As they cry out “Fathers and Councils!” and do not know what fathers and councils are, but would only deafen us with the words, so they cry also about the Church; but as for saying what, who, or where the Church is, they do not render either the Church or God the service of asking the question or thinking about it. They would like to have men take them, — pope, cardinals, bishops, — for the Church and allow them, under this glorious name, to be nothing but pupils of the devil, who can practice nothing but knavery and rascality.
Well then, setting aside many writings and many divisions of the word church, we will this time stay by the Children’s Creed, which says, “I believe one holy Christian Church, the Communion of Saints.” There the Creed indicates clearly what the Church is, namely, “a communion of saints,” that is, a group or assembly of such people as are Christians and holy. That is a Christian, holy group, or Church. But this word “church” is not German and does not convey the sense or idea that is to be taken from this article.
In Acts 19:39, the chancellor calls ecclesia the assembly or people who had run together in a crowd on the market-place, and says, “It can be settled in a regular assembly”; and again, “When he had thus spoken he dismissed the assembly.” In this passage and others, ecclesia, or church, means nothing else than an assembled people, though they were heathen, and not Christians, just as the town-councilors summon the community to the town-hall. Now there are many peoples in the world, but the Christians are a peculiar people, a called people, and they are therefore called not simply ecclesia, “church,” or “people,” but sancta, catholica, Christiana, that is, “a Christian, holy people,” which believes in Christ. Therefore, it is called a Christian people and has the Holy Ghost, who sanctifies it daily, not only through the forgiveness of sins, as the Antinomians foolishly believe, but by the abolition, purging out, and slaying of sins, and because of this they are called a holy people. “Holy Christian Church,” then, is the same thing as “a people that is Christian and holy,” or as we are accustomed to say, “the holy Christendom,” or “the entire Christendom”; in the Old Testament it is called “God’s people.”
If these words had been used in the Creed: “I believe that there is a holy Christian people,” it would have been easy to avoid all the misery that has come in with this blind, obscure word “church”; for the term “Christian, holy people” would have brought along with it, clearly and powerfully, both understanding and the judgment on the question “What is and what is not a church?” One who heard the words “Christian, holy people” would have been able to decide off-hand, “The pope is not a people, still less a holy Christian people.” So, too, the bishops, priests, and monks are not a holy Christian people, for they do not believe in Christ, do not lead holy lives, and are the devil’s wicked, shameful people. He who does not rightly believe in Christ, is not Christian or a Christian, and he who has not the Holy Ghost to resist sin, is not holy. Therefore they cannot be a Christian, holy people, that is, sancta et catholica ecclesia.
But because we use this blind word “church” in the Creed, the common man thinks of the stone house, which we call a church, and so the painters depict it; or if things turn out better, they paint the apostles, the disciples, and the Mother of God, as on Pentecost, with the Holy Ghost hovering over them. That will pass; but it is only the holy Christian Church of one time, the beginning. Ecclesia, however, ought to mean the holy Christian people, not only of the time of the apostles, who are long since dead, but clear to the end of the world, so that there is always living on earth a Christian, holy people in which Christ lives, works, and reigns per redemptionem, through grace and forgiveness of sins, the Holy Ghost per vivificationem et sanctificationem, through the daily purging out of sins and renewal of life, so that we do not remain in sin, but can and should lead a new life in good works of all kinds, such as the Ten Commandments, or Two Tables of Moses, require, and not in the old, wicked works: that is St. Paul’s teaching. But the pope and his followers have applied both the name and the picture of the Church to themselves alone and to his shameful, accursed crowd, under this blind word ecclesia, “church.”
Nevertheless they give themselves the right name when they call themselves ecclesia (if we interpret it so as to agree with their way of life), either Romana or sancta, and do not add (as, indeed, they cannot) catholica. For ecclesia means “a people,” and that they are, as the Turks are also ecclesia, “a people.” Ecclesia Romana means “a Roman people”; that, too, they are, and far more Roman than the heathen of ancient times were Roman. Ecclesia Romana sancta means “a holy Roman people,” that, too, they are, for they have invented a far greater holiness than the Christian holiness, or than the holy Christian people have. Their holiness is a Roman holiness, Romanae ecclesiae, “a holiness of the Roman people,” and they are now called even sanctissimi, sacrosancti, “the most holy,” as Virgil speaks of sacra fames, sacra hostia and Plautus of omnium sacerrimus, for Christian holiness they cannot endure. Therefore they cannot have the name “Christian Church” or “Christian people,” if only for the reason that Christian Church is a name and Christian holiness a thing that is common to all churches and all Christians in the world; therefore, it is called catholicum. But this common name and common holiness they hold cheap and almost as nothing. In its stead, they have invented a peculiar, higher, different, better holiness than that of others. It is to be called sanctitas Romana et ecclesiae Romanae sanctitas, that is, “Roman holiness and the holiness of the Roman people.”
For Christian holiness, or the holiness of universal Christendom is that which comes when the Holy Spirit gives people faith in Christ, according to Acts 15:9, that is, He makes heart, soul, body, works and manner of life new and writes God’s commandments, not on tables of stone, but on hearts of flesh according to 2 Corinthians 3:3. To speak plainly, according to the first Table He gives knowledge of God, so that those whom He enlightens can resist all heresies, in true faith, and overcome all false ideas and errors, and thus remain pure in faith against the devil. He also gives strength and comfort to feeble, despondent, weak consciences against the accusations and attacks of sin, so that souls are not despondent and do not despair and are not terrified at torment, pain, death, and God’s wrath and judgment, but strengthened and comforted in hope, are bold and joyful in overcoming the devil. Thus He also gives true fear and love of God, so that we do not despise God and murmur or grow angry at His marvelous judgments, but love, praise, thank, and honor Him for all that happens. This is a new, holy life in the soul according to the First Table of Moses. It is called tres virtutes theologicas, “the three chief virtues of Christians,” faith, hope, and love; and the Holy Ghost, who gives them and does and works these things for Christians whom Christ has won, is therefore called Sanctificator, or Vivificator. For the old Adam is dead and can do nothing, and must learn from the law that he can do nothing and is dead; he would not know it of himself.
In the Second Table, and in the body, He also sanctifies Christians and it is of His gift that they willingly obey parents and overlords, conduct themselves peacefully and humbly, are not wrathful or revengeful or malicious, not lewd, adulterers, unchaste, but pure and chaste, whether they have wives and children or not; and so forth. They do not steal or take usury, are not avaricious, do not cheat, etc., but work honorably, support themselves honestly, lend gladly, give and help whenever they can.
Therefore, they do not lie, deceive, back-bite, but are kind, truthful, faithful, and reliable, and whatever else God’s commandments require. This is done by the Holy Ghost, who sanctifies and awakens even the body to this new life, until it is completed in the life beyond. That is Christian holiness. There must always be such people on earth, even though there were but two or three of them, or they were only children; of old folk, there are, sad to say, very few! Those who are not of this sort ought not to count themselves Christians, and they ought not to be comforted, as one comforts Christians, with much talk about the forgiveness of sins and the grace of Christ, as the Antinomians do.
For they, rejecting and not understanding the Ten Commandments, preach much about the grace of Christ instead. They strengthen and comfort those who remain in sins, telling them that they shall not fear sins or be terrified at them, since through Christ, these are all done away; and yet they see people going on, and let them go on, in open sins, without any renewal or improvement of their lives. From this one observes that they really do not understand the faith and Christ aright, and abolish Him even as they preach Him. For how can a man preach rightly about the works of the Holy Ghost in the First Table and speak about comfort, grace, forgiveness of sins, if he neither heeds nor practices the works of the Holy Ghost in the Second Table, which he can understand and experience, while he has never attempted or experienced those of the First Table? Therefore it is certain that they neither have nor understand either Christ or the Holy Ghost, and their talk is mere foam on their tongues, and they are, as has been said, good Nestorians and Eutychians, who confess or teach Christ in the premise and deny Him in the conclusion, or idiomata; that is, they teach Christ and destroy Him by teaching Him.
That, then, is Christian holiness. The pope will not have it; he must have a peculiar holiness that is far holier. Men must be taught chasubles, tonsures, cowls, garb, food, festivals, days, monkery, nunnery, masses, saintworship, and countless other points about external, bodily, transitory things. That one lives among these things without faith, fear of God, hope, love, and the other works of the Holy Ghost according to the First Table, but substitutes for them misbelief, uncertainty of heart, doubt, despising of God, impatience toward Him, a false trust in works (which is idolatry!) instead of a trust in the grace of Christ or His merits, making one’s own satisfaction by works, even selling the surplus to others and taking in exchange the goods and wealth of all the world as though they had been well earned: all this is no hindrance and, in spite of it, a man can be holier than Christian holiness itself.
So in regard to the Second Table. It matters not that they teach disobedience to parents and superiors, or that they murder, fight, set people at odds, envy, hate, take revenge, are unchaste, lie, steal, take usury, deceive, and practice all kinds of knavery to the limit. Just throw a surplice over your head and you are holy with the Roman church’s holiness, and can be saved without Christian holiness. But we will not concern ourselves about these filthy people; what we do for them is done in vain. Venit ira dei super eos in finem, as St. Paul says. We shall speak to one another about the Church.
The Creed teaches us that a people of God must be on earth and remain until the end of the world. This is an article of faith, which cannot cease until that comes which it believes, as Christ promises, “I am with you even unto the end of the world.” But how can a poor, erring man know where this Christian, holy people in the world is? It ought to be in this life and on earth; for it believes that a heavenly nature and an eternal life are to come, but as yet it has them not; therefore it must be in this life and this world, and remain in them until the world’s end. For it says, “I believe in another life,” thereby confessing that it is not yet in that life, but believes in it, hopes for it, and loves it as its own true fatherland and life, though it must remain and endure, meanwhile, in exile, as we sing in the hymn to the Holy Ghost, “When we turn home again from this exile.” Of this we shall now speak. First , This Christian, holy people is to be known by this, that it has God’s Word, though in quite unequal measure, as St. Paul says. Some have it altogether pure, others not entirely pure. Those who have it pure are called those who build on the foundation, gold, silver, precious stones; those who have it impure are they who build hay, straw, wood on the foundation, yet will be saved through fire. Of these more than enough has been said above.
This is the main point. It is the high, chief, holy possession from which the Christian people take the name “holy,” for God’s Word is holy and sanctifies everything it touches; nay, it is the very holiness of God. Romans 1:16 says, “It is God’s power, which saves all who believe thereon,” and 2 Timothy 4:3, “It is all made holy by the Word of God and prayer”; for the Holy Ghost Himself administers it, and anoints and sanctifies the Church, that is, the Christian, holy people, with it and not with the pope’s chrism, with which he anoints, or sanctifies fingers, garb, cloaks, cups, and stones. These things never teach us to love, believe, and praise God, and be godly. They only adorn the bag of worms, but afterwards they fall apart and decay, with the chrism and whatever holiness is in it, and with the bag of worms itself. But this relic is the true relic, the true unction, which anoints to everlasting life, even though you can have no papal tiara or bishop’s miter, but have to live and die bare and naked of body, as children, (and all of us), are baptized naked and without adornment.
We speak, however, of the external Word orally preached by men like you and me. For Christ left this behind Him as an outward sign whereby His Church, His Christian, holy people in the world, was to be recognized. We speak, too, of this oral Word as it is earnestly believed and publicly confessed before the world, as He says, “He that confesseth me before men, him will I confess before my Father and His angels”; for there are many who know it secretly, but will not confess it. Many have it and do not believe in it or act by it, for those who believe in it and act by it are few, as the parable of the seed, in Matthew 13:4, tells us: three parts of the field get it and have it, but only the fourth part, the fine, good field, “bringeth forth fruit with patience.”
Wherever, therefore, you hear or see this Word preached, believed, confessed, and acted on, there do not doubt that there must be a true ecclesia sancta catholica, a Christian, holy people, even though it be small in numbers; for God’s Word does not go away empty ( Isaiah 55:11), but must have at least a fourth part, or a piece of the field. If there were no other mark than this one alone, it would still be enough to show that there must be a Christian church there; for God’s Word cannot be present without God’s people, and God’s people cannot be without God’s Word.
Who would preach or listen to preaching, if no people of God were there?
And what could or would God’s people believe, if God’s Word were not there?
This is the thing that does all miracles, sets everything to rights, upholds everything, accomplishes everything, does everything, drives out all devils, — pilgrimage-devils, indulgence-devils, bull-devils, brotherhood devils, saints’ devils, mass-devils, purgatory-devils, monastery-devils, priestdevils, devils of turbulence, devils of sedition, heretic devils, pope devils, even antinomian devils; but this does not happen without outcries and disturbance, as is seen in the poor men of Mark 1:23 and 9:26. No, the devil must leave a cry and an uproar behind him, when he goes out, as is evident in Emser, Eck, Cochlaeus, Schmid, Wetzel, Tolpel, Knebel, Filtz, Rultz, sow, ass and the rest of his cryers and writers. They are all mouths and members of the devil, through which he makes his outcries and uproars; but it does them no good; they must go out and cannot endure the power of the Word. They themselves admit that it is God’s Word and Holy Scripture, but say that we can get it better from the fathers and councils. Let them go! It is enough for us to know that this chief thing, this chief relic produces, upholds, nourishes, strengthens, and guards the Church, as St. Augustine also says, Ecclesia Verbo dei generatur, alitur, nutritur, roboratur; but whoever they are that persecute it and condemn it, they give themselves a name by their own fruits. Second . God’s people, or the Christian holy people, is known by the holy Sacrament of Baptism, when it is rightly taught and believed and used according to Christ’s ordinance. That, too, is a public sign and precious, holy possession whereby God’s people is made holy, for it is a holy bath of regeneration through the Holy Ghost, in which we bathe and are washed by the Holy Ghost from sin and death, as in the innocent, holy blood of the Lamb of God. Where you see this mark, know that the holy Christian people must be there, even though the pope does not baptize you or even if you know nothing about his holiness and power. The little children know nothing about that, though when they grow up they are, sad to say! led astray from their baptism, as St. Peter complains, in 2 Peter 2:18, “They entice through lasciviousness those who had escaped and who now walk in error.” No, do not be confused by the question of who does the baptizing; for baptism does not belong to the baptizer and is not given to him, but it belongs to him who is baptized, for whom it was established by God and to whom it is given; just as the Word of God does not belong to the preacher (except in so far as he hears and believes it) but to him who hears and believes, and to him it is given. Third . God’s people, or a Christian, holy Church is known by the holy Sacrament of the Altar, when it is rightly administered according to Christ’s institution and is believed and received. That, too, is a public mark and precious, holy possession, bequeathed by Christ, whereby His people is made holy. By means of this sacrament it exercises itself in faith, and openly confesses that it is a Christian people, as it does also by means of the Word of God and baptism. Here again you need not ask whether the pope says mass for you or not, consecrates you, confirms or anoints you, or puts a chasuble on you. You can receive the mass with no clothing at all, as one may who is sick in bed, except that outward decency compels the wearing of decent and honorable clothing. Nor do you need to ask whether you have a tonsure or have been anointed; nor need you argue about whether you are man or woman, young or old, anymore than you would ask about all these things in connection with baptism or preaching.
It is enough that you are consecrated and anointed with the high and holy oil of God, of the Word of God, of baptism, and of this sacrament; then you are anointed highly and gloriously enough and dressed in a sufficient priestly garb. Do not be led astray by the question whether the man who gives you the sacrament is holy, or whether he has two wives or not. For the sacrament does not belong to him who administers it, but to him to whom it is administered, unless he also takes it. In that case he is one of those who receive it, and it is given to him also.
Where you see this sacrament administered with a right usage, be sure that God’s people is there. It was said above about the Word, where God’s Word is, there must the Church be; so, also, where Baptism and the Sacrament are, there must God’s people be, and vice versa. For these holy things no one has, gives, practices, uses, or confesses, except God’s people only, even though some false and unbelieving Christians are secretly among them. These people do not deprive the people of God of its holiness, especially so long as they are present secretly, for open sinners the Church, or people of God, does not tolerate in its midst, but punishes them and makes them holy; or, if they will not suffer that, it casts them out of the holy place by means of the ban and holds them as heathen ( Matthew 18:17). Fourth . The people of God, or holy Christians, are known by the keys, which they publicly use. Christ decrees, in Matthew 18:15 that if a Christian sins, he shall be rebuked, and if he does not amend his ways, he shall be bound and cast out; but if he amends, he shall be set free. This is the power of the keys. Now the use of the keys is two-fold, — public, and private. There are some whose consciences are so weak and timid, that even if they have received no public condemnation, they cannot be comforted unless they get a special absolution from the pastor. On the other hand, there are some who are so hard they will not have their sins individually forgiven and remitted even in their hearts and by the pastor.
Therefore the use of the keys must be of both kinds, public and private.
Now wherever you see the sins of some persons forgiven or rebuked, publicly or privately, know that God’s people is there; for if God’s people is not there, the keys are not there; and if the keys are not there, God’s people is not there. Christ has bequeathed them as a public mark and holy possession, whereby the Holy Ghost, won through Christ’s death, imparts holiness anew to fallen sinners and by them Christians confess that they are a holy people, under Christ, in this world; and those who will not be converted and made holy again are to be cast out of this holy people; that is, they are to be bound and excluded by means of the keys, as will happen to the Antinomians if they do not repent.
You must not think of these keys, however, as the pope’s two keys which he has turned into tools with which he picks the locks to the treasurechests and crowns of all kings. If he will not “bind” or rebuke sin either publicly or privately (and he will not!), then do you rebuke and “bind” it in your parish; and if he will not “loose,” or forgive it, then do you “loose” and forgive it in your parish. His “reserving” and “binding,” and his “relaxing” and dispensation make you neither holy nor unholy, since he cannot have the keys, but only lock-picking tools. The keys belong, not to the pope, as he lyingly says, but to the Church, that is, to Christ’s people, God’s people, the holy Christian people throughout the world, or wherever there are Christians. They cannot all be at Rome, unless the whole world were at Rome, and that has not happened yet. As Baptism, the Sacrament, and God’s Word do not belong to the pope but to the Church, so with the keys, they are claves ecclesia, not claves papae. Fifth . The Church is known outwardly by the fact that it consecrates or calls ministers, or has offices which they occupy. For we must have bishops, pastors, or preachers, to give, administer and use, publicly and privately, the four things, or precious possessions, that have been mentioned, for the sake of and in the name of the Church, or rather because of their institution by Christ, as St. Paul says, in Ephesians 4:11, Accepit dona in hominibus, “and gave some to be apostles, prophets, evangelists, teachers and governors, etc.” The whole group cannot do these things, but must commit them, or allow them to be committed, to someone. What would happen if everyone wanted to speak or administer the sacraments and no one would yield to another? This duty must be committed to one person, and he alone must be allowed to preach, baptize, absolve, and administer the sacraments; all the rest must be content with this and agree to it. Wherever you see this, be assured that God’s people, the Christian, holy people, is present.
It is true, indeed, that the Holy Ghost has made exception, in this matter, of women, children, and incompetent folk, and, except in cases of necessity, chooses only qualified males. Thus we read here and there in St. Paul’s epistles that a bishop must be apt to teach, pious, and the husband of one wife, and in 1 Corinthians 14:34, that a woman shall not teach in the assembly. In a word, it shall be a well-prepared, selected man, and children, women, and other persons are not qualified for it, though they are qualified to hear God’s Word and to receive baptism, the Sacrament, and absolution, and are true, holy fellow-Christians, as St. Peter says. This distinction is made in Nature and in God’s creation also, where no woman (still less children and fools!) can or ought have rulership, as experience tells us, and Moses says, in Genesis 3:16, “Thou shalt be in subjection to thy husband.”
The Gospel does not abolish this natural law, but confirms it as the ordinance and creation of God.
Here the pope, with his loud-mouthed uproar-makers for the devil will interrupt me, and say: “St Paul speaks not only of pastors and preachers, but also of apostles, evangelists, prophets, and other high spiritual classes; therefore there must be in the Church higher classes than the pastors and preachers. Where now, Sir Luther?” Where? This is where! If they will become apostles, evangelists, prophets, or will show me one such; oh, what folly I am talking — if they will show me one person among them who is worth as much as a school-boy, or who can do as much with Holy Scripture as a seven-year-old girl, I will give up. Now I know for certain that an apostle, evangelist, prophet can do more than a seven-year-old girl.
I speak in respect of the Holy Scriptures and of faith; for that they can do more in doctrines of men and in rascality, that I thoroughly believe, even more strongly than I believe in God, because they are proving it before my eyes by the things that they are doing. Therefore, as they are the Church, so they are also apostles, evangelists, and prophets; for true apostles, evangelists, and prophets preach God’s Word, not against God’s Word.
Now, if the apostles, evangelists, and prophets have ceased, others must have arisen in their stead, and must continue to arise until the end of the world; for the Church shall not cease until the end of the world, and therefore apostles, evangelists, prophets must continue, by whatever names they may be called who are occupied with God’s Word and work. The pope and his followers, who persecute God’s Word and yet admit that it is true, must be very bad apostles, evangelists, and prophets, like the devil and his angels. But how I do come back to the pope’s shameful, filthy people! Let them go again, and tell them not to come back!
It was said above about the other four points of the great, divine, holy possession whereby the holy Church is made holy, that you ought not to be concerned about who they are from whom it is received. So here, too, you ought not to ask who he is that gives it to you, or who has the official position. It is all given, not to him who has the office, but to him who, through his office, is to give it, except, of course, that he can get it with you, if he will. If he is in office and is tolerated by the assembly, let that be enough for you; his person makes God’s Word and sacraments neither worse nor better for you. For what he says or does is not his own, but it is Christ, his Lord, and the Holy Ghost who speak and act through him, in so far as he stays within the right way of teaching and acting, though the Church cannot and ought not endure open vices; but as for yourself, be content and let it go; you alone cannot be the whole group, or the Christian, holy people.
But you must not consider the pope, who forbids any married man to be called to this office, but declares, with Nestorian logic, that they must all be pure virgins. That is as much as to say that all the clergy must be pure, but that they themselves may be impure. But look at that! You are coming at me again with the pope, and I did not want you anymore! Ah, well; unwelcome guest though you are, I will give you a Lutheran reception.
The pope condemns the marriage of the bishops or pastors; that is plain enough. Not satisfied with that, he condemns bigamy far more strongly, and, to speak out clearly, he distinguishes four kinds of bigamists, if not five. I will call a bigamist one who has two wives, one who marries twice, or takes another’s widow. The first kind of bigamist is one who marries two maids in succession; the second kind, one who takes a widow to wife; the third kind, one who takes a bride whose deceased husband has left her a virgin. The fourth kind of bigamist gets the name shamefully; if he marries a virgin and afterwards finds that she was not pure, not a virgin; in the pope’s eyes he must be a bigamist, and a far worse one than he who took another’s bride who was a virgin. All these stink and have an evil smell in the Canon Law. They dare not preach, baptize, administer the sacraments or hold any office in the Church, even though they were holier than St. John and their wives holier than the Mother of God. So marvelously holy is the pope in his decrees!
If a man have ravished a hundred virgins, violated a hundred widows, and still have a hundred harlots behind his back, he may become bishop or pope, and even though he were to continue this kind of doings, he would, nevertheless, be tolerated in these offices; but if he gets a bride who is a virgin, or a pretended virgin, he cannot be God’s servant. It makes no difference that he is a true Christian, learned, pious, useful; he is a bigamist, and must get out of his office and never come back to it again. What think you? Is that not a higher holiness than that of Christ Himself, with the Holy Ghost and His Church? Christ does not spurn men with one wife or two wives and women with one husband or two, if they believe in Him. He lets them remain members of His holy Christian people; uses them, also, in those things for which they are, or can be, useful. The Holy Scriptures give the name of bigamist to one who, like Lamech, has two wives living at the same time; but the pope is more learned, and gives the name of bigamist to one who has two wives in succession, and so with the women. He is far more learned than God Himself.
Finer still, the pope himself admits that the marriage of a bigamist is a true marriage and is no sin against God, world, or Church, and that such a marriage is a sacrament of the Church; and yet the man must be rejected from office-holding in the Church, even though he belongs to the third or fourth class and ought rather be called a man with one wife, or the husband of a virgin. Why so? Ei, the fault lies here! Such a marriage cannot be a sacrament or figure of Christ and the Church; for Christ has only one bride, the Church, and the Church only one husband, Christ, and both remain virgin. On this point there is so much sheer nonsense talked that no one can tell it all, and the canonists ought really be called lawyers for asses.
In the first place, if marriage is to be a sacrament of Christ and the Church, then no marriage can be a sacrament unless both bridegroom and bride remain virgin; for Christ and the Church remain virgin. Whence, then, shall we get children and heirs? What will become of the estate of marriage that God has instituted? In a word, there will be no marriages but that of Mary and Joseph and others like it; none of the rest of the marriages can be a sacrament; perhaps they may even be harlotry.
In the second place, who has ever taught this or appointed it, that we must keep it? “St. Paul,” say they, “says in Ephesians 4:1, that man and wife are a great sacrament.” Yes, say I, “in Christ and the Church.” Dear fellow, can you get it out of these words of Paul that marriage is the kind of a sacrament that they speak of? He says, “Man and wife are one body; this is a great sacrament.” Then he interprets this himself: “I speak of Christ and the Church, not of man and wife.” They say that he is speaking of man and wife. Paul will have Christ and the Church to be a great sacrament, or “mystery”; they say that man and wife are a great sacrament. Why, then, do they hold it for almost the least of the sacraments, nay, for impurity and sin, in which one cannot serve God? Moreover, can you find it in St. Paul’s words that men and women who are married a second time are not man and wife, or one flesh? If they are one flesh, why are they not also a sacrament of Christ in the Church? St. Paul speaks in general, of all married men and women who become one flesh, whether they have never been married before or are widowed, and calls them a sacrament, as you understand the word “sacrament.” Whence, then, are you so clever as to make a difference in marriage and take only the single marriage as a sacrament of Christ and the Church, — the marriage, namely, in which a man marries a virgin, — and exclude all other marriages? Who has commissioned you thus to torture and force St. Paul’s words?
Besides, you do not hold even such a marriage as a sacrament. For bridegrooms do not let their brides remain virgins, and they do not take husbands in order that they may stay virgins, which they could do much better without husbands; but they desire and ought to bear children; God has made them for that. Where now is the sacrament of Christ and the Church, both of whom remained virgin? Is it a fine argument a figura ad historiam, vel e contra, ab historia ad figuram? Where did you learn such logic? Christ and the Church are married, but remain virgin in the body; therefore man and wife shall remain virgin in the body also. Again:
Christ is married only to a virgin, therefore a Christian or priest shall be married only to a virgin, otherwise there is no sacrament. Why, then, do you yield the point and say that the marriage of a widow is a sacrament, because it is a marriage, and yet is not a sacrament, because the wife was not a virgin? Are you not mad and foolish, and gross Nestorians, not knowing when you say yes or no, saying one thing in the premise and another in the conclusion? Away with such asses and fools!
Another error has come out of this one (unless indeed, this one has come out of the other). They have called the bishops and popes bridegrooms of the Church. They cite for this the word of St. Paul, “A bishop shall be the husband of one wife,” that is, the bishop of one church, as Christ is the bridegroom of one Church; therefore they shall not be bigamists. Verily, popes and bishops are fine fellows to be bridegrooms of the Church, nay, of brothel-keepers and devil’s daughters in hell! True bishops are servants of this bride and she is lady and mistress over them. St. Paul calls himself diaconus, “a servant of the Church,” and will not be bridegroom or lord of this bride, but the true bridegroom of this bride is called Jesus Christ, Son of God. St. John says not, “I am the bridegroom,” but, “I am the friend of the bridegroom and rejoice to hear his speech.” “For he that hath the bride,” saith he, “is the bridegroom.” His speech one should hear with joy, and thereafter think of himself as a servant.
How finely they themselves observe even this tomfoolery! A bishop has three bishoprics; yet he must be called “husband of one wife.” Even though he has only one bishopric, he still has a hundred, two hundred, five hundred, or more parishes, or churches; yet he is bridegroom of one Church. The pope would be bridegroom of all churches, large and small; yet he is called husband of one Church. These men are not digami, “bigamists,” though they have all these brides at one time; but a man who marries a virgin who has been betrothed to another is a digamus. Such gross and monstrous folly will God inflict upon us, if we despise His Word and want to improve on His commands.
Nay, they have an Acutius in their Decretum in which St. Augustine holds, against St. Jerome, that he who had a wife before he was baptized and has one afterwards is a bigamist. Dear jack-asses, does it follow from this that St. Augustine, even though he holds such a man a bigamist (which the Scriptures do not!), will have him condemned, as you do, so that he may not serve God? And even though this should follow, have you not to the contrary, in dist. 9, a strong noli meis? How is it that you hold so fast to the Acutius, though it is contrary to Scripture, and pass over so lightly the Noli meis and other chapters? This is your idea: you would be lords of the Church; what you say shall be right; marriage shall be right and a sacrament, if you will it so; marriage shall be an impurity, that is, a defiled sacrament that cannot serve God, if you will it so; marriage shall bear children and the wife yet remain a virgin or it is no sacrament of Christ and the Church, if you will it so; bigamists are without guilt and have a true marriage and sacrament, if you will it so; or they are condemned and cannot do God service and have no sacrament of Christ and the Church, if you will it so. See how the devil, who teaches you this nonsense, makes you reel around and wobble back and forth.
How comes it that I must hold Augustine’s saying an article of faith, if he himself will not have his sayings held as articles of faith and will not suffer the sayings of his predecessors as articles of faith? Suppose that the dear fathers did hold and teach that digamus was the name for the sort of man we have been speaking of; what has that to do with us? We need not so hold and teach for that reason. We must not found our salvation on the words and works of men, or our houses on hay and straw. But the canonists are such gross fools, with their idols at Rome, that they take the words and deeds of the dear fathers and, against their will and without their consent, make them articles of faith. It should be proved by Scripture that such men are to be called bigamists and trigamists, and then it would be right that they should not be servants of the church according to St. Paul’s teaching, “A bishop shall be the husband of one wife.” But it has happened often enough that the fathers have sewed old patches on new cloth. Here is a case. It is right that no digamus shall be a servant of the Church, — that is the new cloth; but that this or that man is a digamus, that is an old rag of their own opinion, because the Scriptures do not say it. In the Scriptures, a bigamist is one who has two wives living at the same time, and St. Paul was thought to have had a wife ( Philippians 4) and that she had died. Accordingly, he, too, must have been a bigamist and have been compelled to give up his office of apostle; for in 1 Corinthians 7 he counts himself among the widowed, and yet, in 1 Corinthians 9, he wants to have the right, along with Barnabas, to take another wife. Who will assure us that the poor fishermen, Peter, Andrew, and James, were married to virgins, and not to widows, and had not two wives in succession?
The blockheads have not the same idea of purity that the fathers had, but would lead poor souls astray and endanger them, only in order that their nasty, stinking book may be right, and that their science may not be able to err and may not have erred; otherwise they would see what is considered purity. In other opinions (and what is this but a matter of mere opinions?) they can say finely: Non tenetur, hoc tene; why can they not do it here, especially since in cauisis decidendis they have to throw away not one father only, but all of them together, as their idol sputters and bellows? But they want to rule the Church, not with assured wisdom, but with arbitrary opinions, while on the other hand, they lead all the souls in the world astray and throw them into uncertainty, as they have done before. But just as they reject all the fathers and theologians from their canons, so we reject them from the Church and the Scriptures. They shall neither teach us Scripture nor rule in the Church, but shall look after their canons and their quarrels over pretends; that is their holiness. They have put us poor theologians and all the fathers out of their books; and we thank them for it. Now they want to put us out of the Church and the Scriptures, and they cannot get in themselves. That is too much! It rips the bag wide open! Moreover we shall not put up with it!
I hold, in truth, that according to their wisdom no man would be able to take a maid to wife and, after her death, become a priest among them; for who can give him any guarantee that he is getting a maid? “The road runs past the door,” as they say. Now if he find her not a maid, a chance that he has to take, then he is a stinking bigamist, without any fault of his own.
If he would be certain that he can become a priest, he must take no maid to wife; for who will assure him of it? He may, however, ravish maids, widows, and wives, have many mistresses, and practice all kinds of silent sins; and yet be worthy of the priestly state. The sum of it all is that pope, devil, and his church hate the estate of matrimony, as Daniel says; therefore he wants to bring it into such disgrace that a married man cannot fill a priest’s office. That is as much as to say that marriage is harlotry, sin, impure, and rejected by God; and although they say, at the same time, that it is holy and a sacrament, that is a lie of their false hearts, for if they seriously considered it holy, and a sacrament, they would not forbid the priests to marry. Because they do forbid them, they must consider it unclean, and a sin, as they plainly say, Mundamini qui fertis; or else they must be gross Nestorians and Eutychians, who affirm a premise and deny the conclusion.
Let this suffice this time for the papal ass with his asinine jurists. We return to our own people.
Pay no heed, as I have said, to the papists concerning who it is that occupies Church offices, for the asses do not understand St. Paul and do not know what St. Paul’s language calls a sacrament. “Sacrament,” he says, “is Christ and His Church,” that is, Christ and His Church are one body, as are man and wife; but this is a great mystery and must be laid hold upon by faith; it is not visible or tangible, therefore it is a sacrament, i.e., a secret thing, mysterium, invisible, hidden. Since, however, not those only who have entered matrimony as virgins, but also those who marry out of widowhood, are one body, therefore every marriage is a figure or symbol of this great sacrament, or mystery, in Christ and the Church. St. Paul speaks neither of virgins nor widows; he speaks of marriage, in which man and wife are one body. Wherever, then, you find these offices and officers, there be sure that the holy, Christian people must be. The Church cannot be without bishops, pastors, preachers, priests; on the other hand, they cannot be without the Church; both must be together. Sixth . The holy, Christian people is known by prayer and public thanksgiving and praise to God. Where you see and hear that the Lord’s Prayer is prayed and the use of it is taught; where Psalms, or spiritual songs, are sung, in accordance with the Word of God and the right faith; when the Creed, the Ten Commandments, and the Catechism are openly used; — there be sure that a holy Christian people is; for prayer, too, is one of the precious holy possessions, whereby everything is made holy, as St. Paul says. Thus the Psalms also are nothing but prayers, in which praise, thanks and honor are rendered to God, and the Creed and Ten Commandments, and God’s Word, too, are all holy possessions, whereby the Holy Ghost makes holy the holy people of Christ. We speak, however, of prayers and songs that can be understood, from which it is possible to learn and whereby men may amend their lives; for the noises made by monks and nuns and priests are not prayers or praises to God.
They do not understand it and learn nothing from it; they do it like hard labor, for the belly’s sake, and seek thereby no improvement of life, no progress in holiness, no doing of God’s will. Seventh . The holy, Christian Church is outwardly known by the holy possession of the Holy Cross. It must endure all hardship and persecution, all kinds of temptation and evil (as the Lord’s Prayer says) from devil, world, and flesh; it must be inwardly sad, timid, terrified; outwardly poor, despised, sick, weak; thus it becomes like its head, Christ.
The reason must be only this, — that it holds fast to Christ and God’s Word and thus suffers for Christ’s sake, according to Matthew 5:10, “Blessed are they that endure persecution for my sake.”
They must be righteous, quiet, obedient, ready to serve their rulers and everyone else with body and wealth, doing no one any harm. But no people on earth must endure such bitter hatred. They must be worse than Jews, heathen, Turks; they must be called heretics, knaves, devils, accursed, and the worst people in the world, to the point where they are “doing God service” who hang them, drown them, slay them, torture them, hunt them down, plague them to death, and where no one has pity on them, but gives them myrrh and gall to drink, when they thirst, — not because they are adulterers, murderers, thieves or scoundrels, but because they will to have Christ alone, and no other God. Where you see or hear this, there know that the holy Christian Church is, as He says, in Matthew 5:11, “Blessed are ye, when men curse you and reject your name as an evil, wicked thing for my sake. Be glad and rejoice, for your reward in heaven is great.”
With this holy possession the Holy Ghost makes this people, not only holy, but blessed.
And be not concerned with the holy things of the papists, with dead saints and wood of the Holy Cross; for they are as often bones from the slaughter-house as bones of saints and as often wood from some gallows as wood of the Holy Cross. It is all a cheat, by which the pope tricks people out of their money and leads them away from Christ, and even though they were genuine relics, they would make no one holy. But when you are condemned for Christ’s sake, cursed, accused, slandered, plagued, — that makes you holy, for it slays the old Adam, and makes him learn patience, humility, gentleness, teaching him to praise and thank God and to be joyful in suffering. That is what it means to be made holy by the Holy Ghost and renewed to the new life in Christ and thus we learn to believe God, trust Him, hope in Him, love Him; as Romans 5:4 says, Tribulatio spem, etc.
These are the true seven chief parts of the high and holy possession whereby the Holy Ghost works in us a daily sanctification and vivification in Christ according to the First Table of Moses. By their help we fulfill it, though not so fully as Christ has done; but we constantly seek to do so, under redemption, or forgiveness of sin, until at last we become quite holy and need no more forgiveness. To that end it is all directed. I would even call these seven things the seven sacraments, but this word, “sacrament,” has been misused by the papists and is used in another sense in Scripture, therefore I let them remain simply seven chief means of Christian sanctification, or seven holy possessions. Beside these seven chief things, there are other outward signs whereby the holy Christian Church is known, viz., those whereby the Holy Ghost makes us holy according to the Second Table of Moses, — as when he helps us to honor father and mother from the heart, and helps them to raise their children in a Christian way and to lead honorable lives; when we serve our princes and lords faithfully and obediently and are subject to them, and they, in turn, love their subjects and protect and guard them; when we are angry with no one, bear no wrath, hatred, envy, or vengefulness toward our neighbor, but gladly forgive him, gladly lend to him, help and counsel him; when we are not unchaste, immoderate in drinking, proud, haughty, boastful, but pure, self-controlled, sober, kindly, gentle, and humble; do not steal, rob, take usury, indulge in greed, cheat, but are mild, kind, satisfied, generous; are not false, lying and perjuring, but truthful, reliable, and whatever else is taught in these commandments, all of which St. Paul teaches abundantly in more than one place. For we need the Decalog not only because it tells us in legal fashion what we are bound to do, but also in order that we may see in it how far the Holy Ghost has brought us in His sanctifying work, and how much we still fall short, so that we may not become careless and think that we have now done all that is required. Thus we are constantly to grow in sanctification and ever to become more and more “a new creature” in Christ. The word is Crescite and Abundetis magis. These marks cannot, however, be considered to be as certain as the others, because the heathen have practiced these works and sometimes appear holier than the Christians. Nevertheless their actions do not come so purely and simply from the heart for God’s sake, but they seek some other end thereby, since they have no real faith and no true knowledge of God. But the Holy Ghost is here, and He sanctifies men’s hearts, and brings these fruits out of good, fine hearts, as Christ says in the parable, in Matthew 13:23; and yet because the First Table is higher and must be a greater holy possession, I have tried to gather all this up in the Second Table; otherwise I should have divided this, too, into seven holy possessions, or main points, according to the seven Commandments. We now know for certain what, where, and who the holy Christian Church is, viz., the holy Christian people of God, and these marks cannot fail, — of that we are sure. All else beside them may fail, and does assuredly fail, as we shall hear in part. From out of this people men should be taken to form a council and that might be a council which was ruled by the Holy Ghost. Thus Lyra, too, says that the Church is not to be counted by the high, or spiritual, classes in it, but by the people who truly believe. It is a wonder to me that he was not burned for this statement, since he will not allow that popes, cardinals, bishops and prelates are the Church, and this results in horrible heresy which the holy Roman Church cannot endure and which touches it far too closely. Of this more in another place!
Now when the devil saw God building this holy Christian Church, he took no holiday, but built his own chapel alongside it, greater than God’s temple, and this is how he did it. He saw that God took outward things, — baptism, Word, Sacrament, keys, — and used them to make His church holy; and because he is always aping God and trying to imitate God and improve on Him in everything, he, too, took outward things that were to become means to holiness (acting just as he does with the rain-makers, conjurers, drivers-out of devils, etc.) and he even has the Lord’s Prayer prayed over them and the Gospels read over them. Thus through the popes and the papists he has caused the consecration, or hallowing, of water, salt, herbs, candles, bells, images, agnus dei, palia, chasubles, tonsures, fingers, hands, — who will count all these things? At last he made the monks’ cowls so holy that people died in them and were buried in them, as though by so doing they were saved.
It would have been a fine thing, to be sure, if God’s Word, or a blessing, or a prayer, had been said over these created things, as children say them over their food, or over themselves, when they go to bed or arise. Of this St. Paul says “Every creature is good and is sanctified by the Word and prayer,” for from such a practice “the creature” gets no new power, but is confirmed and strengthened in its former power. But the devil is after something else! He wants “the creature” to get new power and might from his mummery. By means of God’s Word, water becomes baptism, that is, a bath unto everlasting life, which washes away sins and saves men, though this is not the natural power of water; bread and wine become the body and blood of Christ; by the laying-on of hands, sins are forgiven according to God’s institution. In just the same way the devil would have his jugglery and mummery endued with power and do something supernatural. Holy water is to blot out sin, drive out devils, keep off evil spirits, and protect women in child-bed, as the pope teaches in the canon Aquama sale, de pe; consecrated salt is to have the same effect. An agnus dei consecrated by the pope is to do more than God Himself can do, as this is described in verses that I shall some day publish with notes. Bells are to drive away the devils in thunder-storms; St. Anthony’s knives stab the devil; the blessing of herbs drives away poisonous worms; certain blessings heal sick cows, keep off milk-thieves, quench fires; certain writings give security, in war and at other times, against iron, fire, water, wild beasts, etc.; monastic vows, masses, and the like confer a salvation that is beyond the ordinary.
Who can tell it all? There is no need so small that the devil has not instituted a sacrament, or holy possession, for it, whereby one may find aid and counsel against it. Besides, he has also had prophets, seers, and wise men, who have been able to reveal hidden things and restore stolen goods.
Oh, he, far more than God, is fitted out with sacraments, prophets, apostles, evangelists; his chapels are far larger than God’s Church; and he has far more people in his kind of holiness than God has in His. Moreover, people believe more easily and more gladly in his promises, his sacraments, his prophets, than in Christ’s. He is the great god of the world; Christ calls him “Prince of the world,” and Paul “God of this world.” With this apery he draws people away from faith in Christ and causes Christ’s Word and sacraments to be despised. He does this quite without their knowledge, because it is easier to perceive such things as the blotting out of sin, aid in time of need, and the conferring of salvation, through the devil’s sacraments than through Christ’s sacraments. It is Christ’s will to make people holy and good in body and soul by His Holy Spirit, and not let them stay in unbelief and sin. This is too hard for those who do not want to be good or to have their sins forgiven, and they can readily dispense with this work of the Holy Ghost, after they have learned that they can be saved more easily, without this work of the Holy Ghost, by such means as holy water, agnus dei, bulls and breves, masses and monks’ cowls, and that it is not necessary to seek or to revere anything else.
Not only so, but the devil has so fitted himself out with these things that he has wanted to use them for the abolition of God’s Word and sacraments.
He has thought thus: “If anyone shall arise who shall attack my church, sacraments, and bishops, saying that external things do not save men, then God’s Word and sacraments shall be destroyed along with them. For these, too, are outward signs, and His bishops and His Church are also men. If mine are to be of no account, His must be of far less account. First of all, because my church, bishops, and sacraments work instanter and help men in this present life, so that they cannot help seeing it, for I am there and help men quickly to what they desire; but Christ’s sacraments work for a future and invisible spiritual state, so that His Church and bishops can scarcely be perceived a very little, afar off, and the Holy Ghost acts as though He were not there, lets people suffer all misfortune and makes them appear, in the eyes of my church, as heretics. Meanwhile, not only is my church so close that a man can actually grasp it, but my works follow quickly; and so everyone thinks that it is the true Church of God. This is the advantage that I have.”
That is how things have gone. When we began to teach, by the Gospel, that these outward things could not save men, because they were mere natural, created things and the devil often used them as spells, then people, — even great and learned people — came to the conclusion that baptism because it was external water, the Word because it was outward, human speech, the Scriptures because they were outward letters, made with ink, bread and wine because baked by the baker, — that all these things were nothing at all, because they were external, perishable things. Thus they devised the slogan, “Spirit! Spirit! The Spirit must do it! The letter killeth.”
Thus Munzer called us Wittenberg theologians men learned in the Scriptures and himself the man taught of the Spirit; and many others followed his example. There you see how the devil had armed himself and built up his barricades! If his external doctrine and sacraments (which bring quick, visible, mighty aid) were attacked, then Christ’s external sacraments and words (which are slow with their aid, or bring aid that is invisible and weak) must go to far worse destruction along with them.
Therefore the Ecclesia, the holy Christian people, has mere outward words, sacraments, and offices, such as God’s imitator, Satan, has and has in far greater number; but it has these things commanded, instituted, and ordained by God, so that He Himself, and not any angel, will work through them with the Holy Ghost. They are called the Word, baptism, Sacrament, and forgiving-office not of angels, or of men, or of creatures, but of God Himself; only it is His will to act for the comfort and good of us poor, weak, feeble men through them, and not through His unveiled, evident, bright majesty. For who could bear that for an instant in this sinful, poor flesh, as Moses says, Non videbit me homo et vivet? Thus the Jews could not endure even the shoes of His feet on Mount Sinai, that is, in the thunder and the clouds, and how would they have endured, with such feeble eyes, the sun of His divine majesty and the clear light of His countenance? But He wills to do these things by tolerable, sober, pleasant means, which could not be better chosen by ourselves; as, for example, by a good, kindly man, who talks with us, preaches to us, lays his hands upon us, forgives our sins, baptizes us, gives us bread and wine to eat and drink.
Who can be terrified at such tender ways of acting and not rather rejoice in them with all his heart?
Well, then, that is just what is done for us feeble men, and in it we see how God treats us like dear children, and is not willing — though He has the right, — to deal with us in majesty; and yet, beneath it all, He is using His majestic divine works, might and power, forgiving sin, cleansing from sin, taking away death, bestowing grace and everlasting life. These things are not found in the devil’s sacraments and church. There no one can say, “God commanded it, ordered it, instituted it, founded it, and He will Himself be there and do everything.” On the contrary, one must then say, “God did not command it, but forbade it; men have invented it, or rather the imitator of God has invented it and leads the people astray with it.”
He produces no effects that are not temporal, or if they are spiritual, they are sheer deception. He cannot forgive men’s sins eternally and save them, as he lyingly says, by means of holy water, masses, and the monastic life; though, to be sure, he can restore to a cow the milk that he has first stolen from her by means of his prophetesses and priestesses, whom Christians call “devil’s harlots,” and who, when they are discovered, are burned to death with fire, as is right, not for milk-stealing, but for blasphemy, because they strengthen the devil, with his sacraments and churches, against Christ.
In a word, if God were to bid you pick up a straw or pull out a feather, with the command, order, and promise that thereby you should have forgiveness of all your sins, grace, and everlasting life, ought you not accept that, and love and praise it, with all joy and thankfulness, and consider that straw and feather as a higher and holier possession than heaven and earth, and love it more than them? For however small the straw or feather is, you get by it such a possession as neither heaven nor earth, — nay, not all the angels, — give you. Why are we such shameful folk that we do not consider the water of baptism, the bread and wine, — that is, Christ’s body and blood, — the spoken Word, and the laying-on of a man’s hands for the forgiveness of sins to be as holy a possession as we would think such a straw or feather to be? And yet, in these things, as we see and hear, God Himself wills to work and they are to be His water, word, hand, bread, and wine, whereby it is His will to make us holy and give us life in Christ, who has obtained these things for us and for this work has given us, from the Father, the Holy Ghost.
On the other hand, even though you were to go to Compostella to St. James or let yourself be killed by the severe life of the Carthusians, Franciscans, or Dominicans in order to be saved, and God had not bidden this or instituted it; what good would it do you? He knows nothing about these things, but you and the devil have thought them up, like the special sacraments and the classes of priests. Even though you were able to carry heaven and earth on your shoulders in order to be saved, it would be labor lost, and he who picked up the straw (if it were commanded) would do more than you, though you could carry ten worlds. Why so? It is God’s will that we shall obey His Word, use His sacraments, honor His Church; then He will act graciously and tenderly enough, even more graciously and tenderly than we could desire; for it is said, “I am thy God; thou shalt have no other gods”; and it is said again, “Him shalt thou hear, and no other.”
That is enough to say about the Church. Nothing more can be said about it, except that each section could be developed further. The rest must deal with another subject, of which we shall also speak.
Beside these external marks and holy possessions the Church has still other external customs. It is not made holy by them or through them, either in body or soul; they are not instituted or commanded by God; and yet, as has been said of them at length above, they are of great necessity and usefulness, and are fine and proper. Such customs are the keeping of certain holidays and of certain hours, before or after noon, as times for preaching and prayer, and the use of church buildings, or houses, altars, pulpits, fonts, lights, candles, bells, vestments and the like. These things have no other effect and do nothing else than lies in their nature, just as foods do nothing more because of the benedicite and the gratias of the children; for the godless and the rude folk, who say no benedicite or gratias, that is, who neither pray to God nor thank Him, get as fat and strong from their eating and drinking as do Christians. Christians can become and remain holy without these things, if the preaching is done on the street, without a pulpit, if sins are forgiven, if the Sacrament is administered without an altar, baptism without a font; and indeed it is of daily occurrence that, because of peculiar circumstances, sermons are preached and baptism and the Sacrament administered in homes. But for the sake of the children and the simple folk, it is a fine thing and promotes good order to have a definite time, place, and hour for these things, so that people can adapt themselves and meet together, as St. Paul says, in Corinthians 14:40, “Let all be done in fine order.” This order no one ought, and no Christian does, despise without cause, out of mere pride, and only for the sake of creating disorder; but for the sake of the multitude everyone ought to join in observing it, or at least not disturb or hinder it. That would be to act against love and kindness.
Nevertheless, these things ought to remain free. If from necessity, or for some other good reason, we cannot preach at six or seven or twelve or one o’clock, on Sunday or Monday, in the choir or at St. Peter’s, then let the preaching be done at other hours, on other days, in other places, so long as the common people are not disturbed by such a change, but are carried along in it. For these things are entirely external and, so far as times and places and persons are concerned, they can be regulated altogether by reason and are completely subject to it. God, Christ, and the Holy Ghost ask no questions about these things, anymore than they ask about what or where we eat, drink, dress, live, marry, go, or stay; except as has been said, that no one ought, without good reason, to take these matters into his own hands and disturb or hinder the common people. At a wedding or other social gathering no one ought to annoy the bride or the rest of the guests by peculiar or disturbing conduct, but rather behave as the rest do, and sit and walk and stand and dance and eat and drink with them. It is not possible to place a special table, kitchen, cellar, and servant at every individual’s disposal. If one needs anything, let him get up from the table and leave the others to sit there in peace. So in these matters, too, everything should be done peacefully and in order and yet it should all be free and subject to change, if times and persons or other circumstances demand; then the crowd follows along harmoniously. For, as has been said, these things make no Christian either more holy or more unholy.
To be sure, the pope has scrawled the world full of books about these things and has made of them bonds, laws, rights, articles of faith, sin, and holiness, and it would be right to burn his decrees again in the fire. For this book, which has done great harm, could well be spared. It has pushed the Holy Scriptures under the bench and severely suppressed Christian doctrine; it has brought the jurists also into subjection with their imperial law; thus it has trodden both Church and emperor under foot, and has given us in their place the stupid asses of canonists, the will-o’-the-wisps, who have ruled the Church by it, and what is more lamentable, have left the best that is in it and taken out the worst, and forced that upon the Church. What good there is in it could be had much better in Holy Scripture, nay, in St. Augustine alone, so far as the doctrine of the Church is concerned, and in the jurists, so far as temporal government is concerned. The jurists themselves once had the intention to throw this book out of jurisprudence and leave it to the theologians, but it would be better to throw it in the fire and reduce it to ashes, though there is some good in it; for how could pure evil exist, unless there were some good among it? But there is so much of the evil that it takes the place which the good ought to have, and (as has been said) the good is found more richly in the Scriptures, and even in the fathers and the jurists. Unless, of course, one were to keep it in the libraries as an evidence of the folly and the mistakes of popes and some of the councils and other teachers! That is what I keep it for.
These outward, free things we should regard as the baptismal shirt or cloth in which a child is wrapped for baptism. The child is not baptized or made holy by the shirt or cloth, but by the baptism, and yet reason tells us to wrap it in the cloth. If the cloth is soiled or torn, we take something else, and wash the child without the aid of cloth or shirt; only we must observe moderation and not take too many shirts or cloths, so that the child is smothered. Thus in ceremonies also there should be moderation, so that they do not become a burden and a task, but remain so light that they are not felt, just as at a wedding no one thinks it a burden or a task to act and conduct himself like other people. Of the special fasts I shall write again when I write about that plague of the Germans, gluttony and drunkenness; for this belongs properly to temporal government.
Of the schools I have written much above and elsewhere, urging firmness and diligence in caring for them. Although they may be regarded as a heathen, external thing, because the boys learn in them the languages and arts, nevertheless they are highly necessary. If we do not train pupils, we shall not long have pastors and preachers, as we are finding out. The school must give the Church persons who can be made apostles, evangelists, and prophets, that is, preachers, pastors, rulers, beside the other kinds of people that are needed throughout the world, who are to become chancellors, councilors, secretaries, and the like, and who help with worldly government. Moreover, if the school-master is a god-fearing man and teaches the boys to understand, to sing and to practice God’s Word and the true faith, and holds them to Christian discipline, then (as was said above) the schools are young and everlasting councils, which do more good than many great councils. Therefore the former emperors, kings and princes did well when, with such diligence, they built so many schools, high and low, cloisters and endowed houses, because they wanted to provide the Church with a rich and great supply of persons; but their descendants have shamefully perverted and misused them. Therefore princes and lords ought now to do as their predecessors did, and turn the possessions of the cloisters over to the schools and endow many persons with means to study. Even though our descendants abuse them, we have done our part in our time.
In a word, the school must be the next thing to the Church, for it is the place where young pastors and preachers are trained and out of which they are drawn to put in the places of those who die. Next to the school comes the burgher’s house, out of which pupils are got. After them come the town-hall and the castle, which must protect the burghers, so that they produce children for the schools, and the schools, so that they train children to be pastors, and then the pastors can, in turn, make churches and children of God, whether the people be burghers, princes, or emperors.
God, however, must be over all and nearest of all, to preserve this ring, or circle, against the devil, and to do all, in all classes, nay, in all creatures. <19C701> Psalm 127:1 says that there are on earth only two bodily governments, the city and the house. It says, “Except the Lord build the house,” and again, “Except the Lord keep the city.”
The first government is that of the house, out of which come people. The second is the ruling of the city, that is, lands, people, princes, and lords, which we call worldly government. There everything is given, — children, property, money, beasts, etc. The house must build this; the city must guard, protect, and defend it. Then comes the third thing, God’s own house and city, that is, the Church, which must have people from the house and protection and defense from the city.
These are the three hierarchies ordained by God, and we need no more; indeed we have enough and more than enough to do in living aright and resisting the devil in these three. Look only at the house and see what is to do there. There are parents and house-rulers to obey; there are children and servants to support, train, govern, and care for in a godly way. We would have enough to do to keep the law of the home, even if there were nothing else to do. Then the city, that is, the worldly government, also gives us enough to do, if we are, on the one hand, to be faithful in our obedience and, on the other, to judge, protect, and further the good of our subjects, lands and people. The devil keeps us busy enough, and with him God has given us the sweat of our brows and plenty of thorns and thistles, so that in these two kinds of law we have a rich abundance of things to learn, to live, to do, and to endure. Then there is, after these, the third kind of law and government. If the Holy Ghost rules, Christ calls it a comfortable, sweet, easy burden; if not, it is not only heavy, sour, and terrible, but it is also impossible, as Paul calls it in Romans 8:3, Impossible legis, and says in another place, “The letter killeth.”
Now why should we have, over and above these three divine governments, these three divine, natural, temporal laws, the blasphemous, pretended law or government of the pope? It would be everything, yet it is nothing. On the contrary, it leads us astray and tears us away from these blessed, divine estates and laws. Instead it puts a mask or cowl upon us and makes us the devil’s fools and puppets, who live in idleness and no longer know these three divine hierarchies or laws. Therefore we will endure it no longer, but act according to the teaching of Sts. Peter and Paul and Augustine, and turn against them the second Psalm, ( Psalm 2:2) “Let us tear their bands asunder and cast away their cords from us.”
Nay, we will sing with St. Paul, “He that teacheth otherwise, even though he were an angel from heaven, let him be accursed!” We will say with St. Peter, “Why do ye tempt God by the imposing of such a burden?” Thus we will again be lords of the pope and tread him under foot, as Psalm 91:13 says, “Thou shalt tread upon the adder and basilisk, and the lion and dragon shalt thou trample under foot.”
This we will do by the power and help of the woman’s Seed, Who hath trodden and still treads upon the serpent’s head, even though we must take the risk that he will bite us in the heel. To that blessed Seed of the woman be praise and honor, with the Father and the Holy Ghost, one true God, forever. Amen.