, weak and sick.”[1101]

 Bellarmine, the sharp-witted controversialist, and other polemics
 even earlier, dealt with these marks and showed their inadequacy.
 As regards the last mark Bellarmine, not unnaturally, expressed his
 wonder that Luther should have spoken of it, seeing that inward
 suffering, sadness and apprehension are of their very nature hidden
 things. Luther, however, hit upon this mark because he was accustomed
 to regard his “temptations” as a witness to the truth of his doctrine,
 and was convinced that the devil was causing them solely out of hatred
 for the truth.[1102] He thus carried his fancied experiences[1103]
 into his teaching on the Church, a fresh proof that his theology was
 the outcome rather of his inner life than of revealed doctrine. The
 idea that the Church was ever to be sick, weak, foolish and despised
 appealed to him all the more because his Evangel had not brought forth
 the good moral fruits he desiderated, and because he had vainly to
 struggle against the dissensions within his congregations and their
 abuse of the freedom of the Gospel.

 It was this experience of his which led him to the fantastic plan
 already described of forming an “assembly of earnest Christians,”
 i.e. a Church-apart enrolled from the true believers who would then
 realise the idea of a Church even to the extent of having the power of

 The seven marks of the Church were reduced to two in the Augsburg
 Confession of 1530, viz. pure doctrine, and true sacraments, and it is
 thus that they appear in the “Symbolic Books” of Lutheranism. On the
 other hand, Luther makes no appeal to the marks of the Church as given
 in the olden so-called Nicene Creed, “though all the olden Councils
 had insisted that it was these marks, particularly the attribute of
 ‘Apostolicity,’ which distinguished the Church from the sects.”[1104]

 As a matter of fact the marks on which Catholic theologians laid
 stress, viz. the Church’s “oneness, holiness, Catholicity” and
 apostolicity furnished a striking answer to the question: Where is
 the Church? She is Apostolic because her connection with the Apostles
 has never been broken; Catholic because of her universal existence
 throughout the world; holy in her aims and means and in the practice
 of Christian virtue by the generality of her followers, and also on
 account of the special gifts of grace which have ever brightened her
 path through the ages; lastly, she is one, outwardly in being alone,
 and also inwardly, in the unity of her faith and belief, liturgy and
 sacraments, and in her character as a society in which a divinely
 appointed spiritual authority rules which the rest obey. In the
 latter respect the Church, to the Catholic mind, is even a “_societas
 perfecta_,” visible, moreover, to the whole world like the “city set
 on a hill” (Matt. v. 12) in which the Fathers of the Church indeed
 always saw an image of the Church;[1105] she is as a building built
 upon a rock, as a flock gathered round the shepherd, both of them
 comparisons which we owe to the Church’s Divine Founder.

 It was not without reason that Luther was averse to any appeal to the
 four marks of the Church just referred to. What unity had he wherewith
 to confront that of Catholicism under its Pope? Apostolicity, as an
 historical union with Christ’s Apostles was so evidently wanting in
 his case that he declared that the doctrine he had come to preach had
 died out shortly after Apostolic times. Any claim to Catholicity in
 the usual sense of the word was not to be thought of for a moment.
 The only olden marks which he does not throw over is that of holiness.
 He here relies on the existence of holiness in the case of a few as
 being sufficient for his purpose.

 Nevertheless, due justice must be done to the stress he is ever
 disposed to lay on the holiness of the Church. He practically makes
 all the other marks to centre in this, for he speaks of the seven
 marks mentioned above as the sevenfold “sanctuary whereby the Holy
 Ghost sanctifies Christ’s holy nation.”[1106]

 “Even though it was impossible for him,” remarks Johann Adam Möhler,
 “to teach that the Church was to be regarded as a living institution
 in which men become holy, yet he sticks fast to the idea that she
 ought by rights to be composed of saints.… The inner Church [called
 by theologians the “soul” to distinguish it from the outward “body”
 of the Church] is everywhere in evidence, and the fact that no one is
 a true citizen of the heavenly kingdom if he belongs only outwardly
 to the Church and has not entered into the spirit of Christ and felt
 within himself its vivifying power, is pointed out [by Luther] in a
 way which merits all praise.”[1107]

Such true believers, according to Luther’s teaching, are so much the sole
representatives of the visible Church that the wicked, the unbelieving,
the hypocritical Christians who only expose her to the scorn and derision
of her foes, do not really belong to the Church at all.[1108] They are
members of the Church merely in name, but, in reality, are not Christians
at all.[1109]

It was not, however, easy for him to shake off the true feeling he had
inherited from youthful days, viz. that whoever wished to be pious
and pleasing to God, must become so through the true Church. “Let us
therefore pray in the Church,” so we hear him say, “let us pray with the
Church and for her.”[1110] According to him the Church was the ghostly
Eve taken from the side of Christ, a pure virgin and one body with
Christ, great and splendid in God’s sight, the chief of His works, dear
to Him, precious and highly esteemed in His sight, etc.[1111] Hence we
find him re-echoing the beautiful words in which Catholic mystics had
been wont to extol the Church and her “soul.”

Yet there is no doubt, that, in spite of all this, Luther had explained
away the Church’s very essence.

It was indeed his tendency to spiritualise, and his favourite idea
that true believers must be enlightened by God directly concerning His
outward “Word” that helped him thus to explain away the Church. As for
any outward doctrinal establishment or institutional Church having an
authority of her own, no such thing existed. Thus the Church which Luther
extols as so holy turns out to be something quite intangible—water that
for want of a holder runs away and is lost. Even Köstlin admits this,
though in guarded words: “Certain main problems which the Reformed view
of the Church must necessarily face” “were only very insufficiently
grasped and discussed” by Luther and his friends. Among such questions
Köstlin includes some that touch the Church’s very essence: How far
is purity of doctrine necessary in order to belong to the Church; how
far are the old Creeds still professed by Protestantism obligatory or
binding upon preachers; where, finally, does the freedom preached by
Luther precisely end?[1112] But, in spite of all the _lacunæ_ in his
doctrine of the Church, Luther bitterly insists, that, outside the
Church there can be no salvation.[1113] Nor did he even admit the usual
Catholic limitation, viz. that those, who through no fault of their own
are ignorant of the Church, may possibly be saved if their life has been
otherwise good. Luther indeed, as already shown (p. 292), is of opinion
that some olden Catholics may have been saved, if, in the end, they laid
hold on Christ as Luther taught;[1114] he also opines that salvation had
been brought to all “worthy men of every nation” who had died before the
coming of Christ, through His preaching during His visit to Limbo;[1115]
yet he does not believe that it was the Will of God that _all_ men,
whether within or outside the Church, should be saved.[1116]

After having in the above examined Luther’s conception of the Church,
irrespective of its mode of growth, we may now turn our attention to the
genesis and historical development of this conception.

_Origin and Early Outbuilding of the New Idea of the Church_

A curious psychological process accompanies the growth of Luther’s idea
of the Church. We know that, even long after he had fallen a victim to
his theory of justification by faith alone, he had still no thought
of breaking away from the Church’s communion or of questioning the
conception then in vogue of the Church. It was only when the olden Church
refused to come over to his new doctrine and prepared to condemn it, that
he decided, after great struggles within, to cut himself adrift, and it
was in order to justify this step to himself and to vindicate it to the
world that he gradually formed his new views on the Church. (Cp. above,
vol. i., p. 321 ff.)

 Characteristically enough we find a first trace of what was to come,
 in his sermon on the power of the Papal Ban, which he published in
 Latin in 1518 and in German in the following year. Here, of course,
 he had to deal with the question of the effects of the threatened
 excommunication; in so doing he reached the false proposition,
 censured amongst his 41 errors in the Bull Exsurge Domine of May 16,
 1520: “Excommunications are merely outward penalties and do not rob a
 man of the Church’s common spiritual prayers.”[1117] Not long after,
 according to his wont, he went a step further. Among the condemned
 Theses we find the paradoxical one: “Christians must be taught to love
 excommunication rather than to fear it.”[1118]

 At Dresden on July 25, 1518, when he was found fault with on account
 of his Wittenberg Sermon on Excommunication (which was then probably
 not yet known in its entirety), he seems to have shown scant respect
 for the supreme authority in the Church. Emser, his then opponent,
 writes expressly that Luther had declared he cared nothing for the
 Pope’s Ban.[1119]

 Some weeks later, on Sep. 1, Luther himself wrote to Staupitz, his
 superior, that his conscience told him he was in the right and with
 the truth on his side; “Christ liveth and reigneth yesterday, to-day
 and for ever”; he also tells him, that, in his “Resolutions,” and in
 his replies to Prierias he had spoken freely, and in a language that
 would wound the Romanists, and that he was ready, nay anxious, to
 give the brassy Romans an even ruder German answer in the service of
 Christ, the Shepherd of the people. “Have no fear; I shall continue
 untrammelled my study of the Word of God without any fear of the
 citation [to Augsburg].”[1120]

 During the negotiations in the presence of Cajetan at Augsburg we can
 see even more clearly how Luther stood under the spell of his idea,
 that the only Church was a spiritual one, and that, even should he
 break away from ecclesiastical authority by rising against the Ban, he
 would still remain in this Church.

 It was after his return from Augsburg, during the stormy days when
 he appealed “from the Pope to a General Christian Council,” i.e. in
 the winter of 1518, that he discovered the true “Antichrist” who
 reigned at Rome.[1121] This discovery deprived him of the last vestige
 of respect for the authority of the Church and for her head.[1122]
 His own inward state when he made this discovery was one of curious
 turmoil. In his letter to Link, of Dec. 11, 1518, we hear him speaking
 of his commotion of mind, of new projects just on the point of birth
 which would show that, so far, he had hardly made a serious beginning
 with the struggle; he had a “premonition” then that Antichrist
 described by St. Paul (2 Thes. ii. 3 ff.) was seated in Rome where he
 behaved even worse than the Turk.[1123] At the beginning of 1519 with
 bated breath he announced to his friends the impending war on all the
 Papal ordinances.[1124]

 Thus, even previous to the Leipzig Disputation, he must have busied
 himself with his new idea of the Church.

 It was, however, only during the Disputation that, pressed hard by
 Eck, he was induced to deny openly the Primacy and to proclaim his
 belief in an invisible Church controlled by no authority.[1125] In the
 Disputation on July 4 and the following days, he attacked the divine
 institution of the Pope’s authority, asserted that even Œcumenical
 Councils could err, and, on July 6, declared that the Council of
 Constance had actually done so in rejecting the doctrine of Hus that
 there is “a Holy Catholic Church which is the whole body of the elect.”

In thus cutting the idea of the Church to his own measure, Luther had
reached the Husite theory of the predestined as the sole members of the
Church. “Luther found in this his own view of the Church, for, according
to him, on the one hand there was no need of submission to Rome, and, on
the other, only the real Christians and the elect were actual members
of the Church.”[1126] In the “Resolutions,” which he published at the
end of August immediately after the Disputation, he adheres to the
statement that even Œcumenical Councils had erred and that, even on the
most important questions of the faith. Still, strange to say, he does not
think there is any reason for fearing that the Church had been forsaken
by the Spirit of Christ, for by the Church was to be understood neither
the Pope nor a Council.[1127] Here we have the basis of his new idea
of the Church.… It is combined with another idea towards which he had
long been drifting, viz. of seeing in Holy Scripture the sole source of
faith.[1128] In the “Resolutions” he says: “Faith does not spring from
any external authority but is aroused in the heart by the Holy Ghost,
though man is moved thereto by the Word and by example.”[1129] Wherever
Luther’s doctrine is believed, there is the Church.[1130]

The Papal Bull of 1520 condemned among the other selected theses of
Luther’s, his attack on the Primacy and the Councils, though saying
nothing of his doctrine of the Church, then still in process of growth.
“The Roman Pope, the successor of Peter,” so the 25th of these condemned
Theses runs, “is not the Vicar of Christ set over all the Churches
throughout the whole world and appointed by Christ Himself in the person
of St. Peter.” And the 29th declares: “It is open to us to set aside the
Councils, freely to question their actions and judge their decrees and to
profess with all confidence whatever appears to be the truth whether it
has been approved or reproved of any Council.”[1131]

The originator of principles so subversive to all ecclesiastical
order had perforce to reassure himself by claiming freedom in the
interpretation of Scripture.

Hence, for himself and all who chose to follow him, he set up in the
clearest and most decided terms the personal reading of the written Word
of God, above all tradition and all the pronouncements of the teaching
office of the Church; in this he went much further than he had done
hitherto in the questions he had raised concerning justification, grace,
indulgences, etc. It is easy to understand why it was so necessary for
him to claim for himself a direct enlightenment by the Spirit of God
in his reading of the Bible;[1132] in no other way could he vindicate
his daring in thus setting himself in opposition to a Church with a
history of 1500 years. At the same time he saw that this same gift of
illumination would have to be allowed to others, hence he declared that
all faithful and devout readers of the Bible enjoyed a certain kind of
inspiration, all according to him being directly guided by the Spirit
into the truth without any outward interference of Church doctrine,
though the first fruits of revelation belonged to him alone.[1133]

By thus exalting the personal element into a principle, he dealt a
mortal blow at the idea of a Church to whom was committed the true
interpretation of doctrine.

Before pointing out, how, in spite of the boundless liberty proclaimed by
Luther, he nevertheless was anxious to retain some sort of Church in the
stead of the ancient one, we may here put on record certain statements
of his on the illumination of the individual by God that have not as
yet been quoted; albeit difficult to understand this is of the very
essence of Lutheranism and quite indispensable to the new doctrine of an
invisible Church.[1134]

 According to the “Resolutions” he published after the Leipzig
 Disputation, every man is born into the faith through the Evangel
 owing to the bestowal of certainty from on high without the
 intervention of the Church’s authority or of any doctrine outwardly
 binding upon him. Satan and all the heretics, so he declares, could
 not have forged a more dangerous opinion than that in vogue among
 Catholics concerning the relations between the Church’s authority
 and the Bible Word; needless to say Luther makes out that, in their
 opinion, the Pope was put above the Written Word and even above God
 Himself.[1135] The genuine Catholic doctrine, viz. that the Church is
 the guardian of the true sense of Holy Scripture and at the same time
 a witness to the faithful of the authenticity and inspiration of the
 Holy Books, is indeed poles asunder from the teaching foisted on her.
 Moreover, it is in these very Resolutions to the Leipzig Disputation
 that Luther disparages the Epistle of James, arguing that its style
 falls far short of the apostolic dignity and could in no way compare
 with that of Paul. Here the “freedom” which he exalts into a principle
 already begins to undermine his new foundation, viz. the Bible itself.

 Not long after this, in 1520, he lays claim in his “Von dem Bapstum”
 and “_De captivitate Babylonica_,” to having been instructed solely
 by the Holy Ghost and out of the Bible regarding the sense of Holy

 In the “_De captivitate Babylonica_” he teaches: the faithful who
 surrender themselves to the Spirit of God and allow Him to work upon
 them through the “Word” (he calls them the Church), received from the
 same Spirit an infallible sense and an inspiration by which to judge
 of doctrine, a sense which is indeed not susceptible of proof yet
 which creates absolute certainty. The same thing held good here as
 in the case of the truth, of which Augustine had said, that the soul
 was so laid hold of and carried away by it as to be enabled by its
 means to judge of all things, though unable to prove the truth itself
 which nevertheless it was forced to acknowledge with an infallible
 certainty.[1136] Luther also appeals as a comparison to the evidence
 of certain fundamental truths of mathematics or philosophy. This would
 at first sight make it appear as though he excluded arbitrary freedom
 in the interpretation of the Bible, since the mind must necessarily
 bow to such logical and unquestionable truths as he instances; this
 is, however, not the case, and we may recall what a wide field he
 opened up for delusion in this matter of inspiration.[1137]

 When he teaches that the perception of the truth of religion
 penetrates into every Christian soul as the direct result of a
 certainty operated by God Himself we must, in order to understand him,
 keep in view the other points of his teaching, above all his opinion
 of man’s utter incapacity to do what is good, the depravity of man’s
 mental powers, his lack of free-will and absolute passivity under the
 hand of God. Above all he needed some such theory in order to justify
 his attack on the olden conception of the Church and to defend his own
 alleged certainty.

 The universal priesthood also serves him as a prop for his idea of the
 Church. This priesthood, with the right to judge of doctrine, such
 as he pictures in his “To the German Nobility” and “On the Freedom
 of a Christian Man,” was a logical outcome of the above doctrine
 of inspiration and of his own inclination to break away from the
 olden Church. It gave to all complete independence in spiritual and
 ecclesiastical matters.[1138]

 The above writings were followed in 1521 by his “_Ad librum Ambrosii
 Catharini Responsio_.” Here he treats in detail of the Church, and of
 Christ the spiritual and invisible rock on which alone she is built
 (without Peter and his successors); the Church’s nature is therefore
 spiritual and invisible; he emphasises anew the right of all the
 faithful individually to disregard all teaching authority and to give
 ear to the voice of the Holy Ghost Who speaks inwardly through the
 Evangel, and thus brings forth, nourishes, educates, strengthens and
 preserves the true Church. In this work Luther is, however, already at
 greater pains to bring down the Church to the region of the visible;
 he points out that at least she possesses visible elements, Baptism,
 the Supper and the Gospel. Nevertheless, direct inspiration of the
 Holy Ghost still looms large in the “_Responsio_” as we may gather
 from the elucubrations embellished with Bible texts in which he
 declares that the Papal Antichrist had been foretold in the Word of
 God and his appearance and workings even described in detail.[1139]

 In “Von Menschen leren tzu meyden” (1522), which is still saturated
 with the spirit of the Wartburg he had just left, he insists that:
 “Each one must simply believe that it is God’s Word because he feels
 in his heart that it is the truth, even should an angel from heaven
 or all the world preach the contrary.”—His writing of 1523, “Das eyn
 Christliche Versamlung odder Gemeyne Recht und Macht habe alle Lere
 zu urteylen,” etc., was intended to promote unfettered freedom of
 spirit, but, of course, only in the interests of the removal of the
 Popish-minded clergy, for, naturally, there could be no question of
 such freedom being used against Luther, or of anyone setting himself
 up as judge of Luther’s new doctrine. Here, and even more strongly
 in the “_De instituendis ministris Ecclesiæ_,” which he published in
 the same year, he starts again from the standpoint of the universal
 priesthood; this was inconsistent with the clerical order of the
 Popish Church; by it every man was qualified to decide independently
 on doctrine in accordance with Scripture; but whoever preached
 openly in the Church of God only did so as representing the others
 and at their request; hence no preacher was to be at the head of any
 congregation unless the latter wanted him, and, taught by the unction
 of the Holy Spirit, found his doctrine right. A Christian might
 also, so he continues, whether amongst other Christians or amongst
 those who had formerly been unbelievers, instruct his fellow-men
 in the Gospel merely by virtue of his Christian calling; anyone, if
 he detected the ordinary teacher in error, might stand up and teach
 without any call, as the Apostle says (1 Cor. xiv. 30) “if anything be
 revealed to another, let the first hold his peace.”[1140]

 But how is a man to be so certain in his heart as to be able to come
 forward in this way? “You can then be certain of the matter if you
 are able to decide freely and surely and to say this is the pure
 and simple truth, for it I will live or die, and whoever teaches
 otherwise, whatsoever be his title and standing, is accursed.”[1141]

It would be a waste of words to point out that this was to deal a
death-blow at the olden conception of the Church.

Startling, nay, utterly stupefying, is the sharp contrast all this
presents to Luther’s later attitude already described above (pp. 241,
251, 262). There we have a rigid, coercive Church held fast in the ban
of the Wittenberg doctrine, whereas here, in the days of the early
development of Lutheranism, we find an exuberant wealth of individual
freedom which scoffs even at the possibility of any ecclesiastical order.

Only a dreamer and hot-head like Luther could have seen in such an
individualism, where each one is teacher and priest, anything else than

 Luther’s expectations in those early days were strange indeed and
 quite incapable of realisation; not only were all delusions to be
 excluded but everything, as he says of the enduring of opposition,
 was to be done “decently and piously”! If he is really speaking in
 earnest, then he shows himself a hermit utterly ignorant of human
 nature. And yet even in the seclusion of the convent walls, the
 greatest enthusiast should have seen that this was not the way to form
 a congregation on earth of believers, or anything resembling a Church.

 We can, nevertheless, easily understand, to cite Möhler in
 confirmation of what has been said, “how the doctrine in question
 could, nay, had to, arise in Luther’s mind: Since the authority of the
 existing Church was against him he had perforce to seek for support
 in the authority of God working directly in him.… He saw no other way
 than to appeal to an intangible, inward authorisation.”[1142]—This he
 then proceeded to work out into a system for the other believers.
 “In the fashion of the true demagogue he flatters every Christian
 and invests him with such perfection as any unprejudiced mind must
 repudiate on the most cursory glance into his own heart.”[1143]

 The truth is, the doctrine put forward by Luther against the Church,
 i.e. that Holy Scripture is the sole judge, has no meaning except on
 the assumption of a certainty through direct divine illumination.

 Luther was quite right in declaring Holy Scripture to be the source of
 the doctrine of salvation; but it was a very different thing to assert
 that Holy Writ is the judge which determines what is the doctrine of
 salvation contained therein. He only reached the latter assertion by
 taking for granted the direct action of God in man for imparting a
 knowledge of the true sense of Scripture. Hence in his statements on
 Holy Scripture we frequently find one thing strangely confused with
 the other, the outward Book with the inward knowledge of the same,
 so that, as Möhler puts it, “the direct transmission of its contents
 to the reader is assumed in a quite childish fashion.”[1144] Even
 Köstlin has to admit this confusion, though he does so with reserve:
 “In Luther,” he says, “we see in many passages an intermingling of the
 pure Word and pure doctrine.”[1145]

_Luther’s Later Attitude Towards the Idea of the Church. Objections_

 Henceforward there remained deeply rooted in Luther’s mind the
 conviction that the individual was taught by God and that this Divine
 enlightenment was always leading to the adoption of his own chief
 articles of faith and to the promotion of the Lutheran Church.[1146]

 There is no call to follow up this idea through all his various
 writings. We may, however, call to mind a remarkable and warlike
 statement with which, towards the end of his life, he sought to
 justify his attacks on the Pope and the ancient Church, and that,
 too, at a time when he must long since have been disappointed at the
 results of the freedom of judging which he had once allowed but had
 now already in many ways curtailed.

 In his “Wider das Bapstum vom Teuffel gestifft,” he quotes the words
 of Christ which refer to prayer in common: “Where two or three are
 gathered together in My name, there am I in the midst of them.”
 This leads him to conclude, strange to say, “that even two or three
 gathered together in Christ’s name hold all the power of St. Peter
 and all the Apostles.” And, at once, he proceeds in his old vein
 to declare that two or three, nay, even a single one, who has been
 enlightened by Christ, is as good a teacher as the whole Church,
 and, indeed, in certain cases, even takes precedence of her. “Hence
 it comes,” he says, “that, often, a man who believes in Christ has
 withstood a whole crowd … as the prophets withstood the Kings of
 Israel, the priests and the whole nation [to say nothing of Luther
 himself who had withstood the whole Church]. In short, God will
 not be bound as to numbers, greatness, height, power, or anything
 personal to man, but will only be with those who love and keep His
 Word even though they be no more than stable boys. What does He care
 for high, great and mighty lords? He alone is the greatest, highest
 and mightiest.”[1147] Thus he practically claims a Divine dignity
 for an undertaking such as his, and paints his career afresh as that
 of a prophet who had a right to exalt himself even over the topmost
 hierarchy; only that he invests all the faithful, and even the “stable
 boy,” with the like high calling.

But, in such a system, what place was there left for anything more than a
phantom Church? Obviously the Church had to withdraw into the region of
the invisible. For her again to become visible and assume the shape to be
considered below, seems almost a paradox.

In view of the elasticity and vagueness of Luther’s teaching on the
Church it is not surprising that his followers, to this very day, are
divided as to whether, in point of fact, Luther wanted a “Church” or not.

 A well-known Lutheran theologian admits in plain language that Luther
 left the problem of the Church unsolved; only after the Reformer’s
 time did certain “important problems” arise in respect of Luther’s
 tentative definition of the Church.[1148] Another theologian, writing
 in a Protestant periodical, says that Luther left behind him no
 “Evangelical Church.” “The Reformation,” he says, “spelt Christendom’s
 deliverance from the Church.… His great anticlerical bias was never
 repudiated by Luther.… He committed the care of the pure Evangel to
 the hands of the civil authorities. It ought no longer to be disputed
 that Luther and the Reformers were not the founders of the Evangelical
 Church—and that their ideal Protestantism was one minus a Church.
 It is only necessary to take the idea of the Church in its strict
 sense—not as the congregation, or the people of God, nor yet as a body
 of men holding the same opinions, nor as the kingdom of Christ—but as
 an independent complexus of regulations ordering the religious life,
 as a special institution to provide for the particular needs of the
 religious commonwealth within traditional limits.” Hence “the fact
 that, in our homeland, three hundred years after Luther’s time, we
 find the Evangelical preacherdom firmly consolidated in a body not
 unlike the State, and professing to be the official representative
 of Protestantism is one of the most astounding paradoxes in all the
 history of the Church.”[1149]

 There is no need to go so far, nor is it really necessary to put
 the words evangelical “Church” or “Churches” in inverted commas, as
 Protestants sometimes do in order to mark the quite unusual meaning of
 the word Church according to Luther’s view. It is obvious that logic
 had no place in Luther’s ideas and aims in respect of the Church, and
 his subjectivism imposed on him in this matter the utmost vagueness.

Frequently we find in Catholic works on dogma extracts from Luther’s
writings dating from 1519 and 1520, which, it is alleged, show his
positive conviction at that time that a Church—i.e. one in the olden
Catholic sense—was to be recognised. But this is a mistake. The documents
containing such utterances were of a diplomatic character, and we have no
right to build upon them. They do not in any way invalidate what has been
said above.

 One of these is Luther’s “Unterricht auff etlich Artikell,” dating
 from the end of Feb., 1519, i.e. from a time when he had already
 discovered the Roman Antichrist;[1150] the other, his “_Oblatio sive
 Protestatio_,” dating from the summer of 1520, is a tract unmistakably
 intended to forestall the publication of the Roman Bull.[1151] In the
 first work, composed at the instance of Miltitz, it is true he says in
 praise of the Roman Church that, in her, “St. Peter and St. Paul, 46
 Popes and many hundred thousand martyrs had shed their blood,” that
 she was honoured by God above all others, and that, for the sake of
 Christian charity and unity, it was not lawful to separate from her
 for all her present blemishes; he will not, however, express himself
 regarding the “authority and supremacy of the Roman Church,” “seeing
 that this does not concern the salvation of souls”; Christ, on the
 contrary, had founded His Church on charity, meekness and oneness,
 and, for the sake of this oneness, the Papal commands ought to be
 obeyed. By this he fancies that he has proved that he “does not wish
 to detract from the Roman Church.”[1152]

 What he says in the other writing referred to above is even less
 acceptable, though here too he wishes to appear “as a submissive and
 obedient son of the Holy Christian Churches.”[1153] The circumstance
 that many shortsighted persons doubtless took him at his word at this
 critical time of his excommunication must have served powerfully to
 promote the apostasy.

 As to the changes to which Luther’s mode of thought was liable, we
 may perhaps be permitted to make a general observation before passing
 from the consideration of the invisible Church to that of the Church

 The charge brought against him of having formerly taught differently
 on many points from what he did at a later date, Luther lightly swept
 aside with the assurance that he had gone on gradually advancing
 in the knowledge of the truth. His defenders seek to escape the
 difficulty in a like way. His changeableness and inconstancy must
 undoubtedly weigh heavily in the balance. We must not, however,
 be unfair to him or argue that the fact of his having at first
 defended elements of Catholic doctrine which he afterwards abandoned
 constituted a grave self-contradiction.

 Luther openly admits that it was only gradually that he came to attack
 the Church so bitterly.

 When King Henry VIII reproached him with the contradictions apparent
 between his earlier and later teaching on the Papacy and the Church,
 Luther boldly appealed in 1522 in his “_Contra Henricum regem Angliæ_”
 to his having only gradually learnt the whole truth: “I did not
 yet know that the Papacy was contrary to Scripture.… God had then
 given me a cheerful spirit that suffered itself to be despised [by
 his opponents].… By dint of so doing they forced me on, so that the
 further I went the more lies I discovered … until it became plain
 from Scripture, thanks to God’s Grace, that the Papacy, episcopacy,
 foundations, cloisters, universities, together with all the monkery,
 nunnery, Masses, services were nothing but damnable sects of the
 devil.… Hence it came about that I had to write other books in
 condemnation and retractation of my earlier ones.”[1154] He will also,
 so he adds ironically, retract what he had previously said in his
 “_De captivitate Babylonica_,” viz. that the Papacy was the prey of a
 strong Nimrod, as this had scandalised the lying King of England, who
 was himself the robber of his country. This, in his own style, he now
 proposes to amend as follows: “I should have said: The Papacy is the
 arch-devil’s most poisonous abomination hitherto seen on earth.”[1155]

If it was a difficult matter to give an account of Luther’s invisible
Church, owing to the changes which took place in his own views, even more
difficult is the task of tracing the further growth of his teaching. His
invisible Church becomes more and more clearly a visible Church; yet all
the while it protests, that, in its nature, it is invisible.

4. The Church becomes visible. Its organisation

What was Luther’s view of the Church’s character when the time came to
set up new congregations within the circle of the “Evangel”?

Theologically the question is answered in the authentic publicly accepted
explanations he gave of his doctrine on the Church. Of these the oldest
is comprised in the Schwabach Articles of 1529,[1156] where we read in
Article XII:

There is “no doubt that there is and ever will be on earth a holy
Christian Church until the end of the world, as Christ says in Matt,
xxviii. 20.… This Church is nothing else than the believers in Christ,
who hold, believe and teach the above-mentioned articles and provisions
[of the Schwabach Confession], and who, on this account, are persecuted
and tormented in the world. For where the Gospel is preached and the
sacraments rightly used, there is the holy Christian Church, bound by no
laws and outward pomp to place or time, persons or ceremonies.”—“Thus
did the Evangelical idea of the Church,” so we read in Köstlin-Kawerau,
“find expression once and for all in the fundamental confessions of
Protestantism, faith in Christ being identified with faith in the said
‘articles and provisions.’”[1157]

 In the “Augsburg Confession” of 1530—“which Confession,” according
 to Luther, “was to last till the end of the world and the Last
 Judgment”[1158]—we read: “The Church is the mateship of the saints
 (‘_congregatio sanctorum_’) in which the Evangel is rightly taught
 and the sacraments rightly dispensed.”[1159] The “Apologia” to this
 Confession contains the following: “The Church is not merely a
 commonwealth of outward things and rites like other institutions,
 but it is rather a society of hearts in faith and the Holy Ghost.
 She has, however, outward signs by which she may be known, viz.
 the pure doctrine of the Gospel and a dispensing of the sacraments
 in accordance with Christ’s Gospel.”[1160] Of “Church government”
 the Confession of Augsburg states: “Concerning the government of
 the Church we hold that no one may teach publicly or dispense the
 sacraments without being duly called”; this is further explained
 in the “Apologia”: “The Church has the command of God to appoint

 Regarding the same matter the Schmalkalden Articles of 1537-1538,
 which also form a part of the “Symbolic Books,” have the following:
 “The Churches must have power to call, choose and ordain the ministers
 of the Church, and such power is in fact bestowed on the Church by God
 … just as, in case of necessity, even a layman can absolve another and
 become his pastor.… The words of Peter: ‘You are a kingly priesthood’
 refer only to the true Church, which, since she alone has the
 priesthood, must also have the power to choose and ordain ministers.
 To this the general usage of the Churches also bears witness.”[1162]

When the above was penned, indeed, even when Melanchthon wrote the
“_Confessio Augustana_,” the new Church, though theoretically invisible,
had long since received an established outward form. Yet its invisibility
is emphasised in the Schwabach Articles which reject such outward laws as
are inconsistent with the Church’s character; the Confession and Apologia
also refer to the (ghostly) union of hearts in the faith, and to the
assembly of the (unknown) saints.

Nevertheless the visibility, so strongly insisted on in the Schmalkalden
Articles, was practically indispensable, and was also a logical result of
the whole work undertaken by Luther.

First of all it was called for by the very nature of this “ministry”
of those who were to preach and to dispense the sacraments in the name
of the congregation; according to Luther’s teaching, the dispensing of
the sacraments went hand in hand with preaching, the sacraments being
efficacious only through the faith of the recipient, and the dispenser’s
duty being confined to making the recipient more worthy of the inpouring
of grace through the word of faith which accompanies the visible sign of
the sacrament. The ministerial “office” was not conferred by a sacrament
as was the case in the priestly ordination of the olden Church, but,
as Luther teaches, “ordination, if understood aright, is no more than
being called or ‘ordered’ to the office of parson or preacher.” Among
the Papists “Baptism and Christ had been weakened and darkened” by the
ordinations. “We are born priests and as such we want to be known.” “By
Holy Baptism we have become the true priests of Christendom as St. Peter
says: ‘You are a royal priesthood.’”[1163] Ministers (i.e. servants) of
the Word was the proper title for those who performed all their functions
in the name of the common priesthood of the whole people.

As soon, however, as it became a question of appointing preachers a
visible Church at once appeared on the scene, though one without either
Pope or hierarchy.

It may be recalled that Luther’s plan was originally to leave it to
each congregation to appoint a preacher either from its own body or an
outsider, who was then to act in their name and with their authority.
There seemed no better way of securing control over the preacher’s
doctrine. As for the ecclesiastical penalties, Luther, even in his
“Deudsche Messe,” left their use to the congregation as a whole.[1164]
At a later date he still clung to the idea of the ecclesiastical
jurisdiction of the congregation. Even to absolve from sin belonged,
in his opinion,—and to this he adhered to the end,—to all believers,
and such absolution was as valid as had it been pronounced by God
Himself (always assuming that faith had already been awakened in the
penitent).[1165] On the authority of the congregation was to rest, not
only the lower ministry, but also the quasi-episcopate. The scheme he
sketched in 1523 in the Latin work he addressed to the Bohemians, “_De
instituendis ministris ecclesiæ_,” has already been described.[1166]

The many abuses which arose, and indeed were bound to arise, from the
independence of the congregations soon compelled him to cast about for a
more reliable framework. The phantom of a community of believers united
in spirit, of a “brotherhood” minus any social or constitutional cohesion
and devoid of any vigorous direction, proved incapable of realisation.

Help was to be looked for only from the State.

By clinging to its solid structure the religious innovations would
have a chance of avoiding the conventicle system and the danger of
its congregations falling asunder. The tendency to drift towards the
State was also promoted by the opposition of the fanatical Anabaptists,
for this sect was a menace to order in the congregations owing to its
excesses and also to the pertinacity with which, following out Luther’s
own teaching, it insisted on individualism and repudiated the “office”
of the ministry. Not only did Luther, after the rise of the Anabaptists,
emphasise the outward rather than the inward Word, but, for the same
reason, he also laid much greater stress than formerly on the “office”
and on the external representation of the Church’s members—invisibly
united by the faith—by duly called officials.

Thus, the Church, whose invisibility and spirituality Luther had been so
fond of emphasising, became, in course of time, more and more a visible
and concrete body, though remaining closely bound up with the State. Yet,
even in Luther’s earlier views on the Church, certain indications pointed
to the visible Church yet to come; indeed the ideas he retained from
Catholic days were to prove stronger than he then anticipated.

Of a statement contained in “_De servo arbitrio_” (1525), a book written
after the rise of the Anabaptist subjectivism, Möhler justly remarks:
“This passage views the clergy as the representatives of the Church which
is thus quite visible; professing the faith of the invisible Church and
expressing its mind, this Church has a definite doctrinal standpoint
which she advocates through her clergy, and, which, as the dictum of the
Saints, she regards as true and infallible. Hence the visible Church
appears as the expression and facsimile of the invisible Church.”[1167]

Already in his books against Alveld and Catharinus Luther was at pains
to insist that the Church which he taught was a real community living
on earth in the flesh, though not tied down to any definite place or
persons.[1168] Wavering and confusion, here as elsewhere, characterise
Luther’s teaching.

We can understand how his Catholic opponents, for instance Staphylus,
make much of the change from the visible to the invisible Church.
Staphylus dubs those who persisted in advocating her invisibility, the
“_Invisibiles_,” such being the followers of Flacius, Schwenckfeld and
Osiander, and also the Anabaptists.[1169]

It is a fact that Melanchthon, particularly in his later years, insists
on the Church as an institution and on her visible nature more than
Luther does. The centuriators defined the Church as “_cœtus visibilis_”
and, after Chemnitz’s day (†1586), the Church of the Lutheran theologians
is something quite visible, and is spoken of as an institution for the
preservation and promotion of pure doctrine and of the means of grace
which work by faith.[1170]

Nor can the Wittenberg view of the Church be taken otherwise when we
see how the theologians of that town in Luther’s own time proceeded in
appointing ministers and controlling and supervising their office. The
preachers and pastors, after their doctrine had been found consonant with
that of Wittenberg,[1171] were “entrusted with the ministry” though it
is not apparent whether the authorisation came from the congregations
who applied for them, or from the theological examiners, or from the
sovereign and his mixed consistory. The formulas used are by no means
clear, save on one point, viz. that they expressly claim for the
Wittenbergers the character of a true “Catholic Church,” or at least
their harmony with such a Church.

 In the ordination-certificate of Heinrich Bock (above, p. 265), who
 received a call as pastor and Superintendent to Reval, the quondam
 city of the Teutonic Order in Esthland, and who had been “ordained”
 on April 25, 1540, by Bugenhagen, the pastor of Wittenberg, we find
 it stated: “His doctrine tallies with the consensus of the Catholic
 Church which our Church also holds, and he is free from every kind
 of fanaticism condemned by the Catholic Church of Christ.”[1172]
 Hence they claimed to be one with the universal Church throughout the
 world and not to form an isolated community apart; this, as we know,
 was Melanchthon’s favourite view. The olden hierarchy was, however,
 replaced by that of Wittenberg, as we read in the same certificate:
 “We”—the signatories, Luther, Bugenhagen, Jonas and Melanchthon—“have
 entrusted him with the ministry of the Church, that he may teach the
 Gospel and dispense the sacraments instituted by Christ,” “_iuxta
 vocationem_,” i.e. in accordance with the call of the authorities
 at Reval who had summoned the ordinand to govern their Church (“_ad
 gubernationem ecclesiæ suæ_”). The testimonial was the work of

 Other testimonials of this kind are similarly worded.

 The certificate of Johann Fischer who went from Wittenberg to
 Rudolstadt in 1540 (above, p. 265) sets forth that “he had been called
 to the ministry of the Gospel by the people there, who had also borne
 witness to his good moral character”; they had asked that “his call
 might be reinforced by public ordination”; this had been conferred on
 him when it had been shown that he held “the pure, Catholic doctrine
 of the Gospel which our Church also teaches and professes,” and that
 he rejected all the fanatical opinions which the Catholic Church of
 Christ rejects.[1173] The statement embodied in the testimonial,
 giving the grounds on which the signatories, the pastor of Wittenberg
 and other “ministers of the Gospel,” undertook such an ordination is
 noteworthy: “We may not refuse to do our duty to the neighbouring
 Churches for the Nicene Council made the godly rule that ordination
 should be requested of the neighbouring Churches.” Of the objections
 that theology and Canon Law might have raised those who drafted the
 document seem to have no inkling.

 In this case the Wittenbergers claim to be no more than a
 “neighbouring Church”; elsewhere they are more ambitious.

The fact is, Wittenberg was anxious to stand at the head of the visible

It was at Wittenberg that Luther, as the leader of the young Church,
had first preached the truth of the Gospel urged thereto “by Divine
command”; on the strength of such a command he was compelled to defend
himself against the Elector’s lawyers who wanted to play havoc with “his

“By divine authority we have begun to ameliorate the world.”[1175]

Foes at home twitted him with setting up an “office of the Word” by
which an end was made of all freedom; they urged, that, at Wittenberg,
people were trying to “breathe new life into despotism, to seat
themselves in the chair and to exercise compulsion just as the Pope
had done heretofore.”[1176] Luther proclaims loudly: “We, who preach
the Evangel, have full powers to ordain; the Pope and the bishops can
ordain no one.”[1177]—“You are a bishop,” said Luther once jokingly to
a Superintendent, “just as I am Pope.”[1178] Beneath the jest there lay
bitter earnest, for the authority of the “Wittenberg school” in Luther’s
estimation stood high indeed; whoever “despises it, so long as the Church
and school remain as they are, is a heretic and a bad man,” seeing that,
in this school, God has “revealed His Word.”[1179]—Nevertheless, the
Wittenberg theologians complained that this authority was not recognised,
that the Church was a “spectacle of woe,” without “oneness either in
doctrine or in worship”; “our princes and cities” ought to bring about
unity. Moreover things are bound to grow worse, seeing that “each one
wants to be his own Rabbi.”[1180] Outside Wittenberg, and even within
the city walls, and that even in Luther’s time, the prediction of Duke
George about the 72 sects of the Protestant Babel seemed about to be

Yet Luther, in setting up the Wittenberg Primacy, retained his
former principles which were altogether at variance with unity and
subordination. “Who holds the public office of preacher,” so he declared
in 1531, is not “forbidden to judge of doctrine” (before this, as the
reader may remember, every “miller’s maid” had been free to do this); but
whoever has no such office may not do so, because he would be acting “of
his own doctrine and spirit.”[1182]

Where is your office? Such was his question in 1525 to his opponent
Carlstadt. The latter appealed to the call he had received from the
congregation of Orlamünde. But of this Luther even then refuses to
hear. He required from Carlstadt, in addition, the ratification of the
sovereign, viz. of the Saxon Elector.

Even in those days he was most anxious to see Church discipline
established and excommunication resorted to, even though this involved
making the Church something visible; the disruption and confusion
everywhere rampant cried aloud for regulations, laws and penalties.[1183]
“Such punishment and discipline through the Ban,” so he says, “is
utterly odious to the world and causes the faithful ministers much work
and danger; for vice has already grown into a habit; it is no longer
a sin; the ungodly have power, riches and position on their side. The
greater the rascal the better his luck.”[1184] Yet, according to him it
was impossible for the Church to make laws, otherwise we would again be
putting up “snares for consciences” as in Popery.[1185] Laws must be
made only by the sovereigns—whatever discipline was enforced against the
unruly was enforced by the secular authorities. “The most the parsons
did for discipline was in following out the Electoral instructions to
the Visitors and denouncing offenders to the secular officials and
judges.”[1186] Of the “blasphemers,” viz. those who were obstinate or
opposed the New Evangel, Luther wrote in 1529 to Thomas Löscher, parson
of Milau: “They must be forced to attend the preaching,” needless to say
by temporal penalties; in this way they will be taught the obedience they
owe as citizens and also their duty to the State, “whether they believe
in the Evangel or not.… If they wish to live among the people, then they
must learn the laws of the people, even though unwillingly.”[1187] Hence
here and in other instructions it is no longer a question of the Church
but only of the sovereigns; these, so he urged, were to be backed by the
preachers. He praised the Bohemian Brethren and the Swiss for having
better discipline in their Churches, he also admitted that the action of
the authorities would not of itself alone be sufficient to correct grave
moral disorders.[1188]

“Unless the Court gives its support to our regulations,” Melanchthon once
said, the result will be mere “platonic laws.”[1189]

References such as these to the State, which was now seen to be necessary
for the support of the Church when once it had become a visible
body,[1190] are to be met with repeatedly by anyone who follows the
history of Lutheranism in its beginnings, more particularly in the years
1525-1528. It was during this period that the union of the new Church
with the State, which has been described above, was accomplished. The
sovereign arrogated to himself those powers which gradually made him the
supreme head of the Church and permanent “emergency-bishop.”[1191] The
visibility of the Church, or rather Churches—as all claim to catholicity
was abandoned save in the credal formularies—rested on the enactments of
the rulers, who, not without Luther’s connivance, soon introduced the
compulsory element into religion. To make use of the invisible power of
the Gospel and to give advice to consciences as to moral conduct, was
indeed left to the ministers of the Word. But it was the State that had
to establish “the right form of worship and the right ecclesiastical

All heretical communities from the commencement of the Church had looked
to the State for help. But no heresiarch ever put himself so completely
in the hands of the State in all outward matters as Luther and his
fellows did where princes of their own party were concerned. “The common
Christian Church” was, according to him, to retain for herself only the
true faith and the sacraments which worked by faith.

When, in the State Church thus called into being, the authorities
proceeded too vigorously against the preachers and treated Luther
without due consideration, the latter had himself a taste of the state
of servitude into which he had brought the Church. Döllinger says truly
that this restriction must have been “doubly irksome to a man who had
known the old episcopal, ecclesiastical rule and who now had to admit to
himself that it was he who had brought about the destruction of a system
which, in spite of all its defects, had dealt with Church matters in an
ecclesiastical spirit, and that it was he who had paved the way for the
new and quite unecclesiastical order of things.”[1193]

Not seldom do we hear Luther reproaching himself bitterly for the changes.

Among the thoughts that chiefly disturbed his conscience was, as he
himself repeatedly admits, that of having rent asunder the great
Church. How can you justify your revolt against the one great Church
of antiquity, the heir to the promises, so the inner voices said to
him as he himself relates: “The words ‘_sancta ecclesia_’ affright a
man. They rise up and say: ‘Preach and act as you like and can, the
‘_ecclesia christiana_’ is still here. Here is the bark of Peter, it
may be tossed about on the waves, but perish it will not!…’ What was I
to do? And how was I to comfort myself?… And yet I had to do it [i.e.
preach against this Church] as here [John viii. 28] the Lord Christ also
does and preaches against those who in name are God’s Kingdom and God’s

Elsewhere he admits: “What am I doing in preaching against such
[representatives of the olden Church], like a pupil against his masters?
Thoughts such as these storm in upon me: Now I see that I am in the
wrong; oh, that I had never begun, never preached a single word! For
who is allowed to set himself up against the Church?… It is hard to
persist and to preach against such a Ban.”[1195]—And yet, in his defiant
spirit, he does persist: “This hits one smartly in the face, as has
often happened to me … yet the One Man, my Beloved Lord and Healer Jesus
Christ, is more to me than all the holiest people on earth.” Since he
thinks it is His Evangel he is defending, he is able, though only at
great costs, “to rise above the cry of ‘Church, Church,’” though he has
to admit that, “this troubles me greatly,” and “it is truly a hard thing
… to leave the Church herself and not to believe or trust her doctrine
any more.”[1196]

It was no real parallel when Luther, in order to justify the State
Church, appealed to the conditions in the Middle Ages where the rulers
had a share in Church matters,[1197] for if then the princes had
intervened in Church matters their action, at least in principle, was
always subordinate to the ecclesiastical authority which kept the power
in its own hands, and concerned moreover only those outward things in
which the Church was thankful for their assistance: The two co-ordinate
powers, the secular and the spiritual, helped one another mutually—such
at least was the ideal of world-government in those days,—acting in
Christian agreement in the service of God and for the general welfare of
mankind. Now, however, that the olden spiritual authority had been either
completely paralysed or reduced to the shadow of its former self, Luther
undertook to replace it by the State, and thus the Church ceased to be
any longer a co-ordinate power.

Though the Wittenberg theologians insisted that to them belonged the
care of souls and this alone, still the limits between this domain and
that of the State became everywhere confused when once the new system
had begun to work. Owing to the friction this caused, Luther, in the
course of time, came to emphasise merely the duty of the authorities to
arrange by law for the establishment of “schools and pulpits,” and to
“allow us divergency in preaching or morals.”[1198] Otherwise he left
those in power, the high-handed nobles and officials, to do as they
pleased, or, else, he lashed them ineffectually with violent and abusive
language. In 1586 he declared, speaking of the marriage questions:
“The peasants and the rude people who seek nothing but the freedom of
the flesh, and likewise the lawyers who are always bent on thwarting
our decisions, have wearied me so greatly that I have thrown aside the
marriage cases and written to some that they may do as they please in
the name of all the devils; let the dead bury their dead.”[1199] It
was chiefly in the matter of these matrimonial cases that he came into
conflict with the Court lawyers, e.g. as to the validity of the secret
marriage contracts. It was in this connection that he declared that, “in
his Church,” which was God’s own institution, he would retain in his
own hands the decision on such matters by virtue of his ecclesiastical
office. In other strong remonstrances wrung from him by the arbitrary
interference of the State officials and the nobles in Church matters,
he sometimes spoke so strongly of the inalienable rights of the Church
that one might well think that he regarded the Church as essentially an
independent institution with an organisation and spiritual authority of
its own.[1200] More usually, however, he simply sighs. When the Court
of Dresden interfered with his plans for the improvement of Church
discipline he wrote resignedly: “Satan is still Satan. Under the Pope he
pushed the Church into the world’s sphere and now, in our day, he seeks
to bring the State system into the Church.”[1201]

       *       *       *       *       *

Without reverting to the subject of the State and Established Church
already dealt with (vol. v., 568 ff.) we may refer to the close
connection between Luther’s theology on the Church and the development
which was its outcome. His theology, from the outset, had aimed at
undermining the authority of the Church, while at the same time enlarging
the sphere of the secular power.

 As early as 1520 in his work addressed to the German nobility he had
 praised the secular lords as “priests like us, equal in all things”;
 “they were to give free scope to the office and work which they have
 from God, wherever it is needed or useful.” Of the clergy, without
 considering their authority in ecclesiastical matters, he writes:
 “The priests, bishops or popes must deal with the Word of God and the
 sacraments, this is their work and office.”[1202]

 “The direction of the outward business of the Church, i.e. what we
 now term Church government,” so Sehling, the Protestant Professor
 of Canon Law, says, “Luther in his writing to the German nobility,
 and ever after, attributes directly to the worldly authorities.… Nor,
 above all, does he claim for the Church any power of legislating. The
 Reformed Canon Law, so far as it was reorganised legislatively, was
 based entirely on the code of the State.”[1203]

 Luther, in fact, recognised no other authority throughout the whole of
 the social order than that of the State; nowhere excepting amongst the
 secular authorities was there, according to him, any real power; there
 is on earth only one power, viz. the secular. “Worldly superiors, by
 virtue of their calling, maintain order and rule according to law and
 equity; as for the Church she has, by God’s ordinance, her common
 ministry of Word and Sacrament.”[1204] “The power of the Churches,”
 says the Schwabach Visitation Convention of 1528, “only extends to the
 choosing of ministers and the enforcing of the Christian Ban”; besides
 this they may also provide for the care of the poor; “all other power
 belongs either to Christ in heaven or to the secular authorities on

 Nor could he well recognise any apostolic teaching authority in the
 “higher orders of the Church,” seeing that a “little maid of seven
 years” on the side of the New Faith “knows more than the Apostles,
 Evangelists and Prophets” on the other side; the latter are but the
 “devil’s apostles, evangelists and prophets.”[1206]

 How he casts aside all the authority of the Church is perhaps shown
 most plainly in the short Theses of 1530 in his writing “Ettlich
 Artickelstück, so M. L. erhalten wil wider die gantze Satans Schüle
 uñ alle Pforten der Hellen”: “The Christian Church has no power to
 issue the least order concerning good works, never has done so and
 never will.” “The parson or bishop [i.e. the Evangelical ministers]
 has not the right to assert his authority everywhere for he is not
 the Christian Church. Such parson or bishop may exhort his Church
 to sanction certain fasts, prayers, holidays, etc., on account of
 the present needs, to be observed for a time and then be allowed to
 drop.”[1207]—But what the Evangelical ministers cannot do, that the
 secular authorities may do, for, in another passage, Luther points out
 expressly the binding character of the rules which the authorities
 might draw up, for instance regarding fasts; should the sovereign
 order fast-days, everyone must obey. In the same way if the German
 Prince-Bishops gave such an order it was to be obeyed, but only
 because they were Princes, not because they were bishops.[1208] During
 the Diet of Augsburg he refused to admit that, in future, there
 should be bishops having at the same time princely powers. On the
 other hand, however, he himself made the princes to all intents and
 purposes bishops.

 The contradiction in which he here involves himself has been brought
 out very strongly by a recent historian and theologian who as a rule
 is on Luther’s side: “To our mind there is a glaring contradiction
 between Luther’s theses on the spirituality of faith and the rights of
 the Christian authorities. Luther never noticed this contradiction,
 and, all his life, stood for both simultaneously. … From the religious
 standpoint he advocates the principle of unlimited freedom as inherent
 in the nature of faith; in the secular sphere, i.e. in the domain of
 the State, he is unwilling to overthrow the principle shared by all
 [?] in his day, viz. that the authorities have a right to assist in
 deciding on public worship and doctrine; in the rightful domain of
 the worldly authorities his controversies have no right to intervene.
 Hence the contradiction.”[1209] “Luther, who, where the peasants are
 concerned, plays the part of Evangelist, refuses to tamper anywhere
 with the existing [?] laws of the State where it is a question of
 their lords.”[1210]

 Here Luther’s fundamental idea of the separation between Church and
 world also comes into play.

 The Church of his theology must necessarily be absorbed by the State,
 because, being a stranger to the world, it was not conversant with the
 conditions and, even with the best will in the world, was unable to
 hold its own against the visible powers. The spiritual rule, according
 to him, was to be as widely sundered from the secular “as the heavens
 are from the earth.”[1211] Thus the Church fled into a spirit realm
 and left the world to the tender mercies of the secular power. She
 thus became herself the cause of her “alienation and isolation from
 real life.”[1212] It naturally, indeed necessarily, followed that
 the sovereign set up government departments, which called themselves
 spiritual, but which in reality were secular and derived all their
 jurisdiction from him alone. Such were the consistories.

The relations between State and Church in Lutheranism may be regarded
as an indirect justification of the Catholic doctrine of the Church’s
nature. According to the Catholic view Christ founded the sublime
structure of the Church as a free spiritual society. He willed that the
saving grace he had won by His Death should be applied to the souls of
men by means of a visible and independent institution, which, inspired by
Him with His own ideal and holy aims and equipped with her own peculiar
rights, should work for the salvation of mankind until the end of the
world. Hence, the advocates of the olden Church not only set the idea of
the Church in the foreground of the struggle, but they also explored,
enlarged on and illumined this idea with the help of Holy Scripture and
the teaching of the Fathers. Such was the work of men like Eck, Cochlæus,
Johann Fabri, Bishop of Vienna, and Catharinus, and, in the same century,
of Melchior Canus, Peter Canisius, Bellarmine and Stapleton. They indeed
allowed the inward side of the Church—its soul as it has been called—to
come into its rights, but, at the same time, they maintained with equal
firmness its thoroughly visible character, above all they insisted on the
hierarchy with the successor of St. Peter at its head as the holder of
the threefold spiritual power—which Luther denied—of shepherd, teacher
and priest. On this point there could be no yielding.

To those adherents of Luther’s who fancied they could reach union without
the Church’s help and without an entire acceptance of the Catholic
doctrine, Eck addressed the following: “There is no middle course and
words are of no avail; whoever wishes to make himself one in faith with
the Catholic Church must submit to the Pope and the Councils and believe
what the Roman Church teaches; all else is wind and vapour, though one
should go on disputing for a hundred years.”[1213]

What the above Catholic polemics said may be summed up as follows:—

 Because the Church, according to Christ’s plan, was to be an
 independent and living institution, His future “kingdom” and “heavenly
 vineyard,” it replaced the Jewish synagogue by an even better
 institution. This Church was to be indestructible and the gates of
 hell were not to prevail against her (Matt. xvi. 18).

 As a real institution the Church was marked out by the gifts bestowed
 on it at the outset by the Divine Founder; out of the plenitude of
 the power He possessed “in heaven and on earth” He created in her a
 real, and no mere phantom office, comprising ghostly superiors, viz.
 the “_ministerium ecclesiasticum_”; hence a twofold society arose
 consisting of those whose duty it is to guide and those who are
 guided. The latter receive from the former, i.e. from the hierarchy
 of priests, bishops and Pope, viz. the successor of Peter, the
 doctrine handed down by Christ, and preserved intact and infallible,
 together with Holy Scripture and its true reading. Those who have the
 oversight over the rest admit the faithful into the sacred company by
 means of visible rites, and, thanks to the obedience they receive as
 God’s representatives, there results “a body” of faithful united with
 Christ, the One True Head.

 It was to this hierarchy that, according to the Catholic theologians,
 the solemn words of Christ were spoken: “He that heareth you heareth
 Me, and he that despiseth you despiseth Me” (Luke x. 16). “Go ye and
 teach all nations baptising them in the name of the Father and of the
 Son and of the Holy Ghost … and lo I am with you all days even to the
 consummation of the world” (Matt. xxviii. 19 f.). The “Keys of the
 Kingdom of Heaven” are entrusted to them and they are told: “Amen I
 say unto you, whatsoever you shall bind on earth, shall be bound also
 in heaven; and whatsoever you shall loose upon earth, shall be loosed
 also in heaven” (Matt. xviii. 18). They may “command” as Paul did, who
 journeyed from place to place and “commanded them to keep the precepts
 of the apostles and the ancients” (Acts xv. 41). Peter, moreover, and
 his successors, received the right and duty to feed “the sheep” as
 well as the “lambs” (John xxi. 16), besides the especial custody of
 the keys (Matt. xvi. 19); on him and on his God-given constancy the
 Church of Christ was built (Matt. xvi. 18).

 The Holy Ghost “placed” the bishops “to rule the Church of God” (Acts
 xx. 28). Whoever “will not hear the Church” is shut out from salvation
 and is to be regarded “as the heathen and publican” (Matt. xviii. 17).

 Nowhere in these passages, so it was pointed out, is there ever a word
 about the secular power having any hand in the growth of the great
 society of God upon earth. Nor could Christ, in view of the object to
 which He had founded His Church, without proving untrue to Himself,
 have left behind Him a helpless and unfinished work, dependent for its
 very life on the discretion of the secular authorities and taking its
 laws from the State. The Church’s four marks (above, p. 295) point to
 something higher.

 Even did Luther wish to disregard the words of institution, he should
 at least, so it was urged, not shut his eyes to history; now, from
 the earliest historical times, the Church had always existed under
 the form of a society, i.e. divided into the two categories of the
 teachers and the taught. Even according to Protestant writers this
 form may be traced back at least as far as the 2nd century, and, to
 an unprejudiced eye, its traces will be discernible even earlier in
 the authentic sources, i.e. the Bible and history. None, however,
 was better fitted to bear witness to the earliest organisation of
 the Church than the Church herself, for she could do so out of the
 unbroken and untarnished consciousness of her existence; her testimony
 confirms her Divine appointment to be an independent society and a
 hierarchically governed institution.

Lutheranism, however, took scant notice of these Biblical and historical
proofs.[1214] Its founder, at the end of his life, left it as his
legacy a church, or rather churches, of a different structure. In the
evening of his days, in spite of the hopeless and imperilled state of
his congregations, he refused to admit any gleam of light that might
have brought him back to the unwavering authority of the ancient Church
which once, in the days of his crisis, he had extolled. By heavenly
signs and wonders, so he had pointed out in his Commentary on Romans
(1516), this Church was introduced into the world; she is the mother of
those who teach; to her decision every doctrine must bow if it is not
to become a heresy, “robbed of the witness of God and of that divinely
authenticated authority” which “down to the present day supports the
Roman Church.”[1215]

Since he had descended into the arena of controversy his attitude
towards the dogma of the Church had become not so much a matter of
doctrine (for the essential question was, as Köstlin aptly remarks, “very
insufficiently grasped and explained by him”[1216]) as one of policy.

5. Luther’s Tactics in Questions concerning the Church

Both for Luther’s views on doctrine and for his psychology his tactics
in his controversy about the nature of the Church offer matter for

Controversy, as we know, tended to accentuate his peculiarities. His
talents, his gift of swift perception, his skill for vivid description,
his art of exploiting every advantage to the delight of the masses
were all of value to him. What he wrote when not under the stress of
controversy lacked these advantages, advantages, moreover, which, for the
most part, were merely superficial, and sometimes, when he was in the
wrong, display a very unpleasing side.

_The Erfurt Preachers in a Tight Place_

In 1536 Luther took a hand in a controversy which had arisen at Erfurt
as to whether the “true Church was there,” and whether his preachers,
who represented the Church and were being persecuted by some of the Town
Council, should leave the town.[1217]

 As early as 1527 he had had occasion to complain of the Erfurt
 Councillors; they had not the courage “to go to the root of the
 matter”; they tolerated the “dissensions” in the town arising from
 the divergent preaching of the “Evangelicals” and the “Papists,”
 instead of “making all the preachers dispute together and silencing
 those who could not make good their cause.”[1218] Since the Convention
 of Hamelburg in 1530[1219] both forms of worship had been tolerated
 in the town. To the great vexation of Johann Lang and the other
 preachers the quick-witted Franciscan, Conrad Kling, an Erfurt Doctor
 of Theology (above, vol. v., p. 341), delivered in the Spitalkirche
 sermons which were so well attended that the audience overflowed
 even into the churchyard. Catholic citizens of standing in the town
 and possessed of influence over the Council, spread the report that
 the Lutheran preachers were intruders who had no legitimate mission
 or call, and had not even been validly appointed by the Council. In
 consequence of this, Luther, with Melanchthon and Jonas, addressed
 a circular letter in 1533 to his old friend Lang and the latter’s
 colleagues, in which he encourages them to stand firm and not to quit
 the town; he points out that their call, in spite of all that was
 alleged, had been “with the knowledge of the magistracy,” and not the
 result of “intrigue.”[1220] It is plain from this letter that the
 tables had to some extent been turned on Lang and his followers who
 had once behaved in so high-handed a manner at Erfurt,[1221] and that
 they were now tasting “want and misery” as well as contempt. In vain
 did the preachers attempt to shake off the authority of the Council by
 claiming to hold their commission from God.

 Some while after, owing to the further efforts of Kling and his
 friends, the situation of the Lutherans became even worse; it was then
 that Frederick Myconius, Superintendent at Gotha, took their side and
 persuaded Luther to write the above memorandum of Aug. 22(?), 1536, on
 the True Church of Christ at Erfurt. This was signed by Melanchthon,
 Bugenhagen, Jonas and Myconius, and may have been the latter’s
 work. The document is highly characteristic of Luther’s tactics in
 the shifty character of the proofs adduced to prove the call of
 the Erfurt pastors. It did not succeed in inducing the Council to
 grant the preachers independence or to abrogate the restrictions of
 which they complained, although, as Enders remarks, “it exalted the
 spiritual power as supreme over the secular.”[1222]

 There can be no doubt, so Luther argues, that, among his followers in
 the town of Erfurt, there was indeed the true “Holy Catholic Church,
 the Bride of Christ,” for they possessed the true Word and the true
 Sacraments. God had indeed “sent down on the people of Erfurt the Holy
 Ghost, Who worked in some of them a knowledge of tongues, discernment
 of spirits,” etc. (1 Cor. xii. 10), in the same way He had given them
 Evangelists, teachers, interpreters and everything necessary for the
 upbringing of His Body (Eph. iv. 11 f.). He urges that the ministers
 of the Word were rightly appointed, though here he does not appeal
 as much as usual, to the supposed validity of the call by the Town
 Council, as the whole trouble had its source in the town magistracy.
 The appointment of the preachers, so he now says, was the duty of the
 Church rather than of the magistrates; the Town Council had given them
 the call only in its capacity as a “member of the Church,” for which
 reason their dismissal or persecution was quite unjustifiable. He
 also brings forward other personal, mystic grounds for the validity
 of their call: they were “very learned men and full of all grace”;
 the appointment, which they had received not only from the “people
 and the Church, but also from the supreme authority,” had taken place
 under the breath of the Spirit (“_impetu quodam spiritus_”) Who had
 sent them as reapers into the harvest; they are recognised by all
 the Churches abroad, even the most important, and no less do their
 sheep hear their voice. Hence, if some of the magistrates now refuse
 to recognise them, they must simply appeal to their calling “by the
 Holy Ghost and the Church”; the efficient cause here is, and remains,
 Christ, Who gives the Church her authority. Hence at all costs they
 must stick to their post.

 The whole of the extremely involved explanation points to the reaction
 now taking place in his mind owing to his bitter experiences with the
 authorities in the question of Church government.

 In this frame of mind he often makes the call depend solely on the
 Church, nay, on Christ Himself. If the Courts are to rule as they
 please, so he wrote in the midst of one of these conflicts with the
 authorities, the last state of things will be worse than the first.
 They ought to leave the Churches to the care of those to whom they
 have been committed and who will have to render an account to God.
 Hence Luther urges that the two callings be kept separate.[1223]

 What is also noteworthy in the memorandum for the people of Erfurt
 is that, in order to defend the legal standing of the preachers,
 he insists on the fact of their having been recognised by their
 congregation, who are willing to listen to them as their shepherds.
 Here we have the revival of an old idea of his, viz. that the
 soul-herd was really appointed by the people and in their name.
 In his later years he tended to revert to this view, though, in
 reality, the people never had a say in the matter. After having, in
 1542, consecrated Amsdorf as “Bishop” of Naumburg, in the ensuing
 controversies he referred to the will of the “Church,” i.e. of the
 Naumburg Lutherans. “All depends,” so he wrote, “whether the Church
 and the Bishop are at one, and whether the Church will listen to the
 Bishop and the Bishop will teach the Church. This is exemplified

_Controversies with the Catholics on the Question of the Church_

In what Luther wrote against the Catholics we occasionally meet some fine
sayings on the unfettered authority of the Church in its relations to the
secular rulers,[1225] so greatly was his versatile mind governed by the
spirit of opportunism.

 It was from motives of expediency that, in 1529, in his “Vom
 Kriege widder die Türcken” he makes out Emperors and kings to be
 no protectors of the Church; these worldly powers are “as a rule
 the worst foes of Christendom and the faith.” “The Emperor’s sword
 has nothing to do with the faith, but only with bodily and worldly
 affairs.”[1226] It must be remembered that he wrote this just before
 the dreaded Diet of Augsburg.—Again, in 1545, in the Theses against
 the “Theologists of Louvain” who had requested the State to protect
 the Catholic faith as heretofore, Luther says: “It is not the duty of
 Kings and Princes to confirm right doctrine; they have themselves to
 bow to it and obey it as the Word of God and God Himself.”[1227]—If
 the “Emperor’s sword” and the “Kings and Princes” had been on his
 side, then his language would have been quite different. As it was,
 however, whenever he thought it might prove useful, he was not
 unwilling to come back even later to the standpoint of his writing
 “Von welltlicher Uberkeytt.”[1228]

 When the Catholics, for instance at the Diet of Augsburg, reproached
 his party with having completely secularised the Church and with
 prohibiting Catholic worship with the help of the Princes who favoured
 him, his replies were eminently characteristic both of his temper and
 his mode of controversy.

 He knew very well, so he wrote in 1530, “that the Prince’s office
 and the preacher’s are not one and the same, and that the Prince as
 such ought not to do this [i.e. prohibit the Mass].” But in this the
 Prince was acting, not as a Prince, but as a Christian. It is also
 “a different thing whether a Prince ought to preach or whether he
 ought to consent to the preaching. It is not the Prince, but rather
 Scripture, that prohibits ‘winkle-masses’”; if a Prince chose to take
 the side of Scripture that was his own business.[1229]

 Another answer of Luther’s was to the effect that the abominations of
 Catholic worship which were being abolished by the secular authorities
 were, after all, outward things, and that the power of the sovereign
 without a doubt stretched over “_res externæ_.”[1230]

 Of these attempts at justification and of his doctrine of the Church
 in general, Köstlin’s observations hold good: “We cannot escape the
 fact that, here, there is much vacillation and that Luther stands
 in danger of contradicting himself.” “We must admit that he had not
 studied deeply enough the questions arising out of the relations of
 the authorities to matters ecclesiastical.”[1231] “The decision [of
 the sovereigns] as to what constituted right doctrine was final as
 regards the substance of the preaching in their lands.” “A nobleman
 who had received orders from his sovereign, the Duke of Saxony, to
 expel the Evangelical preachers, was told by Luther—though what
 he said was undeniably at variance with other utterances—that the
 sovereign had no right to do this because God’s command obliged him to
 rule only in secular and not in spiritual concerns.” “In fact the only
 answer he could give to the Popish persecutors when they alleged they
 were forced by _their_ office and conscience to act as they did was:
 ‘What is that to me?’ for it was clear enough that they were using
 their authority wantonly.”[1232]

 But how are we to explain his apparent readiness at the time of the
 Diet of Augsburg in 1530 to recognise the olden Church, and the power
 of the bishops, and even himself to submit to them if only they
 would allow him and his followers freedom to preach the Evangel? The
 statements to this effect in his “Vermanug” of this year have been
 widely misunderstood through being taken apart from their setting. He
 does not for a moment imagine, as he has been falsely credited with
 doing, that it was not “his vocation to found a new Church separate
 from Catholicism”; neither has he any desire to remain united with his
 foes “in one communion under the Catholic bishops.”

 Luther, as he here says, is only willing, “for the sake of peace, to
 allow the bishops to be princes and lords,” and this only on condition
 that “they help to administer the Evangel”—i.e. take his part; in
 that case they “would be free to appoint clerics to the parishes
 and pulpits.” His offer is, “that we and the preachers should teach
 the Evangel in your stead,” and “that you should back us by means
 of your episcopal powers; only your personal mode of life and your
 princely state would we leave to your conscience and to the judgment
 of God.”[1233] In the meantime, on account of the Catholic faith
 to which they clung, he calls them “foes of God,” speaks of their
 “anti-Christian bishopry,” and, because of the infringements of the
 law of celibacy, scourges them as the “greatest whoremongers and
 panders upon earth.”[1234]

In his controversies with the Catholics he often enough found himself
faced by the objection, that the true Church could not be with him,
because on his side all the fruits of holiness were wanting; the Church
being essentially holy should needs be able to point to her good
influence on morals.

 Thus, for instance, a Dominican adversary had written: According to
 Luther the Gospel had been under the bench for the last four hundred
 years; but, now, surely enough, “it is under the bench even more than
 heretofore, for the Gospel and the whole of Scripture have never been
 so despised as at present owing to Luther’s teaching, who excludes all
 love of God and man, all concord between lords and serfs, priests and
 laity, men and women, rejects all good works and discipline, obscures
 the truth and replaces it by nothing but lies and introduces hatred
 and envy, unchastity, blasphemy and disobedience.”[1235]

 In his replies to such arguments against the truth of his Church
 Luther was loath to attempt the difficult task of proving the
 existence of holiness in the domain of the Evangel. On the contrary,
 with surprising candour, he usually meets his opponents half-way as
 regards the facts. Thus, in his “Wider Hans Worst,” in 1541, he admits
 that things are just as bad as they had been in Jerusalem in the days
 of the prophets, “with us too there is flesh and blood, nay, the
 devil among the sons of Job. The peasants are savage, the burghers
 avaricious and the nobles grasping. We shout and storm our best,
 helped by the Word of God, and resist as far as we can.… Willingly we
 confess and frankly that we are not as holy as we should be.”[1236]

 Such admissions are followed by astonishing attempts to evade the
 force of the objection and by coarse attacks on the immorality of the
 Papacy which he exaggerates beyond all measure.

 The few, he declares, who are good and virtuous suffice to prove the
 Church’s holiness. “Some do more than their part; that they are few
 in number does not matter. God can help a whole nation for the sake
 of one man as he did by Naaman, the Syrian (4 Kings v.). In short,
 one’s life cannot be made a subject of debate.”—On another occasion
 he replies shrewdly that the mark of holiness was not nearly so
 safe as other marks, for distinguishing the true Church; for pious
 works were also practised at times by the heathen.… As regards its
 importance as a mark, holiness must be subordinated to the true
 preaching of the Word and to pure doctrine, which in the end will
 always bring amendment of life; whereas corrupt doctrine poisoned the
 whole mass, a scandalous life was damaging chiefly to the man who
 lived it; but corruption of doctrine had penetrated Popery through and
 through.[1237] “We do not laugh when wickedness is committed amongst
 us as they [the Papists] do in their Churches; as Solomon says (Prov.
 ii. 14): ‘Who are glad when they have done evil and rejoice in most
 wicked things,’ and also seek to defend them by fire and sword.”[1238]

 We have here an instance of the tactics by which he turns on his
 adversaries and abuses them. In his anxiety to turn the reproach of
 his foes against themselves he selects by preference the celibacy
 of the clergy and the religious vows; nor does he attack merely the
 blemishes which the Church herself bewailed and countered, but the
 very institution itself.

 In his “Von den Conciliis und Kirchen” he exclaims: “The Pope condemns
 the married life of the bishops and priests, this is plain enough
 now”; “if a man has been married twice he is declared by the Papists
 incapable of being promoted to the higher Orders.[1239] But if he has
 soiled himself by abominable behaviour he is nevertheless tolerated in
 these offices.”[1240] “Why,” he asks, most unjustly misrepresenting
 the Catholic view of the sacrament of marriage, “why do they look upon
 it as the lowest of the sacraments, nay, as an impure thing and a sin
 in which it is impossible to serve God?”[1241]

 To what monstrous and repulsive images he can have recourse when
 painting the “whore Church” of the Papacy, the following from “Wider
 Hans Worst” will serve to show: You are, so he there writes in 1541 of
 the Catholics, “the runaway, apostate, strumpet-Church as the prophets
 term it”; “you whoremongers preach in your own brothels and devil’s
 Churches”; it is with you as though the bride of a loving bridegroom
 “were to allow every man to abuse her at his will. This whore—once a
 pure virgin and beloved bride—is now an apostate, vagrant whore, a
 house-whore,” etc. “You become the diligent pupils and whorelings of
 the Lenæ, the arch-whores, as the comedies say, till you old whores
 bear in your turn young whores, and so increase and multiply the
 Pope’s Church, which is the devil’s own, and make many of Christ’s
 chaste virgins who were born by baptism, arch-whores like yourselves.
 This, I take it, is to talk plain German, understandable to you and
 everybody else.”[1242]

 Without following him through all he says we shall merely draw the
 reader’s attention to a proverb and a picture Luther here uses. The
 proverb runs: “The sow has been washed in the pond and now wallows
 again in the filth. Such are you, and such was I once.”[1243] In
 the picture “the Pope’s Church,” i.e. hell, is represented as a
 “great dragon’s head” with gaping jaws, as it is depicted in the old
 paintings of the Last Judgment; “there, in the midst of the flames,
 are the Pope, cardinals, bishops, priests, monks, emperors, kings,
 princes and men and women of all sorts (but no children). Verily I
 know not how one could better paint and describe the Church of the
 Pope,”[1244] etc.

 After such rude abuse he comes back in the same writing to his usual
 apology. There was, he says, no object in alluding to the moral evils
 in the Lutheran Churches because of the Church being of its very
 nature invisible.[1245] Everything depends on the doctrine “which
 must be pure and undefiled, i.e. the one, dear, saving, holy Word of
 God without anything thrown in. But the life that ought to be ruled,
 cleansed and hallowed daily by such teaching is not yet altogether
 pure and holy because our carrion of flesh and blood still lives.”
 Yet “for the sake of the Word whereby he is healed and cleansed all
 this is overlooked, pardoned and forgiven him, and he must be termed

 The Papists have a beam in their own eye, i.e. their false doctrine,
 but they see the mote in the eye of others “as regards the
 life.”[1247] If it is a question with whom the true Church is to be
 found he assures us: “We who teach God’s Word with such certainty are
 indeed weak, and, by reason of our great humility, so foolish that we
 do not like to boast of being God’s Churches, witnesses, ministers
 and preachers or that God speaks through us, though this we certainly
 are because without a doubt we have His Word and teach it”; it is
 only the Papists “who venture boldly to proclaim out of their great
 holiness: Here is God and we are God’s Church.”[1248]

It was not, however, bold presumption and lack of humility that led
Luther’s literary opponents among the Catholics to appeal to the promises
Christ had made to His Church; rather it was their conviction that these
solemn assurances excluded the possibility of the Church’s having ever
erred in the way Luther maintained that she had done.

_The Indefectibility of the Church and Her Thousand-Year-Long Error_

When the question arose, how the Church, in spite of Christ’s protection,
could nevertheless have fallen into such monstrous errors,[1249] Luther
was disposed to admit in his polemics that the true Church, i.e. the
community of real believers, could not go astray. “The Church cannot
teach lies and errors, not even in details.… How could it then be
otherwise when God’s mouth is the mouth of the Church. As God cannot lie
neither therefore can the Church.”[1250]

Such an immutable and reliable guide to erring men for their perfect
peace of mind and sure salvation, the Catholics retorted, did Christ
intend to leave in His visible Church, ruled by the successors of St.

 An able Catholic work of 1528, already referred to above, emphasises
 the Church’s immutability in her dogma: “That preacher who does
 not preach in accordance with the Holy Catholic Church and the
 holy Fathers sins against the truth.… With due reverence we firmly
 believe all that is written in the approved Books of the Old and
 New Testament. We must not, however, so confine ourselves to this
 as to look upon what the Holy Church teaches apart from Scripture
 as human dross, seeing that Scripture itself commands us to keep
 the doctrine of the Church and the Fathers.” The author goes on to
 show his opponent Luther what services are rendered by the Church’s
 authority, how she preserves intact and vouches for the Canon of
 Scripture. It is only from the lips of the Church that we learn which
 books were written under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. “For
 where is it written that we must believe the Gospels of Matthew, John
 and the rest? But, if it is nowhere written, how is it you believe
 in these Gospels? How much at variance is your practice with your

 As to the infallibility of the Church Luther retorted: The invisible
 Church cannot err, but “that Church which we usually mean when we use
 the word, can and does err; the congregation of true believers cannot
 be assembled in one particular spot and is often to be found where
 least expected. Moreover, even this Church, i.e. the true believers
 and the saints, can sometimes go astray by allowing themselves to be
 drawn away from the Word.… Hence we must always regard the Church and
 the saints from two points of view, first according to the Spirit,
 and, then, according to the flesh, lest their piety and their Word
 savours of the flesh.”[1252] The Church teaches according to the
 Spirit when her “belief tallies with the Word of God and the belief
 of Christ Himself in heaven. To speak in this manner and meaning is
 right.”[1253] But “we must not build on her opinion or belief where
 she holds or believes anything outside of and beyond the Word of
 God.”[1254] It was according to the flesh that all those abominations
 of errors were taught which were termed “opinions of the Churches,
 though they were nothing of the kind but merely human conceits,
 invented outside of scripture and parading under the Church’s

 With this Luther’s reader is flung back once more into the most
 subjective of systems, for who is to decide whether this or that
 doctrine “savours of the flesh.” Each one for himself, solely
 according to the standard of Holy Scripture or, rather, each one as
 Luther dictates. But Luther’s decisions touched only the doctrines
 known to him; who is to decide on the questions yet to arise after his

 He condemns the errors of the Middle Ages. Yet he is occasionally
 ready to praise the Mediæval Church. As we know he acknowledged
 that she had preserved Baptism. When the Church says that “Baptism
 washes away sin,” this, to Luther, does not savour of the flesh.
 “She also holds and believes that in [?] the bread and wine the Body
 and Blood of Christ are given.… Summa, in these beliefs the Church
 cannot err.”[1256] These, however, merely happened to be Luther’s
 own opinions. Infant-Baptism Luther defended against the Anabaptists
 without seeking help in the Bible; as for the presence of Christ in
 the Sacrament against the Zwinglians he indeed had the words of the
 Bible, yet here, too, he was only too glad to reinforce what he said
 by the traditions and infallible teaching office of the Church,
 though in so doing he was contradicting his own theory.[1257]

 Luther, with characteristic disregard of logic, calls the earlier
 Church a “Holy place of abominations.” She was a “holy place,” for
 “there, even under the Pope, God maintained with might and by wonders
 first Holy Baptism; secondly, in the pulpits, the text of the Holy
 Gospel in the language of each country; thirdly, the Forgiveness of
 Sins and Absolution both in Confession and publicly; fourthly, the
 Blessed Sacrament of the Altar; … fifthly, the calling or ordination
 to the preaching office.… Many retained the custom of holding up
 the crucifix before the eyes of the dying and reminding them of the
 sufferings of Christ on which they must rely; finally, prayer, the
 Psalter, the Our Father, the Creed and the Ten Commandments, item
 many good hymns and canticles both in Latin and in German. Where
 such things survived there must undoubtedly have been a Church, and
 also Saints. Hence Christ was assuredly there with His Holy Spirit,
 upholding in them the Christian faith though everything was in a bad
 way, even as in the time of Elias, when the 7000 left were so weak
 that Elias fancied himself the only Christian still living.”[1258]

 Nevertheless, this was the selfsame Church, which not only connived
 at the teaching of heretical abominations but actually herself taught
 all the depravities which Luther describes in the same writing, such
 as her peculiar doctrine of priestly ordination, of the validity
 of the secret Canon of the Mass, of the spiritual authority of the
 bishops, of justification, good works and satisfaction, of purgatory,
 saint-worship, etc.

 That here he does not condemn the olden Church off-hand and fling
 her to the jaws of the dragon as he was wont to do is a casual
 inconsistency; his moderation here is to be explained by the necessity
 he was under then (after the Diet of Augsburg), of showing that he
 could claim a certain continuity with the Church of the past, and also
 by his desire to influence those Catholics who were still sitting on
 the fence and whom he would gladly have drawn over to his own side by
 seeming concessions, in accordance with his tactics at Augsburg.

Yet, in spite of the above concessions, the Mediæval Church remains
in his eyes a “place of abominations”; her members, though validly
baptised, are not members of the Church; they might indeed sit in the
Church, but only as Antichrist sits in the Temple of God (2 Thess. ii.
4); her children would be saved if they died before coming to a full
knowledge of the Popish Church, but if they grew up and followed her
lying preaching then they would become devil’s whores;[1259] even as I
myself “was stuck fast in the behind of the devil’s whore, i.e. of the
Pope’s new Churches, so that it is a grief to us to have spent so much
time and pains in that shameful hole. But praise and thanks be to God Who
has delivered us from the Scarlet Woman!”[1260]

So low is his esteem for the authority of the tradition of the “Holy
Place of abominations,” that he includes among the doubtful and fallible
statements of that Doctor of the Church the famous saying of St.
Augustine, that he would not believe the Gospel were it not for the
Church.[1261] He urges that Augustine himself had declared, that his
doctrines were to be examined, and only those to be accepted which were
found correct. He prefers to harp on another passage where St. Augustine
says: “The Church is begotten, fed, brought up and strengthened by the
Word of God,”[1262] as though St. Augustine in speaking thus of the
soul of the Church was denying her external organisation, her spiritual
supremacy, and her teaching office. Luther, however, treated tradition
just as he pleased; theologians had always distinguished between those
traditions of the olden Doctors that had been guaranteed by the Church
and those views which were merely personal to them; the latter no
theologian regarded as binding, whereas the former were accepted by
them with the respect befitting the witnesses. Here, once more, we see
Luther’s subjective principle at work, which excludes all authoritative
doctrine that comes to man from without, leaves him exposed to doubt
and negation, and quite overlooks the fact that all revelation in last
resort comes to the individual from without with an irresistible and
authoritative claim to respect. Just as the Divine revelation vindicates
its claim to acceptance by the faithful by means of proofs, so too, the
teaching authority of the Church—as Luther’s Catholic opponents were
not slow to point out—could show proofs that what was presented to the
faithful as an article of belief might reasonably be accepted without
any need of previously testing it to see whether it agreed with Holy
Scripture—an examination, which, as a matter of fact, most people were
not capable of undertaking.

As the polemic we quoted above argues, Protestants held Holy Scripture to
be so clear that everyone could understand it without outside help. “But,
if the heretics think Scripture to be so plain and clear, why do they
write so many books in order to explain it? If Scripture is so clear,
plain and easy to understand how is it that they are so much at variance
concerning that one text: ‘This is My Body?’”[1263]

       *       *       *       *       *

Luther now fell back on the Holy Spirit. “Without the Holy Ghost,” he
says, “it is impossible to discern the abominations from the Holy Place.”
But, so he was justly asked, who is to vouch for it that a man has truly
the Holy Spirit? And, if, as Luther opines, the Holy Ghost points to
the fruits as the means whereby He may be recognised, everything again
depends on the fruits being judged according to Luther’s own moral
standard. In short, in these controversies, Luther revolves in a vicious

 In his Table-Talk Luther’s habit of shielding himself from objections
 behind the strangest misrepresentations is again apparent. Such
 misrepresentations, occurring in his most intimate conversations,
 show that he was very far from merely using them in public or from
 motives of policy; rather they influence his whole mode of thought and
 feeling and were a second nature with him. We have only to turn to his
 conversations on the subject of the “Church,” collected in 1538 by his
 friend and companion Anton Lauterbach.[1264]

 Here we meet with the revolting assertion that, in the Papistical
 Church, the Pope claimed to be the only one who had a right to
 interpret Scripture, and that he did this “out of his own brain”; this
 Church, so Luther goes on, had set up a mass of human regulations and
 vain observances which stifled all freedom and true religion; “the
 name Church was a pretext for the most abominable errors.” Further,
 “the true Church [i.e. mine] teaches the free forgiveness of sins,
 secondly, she teaches us to believe firmly, and, thirdly, to bear
 the cross with patience. But the false Church [the Pope’s] ascribes
 the forgiveness of sins to our own merits, teaches men to waver,
 and, finally does not carry the cross but rather persecutes others.”
 Besides, how can the Papists have the true Church, seeing that they
 are “some of them Epicureans, some of them idolaters?”—Fancy talking
 about the authority of the Church! Is it with this that the fanatical
 Anabaptists are to be vanquished? “Moreover, we know that: The true
 Church never at any time bore the name or title that the godless so
 boldly claim; she was ever nameless and is therefore believed rather
 than seen; for the most part she lies downtrodden and neglected;
 weakness, crosses and scandals are her portion. Only look at the
 Church under the tyranny of the Pope; the Papal Decretals are the _ne
 plus ultra_ of ungodliness.”

 “I am astonished,” so he ends, speaking of the Roman Primacy, “at the
 great blindness with which men worshipped the Pope’s lies and his
 boundless and utterly shameless audacity, as though Holy Scripture
 depended on the authority of the Roman Church whose head he claimed to
 be, basing his claim on the words of Christ (Matt. xvi. 18) ‘Thou art
 Peter and on this rock I will build My Church.’”

_Luther’s Tactics in the Interpretation of the Bible_

The text just quoted leads us to glance at his Biblical arguments; to
conclude this chapter we shall therefore give as a sample of his exegesis
on the Church a more detailed account of his exposition of the chief
argument for the papal primacy, viz. Christ’s promise to Peter, using for
this purpose his last book against Popery.[1265]

 He would fain, so he says, “point out the Christian sense of this
 text” as against that read into it by the hierarchical Church;
 nevertheless, at his first effort he cannot rise above a coarse
 witticism. “For very fear,” on approaching this text “Thou art Peter,”
 etc., something “might easily have happened had I not had my breeches
 on; and I might have done something that people do not like to smell,
 so anxious and affrighted was I.” Why did not the Pope appeal rather
 to the text: “In the beginning Cod created the heavens—that is the
 Pope—and the earth, that is the Christian Church,” etc. This is the
 first answer.

 The second is a perversion of the Catholic view; he accuses the Pope
 of deducing from the text under discussion, that he has “all power
 in heaven as well as on earth” and authority “over all the Churches
 and the Emperor to boot.” This parody of the truth Luther proceeds
 triumphantly to demolish as “blasphemous idolatry.”—There follows
 thirdly an appeal to the “Emperor, Kings, Princes and nobles” to seize
 upon the Papal States which the Pope has stolen by dint of “lying and
 trickery” and to slay as blasphemers him and his Cardinals.

 He goes on to explain the Bible passage in question by proving,
 fourthly, against the “wicked, shameless, stiff-necked” Papists from
 Eph. iv. 15, and from Augustine and Cyprian, “that the whole of
 Christendom throughout the world has no other head set over it save
 only Jesus Christ, the Son of God.” The true sense of Eph. iv. 15 and
 the real teaching of both the Fathers in question are too well known
 for us to need to waste words on them here.—Fifthly, he brings forward
 John vi. 63: “My words are Spirit and life” and argues: “According
 to this the words Matt. xvi. 18 [concerning Peter and the rock] must
 also be Spirit and life.… The upbuilding must here mean a spiritual
 and living upbuilding; the rock must be a living and spiritual rock;
 the Church a living and spiritual assembly, nay, something that lives
 for all eternity.”—These facts, however, had always been admitted by
 Catholic commentators without causing them any apprehension as to
 the primacy or the visible Church.—Sixthly, he seeks to demonstrate
 that the Church can only be built on the rock indicated by Christ “by
 faith”; this, however, excludes the primacy of Peter, for “whoever
 believes is built upon this rock.”—Seventhly: “It is thus that St.
 Peter himself interprets it, 1 Peter ii. 3 ff.,”—though this is a fact
 only credible to one who is already of Luther’s opinion.—Eighthly, he
 will have it that, in the famous passage, Christ meant to say no more
 than: “Thou art Peter, that is a rock, for thou hast perceived and
 named the Right Man, viz. Christ, Who is the true Rock, as Scripture
 terms Him. On this rock, i.e. on Me, Christ, I will build the whole of
 My Christendom.”

 This reading would certainly cut away the ground from under the
 argument of the Catholics.[1266] Nevertheless Protestant scholars
 have repeatedly shown themselves willing to apply Christ’s promise
 to the person of Peter, as ecclesiastical tradition has ever done,
 and to defend this as the true sense of the words. Thus the Berlin
 exegetist, Bernhard Weiss, writes: “By using ταύτῃ for the name
 (Peter), signifying a rock, any application of the words either to
 Jesus or to the faith or confession of Peter is shut out.… It can only
 be understood of his person,” etc.[1267] By Holtzmann, the Strasburg
 exegetist, the opposite interpretation was uncharitably described as a
 fruit of the “school of Protestant _ex parte_ exegesis.”[1268]

 We must, however, allow that, both here and in his treatment of the
 promise of the keys (Matt. xvi. 19), Luther shows himself an adept
 in the use of language. “To speak plain German we may say this,”
 so he begins one of his commentaries, and indeed he knows how to
 speak well and in a manner calculated to impress his hearers. Of the
 matter, however, we may judge from the following: “To thee I will give
 the keys of the kingdom of heaven,” this means that, should anyone
 refuse to believe the apostles, on him they should pass sentence and
 condemn him; their “office” still remains in the Church, there always
 being “retaining of sins for the impenitent and unbelieving, and
 forgiveness for the penitent and the believing”; but, quite apart from
 this “office,” believers have absolute power “where two or three are
 gathered together in the name of Christ (Matt. xviii. 20).”[1269] Here
 again we have Christ’s promise misconstrued, which does not refer to
 spiritual authority but solely to the effect of the prayer in common
 of two or more of the faithful.[1270]

 “Hence, let the Pope and his Peter be gone,” so he concludes … even
 though there were a hundred thousand St. Peters, even though all the
 world were nothing but Popes, and even though an angel from heaven
 stood beside him; for we have here [Matt. xviii. 18, where the power
 of binding and loosing is bestowed on _all_ the apostles] the Lord
 Himself, above all angels and creatures, Who says they are _all_
 to have equal power, keys and office, even where only two simple
 Christians are gathered together in His name. This Lord we shall
 not allow the Pope and all the devils to make into a fool, liar or
 drunkard; but we will tread the Pope under foot and tell him that he
 is a desperate blasphemer and idolatrous devil, who, in St. Peter’s
 name, has snatched the keys for himself alone which Christ gave to
 them all in common. “It is the Lord Himself Who says this [John xx. 21
 ff.]; therefore we care nothing for the ravings of the Pope-Ass in his
 filthy decretals.”[1271]



1. The Flight from Wittenberg

“Old age is here,” so wrote Luther in a fit of depression to his Elector
on March 30, 1544, in his sixty-first year; “old age which in itself is
cold and ungainly, weak and sickly. The pitcher goes to the well until
one fine day it breaks; I have lived long enough, may God grant me a
happy deathbed.… Methinks, too, I have already seen the best I am like
to see on earth, for it looks as though evil days were coming. May God
help His own! Amen.” He recommends his sovereign to seek comfort in the
“Dear Word of God” and in prayer, assuring him: “These two unspeakable
treasures shall never be the portion of the devil, the Turk, or of the
Pope and his followers.”[1272]

About this time he had to complain of palpitations, dizziness and
calculus. His will he had already drawn up on Jan. 6, 1542.[1273] In it
he refused to make use of the usual legal forms, being determined to have
nothing to do with the lawyers, with whom he was always at variance.
He was quite aware that lawyers still insisted on the objections to
the validity of the marriages of clerics and monks and the rights of
inheritance of their children, as they indeed were bound to do not only
by Canon Law but also by the law of the Empire.

How cheerfully he was inclined to look forward to death even the year
before is apparent from a letter to Myconius, “the bishop of the Churches
of Gotha and Thuringia,” who was then lying seriously ill; here he says:
“I pray our Lord Jesus not to call to everlasting rest you and our
followers and leave me here among the devils to be still longer tormented
by them. Truly I have been long enough plagued by them and really I
deserve that my turn should come before yours. Hence my prayer is: May
the Lord lay your illness upon me and rid me of my earthly habitation
which is so useless, worn-out and exhausted. I see right well that I am
no longer good for anything.”[1274]

After his above farewell-letter to the Elector Luther’s thoughts reverted
to death more frequently than before. He cast up the books he had still
to write and took stock of his powers to see whether he would have time
to finish them. For his energy and spirit of enterprise were by no means
yet dead, though at times they seem to be paralysed. Often enough he
pulls himself together in his letters sufficiently to make jokes with his
friends, the better both to banish his own gloomy thoughts and to inspire
the addressees with greater courage and confidence. Nevertheless, through
it all, we can detect his disquiet and suffering.

 “You often importune me,” so he wrote to his pupil Anton Lauterbach
 about the end of 1544, “for a work on ecclesiastical discipline,
 but you do not tell me where I am to find the leisure and health,
 seeing that I am a worn-out and idle old man. I am ceaselessly snowed
 under with letters. I have promised the young princes a sermon on
 drunkenness, others and myself I have promised a book on secret
 marriages, others again, one against the Sacramentarians; some now
 want me to set all else aside and write a ‘Summa’ and running gloss
 on the whole Bible. Thus one thing stands in the way of the other and
 I get through nothing. And yet I had imagined that, as one who had
 already done his work, I had earned the right to some leisure, and
 to live quietly and in peace and so pass away. But I am compelled to
 pursue my restless way of life. Well, I shall do what I can, and, what
 I can’t, I shall leave undone.… Pray for us as we do for you.”[1275]

 In Jan., 1545, when he had almost completed his long and arduous
 work on Genesis, he sighed: “May God put an end to this moribund and
 sinful life as soon as this book is finished, or even before should
 it please Him; do you ask God this for me.… Yes, truly, pray for my
 happy dissolution and that I may die a good death.”[1276] “Pray for
 me,” he wrote to Amsdorf in May of the same year, “that I may be set
 free as soon as may be from my fetters and be united to Christ, but
 that, if my life, or rather my sickness, is to last still longer, God
 may bestow on me strength of body and force of soul.” He praises God
 that he himself and his friends, “though unworthy sinners, had been
 chosen for this blessed and glorious office, viz. to hear the voice of
 God’s Majesty in the Word of the Evangel; on this the angels and all
 creation wish us luck, but the Pope is dismayed and all the gates of
 hell shake.”[1277]

Luther’s extant letters covering the period from May to December, 1545,
afford us an insight into the emotions through which he passed.

From the month of May onwards he sank deeper and deeper into a dreary
state of annoyance and sadness, and, at last, at the end of July, he
shook the dust of Wittenberg from his feet. In the latter half of August,
after he had allowed himself to be persuaded to return, his spirits
rapidly revived, and such was the reaction that his new mystical ardour
knew no bounds while his exertions seem almost incredible.

 To take the period in question in its chronological order: The
 month of May commenced with a bitter attack on Agricola, and, on
 the latter’s arrival at Wittenberg, he refused even to see him. “Of
 this monster,” he wrote on May 2, “I will hear nothing but words of
 condemnation; of him and his friends may I be rid for all eternity.…
 Satan may rage and boast as he pleases!”[1278] His annoyance, as is
 usual with him, is speedily transferred to Satan. That same day,
 plagued with a tiresome matrimonial dispute, he asked: “Is then the
 devil master of the world?”[1279] Shortly after he declared the Pope
 to be the “monster of Satan, the end of whose days was at hand.”[1280]
 His joy at the approaching end (“_gaudeamus omnes in Domino_”) is,
 however, not unmixed. The thought depresses him that the devil should
 still be active even at Halle which had recently been won over to the
 Evangel, and that he had there “just blessed, or rather cursed, two
 nuns, thereby proving how much more he fain would do.”[1281]

 Annoyance at the bad treatment of his preachers also lets loose a
 flood of complaints. “In many places,” so he laments, “they are
 treated very ill so that they are minded to depart and are even
 compelled to take flight.”[1282] The hostility of the politicians at
 Court and the lawyers, was also a cause of profound grief to him.[1283]

 With greater apprehension than usual he saw at the beginning of June
 terrifying natural portents and prayed with passionate longing for the
 “overthrow of all things” which he was confidently awaiting.[1284]

 Already in spirit he saw the sparks of the coming conflagration which
 was to consume Germany for her chastisement, “before the outbreak of
 which may God deliver us and ours from this misery!”[1285]

 In July anger at the “contempt of the Word on our side and the
 blasphemy of our foes,”[1286] the sad sight of the want of unity and
 growing number of sects in his own camp, where “each one insists
 on following his own ideas,”[1287] the “decline of learning”
 amongst his followers, where “many bellies are set only on feeding
 themselves,”[1288] all this combined with other experiences tended to
 make his depression unendurable. To be obliged to set in order the
 public worship spelt a positive torture to him.[1289] Even in his
 own household he had cause for bitter disappointment in his niece
 Magdalene who had insisted on making love to a man (whom she was
 ultimately to marry) of whom Luther did not approve, thus giving Satan
 an opportunity for “maliciously attacking” Luther’s good name.[1290]

 Yes indeed, “Satan rules,” he said to Amsdorf, in a letter of July 9,
 “and all have lost their wits.”[1291] Here the cause of his vexation
 was the Emperor, who, so he had been told, was insisting that the
 Protestants should attend the Council of Trent and submit to it. It is
 true Luther does not give up all hope of God again making a mockery
 of Satan,[1292] but, in the meantime, he execrates and curses the
 Council.[1293] He also vents his wrath on the Emperor, Ferdinand the
 German King, the King of France and the Pope. And why? Because he was
 only too ready to give credence to a report which had reached him that
 they had despatched ambassadors to the Grand Turk with gifts and an
 offer of peace, and that, clothed in long Turkish garments, they were
 humbling themselves before the infidel.[1294] “Are these Christians?
 They are hellish idols of the devil. Yet I hope they are at the same
 time a glad token of the coming of the end of all things. Let them
 worship the Turk, but let us call upon the true God, Who will humble
 both them and the Turk in the Day of His Coming.”[1295]

 He is still suffering from the after-effects of the excitement in
 which he had, as he says, penned his “book brimful of bitter wrath,
 against the Papal monster,” viz. his “Against the Popedom founded by
 the Devil.” He has not the strength left to write a sequel to it, but
 he tells his friend Ratzeberger: “I have not yet done justice either
 to myself or to the greatness of my anger; I know too that I can never
 do full justice to it, so great and boundless is the enormity of the
 Papistic monster.” In such a frame of mind he feels keenly that he is
 the “trump heralding the Last Judgment.”[1296]

 He is conscious, however, that his trump cannot peal loud enough in
 the world (“_parum sonamus_”) owing to his state, borne down as he is
 by pains of body and soul. He was unable to summon up the force to
 write either the continuation of his work against the Pope, or even
 the short reply to the Swiss which he had promised Amsdorf.[1297]

 The above false report of the Christian embassy to Turkey current at
 Wittenberg he was at once ready to accept because it was in keeping
 with his pessimistic outlook. The evil spirits of suspicion, distrust
 and the mania of persecution made his unhappy mind willing to credit
 everything that was unfavourable, and even embittered the life of
 those about him. Melanchthon in particular suffered under this mood
 owing to his disposition to find a _modus vivendi_ with the Swiss,
 whilst all the while concealing his leanings under a prudent and timid

 “The wild and immoral life at Wittenberg, a town so greatly favoured
 by God,”[1299] and the danger this spelt to the good name of the whole
 of Luther’s work stung him now more keenly than ever before. Of his
 own remorse of conscience we hear nothing at this time; his letters
 even to his intimates, usually so communicative, are silent as to any
 temptations or inward conflicts with the devil. There is no doubt that
 public affairs were then weighing more heavily on him, for instance
 the troubles arising from the Hessian bigamy. He was now again
 suffering from calculus. “I would dearly like to die,” he writes, “a
 plague on these excruciating pains! If, however, it is the Will of God
 that I succumb to them, He will give me grace to endure them and to
 die, if not sweetly, at least bravely!”[1300]

When his physical sufferings diminished there came to his mind the
recollection of how, more than a year before, early in 1544, he had
determined to leave Wittenberg, of which he had sickened, in order to
seek a more peaceful life elsewhere. It was only the extraordinary
exertions of his friends that had then succeeded in keeping him back.
Bugenhagen and the other preachers, the University and the magistrates,
had besought him with tears and entreaties. On that occasion he
was “incensed,” so Cruciger, his friend and pupil, says, “at some
trivial matter, or rather he was full of suspicion about us all, as I
believe.”[1301] Already in 1530, and again in 1539, he had declared that,
owing to the annoyance given him, he would never again mount the pulpit
at Wittenberg.[1302] Now, however, his chagrin was even deeper and he
resolved to carry out his plan prudently and quit the town for ever.

Without acquainting even Catherine Bora of the length of his absence from
the town he left Wittenberg at the end of July accompanied by his son
Hans, his guest Ferdinand von Maupis, travelling with Cruciger, who was
to decide a quarrel between Medler and Mohr, the two Naumburg preachers
at Zeitz, on July 27. Luther also repaired to Zeitz and took part in the
negotiations, but instead of returning with Cruciger to Wittenberg, he
wrote a letter to Katey from Zeitz on the 28th,[1303] stating that he
had no intention of returning to Wittenberg. “My heart has grown cold so
that I no longer like being there; I advise you to sell the garden and
courtyard, the house and stabling; then I would make over the big house
[the old monastery in which Luther used to live] to my gracious Lord,
and it would be best for you to settle down at Zulsdorf [i.e. on her own
little property] while I am yet alive.”[1304] He hoped, he goes on, that
the Elector would continue to pay him his stipend as professor, “at least
during the last year of his life.”

From the letter it is plain that it was annoyance at the decline of
morals in the town rather than any strained relations with his friends at
Wittenberg that drove him to this sudden decision. “Let us begone out of
this Sodom!” he writes and hints that, in addition to the disorders with
which he was already acquainted fresh scandals had reached his ears on
this journey; the “government,” i.e. the authorities, aroused his deepest
indignation. “There is no one to punish or restrain, and besides this the
Word of God is derided”; maybe the town “will catch the Beelzebub-dance,
now that they have begun to uncover the women and girls [an allusion to
the low-cut dresses] in front and behind.” “So I will wander about and
rather eat the bread of charity than allow my last days to be tortured
and upset by the disorderly life at Wittenberg and see all my hard work
brought to nought. You may tell Dr. Pommer and Master Philip of this if
you please,” he concludes, “and see whether Dr. Pommer will bid farewell
to Wittenberg for me, for I can no longer contain my anger and annoyance.”

The Wittenberg notabilities were filled with consternation on hearing of
what Luther had done; they could not regard it as a mere passing whim,
for they knew Luther’s determination. The University made representations
in writing to the Elector, begging him to intervene to prevent such a
misfortune; the foes of the Evangel would rejoice at the departure of
the great teacher, other professors would leave, and the result would
be new dissensions.[1305] As we know, Melanchthon, by his own account,
was ready “to slink away.” Luther, so the University stated, like a new
Elias, was the chariot and horseman of Israel and quite indispensable; if
he wished any changes made and order established this would be done even
should he find “fault with the teaching of some.” The University also
sent Bugenhagen and Melanchthon to talk the matter over with Luther; the
town despatched its burgomaster and the Elector sent him his own medical
attendant, Ratzeberger, with a friendly letter.[1306]

In the meantime Luther had left Zeitz and gone on to Merseburg, whither
he had been invited by George of Anhalt, formerly canon of the chapter
there. The latter had gone over to Protestantism, and, when the bishopric
was sequestrated in 1541 by a secular prince—August, the brother of Duke
Maurice of Saxony—was appointed “spiritual administrator” of the see. He
now wanted to be formally “consecrated” by Luther as bishop of Merseburg.
To this the latter readily agreed. On Aug. 2, with the assistance of
Jonas, Pfeffinger and others he reiterated the ceremonial which he had
once before performed on Amsdorf at Naumburg (above, vol. v., p. 194).

The festivities at Merseburg, the kindness and hospitality of which he
was the recipient at Lobnitz and Leipzig, and, lastly, the change of air
and surroundings brought Luther to a much better frame of mind.

The messengers from Wittenberg found him at Merseburg. After they had
seen him and listened to his stern admonitions, they were delighted to
receive his assurance that, after all, he would return to Wittenberg. His
resolve had, in fact, been merely the result of strong excitement. Now,
moreover, not only had the depression ceased of which he had so long been
the victim but a notable change of mood had supervened and his confidence
and courage had been restored. Such sudden changes are not without their
parallel in Luther’s earlier life, as has been sufficiently shown above.

He now returned in a better temper to Leipzig, where he preached a
vigorous sermon on Aug. 12, and was there entertained by Camerarius,
Melanchthon’s confidant; he also “associated with his circle of friends
in the best of humours.”[1307]

After his return to Wittenberg on the 16th we hear no more of his
vexation, though he did not put much faith in the disciplinary measures
that had been drawn up for the town, notwithstanding that they were
backed by the Elector; the Court itself, so he wrote, read nothing and
only scoffed at everything.[1308]

       *       *       *       *       *

He now threw himself once more into the struggle with his theological
foes. A glance at these labours and at his lectures shows him working
at high pressure, while, as his letters show, he retained his sense of

 He set to work immediately on the 32 articles which the Louvain
 Faculty of Theology had published with the object of enlightening
 Catholics on the nature of the Protestant doctrines.

 Already in Aug. he had set up his 76 theses “Against the Articles of
 the Theologists of Louvain.”[1309] Here he does not take his opponents
 seriously, but, for the most part, simply pours forth his annoyance on
 them and their theses, sneering at them and scourging them with coarse
 invective. He calls them arch-idolaters, a school of blockheads, lazy
 bellies and rude asses, the accursed, hellish brew of Louvain; speaks
 of their mad, raving conceit; they are bloodthirsty incendiaries
 and fratricides, a stinking cesspool, a school of obscenity and
 muck, are these great, gross epicurean swine of Louvain. “They come
 straight from hell and teach what they have seen in the Mirror of
 Marcolfus,[1310] i.e. the ordure of man-made laws.” “For, instead
 of giving the people Holy Scripture, they do nothing else but cack,
 spew, belch forth and fling human filth amongst them.… And thus Holy
 Church is to be looked upon as no better than a latrine for the scamps
 of Louvain wherein they, playing the lord, may void their belly when
 over-full, and where, moreover, they slay and lay waste. This indeed
 may be termed foolery and raving!”[1311] The strange elation in which
 Luther penned so odd-sounding a “reply” is, again, not to be explained
 by any ordinary psychology.

 In Sep. Luther commenced a work on a larger scale against the
 Louvain theologians and their Paris colleagues, which, however, he
 was not able to finish. The fragment “Against the Donkeys in Paris
 and Louvain,” which exists in two drafts, shows plainly enough what
 sort of book it would have been had death not interrupted his work.
 He urges that, whoever wishes to teach theology whilst refusing to
 acknowledge the truths taught by him concerning the Law, sin and
 Grace, is as well fitted to do so as an ass is to play upon the harp,
 as the Papacy is to govern the Church, or as the Louvain scholars
 to promote the cause of learning.[1312] In this work he fancied he
 had recovered his olden stormy vigour. To his friend Jacob Probst he
 candidly admitted: “I am more angry with these Louvain quadrupeds than
 beseems me, an old man and so great a theologian; but I want it to be
 said of me that I took the field against these monsters of Satan, even
 though it should cost me my last breath.”[1313]

 He was busy at the same time on a revised edition of his Latin
 “Chronology of the World,” of which the aim was to show the near
 advent of Christ.[1314] On Oct. 16 he finished his Latin Commentary
 on the Prophet Osee, and sent a copy as a gift to Mohr, the dismissed
 pastor of Zeitz, with a kindly letter of religious consolation and
 encouragement.[1315] He also despatched a lengthy circular to the
 printers on the capture of Duke Henry of Brunswick, the enemy of the
 Evangel; this letter is a monument to his aggressiveness so nearly
 verging on the fanatical;[1316] in this he had been strengthened by
 the supposed intervention of heaven on his behalf against Henry and
 against the Pope and the Mass.[1317]

 His intimate correspondence was also steeped in the new enthusiasm
 which had laid hold on him. “What a joyful victory has God, Who
 hearkens to our prayer, given us,” so he wrote on Oct. 26 to Jonas.
 “Let us believe and let us pray! He is faithful to His promises!… O
 God, do Thou maintain our joy, or, rather, Thine Own Glory!”[1318]

 The jokes we had missed for a while now once more made their
 appearance in his letters. In the first epistle written after
 his return he hastens to tell Amsdorf of Mutian’s reading of the
 inscription “_Soli Deo gloria_” (viz. “To the Sun-God be glory”) on
 a tower belonging to the Archbishop of Mayence; after all the “Satan
 of Mayence” was perhaps right, so he says, in having the inscription
 taken down.[1319] In another letter he cheerfully relates the old
 tale of the peasant who, with hands devoutly folded, said to Satan:
 “Thou art my Gracious Master the Devil.”[1320] He is also delighted
 to be able to tell the story of a Popish preacher, who, before the
 war, exhorting the people to pray for the Duke of Brunswick, had said:
 “If he is worsted then 14 parsons will be had for the price of a

 His last lecture was delivered just before Christmas, 1545, when he
 ended his exposition of Genesis. At its close he said: “Here you
 have our dear Genesis; God grant that, after me, someone may do it
 better; I am weak and can go on no longer; pray that God may grant
 me a happy deathbed.”[1322] But his “weakness” was merely temporary.
 A little after he wrote: “Whoever must fall let him fall if he
 refuses to listen to the Son of God. We pray and look for the day
 of our deliverance and destruction of the world with its pomps and
 wickedness. Would that it come speedily. Amen. I have taken the field
 against the donkeys of Louvain and Paris, but, nevertheless, feel
 pretty well, considering my advanced years.”[1323]

Impelled by the ardent desire to do something for the furtherance of
peace within his camp, in spite of his bodily weakness and his distaste
for worldly business, he undertook at the request of Count Albert of
Mansfeld to act as arbiter in the dispute between the latter and his
brother and nephew concerning the royalties from the mines and certain
other legal claims.

“My time is entirely taken up,” so he says, “with affairs which do not
in the least interest me; I must serve the belly and the table.”[1324]
Already at the beginning of October these matters had induced him, with
Melanchthon and Jonas, to proceed to Mansfeld. As soon as his course of
lectures was finished, viz. at Christmas, he again repaired thither, in
spite of the severity of the weather, again accompanied by Melanchthon,
who was inclined to grumble at being called upon to listen to the
squabbles of quarrelsome people. Luther, however, as he wrote to Count
Albert, wished to see the “beloved lords of his native land reconciled
and on good terms” before “laying himself to rest in his coffin.”[1325]
He returned to Wittenberg shortly after Christmas, owing to Melanchthon’s
falling ill.

These two journeys to Mansfeld, afterwards to be followed by a third and
last, have, by controversialists, wrongly been made out to have been due
to Luther’s desire to escape from Wittenberg on account of his bitter
experiences there.

2. Last Troubles and Cares

_Theological Disruption_

“The sad controversies of the last few years had made Luther recognise
that a race of theological fighting-cocks, gamesters and idle rioters
had arisen, and that dissensions of the worst sort might be anticipated
in the future. The nation in which each one obstinately followed his
own way was beyond help.… The Swiss refused to have anything to do with
the German Reformation; the Bucerites held themselves aloof from both
Lutherans and Swiss, the Brandenburgers wanted to belong neither to
the Church of Rome nor to that of Wittenberg; at Wittenberg itself the
Martinians and the Philippists (so-called after Luther and Melanchthon)
were hostile to each other, and finally the Princes and magistrates all
went their own way. ‘Things will fare badly when I am dead,’ such was
Luther’s repeated prediction. Whether he looked at this Prince of the
Church, at that Landgrave, or that other Duke Maurice, there was not one
in whom he could entirely trust. More than one Mene Tekel was written on
the wall, yet none perceived it save the old man at Wittenberg at whom
they all shrugged their shoulders.”[1326]

Such is the description by Luther’s latest Protestant biographer of the
“sad decline of the Evangelical party.”

The Zwinglians had received a severe blow from Luther in his “Kurtz
Bekentnis” of Sep., 1544;[1327] but the Swiss, who were hardy and
independent fellows, soon prepared a furious counter-reply.[1328]
The “old man at Wittenberg” was not deceived as to the profound and
irremediable breach, yet he succeeded, at least outwardly, in driving
away his annoyance and cares by the use of ridicule. Early in 1546, to
one of his confidants who had bewailed the new step taken by the Swiss,
he wrote the following, which forms his last utterance against the
Zwinglians: “If they condemn me, it is a joy to me. For by my writing
I wished to do nothing else than force them to declare themselves my
open foes. I have succeeded in this, hence so much the better. To adapt
the words of the Psalmist: ‘Blessed is the man who hath not sat in the
council of the Sacramentarians, nor stood in the way of the Zwinglians,
nor sat in the chair of the men of Zürich.’”[1329] To another intimate,
Amsdorf, the “Bishop” of Naumburg, who was allowed a deeper insight
into his soul than others, Luther confided that one of the principal
reasons of his hatred of his competitors in Switzerland and South-West
Germany was that “they are proud, fanatical men, and also idlers. At the
beginning of our enterprise, when I was fighting all alone in fear and
dread against the fury of the Pope, they were bravely silent and waited
to see how things would go. Later on they suddenly posed as victors, and
as though, forsooth, they alone had done it all. So it ever is: one does
the work and another seeks to enjoy his labour. Now they even go so far
as to attack me, who won their freedom for them.… But they will find
their judge. If I answer them at all it will be nothing more than a brief
recapitulation of the sentence of condemnation irrevocably passed upon
them.”[1330]—No such answer was, however, to be forthcoming.

Against Melanchthon Luther’s ardent followers, the Martinians, were,
as we know, highly incensed for attempting to modify the doctrines of
the Master. Melanchthon’s sufferings on this account have already been
described (vol. v., p. 252 ff.). With a grudging silence Luther bore
with his friend’s Zwinglian leanings on the doctrine of the Supper, and
with their other differences.

Both, moreover, were surrounded by an atmosphere of theological
bickerings, “where individuals, who, had it not been for these squabbles,
would never have achieved notoriety, gave themselves great airs.”[1331]

We may recall how Melanchthon had even thought of leaving Saxony, where,
as he wrote to Camerarius, he was bound down by undignified fetters; such
was his weakness, however, that he could not bring himself to do even
this. Luther’s coarseness, lack of consideration and dictatorial bearing
it was that led Melanchthon to say that he who ruled at Wittenberg was
not a Pericles, but a new Cleon and an unsufferable tyrant.[1332]

On the question of the veneration of the Sacrament differences at last
sprung up even between Bugenhagen and Luther; the former, usually his
pliant instrument, took upon himself during Luther’s absence to abolish
at Wittenberg the elevation of the elements during the celebration.
Apparently this was in the second half of Jan., 1542. Luther expressed
his disapproval of this action and declared he would revive the
rite.[1333] In 1544, when the three Princes of Anhalt were at Wittenberg
and asked him whether it would be right to abolish the Elevation, he
replied: “On no account; such abrogation detracts from the dignity of
the Sacrament.” There is no doubt that it was his antagonism to the
Zwinglians that was here the determining factor; moreover, as he admitted
Christ to be present in the Sacrament during reception in the wider
sense, i.e. during the liturgical action, he had no theological grounds
for doing away with the elevation and adoration of the elements. In his
own justification he went so far as to say: “Christ is in the bread,
why then should He not be treated with the greatest respect and also be

The Lutheran preacher Wolferinus of Eisleben was in the habit of pouring
back into the barrel what remained of the consecrated Wine after
communion. Luther called him sharply to account, as he found that his
conduct was tainted with Zwinglianism; in order to evade the difficulty
he ordered that, in future, preachers and communicants should see that
nothing was left over after communion.[1335]

Luther, towards the end of his life, had to taste a good deal of that
“theological ire” of which Melanchthon frequently speaks, and not only
from the Swiss. We need only call to mind Johann Agricola, and his
“antinomian sow-theology,” as Melanchthon termed it. His inferences from
Luther’s doctrine of the inability of man to fulfil the Law he never
really withdrew even when he had betaken himself to Brandenburg. In
the Table-Talk dating from the latest period and published by Kroker,
Luther’s frequent bitter references to Agricola show the speaker was well
aware that his Berlin opponent still hated and distrusted him as much as
ever. After Luther’s death it became evident that Agricola “was capable
of everything,” and that Luther was not so far wrong, when, on another
occasion, he declared that he was not a man to be taken seriously.[1336]
Agricola finally died, loaded with worldly honours, in 1566.

A more serious critic of Luther, at any rate on the question of the
Sacrament, was Martin Bucer. The latter’s friendship with the Swiss
and the too independent spirit in which he planned the reformation of
Cologne, caused Luther great anxiety towards the end of his life. In his
plan Luther, so he says, was unable to find any clear confession of faith
in the Sacrament, but merely “much idle talk of its profit, fruit and
dignity,” all carefully “wrapped up that no one might know what he really
thought of it, just as is the way with the fanatics.” In all this talk he
could “readily discern the chatterbox Bucer.”[1337] Bucer, on his side,
was dissatisfied with the progress of Luther’s work in Germany. Owing to
the Interim he was no longer able to remain at Strasburg and accordingly
accepted a post at the English University of Cambridge and died in
England in 1551.

_The Controversy on Clandestine Marriages_

It was, however, annoyances and disagreements of a different sort that
kept Luther to the end of his days in a state of extreme indignation
against the lawyers and politicians of the Court.

 A letter of Luther’s to the Elector Johann Frederick dated Jan.
 18, 1545, on the controversy with the Saxon lawyers about Luther’s
 denunciation of clandestine marriages (those entered upon without the
 knowledge of the parents) as illegal, carries us into the thick of
 these disagreements.[1338] His sovereign, he says, had ordered him to
 confer with the lawyers and come to an arrangement with them; Luther,
 however, after summoning them before him, had declared categorically
 that, “I had no intention of holding a disputation with them; I had a
 divine command to preach the 4th commandment[1339] in these matters.”
 Thus, in the questions under discussion, he is determined not to
 submit either to the secular or the canon law but only to the Divine.
 “Otherwise I should have to give up the Gospel and creep back into the
 cowl [become a monk again] in the devil’s name, by the strength and
 virtue of both the spiritual and the imperial law. And, besides this,
 your Electoral Highness would have to cut off my head, doing likewise
 with all those who have wedded nuns, as the Emperor Jovian commanded
 more than a thousand years back.” As a result of his arguments, “the
 lawyers of the Consistory and Courts agreed to give up and reject
 altogether the clandestine espousals [i.e. marriages ‘_sponsalia de
 præsenti_’].” In these words he announces his final apparent victory
 in this long-drawn controversy.

 In the same letter he touches on the deeper side of the quarrel.

 The lawyers at the High Court have always stuck to many points of
 “the Pope’s laws” which “we of the clergy” don’t want. “Some, too,
 made out [in accordance with Canon Law then still in force] that,
 on our death, our wives and children could not inherit our goods
 and wished to adjudicate them to our friends, etc.” They had paid
 no attention to the writings of the new theologians; and yet the
 latter, “few in number and insignificant maybe, have done more good
 in the Churches than all the Popes and jurists in a lump.” Hence the
 preachers had simply disregarded the lawyers, viz. in respect of the
 clandestine marriages; this had brought about peace. When, however,
 the “Consistory had been set up” (1539), the whole business had begun
 anew. “The jurists fancied they had found a loophole through which
 to raise a disturbance in my Churches with their damnable procedure,
 which, to-day and to all eternity, I want to have condemned and
 execrated in my Churches.” “Spoon-fed jurists” thrust themselves
 forward; but these “merry customers” are not going to make “of my
 Churches, for which I have to answer before God,” “such dens of

In order to understand the victory over the lawyers of which he speaks it
will be necessary to cast a glance back on the whole struggle.

As we have already pointed out in the words of a Protestant biographer
of Luther the legal status of Lutheranism threatened to give rise to
dire complications, while any downright abrogation of Canon Law, such
as Luther wished for, was out of the question.[1340] The sober view of
the situation taken by the lawyers did not deserve Luther’s offensive
treatment. Moreover, under the leadership of Schurf, the lay professors
of jurisprudence at the Wittenberg University had many objections
to raise against Luther’s demands. They not only upheld clandestine
marriages as valid, but, at the same time, defended the indissolubility
of marriage, even in the case of adultery, in accordance with the laws
of the olden Church; they also held that second marriages were not
lawful to the clergy. Schurf likewise wanted the “Evangelical bishops”
to be consecrated by papal bishops. A further cause of constant friction
lay in the fact that the professors of law were obliged to base their
lectures on the books of Canon Law in the absence of any others; whence
it came that Luther had to listen to many disagreeable references to the
questions of Church property, of the right of inheriting of the children
of former monks, of the marriage of nuns, of the legal status of the
monasteries, etc. Schurf was otherwise a good Lutheran and had assisted
Luther with advice at the Diet of Worms. Melchior Kling, his pupil and
colleague at Wittenberg, agreed with him in following the Canon Law
on the question of clandestine marriages, according to which (before
the Council of Trent had required for the validity of marriage, that
it should be performed publicly in the presence of the parish-priest),
they were regarded as valid, albeit wrong and forbidden, so that no new
marriage could be entered into so long as the parties lived.

Luther hoped, by opposing such marriages, to bring about some improvement
in the sad state of morals which the Visitations of 1528 and 1529 had
disclosed in the Saxon Electorate. The facility with which such marriages
were contracted by the Wittenberg students, and the bad effect they
had on the peace of the burghers seemed to him a real blot on the New
Evangel. He insisted very strongly that the consent of the parents was
required as a condition for marriage; without the parents’ consent
the marriages were in his eyes neither public nor valid; it was only
where the parents refused their consent on insufficient grounds that he
would admit that the bride had any right to enter into a real marriage
contract. The decision as to whether the parents’ objections held good
was, however, one on which opinions were bound to differ.

Shortly after the Visitations referred to above, in 1529, he wrote his
“Von Ehesachen,” published early in 1530; in it he declared: “A secret
betrothal simply constitutes no marriage whatsoever,” whilst, as a secret
betrothal (i.e. invalid marriage) he regards “any betrothal which takes
place without the knowledge and consent of those in authority, and who
have the right and power to settle the marriage, viz. the father, mother
or whoever stands in their stead.”[1341]

In 1532 he also proclaimed his views against the lawyers from the pulpit
without, however, being able to alter thereby either their practice or
their teaching. He lamented in 1538 the blindness of Schurf, who paid
more attention to man-made laws than to God’s Word and authority.[1342]

After some new disputes he delivered a sermon on Feb. 23, 1539, in
which he threatened to put on his horns. In it he called his opponents
blockheads; they ought “to reverence our doctrine as the Word of God,
coming from the mouth of the Holy Ghost.”[1343] He was not going to
worship the Pope’s ordure for the sake of the jurists; “let them let
our Church be”; but “now the lawyers are seeking to corrupt our young
students of theology with their Papal filth.”[1344]

Schurf seems to have yielded so far as no longer to attempt to make his
opinions public or official.

The greatest tussle, however, ensued on the establishment of the
Consistories in 1539, as the lawyers who were entrusted with the
matrimonial cases, treated the clandestine marriages as valid, and, in
other ways, also took Schurf’s side.

Luther asserted that by countenancing the “espousals,” which were “an
institution of the devil and the Pope,” the good name and the morals of
Wittenberg were being undermined. “Many of the parents say that, when
they send their boys to us to study, we hang wives round their necks
and rob them of their children.” Not only the burghers and students but
even the girls themselves “who have waxed bold” use their freedom most
wantonly.[1345] In Jan., 1544, in the pulpit, he poured out his wrath
in most unmeasured language, particularly on the second Sunday after
the Epiphany; in his tragic delivery he said, for instance: “I, Martin
Luther, preacher in this Church of Christ, take thee, secret promise and
the paternal consent that follows, together with the Pope and the devil
who instituted thee, I bind you all together and fling you into the abyss
of hell, in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Ghost.”[1346]

His anger and annoyance had been aroused by certain concrete cases.

One of Melanchthon’s sons had contracted such a marriage as he was
denouncing. In his own family circle the same thing happened, probably in
the case of his nephew, Fabian Kaufmann. A student, Caspar Beier, who was
on intimate terms with Luther’s household, wished to marry at Wittenberg,
but was prevented by the lawyers of the Consistory on account of a
previous clandestine marriage which, however, he denied; he appealed
from the Consistory to the sovereign, and was supported by a letter from
Luther. This quarrel kindled a conflagration at Luther’s home. Cruciger,
a friend of the house, was against Beier and described his cause as “none
of the best”; Catherine Bora, on the other hand, the “_fax domestica_” as
Cruciger called her,[1347] seems to have fanned the flames of Luther’s
wrath, in the interests of Beier who was a relative of hers.

To a friend Luther admitted in Jan. that he “was so indignant with the
lawyers as he had never before been in all his life during all the
struggle on behalf of the Evangel.”[1348]

When the controversy was at its height, viz. in Jan., 1544, the Elector
arranged for an interview between Luther and the Consistory. Later, in
Dec., those negotiations were followed by others, in which the members
of the Wittenberg High Court took part; at last Luther’s obstinacy and
violence won the day: All marriages without the knowledge or approval
of the parents were to be invalid until the latter consented, or the
Consistory had pronounced their opposition groundless. To the Elector,
who from the first had agreed with Luther’s view, the latter then
addressed the letter referred to above (p. 355) where, appealing to his
“Divine mission” to preach the 4th commandment, he announces his final
triumph over the lawyers and their edicts.

His triumph he owed to his strong will and, also, possibly, to the fact
that the Elector was on his side. The victory also affected the case of
Beier, whom Luther hastened to acquaint of his freedom;[1349] it further
decided to some extent, the yet more important question whether or not
the lawyers were to yield to Luther in ecclesiastical matters. They
accepted their humiliation with the best grace possible, but we shall not
be far wrong in assuming that they were not over-pleased with Luther’s
irregular and illogical handling of questions of law.

_Difficulties with the State Church_

The far-reaching encroachments of the secular authorities in his Church
became for Luther in his later years a source of keen vexation.

 Much of his Table-Talk, which turns on the lawyers, voices nothing
 more than his indignation at the unwarranted interference of the State
 in his new Church which he was powerless to prevent. Thus, according
 to notes made at this time by Hieronymus Besold of Nuremberg who was a
 guest at Luther’s table in 1545, the Master on one occasion gave free
 rein to his anger with the lawyers in the matter of the sequestration
 of Church lands: “The lawyers shriek, ‘They are Church lands.’ Give
 them back ‘their monasteries that they may become monks and nuns and
 celebrate Mass, and then they too will allow you to preach.’ [In
 other words their proposal was that the new faith should make its way
 peacefully. To this Luther’s answer is]: ‘Yes, but then where are we
 to get our bread and butter?’ ‘We leave that to you,’ they say. Yes,
 and take the devil’s thanks! We theologians have no worse enemies than
 the lawyers. If they are asked, ‘What is the Church?’ they reply,
 ‘The assembly of the Bishops, Abbots, etc. And these lands are the
 lands of the Church, hence they belong to the bishops.’ That is their
 dialectics. But we have another dialectics at the right hand of the
 Father and it tells us, ‘They are tyrants, wolves and robbers’ [and
 must accordingly be deprived of the lands]. Therefore we here condemn
 all lawyers, even the pious ones, for they know not what the Church
 is. If they search through all their books they will not discover what
 the Church is. Hence we are not going to take any reforms from them.
 Every lawyer is either a miscreant or an ignoramus (”_Omnis iurista
 est nequista aut ignorista_“).… They shall not teach us what ‘Church’
 is. There is an old proverb, ‘A good lawyer makes a bad Christian,’
 and it is a true one.”[1350]

 It is somewhat astonishing to hear Luther in his “Table-Talk on the
 lawyers”[1351] declaring that it was he who had whitewashed these
 “bad Christians” and made them to be respected, and that consequently
 he also could bring them again into disrepute, in other words, that
 his tongue was powerful enough to do and to undo. “Do not tempt me.
 If you are too well off I can soon make things warm for you. If you
 don’t like being whitewashed, well and good, I can soon paint you
 black again. May the devil make you blush!”[1352]—In one of his very
 last letters (Feb., 1546), owing to new friction with the lawyers
 about the Mansfeld revenues, he overwhelms them all with the following
 general charges: “The lawyers have taught the whole world such a
 mass of artifices, deceptions and calumnies that their very language
 has become an utter Babel. At Babel no one _could_ understand his
 neighbour, but here nobody _wants_ to understand what the other means.
 Out upon you, you sycophants, sophists and plague-boils of the human
 race! I write in anger, whether, were I calm, I should give a better
 report I know not. But the wrath of God is upon our sins. The Lord
 will judge His people; may He be gracious to His servants. Amen. If
 this is all the wisdom that the jurists can show then there is really
 no need for them to be so proud as they all are.”[1353]

Luther’s attitude towards the lawyers is of special importance from
two points of view. It shows afresh the high opinion he entertained of
himself, and, at the same time, it reveals his jealousy of any outside

 “Before my time there was not a lawyer,” he says for instance in
 an earlier outburst, “who knew what it meant to be righteous. They
 learnt it from me. In the Gospel there is nothing about the duty of
 worshipping jurists. Yes, before the world I will allow them to be in
 the right, but, before God, they shall be beneath me. If I can judge
 of Moses and bring him into subjection [i.e. criticise the Law in the
 light of the Gospel] what then of the lawyers?… If of the two one must
 perish, then let the law go and let Christ remain.”[1354] He was not
 learned in the law, but, as the proclaimer of the Evangel, he was “the
 supreme law in the field of conscience (‘_ego sum ius iurium in re

 “When I give an opinion and have to break my head over it and a
 lawyer comes along and tries to dispute it, I say: ‘Do you look after
 the Government and leave us in peace. You men of the law seek to
 oppress us, but it is written: Thou art a priest for ever’” (Ps. cx.
 4).[1356]—“The justice of the jurists is heathen justice,” he says;
 but, after all, even the justice [righteousness] of his own school of
 theology fell short of the mark. “Our justice is a relative justice;
 but if I am not pious yet Christ is pious; we are at least able to
 expound the commandments of God, and do so in the course of our
 calling. But, even if you distil a jurist five times over, he still
 cannot interpret even one of the Commandments.”[1357]

 The other trait that comes out in his dealings with the lawyers
 is his distaste for any outside interference with his Church. He
 looked askance at the attempts of secular authorities, statesmen and
 Court-lawyers to have a say in Church matters, which, strictly, should
 have been submitted to him alone and his preachers. Yet it was he
 himself who had put the Church under State control; he had invited
 the sovereigns and magistrates to decide on the most vital questions,
 doing so partly owing to the needs of the time, partly as a logical
 result of the new system. He himself had legalised the sequestration
 of the Church’s lands and had helped to set up the State Consistories.
 So long as the secular authorities were of his way of thinking he left
 them a free hand, more or less. He was, however, forced to realise
 more and more, particularly in the evening of his days, that their
 arbitrary behaviour was ruining his influence and only making worse
 the evils that his work had laid bare to the world.

 In his last utterances he is fond of calling “Centaurs” the officials
 and Court personages who, according to him, were stifling the Church
 in her growth by their wantonness, ambition and avarice. He bewails
 his inability to vanquish them; they are a necessary evil. “Make a
 Visitation of your Churches all the same,” he told his friend Amsdorf,
 early in January in the last year of his life; “the Lord will be with
 you, and even should one or other of the Centaurs forbid you, you are
 excused. Let them answer for it.”[1358]

We have also other utterances which testify to his deep distrust of the
secular authorities, on account of their real or imaginary encroachments.

 “The Princes seize upon all the lands of the Church and leave the
 poor students to starve, and thus the parishes become desolate, as is
 already the case.”[1359]—“The Princes and the towns do little for the
 support of our holy religion, leave everything in the lurch and do not
 punish wickedness. Highly dangerous times are to come.”[1360]—“The
 magistrates misuse their power against the Evangel; for this they will
 pay dearly.”[1361]—“The politicians show that they regard our words
 as those of men”; in this case we had better quit “Babylon” and leave
 them to themselves.[1362]

 “I see what is coming,” he wrote in 1541, “unless the tyranny of the
 Turk assists us by frightening our [lower] nobles and humbling them,
 they will illtreat us worse than do the Turks. Their only thought is
 to put the sovereigns in leading-strings and to lay the burghers and
 peasants in irons. The slavery of the Pope will be followed by a new
 enslaving of the people under the nobles.”[1363]—In the same year he
 says: “If the nobles go on in this way,” i.e. neglecting their duty
 of “protecting the pious and punishing the wicked,” there will be “an
 end of Germany and we shall soon be worse than even the Spaniards and
 Turks; but they will catch it soon.”[1364]—In 1543 he indignantly
 told a councillor who opposed him and his followers: “You are not
 lords over the parishes and the preaching office; it was not you
 who founded it but the Son of God, nor have you ever given anything
 towards it, so that you have far less right to it than the devil has
 to the kingdom of heaven; it is not for you to find fault with it,
 or to teach, nor yet to forbid the administration of punishment.…
 There is no shepherd-lad so humble that he will take a harsh word
 from a strange master; it is the minister alone who must be the butt
 of everyone, and put up with everything from all, while they will
 suffer nothing from him, not even God’s own Word.”[1365]—In 1544 he
 even said of his own Elector: “After all, the Court is of no use, its
 rule is like that of the crab and snail. It either cannot get on or
 else is always wanting to go back. Christ did well by His Church in
 not confiding its government to the Courts. Otherwise the devil would
 have nothing to do but to devour the souls of Christians.”[1366]—“The
 rulers shut their eyes,” he had written shortly before, “they leave
 great wantonness unpunished, and now have nothing better to do than
 impose one tax after another on their poor underlings. Therefore will
 the Lord destroy them in His wrath.”[1367]

 “What then is to become of the Church if the world does not shortly
 come to an end? I have lived my allotted span,” so he sighed in 1542,
 “the devil is sick of my life and I am sick of the devil’s hate.”[1368]

He often gives vent to his wounded feelings in unseemly words. A strange
mixture of glowing fanaticism and coarse jocularity flows forth like a
stream of molten lava from the furnace within him.

 Thus we have the famous utterances recorded above (vol. iii., p. 233
 and vol. v., p. 229) called forth by the decline of his Church, the
 carelessness of the rulers and the remissness of the preachers.

 “Our Lord God sees,” he declares, “how the dogs [the princes who were
 against him] soil the pavements, wet every corner and smash the basins
 and platters; but when He begins to visit them, His anger will be

 “To these swine,” so he wrote to Anton Lauterbach of the politicians
 in the Duchy of Saxony, “we will leave their muck and hell-fire to
 boot, if they wish. But they shall leave us our Lord, the Son of God,
 and the kingdom of heaven as well!… With a good conscience we regard
 them as reprobate servants of the devil; … be brave and cheerfully
 despise the devil in these devil’s sons, and devil’s progeny until
 they drive you away. ‘The earth is the Lord’s and the fulness thereof’
 (Ps xxiii. 1).… By your joy you will crucify them and, with them,
 Satan, who seeks to destroy us. To speak plain German, we shall s⸺
 into his mouth. Whether he likes it or not he must submit to having
 his head trodden under foot, however much he may seek to snap at us
 with his dreadful fangs. The seed of the woman is with us, whom also
 we teach and confess and Whom we shall help to the mastery. Fare you
 well in Him and pray for me.”[1370]

 The minor State-officials he also handled roughly enough. These
 “Junkers” take it upon them “to sing the praises of the papal filth.”
 “They stick to the Pope’s behind like clotted manure.” “I know better
 what ‘_Ius canonicum_’ is than you all will ever know or understand.
 It is donkey’s dung, and, if you want it, I will readily give you it
 to eat!” “If donkey’s dung be so much to your taste, go and eat it
 elsewhere and do not make a stench in our churches.”[1371]

_The Present and the To-come_

On his last birthday, which he kept on Martinmas-Eve, 1545, Luther
assembled about him Melanchthon, Bugenhagen, Cruciger, George Major and
other guests, and to them opened his mind. According to the account left
by his friend Ratzeberger he spoke of the coming dissensions: “As soon
as he was gone the best of our men would fall away. I do not fear the
Papists, he remarked; they are for the most part rude, ignorant asses and
Epicureans; but our own brethren will injure the Evangel because they
have gone forth from us but were not of us. This will do more harm to the
Evangel than the Papists can.” The sad political outlook of Germany led
him to add: “Our children will have to take up the spear, for things will
fare ill in Germany.” Of the Catholics he said: “The Council of Trent is
very angry and means mischief; hence be careful to pray diligently, for
there will be great need of prayer when I am gone.” All, he exhorted “to
stand fast by the Evangel.”[1372]

“For it is the command of our stern Lord [the Elector],” he says
elsewhere, “that we should maintain undefiled the government of
the Church, dispense aright the Word, the Absolution and the
Sacraments according to the institution of Christ, and also comfort

 Towards his end, according to Ratzeberger, he frequently told the
 faithful at Wittenberg that, in order to fight shy of false doctrines,
 they must hate reason as their greatest foe. “As soon as he was
 dead they would preach and teach at Wittenberg a very different
 doctrine”; hence they must “pray diligently and learn to prove the
 spirits aright”; they were to keep their eyes open to see whether
 what was preached agreed with Holy Scripture (here again the right of
 judging falling on the simple faithful). But if it was “outside of
 and apart from God’s Word, sweet and agreeable to reason and easy of
 comprehension, then they were to avoid such doctrine and say: No, thou
 hateful reason, thou art a whore, thee I will not follow.”[1374]

 In a sermon on the 2nd Sunday after the Epiphany, 1546, published
 three years later after Luther’s death by Stephen Tucher under the
 title “The last Sermon of Dr. Martin Luther of blessed memory,”[1375]
 Luther again speaks at length of the “heresiarchs” who had already
 arisen and whom more would follow; what the devil had been unable to
 do by means of the Kaiser and Pope, that he “would do through those
 who are still at one with us in doctrine”; “there will be a dreadful
 time. Ah, the lawyers and the wise men at Court will say: ‘You are
 proud, a revolt will ensue, etc., hence let us give way.’” But, in
 matters of faith, there must be no talk of giving way, “pride may well
 please us if it be not against the faith.”[1376]

 The picture of reason as a mere prostitute was now once more vividly
 before him. He hoped to dispose of the variant doctrines of others,
 who, like himself, interpreted the Bible in their own fashion, simply
 by urging contempt for reason. The faith in his own teaching, so he
 declared, “in the doctrine which I have, not from them but from the
 Grace of God,”[1377] must be preserved by means of a deadly warfare
 against “reason, the devil’s bride and beautiful prostitute”; “for
 she is the greatest seductress the devil has. The other gross sins
 can be seen, but reason no one is able to judge; it goes its way and
 leads to fanaticism.” The evil that is inherent in the flesh had not
 yet been completely driven out; “I am speaking of concupiscence which
 is a gross sin and of which everyone is sensible.” “But what I say
 of concupiscence, which is a gross sin, is also to be understood of
 reason, for the latter dishonours and insults God in His spiritual
 gifts and indeed is far more whorish a sin than whoredom.”[1378]
 When a Christian hears a Sacramentarian fanatic putting forward his
 reasonable grounds he ought to say to that reason, which is speaking:
 “Dear me, has the devil such a learned bride?—Away to the privy with
 you and your bride; cease, accursed whore,” etc.[1379] Hence some
 restriction was to be placed on private judgment; it was to be used
 in moderation and only in so far as it tallied with faith (“_secundum
 analogiam fidei_”).[1380] This “faith,” however, was in many instances
 simply Luther’s own.

 As Luther’s personality could not replace the outward rule of faith,
 viz. the authoritative voice of the teaching Church, his dreary
 prognostications were only too soon to be fulfilled. Hence in the
 appendix to another Wittenberg edition of Luther’s last sermon these
 words, as early as 1558, are represented as “the late Dr. Martin
 Luther’s excellent _prophecies_ about the impending corruption and
 falling away of the chief teachers in our churches, particularly at

 It is curious that, towards the close of his life, the Wittenberg
 Professor should have come again to insist so strongly on those points
 in his teaching for which he had fought at the outset, in spite of all
 the difficulties and contradictions they had been shown to involve,
 with the Bible, tradition and reason. He could at least claim that
 he had not abandoned his olden theses of the blindness of reason, of
 the unfreedom of the will, of the sinfulness of that concupiscence,
 from which none can get away, of the saving power of faith alone and
 the worthlessness of good works for the gaining of a heavenly reward,
 of the Bible as the sole source of faith and each man’s right of
 interpreting it, and, last, but not least, that of his own mission and
 call received from God Himself.

The decline of morals, now so obvious, was another phantom that haunted
the evening of his days.

 In the beginning of 1546 he confided to Amsdorf his anxiety regarding
 Meissen, Leipzig and other places where licence prevailed, together
 with contempt of the Gospel and its ministers. “This much is certain:
 Satan and his whole kingdom is terribly wroth with our Elector. To
 this kingdom your men of Meissen belong; they are the most dissolute
 folk on earth. Leipzig is pride and avarice personified, worse than
 any Sodom could be.… A new evil that Satan is hatching for us may be
 seen in the spread of the spirit of the Münster Dippers. After laying
 hold of the common people this spirit of revolt against all authority
 has also infected the great, and many Counts and Princes. May God
 prevent and overreach it!”[1382]

 He tells “Bishop” George of Merseburg, in Feb., 1546, that “steps must
 be taken against the scandals into which the people are plunging head
 over heels, as though all law were at an end.” It seems to him that a
 new Deluge is coming. “Let us beware lest what Moses wrote of the days
 before the flood repeats itself, how ‘they took to wife whomsoever
 they pleased, even their own sisters and mothers and those they had
 carried off from their husbands.’ Instances of the sort have reached
 my ear privately. May God prevent such doings from becoming public as
 in the case of Herod and the kings of Egypt!”[1383] “The world is full
 of Satan and Satanic men,” so he groans even in an otherwise cheerful

Up to the day of his death he was concerned for the welfare of the
students at Wittenberg University. Among the 2000 young men at the
University (for such was their number in Luther’s last years) there
were many who were in bitter want. Luther sought to alleviate this by
attacking, even in his sermons, those who were bent on fleecing the
young; he not only gave readily out of his own slender means but also
wrote to others asking them to be mindful of the students; of this we
have an instance in a note he wrote in his later years, in which he asks
certain “dear gentlemen” (possibly of the University or the magistracy)
for help for a “pious and learned fellow” who would have to leave
Wittenberg “for very hunger”; he declares that he himself was ready to
contribute a share, though he was no longer able to afford the gifts he
was daily called upon to bestow.[1385]

We know how grieved he was at the downfall of the schools and how loud
his complaints were of the lawlessness of youth; how it distressed him
to see the schools looked down upon though their contribution to the
maintenance of the Churches was “entirely out of question.”[1386]

For his University of Wittenberg he requests the prayers of others
against those who were undermining its reputation. He sees the
small effect of his earnest exhortations to the students against
immorality.[1387] The excellent statutes he had laid down for the town
and the University were nullified by the bad example of men in high
places. “Ah, how bitterly hostile the devil is to our Churches and
schools.… Tyranny and sects are everywhere gaining the upper hand by
dint of violence.… I believe there are many wicked knaves and spies here
on the watch for us, who rejoice when scandals and dissensions arise.
Hence we must watch and pray diligently. Unless God preserves us all is
up. And so it looks. Pray, therefore, pray! This school [of Wittenberg]
is as it were the foundation and stronghold of pure religion.”[1388]
He once declared sadly that, among all the students in the town there
were scarcely two from whom something might be hoped as future pastors
of souls. “If out of all the young men present here two or three
honest theologians grow up then we should have reason to thank God!
Good theologians are indeed rare birds on this earth. Among a thousand
you will seldom find two, or even one. And indeed the world no longer
deserves such good teachers, nor does it want them; things will go ill
when I, and you and some few others are gone.”[1389]

“The world was like this before the flood, before the destruction of
Sodom, before the Babylonian captivity, before the destruction of
Jerusalem—and so again it is before the fall of Germany.… Should you,
however, ask what good has come of our teaching, answer me first, what
good came of Lot’s preaching in Sodom?”[1390]

To divert his thoughts from these saddening cares he often turned to
Æsop. It is of interest to note how highly he always prized Æsop’s
Fables, not merely as a means of education for the young in the
elementary schools, but even as furnishing a stimulating topic for
conversation with his friends.

 He is very fond of adducing morals from these fables both in his
 Table-Talk and in his writings.

 Æsop’s tale of the fight between the wounded snake and the crab he
 dictated to his son Hans as a Latin exercise,[1391] and, in 1540, when
 a Mandate of the Kaiser aroused his suspicions owing to its kindly
 wording, the old man at once related to his guests the fable of the
 wolf who seeks to lead the sheep to a good pasture, and declared that
 he could easily see through this “Lycophilia.”[1392]

 For a long time he had a work on hand which he was destined never
 to complete; he was anxious to provide a new and better edition
 of Æsop for the schools, which, so he hoped, should replace the,
 in some respects unseemly, fables of Steinhöwel’s edition then in
 use which had been corrupted by additions from Poggio’s Facetiæ. A
 series of amusing and at the same time instructive fables which he
 translated with this object in view is still extant. That he found
 time for such a work in the midst of all his other pressing labours
 is sufficient evidence that he had it much at heart. The Preface to
 his unfinished little work, which he read aloud to a friend in 1538,
 pointed out, that writings of this kind were intended for “children
 and the simple,” whose mental development he wished to keep in view,
 carefully excluding anything that was offensive. The collection of
 Fables then in circulation, “though written professedly for the
 young,” unfortunately contained tales with narratives of “shameful and
 unchaste knavery such as no chaste or pious man, let alone any youth,
 could hear or read without injury to himself; it was as though the
 book had been written in a common house of ill fame or among dissolute

He was very determined in putting down scandals when they occurred in
his own home. A young relative, who was addicted to drunkenness, he
took severely to task, pointing out the good example, which in the
interests of the Evangel his household was strictly bound to give; when
the maidservant, Rosina, whom he had taken into his house, turned out a
person of bad life, he could not sufficiently express his indignation and
dismissed her from the family. A similar case also occurred at the time
of his flight from Wittenberg in July, 1545; he writes to Catherine in
the letter in which he tells her of his intention of not returning: “If
Leck’s ‘Bachscheisse,’ our second Rosina and deceiver, has not yet been
laid by the heels, do what you can that the miscreant may feel ashamed of

Catherine Bora was a good helper in matters of this sort. In fact she
performed with zeal and assiduity the duties that fell to her lot in
tending the aged and infirm man, and looking after the house and the
small property. Amidst his many and great difficulties he often confessed
that she was a comfort to him, and gratefully acknowledges her work.
In his letters to her during his later years he writes in so religious
a strain, and in such heartfelt language, that the reader might be
forgiven for thinking that Luther had entirely succeeded in forgetting
the irreligious nature of the union between a monk and a nun. “Grace
and peace in the Lord,” he writes in a letter from Eisleben of Feb. 7,
1546, to his “housewife.” “Read, you dear Katey, John and the Smaller
Catechism, of which you once said: All that is told in this book applies
to me. For you try to care for your God just as though He were not
Almighty and could not make ten Dr. Martins should the old one be drowned
in the Saale, etc. Leave me in peace with your cares, I have a better
guardian than even you and all the angels.”[1395]

3. Luther’s Death at Eisleben (1546)

In March, 1545, there was sent to Luther by Philip of Hesse an Italian
broadside purporting to have been printed in Rome, and containing a
fearsome account of Luther’s supposed death. In it “the ambassador of
the King of France” announces that Luther had wished his body set up
on the altar for adoration; also that before he died he had received
the Body of Christ, but that the Host had hovered untouched over the
grave after the funeral; a diabolical din had been heard coming from the
grave, but, on opening it, it was found to be empty though it emitted a
murderous stench of brimstone. Luther at once published the narrative
with an half-ironical, half-indignant commentary. He sought to persuade
the people that the Pope had actually wished for his death and damnation.
In a poem which he prefixed to the pamphlet he tells the Pope in his
usual style that: his life was indeed the Pope’s plague, but that his
death would be the Pope’s death too; the Pope might choose which he liked
best, the plague or death.—About the real origin of this alleged Italian
production nothing is known.[1396]

In his bodily sufferings and anxiety of mind concerning the present and
the future of his life’s work Luther frequently spoke of his desire for a
speedy release by death. His words on this subject throw a strong light
on his frame of mind.

 As things are “ever growing worse,” he says, “let our Lord God take
 away His own. He will remove the pious and then make an end of
 Germany.” “I am very weary of life,” he declared, “may Our Lord come
 right speedily and take me away, and, above all, may He come with His
 Judgment Day! I will reach out my neck to Him that He may strike me
 down with His thunderbolt where I am. Amen.”[1397]—As early as June
 11, 1539 (?), when he was wished another forty years of life, he said
 that, even were he offered a Paradise on earth for forty years, “I
 would not accept it. I would rather hire an executioner to chop off
 my head. So wicked is the world now! And the people are becoming real
 devils, so that one could wish him nothing better than a good death
 and then away!”[1398]

 Do you know, he said on one occasion, who it is that holds back God’s
 arm? “I am the block that stops God’s way. When I die He will strike.
 No doubt we are despised; but let them gather up the leavings when
 they are most despised; that is my advice.”[1399]

 That, “even in our own lifetime, the world should thus repay us,”
 seemed to him intolerable.[1400] “I hold that, for a thousand years,
 the world has never been so unfriendly to anyone as to me. I am also
 unfriendly to it, and know of nothing in life that I take pleasure

 Of the sudden death that confronted him he had, however, no idea. On
 the contrary, in 1543, when he was suffering from severe trouble in
 the head, he said to Catherine Bora, that he would summon his son
 Hans from Torgau to Wittenberg to be present at his death, which now
 seemed near at hand; but, he added: “I shall not die so suddenly, I
 shall first take to my bed and be ill; but I shall not lie there long.
 I have had enough of the world and it has had enough of me.… I give
 thanks to Thee My God that Thou hast numbered me in Thy little flock
 which endures persecution for the sake of Thy Word.”[1402]

 Incidentally he declared: “If I die in my bed it will be to defy the
 Papists and put them to shame.” Why? Because they will not have been
 able to do me the harm “they wished, and, in fact, were in duty bound
 to have done me.”[1403]

 The thought of death often made his hatred of the Catholics to flame
 up more luridly. “Only after my death will they feel what Luther
 really was”; should he fall a prey to his adversaries before his
 time, he would carry with him to the grave “a long train of bishops,
 priestlings and monks, for my life shall be their hangman, my death
 their devil.” He announces angrily, “They shall not be able to resist
 me,” and that, “in God’s name, he will tread the lion and the dragon
 under foot,” but of all this, according to him, they were to have only
 a taste during his lifetime; only after his death would matters be
 carried out in earnest.[1404]

 Brooding over his own death he says of the death of the believing
 Christian, viz. of the man who puts his trust in the Evangel: “If a
 man seriously meditates in his heart on God’s Word, believes it and
 falls asleep and dies in it, he will pass away before he realises that
 death has come, and is assuredly saved by the Word in which he has
 thus believed and died.”[1405] These words he wrote on Feb. 7, 1546,
 to an Eisleben gentleman in a copy of his Home-Postils. He prefaced
 them with a passage from Scripture in which he himself doubtless had
 often sought comfort: “He that keepeth my Word shall not taste of
 death for ever” (John viii. 51). In one of his last lengthy notes
 he also seeks to make his own this believing confidence: “Christ
 commands us to believe in Him. Although we are not able to believe
 as firmly as we should yet God has patience with us.” “I hide myself
 under the shelter of the Son of God; Him I hold and honour as my Lord
 to Whom I must fly when the devil, sin or any other ill assails me.
 For He is my shield, extending beyond the heavens and the earth and
 the foster-hen under whose wings I creep from the wrath of God.” Thus
 he was so steeped in the delusion of faith alone that he could thus
 wish to die in sole reliance on the “Word of God,” thanks to which he
 is to escape “the devil, death, hell and sin.”[1406] We may remember
 that, in one of his earliest controversial sermons, where a glimpse
 of his new doctrine is already to be detected, he had used the simile
 of the foster-hen. Now, in his old age, he returns to it, the richer
 by the experience of a long lifetime, albeit he now sees that it is
 difficult, nay impossible, “to believe as firmly as we should.”

In Jan., 1546, Luther set out for the third time for Mansfeld, in order
to settle the business of Count Albert of Mansfeld; only as a corpse was
he to return home.

The Elector did not look with approval on Luther’s arduous labours as
peacemaker, while Chancellor Brück even went so far as to characterise
the Counts’ interminable lawsuits about the mines and the rest as a
“pig-market.” Luther, nevertheless, set out again on Jan. 23, regardless
of his already impaired health, betaking himself this time to Eisleben.
He was accompanied by his three sons, their tutor and his famulus
Aurifaber, the editor of the German Table-Talk. At Halle they were
detained three days in the house of Jonas on account of the floating ice
and the flooded state of the Saale. “We did not wish to take to the water
and tempt God,” so he wrote to Catherine on Jan. 25, “for the devil bears
us a grudge and also dwells in the water; and, moreover, ‘discretion is
the best part of valour’; nor is there any need for us to give the Pope
and his myrmidons such cause for delight.”[1407]

On the 26th Luther preached a sermon in which, with all the strength
at his command, he poured forth his anger against Popery, “which had
cheated and befooled the whole world.” “The Pope, the Cardinals and the
lousy, scurvy, mangy monks have hoaxed and deluded us.” He proceeded to
storm against the unfortunate monks who had dared to remain in a town
now almost entirely won over to the innovations: “I am above measure
astonished that you gentlemen of Halle can still tolerate amongst you
these knaves, the crawling, lousy monks.… These wanton, verminous
miscreants take pleasure only in folly.… You gentlemen ought to drive
the imbecile, sorry creatures out of the town.… What we teach and preach
we do not teach as our own words, discovered or invented by us, like
the visions of the monks which they preach; their lies are like bulging
hop-pockets or sacks of wool.”[1408]

On the 28th, after having been joined by Jonas, Luther and his companions
crossed the swollen Saale. On this occasion he said to Jonas: “Dear Dr.
Jonas, wouldn’t it be a fine thing were I, Dr. Martin, my three sons and
you to be all drowned!” Not far from Eisleben they were overtaken by a
cold wind which brought the traveller in the carriage to such a state of
weakness and breathlessness that he nearly fainted. “The devil always
plays me this trick,” so he consoled himself, “when I have something
great on hand.”[1409]

At Eisleben he took up his abode with the town-clerk, and soon got well
enough to take part in the negotiations; he visited the several families
of the Counts and amused himself in his hours of leisure by looking at
the young nobles and their ladies tobogganing.[1410] To Catherine he
wrote jestingly on Feb. 1, that his fit near Eisleben was the work of the
Jews, numbers of whom lived there (at Rissdorf); they had raised up a
bitter wind against him, which “penetrated the back of the carriage and
passed right through my cap into my head, and tried to turn my brain to
ice. This may have brought on the fainting; now, however, thank God, I
am quite well, were it not for the pretty women, etc.” (cp. above, vol.
iii., p. 281). He extols the Naumburg beer, which suits him well, says
that his three sons have gone on to Jena and alludes to the blow he was
planning against the Mansfeld Jews, on whom Count Albert frowned and whom
he was determined to abandon.[1411]

When Catherine again expressed fears about his health he replied in a
joking vein on Feb. 10, giving her an account of all that her anxious
thoughts had brought upon him: The fire that broke out just in front of
his door had almost burnt him up, the plaster that fell from the ceiling
of his room had almost killed him, “having a mind to verify your pious
fears if the dear and holy angels had not been watching over me. I fear,
if you don’t put your fears to rest, the earth will finally open and
swallow us up.… We are, thank God, well and sound.“[1412]

In the interval, while the negotiations were still proceeding, he had
dealt very rudely with the Jews in a sermon on Feb. 7, in spite of the
fact that the Countess of Mansfeld, Solms’s widow, was said to be in
their favour. He was displeased to see them left unmolested. “No one
lifts a finger against them.” In a manuscript “exhortation against the
Jews,” written at that time,[1413] he briefly sums up his wishes: “You
Lords ought not to tolerate them, but rather drive them out,” at least if
they refuse to become Christians. Not long before he had declared that,
with his own hands, he could put a Jew to death who dared to blaspheme
Christ; when writing to Elector Joachim II of Brandenburg he also praised
one of his partisans, a certain provost, simply and solely for his hatred
of the Jews: “The provost pleases me beyond measure because he is so
strong against the Jews.”[1414]

Altogether, Luther preached four sermons at Eisleben. Twice he went
to the Supper, so we are told, after having previously received
“Absolution.” On the second occasion “he ordained” two priests,[1415]
his friend’s account narrates, “in the apostolic way.” Every evening
he assembled his friends about him, the chief being Justus Jonas and
the Eisleben preacher, Michael Cœlius. In their company he showed a
good temper, much as the long-drawn, tedious negotiations annoyed him.
He put it down to the devil that the scheme of settlement drawn up by
expert lawyers, encountered so much opposition on both sides; indeed he
fancied that all the devils had gathered together at Eisleben to mock at
his efforts in this dreary business. He would fain have himself played
the poltergeist among the combatants, to “grease the wheels of the
lazy coach” and “bring them back at last to some sense of the duty of
Christian charity.”[1416] The reader will remember the apparition that
Luther thought he saw in those days.[1417] At last, on Feb. 14, he was
able to write to his “dear, kind housewife”: “God has shown us great
mercy here, for, through their solicitors, the Lords have settled almost
everything save two or three points.”[1418] These outstanding matters
were satisfactorily adjusted shortly afterwards.

In the same letter Luther said: “We hope, please God, to return home
this week.” Thus he scarcely expected to die yet, but still hoped to be
able to get back to Wittenberg before the end came. “Here we eat and
drink like lords,” so he assures his Catherine, “and are very well looked
after.”[1419] On Feb. 16, at table, when the talk turned on sickness
and death, Luther said: “When I get home to Wittenberg I shall at once
lay myself in my coffin and give the grubs a nice fat doctor to feed
on.”[1420] For all his weakness his cheerfulness had not left him.

New cares were now troubling his mind. He had learnt how the Kaiser was
insisting on submission to the Council, how the religious conference at
Ratisbon had been a failure, and had merely given the Imperial forces
time to arm themselves for an attack on the Schmalkalden Leaguers. The
coming defeat of the League at Mühlberg was already casting its shadow.
“May God help His Highness our Master” (the Elector), remarked Luther;
“he is in for a bad time.”[1421] His annoyance with Kaiser Charles led
him to say: The “Emperor is dead against us, and now he is showing the
hand he so long had concealed.”[1422]

Luther, however, was not to live to see the blow delivered which the
flouted Imperial power had so long been threatening.

“During those three weeks” Luther frequently left the supper-table with
the admonition to “pray for our Lord God [i.e. for His cause][1423] that
it may go well with His Churches; the Council of Trent is highly wroth.”

Holy Scripture, to which he had always devoted himself with so much
energy, even now engrossed him. He felt keenly its obscurity and depth.
The last short note he made was on the Book of Books and the difficulty
of reaching its innermost meaning. After instancing the difficulty of
rightly understanding even Virgil or Cicero, it proceeds: “Let no one
think he has sufficiently tasted Holy Scripture, unless, for a hundred
years, he has ruled the Churches with prophets such as Elias, Eliseus,
John the Baptist, Christ and the Apostles.”[1424] By this significant
admission he had of course no intention of repudiating the principle,
whereby in the stead of the teaching authority of the Church he had put
the written Word of God as the clear and final rule for each individual.
At this time, just before his death, he was less inclined than ever to
retract one jot of his doctrine. Nevertheless the fact that he himself
was compelled to admit in such terms the depth and the difficulty of the
Bible seems scarcely to bear out his usual contention, viz. that Holy
Scripture is the one and all-sufficient guide and master for all.

On Feb. 17, the first symptoms showed themselves of the attack which was
to carry him off before the next dawn.[1425] During the day he was very
restless; once he said: “Here at Eisleben I was baptised, how if I were
to remain here?” In the evening he felt the oppression on the chest of
which he had had to complain in previous illnesses; he therefore had
himself rubbed down with hot flannels and, as soon as he felt better,
went off to supper. During the meal he was, as usual, talkative and in
good humour; he told some humorous anecdotes and also spoke of more
serious things, and ate and drank heartily. He casually said that,
were he to die as a man of sixty-three, he would have attained a quite
respectable age, “for people do not now live to be very old. Well, we old
men must live so long in order to be able to look behind the devil [i.e.
learn his wickedness] and experience so much malice, faithlessness and
misery in the world that we may bear witness what a wicked spirit the
devil is.” With the pessimism peculiar to him he concludes: “The human
race is like the sheep being led to the slaughter.”

According to Ratzeberger, the Elector’s medical adviser, who collected
the latest particulars concerning Luther, the latter, on the evening of
the 17th, “when about to lie down to sleep after supper,” wrote “with
a piece of chalk on the wall the verse: In life, O Pope, I was thy
plague, in dying I shall be thy death” (cp. above, vol. iii., p. 435).
If we may trust this account, then, on this occasion Luther again used
the words which had once before served him under similar circumstances
at Schmalkalden. Those actually present at Eisleben make, however, no
mention of this, and, in his funeral address, Jonas merely says, that
these verses were Luther’s fitting “epitaph” which he had once written
for himself. Cœlius also, in his panegyric on Luther, says that though
dead he still survives in his books; “he will also after his death,
please God, be the death of the Pope, thanks to his writings, just as he
was his plague during life.” As no mention of the writing on the wall is
made by either of these two, nor yet in the account of his death given
by his three friends, though there was no reason for their omitting it,
Ratzeberger’s account stands alone and must be taken for what it is

The following is based principally on the narratives of Jonas, Cœlius and
Aurifaber, though the fact that it emanates from enthusiastic friends of
Luther’s has not been overlooked. Even though, as is highly probable, the
three writers in question made the most of the edifying traits they were
able to mention, yet this is no sufficient ground for rejecting their
account as a whole. Even the short prayers which they put on Luther’s
lips may not be pure inventions.

After supper Luther betook himself rather early to his sitting-room
and, as his custom was, said his prayers at the open window. Another
severe attack of heart oppression then came on; his friends hurried to
his assistance and again tried to mend matters by rubbing him with hot
cloths; he was, however, only able to get an hour’s sleep on a sofa in
the room. He refused to have the doctors called in as he did not think
there was any danger. For the next two or three hours, viz. till 1 a.m.
he slept in his own bed in the adjoining bedroom, after telling his
anxious friends and his two sons, Martin and Paul, to go to rest. Jonas,
the principal witness at his death, had a couch in the same room as

About one o’clock Luther suddenly felt very unwell. “Oh, my God, how ill
I feel,” he said to Jonas, and, getting out of bed, he dragged himself
into the sitting-room, saying he would probably die at Eisleben after
all, and repeating the prayer: “Into Thy hands I commend my spirit.”
He complained of an intolerable burden on his chest. Two physicians,
one a doctor and the other a master of medicine, were now summoned in
haste. Before they arrived the patient seems to have suddenly collapsed;
they found him on the sofa, unconscious and with no perceptible pulse.
Recovering consciousness he said, all bathed in the cold sweat of death:
“My God, I feel so ill and anxious, I am going,” and then, according to
Jonas, he said a short prayer of thanks to God for having revealed to him
His Son Jesus Christ in Whom he believed and Whom he had preached and
confessed, whilst the hateful Pope and all the ungodly had blasphemed
this same Christ; thereupon, all trustfully, he commended his soul to the
Lord. No less than three times, according to this witness, did he repeat
in Latin the familiar Bible text: “God so loved the world that He gave
His Only Begotten Son that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish
but have everlasting life.” This text (John iii. 16) he had, indeed,
always esteemed highly, and seen in it the seal of his doctrine. He is
also said to have repeated other Bible texts while medicines were being
given him. Count Albert and his relatives, who had come in, also offered
him various remedies. Soon after he seemed again to lose consciousness.
In spite of the confessions just mentioned Jonas and Cœlius shouted once
more in his ear the question, whether he remained steadfast in the faith
in Christ and His doctrine which he had preached; to which they caught
the reply “Yes.” That was his last word.—To all appearance his death was
due to an apoplectic seizure.

All things considered, it is very odd that Luther apparently never gave
a thought to his life’s partner, whom he had left at Wittenberg, and
that, at least as it seems, his sons were not with him at his death. The
argument from the silence of his friends on this point is not devoid of
force, for it would have been so easy for them to supply what we here
miss. Their silence might even be adduced in support of the substantial
reliability of their narrative. The best explanation of Luther’s apparent
oblivion is probably to be sought in the result of the stroke which
stupefied him and blotted out the memory of those dear to him.[1427]

Towards 3 a.m., after drawing a last deep breath. Luther yielded up his
soul into the hands of the Judge. This was on Feb. the 18th.

At the demand of both the physicians the apothecary of Eisleben was sent
for, either immediately after death had taken place, or possibly just
before, to administer a stimulant by means of a clysteral injection. The
apothecary, Johann Landau by name, was a Catholic and a convert, a nephew
of the convert polemic Wicel. He drew up a report of his visit which has
become famous in the discussion of the question stupidly broached anew of
recent years as to whether Luther committed suicide.[1428] We here give
the principal passages of his very realistic narrative. He speaks of
himself in the third person.

“The apothecary was awakened at the third hour after midnight.… When
he arrived he said to the doctors: ‘He is quite dead, of what use can
an injection be?’ Count Albert and some scholars were present. The
physicians, however, replied: ‘At any rate have a try with the instrument
that he may come again to himself if there be any life yet in him.’ When
the apothecary inserted the nozzle he noticed some flatulency given
off into the ball of the syringe.”[1429] The apothecary persevered in
his efforts until the physicians saw that all was useless. “The two
physicians disputed together as to the cause of death. The doctor said
it was a fit of apoplexy, for the mouth was drawn down and the whole of
the right side discoloured.”[1430] The master, on the other hand, thought
it incredible that so holy a man could have been thus stricken down by
the hand of God, and thought it was rather the result of a suffocating
catarrh and that death was due to choking. After this all the other
Counts arrived. Jonas, however, who was seated at the head of the bed,
wept aloud and wrung his hands. When asked whether Luther had complained
of any pain the evening before he replied: “Dear me, no, he was more
cheerful yesterday than he had been for many a day. Oh, God Almighty,
God Almighty, etc.”—by this Jonas did not mean to deny the fit of heart
oppression that had occurred the previous day, since he himself reports
it to the Elector; distracted by grief as he was he probably only thought
of the good spirits Luther had been in that evening, and of the contrast
with the dead body he now saw lying before him. Or it may be that he did
not regard the heart oppression as actual “pain.”

Landau’s report continues: “In the meantime the Counts brought costly
scents to be applied to the body of the deceased, for on several
occasions before this he had been thought to be dead when he lay for a
long time motionless and giving no sign of life, as happened to him, for
instance, at Schmalkalden when he was tormented with the stone.… The
apothecary vigorously rubbed his nose, mouth, forehead and left side for
some time with the oils. Prince Wolfgang of Anhalt came and bent over the
corpse and asked the apothecary whether any sign of life remained. The
latter, however, replied that there was not the least life in him seeing
that the hands, nose, forehead, cheeks and ears were already stiff and
cold in death.… Jonas said: It will be best now for us to send a swift
rider to the Elector and for one of us to sit down and write and tell him
all that has happened.”

Jonas himself wrote this first still extant account to his sovereign
“about four o’clock in the morning.”

On Feb. 20 Luther’s body was taken to Halle, and early on the 22nd to
Wittenberg, where it was received at the Elster Gate—the scene of the
famous burning of the Bull—by the University, the Town Council and the
burghers. He was buried in the Schlosskirche. There his bones still rest
in the grave as was proved by an examination made on Feb. 14, 1892.[1431]

4. In the World of Legend

Barely twenty years later a report that Luther had committed suicide went
the rounds among certain of his opponents, the report being subsequently
grounded on the alleged statement of a servant.

The first writer who mentions the servant is the Italian Oratorian,
Thomas Bozius, in a book on the marks of the Church printed in Rome in
1591. “Luther after having supped heartily that evening and gone to bed
quite content,” so he writes, “died that same night by suffocation. I
hear that it has recently been discovered through the confession of a
witness who was then his servant and who came over to us in late years,
that Luther brought himself to a miserable end by hanging; but that
all the inmates of the house who knew of the incident were bound under
oath not to divulge the matter, for the honour of the Evangel as it was

It was not till the beginning of the 17th century that the text of the
supposed letter of Luther’s servant began to be circulated, according
to which, when the latter went one morning to awaken Luther “as usual”
(i.e. about 7 a.m.) he found he had committed suicide; this, however,
is quite at variance with the definite accounts we have of the time of
death. The supposed servant claims to have been alone when he found “our
Master Martin hanging from the bedpost, miserably strangled,” whereas the
notes made at the time speak of the presence of witnesses both before and
after the death which, moreover, was quite a natural one. The apocryphal
letter bears no writer’s name nor do we know anything of its source; it
seems to have made its first public appearance at Antwerp in 1606 in the
work of the Franciscan Sedulius, who probably took it in good faith. It
is remarkable, that, down to 1650, as Paulus has proved, only one German
writer mentions this fictitious letter, though foreign polemics were busy
with it. Outside of Germany such inventions found more ready credence,
particularly among the zealous and more imaginative Catholics of the
Latin race, who were only too willing to seize on any tale which was to
the discredit of the lives of the German foes of Catholicism.[1433]

The falsehood of the legend of Luther’s suicide was most convincingly
proved by N. Paulus in his special work on the subject (1898). This
scholar submitted the fable to the sharp knife of criticism with a
broadminded love of truth that honours his Catholicism as much as his
acumen does honour to him as a critic.

It is barely credible to us to-day what inventions grew up in the 16th
century, both on the Catholic and the Protestant side, about the deaths
of well-known public men who happened to be the object of animosity to
one party or the other. Suicide, or murder at the hands of friend or
foe, or, more frequently, dreadful maladies or sudden death under the
most horrible shapes were the ordinary penalties assigned to opponents,
not only by the populace but even by the more credulous type of learned
writers. We must not forget that Luther himself had at hand a list of the
persecutors of the Evangel, who, in his own day, had been snatched away
by sudden death, and that it served him on occasion in his sermons and

It is an undeniable fact that Luther did much to pave the way for such
stories. His printed Table-Talk could well be taken as a model. Among
the fearsome tales of death he himself related was e.g. that of Mutian
the humanist, who, refusing to become a Lutheran, fell from poverty into
despair and poisoned himself;[1435] of the Archbishop of Treves, Richard
of Greiffenklau, who was “bodily carried off to hell by the devil”;[1436]
of the Catholic preacher, Urban of Kunewalde, who, “having fallen away
from the Evangel,” was “struck by a thunderbolt” in the church, and then
again by a flash of lightning that passed through his body from head to
foot, because he had asked heaven for a sign to prove that he was in the
right,[1437] etc.[1438] “All these perished miserably,” he says, “like
senseless swine. And so too it will happen with the others.”[1439]

In those days, partly owing to Luther’s influence, people were very ready
to admit the devil’s intervention in the horrible death that befell their
foes; the Catholic champions would all seem to have had a shocking end,
could we but trust the writers in the Protestant camp.[1440]

Eck they depicted entirely possessed by the devil and “dying like a
brute beast, quite out of his mind.” Of Emser (when still living) Luther
himself says, that he had been killed suddenly by the “fiery darts and
arrows of the devil.”[1441] Cochlæus, according to other writers, was
removed from the world in an awful way. Johann Fabri it was said had
died in despair, saying to those who exhorted him to have confidence:
“Too late, too late.” Pighius was made out to have died by his own hand.
Latomus was represented as crying out on his death-bed that he was a
devil incarnate and had claws on his fingers and toes. Hofmeister, the
learned Augustinian, according to the Protestant version, repeatedly said
before dying: “I belong to the devil body and soul.” Of the Jesuits,
even their founder, Ignatius of Loyola, had a bad death. Canisius was
struck dumb in the pulpit at Worms and was carried off by the judgment
of God; some were not wanting, however, who declared that he had been
converted to Luther’s doctrine. Seven years before his death, it was
reported of Bellarmine, the great controversialist of that day, that “he
had died miserably and in despair,” carried off on the back of a fiery
he-goat from hell; and “even to this very day,” so it was told during
his lifetime, “Bellarmine may be heard gruesomely howling in the wind,
astride his flaming, winged steed.”

Needless to say, many of the converts who turned their back on Luther and
took the part of the Catholic Church “perished miserably”! “Many of these
devil’s henchmen,” writes a “simple minister of the Word,” “who knowingly
and of malice aforethought, as they themselves admit, deny the known
truth of the Evangel, have been carried off alive by the devil, or have
howled before their death like wolves and tigers, as notoriously happened
in the case of that firebrand Staphylus.”[1442]

If similar tales, representing in an unfavourable light Luther’s life
and death, were equally rife among the Catholics, this can be no matter
for surprise if we bear in mind how greatly they were vexed by the
exaggerated eulogies passed on him and his life’s work, and how much
they had been stung by his polemics and furious onslaught on the Church.
Whoever loved the olden Church held Luther’s very name in execration.

One such tale early current at Halle was that, when the funeral
procession arrived at Wittenberg, the coffin was found empty, Luther’s
corpse having vanished on the road. A number of rooks having described
circles in the air about the corpse at Halle, a later tale made them out
to have been devils “streaming to the funeral of their prophet.”[1443]
Proof of this general foregathering of the devils was even found in
the comparative calmness of those possessed, who, it was argued, had
evidently been forsaken for a while by their diabolical tenants, the
latter’s presence at the burial explaining their temporary departure from
their usual habitats.[1444] The corpse, it was also said, gave out so
evil a smell that the bearers had to leave it on the road to Wittenberg.

Other versions of these tales deserve to be mentioned. According to
Johann Oldecop, the Hildesheim Dominican (†1574), who, however, is not
reliable in what he had at second hand, Luther was simply found dead in
his bed. According to Simon Fontaine (1558), a French writer, who also
speaks of his sudden death, he had “his nun” with him that night; this
is also affirmed in the works of Jérôme Bolsec and James Laing, printed
in Paris, as well as in a work published at Ingolstadt. According to
William Reginald, Professor at the English College of Douay (1597),
Luther had been strangled in the night by Catherine Bora. The same tale
was afterwards told at Münster in Westphalia by Johann Münch (1617).

Even more common were the reports, quite in accordance with the manners
which Luther had fostered, that the devil had murdered him. The Polish
scholar, Stanislaus Hosius, asserted this in 1558, and, later, it is
mentioned, though only tentatively, by the Dutch theologian, William
Lindanus and the Paris theologian Prateolus. In 1615, Robert Bellarmine,
speaking in general terms, says that Luther, after an illness lasting
only a few hours, “yielded up his soul to the devil”;[1445] but the
“_Compendium fidei_” 1607 of Franz Coster (already published in Dutch
in 1595) had been beforehand in particulars of Luther’s death at the
devil’s hands. He tells how, according to the statement of a noble
lady of Eichsfeld, Luther’s body had been found with the “neck red and
out of joint,” hence it was plain that “he had been strangled by the
devil.” Peter Pázmány a Magyar writer (1613) had heard that the devil had
appeared in the shape of a great sheep-dog to the guests at table on the
evening previous to Luther’s death, and that Luther had exclaimed: “What,
so soon?” Claude de Sainctes (1575) a French theologian, finds nothing
extraordinary in Luther’s horrible death, since most of the Church’s
foes had been brought to a violent end by the devil as the examples of
Zwingli, Carlstadt, Œcolampadius and others showed!



1. Luther’s fame among the friends he left behind

The first panegyrics on Luther, the funeral orations and encomiums
which were immediately printed and scattered broadcast through Germany
constitute an historical phenomenon in themselves. They show orators and
writers alike fascinated as it were by Luther’s overpowering personality,
and they, in turn, fascinated many thousands who read them. Jonas was
the first to deliver at Eisleben an address in his honour, viz. in the
afternoon of Feb. 19; this was followed by another by Cœlius previous to
the departure of the funeral procession on Feb. 20; whilst Bugenhagen,
too, delivered one of his own on the 22nd, after the arrival of the body
at the Schlosskirche. The rhetorical effusions of Jonas and Cœlius, who
had been present with Luther at the end, likewise Bugenhagen’s address,
and the account of Luther’s death which they published in conjunction
with Aurifaber, are all crammed with incredible praises. Melanchthon,
too, forgetful of all the pain he had suffered at Luther’s hand and
shutting his eyes to all his weaknesses, paid his tribute of honour to
Luther’s memory, first in a notice affixed at the University, then in a
Latin funeral-oration which he delivered in the Schlosskirche as soon as
Bugenhagen had had his say, and, again, in a short writing on his friend
and master which he prefixed to the second volume of the Latin edition of
Luther’s works (1546).

 “Alas, gone is the chariot and horseman of Israel” (2 Kings ii.
 12), so Melanchthon said in the notice of Luther’s death, which he
 addressed to the students,[1446] “who ruled the Church in this the old
 age of the world. For it was not human sagacity that discovered the
 doctrine of the forgiveness of sins and trust in the Son of God, but
 God revealed it through this man whom He raised up before our eyes.”
 In his funeral oration he extols the departed as one of the long line
 of Divine tools starting in Old Testament times, a man taught by God
 and exercised in severe spiritual combats, of a friendly nature, not
 at all passionate or quarrelsome and only inclining to be violent
 when such medicine was needed by the ailments of the age. “Whatsoever
 things are true, whatsoever modest, whatsoever just, whatsoever holy,
 lovely and of good fame” according to the Apostle (Philip. iv. 8) had
 been exemplified in him. Now, however, he had gone to join the company
 of the Prophets in heaven, etc.

 According to the similar address delivered by Jonas[1447] only at the
 end of the world would people clearly see what “splendid revelations
 he had had when first he began to preach the Evangel.” Luther had
 the “Spirit of God in rich and exalted measure,” he was “a past
 master in spiritual combats.” “In the hour of death he had cast all
 his cares on Christ.” In the spirit of Luther, who was equal to Noe
 in his words and preaching, Jonas prophesied, that what he had once
 said would be fulfilled, viz. that, after his death, “all Papists and
 monks would be scattered and brought low”; Luther’s death, like that
 of all the prophets, would have in it “a special power and efficacy
 to overcome the godless, stiff-necked and blinded Papists,” nay,
 before two years were over, they would all be overtaken by a “gruesome
 chastisement.”—To such an extent had Luther’s pseudo-mysticism and
 fanatical expectations infected his pupils. Nevertheless Luther’s
 admissions concerning the imperfection of his work were also taken
 over by his pupils. “In spite of the great and bright light of the
 Evangel,” so Jonas confesses in his funeral oration, “the world has
 reached such a pass that now among many are found not only the common
 sins and shortcomings but, to boot, blasphemy, disorders, defiance,
 or deliberate persistence in the grossest vices; yet no one is ready
 to acknowledge that he is a sinner.” The sermon in question was again
 preached by Jonas at Halle later on.

 Cœlius, in his funeral oration, declared that no one before Luther had
 known how to call upon God, how to look up to Him in trouble, or what
 a man ought to do, or how he was to serve God. But “by him God has
 unlocked Holy Writ which formerly was a book closed and sealed.” The
 dear man had been a “real Elias and Jeremias; he was a new John the
 Baptist, preaching the great day of the Lord, or else an Apostle.”

 According to Bugenhagen’s sermon,[1448] the deceased was “undoubtedly
 the Angel of whom it is written in the Apocalypse (xiv.): ‘And I saw
 an angel flying through the midst of heaven having the eternal Gospel
 to preach.’” Through him, “the God-sent reformer of the Church,” God
 the Father has “revealed” the great mystery of His Beloved Son Jesus

These eulogies, which owe their fulsomeness partly to the bad taste of
the humanistic period, were strong in their effects on men’s minds; the
preachers, moreover, who had been trained or appointed by Luther, were
anxious thereby to strengthen their own position and to show their scorn
for Popery. Even in the above addresses Luther and what he stood for is
contrasted with “the oppression and tyranny of the hateful Popedom” from
which the world had been delivered. (Bugenhagen.)

In many of the churches Luther’s picture was hung up with the
inscription: “The Holy Dr. Martin Luther (‘_Divus et sanctus_,’ etc.).”
Writings were published bearing such titles as “Luther, the Prophet,”
“Luther, the Wonder-Worker.” All sorts of medals were struck in his
honour, one with the inscription: “_Propheta Germaniæ, Sanctus Domini_,”
others with Luther’s motto: “_Pestis eram vivus_,” etc.[1449] Even in
his lifetime pictures appeared in reprints of his works where he was
represented with a halo and with the Dove, as the symbol of the Holy
Ghost, descending on him from heaven.[1450]

The most popular biography of Luther was that of Johann Mathesius, who
died as pastor of Joachimsthal in Bohemia. He met with a success such as
can be accounted for only by the passion in favour of Wittenberg then
prevalent in Protestant Germany. The appellations so common in later
years, Luther the “Wonder-Worker,” “Chosen Instrument,” “True German
Prophet,” “Man full of Grace and the Holy Spirit,” are to be met with
already in the “Historien” of Mathesius, delivered originally as sermons
and first published in 1566. In these “stories” he has interwoven in
Luther’s laurel wreath much that is untrue or doubtful, for instance,
the saying attributed to Erasmus and since frequently quoted on his
authority, is spurious, viz. “that, when Dr. Luther explains Scripture,
on one of his pages there is more reason and common sense than in all
the tomes and scrolls of Scotists, Thomists, Albertists, Nominalists
and Sophists.”[1451] Mathesius wishes people “not to be forgetful of
so worthy a man’s life and testimony,” yet even he gives us a glimpse
into the bitter controversies now already raging among the Lutherans; he
points out how “God loves the peacemakers and calls them His own dear
children while He sends adrift all who delight in war and strife.” He
himself had some experience of the antagonism between the progressive
party and the more old-fashioned Lutherans. Indeed one of the principal
reasons why he wrote the “Historien” was because “many an ungrateful
fellow actually forgets this great man and his faithful industry and
toil.” He already sees the “Wittenberg cisterns” defiled by “all kinds of
brackish, foul, baneful, muddy and uncleanly waters.”[1452]

 Though historically the tales of “the pious panegyrist,” as
 Maurenbrecher a Protestant calls him,[1453] cannot be said to rank
 very high, yet the energy with which he claims a thoroughly German
 character for Luther and for his own biographical work was pleasing
 to many. He uses the term “Prophet of the Germans” _ad nauseam_,
 even in the Preface addressed to the Wittenberg authorities; God had
 bestowed Luther “as a gift on us, the descendants of Japhet, and the
 Holy German Empire in these last days”; he, Mathesius, had a living
 “under the Bohemian Crown,” but as a German by birth he had “preached
 officially in his mother tongue” and “of set purpose, had these
 _German_ sermons, to the honour of Our God and the blessed _German_
 Theology, published in German in order that some at least in Germany
 might be reminded what this blessed _German_ Church in the Kingdom of
 Bohemia thought of the doctrines of this great _German_ Prophet.”

 By his exertions for the preservation of the Table-Talk Mathesius also
 sought to glorify Luther’s memory.

 An influential group of panegyrists, who, like Mathesius, noted down,
 collected, or published Luther’s utterances, comprises Cordatus,
 Dietrich, Rörer, Schlaginhaufen, Lauterbach and, to pass over
 others, Aurifaber, Stangwald and Selnecker. Cordatus, who went as
 Superintendent to Stendal in 1540, compared Luther’s sayings to the
 oracles of Apollo.[1454] Aurifaber, one of those present at Luther’s
 death at Eisleben, became in 1551 Court Chaplain at Weimar and in 1566
 pastor at Erfurt. In the “Colloquia,” or Table-Talk, which he caused
 to be printed at Eisleben in 1566, he says, in the Preface addressed
 to the Imperial towns of Strasburg, Augsburg, Ulm, Nuremberg, etc.,
 that Luther was the “Venerable and highly enlightened Moses of the

 Like Aurifaber and Stangwald (1571), Selnecker (1577) took for the
 motto of his edition of the Table-Talk the words of Christ, “Gather up
 the fragments that remain,” etc. (John vi. 12); he further embellished
 his collection with the words:

    “What, full of God’s spirit, Luther once taught
    That doth his godly flock now hold fast.”[1455]

 Of the Lutheran die-hards who were never weary of fighting for the
 true olden spirit of Luther in opposition to the Protestant critics
 who very soon sprang up, the most eminent were Flacius Illyricus,
 Justus Menius, Nicholas Amsdorf and Cyriacus Spangenberg.

 Concerning the father of the latter, Johann Spangenberg, Luther, in
 the last days of his life, had advised and “faithfully exhorted, that
 he should be called as Superintendent [to Eisleben].”[1456] Full of
 boundless admiration for Luther his son Cyriacus wrote his “Theander
 Lutherus,” where he says that the latter was the “greatest prophet
 since the days of the Apostles” and a “real martyr,” particularly
 because the devil had persecuted him so greatly. In consideration of
 this he canonises him and speaks of him as “St. Luther.”[1457] In the
 preface he assures us that it was only Luther’s holy and persistent
 prayers that had hitherto spared Germany the perils of war which
 would otherwise have overtaken her. The significant and lengthy title
 of this remarkable work runs as follows: “Theander Lutherus; of the
 worthy man of God, Dr. M. Luther’s spiritual Household and Knighthood,
 of his office as Prophet, Apostle and Evangelist; How he was the third
 Elias, a new Paul, the true John, the best Theologian, the Angel of
 Apocalypse xiv., a faithful witness, wise pilgrim and true priest,
 also a good labourer in our Lord God’s vineyard, all summed up in
 one-and-twenty sermons.”

 Flacius Illyricus, the Wittenberg Professor famous for his connection
 with the “Magdeburg Centuries,” made Luther’s exemplary life play its
 part among the “Marks of the true Religion.” He proves in the book
 bearing this title the advantages of Protestantism over Popery by the
 mark of holiness, and by the pious life of some of the New Believers
 so different from that of the Catholics, and, in so doing, he appeals
 boldly to the founder of Protestantism. Whatever was alleged against
 Luther was false; “the Papists have never ceased from spreading these
 untruths, particularly in distant lands where the true state of the
 case is not so well known.”[1458]

 Luther’s most ardent admirer after Flacius was perhaps Nicholas
 Amsdorf. In the Jena edition of Luther’s works for which he was
 responsible Amsdorf extols him in the Introduction as a man of God,
 “the like of whom has not been seen on earth since St. Paul’s day,”
 a man whom God “had raised up by His special Grace as a chosen
 instrument and bestowed on the German nation”; “by the Spirit and
 Word of God he had been led to attack the Pope, and his services
 in revealing him as Antichrist must be esteemed as highly as his
 vigorous advocacy of the doctrines of the Trinity, the Incarnation
 and Justification through Christ.” Nay “he had been specially raised
 up” “in order to unmask the Roman Antichrist.” But, on account of
 all his other doctrines too, “pious Christians ought to acknowledge
 with grateful hearts this great miracle which God has shown to the
 world and used against the Pope in these last sad times through the
 precious man of God Martin Luther.” Amsdorf, however, as he hints in
 the same Preface, found to his dismay that Protestant “cavillers”
 were now even more numerous than in Luther’s lifetime, who “picked
 from Luther’s writings only antologies and contradictions.” Some had
 even dared to distort his writings. He complains that the Wittenberg
 complete edition of Luther’s works was so unreliable that he was now
 compelled to undertake the present new Jena edition: “Many things
 in those tomes were deleted, expurgated and altered for the sake of
 currying favour.”[1459] The real Luther, particularly as he is seen in
 his denial of the need of good works, is numbered by Amsdorf among the
 Saints; this is clear from the title of one of Amsdorf’s works, where
 he places Luther on a par with the Apostle of the Gentiles.[1460]

Particularly around Luther’s tomb did veneration centre. Thus the verses
of August Buchner invite his readers to visit Luther’s tomb, and proclaim
it a greater thing to have seen this little resting place than even the
proud Temple of Capitoline Jove.[1461]

Immediately after his death a lengthy “poem” was published at Wittenberg
entitled “Epitaphium,” celebrating both the deceased and his grave:

    “In mine own sweet Fatherland
    I did die a death so grand.
    At Wittenberg in peace I lie;
    To God be praise and thanks on high.”

In it Luther tells how he had been sent by God that he might—

    “Before the trump of doom unmask that devil’s child
    The Antichrist, with fiendish sin defiled.”

For ever and for ever it would remain true that

    “Pope and Antichrist have sprung
    From the wicked devil’s dung.”[1462]

His grave was marked only by a stone let into the ground bearing on it
a metal plate with his name, the date and place of his death, and his

On a bronze memorial tablet in the wall was described in Latin verse
the dark night in which the world was plunged under the Papacy, until
at last Luther “once more made known the Grace of Christ, and, moved
by the Divine inspiration (‘_Dei adflatu monitus_’) and called by the
Word of God, had caused the new light of the Evangel to illuminate the
world.” Like Paul his tongue had sent forth lightnings, like John the
Baptist he had shown to the world in its darkness the Saving Lamb of
God, and also brought to light the Tables of Moses, the Prophet of God,
in their counter-distinction from the Gospel. The altars had been purged
of the Roman idols. In reward for all this he had been exalted by Christ
to the stars in order that he might share in His eternal joy.[1464]
Beside the monument there was placed in the following century a framed
painting representing Luther in the pulpit, pointing with his finger
to the Crucified, while a dragon with wide-open jaws was swallowing
the Pope and his helpers. On this painting the verses given above were

The Elector Johann Frederick had another memorial tablet cast, but, owing
to his defeat in the Schmalkalden War, this was taken by his sons to
Weimar and later, in 1571, to Jena, where it was put up in the church of
St. Michael. On it, above the life-size figure of the deceased, stands
the verse: “_Pestis eram vivus, moriens ero mors tua papa_.” Other Latin
verses at his feet state that, through him, the great fraud had been
exposed whereby godless Rome had ensnared Christ’s flock. Would that
Christ would help the orthodox school of Jena to vanquish the swarm of
false doctrines (of the New Believers) that was springing up now, when
the end of the world was so close.[1466]

2. Luther’s Memory among the Catholics. The Question of His Greatness

A faithful Catholic visiting the Schlosskirche at Wittenberg must
necessarily have been assailed by thoughts much at variance with the
eulogistic language of the epitaph and other expressions of Lutheran
feeling. Let us suppose that one of those zealous and cultured Catholics
who had been drawn by the attack on the olden religion into yet closer
sympathy with it had crossed the threshold of the church—for instance a
preacher such as Dr. Conrad Kling of Halle, who in the midst of trials
and slanders was seeking to save the remnants of Catholicism,[1467]
or a man like the historian Wolfgang Mayer,[1468] or the learned
and sharp-witted Kilian Leib, Prior of Rebdorf,[1469] or one of the
highly gifted women of that day, for instance, Charity Pirkheimer, the
sister of the humanist and Superior of the struggling Poor Clares of
Nuremberg[1470]—what would have been the impressions called forth by the
building and the monument?

The building itself recalled the oneness of the divine edifice of the
Church whose work it was to build up all the regenerate into one body,
without dissensions or divisions, that oneness to which the Church in
olden days, when barely out of the hands of the persecutor, had borne
witness at the baptismal font of St. Peter’s in Rome in the impressive
inscription: “One chair of Peter and one font of Baptism!”[1471] The
pulpit of the Schlosskirche called to mind the commission given by
the Divine Saviour to His Apostles and their successors to baptise
all nations and preach that doctrine which He Himself was to preserve
infallible by His Presence “all days even to the end of the world.” The
altar reminded the Catholic visitor of the eucharistic Sacrament and of
the unbloody sacrifice formerly offered there. The bare walls spoke of
the iconoclastic storm against both the images of the Saints and any
living union of the faithful on earth with the elect in heaven, while
the elaborate monuments to the dead seemed to proclaim in these times of
excitement the peace in which those departed men had passed away happy in
the possession of the one olden faith.

This ecclesiastical unity—such would have been the thought of the
Catholic—has been shattered in our unhappy age by the man whose remains
are here honoured by his followers, and not in order to reform, or
improve, but rather to replace the thousand-year-old heirloom of the
Church by a new faith and worship.

Even Luther’s very monument re-echoed the menaces pronounced by Luther
upon Catholicism when he desecrated what was most sacred for so many
thousands, and laid rough hands on the one consolation of their sorrowful

 The fierce announcement to Popery: “My death will be your plague” fell
 from his lips not once but often. “Only after my death will they feel
 the real Luther.” “My life shall be their hangman, my death shall be
 their devil!”[1472] “When I die I shall become a spirit to plague
 the bishops, the priestlings and the godless monks so greatly that a
 dead Luther will spell to them more trouble than a thousand living

 With the oft-repeated words: “_Pestis eram vivus, moriens ero mors
 tua Papa_,”[1474] which are also engraved on his death mask in the
 Luther-Halle at Wittenberg, he proclaimed that his death would do more
 harm to the Papacy than his life; as long as he lived the Papists
 would benefit to some extent from his labours, but, when he died,
 they would be deprived even of this. The threat, though grotesque,
 is quite in keeping with his belief in himself. He says that it is
 he alone who is still holding back the storm that is threatening to
 engulf all the Papists. He asks the Catholics of Germany: “How if
 Luther’s life were of so much value in God’s sight that, did he not
 live, not one of you would be sure of your life or existence here
 below, so that his death would be a misfortune to you all?”[1475] He
 even goes so far as to prophesy: “One day they will cry: Oh, that
 Luther were still living!”[1476] He parades before the Catholics the
 services he had rendered by resisting the fanatics and those who
 denied the Sacrament; the Catholics, so he says, would never have
 been able to do so much. “They are ungrateful, of this will I speak
 to them when I am dead. I have inveighed against them enough in the
 ‘Vermanũg,’ but it is all of no use.”[1477] “After my death the
 Papists will see all the good I have done them, and in me the saying
 will be fulfilled: ‘He died justified of his sin.’”[1478]

 Thus in his half jesting, half serious fashion he proclaimed himself
 a sort of defender and pillar of the Papacy. The idea did not seem
 too strange to his friend Jonas to prevent him introducing it into
 his funeral oration on Luther: “The Papists,” he says, “Canons,
 priestlings, monks and nuns would in years to come wish that Dr.
 Luther still lived; they would gladly obey him, and, if they could,
 call him from the grave; but their chance is now gone.”[1479]

These great expectations and bold prophecies were as little realised as
that of the impending fall of the Papacy.

On the contrary the Papacy gathered strength, renewed its youth from
one decade to another and, though the apostasy also grew, yet a gradual
revival of the ancient faith set in throughout the Catholic world. On
the minds of the faithful Catholics there remained, however, indelibly
stamped the gloomy recollection of the towering defiance with which the
Wittenberg professor and his secular allies had sought to introduce an
alien teaching and reform.

The inflexible will on which Luther so prided himself is the sign
manual of his personality. Nothing is so characteristic of Luther as
his obstinate determination which yielded to nothing, and the appalling
pertinacity that ever drove him on and never allowed him to retreat.

“No one, please God, shall awe me so long as I live!”[1480] To no other
principle was he more faithful throughout his life. Thus we hear him

 “Good, then let us bid defiance in God’s name; whoever feels
 compunction let him draw back; whoever is afraid let him flee!… I have
 brought Holy Scripture and the Word of God to light as no other has
 done for a thousand years. I have done my part. Your blood be upon
 your own heads and not on mine.”[1481]

 “When we see and feel the world’s wantonness, anger and hate, let us
 learn to defy it,” “to the disgust and annoyance of the world.” “This
 is an exalted defiance and an excellent consolation.” “Defiantly
 we boast: The Gospel that we preach is not ours but our Lord

 Luther defied not only “the world,” i.e. his ecclesiastical opponents
 and Catholicism generally, but also what he calls the devil, i.e. the
 inner voice that reproached him; he defied life and death, Emperor and
 princes, and, to boot, his own followers. Yet it was to him not so
 easy a task to defy the olden Church: “Rather than anger the Christian
 Church, or say one word against her, I would prefer to lose ten heads
 and to die ten times over. And yet do it I must.” “They tell us ‘the
 Christian Church is where Popery is.’ But no, Christ says, ‘My word
 shall prevail and you shall obey me and listen to me alone, even
 should you go cracked, mad and crazy over it.’”[1483]

 He was highly elated at the thought that the powerful protectors
 of the Church had “not been able to put him down.”[1484] All their
 success he regards as mere “devil’s dung”;[1485] the princes, “the
 tyrants and men of great learning” might be incensed at the blow he
 had dealt them, but, so he declares, for the defence of his teaching
 he would have to give them “thirty blows more to induce remorse
 and repentance.”[1486] For “in this may God give me no patience or
 meekness. Here I say No, No, No, so long as I can move a finger, let
 it vex King, Kaiser, princes, devils and whom it may.” “In the matter
 of doctrine no one is great in my sight, I look upon him as a mere
 soap-bubble, and even less; this there is no gainsaying.” The same was
 to hold good of his crass writing on the “Captive Will”: “I defy not
 only the King [of England] and Erasmus, but also their God and all the
 devils, fairly and rightly to dispose of that same booklet!”[1487]

 “His enemies’ anger and fury,” so he declares when in this mood, is
 to him “real joy and fun.” He will force himself to be of “good and
 cheerful heart” about their “baneful books.”[1488]

 With frightful earnestness he warns the Catholic princes: “It is the
 truth that you will go headlong to destruction; I know that on the
 word will follow the deed and that you will perish.… We have this
 consolation that we are not affrighted, even should emperors, kings,
 princes, Pope and bishops fall in a heap and kingdoms lie one on the
 top of the other.”[1489] “What is a prince or emperor, nay the whole
 world compared with the Word? They are but dung.” “Papacy, Empire and
 Grand Turk” mean nothing to us. “Such is our defiance.”[1490]

 In his scorn for those who vex him and write against him he is
 determined to “put out his horns”,[1491] He will be a “huntsman and be
 after his quarry”; “I hunt the Pope, the cardinals, bishops, canons
 and monks.”[1492]

 Of the defiance of the “hard Saxon”[1493] not only the Papists but
 the Court-lawyers and the theologians in his own camp had to taste
 when they annoyed him. Not only did he oppose the Papists, “cheerfully
 and confidently” condemning them to hell and to “eat the devil’s
 droppings,” and rejoicing with a “good conscience” at the impending
 destruction of these “slaves of Satan”;[1494] but he had similar, nay
 even stronger words of defiance ready for the “false teachers” amongst
 the New Believers, to wit for the Swiss and for such as Agricola.
 When the latter defended himself and said, “I too have a head,”
 Luther retorted: “And, please God, have I not one too.” But with such
 “stiff-necked” heretics “God was determined to torment him so as the
 better to defy the Papists.”[1495]

A defiance so utterly overwhelming as Luther’s the world had never before
seen. The Catholics were quite dumbfounded. Can we take it ill if they
failed to admire this form of Titanic greatness. A frightful greatness
(perhaps it were more accurate to say a great frightfulness) indeed
lurked behind Luther. Yet a Catholic would have had to throw over all
religious and moral standards before he could extol a man as great simply
on account of his strength of will, determination, power of resistance,
inflexibility and defiance. Men felt that, after all, what was important
was the aim and the means used in pursuing it. If all that mattered was
merely the inflexibility of the will, this would have spelt an “upsetting
of all values” and the strong man, he who towered above his fellows owing
to his physical strength and his power of bidding defiance to the world
would become the ideal of the human race.

Nor would a thoughtful Catholic contemporary have been much impressed by
the modern eulogies of Luther’s defiance.

 “Because he feared neither hell nor the devil, he stands out for all
 time as the embodiment of human greatness”; “in his brave spirit there
 does not seem to have existed the faintest shadow of the pallid fear
 of man.” “In word and writing he is the greatest demagogue of all the
 ages”; “the sledgehammer blows of his berserker fury and wild humour
 rained down on every side.”

 “Since his road led to the goal, it must have been the right road,
 hence let critics hold their tongues.”

 “Such a master knew best what tone to adopt in order to sway the

 “His is the wrath and fury of a hero.… Heroes and hero-fury are

 Those who speak in this way admit that there were darker sides to
 his picture; they, however, insist that, in Luther we see, with “the
 mighty will of the hero,” “traits of the dæmonic greatness of a leader
 of history” “casting both light and shadows.” Luther “shook the world
 to its foundations.” He was a man “of mighty powers and dimensions. In
 the case of almost all the really great men of history, not only their
 virtues, but also their defects bear an heroic stamp.” These defects
 are simply the “reverse side of such a man’s greatness.”

It is to cherish too low an idea of greatness, not merely according to
the Christian but also according to the merely natural standard, if
strength of will or eventual success are alone taken into account and
the aim and whole moral character of the work completely disregarded.
In one sense of the word Catholics have never been unwilling to grant
Luther a certain greatness, particularly as regards his astounding
mental gifts and his powers of work. Döllinger was quite ready in his
Catholic days to include “the son of the peasant of Möhra amongst the
great, nay, among the greatest of men,” though Döllinger qualifies the
admission by the words which immediately follow: “His disciples and
admirers were wont to console themselves with the ‘heroic spirit’ of
the man, who was so intolerant of any limitations or restrictions and
who, dispensed by a kind of inspiration from the observance of the moral
law, could do things, which, done by others, would have been immoral and

There was no neutral vantage-ground from which to judge of Luther’s
labours and his influence. Every thinking man did so from the ethical
standpoint, and the Catholic likewise from the standpoint of his Church.
It is clear that Luther must not be tested by the standard of profane
greatness, but by a religious one. It would be to do him rank injustice,
and he would have been the first to protest were we to consider merely
the force of his character and the extent of his success, rather than his
objects and his influence from the moral and religious standpoint.

He represented himself to his Catholic contemporaries as a divinely
commissioned preacher; in the name of the Lord he called on them to
forsake the Church of all the ages, because he had come to proclaim
afresh a forgotten Gospel. Hence they were bound to examine the actual
state of the case and to probe for the moral signs which the words of
Christ and the Apostles had taught them to look for, and, when they
found the necessary religious qualities and moral greatness wanting, who
can blame them for not having gone over to him? With them it was not
a question whether they might admire in him a strong man, a Hercules
or “superman,” but whether they were, at his bidding, to sever the tie
that had hitherto bound them to the Church, follow him blindly, and
commit their eternal salvation to his guidance. Luther had never tired
of urging: “No man shall quench or thwart my teaching, it must have its
way as it has hitherto for it is not mine” (but God’s).[1497] “I call
myself Ecclesiastes [the preacher] by the Grace of God.… I am certain
that Christ Himself calls and regards me as such, that He is my master,
and that He will bear me witness on the Last Day that it is not mine but
His own Gospel undefiled.”[1498] It was this rôle of Evangelist that the
better class of opponents felt disposed to examine.

“Because you call yourself an evangelist and proclaimer of the Gospel,”
so Duke George of Saxony wrote in his reply to Luther, “it would have
better beseemed you to punish with mildness whatever abuses existed
therein, and to instruct the people kindly.”[1499] On the contrary, so
the Duke urges, his behaviour is anything but that of an “evangelist,”
what with his passionate abuse and vituperation, and his criminal breach
of the public peace and religious unity: “Where peace and unity are not,
there there is neither the true faith, which indeed is not to be found in

       *       *       *       *       *

It is worth while to consider what response would have been awakened in
the minds of serious Catholic visitors to Luther’s grave by his startling

Those who to-day claim unqualified “greatness” for Luther are usually
thinking of the astonishing success of his undertaking, and of his
influence and that of his labours on posterity. They boast: “He tore his
age from its moorings,” “he reduced to ruins what for a thousand years
had been held in honour”; “he gave a new trend to civilisation.”

A man of insight could, however, explain otherwise many of these effects.

The result of Luther’s preaching was undoubtedly very great. But, in the
first place, this result was not solely due to the efforts of one man but
was rather the outcome of the circumstances in which that man lived, the
product of divers factors in the history of the times.

His contemporaries saw full well that Luther, with his fiery temperament,
had merely assumed the direction of a spirit that had long began to
pervade the clergy, regular and the secular, leading them to cast aside
the duties of their calling and to seek merely honours and emoluments.
They were also aware of the oppressive burden of abuses the Church had
to carry and of the far-reaching disorders in public life. Society was
now anxious to liberate itself from the Church’s tutelage which had grown
irksome. Everyone was conscious of the trend of the day towards freedom,
individuality and new outlooks. Both the Empire and the olden idea of the
Christian nations united as in one family were in process of dissolution
owing to political and social trends quite independent of Luther’s work.
His contemporaries saw with deep misgiving how Luther’s new doctrine and
his innovations generally were strengthening all these elements, and
setting free others of a similar nature which could not fail to help on
his work. Nevertheless the elements of unrest, without which he would
have been unable to achieve anything, were not of his making.[1500]

We can still judge to-day, from the writings of those who lived at that
time, of the feelings, in some cases enthusiastic in others full of fear,
with which they listened to the Wittenberger as he proclaimed war on
all that was obsolete, or demanded in fiery language the reform of the
Church, for which all were anxious.[1501] The more alluring and seductive
the very word “reformation,” the more effective was the help proffered
for the overthrow of the Church under the cloak of this watchword. In
the field of learning there were the humanists who had fallen foul of
Catholic authority and the spirit of the past; in the lower strata of
society there were the peasants who aimed at bettering their position;
among the burghers and in official circles hopes were entertained of an
increase of authority at the expense of the bishops, now regarded with
ever-increasing jealousy; finally the nobles and knights were allured
by the prospect of the success of a revolt under the banner of the
Evangel which would redound to the advantage of their caste. What chiefly
brought Luther’s star into the ascendant was, however, the protection he
obtained from the princes. Without his Elector, without the Landgrave of
Hesse, without the allies of Schmalkalden, in a word, without political
authority on his side, all the force of his words would have availed
nothing, or at least would never have sufficed to enable him to found a
new Church. The Princes who helped to spread his teaching and reformation
saw the lands and privileges of the Church falling into their lap, and
what was even more, the extension of their sphere of influence to the
spiritual domain where, so far, the Pope and the bishops had reigned

Thus in his success those well versed in the conditions of the times
recognised for the most part only the working of natural causes.

Luther, as all were aware, shortly after having been put under the Ban
was wont to say that the movement he had begun was something so great
and wonderful that it could not but owe its success to the manifest
intervention of God. “It cannot be,” he exclaimed in 1521, “that
a man should of himself be able to start such a work and carry it
through.”[1502] He was fond of saying he wished no earthly means to be
used for arriving at the goal. Yet, in this very statement of 1521, for
instance, he refers “to the sermons and writings” by which he had “begun”
to disclose the Papists’ “knavery and trickery.” His burning words indeed
acted as a spark flung on the inflammable material accumulating for so
long. Anyone aware of the condition of Germany and of the artifices by
which the author of the gigantic apostasy sought to consolidate his
position at Wittenberg by means of the Court, and at the same time to
excite the fanaticism of the masses, would feel but little impressed by
Luther’s appeal to the apparent simplicity of his writings and sermons,
as being out of all proportion to the unexampled success he attained.

He was indeed heard to say that he attributed everything to the words
and the divine power of Christ: “Look what it has done in the few years
that we have taught and written such truths. How has the Papists’ cloak
shrunk and become so short!… What will it be when these words of Christ
have threshed with His Spirit for another two years?”[1503] These words
were, however, spoken the year after the publication of those fearfully
violent writings: “On the Popedom at Rome” (against Alveld), “To the
German Nobility,” “On the Babylonish Captivity,” “On the Freedom of a
Christian Man” and “Against the Bulls of End-Christ.” When uttered, his
seductive writing “On the Monastic Vows” was already there to unbar the
gates through which crowds of doubtful helpers would flock to join him.

Catholic polemics of that day, in order to demolish the objection arising
from the marvellous spread of Lutheranism, set themselves to examine
the relation between the new dogmas and their dissemination. Luther’s
doctrine, as they frequently pointed out, was bound to secure him a large

In this particular it was easy enough to prove that it was not merely
the “greatness” of the man which drew such crowds to him. The persistent
vaunting of the universal priesthood, the right bestowed on all of
judging of Scripture, the abandoning of the outward and inward Word to
the feelings of the individual, the sweet preaching of a faith which “no
sin could harm,” the denial of the merit of good works, the assertion
that, not they, but only faith was required for salvation, and, not to
speak of many other points, his contemptuous and unjust strictures on the
Church and her doings, all this—human nature being what it is—could not
fail for a time to help the cause of the New Evangel of freedom, and,
under the conditions then prevailing, to assure it a real triumph.

This Evangel came upon Germany at a time when the Church’s life was in a
state of decay, when the adequate religious instruction of the young was
neglected by the Church, and when the dioceses were for the most part
governed by younger sons of princely or noble houses, who were quite
unfitted for their spiritual work. It is noteworthy that the defenders of
the Church had very little good to say of the bishops.[1504]

Of the new preachers and promoters of Luther’s Reformation a large
number was composed of apostate clergy and escaped monks and nuns whom
Luther had won over. It was plain enough that it was no such “great and
immortal” work as he claimed, to have attracted such people to his party
thanks to theories which, while seeming to calm the conscience, really
flattered the senses, for instance, by what he said on celibacy, vows
and priestly ordination. “Do not seek to deny that you are a man, with
flesh and blood; hence leave God to judge between the valiant angel-like
heroes [those religious who were faithful to the Church] and the sickly,
despised sinners [whom they upbraided as apostates].[1505]… Chastity is
beyond healthy nature, let alone sinful nature.… There is no enticement
so bad as these commands [of celibacy] and vows, forged by the devil
himself.” Youthful religious were to be dragged out of their monasteries
as quickly as possible, and priests were to learn that theirs was but a
“Carnival ordination.” “Holy Orders are all jugglery and in God’s sight
they have no value.”[1506]

Hence contemporaries, considering events from the standpoint just
described, must needs have told themselves that Luther’s success,
unexpected and astounding as it was, could not after all be laid down to
the “greatness” of any one single man.[1507]

What, moreover, must have been the thoughts of the observer regarding the
permanence of Luther’s work who lived to see the master’s own Lutheranism
falling to pieces, according to the statements of his most zealous
admirers,[1508] as soon as he was dead? Luther himself almost seemed
ready to ring down the curtain on the premature termination of the great
tragedy of which he could not but despair.[1509]

       *       *       *       *       *

In the very year of Luther’s death Cochlæus passed in review the havoc
wrought in the Church, embodying his observations in the work he had just
finished and was to publish three years later, viz. his “_De Actis et
Scriptis Lutheri_.”

These pages seem still to tremble with the excitement of the terrible
period they describe. It is impressive to hear this voice of the
Catholic spokesman coming as it were from Luther’s tomb and telling of
the devastation of the storm raised by the Wittenberg professor. As
Kawerau says, Cochlæus himself could point to a life “which, year after
year, ever since 1521 had been devoted feverishly to the ecclesiastical
debates of the day in which he was so keenly concerned and consumed
in ceaseless controversy [with Lutheranism].”[1510] The grey-headed
scholar, “illuminated and inspired as he was by the truest spirit of
Christianity,”[1511] had once in 1533 declared: “Whatever I write now or
at any time against Luther, I write for the glory of God, the service of
the truth and the good of my neighbour. For I believe firmly that Luther
is a malicious liar, heretic and rebel and I can find nothing but this in
his books and in my own conscience.… I am not, however, bitter or hostile
to Luther personally, but merely to his wickedness and vices. Were he to
desist I would gladly go and fetch back so learned a man from Rome or
Compostella and give him my love and my service.”[1512]

 Cochlæus calls to mind first of all the course of public events in
 Germany. At Ratisbon, where he was staying, the Diet of 1546 was
 opened with great pomp by Charles V at the very time Cochlæus was
 penning the Preface to his work. He relates how the same Kaiser had
 declared at the Diet of Worms in 1521 in the edict against Luther
 that “his writings contain hardly anything but food for dissensions,
 schism, war, murder, robbery, conflagrations, and a great apostasy
 of the Christians.”[1513] “The times are grave and perilous,” so his
 warning had run: “Oh, that they may not mean the disgrace of our
 country!”[1514] Now, however, Cochlæus sees with grief that “Luther
 has brought nearly all Germany into shame and confusion.” “Our
 fatherland has lost all its former beauty,” he exclaims, “and its
 Imperial power is shattered.” He trembles at the sight of the dangers
 within and without.[1515]

 “The mischief caused by Luther’s revolt is so great that it is out
 of comparison worse than the effects of even the most unhappy war.
 Never indeed in the whole of history have the miseries of war caused
 such injury to Christendom as the blows dealt us by this heresy.” In
 its consequences it was worse than the triumphal progress of Arianism
 in early Christian times. He instances the Peasant Rebellion and the
 frightful destruction that followed in its wake; also the machinations
 of political alliances, hostile alike to the Church and the State, the
 loosening of the common bonds that unite the Christian peoples, and
 the decline of the authority of the rulers, which was “attacked and
 dragged in the mire by Luther and thus rendered contemptible in the
 eyes of the masses.”[1516]

 Even more loudly does he bewail the ruin of so many immortal souls;
 owing to Luther, countless numbers have been torn from the bosom of
 the Mother Church, founded by Christ, and set on the road to eternal
 damnation. No tears could suffice to bewail this the greatest of all
 misfortunes. Piety has declined everywhere and the new preaching
 of faith alone has lamed the practice of good works. “From every
 class and calling the former zeal for good works has fled.” He also
 ruthlessly describes the effect of Luther’s doctrines and example on
 Catholics. “The clergy no longer do their duty in celebrating the
 Sacrifice of the Mass and reciting the Church’s office and Hours; to
 the monks and nuns their Rule is no longer as sacred as it used to
 be. The charity of the rich, the rulers, and the great has dried up,
 the people no longer flock to divine worship, their respect for the
 priesthood, their benevolence and pity for the poor are coming to an
 end. Discipline and decorum are tottering everywhere and have fared
 worst of all in our family life. We see about us a dissolute younger
 generation, which, owing to Luther’s suggestions and his constant
 attacks on all authority ecclesiastical and secular, has cast off
 all shame and restraint. On anyone admonishing them they retort with
 a falsely interpreted Bible text, an invention of pure wantonness,
 such as ‘increase and multiply,’ etc. So far have things already gone
 that virginity and continence have become a matter of disgrace and
 suspicion.” In even darker colours does he paint the sad picture of
 the moral decline among the Protestants: Morals are trampled under
 foot, reverence and fear of God have been extinguished, obedience
 has become a byword, boldness in sinning gains the upper hand and
 “freedom” of the worst kind reigns supreme.[1517]

 Full of grief he comes at last to speak of the man who was responsible
 for all this misery. Bugenhagen had boasted of Luther’s prophecy
 that, if in life he had been the Papacy’s plague, in death he would
 be its death. But the Papacy still lives and will continue to live
 because Christ’s promise stands. “Luther, however, was the plague of
 our Germany during his lifetime … and, alive or dead, he was his own
 plague and destruction.”[1518]

 “Woe,” so he concludes, “to his godless panegyrists who call evil
 good and good evil, and confuse darkness with light, and light with

3. Luther’s Fate in the First Struggles for his Spiritual Heritage

Luther’s reputation was to suffer a sudden and tragic blow owing to the
success of the Imperial arms in the War of Schmalkalden.

Hardly had the grave closed over him than, in the following year, after
the battle of Mühlheim on April 24, 1547, won with the assistance of
Duke Maurice of Saxony, the Kaiser’s troops entered Wittenberg. A
notable change took place in the public position of Lutheranism when the
vanquished Elector, Johann Frederick, was forced to resign his electoral
dignity in favour of Maurice and to follow the Emperor as a captive. His
abdication and the surrender of his fortresses to the Emperor was signed
by him on May 19 in Luther’s own city of Wittenberg. The Landgrave of
Hesse too found himself forced at Halle to submit unconditionally to the
overlords of the Empire and to see Duke Henry of Brunswick released from
captivity and honoured by the Emperor in the same city.

The dreaded Schmalkalden League, Luther’s shield and protection for so
many years, was, so to speak, annihilated over night.

Luther’s theological friends were also made to feel the consequences.
Flacius, after the taking of Wittenberg, fled for a time to Brunswick.
George Major, Luther’s intimate friend and associate, also escaped, but
returned later. Amsdorf was obliged to give up the bishopric of Naumburg
of which he had assumed possession, hand it over to the lawful Bishop
Julius von Pflug, and hasten to Magdeburg, the new stronghold of the
Lutheran spirit.

It is true that Luther’s cause soon recovered, at least politically
speaking, from the defeat it had suffered in the War of Schmalkalden;
the wounds inflicted on it in the theological quarrels among themselves
of its own representatives were, however, more deep and lasting. Here
Luther’s prediction was indeed fulfilled to the letter, viz. that his
pupils would be the ruin of his doctrines.

_The Osiandric, Majorite, Adiaphoristic and Synergistic Controversies_

The theological warfare which followed on Luther’s decease opened with
the Osiandric controversy which arose from the modifications of Luther’s
idea of justification introduced subsequent to 1549 by Andreas Osiander,
pastor and professor of theology at Königsberg. After Osiander’s death in
1552 the struggle was carried on by the Court preacher Johann Funk who
held like views. Johann Brenz also defended Osiander’s opinion, whereas
Melanchthon, Flacius Illyricus, Johann Æpinus, Joachim Westphal, Joachim
Mörlin and others were opposed to it. Duke Albert of Prussia was for
a long time a patron of Osiander’s doctrine, but was persuaded later
to alter his views, and his Court preacher Funk did likewise. The old
Lutherans, however, continued the struggle against Funk and, in 1566,
owing to the charges brought against him by the Estates of abusing his
position and of having violently championed “heretical doctrines,” he was
beheaded.[1520] Osiander, however, the author of this new “heresy,” had
himself been by no means wanting in Lutheran zeal where Catholics were
concerned. Already in 1549 he wrote a tract against the Interim entitled:
“On the new Idol and Antichrist at Babel,” in which he lashed those who
“were sneaking back to Antichrist under cover of the Interim.”

The second, or Majorite controversy broke out at Wittenberg itself, and
like the ones which followed was called forth by the opposition of
the Lutheran zealots to any Melanchthonian modifications of Luther’s
doctrines. George Major, professor at Wittenberg, and subsequently
Superintendent at Eisleben, backed by Justus Menius, Superintendent
at Gotha, had the courage to declare that works were necessary for
salvation, and that, without works, no one could be saved. For this he
and Menius were branded as “heretics” by Flacius Illyricus, Nicholas
Amsdorf, Johann Wigand, Joachim Mörlin and Alexius Prætorius. It was in
the midst of this passionate wrangle, which deeply agitated the ranks
of the preachers and disturbed the congregations, that Amsdorf, with a
determination and defiance equal to Luther’s own went to the extremes
of publishing his tract entitled “That the proposition ‘good works are
harmful to salvation,’ is a sound and Christian one.”[1521] Flacius
brought a writing against Major to a close with the pious wish that
Christ would speedily crush the head of the serpent. Major, the confidant
of Luther whom he had once despatched to attend the religious Conference
at Ratisbon, was now obliged to give in; he made a shameful recantation.
Menius, however, was denounced to the preachers and people as a “Papist,”
and, in spite of his weak compliance, was unable to maintain his position
against the inquisition put into motion by the higher powers. Although
he resigned his office as Visitor and submitted patiently to a reprimand
from the Court, he was obliged to leave the land; he besought the
sovereign in vain for protection against his theological adversaries and
freedom to communicate with the “dear gentlemen” at Wittenberg. The Town
Council of Gotha was forbidden to give him a testimonial to the purity
of his doctrine, and he himself, in spite of his protest that he was as
much heir to Luther’s doctrine as Flacius, was summoned to take his trial
before a sort of religious Synod at Eisenach in 1556, which also ousted
him from his Superintendency. “He died on Aug. 11, 1558, from the effects
of what he had undergone.”[1522]

In the third great controversy, the Adiaphoristic, Flacius Illyricus
behaved with great violence, indeed his extreme Lutheran views were the
cause of the quarrel which in itself well illustrates the pettiness
and acrimony of those concerned in it. The question under dispute was
whether certain “indifferent matters” (ἀδιάφορα) sanctioned in the
Augsburg Interim of 1547 might be allowed in Protestant circles even
though Luther during his lifetime had frowned on them. Under the Elector
Maurice the theologians and Estates of the Saxon Electorate had answered
in the affirmative. This answer embodied in the so-called “Leipzig
Interim,” was firmly contradicted by Flacius. It is true that what was in
question was not only ceremonies, images, hymns and such-like external
things but also the rites of Confirmation and Extreme Unction, and, in
a certain sense, the use of Penance, the celebration of a kind of Mass
and the veneration of Saints. Flacius was supported by Nicholas Gallus,
Johann Wigand, Nicholas Amsdorf, Joachim Westphal, Caspar Aquila, Johann
Aurifaber, Anton Otto and Matthæus Judex. These poured forth a stream
of angry tracts against the opposite party, the Wittenbergers, who,
however, defended themselves with a will, viz. against Melanchthon,
Bugenhagen, George Major, and Paul Eber, and their friends elsewhere,
such as the Provost of Magdeburg and Meissen, Prince George of Anhalt,
Bernard Ziegler and Johann Pfeffinger of Leipsig, Justus Menius of Gotha,
etc. Even the use of lights on the altar and of surplices were to these
zealots “Popish abominations” and a sign of the abandoning of all that
Luther had won; they even complained, though untruly, that the Wittenberg
theologians no longer declared the Pope to be Antichrist.[1523]
Bugenhagen, Luther’s right hand man at Wittenberg, had to hear himself
charged by Flacius, Amsdorf and Gallus with having denied and falsified
Luther’s doctrines and with teaching something not far short of Popery.
These Adiaphorists, wrote Amsdorf, “in the name and under the semblance
of the Word of God, seek to persuade us to worship the Antichrist at
Rome, the Whore of Babylon and the Beast on which she is seated (Apoc.
xvii.).” Such dangerous men he brands as “belly servers” “who seek to
make terms with the world.” He himself on the other hand was ready to
meet the contempt of the world for the falling off in the number of
Luther’s true followers, hence on the title-page of the new edition of
Luther’s works, which he commenced when the quarrel was at its height
(1555), he printed the consoling verses: “Fear not, little flock, for
it hath pleased the Father to give you a Kingdom” (Luke xii. 32), and
“In the world you shall have tribulation, but be of good cheer, I have
overcome the world” (John xvi. 33).[1524] Towards the end of the Preface
he consoles those who shared his way of looking at things, and, as Luther
had done before, he alludes to the near end of the world, when everything
would be righted.

At the time when the private judgment Luther had preached was thus
bearing fruit we hear Melanchthon groaning: “You see how many teachers
are fighting against us in our own Churches; every day new foes spring
up, as it were, from the blood of the Titans; gladly would I leave these
regions, nay, shake off my mortal coil, to escape the fury of such
men.”[1525] Melanchthon too was accused of indirectly promoting Popery.
An obstinate opponent of his was that very Johann Aurifaber who had been
present at Luther’s death and who subsequently published the Table-Talk.
Melanchthon included him in 1556 among the “unlearned fanatics, men
filled with furious hate, lickspittles at the Court who seek to curry
favour with the populace,” and with whom it was impossible to come to
any understanding.[1526] Aurifaber, like many others of his party, was
dismissed from his post as Court preacher at Weimar, and, subsequently,
when pastor at Erfurt, was excommunicated on account of his teaching,
particularly on original sin. His opponents he persisted in charging with

Against any relapse into Popery the Lutherans were well guarded since
1555, by the Religious Peace of Augsburg and its principle: “_Cuius
regio, illius et religio_.” This, however, produced no inward unity,
rather the opposite. The war among the theologians on account of the
“adiaphora” still went on in the Protestant camp. The hopes entertained
of the Protestant Convention at Coswig (1556) suffered shipwreck owing
to Melanchthon’s disinclination to come to terms. Nor did the Conference
at Altenburg (1568) settle things. It was not until 1577-1580 that the
formulas of Concord established a “_modus vivendi_” by leaving to each
individual Church the decision about the “adiaphora.” Flacius himself
was compelled to leave Wittenberg early in the controversy. He went to
Magdeburg, but fell into disgrace on account of his tendency to insist on
the Church’s independence and had to go into exile to Ratisbon, Antwerp,
Frankfurt, Strasburg, wandering about from place to place until, at
last, he, Luther’s most ardent champion, died in want and poverty at
Frankfurt-on-the-Main (1575).

With the Synergistic controversy the name of Flacius is likewise very
closely linked.

Here, however, the question on which minds were divided was a vital one.
Many refused to accept Luther’s rigid doctrine that, in Justification,
the Holy Ghost worked on man as on a senseless block. Johann Pfeffinger
of Leipsig agreed with Melanchthon in assuming some sort of co-operation
(“_synergia_”) of the human will. In this he had the Leipsig Interim on
his side; eventually Victorinus Strigel of Jena, George Major, Paul Eber,
Christian Lasius and others also embraced this view. Against them stood
the zealots like Flacius and Amsdorf, the latter of whom boldly attacked
Pfeffinger’s “_De libertate voluntatis_” and insisted on the unfreedom
of the will. Certain of the theologians of Jena also distinguished
themselves by their opposition to the Synergists.

 Flacius Illyricus went to great extremes in his antagonism to
 Synergism. He asserted that man was powerless by means of free will
 to effect anything in the matter of his salvation because “original
 sin was a ‘substance’ for otherwise holiness too would not be a
 ‘substance’”; the soul was by nature a mirror or image of Satan; it
 was itself original sin, and original sin was no mere ‘accident.’ It
 was impossible for Luther’s doctrine to be carried to its legitimate
 conclusion more ruthlessly than in this theory of Flacius. “It was
 utter demonism, was this doctrine of the substantial bedevilment of
 human nature.”[1527] At this point, however, Luther’s true friends
 drew back: Johann Wigand and Tilman Hesshus, professors at Jena,
 withstood Flacius, arguing that he was a traitor to Lutheranism
 and that his teaching was Manichæan. Like some others Cyriacus
 Spangenberg, then Dean of Mansfeld, was accused of favouring Flacius
 and of teaching that Satan had created man, that sin was baptised, and
 that pregnant women bore within them young devils. As was usual in
 such controversies, the people took an active share in the quarrel.

 When the Elector August of Saxony assumed the government of the
 Duchy of Saxony, Hesshus and Wigand were deprived of their offices
 and driven from the land. Nine Superintendents and 102 preachers
 lost their posts at the same time. Hesshus had already tasted exile
 as pastor of Magdeburg, when in 1562 the Town Council expelled him
 from the town with his wife and child on account of his too emphatic
 enforcement of the strictest Lutheranism.

 Spangenberg too had to flee when the administrator of Magdeburg called
 in the troops against the Flacian preachers. Cruel measures were
 used to force the burghers to accept the doctrine professed by the
 governor; the bodies of relatives of the Count of Mansfeld were even
 exhumed and reinterred in places untainted with “substantialist error.”

 Spangenberg’s fate was that of many faithful Lutherans.

 Having made his escape to Thuringia disguised as a midwife he there
 accepted a position as pastor, but was again driven out in 1590 owing
 to the rigid views on original sin he had imbibed from Luther. From
 that time he lived by his pen until his death at Strasburg in 1604. He
 declared that he was suffering on behalf of the articles on sin and
 righteousness, but that he was determined to remain “a staunch old
 disciple of Luther’s.” The behaviour of the Wittenberg theologians was
 a source of great grief to Spangenberg: They have not only fallen away
 from Luther’s doctrine in ten or twelve articles, but also speak of
 him in the most unseemly manner: “They call Luther a ‘philauticus,’
 i.e. a man who thinks highly of no one but himself, and whom nothing
 pleases but what he has himself said or done; item, a ‘philonisticus’
 and ‘eristicus,’ a quarrelsome fellow who always insisted he was in
 the right, believing no good of anyone, yielding to no one, only
 seeking his own honour and unable to endure that anyone else should be
 highly thought of.” “His books [so they say] contain things that are
 very Manichæan, and others that resemble the old heresies.”[1528]

Nor was Spangenberg doing an injustice to the Wittenberg professors when
he charged them with having thrown Luther over.


At the time when Flacianism was being suppressed by force, a trend
of opinion known as Cryptocalvinism had the upper hand in the Saxon
Electorate where it was causing grave troubles. Such was the name given
to the gradual leavening of the pure Lutheran doctrine with elements
derived from Calvinism. In other Protestant districts on German soil
Calvinism took root openly, and either supplanted Luther’s teaching, or
prevented its springing up. This was the case in the Palatinate, where
the Elector Frederick III exerted his influence in favour of Calvinism
with the help of the Calvinistic professors of Heidelberg Caspar Olevian
and Zacharias Ursinus. The Elector himself told his son-in-law Johann
Frederick of Saxony, that though for more than forty years the “pure
doctrine” of the Evangel and the holy Word of God had been proclaimed,
“little amendment of life had followed,” and, in “excessive eating and
drinking, gambling, avarice, immorality, envy and hatred we almost outdo
the Papists.”[1529] He also said that it was not merely the lack of
morality in Lutheranism that prejudiced him against it, but that he had
decided to introduce Calvinism into his land because he had discovered in
Luther’s writings many errors and contradictions which he must remove,
particularly in his views on the “bodily presence of Christ” in the
Sacrament of the Altar.[1530]

 The spirit of criticism which Luther had let loose in the Saxon
 Electorate grew among some of the Cryptocalvinists into scepticism,
 though they boasted of being great admirers of Luther. This scepticism
 was first directed against the mystery of mysteries. Luther’s own
 uncertainty regarding the Sacrament of the Altar, his halt mid-way,
 and his strange theory of the ubiquity of Christ, were in themselves a
 challenge. Around Melanchthon there grouped themselves at Wittenberg
 and Leipsig men, who, by a prudent introduction of the Calvinistic
 view of the Supper according to which Christ is only received
 spiritually, sought to question at the same time two of Luther’s pet
 dogmas, viz. the indwelling of Christ in the Bread at the moment
 of reception (Impanation) and the ubiquitous albeit spiritualised
 bodily presence of Christ. Hardly six years had elapsed since Luther’s
 death when the Hamburg preacher, Joachim Westphal, strove to set up
 a barrier against the threatening inroad of Cryptocalvinism in his
 “_Farrago Opinionum de Cœna Domini_”(1552). The Elector August, who
 assumed the reigns of government in the Saxon Electorate (1553-1586),
 for quite twenty years of his reign was entirely committed to
 Cryptocalvinism. Among the theologians and Court officials who were
 responsible for his attitude were, particularly, Melanchthon’s
 son-in-law, Caspar Peucer, Court physician to the Elector, the Court
 preacher Christian Schütz, Johann Stössel, Superintendent of Pirna
 and Privy Councillor Georg Craco, the most influential person in the
 government of the Saxon Electorate. A “_Corpus doctrinæ Philippicum_”
 was drawn up in 1560 from Melanchthon’s writings by these so-called
 “Philippists.” In 1571 a Catechism appeared, which, like the
 “_Corpus_” had the Elector’s approval. The doctrine it contained was
 endorsed by an assembly of theologians at Dresden in the same year,
 and it was intended to enforce it as the true faith throughout the

 As might have been expected, the opposition of the “Gnesiolutherans”
 against these doings in the Saxon Electorate, the original home of
 Lutheranism, was very strong.

 Protests were registered by Martin Chemnitz, the “aristarch of
 Brunswick” as the opposite party called him, and by the Jena
 theologians, as, for instance, Wigand, Hesshus, Johann Frederick
 Cœlestinus and Timotheus Kirchner. At Jena the new system was branded
 as a “fresh incursion of devilish spirit” and, in a “Warning”
 against the Wittenbergers, it was stated: “They want to make an end
 of Luther, that is to say, of his doctrine, and at the same time
 to appear innocent of so doing.”[1531] Similarly in the following
 year, 1572, a writing entitled “Von den Fallstricken” declared:
 “They trample Luther’s doctrine under foot, laugh at it, ridicule
 it and anathematise it in the most scandalous manner,” etc.[1532]
 The Jena divines, so they asserted, were alone in having the true
 unalloyed doctrine which they were anxious to keep free from all
 the extravagances and errors of the Pope, the Turks, blasphemers of
 the Sacrament, Schwenckfeldians, Servetians, Arians, Antinomians,
 Interimists, Adiaphorists, Synergists, Majorites, Enthusiasts,
 Anabaptists, Manichæans and other sects.[1533]

 The divergencies were so considerable and far-reaching, and the
 falling away from Luther’s doctrine so great, that Aurifaber, who
 boasted of having closed the eyes of his immortal master and of
 being soaked in his spirit, prefaced as follows the collection of
 the Table-Talk, which he gave to the world in 1566: “His doctrine is
 now so despised, and, in the German lands men have become so tired,
 weary and sick of it, that they no longer care to hear his name
 mentioned, nor do they much esteem the testimony of his books. It has
 come about that, if one wishes to find Dr. Martin Luther’s doctrine
 pure and unfalsified anywhere in the German lands, one has to put on
 strong spectacles and look very closely; this is a dreadful thing to
 learn.” Aurifaber has this sole consolation, viz. that Luther, because
 he had foreseen this state of things, had proved himself a “true

 Another writer speaks in the following terms of the decay of Luther’s
 doctrines and the utter contempt for his person: The endless
 benefits Luther brought to Germany—of these the author enumerates
 eighteen—those who now profess the Evangel treat with the “most
 shocking and gruesome unthank,” doing so not merely by their “evil
 life” but by “scorning, decrying and condemning” both his benefits and
 his faith. People refuse any longer to follow the great teacher in his
 chief doctrines “about the Law and the true knowledge of sin,” “true
 justice,” “the distinction between Law and Gospel,” and about the
 holy sacraments. “This worthy sendsman of God” meets with “shameful
 contempt,” nay, with something worse than contempt, seeing that, “to
 boot, he is abused, reviled and defamed by most people,” which “is
 all the more hard in that not only his person but also the wholesome
 doctrine and divine truth revealed to us by Luther the man of God,
 is too often contemptuously rejected by the greater number.” The
 author, in his concern, also fears that as people were also bent on
 introducing changes in the language “in a few years not much will be
 left of Luther’s pure German speech.”[1535]

At the Court at Dresden, however, the opposition to the Cryptocalvinism
described above gradually gathered strength. Finally the Elector August,
too, was won over, partly on political, partly on theological grounds.
As early as 1573 August declared: “It would not take much to make him
send all the rogues to the devil,”[1536] and, on another occasion that,
“for the sake of three persons he would not expose his lands to the harm
wrought by the Sacramentarians.”[1537] When at last an unmistakably
Calvinistic writing by Joachim Curæus on the Supper was published by a
Leipzig printer, known to be well disposed to the Wittenberger party,
the fury of the Elector broke loose and he declared at a meeting at
Torgau “The venomous plant must now be torn up by the roots.”[1538] In
his name the so-called Articles of Torgau denoting more or less a return
to Luther’s doctrines were drawn up by an ecclesiastical court. All the
theologians who refused to subscribe to them were to be “arrested.” On
this the Leipzig theologians all signed the Articles, that they agreed in
their hearts to all the things contained in Luther’s writings including
his controversial writings against the Heavenly Prophets and his “Kurtz
Bekentnis” on the Supper.[1539] Among the many Cryptocalvinists who
submitted without any protest was Nicholas Selnecker, the editor of
Luther’s Table-Talk. In matters of faith he followed the bidding of the
secular authorities, and on one occasion, wrote to the Elector that “he
would gladly crawl on hands and knees to Dresden only to escape the
suspicion which had been cast on him.”[1540]

Among the Wittenbergers, on the other hand, four theologians refused
their assent: “Luther’s books,” they said, “were not positive; sometimes
he wrote one way, sometimes another; besides which there were dirty spots
and objectionable things in his controversial writings.”[1541] Such
was the opinion of Widebram, Pezel, Moller and, particularly, Caspar
Cruciger. The latter, a personal friend of Luther’s, called the Articles
of Torgau “a medley of all sorts of things which Luther himself, had
he been alive, would not have signed.” His fate like that of the three
others was removal from his office and banishment from the country.

Of the four former favourites at Court Stössel the Superintendent though
he craved pardon was kept a prisoner until his death; the Court-preacher
Schütz, in spite of his promise to hold his tongue, was shut up in prison
for twelve years; the Privy Councillor Craco was flung into the filthiest
dungeon of the Pleissenburg at Leipzig, tortured on the rack for four
hours and died with mangled limbs on a miserable layer of straw (March
16, 1575).[1542] Finally Peucer, professor of medicine and history, who,
owing to his influence, had once controlled the University, because he
declared he would not “abjure the doctrine of the Sacrament that had been
rooted in his heart for thirty-three years and adopt Luther’s instead,”
was left pining in a damp, dirty dungeon in the Pleissenburg and was
constantly harried with injunctions “to desist from his devilish errors”
and “not to fancy himself wiser and more learned than His Highness the
Elector and his distinguished theologians, who had also searched into and
pondered over this Article [of the Sacrament].”[1543] He continued to
languish in prison, after the death of his wife, Magdalene, Melanchthon’s
daughter, sorrowing over his motherless children, until after wellnigh
twelve years of captivity he was released at the instance of a prince.
“The behaviour of the Elector and Electress and their advisers towards
him gives us a glimpse into an abyss of injustice, brutality and malice
made all the more revolting by the hypocritical religious cant and
pretended zeal for the Church under which they were disguised. In spite
of all the attempts made of old as well as later to excuse the course of
the so-called cryptocalvinistic controversies, it remains—especially the
case of Peucer—one of the darkest pages in the annals of the Lutheran
Church and of civilisation in the 16th Century.”[1544]

But the intolerance displayed by orthodoxy in that struggle had been
taught it by Luther. As has been shown already, he had urged that,
whoever advocated blasphemous articles, even if not guilty of sedition,
should be put to death by the authorities; the sovereign must take care
that “there is but one religion in each place”; above all, such was the
opinion of his friends,—the sovereign should “put a Christian bit in the
mouth of all the clergy.”[1545]

_The so-called formula of concord (1580)_

Owing partly to the wish of the secular authorities for some clearer
rule, partly to the sight of the confusion in doctrine and the bad
effects of the quarrels on faith, there arose a widespread desire for
greater unity based on some new and thoroughly Lutheran formulary.

The Confession of Augsburg and the Apologia were found insufficient;
they contained no decisions on the countless controversies which had
since sprung up. Thus it came about that “one German province and town
after another attempted to satisfy its desire for unity of doctrine by
means of a confession of faith of its own.… This in itself, in view of
the dismemberment of Germany and the attitude of the Emperor towards
the reformation, would necessarily have resulted in a splitting up of
the Lutheran Church into countless sects unless some means was found
of counteracting individualism and of uniting the Lutherans in one

It was, however, the politicians, who, in their own interests, were the
chief promoters of union.

Elector August of Saxony wishful of achieving the desired end “by means
of a princely dictum” led the way in 1576 with the so-called Book of

This work was drawn up by the theologians Jakob Andreæ, Martin Chemnitz,
David Chytræus, Andreas Musculus and Wolfgang Körner. The Book of Torgau
was subsequently revised by Caspar Selnecker and reissued under the title
of the Book of Bergen (1577). It was hoped that it would become the
theological statute-book for all the Protestant Churches; the Protestant
Estates of the Empire were to accept it and it was proposed by the
theologians that all the Lutheran preachers and school-teachers should be
required to give their assent to it.[1547]

Selnecker supported this attempt by referring to the Council of Trent
which had been successfully concluded in 1563. They ought, so he said,
at last to draw up a “common body of doctrine” as an “evangelical
counterblast to the damnable conciliabulum of Trent”; he adds frankly
that this was essential, “in order to check the corruption of morals
amongst the Evangelical people which was growing worse and worse”; at
the same time he wished to see “a united front against the idolatrous
Popedom and its devilish satellites the Jesuits, with all their verminous

Hopes of preserving Luther’s work by means of the new Formula had risen
high since Frederick, the zealous Calvinistic Elector of the Palatinate,
had been called away by death in Oct., 1576; his successor, the Elector
Louis held Lutheran views and was determined to make a stand for

In spite, however, of the latter’s patronage, and notwithstanding the
efforts of the Electors of Saxony and Brandenburg, the Formula, as Louis
of the Palatinate sorrowfully admitted, was not approved by even one-half
of the Protestant Princes and townships. One of the strongest objectors
was Landgrave William of Hesse. He did not hesitate to abuse Luther’s
memory in the rudest language, and asserted that the latter had written
“contradictory things.”[1549]

The Unionists, not satisfied with their partial success, published on
June 25, 1580, the “_Formula Concordiæ_,” consisting of an “_Epitome_”
and a “_Solida declaratio_.” This document occupies an important place in
the history of Lutheranism.

The doctrines of original sin, unfreedom, justification, the Supper, the
ubiquity of Christ and of the “_communicatio idiomatum_” were taken as
they had been by Luther, though they are often stated with deliberate
ambiguity. Thrusts at Melanchthon, not to speak of Calvin, are found more
particularly in the “_Declaratio_.”

The permanent rift with Calvinism was as strongly emphasised, as that
with the Papacy. One of the propositions taken from the Articles of
Schmalkalden ran: “All Christians ought to shun the Pope and his members
and followers as the kingdom of Antichrist, and execrate it as Christ has

The cement, however, which was to bind together the antagonistic Lutheran
views and schools was not very durable. The fact that “Melanchthon’s
memory had been completely blotted out,”[1551] or that the Pope had been
condemned afresh, did not suffice to bring people together, nor did much
good come of the smoothing over, toning down and evasions to which it
had been necessary to have recourse in the work in order to arrive at a
written basis of outward unity. Over and above all this it became known
that the Protestant Estates were at liberty to add printed prefaces of
their own to the Concord, in which they might, if they chose, set forth
their own theological position, and thus interpret as they liked the
text of the Concord, so long as they did not interfere with the text
itself.[1552] It was also known that the father of the whole scheme,
Jakob Andreæ, Inspector General of the churches of Saxony, had quite
openly made of the acceptance of the Formula a pure formality and had
told the Nurembergers who showed signs of antipathy that all that was
required was their signature, and that this would not prevent their being
and remaining of the same opinion as before.[1553]

The authors of the Concord, however, displayed such mutual distrust,
nay hatred of each other, as greatly to obscure even the origin of the
Concord and to raise but scant hopes of its future success. Andreæ
bewailed Selnecker’s “diabolical tricks”; he was very well aware that
the latter would be delighted were he (Andreæ) strung up on the gallows.
Selnecker, on the other hand, complained loudly of Andreæ as a dishonest,
egotistical man; he accused Andreæ of calling him: “a damned rascal, a
good-for-nothing scoundrel, an arch-villain and a hellish thief.”[1554]
Andreæ was equally severe in his censure of the church-councillors and
theologians for the part they took in the matrimonial questions: “After
a theologian had dealt with marriage cases two years in the Consistory,”
he said, “he would by that time be well fitted to be appointed keeper of
a brothel.”[1555] We hear an echo of Luther in the coarse language his
followers were in the habit of using against each other.

In spite of all this the Concord constitutes the greatest and most
important step ever taken by Lutheranism to define its position. The year
1580 gave to the Lutheran Churches a certain definite status, though,
among the theologians, the controversies continued to rage as before.

The Concord itself, the supposed new palladium, became a theological bone
of contention. The following years were taken up with wild quarrels about
the Formula of Concord. At Strasburg alone in three years the different
parties hurled against each other approximately forty screeds, full of
vulgar abuse, and the literary feuds had their aftermath in the streets
in the shape of hand-to-hand scuffles between the students and the
burghers. Even at Wittenberg the quarrels went on.

The Calvinistic Count Palatine, Johann Casimir, notorious for his
bloody deeds on behalf of the French Huguenots, instructed one of his
theologians, Zacharias Ursinus, to draw up the so-called “Neustadt
Admonition” in which the adherents of the Concord were accused of “making
an idol of Luther”; it was a mere farce when the Concord professed to
subordinate his books to Holy Scripture, because in reality they were
exalted into a rule of faith and treated as the standard of doctrine;
all subscribers to the Augsburg Confession were wont without exception
to appeal to these writings whatever their opinions were; as a matter
of fact, owing to the errors, exaggerations and contradictions they
contained it was possible to quote passages from Luther’s writings in
support of almost anything. His controversial works, above all, had no
claim to any authority, though it was to these that the followers of the
Concord preferred to appeal. “Here, as his own followers must admit,” so
the “Admonition” declares, “he had been carried away into excitement and
passion which exceeded all bounds and had been guilty of assertions which
contradicted his own earlier declarations, and which he himself had often
been under pressure obliged to withdraw or modify.”[1556]

There was, however, a large party which did not make an “idol” of Luther,
but openly rejected his teaching. It was in this that Aurifaber saw a
fulfilment of Luther’s prophecy of the coming extinction of his doctrine
among his followers. As early as 1566 he said that the master had not
been wrong in his idea, that “the Word of God had seldom persisted for
more than forty years in one place.” “The holy man,” he goes on, “had
frequently told the theologians and his table companions that, though his
teaching had thus far grown and thriven, yet it would begin to dwindle
and collapse when its course was finished. And he had declared that his
doctrine had stood highest and been at its best at the Diet of Augsburg,
anno 1530. But that now it would go downhill.” That, as stated above,
the Word of God seldom persisted in one place for more than forty years
he had proved “by many examples” taken from the times of the Judges,
Kings and Prophets; even the teaching of Christ had not remained pure and
free from error for longer “in the land of the Jews, in Greece, Asia and

4. Mutual Influence of the Two Camps. Growing Strength of the Catholic

One cannot but recognise in the history of the 16th century the
religious influence indirectly exerted on one another by Lutheranism and
Catholicism, an influence which indeed proved advantageous to both.

_Luther’s Churches_

To begin with the phenomena grouped around the Formula of Concord we
may say, that the movement towards greater religious unity, among the
Lutherans was largely stimulated by the brilliant and to Luther’s
adherents quite unexpected example of Catholic unity resulting from the
religious struggle and particularly from the Council of Trent. Selnecker
had insisted that Protestants must endeavour to produce an “evangelical
counterblast” to Catholic theology and the Council.[1558] In the case of
many others too, it was the harmony and united front of the Catholics
at the Council of Trent that served as an incentive to create a similar
positive bond between their own Churches. Many once more mooted the
question of a Protestant General Council, but others, as for instance
Andreæ, pointed out how impossible this would be and what a danger it
would involve of even greater dissensions. It was also of advantage to
the Protestant writers on theology to have a clearly formulated statement
of the Catholic doctrine set before them in the definitions of a General
Council and explained in the “Roman Catechism.” Though Luther had
distorted beyond recognition the Catholic doctrines he attacked, it was
less possible than formerly to doubt—after so solemn a declaration—what
the teaching of the despised Church was, or, with a good conscience, to
deny how alien to her was the anti-Christian doctrine of which she had
been accused. Catholic polemics, too, who were growing both in numbers
and in strength, must necessarily have opened the eyes of many to the
interior continuity, the firm foundation and the logical sequence of
the Catholic propositions and, at least in the case of the learned and
unprejudiced, led them to regret keenly the absence of clearness and
logic on their own side. The latter holds good in particular of the
untenability of the conciliatory Lutheran theology which sought to gloss
over all the contradictions and which had given rise to the phantom of
the Concordia.

“In the work of unifying Protestant theology,” Janssen justly writes,
“no slight service was rendered by the Catholic controversialists and
apologists and also and especially by the Tridentine Council and the
Roman Catechism. Those who opposed to the hurly-burly and confusion of
the new teaching the settled, uniform system of a theology, harmonious
and consistent in all its parts, thereby made manifest to the dissentient
theologians the defects and the glaring discords which Protestantism
presented both in its formal and material principles. The sharply defined
terminology and the wealth of speculative matter which they offered stood
here also in very good stead.”[1559]

This thought also reminds us of the great store of spiritual treasure
that Luther’s Churches carried away with them when they severed their
connection with Mother Church. Who can question that Luther bequeathed
to his Churches much of the heritage of mysteries which Christianity
brought to mankind? Faith in the Holy Trinity; in the Father as Source of
all being; in the Eternal Son as the Redeemer and Mediator; in the Holy
Spirit as the organ of sanctity; again, in the Incarnation, in Christ and
His works, miracles and Resurrection; finally a firm belief in an eternal
reward, in the again-rising of every man and the everlasting life of the
just; in short all the consoling articles of the Apostles’ Creed must
be included amongst the treasures which Luther not only took over from
the olden Church but, in his own fashion, even defended with warmth and
energy against those who differed from him.[1560]

On Catholic principles we may broadmindedly admit that countless
well-meaning men since Luther’s day have found in the doctrine he
preached the satisfaction of their religious cravings. Very many erred
and still err “in good faith” and “with no stubbornness.”[1561] But
wherever there is good faith and an honest conviction of having the best,
there a religious life is possible. “This the Catholic Church does not
deny when she claims to be the one ark of salvation. One would think
that this had been repeated often enough to make any misapprehension
impossible on the part of Protestants. As to how far this result is due
to the Protestant Churches and how far to the Grace of God which instils
into every willing heart peace and blessing, is no open question seeing
that the Grace of God alone is the foundation of a truly religious

But if, on the one hand, Lutheranism owes much to the ancient Church,
on the other, we cannot shut our eyes to the fact that the revival in
the Catholic Church during the 16th century was indirectly furthered by
Luther and his work.

_Progress and Gains of Catholicism_

There were Catholic contemporaries who pointed out that the going over
to Luther of many who were members of the Church merely in name, and
whose lives did not correspond with her demands, had a wholesome effect
on the Church’s body. This held good of the monasteries in particular.
In many places relief was felt and a revival of discipline became
possible when those, who had entered the religious life from worldly
motives, took their departure in order, as Luther himself lamented, to
seek greater comfort in the bosom of the new Church. “God has purged
His floor and separated the chaff from the wheat,” wrote the Cistercian
Abbot, Wolfgang Mayer.[1563] Augustine Alveld, the Franciscan, portrayed
with indignant words the evil lives of many apostate monks and declared
with relief that: “Those who were of the same pack and lived among us
have now, thanks be to God, all of them run away from their convents and
institutions.”[1564] In lesser degree the same was true of the laity.

“Indirectly, though very much against his will, Luther helped to promote
the regeneration of the Catholic Church by means of the Council of
Trent.”[1565] It was his apostasy which made possible that gathering
of the Bishops which hitherto external obstacles, shortsightedness,
indolence and worldly aims had prevented.

Theological studies profited by the struggle with Protestantism. More
attention was bestowed on the question of man’s natural and supernatural
equipment; the dangers with which the excessive spread of Nominalism
had threatened the doctrine of Grace were effectually circumvented, and
the indispensable need of Grace for any work meritorious for heaven was
more strongly emphasised. Thus, on the whole, there was a gain which we
must not underrate, a new development of theological lore and a clearer
formulation of dogma on threatened points similar to that which had
resulted from the great controversies in Patristic times.

Under the Divine guidance the Church also more than made up for the
numbers torn from her, by the rapid growth of her missions in distant
parts of the world, where the voyages of discovery and the conquest
of the Western Continent at the dawn of the new century gave rise to
unlooked-for new opportunities; this, too, at a time when Lutheranism
and the other Protestant sects were still inclined to discountenance any
universality and preferred to remain strictly local and national.

Above all it is indisputable that the Catholic Church, in order to
emphasise her opposition to the so-called Evangelical freedom, devoted
herself ever more assiduously to promoting a true inward life of religion
among the people, the lower clergy and the bishops.

Whereas—at the close of the Middle Ages and dawn of the new era—the
Papacy had been too eager in the pursuit of humanistic aims, had
cultivated too exclusively merely human ideals of art and learning, and
at the same time had become entangled in secular business and politics
and was altogether too worldly, after Luther’s terrible attack on the
formalism of the Church the Popes devoted themselves more and more to
the real problems of the Kingdom of God, summoned to their side better
advisers in the shape of Cardinals of strict morals, and introduced
disciplinary new regulations in the spirit of a St. Charles Borromeo. The
charge of shallowness brought against Catholic life was not—so far as it
was justified—made in vain. From the new seminaries, from the sublime and
saintly figures, who, in greater numbers than ever before, set an example
of heroic virtue, and from the newly founded religious Orders such as
the Theatines (1524), Capuchins (1528), Somaschans (1528), Barnabites
(1530) and last but not least the Jesuits (1534), a new spirit breathed
through the Church’s life and revived once more the practice of prayer,
self-denial and neighbourly charity.

In this connection we need have no scruple in characterising the
“Spiritual Exercises” of St. Ignatius Loyola as a phenomenon typical of
the increasing religiousness of the age. Many, particularly amongst the
influential representatives of the Church in Germany, under the guidance
of such men as Pierre Favre, Peter Canisius and Claude Jaius, found in
them a new wellspring of love for the Church and her aims.[1566]

“To the Exercises, through which many of the great German nobles went,”
so Pierre Favre wrote from Ratisbon, “almost all the good was due that
was afterwards done in Germany.”[1567]

The struggle with the apostasy called forth everywhere an increase of
intellectual activity on the part of the threatened Church. Not only
was theology deepened, but all the cognate branches of learning were
more sedulously cultivated. “I scarcely think,” wrote the Jesuit, Peter
Canisius, to the General of his Order, speaking of religious writings,
that “Our Order could undertake or carry out any work that would be more
useful and more conducive to the general welfare of the Church. Fresh
writings on religious questions make a great impression and are a source
of immeasurable comfort to the hard-pressed Catholics at a time when the
writings of the false teachers are disseminated far and wide and cannot
be exterminated.”[1568] Canisius was, however, of opinion that a simple
exposition of the Catholic faith was more in place than polemics; he did
not wish to see too much heat and human passion in the writings: “We do
not heal the sick by such medicine but only make their case worse”;[1569]
as he says in a memorandum: “In Germany there are countless numbers who
err in religion, but they do not err from stubbornness or bitterness;
they err after the manner of Germans who by nature are generally honest,
very ready to accept everything that they, born and bred in the Lutheran
heresies, have learnt, partly in schools, partly in churches, partly by
the writings of false teachers.”[1570]

 There is a true saying of Erasmus’s often quoted by Catholics: “Just
 as it would be wrong to approve all that Luther writes, so, too,
 it would be unjust, if, out of hatred for his person, we condemned
 what is true or distorted what is right.”[1571] “What writer is
 so bad,” he asks elsewhere, “that we do not find some good in his
 writings?”[1572]—What there was of good in his own and Luther’s
 writings was not without its effect on Catholicism. Some of their
 censures of things Catholic were seen to be deserved, and, in the
 course of time, were acted upon, at least in order to give opponents
 less cause for fault-finding.

 The following remarks of Erasmus also found an echo amongst Catholic
 contemporaries and bear witness to the good which came of the sad
 religious struggles: “Often have I pondered in my own mind, whether,
 perchance, it had not pleased God to send a strong physician to deal
 with the profound corruption of morals in our day, who should heal by
 cutting and searing what was incapable of remedy by means of medicines
 and bandages.”[1573]—“May God, Who is wont to turn evil to good, so
 dispose matters, that, from this strong and bitter medicine (‘_ex hoc
 violento amaroque pharmaco_’) with which Luther has purged the world,
 as a body sick unto death, there may come some good for the morals of
 Christians.”[1574]—In 1524 he even went so far as to term Luther a
 “necessary evil” which they must not even desire to see removed.[1575]
 Yet Erasmus writes severely of him and ranks him with the greatest
 foes of the people of God: God had chosen to use Luther as a tool just
 as He had used the Pharaohs, the Philistines, Nabuchodonosor and the

 That Luther wielded a wholesome rod was admitted even by the Papal
 Legate Zacharias Ferreri in an admonition he addressed to him in 1520;
 with such a scourge as this God from time to time tried Christians in
 order to bring them to repentance. “If you are a scourge, praised be
 the name of the Lord, if by this wicked instrument He is leading us to
 a better mind, purifying and purging us!… Is it astonishing if, even
 through you, we are purified and cleansed? Oh, that the Almighty would
 pour on us ‘clean water,’ ‘sprinkle us with hyssop’ and wash us!”[1577]

 Thomas Murner, the Strasburg Franciscan, a man who was wont to scourge
 the failings and abuses in the Church of his day in very outspoken
 language, frankly admitted in a reply to Luther’s book “An den Adel”
 that much of the Wittenberg monk’s censure might be useful to those
 who wanted to put a stop to immorality, and to abuses and obsolete
 ecclesiastical customs and statutes. He even goes so far as to say
 to Luther: “Where you speak the truth, there undoubtedly the Holy
 Spirit speaks through you, for all truth is of God.” He adds, however,
 “Where you do not speak the truth, there assuredly the devil speaks
 through you, he who is the father of lies.” Speaking of the pictures
 of Luther with the symbol of the dove, which even then were common,
 in his satirical fashion, he suggests an improvement: “They paint the
 Holy Spirit over your head as though He were speaking through you.
 Now I learn for the first time that the Holy Spirit can say silly
 things.… I should suggest that they paint over your head, the Holy
 Ghost on one side and the devil on the other, and, in the middle,
 the city of Prague,” (to symbolise the heresy of Hus of which he
 accused Luther).[1578] Anxious as Murner was to see an end of the real
 abuses which Luther censured, yet, in the true Catholic spirit, he
 left to the ecclesiastical authorities the right and duty of taking
 the initiative, and it was to them that he addressed his urgent

 Cochlæus is likewise unable to refrain from remarking that, in
 Luther’s writings, side by side with what is worthless there is much
 that is good, in his exposition of Holy Scripture, in his exhortations
 and also in his censures. For many men, and among them some of high
 standing, believed [at first] that he was guided by the Spirit of God
 and by zeal for virtue to remove the abuses of the hypocrites, to
 amend morals to improve the education of the clergy, and to promote in
 people’s hearts the love and worship of God.“[1579] Cochlæus points
 out how Luther had taught his followers to steep themselves in the
 Bible, so that they gained “so much skill and experience” that they
 had “no scruples in disputing about the faith and the Gospel even with
 magisters and doctors of Holy Scripture”; they had been much more
 diligent than the Catholics in learning by heart the Bible in its
 German dress; they were in the habit “of quoting Scripture more than
 the priests and monks did, for which reason they accused Catholics
 of being ignorant of it or not understanding it however learned they
 might be as theologians”; their teachers “quoted the Greek and Hebrew
 texts, and the variant readings, scoffed at our theologians when
 they were ignorant of these things and all agreed in representing
 Luther as the best theologian in the world.” Cochlæus also admits,
 that, in the field of historical criticism Luther and his party were
 ahead of many Catholic preachers, who, albeit in good faith, were
 fond of adducing “fables and tales invented by men.” He describes
 the zeal of the Protestant printers, which far exceeded that of the
 Catholics, the “diligence, care and money” lavished on the writings
 of their party, and “how carefully and accurately they printed their
 books”; apostates and escaped monks travelled far and wide through
 Germany, peddling Lutheran writings “like booksellers.”[1580]—It is
 notorious, on the other hand, that the Catholic writers were hardly
 able to find publishers. At Ingolstadt Cochlæus managed to preserve
 a Catholic printing press, which was in danger of being shut down,
 and established a second at Mayence whence a large number of good
 works issued. “Stress must be laid on the self-sacrifice with which
 Cochlæus, after having by dint of many privations amassed a sum of
 money for the publication of his own writings, devoted it to the
 printing of the works of one of his colleagues, being convinced that
 they would prove of greater benefit to the common cause than his own

In all these particulars, in the study of Holy Scripture, in the
cultivation of historical and critical research among the clergy, in the
use of the vernacular and of the art of printing for the instruction of
the faithful, a real, though rather slow, change for the better took
place. Had it not been for the misgivings felt even in the highest
circles, and for a certain amount of prejudice against anything new, due
to the fear of heresy, the gains doubtless would have been even greater
and more quickly secured. In all this the Church owed much to Protestant
example, for it was the innovators who involuntarily pointed out better
methods of satisfying the spiritual needs of the new age, and a more
effectual way of exerting a religious influence over the people.

Further examples of this are to be found in the sermons and in the

Clear-sighted Catholic contemporaries, like the worthy Dominican preacher
and writer Johann Mensing, comparing the Bible preaching used and
advocated by Luther with the empty, vapid sermons in vogue among many of
the Catholic preachers were keenly conscious of what was lacking. At the
close of a book written in 1532 Mensing exhorts the Catholic clergy to
study Holy Writ and to make more use of it in the pulpit: “There are some
now who say that Luther has driven the learned to Scripture. Would to God
it were true that our well-beloved masters and brothers, the theologians,
would turn their hearts wholly to Holy Scripture and leave out those
other questions which serve no useful purpose. Some of them preach the
laws and canons of heathen doctors and poets which are of small help
to salvation, or they air their own opinions, and, where Scripture and
Holy Church or the witness of the olden Doctors is not enough, reinforce
them by incredible miracles, whereas, with the aid of Holy Scripture,
they ought to endeavour to establish in men’s hearts the fear of God,
faith, hope and charity, mildness and pity and such like.” If they learn
something from the Lutherans in this then “we may hope that God has
permitted Luther’s heresy for our good, it being to our profit that such
heresy has arisen, and, as some declare, driven us to the Scriptures.”
Mensing wonders, however, whether the dispersal of the monks, the
plundering of the convents and lack of stipends for learned theologians
and preachers will not make study of any kind a difficult matter for a
long while to come.[1582]

In the field of catechetical instruction it was clear that Luther and
his followers had given their attention very skilfully to the young, the
better to imbue the rising generation with their doctrines. At the time
of Luther’s first appearance, as recent research has established, in many
parts of Germany there was no regular, systematic religious instruction
of the young by the clergy or in the schools, but the children were left
to pick up what they could in the home or from the public sermons.[1583]
There were indeed regulations in force for the priests and the schools,
but they were not acted upon. About the very elementary home instruction,
Cochlæus had words of commendation in 1533. As they were taken to the
services and the sermons, the children had, he says, “sucked in” their
religion “as it were with their mothers’ milk, and this is still the case
to-day amongst Catholics.”[1584] In his sermons published in 1510 Gabriel
Biel asks for no more than that the parents should impart to their
children a knowledge of the things essential and prepare them for their
first communion.[1585]

Luther, however, as our readers know, insisted that his preachers must
concern themselves directly with the children.

He enjoined on them to preach from the pulpit at set times, even daily if
necessary, on the most elementary points of doctrine, and again at home
in the house to the children and servants in the mornings and evenings;
if they wished to make Christians of them these points would have to be
recited or read to them, “and this, not merely in such a way that they
learn to say the words by heart, but that they be questioned on them
one by one and made to say what each means and how they understand
it.”[1586] “Let no one think himself above giving such instruction to
the children or look down upon it,” he wrote; “Christ, when He wished to
train up men, had to become a man, hence, if we are to train up children,
we must become children with them.” At Wittenberg and elsewhere from 1528
onwards four sermons a week for two weeks on end were preached on the
Catechism four times a year. When, seeing the importance of the matter,
Luther himself took the Catechism in hand he was so anxious to make it
popular and practical, that he first published his “Smaller Catechism”
(1529) in the form of sheets to hang upon the wall (this method had been
used even before his day), and thus to act on the memory through the eye.

It would, however, be historically incorrect to describe Luther as the
originator of the Catechism. Catholic Catechisms, even illustrated
ones, had existed before Luther’s time, having been printed not only
in Germany but also elsewhere. But, after the success attained by
Luther’s Catechism, writers of Catholic Catechisms tried to profit by
his example. The best of these Catholic works was the famous Catechism
of Peter Canisius. It was first printed in Vienna in 1555 under the
title “_Summa doctrinæ christianæ_”; eighteen years later it had already
been translated into twelve different tongues.[1587] It is a work rich
in thought and positive matter where almost every word is based on Holy
Scripture or some utterance of the Fathers and other ecclesiastical
authority. Abbreviated editions, the “_Parvus Catechismus_” (Viennæ,
1559), the “_Institutiones_” (1561), and particularly the short
German one: “The Catechism or Sum of Christian Doctrine arranged in
question and answer for the simple,” rendered it of greater use for the
common people.[1588] “Canisius’s book,” writes a Protestant expert in
pedagogics, “is a masterpiece of brevity, precision and erudition; in it
one sees from beginning to end an endeavour to excel in style even the
great Protestant prototype” (viz. Luther’s Catechism).[1589]

Among the secular no less than among the regular clergy work for the
souls of the children continued to win new friends. St. Ignatius of
Loyola esteemed the teaching of the Catechism so highly that he expressly
made it a duty incumbent on all members of his Order previous to their
making their profession. Lainez, his companion and successor, when
staying at Trent during the Council, instructed the people and the small
folk in the Catechism. The Council itself impressed on the bishops
in 1563 the duty of seeing that the children in each parish received
religious instruction from the priest on Sundays and holidays.[1590]

The spread of the new religion had at first been followed by a lamentable
decline in the educational system by no means confined to those regions
torn away from the old faith.[1591] The Protestants were the first
to recover their balance, partly owing to Luther’s vigorous appeals
on behalf of the schools, partly thanks to the active co-operation
of Melanchthon, who had great experience in this sphere and on whom
his co-religionists in consequence bestowed the title of “_Præceptor
Germaniæ_.” The methods followed by the Lutherans were borrowed
principally, as indeed was only to be expected, from the treasure-house
of the humanists. Protestant effort was largely crowned with success,
especially since the old Catholic endowments of the Grammar Schools,
and some part of the income of the sequestrated Church properties, were
applied by the sovereigns and townships to the erection and maintenance
of these new educational institutions.[1592]

The Catholics indeed were angry to see that these flourishing schools
were at the same time hotbeds of the New Faith. They also lamented
that, owing to the sad conditions of the times, they themselves had
fallen astern of the other party in the matter of education. Their best
leaders exhorted them to take a lesson from their opponents and thus
reconquer the position the Catholic schools had lost. “With the spread
and development of the Jesuit schools a change came over the face of
affairs.”[1593] Before this Archbishop Albert of Mayence had declared in
1541 that the Protestants were far ahead of Catholics in the matter of
education and were drawing all the youth of Germany into their schools.
In 1550 Julius Pflug, bishop of Naumburg-Zeitz, wrote to Julius III:
“The Protestant schools public as well as private are in a flourishing
condition; ours are crumbling into ruin; the Protestants attract men by
large salaries, we do not do this.” Already in 1538 George Wicel had
expressed his regret to Julius Pflug that so little was done for the
schools among the Catholics as compared with the Protestants, and that
already the want of men of learning was being felt.[1594]

To mention two other spheres in which Catholics received a stimulus from
Luther’s example and work, we may call to mind the German translation of
the Bible and the German hymns.

What was good in Luther’s translation of the Bible was very soon turned
to account in Catholic circles. If Catholic writers made use of Luther’s
translation in their own editions, they probably excused themselves by
arguing that Luther himself was undoubtedly indebted to the Catholic
translations of the past. In the same way Luther had made use of some of
the old hymns of the Church, amended and popularised them and published
them as his own. Catholic hymns in the German language there were already
in plenty. But, after 1524, when the first Protestant hymn-books made
their appearance, Catholics copied these efforts to collect and improve
on the originals, and the first Catholic hymn-book brought out by Michael
Vehe, Provost at Leipzig as early as 1537, contained fifty-two hymns
with forty-seven tunes—though, strange to say, the old Catholic hymns
were given in the new Protestant version.[1595] A much bigger hymn-book
was that of Johann Leisentritt, a Dean (1567); it contained in the
first edition 250 hymns and 147 tunes. In the following century hymns
well known to be Protestant but of which the words were orthodox were
incorporated without demur in the Catholic collections.

The Middle Ages had been too neglectful of positive studies, particularly
of history and languages, both of which are of such vast importance to
theology. Since the dawn of humanism, however, a good beginning had been
made, and the need of meeting the demands of the new age was recognised,
as, in the domain of Biblical languages, the example of Faber Stapulensis
and Jodocus Clichtoveus shows.[1596] The methods of the Protestants made
further progress in this field imperative.

In criticism and church-history, where much good work had been done by
the Protestants, Peter Canisius was one of the first to suggest that it
would be advisable to devote more pains to the study and examination of
the history of the Papacy, since, as he wrote, our “people seem to be
still quite asleep” and unaware of all that had been done in the opposite
camp. He was anxious for books that should be in no way inferior to those
of the other side, and of which “the style must be in keeping with the
present method and trend of scholarship.”[1597] It is not as yet enough
known generally what great success crowned the labours of Onuphrius
Panvinius (1529-1568) the Augustinian Roman antiquarian and historian,
who was spurred on by the labours of the Protestants, though even more
by the humanist traditions of his native country. Better known is the
Oratorian, Cardinal Baronius (1538-1607), whose “Ecclesiastical Annals”
unquestionably laid the foundation of a new era in the writing of Church

Good and useful work was done by some of the Protestant scholars who
edited the writings of the Fathers.

Thus Luther, for instance, encouraged Bugenhagen to edit certain works of
St. Athanasius on the Trinity and himself wrote (1532) a Preface to them
which is well worth reading.[1599] The Patristic labours subsequently
undertaken by Catholics, even the great work of Marguérin de la
Bigne,[1600] that forerunner of the French Maurists of the 17th century,
had their _raison d’être_ in the very ideas which Luther had set forth in
his above-mentioned Preface to Bugenhagen’s work.

The worksomeness of the Catholic Church showed that people were beginning
to understand the new era and to mould themselves to its requirements.
“How can one deny,” asks Adolf Harnack, “that Catholicism, as soon as
it pulled itself together for the counter-reformation … was for over a
century in far closer touch with the new era than Luther’s Protestantism?
Hence the many converts from Protestantism to Catholicism, particularly
among learned Protestants, down to the days of Queen Christina of Sweden
and even after.”[1601]

       *       *       *       *       *

As for the ideas, however, which constituted the essence of the religious
innovations the Catholic Church could not accept them short of being
untrue to herself and betraying what had been committed to her custody.
Whereas she gradually found a way to comply with all just demands for
betterment and progress, she was nevertheless obliged relentlessly to
close her ears to proposals for the subversion of her dogma and the
alteration of her constitution.

She steadfastly refused to make her own the new and mistaken conception
of the Church, of Bible interpretation, of faith, justification and
good works. In spite of the heart-rending sight of the growing apostasy
around her, she kept her eyes fixed on the promises of her Founder and
remained true to her olden conception of the Church as a visible society
controlled by Chief Pastors who are the vicars of Christ.

Ulrich Zasius of Freiburg in Baden, one of the greatest lawyers and
humanists of the 16th century, who had for a while dallied with some of
the demands of the innovators, afterwards repudiated as follows any idea
of going over to their side:

 “I shall remain true to the doctrines and decisions of the Church even
 should all the host of heaven command me otherwise.” “Such an insult
 I will on no account offer to the Lord of Truth as to believe He had
 deceived us for so many hundreds of years”—by permitting the Church to
 fall into error in spite of the promise that the Spirit of truth would
 always remain with her.

 “For more than a thousand years the Church has taught us by the
 voice of her Doctors who all take their stand on Holy Scripture. But
 you twist the Gospel about as you please. Is Luther then to be set
 above all the Doctors of the past? Our forefathers, who also were
 authorities and all the wise men, would have called such a demand
 sheer madness.” “You, however, argue that the Spirit leads and guides
 you. But what sort of Spirit is it that teaches you to scold and
 calumniate as you do? In the Epistle of James I have read on the
 contrary that wisdom is peaceable and modest.”

 “Give me a man who renounces all earthly things, keeps all the
 precepts of Christ, loves his enemies from his heart and does them
 good, abuses none and is cheerful in adversity. Such a man I will
 call worthy of the Evangel. But among the ranks of such men you can
 scarcely reckon Luther.”

 “You are free to censure abuses, but is it right on their account to
 throw the whole Church into confusion? You blame the whole for the
 misdeeds of some of its parts; pleading the defects you attack what is
 good and thus unsettle everything.” He too, so he tells his opponents,
 was at pains to go to the sources of Faith, but he preferred the
 interpretation of Jerome, Augustine and Chrysostom to theirs;
 and, again, unable to control his indignation, he exclaims: “What
 incredible arrogance is this that one man should require his reading
 to be accounted better than that of all the Fathers of the Church,
 nay, of the Church herself and the whole of Christendom?”[1602]

When passions were at their height voices such as these failed to secure
a hearing. The deep chasm torn open by the wanton act of one man could no
longer be bridged over; the bond of religion that had hitherto united the
German nation had been rudely severed.

5. Luther as described by the Olden “Orthodox” Lutherans

It is a study that will well repay us to follow through the history
of Protestantism the changes that Luther’s description underwent. The
awakened historical sense of the present day has already led more
than one critic to undertake this task, with a crop of interesting

It would be a mistake to think that Luther’s memory survived anywhere
among the orthodox Protestants with that freshness and distinctness which
the statements of some of his old friends might lead us to expect. Of
the actual personality of the man no clear picture had been transmitted.
His words and deeds were commented on according to the outlook of the
different schools, needless to say, always with a certain affection and
admiration, but no one troubled to leave to posterity a living picture of
his unique character as a whole.

Tracing the history of the Protestant representation of Luther down
to the present day three periods may be distinguished, the so-called
Orthodox one, the Pietistic and Freethinking one that followed, and
the last hundred years. Orthodoxy, with its rigid attachment to the
formularies of Faith, with the assistance of the State was for a long
while able to suppress all contrary tendencies; towards the middle of
the 18th century, however, the Pietists and, at the other extreme, a
free-thinking party also made their appearance on the field.

Pietism was a reaction against the hard-and-fast doctrinal system of an
earlier age, which, clinging desperately to Luther’s doctrine of works,
tended to be neglectful of the Christian life and of the revival of
morals. If Pietism rather exaggerated the moral side of religion, the
so-called “Enlightenment” erred in another direction, setting out as it
did to vindicate the rights of reason and, in so doing, making scant
account of subordination to the truths of Divine revelation.

On the whole, Orthodoxy retained a supernaturalist view of Luther,
though it was apt to assume different colours according to the leanings
of the several schools.

Pietism, in its conception of his person, frankly throws over the real
Luther and seeks to “vindicate his spirit against the claims of his more
orthodox adherents.”

The period of the enlightenment also presents a “sadly distorted”
picture of Luther; it had “not the least comprehension of his fiery
spirit” and, as was its wont, was “anxious to wipe out everything too

“Misunderstood and disfigured ‘beyond recognition,’ Luther steps over
the threshold of the new era. But here again misfortune awaits him:
‘Sectarians, Anabaptists, Pietists, Democrats, Rationalists, Orthodox’
… all these set to work to improve upon the hero until they can stamp
him as their own.”[1605] Finally, “the latest phase of theological
development spells a revision of the whole idea and appreciation of
Luther.” In the consciousness of having far outrun Luther on the road
to a purely natural religion minus any faith, people are beginning to
“emphasise more strongly the fact, that he was held captive in the bonds
of mediæval feelings and ideas.”[1606]

“Who really knows him?” asked Adolf Harnack in 1883, “and who can be
expected to know him? People are willing enough to worship him as
what they wish him to be, as the upholder of their own ideals; but in
their heart of hearts, they feel that, after all, he was really quite
different. His character impresses all, but his convictions are left
in the background, or else are worked up into new and more serviceable

Yet all these Protestant impressions of Luther, to be examined more in
detail below, however they may differ have at least this much in common,
that Luther must be acclaimed as the great opponent of the authority of
the olden Church.

Maybe we shall come nearest to a correct picture of Luther if we combine
the modern view of his being a “mediævalist” with the olden orthodox
claim that he was a Prophet of God. Luther stood partly for the old
supernaturalist Christianity, partly for a new pseudo-supernaturalism;
so far those who speak of his “mediævalism” are in the right. He himself,
however, summed up his own character in that of the God-sent “Prophet of
Germany,” and divinely appointed conqueror of Antichrist and the devil—a
point which was rightly emphasised by his orthodox followers.

To go back now to the various descriptions of Luther. The Orthodox
derived their idea of Luther from the oldest traditions. In these there
was a breath of the supernaturalism in which Luther’s own view of himself
was decked out, of the inbreathing of the Spirit, of his mysterious
struggles with a power unseen, and of his divinely assured victory over
the Roman Babylon.

At the present day one marvels to see how cheerfully and naïvely members
of the old “orthodox” school were wont to magnify the founder of their
denomination on the lines sketched out by Luther himself. All that
interested them was the teacher, Luther the theologian; to them he
appeared a sort of “professor of divinity of heroic dimensions.” In the
century which followed his death it was the custom to exalt him