TRANSLATED BY WILLIAM HAZLITT, Esq.
The Lutheran Publication Society
Typed by: Kathy Sewell email@example.com
June 1, 1997
This book is in the public domain
The ancient teachers ordained three sorts of baptizing; of water, of the Spirit, and of blood; these were observed in the church. The catechumens were baptized in water; others, that could not get such water-bathing, and nevertheless believed, were saved in and through the Holy Spirit, as Cornelius was saved, before he was baptized. The third sort were baptized in blood, that is, in martyrdom.
Heaven is given unto me freely, for nothing. I have assurance hereof confirmed unto me by sealed covenants, that is, I am baptized, and frequent the sacrament of the Lord's Supper. Therefore I keep the bond safe and sure, lest the devil tear it in pieces; that is, I live and remain in God's fear and pray daily unto him. God could not have given me better security of my salvation, and of the gospel, than by the death and passion of his only Son: when I believe that he overcame death, and died for me, and therewith behold the promise of the Father, then I have the bond complete. And when I have the seal of baptism and the Lord's Supper prefixed thereto, then I am well provided for.
I was asked: when there is uncertainty, whether a person has been baptized, or not, may he be baptized under a condition, as thus: If thou be not baptized, then I baptize thee? I answered: The church must exclude such baptizing, and not endure it, though there be a doubt of the previous baptizing of any person, yet he shall receive baptism, pure and simple without any condition.
The papists, in private confession, only regard the work. There was such a running to confession, they were never satisfied; if one had forgotten to confess any thing, however trivial, which afterwards came to his remembrance, off he must be back to his confessor, and confess again. I knew a doctor in law who was so bent upon confessing, that, before he could receive the sacrament, he went three times to his confessor. In my time, while in popedom, we made our confessors weary, and they again perplexed us with their conditional absolutions; for they absolved in this manner: "I absolve and loosen thee, by reason of the merits of our Lord Jesus Christ, of the sorrow of thy heart, of thy mouth's confession, and of the satisfaction of thy works," etc. These conditions, and what pertained thereunto, were the cause of great mischief. All this we did out of fear, that thereby we might be justified and saved before God; we were s o troubled and overburdened with traditions of men, that Gerson was constrained to slacken the bridle of the conscience and ease it; he was the first who began to break out of this prison, for he wrote, that it was no mortal sin to neglect the ordinances and commandments of the church, or to act contrary to them, unless it were done out of contempt, willfully, or from a stubborn mind. These words, although they were but weak and few, yet they raised up and comforted many consciences.
Against such bondage and slavery I wrote a book on Christian liberty, showing that such strict laws and ordinances of human inventions ought not to be observed. There are now, however, certain gross, ignorant, and inexperienced fellows, who never felt such captivity, that presumptuously undertake utterly to condemn and reject all laws and ordinances.
If a woman that had murdered her child were absolved by me, and the crime were afterwards discovered publicly, and I were examined before the judge, I might not give witness in the matter - we must make a difference between the church and temporal government. She confessed not to me as to a man, but to Christ, and if Christ keep silence thereupon, it is my duty to keep silence also, and to say: I know nothing of the matter thereof: if Christ heard it, then may he speak of it; though, meantime, I would privately say to the woman: Thou wretch, do so no more. For, while I am not the man to speak before the seat of justice, in temporal causes, in matters touching the conscience, I ought to affright sinners with God's wrath against sin, through the law. Such as acknowledge and confess their sins, I must lift up and comfort again, by the preaching of the Gospel. We will not be drawn to their seats of justice, and markets of hatred and dissension. We have hitherto protected and maintained the jurisdiction and rights of the church, and still will do so, yielding not in the least to the temporal jurisdiction in causes belonging to doctrine and consciences. Let them mind their charge, wherewith they will find enough to do, and leave ours to us, as Christ has commanded.
Auricular confession was instituted only that people might give an account of their faith, and from their hearts confess an earnest desire to receive the holy sacrament. We force no man thereunto.
Christ gave the keys to the church for her comfort, and commanded her servants to deal therewith according to his direction, to bind the impenitent, and to absolve them that, repenting, acknowledge and confess their sins, are heartily sorry for them, and believe that God forgives them for Christ's sake.
It was asked, did the Hussites well in administering the sacrament to young children, on the allegation that the graces of God apply equally to all human creatures? Dr. Luther replied: they were undoubtedly wrong, since young children need not the communion for their salvation; but still the innovation could not be regarded as a sin of the Hussites, since St Cyprian, long ago, set them the example.
Does he to whom the sacrament is administered by a heretic, really receive the sacrament? Yes, replied Dr. Luther: if he be ignorant that the person administering is a heretic. The sacramentarians reject the body of Christ: the anabaptists baptism, and therefore they cannot efficiently baptize; yet if a person apply to a sacramentarian, not knowing him as such, and receive from him the sacrament, himself believing it to be the veritable body of Christ, it is the veritable body of Christ that he actually receives.
The anabaptists cavil as to how the salvation of man is to be effected by water. The simple answer is, that all things are possible to him who believes in God Almighty. If, indeed, a baker were to say to me: "This bread is a body, and this wine is blood," I should laugh at him incredulously. But when Jesus Christ, the Almighty God, taking in his hand bread and wine, tells me: "This is my body and my blood," then we must believe, for it is God who speaks - God who with a word created all things.
It was asked whether, in a case of necessity, the father of a family might administer the Lord's supper to his children or servants. Dr. Luther replied, "By no means, for he is not called thereto, and they who are not called, may not preach, much less administer the sacrament. `Twould lead to infinite disorder, for many people would then wholly dispense with the ministers of the church."
When Jesus Christ directed his apostles to go and instruct and baptize all nations, he meant not that children should be excluded: the apostles were to baptize all the Gentiles, young or old, great or small. The baptism of children is distinctly enjoined in Mark x. 14: "The kingdom of God is of little children." We must not loot at this text with the eyes of a calf, or of a cow vaguely gaping at a new gate, but do with it as at court we do with the prince's letters, read it and weigh it, and read it and weigh it again and again, with our most earnest attention.
The papists say that `twas Pope Melchiades baptized the emperor Constantine, but this is fiction. The emperor Constantine was baptized at Nicomedia, by Eusebius, bishop of that town, in the sixty-fifth year of his life, and the thirty-third of his reign.
The anabaptists pretend that children, not as yet having reason, ought not to receive baptism. I answer: That reason in no way contributes to faith. Nay, in that children are destitute of reason, they are all the more fit and proper recipients of baptism. For reason is the greatest enemy that faith has: it never comes to the aid of spiritual things, but - more frequently than not - struggles against the Divine Word, treating with contempt all that emanates from God. If God can communicate the Holy Ghost to grown persons, he can, a fortiori, communicate it to young children. Faith comes of the Word of God, when this is heard; little children hear that Word when they receive baptism, and therewith they receive also faith.
Some one sent to know whether it was permissible to use warm water in baptism? The Doctor replied: "Tell the blockhead that water, warm or cold, is water."
In 1541, Doctor Menius asked Doctor Luther, in what manner a Jew should be baptized? The Doctor replied: You must fill a large tub with water, and, having divested the Jew of his clothes, cover him with a while garment. He must then sit down in the tub, and you must baptize him quite under the water. The ancients, when they were baptized, were attired in white, whence the first Sunday after Easter, which was peculiarly consecrated to this ceremony, was called dominica in albis. This garb was rendered the more suitable, from the circumstance that it was, as now, the custom to bury people in a white shroud; and baptism, you know, is an emblem of our death. I have no doubt that when Jesus was baptized in the river Jordon, he was attired in a white robe. If a Jew, not converted at heart, were to ask baptism at my hands, I would take him on to the bridge, tie a stone round his neck, and hurl him into the river; for these wretches are wont to make a jest of our religion. Yet, after all, water and the Divine Word being the essence of baptism, a Jew, or any other, would be none the less validly baptized, that his own feelings and intentions were not the result of faith.
The blindness of the papists is great and mischievous; for they will neither believe the Gospel nor yield thereunto, but boast of the church and say: She has power to alter and to do what she pleases; for, say they, Christ gave his body to his disciples in the evening after supper; but we receive it fasting, therefore we may, according to the church's ordinance, detain the cup from the laity. The ignorant wretches are not able to distinguish between the cup, which pertains to the substance of the sacrament, and fasting, which is an accidental, carnal thing, of no weight at all. The one has God's express word and command, the other consists in our will and choice. We urge the one, because God has commanded it; the other we leave to the election of the will, though we better like it to be received fasting, out of honor and reverence.
It is a wonder how Satan brought into the church, and ordained, but one kind of the sacrament to be received. I cannot call to mind that ever I read how, whence, or for what cause it was so altered. It was first so ordained in the council of Constance, where nothing, however, is pleaded but only the custom.
The papists highly boast of their power and authority, which they would willingly confirm with this argument: the apostles altered baptism; therefore, say they, the bishops have power to alter the sacrament of the Lord's supper. I answer: admit that the apostles altered something; yet there is a great difference between an apostle and a bishop; an apostle was called immediately by God with gifts of the Holy Ghost; but a bishop is a person selected by man, to preach God's words, and ordain servants of the church in certain places. So, though the apostles had this power and authority, yet the bishops have not. Although Elijah slew Baal's priests and the false prophets, it is not permitted that every priest shall do the like. Hence St Paul makes this difference: "Some hath he given to be apostles, some teachers, some to be pastors and ministers," etc. Among the apostles was no supremacy or ruling; none was greater or higher in office than another; they were all equal, the one with the other. The definition as to the supremacy and rule of St Peter above other bishops is false; it reaches further than they define it; they conclude thus: the pope's power and authority is the highest; he may ordain servants, alter kingdoms and governments, depose some emperors and kings and enthrone others. But we are in nowise to allow of such definitions; for every definition must be direct and proper, set down plain and clear; so that neither more nor less may in the definition be contained, than that which is described and defined.
They that as yet are not well informed, but stand in doubt, touching the institution of the sacrament, may receive it under one kind; but those that are certain thereof, and yet receive it under one kind, act wrongfully and against their consciences.
What signifies it to dispute and wrangle about the abominable idolatry of elevating the sacrament on high to show it to the people, which has no approbation of the Fathers, and was introduced only to confirm the errors touching the worship thereof, as though bread and wine lost their substance, and retained only the form, smell, taste. This the papists call transsubstantiation, and darken the right use of the sacrament; whereas, even in popedom, at Milan, from Ambrose's time to the present day, they never held or observed in the mass either canon or elevation, or the Dominus vobiscum.
The elevation of the sacrament was taken out of the Old Testament; the Jews observed two forms, the one called Thruma, the other Trumpha; Thruma was when they took an offering out of a basket, and lifted it up above them (like as they now lift up the oblate), and showed the same to our Lord God, after which they either burned or ate it: Trumpha, was an offering which they lifted not up above them, but showed it towards the four corners of the world, as the papists, in the mass, make crosses and other apish toys, towards the four corners of the world.
When I first began to celebrate mass in popedom, and to make such crossings with marvellous twistings of the fingers, and could not rightly hit the way, I said: "Mary, God's mother, how am I plagued with the mass, and especially with the crossings." Ah, Lord God! we were in those times poor plagued people, and yet it was nothing but mere idolatry. They terrified some in such sort with the words of consecration, especially good and godly men who meant seriously, that they trembled and quaked at the pronouncing of these words: Hoc est corpus meum, for they were to pronounce them, sine ulla hesitatione; he that stammered, or left out but one word, committed a great sin. Moreover, the words were to be spoken, without any abstraction of thought, in such a way, that only he must hear them that spake them, and none of the people standing by. Such an honest friar was I fifteen years together; the Lord of his mercy forgive me. The elevation is utterly to be rejected by reason of the adoring thereof. Some churches, seeing we have put down the elevation, have followed us therein, which gives me great satisfaction.
The operative cause of the sacrament is the Word and institution of Christ, who ordained it. The substance is bread and wine, prefiguring the true body and blood of Christ, which is spiritually received by faith. The final cause of instituting the same, is the benefit and the fruit, the strengthening of our faith, not doubting that Christ's body and blood were given and shed for us, and that our sins by Christ's death certainly are forgiven.
Question was made touching the words "given for you," whether they were to be understood of the present administering, when the sacrament is distributed, or of when it was offered and accomplished on the cross? I said: I like it best when they are understood of the present administering, although they may be understood as fulfilled on the cross; it matter not that Christ says: "Which is given for you," instead of: "which shall be given for you:" for Christ is Hodie et Heri, to-day and yesterday. I am, says Christ, he that doeth it. Therefore, I approve that Datur be understood in such manner, that it show the use of the work. It was likewise asked, whether honor and reverence were to be shown to the sacrament? I said: When I am at the altar, and receive the sacrament, I bow my knees in honor thereof; but in bed I receive it lying.
They that do not hold the sacrament as Christ instituted it, have no sacrament. All papists do not, therefore they have no sacrament; for they receive not the sacrament, but offer it. Moreover, they administer but one kind, contrary to Christ's work and ordinance, and not man's. The papists err in attributing to the sacrament, that it justifies, ex opere operato, when the work is fulfilled.
These words, "Drink ye all of it," concern, say the papists, only the priests. Then these words must also concern only the priests, where Christ says: "Ye are clean, but not all," that is, all the priests.
The true church is an assembly or congregation depending on that which does not appear, nor may be comprehended in the mind, namely, God's Word; what that says, they believe without addition, giving God the honor.
We tell our Lord God plainly, that if he will have his church, he must maintain and defend it; for we can neither uphold nor protect it; if we could, indeed, we should become the proudest asses under heaven. But God says: I say it, I do it; it is God only that speaks and does what he pleases; he does nothing according to the fancies of the ungodly, or which they hold for upright and good.
The great and worldly-wise people take offence at the poor and mean form of our church, which is subject to many infirmities, transgressions, and sects, wherewith she is plagued; for they say the church should be altogether pure, holy, blameless, God's dove, etc. And the church, in the eyes and sight of God, has such an esteem; but in the eyes and sight of the world, she is like unto her bridegroom, Christ Jesus, torn, spit on, derided, and crucified.
The similitude of the upright and true church and of Christ, is a poor silly sheep; but the similitude of the false and hypocritical church, is a serpent, an adder.
Where God's word is purely taught, there is also the upright and true church; for the true church is supported by the Holy Ghost, not by succession of inheritance. It does not follow, though St Peter had been bishop at Rome, and at the same time Christian communion had been at Rome, that, therefore, the pope and the Romish church are true; for if that should be of value or conclusive, then they must needs confess that Caiaphas, Annas, and the Sadducees were also the true church; for they boasted that they were descended from Aaron.
It is impossible for the Christian and true church to subsist without the shedding of blood, for her adversary, the devil, is a liar and a murderer. The church grows and increases through blood; she is sprinkled with blood; she is spoiled and bereaved of her blood; when human creatures will reform the church, then it costs blood.
The form and aspect of the world is like a paradise; but the true Christian church, in the eye of the world, is foul, deformed, and offensive; yet, nevertheless, in the sight of God, she is precious, beloved, and highly esteemed. Aaron, the high priest, appeared gloriously in the temple, with his ornaments and rich attire, with odoriferous and sweet-smelling perfumes; but Christ appeared most mean and lowly.
Wherefore I am not troubled that the world esteems the church so meanly; what care I that the usurers, the nobility, gentry, citizens, country-people, covetous men, and drunkards, condemn and esteem me as dirt? In due time, I will esteem them as little. We must not suffer ourselves to be deceived or troubled as to what the world thinks of us. To please the good is our virtue.
The church is misery on earth, first, that we may keep in mind we are banished servants, and exiled out of Paradise for Adam's sake. Secondly, that we may always remember the misery of the Son of God, who, for our sake, was made man, walked in this vale of misery, suffered for us, died, and rose again from the dead, and so brought us again to our paternal home, whence we were driven. Thirdly, that we may remember our habitation is not of this world, but that we are here only as strangers and pilgrims; and that there is another and everlasting life prepared for us.
The very name, the church, is the highest argument and proof of all hypocrites. The pharisees, the scribes, yea, the whole senate of Jerusalem, cried out against Stephen, and said: "This man ceaseth not to speak blasphemous words against this holy place and the law." Cain, Ishmael, Saul, the Turks, and Jews, bore and do bear the name and title of the church. But Moses finely solves this agreement: "They have moved me to jealousy with that which is not God, they have provoked me to anger with their vanities; and I will move them to jealousy with those which are not a people: I will provoke them to anger with a foolish nation." Here was quid pro quo; as if God should say: "Could ye find in your hearts to forsake me? so can I again forsake you;" for God and nation, the Word and the church, are correlativea;" the one cannot be without the other.
The amaranth is a flower that grows in August; it is more a stalk than a flower, is easily broken off, and grows in joyful and pleasant sort; when all other flowers are gone and decayed, then this, being sprinkled with water, becomes fair and green again; so that in winter they used to make garlands thereof. It is called amaranth from this, that it neither withers nor decays.
I know nothing more like unto the church than this flower, amaranth. For although the church bathes her garment in the blood of the Lamb, and is colored over with red, yet she is more fair, comely, and beautiful than any state and assembly upon the face of the earth. She alone is embraced and beloved of the Son of God, as his sweet and amiable spouse, in whom only he takes joy and delight, and whereupon his heart alone depends; he utterly rejects and loathes others, that condemn or falsify his gospel.
Moreover, the church willingly suffers herself to be plucked and broken off, that is, she is loving, patient, and obedient to Christ her bridegroom in the cross; she grows and increases again, fair, joyful, and pleasant, that is, she gains the greatest fruit and profit thereby; she learns to know God aright, to call upon him freely and undauntedly, to confess his word and doctrine, and produces many fair and glorious virtues.
At last, the body and stalk remain whole and sound, and cannot be rooted out, although raging and swelling be made against some of the members, and these be torn away. For like as the amaranth never withers or decays, even so, the church can never be destroyed or rooted out. But what is most wonderful, the amaranth has this quality, that when it is sprinkled with water, and dipped therein, it becomes fresh and green again, as if it were raised and wakened from the dead. Even so likewise the church will by God be raised and wakened out of the grace, and become living again; will everlastingly praise, extol, and laud the Father of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, his Son and our Redeemer, together with the Holy Ghost. For though temporal empires, kingdoms, and principalities have their changings, and like flowers soon fall and fade away, this kingdom, which is so deep-rooted, by no power can be destroyed or wasted, but remains eternally.
An olive tree will live and bear fruit two hundred years; `tis an image of the church; oil symbolizes the gentle love of the Gospel, as wine emblems the doctrine of the law. There is such a natural unity and affinity between the vine and the olive tree, that when the branch of a vine is grafted upon an olive tree, it bears both grapes and olives. In like manner, when the church, which is God's Word, is planted in people's hearts, then it teaches both the law and the Gospel, using both doctrines, and from both winning fruit. The chestnut tree, in that it produces all the better fruit when it is soundly beaten, shadows forth man submissive to the law, whose actions are not agreeable to God, until he has been tried by tribulation. The lemon tree, with its fruit, figures Christ; the lemon tree has the property of bearing fruit at all seasons; when its fruits are ripe, they drop off, and are succeeded by a fresh growth; and this fruit is a sure remedy against poison. Jesus Christ, when his ministers and champions depart from earth, replaces them by others; his produce is ever growing, and it is a sure remedy against the poison of the devil.
I much marvel that the pope extols his church at Rome as the chief, whereas the church at Jerusalem is the mother; for there the doctrine was first revealed, and set forth by Christ, the son of God himself, and by his apostles. Next was the church at Antioch, whence the Christians have their name. Thirdly, was the church at Alexandria; and still before the Romish were the churches of the Galatians, of the Corinthians, Ephesians, of the Philippians, etc. Is it so great a matter that St Peter was at Rome? which, however, has never yet been, nor ever will be proved, whereas our blessed Saviour Christ himself, was at Jerusalem, where all the articles of our Christian faith were made; where St James received his orders, and was bishop, and where the pillars of the church had their seat.
The papists rely upon this: the church cannot err; we are the church, ergo, we cannot err. To the major, I make this answer: true, the church cannot err in doctrine, but in works and actions she may easily err, yea, and often does err; and therefore she prays: "Forgive us our trespasses," etc. The minor I utterly deny. Therefore when they argue and say: What the church teaches uprightly and pure, is true, this we admit; but when they argue and say: what the church does is upright and true, this we deny.
Many boast of their title to the church, whereas they know not the true church; the holy prophets much opposed the false church. The prophet Isaiah, in the beginning of his first chapter, describes two sorts of churches. The upright and true church is a very small heap and number, of little or no esteem, and lying under the cross. But the false church is pompous, boasting, and presuming; she flourishes, and is held in high repute, like Sodom, of which St Paul complains, Romans viii. and ix. The true church consists in God's election and calling; she is powerful and strong in weakness.
One of the juggling of the sophists, wherewith the ungodly wretches deceive simple people, is this: a kingdom, say they, which is plagued and tormented, is a temporal kingdom. The Christian church is plagued and tormented: ergo, Christ's kingdom is a temporal kingdom. But I answer them: No, not so; the kingdom of Christ is not plagued, but our bodies, by reason of our sins, are plagued and tormented. As St Paul says: "We must through much tribulation enter into the kingdom of God." He says not that the kingdom of God suffers externally. It is equally false when they say, God is love, God justifies, therefore love justifies.
Such, and the like fallacies, may sometimes puzzle even understanding minds, well exercised and practiced; therefore we must take time to answer them, for every one cannot so suddenly detect them.
The ungodly have great power, riches, and respect; on the contrary, we, the true and upright Christians, have but only one poor, silly, and condemned Christ. Temporal things, money, wealth, reputation, and power they have already; they care nothing for Christ. We say to them: Ye are great lords on earth, we, lords in heaven; ye have the power and riches on earth, we, heavenly treasure, namely, God's Word and command; we have baptism, and the sacraments of the Lord's Supper, which is an office celestial. If any man among us, with the name of a Christian, will exercise unjust power, insolence, and wickedness, willfully, then we excommunicate such a person, so that he shall not be present at the baptizing of children, nor shall be partaker of the holy communion, nor have conversation with other Christians. But if he abandon and forsake the name of a Christian, and give up his profession, then we are willing with patience to suffer his tyranny, insolence, and usurped power; we are content to let him go like the heathen, or Jews, or Turks, and so commit our cause to God.
Our dealing and proceeding against the pope is altogether excommunication, which is simply the public declaration that a person is disobedient to Christ's Word. Now we affirm in public, that the pope and his retinue believe not; therefore we conclude that he shall not be saved, but be damned. What is this, but to excommunicate him? Briefly, to put Christ's Word in execution, and to accomplish and execute his command, this is excommunication.
I will proceed with excommunication after this manner first, when, I myself have admonished an obstinate sinner then I will send unto him two persons, as two chaplains, or two of the aldermen of the town, two church wardens, or two honest men of the assembly; if then he will not be reformed, but still runs on in stubbornness, and persist in his sinful life, I will declare him openly to the church in this manner: Loving friends, I declare unto you, that N. N. has been admonished, first by myself in private; afterwards also by two chaplains; thirdly, by two aldermen, or two church wardens, as it may be, yet he will not desist from his sinful kind of life; wherefore, I earnestly desire you to assist, and advise you to kneel down with me, and let us pray against him, and deliver him over to the devil, etc.
Hereby we should doubtless prevail so far, that people would not live in such public sin and shame; for this would be a strict excommunication, not like the pope's money-bulls, profitable to the church. When the person were reformed and converted, we might receive him into the church again.
Christ will have that a sinner be first warned and admonished, not only once or twice by private and single persons not in office, but also by them that are in office of public preaching, before the severe sentence of excommunication be published and declared. But while the ministry of the Word calls to the Lord's Supper all such of the faithful as repent of their sins, and admits them to the bosom of Christ's church, it must justly reject the hardened impenitent, and abandon them to the judgments of God, excluding them here from the society of the faithful, and, should they die in their sins, from Christian burial.
Nothing would more hinder excommunication than for men to do what pertains to a Christian. Thou hast a neighbor whose life and conversation is well known unto thee, but unknown to thy preacher or minister: When thou seest this neighbor growing rich by unlawful dealing, living lasciviously, in adultery, etc.; that he governs his house and family negligently, etc.; then thou oughtest, Christian-like to warn and earnestly admonish him to desist from his sinful courses, to have a care of his salvation, and to abstain from giving offence. Oh, how holy a work wouldst then thou perform, didst thou in this way win thy neighbor! But I pray, who does this? for, first, truth is a hateful thing; he that, in these times, speaks the truth, procures hatred. Therefore, thou wilt rather keep thy neighbor's friendship and good will, especially when he is rich and powerful, by holding thy peace and keeping silence, and conniving, than incur his displeasure and make him thy adversary.
Again, we have less excommunication now, forasmuch as in some sort we are all subject to blaspheming alike, and therewith are stained; so that we are afraid to pull out the mote we see in our neighbor's eye, lest we be hit in the teeth with the beam that appears in our own.
But the chief cause why excommunication is fallen, is that the number of upright and true Christians in every place is very small; for, if from our hearts we loved and practiced true and upright godliness and God's Word, as we all ought, then we should regard the command of Christ our blessed Saviour for above all the wealth, welfare, or favor for this temporal life. For this command of Christ, touching the admonishing and warning a sinning brother, is even as necessary as this: "Thou shalt do no murder, thou shalt not commit adultery, not steal," etc., seeing that when, either out of fear or for some other worldly respect, thou omittest this admonition, there depends thereon, not thy neighbor's body and goods, but the salvation of his soul.
Take heed, I say, that in any case thou condemn not the communication of the true church; a contempt certainly involving the displeasure of God; for Christ says: "Verily I say unto you, what ye bind on earth, shall be also bound in heaven," etc. The pope, however, in his tyranny, abuses the power of excommunication. If a poor man, at a certain appointed day, cannot make payment of the taxation the pope imposes upon him, he is excommunicated; and in the same way he thunders his bulls and his excommunications against us, because we avow the all-saving doctrine of the Gospel; yet our Saviour Christ comforts us, saying: "Happy are ye when men revile and persecute you for my sake, and speak all manner of evil against you," etc. And again; "They will excommunicate you or put you out of the synagogue."
Most assuredly the pope's bull is not Christ's excommunication, by reason it is not done or taken in hand according to Christ's institution; it is of no value in heaven, but to him, who thus abuses it against Christ's command, it brings most sure and certain destruction, for it is a sin wherewith God's name is blasphemed.
Like as this external and visible excommunication is used against those only that live in public sins, even so the hidden and invisible excommunication, which is not of men, or done by men visibly, but is of God himself, and done by him only, often excludes from the kingdom of Christ, invisibly, persons whom we take to be fair, upright, good, and honest Christians. For God judges not according to outward works or kind of life, as men do, but views the heart; he judges hypocrites whom the church can neither judge nor punish; the church judges not what is hidden and invisible.
All are not stained so grossly with open offences, that we can tax them in public, as were fitting, with any one particular sin and transgression. For although many covetous persons, adulterers, etc., are among us, yet they proceed so craftily, and in such sort act their sins, that we can not detect them. Yet although such be with us in the church, among the Christian assembly, hear sermons and God's Word, and, with upright and godly Christians, receive the holy sacrament, yet, de facto, they are excommunicated by God, by reason they live in sin against their own consciences, and amend not their lives. Such sinners may deceive men, but they cannot deceive God; he at the day of judgment will cause his angels to gather all offenders together, and will cast them into unquenchable fire.
Christ says: "Receive ye the Holy Ghost, whosesoever sins ye remit, they are remitted unto them; and whosesoever sins ye retain, they are retained." And "If thy brother shall trespass against thee, go and tell him his fault between thee, and him alone; if he shall hear thee, thou hast gained thy brother. But if he will not hear thee, then take with thee one or two more," etc.; and "If he shall neglect to hear them, tell it unto the church. But if he neglect to hear the church, let him be unto thee as an heathen man, and a publican." And St Paul: "If any man that is called a brother be a fornicator, or covetous, or an idolder, or a railer, or a drunkard, or an extortioner, with such an one, eat not, etc.; put away from you that wicked person." Also: "If there come any to you, and bring not this doctrine, receive him not unto your house, neither bid him God speed; for he that biddeth him God speed, is partaker of his evil deeds."
These, and such like sentences, are the unchangeable will, decrees, and ordinances of the high Majesty of God; we have no power to alter or omit them, much less to abolish them; but on the contrary, have earnest command, with true diligence to hold thereunto, disregarding the power or reputation of any person whatsoever. And although excommunication in popedom has been and is shamefully abused, and made a mere torment, yet we must not suffer it to fall, but make a right use of it, as Christ has commanded, to the raising of the church, not to exercise tyranny, as the pope has done.
Some there are that rail at the servants of God, and say: What though the Word and sacraments be upright and the truth, as indeed they be, when God speaks of them; `tis not therefore God's Word when a man talks thereof.
Divinity consists in use and practice, not in speculation and meditation. Every one that deals in speculations, either in household affairs or temporal government, without practice, is lost and nothing worth. When a tradesman makes his account, how much profit he shall reap in the year, but puts nothing in practice, he trades in vain speculations, and finds afterwards that his reckoning comes far too short. And thus it goes also with speculating divines, as is seen to this day, and as I know by experience.
No man should undertake anything, except he be called thereunto. Calling is two-fold; either divine, which is done by the highest power, which is of faith; or else it is calling of love, which is done by one's equal, as when one is desired by one's friend to preach a sermon. Both vocations are necessary to secure the conscience.
Young people must be brought up to learn the Holy Scriptures; when such of them as know they are designed for the ministry present themselves and offer their service, upon a parish falling void, they do not intrude themselves, but are as a maid who, being arrived at woman's estate, when one makes suit to marry her, may do it, with a good and safe conscience towards God and the world. To thrust out another is to intrude; but when in the church a place is void, and thou sayest: I will willingly supply it, if ye please to make use of me; then thou art received, it is a true vocation and calling. Such was the manner of Isaiah, who said: "Here I am; send me." He came of himself when he heard they stood in need of a preacher; and so it ought to be; we must look whether people have need of us or no, and then whether we be desired or called.
To the poor is the Gospel declared, for the rich regard it not. If the pope maintained us not with that he has got, though much against his will, we might even starve for want of food. The pope has swallowed stolen goods, and must spew them all up again, as Job says: he must give them to those, to whom he wishes evil. Scarce the fiftieth part is applied to the profit of the church; the rest he throws away; we obtain but the fragments under the table. But we are assured of better wages after this life; and, truly, if our hope were not fixed there, we were of all people the most miserable.
I would not have preachers torment their hearers, and detain them with long and tedious preaching, for the delight of hearing vanishes therewith, and the preachers hurt themselves.
One asked me: Which is greater and better - to strive against adversaries, or to admonish and lift up the weak? I answered: Both are very good and necessary; but the latter is somewhat preferable; the weak, by striving against the adversaries, are also edified and bettered - both are God's gifts. He that teaches, attend his teaching; he that admonishes, attend his admonishing.
Dr. Forsteim asked Luther whence the art proceeded of speaking so powerfully, that both God-fearing and ungodly people were moved? He answered: it proceeds from the first commandment of God: "I am the Lord thy God;" i.e. against the ungodly I am a strong and jealous God, towards the good and godly a merciful God; I do well and show mercy to them, etc. For he will have us preach hell-fire to the proud and haughty, and paradise to the godly, reprove the wicked, and comfort the good, etc. The instruments and work-tools of God are different, even as one knife cuts better than another. The sermons of Dr. Cordatus and Dr. Cruciger are taken more to heart than the preaching of many others.
The world can well endure all sorts of preachers except us, whom they will not hear; in former times they were forced, under popedom, to hear the ungodly tyrants, and to carry those on their shoulders that plagued them in body and soul, in wealth and honor. But us, who by God's command reprove them, they will not hear; therefore the world must go to rack. We must vanish by reason of poverty, but the papists, by reason of punishment; their goods are not of proof, and are rejected of God.
A good preacher should have these properties and virtues: first, to teach systematically; secondly, he should have a ready with; thirdly, he should be eloquent; fourthly, he should have a good voice; fifthly, a good memory; sixthly, he should know when to make an end; seventhly, he should be sure of his doctrine; eightly, he should venture and engage body and blood, wealth and honor, in the Word; ninthly, he should suffer himself to be mocked and jeered of every one.
The defects in a preacher are soon spied; let a preacher be endued with ten virtues, and but one fault, yet this one will eclipse and darken all his virtues and gifts, so evil is the world in these times. Dr. Justus Jonas has all the good virtues and qualities a man may have; yet merely because he hums and spits, the people cannot bear that good and honest man.
Luther's wife said to him: Sir, I heard your cousin, John Palmer, preach this afternoon in the parish church, whom I understood better than Dr. Palmer, though the Doctor is held to be a very excellent preacher. Luther answered: John Palmer preaches as ye women use to talk; for what comes into your minds, ye speak. A preacher ought to remain by the text, and deliver that which he has before him, to the end people may well understand it. But a preacher that will speak every thing that comes in his mind, is like a maid that goes to market, and meeting another maid, makes a stand, and they hold together a goods-market.
An upright shepherd and minister must improve his flock by edification, and also resist and defend it; otherwise, if resisting he absent, the wolf devours the sheep, and the rather, where they be fat and well fed. Therefore St Paul presses it home upon Titus, that a bishop by sound doctrine should be able both to exhort and to convince gainsayers; that is, to resist false doctrine. A preacher must be both soldier and shepherd. He must nourish, defend, and teach; he must have teeth in his mouth, and be able to bite and to fight.
There are many talking preachers, but there is nothing in them save only words; they can talk much, but teach nothing uprightly. The world has always had such Thrasos, such boasting throat-criers.
I know of no greater gift than that we have, namely, harmony in doctrine, so that throughout the principalities and imperial cities of Germany, they teach in conformity with us. Though I had the gifts to raise the dead, what were it, if all other preachers taught against me? I would not exchange this concord for the Turkish empire.
God often lays upon the necks of haughty divines all manner of crosses and plagues to humble them; and therein they are well and rightly served; for they will have honor, whereas this only belongs to our Lord God. When we are found true in our vocations and calling, then we have reaped honor sufficient, though not in this life, yet in that to come; there we shall be crowned with the unchangeable crown of honor, "which is laid up for us." Here on earth we must seek for no honor, for it is written: Woe unto you when men shall bless you. We belong not to this life, but to another far better. The world loves that which is its own; we must content ourselves with that which it bestows upon us, scoffing, flouting, and contempt. I am sometimes glad that my scholars and friends are pleased to give me such wages; I desire neither honor nor crown here on earth, but I will have compensation from God, the just judge in heaven.
From the year of our Lord 1518, to the present time, every Maunday Thursday, at Rome, I have been by the pope excommunicated and cast into hell; yet I still live. For every year, on Maunday Thursday, all heretics are excommunicated at Rome, among whom I am always put first and chief. This do they on that blessed, sanctified day, whereas they ought rather to render thanks to God for the great benefit of his holy supper, and for his bitter death and passion. This is the honor and crown we must expect and have in this world. God sometimes can endure honor in lawyers and physicians; but in divines he will no way suffer it; for a boasting and an ambitious preacher soon condemns Christ, who with his blood has redeemed poor sinners.
A preacher should needs know how to make a right difference between sinners, between the impenitent and confident, and the sorrowful and penitent; otherwise the whole Scripture is locked up. When Amsdorf began to preach before the princes at Schmalcalden, with great earnestness he said: The gospel belongs to the poor and sorrowful, and not to you princes, great persons and courtiers that live in continual joy and delight, in secureness, void of all tribulation.
A continual hatred is between the clergy and laity, and not without cause; for the unbridled people, citizens, gentry, nobility, yea, and great princes also, refuse to be reproved. But the office of a preacher is to reprove such sinners as lie in open sin, and offend against both the first and second table of God's commandments; yet reproof is grievous for them to hear, wherefore they look upon the preachers with sharp eyes
To speak deliberately and slowly best becomes a preacher; for thereby he may the more effectually and impressively deliver his sermon. Seneca writes of Cicero, that he spake deliberately from the heart.
God in the Old Testament made the priests rich; Annas and Caiaphas had great revenues. But the ministers of the Word, in which is offered everlasting life and salvation by grace, are suffered to die of hunger and poverty, yea, are driven and hunted away.
We ought to direct ourselves in preaching according to the condition of the hearers, but most preachers commonly fail herein; they preach that which little edifies the poor simple people. To preach plain and simply is a great art: Christ himself talks of tilling ground, of mustard-seed, etc.; he used altogether homely and simple similitudes.
When a man first comes into the pulpit, he is much perplexed to see so many heads before him. When I stand there I look upon none, but imagine they are all blocks that are before me.
I would not have preachers in their sermons use Hebrew, Greek, or foreign languages, for in the church we ought to speak as we use to do at home, the plain mother tongue, which every one is acquainted with. It may be allowed in courtiers, lawyers, advocates, etc., to use quaint, curious words. Doctor Staupitz is a very learned man, yet he is a very irksome preacher; and the people had rather hear a plain brother preach, that delivers his words simply to their understanding, than he. In churches no praising or extolling should be sought after. St Paul never used such high and stately words, as Demosthenes and Cicero did, but he spake, properly and plainly, words which signified and showed high and stately matters, and he did well.
If I should write of the heavy burthen of a godly preacher, which he must carry and endure, as I know by mine own experience, I should scare every man from the office of preaching. But I assure myself that Christ at the last day will speak friendly unto me, though he speaks very unkindly now. I bear upon me the malice of the whole world, the hatred of the emperor, of the pope, and of all their retinue. Well, on in God's name; seeing I am come into the lists, I will fight it out. I know my quarrel and cause are upright and just.
It is a great thing to be an upright minister and preacher; if our Lord God himself drove it not forward, there would but little good ensue. Preachers must be endued with a great spirit, to serve people in body and soul, in wealth and honor, and yet, nevertheless, suffer and endure the greatest danger and unthankfulness. Hence Christ said to Peter thrice: "Peter, lovest thou me?" Afterwards he said: "Feed my sheep;" as if to say: Peter, if thou wilt be an upright shepherd, and careful of souls, then thou must love me; otherwise, it is impossible for thee to be an upright and a careful shepherd; thy love to me must do the deed.
Our manner of life is as evil as is that of the papists. Wickliffe and Huss assailed the immoral conduct of papists; but I chiefly oppose and resist their doctrine; I affirm roundly and plainly, that they preach not the truth. To this am I called; I take the goose by the neck, and set the knife to its throat. When I can show that the papists doctrine is false, which I have shown, then I can easily prove that their manner of life is evil. For when the word remains pure, the manner of life, though something therein be amiss, will be pure also. The pope has taken away the pure word and doctrine, and brought in another word and doctrine, which he has hanged upon the church. I shook all popedom with this one point, that I teach uprightly, and mix up nothing else. We must press the doctrine onwards, for that breaks the neck of the pope. Therefore the prophet Daniel rightly pictured the pope, that he would be a king that would do according to his own will, that is, would regard neither spirituality nor temporality, but say roundly: Thus and thus will I have it. For the pope derives his institution neither from divine nor from human right; but is a self-chosen human creature and intruder. Therefore the pope must needs confess, that he governs neither by divine nor human command. Daniel calls him a god, Maosim; he had almost spoken it plainly out, and said Mass, which word is written, Deut. xxvi. St Paul read Daniel thoroughly, and uses nearly his words, where he says: The son of perdition will exalt himself above all that is called God, or that is worshipped, etc., 2 Thes. ii.
The humility of hypocrites is, of all pride, the greatest and most haughty, as that of the Pharisee who humbled himself, and gave God thanks, but soon spoiled all again, when he said: "I am not like others, etc., nor as this publican." There are people who flatter themselves, and think they only are wise; they condemn and deride the opinions of all others; they will allow of nothing but only what pleases them.
Ambition is the rankest poison to the church, when it possesses preachers. It is a consuming fire. The Holy Scripture is given to destroy the desires of the flesh; therefore we must not therein seek after temporal honor. I much marvel for what cause people are proud and haughty; we are born in sin, and every moment in danger of death. Are we proud of our scabs and scalds? we, who are altogether an unclean thing.
Honor might be sought for in Homer, Virgil, and in Terence, and not in the Holy Scripture; for Christ says: "Hallowed by thy name - not ours, but thine be the glory." Christ charges us to preach God's Word. We preachers should of the world be held and esteemed as injusti stulti, to the end God be justus, sapiens, et misericors; that is his title, which he will leave to none other. When we leave to God his name, his kingdom, and will, then will he also give unto us our daily bread, remit our sins, and deliver us from the devil and all evil. Only his honor he will have to himself.
It were but reasonable I should in my old age have some rest and peace, but now those that should be with and for me, fall upon me. I have plague enough with my adversaries, therefore my brethren should not vex me. But who is able to resist? They are fresh, lusty, young people, and have lived in idleness; I am now aged, and have had much labor and pains. Nothing causes Osiander's pride more than his idle life; for he preaches but twice a week, yet has a yearly stipend of four hundred gilders.
God in wonderful wise led us out of the darkness of the sophists, and cast me into the game, now more than twenty years since. It went weakly forward at the first, when Ibegan to write against the gross errors of indulgences. At that time Doctor Jerome withstood me, and said: What will you do, they will not endure it? but, said I, what if they must endure it?
Soon after him came Sylvester Prierio into the list; he thundered and lightened against me with his syllogisms, saying: Whosoever makes doubt of any one sentence or act of the Romish church, is a heretic: Martin Luther doubts thereof; ergo, he is a heretic. Then it went on, for the pope makes a three-fold distinction of the church. First a substantial, i.e. the body of the church. Secondly, a significant church, i.e., the cardinals. Thirdly, an operative and powerful church; i.e., the pope himself. No mention is made of a council, for the pope will be the powerful church above the Holy Scripture and councils.
Our auditors, for the most part, are epicurean; they measure our preaching as they think good, and will have easy days.
The Pharisees and Sadducees were Christ's enemies, yet they heard him willingly; the Pharisees, to the end they might lay hold on him; the Sadducees, that they might flout and deride him. The Pharisees are our friars; the Sadducees, our gentry, citizens, and country folk; our gentlemen give us the hearing, and believe us, yet will do what seems good to them; that is, they remain epicureans.
A preacher should be a logician and a rhetorician, that is, he must be able to teach, and to admonish; when he preaches touching an article, he must, first, distinguish it. Secondly, he must define, describe, and show what it is. Thirdly, he must produce sentences out of the Scriptures, therewith to prove and strengthen it. Fourthly, he must, with examples, explain and declare it. Fifthly, he must adorn it with similitudes; and, lastly, he must admonish and rouse up the lazy, earnestly reprove all the disobedient, all false doctrine, and the authors thereof; yet, not out of malice and envy, but only to God's honor, and the profit and saving health of the people.
"Their priests do teach for hire." Some there be who abuse this sentence, wresting it against good and godly teachers and preachers, as if it were not right for them to take the wages ordained for the ministers of the church, on which they must live. They produce the sentence where Christ says: "Freely ye have received, freely give." They allege also the example of St Paul, who maintained himself by work of his hands, to the end that he might not be burthensome to the church.
These accusations proceed out of hatred to the function of preaching, to which Satan is a deadly enemy. These ungodly people, by filling the ears of the simple with such speeches, not only occasion the preachers to be condemned, but also the function of preaching to be suspected; whereas they ought, with all diligence, to endeavor that the ministers, for the Word's sake, might again be restored to their honest dignity.
It is true, as Christ says: "Freely ye have received, freely give;" for he will have the chief end of preaching to be directed to God's honor only, and the people's salvation; but it follows not that it is against God for the church to maintain her ministers, who truly serve her in the Word, though it were against God and all Christianity, if the ministers of the church should omit the final cause, for which the office of preaching is instituted, and should look and have regard only to their wages, or aim at lucre and gain, and not uprightly, purely, and truly proceed in the office of teaching.
Like as the ministers of the church, by God's command, are in duty bound to seek and promote God's honor, and the saving health and salvation of the people, with true and upright doctrine, even so the church and congregation have command from God to maintain their ministers, and honorable nourish and cherish them; for Christ says: "Every laborer is worthy of his hire." Now if he be worthy, then no man ought to cast it in his teeth that he takes wages. St Paul more clearly expresses himself: "The Lord hath also commanded, that they which preach the gospel, should live of the gospel." He puts on the office of the law, and says: "Do ye not know, that they which do minister about holy things, live of the things of the temple? And they which wait at the altar, are partakers with the altar." Moreover he makes use of a very fine similitude, saying: "Who goeth a warfare at any time at his own charges? Who planteth a vineyard and eateth not of the fruit thereof?" But especially mark the comparison which he gives in his epistle to the Corinthians: "If we have sown unto you spiritual things, is it a great matter if we shall reap your carnal things?" Indeed, every Christian, but especially the officers of the church, ministers, and preachers, should so carry themselves that they fall not into suspicion of being greedy and covetous: yet they must not so conceive it, as if it were wrong to receive of the church and assembly, that which is needful for the maintenance of the body.
Therefore no man should take umbrage that godly rulers provide for the churches, by honestly maintaining her true ministers; nay, we should bewail that the majority of princes and rulers neglect the true and pure religion, and provide not for our children and posterity, so that, through such meanness, there will be either none, or most unlearned ministers.
Scripture requires humble hearts, that hold God's Word in honor, love, and worth, and that pray continually: "Lord, teach me thy ways and statutes." But the Holy Ghost resists the proud, and will not dwell with them. And although some for a time diligently study in Holy Scripture, and teach and preach Christ uprightly, yet, as soon as they become proud, God excludes them out of the church. Therefore, every proud spirit is a heretic, not in act and deed, yet before God.
But it is a hard matter for one who has some particular gift and quality above another, not to be haughty, proud, and presumptuous, and not to condemn others; therefore God suffers them that have great gifts to fall many times into heavy tribulations, to the end that they may learn, when God draws away his hand, that then they are of no value. St Paul was constrained to bear on his body the sting or thorn of the flesh, to prevent him from haughtiness. And if Philip Melancthon were not now and then plagued in such sort as he is, he would have strange conceits.
I learn by preaching to know what the world, the flesh, the malice and wickedness of the devil is, all which could not be known before the Gospel was revealed and preached, for up to that time I thought there were no sins but incontinence and lechery.
At court these rules ought to be observed: we must cry aloud, and accuse; for neither the Gospel nor modesty belong to the court; we must be harsh, and set our faces as flints; we must, instead of Christ, who is mild and friendly, place Moses with his horns in the court. Therefore I advise my chaplains and ministers to complain at court of their wants, miseries, poverty, and necessities; for I myself preached concerning the same before the prince elector, who is both good and godly, but his courtiers do what they please. Philip Melancthon and Justus Jonas were lately called in question at court, for the world's sake; but they made this answer: Luther is old enough, and knows how and what to preach.
Cursed are all preachers that in the church aim at high and hard things, and, neglecting the saving health of the poor unlearned people, seek their own honor and praise, and therewith to please one or two ambitious persons.
When I preach, I sink myself deep down. I regard neither doctors nor magistrates, of whom are here in this church above forty; but I have an eye to the multitude of young people, children, and servants, of whom are more than two thousand. I preach to those, directing myself to them that have need thereof. Will not the rest hear me? The door stands open unto them; they may begone. I see that the ambition of preachers grows and increases; this will do the utmost mischief in the church, and produce great disquietness and discord; for they will needs teach high things touching matters of state, thereby aiming at praise and honor; they will please the worldly wise, and meantime neglect the simple and common multitude.
An upright, godly, and true preacher should direct his preaching to the poor, simple sort of people, like a mother that stills her child, dawdles and plays with it, presenting it with milk from her own breast, and needing neither malmsey nor muscadine for it. In such sort should also preachers carry themselves, teaching and preaching plainly, that the simple and unlearned may conceive and comprehend, and retain what they say. When they come to me, to Melancthon, to Dr. Palmer, etc., let them show their cunning, how learned they be; they shall well put to their trumps. But to sprinkle out Hebrew, Greek, and Latin, in their public sermons, savors merely of show, according with neither time nor place.
In the Psalm it is said: Their voice went out into the whole world. But St Paul to the Romans gives it thus: "Their sound went out into all the earth," which is all one. Many sentences are in the Bible, wherein St Paul observed the translation of the Seventy Interpreters, for he condemned them not; and whereas he was preacher to the Greeks, therefore he was constrained to preach as they understood.
In such sort did he use that sentence, 1 Cor. xv.: "Death is swallowed up in victory," whereas in the Hebrew, it is "in the end;" ye `tis all one. St Paul was very rich and flowing in words; one of his words contains three of Cicero's orations, or the whole of Isaiah and Jeremiah. O! he was an excellent preacher; he is not in vain named vas electum. Our Lord God said: I will give a preacher to the world that shall be precious. There was never any that understood the Old Testament so well as St Paul, except John the Baptist, and John the Divine. St Peter excels also. St Matthew and the rest well describe the histories, which are very necessary; but as to the things and words of the Old Testament, they never mention what is couched therein.
St Paul translated much out of Hebrew into Greek, which none besides were able to do; in handling one chapter, he often expounds four, five, or six. Oh, he dearly loved Moses and Isaiah, for they, together with king David, were the chief prophets. The words and things of St Paul are taken out of Moses and the Prophets.
Young divines ought to study Hebrew, to the end that they may be able to compare Greek and Hebrew words together, and discern their properties, nature and strength.