The German Reformation part 1 DR Philip Schaff
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§ 30. The Sale of Indulgences.


St. Peter’s Dome is at once the glory and the shame of papal Rome. It was built over the bones of the Galilaean fisherman, with the proceeds from the sale of indulgences which broke up the unity of Western Christendom. The magnificent structure was begun in 1506 under Pope Julius II., and completed in 1626 at a cost of forty-six millions scudi, and is kept up at an annual expense of thirty thousand scudi (dollars).174 

Jesus began his public ministry with the expulsion of the profane traffickers from the court of the temple. The Reformation began with a protest against the traffic in indulgences which profaned and degraded the Christian religion.

The difficult and complicated doctrine of indulgences is peculiar to the Roman Church. It was unknown to the Greek and Latin fathers. It was developed by the mediaeval schoolmen, and sanctioned by the Council of Trent (Dec. 4, 1563), yet without a definition and with an express warning against abuses and evil gains.175

In the legal language of Rome, indulgentia is a term for amnesty or remission of punishment. In ecclesiastical Latin, an indulgence means the remission of the temporal (not the eternal) punishment of sin (not of sin itself), on condition of penitence and the payment of money to the church or to some charitable object. It maybe granted by a bishop or archbishop within his diocese, while the Pope has the power to grant it to all Catholics. The practice of indulgences grew out of a custom of the Northern and Western barbarians to substitute pecuniary compensation for punishment of an offense. The church favored this custom in order to avoid bloodshed, but did wrong in applying it to religious offenses. Who touches money touches dirt; and the less religion has to do with it, the better. The first instances of such pecuniary compensations occurred in England under Archbishop Theodore of Canterbury (d. 690). The practice rapidly spread on the Continent, and was used by the Popes during and after the crusades as a means of increasing their power. It was justified and reduced to a theory by the schoolmen, especially by Thomas Aquinas, in close connection with the doctrine of the sacrament of penance and priestly absolution.176

The sacrament of penance includes three elements,—contrition of the heart, confession by the mouth (to the priest), and satisfaction by good works, such as prayer, fasting, almsgiving, pilgrimages, all of which are supposed to have an atoning efficacy. God forgives only the eternal punishment of sin, and he alone can do that; but the sinner has to bear the temporal punishments, either in this life or in purgatory; and these punishments are under the control of the church or the priesthood, especially the Pope as its legitimate head. There are also works of supererogation, performed by Christ and by the saints, with corresponding extra-merits and extra-rewards; and these constitute a rich treasury from which the Pope, as the treasurer, can dispense indulgences for money. This papal power of dispensation extends even to the departed souls in purgatory, whose sufferings may thereby be abridged. This is the scholastic doctrine.

The granting of indulgences degenerated, after the time of the crusades, into a regular traffic, and became a source of ecclesiastical and monastic wealth. A good portion of the profits went into the papal treasury. Boniface VIII. issued the first Bull of the jubilee indulgence to all visitors of St. Peter’s in Rome (1300). It was to be confined to Rome, and to be repeated only once in a hundred years, but it was afterwards extended and multiplied as to place and time.

The idea of selling and buying by money the remission of punishment and release from purgatory was acceptable to ignorant and superstitious people, but revolting to sound moral feeling. It roused, long before Luther, the indignant protest of earnest minds, such as Wiclif in England, Hus in Bohemia, John von Wesel in Germany, John Wessel in Holland, Thomas Wyttenbach in Switzerland, but without much effect.

The Lateran Council of 1517 allowed the Pope to collect one-tenth of all the ecclesiastical property of Christendom, ostensibly for a war against the Turks; but the measure was carried only by a small majority of two or three votes, and the minority objected that there was no immediate prospect of such a war. The extortions of the Roman curia became an intolerable burden to Christendom, and produced at last a successful protest which cost the papacy the loss of its fairest possessions.


§ 31. Luther and Tetzel.


I. On the Indulgence controversy: Luther’s Works, Walch’s ed., XV. 3–462; Weim. ed. I. 229–324. Löscher: Reformations-Acta. Leipzig, 1720. Vol. I. 355–539. J. Kapp: Schauplatz des Tetzelschen Ablass-krams. Leipzig, 1720. Jürgens: Luther, Bd. III. Kahnis: Die d. Ref., I. 18 1 sqq. Köstlin I. 153 sqq. Kolde, I. 126 sqq. On the Roman-Catholic side, Janssen: Geschichte, etc., II. 64 sqq.; 77 sqq.; and An meine Kritiker, Freiburg-i.-B., 1883, pp. 66–81.—On the editions of the Theses, compare Knaake, in the Weimar ed. I. 229 sqq. 

Edw. Bratke: Luther’s 95 Thesen und ihre dogmengesch. Voraussetzungen. Göttingen, 1884 (pp. 333). Gives an account of the scholastic doctrine of indulgences from Bonaventura and Thomas Aquinas down to Prierias and Cajetan, an exposition of Luther’s Theses, and a list of books on the subject. A. W. Dieckhoff (of Rostock): Der Ablassstreit. Dogmengeschichtlich dargestellt. Gotha, 1886 (pp. 260).

II. On Tetzel in particular: (1) Protestant biographies and tracts, all very unfavorable. (a) Older works by G. Hecht: Vita Joh. Tetzeli. Wittenberg, 1717. Jac. Vogel: Leben des päpstlichen Gnadenpredigers und Ablasskrämers Tetzel. Leipzig, 1717, 2d ed., 1727. (b) Modern works: F. G. Hofmann: Lebensbeschreibung des Ablasspredigers Tetzel. Leipzig, 1844. Dr. Kayser: Geschichtsquellen über Den Ablasspred. Tetzel Kritisch Beleuchtet. Annaberg, 1877 (pp. 20). Dr. Ferd. Körner: Tetzel, der Ablassprediger, etc. Frankenberg-i.-S. 1880 (pp. 153; chiefly against Gröne). Compare also Bratke and Dieckhoff, quoted above.

(2) Roman-Catholic vindications of Tetzel by Val. Gröne (Dr. Th.): Tetzel und Luther, oder Lebensgesch. und Rechtfertigung des Ablasspredigers und Inquisitors Dr. Joh. Tetzel aus dem Predigerorden. Soest und Olpe, 1853, 2d ed. 1860 (pp. 237). E. Kolbe: P. Joh. Tetzel. Ein Lebensbild dem kathol. Volke gewidmet. Steyl, 1882 (pp. 98, based on Gröne). K. W. Hermann: Joh. Tetzel, der päpstl. Ablassprediger. Frankf. -a.-M., 2te Aufl. 1883 (pp. 152). Janssen: An meine Kritiker, p. 73 sq. G. A. Meijer, Ord. Praed. (Dominican): Johann Tetzel, Aflaatprediker en inquisiteur. Eene geschiedkundige studie. Utrecht, 1885 (pp. 150). A calm and moderate vindication of Tetzel, with the admission (p. 137) that the last word on the question has not yet been spoken, and that we must wait for the completion of the Regesta of Leo X. and other authentic publications now issuing from the Vatican archives by direction of Leo XIII. But the main facts are well established.


The rebuilding of St. Peter’s Church in Rome furnished an occasion for the periodical exercise of the papal power of granting indulgences. Julius II. and Leo X., two of the most worldly, avaricious, and extravagant Popes, had no scruple to raise funds for that object, and incidentally for their own aggrandizement, from the traffic in indulgences. Both issued several bulls to that effect.177

Spain, England, and France ignored or resisted these bulls for financial reasons, refusing to be taxed for the benefit of Rome. But Germany, under the weak rule of Maximilian, yielded to the papal domination.

Leo divided Germany into three districts, and committed in 1515 the sale for one district to Albrecht, Archbishop of Mainz and Magdeburg, and brother of the Elector of Brandenburg.178

This prelate (born June 28, 1490, died Sept. 24, 1545), though at that time only twenty-five years of age, stood at the head of the German clergy, and was chancellor of the German Empire. He received also the cardinal’s hat in 1518. He was, like his Roman master, a friend of liberal learning and courtly splendor, worldly-minded, and ill fitted for the care of souls. He had the ambition to be the Maecenas of Germany. He was himself destitute of theological education, but called scholars, artists, poets, free-thinkers, to his court, and honored Erasmus and Ulrich von Hutten with presents and pensions. "He had a passionate love for music," says an Ultramontane historian, "and imported musicians from Italy to give luster to his feasts, in which ladies often participated. Finely wrought carpets, splendid mirrors adorned his halls and chambers; costly dishes and wines covered his table. He appeared in public with great pomp; he kept a body-guard of one hundred and fifty armed knights; numerous courtiers in splendid attire followed him when he rode out; he was surrounded by pages who were to learn in his presence the refinement of cavaliers." The same Roman-Catholic historian censures the extravagant court of Pope Leo X., which set the example for the secularization and luxury of the prelates in Germany.179

Albrecht was largely indebted to the rich banking-house of Fugger in Augsburg, from whom he had borrowed thirty thousand florins in gold to pay for the papal pallium. By an agreement with the Pope, he had permission to keep half of the proceeds arising from the sale of indulgences. The agents of that commercial house stood behind the preachers of indulgence, and collected their share for the repayment of the loan.

The Archbishop appointed Johann Tetzel (Diez) of the Dominican order, his commissioner, who again employed his sub-agents.

Tetzel was born between 1450 and 1460, at Leipzig, and began his career as a preacher of indulgences in 1501. He became famous as a popular orator and successful hawker of indulgences. He was prior of a Dominican convent, doctor of philosophy, and papal inquisitor (haereticae pravitatis inquisitor). At the end of 1517 he acquired in the University of Frankfurt-on-the-Oder the degree of Licentiate of Theology, and in January, 1518, the degree of Doctor of Theology, by defending, in two disputations, the doctrine of indulgences against Luther.180 He died at Leipzig during the public debate between Eck and Luther, July, 1519. He is represented by Protestant writers as an ignorant, noisy, impudent, and immoral charlatan, who was not ashamed to boast that he saved more souls from purgatory by his letters of indulgence than St. Peter by his preaching.181 On the other hand, Roman Catholic historians defend him as a learned and zealous servant of the church. He has only an incidental notoriety, and our estimate of his character need not affect our views on the merits of the Reformation. We must judge him from his published sermons and anti-theses against Luther. They teach neither more nor less than the usual scholastic doctrine of indulgences based on an extravagant theory of papal authority. He does not ignore, as is often asserted, the necessity of repentance as a condition of absolution.182 But he probably did not emphasize it in practice, and gave rise by unguarded expressions to damaging stories. His private character was certainly tainted, if we are to credit such a witness as the papal nuncio, Carl von Miltitz, who had the best means of information, and charged him with avarice, dishonesty, and sexual immorality.183

Tetzel traveled with great pomp and circumstance through Germany, and recommended with unscrupulous effrontery and declamatory eloquence the indulgences of the Pope to the large crowds who gathered from every quarter around him. He was received like a messenger from heaven. Priests, monks, and magistrates, men and women, old and young, marched in solemn procession with songs, flags, and candles, under the ringing of bells, to meet him and his fellow-monks, and followed them to the church; the papal Bull on a velvet cushion was placed on the high altar, a red cross with a silken banner bearing the papal arms was erected before it, and a large iron chest was put beneath the cross for the indulgence money. Such chests are still preserved in many places. The preachers, by daily sermons, hymns, and processions, urged the people, with extravagant laudations of the Pope’s Bull, to purchase letters of indulgence for their own benefit, and at the same time played upon their sympathies for departed relatives and friends whom they might release from their sufferings in purgatory "as soon as the penny tinkles in the box."184

The common people eagerly embraced this rare offer of salvation from punishment, and made no clear distinction between the guilt and punishment of sin; after the sermon they approached with burning candles the chest, confessed their sins, paid the money, and received the letter of indulgence which they cherished as a passport to heaven. But intelligent and pious men were shocked at such scandal. The question was asked, whether God loved money more than justice, and why the Pope, with his command over the boundless treasury of extra-merits, did not at once empty the whole purgatory for the rebuilding of St. Peter’s, or build it with his own money.

Tetzel approached the dominions of the Elector of Saxony, who was himself a devout worshiper of relics, and had great confidence in indulgences, but would not let him enter his territory from fear that he might take too much money from his subjects. So Tetzel set up his trade on the border of Saxony, at Jüterbog, a few hours from Wittenberg.185

There he provoked the protest of the Reformer, who had already in the summer of 1516 preached a sermon of warning against trust in indulgences, and had incurred the Elector’s displeasure by his aversion to the whole system, although he himself had doubts about some important questions connected with it.

Luther had experienced the remission of sin as a free gift of grace to be apprehended by a living faith. This experience was diametrically opposed to a system of relief by means of payments in money. It was an irrepressible conflict of principle. He could not be silent when that barter was carried to the very threshold of his sphere of labor. As a preacher, a pastor, and a professor, he felt it to be his duty to protest against such measures: to be silent was to betray his theology and his conscience.

The jealousy between the Augustinian order to which he belonged, and the Dominican order to which Tetzel belonged, may have exerted some influence, but it was certainly very subordinate. A laboring mountain may produce a ridiculous mouse, but no mouse can give birth to a mountain. The controversy with Tetzel (who is not even mentioned in Luther’s Theses) was merely the occasion, but not the cause, of the Reformation: it was the spark which exploded the mine. The Reformation would have come to pass sooner or later, if no Tetzel had ever lived; and it actually did break out in different countries without any connection with the trade in indulgences, except in German Switzerland, where Bernhardin Samson acted the part of Tetzel, but after Zwingli had already begun his reforms.


§ 32. The Ninety-five Theses. Oct. 31, 1517.


Lit. in § 31.


After serious deliberation, without consulting any of his colleagues or friends, but following an irresistible impulse, Luther resolved upon a public act of unforeseen consequences. It may be compared to the stroke of the axe with which St. Boniface, seven hundred years before, had cut down the sacred oak, and decided the downfall of German heathenism. He wished to elicit the truth about the burning question of indulgences, which he himself professed not fully to understand at the time, and which yet was closely connected with the peace of conscience and eternal salvation. He chose the orderly and usual way of a learned academic disputation.

Accordingly, on the memorable thirty-first day of October, 1517, which has ever since been celebrated in Protestant Germany as the birthday of the Reformation, at twelve o’clock he affixed (either himself or through another) to the doors of the castle-church at Wittenberg, ninety-five Latin Theses on the subject of indulgences, and invited a public discussion. At the same time he sent notice of the fact to Archbishop Albrecht of Mainz, and to Bishop Hieronymus Scultetus, to whose diocese Wittenberg belonged. He chose the eve of All Saints’ Day (Nov. 1), because this was one of the most frequented feasts, and attracted professors, students, and people from all directions to the church, which was filled with precious relics.186

No one accepted the challenge, and no discussion took place. The professors and students of Wittenberg were of one mind on the subject. But history itself undertook the disputation and defence. The Theses were copied, translated, printed, and spread as on angels’ wings throughout Germany and Europe in a few weeks.187

The rapid circulation of the Reformation literature was promoted by the perfect freedom of the press. There was, as yet, no censorship, no copyright, no ordinary book-trade in the modern sense, and no newspapers; but colportors, students, and friends carried the books and tracts from house to house. The mass of the people could not read, but they listened attentively to readers. The questions of the Reformation were eminently practical, and interested all classes; and Luther handled the highest themes in the most popular style.

The Theses bear the title, "Disputation to explain the Virtue of Indulgences." They sound very strange to a modern ear, and are more Catholic than Protestant. They are no protest against the Pope and the Roman Church, or any of her doctrines, not even against indulgences, but only against their abuse. They expressly condemn those who speak against indulgences (Th. 71), and assume that the Pope himself would rather see St. Peter’s Church in ashes than have it built with the flesh and blood of his sheep (Th. 50). They imply belief in purgatory. They nowhere mention Tetzel. They are silent about faith and justification, which already formed the marrow of Luther’s theology and piety. He wished to be moderate, and had not the most distant idea of a separation from the mother church. When the Theses were republished in his collected works (1545), he wrote in the preface: "I allow them to stand, that by them it may appear how weak I was, and in what a fluctuating state of mind, when I began this business. I was then a monk and a mad papist (papista insanissimus), and so submersed in the dogmas of the Pope that I would have readily murdered any person who denied obedience to the Pope."

But after all, they contain the living germs of a new theology. The form only is Romish, the spirit and aim are Protestant. We must read between the lines, and supply the negations of the Theses by the affirmations from his preceding and succeeding books, especially his Resolutiones, in which he answers objections, and has much to say about faith and justification. The Theses represent a state of transition from twilight to daylight. They reveal the mighty working of an earnest mind and conscience intensely occupied with the problem of sin, repentance, and forgiveness, and struggling for emancipation from the fetters of tradition. They might more properly be called "a disputation to diminish the virtue of papal indulgences, and to magnify the full and free grace of the gospel of Christ." They bring the personal experience of justification by faith, and direct intercourse with Christ and the gospel, in opposition to an external system of churchly and priestly mediation and human merit. The papal opponents felt the logical drift of the Theses much better than Luther, and saw in them an attempt to undermine the whole fabric of popery. . The irresistible progress of the Reformation soon swept the indulgences away as an unscriptural, mediaeval tradition of men.188

The first Thesis strikes the keynote: "Our Lord and Master when he says, ’Repent,’189 desires that the whole life of believers should be a repentance."190 The corresponding Greek noun means change of mind (metavnoia), and implies both a turning away from sin in sincere sorrow and grief, and a turning to God in hearty faith. Luther distinguishes, in the second Thesis, true repentance from the sacramental penance (i.e., the confession and satisfaction required by the priest), and understands it to be an internal state and exercise of the mind rather than isolated external acts; although he expressly affirms, in the third Thesis, that it must manifest itself in various mortifications of the flesh. Repentance is a continual conflict of the believing spirit with the sinful flesh, a daily renewal of the heart. As long as sin lasts, there is need of repentance. The Pope can not remit any sin except by declaring the remission of God; and he can not remit punishments except those which he or the canons impose (Thes.5 and 6). Forgiveness presupposes true repentance, and can only be found in the merits of Christ. Here comes in the other fundamental Thesis (62): The true treasury of the church is the holy gospel of the glory and the grace of God." This sets aside the mediaeval notion about the overflowing treasury of extra-merits and rewards at the disposal of the Pope for the benefit of the living and the dead.

We have thus set before us in this manifesto, on the one hand, human depravity which requires lifelong repentance, and on the other the full and free grace of God in Christ, which can only be appropriated by a living faith. This is, in substance, the evangelical doctrine of justification by faith (although not expressed in terms), and virtually destroys the whole scholastic theory and practice of indulgences. By attacking the abuses of indulgences, Luther unwittingly cut a vein of mediaeval Catholicism; and by a deeper conception of repentance which implies faith, and by referring the sinner to the grace of Christ as the true and only source of remission, he proclaimed the undeveloped principles of evangelical Protestantism, and kindled a flame which soon extended far beyond his original intentions.








In the desire and with the purpose of elucidating the truth, a disputation will be held on the underwritten propositions at Wittenberg, under the presidency of the Reverend Father Martin Luther, Monk of the Order of St. Augustin, Master of Arts and of Sacred Theology, and ordinary Reader of the same in that place.191 He therefore asks those who cannot be present, and discuss the subject with us orally, to do so by letter in their absence. In the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.

1. Our Lord and Master Jesus Christ in saying: "Repent ye" [lit.: Do penance, poenitentiam agite], etc., intended that the whole life of believers should be penitence [poenitentiam].192

2. This word poenitentia cannot be understood of sacramental penance, that is, of the confession and satisfaction which are performed under the ministry of priests.

3. It does not, however, refer solely to inward penitence; nay, such inward penitence is naught, unless it outwardly produces various mortifications of the flesh [varias carnis mortificationes].

4. The penalty [poena] thus continues as long as the hatred of self—that is, true inward penitence [poenitentia vera intus]—continues; namely, till our entrance into the kingdom of heaven.

5. The Pope has neither the will nor the power to remit any penalties, except those which he has imposed by his own authority, or by that of the canons.193

6. The Pope has no power to remit any guilt, except by declaring and warranting it to have been remitted by God; or at most by remitting cases reserved for himself: in which cases, if his power were despised, guilt would certainly remain.

7. God never remits any man’s guilt, without at the same time subjecting him, humbled in all things, to the authority of his representative the priest [sacernoti suo vicario].

8. The penitential canons are imposed only on the living, and no burden ought to be imposed on the dying, according to them.

9. Hence the Holy Spirit acting in the Pope does well for us in that, in his decrees, he always makes exception of the article of death and of necessity.

10. Those priests act unlearnedly and wrongly, who, in the case of the dying, reserve the canonical penances for purgatory.

11. Those tares about changing of the canonical penalty into the penalty of purgatory seem surely to have been sown while the bishops were asleep.

12. Formerly the canonical penalties were imposed not after, but before absolution, as tests of true contrition.

13. The dying pay all penalties by death, and are already dead to the Canon laws, and are by right relieved from them.

14. The imperfect soundness or charity of a dying person necessarily brings with it great fear, and the less it is, the greater the fear it brings.

15. This fear and horror is sufficient by itself, to say nothing of other things, to constitute the pains of purgatory, since it is very near to the horror of despair.

16. Hell, purgatory, and heaven appear to differ as despair, almost despair, and peace of mind [securitas] differ.

17. With souls in purgatory it seems that it must needs be that, as horror diminishes, so charity increases.

18. Nor does it seem to be proved by any reasoning or any scriptures, that they are outside of the state of merit or the increase of charity.

19. Nor does this appear to be proved, that they are sure and confident of their own blessedness, at least all of them, though we may be very sure of it.

20. Therefore the Pope, when he speaks of the plenary remission of all penalties, does not mean simply of all, but only of those imposed by himself.

21. Thus those preachers of indulgences are in error who say that, by the indulgences of the Pope, a man is loosed and saved from all punishment.

22. For, in fact, he remits to souls in purgatory no penalty which they would have had to pay in this life according to the canons.

23. If any entire remission of all the penalties can be granted to any one, it is certain that it is granted to none but the most perfect, that is, to very few.

24. Hence the greater part of the people must needs be deceived by this indiscriminate and high-sounding promise of release from penalties.

25. Such power as the Pope has over purgatory in general, such has every bishop in his own diocese, and every curate in his own parish, in particular.

26. [In the Latin text, I.] The Pope acts most rightly in granting remission to souls, not by the power of the keys (which is of no avail in this case), but by the way of suffrage [per modum suffragii].

27. They preach man, who say that the soul flies out of purgatory as soon as the money thrown into the chest rattles [ut jactus nummus in cistam tinnierit].

28. It is certain, that, when the money rattles in the chest, avarice and gain may be increased, but the suffrage of the Church depends on the will of God alone.

29. Who knows whether all the souls in purgatory desire to be redeemed from it, according to the story told of Saints Severinus and Paschal?194

30. No man is sure of the reality of his own contrition, much less of the attainment of plenary remission.

31. Rare as is a true penitent, so rare is one who truly buys indulgences—that is to say, most rare.

32. Those who believe that, through letters of pardon, they are made sure of their own salvation, will be eternally damned along with their teachers.

33. We must especially beware of those who say that these pardons from the Pope are that inestimable gift of God by which man is reconciled to God.

34. For the grace conveyed by these pardons has respect only to the penalties of sacramental satisfaction, which are of human appointment.

35. They preach no Christian doctrine, who teach that contrition is not necessary for those who buy souls out of purgatory, or buy confessional licenses.

36. Every Christian who feels true compunction has of right plenary remission of pain and guilt, even without letters of pardon.

37. Every true Christian, whether living or dead, has a share in all the benefits of Christ and of the Church, given him by God, even without letters of pardon.

38. The remission, however, imparted by the Pope, is by no means to be despised, since it is, as I have said, a declaration of the Divine remission.

39. It is a most difficult thing, even for the most learned theologians, to exalt at the same time in the eyes of the people the ample effect of pardons, and the necessity of true contrition.

40. True contrition seeks and loves punishment; while the ampleness of pardons relaxes it, and causes men to hate it, or at least gives occasion for them to do so.

41. Apostolical pardons ought to be proclaimed with caution, lest the people should falsely suppose that they are placed before other good works of charity.

42. Christians should be taught that it is not the mind of the Pope, that the buying of pardons is to be in any way compared to works of mercy.

43. Christians should be taught, that he who gives to a poor man, or lends to a needy man, does better than if he bought pardons.

44. Because, by a work of charity, charity increases, and the man becomes better; while, by means of pardons, he does not become better, but only freer from punishment.

45. Christians should be taught that he who sees any one in need, and, passing him by, gives money for pardons, is not purchasing for himself the indulgence of the Pope, but the anger of God.

46. Christians should be taught, that, unless they have superfluous wealth, they are bound to keep what is necessary for the use of their own households, and by no means to lavish it on pardons.

47. Christians should be taught, that, while they are free to buy pardons, they are not commanded to do so.

48. Christians should be taught that the Pope, in granting pardons, has both more need and more desire that devout prayer should be made for him, than that money should be readily paid.

49. Christians should be taught that the Pope’s pardons are useful if they do not put their trust in them, but most hurtful if through them they lose the fear of God.

50. [Lat. text XXV.] Christians should be taught, that, if the Pope were acquainted with the exactions of the preachers of pardons, he would prefer that the Basilica of St. Peter should be burnt to ashes, than that it should be built up with the skin, flesh, and bones of his sheep.

51. [I.] Christians should be taught, that as it would be the wish of the Pope, even to sell, if necessary, the Basilica of St. Peter, and to give of his own to very many of those from whom the preachers of pardons extract money.

52. Vain is the hope of salvation through letters of pardon, even if a commissary—nay, the Pope himself—were to pledge his own soul for them.

53. They are enemies of Christ and of the Pope, who, in order that pardons may be preached, condemn the word of God to utter silence in other churches.

54. Wrong is done to the Word of God when, in the same sermon, an equal or longer time is spent on pardons than on the words of the gospel [verbis evangelicis].

55. The mind of the Pope necessarily is that if pardons, which are a very small matter [quod minimum est], are celebrated with single bells, single processions, and single ceremonies, the gospel, which is a very great matter [quod maximum est], should be preached with a hundred ceremonies.

56. The treasures of the Church, whence the Pope grants indulgences, are neither sufficiently named nor known among the people of Christ.195

57. It is clear that they are at least not temporal treasures; for these are not so readily lavished, but only accumulated, by many of the preachers.

58. Nor are they the merits of Christ and of the saints; for these, independently of the Pope, are always working grace to the inner man, and the cross, death, and hell to the outer man.

59. St. Lawrence said that the treasures of the Church are the poor of the Church, but he spoke according to the use of the word in his time.

60. We are not speaking rashly when we say that the keys of the Church, bestowed through the merits of Christ, are that treasure.

61. For it is clear that the power of the Pope is alone sufficient for the remission of penalties and of reserved cases.

62. The true treasure of the Church is the holy gospel of the glory and the grace of God [Verus thesaurus ecclesiae est sacrosanctum Evangelium gloriae et gratiae Dei].

63. This treasure, however, is deservedly most hateful [merito odiosissimus; der allerfeindseligste und verhassteste], because it makes the first to be last.

64. While the treasure of indulgences is deservedly most acceptable, because it makes the last to be first.

65. Hence the treasures of the gospel are nets, wherewith of old they fished for the men of riches.

66. The treasures of indulgences are nets, wherewith they now fish for the riches of men.

67. Those indulgences, which the preachers loudly proclaim to be the greatest graces, are seen to be truly such as regards the promotion of gain [denn es grossen Gewinnst und Geniess trägt].

68. Yet they are in reality the smallest graces when compared with the grace of God and the piety of the cross.

69. Bishops and curates are bound to receive the commissaries of apostolical pardons with all reverence.

70. But they are still more bound to see to it with all their eyes, and take heed with all their ears, that these men do not preach their own dreams in place of the Pope’s commission.

71. He who speaks against the truth of apostolical pardons, let him be the anathema and accursed (sit anathema et maledictus; der sei ein Fluch und vermaladeiet].

72. But he, on the other hand, who exerts himself against the wantonness and license of speech of the preachers of pardons, let him be blessed.

73. As the Pope justly thunders [Lat., fulminat; G. trs., mit Ungnade und dem Bann schlägt] against those who use any kind of contrivance to the injury of the traffic in pardons;

74. Much more is it his intention to thunder against those who, under the pretext of pardons, use contrivances to the injury of holy charity and of truth.

75. [XXV.] To think that papal pardons have such power that they could absolve a man even if—by an impossibility—he had violated the Mother of God, is madness.

76. [I.] We affirm, on the contrary, that papal pardons [veniae papales] can not take away even the least venial sins, as regards the guilt [quoad culpam].

77. The saying that, even if St. Peter were now Pope, he could grant no greater graces, is blasphemy against St. Peter and the Pope.

78. We affirm, on the contrary, that both he and any other Pope has greater graces to grant; namely, the gospel, powers, gifts of healing, etc. (1 Cor. xii. 9).

69. To say that the cross set up among the insignia of the papal arms is of equal power with the cross of Christ, is blasphemy.

80. Those bishops, curates, and theologians who allow such discourses to have currency among the people, will have to render an account.

81. This license in the preaching of pardons makes it no easy thing, even for learned men, to protect the reverence due to the Pope against the calumnies, or, at all events, the keen questionings, of the laity;

82. As, for instance: Why does not the Pope empty purgatory for the sake of most holy charity and of the supreme necessity of souls,—this being the most just of all reasons,—if he redeems an infinite number of souls for the sake of that most fatal thing, money, to be spent on building a basilica—this being a slight reason?

83. Again: Why do funeral masses and anniversary masses for deceased continue, and why does not the Pope return, or permit the withdrawal of, the funds bequeathed for this purpose, since it is a wrong to pray for those who are already redeemed?

84. Again: What is this new kindness of God and the Pope, in that, for money’s sake, they permit an impious man and an enemy of God to redeem a pious soul which loves God, and yet do not redeem that same pious and beloved soul, out of free charity, on account of its own need?

85. Again: Why is it that the penitential canons, long since abrogated and dead in themselves in very fact, and not only by usage, are yet still redeemed with money, through the granting of indulgences, as if they were full of life?

86. Again: Why does not the Pope, whose riches are at this day more ample than those of the wealthiest of the wealthy, build the one Basilica of St. Peter with his own money, rather than with that of poor believers?

87. Again: Why does the Pope remit or impart to those who, through perfect contrition, have a right to plenary remission and participation?

88. Again: What greater good would the Church receive if the Pope, instead of once as he does now, were to bestow these remissions and participations a hundred times a day on any one of the faithful?

89. Since it is the salvation of souls, rather than money, that the Pope seeks by his pardons, why does he annul the letters and pardons granted long ago, since they are equally efficacious?

90. To repress these scruples and arguments of the laity by force alone, and not to solve them by giving reasons, is to expose the Church and the Pope to the ridicule of their enemies, and to make Christian men unhappy.

91. If, then, pardons were preached according to the spirit and mind of the Pope, all these questions would be resolved with ease; nay, would not exist.

92. Away then with all those prophets who say to the people of Christ, "Peace, peace," and there is no peace.

93. Blessed be all those prophets, who say to the people of Christ, "The cross, the cross," and there is no cross.

94. Christians should be exhorted to strive to follow Christ their head through pains, deaths, and hells;

95. [Lat. Text, XX.] And thus trust to enter heaven through many tribulations, rather than in the security of peace [per securitatem pacis].




I, Martin Luther, Doctor, of the Order of Monks at Wittenberg, desire to testify publicly that certain propositions against pontifical indulgences, as they call them, have been put forth by me. Now although, up to the present time, neither this most celebrated and renowned school of ours nor any civil or ecclesiastical power has condemned me, yet there are, as I hear, some men of headlong and audacious spirit, who dare to pronounce me a heretic, as though the matter had been thoroughly looked into and studied. But on my part, as I have often done before, so now too I implore all men, by the faith of Christ, either to point out to me a better way, if such a way has been divinely revealed to any, or at least to submit their opinion to the judgment of God and of the Church. For I am neither so rash as to wish that my sole opinion should be preferred to that of all other men, nor so senseless as to be willing that the word of God should be made to give place to fables devised by human reason.


§ 33. The Theses-Controversy. 1518.


Luther’s Sermon vom Ablass und Gnade, printed in February, 1518 (Weimar ed. I. 239–246; and in Latin, 317–324); Kurze Erklärung der Zehn Gebote, 1518 (I. 248–256, in Latin under the title Instructio pro Confessione peccatorum, p. 257–265); Asterisci adversus Obeliscos Eckii, March, 1518 (I. 278–316); Freiheit des Sermons päpstlichen Ablass und Gnade belangend, June, 1518, against Tetzel (I. 380–393); Resolutiones disputationum de indulgentiarum virtute, August, 1518, dedicated to the Pope (I. 522–628). Letters of Luther to Archbishop Albrecht, Spalatin, and others, in De Wette, I. 67 sqq.

Tetzel’s Anti-Theses, 2 series, one of 106, the other of 50 sentences, are printed in Löscher’s Ref. Acta, I. 505–514, and 518–523. Eck’s Obelisci, ibid. III. 333.

On the details of the controversy, see Jürgens (III. 479 sqq.), Köstlin (I. 175 sqq.), Kolde (I. 126 sqq.), Bratke, and Dieckhoff, as quoted in § 31.


The Theses of Luther were a tract for the times. They sounded the trumpet of the Reformation. They found a hearty response with liberal scholars and enemies of monastic obscurantism, with German patriots longing for emancipation from Italian control, and with thousands of plain Christians waiting for the man of Providence who should give utterance to their feelings of indignation against existing abuses, and to their desire for a pure, scriptural, and spiritual religion. "Ho, ho! "exclaimed Dr. Fleck, "the man has come who will do the thing." Reuchlin thanked God that "the monks have now found a man who will give them such full employment that they will be glad to let me spend my old age in peace."196

But, on the other hand, the Theses were strongly assailed and condemned by the episcopal and clerical hierarchy, the monastic orders, especially the Dominicans, and the universities, in fact, by all the champions of scholastic theology and traditional orthodoxy. Luther himself, then a poor, emaciated monk, was at first frightened by the unexpected effect, and many of his friends trembled. One of them told him, "You tell the truth, good brother, but you will accomplish nothing; go to your cell, and say, God have mercy upon me."197

The chief writers against Luther were Tetzel of Leipzig, Conrad Wimpina of Frankfurt-on-the-Oder, and the more learned and formidable John Eck of Ingolstadt, who was at first a friend of Luther, but now became his irreconcilable enemy. These opponents represented three universities and the ruling scholastic theology of the Angelic Doctor St. Thomas Aquinas. But they injured their cause in public estimation by the weakness of their defence. They could produce no arguments for the doctrine and practice of indulgences from the Word of God, or even from the Greek and Latin fathers, and had to resort to extravagant views on the authority of the Pope. They even advocated papal infallibility, although this was as yet an open question in the Roman Church, and remained so till the Vatican decree of 1870.

Luther mustered courage. In all his weakness he was strong. He felt that he had begun this business in the name and for the glory of God, and was ready to sacrifice life itself for his honest conviction. He took comfort from the counsel of Gamaliel. In several letters of this period he subscribed himself Martinus Eleutherios (Freeman), but added, vielmehr Knecht (rather, Servant): he felt free of men, but bound in Christ. When his friend Schurf told him, "They will not bear it;" he replied, "But what, if they have to bear it?" He answered all his opponents, directly and indirectly, in Latin and German, from the pulpit and the chair, and through the press. He began now to develop his formidable polemical power, especially in his German writings. He had full command over the vocabulary of common sense, wit, irony, vituperation, and abuse. Unfortunately, he often resorted to coarse and vulgar expressions which, even in that semi-barbarous age, offended men of culture and taste, and which set a bad example for his admirers in the fierce theological wars within the Lutheran Church.198

The discussion forced him into a conflict with the papal authority, on which the theory and traffic of indulgences were ultimately made to rest. The controversy resolved itself into the question whether that authority was infallible and final, or subject to correction by the Scriptures and a general Council. Luther defended the latter view; yet he protested that he was no heretic, and that he taught nothing contrary to the Scriptures, the ancient fathers, the oecumenical Councils, and the decrees of the Popes. He still hoped for a favorable hearing from Leo X., whom he personally respected. He even ventured to dedicate to him his Resolutiones, a defence of the Theses (May 30, 1518), with a letter of abject humility, promising to obey his voice as the very voice of Christ.199

Such an anomalous and contradictory position could not last long.

In the midst of this controversy, in April, 1518, Luther was sent as a delegate to a meeting of the Augustinian monks at Heidelberg, and had an opportunity to defend, in public debate, forty conclusions, or, "theological paradoxes," drawn from St. Paul and St. Augustin, concerning natural depravity, the slavery of the will, regenerating grace, faith, and good works. He advocates the theologia crucis against the theologia gloriae, and contrasts the law and the gospel. "The law says, ’Do this,’ and never does it: the gospel says, ’Believe in Christ,’ and all is done." The last twelve theses are directed against the Aristotelian philosophy.200

He found considerable response, and sowed the seed of the Reformation in the Palatinate. Among his youthful hearers were Bucer (Butzer) and Brentz, who afterwards became distinguished reformers, the one in Strassburg and England, the other in the duchy (now kingdom) of Würtemberg.


§ 34. Rome’s Interposition. Luther and Prierias. 1518.

R. P. Silvestri Prieratis ordinis praedicatorum et s. theol. professoris celeberrimi, s. palatii apostolici magistri, in praesumptuosas Martini Lutheri conclusiones de potestate papae dialogus. In Löscher, II. 13–39. Knaake (Werke, I. 644) assigns the first edition to the second half of June, 1518, which is more likely than the earlier date of December, 1517, given by Löscher (II. 12) and the Erlangen ed. He mentions five separate editions, two of which were published by Luther without notes; afterwards he published an edition with his refutation.

Ad Dialogum Silvestri Prierati de potestate papae responsio. In Löscher, II. 3; Weim. ed. I., 647–686, II. 48–56. German translation in Walch, XVIII. l20–200.


Pope Leo X. was disposed to ignore the Wittenberg movement as a contemptible monkish quarrel; but when it threatened to become dangerous, he tried to make the German monk harmless by the exercise of his power. He is reported to have said first, "Brother Martin is a man of fine genius, and this outbreak is a mere squabble of envious monks;" but afterwards, "It is a drunken German who wrote the Theses; when sober he will change his mind."

Three months after the appearance of the Theses, he directed the vicar-general of the Augustinian Order to quiet down the restless monk. In March, 1518, he found it necessary to appoint a commission of inquiry under the direction of the learned Dominican Silvester Mazzolini, called from his birthplace Prierio or Prierias (also Prieras), who was master of the sacred palace and professor of theology.

Prierias came to the conclusion that Luther was an ignorant and blasphemous arch-heretic, and hastily wrote a Latin dialogue against his Theses, hoping to crush him by subtile scholastic distinctions, and the weight of papal authority (June, 1518). He identified the Pope with the Church of Rome, and the Church of Rome with the Church universal, and denounced every departure from it as a heresy. He said of Luther’s Theses, that they bite like a cur.

Luther republished the Dialogue with a reply, in which he called it "sufficiently supercilious, and thoroughly Italian and Thomistic "(August, 1518).

Prierias answered with a Replica (November, 1518). Luther republished it likewise, with a brief preface, and sent it to Prierias with the advice not to make himself any more ridiculous by writing books.

The effect of this controversy was to widen the breach.

In the mean time Luther’s fate had already been decided. The Roman hierarchy could no more tolerate such a dangerous man than the Jewish hierarchy could tolerate Christ and the apostles. On the 7th of August, 1518, he was cited to appear in Rome within sixty days to recant his heresies. On the 23d of the same month, the Pope demanded of the Elector Frederick the Wise, that he should deliver up this "child of the Devil" to the papal legate.

But the Elector, who was one of the most powerful and esteemed princes of Germany, felt unwilling to sacrifice the shining light of his beloved university, and arranged a peaceful interview with the papal legate at the Diet of Augsburg on promise of kind treatment and safe return.


§ 35. Luther and Cajetan. October, 1518.


The transactions at Augsburg were published by Luther in December, 1518, and are printed in Löscher, II. 435–492; 527–551; in Walch, XV. 636 sqq.; in the Weim. ed., II. 1–40. Luther’s Letters in De Wette, I. 147–167. Comp. Kahnis, I. 215–235; Köstlin, I. 204–238 (and his shorter biogr., Eng. trans., p. 108).


Luther accordingly proceeded to Augsburg in humble garb, and on foot, till illness forced him within a short distance from the city to take a carriage. He was accompanied by a young monk and pupil, Leonard Baier, and his friend Link. He arrived Oct. 7, 1518, and was kindly received by Dr. Conrad Peutinger and two counselors of the Elector, who advised him to behave with prudence, and to observe the customary rules of etiquette. Everybody was anxious to see the man who, like a second Herostratus, had kindled such a flame.

On Oct. 11, he received the letter of safe-conduct; and on the next day he appeared before the papal legate, Cardinal Cajetan (Thomas de Vio of Gaëta), who represented the Pope at the German Diet, and was to obtain its consent to the imposition of a heavy tax for the war against the Turks.

Cajetan was, like Prierias, a Dominican and zealous Thomist, a man of great learning and moral integrity, but fond of pomp and ostentation. He wrote a standard commentary on the Summa of Thomas Aquinas (which is frequently appended to the Summa); but in his later years, till his death (1534),—perhaps in consequence of his interview with Luther,—he devoted himself chiefly to the study of the Scriptures, and urged it upon his friends. He labored with the aid of Hebrew and Greek scholars to correct the Vulgate by a more faithful version, and advocated Jerome’s liberal views on questions of criticism and the Canon, and a sober grammatical exegesis against allegorical fancies, without, however, surrendering the Catholic principle of tradition.

There was a great contrast between the Italian cardinal and the German monk, the shrewd diplomat and the frank scholar; the expounder and defender of mediaeval scholasticism, and the champion of modern biblical theology; the man of church authority, and the advocate of personal freedom.

They had three interviews (Oct. 12, 13, 14). Cajetan treated Luther with condescending courtesy, and assured him of his friendship.201 But he demanded retraction of his errors, and absolute submission to the Pope. Luther resolutely refused, and declared that he could do nothing against his conscience ; that one must obey God rather than man ; that he had the Scripture on his side; that even Peter was once reproved by Paul for misconduct (Gal. 2:11), and that surely his successor was not infallible. Still be asked the cardinal to intercede with Leo X., that he might not harshly condemn him. Cajetan threatened him with excommunication, having already the papal mandate in his hand, and dismissed him with the words: "Revoke, or do not come again into my presence." He urged Staupitz to do his best to convert Luther, and said he was unwilling to dispute any further with that deep-eyed German beast filled with strange speculations."202

Under these circumstances, Luther, with the aid of friends who provided him with an escort, made his escape from Augsburg, through a small gate in the city-Wall, in the night of the 20th of October, on a hard-trotting hack, without pantaloons, boots, or spurs. He rode on the first day as far as the town of Monheim203 without stopping, and fell utterly exhausted upon the straw in a stable.204

He reached Wittenberg, in good spirits, on the first anniversary of his Ninety-five Theses. He forthwith published a report of his conference with a justification of his conduct. He also wrote (Nov. 19) a long and very eloquent letter to the Elector, exposing the unfairness of Cajetan, who had misrepresented the proceedings, and demanded from the Elector the delivery of Luther to Rome or his expulsion from Saxony.

Before leaving Augsburg, be left an appeal from Cajetan to the Pope, and "from the Pope ill informed to the Pope to be better informed "(a papa male informato ad papam melius informandum). Soon afterwards, Nov. 28, he formally and solemnly appealed from the Pope to a general council, and thus anticipated the papal sentence of excommunication. He expected every day maledictions from Rome, and was prepared for exile or any other fate.205 He was already tormented with the thought that the Pope might be the Anti-Christ spoken of by St. Paul in the Second Epistle to the Thessalonians, and asked his friend Link (Dec. 11) to give him his opinion on the subject.206 Ultimately he lost faith also in a general council, and appealed solely to the Scriptures and his conscience. The Elector urged him to moderation through Spalatin, but Luther declared: "The more those Romish grandees rage, and meditate the use of force, the less do I fear them, and shall feel all the more free to fight against the serpents of Rome. I am prepared for all, and await the judgment of God."


§ 36. Luther and Miltitz. January, 1519.


Löscher, II. 552–569; III. 6–21, 820–847. Luther’s Werke, Walch, XV. 308 sqq.; Weimar ed., II. 66 sqq. Letters in De Wette: I. 207 sqq., 233 sqq.

Joh. K. Seidemann: Karl Von Miltitz .... Eine chronol. Untersuchung. Dresden, 1844 (pp. 37). The respective sections in Marheineke, Kahnis (I. 235 sqq.), and Köstlin (I. 238 sqq. and 281 sqq.).


Before the final decision, another attempt was made to silence Luther by inducing him to revoke his heresies. Diplomacy sometimes interrupts the natural development of principles and the irresistible logic of events, but only for a short season. It usually resorts to compromises which satisfy neither party, and are cast aside. Principles must work themselves out.

Pope Leo sent his nuncio and chamberlain, Karl von Miltitz, a noble Saxon by birth, and a plausible, convivial gentleman,207 to the Elector Frederick with the rare present of a golden rose, and authorized him to negotiate with Luther. He provided him with a number of the highest recommendations to civil and ecclesiastical dignitaries.

Miltitz discovered on his journey a wide-spread and growing sympathy with Luther. He found three Germans on his side, especially in the North, to one against him. He heard bad reports about Tetzel, and summoned him; but Tetzel was afraid to travel, and died a few months afterwards (Aug. 7, 1519), partly, perhaps, in consequence of the severe censure from the papal delegate. Luther wrote to his opponent a letter of comfort, which is no more extant. Unmeasured as he could be in personal abuse, he harbored no malice or revenge in his heart.208

Miltitz held a conference with Luther in the house of Spalatin at Altenburg, Jan. 6, 1519. He was exceedingly polite and friendly; he deplored the offence and scandal of the Theses-controversy, and threw a great part of the blame on poor Tetzel; he used all his powers of persuasion, and entreated him with tears not to divide the unity of the holy Catholic Church.

They agreed that the matter should be settled by a German bishop instead of going to Rome, and that in the mean time both parties were to keep silence. Luther promised to ask the pardon of the Pope, and to warn the people against the sin of separating from the holy mother-church. After this agreement they partook of a social supper, and parted with a kiss. Miltitz must have felt very proud of his masterpiece of ecclesiastical diplomacy.

Luther complied with his promises in a way which seems irreconcilable with his honest convictions and subse-quent conduct. But we must remember the deep conflicts of his mind, the awful responsibility of his undertaking, the critical character of the situation. Well might he pause for a while, and shrink back from the idea of a separation from the church of his fathers, so intimately connected with his religious life as well as with the whole history of Christianity for fifteen hundred years. He had to break a new path which became so easy for others. We must all the more admire his conscientiousness.

In his letter to the Pope, dated March 3, 1519, he expressed the deepest personal humility, and denied that he ever intended to injure the Roman Church, which was over every other power in heaven and on earth, save only Jesus Christ the Lord over all. Yet he repudiated the idea of retracting his conscientious convictions.

In his address to the people, he allowed the value of indulgences, but only as a recompense for the "satisfaction" given by, the sinner, and urged the duty of adhering, notwithstanding her faults and sins, to the holy Roman Church, where St. Peter and St. Paul, and many Popes and thousands of martyrs, had shed their blood.

At the same time, Luther continued the careful study of history, and could find no trace of popery and its extraordinary claims in the first centuries before the Council of Nicaea. He discovered that the Papal Decretals, and the Donation of Constantine, were a forgery. He wrote to Spalatin, March 13, 1519, "I know not whether tho Pope is anti-christ himself, or his apostle; so wretchedly is Christ, that is the truth, corrupted and crucified by him in the Decretals."209


§ 37. The Leipzig Disputation. June 27-July 15, 1519.


I. Löscher, III. 203–819. Luther’s Works, Walch, XV. 954 sqq.; Weim. ed. II. 153–435 (see the literary notices of Knaake, p. 156). Luther’s letters to Spalatin and the Elector, in De Wette:, I. 284–324.

II. Joh. K. Seidemann: Die Leipziger Disputation im Jahre 1519. Dresden and Leipzig, 1843 (pp. 161). With important documents (pp. 93 sqq.) The best book on the subject. Monographs on Carlstadt by Jäger (Stuttgart, 1856), on Eck by Wiedemann (Regensburg, 1865), and the relevant sections in Marheineke, Kahnis (I. 251–285), Köstlin, Kolde, and the general histories of the Reformation. The account by Ranke (I. 277–285) is very good. On the Roman side, see Janssen, II. 83–88 (incomplete).


The agreement between Miltitz and Luther was only a short truce. The Reformation was too deeply rooted in the wants of the age to be suppressed by the diplomacy of ecclesiastical politicians. Even if the movement had been arrested in one place, it would have broken out in another; indeed, it had already begun independently in Switzerland. Luther was no more his own master, but the organ of a higher power. "Man proposes, God disposes."

Before the controversy could be settled by a German bishop, it was revived, not without a violation of promise on both sides,210 in the disputation held in the large hall of the Castle of Pleissenburg at Leipzig, under the sanction of Duke George of Saxony, between Eck, Carlstadt, and Luther, on the doctrines of the papal primacy, free-will, good works, purgatory, and indulgences. It was one of the great intellectual battles; it lasted nearly three weeks, and excited universal attention in that deeply religious and theological age. The vital doctrines of salvation were at stake. The debate was in Latin, but Luther broke out occasionally in his more vigorous German.

The disputation began with the solemnities of a mass, a procession, an oration of Peter Mosellanus, De ratione disputandi, and the singing of Veni, Creator Spiritus. It ended with a eulogistic oration by the Leipzig professor John Lange, and the Te Deum.

The first act was the disputation between Eck and Carlstadt, on the freedom of the human will, which the former maintained, and the latter denied. The second and more important act began July 4, between Eck and Luther, chiefly on the subject of the papacy.

Dr. Eck (Johann Mair), professor of theology at Ingolstadt in Bavaria, was the champion of Romanism, a man of great learning, well-stored memory, dialectical skill, ready speech, and stentorian voice, but overconfident, conceited, and boisterous. He looked more like a butcher or soldier than a theologian. Many regarded him as a mere charlatan, and expressed their contempt for his audacity and vanity by the nicknames Keck (pert) and Geck (fop), which date from this dispute.211

Carlstadt (Andreas von Bodenstein), Luther’s impetuous and ill-balanced friend and colleague, was an unfortunate debater.212 He had a poor memory, depended on his notes, got embarrassed and confused, and furnished an easy victory to Eck. It was ominous, that, on entering Leipzig, his wagon broke down, and he fell into the mud.

Luther was inferior to Eck in historical learning and flowing Latinity, but surpassed him in knowledge of the Bible, independent judgment, originality, and depth of thought, and had the law of progress on his side. While Eck looked to the fathers, Luther went back to the grandfathers; he ascended from the stream of church history to the fountain of God’s Word; yet from the normative beginning of the apostolic age he looked hopefully into the future. Though pale and emaciated, he was cheerful, wore a little silver ring, and carried a bunch of flowers in his hand. Peter Mosellanus, a famous Latinist, who presided over the disputation, thus describes his personal appearance at that time:213

"Luther is of middle stature; his body thin, and so wasted by care and study that nearly all his bones may be counted.214 He is in the prime of life. His voice is clear and melodious. His learning, and his knowledge of Scripture are so extraordinary that he has nearly every thing at his fingers’ ends. Greek and Hebrew he understands sufficiently well to give his judgment on interpretations. For conversation, he has a rich store of subjects at his command; a vast forest (silva ingens) of thoughts and words is at his disposal. He is polite and clever. There is nothing stoical, nothing supercilious, about him; and he understands how to adapt himself to different persons and times. In society he is lively and agreeable. He is always fresh, cheerful, and at his ease, and has a pleasant countenance, however hard his enemies may threaten him, so that one cannot but believe that Heaven is with him in his great undertaking.215 Most people, however, reproach him with want of moderation in polemics, and with being rather imprudent and more cutting than befits a theologian and a reformer."

The chief interest in the disputation turned on the subject of the authority of the Pope and the infallibility of the Church. Eck maintained that the Pope is the successor of Peter, and the vicar of Christ by divine right; Luther, that this claim is contrary to the Scriptures, to the ancient church, to the Council of Nicaea,—the most sacred of all Councils,—and rests only on the frigid decrees of the Roman pontiffs.

But during the debate he changed his opinion on the authority of Councils, and thereby injured his cause in the estimation of the audience. Being charged by Eck with holding the heresy of Hus, he at first repudiated him and all schismatic tendencies; but on mature reflection he declared that Hus held some scriptural truths, and was unjustly condemned and burnt by the Council of Constance; that a general council as well as a Pope may err, and had no right to impose any article of faith not founded in the Scriptures. When Duke George, a sturdy upholder of the Catholic creed, heard Luther express sympathy with the Bohemian heresy, he shook his head, and, putting both arms in his sides, exclaimed, so that it could be heard throughout the hall, "A plague upon it!"216

From this time dates Luther’s connection with the Bohemian Brethren.

Luther concluded his argument with these words: "I am sorry that the learned doctor only dips into the Scripture as the water-spider into the water-nay, that he seems to flee from it as the Devil from the Cross. I prefer, with all deference to the Fathers, the authority of the Scripture, which I herewith recommend to the arbiters of our cause."

Both parties, as usual, claimed the victory. Eck was rewarded with honors and favors by Duke George, and followed up his fancied triumph by efforts to ruin Luther, and to gain a cardinal’s hat; but he was also severely attacked and ridiculed, especially by Willibald Pirkheimer, the famous humanist and patrician of Nürnberg, in his stinging satire, "The Polished Corner."217 The theological faculties of Cologne, Louvain, and afterwards (1521) also that of Paris, condemned the Reformer.

Luther himself was greatly dissatisfied, and regarded the disputation as a mere waste of time. He made, however, a deep impression upon younger men, and many students left Leipzig for Wittenberg. After all, he was more benefited by the disputation and the controversies growing out of it, than his opponents.

The importance of this theological tournament lies in this: that it marks a progress in Luther’s emancipation from the papal system. Here for the first time he denied the divine right and origin of the papacy, and the infallibility of a general council. Henceforward he had nothing left but the divine Scriptures, his private judgment, and his faith in God who guides the course of history by his own Spirit, through all obstructions by human errors, to a glorious end. The ship of the Reformation was cut from its moorings, and had to fight with the winds and waves of the open sea.

From this time Luther entered upon a revolutionary crusade against the Roman Church until the anarchical dissensions in his own party drove him back into a conservative and even reactionary position.

Before we proceed with the development of the Reformation, we must make the acquaintance of Melanchthon, who had accompanied Luther to the Leipzig disputation as a spectator, suggesting to him and Carlstadt occasional arguments,218 and hereafter stood by him as his faithful colleague and friend.


§ 38. Philip Melanchthon. Literature (Portrait).


The best Melanchthon collection is in the Royal Library of Berlin, which I have consulted for this list (July, 1886). The third centenary of Mel.’s death in 1860, and the erection of his monument in Wittenberg, called forth a large number of pamphlets and articles in periodicals.

I. Works of Melanchthon. The first ed. appeared at Basel, 1541, 5 vols. fol.; another by Peucer (his son-in-law), Wittenberg, 1562–64, 4 vols. fol.; again 1601. Selection of his German works by Köthe. Leipzig, 1829–30, 6 vols. *Best ed. of Opera omnia (in the "Corpus Reformatorum") by Bretschneider and Bindseil. Halle, 1834–60, 28 vols. 4°. The most important vols. for church history are vols. i.-xi. and xxi.-xxviii. The last vol. (second part) contains Annates Vitae (pp. 1–143), and very ample Indices (145–378).

Add to these: Epistolae, Judicia, Consilia, Testimonia, etc., ed. H. E. Bindseil. Halle, 1874. 8°. A supplement to the "Corpus Reform." Compare also Bindseil’s Bibliotheca Melanthoniana. Halis 1868 pp. 28). Carl Krause: Melanthoniana, Regesten und Briefe über die Beziehungen Philipp Mel. zu Anhalt und dessen Fürsten. Zerbst, 1885. pp. 185.

II. Biographies of Mel. An account of his last days by the Wittenberg professors: Brevis narratio exponens quo fine vitam in terris suam clauserit D. Phil. Mel. conscripta a professoribus academiae Vitebergensis, qui omnibus quae exponuntur interfuerunt. Viteb. 1560. 4°. The same in German. A funeral oration by Heerbrand: Oratio in obitum Mel. habita in Academia Tubingensi die decima quinta Maji. Vitebergae, 1560. *Joachim Camerarius: Vita Mel. Lips. 1566; and other edd., one with notes by Strobel. Halle, 1777; one with preface by Neander in the Vitae quatuor Reformatorum. Berlin, 1841.

Strobel: Melanchthoniana. Altdorf, 1771: Die Ehre Mel. gerettet, 1773; and other works. A. H. Niemeyer: Phil. Mel. als Praeceptor Germaniae. Halle, 1817. Fr. Aug. Cox: Life of Mel., comprising an account of the Reform. Lond. 1815, 2d ed. 1817. G. L. Fr. Delbrück: Ph. Mel. der Glaubenslehrer. Bonn, 1826. Heyd: Mel. und Tübingen, 1512–18. Tüb. 1839. *Fr. Galle: Characteristik Melanchth. als Theol. und Entw. seines Lehrbegr. Halle, 1840. *Fr. Matthes: Ph. Mel. Sein Leben u. Wirken aus den Quellen. Altenb. 1841. 2d ed. 1846. Ledderhose: Phil. Mel. nach seinem aüsseren u. inneren Leben dargestellt. Heidelberg, 1847 (English translation by Dr. Krotel. Phila. 1855). By the same: Das Leben des Phil. Mel. für das Volk. Barmen, 1858. *Mor. Meurer: Phil. Mel.’s Leben. Leipzig u. Dresden, 1860. 2d ed. 1869. Heppe: Phil. Mel. der Lehrer Deutschlands. Marburg, 1860. *Carl Schmidt: Philipp Melanchthons Leben und ausgewählte Schriften. Elberfeld, 1861 (in the "Reformatoren der Luth. Kirche"). * Herrlinger: Die Theologie Mel.’s in ihrer geschichtl. Entwicklung. Gotha, 1879.

III. Brief sketches, by Neander, in Piper’s "Evang.-Kalender" for 1851. By Nitzsch, in the "Deutsche Zeitschrift für christl. Wissenschaft," 1855. Is. Aug. Dorner: Zum dreihundertjährigen Gedächtniss des Todes Melanchthons, 1860. Volbeding: Mel. wie er liebte und lebte (Leipz. 1860.). Kahnis: Rede zum Gedächtniss Mel.’s (Leipz. 1860). Wohlfahrt: Phil. Mel. (Leipzig, 1860). W. Thilo: Mel. im Dienste der heil. Schrift (Berlin, 1860). Paul Pressel: Phil. Mel. Ein evang. Lebensbild (Stuttg. 1860). Festreden zur Erinnerung an den 300 jährigen Todestag Phil. Mel.’s und bei der Grundsteinlegung zu dessen Denkmal zu Wittenberg, herausgeg. von Lommatzch (Wittenb. 1860). Henke: Das Verhältniss Luthers und Mel. zu einander (Marburg, 1860), and Memoria B. Phil. Mel. (Marburg, 1860). Ad. Planck: Mel. Praeceptor Germ. (Nördlingen, 1860). Tollin: Ph. Mel. und Mich. Servet. Eine Quellenstudie (Berlin, 1876). Landerer: Mel., in Herzog1 and Herzog2 ix. 471–525, revised by Herrlinger. Thiersch: Mel. (Augsburg, 1877, and New York, Am. Tract Soc. 1880). Luthardt: Melanchthon’s Arbeiten im Gebiete der Moral (Leipz. 1884). Wagenmann: Ph. Mel. (in the "Allgem. Deutsche Biographie"). Paulsen in "Gesch. des gelehrten Unterrichts "(Leipz. 1885. pp. 34 sqq.). Schaff in St. Augustin, Melanchthon, Neander (New York and London, 1886. pp. 107–127).

IV. On Mel.’s Loci, see Strobel: Literärgesch. von Ph. Mel.’s locis theologicis. Altdorf and Nürnberg, 1776. Plitt: Melanchthons Loci in ihrer Urgestalt. Erlangen, 1864.


§ 40. Melanchthon’s Early Labors.


Although yet a youth of twenty-one years of age, Melanchthon at once gained the esteem and admiration of his colleagues and hearers in Wittenberg. He was small of stature, unprepossessing in his outward appearance, diffident and timid. But his high and noble forehead, his fine blue eyes, full of fire, the intellectual expression of his countenance, the courtesy and modesty of his behavior, revealed the beauty and strength of his inner man. His learning was undoubted, his moral and religious character above suspicion. His introductory address, which he delivered four days after his arrival (Aug. 29), on "The Improvement of the Studies of Youth,"227 dispelled all fears: it contained the programme of his academic teaching, and marks an epoch in the history of liberal education in Germany. He desired to lead the youth to the sources of knowledge, and by a careful study of the languages to furnish the key for the proper understanding of the Scriptures, that they might become living members of Christ, and enjoy the fruits of His heavenly wisdom. He studied and taught theology, not merely for the enrichment of the mind, but also and chiefly for the promotion of virtue and piety.228

He at first devoted himself to philological pursuits, and did more than any of his contemporaries to revive the study of Greek for the promotion of biblical learning and the cause of the Reformation. He called the ancient languages the swaddling-clothes of the Christ-child: Luther compared them to the sheath of the sword of the Spirit. Melanchthon was master of the ancient languages; Luther, master of the German. The former, by his co-operation, secured accuracy to the German Bible; the latter, idiomatic force and poetic beauty.

In the year 1519 Melanchthon graduated as Bachelor of Divinity; the degree of Doctor he modestly declined. From that time on, he was a member of the theological faculty, and delivered also theological lectures, especially on exegesis. He taught two or three hours every day a variety of topics, including ethics, logic, Greek and Hebrew grammar; he explained Homer, Plato, Plutarch, Titus, Matthew, Romans, the Psalms. In the latter period of his life he devoted himself exclusively to sacred learning. He was never ordained, and never ascended the pulpit; but for the benefit of foreign students who were ignorant of German, he delivered every Sunday in his lecture-room a Latin sermon on the Gospels. He became at once, and continued to be, the most popular teacher at Wittenberg. He drew up the statutes of the University, which are regarded as a model. By his advice and example the higher education in Germany was regulated.

His fame attracted students from all parts of Christendom, including princes, counts, and barons. His lecture-room was crowded to overflowing, and he heard occasionally as many as eleven languages at his frugal but hospitable table. He received calls to Tübingen, Nürnberg, and Heidelberg, and was also invited to Denmark, France, and England; but he preferred remaining in Wittenberg till his death.

At the urgent request of Luther, who wished to hold him fast, and to promote his health and comfort, he married (having no vow of celibacy to prevent him) as early as August, 1520, Catharina Krapp, the worthy daughter of the burgomaster of Wittenberg, who faithfully shared with him the joys and trials of domestic life. He had from her four children, and was often seen rocking the cradle with one hand, while holding a book in the other. He used to repeat the Apostles’ Creed in his family three times a day. He esteemed his wife higher than himself. She died in 1557 while he was on a journey to the colloquy at Worms: when he heard the sad news at Heidelberg, he looked up to heaven, and exclaimed, "Farewell! I shall soon follow thee."

Next to the "Lutherhaus" with the "Luthermuseum," the most interesting dwelling in the quaint old town of Wittenberg on the banks of the Elbe is the house of Melanchthon in the Collegienstrasse. It is a three-story building, and belongs to the Prussian government, King Friedrich Wilhelm IV. having bought it from its former owner. Melanchthon’s study is on the first story; there he died. Behind the house is a little garden which was connected with Luther’s garden. Here, under the shade of the tree, the two Reformers may often have exchanged views on the stirring events of the times, and encouraged each other in the great conflict. The house bears in German the inscription on the outer wall: —


"Here lived, taught, and died

Philipp Melanchthon."


§ 41. Luther and Melanchthon.


P. Schaff: Luther und Melanchthon, In his "Der Deutsche Kirchenfreund," Mercersburg, Pa., vol. III. (1850), pp. 58–64. E. L. Henke: Das Verhältniss Luthers und Melanchthons zu einander. Festrede am 19 April, 1860. Marburg (28 pages). Compare also Döllinger: Die Reformation, vol. i. 349 sqq.


"Wo sich das strenge mit dem Zarten,

Wo Starkes sich und Mildes paarten,
Da giebt es einen guten Klang." (Schiller.)


In great creative epochs of the Church, God associates congenial leaders for mutual help and comfort. In the Reformation of the sixteenth century, we find Luther and Melanchthon in Germany, Zwingli and Oecolampadius, Farel and Viret, Calvin and Beza in Switzerland, Craniner, Latimer, and Ridley in England, Knox and Melville in Scotland, working together with different gifts, but in the same spirit and for the same end. The Methodist revival of the eighteenth century was carried on by the co-operation of the two Wesleys and Whitefield; and the Anglo-Catholic movement of the nineteenth, by the association of Pusey, Newman, and Keble.

Immediately after his arrival at the Saxon University, on the Elbe, Melanchthon entered into an intimate relation with Luther, and became his most useful and influential co-laborer. He looked up to his elder colleague with the veneration of a son, and was carried away and controlled (sometimes against his better judgment) by the fiery genius of the Protestant Elijah; while Luther regarded him as his superior in learning, and was not ashamed to sit humbly at his feet. He attended his exegetical lectures, and published them, without the author’s wish and knowledge, for the benefit of the Church. Melanchthon declared in April, 1520, that "he would rather die than be separated from Luther;" and in November of the same year, "Martin’s welfare is dearer to me than my own life." Luther was captivated by Melanchthon’s first lecture; he admired his scholarship, loved his character, and wrote most enthusiastically about him in confidential letters to Spalatin, Reuchlin, Lange, Scheurl, and others, lauding him as a prodigy of learning and piety.229

The friendship of these two great and good men is one of the most delightful chapters in the religious drama of the sixteenth century. It rested on mutual personal esteem and hearty German affection, but especially on the consciousness of a providential mission intrusted to their united labors. Although somewhat disturbed, at a later period, by slight doctrinal differences and occasional ill-humor,230 it lasted to the end; and as they worked together for the same cause, so they now rest under the same roof in the castle church at Wittenberg, at whose doors Luther had nailed the war-cry of the Reformation.

Melanchthon descended from South Germany, Luther from North Germany; the one from the well-to-do middle classes of citizens and artisans, the other from the rough but sturdy peasantry. Melanchthon had a quiet, literary preparation for his work: Luther experienced much hardship and severe moral conflicts. The former passed to his Protestant conviction through the door of classical studies, the latter through the door of monastic asceticism; the one was fore-ordained to a professor’s chair, the other to the leadership of an army of conquest.

Luther best understood and expressed the difference of temper and character; and it is one of his noble traits, that he did not allow it to interfere with the esteem and admiration for his younger friend and colleague. "I prefer the books of Master Philippus to my own," he wrote in 1529.231 "I am rough, boisterous, stormy, and altogether warlike. I am born to fight against innumerable monsters and devils. I must remove stumps and stones, cut away thistles and thorns, and clear the wild forests; but Master Philippus comes along softly and gently, sowing and watering with joy, according to the gifts which God has abundantly bestowed upon him."

Luther was incomparably the stronger man of the two, and differed from Melanchthon as the wild mountain torrent differs from the quiet stream of the meadow, or as the rushing tempest from the gentle breeze, or, to use a scriptural illustration, as the fiery Paul from the contemplative John. Luther was a man of war, Melanchthon a man of peace. Luther’s writings smell of powder; his words are battles; he overwhelms his opponents with a roaring cannonade of argument, eloquence, passion, and abuse. Melanchthon excels in moderation and amiability, and often exercised a happy restraint upon the unmeasured violence of his colleague. Once when Luther in his wrath burst out like a thunderstorm, Melanchthon quieted him by the line, —


"Vince animos iramque tuam qui caetera vincis."


Luther was a creative genius, and pioneer of new paths; Melanchthon, a profound scholar of untiring industry. The one was emphatically the man for the people, abounding in strong and clear sense, popular eloquence, natural wit, genial humor, intrepid courage, and straightforward honesty. The other was a quiet, considerate, systematic thinker; a man of order, method, and taste, and gained the literary circles for the cause of the Reformation. He is the principal founder of a Protestant theology, and the author of the Augsburg Confession, the chief symbol of the Lutheran Church. He very properly represented the evangelical cause in all the theological conferences with the Roman-Catholic party at Augsburg, Speier, Worms, Frankfort, Ratisbon, where Luther’s presence would only have increased the heat of controversy, and widened the breach. Luther was unyielding and uncompromising against Romanism and Zwinglianism: Melanchthon was always ready for compromise and peace, as far as his honest convictions would allow, and sincerely labored to restore the broken unity of the Church. He was even willing, as his qualified subscription to the Articles of Smalcald shows, to admit a certain supremacy of the Pope (jure humano), provided he would tolerate the free preaching of the gospel. But Popery and evangelical freedom will never agree.

Luther was the boldest, the most heroic and commanding; Melanchthon, the most gentle, pious, and conscientious, of the Reformers. Melanchthon had a sensitive and irritable temperament, though under good control, and lacked courage; he felt, more keenly and painfully than any other, the tremendous responsibility of the great religious movement in which he was engaged. He would have made any personal sacrifice if he could have removed the confusion and divisions attendant upon it.232 On several occasions he showed, no doubt, too much timidity and weakness; but his concessions to the enemy, and his disposition to compromise for the sake of peace and unity, proceeded always from pure and conscientious motives.

The two Wittenberg Reformers were brought together by the hand of Providence, to supply and complete each other, and by their united talents and energies to carry forward the German Reformation, which would have assumed a very different character if it had been exclusively left in the hands of either of them.

Without Luther the Reformation would never have taken hold of the common people: without Melanchthon it would never have succeeded among the scholars of Germany. Without Luther, Melanchthon would have become a second Erasmus, though with a profounder interest in religion; and the Reformation would have resulted in a liberal theological school, instead of giving birth to a Church. However much the humble and unostentatious labors and merits of Melanchthon are overshadowed by the more striking and brilliant deeds of the heroic Luther, they were, in their own way, quite as useful and indispensable. The "still small voice" often made friends to Protestantism where the earthquake and thunder-storm produced only terror and convulsion.

Luther is greatest as a Reformer, Melanchthon as a Christian scholar. He represents in a rare degree the harmony of humanistic culture with biblical theology and piety. In this respect he surpassed all his contemporaries, even Erasmus and Reuchlin. He is, moreover, the connecting link between contending churches, and a forerunner of Christian union and catholicity which will ultimately heal the divisions and strifes of Christendom. To him applies the beatitude: "Blessed are the peacemakers; for they shall be called the children of God."

The friendship of Luther and Melanchthon drew into its charming circle also some other worthy and remarkable residents of Wittenberg,—Lucas Cranach the painter, who lent his art to the service of the Reformation; Justus Jonas, who came to Wittenberg in 1521 as professor and provost of the castle church, translated several writings of Luther and Melanchthon into German, and accompanied the former to Worms (1521), and on his last journey to Eisleben (1546); and Johann Bugenhagen, called Doctor Pomeranus, who moved from Pomerania to Wittenberg in 1521 as professor and preacher, and lent the Reformers most effective aid in translating the Bible, and organized the Reformation in several cities of North Germany and in Denmark.


§ 42. Ulrich von Hutten and Luther.


Böcking’s edition of Ulrichi Hutteni equitis Germani Opera. Lips, 185–1861. 5 vols. with three supplements, 1864–1870. Davie, Friedrich Strauss (the author of the Leben Jesu): Gespräche von Ulrich von Hutten, übersetzt und erläutert, Leipz. 1860, and his biography of Ulrich von Hutten, 4th ed., Bonn, 1878 (pp. 567). A masterly work by a congenial spirit. Compare K. Hagen, Deutschlands liter. und Rel. Verh. in Reformationszeitalter, II. 47–60; Ranke, D. Gesch. I. 289–294; Janssen, II. 53 sqq. Werckshagen: Luther u. Hutten, 1888.


While Luther acquired in Melanchthon, the head of the Christian and theological wing of the humanists, a permanent and invaluable ally, he received also temporary aid and comfort from the pagan and political wing of the humanists, and its ablest leader, Ulrich von Hutten.

This literary Knight and German patriot was descended from an ancient but impoverished noble family of Franconia. He was born April 21, 1488, and began life, like Erasmus, as an involuntary monk; but he escaped from Fulda in his sixteenth year, studied humanities in the universities of Erfurt, Cologne, and Frankfurt-on-the-Oder, law at Pavia and Bologna, traveled extensively, corresponded with the most prominent men of letters, was crowned as poet by the Emperor Maximilian at Augsburg (1517), and occupied an influential position at the court of Archbishop Albrecht of Mainz (1517–1520), who had charge of the sale of indulgences in Germany.

He took a lively part in Reuchlin’s conflict with the obscurantism of the Dominicans of Cologne.233 He is, next to his friend Crotus of Erfurt, the chief author of the Epistolae obscurorum Virorum, that barbarous ridicule of barbarism, in which the ignorance, stupidity, bigotry, and vulgarity of the monks are exposed by factitious letters in their own wretched Latin with such success that they accepted them at first as genuine, and bought a number of copies for distribution.234 He vigorously attacked the abuses and corruptions of the Church, in Latin and German pamphlets, in poetry and prose, with all the weapons of learning, common-sense, wit, and satire. He was, next to Luther, the boldest and most effective polemical writer of that period, and was called the German Demosthenes on account of his philippics against Rome. His Latin is better than Luther’s, but his German far inferior. In wit and power of ridicule he resembles Lucian; at times he reminds one of Voltaire and Heine. He had a burning love of German liberty and independence. This was his chief motive for attacking Rome. He laid the axe at the root of the tree of tyranny. His motto was, "Iacta est alea. Ich hab’s gewagt."235

He republished in 1518 the tract of Laurentius Valla on the Donation of Constantine, with an embarrassing dedication to Pope Leo X., and exposed on German soil that gigantic fraud on which the temporal power of the papacy over all Christian Europe was made to rest. But his chief and most violent manifesto against Rome is a dialogue which he published under the name "Vadiscus, or the Roman Trinity," in April, 1520, a few months before Luther’s "Address to the German Nobility" (July) and his "Babylonian Captivity" (October). He here groups his experiences in Rome under several triads of what abounds in Rome, of what is lacking in Rome, of what is forbidden in Rome, of what one brings home from Rome, etc. He puts them into the mouth of a Roman consul, Vadiscus, and makes variations on them. Here are some specimens:236


"Three things keep Rome in power: the authority of the Pope, the bones of the saints, and the traffic in indulgences.

"Three things are in Rome without number: strumpets, priests, and scribes.

"Three things abound in Rome: antiquities, poison, and ruins.

"Three things are banished from Rome: simplicity, temperance, and piety (or, in another place: poverty, the ancient discipline, and the preaching of the truth).

"Three things the Romans trade in: Christ, ecclesiastical benefices, and women.

"Three things everybody desires in Rome: short masses, good gold, and a luxurious life.

"Three things are disliked in Rome: a general council, a reformation of the clergy, and the fact that the Germans begin to open their eyes.

"Three things displease the Romans most: the unity of the Christian princes, the education of the people, and the discovery of their frauds.

"Three things are most valued in Rome: handsome women, fine horses, and papal bulls.

"Three things are in general use in Rome: luxury of the flesh, splendor in dress, and pride of the heart.

"Three things Rome can never get enough of: money for the episcopal pallium, monthly, and annual incomes from vacant benefices.237

"Three things are most praised and yet most rare in Rome. devotion, faith and innocence.

"Three things Rome brings to naught: a good conscience, devotion, and the oath.

"Three things are necessary in Rome to gain a lawsuit: money, letters of recommendation, and lies.

"Three things pilgrims usually bring back from Rome: a soiled conscience, a sick stomach, and an empty purse.

"Three things have kept Germany from getting wisdom: the stupidity of the princes, the decay of learning, and the superstition of the people.

"Three things are feared most in Rome: that the princes get united, that the people begin to open their eyes, and that Rome’s frauds are coming to light.

"Three things only could set Rome right: the determination of the princes, the impatience of the people, and an army of Turks at her doors."


This epigrammatic and pithy form made the dialogue popular and effective. Even Luther imitated it when, in his "Babylonian Captivity," he speaks of three walls, and three rods of the Papists. Hutten calls the Roman court a sink of iniquity, and says that for centuries no genuine successor of Peter had sat on his chair in Rome, but successors and imitators of Simon Magus, Nero, Domitian, and Heliogabalus.

As a remedy for these evils, he advises, not indeed the abolition of the papacy, but the withdrawal of all financial support from Germany, a reduction of the clerical force, and the permission of clerical marriage; by these means, luxury and immorality would at least be checked.

It is characteristic of the church of that age, that Hutten was on terms of intimacy with the first prelate of Germany, even while he wrote his violent attacks on Rome, and received a salary, and afterwards a pension, from him. But he lauded Albrecht to the skies for his support of liberal learning. He knew little of, and cared less for, doctrinal differences. His policy was to fight the big Pope of Rome with the little Pope of Germany, and to make the German emperor, princes, and nobles, his allies in shaking off the degrading yoke of foreign tyranny. Possibly Albrecht may have indulged in the dream of becoming the primate of an independent Catholic Church of Germany.

Unfortunately, Hutten lacked moral purity, depth, and weight. He was Frank, brave, and bold, but full of conceit, a restless adventurer, and wild stormer; able to destroy, but unable to build up. In his twentieth year he had contracted a disgusting disease which ruined him physically, and was used by his Roman opponents to ruin him morally. He suffered incredibly from it and from all sorts of quack remedies, for ten years, was attacked by it again after his cure, and yet maintained the vigor and freshness of his spirit.238

Hutten hailed the Wittenberg movement, though at first only as "a quarrel between two hot-headed monks who are shouting and screaming against each other" and hoped "that they would eat each other up." After the Leipzig disputation, he offered to Luther (first through Melanchthon) the aid of his pen and sword, and, in the name of his noble friend the Knight Franz von Sickingen, a safe retreat at Ebernburg near Kreuznach, where Martin Bucer, Johann Oecolampadius, and other fugitives from convents, and sympathizers with reform, found a hospitable home. He sent him his books with notes, that he might republish them.

But Luther was cautious. He availed himself of the literary and political sympathy, but only as far as his theological and religious position allowed. He respected Reuchlin, Erasmus, Crotus, Mutian, Pirkheimer, Hutten, and the other humanists, for their learning and opposition to monkery and priestcraft; be fully shared the patriotic indignation against Romish tyranny: but he missed in them moral earnestness, religious depth, and that enthusiasm for the pure gospel which was his controlling passion. He aimed at reformation, they at illumination. He did not relish the frivolous satire of the Epistolae obscurorum virorum; he called them silly, and the author a Hans Wurst (Jack Sausage); he would grow indignant, and weep rather than laugh, over the obscurantism and secret vices of the monks, though he had as keen a sense of the ridiculous as Crotus and Hutten. He deprecated, moreover, the resort to physical force in a spiritual warfare, and relied on the power of the Word of God, which had founded the Church, and which must reform the Church. His letters to Hutten are lost, but he wrote to Spalatin (Jan. 16, 1521): "You see what Hutten wants. I would not have the gospel defended by violence and murder. In this sense I wrote to him. By the Word the world was conquered; by the Word the Church was preserved; by the Word she will be restored. Antichrist, as he began without violence, will be crushed without violence, by the Word."

Hutten was impatient. He urged matters to a crisis. Sickingen attacked the Archbishop and Elector of Trier (Treves) to force the Reformation into his territory; but he was defeated, and died of his wounds in the hands of his enemies, May 7, 1522. Within one month all his castles were captured and mostly burnt by the allied princes; two of his sons were banished, a third was made prisoner. Luther saw in this disaster a judgment of God, and was confirmed in his aversion to the use of force.239

Hutten fled, a poor and sick exile, from Germany to Basel, and hoped to find a hospitable reception by Erasmus, his former friend and admirer; but he was coldly refused by the cautious scholar, and took bitter revenge in an unsparing attack on his character. He then went to Zürich, and was kindly and generously treated by Zwingli, who provided him with books and money, and sent him first to the hot bath of Pfeffers, and then to a quiet retreat on the island of Ufnau in the Lake of Zürich, under medical care. But he soon died there, of the incurable disease of his youth, in August, 1523, in the Prime of life (thirty-five years and four months of age), leaving nothing but his pen and sword, and the lesson: "Not by might, nor by power, but by my Spirit, saith the Lord of hosts" (Zech. 4:6).

With Hutten and Sickingen the hope of a political reconstruction of Germany through means of the Reformation and physical force was destroyed. What the knights failed to accomplish, the peasants could still less secure by the general revolt two years later. But notwithstanding these checks, the Reformation was bound to succeed with spiritual weapons.


§ 43. Luther’s Crusade against Popery. 1520.


After the disputation at Leipzig, Luther lost all hope of a reformation from Rome, which was preparing a bull of excommunication.

Here begins his storm and pressure period,240 which culminated in the burning of the Pope’s bull, and the protest at the Diet of Worms.

Under severe mental anguish he was driven to the conviction that the papacy, as it existed in his day, was an anti-christian power, and the chief source and support of abuses in the Church. Prierias, Eck, Emser, and Alveld defended the most extravagant claims of the papacy with much learning, but without any discrimination between fact and fiction. Luther learned from the book of Laurentius Valla, as republished by Ulrich von Hutten, that the Donation of Constantine, by which this emperor conferred on Pope Sylvester and his successors the temporal sovereignty not only over the Lateran Palace, but also over Rome, Italy, and all the West, was a baseless forgery of the dark ages. He saw through the "devilish lies," as he called them, of the Canon law and the pseudo-Isidorian Decretals. "It must have been a plague sent by God," he says (in his "Address to the German Nobility"), "that induced so many people to accept such lies, though they are so gross and clumsy that one would think a drunken boor could lie more skillfully." Genuine Catholic scholars of a later period have exposed with irrefragable arguments this falsification of history. His view of the Church expanded beyond the limits of the papacy, and took in the Oriental Christians, and even such men as Hus, who was burned by an oecumenical council for doctrines derived from St. Paul and St. Augustin. Instead of confining the Church, like the Romanists, to an external visible communion under the Pope, he regarded it now as a spiritual communion of all believers under Christ the only Head. All the powers of indignation and hatred of Roman oppression and corruption gathered in his breast. "I can hardly doubt," he wrote to Spalatin, Feb. 23, 1520, "that the Pope is the Antichrist." In the same year, Oct. 11, he went so far as to write to Leo X. that the papal dignity was fit only for traitors like Judas Iscariot whom God had cast out.241

Luther was much confirmed in his new convictions by Melanchthon, who had independently by calm study arrived at the same conclusion. In the controversy with Eck, August, 1519, Melanchthon laid down the far-reaching principle that the Scriptures are the supreme rule of faith, and that we must not explain the Scriptures by the Fathers, but explain and judge the Fathers by the Scriptures. He discovered that even Ambrose, Jerome, and Augustin had often erred in their exegesis. A little later (September, 1519), he raised the same charge against the Councils, and maintained that a Catholic Christian could not be required to believe any thing that was not warranted by the Scriptures. He expressed doubts about transubstantiation and the whole fabric of the mass. His estimate of the supreme value of the Scriptures, especially of Paul, rose higher and higher, and made him stronger and bolder in the conflict with mediaeval tradition.

Thus fortified by the learning of Melanchthon, encouraged by the patriotic zeal of Hutten and Sickingen, goaded by the fury of his enemies, and impelled, as it were, by a preternatural impulse, Luther attacked the papal power as the very stronghold of Satan. Without personal ill-will against anybody, he had a burning indignation against the system, and transcended all bounds of moderation.242 He felt the inspiration of a prophet, and had the courage of a martyr ready to die at any moment for his conviction.

He issued in rapid succession from July till October, 1520, his three most effective reformatory works: the, "Address to the German Nobility," the "Babylonian Captivity of the Church," and the, "Freedom of a Christian Man."243 The first two are trumpets of war, and the hardest blows ever dealt by human pen to the system of popery; while the third is peaceful, and shines like a rainbow above the thunderclouds. A strange contrast! Luther was the most conservative of radicals, and the most radical of conservatives. He had all the violence of a revolutionary orator, and at the same time the pious spirit of a contemplative mystic.

The sixteenth century was the age of practical soteriology. It had to settle the relation of man to God, to bring the believer into direct communion with Christ, and to secure to him the personal benefits of the gospel salvation. What was heretofore regarded as the exclusive privilege of the priest was to become the common privilege of every Christian. To this end, it was necessary to break down the walls which separated the clergy from the laity, and obstructed the approach to God. This was most effectually done by Luther’s anti-papal writings. On the relation of man to God rests the relation of man to his fellow-men; this is the sociological problem which forms one of the great tasks of the nineteenth century.


§ 44. Address to the German Nobility.


An den christlichen Adel deutscher Nation: von des christlichen Standes Besserung. In Walch’s ed., X. 296 sqq.; Erl. ed., XXI. 274–360; Weimar ed., VI. 404. Köstlin (in his shorter biography of Luther, p. 197 New York ed.) gives a facsimile of the title-page of the second edition. Dr. Karl Benrath of Bonn published a separate ed., with introduction and notes, as No. 4 of the "Schriften des Vereins für Reformationsgeschichte." Halle, 1886 (114 pages).


"The time for silence is gone, and the time for speaking has come." With these words (based on Eccles. 3:7) of the dedicatory preface to Amsdorf, Luther introduces his address, to his most Serene and Mighty Imperial Majesty, and to the Christian Nobility of the German Nation, respecting a Reformation of the Christian Estate." The preface is dated on the Eve of St. John the Baptist (June 23), 1520; the book was hastily completed July 20,244 and before Aug. 18 no less than four thousand copies—an enormous number for those days—were published, and a new edition called for, besides reprints which soon appeared in Leipzig and Strassburg.

The book is a most stirring appeal to the German nobles, who, through Hutten and Sickingen, had recently offered their armed assistance to Luther. He calls upon them to take the much-needed Reformation of the Church into their own hands; not, indeed, by force of arms, but by legal means, in the fear of God, and in reliance upon his strength. The bishops and clergy refused to do their duty; hence the laity must come to the front of the battle for the purity and liberty of the Church.

Luther exposes without mercy the tyranny of the Pope, whose government, he says, "agrees with the government of the apostles as well as Lucifer with Christ, hell with heaven, night with day; and yet he calls himself Christ’s Vicar, and the Successor of Peter."

The book is divided into three parts: —


1. In the first part, Luther pulls down what he calls the three walls of Jericho, which the papacy had erected in self-defense against any reformation; namely, the exclusion of the laity from all control, the exclusive claim to interpret the Scriptures, and the exclusive claim to call a Council.

Under the first head, he brings out clearly and strongly, in opposition to priestcraft, the fundamental Protestant principle of the general priesthood of all baptized Christians. He attacks the distinction of two estates, one spiritual, consisting of Pope, bishops, priests, and monks; and one temporal, consisting of princes, lords, artificers, and peasants. There is only one body, under Christ the Head. All Christians belong to the spiritual estate. Baptism, gospel and faith,—these alone make spiritual and Christian people.245 We are consecrated priests by baptism; we are a royal priesthood, kings and priests before God (1 Pet. 2:9; Rev. 5:10). The only difference, then, between clergy and laity, is one of office and function, not of estate.

Luther represents here the ministerial office as the creature of the congregation; while at a later period, warned by democratic excesses, and the unfitness of most of the congregations of that age for a popular form of government, he laid greater stress upon the importance of the ministry as an institution of Christ. This idea of the general priesthood necessarily led to the emancipation of the laity from priestly control, and their participation in the affairs of the Church, although this has been but very imperfectly carried out in Protestant state churches. It destroyed the distinction between higher (clerical and monastic), and lower morality; it gave sanctity to the natural relations, duties, and virtues; it elevated the family as equal in dignity to virginity; it promoted general intelligence, and sharpened the sense of individual responsibility to the Church. But to the same source may be traced also the undue interference of kings, princes, and magistrates in ecclesiastical matters, and that degrading dependence of many Protestant establishments upon the secular power. Kingcraft and priestcraft are two opposite extremes, equally opposed to the spirit of Christianity. Luther, and especially Melanchthon, bitterly complained, in their later years, of the abuse of the episcopal power assumed by the magistrate, and the avarice of princes in the misappropriation of ecclesiastical property.

The principle of the general priesthood of the laity found its political and civil counterpart in the American principle of the general kingship of men, as expressed in the Declaration of Independence, that "all men are born free and equal."

2. In the second part, Luther chastises the worldly pomp of the Pope and the cardinals, their insatiable greed, and exactions under false pretenses.

3. In the third part, he deals with practical suggestions. He urges sweeping reforms in twenty-seven articles, to be effected either by the civil magistrate, or by a general council of ministers and laymen.

He recommends the abolition of the annates, of the worldly pomp and idolatrous homage paid to the Pope (as kissing his feet), and of his whole temporal power, so that he should be hereafter merely a spiritual ruler, with no power over the emperor except to anoint and crown him, as a bishop crowns a king, as Samuel crowned Saul and David.

He strongly demands the abrogation of enforced clerical celibacy, which destroys instead of promoting chastity, and is the cause of untold misery. Clergymen should be allowed to marry, or not to marry, according to their gift and sense of duty.

Masses for the dead should be abolished, since they have become a solemn mockery, and devices for getting money, thus exciting the anger of God.

Processions, saints’ days, and most of the public festivals, except Sunday, should be abrogated, since holy days have become most unholy by drinking, gambling, and idling.

Monasteries should be reduced in number, and converted into schools, with freedom to enter and to leave without binding vows.

Certain punishments of the Canon law should cease, especially the interdict which silences God’s word and service,—a greater sin than to kill twenty Popes at once.

Fasts should be voluntary and optional; for whilst at Rome they laugh at fasts, they let us abroad eat 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 liberty in all such matters (1 Cor. 10:25 sq.).

He also would forbid all begging in Christendom; each town should support its own poor, and not allow strange beggars to come in, whether pilgrims or mendicant monks; it is not right that one should work that another may be idle, and live ill that another may live well, but "if any would not work, neither should he eat" (2 Thess. 3:10).

He counsels a reduction of the clerical force, and the prohibition of pluralities. "As for the fraternities, together with indulgences, letters of indulgence, dispensations, masses, and all such things, let them all be drowned and abolished."

He recommends (Art. 24) to do justice to, and make peace with, the Bohemians; for Hus and Jerome of Prague were unjustly burnt, in violation of the safe-conduct promised by the Pope and the Emperor. Heretics should be overcome with books, not with fire; else, the hangmen would be the most learned doctors in the world, and there would be no need of study."

In Art. 25, Luther urges a sound reformation of the universities, which had become "schools of Greek fashion" and "heathenish manners" (2 Macc. 4:12, 13), and are, full of dissolute living." He is unjustly severe upon Aristotle, whom he calls a "dead, blind, accursed, proud, knavish heathen teacher." His logic, rhetoric, and poetic might be, retained; but his physics, metaphysics, ethics, and the book "Of the Soul" (which teaches that the soul dies with the body) ought to be banished, and the study of the languages, mathematics, history, and especially of the Holy Scriptures, cultivated instead. "Nothing is more devilishly mischievous," he says, "than an unreformed university." He would also have the Canon law banished, of which there is "nothing good but the name," and which is no better than "waste paper."

He does not spare national vices. He justly rebukes the extravagance in dress, the usury, and especially the intemperance in eating and drinking, for which, he says, "we Germans have an ill reputation in foreign countries, as our special vice, and which has become so common, and gained so much the upper hand, that sermons avail nothing." (His frequent protest against the "Saufteufel" of the Germans, as he calls their love of drink, is still unheeded. In temperance the Southern nations of Europe are far ahead of those of the North.)

In conclusion, he expresses the expectation that he will be condemned upon earth. "My greatest care and fear is, lest my cause be not condemned by men; by which I should know for certain that it does not please God. Therefore let them freely go to work, Pope, bishop, priest, monk, or doctor: they are the true people to persecute the truth, as they have always done. May God grant us all a Christian understanding, and especially to the Christian nobility of the German nation true spiritual courage, to do what is best for our unhappy Church. Amen."


The book was a firebrand thrown into the headquarters of the papal church. It anticipated a reply to the papal bull, and prepared the public mind for it. It went right to the heart of the Germans, in their own language wielded with a force as never before, and gave increased weight to the hundred grievances of long standing against Rome. But it alarmed some of his best friends. They condemned or regretted his biting severity.246 Staupitz tried at the eleventh hour to prevent the publication, and soon afterwards (Aug. 23, 1520) resigned his position as general vicar of the Angustinians, and retired to Salzburg, feeling himself unequal to the conflict. John Lange called the book a "blast for assault, atrocious and ferocious." Some feared that it might lead to a religious war. Melanchthon could not approve the violence, but dared not to check the spirit of the new Elijah. Luther defended himself by referring to the example of Paul and the prophets: it was necessary to be severe in order to get a hearing; he felt sure that he was not moved by desire for glory or money or pleasure, and disclaimed the intention of stirring up sedition and war; he only wished to clear the way for a free general council; he was perhaps the forerunner of Master Philippus in fighting Ahab and the prophets of Baal after the example of Elijah (1 Kings 18).247




The following extracts give a fair idea of Luther’s polemic against the Pope in this remarkable book: —


"The custom of kissing the Pope’s feet must cease. It is an un-Christian, or rather an anti-Christian example, that a poor sinful man should suffer his feet to be kissed by one who is a hundred times better than he. If it is done in honor of his power, why does he not do it to others in honor of their holiness? Compare them together: Christ and the Pope. Christ washed his disciples’ feet, and dried them, and the disciples never washed his. The Pope, pretending to be higher than Christ, inverts this, and considers it a great favor to let us kiss his feet: whereas if any one wished to do so, he ought to do his utmost to prevent them, as St. Paul and Barnabas would not suffer themselves to be worshiped as gods by the men at Lystra, saying, ’We also are men of like passions with you’ (Acts 14:14 seq.). But our flatterers have brought things to such a pitch, that they have set up an idol for us, until no one regards God with such fear, or honors him with such reverence, as they do the Pope. This they can suffer, but not that the Pope’s glory should be diminished a single hairsbreadth. Now, if they were Christians, and preferred God’s honor to their own, the Pope would never be willing to have God’s honor despised, and his own exalted; nor would he allow any to honor him, until he found that God’s honor was again exalted above his own.

"It is of a piece with this revolting pride, that the Pope is not satisfied with riding on horseback or in a carriage, but, though he be hale and strong, is carried by men like an idol in unheard-of pomp. I ask you, how does this Lucifer-like pride agree with the example of Christ, who went on foot, as did also all his apostles? Where has there been a king who lived in such worldly pomp as he does, who professes to be the head of all whose duty it is to despise and flee from all worldly pomp—I mean, of all Christians? Not that this need concern us for his own sake, but that we have good reason to fear God’s wrath, if we flatter such pride, and do not show our discontent. It is enough that the Pope should be so mad and foolish, but it is too much that we should sanction and approve it."

After enumerating all the abuses to which the Pope and his Canon law give sanction, and which he upholds with his usurped authority, Luther addresses him in this impassioned style: —

"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 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 his command, laying it down in your heretical, antichristian 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. 2:3, 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 .... The Pope treads God’s commandments under foot, and exalts his own: if this is not Antichrist, I do not know what it is."

Janssen (II. 100) calls Luther’s "Address to the German Nobility" "das eigentliche Kriegsmanifest der Lutherisch-Huttenschen Revolutionspartei," and "ein Signal zum gewaltsamen Angriff." But the book nowhere counsels war; and in the letter to Link he says expressly: "nec hoc a me agitur, ut seditionem moveam, sed ut concilio generali libertatem asseram"(De Wette, I. 479). Janssen quotes (p. 103) a very vehement passage from Luther’s contemporaneous postscript to a book of Prierias which he republished (De juridica et irrefragabili veritate Romanae Ecclesiae Romanique Pontificis), expressing a wish that the Emperor, kings, and princes would make a bloody end to Pope and cardinals and the whole rabble of the Romish Sodom. But this extreme and isolated passage is set aside by his repeated declarations against carnal warfare, and was provoked by the astounding assertions of Prierias, the master of the papal palace, that the Pope was the infallible judge of all controversies, the head of all spiritual, the father of all secular princes, the head of the Church and of the whole universe (caput totius orbis universi). Against such blasphemy Luther breaks out in these words: "Mihi vero videtur, si sic pergat furor Romanistarum, nullum reliquum esse remedium, quam ut imperator, reges et principes vi et armis accincti aggrediantur has pestes orbis terrarum, remque non jam verbis, sed ferro decernant .... Si fures furca, si latrones gladio, si haereticos igne plectimus, cur non magis hos magistros perditionis, hos cardinales, hos papas et totam istam romanae Sodomae colluviem, quae ecclesiam Dei sine fine corrumpit, omnibus armis impetimus, et manus nostras in sanguine eorum lavamus? tanquam a communi et omnium periculosissimo incendio nos nostrosque liberaturi." Erl. ed., Opera Latina, II. 107. He means a national resistance under the guidance of the Emperor and rightful rulers.


§ 45. The Babylonian Captivity of the Church. October, 1520.


De Captivitate Babylonica Ecclesiae Praeludium D. Martini Lutheri. Wittenb. 1520. Erl. ed. Opera Lat., vol. V. 13–118; German translation (Von der Babylonischen Gefängniss, etc.) by an unknown author, 1520, reprinted in Walch, XIX. 5–153, and in 0. v. Gerlach, IV. 65–199; the Lat. original again in the Weimar ed., vol. V. An English translation by Buchheim in First Principles of the Reformation (London, 1883), pp. 141–245.


In closing the "Address to the Nobility," Luther announces: "I have another song still to sing concerning Rome. If they wish to hear it, I will sing it to them, and sing with all my might. Do you understand, my friend Rome, what I mean?"

This new song, or second war-trumpet, was the book on the, "Babylonian Captivity of the Church," published in the beginning of October, 1520.248 He calls it a "prelude," as if the real battle were yet to come. He intended it for scholars and the clergy, and therefore wrote in Latin. It is a polemical, theological work of far-reaching consequences, cutting one of the roots of Romanism, and looking towards a new type of Christian life and worship. He attacks the sacramental system of the Roman Church, by which she accompanies and controls the life of the Christian from the cradle to the grave, and brings every important act and event under the power of the priest. This system he represents as a captivity, and Rome as the modern Babylon. Yet he was very far from undervaluing the importance and benefit of the sacrament; and as far as the doctrine of baptism and the eucharist is concerned, he agreed better with the Catholic than with the Zwinglian view.

Luther begins by thanking his Romish opponents for promoting his theological education. "Two years ago," he says, "I wrote about indulgences when I was still involved in superstitious respect for the tyranny of Rome; but now I have learned, by the kind aid of Prierias and the friars, that indulgences are nothing but wicked devices of the flatterers of Rome. Afterwards Eck and Emser instructed me concerning the primacy of the Pope. While I denied the divine right, I still admitted the human right; but after reading the super-subtle subtilties of those coxcombs in defense of their idol, I became convinced that the papacy is the kingdom of Babylon and the power of Nimrod the mighty hunter. Now a learned professor of Leipzig writes against me on the sacrament in both kinds, and is about to do still greater wonders.249 He says that it was neither commanded nor decreed, whether by Christ or the apostles, that both kinds should be administered to the laity."


1. Luther first discusses the sacrament of the Holy Communion, and opposes three errors as a threefold bondage; namely, the withdrawal of the cup from the laity, the doctrine of transubstantiation, and the sacrifice of the mass.

(a) As regards the withdrawal of the cup, he refutes the flimsy arguments of Alveld, and proves from the accounts of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and Paul, that the whole sacrament was intended for the laity as well as the clergy, according to the command, "Drink ye all of this." Each writer attaches the mark of universality to the cup, not to the bread, as if the Spirit foresaw the (Bohemian) schism. The blood of Christ was shed for all for the remission of sins. If the laymen have the thing, why should they be refused the sign which is much less than the thing itself? The Church has no more right to take away the cup from the laity than the bread. The Romanists are the heretics and schismatics in this case, and not the Bohemians and the Greeks who take their stand on the manifest teaching of the Word of God. "I conclude, then, that to deny reception in both kinds to the laity is an act of impiety and tyranny, and one not in the power of any angel, much less of any Pope or council whatsoever." ... "The sacrament does not belong to the priests, but to all; nor are the priests lords, but servants, whose duty it is to give both kinds to those who seek them, as often as they seek them." ... "Since the Bishop of Rome has ceased to be a bishop, and has become a tyrant, I fear absolutely none of his decrees; for I know that neither he, nor even a general council, has authority to establish new articles of faith."

(b) The doctrine of transubstantiation is a milder bondage, and might be held alongside with the other and more natural view of the real presence, which leaves the elements unchanged. It is well known that Luther was to the end of life a firm believer in the real presence, and oral manducation of the very body and blood of Christ by unworthy as well as worthy communicants (of course, with opposite effects). He denied a miraculous change of the substance of the elements, but maintained the co-existence of the body and blood in, with, and under bread and wine, both being real, the one invisible and the other visible.250 In this book he claims toleration for both theories, with a personal preference for the latter. "Christians are at liberty, without peril to their salvation, to imagine, think, or believe in either of the two ways, since here there is no necessity of faith." ... "I will not listen to those, or make the slightest account of them, who will cry out that this doctrine is Wiclifite, Hussite, heretical, and opposed to the decisions of the Church." The Scripture does not say that the elements are transubstantiated: Paul calls them real bread and real wine, just as the cup was real. Moreover, Christ speaks (figuratively), "This cup is the new covenant in my blood," meaning his blood contained in the cup. Transubstantiation is a scholastic or Aristotelian figment of the twelfth century.251 "Why should Christ not be able to include his body within the substance of bread, as well as within the accidents? Fire and iron, two different substances, are so mingled in red-hot iron, that in every part of it are both fire and iron. Why may not the glorious body of Christ much more be in every part of the substance of the bread?" Common people do not understand the difference between substance and accidents, nor argue about it, but "believe with simple faith that the body and blood of Christ are truly contained in the elements." So also the incarnation does not require a transubstantiation of the human nature, that so the Godhead may be contained beneath the accidents of the human nature; "but each nature is entire, and we can say with truth, This man is God; this God is man."

(c) The sacrifice of the mass: that is, the offering to God of the very body and blood of Christ by the hands of the priest when he pronounces the words of institution; in other words, an actual repetition of the atoning sacrifice of the cross, only in an unbloody manner. This institution is the very heart of Roman-Catholic (and Greek-Catholic) worship. Luther attacks it as the third bondage, and the most impious of all. He feels the difficulty, and perhaps impossibility, of a task which involves an entire revolution of public worship. "At this day," he says, "there is no belief in the Church more generally received, or more firmly held, than that the mass is a good work and a sacrifice. This abuse has brought in an infinite flood of other abuses, until faith in the sacrament has been utterly lost, and they have made this divine sacrament a mere subject of traffic, huckstering, and money-getting contracts; and the entire maintenance of priests and monks depends upon these things." He goes back to the simplicity of the primitive institution of the Lord’s Supper, which is a thankful commemoration of the atoning death of Christ, with a blessing attached to it, namely, the forgiveness of sins, to be appropriated by faith. The substance of this sacrament is promise and faith. It is a gift of God to man, not a gift of man to God. It is, like baptism, to be received, and not to be given. The Romanists have changed it into a good work of man and an opus operatum, by which they imagine to please God; and have surrounded it with so many prayers, signs, vestments, gestures, and ceremonies, that the original meaning is obscured. "They make God no longer the bestower of good gifts on us, but the receiver of ours. Alas for such impiety!" He proves from the ancient Church that the offering of the eucharist, as the name indicates, was originally a thank-offering of the gifts of the communicants for the benefit of the poor. The true sacrifice which we are to offer to God is our thanks, our possessions, and our whole person. He also objects to the use of the Latin language in the mass, and demands the vernacular.

2. The sacrament of Baptism. Luther thanks God that this sacrament has been preserved uninjured, and kept from "the foul and impious monstrosities of avarice and superstition." He agrees essentially with the Roman doctrine, and considers baptism as a means of regeneration; while Zwingli and Calvin regarded it merely as a sign and seal of preceding regeneration and church-membership. He even makes more of it than the Romanists, and opposes the prevailing view of St. Jerome, that penitence is a second plank of refuge after shipwreck. Instead of relying on priestly absolution, it is better to go back to the remission of sins secured in baptism. "When we rise out of our sins, and exercise penitence, we are simply reverting to the efficacy of baptism and to faith in it, whence we had fallen; and we return to the promise then made to us, but which we had abandoned through our sin. For the truth of the promise once made always abides, and is ready to stretch out the hand and receive us when we return."

As to the mode of baptism, he gives here, as elsewhere, his preference to immersion, which then still prevailed in England and in some parts of the Continent, and which was not a point of dispute either between Romanists and Protestants, or between Protestants and Anabaptists; while on the question of infant-baptism the Anabaptists differed from both. "Baptism," he says, "is that dipping into water whence it takes its name. For, in Greek to baptize signifies to dip, and baptism is a dipping." "Baptism signifies two things,—death and resurrection; that is, full and complete justification. When the minister dips the child into the water, this signifies death; when he draws him out again, this signifies life. Thus Paul explains the matter (Rom. 6:4) .... I could wish that the baptized should be totally immersed, according to the meaning of the word and the signification of the mystery; not that I think it necessary to do so, but that it would be well that so complete and perfect a thing as baptism should also be completely and perfectly expressed in the sign."

Luther’s view of baptismal regeneration seems to be inconsistent with his chief doctrine of justification by faith alone. He says, "It is not baptism which justifies any man, or is of any advantage; but faith in that word of promise to which baptism is added: for this justifies and fulfills the meaning of baptism. For faith is the submerging of the old man, and the emerging of the new man." But how does this apply to baptized infants, who can not be said to have faith in any proper sense of the term, though they have undoubtedly the capacity of faith? Luther here brings in the vicarious faith of the parents or the Church. But he suggests also the idea that faith is produced in the children, through baptism, on the ground of their religious receptivity.

3. Lastly, Luther attacks the traditional number of the sacraments. He allows "only two sacraments in the Church of God, Baptism and Bread; since it is in these alone that we see both a sign divinely instituted, and a promise of remission of sins." In some sense he retains also the sacrament of Penance, as a way and means of return to baptism.

The rest of the seven Roman sacraments—confirmation, marriage, ordination, and extreme unction—he rejects because they can not be proved from Scripture, and are not commanded by Christ.

Matrimony has existed from the beginning of the world, and belongs to all mankind. Why, then, should it be called a sacrament? Paul calls it a "mystery," but not a sacrament, as translated in the Vulgate (Ep. 5:32); or rather he speaks there of the union of Christ and the Church, which is reflected in matrimony as in a sort of allegory. But the Pope has restricted this universal human institution by rigorous impediments derived from spiritual affinity and legal relationship. He forbids it to the clergy, and claims the power to annull rightful marriages, even against the will of one of the parties. "Learn, then, in this one matter of matrimony, into what an unhappy and hopeless state of confusion, hindrance, entanglement, and peril all things that are done in the Church have been brought by the pestilent and impious traditions of men! There is no hope of a remedy, unless we do away with all the laws of men, call back the gospel of liberty, and judge and rule all things according to it alone."

Luther closes with these words: "I hear a report that fresh bulls and papal curses are being, prepared against me, by which I am urged to recant, or else to be declared a heretic. If this is true, I wish this little book to be a part of my future recantation, that they may not complain that their tyranny has puffed itself up in vain. I shall also shortly publish, Christ being my helper, such a recantation as the See of Rome has never yet seen or heard, thus abundantly testifying my obedience in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.252 Amen.


" ’Hostis Herodes impie,

Christum venire quid times?

Non arripit mortalia

Qui regna dat coelestia.’ "


§ 46. Christian Freedom.—Luther’s Last Letter to the Pope. October, 1520.


Von der Freiheit eines Christenmenschen, Wittenberg, 1520; often reprinted separately, and in the collected works of Luther. See Walch, XIX. 1206 sqq.; Erl. ed., XXVII. 173–200 (from the first ed.); Gerlach’s ed. V. 5–46. The Latin edition, De Libertate Christiana, was finished a little later, and has some additions; see Erl. ed. Opera Lat., IV. 206–255. Luther’s letter to the Pope in Latin and German is printed also in De Wette, I. 497–515. English version of the tract and the letter by Buchheim, l.c. 95–137.


Although Rome had already condemned Luther, the papal delegate Miltitz still entertained the hope of a peaceful settlement. He had extracted from Luther the promise to write to the Pope. He had a final interview with him and Melanchthon at Lichtenberg (now Lichtenburg, in the district of Torgau), in the convent of St. Antony, Oct. 11, 1520, a few days after Luther had seen the bull of excommunication. It was agreed that Luther should write a book, and a letter in Latin and German to Leo X., and assure him that he had never attacked his person, and that Dr. Eck was responsible for the whole trouble. The book was to be finished in twelve days, but. dated back to Sept. 6 in order to avoid the appearance of being occasioned by the Pope’s bull.

This is the origin of two of the most remarkable productions of Luther,—his little book on "Christian Freedom," and a dedicatory letter to Leo X.

The beautiful tract on "Christian Freedom" is a pearl among Luther’s writings. It presents a striking contrast to his polemic treatises against Rome, which were intended to break down the tyranny of popery. And yet it is a positive complement to them, and quite as necessary for a full understanding of his position. While opposing the Pope’s tyranny, Luther was far from advocating the opposite extreme of license. He was thoroughly imbued with the spirit of the Epistle to the Galatians, which protests against both extremes, and inspired the keynote to Luther’s Tract. He shows wherein true liberty consists. He means liberty according to the gospel; liberty in Christ, not from Christ; and offers this as a basis for reconciliation. He presents here a popular summary of Christian life. He keeps free from all polemics, and writes in the best spirit of that practical mysticism which connected him with Staupitz and Tauler.

The leading idea is: The Christian is the lord of all, and subject to none, by virtue of faith; he is the servant of all, and subject to every one, by virtue of love. Faith and love constitute the Christian: the one binds him to God, the other to his fellow-man. The idea is derived from St. Paul, who says, "Though I was free from all men, I brought myself under bondage to all, that I might gain the more" (1 Cor. 9:19); and "Owe no man any thing, save to love one another" (Rom. 13:8). It was carried out by Christ, who was Lord of all things, yet born of a woman, born under the law that he might redeem them who were under the law (Gal. 4:4); who was at once in the form of God, and in the form of a servant (Phil. 2:6, 7). The Christian life is an imitation of the’ life of Christ,—a favorite idea of the mediaeval mystics.

Man is made free by faith, which alone justifies; but it manifests itself in love, and all good works. The person must first be good before good works can be done, and good works proceed from a good person; as Christ says, "A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit, neither can a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit" (Matt. 7:18). The fruit does not bear the tree, nor does the tree grow on the fruit; but the tree bears the fruit, and the fruit grows on the tree. So it is in all handicrafts. A good or bad house does not make a good or bad builder, but the good or bad builder makes a good or bad house. Such is the case with the works of men. Such as the man himself is, whether in faith or in unbelief, such is his work; good if it is done in faith, bad if in unbelief. Faith, as it makes man a believer, so also it makes his works good; but works do not make a believing man, nor a justified man. We do not reject works; nay, we commend them, and teach them in the highest degree. It is not on their own account that we condemn them, but on account of the perverse notion of seeking justification by them. "From faith flow forth love and joy in the Lord; and from love, a cheerful, willing, free spirit, disposed to serve our neighbor voluntarily, without taking any account of gratitude or ingratitude, praise or blame, gain or loss. Its object is not to lay men under obligations; nor does it distinguish between friends and enemies, or look to gratitude or ingratitude; but most freely and willingly it spends itself and its goods, whether it loses them through ingratitude, or gains good-will. For thus did its Father, distributing all things to all men abundantly and freely, making his sun to rise upon the just and the unjust. Thus, too, the child does and endures nothing except from the free joy with which it delights through Christ in God, the giver of such great gifts." ...

"Who, then, can comprehend the riches and glory of the Christian life? It can do all things, has all things, and is in want of nothing; is lord over sin, death, and hell, and, at the same time, is the obedient and useful servant of all. But alas! it is at this day unknown throughout the world; it is neither preached nor sought after, so that we are quite ignorant about our own name, why we are and are called Christians. We are certainly called so from Christ, who is not absent, but dwells among us, provided we believe in him; and are reciprocally and mutually one the Christ of the other, doing to our neighbor as Christ does to us. But now, in the doctrine of men, we are taught only to seek after merits, rewards, and things which are already ours; and we have made of Christ a task-master far more severe than Moses." ...

"We conclude, then, that a Christian man does not live in and for himself, but in Christ and in his neighbor, or else is no Christian; in Christ by faith, in his neighbor by love. By faith he is carried upwards above himself to God, and by love he descends below himself to his neighbor, still always abiding in God and his love; as Christ says, ’Verily I say unto you, hereafter ye shall see the heaven opened, and the angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of man’ " (John 1:51

In the Latin text Luther adds some excellent remarks against those who misunderstand and distort spiritual liberty, turn it into an occasion of carnal license, and show their freedom by their contempt of ceremonies, traditions, and human laws. St. Paul teaches us to walk in the middle path, condemning either extreme, and saying, "Let not him that eateth despise him that eateth not; and let not him that eateth not judge him that eateth" (Rom. 14:3). We must resist the hardened and obstinate ceremonialists, as Paul resisted the Judaizers who would compel Titus to be circumcised; and we must spare the weak who are not yet able to apprehend the liberty of faith. We must fight against the wolves, but on behalf of the sheep, not against the sheep.

This Irenicon must meet with the approval of every true Christian, whether Catholic or Protestant. It breathes the spirit of a genuine disciple of St. Paul. It is full of heroic faith and childlike simplicity. It takes rank with the best books of Luther, and rises far above the angry controversies of his age, during which he composed it, in the full possession of the positive truth and peace of the religion of Christ.253

Luther sent the book to Pope Leo X., who was too worldly-minded a man to appreciate it; and accompanied the same with a most singular and undiplomatic, yet powerful polemic letter, which, if the Pope ever read it, must have filled him with mingled feelings of indignation and disgust. In his first letter to the Pope (1518), Luther had thrown himself at his feet as an obedient son of the vicar of Christ; in his second letter (1519), he still had addressed him as a humble subject, yet refusing to recant his conscientious convictions: in his third and last letter he addressed him as an equal, speaking to him with great respect for his personal character (even beyond his deserts), but denouncing in the severest terms the Roman See, and comparing him to a lamb among wolves, and to Daniel in the den of lions. The Popes, he says, are vicars of Christ because Christ is absent from Rome.254 Miltitz and the Augustinian brethren, who urged him to write an apologetic letter to Leo, must have been sorely disappointed; for it destroyed all prospects of reconciliation, if they had not been destroyed already.

After some complimentary words about Leo, and protesting that he had never spoken disrespectfully of his person, Luther goes on to say, —


"The Church of Rome, formerly the most holy of all churches, has become the most lawless den of thieves, the most shameless of all brothels, the very kingdom of sin, death, and hell; so that not even Antichrist, if he were to come, could devise any addition to its wickedness.

"Meanwhile you, Leo, are sitting like a lamb in the midst of wolves, like Daniel in the midst of lions, and, with Ezekiel, you dwell among scorpions. What opposition can you alone make to these monstrous evils? Take to yourself three or four of the most learned and best of the cardinals. What are these among so many? You would all perish by poison, before you could undertake to decide on a remedy. It is all over with the court of Rome: the wrath of God has come upon her to the uttermost. She hates Councils, she dreads to be reformed, she cannot restrain the madness of her impiety; she fills up the sentence passed on her mother, of whom it is said, ’We would have healed Babylon, but she is not healed; let us forsake her.’ It had been your duty, and that of your cardinals, to apply a remedy to these evils; but this gout laughs at the physician’s hand, and the chariot does not obey the reins. Under the influence of these feelings I have always grieved that you, most excellent Leo, who were worthy of a better age, have been made pontiff in this. For the Roman court is not worthy of you and those like you, but of Satan himself, who in truth is more the ruler in that Babylon than you are.

"Oh, would that, having laid aside that glory which your most abandoned enemies declare to be yours, you were living rather in the office of a private priest, or on your paternal inheritance! In that glory none are worthy to glory, except the race of Iscariot, the children of perdition. For what happens in your court, Leo, except that, the more wicked and execrable any man is, the more prosperously he can use your name and authority for the ruin of the property and souls of men, for the multiplication of crimes, for the oppression of faith and truth, and of the whole Church of God? O Leo! in reality most unfortunate, and sitting on a most perilous throne: verily I tell you the truth, because I wish you well; for if Bernard felt compassion for his Anastasius at a time when the Roman See, though even then most corrupt, was as yet ruling with better hope than now, why should not we lament, to whom so much additional corruption and ruin has happened in three hundred years?

Is it not true that there is nothing under the vast heavens more corrupt, more pestilential, more hateful, than the court of Rome? She incomparably surpasses the impiety of the Turks, so that in very truth she, who was formerly the gate of heaven, is now a sort of open mouth of hell, and such a mouth as, under the urgent wrath of God, can not be blocked up; one course alone being left to us wretched men,—to call back and save some few, if we can, from that Roman gulf.

"Behold, Leo my father, with what purpose and on what principle it is that I have stormed against that seat of pestilence. I am so far from having felt any rage against your person, that I even hoped to gain favor with you and to aid in your welfare, by striking actively and vigorously at that your prison, nay, your hell. For, whatever the efforts of all intellects can contrive against the confusion of that impious court will be advantageous to you and to your welfare, and to many others with you. Those who do harm to her are doing your work; those who in every way abhor her are glorifying Christ; in short, those are Christians who are not Romans ....

"In fine, that I may not approach your Holiness empty-handed, I bring with me this little book,255 published under your name, as a good omen of the establishment of peace and of good hope. By this you may perceive in what pursuits I should prefer and be able to occupy myself to more profit, if I were allowed, or had been hitherto allowed, by your impious flatterers. It is a small book, if you look to the paper; but, unless I mistake, it is a summary of the Christian life put together in small compass, if you apprehend its meaning. I, in my poverty, have no other present to make you; nor do you need any thing else than to be enriched by a spiritual gift. I commend myself to your Holiness, whom may the Lord Jesus preserve for ever. Amen.

"Wittenberg, 6th September, 1520."


§ 47. The bull of Excommunication. June 15, 1520.


The bull "Exurge, Domine," in the Bullarium Romanum, ed. CAR. Cocquelines, Tom. III., Pars III. (ab anno 1431 ad 1521), pp. 487–493, and in Raynaldus (continuator of Baronius): Annal. Eccl., ad ann. 1520, no. 51 (Tom. XX. fol. 303–306). Raynaldus calls Luther "apostatam nefandissimum," and takes the bull from Cochlaeus, who, besides Eck and Ulemberg (a Protestant apostate), is the chief authority for his meager and distorted account of the German Reformation. A copy of the original edition of the bull is in the Astor Library, New York. See Notes.

U. v. Hutten published the bull with biting glosses: Bulla Decimi Leonis contra errores Lutheri et sequacium, or Die glossirte Bulle (in Hutten’s Opera, ed. Böcking, V. 301–333; in the Erl. ed. of Luther’s Op. Lat., IV. 261–304; also in German in Walch, XV. 1691 sqq.; comp. Strauss: U. v. Hutten, p. 338 sqq.). The glosses in smaller type interrupt the text, or are put on the margin. Luther: Von den neuen Eckischen Bullen und Lügen (Sept. 1520); Adv. execrabilem Antichristi bullam (Nov. 1520); Wider die Bullen des Endchrists (Nov. 1520; the same book as the preceding Latin work, but sharper and stronger); Warum des Papsts und seiner Jünger Bücher verbrannt sind (Lat. and Germ., Dec. 1520); all in Walch, XV. fol. 1674–1917; Erl. ed., XXIV. 14–164, and Op. Lat. V. 132–238; 251–271. Luther’s letters to Spalatin and others on the bull of excommunication, in De Wette, I. 518–532.

Ranke: I. 294–301. Merle D’Aubigné, bk. VI. ch. III. sqq. Hagenbach, III. 100–102. Kahnis: I. 306–341. Köstlin: I. 379–382. Kolde: I. 280 sqq. Janssen: II. 108 sqq.


After the Leipzig disputation, Dr. Eck went to Rome, and strained every nerve to secure the condemnation of Luther and his followers.256 Cardinals Campeggi and Cajetan, Prierias and Aleander, aided him. Cajetan was sick, but had himself carried on his couch into the sessions of the consistory. With considerable difficulty the bull of excommunication was drawn up in May, and after several amendments completed June 15, 1520.257

Nearly three years had elapsed since the publication of Luther’s Ninety-five Theses. In the mean time he had attacked with increasing violence the very foundations of the Roman Church, had denounced popery as an antichristian tyranny, and had dared to appeal from the Pope to a general council, contrary to the decisions of Pius II. and Julius II., who declared such an appeal to be heresy. Between the completion and the promulgation of the bull, he went still further in his, "Address to the German Nobility," and the book on the "Babylonian Captivity," and made a reconciliation impossible except by an absolute surrender, which was a moral impossibility for him. Rome could not tolerate Lutheranism any longer without ceasing to be Rome. She delayed final action only for political and prudential considerations, especially in view of the election of a new German Emperor, and the influential voice of the Elector Frederick, who was offered, but declined, the imperial crown.

The bull of excommunication is the papal counter-manifesto to Luther’s Theses, and condemns in him the whole cause of the Protestant Reformation. Therein lies its historical significance. It was the last bull addressed to Latin Christendom as an undivided whole, and the first which was disobeyed by a large part of it. Instead of causing Luther and his friends to be burnt, it was burnt by Luther. It is an elaborate document, prepared with great care in the usual heavy, turgid, and tedious style of the curia. It breathes the genuine spirit of the papal hierarchy, and mingles the tones of priestly arrogance, concern for truth, abomination of heresy and schism, fatherly sorrow, and penal severity. The Pope speaks as if he were the personal embodiment of the truth, the infallible judge of all matters of faith, and the dispenser of eternal rewards and punishments.

He begins with the words of Ps. 74:22: "Arise, O God, plead thine own cause: remember how the foolish man reproacheth thee daily. Forget not the voice of thine enemies: the tumult of those that rise up against thee increaseth continually." He calls St. Peter, St. Paul, and the whole body of the saints, to aid against "the boar out of the wood" and "the wild beast of the field" that had broken into the vineyard of the Lord, to waste and destroy it (Ps. 80:13). He expresses deep sorrow at the revival of the Bohemian and other heresies in the noble German nation which had received the empire from the Pope, and shed so much precious blood against heresy. Then he condemns forty-one propositions selected from Luther’s books, as heretical, or at least scandalous and offensive to pious ears, and sentences all his books to the flames. Among the errors named are those relating to the sacramental and hierarchical system, especially the authority of the Pope and the (Roman) Church. The denial of free will (liberum arbitrium) after the fall is also condemned, though clearly taught by St. Augustin. But Luther’s fundamental doctrine of justification by faith is not expressly mentioned. The sentences are torn from the connection, and presented in the most objectionable form as mere negations of Catholic doctrines. The positive views of the Reformer are not stated, or distorted.

For the person of Luther, the Pope professes fatherly love and forbearance, and entreats him once more, by the mercies of God and the blood of Christ, to repent and recant within sixty days after the publication of the bull in the Brandenburg, Meissen, and Merseburg dioceses, and promises to receive him graciously like the prodigal son. But failing to repent, he and his adherents will be cut off, as withered branches, from the vine of Christ, and be punished as obstinate heretics. This means that they shall be burned; for the bull expressly condemns the proposition of Luther which denounces the burning of heretics as "contrary to the will of the Holy Spirit." All princes, magistrates, and citizens are exhorted, on threat of excommunication and promise of reward, to seize Luther and his followers, and to hand him over to the apostolic chair. Places which harbor him or his followers are threatened with the interdict. Christians are forbidden to read, print, or publish any of his books, and are commanded to burn them.

We may infer from this document in what a state of intellectual slavery Christendom would be at the present time if the papal power had succeeded in crushing the Reformation. It is difficult to estimate the debt we owe to Martin Luther for freedom and progress.

The promulgation and execution of the bull were intrusted to two Italian prelates, Aleander and Caraccioli, and to Dr. Eck. The personal enemy of Luther, who had been especially active in procuring the bull, was now sent back in triumph with the dignity of a papal nuncio, and even with the extraordinary power of including by name several followers of Luther, among whom he singled out Carlstadt and Dolzig of Wittenberg, Adelmann of Augsburg, Egranus of Zwickau, and the humanists Pirkheimer and Spengler of Nürnberg. The selection of Eck, the most unpopular man in Germany, was a great mistake of the Pope, as Roman historians admit, and it helped the cause of the Reformation.258

The bull was published and carried out without much difficulty in Mayence, Cologne, and Louvain; and Luther’s books were committed to the flames, with the sanction of the new Emperor. But in Northern Germany, which was the proper seat of the conflict, it met with determined resistance, and was defeated. Eck printed and placarded the bull at Ingolstadt, at Meissen (Sept. 21), at Merseburg (Sept. 25), and at Brandenburg (Sept. 29). But in Leipzig where a year before he had achieved his boasted victory over Luther in public debate, he was insulted by the students (one hundred and fifty had come over from Wittenberg), and took flight in a convent; the bull was bespattered, and torn to pieces.259 He fared still worse in Erfurt, where he had been ridiculed and held up to scorn as a second Hochstraten in the satire Eccius dedolatus (printed at Erfurt in March, 1520): the theological faculty refused to publish the bull; and the students threw the printed copies into the water, saying, "It is only a water-bubble (bulla), let it float on the water."260

Eck sent the bull to the rector of the University of Wittenberg, Oct. 3, 1520, with the request to prohibit the teaching of any of the condemned propositions of Luther, and threatening that, in case of disobedience, the Pope would recall all the liberties and privileges of the university. The professors and counselors of the Elector declined the promulgation for various reasons.

The Elector Frederick was on the way to Aachen to assist at the coronation of Charles V., but was detained at Cologne by the gout. There he received the bull from Aleander after the mass, Nov. 4, and was urged with eloquent words to execute it, and to punish Luther or to send him to Rome; but he cautiously deferred an answer, and sought the advice of Erasmus in the presence of Spalatin. The famous scholar gave it as his judgment, that Luther’s crime consisted in having touched the triple crown of the Pope and the stomachs of the monks;261 he also wrote to Spalatin, after the interview, that the Pope’s bull offended all upright men by its ferocity and was unworthy of a meek vicar of Christ.262 The Elector was thus confirmed in his favorable view of Luther. He sent Spalatin to Wittenberg, where some students had left in consequence of the bull; but Spalatin was encouraged, and found that Melanchthon had about six hundred, Luther four hundred hearers, and that the church was crowded whenever Luther preached. A few weeks afterward the Pope’s bull was burnt.




As I do not find the bull in any of the Protestant or Roman-Catholic church histories which I have consulted (except the Annals of Raynaldus), I give it here in full as transcribed from an original copy in possession of the Astor Library, New York (probably the only one on the American Continent), together with facsimiles of titlepage and first page (see preceeding pages in text). The pamphlet contains twenty pages, small quarto, and is printed continuously, like ancient MSS. I have divided it into sections, with headings, and noted the departures of Cocquelines and Raynaldus from the original.




Leo Episcopus Servus Servorum Dei.263

Ad perpetuam rel memoriam.


[Proömium. The Pope invokes God, St. Peter and St. Paul, and all the saints, against the new enemies of the Church.]


Exurge, Domine, et judica causam tuam, memor esto improperiorum tuorum, eorum, quae ab insipientibus fiunt totâ die; inclina aurem tuam ad preces nostras, quoniam surrexerunt vulpes quaerentes demoliri vineam, cujus tu torcular calcasti solus, et ascensurus ad Patrem ejus curam, regimen et administrationem Petro tanquam capiti et tuo vicario, ejusque successoribus instar triumphantis Ecclesiae commisisti: exterminate nititur eam aper de silva, et singularis ferus depasci [tur] eam. Exurge, Petre, et pro pastorali cura praefata tibi (ut praefertur) divinitus demandata, intende in causam sanctae Romanae Ecclesiae, Matris omnium ecclesiarum, se fidei magistrae, quam tu, jubente Deo, tuo sanguine consecrasti, contra quam, sicut tu praemonere dignatus es, insurgunt magistri mendaces introducentes sectas perditionis, sibi celerem interitum superducentes,264 quorum lingua ignis est, inquietum malum, plena veneno mortifero, qui zelum amarum habentes et contentiones in cordibus suis, gloriantur, et mendaces sunt adversus veritatem. Exurge tu quoque, quaesumus, Paule, qui eam tuâ doctrinâ et pari martyrio illuminasti atque illustrasti. Jam enim surgit novus Porphyrius; quia sicut ille olim sanctos Apostolos injuste momordit, ita hic sanctos Pontifices praedecessores nostros contra tuam doctrinam eos non obsecrando, sed increpando, mordere, lacerare, ac ubi causae suae265 diffidit, ad convicia accedere non veretur, more haereticorum, quorum (ut inquit Hieronymus) ultimum presidium est, ut cum conspiciant causas suas damnatum iri, incipiant virus serpentis linguâ diffundere; et cum se victos conspiciant, ad contuinelias prosilire. Nam licet haereses esse ad exercitationem fidelium in dixeris oportere, eas tamen, ne incrementum accipiant, neve vulpeculae coalescant, in ipso ortu, te intercedente et adjuvante, extingui necesse est.

Exurgat denique,266 omnis Sanctorum, ac reliqua universalis Ecclesia, cujus vera sacrarum literarum interpretatione posthabitâ, quidam, quorum mentem pater mendacii excaecavit, ex veteri haereticorum instituto, apud semetipsos sapientes, scripturas easdem aliter quam Spiritus sanctus flagitet, proprio dumtaxat sensu ambitionis, auraeque popularis causâ, teste Apostolo, interpretantur, immo vero torquent et adulterant, ita ut juxta Hieronymum jam non sit evangelium Christi, sed hominis, aut quod pejus est, diaboli. Exurgat, inquam, praefata Ecclesia sancta Dei, et una cum beatissimis Apostolis praefatis267 apud Deum omnipotentem intercedat, ut purgatis ovium suarum erroribus, eliminatisque a fidelium finibus haeresibus universis Ecclesiae suae sanctae pacem et unitatem conservare dignetur.


[The errors of the Greeks and Bohemians revived by Luther and his followers.]


Dudum siquidem268 quod prae animi angustia et moerore exprimere vix possumus, fide dignorum relatu ac famâ publicâ referente ad nostrum pervenit auditum, immo vero, proh dolor! oculis nostris vidimus ac legimus, multos et varios errores quosdam videlicet jam per Concilia ac Praedec-essorum nostrorum constitutiones damnatos, haeresim etiam Graecorum et Bohemicam expresse continentes: alios vero respective, vel haereticos, vel falsos, vel scandalosos, vel piarum aurium offensivos, vel simplicium mentium seductivos, a falsis fidei cultoribus, qui per superbam curiositatem mundi gloriam cupientes, contra Apostoli doctrinam plus sapere volunt, quam oporteat; quorum garrulitas (ut inquit Hieronymus) sine scripturarum auctoritate non haberet fidem, nisi viderentur perversam doctrinam etiam divinis testimoniis, male tamen interpretatis, roborare: a quorum oculis Dei timor recessit, humani generis hoste suggerente, noviter suscitatos, et nuper apud quosdam leviores in inclyta natione Germanica seminatos.


[The Germans, who received the empire from the Pope, were formerly most zealous against heresy, but now give birth to the most dangerous errors.]


Quod eo magis dolemus ibi269 evenisse, quod eandem nationem et nos et Praedecessores nostri in visceribus semper gesserimus caritatis. Nam post translatum ex Grecis a Romana Ecclesia in eosdem Germanos imperium, iidem Praedecessores nostri et nos ejusdem Ecclesiae advocates defensoresque ex eis semper accepimus; quos quidem Germanos, Catholicae veritatis vere germanos, constat haeresum [haeresium] acerrimos oppugnatores270 semper fuisse: cujus rei testes sunt laudabiles illae constitutiones Germanorum Imperatorum pro libertate Ecclesiae, proque expellendis exterminandisque ex omni Germania haereticis, sub gravissimis poenis, etiam amissionis terrarum et dominiorum, contra receptatores vel non expellentes olim editae, et à nostris Praedecessoribus confirmatae, quae si hodie servarentur, et nos et ipsi utique hae molestiâ careremus. Testis est in Concilio Constantiensi Hussitarum ac Wiccleffistarum, necnon Hieronymi Pragensis damnata ac punita perfidia. Testis est totiens contra Bohemos Germanorum sanguis effusus. Testis denique est praedictorum errorum, seu multorum ex eis per Coloniensem et Lovaniensem Universitates, utpote agri dominici piissimas religiosissimasque cultrices, non minus docta quam vera ac sancta confutatio, reprobatio, et damnatio. Multa quoque alia allegare possemus, quae, ne historiam texere videamur, praetermittenda censuimus.

Pro pastorals igitur officii, divinâ gratiâ, nobis injuncti cura, quam gerimus, praedictorum errorum virus pestiferum ulterius tolerare seu dissimulare sine Christianae, religionis nota, atque orthodoxae fidei injuria nullo modo possumus. Eorum autem errorum aliquos praesentibus duximus inferendos, quorum tenor sequitur, et est talis: —


[Forty-one heretical sentences selected from Luther’s writings.]


I. Haeretica sententia est, sed usitata, Sacramenta novae legis justificantem gratiam illis dare, qui non ponunt obicem.

II. In puero post baptismum negare remanens peccatum, est Paulum et Christum simul conculcare.

III. Fomes peccati, etiam si nullum adsit actuale peccatum, moratur exeuntem a corpore animam ab ingressu coeli.

IV. Imperfecta caritas morituri fert secum necessario magnum timorem, qui se solo satis est facere poenam purgatorii, et impedit introitum regni.

V. Tres esse partes poenitentiae, contritionem, confessionem, et satisfactionem, non est fundatum in sacra scriptura, nec in antiquis sanctis Christianis doctoribus.

VI. Contritio, quae paratus per discussionem, collectionem,271 et deteststionem peccatorum, qua quis recogitat annos suos in amaritudine animae suae, ponderando peccatorum gravitatem, multitudinem, foeditatem, amissionem aeternae beatitudinis, ac aeternae damnationis acquisitionem, haec contritio facit hypocritam, immo magis peccatorem.

VII. Verissimum est proverbium, et omnium doctrina de contritionibus hucusque data praestantius, de cetero non facere, summa poenitentia, optima poenitentia, nova vita.

VIII. Nullo modo praesumas confiteri peccata venialia, sed nec omnia mortalia, quia impossibile est, ut omnia mortalia cognoscas: unde in primitiva Ecclesia solum manifesta mortalia confitebantur.

IX. Dum volumus omnia pure confiteri, nihil aliud facimus, quam quod misericordiae Dei nihil volumus relinquere ignoscendum.

X. Peccata non sunt illi remissa, nisi remittente sacerdote credat sibi remitti; immo peccatum maneret nisi remissum crederet; non enim sufficit remissio peccati et gratiae donatio, sed oportet etiam credere esse remissum.

XI. Nullo modo confidas absolvi propter tuam contritionem, sed propter verbum Christi: "Quodcumque solveris." etc. Sic, inquam, confide, si sacerdotis obtinueris absolutionem, et crede fortiter te absolutum; et absolutus vere eris,272 quidquid sit de contritione.

XII. Si per impossibile confessus non esset contritus, aut sacerdos non serio, sed joco absolveret, si tamen credat se absolutum, verissime est absolutus.

XIII. In sacramento poenitentiae se remissione culpae non plus facit Papa aut episcopus, quam infimus sacerdos; immo ubi non est sacerdos, aeque tantum quilibet Christianus, etiam si mulier, aut puer esset.

XIV. Nullus debet sacerdote respondere, se esse contritum, nec273 sacerdos requirere.

XV. Magnus est error eorum, qui ad sacramenta Eucharistiae accedunt huic innixi, quod sint confessi, quod non sint sibi conscii alicujus peccati mortalis; quod praemiserint orationes suas et praeparatoria; omnes illi ad274 judicium sibi manducant et bibunt; sed si credant et confidant se gratiam ibi consecuturos, haec sola fides facit eos puros et dignos.

XVI. Consultum videtur, quod Ecclesia in communi concilio275 statueret, laicos sub utraque specie communicandos; nec Bohemi communicantes sub utraque specie276 sunt haeretici, sed schismatici.

XVII. Thesauri Ecclesiae, unde Papa dat indulgentias, non sunt merita Christi et sanctorum.

XVIII. Indulgentiae sunt piae fraudes fidelium, et remissiones bonorum onerum, et sunt de numero eorum, quae licent, et non de numero eorum, quae expediunt.

XIX. Indulgentiae his, qui veraciter eas consequuntur, non valent ad remissionem poenae pro peccatis actualibus debitae ad divinam justitiam.

XX. Seducuntur credentes indulgentias esse salutares, et ad fructum spiritûs utiles.

XXI. Indulgentiae necessariae sunt solum publicis criminibus, et proprie conceduntur duris solummodo et impatientibus.

XXII. Sex generibus hominum indulgentiae nec sunt necessariae, nec utiles; videlicet mortuis seu morituris, infirmis, legitime impeditis, his qui non commiserunt crimina, his qui crimina commiserunt, sed non publica, his qui meliora operantur.

XXIII. Excommunicationes sunt tantum externae poenae, nec privant hominem communibus spiritualibus Ecclesiae orationibus.

XXIV. Docendi sunt Christiani plus diligere excommunicationem quam timere.

XXV. Romanus Pontifex, Petri successor, non est Christi vicarius super omnes mundi ecclesias ab ipso Christo in beato Petro institutus.

XXVI. Verbum Christi ad Petrum: "Quodcumque solveris super terram," etc., extenditur duntaxat ad ligata ab ipso Petro.

XXVII. Certum est in manu Ecclesiae aut Papae prorsus non esse statuere articulos fidei, immo nec leges morum, seu bonorum operum.

XXVIII. Si Papa cum magna parte Ecclesiae sic vel sic sentiret, nec etiam erraret, adhuc non est peccatum aut haeresis contrarium sentire, praesertim in re non necessaria ad salutem, donec fuerit per Concilium universale alterum reprobatum, alterum approbatum.

XXIX. Via nobis facta est enarrandi auctoritatem Conciliorum, et libere contradicendi eorum gestis, et judicandi eorum decreta, et confidenter confitendi quidquid verum videtur, sive probatum fuerit, sive reprobatum a quocunque concilio.

XXX. Aliqui articuli Joannis Husz condemnati in concilio Constantiensi sunt Christianissimi, verissimi et evangelici, quos non universalis Ecclesia posset damnare.

XXXI. In omni opere bono Justus peccat.

XXXII. Opus bonum optime factum veniale est peccatum.

XXXIII. Haereticos comburi est contra voluntatem Spiritûs.277

XXXIV. Praeliari adversus Turcas est repugnare Deo visitanti iniquitates nostras per illos.

XXXV. Nemo est certus se non semper peccare mortaliter propter occultissimum superbaa vitium.

XXXVI. Liberum arbitrium post peccatum est res de solo titulo, et dum facit quod in se est, peccat mortaliter.

XXXVII. Purgatorium non potest probari ex sacra scriptura, quae sit in canone.

XXXVIII. Animae in purgatorio non sunt securae de earum salute, saltem omnes; nec probatum est ullis aut rationibus aut scripturis, ipsas esse extra statum merendi, aut278 agendae caritatis.

XXXIX. Animae in purgatorio peccant sine intermissione, quamdiu quaerunt requiem, et horrent poenas.

XL. Animae ex purgatorio liberatae suffragiis viventium minus beantur, quam si per se satisfecissent.

XLI. Praelati ecclesiastica et principes seculares non malefacerent si omnes saccos mendicitatis279 delerent.


[These propositions are condemned as heretical, scandalous, offensive, and contrary to Catholic truth.]


Qui quidem errores respective quam sint pestiferi, quam perniciosi, quam scandalosi, quam piarum et simplicium mentium seductivi, quam denique sint contra omnem charitatem, ac sanctae Romanae Ecclesiae matris omnium fidelium et magistrae fidei reverentiam atque nervum ecclesiasticae disciplines, obedientiam scilicet, quae fons est et origo omnium virtutum, sine qua facile unusquisque infidelis esse convincitur, nemo sanae mentis ignorat. Nos Igitur in praemissis, utpote gravissimis, propensius (ut decet) procedere, necnon hujusmodi pesti morboque canceroso, ne in agro Dominico tanquam vepris nociva ulterius serpat, viam praecludere cupientes, habita super praedictis erroribus, et eorum singulis diligenti trutinatione, discussione, ac districto examine, maturaque deliberatione, omnibusque rite pensatis ac saeepius ventilatis cum venerabilibus fratribus nostris sanctae Romanae Ecclesiae Cardinalibus, ac regularium ordinum Prioribus, seu ministris generalibus, plurisbusque aliis sacrae theologiae, necnon utriusque juris professoribus sive magistris, et quidem peritissimis, reperimus eosdem errores respective (ut praefertur) aut articulos non esse catholicos, nec tanquam tales esse dogmatizandos, sed contra Ecclesivae Catholicae doctrinam sive traditionem, atque ab ea veram divinarum scripturarum receptam interpretationem, cujus auctoritati ita acquiescendum censuit Augustinus, ut dixerit, se Evangelio non fuisse crediturum, nisi Ecclesiae Catholicae intervenisset auctoritas. Nam ex eisdem erroribus, vel eorum aliquo, vel aliquibus, palam sequitur, eandem Ecclesiam, quae Spiritu sancto regitur, errare, et semper errasse. Quod est utique contra illud, quod Christus discipulis suis in ascensione sua (ut in sancto Evangelio Matthaei legitur) promisit dicens: "Ego vobiscum sum usque ad consummationem seculi;" necnon contra Sanctorum Patrum determinationes, Conciliorum quoque et summorum Pontificum expressas ordinationes seu canones, quibus non obtemperasse omnium haeresum et schismatum, teste Cypriano, fomes et causa semper fuit.

De eorundem itaque venerabilium fratrum nostrorum consilio et assensu, se omnium et singulorum praedictorum maturâ deliberatione praedicta, auctoritate omnipotentis Dei, et beatorum Apostolorum Petri et Pauli, et nostra, praefatos omnes et singulos articulos seu errores, tanquam (ut praemittitur) respective haereticos, aut scandalosos, aut falsos, aut piarum aurium offensivos, vel simplicium mentium seductivos, et veritate Catholicae obviantes, damnamus, reprobamus, ac omnino rejicimus, ac pro damnatis, reprobatis, et rejectis ab omnibus utriusque sexûs Christi fidelibus haberi debere, harum serie decernimus et declaramus.280


[Prohibition of the defence and publication of these errors.]


Inhibentes in virtute sanctae obedientiae ac sub majoris excommunicationis latae sententiae, necnon quoad Ecclesiasticas et Regulares personas, Episcopalium omnium, etiam Patriarchalium, Metropolitanarum et aliarum Cathedralium Ecclesiarum, Monasteriorum quoque et Prioratuum etiam Conventualium et quarumcunque281 dignitatum aut Beneficiorum Ecclesiasticorum, Saecularium aut quorum vis Ordinum Regularium, privationis et inhabilitatis ad illa, et alia in posterum obtinenda. Quo vero ad Conventus, Capitula seu domos, aut pia loca saecularium, vel regularium, etiam Mendicantium, necnon Universitatis etiam studiorum generalium quorumcunque privilegiorum indultorum a Sede Apostolica, vel ejus Legatis, aut alias quomodolibet habitorum, vel obtentorum, cujuscumque tenoris existant: necnon nominis et potestatis studium generale tenendi, legendi, ac interpretandi quasvis scientias et facultates et inhabilitatis ad illa et alia in posterum obtinenda: Praedicationis quoque officii ac amissionis studii generalis et omnium privilegiorum ejusdem. Quo vero ad saeculares ejusdem excommunicationis, necnon amissionis cujuscumque emphyteosis, seu quorumcunque feudorum, tam a Romana Ecclesia, quam alias quomodolibet obtentorum, ac etiam inhabilitatis ad illa et alia in posterum obtinenda. Necnon quo ad omnes et singulos superius nominatos, inhibitionis Ecclesiasticae sepulturae inhabilitatisque ad omnes et singulos actus legitimos, infamiae ac diffidationis et criminis laesae majestatis, et haereticorum et fautorum eorundem in jure expressis poenis, eo ipso et absque ulteriori declaratione per omnes et singulos supradictos, si (quod absit) contrafecerint, incurrendis. A quibus vigore cujuscumque facultatis et clausularum etiam in confessionalibus quibusvis personis, sub quibusvis verborum formis contentarum, nisi a Romano Pontifice vel alio ab eo ad id in specie facultatem habente, praeterquam in mortis artlculo constitute, absolvi nequeant. Omnibus et singulis utriusque sexus Christifidelibus, tam Laicis quam Clericis, Saecularibus et quorumvis Ordinum Regularibus, et aliis quibuscumque personis cujuscumque status, gradus, vel conditionis existant, et quarumque ecclesiastica vel mundana praefulgeant dignitate, etiam S. R. E. Cardinalibas, Patriarchis, Primatibus, Archiepiscopis, Episcopis, Patriarchalium, Metropolitanarum et aliaram Cathedralium, Collegiatarum ac inferiorum ecclesiarum Praelatis, Clericis aliisque personis Eccleslasticis, Saecularibus et quorumvis Ordinum etiam Mendicantium regularibus, Abbatibus, Prioribus vel Ministris generalibus vel particularibus, Fratribus, seu Religiosis, exemptis et non exemptis: Studiorum quoque Universitatibus Saecularibus et quorumvis Ordinum etiam Mendicantium regularibus, necnon Regibus, Imperatori, Electoribus, Principibus, Ducibus, Marchionibus, Comitibus, Baronibus, Capitaneis, Conductoribus, Domicellis, omnibusque Officialibus, Judicibus, Notariis Ecelesiasticis et Saecularibus, Communitatibus, Universitatibus, Potentatibus, Civitatibus, Castris, Terris et locis, seu eorum vel earum civibus, habitatoribus et incolis, ac quibusvis aliis personis Ecclesiasticis, vel Regularibus (ut praefertur) per universum orbem, ubicumque, praesertim in Alemania existentibus, vel pro tempore futures, ne praefatos errores, aut eorum aliquos, perversamque doctrinam hujusmodi asserere, affirmare, defendere, praedicare, aut illi quomodolibet, publice vel occulte, quovis quaesito ingenio vel colore, tacite vel expresse favere praesumant.


[The writings of Luther are forbidden, and ordered to be burnt.]


Insuper quia errores praefati, et plures alii continentur in libellis seu scriptis Martini Luther, dictos libellos, et omnia dicti Martini scripta, seu praedicationes in Latino, vel quocumque alio idiomate reperiantur, in quibus dicti errores, seu eorum aliquis continentur, similiter damnamus, reprobamus, atque omnino rejicimus, et pro damnatis, reprobatis, ac rejectis (ut praefertur) haberi volumus, mandantes in virtute sanctae obedientiae et sub poenis praedictis eo ipso incurrendis, omnibus et singulis utriusque sexûs Christifidelibus superius nominatis, ne hujusmodi scripta, libellos, praedicationes, seu schedulas, vel in eis contenta capitula, errores, aut articulos supradictos continentia legere, asserere, praedicare, laudare, imprimere, publicare, sive defendere per se vel alium, seu alios directe vel indirecte, tacite vel expresse, publice vel occulte, aut in domibus suis sive aliis publicis vel privatis locis tenere quoquo modo praesumant; quinimmo illa statim post harum publicationem ubicumque fuerint, per ordinaries et alios supradictos diligenter quaesita, publice et solemniter in praesentia cleri et populi sub omnibus et singulis supradictis poenis comburant.


[Martin Luther was often warned with paternal charity to desist from these errors, and cited to Rome with the promise of safe-conduct.]


Quod vero ad ipsum Martinum attinet, (bone Deus) quid praetermisimus, quid non fecimus, quid paternae charitatis omisimus, ut eum ab hujusmodi erroribus revocaremus? Postquam enim ipsum citavimus, mitius cum eo procedere volentes, illum invitavimus, atque tam per diversos tractatus cum legato nostro habitos, quam per literas nostras hortati fuimus, ut a paedictis erroribus discederet, aut oblato etiam salvo conductu et pecuniâ ad iter necessariâ, sine metu seu timore aliquo quem perfecta charitas foras mittere debuit, veniret, ac Salvatoris nostri Apostolique Pauli exemplo, non occulto, sed palam et in facie loqueretur. Quod si fecisset, pro certe (ut arbitramur) ad cor reversus errores suos cognovisset, nec in Romana curia, quam tantopere vanis malevolorum rumoribus plusquam oportuit tribuendo vituperat, tot reperisset errata; docuissemusque cum luce clarius, sanctos Romanos Pontifices, quos praeter omnem modestiam injuriose lacerat, in suis canonibus, seu constitutionibus, quas mordere nititur, nunquam errasse; quia juxta prophetam, nec in Galahad resina, nec medicus deest. Sed obaudivit semper, et praedicta citatione omnibus et singulis supradictis spretis venire contempsit, ac usque in praesentem diem contumax, atque animo indurate censuras ultra annum sustinuit: et quod deterius est, addens mala malis, de citatione hujusmodi notitiam habens, in vocem temerariae appellationis prorupit ad futurum concilium contra constitutionem Pii Secundi ac Julii Secundi, praedecessorum nostrorum, qua cavetur, taliter appellantes haereticorum poenâ plectendos (frustra etiam Consilii auxilium imploravit, qui illi se non credere palam profitetur); ita ut contra ipsum tanquam de fide notorie suspectum, immo vere haereticum absque ulterori citatione vel mora ad condemnationem et damnationem ejus tanquam haeretici, ac ad omnium et singularum suprascriptarum poenarum et censurarum severitatem procedere possemus.


[Luther is again exhorted to repent, and promised the reception of the prodigal son.]


Nihilominus de eorundem fratrum nostroruin consilio, omnipotentis Dei imitantes clementiam, qui non vult mortem peccatoris, sed magis ut convertatur et vivat, omnium injuriarum hactenus nobis et Apostolicqae sedi illatarum obliti, omni qua possumus pietate uti decrevimus, et quantum in nobis est, agere, ut propositâ mansuetudinis viâ ad cor revertatur, et a praedictis recedat erroribus, ut ipsum tanquam filium illum prodigum ad gremium Ecclesiae revertentem benigne recipiamus. Ipsum igitur Martinum et quoscumque ei adhaerentes, ejusque receptatores et fautores per viscera misericordiae Dei nostri, et per aspersionem sanguinis Domini nostri Jesu Christi, quo et per quem humani generis redemptio, et sanctae matris Ecclesiae aedificatio facta est, ex tote corde hortamur et obsecramus, ut ipsius Ecclesiae pacem, unitatem et veritatem, pro qua ipse Salvator tam instanter oravit ad Patrem, turbare desistant, et a praedictis, tam perniciosis erroribus prorsus abstineant, inventuri apud nos si effectualiter paruerint, et paruisse per legitima documenta nos certificaverint, paternae charitatis affectum, et apertum mansuetudinis et clementiae fontem.


[Luther is suspended from the functions of the ministry, and given sixty days, after the publication of the bull, to recant.]


Inhibentes nihilominus eidem Martino ex nunc, ut interim ab omni praedicatione seu praedicationis officio omnino desistat. Alioquin in ipsum Martinum si forte justitiae et virtutis amor a peccato non retrahat, indulgentiaeque spes ad poenitentiam non reducat, poenarum terror coërceat disciplinae: eundem Martinum ejusque adhaerentes complices, fautores, et receptatores tenore praesentium requirimus, et monemus in virtute sanctae obedientiae, sub praedictis omnibus et singulis poenis eo ipso incurrendis districte praecipiendo mandamus, quatenus infra sexaginta dies, quorum viginti pro primo, viginti pro secundo, et reliquos viginti dies pro tertio et peremptorio termino assignamus ab affixione praesentium in locis infrascriptis immediate sequentes numerandos, ipse Martinus, complices, fautores, adhaerentes, et receptatores praedicti a praefatis erroribus, eorumque praedicatione, ac publications, et assertione, defensione quoque et librorum seu scripturarum editione super eisdem, sive eorum aliquo omnino desistant, librosque ac scripturas omnes et singulas praefatos errores seu eorum aliquos quomodolibet continentes comburant, vel comburi faciant. Ipse etiam Martinus errores et assertiones hujusmodi omnino revocet, ac de revocatione hujusmodi per publica documenta in forma juris valida in manibus duorum Praelatorum consignata ad nos infra alios similes sexaginta dies transmittenda, vel per ipsummet (si ad nos venire voluerit, quod magis placeret) cum praefato plenissimo salvo conductu, quem ex nunc concedimus deferenda, nos certiores efficiat, ut de ejus vera obedientia nullus dubitationis scrupulus valeat remanere.


[In case Luther and his followers refuse to recant within sixty days, they will be excommunicated, and dealt with according to law.]


Alias si (quod absit) Martinus praefatus, complices, fautores, adhaerentes et receptatores praedicti secus egerint, seu proemissa omnia et singula infra terminum praedictum cum effectu non adimpleverint, Apostoli imitantes doctrinam, qui haereticum hominem post primam et secundam correctionem vitandum docuit, ex nunc prout ex tunc, et e converso eundem Martinum, complices, adhaerentes, fautores et receptatores praefatos et eorum quemlibet tanquam aridos palmites in Christo non manentes, sed doctrinam contrariam, Catholicae fidei inimicam, sive scandalosam seu damnatam, in non modicam offensam divinae majestatis, ac universalis Ecclesiae, et fidei Catholicae detrimentum et scandalum dogmatizantes, claves quoque Ecclesiae vilipendentes, notorios et pertinaces haereticos eâdem auctoritate fuisse et esse declarantes, eosdem ut tales harum serie condemnamus, et eos pro talibus haberi ab omnibus utriusque sexus Christi fidelibus supradictis volumus et mandamus. Eosque omnes et singulos omnibus supradictis et aliis contra tales a jure inflictis poenis praesentium tenore subjicimus, et eisdem irretitos fuisse et esse decernimus et declaramus.


[All Catholics are admonished not to read, print, or publish any book of Luther and his followers, but to burn them.]


Inhibemus praeterea sub omnibus et singulis praemissis poenis eo ipso incurrendis, omnibus et singulis Christi fidelibus superius nominatis, ne scripta, etiam praefatos errores non continentia, ab eodem Martino quomodolibet condita vel edita, aut condenda vel edenda, seu eorum aliqua tanquam ab homine orthodoxae fidei inimico, atque ideo vehementer suspecta, et ut ejus memoria omnino deleatur de Christifidelium consortio, legere, asserere, praedicare, laudare, imprimere, publicare, sive defendere, per se vel alium seu alios, directe vel indirecte, tacite vel expresse, publice vel occulte, seu in domibus suis, sive aliis locis publicis vel privatis tenere quoquomodo praesumant, quinimmo illa comburant, ut praefertur.282


[Christians are forbidden, after the excommunication, to hold any intercourse with Luther and his followers, or to give them shelter, on pain of the interdict; and magistrates are commanded to arrest and send them to Rome.]


Monemus insuper omnes et singulos Christifideles supradictos, sub eadem excommunicationis latae sententiae poena, ut haereticos praedictos declaratos et condemnatos, mandatis nostris non obtemperantes, post lapsum termini supradicti evitent et quantum in eis est, evitari faciant, nec cum eisdem, vel eorum aliquo commercium aut aliquam conversationem seu communionem habeant, nec eis necessaria ministrent.

Ad majorem praeterea dicti Martini suorumque complicum, fautorum et adhaerentium ac receptatorum praedictorum, sic post lapsum termini praedicti declaratorum haereticorum et condemnatorum confusionem universis et singulis utriusque sexus Christifidelibus Patriarchis, Archiepiscopis, Episcopis, Patriarchalium, Metropolitanarum, et aliarum cathedralium, collegiatarum ac inferiorum ecclesiarum Praelatis, Capitulis, aliisque personis ecclesiastica, saecularibus et quoramvis Ordinum etiam Mendicantium (praesertim ejus congregationis cujus dictus Martinus est professus, et in qua degere vel morari dicitur) regularibus exemptis et non exemptis, necnon universis et singulis principibus, quacumque ecclesiastica vel mundana fulgentibus dignitate Regibus, Imperatoris283 Electoribus, Ducibus, Marchionibus, Comitibus, Baronibus, Capitaneis, Conductoribus, Domicellis, Communitatibus, Universitatibus, Potentatibus, Civitatibus, Terris, Castris et locis, seu eorum habitatoribus, civibus et incolis omnibusque aliis et singulis supradictis per universum Orbem, praesertim in eadem Alemania constitutis mandamus, quatenus sub praedictis omnibus et singulis poenis, ipsi vel eorum quilibet, praefatum Martinum, complices, adhaerentes, receptantes et fautores personaliter capiant et captos ad nostram instantiam retineant et ad nos mittant: reportaturi pro tam bono opere a nobis et Sede Apostolica remunerationem, praemiumque condignum vel saltem eos et eorum quemlibet, de Metropolitanis, Cathedralibus, Collegiatis, et aliis ecclesiis, domibus, Monasteriis, Conventibus, Civitatibus, Dominiis, Universitatibus, Communitatibus, Castris, Terris, ac locis respective, tam clerici et regulares quam laici omnes et singuli supradicti omnino expellant.


[The places which harbor Luther and his followers are threatened with the Interdict.]


Civitates vero, Dominia, Terras, Castra, Villas, comitatus, fortilicia, Oppida et loca quaecumque ubilibet consistentia earum et eorum respective Metropolitanas, Cathedrales, Collegiatas et alias ecclesias, Monasteria, Prioratus, Domus, Conventus et loca religiosa vel pia cujuscunque ordinis (tit praefertur) ad quae praefatum Martinum vel aliquem ex praedictis declinare contigerit, quamdiu ibi permanserint et triduo post recessum, ecclesiastico subjicimus interdicto.


[Provision for the promulgation and execution of the bull.]


Et ut praemissa omnibus innotescant, mandamus insuper universis Patriarchis, Archiepiscopis, Episcopis, Patriarchalium, Metropolitanarum et aliarum cathedralium ac collegiatarum ecclesiarum Praelatis, Capitulis aliisque personis ecclesiasticis, saecularibus et quorumvis Ordinum supradictorum regularibus, fratribus religiosis, monachis exemptis et non exemptis supradictis, ubilibet, praesertim in Alemania constitutis quatenus ipsi vel eorum quilibet sub similibus censuris et poenis co ipso incurrendis, Martinum omnesque et singulos supradictos qui elapso teremo hujusmodi mandatis seu monitis nostris non paruerint, in eorum ecclesiis, dominicis et aliis festivis diebus, dum inibi major populi multitudo ad divina convenerit, declaratos haereticos et condemnatos publice nuncient faciantque et mandent ab aliis nunciari et ab omnibus evitari. Necnon omnibus Christifidelibus ut eos evitent, pari modo sub praedictis censuris et poenis. Et praesentes literas vel earum transumptum sub forma infrascripta factum in eorum ecclesiis, monasteriis, domibus, conventibus et aliis locis legi, publicare atque affigi faciant. Excommunicamus quoque et anathematizamus omnes et singulos cujuscumque status, gradiis, conditionis, prae-eminentiae, dignitatis aut excellentiae fuerint qui quo minus praesentes literae vel earum transumpta, copiae seu exemplaria in suis terris et dominiis legi, affigi et publicare possint, fecerint vel quoquomodo procuraverint per se vel alium seu alios, publice vel occulte, directe vel indirecte, tacite vel expresse.

Postremo quia difficile foret praesentes literas ad singula quaeque loca deferri in quibus necessarium foret, volumus et apostolica authoritate decernimus, quod earum transumptis manu publici notarii confectis et subscriptis, vel in alma Urbe impressis et sigillo alicujus ecclesiastici Praelati munitis ubique stetur et plena fides adhibeatur, prout originalibus literis staretur, si forent exhibitae vel ostensae.

Et ne praefatus Martinus omnesque alii supradicti, quos praesentes literae quomodolibet concernunt, ignorantiam earundem literarum et in eis contentorum omnium et singulorum praetendere valeant, literas ipsas in Basilicas Principis Apostolorum et Cancellariae Apostolicae, necnon Cathedralium ecclesiarum Brandeburgen., Misnen. et Morspergen. [Merseburg] valvis affigi et publicari debere284 volumus, decernentes, quod earundem literarum publicatio sic facta, supradictum Martinum omnesque alios et singulos praenominatos, quos literae hujusmodi quomodolibet concernunt, perinde arctent, ac si literae ipsae die affixionis et publicationis hujusmodi eis personaliter lectae et intimatae forent, cum non sit verisimile, quod ea quae tam patenter fiunt debeant apud eos incognita remanere.

Non obstantibus constitutionibus et ordinationibus apostolicis, seu si supradictis omnibus et singulis vel eorum alicui aut quibusvis aliis a Sede Apostolica praedicta, vel ab ea potestatem habentibus sub quavis forma, etiam confessionali et cum quibusvis etiam fortissimis clausulis, aut ex quavis causa, seu grandi consideratione, indultum vel concessum existat, quod interdici, suspendi, vel excommunicari non possint per literas Apostolicas, non facientes plenam et expressam ac de verbo ad verbum, non autem per clausulas generates id importantes, de indulto hujusmodi mentionem, ejusdem indulti tenores, causas285 et formas perinde ac si de verbo ad verbum insererentur, ita ut omnino tollatur, praesentibus pro expressis habentes.

Nulli ergo omnino hominum liceat hanc paginam nostrae damnationis, reprobationis, rejectionis, decreti, declarationis, inhibitionis, voluntatis, mandati, hortationis, obsecrationis, requisitionis, monitionis, assignationis, concessionis, condemnationis, subjectionis, excommunicationis, et anathematizationis infringere, vel ei ausu temerario contraire. Si quis autem hoc attentare praesumpserit, indignationem Omnipotentis Dei ac Beatorum Petri et Pauli Apostolorum ejus se noverit incursurum.

Dat. Romae apud S. Petrum anno incarnationis Dominicae Milesimo Quingentesimo Vigesimo. XVII. Kls. Julii. Pontificatus Nostri Anno Octavo.

Visa. R. Milanesius.


Impressum Romae per Iacobum Mazochium

De Mandato S. D. N. Papae.286


§ 48. Luther burns the Pope’s bull, and forever breaks with Rome. Dec. 10, 1520.


Literature in § 47.


Luther was prepared for the bull of excommunication. He could see in it nothing but blasphemous presumption and pious hypocrisy. At first he pretended to treat it as a forgery of Eck.287 Then he wrote a Latin and German tract, "Against the bull of Antichrist,"288 called it a "cursed, impudent, devilish bull," took up the several charges of heresy, and turned the tables against the Pope, who was the heretic according to the standard of the sacred Scriptures. Hutten ridiculed the bull from the literary and patriotic standpoint with sarcastic notes and queries. Luther attacked its contents with red-hot anger and indignation bordering on frenzy. He thought the last day, the day of Antichrist, had come. He went so far as to say that nobody could be saved who adhered to the bull.289

In deference to his friends, he renewed the useless appeal from the Pope to a free general council (Nov. 17, 1520), which he had made two years before (Nov. 28, 1518); and in his appeal he denounced the Pope as a hardened heretic, an antichristian suppresser of the Scriptures, a blasphemer and despiser of the holy Church and of a rightful council.290

At the same time he resolved upon a symbolic act which cut off the possibility of a retreat. The Pope had ordered his books, good and bad, without any distinction, to be burned; and they were actually burned in several places, at Cologne even in the presence of the Emperor. They were to be burned also at Leipzig. Luther wanted to show that he too could burn books, which was an old custom (Acts 19:19) and easy business. He returned fire for fire, curse for curse. He made no distinction between truth and error in the papal books, since the Pope had ordered his innocent books to be destroyed as well. He gave public notice of his intention.

On the tenth day of December, 1520, at nine o’clock in the morning, in the presence of a large number of professors and students, he solemnly committed the bull of excommunication, together with the papal decretals, the Canon law, and several writings of Eck and Emser, to the flames, with these words (borrowed from Joshua’s judgment of Achan the thief, Josh. 7:25): "As thou [the Pope] hast vexed the Holy One of the Lord, may the eternal fire vex thee!"291

The spot where this happened is still shown outside the Elster Gate at Wittenberg, under a sturdy oak surrounded by an iron railing.292

Several hundred students tarried at the fire, which had been kindled by a master of the university, some chanting the Te Deum, others singing funeral dirges on the papal laws; then they made a mock procession through the town, collected piles of scholastic and Romish books, and returning to the place of execution, threw them into the flames.

Luther, with Melanchthon, Carlstadt, and the other doctors and masters, returned home immediately after the act. He at first had trembled at the step, and prayed for light; but after the deed was done, he felt more cheerful than ever. He regarded his excommunication as an emancipation from all restraints of popery and monasticism. On the same day he calmly informed Spalatin of the event as a piece of news.293 On the next day he warned the students in the lecture-room against the Romish Antichrist, and told them that it was high time to burn the papal chair with all its teachers and abominations.294 He publicly announced his act in a Latin and German treatise, "Why the Books of the Pope and his Disciples were burned by Dr. Martin Luther." He justified it by his duties as a baptized Christian, as a sworn doctor of divinity, as a daily preacher, to root out all unchristian doctrines. He cites from the papal law-books thirty articles and errors in glorification of the papacy, which deserve to be burned; and calls the whole Canon-law "the abomination of desolation" (Matt. 24:15) and antichristian (2 Thess. 2:4), since the sum of its teaching was, that "the Pope is God on earth, above all things, heavenly and earthly, spiritual and temporal; all things belong to the Pope, and no one dare ask, What doest thou?" Simultaneously with this tract, he published an exhaustive defense of all his own articles which had been condemned by the Pope, and planted himself upon the rock of God’s revelation in the Scriptures.

Leo X., after the expiration of the one hundred and twenty days of grace allowed to Luther by the terms of the bull, proceeded to the last step, and on the third day of January, 1521, pronounced the ban against the Reformer, and his followers, and an interdict on the places where they should be harbored. But Luther had deprived the new bull of its effect.

The burning of the Pope’s bull was the boldest and most eventful act of Luther. Viewed in itself, it might indeed have been only an act of fanaticism and folly, and proved a brutum fulmen. But it was preceded and followed by heroic acts of faith in pulling down an old church, and building up a new one. It defied the greatest power on earth, before which emperors, kings, and princes, and all the nations of Europe bowed in reverence and awe. It was the fiery signal of absolute and final separation from Rome, and destroyed the effect of future papal bulls upon one-half of Western Christendom. It emancipated Luther and the entire Protestant world from that authority, which, from a wholesome school of discipline for young nations, had become a fearful and intolerable tyranny over the intellect and conscience of men.

Luther developed his theology before the eyes of the public; while Calvin, at a later period, appeared fully matured, like Minerva from the head of Jupiter. "I am one of those," he says, "among whom St. Augustin classed himself, who have gradually advanced by writing and teaching; not of those who at a single bound spring to perfection out of nothing.

He called the Pope the most holy and the most hellish father of Christendom. He began in 1517 as a devout papist and monk, with full faith in the Roman Church and its divinely appointed head, protesting merely against certain abuses; in 1519, at the Leipzig disputation, he denied the divine right, and shortly afterwards also the human right, of the papacy; a year later he became fully convinced that the papacy was that antichristian power predicted in the Scriptures, and must be renounced at the risk of a man’s salvation.

There is no doubt that in all these stages he was equally sincere, earnest, and conscientious.

Luther adhered to the position taken in the act of Dec. 10, 1520, with unchanging firmness. He never regretted it for a moment. He had burned the ship behind him; he could not, and he would not, return. To the end of his life he regarded and treated the Pope of Rome in his official capacity as the very Antichrist, and expected that he soon would be destroyed by spiritual force at the second coming of Christ. At Schmalkalden in 1537 he prayed that God might fill all Protestants with hatred of the Pope. One of his last and most violent books is directed "Against the Papacy at Rome, founded by the Devil." Wittenberg, 1545.295 He calls Paul III. the "Most hellish Father," and addresses him as "Your Hellishness." instead of "Your Holiness." He promises at the close to do still better in another book, and prays that in case of his death, God may raise another one "a thousandfold more severe; for the devilish papacy is the last evil on earth, and the worst which all the devils with all their power could contrive. God help us. Amen." Thus he wrote, not under the inspiration of liquor or madness, as Roman historians have suggested, but in sober earnest. His dying words, as reported by Ratzeburger, his physician, were a prediction of the approaching death of the papacy: —


"Pestis eram vivus, moriens tua mors ero Papa."


From the standpoint of his age, Luther regarded the Pope and the Turk as "the two arch-enemies of Christ and his Church," and embodied this view in a hymn which begins, —

"Erhalt uns, Herr, bei deinem Wort

Und steur’ des Papst’s und Türken Mord."296


This line, like the famous eightieth question of the Heidelberg Catechism which denounces the popish mass as an "accursed idolatry," gave much trouble in mixed communities, and in some it was forbidden by Roman-Catholic magistrates. Modern German hymn-books wisely substitute "all enemies," or "enemies of Christ," for the Pope and the Turk.

In order to form a just estimate of Luther’s views on the papacy, it must not be forgotten that they were uttered in the furnace-heat of controversy, and with all the violence of his violent temper. They have no more weight than his equally sweeping condemnation of Aristotle and Thomas Aquinas.


§ 49. The Reformation and the Papacy.


Here is the place to interrupt the progress of events, and to reflect on the right or wrong of the attitude of Luther and the Reformation to the papacy.

The Reformers held the opinion that the papacy was an antichristian institution, and some of the Protestant confessions of faith have given symbolical sanction to this theory. They did not mean, of course, that every individual Pope was an Antichrist (Luther spoke respectfully of Leo X.), nor that the papacy as such was antichristian: Melanchthon, at least, conceived of the possibility of a Christian papacy, or a general superintendence of the Church for the preservation of order and unity.297

They had in view simply the institution as it was at their time, when it stood in open and deadly opposition to what they regarded as the truth of the gospel of Christ, and the free preaching of the same. Their theory does not necessarily exclude a liberal and just appreciation of the papacy before and after the Reformation.

And in this respect a great change has taken place among Protestant scholars, with the progress of exegesis and the knowledge of church history.

1. The prophetic Scripture texts to which the Reformers and early Protestant divines used to appeal for their theory of the papacy, must be understood in accordance with the surroundings and conditions of the writers and their readers who were to be benefited. This does not exclude, of course, an application to events and tendencies of the distant future, since history is a growing and expanding fulfillment of prophecy; but the application must be germane to the original design and natural meaning of the text. Few commentators would now find the Pope of Rome in "the little horn" of Daniel (7:8, 20, 21), who had in view rather Antiochus Epiphanes; or in the Apocalyptic beast from the abyss (Rev. 13:1), and "the mother of harlots" (17:5), which evidently apply to the persecuting heathen Rome of Nero and his successors.

St. John is the only biblical writer who uses the term Antichrist;"298 but he means by it, in the first instance, the Gnostic heresy of his own day, which denied the incarnation; for he represents this denial as the characteristic sign of Antichrist, and represents him as being already in the world; yea, he speaks of "many" antichrists who had gone out of the Christian churches in Asia Minor. The Pope has never denied the incarnation, and can never do it without ceasing to be Pope.

It is quite legitimate to use the terms "antichrist" and antichristian" in a wider sense, of all such men and tendencies as are opposed to Christ and his teaching; but we have no right to confine them to the Pope and the Roman Church., , Many shall come in my name, saying, I am Christ, and shall deceive many" (Matt. 24:4, 11, 23, 24).

St. Paul’s prediction of the great apostasy, and the "man of sin, the son of perdition, who opposes and exalts himself against all that is called God or that is worshiped; so that he sits in the temple of God, setting himself forth as God."299 sounds much more than any other passage like a description of the papacy with its amazing claim to universal and infallible authority over the Church of God. But the application becomes more than doubtful when we remember that the apostle characterizes this antichristian apostasy as "the mystery of lawlessness," already at work in his day, though restrained from open manifestation by some conservative power.300 The papacy did not yet exist at the time; and its besetting sin is not lawless freedom, but the very opposite.

If we would seek for Scripture authority against the sins and errors of popery, we must take our stand on our Lord’s opposition to the traditions of the elders, which virtually set aside the word of God; on Paul’s Epistles to the Galatians and Romans, where he defends Christian freedom against legalistic bondage, and teaches the great doctrines of sin and grace, forgotten by Rome, and revived by the Reformation; and on St. Peter’s protest against hierarchical presumption and pride.

There was in the early Church a general expectation that an Antichrist in the emphatic sense, an incarnation of the antichristian principle, a pseudo-Christ of hell, a "world-deceiver" (as he is called in the newly discovered "Teaching of the Apostles"301), should appear, and lead astray many Christians immediately before the second coming of Christ. The Reformers saw this Antichrist in the Pope, and looked for his speedy destruction; but an experience of more than three hundred and fifty years proves that in this expectation they were mistaken, and that the final Antichrist is still in the future.

2. As regards church history, it was as yet an unexplored field at the time of the Reformation; but the Reformation itself roused the spirit of inquiry and independent, impartial research. The documentary sources of the middle ages have only recently been made accessible on a large scale by such collections as the Monumenta Germania. "The keys of Peter," says Dr. Pertz, the Protestant editor of the Monumenta, "are still the keys of the middle ages." The greatest Protestant historians, ecclesiastical and secular,—I need only mention Neander and Ranke,—agree in a more liberal view of the papacy.302

After the downfall of the old Roman Empire, the papacy was, with all its abuses and vices, a necessary and wholesome training-school of the barbarian nations of Western and Northern Europe, and educated them from a state of savage heathenism to that degree of Christian civilization which they reached at the time of the Reformation. It was a check upon the despotism of rude force; it maintained the outward unity of the Church; it brought the nations into communication; it protected the sanctity of marriage against the lust of princes; it moderated slavery; it softened the manners; it inspired great enterprises; it promoted the extension of Christianity; it encouraged the cause of learning and the cultivation of the arts of peace.

And even now the mission of the papacy is not yet finished. It seems to be as needful for certain nations, and a lower stage of civilization, as ever. It still stands, not a forsaken ruin, but an imposing pyramid completed to the very top. The Roman Church rose like a wounded giant from the struggle with the Reformation, abolished in the Council of Trent some of the worst abuses, reconquered a considerable portion of her lost territory in Europe, added to her dominion one-half of the American Continent, and completed her doctrinal and governmental system in the decrees of the Vatican Council. The Pope has lost his temporal power by the momentous events of 1870; but he seems to be all the stronger in spiritual influence since 1878, when Leo XIII. was called to occupy the chair of Leo X. An aged Italian priest shut up in the Vatican controls the consciences of two hundred millions of human beings,—that is, nearly one-half of nominal Christendom,—and rules them with the claim of infallibility in all matters of faith and duty. It is a significant fact, that the greatest statesman of the nineteenth century, and founder of a Protestant empire, who at the beginning of the Kulturkampf declared that he would never go to Canossa (1872), found it expedient, after a conflict of ten years, to yield to an essential modification of the anti-papal May-laws of 1873, without, however, changing his religious conviction, or sacrificing the sovereignty of the State; he even conferred an extraordinary distinction upon the Pope by selecting him as arbiter in an international

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Sermon Video :The Supremacy of Christ Pastor Piper
Sermon Video :The Value of The Bible Pastor Piper
Sermon Video :Was This Child Born Blind?Pastor J Piper
Sermon Video 1 When The Righteous Suffer J Piper
Sermon video 2 When The Righteous Suffer p2 J Piper
Sermon Video Resting and Wrestling Pastor John
Sermon Video: Judas Iscariot by Pastor John Piper
Sermon Video:All Things Were Created Through Him Pastor John Piper
Sermon Video:Being Single Pastor John Piper
Sermon Video:Don't Waste Your Life Pastor John Piper
Sermon Video:Feed The Flame of Gods Gift by Pastor John Piper
Sermon Video:For Judgement I came Into This World Pastor John Piper
Sermon Video:He Knew What Was In Man Pastor John Piper
Sermon Video:How God Word's Produces Are Work John Piper
Sermon Video:Jesus Christ In Romans Pastor John Piper
Sermon Video:Lionhearted Pastor John Piper
Sermon video:Marriage Pastor John Piper
Sermon Video:Marriage Pursuing Conformity to christ Pastor John Piper
Sermon Video:Pray Like This by Pastor John Piper
Sermon Video:Racial Diversity Pastor John Piper
Sermon Video:The Light of The World Pastor John Piper
Sermon Video:The Obedience of Faith Pastor John Piper
Sermon Video:The Recession Pastor J Piper
Sermon Video:The Truth Will Set You Free Pastor John Piper
Sermon Video:We Found The Messiah Pastor J Piper
Shared Intentions? Reflections on Inspiration and Interpretation in Light of Scripture's Dual Author
Sin and God's Gift Dr J Gresham Machen
Spanish Theology Video ,La Perspectiva Circunstancial:Revelacion y Situación
Spanish Theology VideoLa Perspectiva Normativa: Dios y Su Palabra
St Anselm R C Sproul
St Cyprian Epistle 1
Strange Fire by A W Pink
Studies In Acts Group
Studies In Matthew Group
Studies in Popular Islam Dr Samuel Zwemer
Suffering And Consolation Rev C H Spurgeon
Sufferring Christians by A W Pink
Systematic Theology DR Cheung
Testament Hebrew Lexicon
That the Scriptures Might Be Fulfilled Piper
The Atonement by Dr J Gresham Machen
The Attributes of God by A W Pink
The Bands of Brotherhood Dr R C Sproul
The Bible and Modern Criticism by Professor F Bettex
The Bible Is The Word Of God A W Pink
The Book of Daniel Professor Joseph Wilson
The Bruised Reed by Richard Sibbes
The Cambridge 7
The Center of Biblical Theology in Acts: Deliverance and Damnation Display the Divine
The Children's crusade DR R C Sproul Jr
The Christian Faith DR Geerhardos Vos
The Christian in Complete Armour;William Gurnall, M.A.,
The Consecrated Life:The Life and Times of Francis Ridley Havergal by J J Burns
The Conversion of Dr Martin Luther
The Covenant Way Susan Hunt
The Cross by J C Ryle
The Cross John Newton 1725-1807
The Cross: A Call To The Fundamentals Of Religion J C Ryle
The Cup of Wrath Andrew Bonar
The Dangers of Mixing Law and Gospel Jason Stellman
The Dazzling Darkness of God’s Triune Love: Introducing Evangelicals to the Theology of Hans Urs von
The Death and Resurrection of Christ W. H. Griffith Thomas
The Death of Pride
The Deity of Christ & the Church Robert Peterson
The Divine Refuge Rev Charles Spurgeon
The Doctrinal Value of The First Chapters of Genesis Rev Dyson Hague
The Doctrinal Value of The First Chapters of Genesis Rev Dyson Hague
The Duties of Parents by Bishop J C Ryle
The Early Narratives of Genesis Professor James Orr
The End of Soap Oprah Dr Carl Trueman
The Excellence of Christ by Jonathan Edwards
The Faithful Promiser John MacDuff
The Fallacies of the Higher Criticism by Professor Franklin Johnson
The Fiture of Justification John Piper Book Review
The Fool's Creed DR Torrey
The Genesis of the New Faith Charles Cutler Torrey
The German Reformation part 2 Dr Philip Schaff
The Glory of God In Preaching Darrell W. Johnson
The Glory of The Cross Part 1 Samuel Zwemer
The Glory of The Cross part 10 Samuel Zwemer
The Glory of The Cross part 2 Samuel Zwemer
The Glory of The Cross Part 3 Samuel Zwemer
The Glory of The Cross Part 4 Samuel Zwemer
The Glory of The Cross part 5 Samuel Zwemer
The Glory of The Cross part 6 Samuel Zwemer
The Glory of The Cross part 7 Samuel Zwemer
The Glory of the Cross part 8 Samuel Zwemer
The Glory of The Cross part 9 Samuel Zwemer
The Goodness of The Law DR R C Sproul
The Gospel and the Poor Tim Keller
The Gospel of John A W Pink
The Gospel of John Set Free: Preaching without Anti-Judaism.
The Grace of Cheerful Giving Frank Cavalli
The Heart of The Gospel DR A T Pierson
The Historical Basis Of The Historical Faith by DR James Denney
The History of Justification by faith James Buchanan
The History of The Higher Criticism by Canon Dyson Hague
The Holy Spirit A W Pink
The Holy Spirit Rev C H Spurgeon
The Idea of Biblical Theology DR Geerhardus Vos
The Importance of Christian Scholarship Dr J G Machen
The Importance of Prayer DR A Torrey
The Internal Evidence For The Fourth Gospel Canon G Osborne
The Jewish World In The Days Of Christ Dr Edersheim
The Kingdom of God DR Geerhardus Vos
The Koran H A R Gibb
The Life of Adoniran Judson
The Life of Dr Martin Luther part 1 by Philip Melanchon
The Life of Dr Martin Luther part 2 by Philip Melancthon
The Life of Elijah by A W Pink
The Life of Faith A W Pink
The Life of John Bunyan
The Life of King David A W Pink
The Life of King David part 2 A W Pink
The Life Of Matthew Henry
The Life of Stephen Charnock by William Symington
The Magic Bullet Sebastian Heck
The Mohammedan Controversy (1897) Dr Samuel Zwemer
The Mosaic Authorship by Professor George Wright
The Most Important Question DR Torrey
The Need For Revival Dr A Torrey
The New Life Andrew Murray
The Oppresion of Man Thomas Manton
The Origin of Paul's Religion by Dr J G Machen
The Origin of the 'ID AL-ADHA Dr Richard Bell
The Origins of The Qur'an Rev W Goldsack
The Pastor and the Funeral by Harry Reeder
The Peace that Passes R.C. Sproul Jr.
The Persecution of the Church by Dr Philip Schaff
The Person of Christ Dr John Owen
The Place of Christ In The New Testament by Dr James Denney
The Pleasures of God video 4 Pastor John Piper
The Pleasures of God Video 1 John Piper
The Pleasures of God Video 2 Pastor John Piper
The Pleasures of God video 3 Pastor John Piper
The Pleasures of God video 5 Pastor John Piper
The Power of Prayer Andrew Murray
The Power of The Word Of God R A Torrey
The Precious Gift of Baby Talk John Piper
The Rainbow In The Clouds John MacDuff
The Reformation by Dr Philip Schaff
The Refutatation of Dispensationalism by A W Pink
The Resurrection of Christ Dr J G Machen
The Sacrifice of Jesus Christ John Calvin
The Secret of Blessing DR R A Torrey
The Secret of Blessing DR R A Torrey
The Soul-Shaping Reality of the Gospel: An Interview with David Wells
The Spirit of Rebellion R C Sproul jr
The Study Bible developed and located around the world!
The Tabernacle In The Wilderness by Professor David Heagle
The Testimony of Christ To The Old Testement William Cavan DD
The Theology of John Calvin by DR Philip Schaff
The Theology of Romans by Dr Charles Hodge
The Things of God R.C. Sproul
The Triune God: Good, Beautiful, and True Harry Reeder
The Unholy Pursuit of God in Moby Dick Dr R C Sproul
The Vanity of the world Rev John Newton
The Victory Parade We Don't deserve R C Sproul Jr
The Way of Holiness Jonathan Edwards
The Way The World Thinks DR A Mohler
The Westminster Assembly Project Chad Dixhoorn
The Will of God In Prayer DR A Torrey
The Witness of Paul by Dr J G Machen
The Word Of God B B Warfield
The Work Of The Holy Spirit Dr A Kuyper
The Works Flavius Josephus
The Year in Books Keith Mathison
Theological Articles
Theology in the time of Charlemagne
This Isn’t Going to Be As Easy As It Looks by Keith Mathison
Time to (Re)Discover Hebrews Sinclair Ferguson
To Be Deep in History Keith Mathison
Truly Reformed Theology Burk Parsons
Truth of the Christian Religion in Six Books by Hugo Grotius. Corrected and Illustrated with Notes b
Two Thumbs Down by R.C. Sproul Jr.
United in the (whole) Truth Burk Parsons
Unqualified Christians Burk Parsons
'Uthman and the Recension of the Koran Leon Caetani
Vehicles for Giving the Self: An Interview with Michael Card
Video on the Prosperity gospel John Piper
Video:The Prosperity gospel Pastor John Piper
Video:The Supremacy of Christ in a Postmodern World Dr D. A .Carson
Walking With God George Whitefield
Water of Life John Bunyan
Way to Christ Boehme, Jakob (1575-1624)
We Believe the Bible and You Do Not Keith Mathison
Western Seminary Missions Conference
What is Christianity? Dr J G Machen
What makes the Apostles Creed so special? By Simon Peter Sutherland
When To Pray Dr A Torrey
Who Belongs To The Church? by John Calvin
Who Is My Brother Dr R C Sproul jr
Why Jesus Christ Died Rev T .T. Shields Famous Canadian Preacher
With Passion R C Sproul jr
Work of Jesus Christ John Bunyan
Writing Fo God 's Glory Burk Parson
Young Women,Idolatry and The Powerful Gospel Elyse