Editor’s IntroductionThe Exhortation to the Clergy Assembled at the Diet at Augsburg was Martin Luther’s first work from the Coburg Fortress after he arrived there, where he stayed during the Diet of Augsburg. It was far as Luther could go in Saxony, without leaving it. And since Luther was still both a public criminal and heretic, as a result of the Imperial and Papal edicts against him, leaving Saxony would have been risky, since it was only in Saxony that his Prince, the Elector John the Steadfast, would be able to protect him from arrest, trial and quite probably execution.
On April 15, 1530, the Elector of Saxony arrived at Coburg, with his retinue, on his way to the Diet of Augsburg. One of the major purposes of this diet, as announced by the emperor, was to reconcile religious differences and bring Germany to religious unity. With this end in view he had called upon the “estates” to be ready to express their views on the religious questions then dividing the empire. The Elector of Saxony, therefore, took with him as advisers the leaders of religious thought in his dominions, – Luther, Melanchthon, Spalatin, Justus Jonas and Agricola. They had already discussed a confession of faith that might be presented at the diet and had agreed upon a part, at least, of its contents, though its final form had not been determined and the Augsburg Confession was not finished until immediately before its presentation, on June 25th. The Elector’s party remained at Coburg for a week, and then moved on toward Augsburg, leaving Luther behind. He was under the ban of the empire, and it was not safe to take him farther. On April 23, he took up his residence at the castle – Feste Coburg – where he remained while the diet was in session. During this period of enforced retirement, he had leisure for writing. He began work on the Exhortation as soon as he was settled in the castle.
On April 29 he wrote to Melanchthon that the work was growing under his hands. On May 12 he sent the manuscript to Wittenberg to be printed. Before the end of the month it was off the press, and before June 7 it was on sale in Augsburg, where one book-seller disposed of five hundred copies in a few days; “everybody is reading it,” wrote Justus Jonas to Luther, on June 12. Cardinal Campeggio ordered it translated into Latin, though we do not know whether the work was ever done. The man who had been commissioned to make the translation wrote to a friend, June 21, “It is a summary of all Lutheranism. If you would know the whole Luther, you would better buy it.”
This treatise may be regarded as Luther’s own Augsburg Confession. Not only was it written at the same time as the Confession, but it deals with many of the subjects which the Confession treats, especially in that section which deals with abuses in the Church. It reveals Luther’s mind on those subjects far more plainly than does the work of the more diplomatic and careful Melanchthon. The material is quite evidently suggested by the Torgau Articles, which had been agreed upon as a basis of a confession of faith by Luther, Melanchthon, and others at a conference held at Torgau, March 20. The latter part of the work is based on notes that Luther apparently made in connection with the conference at Torgau. The text of the Exhortation is found in Weimar Ed. 30: 2 268 ff.; Erlangen Ed. 1 :24:330 ff., Erlangen Ed. 2 , 24:358 ff.; St. Louis Ed.;CLEMEN, 4:104 ff.; Berlin Ed., 3:347 ff. The translation is made from the text of Clemen by Charles M. Jacobs.
To All the Clergy Assembled in Augsburg at the Diet in the year 1530.
Exhortation of Martin Luther
Grace and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
The Luther Room at the Coburg Fortress in Germany; where Luther wrote the Exhortation.
It is not fitting, Dear Sirs, that I should appear in person at this diet; and even though I had to appear, or were to do so, it would serve no useful purpose, for it would make no difference amid all the splendor and bustle.
Nevertheless, beside my spiritual presence (which I will prove with all my heart and with God’s help, through my diligent and earnest prayers and supplications to my God) I have undertaken to be among you with this mute and feeble written message.
The reason is that my conscience drives me to pray, beseech and exhort each and all of you, in the kindliest way and from the heart, that you will not pass this diet by or use it to vain purposes. For God, through our most gracious Emperor Charles, is giving you grace, chance, time, and cause to accomplish much that is great and good by means of this diet, if only you have the will to do so. He is speaking now as Paul speaks in 2 Corinthians 6:1, “I exhort you that ye receive not the gift of God in vain.”
For He says, “I have heard thee in an accepted time, and helped thee on the day of salvation.” “Behold now is an accepted time and a day of salvation,” especially for you. And we see and hear how the hearts of all men are set upon this diet, and expect, with high hope, that good will come out of it.
If, however, this diet shall break up without result (which may God graciously forbid!) and nothing worth while be accomplished, after all the world has for a long while been fed with false hopes and put off by diets and councils, and that hope has all been false and vain, it is to be feared that despair will be bred, and everyone will become overtired of false hopes and delays, and the long, fruitless waiting will produce impatience and make bad blood. For things cannot longer stay as they now are, especially with you and your class; you know and feel that better than I can tell you. I am therefore doing what now I do, for your own good and for the sake of peace and unity.
Certain ones, perhaps, will look with evil eyes on my presumption, and say, – “Who needs you? Who ever asked for your exhortation or your writing?
There are many learned and pious people here who can give better advice in this matter than a fool like you.” Ah, well! I shall willingly believe this.
God help that it may all be true! I am quite willing that my presumption shall be criticized and condemned. But it is also true that one cannot do too much of a good thing, and a fool has often given better counsel than many wise men, while the greatest wrongs on earth have usually been done by wise people, especially when they relied on their own wisdom and did not act in the fear of God, and did not pray with humble hearts for divine help and grace.
All the histories are full of illustrations of this, both in the Scriptures and out of them; but even though there were no other illustration of it, we could find a good one in yourselves. For ten years now you have tried your wisdom on this matter, with so many diets, with so many proposals, with so many wiles and tricks, with so much holding out of false hopes, nay, even with force and wrath, with murder and punishment, so that I have seen in you a cause for wonder and woe; and yet the matter has never gone the way you wanted it. That is the whole thing! Wisdom has wanted to control such high and great matters by itself, without fear of God and humble prayer, and has come to shame in its presumption; and if you do not come to fear God and to humble yourselves before Him, so that you cease from threatening and vengefulness and ask God earnestly for help and counsel, you shall still accomplish nothing, though you were as wise as King Solomon; for there stands the Scripture, 1 Peter 5, “God resisteth the proud, but to the humble He giveth His grace.”
We, for our part, pray with diligence; we also know the right way to pray for God’s grace, and we are certain, too, that our prayer is acceptable and is heard. This, I fear, only few of your party can do. Moreover, we have now begun to pray earnestly for you, that God Almighty may for once enlighten your hearts and move them to fear His Word and to walk humbly with Him. Such prayer is accepted for us – that we know; but may God grant that you do not set yourselves stubbornly against it, so that our prayer must return again into our bosom, because it has been lost and despised among you! For we see that the devil is trying to bring on the Turks, and is stirring up one disturbance after another, and would like to smash everything. If, then, you were still to be hard of heart and continue to be as stubborn as heretofore, that would be too much and altogether intolerable.
To begin with, then, you need not take any action because of me, or the likes of me. The true Helper and Counselor has brought us and our cause so far, and has put it where it is to stay and where we want to leave it, so that for ourselves we need no diet, no counsel, no settling of the matter; and we would not have these things come from you, because we know that you can do no better than we; nay, not so well as we. For whether we come under Turks or Tartars, under pope or devil, our cause is secure; so that we know how to believe and live, how to suffer and pray, how to get well and to die, where we are to look for and get and find everything, and where we are at last to abide, according to the word of St. Paul in Romans 8:28, “To the elect the Spirit doeth all things for the best.”
These things God has given us in rich measure through Jesus Christ our Lord, and they have already been proclaimed and confirmed Phil 3:16 by the blood and anguish of many godly people, who have been put to death by your party. Not that we are perfect, or that we have yet attained all things! But we have the right “rule,” as St. Paul calls it, the right way, the right beginning; nay, so far as doctrine is concerned, we have no lack at all, no matter how it is with life.
But we have compassion upon you and the poor people under you, who are altogether uninstructed, or at least uncertain; and we would gladly help you, by means of our prayers and exhortations, as best we might. For I greatly fear that you have forgotten your office and the humility which you owe to God, and are going to draw the reins too tight, and ride the willing horse too hard, so that another revolt will occur and both we and you will come to grief and distress, as happened the other time. The peasants’ revolt of 1525, see LW IV p220For without doubt you remember how, before the revolt, the diet had been called to meet at Spires with such glorious and comforting hopes that all the world looked forward to it eagerly, and heartily awaited the good that would come out of it. But your counsels were full of wisdom and managed to have that diet called off without result and shamefully. The rod – that is Muenzer and the revolt – came quickly, and gave you a blow from which you have not yet recovered; and sad to say, we have been hurt by it even more than you. That is what comes of doing everything with force and according to your own notions.
At Worms, too, our dear Emperor Charles, that noble youth, had to do what you wanted, and condemn me and all my teachings, parts of which you yourselves had before then secretly accepted and made use of.
Even now your preachers would have no sermons, were it not for Luther’s books. For they are now leaving their sermon-books under the bench, together with the things that used to be all the rage in the pulpit, and are beginning to preach about faith and good works and subjects of that kind, about which nothing used to be heard or known. At that time, also, you extorted from him a decree for the slaying of Lutherans so horrible that you yourselves could not keep it or tolerate it, and it had to be changed at the diet at Nuremberg; indeed, some of the princes had of their own accord to forbid the edict so that they might not place themselves and their lands and peoples in danger. I am reciting these things not to scoff at you or mock you, for I am already amply revenged upon you; but in order that I may earnestly beg you and faithfully admonish you to learn from your own experience and misfortune to give up henceforth your swaggering and threatening, your force and boasting, and to deal with God in fear and humility, and laying aside your presumption, to seek His help and grace with earnest prayer. This is certain, – if you keep on with your swaggering and boasting, you will find that Muenzer’s spirit still lives and is, I fear, mightier and more dangerous than you can now believe or conceive. It is more your affair than ours, though he is more hostile to us than to you, but God be thanked eternally! we have a defense against him. Would God that you had the same defense!
It is the pure Word and honest prayer.
You know, too, the strong and firm stand that we have taken against all the fanatics. If I wanted to boast, I might also say that we had been your protectors and that it was our doing that you have remained what you still are. If it had not been for us, your scholars would, I fear have been too weak for the case, and the fanatics and rebels would have taught you something that you did not know. Therefore they hate us more than they hate you, and blame us when they have to creep to the cross and recant.
We have to put up with that and learn by experience that the proverb is true, – “If you help a man down from the gallows, he tries to put you on it.” The rebellious knaves would not have known the first thing about attacking the pope; but now that, by our help, they have got free and eat our bread, they lift up their heel against us, as Christ says of Judas, the betrayer.
But some will say here, – “Yes, it is all your fault; you began it, and these are the fruits of your teaching.” Ah, well! I must suffer that, knowing full well that I am accused of it; but, on the other hand, I know many godly people among you who know that it is not true. The work is there in broad daylight, and it is my strong witness. The fanatics have always despised and persecuted my doctrine more than yours, and I have had to set myself against them more strongly and defend myself more harshly than I ever did against the pope. How then, can it have come out of my teaching? Or why did not this disturbance arise among my followers, where I was preaching and teaching every day, and where the first and worst evil should have happened, if this kind of dissension was to come out of my doctrine?
Have you forgotten that at Worms the German nobility laid before his Imperial Majesty some hundred and four statements in which they made complaints against the clergy, and boldly declared that if his Imperial Majesty did not abolish the things complained of, they would do it themselves, because they could no longer endure them? If that had been started (as the rebels afterwards did start it), and a single preacher had arisen to advise that it be done, where would you clergy be now? In hell. And yet my teaching was then in full course, and had given rise to no revolt and was not tending that way, but was teaching the people to keep the peace and obey their rulers. Had it not been for that, the complaints of the clergy would surely have started a pretty game. But now it must be my teaching that has done it. This is the thanks I deserve! To be sure, I desire no other, for so it went with all the prophets and apostles, and with Christ Himself.
In the second place, have you also forgotten how at the first my teaching was so welcome to almost all of you? Were not all the bishops glad to see that the tyranny of the pope, – who was going too hard after the endowed positions, – was checked a little? They could look on and listen and sit quiet and wait for the opportunity to get all of their episcopal jurisdiction back again. A fine teacher was this Luther, who attacked indulgences so honestly! For in those days the bishops and pastors had to put up with it when a monk or a rascal from outside came into their chapters and their parishes and drove a scandalous trade with letters of indulgence, and no one dared to peep. There was no doctor or professor in all the universities or monasteries who could have known how to oppose this miserable business, or have dared to do it. Luther was “dear son”; he cleansed the chapters and parishes of this huckstering and held the bishops’ stirrups to help them back into the saddle and threw a stumbling block in the pope’s road; why did you not call that revolt?
Afterwards, when I attacked the monastic life and the monks became fewer, I heard neither bishop or pastor weeping over it, and I know that no greater service has ever been done the bishops and pastors than ridding them of the monks. Indeed I fear that there will be no one now at Augsburg to take the part of the monks and ask that they be restored to their old place. Nay, the bishops will not allow these bed-bugs and lice to be put back in their fur. They are glad that their fur is so clean rid of them, though, to tell the truth, the monks had to rule the Church under the pope, for the bishops did nothing except bear the titles of nobility. I destroyed the monks, not with revolution, but with my teaching, and the bishops were glad; they could not have done it with the force of all the kings and the learning of all the universities; why, then, did they not consider that revolutionary? O, they are too glad that the monks are down and that the pope has almost lost a hand thereby; and yet they give no thanks to Luther, this part of whose doctrine they use so gloriously.
Because I am now discussing the fact that people have forgotten what the world was like before my teaching began, and are not now willing to admit that anyone did anything wrong, I must bring out again the old pretences and picture to the clergy their forgotten virtue, so that they may see or recollect what the world would be like if our Gospel had not come. We, too, may see, to our comfort, what great and glorious fruit the Word of God has produced. We shall begin at the point where my doctrine began, that is, with the indulgences.
If our Gospel had done nothing else than release men’s consciences from the shameful abomination and idolatry of the indulgences, that alone would be enough to show that it was the Word and power of God. For the whole world must admit that no human wisdom could have done this, since no bishop, no chapter, no monastery, no doctor, no university, not I myself, in short, no human reason, understood or knew this abomination; still less did any know how to check it or attack it; everyone had to approve it and let it pass as good and wholesome doctrine; and the dear bishops and the pope got money out of it, and let it go on richly.
1. They sold the indulgence as the divine grace which forgives sin, and thereby Christ’s blood and death were denied and blasphemed, together with the Holy Ghost and the Gospel.
2 . They falsely sold souls out of purgatory by it; it was an insult to God’s majesty, but it brought in a lot of money.
3. They made of the pope a god in heaven, with power to command the angels to carry to heaven the souls of pilgrims who died on the way to Rome.
4. The Gospel, which is the only true indulgence, had to be silent in the churches in the presence of the indulgence.
5. The whole world was cheated and skinned out of immeasurable amounts of money, with the most shameless avarice and lies, on the pretext of war against the Turks.
6. They gave up earlier indulgence-letters for the sake of new ones, and abrogated the old indulgence in the churches for the new one’s sake, and played with the Golden Year, The Golden year is the Jubilee year, in which special indulgences were granted. according as they wanted money. O yes, for war against the Turks!
7. But the pretense of the Golden Year is pure fiction and a baseless lie; to corrupt the faith of Christ and Christ’s daily Golden Year; but countless thousands of souls have been misled by it and the people shamefully deceived into taking pilgrimages to Rome and cheated out of their money, having their pains and their expense for nothing.
8. In the indulgence they sold the good works of the whole Church and also, as a special thing, the absolution which the Gospel forever gives to the whole world free of charge; thus souls were seduced from the Gospel and from Christ to the works of men.
9. They praised the indulgence above all works of love.
10. They made the merits of the saints, beyond what they needed for themselves, the indulgence-treasure, as though Christ’s passion were not sufficient for the forgiveness of all sins; this, too, corrupts faith in Christ.
11. At last they so exalted the indulgence as to teach that if one had even committed a sin of lust with the Mother of God, it would be forgiven him through the indulgence.
12. They taught that when the penny rang in the money-box, the soul rose to heaven.
13. One had no need of penitence and regret in order to get the indulgence; it was enough that one invested his money.
14. St. Peter could not give a grace that was greater than the indulgence.
15. What has now become of the immeasurable money, treasure, and wealth that was so long stolen and so shamefully acquired by means of the indulgence?
In a word, who can tell all the abominations that the indulgence, as a true and mighty idol, has caused in all the chapters, cloisters, churches, chapels, hermitages, altars, pictures, tables, nay, in almost all the houses and chambers, so long as there was money in them? One would have to read again the books that were written against them ten years ago or so. Now speak up, dear sirs! For this unspeakable thievery and robbery of money, and for this inconceivable number of deceived hearts and consciences, and for this terrible and abominable lie, this blasphemy of Christ’s Passion, of the Gospel, of grace, nay, of God Himself, which have been committed by indulgences, all of you clergy are together to blame; not only you who have got money by them, but also you who were silent about it and looked on willingly at this raging of the devil. You talk of rebellion, of confiscation of monasteries, of the Turks! What are all these things together compared to you indulgence-vendors, when one thinks about it? It was a real Turkish army against the true Christian faith.
But which of you has ever once repented for this terrible abomination, or even sighed over it, or had a wet eye? And now, like hardened, unrepentant sinners, you will have it that you never did anything wrong; therefore you come together in Augsburg and want to persuade us that the Holy Ghost is with you and will accomplish great things through you, though all your life long you have done the Church nothing but harm, and that afterwards He will lead you straight to heaven with all these unrepented abominations – nay, with the abominations that you have defended – as though He must rejoice that you have served your god Belly so gloriously and laid waste God’s Church so pitifully. This is why you have no good luck; and you will have none until you repent and amend your ways.
Well, that is one of the pretences! That is the way things went in this matter before my teaching came. That it is no longer so, is the fault of my rebellious Gospel.
It is right that the indulgences should be followed by that other bargaintrade called confessionalia.
These were the butter-letters, in which the pope sold liberty to eat butter, cheese, milk and eggs, to hear mass at home, to marry within the forbidden degrees, and to choose a father-confessor, to be released from penalty and guilt as often as one desires in life and in the article of death, and the like.
Dear, was not this a vicious bargain-trade throughout the world, all invented for the sake of money? As if God had not before given all such things as these freely to all the world through the Gospel; or as if God had forbidden these things, and they were the giants who could sell God’s commandments for money! The Gospel must be nothing, and God must be their merchandise! This skinning, trading and blaspheming, too, has been overthrown by the rebellious Gospel, but now it is all forgotten and there is no bishop or cleric who is sorry, or who needs forgiveness for it before God. Here was another thing that no bishop or doctor attacked, but all kept silence and consented to it. Well, we shall see whether God will let Himself be aped, as they think to do.
Your books are still extant in which you have set down your teaching about confession, which I count one of the greatest plagues on earth, whereby you have confused the conscience of the whole world, cast so many souls into despair, and weakened and deadened all men’s faith in Christ. For you have told us nothing of the comfort of the absolution, which is the main thing and the best thing in confession and which strengthens faith and confidence in Christ; but you have made a work of it, extorted it by force from unwilling hearts in order to strengthen your tyranny; then you have made them worry and torture and scourge themselves by the relation of all their sins, that is, you have disturbed forever the rest and peace of their hearts by laying upon them an impossible task. When will you bring all these souls back again and make up for the deadly, baseless injury you have done them? This kind of confession, too, my Gospel has set to rights, and has given new strength to weak consciences. No bishop, doctor, or university knew anything about this; and even now they have neither sorrow nor pity for this misery.
This is the dregs! It is a very hell! If all the other abominations were forgiven, this one could never be forgiven you. This has filled hell; it has injured Christ’s kingdom more cruelly than the Turk or the whole world could ever do. You taught us that by our works we ought to make satisfaction for sin, even for sin against God; and that was called repenting of sin! You never laid so much importance on contrition and confession, though you made works of them, too. What is it to say, “You must render satisfaction for your sins,” except to say, “You must deny Christ, renounce your baptism, blaspheme the Gospel, call God a liar, disbelieve the forgiveness of sins, trample Christ’s blood and death under foot, dishonor the Holy Ghost, and go to heaven with these virtues by your own efforts”?
Where are there tongues and voices with which to say enough about this?
How does this faith differ from the faith of Turks and heathen and Jews?
All of them, too, would make satisfaction by their works. But how can a soul do anything else than despair if it has no other confidence against sin than its own works? You cannot deny this charge; your books are extant in which nothing is taught concerning faith in the treatment of either penitence or confession, but all the teaching is about our own works. And yet there is neither bishop nor cleric to shed a tear over this horrible, hellish blasphemy of Christ. They are pure and safe. They call us rebels and slay the married priests, contrary to their own law. They are offended because the Lutherans do not make a pretense of fasting, as they do, and do not wear tonsures. They defy the eternal God with their inhuman wickedness.
Out of this abomination have come (nay, they had to come; there was no way to prevent it!) all the other abominations, namely, the self- righteousness of so many of the monasteries and chapters, with their services of worship, their sacrifices, masses, purgatory, vigils, brotherhoods, pilgrimages, indulgences, fasts, worship of saints, relics, evil spirits, and the whole parade of the hellish procession. What else is possible? If conscience is to stand and build on its own works, it stands on sand, which slips and slides continually. It must be looking for works, one after another, and the longer it seeks, the more works it must seek. At last they put cowls on the dead so that the dead might go to heaven. Dear Lord God! What were poor consciences to do? They had to build on works; therefore they had to seek them so wretchedly and snatch whatever they could find, and fall into this deep folly.
By these shameful doctrines, too, all the real good works, which God has established and ordered, were despised and brought to naught. Such are the works of rulers, subjects, fathers, mothers, sons, daughters, servants, maids. These were not called good works, and no account was taken of them in repentance. They were known as “a worldly life,” “a perilous state,” “lost works.” Thus this doctrine trod under foot both the Christian and the worldly life, and gave neither God nor Caesar his due. Instead it invented a new and peculiar life, which is neither Christian nor worldly; indeed they do not know themselves what it is, because they have no word of God for it, but as Moses says, they serve gods whom they know not.
This was no wonder. For at that time no one knew how to preach the Gospel otherwise than to teach out of it examples of good works, and no one of us ever heard a Gospel that aimed to give comfort to the conscience and to lead to faith and trust in Christ. That is how it ought to be preached, and, praise God! it is now preached that way again. Thus the world was in the Gospel, and yet it was without the Gospel.
They ought to have made a wise distinction between two kinds of satisfaction for sin, namely, that for sins against men, which can be, and that for sins against God, which cannot be made, as Christ shows in Matthew 7:12 and Matthew 18:15. The holy fathers made use of it and caused Christians who had sinned to render satisfaction before the Church and their brethren. This is apparent from the words with which they imposed two or three or seven years of penance. Thus Christ and His satisfaction would have remained in heaven. But in that way the services in the chapters and monasteries would not have come up, likewise the indulgences of which I spoke above, and the great god Belly would not have got so much. Therefore they had to confuse the two kinds of satisfaction , and at last make satisfaction avail before God only. To be sure, this error attacked the Church from the beginning, and through great men, at that, such as Origen and Jerome and Gregory; but it never reached the government of the Church, nay, the very throne of God, as it has done under the pope. For this is the oldest of errors and goes back to the beginning of the world; it will also remain the newest, clear down to the world’s end. We will now tell of some of the things that have come in later.
CONCERNING THE SALE OF MASSES, OR PRIVATE MASSES
You yourselves know, dear sirs, what a scandalous huckstering you have made of the Sacrament. That is the handiwork of all of you, because every day, throughout the world, you have bought and sold so many thousand masses for money, one for a groschen, one for eight pence, one for six pence, etc. You can neither excuse yourselves for this nor lie out of it. For though you have not called this a regular trade, it has been, in fact, nothing else than a trade. It has been done for money; no money, no masses! This sin alone is so horrible that it would be no wonder if God had let the whole world become Turks because of it, or had allowed the world to sink into the abyss; one of the things I marvel at is that God has suffered it so long.
His patience has been inconceivable, though His wrath has not been absent.
You did it, and it was your practice, before our Gospel came. You cannot put on airs; it is so plain that you yourselves shuddered at it; and yet you let it go on, and would not have it called an innovation.
Now your scholars want to be so fine that they bring out the ancient canons and the sayings of the Fathers to prove that they called the mass a sacrifice. Shine yourself up, kitty-cat; you need to! You quote lengthy canons and sayings, but what good does that do? We are talking of private masses, and the canons speak of common masses, or communicants’ masses, and they lay great importance to the communing. This the private masses do not do. They compare with the common, or communicants’ masses, as a priest’s secret mistress compares with a pious, honest, acknowledged wife. That shows what these great scholars know about quoting the canons. But they do even better than that! The ancient canons distinguish between the sacrifice and the communion, but they scramble the two together. For in the early days of the Church, when mass was held, it was after the fashion of the old law, the Christians brought to the altar all kinds of first-fruits, – milk, honey, apples, pears, etc. The priest then offered this, as Moses commanded the Jews; therefore the service was known for a long while as a sacrifice. This was followed by the communion, or sacrament. They did not call that sacrifice, but communion. But our private masses make a sacrifice out of the sacrament, and let the communion go.
Right here, dear sirs, I must talk with you who cry out that no innovations ought to be allowed. Tell me, is not the private mass a shameful innovation? Why did they allow it to be introduced, and why do they now defend it? Nay, if no innovations had been allowed, how much would we now find among you that was found in the ancient canons and the Fathers?
Why, I could almost get it in a nutshell, while your innovations have filled the world. I will say even more. What was your church-life before our Gospel came but daily innovations? They broke in, one after another; nay, they poured in like a cloud-burst. One set up St. Anne, another St.
Christopher, another St. George, another St. Barbara, another St. Bastian, another St. Catherine, another the Fourteen; and who can tell the whole story of these new kinds of saint-worship? Are not these innovations? Where were the bishops then, and the people who cry out that there must be no innovations? No, even more! One set up the rosary, another the crown of Mary; one the Psalter of Mary, another the pater nosters tones on the church-doors, another the prayers to St. Bridget; one this prayer another that prayer; it was all without number or measure, and there were whole books full of it. Where was there a bishop or doctor who would even look slightly disapproving at these innovations?
It was the same way with the pilgrimages. Every day there was some new place of pilgrimage, – our Lady at Grimmathal, at Eicha, at Birnbaum, at Regensburg, and so many other “our Ladies.” There was scarcely a chapel or an altar but there was a pilgrimage to it, and the people ran to them like crazy, neglecting their work and their obedience, so that it was plainly a delusion of the devil; but the bishops and the monasteries and the universities kept silence. If our Gospel had not come there would soon have been no place left to which pilgrims could go. And was not that a particularly masterly deception with our Lord’s coat at Trier, which was afterwards exposed as a shameful lie? What have all the Lutheran innovations done when compared with this one rascally deception alone?
Here again there was no one who cried out against the novelty or exposed it; but Luther, who exposes and rebukes these new things, is an innovator!
Again, how are the indulgences multiplied every day? How many new brotherhoods do the priests and monks set up, through all the guilds, in the names of all the saints? Every day they sold letters of brotherhood and gave their good works and holy lives in exchange for money. They sold vigils, anniversary masses, masses for the dead, with ceremonies around the bier. Some invented the golden masses, others the “five-masses,” still others masses of this kind and that, till they could not be counted. Nothing is found about these masses in the ancient Fathers.
I shall say nothing about the relics. God help us, how one new one followed another! Among them were gross and palpable lies about the Holy Cross, about many whole bodies of one and the same saint, about many fingers of a single saint. It went so far as that they revered even the drawers of St. Francis, and some woman’s hair as the hair of St.
Catherine. In a word, it was without end or measure, so that you yourselves made a jest of it; and yet it went along unrebuked, and no bishop saw in it anything new.
If I were to come to the pulpits, then things would really be beyond all bounds. Every day the monks were preaching their new visions and dreams and ideas, new miracles and illustrations, and that without measure. There was scarcely a monk who had been a preacher for two or three years who did not make a new sermon-book that was to rule the pulpit for awhile.
The world was full of these books, and there was nothing in them about Christ and faith, but they were all about our own works and merits and devotion, with many false and shameful examples of these things. Even when they did their best in this, it was to call upon the saints, – not forgetting their own order, – until at last they pictured to all the world that holy and noble woman, the Virgin Mary, as the mediator for poor sinners, even with her Son, Christ Himself. For we all know, – and I was as deep in it as all the rest, – that we had taught that Mary was to be held in Christ’s place; we held Christ to be our angry judge and Mary to be our throne of grace, in whom must be all our confidence and refuge, if we were not to despair. Was that not a horrible novelty? Where were the bishops who rebuked these new blasphemers and betrayers of Christ, who took Christ’s office from Him and gave it to Mary, who taught us to flee from Christ and fear Him as though He were master of a whipping-post, and place in someone else the confidence which we owe Him as our true service of God? Sheer idolatry is what we learned from these betrayers!
The doctors in the universities helped it along. They had nothing else to do except invent new “opinions,” one after another, and no one could get a doctor’s degree with special honors, unless he had brought out something new. Their best work, however, was in despising the Holy Scriptures and letting them lie under the bench! “Bible, Bible?” said they. “The Bible is a heretics’ book! You must read the doctors! There you find what is what!” I know that I am not lying about this, for I grew up among them and have heard and seen all this from them. Scotus says that the article, “He descended into hell” cannot be proved from the Scriptures.
Occam, my dear master, writes that it cannot be proved from the Scriptures that man needs the grace of God in order to do a good work.
These are the best of them; what are we to expect from the rest. Thomas Aquinas (“teacher of teachers,” the Dominicans call him!) goes them all one better, for he says that to become a monk is as good as to be baptized.
This is the way to honor the blood and the death of Christ! But this is not an innovation! And besides, the pope and all the bishops have made him a saint!
In a word, the condition of the preaching and the teaching was sad and pitiful; but the bishops were all silent; they saw no innovations, though now they can see a new gnat in the sun. Everything was so upside down with discordant doctrines and strange new opinions that no one knew any more what was certain or uncertain, what it was to be a Christian or an un- Christian. The old doctrine of the faith of Christ, of love, of prayer, of the Cross, of comfort in affliction was overthrown; nay, in all the world there was not a doctor who knew the whole catechism – that is, the Lord’s Prayer, the Ten Commandments and the Creed – to say nothing of understanding and teaching it, as praise God! it is now taught, and learned even by the young children. In proof of this, I call to witness all the books of both the theologians and the jurists. If you can rightly learn from them one part of the catechism, I shall let myself be hooked on the wheel and let the flesh be picked from my bones. And yet in all this there can have been no innovations! But this must be an innovation! “Nay,” say you, “these things are now accepted and in daily use; but your teaching is altogether new.” Tell me, then, dear friend, how old is that idol, St. Anne? How old is the rosary, or the crown of Mary? How old are the bare-foot friars’ pater-noster-stones on the doors and the gates and in every corner? How old is the pilgrimage to Grimmathal, to Regensburg, to the coat at Trier, and all the rest? Were they not new ten, twenty, forty years ago? But who was opposed to innovations then? Let my Gospel go that long and it too will become old. “Well, your new Gospel may be right, but it has about it a peculiar novelty, which cannot be endured.” What is that? The canons of Magdeburg say it works harm to purse and kitchen. “There’s sense in that, said the servant.” That would at least be good German; we could understand it; I wish I had known it before! Why have we been wasting so many words? Well, then, let us resolve here, in privy council, that “new doctrine” is that which hurts purse and kitchen, and “old doctrine” is that which fills purse and kitchen. Write that down and seal it; we shall send it to the diet at Augsburg and hear what the lords have to say to it!
God knows I do not say this to your dishonor; your destruction would help me not at all; I would rather things were better with you. But you yourselves may well consider, that if you forget these abominations, and preen yourselves into the bargain, there will be people who do not forget, and will perhaps deal with them foully enough. For such a shameless procedure cannot be endured, that you should give the name of innovation to whatever you please, and that whatever you choose not to call innovation cannot be such. You are suppressing the truth and doing so against your own consciences. This would bring us back to the beginning of the whole matter, and we would be harsher with you than before. It is a terrible thing when one undertakes to conceal such a wretched state of affairs, and justify it, and slander and persecute others. That will be a sign of a hardened and unrepentant heart, and will show that you must soon go to destruction, for no other sin insults and angers God more than denying, adorning, and concealing open wickedness. This was the sin of Cain and of Saul. Not so, dear sirs! Do not so! Some of you do honor God! Confess that in these matters you have done wrong. Humble yourselves, and He will exalt you; pray, and He will forgive you; amend your ways, and He will help you.
But if you will not humble yourselves, but prefer to bury these matters in silence, and leave them unrepented and unpunished, and rather persecute the poor Lutherans because of them, and take it in mind to suppress them, well, we shall watch you. If a plague comes upon you (and it cannot but come), remember that you had warning enough; you will not be the first to boast yourselves above God; this I know for sure. My mind toward you is kindly and true; I would that I might move some of you, because I hope that there may still be a Lot or two in your Sodom. The rest, who remain unrepentant, will not only not acknowledge these abominations, by which they have deserved death more than a thousandfold, but they will, because of them, kill, drown, hang, and burn the innocent ones who will not praise this vice and shame; as, indeed, they are now doing.
But too many things are coming to my mind! I shall return to the private masses, and spare the abominations which I am now thinking about until I see how you amend your ways, or how you adorn and excuse yourselves, at this diet; then we shall come with your right color, and bid you Proficiat, if God will.
Let this be enough, for the present, about the traffic in paid masses! But even when they are not sold, but are said, at their best, for God’s sake, nevertheless you teach and hold them as a sacrifice and a work whereby one serves God and makes satisfaction for sin, both for ourselves and for others, whether living or dead, and especially for the dead, as we all know that the mass has almost to fight for the dead against purgatory. The suffragan bishop who made me a priest and put the cup in my hand said these very words, “Receive power to sacrifice for the living and the dead.” That the earth did not swallow us both was wrong, and was due to God’s too great patience. The living had this benefit from it, – they believed that he who witnessed one mass a day was safe and sound and blessed. This was the best and commonest use of the mass; you cannot deny it. Ask the merchants about it and those who have to make journeys, and the pious burghers of the cities, at least at the Rorate Mass. Is not this a horrible innovation? Do not your ancient Apostolic Canons say, “No one shall be present at mass who does not desire to communicate or receive the Sacrament”? Did not Christ institute it in order that it might be received, and that He might be remembered, and that faith in Him might be strengthened, when He said, “This do in remembrance of me?” But you keep silent about this remembrance, allow people neither to remember Him nor receive the Sacrament and do not teach or exhort men to faith, according to Christ’s institution; but you are satisfied to let the bystanders see the mass which you meanwhile are secretly offering. Thus you allow the poor onlookers to keep in their hearts the lie and the false confidence that by their onlooking they have done a good work, though they have had none of the blessing of the Sacrament, either physical or spiritual, as Christ willed it and His apostles after Him. I say it again! You complain that the endowments and the monastic property are being taken away; because of this abomination and vicious abuse of the mass, they ought to do to the endowments and the monasteries what Josiah, king of Juda, did to the altar at Bethel, not leave one stone upon another. That would be fair and just, if you were not to amend your ways in this respect.
You cry out, “What good has come out of Luther’s new doctrine?” I must ask you a question in reply, “What good is left among you?” You have left not one thing incorrupt. The mass, our peculiar and highest treasure, you have put to shame with countless abominations and idolatries, as I have said; and you have trampled its right Christian usage under foot, disturbed faith, and silenced the Word. Baptism has remained for the children, though it has been used clumsily and carelessly enough; but as soon as the child has grown up and come to the use of reason, you have straightway killed him, worse than the Turk does, and have taken his baptism away again with your miserable doctrine of penance and works whereby he learns to despise his baptism, as now lost by sin and become of no value, and henceforth to seek salvation by his own works. As though baptism were a temporary human work, as the Anabaptists teach, and not an everlasting covenant of God! Tell me here, what good have you left? I shall not ask what good would have come if we had been unable to maintain, in spite of you, our baptism, Sacrament, Gospel, faith, and Christ; for you have taught nothing that was right, but all your teaching has been against baptism, the Sacrament, and repentance. That is plain as day.
Those who live among the Turks have this advantage, that if a man is baptized he is not taught doctrines that are against his baptism, though the evil Turkish life and example is perilous and offensive. And even though there were teaching against baptism, it would be easy to resist, because the Turk is not a Christian and is held in contempt among Christians, along with his doctrine. But among you, not only are life and example dangerous, but you teach against baptism and storm against it with words and works, and do this under the name of Christ, as the dear fathers of souls, and the friends of baptism. That cuts like a sharp razor, as the Psalm says, and St.
Peter, too, laments over you in 2 Peter 2:18, “They utter swelling words though there is nothing back of them, and entice by lasciviousness to fleshly lust those who had just escaped, and now must walk in error, etc.”
The good that has come out of my doctrine is that all this abomination and blasphemy of yours has been brought to light and condemned; and this is a great good and more than enough, though more good comes out of it every day, as will appear later. Among you, however, all good is corrupted and none has remained.
ON THE BAN
You know, to begin with, that it is a great robbery and outrage that you have snatched for yourselves the great ban, called Excommunicatio major, which properly belongs to the secular authorities. It has gone so far that popes have undertaken to depose emperors, kings, and princes, and make themselves temporal emperors. Let me tell you, dear sirs, that this is not right! Your ban should be called the small ban, which shuts the doors, not of earth, but of heaven, and separates from the Church and from the Sacrament, as Christ says in Matthew 18:17, “Hold him as a heathen, etc.,” and St. Paul in 1 Corinthians 5:, “What have I to do with them that are without?” If other matters are to be amended, this too must be amended, for God is not pleased with any sacrifice or service that comes from robbery, as Isaiah says.
The use of the ban is another thing. It should be for the punishment of public offenses, such as robbery, adultery, fornication, murder, hate, usury, drunkenness, also heresy, blasphemy and the like, for our Lord Christ teaches in Matthew 18:17, that the ban shall be put upon those who will not hear the Church, or congregation. Thus the Church teaches in harmony with God’s Word.
Now tell me, what is good and ancient about the ban that has remained among you? What new and mischievous abuses have not arisen around it? I shall not bring in the fact that you have banned, cursed, damned, and slain innocent and pious people as heretics. The ban is used for nothing else than to collect taxes and debts and cause great misery to poor people. For the arbitrary power that the knaves, officials, and commissaries have exercised in this matter is already known to you in part; and if you do nothing about it at this diet we shall hereafter put out a calendar of these virtues which will convince you that we have understood your abuse of the ban and will make it plain to the whole world.
But in the place where the ban should rightly have its power and use, it has been a mere indulgence and a very benediction, and has lost its cuttingedge.
The place I mean is among the bishops and canons, nay, among the popes and the cardinals themselves. On this point, I would like to hear a doctor of canon law who would show me how often, according to the canons and the spiritual law, the pope, cardinals, bishops, priests, endowed livings and monasteries have been put under the ban and cursed because of simony and other vices. Who holds them excommunicate? The declaration is in their hand and runs as follows, – “He is under the ban whom we will to be under the ban; whom we will not have under the ban, he is not under the ban.” Go on, dear sirs; if your will is to be law, the Church can get rid of such bishops and popes!
I wish I knew what we are to take you for anyhow. You do not want to be Christians, for you will not endure Christ’s word and ordinance; and you do not want to be papists, for you keep the canons and the spiritual law even less; though, to be sure, they are much harder to keep than the Gospel. But is it not a strange piece of news that papists will not be papists, and yet will give themselves out to be papists; will hold the goods of the Church and the rule over it, but only for their own sweet will, not for the good of the churches? These things do not fit together. Well, then, keep on being Epicurean and Turkish, for that is certainly what you are!
But just because the goods of the monasteries and the endowments are being seized, I must have a private and friendly talk with you.
It is a fact, – and it does not please me either, – that these goods are seized and scattered. The Unlutherans are doing most of it, and get more of the profits than those who are accused of being Lutherans, as can easily be proved. I am especially ill-pleased when knaves get hold of them, of whom I know that they have not earned it; for my conscience does not trouble me when those who work and render honest service get some of them. But there is one question that I would like to have answered, because there are plainly two kinds of endowment – thieves and monastery-robbers, those, namely, who are outside and those who are inside, and I would like to be told who are the worse of the two. Those on the outside are the wicked and unworthy of whom I spoke; those on the inside are the bishops, the canons, and the monks themselves, who sit in the houses. They misuse the property for all kinds of vice and unchastity, and shamelessly overstep the bounds of their order, and send great sums to Rome to knaves that are still greater. Thus they plunder the endowed places shamefully!
Think you not that if the emperors, kings, and princes, who have endowed these monasteries and bishoprics, had wanted to found brothels, or churches for the Romans to rob, they would have had sense enough to act differently and not hand over their money and property to harlots and knaves, or to Roman thieves and robbers? Because, then, such fellows sit in the endowed houses and monasteries, and their property is used by people whom the founders neither intended nor willed, and these fellows, therefore, hold it contrary to the will of the founders, consume it in vicious ways, and employ it shamefully, and are, on this account, under the ban and accursed as irregulares, – since all these things are true, tell me, who are the greatest endowment-robbers and church-thieves? You will see the pope sitting in the highest place among them, with cardinals, bishops, canons, abbots, and monks; for they do none of that for which their positions were founded, but exactly the opposite, as though they were crazy; nevertheless, they take the property and use it as they please. Ah, good friend, if you can see the splinter in another’s eye and cry out about the theft of spiritual goods, you must be shown the beam in your own eye, which you do not want to see. If you can say the one, you must also hear the other, so that you may know that other people, too, have eyes, and feel and smell and hear.
You allege that what is yours should not be taken from you. Of course, what is yours should not be taken. Nevertheless, I would play your canon law with you. The canon law condemns, bans, curses, and deposes you, and says, “It is not yours.” It is called Deponatur. For you do not keep the rule and law of the foundation, and you have deposed yourself thereby.
Thus according to your own law, you lost your property long ago, and have so far held it unlawfully like damned robbers. If one were to decline and conjugate the word deponatur through all its persons, where would pope, cardinals, bishops, and canons be? It would surely become an impersonal verb; no person would be left. But if you think it proper that people have patience with you for not keeping your own law, then you should also think it proper to have patience with those who take property from you, as unrepentant simonists and outlawed robbers, or forbid you to succeed to it, because you do not keep your own law; that is Deponatur.
May your request be granted, then, that what is yours be left to you, that is, your harlotry and knavery; but that what is not yours, that is, the taxes and the goods, be not left to you, but be taken from you, as from robbers and thieves!
I do not wish this to be a defense for anyone. Let everyone see to it for himself for what service or purpose he needs the property. But against the complainants I make a distinction in the use of spiritual goods. I say that if the goods of the foundations and monasteries are to be knavishly stolen and sent to Rome and shamefully consumed out there with harlots and knaves, and the intention of the founders is to be defeated, I would far rather that the emperors, kings, princes and lords kept them and put them to better use. For it is sure that the founders entrusted them to pious, chaste, Christian persons, not men who stood and bellowed, or who went a-falconing, but to men who studied and read and prayed, so that learned men could be chosen from among them to be bishops, pastors, preachers, schoolteachers, chancellors, secretaries, etc.; and this was the case long ago, at the beginning. Now, however, they neglect and despise these works and duties; nay, they mock at them and persecute them, and are under the ban many times over; therefore I should not weep if they were to lose the profit and the income. There is a saying, Beneficium propter officium, but not beneficium propter maleficium. Your own canon law teaches that, and punishes it most cruelly with the ban, and calls it simony.
Tell me, now, what pope, bishop, foundation or monastery has ever known sorrow or repentance because it has allowed the officia to go down, or has ever seriously considered how they might be restored again? Nevertheless they have used the beneficia and lived on them. Thus they are two-fold church-thieves and double monastery-robbers; for they have not only possessed the goods that were given for a different kind of people from themselves, but they have also stolen and robbed from the whole Church and prevented it from having pious, learned, Christian bishops, pastors, preachers and like necessary persons, whom the Church cannot do without, and whom it was their duty to give it, according to the intention of the founders. Dear friend, the founders did not intend the officia to be the weaving of a long cloak, an alb, and a tonsure, or the putting on of chasubles and consecrated clothes. Sticks and stones can wear these things! Their will was to train people for the comfort and welfare of the Church.
If, then, you would make such a great disturbance about the restoration of the endowments and the monasteries, the proper answer to you is: Dear sirs, first make good your double robbery of persons and of property. You have robbed the Church of the persons; you have stolen the property from the foundations. Give these back, so that the officia may go on again, and then you may rightly acquire the beneficia. Such persons are more important to the Church than all the property and all the glory of all the clergy. If not, it will be bad accounting for you to give account of the expenditures only, and merely estimate the income. You must be told to keep your books differently and look better to your work. You have received the property of the lords in order to support and train persons.
Where are these persons? Give an account of them! Nay, it is you who have let the boys’ schools go down, so that the whole Church everywhere is, through you, corrupted to the very bottom, for no other purpose than that your Epicurean belly may be well off.
I have said this so that it may be seen what the condemners of motes gain by stirring up filth. Therefore remember God, and ask Him to help you accomplish some good at this diet. These matters are great and weighty, and unfortunately they are so deep rooted that human power and wit can do nothing with them. The ban is necessary, but Lord God! it must not strain out gnats and swallow camels, or nothing will come of it.
The subjects of penance, mass, baptism, faith, and works are, I fear, too high for you. Therefore I have small hope that you will reach pure decisions about them, for even your scholars have no understanding of them, and these things must be maintained and practiced only through Christ Himself and His Holy Spirit, without human aid. Then, too, except for the first of them, only one or two of the Councils have dealt with them.
Therefore I shall confine my further petitions, supplications, and exhortations to the subjects about which we do not need the special illumination of the Holy Spirit, but which all Christians can comprehend and be sure of, and which can almost be known by the reason. And first:
ON TWO KINDS IN THE SACRAMENT
On this point, you well know that the one kind is an offensive innovation, contrary to the clear, plain words of Christ and against the long, ancient usage of the whole Church. All this has been mightily demonstrated to you by much Scripture; nevertheless, you great enemies of all innovation have not only accepted and maintained this blasphemous innovation, but have defended it arbitrarily with cruel ragings and persecutions, whereby you have tempted God to the uttermost, and blasphemed and condemned His Word. God grant that you may repent it, and submit your idea to His Word! You could not support it with any Scripture; and if you maintain it with outrage and force against the Scriptures, no good will come out of it in the end. It does not help you to allege that we are to do nothing new and alter nothing; for you have heard that this thing is new, and that it is you who, without ceasing, have brought innovation and alteration into the Church. What is altered according to God’s Word is no innovation, for all customs must give way to the Word of God; so your own law says. God and His Word are older than you are; they will also be younger and newer than you and we, for they are eternal. Therefore the Word must alter and rule both old and new, and not be altered or ruled either by new or old.
You allege that without the consent of the Church, nothing should be changed and nothing introduced. Who, then, is the Church? Are you? Then show your seals and credentials; or prove it, without them, in some other way, by means of your deeds and your fruits. Why are not we too the Church? We are baptized as well as you; and we teach, preach, have the sacraments, believe, pray, love, hope, and suffer more than you. Or are you the Church because you bring in innovations, and in so doing, change, blaspheme, persecute, and slay God’s Word and, as church-robbers, hold possession of the foundations and monasteries? Yes, you are the Church, – the devil’s church! She is a liar against God’s Word and a murderess, because she sees that her god, the devil, is a liar and a murderer. The true Church must be the one that holds to God’s Word and suffers for it, as, praise God! we do, and murders no one and leads no one away from God’s Word. You ought not, therefore, say to us so much “Church, Church, Church.” You ought rather make us certain that you are the Church; that is the important thing. The devil, too, can say, “I am God; worship me.” The wolf can say, “I am the shepherd.” We know very well that we must listen to the Church; but we ask, Who and where is it?
God help you to a reformation on this point! If you do not reform, we shall continue, by God’s grace, to do as we have done heretofore. Nay, I shall go further, and say, If God wills that at this diet you make some concessions, we shall not accept them from you with the thought that by your concessions things that were wrong before are now made right. No, we count you far too small for us to think that it is in your arbitrary power to say when and how long God is truthful or a liar, and when and how long His Word is right or wrong. That would be too much! It would be putting you, with the pride of Antichrist, above God and His Word, and taking back all that we have taught and done. On the contrary, we want to have this forced from you by God’s Word, and have you blasphemers, persecutors and murderers compelled to it, so that you humble yourselves before God, confess your sins, your murders, and your blasphemy against God’s Word, and reform, as men who have hitherto done wrong, persecuted God’s Word, and shed innocent blood. We want this sin and wickedness of yours to be unconcealed, and are not willing to consent to it by keeping quiet and covering things up, thus making ourselves partakers in these abominations. We are willing to stake everything on this, and fight this out with you on the basis of God’s Word, which you persecute. For, as I said at the beginning, we do not need your diet and your resolutions. We stand where we do stand, without your help; nay, we stand there against your raging and raving. But for your own sakes, and for the poor people’s sakes, we are doing what we do, on the chance that we may help you, or some of you, and that we may give the people good advice, to the honor of God and the welfare of Christendom.
ON THE UNMARRIED STATE
Coelibatus, that is the unmarried state, or prohibited marriage, is another of your papal innovations contrary to the eternal Word of God and to the ancient blessed usage of the Church; contrary also to God’s creation. But in it is fulfilled the prophecy of Daniel 11:37, where he says of your king, “Neither shall he regard any god, nor the desire of women.” It must be a great sin not to love women, for the prophet indicates here that it is a peculiar abomination of Antichrist, and puts it next after the denial of God. The old translation has, Erit in concupiscentiis foeminarum, “He shall be in desire of women”; but that would not be an antichristian “virtue”; it would have to be Erit in concupiscentiis masculorum, though that is what he means when he says Affectum erga mulieres non curabit, which is the correct text.
Now, dear sirs, if you would be pious and do a good deed, compel yourselves to repentance for all the miserable and unspeakable wretchedness of all kinds of vice throughout the world which has grown out of this accursed papal innovation. It hangs about the necks of all of you, and it will stay there, unless you do something about it, and remove it.
You have heard that to despise the love of women, that is, to forbid marriage, is an abomination and plague of Antichrist, for God made woman to be held in honor, and to be the helper of man. Therefore He would have this love unforbidden and undespised. It is the flesh and the devil that teach us to use women only for dishonor by putting one after another of them to shame, as your new, highly praised, unmarried (I had almost said dishonorable) state has done and still does. That is not loving women, but loving unchastity, and loving shame done to women, and holding them not as women, but as harlots, whom no one can thenceforth love or honor. But it is God’s will that they be regarded as women, and that this be done gladly and with love; that is to say, we are to have them in marriage, and dwell with them in marital love. That pleases God, but it takes knowledge and grace.
Or do you know that the sixth commandment says, “Thou shalt not break the marriage vow?” This commandment, like all the rest, makes no distinction of persons, spiritual or temporal, priests or laymen. They are not to break the marriage vow, that is, not to touch another’s wife. But it is certain that the commandment, in forbidding everyone another’s wife, permits everyone a wife of his own; nay, in order that no one may touch another’s wife, it compels him to have his own wife. If it were true, as the dear canons wickedly declare, that a pastor cannot serve God if he has a wife of his own, then this sixth commandment would have to be entirely abolished and would not apply generally to persons of all kinds, and permit them to have their own wives.
Right here I would like to speak of other commandments also. For example, “Thou shalt have no money or property of thine own, otherwise thou canst not serve God.” And yet the seventh commandment, “Thou shalt not steal,” allows one to have one’s own money and property, and only forbids one to have another’s property; nay, in order that one may not steal, it commands that one have one’s own property. Therefore I do not yet know whether there is more danger of sin from one’s own money or one’s own wife. Avarice, Mammon, and Company are indeed mighty! It is a great knavery of the canon law that it declares that God cannot be served if one has one’s own wife, and that He can be well served if one has one’s own Mammon, money, property, castles, and cities. The opposite is true! It is better to serve God having a wife, than having property, though neither is a hindrance to a Christian. For a wife one already has, and the worry of how to get her is over, and she can take care of herself; but of money one can never get enough, and one worries incessantly how to increase it and keep it. It is this worry and love that are the real hindrances to the service of God, and such worry a wife can well take from a pastor by doing the worrying herself and letting him serve God entirely.
Again, one might easily play the fool with the fifth commandment and say, “Thou canst not have weapons, guns, and other arms and serve God at the same time, for thou mightest kill, do injury, or be hindered thereby.” And yet the fifth commandment only forbids killing, but permits weapons and arms; nay, in order that murder may be prevented, it commands to have weapons and arms. Why have our marriageless saints both their own money and their own arms, and do their farming and their fighting with a clear conscience? Does not that hinder them in the service of God? No, but a little wife must hinder them! It was a dolt that made this canon and a dolt that made the other. Nevertheless he has blinded the whole world, even the great scholars!
The devil, however, wanted so to fix things, by means of this canon, that his celibates should have no wives of their own, but should have instead the wives, daughters, and maids of everybody else, and Sodom into the bargain. This would not have been the case had they been married. It was also his will that instead of having their own property, which is hard to acquire, they should swallow up the property of all the world and consume it in idleness, which would not happen if they had to seek and acquire property for themselves. In like manner they have forbidden weapons, so that they might lay hands on the swords of all the kings and do with them what they would; this too would not be the case, if they had their own swords. It is a wonder of wonders that these three things, – all sorts of free unchastity, all sorts of avarice and splendor, all sorts of weapons and war, – do not prevent these unmarried saints from serving God, and yet one pious wife prevents them!
If everything were to fail, and pope, bishops, canons, and even the people were to remain in their unmarried knavish state, – since even the heathen poet admits that pimps and procurers take wives unwillingly, – I hope, nevertheless, that you will have pity on the the poor parish priests and pastors, and allow them to marry; and that you will not be such shameful, murderous, crazy canonists and jurists as you have been in the past. For your canons decree that a married priest is to be suspended, that is, put out of office; and you, with your dull asses and Bacchantes, have interpreted that to mean that they are to be hanged, drowned, run through, murdered, and hunted. So utterly bloodthirsty and murderous are you bloodhounds that you are not ashamed to rage as you will even against and beyond your own law. If you will not have pity, – and I fear that so much innocent blood, so many horrible sins and such enormous wickedness hang on your necks and press so hard upon you that God will hardly give you grace to do otherwise than you are doing, except to bring your own destruction upon you, as St. Peter says in his second Epistle, – well, God’s will shall be done, nevertheless, and not your pleasure.
For the monks I know not what to ask. It is well known that you wish them all to the devil, whether they take wives or not. And not without reason, for two roosters on the same dunghill cannot endure one another.
They want to have the life that you have and that you would like to have all to yourselves; and that you cannot suffer. Therefore let them go, the rascals! They must not lead the lives of bishops or canons; that befits only the Church and the servants of God; and that means you. God Almighty will do more and better than you intend, and than we expect of you, Amen!
Else, I fear, the devil will be abbot and his dam will be abbess. And yet, I have one hope and comfort; you cannot live here forever, and we must always be training up new parish priests and pastors, and, God willing! the young fellows, who are coming on, will not allow themselves to be tied up with your crazy, wicked vows and obligations to the unhonored state and other abominations. But if the parish clergy become corrupt and the people are without the Word, and if the monks go down, you will see how long bishops and canons, foundations and monasteries will remain. There must be pastors, even if there are no bishops, canons, or monks.
Christendom was maintained for many hundred years without these endowment-bishops and canons, and it can henceforth be maintained without them. At the Last Judgment no Christian soul will be able to boast or testify that in all these centuries a single one of them had ever heard or learned from his endowment-bishop the Lord’s Prayer, the Ten Commandments, the Creed, or one of the Gospels, or ever had or enjoyed from him a single episcopal duty or work. “We ourselves lived, before Luther, as though we had no bishops, and so we must continue to live.” I know for sure that the whole world must say that, before Luther’s doctrine, they received no more from their bishops than they do now, and receive no less now than they received before, except that they suffer from extortion and assessment. They cannot feel or notice whether they used to have bishops, or have none now; so little experience have they had of episcopal offices and duties! This is called watching diligently over souls; and this is the way they want to watch over them again! “Nay,” say they, “we consecrate and ordain others to do these things in our stead.” Even this they do not do; it is the suffragan who does it, and he has nothing of the bishop about him, for he only ordains to the sacrificing of the mass, makes no inquiry at all about how and what is to be preached and what the people need to learn; therefore he is satisfied when the priests can hardly read a requiem, smears them quickly with his chrism and lets them pass on. When these men are preachers, it is God who makes them so, and by them He maintains His Church; it would long since have perished a hundred thousand times if it had depended on the bishops and suffragans.
As for the evil state in which it has been and still is, – whose fault is it, except that of the bishops, who sit in the apostles’ seat and in the episcopal office, and do none of the things they ought to do, and let everything go to ruin? And yet they cry out that they should be allowed to have the ruling place they used to have, because they seek the salvation of souls. It was a fine government and they seek the salvation of souls! Yes, it was the devil on their heads (for he rides them) and the misfortune of all of us around our necks, as we found out before! It is a question of princely meum and tuum; the bishop’s office will still rest with the pastors and preachers.
They allege further, – “We let people study in the universities; they learn to preach ably, and then we have them ordained by the suffragan.” That is true – and unfortunate! You let them study; so do the Turks and the Jews! But what help do they give them, and what help do you give them out of your mammon of endowments? And yet this is your serious duty!
Nay, it grieves you that there are universities; you smell a poisonous breath in them. You are rid of the monks or have them in hand; that fruit of the Gospel you have accepted gladly. You would like to be rid of the theologians and scholars too; they are still in your way! If they were out of the way you would be completely the masters of the parish clergy. Then you could mount again above kings and princes; nay you could command the pope himself, who cannot do without you, and you bishops would be the only gods and lords on earth. That is what you are after, dear sirs! Is it not true that the secret conference of Mainz, where I could not be present, took a step in this direction? Then we would have a world full of jackasses, and the Church would have no Word and no pastoral office.
Yes, you would them study; but the livings of the chapters, which have been incorporated with the universities, no one gets unless he has first studied by other people’s help; and if he is to get them, he must first buy them, and pay for them with a sum of money; and when he has paid for them, is bound to howl and blatt in the chapter, so that his studies and his knowledge bring no benefit to the office of preacher or teacher. That is the way you help the Church!
Granting, however, that you ordain others in your place (which you do not do), who are to preach and be bishops in your stead, you must remember that I am now speaking of bishops and not of men who make appointments. A peasant, or village judge, a town, a prince, can also appoint a preacher, but that does not make any of them a bishop. A bishop is one who is himself to feed God’s people. For there is Paul’s instruction to bishops in the Book of Acts, – “Take heed to yourselves and to the whole flock, among whom the Holy Ghost has made you bishops, to feed the community of God, which He has won with His own blood.” If you were bishops, as your name and place require you to be, your hair would stand on end at this saying, and you would be as sorry to be bishops as I am to be a preacher and doctor; for you would be little better off than I and men like me. St. Paul also says, “A bishop shall be didacticus,” that is, “apt to teach,” “persistent in teaching.” He does not mean prince-bishops or castle-bishops, but bishops of the Church, who do the work that, praise God! many of His pastors do, even though they do not wear miters, which blockheads and “Nicholas-bishops” can also wear. For that you, as bishops, should supervise what is rightly taught, and do not know yourselves what it is, – that is laughable! No, sad to say, it is not laughable! We have had experience of the good that your oversight does, as the subjects above treated show!
Of all this, dear sirs, I have had to remind you and exhort you, because I see that you do not fear God, and seek neither contrition nor repentance for your horribly perverted life, and have not even qualms of conscience over it; for by this God is angered to the uttermost. For since we poor Lutherans have taken wives, you venture to think that you have at last one thing about us to take hold of, because you could find nothing else. You have thought that you would use it, and scourge us with it and press us with it, so that all your shameful, unchaste harlotry, all your robbing of monasteries and stealing of endowments, the whole unsavory mess of your abominations and perverted, unbishoplike abuses, shame, vice, injury and corruption of the Church, – all this would be concealed, covered up, lost in silence, and come to be praised as fair and fine. Thenceforth you might claim for yourselves all authority, even over the apostles themselves, because you were pure and innocent people, who never muddied the water.
A good trip to you, dear sirs! But see that you make no mistakes. Do not say, “Hurrah!” You are not yet over the hill! You have seen how you can dress yourselves up, but you have not yet seen how we can strip the pretty bag off from you, and paint you in such colors that you must spit at your very selves. Do not boast and strut; your case is not as good as you think!
Even though you can load us with wives, whom we yet acknowledge before God with a good conscience, and also before the world, as our married wives, and not as our harlots, you will never believe in how masterly a fashion we will polish up your mistresses and stolen wives, whom you and we both know that you have with no good conscience, and whom you do not acknowledge before the world except as your harlots.
Thus you must call yourselves and be judged as whore-master, before both God and the world. Besides we will paint you Roman Sodom, Italian marriage, Venetian and Turkish brides, and Florentine bridegroom in such wise that you shall see and grasp that our marriage has had sweet revenge on your honorless chastity. And though some of you, perhaps, may not be guilty of all these things, we shall not ask about this. The protector, defender, fellow, and comrade will be on the same footing with those who are themselves guilty, for the reason that they do not rebuke, ban, and avoid these sins (as the Gospel and your own law teach), but help these evildoers, aid them, and join them in raging against us, and by this help, make themselves partakers of all these abominations, and are therefore no better than the guilty.
Never a heathen, never a Turk, never a pope, never an emperor, never a man on earth, has made or enforced a law that anyone should be put to death for marrying. Thus it is a new and unheard-of thing begun by you bishops, who, in your chapters, are the greatest endowment-robbers, whore-masters, and hunters of harlots on earth. And you do it not in order to maintain chastity, but because others will not practice harlotry and unchastity as you do; for you allow it to go unrebuked. And no one can believe that you mean well by chastity with this penalty, since there are no greater enemies of chastity anywhere than you are, for you persecute it most shamelessly and incessantly in your own persons with all unchastity.
To be sure, this is a very small thing compared with the great common abomination, viz., that you are the kind of bishops described above, and in time, if you do not improve shall be painted in other colors. For if we are to have godless harlot-masters and enemies of God for bishops, we shall honestly show them in what church they belong; this you will certainly discover. For as long as you are unwilling to let our marriage alone, you shall have little honor or joy from your harlotry and antichristian bishopry.
If I die because of it, there are others who can do it better! In a word, you and we know that you live without God’s Word, but we have God’s Word.
Therefore our supreme request and humble petition is that you will give God the honor, confess your sin, repent, and reform. If not, take this from me, – if I live, I shall be your plague; if I die, I shall be your death. For God has set me on you; I must be, as Hosea says, a bear and a lion in the road of Assur; you shall have no rest from my name, until you amend your ways or are destroyed!
Therefore we give you your choice. First, since you cannot and will not perform your episcopal duties, since you and all your scholars verily, verily, are unable to preach and be the comforters and judges of consciences; then leave us your office, which it is your duty to exercise; let us be free to teach the Gospel, and let us serve the poor people, who wish to be godly.
Do not persecute and prevent those who do what you cannot do (though it is your duty), and which others are willing to do for you.
In the second place, We shall make no other request of you, nor will we take any pay from you; but if God supports us otherwise, we will do the work, so that you may be spared both work and pay, trouble and expense. Not that we are so anxious to preach! Speaking for myself, indeed, I can say that there is no message I would hear more gladly than that of my own deposition from the preaching-office. I am so tired of it; partly because of the ingratitude of the people, but much more because of the intolerable hardships which the devil and the world lay upon me! But though the poor souls do not want my preaching, there is a man who says “No” to my withdrawal. His name is Jesus Christ, and it is right for me to follow Him, for He has earned my service. All of you know (praise God!) that the Lutheran preachers are godly men and do you no harm, but are more useful to you than all your and the pope’s scholars. You have never had more pious heretics, nor will you ever get them; pray God that they may be spared to you!
In the third place, We will let you remain what you are, and teach, – as you have done in the past, – that you are to be allowed to be princes and lords, for the sake of peace, and are to be permitted to keep your property.
The Hussites and Wiclifites did not do this, and none of the fanatics or revolutionaries are willing to do it now. Thus you see that in us you have not enemies, but friends, nay, even protectors. For how does it hurt us if you are lords and princes? If you are not willing to do what is right for your class and position, well and good! It is not we, but you who must give account. Only keep the peace, and do not persecute us! We ask nothing more, and never have asked anything more, than that the Gospel shall be free. You could help us and we could help you to peace. If you do it not, then we carry off the honor, and you lose both, peace and honor.
In the fourth place, You could set up again the episcopal power, in so far as you left us free to preach the Gospel. For my own part, I shall be ready with help and counsel, so that you may have something of episcopal rank.
You would have two parts of the episcopal office; – the one, that in your stead we and the preachers would teach the Gospel; the other, that with your episcopal power, you would help in the administration of it. Your persons, your life, and your princely ways we would leave to your own conscience and to God’s judgment. Heretofore we never have taken your episcopal authority from you; you yourselves have let it fall. For when you could not maintain with it the indulgences and other intolerable abuses, you let it go altogether, and were not willing to protect our Gospel, or even to tolerate it, but turned this authority against us and against the Gospel. Then it had to strike itself a blow that dulled its edge; for God did not ordain it against His Word, but for His Word.
More than this we cannot offer you, except the daily prayer, the good will, and the service which it is our duty to offer all our enemies. Our offer is this, – we will perform the duties of your office; we will support ourselves, without cost to you; we will help you to remain what you are and advise that you have authority to see that things go right. What more should we do? We are carrying a heavy load; we have burdened ourselves with you and the revolutionists and all the world, yes, and all the devils; and nobody helps us. If you, too, will not help, but keep on pressing us down, beware lest you break our backs in two, and try our patience too far. If you are going to suppress the pious heretics who are carrying you along, see what becomes of you. The game is no longer in our hands, as it was before, but the devil has got it away from us; we can help you no more, if you do not help yourselves also, and have regard not to yourselves, but to the multitude of common people and to peace. It is high time that you do this, and we too will do our best. If there be among you one pious heart, it can well gather from this whole tract that I am telling the truth, and must tell it, and sincerely mean it well for you and for everyone. More than this I cannot do; your cause is too utterly bad.
But someone may think it a laughable proposal that the bishops shall rule the Church, because it is well known that they cannot and will not learn, and St. Paul says that one who rules his own house badly will never rule the Church well, and it is plain to be seen how the bishops preside over their chapters and maintain discipline by allowing them to be impunita lupinaria et latrocinia. My answer is this. I know only to well that it is true; but in order that these wicked people may see that we seek peace and that there is no fault in us, I can suffer it that they provide the parishes and preaching-position with spiritual persons, and thus help to administer the Gospel. I would rather that the fault should be theirs than ours, and before now God has ruled and done good by means of rascals, and He must think that it is now the time when Herod is selling the priestly office in Jerusalem, and the Romans are doing likewise; nevertheless worship remains, and the Word. But if they wish to quench the Gospel or even to remain unrepentant, let them do it at their own risk; we shall preach what we will. If they are eager for misfortune, God will soon raise up another Muenzer, who will overthrow them entirely. If they will not be bishops in God’s name, let them be bath-house keepers in the devil’s name; we are not to blame, nor are we the cause of it. The Lutherans remain masters, because Christ is with them and they remain with Christ, though hell, world, devil, princes, and all should go crazy.
To discuss more points now would take too long. God help you at the diet to act in such wise that it may not be necessary for us to go over everything again from the beginning; that is not good for you and we prefer to be spared the trouble. And yet, in order that you may not think that what I am saying is a mere threat, I should here set down the subjects that should be discussed by both sides.
The Subjects with which it is necessary to deal in the true Christian Church, and which we discuss.
- What is the Law.
- What is the Gospel.
- What is sin.
- What is grace.
- What is the gift of the Spirit.
- What is true repentance.
- How true confession is made.
- What is faith.
- What is forgiveness of sins.
- What is Christian liberty.
- What is free will.
- What is love.
- What is the Cross.
- What is hope.
- What is Baptism.
- What is the Mass.
- What is the Church.
- What are the Keys.
- What is a bishop.
- What is a deacon.
- What is the preaching-office.
- The true catechism, that is, the Ten Commandments, The Lord’s Prayer, the Creed.
- True prayer The Litany.
- The reading and interpretation of the Scriptures.
- What are good works.
- The instruction of married folk, children, man-servants and maid-servants.
- Honoring the government.
- Children’s schools.
- Visitation of the sick.
- The care of the poor and of hospitals.
- The treatment of the dying.
These subjects no bishop has ever dealt with, and they have never been thoroughly understood or taught by your party, and in part have faded out.
You cannot deny this; we were raised in your schools, and your books, which bear witness to it, are still extant; and all the world is witness that these things were never preached before. Now it is certain that everything depends on these things, and that the Christian Church is cared for by means of them, and needs none of your unnecessary additions at all.
In this connection I will not speak of the German hymns, the blessing of the bride, and many good and wholesome books. What great abominations have been put down by them, and rooted out from among us, I shall not here relate; enough has been said to show how many things we would have to speak about, if we wanted to take the time and the space.
The things that have been use and custom in the pretended Church.
2. The sacrifice of the mass and the innumerable ways of doing it.
3. The abuse of the ban.
6. Innumerable pilgrimages.
8. Masses for the dead.
9. Anniversary masses for the dead.
10. The masses of the four weeks.
12. The worship of saints, some of whom were never born.
13. Saints’ days without measure.
14. Mary, made a common idol, with innumerable services, celebrations, fasts, hymns, and antiphons.
16. Innumerable relics, with lies.
17. Innumerable brotherhoods.
18. The celibate life.
19. Dedications of churches.
20. Dedications of altars.
21. Dedications of images with indulgences.
22. Baptism of bells, with two hundred god-fathers on one rope.
23. Distinctions of foods; 24. regarded as necessary.
24. Distinctions of days;
25. Distinctions of dress;
26. The compulsory seven, or “canonical hours.”
27. The Sunday-procession, which is a play.
28. Extreme Unction for death, not for recovery.
29. The sacrament of marriage.
30. The sacrament of priesthood.
31. The sacrament of confirmation.
32. Acolytes 33-34. Consecration of these not to duties but to liberty.
36. Prayers to Brigitta.
37. Other prayers of the same kind, and all sorts of prayer-books, full of blasphemous and shameful dishonorings of God. 38-41. All of these more than is needful and only as special services of God. This is contrary to faith.
50. Tables. 51-54. All of these beyond what is needful and as special services to God. This is contrary to faith.
61. Holy water.
62. Holy salt.
64. And all kinds of food. In Lent:
65. Ash Wednesday.
67. Veiling of images.
68. Keeping fasts (except the priests).
69. Litany of the Saints.
70. Hymns to Mary in the evenings.
71. The torture of confession.
72. Penance and satisfaction.
73. Long preces.
74. The palm-ass.
78. Compulsory confession.
79. Compulsory communion.
80. Kissing and adoring the cross.
81. Burying the cross.
82. Half-mass on Quiet Friday.
83. Singing psalms at the grave.
85. Rattles instead of bells.
86. Passion-sermons of eight hours.
87. Consecrating the fire.
89. Taking the cross out of the grave and carrying it, playing.
90. The consecrating of cakes on Easter Day. 91-92. Both good for all unchastity.
91. The procession of St. Mark’s day
93. Ascension at Nones.
94. The Holy Ghost on Pentecost.
95. Corpus Christi processions.
96. The Assumption of the Blessed Virgin.
98. Festivals of patron saints.
100. St. Burkart’s day.
101. Ember days.
102. All Saints’ Day.
103. All Souls’ Day.
104. St. Martin’s goose.
105. Advent, more in honor of Mary than of Christ.
106. The Rorate-mass.
107. The Conception of the Blessed Virgin.
108. The three Christmas-masses.
109. The apparuit and music.
110. The blessing of oats on St. Stephen’s day.
111. St. John’s draught.
112. Candlemas and wax-sale.
113. St. Agatha’s lights.
114. St. Blasius’ lights.
I shall stop here, for who can count up everything in a short space? But if they do not want to have peace, either I or another can keep on counting, so that the dear bishops and canons may not think that the monks are the only sinners, and they are the pure kitten. Not so! For this time I have wished to point out nothing more than the things that are common usage in the parish churches, though these are the smallest part of your government and have been despised beyond all measure, and you have trodden them under foot. If, however, I were to take up the chapter churches, cathedrals, official houses, monasteries and preaching places, and then come to the mendicants, the stationaries, and finally the sophists in the universities: – God help us! I do not wonder that you forget these abysmal abominations and now seek to adorn yourselves! Did not I myself forget (by the dear God!), and did not I think that you were in the place where I see you to be? Be silent now, for God’s sake, and reform, or things will go hard with you!
To be sure, it is a fact that among the things above mentioned there are some which are not to be rejected, and some that have fallen out, which I did not want to fall, but which can easily come back. The best thing of all is that the fine Latin songs de tempore have been kept, though they have been almost drowned out by the new sacred songs and count for almost nothing.
To speak my mind briefly, this is the sum of what I think. If these things had been kept as play for the youth and for young pupils, so that they would have had a childish game of Christian doctrine and life, in the same way that we must give children dolls and hobby-horses and other toys; and if the custom had been allowed to stay at that, as we teach the children to fast for the sake of the Christ-child and of St. Nicholas, so that they may give them presents on their nights (for it was thus, as we can see, that our ancestors meant it to be); if it were to be left at that, the palm-ass, the ascension and many things of the kind could be tolerated, for then they would not lead anyone’s conscience astray. But for us old fools to go about in miters and clerical finery, and take it seriously, – so seriously, indeed, that it becomes an article of faith, – so that whoever does not adore this child’s-play must have committed a sin and have his conscience tortured by it, – that is the very devil!
It follows, then, that all the things above mentioned, however childish and laughable they may be, do nevertheless fight against and corrupt the Christian faith and the really necessary things, which have also been mentioned above, as though there were no help for one who did not keep them. For, sad to say, it has been our experience heretofore this childs’ – and fools’ – play has been practiced more, and more seriously, than the things that are really important. This, then, is our opinion: If, for the sake of the young, we can help to retain these childish games which are tolerable, without injury to the really serious and important things, we shall gladly do it. But that we should hold them for articles of faith and even play the fool in bishops’ hats, – nothing will come of that, no matter who is angry or who laughs!
I have spoken these things to you this time as a kindly and faithful admonition, and I ask with all diligence that you will join us in calling upon God that He may grant you grace and wisdom so to do and to act in these matters that it may be for His honor and the salvation of us all; and also that He may prevent you from self-adornment, and from excusing, defending, or forcibly continuing your former misconduct. For what good is done by making more bad blood among the people? Men’s hearts are already too deeply embittered, and not without good cause. It is necessary to sweeten and soften and quiet them with humble confession and open reformation, and not to irritate them further. You know that, even if there were no Gospel, your order is so fallen and corrupt, even when judged by your own laws, that it cannot be endured if you try to brazen things through.
You know, too, that Pope Hadrian himself confessed, through his legate at Nuremberg, that the Roman See was the source of much evil, and offered to reform it. Why, then, should you be ashamed to confess the same thing, and obstinately persist in your pride, and grant nothing and yield nothing, but carry things off with force, caring nothing whether the result is better or worse? For you know, or ought to know, that Christian rule or authority has been ordained by God to make things better, not to corrupt them, as Paul says, and is not to be a tyranny, but a service. If you were to admit this, we could help to raise you in the opinion of the people.
For I maintain that you cannot do without the Lutherans, those godly heretics, and least of all can you do without their prayers, if you are going to accomplish any permanent results. But if you are going to force your way through this business stiffly and stubbornly (which may God forbid!), then, together with all who believe with me, I hereby call God and all the world to witness that it is no fault of ours if you are dashed to pieces, when your pride fails you. Your blood be on your own head! We are and will be guiltless of your blood and your condemnation; for we pointed out to you your offenses, admonished you faithfully to repent, sincerely implored you, and made you every offer that could serve the cause of peace, seeking and desiring nothing else than that sole support and comfort of our souls, – the free and pure Gospel. Thus we can boast with a good conscience that the fault has not been ours.
But may the God of peace and consolation give you His Spirit, to guide you and lead you to all truth, through our Lord Jesus Christ, to Whom be praise and thanks for all His unspeakable grace and gifts forever and ever.