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Respecting The Reformation Of The Christian Estate
(Part II)

     14. We see also how the priesthood is fallen, and how many a poor priest
is encumbered with a woman and children and burdened in his conscience, and no
one does anything to help him, though he might very well be helped. Popes and
bishops may let that be lost that is being lost, and that be destroyed which
is being destroyed, I will save my conscience and open my mouth freely, let it
vex popes and bishops or whoever it may be; therefore I say, According to the
ordinances of Christ and His Apostles, every town should have a minister or
bishop, as St. Paul plainly says (Titus i.), and this minister should not be
forced to live without a lawful wife, but should be allowed to have one, as
St. Paul writes, saying that "a bishop then must be blameless, the husband of
one wife,...having his children in subjection with all gravity" (I Tim. iii.).
For with St. Paul a bishop and a presbyter are the same thing, as St. Jerome
also confirms. But as for the bishops that we now have, of these the
Scriptures know nothing; they were instituted by common Christian ordinance,
so that one might rule over many ministers.

[29: Luther alludes here of course to the vow of celibacy, which was
curiously styled the 'vow of chastity'; thus indirectly condemning marriage in

     Therefore we learn from the Apostle clearly, that every town should elect
a pious learned citizen from the congregation and charge him with the office
of minister; the congregation should support him, and he should be left at
liberty to marry or not. He should have as assistants several priests and
deacons, married or not, as they please, who should help him to govern the
people and the congregation with sermons and the ministration of the
sacraments, as is still the case in the Greek Church. Then afterwards, when
there were so many persecutions and contentions against heretics, there were
many holy fathers who voluntarily abstained from the marriage state, that
they might study more, and might be ready at all times for death and
conflict. Now the Roman see has interfered of its own perversity, and has
made a general law by which priests are forbidden to marry. This must have
been at the instigation of the devil, as was foretold by St. Paul, saying
that "there shall come teachers giving heed to seducing spirits, . . .
forbidding to marry," etc. (1 Tim. iv. 1, 2, seq.). This has been the cause
of so much misery that it cannot be told, and has given occasion to the
Greek Church to separate from us, and has caused infinite disunion, sin,
shame, and scandal, like everything that the devil does or suggests. Now what
are we to do?

     My advice is to restore liberty, and to leave every man free to marry or
not to marry. But if we did this we should have to introduce a very different
rule and order for property; the whole canon law would be overthrown, and but
few benefices would fall to Rome. I am afraid greed was a cause of this
wretched, unchaste chastity, for the result of it was that every man wished to
become a priest or to have his son brought up to the priesthood, not with the
intention of living in chastity-for this could be done without the priestly
state-but to obtain his worldly support without labour or trouble, contrary to
God's command, "In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat thy bread" (Gen. iii);
and they have given a colour to this commandment as though their work was
praying and reading the mass. I am not here considering popes, bishops,
canons, clergy, and monks who were not ordained by God; if they have laid
burdens on themselves, they may bear them. I speak of the office of parish
priest, which God ordained, who must rule a congregation with sermons and the
ministration of the sacraments, and must live with them and lead a domestic
life. These should have the liberty given them by a Christian council to marry
and to avoid danger and sin. For as God has not bound them, no one may bind
them, though he were an angel from heaven, let alone the Pope; and whatever is
contrary to this in the canon law is mere idle talk and invention.

     My advice further is, whoever henceforth is ordained priest, he should
in no wise take the vow of chastity, but should protest to the bishop that he
has no authority to demand this vow, and that it is a devilish tyranny to
demand it. But if one is forced, or wishes to say, as some do, "so far as
human frailty permits," let every man interpret that phrase as a plain
negative, that is, "I do not promise chastity"; for "human frailty does not
allow men to live an unmarried life," but only "angelic fortitude and
celestial virtue." In this way he will have a clear conscience without any
vow. I offer no opinion, one way or the other, whether those who have at
present no wife should marry, or remain unmarried. This must be settled by
the general order of the Church and by each man's discretion. But I will
not conceal my honest counsel, nor withhold comfort from that unhappy crowd
who now live in trouble with wife and children, and remain in shame, with a
heavy conscience, hearing their wife called a priest's harlot, and the
children bastards. And this I say frankly, in virtue of my good right.

     There is a many poor priest free from blame in all other respects,
except that he has succumbed to human frailty and come to shame with a woman,
both minded in their hearts to live together always in conjugal fidelity, if
only they could do so with a good conscience, though as it is they live in
public shame. I say, these two are surely married before God. I say, moreover,
that when two are so minded, and so come to live together, they should save
their conscience; let the man take the woman as his lawful wife, and live
with her faithfully as her husband, without considering whether the Pope
approve or not, or whether it is forbidden by canon law, or temporal. The
salvation of your soul is of more importance than their tyrannous, arbitrary,
wicked laws, which are not necessary for salvation, nor ordained by God. You
should do as the children of Israel did who stole from the Egyptians the wages
they had earned, or as a servant steals his well-earned wages from a harsh
master; in the same way do you also steal your wife and child from the Pope.

     Let him who has faith enough to dare this only follow me courageously: I
will not mislead him. I may not have the Pope's authority, yet I have the
authority of a Christian to help my neighbour and to warn him against his sins
and dangers. And here there is good reason for doing so.

     (a) It is not every priest that can do without a woman, not only on
account of human frailty, but still more for his household. If therefore he
takes a woman, and the Pope allows this, but will not let them marry, what is
this but expecting a man and a woman to live together and not to fall? Just
as if one were to set fire to straw, and command it should neither smoke nor

     (b) The Pope having no authority for such a command, any more than to
forbid a man to eat and drink, or to digest, or to grow fat, no one is bound
to obey it, and the Pope is answerable for every sin against it, for all the
souls that it has brought to destruction, and for all the consciences that
have been troubled and tormented by it. He has long deserved to be driven out
of the world, so many poor souls has he strangled with this devil's rope,
though I hope that God has shown many more mercy at their death than the Pope
did in their life. No good has ever come and can ever come from the papacy
and its laws.

     (c) Even though the Pope's laws forbid it, still, after the married
state has been entered, the Pope's laws tre superseded, and are valid no
longer, for God has commanded that no man shall put asunder husband and wife,
and this commandment is far above the Pope's laws, and God's command must not
be cancelled or neglected for the papal commands. It is true that mad lawyers
have helped the Pope to invent impediments, or hindrances to marriage, and
thus troubled, divided, and perverted the married state, destroying the
commandments of God. What need I say further? In the whole body of the Pope's
canon law, there are not two lines that can instruct a pious Christian, and
so many false and dangerous ones that it were better to burn it.

     But if you object that this would give offence, and that one must first
obtain the Pope's dispensation, I answer that if there is any offence in it,
it is the fault of the see of Rome, which has made unjust and unholy laws. It
is no offence to God and the Scriptures. Even where the Pope has power to
grant dispensation for money by his covetous tyrannical laws, every Christian
has power to grant dispensation in the same matter for the sake of Christ and
the salvation of souls. For Christ has freed us from all human laws,
especially when they are opposed to God and the salvation of souls, as St.
Paul teaches (Gal. v. 1 and 1 Cor. viii. 9, 10).

     15. I must not forget the poor convents. The evil spirit, who has
troubled all estates of life by human laws, and made them unendurable, has
taken possession of some abbots, abbesses, and prelates, and led them so to
rule their brothers and sisters that they do but go soon to hell, and live a
wretched life even upon earth, as is the case with all the devil's martyrs.
For they have reserved in confession all, or at least some, deadly sins, which
are secret, and from these no brother may on pain of excommunication and on
his obedience absolve another. Now we do not always find angels everywhere,
but men of flesh and blood, who would rather incur all excommunication and
menace than confess their secret sins to a prelate or the confessor appointed
for them; consequently they receive the Sacrament with these sins on their
conscience, by which they become irregular [30] and suffer much misery. Oh
blind shepherds! Oh foolish prelates! Oh ravenous wolves! Now I say that in
cases where a sin is public and notorious it is only right that the prelate
alone should punish it, and such sins, and no others, he may reserve and
except for himself; over private sins he has no authority, even though they
may be the worst that can be committed or imagined. And if the prelate excepts
these, he becomes a tyrant and interferes with God's judgment.

     Accordingly I advise these children, brothers and sisters: If your
superiors will not allow you to confess your secret sins to whomsoever you
will, then take them yourself, and confess them to your brother or sister, to
whomsoever you will; be absolved and comforted, and then go or do what your
wish or duty commands; only believe firmly that you have been absolved, and
nothing more is necessary. And let not their threats of excommunication, or
irregularity, or what not, trouble or disturb you; these only apply to public
or notorious sins, if they are not confessed: you are not touched by them.
How canst thou take upon thyself, thou blind prelate, to restrain private sins
by thy threats? Give up what thou canst not keep publicly; let God's judgment
and mercy also have its place with thy inferiors. He has not given them into
thy hands so completely as to have let them go out of His own; nay, thou hast
received the smaller portion. Consider thy statutes as nothing more than thy
statutes, and do not make them equal to God's judgment in heaven.

[30: Luther uses the expression irregulares, which was applied to
those monks who were guilty of heresy, apostacy, transgression of the vow of
chastity, etc.]

     16. It were also right to abolish annual festivals, processions, and
masses for the dead, or at least to diminish their number; for we evidently
see that they have become no better than a mockery, exciting the anger of God
and having no object but money-getting, gluttony, and carousals. How should
it please God to hear the poor vigils and masses mumbled in this wretched
way, neither read nor prayed? Even when they are properly read, it is not
done freely for the love of God, but for the love of money and as payment of
a debt. Now it is impossible that anything should please God or win anything
from Him that is not done freely, out of love for Him. Therefore, as true
Christians, we ought to abolish or lessen a practice that we see is abused,
and that angers God instead of appeasing Him. I should prefer, and it would
be more agreeable to God's will, and far better for a foundation, church, or
convent, to pull all the yearly masses and vigils together into one mass, so
that they would every year celebrate, on one day, a true vigil and mass with
hearty sincerity, devotion, and faith for all their benefactors. This would
be better than their thousand upon thousand masses said every year, each for
a particular benefactor, without devotion and faith. My dear
fellow-Christians, God cares not for much prayer, but for good prayer. Nay,
He condemns long and frequent prayers, saying, "Verily I say unto you, they
have their reward" (Matt. vi. 2, seq.). But it is the greed that cannot trust
God by which such practices are set up; it is afraid it will die of

     17. One should also abolish certain punishments inflicted by the canon
law, especially the interdict, which is doubtless the invention of the evil
one. Is it not the mark of the devil to wish to better one sin by more and
worse sins? It is surely a greater sin to silence God's word, and service,
than if we were to kill twenty popes at once, not to speak of a single priest
or of keeping back the goods of the Church. This is one of those gentle
virtues which are learnt in the spiritual law; for the canon or spiritual law
is so called because it comes from a spirit, not, however, from the Holy
Spirit, but from the evil spirit.

     Excommunication should not be used except where the Scriptures command
it, that is, against those that have not the right faith, or that live in
open sin, and not in matters of temporal goods. But now the case has been
inverted: each man believes and lives as he pleases, especially those that
plunder and disgrace others with excommunications; and all excommunications
are now only in matters of worldly goods, for which we have no one to thank
but the holy canonical injustice. But of all this I have spoken previously in
a sermon.

     The other punishments and penalties-suspension, irregularity,
aggravation, reaggravation, deposition, [31] thundering, lightning, cursing,
damning, and what not-all these should be buried ten fathoms deep in the
earth, that their very name and memory may no longer live upon earth. The evil
spirit, who was let loose by the spiritual law, has brought all this terrible
plague and misery into the heavenly kingdom of the holy Church, and has
thereby brought about nothing but the harm and destruction of souls, that we
may well apply to it the words of Christ, "But woe unto you, scribes and
Pharisees, hypocrites! for you shut up the kingdom of heaven against men, for
ye neither go in yourselves, neither suffer ye them that are entering to go
in" (Matt. xxiii. 13).

     18. One should abolish all saints' days, keeping only Sunday. But if it
were desired to keep the festivals of Our Lady and the greater saints, they
should all be held on Sundays, or only in the morning with the mass; the rest
of the day being a working day. My reason is this: with our present abuses of
drinking, gambling, idling, and all manner of sin, we vex God more on holy
days than on others. And the matter is just reversed; we have made holy days
unholy, and working days holy, and do no service; but great dishonour, to God
and His saints will all our holy days. There are some foolish prelates that
think they have done a good deed, if they establish a festival to St. Otilia
or St. Barbara, and the like, each in his own blind fashion, whilst he would
be doing a much better work to turn a saint's day into a working day in honour
of a saint.

[31: Luther enumerates here the various grades of punishment
inflicted on priests. The aggravation consisted of a threat of excommunication
after a thrice-repeated admonition, whilst the consequence of reaggravation
was immediate excommunication.]

     Besides these spiritual evils, these saints' days inflict bodily injury
on the common man in two ways: he loses a day's work, and he spends more than
usual, besides weakening his body and making himself unfit for labour, as we
see every day, and yet no one tries to improve it. One should not consider
whether the Pope instituted these festivals, or whether we require his
dispensation or permission. If anything is contrary to God's will and harmful
to men in body and soul, not only has every community, council, or government
authority to prevent and abolish such wrong without the knowledge or consent
of pope or bishop, but it is their duty, as they value their soul's salvation,
to prevent it, even though pope and bishop (that should be the first to do so)
are unwilling to see it stopped. And first of all we should abolish church
wakes, since they are nothing but taverns, fairs, and gaming places, to the
greater dishonour of God and the damnation of souls. It is no good to make a
talk about their having had a good origin and being good works. Did not God
set aside His own law that He had given forth out of heaven when He saw it
was abused, and does He not now reverse every day what He has appointed, and
destroy what He has made, on account of the same perverse misuse, as it is
written in Psalm xviii. (ver. 26), "With the perverse Thou wilt show Thyself

     19. The degrees of relationship in which marriage is forbidden must be
altered, such as so-called spiritual relations. [32] in the third and fourth
degrees; and where the Pope at Rome can dispense in such matters for money,
and make shameful bargains, every priest should have the power of granting the
same dispensations freely for the salvation of souls. Would to God that all
those things that have to be bought at Rome, for freedom from the golden
snares of the canon law, might be given by any priest without payment, such as
indulgences, letters of indulgences, letters of dispensation, mass letters,
and all the other religious licences and knaveries at Rome by which the poor
people are deceived and robbed! For if the Pope has the power to sell for
money his golden snares, or canon nets (laws, I should say), much more has a
priest the power to cancel them and to trample on them for God's sake. But if
he has no such power, then the Pope can have no authority to sell them in his
shameful fair.

[32: Those, namely, between sponsors at baptism and their

     Besides this, fasts must be made optional, and every kind of food made
free, as is commanded in the Gospels (Matt. xv.II). For whilst at Rome they
laugh at fasts, they let us abroad consume oil which they would not think fit
for greasing their boots, and then sell us the liberty of eating butter and
other things, whereas the Apostle says that the Gospel has given us freedom
in all such matters (1 Cor. x. 25, seq.). But they have caught us in their
canon law and have robbed us of this right, so that we have to buy it back
from them; they have so terrified the consciences of the people that one
cannot preach this liberty without rousing the anger of the people, who think
the eating of butter to be a worse sin than lying, swearing, and unchastity.
We may make of it what we will; it is but the work of man, and no good can
ever come of it.

     20. The country chapels and churches must be destroyed, such as those
to which the new pilgrimages have been set on foot: Wilsnack, Sternberg,
Treves, the Grimmenthal, and now Ratisbon, and many others. Oh, what a
reckoning there will be for those bishops that allow these inventions of the
devil and make a profit out of them! They should be the first to stop it;
they think that it is a godly, holy thing, and do not see that the devil does
this to strengthen covetousness, to teach false beliefs, to weaken parish
churches, to increase drunkenness and debauchery, to waste money and labour,
and simply to lead the poor people by the nose. If they had only studied the
Scriptures as much as their accused canon law, they would know well how to
deal with the matter.

     The miracles performed there prove nothing, for the evil one can show
also wonders, as Christ has taught us (Matt.xxiv. 24). If they took up the
matter earnestly and forbade such doings, the miracles would soon cease: or
if they were done by God, they would not be prevented by their commands. And
if there were nothing else to prove that these are not works of God, it would
be enough that people go about turbulently and irrationally like herds of
cattle, which could not possibly come from God. God has not commanded it;
there is no obedience, and no merit in it; and therefore it should be
vigorously interfered with, and the people warned against it. For what is not
commanded by God and goes beyond God's commandments is surely the devil's own
work. In this way also the parish churches suffer: in that they are less
venerated. In fine, these pilgrimages are signs of great want of faith in the
people; for if they truly believed, they would find all things in their own
churches, where they are commanded to go.

     But what is the use of my speaking. Every man thinks only how he may get
up such a pilgrimage in his own district, not caring whether the people
believe and live rightly. The rulers are like the people: blind leaders of the
blind. Where pilgrimages are a failure, they begin to glorify their saints,
not to honour the saints, who are sufficiently honoured without them, but to
cause a concourse, and to bring in money. Herein pope and bishops help them;
it rains indulgences, and every one can afford to buy them: but what God has
commanded no one cares for; no one runs after it, no one can afford any money
for it. Alas for our blindness, that we not only suffer the devil to have his
way with his phantoms, but support him! I wish one would leave the good saints
alone, and not lead the poor people astray. What spirit gave the Pope
authority to "glorify" the saints? Who tells him whether they are holy or not
holy? Are there not enough sins on earth as it is but we must tempt God,
interfere in His judgment, and make money-bags of His saints? Therefore my
advice is to let the saints glorify themselves. Nay, God alone should be
glorified, and every man should keep to his own parish, where he will profit
more than in all these shrines, even if they were all put together into one
shrine. Here a man finds baptism, the Sacrament, preaching, and his neighbour,
and these are more than all the saints in heaven, for it is by God's word and
sacrament that they have all been hallowed.

     Our contempt for these great matters justifies God's anger in giving us
over to the devil to lead us astray, to get up pilgrimages, to found churches
and chapels, to glorify the saints, and to commit other like follies, by which
we are led astray from the true faith into new false beliefs, just as He did
in old time with the people of Israel, whom He led away from the Temple to
countless other places, all the while in God's name, and with the appearance
of holiness, against which all th prophets preached, suffering martyrdom for
their words. But now no one preaches against it; for if he did, bishops,
popes, priests, and monks would perchance combine to martyr him. In this way
Antonius of Florence and many others are made saints, so that their holiness
may serve to produce glory and wealth, which served before to the honour of
God and as a good example alone.

     Even if this glorification of the saints had been good once, it is not
good now, just as many other things were good once and are now occasion of
offence and injurious, such as holidays, ecclesiastical treasures and
ornaments. For it is evident that what is aimed at in the glorification of
saints is not the glory of God nor the bettering of Christendom, but money and
fame alone; one Church wishes to have an advantage over another, and would be
sorry to see another Church enjoying the same advantages. In this way they
have in these latter days abused the goods of the Church so as to gain the
goods of the world; so that everything, and even God Himself, must serve their
avarice. Moreover, these privileges cause nothing but dissensions and worldly
pride; one Church being different from the rest, they despise or magnify one
another, whereas all goods that are of God should be common to all, and should
serve to produce unity. This, too, is much liked by the Pope, who would be
sorry to see all Christians equal and at one with one another.

     Here must be added that one should abolish, or treat as of no account, or
give to all Churches alike, the licences, bulls, and whatever the Pope sells
at his flaying-ground at Rome. For if he sells or gives to Wittenberg, to
Halle, to Venice, and above all, to his own city of Rome, permissions,
privileges, indulgences, graces, advantages, faculties, why does he not give
them to all Churches alike? Is it not his duty to do all that he can for all
Christians without reward, solely for God's sake, nay, even to shed his blood
for them? Why then, I should like to know, does he give or sell these things
to one Church and not to another? Or does this accursed gold make a difference
in his Holiness' eyes between Christians who all alike have baptism, Gospel,
faith, Christ, God, and all things? Do they wish us to be blind, when our eyes
can see, to be fools, when we have reason, that we should worship this greed
knavery, and delusion? He is a shepherd, forsooth-so long as you have money,
no further; and yet they are not ashamed to practise all this knavery right
and left with their bulls. They care only for that accursed gold, and for
nought besides.

     Therefore my advice is this: If this folly is not done away with, let all
pious Christians open their eyes, and not be deceived by these Romish bulls
and seals and all their specious pretences; let them stop at home in their own
churches, and be satisfied with their baptism, Gospel, faith, Christ, and God
(who is everywhere the same), and let the Pope continue to be a blind leader
of the blind. Neither pope nor angel can give you as much as God gives you in
your own parish; nay, he only leads you away from God's gifts, which you have
for nothing, to his own gifts, which you must buy, giving you lead for gold,
skin for meat, strings for a purse, wax for honey, words for goods, the letter
for the spirit, as you can see for yourselves though you will not perceive it.
If you try to ride to heaven on the Pope's wax and parchment, your carriage
will soon break down, and you will fall into hell, not in God's name.

     Let this be a fixed rule for you: Whatever has to be bought of the Pope
is neither good, nor of God. For whatever comes from God is not only given
freely, but all the world is punished and condemned for not accepting it
freely. So is it with the Gospel and the works of God. We have deserved to be
led into these errors, because we have despised God's holy word and the grace
of baptism; as St. Paul says, "And for this cause God shall send them strong
delusion, that they should believe a lie, that they all might be damned who
believed not the truth, but had pleasure in unrighteousness" (2 Thess. ii.
II, 12).

     21. It is one of the most urgent necessities to abolish all begging in
Christendom. No one should go about begging among Christians. It would not be
hard to do this, if we attempted it with good heart and courage: each town
should support its own poor and should not allow strange beggars to come in,
whatever they may call themselves, pilgrims or mendicant monks. Every town
could feed its own poor; and if it were too small, the people in the
neighbouring villages should be called upon to contribute. As it is, they have
to support many knaves and vagabonds under the name of beggars. If they did
what I propose, they would at least know who were really poor or not.

     There should also be an overseer or guardian who should know all the
poor, and should inform the town-council, or the priest, of their
requirements; or some other similar provision might be made. There is no
occupation, in my opinion, in which there is so much knavery and cheating as
among beggars; which could easily be done away with. This general,
unrestricted begging is, besides, injurious for the common people. I estimate
that of the five or six orders of mendicant monks each one visits every place
more than six or seven times in the year; then there are the common beggars,
emissaries, and pilgrims; in this way I calculate every city has a blackmail
levied on it about sixty times a year, not counting rates and taxes paid to
the civil government and the useless robberies of the Roman see; so that it is
to my mind one of the greatest of God's miracles how we manage to live and
support ourselves.

     Some may think that in this way the poor would not be well cared for, and
that such great stone houses and convents would not be built, and not so
plentifully, and I think so too. Nor is it necessary. If a man will be poor
he should not be rich; if he will be rich, let him put his hand to the plough,
and get wealth himself out of the earth. It is enough to provide decently for
the poor, that they may not die of cold and hunger. It is not right that one
should work that another may be idle, and live ill that another may live well,
as is now the perverse abuse, for St. Paul says, "If any would not work,
neither should he eat" (2 Thess. iii. 10). God has not ordained that any one
should live of the goods of others, except priests and ministers alone, as St.
Paul says (I Cor. ix. 14), for their spiritual work's sake, as also Christ
says to the Apostles, "The labourer is worthy of his hire" (Luke x. 7).

     22. It is also to be feared that the many masses that have been founded
in convents and foundations, instead of doing any good, arouse God's anger;
wherefore it would be well to endow no more masses and to abolish many of
those that have been endowed; for we see that they are only looked upon as
sacrifices and good works, though in truth they are sacraments like baptism
and confession, and as such profit him only that receives them. But now the
custom obtains of saying masses for the living and the dead, and everything
is based upon them. This is the reason why there are so many, and that they
have come to be what we see.

     But perhaps all this is a new and unheard-of doctrine, especially in
the eyes of those that fear to lose their livelihood, if these masses were
abolished. I must therefore reserve what I have to say on this subject
until men have arrived at a truer understanding of the mass, its nature and
use. The mass has, alas! for so many years been turned into means of gaining
a livelihood, that I should advise a man to become a shepherd, a labourer,
rather than a priest or monk, unless he knows what the mass is.

     All this, however, does not apply to the old foundations and chapters,
which were doubtless founded in order that since, according to the custom of
Germany, all the children of nobles cannot be landowners and rulers, they
should be provided for in these foundations, and these serve God freely,
study, and become learned themselves, and help others to acquire learning. I
am speaking only of the new foundations, endowed for prayers and masses, by
the example of which the old foundations have become burdened with the like
prayers and masses, making them of very little, if of any, use. Through God's
righteous punishment, they have at last come down to the dregs, as they
deserve-that is, to the noise of singers and organs, and cold, spiritless
masses, with no end but to gain and spend the money due to them. Popes,
bishops, and doctors should examine and report on such things; as it is they
are the guiltiest, allowing anything that brings them money; the blind ever
leading the blind. This comes of covetousness and the canon law.

     It must, moreover, not be allowed in future that one man should have more
than one endowment or prebend. He should be content with a moderate position
in life, so that others may have something besides himself; and thus we must
put a stop to the excuses of those that say that they must have more than one
office to enable them to live in their proper station. It is possible to
estimate one's "proper station" in such a way that a whole kingdom would not
suffice to maintain it. So it is that covetousness and want of faith in God go
hand in hand, and often men take for the requirements of their "proper
station" what is mere covetousness and want of faith.

     23. As for the fraternities, together with indulgences, letters of
indulgence, dispensations for Lent, and masses, and all the rest of such
things, let them all be drowned and abolished; there is no good in them at
all. If the Pope has the authority to grant dispensation in the matter of
eating butter and hearing masses, let him allow priests to do the same; he has
no right to take the power from them. I speak also of the fraternities in
which indulgences, masses, and good works are distributed. My friend, in
baptism you joined a fraternity of which Christ, the angels, and saints, and
all Christians are members; be true to this, and satisfy it, and you will have
fraternities enough. Let others make what show they wish; they are as counters
compared to coins. But if there were a fraternity that subscribed money to
feed the poor or to help others in any way, this would be good, and it would
have its indulgence and its deserts in heaven. But now they are good for
nothing but gluttony and drunkenness.

     First of all we should expel from all German lands the Pope's legates,
with their faculties, which they sell to us for much money, though it is all
knavery-as, for instance, their taking money for making goods unlawfully
acquired to be good, for freeing from oaths, vows, and bonds, thus destroying
and teaching others to destroy truth and faith mutually pledged, saying the
Pope has authority to do so. It is the evil spirit that bids them talk thus,
and so they sell us the devil's teaching, and take money for teaching us sins
and leading us to hell.

     If there were nothing else to show that the Pope is antichrist, this
would be enough. Dost thou hear this, O Pope! not the most holy, but the most
sinful? Would that God would hurl thy chair headlong from heaven, and cast it
down into the abyss of hell! Who gave you the power to exalt yourself above
your God; to break and to loose what He has commanded; to teach Christians,
more especially Germans, who are of noble nature, and are famed in all
histories for uprightness and truth, to be false, unfaithful, perjured,
treacherous, and wicked? God has commanded to keep faith and observe oaths
even with enemies; you dare to cancel this command, laying it down in your
heretical, anti-Christian decretals that you have power to do so; and through
your mouth and your pen Satan lies as he never lied before, teaching you to
twist and pervert the Scriptures according to your own arbitrary will. O Lord
Christ, look down upon this; let Thy day of judgment come and destroy the
devil's lair at Rome. Behold him of whom St. Paul spoke (2 Thess. ii, 3, 4)
that he should exalt himself above Thee and sit in Thy Church, showing himself
as God-the man of sin and the child of damnation. What else does the Pope's
power do but teach and strengthen sin and wickedness, leading souls to
damnation in Thy name?

     The children of Israel in old times were obliged to keep the oath that
they had sworn, in ignorance and error, to the Gibeonites, their enemies; and
King Zedekiah was destroyed utterly, with his people, because he broke the
oath that he had sworn to the King of Babylon; and among us, a hundred years
ago, the noble King Ladislaus V. of Poland and Hungary, was slain by the Turk,
with so many of his people, because he allowed himself to be misled by papal
legates and cardinals and broke the good and useful treaty that he had made
with the Turk. The pious Emperor Sigismond had no good fortune after the
Council of Constance, in which he allowed the knaves to violate the
safe-conduct that he had promised to John Huss and Jerome; from this has
followed all the miserable strife between Bohemia and ourselves. And in our
own time, God help us! how much Christian blood has been shed on account of
the oath and bond which Pope Julius made and unmade between the Emperor
Maximilian and King Louis of France! How can I tell all the misery the popes
have caused by such devilish insolence, claiming the power of breaking oaths
between great lords, causing a shameful scandal for the sake of money? I hope
the day of judgment is at hand; things cannot and will not become worse than
the dealings of the Roman chair. The Pope treads God's commandments under foot
and exalts his own; if this is not antichrist, I do not know what is. But of
this, and to more purpose, another time.

     24. It is high time to take up earnestly and truthfully the cause of the
Bohemians, to unite them with ourselves and ourselves with them, so that all
mutual accusations, envy, and hatred may cease. I will be the first, in my
folly, to give my opinion, with all due deference to those of better

     First of all, we must honestly confess the truth, without attempting
self-justification, and own one thing to the Bohemians, namely that John Huss
and Jerome of Prague were burnt at Constance in violation of the papal,
Christian, and imperial oath and safe-conduct, and that thus God's commandment
was broken and the Bohemians excited to great anger. And though they may have
deserved such great wrong and disobedience to God on our part, they were not
obliged to approve it and think it right. Nay, even now they should run any
danger of life and limb rather than own that it is right to break an imperial,
papal, Christian safe-conduct and act faithlessly in opposition to it.
Therefore, though the Bohemians may be to blame for their impatience, yet the
Pope and his followers are most to blame for all the misery, all the error and
destruction of souls, that followed this council of Constance.

     It is not my intention here to judge John Huss' belief and to defend his
errors, although my understanding has not been able to find any error in him,
and I would willingly believe that men who violated a safe-conduct and God's
commandment (doubtless possessed rather by the evil spirit than by the Spirit
of God) were unable to judge well or to condemn with truth. No one can imagine
that the Holy Ghost can break God's commandments; no one can deny that it is
breaking God's commandments to violate faith and a safe-conduct, even though
it were promised to the devil himself, much more then in the case of a
heretic; it is also notorious that a safe-conduct was promised to John Huss
and the Bohemians, and that the promise was broken and Huss was burnt. I have
no wish to make a saint or a martyr of John Huss (as some Bohemians do),
though I own that he was treated unjustly, and that his books and his
doctrines were wrongfully condemned; for God's judgments are inscrutable and
terrible, and none but Himself may reveal or explain them.

     All I say is this: Granting he was a heretic, however bad he may have
been, yet he was burnt unjustly and in violation of God's commandments, and
we must not force the Bohemians to approve this, if we wish ever to be at one
with them. Plain truth must unite us, not obstinacy. It is no use to say, as
they said at the time, that a safe-conduct need not be kept, if promised to a
heretic; that is as much as to say, one may break God's commandments in order
to keep God's commandments. They were infatuated and blinded by the devil,
that they could not see what they said or did. God has commanded us to
observe a safe-conduct; and this we must do though the world should perish:
much more then where it is only a question of a heretic being set free. We
should overcome heretics with books, not with fire, as the old Fathers did.
If there were any skill in overcoming heretics with fire, the executioner
would be the most learned doctor in the world; and there would be no need to
study, but he that could get another into his power could burn him.

     Besides this, the Emperor and the princes should send to Bohemia several
pious, learned bishops and doctors, but, for their life, no cardinal or
legate or inquisitor, for such people are far too unlearned in all Christian
matters, and do not seek the salvation of souls; but, like all the papal
hypocrites, they seek only their own glory, profit, and honour; they were
also the leaders in that calamitous affair at Constance. But those envoys
should inquire into the faith of the Bohemians, to ascertain whether it would
be possible to unite all their sects into one. Moreover, the Pope should (for
their souls' sake) for a time abandon his supremacy and, in accordance with
the statutes of the Nicene Council, allow the Bohemians to choose for
themselves an archbishop of Prague, this choice to be confirmed by the
Bishop of Olmutz in Moravia or of Gran in Hungary, or the Bishop of Gnesen in
Poland, or the Bishop of Magdeburg in Germany. It is enough that it be
confirmed by one or two of these bishops, as in the time of St. Cyprian. And
the Pope has no authority to forbid it, if he forbids it, he acts as a wolf
and a tyrant, and no one should obey him, but answer his excommunication by
excommunicating him.

     Yet if, for the honour of the chair of St. Peter, any one prefers to do
this with the Pope's knowledge, I do not object, provided that the Bohemians
do not pay a farthing for it, and that the Pope do not bind them a single
hair's-breadth, or subject them to his tyranny by oath, as he does all other
bishops, against God and justice. If he is not satisfied with the honour
of his assent being asked, leave him alone, by all means, with his own rights,
laws, and tyrannies; be content with the election, and let the blood of all
the souls that are in danger be upon his head. For no man may countenance
wrong, and it is enough to show respect to tyranny. If we cannot do otherwise,
we may consider the popular election and consent as equal to a tyrannical
confirmation; but I hope this will not be necessary. Sooner or later some
Romans, or pious bishops and learned men, must perceive and avert the
Pope's tyranny.

     I do not advise that they be forced to abandon the Sacrament in both
kinds, for it is neither unchristian nor heretical. They should be allowed
to continue in their present way; but the new bishop must see that there be no
dissensions about this matter, and they must learn that neither practice is
actually wrong, just as there need be no disputes about the priests not
wearing the same dress as the laity. In the same way, if they do not wish
to submit to the canon laws of the Roman Church, we must not force them, but
we must content ourselves with seeing that they live in faith and according to
the Scriptures. For Christian life and Christian faith may very well exist
without the Pope's unbearable laws; nay, they cannot well exist until there
are fewer of those laws or none. Our baptism has freed us and made us subject
to God's word alone; why then should we suffer a man to make us the slaves
of his words? As St. Paul says, "Stand fast therefore in the liberty wherewith
Christ hath made us free, and be not entangled again with the yoke of bondage"
(Gal. v. 1).

     If I knew that the only error of the Hussites [33] was that they believe
that in the Sacrament of the altar there is true bread and wine, though under
it the body and the blood of Christ-if, I say, this were their only error, I
should not condemn them; but let the Bishop of Prague see to this. For it is
not an article of faith that in the Sacrament there is no bread and wine in
substance and nature, which is a delusion of St. Thomas and the Pope; but it
is an article of faith that in the natural bread and wine there is Christ's
true flesh and blood. We should accordingly tolerate the views of both parties
until they are at one; for there is not much danger whether you believe there
is or there is not bread in the Sacrament. For we have to suffer many forms of
belief and order that do not injure the faith; but if they believe otherwise,
it would be better not to unite with them, and yet to instruct them in the

[33: Luther uses here the word Pikarden, which is a corruption of
Begharden, i.e. "Beghards," a nickname frequently applied in those days to the

     All other errors and dissensions to be found in Bohemia should be
tolerated until the Archbishop has been reinstated, and has succeeded in time
in uniting the whole people in one harmonious doctrine. We shall never unite
them by force, by driving or hurrying them. We must be patient, and use
gentleness. Did not Christ have to walk with His disciples, suffering their
unbelief, until they believed in His resurrection? If they had but once more
a regular bishop and good government without Romish tyranny, I think matters
would mend.

     The temporal possessions of the Church should not be too strictly
claimed; but since we are Christians and bound to help one another, we have
the right to give them these things for the sake of unity, and to let them
keep them, before God and the world; for Christ says, "Where two or three
are gathered together in My name, there am I in the midst of them." Would to
God we helped on both sides to bring about this unity, giving our hands one
to the other in brotherly humility, not insisting on our authority or our
rights! Love is more, and more necessary, than the papacy at Rome, which
is without love, and love can exist without the papacy. I hope I have done
my best for this end. If the Pope or his followers hinder this good work, they
will have to give an account of their actions for having, against the love of
God, sought their own advantage more than their neighbours'. The Pope should
abandon his papacy, all his possessions and honours, if he could save a soul
by so doing. But he would rather see the world go to ruin than give up a
hair's-breadth of the power he has usurped; and yet he would be our most holy
father. Herewith I am excused.