Martin Luther’s Letters
The first extant letter of Luther.
He invites Braun to come to his ordination as priest in Erfurt.
April 22, 1507.
To the saintly and Right Reverend Priest in Christ, John Braun, vicar in Eisenach, my beloved friend in Christ, grace and peace in Christ Jesus our Lord.
I would be afraid, best of friends, to trouble you with my letters and requests, did I not know from the many benefits you have showered upon me how kindly you feel towards me. Therefore I have no hesitation in addressing you, confident that our mutual friendship will secure the favorable consideration of these lines.
For seeing the holy God has, of His manifold goodness, so highly exalted me, an unworthy sinner, and deemed me worthy to enter His service, then I must be grateful, and try, as far as I can, to fulfill the duties entrusted to me.
My father has arranged that, with God’s help, I shall be consecrated to the office of the priesthood on Sabbath four weeks.
The day has been fixed to suit my father. Perhaps I may be presuming too much on your love, when I humbly beg for your presence also. I do not ask you to make this troublesome journey because of any services I may have rendered you, for I know of none, but because I experienced so much of your goodness when with you lately. You will then, perhaps, best beloved father, lord, and brother (the first title belongs to your age and office, the second to your merits, and the third to your order), if your clerical and domestic duties permit, honor me by standing by me with your dear presence and intercession, so that my offering may be acceptable in God’s sight.
And, lastly, I would remind you that you pass our cloister, and must not seek other quarters! But one of our cells must content you.
May you be preserved in Christ Jesus our Lord! In our cloister at Erfurt.
Martin of Mansfeld.
I scarcely like to moot it, but if it were not beneath the dignity of their order, and did not give too much trouble, I would esteem the presence of the members of the College at my ordination at Erfurt a great honor.
Luther had been hurriedly summoned by Frederick the Wise, on the recommendation of Staupitz, to be Professor in Wittenberg in 1508; he apologizes for not bidding adieu.
March 17, 1509.
To the saintly and Right Reverend Father in God, Herr John Braun, priest in Eisenach, my beloved lord and father.
Greeting from Brother Martin Luther, the Augustinian monk!
Stop wondering, honored father, that I stole secretly away from you as if no friendship existed between us, or as if I had been ungrateful enough to root out of my heart all remembrance of your great kindness to me, or let a rough north wind blow away my love for you. Indeed it is not so, although my actions may lead you to suppose this.
I have certainly left – that I must confess, and yet I have not gone away, for the best part of me, at all times, remains with you.
For although I have departed in body, I am ever with you in thought wherever you are, and I hope you will never feel differently towards me from what you do now. But to come to the point. In order to get quit of the dreadful idea that your love might perhaps begin to doubt my fidelity to you, I have torn myself away from my manifold occupations to write you, as it is so difficult to convey anything. And what do you think is my sole object in writing, but to send you my love, and ask you to have as much confidence in me as I have in you! And although I cannot compare myself with you in anything good, still my love for you is very great, and having nothing else to bestow, I once more assure you of it. For I know your generous heart desires nothing from me, but that we may be one heart and soul in the Lord, even as our faith is one and the same in Him. But you must not be offended at my leaving so quietly, for my departure was so sudden that even those in the house scarcely knew. I always intended writing, but had no time. However, I felt very sorry not to see you.
I am now, by God’s command or permission, settled in Wittenberg, and very well, only the study of philosophy is most disagreeable to me; for from the first I would have preferred theology, viz. the theology which goes to the kernel of the nut and touches the bone and the flesh.
But God is God, and man often errs in his judgment. He is our God, who will guide us lovingly to all eternity. Kindly note all this, which has been written in the greatest haste.
And when you have a messenger you will honor me with a line, and I shall do the same. With all good wishes from first to last, and credit me with what you would like to believe of me. Once more farewell.
Martin Luther, Augustinian.
Luther attains the height of his ambition, having been invited to accept the dignity of Doctor of Theology, which enabled him to expound the Holy Scriptures.
September 22, 1512.
Grace and peace, honored and beloved fathers! St. Luke’s day is approaching, when I, in obedience to my superiors and highly esteemed Vicarius, am to be solemnly set apart to the dignity of Doctor of Theology – which I trust you have heard, through the honored Prior in Wittenberg.
I will not apologize for accepting it, or talk of my unworthiness, as if by my humility I were seeking my own glory.
God knows, and my conscience also, whether I feel worthy of such almost fulsome expressions of honor.
Therefore, I plead with you, for Christ’s sake, to commend me to God with one accord, for you know, according to the rights of love, it is your duty to do so – that His holy will may be accomplished in me; also, that you would, if possible, honor me, and show this respect to our order, to be present on the occasion. I would not ask you to take such a toilsome journey and incur so much expense had I not been deputed to do so by the honored Prior, and also, I would consider it most unseemly not to let my Erfurt friends know the day of my promotion, and invite them to be present. Doubtless you will act as we hope and expect, and we shall remember the kindness with gratitude. May you prosper in the Lord, to whom all of us commit you and your brothers in prayer.
Martin Luther, Augustinian.
In this year began Luther’s acquaintance with Tauler’s works. This letter contains an exquisite passage on true righteousness.
April 7, 1516.
Grace and peace in God and the Lord Jesus Christ! Dearest Brother George! I write to let you know that I have realized two gulden and a half, for what I sold for you. One florin for the Brussels robe, half a florin for the Eisenach volume, and one for the cowl, etc. We cannot dispose of the rest, so have handed the money to the honored Prior for you. Regarding the half-gulden you still owe him, you must see to the paying of it, or let him remit the debt. This will not be difficult, as the esteemed father is well disposed to you. Now I would like to know how it is with your soul, if it has at length learned to despise its own righteousness and seek comfort and joy in Christ’s.
For, at present, the temptation to rest in one’s own works is very powerful, especially with those who long to be good and pious. They are ignorant of God’s righteousness, which has been so richly bestowed on us in Christ without money and price, and try to do good of themselves, till they fancy they can appear before God adorned with every grace. But they never get thus far. You, yourself, when with us in Erfurt suffered from this illusion, or rather delusion, and I also was a martyr to it, and even yet I have not overcome it. Therefore, dear brother, learn Christ and Him crucified. Praise and laud His name, and despairing of self, say to Him, “Thou, Lord Jesus, art my righteousness, but I am Thy sin. Thou hast taken what is mine, and given me what is Thine. Thou hast assumed that which Thou wert not, and given me what I had not.”
Beware, my brother, at aiming at a purity which rebels against being classed with sinners. For Christ only dwells among sinners. For this He came from heaven, where He dwelt among saints, so that He might also sojourn with the sinful. Strive after such love, and thou wilt experience His sweetest consolation. For if by our own efforts we are to attain peace of conscience, why then did Christ die? Therefore thou wilt only find peace in Him when thou despairest of self and thine own works. He, Himself, will teach thee how in receiving thee He makes thy sins His, and His righteousness thine. When thou believest this firmly (for he is damned who does not believe) then bear patiently with erring brothers, making their sins thine. If there be any good in thee, then receive ye one another, even as Christ received us, to the glory of God. “Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus: who being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God.” Be thou the same. If thou esteem thyself better than others, do not pride thyself on that, but be as one of them, bearing their burdens. For he is a pitiable saint who will not bear patiently with those worse than himself, and longs only for solitude, when he, through patience, prayer, and example, might be exercising a salutary influence over others. This is burying his Lord’s talent, and not giving his fellow-servants their due. Therefore, be thou a lily or rose of Christ, knowing that thy walk must be among thorns.
Only see that through impatience, hasty judgments, or secret pride, thou dost not thyself become a thorn! “Christ’s kingdom,” says the psalmist, “subsists in the midst of its enemies.” Why then rejoice in being surrounded only by faithful friends? If He, thy Lord, had only lived among the good, or had died only for His friends, for whom then would He have died, or with whom could He have lived? Remember this, brother, and pray for me. The Lord be with thee.
Farewell, in the Lord!
Your brother, Martin Luther, Augustinian.
Luther comforts a brother in Erfurt.
April 15, 1516.
Salvation in the Lord, most cherished Brother. I hear that your brotherly love is deeply tried by manifold waves of temptation. But God, the Father of mercies and all consolation, has placed over you the best of comforters and advisers, Father Bartholomew. Only see that you keep a tight hand over your thoughts, and make room for His word in your heart.
For I know from my own experience, as well as from that of all troubled souls, that it is solely our own self-conceit which is at the root of all our disquietude.
For our eye is a knave, and, alas, what misery he has caused me, and still plagues me to the utmost. The cross of Christ is distributed through the whole world, and each receives his portion. Therefore pray do not cast thy portion from thee, but cherish it as a precious relic, certainly not enshrined in a casket of gold or silver, but in a golden heart filled with loving charity.
For, even as the wood of the cross is consecrated through coming in contact with the flesh and blood of Christ, so that henceforth they are esteemed to be the costliest of relics, how much more will the injustice, persecution, and hatred of men, whether it be right or wrong, not through contact with His flesh, but through union with His loving heart and Divine will, which consecrates everything which is in touch with it, thereby transform the curse into a blessing, suffering into glory, and the cross into a crown of joy. Farewell, dearest friend and brother, and pray for me.
Martin Luther, Augustinian
Luther thanks him for his kindness to a fugitive monk.
May 1, 1516.
Honored and beloved Prior. I was sorry to hear that Baumgaertner, from our cloister in Dresden, who had fled in a hurried manner, and for good reason, had found refuge with you. I must thank you for receiving him so kindly, so that the scandal might be put an end to.
He is my lost sheep, who belongs to me, therefore I must try to restore the erring one, if God will. So, I beg you, by our common faith in Christ, and the order of St. Augustine, that you will either send him to Dresden or to Wittenberg, or lovingly try to persuade him to return of his own free will. I shall receive him with open arms, if he come; he need have no fear on account of having injured me.
I know that offenses will come, and it is no marvel when a man falls, but it is a miracle when he recovers himself and remains steadfast.
Peter fell, so that he might know he was human. Even in the present day the cedars of Lebanon, whose branches almost reach heaven, fell.
Yes, even an angel in heaven fell, which was indeed a marvel – and Adam fell in paradise.
So, is it to be wondered at that the reed should bend before the storm, and the glimmering torch be extinguished? May the Lord Jesus enable you to perfect this good work. Amen. Farewell. From our cloister in Dresden.
June 8, 1516.
Thanks for your good wishes, dear Spalatin. Through the grace of God I reached home in good health, at least bodily. God knows if also spiritually.
All this I owe to your love. I got your letter from the brothers. You write that our Serene Prince wishes to make our esteemed Vicar-General (Staupitz) a bishop, and desires your cooperation. You are acting uprightly as a friend, but I would like that your entreaties with the honored father were not so full of fire; for I shall act differently, so that he who is being over-praised may hesitate in his purpose. Do you wonder at this? Certainly not because I despise your counsel, but because love prompts the desire, consequently the judgment is in abeyance. “For true love,” says Chrysostom, “seldom judges aright.” I say this because you are swayed by the Prince’s favor, and I do not wish the esteemed father to do what you urge to please the Prince. Your Prince is fascinated with much that appears lovely in his sight, which is far from pleasing to God.
Frederick the Wise is very clever in worldly things, but in those pertaining to God and the salvation of souls I consider him sevenfold blind, even as your Pfeffinger.
I do not say this in a corner to malign them, but to their faces at every opportunity. Were I certain that your project came from God, then, would that you had a tongue of fire, and the Pater were pure stubble! But remember that what you and the Prince are discussing secretly is known, for before I got your letter I heard that the esteemed father would be made Bishop of Kimsche.
These happy times are long gone by when it was considered a grand thing to be a bishop, but now there can be no more miserable position, for it means leading a life of gluttony and debauchery such as that of Sodom and Rome. You see this when you compare the life and work of the old bishops with ours.
How many are immersed in wars, while their homes have become a very hell of insatiable greed!
Notice how far this man is removed from such vices, so that when the time comes for him to be lured into the terrible vortex of the Bishop’s courts you will try to prevent the calamity.
But enough of this! If your petition really admits of no delay tell me at once, because the esteemed father does not return from Antwerp till autumn, so I must send a special messenger to Cologne, where he told us to forward his letters. Farewell in the Lord, and pray for us. From the cloister at Wittenberg.
Martin Luther, Augustinian.
Augustinian Prior in Neustadt, whom Luther deposed because he could not keep the peace with the brethren.
June 22, 1516.
Salvation and peace! But not such peace as is manifest to the natural man, but that which lies beneath the cross, viz. the peace which passeth all understanding. Thou art longing for peace, but in the wrong way; for thou seekest it as the world gives it, and not as Christ does. Dost thou know, dear father, that in this matter God deals in a wondrous manner with His people, having placed His peace in the midst of dispeace, nay, in the very thick of temptation and dissensions. “Rule thou in the midst of thine enemies.” Therefore it is not he whom no one disturbs who has peace – that is the world’s peace, but he who is troubled on every side, and bears all quietly and joyfully. Thou sayest with Israel, “Peace, peace, and there is no peace.” Cry rather with Christ, “Cross, cross!” And yet there is no cross. For, as soon as thou canst joyfully say, “Blessed cross, of all kinds of wood there is none like unto thee.” Then, in that moment, the cross has ceased to be a cross. See, then, how graciously the Lord is leading thee to true peace in surrounding thee with so much of the cross. For he who seeks peace will find it. And the best way to seek it is, when affliction overtakes you, to receive it with joy, as a sacred relic, and cease searching vainly for a peace which commends itself to your lower nature. For God considers any such peace far inferior to His peace, which is inseparable from the cross and the troubles of this life. Farewell, and pray for me, dear father. May the Lord reign in you.
Martin Luther, Vicar.
It was in Lange’s church in Erfurt, still standing, where the first evangelical sermon was preached. Luther begins lecturing on Galatians.
October 26, 1516.
I would require two secretaries, for I do nothing almost all day but write letters, therefore if I repeat myself you will understand why it is.
I am lecturer in the cloister, reader at meals, preach daily, and direct the students’ studies, am the Prior’s vicar (which means being vicar eleven times over), inspector of fish-ponds at Leitzkau, must espouse the Herzberg people’s cause at Torgau, expounder of St. Paul and the Psalms, besides my letter-writing. Behold what a leisurely man I am, and in addition am plagued by the temptations of the world, the flesh, and the devil.
I sent several of the brethren you sent me to Magister Spangenberg, to take them away from this pestilential air. I felt much drawn to the two from Cologne, and having such a high opinion of their abilities, kept them with me, although at much expense. We support twenty-two priests, forty-two youths, etc., out of our poverty. But the Lord will provide.
You write that you began to lecture on the Sentences yesterday. I shall begin to expound the Epistle to the Galatians to-morrow, although I fear that with the plague here I shall not be able to continue. It has already robbed us of two or three, but not in one day. The smith opposite lost a son, who was in good health yesterday, and the other is infected. Yes, indeed, here it is, and is beginning to rage with great vehemence especially among the young. You counsel me to flee for refuge to you. But why?
The world will not come to an end although Brother Martin perish. But if the plague spread, I shall send the brothers out into the world. As for me, seeing I have been placed here, my vows of obedience demand that I remain till I am ordered elsewhere. Not that I have no fear of death, for I am not the Apostle Paul, but only his expounder, and I still hope the Lord will deliver me from this fear also.
Farewell, and think of us. Amen.
Martin Luther, Augustinian.
This letter shows Luther’s modesty, Scheurl espoused Luther’s cause, though later he became estranged from it, when practicing law in Nurnberg.
January 17, 1517.
I have received your letter, my excellent Christoph, which was most agreeable, and yet displeasing to me. Why knit your brows over this? What could please me more than to hear you praise our Staupitz, or rather the Lord Jesus, who dwells in our Vicar-General, so highly? Nothing could rejoice me more than to hear Christ’s voice resounding through him, and bearing fruit. But, on the other hand, what could be more disagreeable than that you should strive for my friendship by loading me with praise? I will not be your friend, for my friendship can be no credit to you, if the proverb be true, “Friends must have all things in common.” Now, if what I have became yours, you would only be richer in sin, folly, and ignominy. For these are my possessions which you dignify by very fine names. Still, I know you mean to say, “It is not you, but Christ I admire in you” – to which I reply, “How can Christ who is pure righteousness dwell alongside sin?” And is not this the greatest pride when a man imagines himself to be the temple of Christ? Only an apostle dare boast of this. I wish you joy in the friendship of our Vicar-General, but do not drag yourself down through my friendship. No doubt our honored father praises me everywhere, to my great grief and peril, saying it is Christ he lauds in me, and people try to make me believe this.
Truly a hard demand! The more of such eulogists one has, and the closer they cleave to us, the more hurtful they are. “A man’s foes shall be they of his own household,” etc. For God’s favor decreases as that of man increases. God will either be all or nothing. And the worst of it is, the more thou humblest thyself, and puttest praise and favor from thee, the more do these pursue thee to thy great injury. Oh, how much are hatred and blame to be preferred to praise! For hatred only injures us once, while love threatens us with double danger. I do not write thus to thee, best of all friends, because I scorn your noble heart, but because I have so little confidence in my own. You act like a true Christian who lightly esteems no one except himself. For all are not Christians who esteem others for their learning, virtue, piety, and renown (for the heathen do this also), but it is they who love the poor, needy, and sinful, who are Christ-like.
The psalmist calls those blessed who receive, not the learned, wise, and pious, but the poor and needy.
And, lastly, Christ declares that what is done to the least of His little ones is done to Him, when He might have said the opposite. But what is great in man’s eyes is often despicable in God’s sight. Now, if you would be my friend, do not cause me to be despised of God, by praising me both to myself and others. But if you cannot refrain from praising Christ in me, then mention His name, and not mine.
Why should Christ’s cause not have the stamp of His name upon it, or be branded with mine? You see how eloquent I am! So, be patient, my friend.
From our cloister in Wittenberg.
Martin Luther, of the Augustinian Order.
March 1, 1517.
I am at present reading our Erasmus, but my heart recoils more and more from him. But one thing I admire is, that he constantly and learnedly accuses not only the monks, but the priests, of a lazy, deep-rooted ignorance.
Only, I fear he does not spread Christ and God’s grace sufficiently abroad, of which he knows very little. The human is to him of more importance than the divine.
Although unwilling to judge him, I warn you not to read blindly what he writes. For we live in perilous times, and every one who is a good Hebrew and Greek scholar is not a true Christian; even Dr. Hieronymus, with his five languages, cannot approach Augustine with his one tongue, although Erasmus views all this from a different standpoint. Those who ascribe something to man’s freedom of will regard those things differently from those who know only God’s free grace.
From our desert Wittenberg.
Martin Luther, Augustinian.
Luther’s modesty as to his own classical attainments.
May 6, 1517.
My greeting! To begin with, best of friends, I must thank you for Staupitz’s pamphlet, but I am quite ashamed that the honored father should circulate my insignificant writings among you.
Truly I did not write them for the cultured Nurnbergers, but for our rough Saxons, for whom religious instruction must be broken into infinite particles.
Even were I to do my utmost, I never could furnish anything which would find favor with men so versed in classical literature, and how much less in your eyes, seeing my sole endeavor is to bring myself down to the capacity of the common people. Therefore, pray keep what I write from the learned; and I took great pains, according to your instructions, to write a friendly letter to Eck, avoiding everything disagreeable. I do not know if he has received it.
I send you these theses or propositions, and through you to Link, or to any one who may like such trifles. If I do not deceive myself; they are not Ciceronian, but those of our Carlstadt, rather of St. Augustine, which are far more sublime and superior to those of Cicero, even as Augustine, or rather Christ, is exalted above Cicero.
These propositions are a standing reproach to the ignorance of those who consider them paradoxes (very striking ones), rather than look upon them as orthodox (that is, in accordance with the pure doctrine of the Church universal), not to speak of those who are shameless enough to malign them as errors, a class of people who neither read St. Paul’s Epistles, or, at least, read them without comprehending them, thus leading themselves and others astray.
To modest men who do not quite see through them they appear wonderful, and I regard them as fundamental truths in their primitive purity.
Praise be to God who causes light to arise out of the darkness. I presume our father vicar is not with you. We hope he may come to us. Dr. Christian Reuter has departed this temporal life. May God give him eternal life.
Amen. Amsdorf and all friends greet you.
Martin Luther, Augustinian.
Luther boasts that true theology is flourishing in Wittenberg.
May 18, 1517.
Our theology and that of St. Augustine, by the grace of God, is making rapid progress in our university. Aristotle is continuing to fall from his throne, and his end is only a matter of time; and all object to hearing lectures on the text-books of the Sentences, and no one need expect an audience who does not expound this theology, viz. that of the Bible or St.
Augustine, or some other of the honored Church teachers. Farewell, and pray for me.
Master Christian Goldschmidt, who is here, sends greeting.
Salvation! See that you, with the father confessor and his friend, come about nine o’clock. If Herr Christopher, the ambassador, is with you, bring him also, for I have given orders to invite him. Farewell, but see that you procure wine for us, as you are aware that you are coming from the court to the cloister, and not from the cloister to the court.
September 11, 1517.
To my highly esteemed Herr Christoph Scheurl, my greeting. Although I have no pretext for writing to such an excellent man as you, still I think the fact of having recently acquired such a warm, upright friend is reason enough for doing so. And even should one, once in a while, have to complain of getting no letters, surely even this silence would merit a few jocular lines, and how much more a regular correspondence to maintain the friendship, not to say rivet it closer. Even the holy Hieronymus begged his friend that he would at least write to say he knew of nothing to write about. Therefore I determined to talk nonsense, rather than be silent. But, dear God, how seldom does this Brother Martin, who has been falsely called a great theologian, take up the pen without prating? But it seems as if I would write a book instead of a letter. My object in addressing you was to show how highly I esteemed you, and not to cause you to express a similar opinion of me, but only to convince you that you might trust me as you would yourself.
It just occurs to me, that in sending me the writings of our Vicar-General through Ulrich Pindar, I owed you two ducats; I have partly sold them, and given some to the esteemed friends of this good man.
The money which I drew from those I sold I gave, according to your directions, to the poor, viz. to myself and my brother monks. For, upon God’s dear earth, I know of no one poorer than myself. I now beg you to send me a gulden more of those writings, and I shall remit the money when I have sold them. There are still many who wish them. At the same time, I send you my singular propositions, which seem quite unreasonable to many. You can direct the attention of our learned and thoughtful Eck to them, so that I may know what faults he finds in them. All your friends here, of whom Herr Licentiate Amsdorf and Dr. Hieronymus are the dearest, send greetings, also Peter the Barber, whom you honor with your friendship.
Farewell, and pray for me.
Martin Luther, Augustinian Cloister.
On this day Luther nailed the ninety-five theses on the door of the Schloss Kirche in Wittenberg, being the first time he opposed the Church authorities.
October 31, 1517.
To the Right Reverend Father in Christ, Lord Albrecht, Archbishop of Magdeburg and Mayence, Mark-grave of Brandenburg, his esteemed lord and shepherd in Christ. The grace of God be with him.
May your Electoral Highness graciously permit me, the least and most unworthy of men, to address you. The Lord Jesus is my witness that I have long hesitated, on account of my unworthiness, to carry out what I now boldly do, moved thereto by a sense of the duty I owe you, right reverend father. May your Grace look graciously on me, dust and ashes, and respond to my longing for your ecclesiastical approval.
With your Electoral Highness’s consent, the Papal Indulgence for the rebuilding of St. Peter’s in Rome is being carried through the land. I do not complain so much of the loud cry of the preacher of Indulgences, which I have not heard, but regret the false meaning, which the simple folk attach to it, the poor souls believing that when they have purchased such letters they have secured their salvation, also, that the moment the money tingles in the box souls are delivered from purgatory, and that all sins will be forgiven through a letter of Indulgence, even that of reviling the blessed Mother of God, were any one blasphemous enough to do so. And, lastly, that through these Indulgences the man is freed from all penalties! Ah, dear God! Thus are those souls which have been committed to your care, dear father, being led in the paths of death, and for them you will be required to render an account. For the merits of no bishop can secure the salvation of the souls entrusted to him which is not always assured through the grace of God, the apostle admonishing us “to work out our own salvation with fear and trembling,” and, that the way which leads to life is so narrow, that the Lord, through the prophets Amos and Zechariah, likens those who attain to eternal life to brands plucked from the burning, and above all, the Lord points to the difficulty of redemption. Therefore, I could be silent no longer.
How then can you, through false promises of Indulgences, which do not promote the salvation or sanctification of their souls, lead the people into carnal security, by declaring them free from the painful consequences of their wrong-doing with which the Church was wont to punish their sins?
For deeds of piety and love are infinitely better than Indulgences, and yet the bishops do not preach these so earnestly, although it is their principal duty to proclaim the love of Christ to their people. Christ has nowhere commanded Indulgences to be preached, but the Gospel. So to what danger does a bishop expose himself, who instead of having the Gospel proclaimed among the people, dooms it to silence, while the cry of Indulgences resounds through the land? Will Christ not say to them, “Ye strained at a gnat, and swallowed a camel”?
In addition, reverend father, it has gone abroad under your name, but doubtless without your knowledge, that this Indulgence is the priceless gift of God, whereby the man may be reconciled to God, and escape the fires of purgatory, and that those who purchase the Indulgences have no need of repentance.
What else can I do, right reverend father, than beg your Serene Highness carefully to look into this matter, and do away with this little book of instructions, and command those preachers to adopt another style of preaching, else another may arise and refute them, by writing another book in answer to the previous one, to the confusion of your Serene Highness, the very idea of which alarms me greatly. I hope that your Serene Highness may graciously deign to accept the faithful service which your insignificant servant, with true devotion, would render you. The Lord keep you to all eternity. Amen. Wittenberg, the night before All Saints’ Day 1517.
If agreeable to your Grace, perhaps you would glance at my enclosed theses, that you may see the opinion on the Indulgences is a very varied one, while those who proclaim them fancy they cannot be disputed.
Your unworthy son,
Martin Luther, Augustinian, set apart as Doctor of Sacred Theology.
My greetings! I had decided, dear Spalatin, to tell no one of the dialogue with Erasmus, my sole reason being that it was so delightful, so full of humor, so clever, and, I would almost say, woven together in such an Erasmus-like manner, that the reader is tempted to laugh and enjoy the failings in the Church of Christ, which ought rather to grieve all Christians, and be borne before the Lord in prayer. But seeing you plead so earnestly to see it, here it is, and after perusing it, return it to me. You write that the Prince has promised me a robe, so I would like to know to whom he has entrusted the matter.
From our cloister.
BROTHER Martin, Augustinian.
The founder of Wittenberg University, who did so much to protect the pure gospel, – upon a tax levied.
November or December 1517.
Most gracious and dear lord, Elector Frederick of Saxony. Some time ago I was promised, through Dr. Hersfelder, a new robe, so I now wish to remind your Grace of it. But I would beg, gracious lord, that if Pfeffinger is to arrange the matter, as he did before, he would do it in reality, for he is very good at spinning fine words, but these do not always produce good cloth.
I have heard through Prior Lange at Erfurt that your Electoral Grace is displeased with our worthy Father Staupitz because of something he has written. So I called upon him when he came to see you at Torgau, and said I could not bear to think His Excellence was in disgrace with your Grace. I soon found that no one had such a high place in his heart as the Elector of Saxony, and he does not know how he can have offended except by loving you too much. I pray your Grace would continue to him your favor, even as he has ever been loyal to you. Thus I wish to prove my fidelity to you, to let you see I merit my Court dress.
I have also heard that at the end of the present financial year your Grace purposes laying another and heavier tax upon us, so I beseech you do not despise a poor beggar’s prayer, for my heart, as well as the hearts of many who love you dearly, are, because of the extra tax, very heavy, and it has robbed your Electoral Highness of much of your good name and favor among the people.
God has endowed your Grace with great wisdom, so that no one sees farther in these matters than you; but sometimes God wills it so that great wisdom may learn something from one with less, so that one may depend on God alone, who, it is to be hoped, may spare you to us for our good, and afterwards preserve your soul unto life eternal. Amen.
Your Electoral Highness’s obedient chaplain,
Luther’s first German letter; his extant letters till this date are all in Latin.
Luther at the General Assembly of Augustinian monks at Heidelberg, where he publicly defended his theses. Luther cited to appear at Rome, but the Elector arranged he should appear at Augsburg instead, before Cajetan.
February 15, 1518.
About the motives which should accompany good works. Salvation! What you write, or rather prescribe to me to do, that I am doing, most excellent Spalatin. And I thank the most Serene Prince, through you, for the princely piece of venison that he sent our new magister, and I have told them what an honor it is. But I am the one who is most delighted, for human nature loves a cheerful giver.
You ask me two questions. The one, “If one wishes to sacrifice something, or do a good work, what ought to be his motive?” I answer briefly, a man must be animated in all he does by a feeling of despair as well as confidence. The despair appertains to thyself and thy work, but the joyous confidence is founded on God and His mercy. For the Spirit says, “The Lord taketh pleasure in them that fear him, and in those that hope in his mercy.” The other question concerned the power of the Indulgence, and what it can accomplish. This matter is still doubtful, but I shall say privately to you and our friends that I consider present-day Indulgences as a deceiving of souls, and of no use except as an encouragement to lazy Christians. And this is beyond dispute, my enemies and the whole Church being obliged to admit it is, viz. that alms and kindness towards one’s neighbor are far higher than the Indulgences.
Therefore, I admonish you to buy no Indulgences, as long as you have poor neighbors to whom you can give the Indulgence money.
If you act otherwise, I am blameless; the responsibility is yours. I firmly believe that those who neglect the poor and purchase Indulgences merit condemnation.
I shall tell you a great cause of annoyance to me, viz. the busybodies have invented a new mode of attack, by circulating everywhere that our Serene Prince is at the bottom of all I do, as if he caused me to make the Archbishop of Magdeburg hated! Dear one, advise me how to act, for I am deeply grieved that the Prince should come into ill-repute through me, and I fear being the cause of dispeace between such great princes. But I shall gladly permit the Prince to lead me into a disputation, or place me on my trial, if he would openly give me a safe-conduct, but I dislike the innocent Prince being blamed on my account. They are truly perverse people who love the darkness and hate the light.
They have traversed three lands to lay hold of John Reuchlin, and have dragged him hither against his will, while I am at the door, and pleading to be taken, and they leave me alone and whisper in corners that which they cannot defend. Farewell, and forgive me for making so many words about this, for I am talking to a friend.
From our cloister.
Martin Luther, Augustinian. (Both free and bound in the Lord.)
Luther laments the spread of his theses.
March 5, 1518.
To the learned Herr Christoph Scheurl, my esteemed friend in Christ, my greeting! I have received two letters from you, a Latin and a German one, nay good Christoph, along with a present from that superior man, Albrecht Durer, and my Latin and German propositions. You wonder I did not tell you of them. But I did not wish to have them widely circulated. I only intended submitting them to a few learned men for examination, and if they disapproved of them, to suppress them; or make them known through their publications, in the event of their meeting with your approval. But now they are being spread abroad and translated everywhere, which I never could have credited, so that I regret having given birth to them – not that I am unwilling to proclaim the truth manfully, for there is nothing I more ardently desire, but because this way of instructing the people is of little avail. As yet I am still uncertain as to some points, and would have gone into others more particularly, leaving some out entirely, had I foreseen all this.
From the rapid spread of the theses I gather what the greater part of the nation think of this kind of Indulgence, in spite of them having to disguise their opinions for fear of the Jews; still I must have the proofs of my propositions in readiness, although I cannot publish them yet, having been delayed through the Bishop of Brandenburg – whose advice I asked – being so long in returning them. Yes, when the Lord grants me leisure, I purpose issuing a book on the use and misuse of the Indulgences, in order to suppress the before-mentioned points. I have no longer any doubt that the people are deceived, not through the Indulgences, but through their use. When I have finished these propositions I will send them to you.
Meantime, pray remember me to Albrecht Durer, that excellent man, and assure him of my continued gratitude. But I expect both of you to discard your exalted opinion of me, and not to expect more from me than I can render, for I am nothing, and can do nothing, and am daily becoming more of a cipher. I wrote lately to Dr. John Eck, to you, and to all the others, but fear you have not received the letter. I am most anxious that the pamphlet of our highly esteemed vicar “Upon Love,” which appeared the other day in Munich, and made such sensation, should be reissued among you. For we all hunger and thirst after love.
I commit you to God.
Luther complains of his opponents raging against him.
March 21, 1518.
The vendors of Indulgences are thundering at me from the pulpit, so that their stock of insulting epithets is exhausted. They tell the people that I shall be burned in fourteen days – another makes it a month. They are also issuing counter-propositions, so that I fear ere long they will burst with fury. I am advised not to go to Heidelberg, so that they may not accomplish through deceit and wiles what they are unable to achieve through force. But I shall render obedience, and come on foot, and, if God will, pass through Erfurt; but do not wait for me, for I shall scarcely be able to start till the Wednesday after Quasimodo.
Our Prince, who devotes much time to the study of this theology, and loves it, is a warm protector of Carlstadt and me, and will not permit me to be lured to Rome.
They know this, and are furious at it. So that you may not have an exaggerated account of the burning of Tetzel’s theses, I shall tell you the facts. The students, who are heartily sick of sophistical teaching and longing for the sacred Scriptures, are most favorable to me. Having heard that Tetzel, the originator of them, had sent a man from Halle, they immediately went and asked how he dared bring such things here. Some bought a few, while others robbed him of several, and burned the rest – about eight hundred copies – after proclaiming that the burning and funeral of Tetzel’s answer to them would take place at the Market at two o’clock. And all this was done without the knowledge of the Prince, the Town Council, or any of us. We all think it very bad of our people treating the man so. I am innocent, but feel certain I get all the blame. It has caused much talk, especially among Tetzel’s followers, who are naturally very angry. I do not know how it will all end, only it has placed me in a more perilous position.
To Staupitz, his Superior and Father in Christ Jesus.
March 31, 1518.
My greeting! Although overwhelmed by business, I feel constrained briefly to address my father in the Lord.
To begin with, I am quite willing to admit that my name is in bad odor with very many. For these good folks assert that I despise psalters and other forms of prayer, nay, even good works themselves. But St. Paul himself was often treated in the same way, some accusing him of saying, “Let us do evil, that good may come.”
But I have kept firm to Tauler’s theology and that other treatise which you had printed through our Aurifaber. I teach that man must trust solely in Christ Jesus – neither in prayer, merit, nor works, but hope for blessedness only through God’s mercy.
It is from this that these people extract poison and disseminate it everywhere, as you see. Only as it was neither good nor bad report which made me act so, therefore I take no notice of all this, although it is those things which bring down the hatred of the schoolmen about my neck.
Because I prefer the mystical writings and the Bible to them, their wrath and jealousy are unbounded. I do not read the scholastics blindfolded, as they do, but ponder them. The apostle told us to prove all things, and hold to that which is good. I do not despise all theirs, neither consider it all good. But these creatures generally kindle a fire out of a spark, and make an elephant out of a flea. When it was permitted to a Thomas to stand out against the whole world, and a Scotus, Gabriel, and others to contradict him, and when, even among the scholastics, there are as many sects as there are heads, or rather every single head daily builds up a new system of divinity, why should I not have the same liberty? But when God lifts up His hand no one can stay it, and when He rests no one can arouse Him.
Farewell, and pray for me, and for the cause of divine truth wherever it may be hidden.
Luther begs his Vicar-General, who hated theological strife, to send his “Resolutiones” to Pope Leo X.
May 30, 1518.
I remember, reverend father, that among the many comforting words with which you consoled me, was that of Repentance – that word with which the Lord Jesus in such a marvelous manner was wont to strengthen His people. I received your word as a voice from heaven. True repentance always begins with a longing after righteousness and God. This your word pierced me like a sharp arrow, and I, at once, began to compare the portions of Scripture which treat of repentance, and, behold, what a treat was in store for me – the words with that meaning crowding upon me, from all directions, so that this word, which up till now had been the bitterest in the Bible to me, sounded dearer and sweeter than any other. (Here follows an exhaustive analysis of the Greek for repentance, which means a change of disposition – consequently not primarily of works, but a revolution of sentiment.)
Then just as my heart was filled with such thoughts, there began to resound around us proclamations of Indulgences for the forgiveness of sins, but no exhortation to true spiritual conflict with sin. In short, not a word was heard of true repentance, but the Indulgence-mongers were bold enough to glorify and praise themselves, while hurling invectives against repentance. I had to listen to all this lauding of self in a way hitherto undreamt of, and certainly a most unimportant part of confession. In addition, they taught so many godless lies boldly, that whoever differed from them was at once denounced as a heretic, condemned to the flames, and counted worthy of eternal damnation. Not being able to check their madness, I set myself modestly to throw doubts on their teaching, confident in the testimony borne by the doctors and the whole Church, who, from time immemorial, thought it better to repent than purchase Indulgences. Having discussed the matter openly, I unfortunately roused the opposition of all who are concerned about the dear gold, or shall I say, the dear souls? For these dear folk are wondrous cunning, and being unable to refute me, they declare the Pope’s authority will be injured through my disputation. This is the traffic, most esteemed father, which compels me with much personal danger to come to the front – I, who have ever loved obscurity, and would vastly prefer being a spectator of the lively game which these worthy and learned men are carrying on at present, than be the center of observation and ridicule.
But I see weeds grow up among cabbage, and black is placed alongside white, to make it more attractive. Therefore I beseech you to forward my poor “Resolutiones” to the good Pope Leo X., so that they may plead my cause with His Holiness against the wicked intrigues of evil-disposed persons.
Not that I wish to lead you into danger, for I take the entire responsibility of all I do. May Christ judge whether I have said what is His, or my own, without whom even the Papal tongue can utter nothing, and in whose hand is the heart of kings. I expect to receive Christ’s verdict through the Papal throne. For the rest, I can only answer the warnings of my friends with Reuchlin’s words: “He who is poor need fear nothing, for he has nothing to lose.” I have neither gold nor possessions, nor do I desire them.
If I had a good reputation and honor, I am being robbed of them by Him who gave them. My useless body, weakened by many hardships, still remains. If they deprive me of this in God’s service, they only render me poorer by an hour or two of life. My sweet Redeemer is sufficient for me. I shall praise Him all my life. May He keep you through all eternity, my dearest father. Amen.
Luther writes submissively to the Pope, in whose justice and love of truth he seems to have implicit confidence.
May 30, 1518.
Martin Luther, Augustinian monk, desires everlasting salvation to the Most Holy Father, Leo X.
I know, most holy father, that evil reports are being spread about me, some friends having vilified me to your Holiness, as if I were trying to belittle the power of the Keys and of the Supreme Pontiff, therefore I am being accused of being a heretic, a renegade, and a thousand other ill names are being hurled at me, enough to make my ears tingle and my eyes start in my head, but my one source of confidence is an innocent conscience. But all this is nothing new, for I am decorated with such marks of distinction in our own land, by those honorable and straightforward people who are themselves afflicted with the worst of consciences. But, most holy father, I must hasten to the point, hoping your Holiness will graciously listen to me, for I am as awkward as a child.
Some time ago the preaching of the apostolic jubilee of the Indulgences was begun, and soon made such headway that these preachers thought they could say what they wished, under the shelter of your Holiness’s name, alarming the people at such malicious, heretical lies being proclaimed to the derision of the spiritual powers. And, not satisfied with pouring out their venom, they have disseminated the little book in which their malicious lies are confirmed, binding the father confessors by oath to inculcate those lies upon their people. I shall not enlarge upon the disgraceful greed, which call never be satisfied, with which every syllable of this tiny book reeks. This is true, and no one can shut his eyes to the scandal, for it is manifest in the book. And they continue to lead the people captive with their vain consolation, plucking, as the prophet Micah says, “their skin from off them, and their flesh from off their bones,” while they wallow in abundance themselves. They use your Holiness’s name to allay the uproar they cause, and threaten them with fire and sword, and the ignominy of being called heretics; nay, one can scarcely believe the wiles they use to cause confusion among the people. Complaints are universal as to the greed of the priests, while the power of the Keys and the Pope is being evil spoken of in Germany. And when I heard of such things I burned with zeal for the honor of Christ, or, if some will have it so, the young blood within me boiled; and yet I felt it did not behoove me to do anything in the matter except to draw the attention of some prelates to the abuses. Some acted upon the hint, but others derided it, and interpreted it in various ways. For the dread of your Holiness’s name, and the threat of being placed under the ban, was all-powerful. At length I thought it best not to be harsh, but oppose them by throwing doubts upon their doctrines, preparatory to a disputation upon them. So I threw down the gauntlet to the learned by issuing my theses, and asking them to discuss them, either by word of mouth, or in writing, which is a well-known fact.
From this, most holy father, has such a fire been kindled, that, to judge from the hue and cry, one would think the whole world had been set ablaze.
And perhaps this is because I, through your Holiness’s apostolic authority, am a doctor of theology, and they do not wish to admit that I am entitled, according to the usage of all universities in Christendom, openly to discuss, not only Indulgences, but many higher doctrines, such as Divine Power, Forgiveness, and Mercy.
Now, what shall I do? I cannot retract, and I see what jealousy and hatred I have roused through the explanation of my theses. Besides, I am most unwilling to leave my corner only to hear harsh judgments against myself, but also because I am a stupid dunderhead in this learned age, and too ignorant to deal with such weighty matters. For, in these golden times, when the number of the learned is daily increasing, and arts and sciences are flourishing, not to speak of the Greek and Hebrew tongues, so that even a Cicero were he now alive would creep into a corner, although he never feared light and publicity, sheer necessity alone drives me to cackle as a goose among swans.
So, to reconcile my opponents if possible, and satisfy the expectations of many, I let in the light of day upon my thoughts, which you can see in my explanation of my propositions on Indulgences.
I made them public that I might have the protection of your Holiness’s name, and find refuge beneath the shadow of your wings. So all may see from this how I esteem the spiritual power, and honor the dignity of the Keys. For, if I were such as they say, and had not held a public discussion on the subject, which every doctor is entitled to do, then assuredly his Serene Highness Frederick, Elector of Saxony, who is an ardent lover of Christian and apostolic truth, would not have suffered such a dangerous person in his University of Wittenberg.
And also, the beloved and learned doctors and magisters of our University, who cleave firmly to our religion, would certainly have expelled me from their midst. And is it not strange that my enemies not only try to convict me of sin and put me to shame, but also the Elector, and the whole University? Therefore, most holy father, I prostrate myself at your feet, placing myself and all I am and have at your disposal, to be dealt with as you see fit. My cause hangs on the will of your Holiness, by whose verdict I shall either save or lose my life. Come what may, I shall recognize the voice of your Holiness to be that of Christ, speaking through you. If I merit death, I do not refuse to die, for “the earth is the Lord’s,” and all that is therein, to whom be praise to all eternity! Amen.
May He preserve your Holiness to life eternal.
Martin Luther, Augustinian.
Wenzelaus Link studied in Wittenberg, and was afterwards pastor in Nurnberg.
July 10, 1518.
Our vicar, John Lange, says that Count Albrecht of Mansfeld has warned him not to let me leave here, as some great people have given orders that I should be suffocated or drowned.
I am like Jeremiah, the man of strife, whom the Pharisees daily tormented with new doctrines, as they called them. But I have only taught the pure gospel, therefore I always knew that I would be a stumbling-block to the Jews and foolishness to the Greeks. But it would ill become me not to do all this for the Lord Jesus, who says to all His people, “I will shew him what great things he must suffer for my name’s sake!”
The more they threaten, the more confident and joyful I become: my wife and child are provided for; my land, house, and all I have are in order, and if they rob me of my good name, nothing remains but my miserable body.
From the beginning God’s word is on this wise, that all who cleave to it must with the apostles be hourly prepared to suffer the loss of all things, nay, even to meet death itself.
Were it not so, then it would be no word of Christ, for it has been made known and spread abroad, through the death of many, and will go on, being thus maintained and renewed through manifold deaths. For our Bridegroom is a blood-stained Bridegroom.
Therefore pray that the Lord Jesus may strengthen the confidence of His faithful sinners. I preached the other day upon the tyranny of the officials and vicars, etc. The people marveled that they had never heard anything of this before. We now wait to see what I shall have to endure on this account. I have lighted a new fire, but the word of truth does this also, the sign that shall be spoken against. I do not concern myself about the faultfinders.
To Christ alone I shall defer in the ministry.
Melanchthon was only twenty-one when sent by Reuchlin to teach Greek at the Elector’s request.
August 31, 1518.
To the learned George Spalatin, my faithful friend in Christ, salvation!
What you wrote of our Philip has all come to pass, and will also be verified in the future, as you know. The fourth day after his arrival he gave a learned and eloquent address, to the delight of all who heard him, so you need not laud him to us, for we have already formed the highest estimate of his person and intellect, and are most grateful to the Prince for conferring him upon us, and also for your services in the matter; and see how skilfully you can praise him to the Prince.
So long as he lives I desire no other teacher in Greek. I only fear that our coarse food will not suit his delicate constitution, as I hear he is getting too small a salary, so that the Leipsic people are already boasting that they will deprive us of him. For they wished him at first.
I, and others, fear Herr Pfeffinger has been too faithful a steward, as usual, to his Electoral Highness, in giving Philip as little as possible. Therefore, dear Spalatin (I speak freely, for it is with my best friend I talk), see that you do not lightly esteem his youth and boyish appearance, for the man is worthy of all honor. And I do not wish that we and our University should do such a mean thing, thereby causing our detractors to speak evil of us. I send you my hurried opinion of the coarse and rude Sylvestrum (high official in the Pope’s household), my sophistical opponent, for I scarcely deem him worth my attention. I thank God and you for protecting me and my cause.
Farewell, and love me in Christ.
Luther at the Diet of Augsburg. Preached in Weimar before the Elector on the way thither.
October 11, 1518.
Salvation! There is nothing new here, only every one is talking of Dr.
Luther who has lighted such a great fire. Show yourself a man, and teach the young people what is right, but I go hence to offer myself up for them and you, if God wills it.
For I will rather die and be deprived of your dear society, hard as that would be for me to all eternity, than be the means of ruining the liberal studies and elegant learning, thus causing the enemy to triumph. Italy is, as Egypt was long ago, enveloped in thick darkness, being entirely ignorant of Christ and all that appertains to Him, and yet we must submit to them ruling over us, and teaching us in their own way both faith and morals.
Thus does God manifest His wrath towards us in the lament of the prophet, “I will give children to be their princes, and babes shall rule over them.”
Farewell in the Lord, dear Philip, and turn away the wrath of God through your fervent and earnest prayers.
Carlstadt had never seen a Bible when he became Doctor of Theology in Wittenberg in 1510. Later he destroyed the images in churches.
October 14, 1518.
May you have all good for time and blessedness hereafter, esteemed Herr Doctor! I am pressed for time, but shall write more again. My cause has assumed a very dismal aspect these three days, so that I have lost hope of returning to you, fully expecting to come under the ban.
For the Legate is determined I shall not hold a public disputation, refusing to argue with me alone, and declares he will not be my judge, but will treat me as a father. Nevertheless, the only words he will listen to from me are, “I recant, and confess I have erred,” and I was unwilling to say those words.
But the keenest discussion has been over these two articles: First, that I have said that the Indulgence is not the treasure (Schatz) of the merits of our dear Lord and Savior Christ; and the next, that the man who desires to approach the Lord’s holy table must believe.
After the Legate had dealt with these matters with a high hand, I have, through the intercession of many, got permission to answer in writing. And if harshly dealt with by the Legate I purpose publishing my answer to the two propositions, to let all see his ignorance and tactlessness. For many heretical and extraordinary ideas proceed from his standpoint regarding the two articles.
Although he may be a so-called Thomist, he is a muddle-headed, obscure, and incapable theologian, or Christian, and as incapable as an ass of judging this matter.
So, seeing my affairs are in such jeopardy through having judges who are not only full of enmity and deceit, but unable to understand my cause, I may well tremble. Be this as it may, God the Lord lives and reigns, to whom I commit all, and have no doubt that help will come through the prayers of God-fearing people. On these I rely as firmly as if they were offered for me alone. Therefore, I shall either return to you uninjured, or seek refuge elsewhere; so farewell. Continue steadfast, and exalt Christ with all confidence.
I enjoy the favor of all men, except those who cleave to the Cardinal, who calls me his dear son, and tells my vicar that I have no better friend than he, and I know he would be highly pleased with me if I would only say, “I recant,” but I shall not become a heretic, through the change of opinion by which I became a Christian. I shall sooner die, be burned, banished, and persecuted.
Farewell, dearest sir, and show my letter to our divines, Amsdorf, Philip, etc., so that they may pray for me, also for you.
For your cause too is being discussed here, viz. faith in our Lord Jesus and in the grace of God.
Martin Luther, Augustinian.
Staupitz and Link tried to allay the strife by getting Luther to yield, so Luther wrote this letter to see what abject humility would accomplish.
October 17, 1518.
Highly esteemed in God the Father! I approach you once more, not in person, but in writing. And you will graciously lend me your ear.
Dr. Johann Staupitz has urged me to humble myself, and give up my own opinions, submitting them to the judgment of pious people whose characters are above suspicion, and he has so lauded your fatherly love, that I am convinced that you are anxious to do your utmost for me, and that I may commit myself to your loving care.
I rejoice to hear all this from the messenger, for this man (Staupitz) is worthy of my confidence, for I know no one whom I would more gladly obey.
My beloved brother, Dr. Wenzelaus Link, who studied with me, has also tried to influence me in the same way.
I now confess, honored father, that I have not been humble enough, and have been too vehement, not treating the superior Bishop with sufficient reverence.
And although I had good cause for all this, I now confess I should have been more gentle, and treated His Eminence with more respect; but it is done, and I admit that it is not always wise to answer a fool according to his folly, and thus become like him.
I am very sorry for all this now, and plead for mercy, and will point out all this now and again to the people from the pulpit, as I have often done.
And with God’s help I shall henceforth be more careful how I speak.
Yes, I am quite ready to think no more about this traffic in Indulgences, and when things have quieted down to return to my repose, but my opponents must also be compelled to keep silence, for it was they who began the whole disturbance, and caused me to interfere in the matter.
Your Excellency’s submissive son,
Martin Luther, Augustinian.
Luther left Augsburg October 20, and on November 28 appealed from the Pontiff to a General Council. Even Luther’s opponents admit this letter to be a masterpiece of eloquence.
November 29, 1518.
Most Serene and Gracious Lord! I have received with great joy a pamphlet from my dear friend, George Spalatin, along with a copy of the esteemed Cardinal’s letter to you, which gives me an opportunity of explaining all the details of my case to your Electoral Highness.
I merely humbly plead that your Grace would graciously listen to an insignificant, despised mendicant brother, and take my uncouth relation in good part. (Here follows a particular account of his dealings with the Legate in Augsburg.) Therefore I once more beseech your Electoral Highness not to believe those who declare that Brother Martin said what was not right, and taught what was wrong, without definite proof that this was the case.
St. Peter erred even after he had received the Holy Ghost, so a cardinal can also err no matter how learned he may be.
Therefore your Grace will, I hope, make it a point of conscience and honor that they do not send me to Rome, for this your Electoral Highness could not insist upon, let the man be what he may, for I would not be safe in Rome. If your Grace did this it would be betraying an innocent Christian’s blood, and becoming my murderer. Even the Pope is not sure of his life for an hour. They have paper, pen, and ink in Rome, and notaries enough, so it would be easy to write down in what I have erred. It would cost much less to instruct me at a distance than to demand my presence, and make an end of me through their cunning and wiles. One thing vexes me greatly, and that is, that the Legate should sneeringly insinuate that I have acted as I have in reliance upon your Electoral Highness; and some liars among ourselves falsely assert that I undertook the disputation on the Indulgences by your Grace’s advice, when the fact is, that not even my dearest friends were aware of it, except the Cardinal of Mayence and the Bishop of Brandenburg.
For I admonished these two, whose office it was to prohibit the scandal, most humbly and respectfully in writing, before I let the disputation come to the light of day.
But now that the Legate is trying to stain your Grace’s honor and that of the noble house of Saxony, and bring it into bad repute with His Holiness, I will explain how they go about it. People nowadays believe firmly that Christ is buried, and cannot now speak even through an ass; hence they imagine that His disciples and their followers will also be obliged to be silent, even should the stones cry out.
Therefore, that no evil may befall your Serene Highness, which I do not wish, I shall leave your Grace’s land in God’s name, and will go wherever the everlasting and merciful God directs, and shall submit to His divine will, letting Him do with me as He will.
Herewith I bless and greet your Electoral Grace, in deep humility, committing you to the merciful God, and thanking you with all my heart for the benefits you have bestowed upon me. And wherever my dwellingplace may be, I shall never to all eternity forget your Grace’s goodness to me, or cease to pray earnestly for your Highness’s salvation and prosperity.
At present I am full of joy and gratitude to God, that His dear Son counted a poor sinner like me worthy to suffer tribulation and persecution for His good and sacred cause. May He maintain your Electoral Grace to all eternity. Amen.
Your Grace’s unworthy chaplain,
The great German humanist, who was the first to spread the knowledge of Hebrew in Germany.
December 14, 1518.
The Lord be with you, my valiant hero! I praise the mercy of God, which dwells in you, my learned and esteemed sir, through which you have at length stopped the mouths of those who spoke against you. Certainly you are an instrument of Divine Providence, although you may not know it.
But those who have the cause of sacred learning at heart have for long earnestly desired one such as you, and God’s purposes were very different from what your actions would have led people to suppose they were. I was one of those who greatly desired to be with you, but the opportunity never presented itself. Still I have been ever with you, with my wishes and prayers, but what was not possible for the young comrade has been granted in rich measure to his successor.
I am now being attacked by the Behemoth, who are anxious to avenge upon me the disgrace they have suffered at your hands. Doubtless I am forced to encounter them with much feebler weapons of wit and learning, but with as much courage and delight as you. They will have no dealings with me, so determined are they only to use force against me.
But Christ lives, and I can lose nothing; for I have nothing. However, the horns of these animals have rather lost effect through your courage. For God has achieved this through you – that the lord of the Sophists has found that the righteousness of God must be met with gentleness, so that Germany, through the teaching of the Holy Scriptures, which, alas, for so many hundred years has been smothered and suppressed, has again begun to breathe. But it is presumptuous of me discussing matters so confidentially with such as you. It is because I am so devoted to you – both for yourself and your books. It was Philip Melanchthon, whom I am proud to call my dearest friend, who persuaded me to write, saying you would not take it amiss, however poor the production might be. So blame him if you do not perceive that it is written to prove my devotion to you.
Farewell, my much honored master.
Martin Luther, Augustinian.
Leo the X. now sent his chamberlain, Karl von Miltitz, to gain over Luther, and they met in Spalatin’s house in Altenburg. His Holiness also sent the “Golden Rose” to the Elector Frederick by Miltitz, who persuaded Luther to write a conciliatory letter to the Pope.
Luther narrates negotiations with you Miltitz, whom the Pope had sent to convert this son of Satan.
Most Serene High-born Prince, Most Gracious Lord. It is really too bad that your Electoral Highness should have so much annoyance through being involved with my affairs; but seeing necessity and God have willed it so, I beseech you graciously to take it in good part. Herr Karl von Miltitz pointed out yesterday the disgrace and disturbance which have accrued to the Roman Church through me, and I have offered to do all I can to atone for it. So I beg you to ponder the matter, as I wish to do something.
To begin with, I shall do nothing more in the affair, and let it, so to speak, bleed to death (if the other party are also silent), for, if my writings had been allowed to circulate freely, the whole thing would have died a natural death long ere now, for all are sick of it. So see to it, for if this precaution be neglected, the matter may assume alarming proportions, and disgrace ensue. For my weapons are ready. Therefore I deem it best that there should be a truce.
In the second place, I shall write His Holiness, and submit humbly to him, confessing that in the past I have been too vehement, although I did not intend to injure the Church, but only to show the true reason of my opposition, in combating, as a faithful son of the Church, the blasphemous teaching which has occasioned so much mischief, and aroused the general indignation against the Roman See.
In addition, I shall issue a pamphlet exhorting the people to cleave to the Roman Church, and be obedient and respectful, and not consider this writing as tending to disgrace the Holy Roman Church, but rather to exalt her; and I shall also admit that I expressed the truth in a too vehement manner, and perhaps at an inopportune time. In the fourth place, Magister Spalatin has proposed that the matter be referred to the verdict of the Archbishop of Salzburg, along with other learned people, whose reputation is above suspicion, while I keep to my appeal. But I fear the Pope will not put up with a judge, and I, too, will not submit to the Pope’s verdict.
So, if the first means fail, then the result will be, that the Pope will draw up the conditions, and I shall supply the glossary thereto. This would not be good.
I have also talked it over with Karl von Miltitz, who does not think this would suffice, yet does not demand a revocation, but wishes all to express an opinion on the question under discussion.
If your Grace thinks I can do anything more, will you graciously tell me how to act? I shall gladly do or suffer anything that I may not again have to enter the arena of conflict. For nothing will come of the revocation.
Your Electoral Highness’s obedient chaplain,
The vehement enemy of Luther and the Reformation, which seemed to him like revolution.
February 19, 1519.
My poor prayers are ever at the service of your Royal Highness, Most Serene High-born Prince, Most Gracious Lord! The worthy Dr. John Eck writes that he has besought your Grace, graciously to permit a disputation in Leipsic, in your Grace’s University there, with the excellent Carlstadt But seeing Dr. Eck professes to desire the disputation with Dr.
Carlstadt, whose opinions he has scarcely attacked, while he has combated my doctrines with all his might, I shall appear myself in defense of my propositions, or to receive instructions in the better way.
Therefore, I humbly request your Grace, out of love for the truth, to allow this disputation. For the highly esteemed gentlemen of the University have just written me, that they have promised Dr. John Eck (which I had heard) to refuse my request.
They accuse me of having made known that a disputation was to be held before I received your Grace’s permission thereto, but my excuse must be, that I hoped I would not be denied what Dr. Eck was boasting had been already granted to him.
I plead that your Grace will graciously forgive my offense. May God mercifully spare and uphold your Highness. Amen.
Your Electoral Grace’s obedient chaplain,
February 20, 1519.
My greeting! I often reproach myself, my excellent Herr Doctor, for writing so seldom, having received so many kind messages from you. But my excuse must again be the mass of work which weighs me down.
Up till now our Eck has been able to restrain his wrath against me, but now he is letting it have full scope.
God alone, who is in the midst of the gods, knows what will be the outcome of this conduct. Neither Eck nor I am working for ourselves alone. It seems to me as if all this proceeded solely from the will of God. I often say that up till now it has only been child’s play. But from henceforth I must proceed in earnest against the Roman pontiff and Romish pride.
I commend to you, most warmly and in all unselfishness, Udalrich, our Pindar, that excellent and learned man. You will try to help him, seeing he is your compatriot, and speak highly of him to your counsellors – perhaps they may deem him worthy of some assistance.
We hear that the Suabian league is rebelling against the Duke of Wurtemburg. Melancholy outlook!
May God not rebuke us in His wrath, but chasten us according to His tender mercy. Amen! Greet all our friends.
I herewith commend you to God.
Luther’s conciliatory letter to the Pope.
March 3, 1519.
Most Holy Father. Necessity once more compels me, the most unworthy and despicable creature upon earth, to address your Holiness. Therefore, would you, in Christ’s stead, graciously bend your fatherly ear to the petition of me, your poor sheep. The esteemed Herr Karl von Miltitz, your Holiness’s treasurer, has been here, and complained bitterly to the Elector Frederick, in your Holiness’s name, of my insolence towards the Roman Church and your Holiness, and demanded a recantation from me.
When I heard this I felt aggrieved that all my efforts to do honor to the Roman Church had been so misrepresented, and considered foolhardiness and deliberate malice by the Head of the Church.
But what shall I do, most holy father? I am quite at sea, being unable to bear the weight of your Holiness’s wrath or to escape from it. I am asked to recant and withdraw my theses. If by so doing I could accomplish the end desired, I would not hesitate a moment.
But my writings have become far too widely known, and taken root in too many hearts – beyond my highest expectations – now to be summarily withdrawn. Nay, our German nation, with its cultured and learned men, in the bloom of an intellectual reawakening, understands this question so thoroughly that, on this account, I must avoid even the appearance of recantation, much as I honor and esteem the Roman Church in other respects. For such a recantation would only bring it into still worse repute, and make every one speak against it.
It is those, O holy father, who have done the greatest injury to the Church in Germany, and whom I have striven to oppose – those who, by their foolish preaching and their insatiable greed, have brought your name into bad odor, sullying the sanctity of the sacred chair, and making it an offense; and it is they who, in revenge for my having rendered their godless endeavors abortive, accuse me to your Holiness as the originator of their plots. Now, holy father, I declare before God that I have never had the slightest wish to attack the power of the Roman Church or your Holiness in any way, or even to injure it through cunning. Yes, I declare openly, that there is nothing in heaven or on earth which can come before the power of this Church, except Jesus Christ alone – Lord over all. Therefore do not believe those malicious slanderers who speak otherwise of Luther. I also gladly promise to let the question of Indulgences drop and be silent, if my opponents restrain their boastful, empty talk. In addition, I shall publish a pamphlet exhorting the people to honor the Holy Church, and not ascribe such foolish misdeeds to her, or imitate my own severity, in which I have gone too far towards her, and by so doing I trust these divisions may be healed. For this one thing I desired, that the Roman Church, our mother, f9 should not be sullied through the greed of strangers, nor the people led into error, being taught to regard love as of less importance than the Indulgences. All else, seeing it neither helps nor injures, I regard of less importance.
If I can do anything more in the matter I am willing to do it.
May the Lord Christ preserve your Holiness to all eternity.
Martin Luther, Doctor.
Luther excuses himself for his discussion with Eck.
March 13, 1519.
My poor prayers are always at the service of your Grace, Most Serene High-born Prince, Most Gracious Lord.
God knows that I was most anxious that the game should be at an end. So eager was I for this, that I kept my agreement, even after your Electoral Highness’s chaplain, Herr Magister Spalatin, forwarded some points to me, at the instigation of the Pope’s commissioner, Herr Karl von Miltitz, and I left Herr Sylvester Prierat’s reply unanswered, although there was much in it which would have been a good pretext for breaking my resolution; but I refrained from doing so, even against the advice of my friends – therefore our agreement made at Altenburg has not been broken – that I would be silent, if my opponents would also be silent, and this Herr Karl knows.
But now that Dr. Eck thus attacks me without any provocation, seeking not only to disgrace me, but the whole University of Wittenberg, it is not right that I should disregard such cunningly devised assaults, and permit the truth to be held in derision. For, should my mouth be bound, while every one else is free to speak, your Electoral Highness can well believe that I shall expose myself to all manner of attacks from those who might otherwise not have presumed to raise their eyes towards me. I am still inclined to follow your Grace’s counsel and be silent, if others will do the same, for I have other things to occupy me, and find no pleasure in such dissension.
But if this be not possible, I beg your Grace not to be displeased with me, for my conscience will not allow me to leave the truth in the lurch. For although in my disputation with Eck I shall have to dispute the assertion that the Church of Rome is superior to all others, I shall do so with the reservation of full submission and obedience to the Holy See. May God graciously spare your Electoral Highness. Amen.
Your Electoral Highness’s most humble chaplain,
Martin Luther, Augustinian.
Luther begs to be allowed to build an addition to the cloister, and pleads for two cowls.
Most Gracious Lord. We are compelled to build an addition to our cloister. We humbly begged the councillors to do this, but have received no answer. Therefore we pray that your Grace will graciously grant our request. I also beseech your Electoral Grace to present me at the Leipsic Fair with a white and a black cowl.
Your Grace owes me the black cowl, and I humbly plead for the white one. For two or three years ago your Highness promised me one, and I have never received it, although Pfeffinger agreed to it, but perhaps he has been deterred by other matters, or has delayed doing so, as people say he is very unwilling to spend money. At any rate I had to procure one, so up till now your Grace’s promise remains unfulfilled. In my present need I now humbly beg for one – if the Psalter merits a black cowl, and if the Apostle be worthy of a white one. Please let me have it, but do not depend again on Pfeffinger giving it.
Your Electoral Grace’s obedient chaplain,
Augustinian at Wittenberg.
Luther tells his friend of his proposed disputation with Eck over the Pope’s supremacy, which lasted from June 25 till July 15. In June Charles V. was elected Emperor of Germany.
May 30, 1519.
To my beloved friend in the Lord. You, above all, have a good right to marvel, nay, to be offended, most honored father, that up till now I have not sent you a single line. Although I am not without excuse for thus acting, I shall rather confess my fault. Concerning your horse, I hope, through the mediation of our esteemed vicar, you will have mercy on me.
For, without doubt, you presented it to God, and not to me. I was delighted to hear from our vicar that we are soon to have the pleasure of seeing you here again. I fancy you have already heard of my proposed disputation at Leipsic, and other things as well. I am lecturing upon the Psalms for the second time, and with good results. The town is crowded with students, and Rome is longing for my downfall; while I laugh at their malice. I hear that the paper Martin has been publicly burned there, and openly cursed and condemned. I anticipate their wrath.
The Epistle to the Galatians is now actually in the press – you will see it in a few days. In other respects we are peaceful and contented here, and not so badly off as formerly. Our Heldt looks after things well, but only kitchen matters, for he is always much concerned as to what he is to eat and drink, and will continue so. I have read what you wrote me about the tattler M–, but I am used to the sting of envy. The whole world seems to be in motion, both physically and morally, and what the outcome will be God alone knows. I predict murders and wars. God have mercy on us.
Farewell, and pray for me.
Luther says how despisers of the gospel should be treated.
August 26, 1519
Grace and peace to my beloved brother in the Lord! Regarding what you have written to me, my dear man of God, about these godless scorners – this is my opinion. Even as no one can be compelled to accept the gospel, so no magistrate must suffer any one to traduce it, but, if any one do so, the magistrate must have him up and admonish him, and hear his reasons for acting as he does. If he can give none, then he must be bound over to silence, so that the seeds of dissension may not be sown. For whoever will speak against it must do so openly – the magistrate being called upon to put down all private disputes with all his authority. This is how we do in Wittenberg, and counsel others to do the same. From this you will see that the magistracy dare not tolerate what you speak of in the community. For it is nothing short of a secret scandal. Therefore call them out to the light of day, so that they may either justify themselves or be vanquished.
Along with the Decalogue and the Catechism, inculcate civil (burgerliche) and domestic virtues, and these ought most frequently to be the subject topics of preaching, and the people be compelled to attend, so that they may be instructed as to the duties of a subject and social life, whether they approve of the gospel or not, to prevent them becoming a stone of stumbling to others, by deliberately setting at naught political laws. For if they live in a community they must learn the laws of the same and obey them, even against their will. And they must do this, not only on account of their possessions, but for the sake of their family. Christ, who will sustain you, will teach you all else.
This year Luther issued the three great Reformation treatises:
I. “To the Christian Nobility of the German Nation.”
II. “On the Babylonian Captivity of the Church.”
III. “Concerning Christian Liberty,” or “The Freedom of a Christian Man.”
Luther places himself under Charles’s protection as being the defender of truth and righteousness.
January 15, 1520.
Grace and peace from our Lord Jesus Christ! Doubtless every one marvels, most gracious Emperor, that I presume to write your Imperial Majesty. For what is so unusual as that the King of kings and Lord of lords should be addressed by the meanest of men? But whoever can estimate the enormous importance of this subject, which so intimately concerns the divine verities, will not wonder.
For, if it be worthy of being brought before the throne of His Majesty, how much more before that of an earthly prince; for even as earthly princes are an emblem of the heavenly, so it becomes them to follow their great example: viz. to look from their heights upon the lowly of the earth, and “raise the poor out of the dust, and lift the beggar from the dunghill.”
Therefore, I, poor miserable creature, throw myself at your Imperial Majesty’s feet as the most unworthy being who ever brought forward a matter of such importance.
Several small books I wrote drew down the envy and hatred of many great people, instead of their gratitude, which I merit: (1) Because against my will I had to come forward, although I had no desire to write anything, had not my opponents, through guile and force, compelled me to do so. For I wish I could have remained hidden in my corner. (2) As my conscience and many pious people can testify, I only brought forward the gospel in opposition to the illusions or delusions of human traditions. And for so doing, I have suffered for three years, without cessation, all the malice which my adversaries could heap upon me. It was of no avail that I pled for mercy and promised henceforth to be silent. No attention was paid to my efforts after peace, and my urgent request to be better instructed was not listened to.
The one thing they insisted upon was, that I, with the whole gospel, should be extinguished. Therefore seeing all my labor lost, I appealed to the example of St. Athanasius, to see if perhaps God might not, through your Imperial Majesty, support His cause. Hence, O lord, prince of the kings of the earth, I fall humbly at your Serene Majesty’s feet, begging you will not take me, but the cause of divine truth (for which cause only God has put the sword into your hand) under the shadow of your wings, protecting me till I have either won or lost the cause.
Should I then be declared a heretic I ask for no protection, and only plead that neither the truth nor the lie be condemned unheard. For this is only due to your Imperial throne. This will adorn your Majesty’s empire! It will consecrate your century, and cause its memory never to be forgotten, if your Sacred Majesty do not permit the wicked to swallow up him who is holier than they, nor let men, as the prophet says, “become as the fishes of the sea – as the creeping things that have no ruler over them!”
I herewith commend myself to you, hoping for all that is good from your Sacred Majesty, whom may the Lord Jesus preserve to us, and highly exalt to the everlasting honor of His gospel. Amen.
Your Imperial Majesty’s devoted servant,
Luther dedicates a little book of consolation to the Elector, for the comfort of believers under disappointment.
Most Serene Lord. Our beloved Savior has commanded us to visit the sick, liberate the prisoner, and perform works of mercy towards our neighbor, even as our Lord Himself set the example of marvelous love, in descending, from the Almighty Father’s bosom, to share our captivity, and take our sins and weaknesses upon Himself.
Whoever despises this most blessed type and command will at the last day hear the words, “Go into everlasting fire: I was sick, and ye did not visit me.”
This is my apology for compiling this small book, so that I may not be accused of ingratitude in being unable to recognize my Lord Jesus’ image, in the illness with which your Electoral Highness has been smitten by my Lord God, and I cannot pretend not to hear God’s voice from the person of your Grace, which says, “I am sick.”
For when a Christian is ill, it is not he alone who suffers, but Christ our Savior, in whom the Christian man lives. As Christ Himself says, “What you have done unto the least of my disciples ye have done unto me.” And although this command of Christ refers to the whole human brotherhood – still, it is specially applicable to our brothers in the faith, and above all, must be exercised towards our friends and relatives.
Besides, it is incumbent upon me, with all your Grace’s subjects, to sympathize in all your afflictions, as our head on whom all our prosperity depends.
But I, who for many reasons am entitled to look upon you as my protector, could, in my poverty, find nothing worthy of your acceptance, till my dearest friend, George Spalatin, put it into my head to prepare you a little book of spiritual consolation drawn from the Holy Scriptures.
Therefore I present this booklet (Tafel) to your Grace, which is divided into fourteen chapters. It is not a tablet of silver, but a spiritual one, not to be placed in the churches, but in the heart.
The first part consists of seven meditations upon evil, trial, and disappointment; the second part also contains seven meditations – upon prosperity and things pertaining thereto.
May your Electoral Grace, with your usual princely benignity, graciously receive this my little treatise. And I humbly commend myself to you.
Your Electoral Grace’s humble servant,
Encouraged by the Elector’s gracious acceptance of his little book, Luther dedicated his large German treatise, Sermon on Good Works, to his brother Prince John.
March 29, 1520.
Most Serene High-born Prince, Gracious Sir. My humble service and poor prayers are ever at your Grace’s disposal.
For long I have wished to show my devotion to your Grace by offering you some of my spiritual wares; but always thought them too insignificant for your Highness’s acceptance. But seeing my gracious lord, Frederick, Herzog of Saxony, and Marshal of the Holy Roman Empire, etc., your Grace’s brother, received my little book so graciously, I presume once more on the royal blood, trusting you will not disdain my humble offering, which I consider the most important of all my small books – such a commotion having arisen on the great question of good works, through which more deception is being practiced and more simple people are being led astray than by any other means.
And our Lord Jesus has commanded us to “beware of false prophets which come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves.”
Although I know that many despise my poverty, and say I only make little books and sermons for the unlearned laity, I am not upset by this. Would to God that I had devoted my whole life to the improvement of one layman – I would have thanked God, and let my books perish. I leave others to judge if writing many large books is a science, and tends to the improvement of Christendom. If I desired to write large books, perhaps with the Divine help I could do so, with better results than they could imitate me in writing a little treatise. If we cannot all be poets, we would all like to be judges. Gladly do I leave the honor of accomplishing great things to others, and am not ashamed of writing and preaching German for the unlearned, although not very qualified to do so. And it seems to me that if we had done this hitherto Christendom would have derived no little advantage therefrom, much more than it has reaped from the large books and learned discussions in the universities. Besides, I have neither asked nor compelled any one to read my works.
I have served the people freely with what God has given me, and whoever does not care for this can read something else, which would not distress me greatly. For it is more than enough if some of the laity, including those of high rank, demean themselves to read my sermons. And if for no other reason, this is sufficient, that your Grace appreciates such little books, being anxious to know more about good works and faith, and it behoves me to be as useful as possible to you in this matter.
Therefore, I humbly beg your Highness will graciously accept my good intentions, till, if God give me the time, I shall publish an exposition of faith in German. On this occasion I have tried to show how faith must be exercised in all good works, and how it is the best work of all.
Again, if God will, I shall discuss the question of faith, and how we should daily pray and practice the same. I herewith commend myself to your Grace.
Your Grace’s obedient chaplain,
Martin Luther, Augustinian.
Luther’s friend Amsdorf was Professor in Wittenberg, and later Bishop of Naumburg.
June 23, 1520.
The grace and peace of God! Honored dear sir. The time to be silent is past, and the time to speak has come, as we read in Ecclesiastes. I have put together some observations, as we agreed upon, to place before the Christian nobility, to see if God will help the Church through the laity, seeing the clergy, whose duty it is, have become indifferent. I send this to your Excellence for approval, and, if need be, correction. I know that I, poor despised creature, will be accused of presumption in haranguing such exalted people upon such weighty matters, as if there were no other than Dr. Martin Luther to espouse the cause of Christianity and give advice to such learned men. Perhaps it was decreed I should one day commit a folly in the eyes of God and the world, and this is the time I have chosen, and if I succeed, I may at length become Court fool, for I must verify the saying, “A monk must be present at whatever is being done in the world.” More than once a fool has uttered wise sayings, and wise people have often talked foolishly, as St. Paul says, “Whoever will be wise in this world, let him become a fool.” So, seeing I am not only a fool, but a sworn doctor of divinity, I am happy to fulfill my oath in this foolish fashion.
Please apologize to those of ordinary understanding for me, for I do not know how to gain the favor of the intellectual, which I was wont long ago to desire so eagerly, but which I now despise.
God help us not to seek our own, but solely His glory. Amen. In Augustinian cloister.
Luther heard from von Schaumburg that one hundred Franconian knights were ready to defend him.
July 10, 1520.
I herewith send the letter of the Franconian knight, Sylvester von Schaumburg, and should like it alluded to in the Prince’s letter to Cardinal St. Georgio, so that they may know, that although they banish me from Wittenberg with their ban they will only make bad worse.
For, even in Bohemia, there are people who will protect me, if I am exiled, against the enemy’s thunderbolts. And then with such protection I might attack the Papacy still more vehemently than I can from my theological chair in the Prince’s domain. Unless God prevent, this will happen. So let them know that the reason I have not yet attacked them is solely due to my great respect for the Prince and the interests of the students in the University.
For me the die is cast, and I despise Rome’s displeasure as much as her favor. I shall never be reconciled to her, let her condemn or burn me as she will! But if I can get a fire I shall publicly burn the whole Papal code, this serpentine piece of treachery, and make an end of the humility I have hitherto displayed in vain, so that the enemies of the gospel may no longer vaunt themselves on account of it.
The more I think of the Cardinal’s letter the more I despise those who, through cowardice and an evil conscience, breathe out defiance with their last breath, trying to hide their ignorance through violence. But the Lord, who knows I am a wicked sinner, will conduct His cause through me, or some one else.
July 30, 1520.
At first I had no intention of writing you, most excellent sir, as Herr Schleupper, our common friend, could tell you everything better than I.
For he knows all that is going on, only he insisted I should send a line, so I obey. A great many pamphlets are being issued against me in Germany and Italy, but it does not put me about, for they are written by the most stupid of the stupid, who affront themselves through their work. I am pretty well in body and mind, only I should like to sin less, and yet I sin more and more every day.
The faction of the Dominicans are now keeping quiet, for they were forbidden writing against me, but their place has been filled by the Bishop of Bavaria.
If they overcome, they do so through coarseness and audacity. I never read such stuff, for they do not mind whether they win or lose. How sad for the people who have such wolves set over them! But the Lord sees it, in whom may you find refuge.
Staupitz, Lange, and Link all begged Luther to suppress his dangerous book, To the German Nobility, but it was already in the press.
August 18, 1520.
If my little book, that you, my father, name a trumpet (Posaune), is really so fierce, I leave you and others to judge. No doubt it is vehement and fearless, but it pleases many, and is not displeasing to our Court! I am no judge in this matter. Perhaps I am the forerunner of our Philip, whose way I am sent to prepare. We firmly believe here that the Papacy is the personification of Antichrist’s throne, and feel we are justified in resisting their deceptions and wiles for the sake of the salvation of souls. I declare that I only owe the Pope the obedience due to Antichrist. Philip is marrying Catherine Crappin, and I am blamed for promoting it. I did it for his good, and do not let the outcry disturb me. May God give His blessing. I hate men’s sins, and abhor the child of destruction, with all his kingdom of sin and hypocrisy.
Farewell in the Lord.
Luther dedicates his treatise on the Babylonian Captivity to Tulich.
October 6, 1520.
Whether I will or not I am becoming more learned daily, as the esteemed doctors, time about, insist upon my taking up the cudgels. Two years ago I wrote on the Indulgences, and now that the book is out I regret it.
For then I was steeped in superstition, and thought the Indulgence not to be despised, as I saw so many enlightened men take it.
But later, thanks to Sylvester and his comrades, I saw the Indulgence was only pure deception of the Papal flatterers through which faith in God was destroyed.
Therefore I would like the printers, and those who have read the little book, to destroy it, and read instead what I have written on this subject.
Eck and Emser opened my eyes as to the Pope’s sovereignty; for although at first I maintained his right to the human title, I now see that the Papacy is the kingdom of Babylon, and the tyranny of Nimrod, the mighty hunter. I must now go and lecture on giving the sacramental cup to the laity, and deny the seven sacraments, retaining only three – Baptism, Repentance, and the Lord’s Supper, in all which the Roman Court has imposed a miserable captivity upon the Church. The Indulgence is sheer tyranny of the Roman flatterers.
Luther had seen the Papal bull condemning him. He sent the book on the Freedom of a Christian Man to the Pope.
October 13, 1520.
To the Most Holy Father in God, Leo X., Pope in Rome, all blessedness in Christ Jesus our Lord! In consequence of the disputes in which I have been embroiled for three years, through some worthless men, I have had occasion to look towards you, as it is thought you are the cause of this dissension. For although I have been driven by some of our godless flatterers to appeal from your Holiness’s judgment to a general Christian Council, still I have never been so alienated from you that I did not pray earnestly for the welfare of the Roman See. And I declare I am not aware of ever having spoken of you except with great respect. I have called you Daniel in Babylon, and any one can tell you how I stood up for your innocence against your defamer, Prierias. Your good name has been far too highly lauded by eminent men everywhere, to make it possible for any one to attack it, however high he may be, so I am not fool enough to belittle him whom every one praises. No doubt I have eagerly attacked my opponents for their unchristian teaching; and in this I have Christ’s example, who speaks of His enemies as serpents, “Ye fools and blind”; and St. Paul says, “Children of the devil, full of all subtilty and all mischief,” and some false prophets he names “dogs” and “deceivers,” etc.
Were any fastidious people nowadays to hear such language they would say, “No one was so bitter as the Apostle Paul.” And who are more so than the prophets?–Jeremiah cursing the man who doeth the work of the Lord deceitfully.
Therefore, most holy father Leo, pray accept my apology, and be assured I never attacked your person, although I confess to having spoken against the Roman See, the Court of Rome, which not even thyself can deny, that it has been a very Sodom, Gomorrha, and Babylon, and is, so far as I can see, in a hopeless state.
Meantime, thou sittest, most holy father, like a sheep among wolves, and like Daniel in the lions’ den, and Ezekiel among scorpions. What canst thou do against such like? And even if there be three or four pious and learned Cardinals, what are they among so many? God’s wrath lies upon the Court of Rome, for it will not submit to a General Council, nor to counsel or reform, so what was predicted of her mother may be fulfilled in her, “We would have healed Babylon, but she is not healed,” etc. It should be thy work, and that of the Cardinals, to put an end to this miserable state of things; but the malady defies the remedies, the horse and carriage pay no heed to the driver. I have ever regretted, thou pious Leo, that thou shouldst now be Pope, when thou wert worthy of better times. The Roman See is not worthy of thee – the Evil Spirit should be Pope, who rules more than thou in this Babel. Oh that thou wert free, and could live from thy paternal inheritance! Such a post should be reserved for Judas Iscariot and such like, whom God has cast away. The Roman Court surpasses that of Turkey in wickedness. Once it was a gate of heaven, now it is the very jaws of hell. This is why I have attacked it so mercilessly, most holy Leo!
And my efforts not having been vain, the Evil Spirit raised up John Eck, a special enemy of the truth, and persuaded him to draw me unawares into a disputation at Leipsic, about a word I dropped as to the Papacy – and all under the pretext of disputing with Dr. Carlstadt. And then at Augsburg, when Cajetan, to whom I committed my cause, dealt so unjustly with me, and after him came Karl von Miltitz, also sent by your Holiness, who, after much running to and fro, tried to arrange matters, and it is at his request, and at that of the Augustinian fathers, who will not believe the cause is lost, if the holy father Leo would stretch out his hand to help, that I now write to your Holiness. I long for peace that I may have quiet to devote to better studies. I now plead that a limit may be set to the flatterers, the enemies of all peace. It is needless to ask me to retract, for I will not, nor can I suffer any interference with my expositions of Scripture; because the Word of God must not be bound. If this be conceded I am ready to do and suffer anything. Therefore, most holy father, do not listen to the sweet music of those who tell thee thou art not a mere man, but a mixture of God and man, who has everything at his disposal.
This is not the case. Thou art not lord over all. For a Pope in whose heart Christ does not reign, instead of being Christ’s viceregent – is Antichrist.
Perhaps it is presumptuous of me to try to teach so exalted a personage, but I do it from pure love and a sense of duty, for my neighbor’s good, and in this I follow St. Bernard’s example, when he gave his book to Pope Eugene – a book every Pope should read.
In conclusion, and not to come empty handed before your Holiness, I bring a little book, which came out with the sanction of your name, in the fervent hope that it might be the beginning of better times, and to let your Holiness see the sort of profitable work I love to pursue, if your flatterers would give me leisure. It is a tiny book (The Freedom of a Christian Man) in respect of paper, but it contains the whole kernel of a Christian life. I am poor, and have nothing else by which I can show my devotion to your Holiness, but thou requirest only spiritual wares for your higher welfare. I herewith commend myself to your Holiness, and may Jesus keep you to all eternity. Amen.
Luther does not sign this, his third letter to the Pope, evidently not wishing the consideration due to an Augustinian monk to be taken into account.
Luther rejoices that Spalatin at length sees one cannot rely on man. The Pope’s Bull reached Wittenberg on October 11.
November 4, 1520
Salvation! I wonder how it is, my dear Spalatin, that you do not get my letters, for I have written twice and got no answer. I am glad you now see that the Germans’ hopes are in vain, and that you are learning not to trust in princes, and are disregarding the world’s judgment whether it praises or condemns my cause. If the gospel could be promoted or maintained by worldly powers God would not have committed it to fishermen.
No, my dear Spalatin, it is not the work of the princes and high priests of this world to protect the Word of God – therefore I crave no one’s protection, for they would rather require to help one another against the Lord and His Christ.
But I am sorry for those who have heard and known God’s Word, for they cannot, without risking everlasting perdition, deny or forsake the same, and it is much to be feared that many, with ourselves, may be found among them – therefore let us pray for courage.
It is very hard to be of a different opinion from all the bishops and princes, but it is the only way to avoid God’s wrath and hell.
I would, if you did not so press me, commit the whole business to God, so that He might arrange matters according to the counsel of His will.
Do what the Spirit bids you, and farewell.
Martin Luther, Augustinian.
Luther determined to stand by his appeal from an ill-informed to a better-instructed Pope, in spite of Herzog George.
November 28, 1520.
To the honored John Lange, Doctor of the Holy Scriptures in Erfurt, my friend in the Lord.
My greeting! We rejoice over our Prince’s return, and I beseech you, honored father, to pray for our cause. Herzog George is foolish – very mad. We duly expect thunder and lightning from that quarter. I am determined to stand by the appeal. I see troublous times ahead. May God direct all well! We have read your Prince’s learned and judicious answer to the Papal delegates, Aleander and Marinus, from which we see they have achieved nothing in that quarter. I shall send them to you soon. This Aleander has been mercilessly attacked in a witty lampoon because of his many vices. My writings have been burned in Cologne and Louvain.
Farewell in the Lord. Our father vicar has set off for Strenberg, under the escort of the lay brother Johannes.
The Emperor wrote to the Elector, asking him to bring Luther with him to Worms, to be judged by learned men. On 10th December Luther burned the Pope’s Bull at the Elster gate, Wittenberg, in presence of hundreds of students, who flung Eck and Emser’s works into the flames, and then sang the “Te Deum.”
December 21, 1520.
You ask what I shall do if the Emperor demands my presence. If I am summoned, I declare I shall be borne thither sick, if I am not well enough to go, for if the Emperor call me, doubtless it is God’s call.
But if they use force towards me, which is probable, for they will not summon me in order to be enlightened, then the cause must be committed to God, who still reigns – to Him who upheld the three youths in the king of Babylon’s fiery furnace. But if He will not deliver me, then my head is of no importance compared to the shameful death which was meted out to Christ. For, in a matter such as this, neither danger nor prosperity must be considered, – for we must only see that the gospel is not turned into ridicule by the godless through our conduct – or that our opponents should be able to boast that we had not the heart to confess, nor the courage to shed our blood, for the doctrines we taught. May the merciful Jesus guard us from such cowardice, and them from such boasting.
We cannot know whether our life or death may be most beneficial to the gospel. You know that the truth of God is a rock of offense set for the fall and rising again of many in Israel. We have only to pray God that Charles’s reign may not be desecrated through the shedding of my blood, or any one else’s, and as I have often said, I would rather perish in Papal hands than have him and his entangled in this matter. I know the misfortunes that befell the Emperor Sigismund through Huss’s murder. He never after had any prosperity – dying without children – and his name blotted out, while his consort Barbara became a reproach among queens. But if it be decreed that I am to be delivered, not only to the high priests, but to the heathen, the will of the Lord be done. Amen.
This is my opinion and counsel. You can fancy anything of me but flight or recantation. I shall not flee, and much less recant, if the Lord Jesus give me the power thereto. For I could do neither without danger to holiness and the welfare of many souls. Farewell, and be strong in the Lord. Wittenberg, on St. Thomas the Martyr’s day, as many believe.
This is the year of Luther’s grand appearance at Worms, after which the Elector had him spirited away to the Wartburg, where he began his greatest work, the translation of the Bible.
January 25, 1521.
Most Gracious Lord and Patron, Most Serene Prince! My poor prayers and most humble service are ever at your Grace’s disposal. Having been informed, through your Highness, of the opinions and intentions of His Roman, Imperial, and Spanish Majesty regarding my affairs, I offer His Majesty and your Electoral Grace my most humble thanks, and rejoice that His Majesty will espouse the cause which, if God will, is that of God, a universal Christendom, and of the whole German nation, and not that of a single man, much less mine. Therefore I am still ready to do or leave undone all that is consistent with the glory of God and a Christian’s honor, or whatever the Holy Scriptures command. So I humbly beseech your Grace to beg His Majesty to provide me with a safe-conduct against all violence, and to command that the matter may get a judicial hearing before learned Christian men, lay and clerical, whose characters are above suspicion, and who are well grounded in the Bible, knowing how to distinguish divine from human laws, and that these men may be forbidden to proceed against me till it has been proved that I have acted wrong. And as a worldly head of a sacred Christendom is to preside over this Assembly, my opponents the Papists must meantime cease raging against me in such an unchristian manner, laying snares for my honor and life, before I am refuted or even tried. So, although hitherto my anxiety has been mainly to save the honor of the gospel rather than my unworthy self, I hope I shall henceforth be excused if I use means for my own protection, as well as for the safety of the Divine Word. To enable me to do this, I look confidently to the protection of the Emperor and your Electoral Highness.
For I am ready, whenever I get a safe-conduct, to appear at the Diet of Worms before learned, pious, and upright judges, so that all may see I have not acted thoughtlessly, or sought worldly honor or my own advantage, but obeyed conscience, as a humble teacher of the Holy Scriptures, to the praise of God, and for the salvation of a common Christianity, the good of the German nation, and the deliverance of a united Christendom out of an abyss of tyrannical narrowness and blasphemy against the Most High.
That your Electoral Highness, along with His Imperial Majesty, may extend a loving, watchful eye over the troubled condition of Christendom, is ever my earnest prayer, as is only the duty of a poor humble chaplain and subject. At Wittenberg. On the day of St. Paul’s conversion.
Your Electoral Grace’s obedient chaplain,
The Pope accused Staupitz to the Archbishop of Salzburg of being an adherent of Luther, and Staupitz agreed to submit to the Archbishop’s verdict.
February 9, 1521.
I rejoice that you have been assailed by Pope Leo X., and can now let the world see how the cross which you have so often preached to others may be borne. For I do not desire that wolf to derive more satisfaction from your too complaisant answer than he should receive, else he would fancy that you have repudiated me and mine when you suffer him to be umpire.
Therefore, if you love Christ, may this letter lead you to recant, for all you have preached and taught up till now of the mercy of God is condemned in this Bull.
And it appears to me that as you are well aware of this, you cannot, without insulting Christ, appoint one of His opponents as judge – one whom you see emptying the vials of his wrath against the word of grace, – for it was your duty to rebuke him for such godlessness.
This is no time for cowardice, but for raising the alarm when we see our Lord Jesus slandered and condemned.
Hence, as you admonish me to humility, so much the more would I exhort you to pride. For, you are far too humble, while I am too proud. This is a serious matter.
When we see the beloved Savior, who gave Himself for us, being held up to derision everywhere, ought we not to fight for Him, and offer up our necks for Him?
My dear father. The danger is greater than many suppose. The gospel begins thus: “Whosoever therefore shall confess me before men, him will I confess also before my Father which is in heaven. But whosoever shall deny me before men, him will I also deny before my Father which is in heaven.”
I would not be ashamed of being accused of any vices, or being called an enemy of the Pope, if no one can accuse me of keeping a godless silence when the Lord cries: “I looked on my right hand, and beheld, but there was no man that would know me: refuge failed me; no man cared for my soul” ( <19E204> Psalm 142:4). For I hope, through the power of such a testimony, to be purified from all my sins. And this is why I have so joyfully showed the horns against this Roman idol and true Antichrist. For the Word of God is not one of peace, but of the sword! Behold the simple teaching the wise! I write this in all good faith to you; for I much fear that you will hover in suspense between Christ and the Pope, although they are at open defiance with each other. But let us pray that the Lord Jesus may destroy this child of perdition with the breath of His mouth! So if you do not follow now, let me go on alone. If God will, I shall not be silent as to this monstrosity.
Your declension has indeed vexed me not a little, and showed me another Staupitz than he who was wont to preach free grace and the cross. Had you acted thus before you knew of this Bull and Christ’s reproach, it would not have grieved me so. Von Hutten and many others write boldly on my behalf, and songs are being daily produced which will certainly not be cause of rejoicing to that Babel. Our Prince is not only acting judiciously and believingly, but is also steadfast. Philip f11a sends greeting, and wishes you a greater and more joyous spirit. Please greet Dr. Ludwig the physician, who has written very learnedly to me. I had not time to write him, for I have to superintend three printing-presses, all alone. Farewell in the Lord, and pray for me.
March 10, 1521.
To the Serene High-born Prince, John Frederick of Saxony, Gracious Lord. I have received your Serene Highness’s gracious letter, with its comforting contents, with great pleasure.
As I have been so long hindered through my opponents’ attacks in expounding the “Magnificat,” I now take the opportunity of sending these few lines with the little book.
I need not enlarge upon the causes of the delay, which I acknowledge with shame, for it might wound the tender susceptibilities of your Highness, whose heart is inclined to all that is good, for the furtherance of which may God grant His grace. How important it is that so great a prince, upon whom the welfare of so many depends, should be graciously directed of God, for how much mischief may one left to himself do!
For although the hearts of all men are in God’s hands, it is not without cause, we are told, that the king’s heart is in the hand of the Lord as the rivers of water, He turneth it whithersoever He will.
The actions of other men mostly affect only themselves, at most bringing joy or sorrow to a limited number, but lords are set over us who are intended to be useful or prejudicial to a larger or smaller number of people according to the size of their land.
Hence God-fearing princes are called “angels of God” ( 1 Samuel 29:9) in the Bible – nay, even “gods” ( Psalm 82:6). On the other hand, wicked princes are called “roaring lions” ( Zephaniah 3:3), “dragons” ( Jeremiah 51:34), which God Himself numbers among His four plagues: pestilence, famine, war, noisome beasts ( Ezekiel 14:13-19).
Therefore it is most necessary that all rulers should fear God, seeing they do not require to fear men, and should recognize His works, and walk circumspectly, as St. Paul says. Now, I know nothing in the Bible so well adapted for the instruction of the kings and rulers of the earth, as well as for all, than this sacred song of the holy Mother of God. It sings so sweetly of the fear of the Lord, and of His great power, and of His mode of dealing with high and low. Let others delight in worldly songs, but let princes and lords listen to this pure maiden singing her spiritual, pure, and salutary song.
It is not inappropriate that this grand hymn should be daily sung in all the churches at vespers, and should frequently at other times be substituted for other hymns.
May this tender Mother of God have imparted to me of her spirit, so that I may be able to expound in a practical manner her song, from which your princely Grace, and all of us, may derive assistance to lead a praiseworthy life, and afterwards to all eternity praise and sing this everlasting “Magnificat.” So help us God. Amen. I herewith humbly commend myself to your princely Grace, begging your Highness will graciously accept my poor effort.
Your Electoral Grace’s humble chaplain,
Luther promises to visit him at Erfurt.
March 29, 1521.
My greeting! Next Wednesday or Thursday I shall visit you, most honored father, on my way to Worms, with my spiritual escort Ehrenbold – if nothing prevents my coming to Erfurt. Be sure to meet me on my way from Eisenach. Thanks for the ducats you sent. You see from the enclosed treatise how I have welcomed my ass Emser.
Spalatin was so alarmed at Luther’s temerity, that when near Worms he sent a messenger to him to remind him of Huss’s fate. Luther sent him back to say that he would come to Worms if there were as many devils there as tiles on the house-tops.
April 14, 1521.
Health! We come, my dear Spalatin, although Satan has tried to prevent me through illness. For the whole way from Eisenach to here I have been very weak, and am still much weaker than I ever felt before.
But I also perceive that the Emperor Charles’s mandate has been printed in order to fill me with fear. But Christ lives! and we shall enter Worms in defiance of the gates of hell and all the powers of the air!
When once there we shall see what is to be done, and Satan need not puff himself up, for we have every intention of frightening and despising him.
So get a lodging ready for me.
The celebrated painter, and warm friend of the Reformation, who accompanied his Elector, John Frederick, into banishment, and died at Weimar, in 1553.
April 28, 1521.
To the excellent Meister Lukas Cranach, painter in Wittenberg. My dear co-sponsor and friend, I commend you to God.
I shall submit to being hidden away, and as yet do not know where. I would have preferred being put to death by the tyrants, especially by the furious Herzog George, but was obliged to follow the advice of friends, and wait my time.
They did not expect me to go to Worms, and you all know how they kept faith with me, as to the conduct, demanding that my writings should be delivered up.
I imagined His Imperial Majesty would have assembled many doctors, who would have overcome me in a straightforward manner, but they only cried, “Are the books yours?” “Yes.” “Will you retract them or not?” “No.” “Then get away.” Oh, we blind Germans! How childishly we act – imitating the Romans in such a pitiful way. f12 Greet your dear wife, my co-sponsor, and say I hope she is well. The Jews must sing, Jo, Jo, Jo. Easter day will come to us also, and then we shall sing “Hallelujah.”
But we must first suffer a little. “A little while and ye shall not see me,” says Christ, “and again a little while and ye shall see me.” I hope that it shall be even so now. But God’s will is the very best, and may it happen here, even as in heaven. Amen.
Greet Meister Christian (the goldsmith) and his wife, and thank the Town Council for the conveyance to Worms.
If Licenciate Feldkirche is no table, ask Amsdoff to preach. He will gladly do so. I commend you to God, and may He keep your hearts in peace in Christ, in presence of the Romish wolves with their followers. Amen.
Luther relates proceedings at Worms.
May 3, 1521.
Most Gracious Lord. Herr Rudolph von Watzdorf (the Count’s steward) begged me to send a private account, of what happened to me at Worms.
To begin with, they did not expect me to appear, for although I had a safeconduct I was condemned before I was tried, and asked if I would disown my books. You know my answer. His Majesty, indignant, wrote with his own hand, ordering the States to proceed against me, as was seemly for a Christian Emperor and Defender of the Faith to act to a hardened heretic.
I was admonished by some magnates of the realm to submit my books to the Emperor and Diet, and was then summoned before the Bishop of Treves, Elector Joachim, etc.
The Elector of Baden gave me a most ingenious admonition, saying they did not intend disputing with me, but would just admonish me in a brotherly way, begging me to consider what confusion had arisen through me, and that I should honor the powers that be, and yield in much – even although the authorities may at times have erred, and such like. I said I was willing to submit my books, not only to His Majesty, but to the least of his subjects, provided nothing should be decreed against the gospel, and also that I had never taught any one to despise the authorities, and was not attacking Pope or Council for their evil lives, but for false doctrine. For where false doctrine is, there obedience has no sway.
I pointed out the article condemned in Constance: “There is only one universal Church, which is the company of the elect.” This being an article of our faith, I would not have condemned it. We say, “We believe in one holy Christian Church.”
We must avoid offense in works, but cannot in doctrine, for God’s Word is ever an offense to the great, the wise; and the saints, even as Christ Himself was made of God, a sign which was spoken against.
Therefore my Lord of Treves, in despair, summoned Dr. Hieronymus Behns, Amsdorf, and myself. It was a miserable disputation, their sarcastic allusions missing their aim entirely. I said the Christian must judge for himself, even as he must live and die for himself, and that the Pope was not umpire in spiritual things – God’s Word being the property of all believers, as St. Paul says, and so we parted.
Once more Dr. Peutinger wished me to submit my books to His Majesty, for I ought to believe they would come to a Christian conclusion. When hard pressed, I asked the Chancellor if they would counsel me to trust the Emperor and others, as they had already condemned me and burned my books. Afterwards my Lord of Treves sent for me alone; for all through His Grace was more than gracious, and brought up the old topic, but I knew no other answer, and he dismissed me.
Then a count came with His Majesty’s Chancellor, as notary, and bade me leave Worms, with a safe-conduct of twenty-one days, and His Majesty would treat me as seemed good to him. I thanked His Majesty, and said, “It has happened as the Lord willed. His name be praised!” I was forbidden to preach or write on my journey, and promised all, except to let God’s Word be bound.
And thus we parted. I am now in Eisenach – but watch! They will accuse me of preaching at Hersfeld and Eisenach. For they take it literally. I commend myself to your Grace.
Your Excellency’s chaplain,
Hastily written in Eisenach on the day of the Holy Cross, 1521.
Luther writes from the Wartburg.
May 12, 1521.
All hail! And you, my Philip, what are you about meantime? Are you praying that my enforced seclusion may draw down some great thing to the glory of God, and therefore I wish to know if you approve of it. I feared it might look as if I were fleeing from the conflict, but I thought it best to give in to those who had arranged it thus. I long earnestly to encounter my enemies and vanquish them in the strife.
While sitting here, I ponder all day long on the state of the Churches as represented in the 88th Psalm. “Why hast Thou made all men in vain?”
What a dreadful picture of the wrath of God is the cursed kingdom of the Romish Antichrist; and I lament my hard-heartedness, that I do not weep rivers over the destruction of the daughters of my people. Is there no one who will arise and plead with God, or become a wall for the defense of the house of Israel, in those last days of the wrath of God? Therefore be up and doing, ye servants (Dieher) of the Word, and build up the walls and towers of Jerusalem till they close round about you. You know your calling and gifts. I pray earnestly for you, if my prayers may avail (which I hope they may). Do the same for me, and let us share this burden.
We are still alone upon the field. When they are done with me they will seek you.
Spalatin writes that a terrible Edict has been issued, making it a matter of conscience for every one to search out my writings to destroy them. The Dresden Rehoboam rejoices, and is eager to promote such doings.
The Emperor has also been instigated to write to the King of Denmark not to favor the Lutheran heresy, and my enemies now chant, “When will he be destroyed, and his name perish?” Hartmann von Kronenberg has renounced his pay of 200 ducats, and told the Emperor that he will serve him no longer. I believe this Edict will have no effect, except with the abovementioned Rehoboam, and with your neighbor who is afflicted with a great love of honor. God lives and reigns to all eternity. Amen. God has visited me with great bodily suffering. I have not slept all night, and had no rest.
Pray for me, as this evil will become unbearable if it go on increasing as it has hitherto done.
The Cardinal of Salzburg accompanied Ferdinand, the fourth day after our return, to his bride at Innsbruck.
It is said Ferdinand was not greatly pleased with his convoy, and neither was the Emperor, Spalatin writes. Write particularly how things are going on with you. And may you be happy with your wife. In the region of the birds.
Amsdorf accompanied Luther to Schloss Altenstein, near Waltershausen, where an armed force captured him.
May 12, 1521.
Health! Grace be with you! I wrote you all a few days ago, dear Amsdorf, but I listened to counsel, and tore up what I had written, as it was not considered safe to send letters. I have now written about the books and sheets to Dr. Hieronymus, and am also writing to the Prior about them in this letter.
You will order what is necessary. God is trying me sorely, but pray for me, because I always pray for you, that God would strengthen your heart.
Therefore be of good cheer and proclaim the Word of God with joy, as often as you have the chance. Tell me about your journey, and what you heard at Erfurt. Philip has Spalatin’s letter to me. On the day I was torn from you, I reached here at night, tired and weary, in the garb of a knight.
Here I sit, a free man among the bondmen. Beware of the Rehoboam in Dresden, and the Benhadad in Damascus, your neighbor. For a terrible Edict has been issued against us, but the Lord will laugh at them! May you prosper in the Lord. Greet all our friends. In the region of the air.
Luther asks his friend who lived with him in Wittenberg how the gospel was progressing there.
May 12, 1521.
Health! Although I believe that all I have written to Philip and the others has fallen into your hands, still I seem to feel that since my departure my friends have almost become strangers to me, which God forbid! So I write direct to yourself. Accept my best love, and meditate on these words, “The servant is not greater than his Lord.” Greet all your relations and your wife from me. The Lord be gracious to her.
I am a wonderful prisoner, for I sit willingly, and yet against my will here – with good-will, because it is the will of the Lord; against my will, because I long to be free, in order to defend the gospel, although not worthy of this honor. Wittenberg is hated by its neighbors, but the Lord will laugh her enemies to scorn. Write about the preaching, and what part each takes, so that I may know what to hope or fear regarding the gospel.
But you that have been called to preach to the children, see that you do it faithfully, and bear what. God lays upon you. May you and yours prosper!
In the abode of the birds.
A comprehensive letter.
May 26, 1521.
Dear Philip – I forget what I wrote in my sealed letter, so will just answer yours. I am unwilling to answer Jacob Latomo, for I prefer peaceful studies, and it is most annoying to have to reply to such a prolix and illwritten document.
I intended to expound the Epistles and Gospels in German, but you have not sent me the postils, which are now in print. I send you the psalm which was sung today at our great feast, which, if the press is empty, you can print, for I worked at it just to occupy my time as I had no books, or give it to good friends and Christian Aurifaber to read, or place it in Amsdorfs hands. I do not grudge Dr. Lupino a blessed exit out of this life, in which, would to God, we did not live. Still I feel his loss deeply, and think of Isaiah’s words, “The righteous perisheth, and no man layeth it to heart.”
Our OEcolampadius has been before us with the Sermon on Confession, having written a bold treatise on that subject, which will be a fresh trial to Antichrist and his crew. I fancied Spalatin would have sent it to you, or I should have done so, with you Hutten’s letters to the Bishops and Cardinals at Worms. I shall, if possible, supplement it with something in German. I am surprised that the new husband in Cambray has so fearlessly stepped into the fray. May God mix some pleasure in his bitter cup. Why have you not sent me your Method of Teaching (Lehrart) now that it is printed? I wish to know who fills my pulpit oftenest, and if Amsdorf is still sleepy and idle? May God maintain and increase the progress of learning!
Amen. Do not be anxious about me, for I am very well, but my weak faith still torments me. My withdrawal from the scene of conflict is of no great moment; for, although glad to be excluded from the heavy responsibility connected with God’s Word, yet for the honor of that Word we would rather burn amid fiery coals, than rot solitary and half-alive, if it were God’s will.
We have often talked of faith and hope, so let us try for once to put our theory into practice, seeing God has brought it all about, and not we ourselves. If I perish it will be no loss to the gospel, for you far surpass me, and as Elisha was endued with a double portion of Elijah’s spirit after his ascension, so may you be enabled to follow on. Amen!
Do not be troubled in spirit; but sing the Lord’s song in the night, as we are commanded, and I shall join in. Let us only be concerned about the Word. If any man be ignorant, let him be ignorant! If any man perish, let him perish! But we must see that no one can lay the fault at our door. Let the Leipsic people boast; this is their hour. We must go out from our land, and our kindred, and sojourn for a time in a strange land. I still hope to come to you again; but if the Pope seize all who agree with me, then Germany will raise a hue and cry. And the more he attempts this, the sooner will he and his perish, and I reappear. God rouses many hearts, even those of the populace, so it is not likely this business can be frustrated by force, or, if they try to do so, it will become ten times as powerful as before.
Murner is silent. What the he-goat (Emser) will do, I know not, but I do not believe that you will write. You would be led astray, which would be the bitterest news I could hear. So long as you and Amsdorf, etc. are there, there is no lack of shepherds. Do not anger God by speaking thus, and make us appear ungrateful. Would that all, even cathedrals, had a fourth part of the teachers of the Word that you have. So thank God for enlightening you. I have expended many words on you.
The Cardinal of Mayence has a hundred sworn enemies, and Dr. Schifer is very ill with fever. Some say he is dead. A bishop who was very hostile to me at Worms has come to grief. I have no other news, for I am a hermit, a very monk without cowl and robe; you would see a knight and scarcely recognize me.
Tell Amsdorf that the pastor in Hirschfeld (Feldkirche), an upright man, has also married, so it is not you alone who have a newly married provost.
I fear that the provost in Cambray may be dismissed, and now that there may be other mouths to fill it would be serious. If he can only believe that the Lord, the universal Shepherd, still lives, who will not suffer even a bird to starve. Greet and admonish him, and I shall do the same, so that all may rejoice together. By doing so you will do me a favor, and it will be a joy to God, and a grief to the devil and his followers.
Your despondency is my greatest trial, your joy is mine also; so live at peace in the Lord, to whom I hope you commit me even as I do you. Maintain the Church of Christ over which the Holy Ghost has made you bishops, but not gods. Give all my friends my love, of whom there are many. You need not greet M. Eisleben, or the fat Flemmischen, for I am writing them. But remember Johann Scherdfegeru, Peter Suaven, and all the church in your house, Henricus Zutphen, and all the brothers.
I have written to the Prior. Also greet M. Lucano and Christianum, Dr. Eschhausen, and whoever occurs to you. Just look at this miserable paper which I have to use. Once more farewell!
In the region of the birds who sing beautifully on the trees, praising God night and day, with all their might.
Luther dedicates his treatise on Confession to this knight.
June 1, 1521.
The grace of God and peace in Christ be with you! We read, worshipful sir, in Joshua, how God led the children of Israel into the promised land of Canaan, overthrowing thirty-one kings with their towns, and no town save Gibeon was humble enough to sue for peace. In Joshua, 11th chapter, it is written – “There was not a city that made peace with Israel, save Gibeon: all other they took in battle. For it was of the Lord to harden their hearts, that they should come against Israel in battle, that he might destroy them utterly,” etc. The historian seemed to wish to set them up as an example to our Papist-Bishops, and other spiritual tyrants, who now see that the people are tired of their ways, the light of the gospel having exposed their doings. And yet they will not humble themselves to seek peace, and thus at last they perish. They blame me, and yet they must know how I have often begged for peace, and offered to answer any questions, and even went to a second Imperial Diet, but all has been of no avail.
In order not to be idle in my Patmos, I have written an Apocalypse, which I shall send to prove my gratitude to you. It is a sermon on Confession. In the next fasting time I shall issue a book of instructions for young communicants, begging our spiritual Junkers and tyrants to permit those simple creatures to enjoy it in peace, and showing them how their tyranny has almost put an end to confession....
But they will not listen to reason – well – well! I have seen more bubbles than they – and even once – a dreadful smoke, which threatened to obscure the sun, but the smoke has vanished long ago, and the sun still shines. I shall continue to declare the truth fearlessly. Neither of us is yet over the mountain, but I have one advantage, I am single.
God make the truth victorious. I commend Ulrich you Hutten and Martin Bucer to your Worship.
Given in my Patmos.
Luther sends Spalatin some writings to be printed.
June 10, 1521.
All hail! I have not only received your long epistle, dear Spalatin, but that of OEcolampadius, and now send you the “Magnificat” complete, with the pamphlet on Confession dedicated to Franz von Sickingen, which I should like printed first. The 21st Psalm is off to the printers. See if no alterations be necessary, for I do not yet know if I shall annex the 119th Psalm to something else, but I shall decide when I hear what you all think. I must also answer Latomus of Louvain, who makes so much of his lord the Pope.
I marvel greatly at OEcolampadius, not because he is pleased with what I do, but that he is so full of joy, and so bright and Christ-like. God maintain and strengthen him. I am at one and the same time both idle and very busy.
I study Greek and Hebrew, and write without ceasing. My present host entertains me much better than I deserve.
The illness from which I suffered in Worms is worse, so that I almost despair of recovery. The Lord tries me sorely, so that I may never be without the cross. His name be praised. Amen!
I am surprised that the Imperial Edict has never been made public. It is said here that Schifer is dead, and has left a million gulden to Dr. Carola. He would indeed be a bold Christian who would not dread such a mountain of gold.
I have not replied to the young Prince’s letter, seeing my abode is to be kept secret, so I must not betray it by constant writing.
Pray earnestly for me, as I need nothing else. I have everything in abundance. It is nothing to me how the world treats me. I am here at peace. Farewell in the Lord, and greet all who ought to be greeted.
From the isle of Patmos.
Hinricus Nesicus. [pseudonym. Nesicus = Unknown / Undefeated]
Luther blames his friend for missing him so much.
July 13, 1521.
I am displeased with your letter for two reasons: (1) Because you do not bear the cross patiently, yielding to your emotions, as is your wont; (2) That you ascribe so much to me, as if I alone could look after God’s concerns, for here I sit, careless and idle, consumed by my fleshly desires.
Instead of being ardent in spirit I am the prey of sinful appetites – laziness and love of sleep. For eight days I have neither prayed nor studied, through fleshly temptations. If I do not improve I shall go to Erfurt and consult the physicians, for I can endure my malady no longer. And even God seems to tempt me, by making me wish to escape from this wilderness. I shall not answer Emser; ask Amsdoff to do it, if he is not too good for such filth. I shall put your apology for the Parisian asses with all their drivel into German, with annotations. I wish you could issue OEcolampadius’s book on Confession in German to annoy the Papists. I am also putting the Gospels into German, and when enough are ready shall send them to the press. When things are going so well with you I am not needed. Why do you not spare yourself? I warn you always of this, but you remain deaf. As to the lawfulness of the sword, I abide by my opinion. You expect me to quote a Gospel command on the subject. I agree with you that no such command or precept is to be found in the Bible. It would not be seemly that it should; for the Gospel is a law unto the free, and has nothing to do with the rights of the sword, although such a right is not forbidden, but rather praised, which does not apply to anything merely permitted. For outward ceremonies are neither commanded nor commended in the Gospel, even as too great carefulness about earthly things is not considered justifiable. For the Gospel lays down no hard and fast rule in this matter, for its domain is the spirit, and not the letter. But are they therefore not to be used? Do not the necessities of this life rather justify their use? Were all Christians – such ideas would be very well. If the sword were sheathed, how long would the Church stand in the world, for neither life nor goods would be safe. But what do you make of Abraham, David, and the saints under the old dispensation, using the sword? And they were good men….
And strange to say, it is not forbidden in the Gospel, but the believing soldiers who asked John for counsel were rather confirmed in its lawfulness. I fear, dear Philip, I reap more satisfaction from what I have written to you than you will derive from it. There is no passage in Scripture where we are commanded to despise those in authority, but rather to honor and pray for them. I wish Amsdorf much happiness upon becoming rich, but it would bring him even more happiness should he prove willing to yield up an apostle.
You have already enough, and I do not see why you long so for me, or why my services are so necessary to you.
You lecture (leset), Amsdorf lectures, and Jonas also. Dear one! Do you wish the kingdom of God to be proclaimed to you alone? Must the gospel not be preached to others?
Will your Antioch not contribute a Silas, Paul, or Barnabas to help the Spirit’s work? I tell you plainly, that although I love to be with you, I would settle in Erfurt, Cologne, or wherever God might graciously open a door for me, to proclaim the Word. One must not think of oneself, for the harvest is great.
I know nothing of my return. You know with whom that rests.
Spalatin writes that the Prince commands a part of the Confession to be kept intact, at which I am much displeased.
Pray do not regulate your actions by the will of the Court, which I have hitherto done.
The half would not have been accomplished had I always listened to such counsel. They are only human like ourselves.
I shall make Spalatin speak out.
Such complaisance encourages our opponents and shows our cowardice.
My best wishes for your health. This letter has long been finished, but he who promised to take it has forgotten. All of you pray for me. For I shall be immersed in sin in this solitude.
From my desert.
Martin Luther, Augustinian.
Luther relates his experiences at a hunt.
August 15, 1521.
I have received the third sheet of Confession, dear Spalatin, Philip sending it along with the first; but the printing is execrable. Would that I had sent nothing German. See he does not print my German postils, but rather returns what I have sent you, and I shall get them done elsewhere. For why should I work so hard only to have things turned out in so slovenly a manner? I should not like the Epistles, etc., to be so sinned against, so shall send no more at present, although I have ten large sheets ready, and till these shameless money-makers, the printers, cease looking solely to their own interest, no more shall be sent. Philip has sent me three sheets of Latomus, with which I am much pleased. I wish Carlstadt would write in a more polished way against celibacy, for I fear he will affront us. If he were only better adapted for the praiseworthy work he has undertaken; for our opponents slander the very best that can be written, so we must be careful not to bring discredit on the Word, for we are a spectacle unto the world, as St. Paul teaches.
Perhaps I am mixing myself in things that do not concern me; but what can be more dangerous than to incite people to matrimony? I would like the question of matrimony left free according to Christ’s command, but I am powerless in the matter. Do not trouble yourself as to my bearing my exile patiently. It is all one to me where I am, if I am not a burden to these people, but I fancy I live here at the expense of the Prince, or I should not remain an hour longer if I thought I were consuming this good man’s substance, although he supplies my wants abundantly. Try to shed light on this, for he always declares it comes out of the Prince’s pocket. I am so constituted that I worry incessantly for fear of burdening any one.
I followed the chase for two days last week, to get a taste of the pleasures which fine gentlemen love so well. We caught two hares and a few poor roes. Truly a worthy occupation for idle people! Amid the nets and the dogs I pondered over theological matters. I could not but feel sad at the deep mysteries which lay concealed beneath the gay scene. For, does not the devil with his dogs, those godless teachers, bishops, etc., thus pursue and take captive innocent creatures – those poor believing souls; but worse is still to come. I had managed to save a poor hare, and hid it under my coat, but the dogs discovered it, and bit its leg through the coat, and choked it, so we found it dead. Thus do the Pope and Satan, despite my efforts, try to ruin saved souls. I have had enough of this kind of hunting, and think it finer to slay bears and wolves, and godless creatures such as these.
See that at Court you learn to hunt for souls, so that one day you may find yourself in Paradise – a piece of game which it gave Christ, the best huntsman, much trouble to catch and keep.
I have changed my mind and send the rest of the postils. But let them be printed on good paper, with Lotter’s letters, for it will be a large book, and I’ll spread it over the four quarters of the year, so that it may not be too heavy. But it must not be as I wish, but as you can arrange there. Let the MS. be returned to me. I know what Satan is after.
I wonder if my “Magnificat” will ever be ready.
Farewell, and pray for me.
With this letter Luther sends an exposition of the 37th Psalm.
Possibly in August.
To the poor little company of Christians at Wittenberg, Dr. Martin Luther sends grace and peace from God the Father and Jesus Christ.
St. Paul, who preached in many places, and now sat as a prisoner in Rome, never ceased to pray for those who had been converted through his means, and to comfort them by his writings, to which his Epistles bear ample testimony. Following his example, I cannot refrain from anxiety on your behalf (seeing it is partly through me, poor creature, that it has been revealed to you) that wolves may follow me into the sheepfold. And although, by the grace of God, many have taken my place, which might make such anxiety unnecessary, yet I cannot overcome it.
We are not worthy (I especially, alas) to suffer anything for the truth, let alone having hatred, shame, reproach, envy, and all manner of ignominy heaped upon us by the Papists. Had God not withstood them, those bloodthirsty murderers of souls would have swallowed us up quick, and torn us with their teeth. Till now they have merely called us Wycliffites, Hussites, heretics, venting their wrath upon us by calling us evil names, and attacking our Christian profession. But let them do it, dear friends. He is above – the Judge of all! We may rejoice that so far we have never dreaded the light, as they do – even as an evil conscience trembles before a law court. It must be a great trial to them that I have three times appeared before my enemies to testify of our faith: First at Augsburg, before the Cardinal; then at Leipsic, before those who would gladly have extinguished us, and yet their rage and cunning were of no avail; and now at Worms, where bishops and doctors did their best to get me to recant.
But God enabled me to resist the efforts of princes and dignitaries, so that I withstood all their power.
Had it been otherwise, I should have been ashamed of my German land, allowing the Papal tyrants thus to befool us. But we all know that the devil was at the bottom of it. Now, I do not boast of these three appearances, as if the glory were ours; but to acknowledge the grace of God in order to trust Him at all times.
And, as I do not pretend to be St. Paul, who out of the abundant riches of his spirit could comfort his spiritual children, I have taken it upon me to put into German the 37th Psalm, which is full of consolation, and send it to you, it being so suited to our circumstances, for it exhorts us to “cease from anger, and forsake wrath,” assuring us “that yet a little while, and the wicked shall not be.” Certainly our enemies resemble those who are rebuked in this Psalm, and we are comforted. For we, who by God’s grace cleave to the Scriptures, are those who are feared and hated by those who blaspheme the truth. But let them! Had they been worthy of the truth they would long ago have been converted through my numerous writings.
I teach them; they revile me. I pray for them; they despise my prayers. I scold them; they scorn me. What more can I do? for Christ says, “As he delighted not in blessing, so let it be far from him; he clothed himself with cursing like as with a garment.” What does not belong to heaven, no one can take into it, although he tore it into pieces. But that which is destined to get in shall enter, in spite of the efforts of the whole army of devils to prevent it. But we must pray for the poor little company who are being led astray by them, that they may be delivered out of the claws of the murderer of souls at Rome, and of his apostles. I commit you to God, and may your faith and confidence be graciously preserved in Christ Jesus. Amen. Amen. (Exposition of 37th Psalm follows.)
I send you this Psalm, dear friends, for your consolation and instruction, according to St. Paul’s precept, “Speaking to yourselves in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, staging and making melody in your heart to the Lord;” “Giving thanks always for all things,” etc. I send this for the benefit of those who are weak in the faith; for, as to the strong ones among you, I would rather learn from them. Therefore take comfort and remain steadfast. Do not be alarmed through the raging of the godless; for, God be praised, we have beaten them so far that they can only rage, which shows they are ignorant of divine things; and the longer they act thus the blinder they become, and display their folly all the more.... I commend you to God. Pray for me. I do not concern myself about my enforced absence from you. By God’s grace I am as courageous as ever. Be of good cheer, and fear no one. The grace of God be with you. Amen.
Luther congratulates him on his marriage.
November 1, 1521.
Grace in Christ! Your letter, dearest Gerbel, written before Ascension, only reached me at Michaelmas, and this is All Saints’ Day. When will it reach you? Perhaps before next Ascension Day, or the Greek Kalends – never.
You see the cause of my silence. I risk much in writing. Attribute all to the hidden will of God. I hope you have already received an answer from others to your anxious inquiries as to my condition.
I have withdrawn from our common cause by the advice of good friends – very unwillingly, it is true, and uncertain as to whether I had acted rightly towards God. For my part, I fancied one was bound to sacrifice his neck in the universal fray.
But this was not desired, so I was borne off by horsemen, in the disguise of a knight, on my way from Mohra, and placed in a secure spot, in reigned imprisonment, where I am treated royally. But believe me, in this solitude, with nothing to do, I am the prey of a thousand devils. It is much easier to fight a devil in the flesh (men) than evil spirits in heavenly things (or under heaven). I often fall, but the right hand of the Most High raises me again.
So, willingly as I would strive for freedom, I shall remain where God has placed me. It is not safe to send you my writings, therefore I have written to Spalatin to arrange this. Meantime I have written a treatise against Antichrist, also one on Confession in German, and have sent it as a letter of consolation, with an exposition of the 37th Psalm, to the Church in Wittenberg.
Philip has issued a pamphlet against the Parisians which I have translated into German. This too is printed.
I am writing a German Exposition of the Epistles and Gospels, which will be printed all through the year. I have also a public castigation of the Cardinal of Mayence ready because of the Indulgences, which he has once more erected in Halle; and in addition, a disquisition on the gospel of the ten lepers: all in German.
I am born for my Germans, whom I desire to serve. I should like to write openly against the universities, but as yet have decided upon nothing.
I have made up my mind not to expound Matthew.
I had begun to lecture upon both Testaments in a popular manner in Wittenberg, and had reached the 32nd chapter of Genesis, and in the Gospels had got to the voice of John the Baptist. At this point my voice was quenched. Now that is all you wished to know.
Give my best love to your dear one, and I hope that she may love you dearly, and that you too may love her.
It is good that your former state of celibacy, with all its accompanying evils, has been replaced by marriage.
Endure all that this condition of God’s appointment brings with it, and thank God. I am daily gaining more insight into the godless lives of the unmarried of both sexes, so that nothing sounds worse to me than the words monk, nun, priest, for I regard a married life of deep poverty as paradise in comparison. Greet Brunsfels, Caspar Urzigereum, and all Evangelicals from me.
From my hermitage.
Luther tells his father that he is now free from his monkish vows, and sends him his book on the Vow.
November 21, 1521.
To his dear father, Hans Luther, from Martin Luther, his son.
My reason for dedicating this book to you was not to honor your name before the world, thus disobeying St. Paul’s admonition, not to seek honor after the flesh, but to explain its contents.
It is almost sixteen years since I took the monk’s vows without your knowledge or consent. You feared the weakness of my flesh, for I was a young fellow (Blut ) of 22 (I use Augustine’s word) and full of fire, and you know the monkish life is fatal to many, and you were anxious to arrange a rich marriage for me. And for long this fear and anxiety made you deaf to those who begged you to be reconciled to me, and to give God your dearest and best. But at last you gave way, although you did not lay aside your care; for, I well remember telling you I was called through a terrible apparition from heaven, so that, when face to face with death, I made the vow, and you exclaimed, “God grant it was not an apparition of the Evil One that startled you.” The words sank into my heart as if God had uttered them, but I hardened my heart against it, till you exclaimed, “Hast thou never heard that one should obey his parents?” In spite of this most powerful word I ever heard out of a human mouth, I persevered in my own righteousness, and despised you as being only a man.
But were you then unaware that God’s command must be obeyed first of all? Had you been able, would you not then have exercised your paternal prerogative, and dragged me from beneath the cowl? Had I known, I would have suffered a thousand deaths rather than have acted as I did. For my vow was not worth such deception.... But God, whose mercy is boundless, has brought about great good through my errors and sins.
Wouldst thou not rather have lost a hundred sons than not have beheld such marvelous blessing? Satan must always have foreseen this, for he has poured out the whole vials of his fury upon me....
But God willed that I might learn the wisdom of the high schools and the sanctity of the cloisters for myself....
Dear father, do you ask me to renounce monkish orders? But – God has been before you, and has brought me out Himself... and has placed me, as thou seest, not in the miserable, blasphemous service of monachism, but in the true divine worship, for no one can doubt that I serve God’s Word.
Parental authority must yield before this divine service; for, “whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me,” says Christ. Not that parental authority ceases with this; but where Christ’s authority clashes with that of parent’s, the latter must give way.
Therefore I send you this book, from which you will see how miraculously Christ has redeemed me from my monkish vows, and endowed me with such freedom, that although I am the servant of all men, I am subject to Him alone. For He is my sole Bishop, Abbot, Prior, Lord, Father, Master! I know no other. I trust He has deprived you of your son, so that, through me, He may help the sons of many others, and prevent you rejoicing alone.
I know you will do no more in this matter. Although the Pope should assassinate me, and cast me into hell, he cannot raise me up again to slay me once more. For should he condemn me, and burn me, my heart and will shall still stand out against his absolution. I hope the great day is approaching when the kingdom of wickedness will be cast down and destroyed. Would to God we were considered worthy to be burned by the Pope, that our blood might cry out for vengeance, and thereby hasten his end.
But, if not worthy to testify with our blood, let us cry to Him alone, and plead for mercy, so that through our life and voice we may bear witness that Jesus alone is our Lord and God – blessed to all eternity. Amen. In Whom may you be blessed, dear father – and the mother – thy Margaret, along with our whole connection – all of whom I greet in Christ Jesus.
From the wilderness.
Out of deference to Spalatin and the Court, Luther had kept back his book against the idol at Halle, but now tries to stop the scandal.
December 1, 1521.
My services are ever at your disposal, esteemed lord! Doubtless your Electoral Grace remembers that I wrote you twice in Latin. First when those lying Indulgences were issued, under your Grace’s name (October 31, 1517), warning you against those corrupt, money-loving preachers, and their heretical books. And although I could have traced the whole uproar to your having given your sanction to the publication of these books, still I have spared your Grace, and the House of Brandenburg, fancying your Highness did it out of ignorance, led astray by false flatterers, whom I attacked as you know. But my faithful admonition was turned into ridicule, and my services repaid with ingratitude instead of thanks.
The other occasion (February 4, 1520), I humbly begged to be instructed by your Grace, in answer to which I received an unkind, unbishop-like answer, referring me to a higher tribunal for instruction. Although these two letters produced no effect, I send a third warning, in German, to see if this perhaps uncalled-for petition may avail. Your Grace has again set up the idol at Halle, which robs poor simple Christians both of their money and their souls. Perhaps you fancy you are safe because I am out of the way, and that His Majesty will extinguish the monk. I do not object; but shall do what Christian love demands, and pay no attention to the gates of hell – not to speak of the popes, cardinals, and bishops. I shall not hold my peace when the Bishop of Mayence declares it is not seemly to instruct a poor monk who begs to be enlightened, and at the same time knows how to deal with money. The dishonor is not mine, but must be sought elsewhere. Therefore, I humbly request that your Grace would prove yourself to be a bishop, and not a wolf, permitting the poor flock to be robbed. You know that the Indulgence is sheer knavery, and that Christ alone ought to be preached to the people. Your Electoral Highness must remember out of what a tiny spark this great fire arose – the whole world fancying that one poor beggar was too insignificant for the Pope to meddle with. God still lives, and no one need doubt that He can overcome the Bishop of Mayence, whose end no one can foresee....
Therefore I openly declare that unless the Indulgence is done away with, I must publicly attack your Grace, as well as the Pope – tracing Tetzel’s former excesses to the Archbishop of Mayence, and letting the world see the difference between a bishop and a wolf. If I be despised another will appear who will despise the despisers, as Isaiah says. And it is time to rebuke the evil-doers, that offenses may be driven from the kingdom of God.
I also beg your Grace to leave the married priests in peace, and not rob them of what God has given them, else a cry will arise that the bishops should first take the beam out of their own eyes, etc. So I beg your Grace to take care, and permit me to keep silence, for I have no pleasure in your Highness’s shame and disgrace; but if you are not, then I, and all Christians, must stand up for the glory of God, even although a Cardinal should be plunged in disgrace. I expect your Grace’s answer within fourteen days. f19 If not, then my book against the idol in Halle will appear; and if your Grace’s counsellors should try to prevent its circulation I shall use means to hinder this. May God endow your Electoral Highness with grace to do the right. From my desert.
Your Electoral Grace’s obedient
A fragment. Probably written after Luther had been in Wittenberg. He disapproves of their way of reforming abuses.
Perhaps December 1521.
I cannot always be with you. Every one must die for himself, and look forward to the pangs of departure alone, for no one can counsel or help. I shall not be with you, nor you with me. Whoever is then able to overcome sin, hell, and the devil is blessed – whoever cannot do so is accursed. But no one is able to do so unless during life he has learned to appropriate and practice the consolations and maxims of the gospel against sin. The soul only takes with it what it has received in the world, and nothing more. No one can resist the devil until he has come to a knowledge of Christ, and knows that it was specially for him Christ died, because God desired his salvation. In that case that soul must become blessed, although all the devils were dead against it. We were all born sinners, and ruined through Adam’s fall, so that we can do nothing but sin, being in bondage, and “are by nature the children of wrath, even as others.”
These innovations have been accompanied by attacks on the mass, pictures, and the sacrament, and other lawless proceedings, which destroy faith and love, thereby wounding the tenderest feelings of many pious people, which is surely the devil’s work.
Doubtless it would be a very good thing were such changes made, were it generally desired, and no one objected. But this will never be the case. We cannot all be so learned as Carlstadt, therefore we must give in to the weak, else those who are strong will run into all excesses, and the weak who cannot keep up with you will perish. God has been very gracious to you in Wittenberg, giving you the pure Word, so you should have patience with those who never heard it, or where is your love?
We have many brothers and sisters in Leipsic, Meissen, and elsewhere, and these we must take to heaven with us. Although Herzog George, etc., are very angry with us at present, still we must bear with them, and hope for the best. They may become better than we.
You have gone about the business in a way of which I cannot approve, using your fists, and if this happen again I shall not take your part. You began without me, so carry it on without me. What you have done is wrong, no matter how many Carlstadts approve of it.
You have injured the consciences of many who have taken the sacrament, and attacked it, tearing down pictures, and eating eggs and meat. You are to blame for this, and yet you consider yourselves Christians, and better than others.
Believe me, I know the devil well, and he is at the root of all this, and has led you to attack the sacrament, etc., so that he might injure God’s Word, and meantime faith and love are forgotten.
Now we shall examine the nature of the things which have been done in my absence. There are things which God has commanded, and these must be kept, for no man, be he pope or bishop, has power to alter them. Other things God has left free to us, such as eating, drinking, marrying, etc. God has not forbidden these. Popes and bishops have tried to deprive us of this freedom, by setting up priests and monks, to whom marriage is forbidden, appointing fast days, and suppressing true fasting, thereby leading many to the devil, of whom St. Paul says, “In the latter times some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits and doctrines of devils.... forbidding to marry, and commanding to abstain from meats,” etc.
For no magistracy nor any man has power to change the Word of God, therefore anything popes or bishops may ordain is of no account whatever.
Still, one must not insist upon these free things being carried out to the letter. When the Pope says, “Thou shalt not eat meat or eggs on Fridays,” then it is a sin to do so; but if it be anything vital, you must resist, saying, “How shall I eat, for you have forbidden what God permits?” Deal thus with the obstinate, but be kind to the weak, feeding those who are young in the faith with milk, even as a new-born babe is fed on milk to begin with, afterwards getting soup, bread, and cheese. And it is the same with weak Christians. Leave your neighbor alone till he too becomes strong, and thy equal. When St. Paul was with the Jews he suited himself to them, and when with the Gentiles he lived as a Gentile. In these open questions act according to the circumstances.
If a sick person cannot eat fish, then he gets meat. If Rome permits this for money, I may do it when necessary without payment. It is the same with marriages and such like. But the kingdom of heaven does not consist in eating and drinking. St. Paul says, “If meat make my brother to offend, I will eat no flesh while the world standeth, lest I make my brother to offend.” So, no one must go against God’s Word – whether he be Pope, Bishop, Emperor, or Prince. Listen to this simile. The sun has great brilliancy and heat. Its brilliancy neither Emperor nor King can avert, so the Word of God can no one hinder; but one can escape from the hot rays of the sun into the shade, and this is what love does when it yields to its neighbor.
I would do even as much for my enemies (in the hope of their conversion) and for the weak, and would think nothing of wearing this cowl if it would do them any good.
The first intimation Luther gives of putting the New Testament into German.
December 18, 1521.
I do not approve of the stormy breaking up, for you might all have parted in peace and friendship. You who propose attending the Imperial Diet, see that you defend the gospel.
I shall remain here in seclusion till Easter, and write postils, and translate the New Testament into German, which so many people are anxious to have. I hear you also are occupied therewith. Go on with what you have begun. Would to God that every town had its interpreter, and that this book could be had in every language, and dwell in the hearts and hands of all. You will get all the rest of the news from the Wittenbergers. I am, God be praised, sound in body and well cared for, but much tried by sins and temptations. Pray for me, and go on prospering.
From the wilderness.
Concerning monastic vows.
December 20, 1521.
Grace and peace! Most excellent Wenzel, I am delighted that my answer to the Catherinas pleased you, for I value the verdict of an upright man.
But remember, whoever starts with good premises cannot repudiate the conclusions to which they lead, and the results you now see in this cloister.
For if it be contrary to the gospel that one sin in the use of meats, etc., what would become of vows, cloisters, kingdoms, etc.? Whose obedience would you compel? Whom would you recall, after quitting the cloister?
Whom would you accuse as a disturber of the peace, when you are bound over to teach that such freedom or license is no sin? You perhaps ask my advice in this matter, and I tell you that you do not require my counsel. For I know you will undertake nothing, nor permit anything that is in opposition to the gospel, although all the cloisters should be destroyed.
I am indeed deeply displeased at the stormy upheaval of which I have heard. For they should agree to let them leave in peace, but perhaps this may be the punishment of unrighteous vows, wickedly cast aside, so that what was bound together through an evil unanimity might be abruptly severed. But to recall them does not seem to me expedient, even although they have not acted wisely. And I do not believe you can forbid it.
But if there are some still who wish to leave the cloister, it would be best not to retain this chapter (capital), and following the example of Cyrus, give those who wish to leave their freedom through a public edict, without expelling any, or forcing any to remain.
But meanwhile you will continue to share the government of this Babel with Jeremiah. For I should like the dress and usages of the order to be retained. I see no other way, for I do not wish to represent a lawless body, or to be a ringleader of unrighteousness. If you read my pamphlet on the Vow you will find my opinions.
I was in Wittenberg, but did not dare enter the cloister.
You must help us, for the times and God’s cause demand this. I must admit that unheard-of things are happening, but it is against our will.
This is clear as the sun to me. In addition, you have Philip Melanchthon, and others, whom you can easily ask for counsel. For we would like if you retained the capital (chapter) at Wittenberg.
Where our dearest Father Staupitz is I do not know. But I hear he is at the Court of the Salzburg god.
I compassionate the excellent man; still you may give him my love. For, from my writings, he must already have seen who I am and what I am doing.
I am busy at the Church postils and the German translation of the Bible.
Farewell. From the wilderness.
Pope Leo X. died. The German Hadrian succeeded. Luther returned to Wittenberg, March 7, and preached against image-breaking, etc.
Luther informs him why he was about to leave his Patmos.
January 17, 1522.
Health! I have received all, my Spalatin, even the packet, although rather late. It is not because of the Zwickau prophets I have come, nor will they influence me in the least. But I do not wish our people to put them in prison.
Rumors have been set afloat as to the Eulenbergers regarding innovations in the Lord’s Supper. I was so angry that I determined to go to Wittenberg and see for myself, but I am daily hearing far more important things.
Therefore, if God will, I shall soon return, if not to Wittenberg, certainly elsewhere, or wander about.
I do not wish the Prince to be anxious about me, although I wish he had my faith, or I his power. If so, doubtless he would, without bloodshed, extinguish the smoking firebrands.
The unhappy Herzog George acts in this matter, even as He who is terrible in His judgments towards the children of men has determined. He cannot see that his rancor against this party is pure hatred. May the Lord have mercy on him, if he be worthy of it.
See that our Prince does not soil his hands with the blood of the Zwickau prophets. Farewell, and pray for me. Neither the Bishop’s nor Capito’s letters please me, because of their duplicity. I have written to Faber that I know his spirit. I grieve over the destruction of the pictures, because I became surety for their preservation.
From the wilderness.
Luther admonishes the Elector to steadfastness and patience.
End of February or March.
To my Most Gracious Lord Frederick, in my own hand. Grace and prosperity from God the Father to the new relic! Such is my greeting to you, most gracious lord, instead of sending you my sympathy. Your Electoral Highness has for long been trying to procure sacred relics from all lands, but God has now granted your desire, and without money or trouble has furnished you with a cross, fully equipped with nails, spears, and scourges.
Once more, I repeat, prosperity from God to the new relic. Do not let your Highness fear, but stretch out your arms cheerfully, and let the nails be firmly inserted; nay, give thanks and be joyful, for thus must it be with all who love God’s Word – they must put up with the rage of Annas and Caiaphas, and remember that Judas, too, was an apostle, and Satan appeared among the children of God.
Your Grace must only be wise and prudent, and not judge according to human wisdom, nor with respect of persons…. And above all, do not despair, for Satan has not accomplished what he meant to do. If your Grace would only believe a fool like me; for I am too well acquainted with such like assaults of Satan to fear them, and that vexes him greatly. As yet it is all pretense. Let the world raise a hue and cry, let those who fall, fall –even if it be St. Peter and the apostles – they will reappear on the third day when Christ rises from the dead.
For 2 Corinthians 6 must be fulfilled in us, “As chastened and not killed.”
Your Electoral Highness will take this in good part; for, in my great haste, the pen has run away with me, and I have no more time, for I am anxious to be there myself, if God will. Your Electoral Grace must not trouble with my affairs.
Your Electoral Highness’s humble servant,
Written in Borna on the way to Wittenberg, in answer to a letter from the Elector, trying to dissuade Luther from coming. His courage is displayed.
March 5, 1522.
To the Serene High-born Prince Frederick, Elector of Saxony, etc. Grace and peace! Most gracious lord. Your Electoral Grace’s writing and kind remembrance reached me on Friday evening, the night before I began my journey. That your Electoral Highness had the best intentions towards me is manifest. And this is my answer. Most gracious lord, I herewith desire to make it known that I have not received the gospel from men, but from heaven, through our Lord Jesus Christ, so that I may well (which I shall henceforth do) glory in being able to style myself a servant and evangelist.
That I desired to be cited before a human tribunal to have my cause tried was not because I had any doubts as to its truth, but solely because I wished to allure others. But now that I see my great humility only serves to abase the gospel, and that Satan is ready to occupy the place I vacate, even if it be only by a hand-breadth, my conscience compels me to act differently. I have done sufficient for your Grace this year in remaining in my forced seclusion. For the devil knows it was not done out of fear. He saw into my heart, when I came into Worms, that although I had known there were as many devils ready to spring upon me as there were tiles on the house-roofs, I would joyfully have sprung into their midst.
Now Herzog George is far from being equal to one devil, especially seeing the Father has, out of His loving-kindness, made us, through the gospel, joyous lords over all the devils and death itself, and has permitted us to call him beloved Father. Your Grace can see for yourself that it would be the greatest insult one could pay to such a Father not to trust Him entirely, showing that we are lords over Herzog George’s wrath. Were things in Leipsic as they are in Wittenberg, I would nevertheless ride in, even if it were to rain Herzog Georges for nine days, and each was nine times more vehement than this one is. He looks upon my Lord Jesus as a man of straw.
But I confess I have often wept and prayed for Herzog George that God would enlighten him. And I shall once more weep and pray for him, and then never again.
And I beseech your Electoral Highness to help me to pray that we may be able to avert the judgment which is hanging over him continually.
I write all this to let your Grace see that I come to Wittenberg under higher protection than that of the Elector, and I have not the slightest intention of asking your Electoral Highness’s help. For I consider I am more able to protect your Grace than you are to protect me; and, what is more, if I knew that your gracious Highness could and would protect me I would not come.
In this matter God alone must manage without any human intervention.
Therefore he whose faith is greatest will receive the most protection. So, as I see your faith is very weak, I cannot regard you as the man who could either protect or save me. And seeing your Grace wishes to know how to act, as you seem to fancy you have done too little, I would respectfully inform you that you have already done too much, and must now do nothing at all. For God will not suffer your Electoral Highness’s or my worrying and activities. He wishes it to be left to Him, to Him and no other, so let your Grace act accordingly.
If your Electoral Highness believes this, then he will be in security and peace; if not, I do and must allow your Electoral Grace to be tormented by care, which is the portion of all who do not believe.
Therefore, seeing I decline to follow your Grace, then you are innocent in God’s sight if I am taken prisoner or killed. Your Electoral Highness shall henceforth act thus regarding your duty towards me as Elector. You must render obedience to the powers that be, and sustain the authority of His Imperial Majesty with all your might, as is only seemly for a member of the Empire, and not oppose the authorities in the event of their imprisoning or slaying me. For no one must oppose the authorities except He who has instituted them; for it is rebellion against God.
But I hope they will be sensible, and recognize that your Electoral Highness is born in a higher cradle, and should not be expected to wield the rod upon yourself.
If your Grace abide by the Electoral safe-conduct, then you have done enough to show your obedience. For Christ has not taught me to be a Christian to the injury of others.
But should they command your Grace to lay hands on me yourself, then I shall say what to do.
I shall protect you from injury to body, soul, and estate because of my affairs, whether your Grace believes it or not.
I herewith commit you to the mercy of God, and shall discuss things when necessary. I have written this hurriedly, so that your Grace may not be upset by my arrival; for I must rather be a comfort to every one than occasion of injury if I wish to be a true Christian.
I am dealing with a very different man from Herzog George, with one who knows me well, and whom I do not know at all badly. Were your Grace only to believe he would see the glory of God, but as he has not yet believed, he has seen nothing. To God be love and praise to all eternity.
Given at Borna by my escort.
Your Electoral Grace’s obedient servant,
Luther’s touching letter to the pious lawyer in Strassburg.
March 18, 1522.
I take it for granted, my beloved Gerbel, that you got my letter from the desert through Philip, but although you have not answered it, I cannot let your good clerk return without a few lines from me, to send you my love and beg for your prayers. For Satan rages as well as those about me, and threatens me with death and hell, and tries to destroy my flock. Therefore I cast myself alive amidst the fury of Emperor and Pope to try to drive the wolf from the fold, and my only protection is from above, while I dwell among my enemies, who can destroy me any hour. But Christ is Lord over all, the Father having put all things under His feet, even the wrath of Emperor and devils. If He wishes me to be killed let them do it in His name; but if not, who then can destroy me?
Cleave to the gospel with fervent prayer, for Satan wishes to root out the gospel and deluge Germany in its own blood.
And he will do it, for no one is ready to stand as a wall towards God for the house of Israel, and because of our deep ingratitude in proclaiming the gospel only in words, not sweetened by love. So let all pray earnestly, for danger is ahead, and the devil means to assail us with incredible cunning and all his might. May you be happy with your beloved wife, and greet all our friends.
March 28, 1522.
Greeting! Without doubt you did not leave the cloister without good reasons for doing so, although I wish you had risen above all reasons. Not that I dispute your right to do so, but because I do not wish to give our opponents occasion for slandering us, even as St. Paul preached the gospel in Achaia without being chargeable to any man, thus retaining his apostolic freedom, etc. But I remind you of all this too late. When I have time I shall write to the Church in Erfurt, although you and yours far surpass us in knowledge of the Word. But the power of the Word is either very faint or quite latent within us, else we should not be so cold, hardened, bold, quarrelsome, and drunken. In short, the old tokens of Christian love are not visible, St. Paul’s words being inverted, “We have the kingdom of God in words, but not in power.” I cannot come to you, for it is not right to tempt God by needlessly running into danger, especially as I have enough here; being attacked through the Papal and Imperial Edict, and enjoy as much freedom as the birds of the air, whose only protection is God Almighty. I see that many of our monks leave the cloister for the same reason they enter it, viz. to indulge their sensual appetites, through which Satan brings the gospel into evil repute. But they are idle creatures, so are better to go to ruin without the cowl than beneath it. Greet all friends, for I do not know who may be with you just now. Carry our cause and the life of our Elector to the Lord in prayer, else I fear he may not be able to hold out long. And if this our head were away, there might be an end to the salvation which God may give to our Syria.
Luther wishes names of precious stones.
March 30, 1522.
All hail! I send you the letter you were expecting, my Spalatin. I cannot remember what I wrote to Herzog John Frederick, except that I advised him not to introduce innovations unless it could be done without giving offense to the weak, and that all must be done in love. I wrote the same to Herzog Karl.
I have not only translated the Gospel of St. John in my Patmos, but the whole of the New Testament, and Philip and I are now busy correcting it, and, with God’s help, it will be a splendid work. Meantime we need your help, to find out proper words, therefore be ready to supply us with the common terms for some things we require, but not those used at Court, for this book is to be written in the simplest language that all may understand it; and so that I may begin at once, send the names of the precious stones mentioned in Revelation chapter 21, and would that you could get permission from Court to let us have the loan of some to see what they are like.
I am busy with a treatise upon the gospel method of receiving the sacrament, and although it is a most troublesome piece of work, yet I am not afraid. Christ lives, and for His sake one must not only be a sweet savor in them that are saved, as well as in them that perish, but also be willing to be slain for Him.
Farewell, and greet all at Court.
Luther sends letters from the Low Countries about good works.
April 14, 1522.
Grace and peace in the Lord! I herewith send you what Jacob, the Prior of Antwerp, who was delivered by a miracle, and is now with us, brought me from the Netherlands. I have received the New Testament up to St. John’s last sermon, with other things.
I fancy Amsdorf has answered your inquiries as to good works; for one single passage lights up the whole. An evil tree cannot bring forth good fruit. For as the fruit can never make a tree good, so works can never make a man pious. On the contrary, according to the tree, so is necessarily the fruit; thus it is after the man is pious that good works follow, not that they make him good, but they prove that he is good. So what the Bible says concerning good works must be thus understood, that the man does not become good thereby, but that they testify he is good. Therefore, at the last day Christ will cite good works in proof that those who practiced them were pious. Farewell, and pray for me. There is nothing new here except the Chancellor of Baden’s booklet against me, because I exposed him for twisting my meaning to the Bishop of Trier, as you are aware.
Luther recommends Gabriel Zwilling (Didymus), formerly Augustinian monk in Wittenberg, as preacher in Altenburg.
April 17, 1522.
Most excellent Gentlemen and Friends. The grace and peace of God and my most willing service be with you! Honored sirs. I was glad to receive your letters about a pastor, and to see how eagerly you long for the Word of God. Therefore I am most willing, and consider it my duty to give you any assistance and counsel I can.
There is one called Gabriel, now in Dueben, who is considered an excellent preacher with much experience, so I would advise you to take him. No doubt some feel a slight aversion to him, because he left the order, and now goes about in the dress of an ordinary priest, but it was well that he should come out, so that many might have the benefit of his ministration, to the edification of their souls. If you do not feel shy of him on this account, then I do not know how I can advise you better. And I have written him to place himself at your disposal, so that you may see him and judge for yourselves. But if you are not pleased, there are still two secular (weltliche) priests here, capable men; so if your Excellencies let me know, I shall help you to get one or other of them. Were it possible I would rather come to you myself, to satisfy your ardent longings, than see you at a loss.
But if you get Gabriel you have no need of me. I herewith commit you to the grace of God, who can enrich you with faith and love through His Holy Word.
Luther advises him to accept the call to Altenburg.
April 17, 1522.
Grace and mercy from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ!
The Town Council of Altenburg asked me to recommend an Evangelical pastor to them; so if you are chosen, accept the call, looking upon it as a call from God. For I have recommended you to them.
So I plead in the name of the Lord Jesus, who through me and Philip calls you to accept it. Go thither in peace, and may you be a blessing to many thousands. But see that you behave in a circumspect manner, going about in an orderly priest’s dress; and for the sake of the weak, do away with that broad angular monstrosity of a hat, remembering that you are sent to those who must still be fed with milk-till they are freed from the meshes of the Pope; and this you cannot achieve without the Word, as I have often told you, and which you will see in the last small book I have issued.
The Father desires to draw people to Himself through Christ, not to coerce them through ordinances of ours. One must first instill in them a hatred of all godless ways. Then godlessness will fall away of itself, without compulsion. A love and longing for purity must first be implanted-then piety will follow, and the kingdom of heaven will suffer violence, and the violent will take it by force. The Lord give you wisdom and understanding, that you may be a worthy servant of His Son, and may He bless you in the proclamation of His Word. Amen.
Luther sends him a specimen of his translation of the Bible.
May 10, 1522.
All hail! I send you the beginning of our Bible, but on no account let it be printed. I am expecting the precious stones, which we shall take the greatest care of and faithfully return. Also pray ask Bernard Hirsfeld to petition His Electoral Highness to persuade his Chancellor to remit a certain sum, which our Prior is due upon a valuable possession, and for which I am security, till we can pay it. And there has been no remission of interest. And now that it is not customary to beg (for the cloister), we are 300 florins a year poorer. Here there is nothing but love and friendship.
May all prosper with you, and send a favorable answer.
Luther presses Link to take up his abode in Wittenberg.
July 4, 1522.
Grace and peace! You must either, dearest father, be able to give a good reason for keeping away from us, or you must hate our society. For why sit there? Both north and south are shut up to you, so there is no place where you can be more secure or better cared for than with us. Or does the reputation of our order frighten you, and do you fear association with us banished ones, in case of offending those who seem born to seek cause of offense in Christ?
But come speedily, for God’s sake, so that we may enlist you in the Lord’s service. We are waiting for you; see that you do not turn us into ridicule.
We wish your advice on many necessary matters connected with our faith, to promote the general weal.
Farewell in Christ.
Luther is busy translating the New Testament.
July 4, 1522.
Grace and peace in Christ! I hope, dear Spalatin, that you have received the Gospel of St. Mark and the Epistle to the Romans, with letters from good friends. The Gospel of St. Luke and the two Epistles to the Corinthians will soon be finished. I must reply to the growling lion who calls himself King of England. The ignorance the book displays is not to be wondered at in a royal author, but the bitterness and lies are gigantic. How Satan rages! But I shall embitter him more.
The Picardy people sent to ask my advice as to their faith. I object to their obscure way of expressing themselves, instead of using biblical phrases.
And they underestimate infant baptism, while using it, and also re-baptize some who come from us, and teach the seven sacraments. As to their celibate priesthood, I am pleased in so far that they let every one do as he sees fit.
But pure doctrine is a rare thing. Whether they highly esteem faith and works I do not know, but am doubtful of it. I do not think them wrong about the Lord’s Supper, unless they use deceptive words, as they do with Baptism.
Farewell, and pray for me. I do wish you would try to have Philip set free from teaching grammar, and devote himself to theological lectures. It is highly improper, as I have written, that he should earn one hundred gold gulden with grammar lessons, while he is giving two valuable theological lectures. We have teachers enough who can give grammar lessons as well as Philip, who are being deprived of the work. May God root out all false teachers, so that the money may be better spent. I highly commend this Nurnberg Prior to you.
Luther sends a book for his host in the Wartburg.
September 25, 1522.
Grace and peace! I beg of you to send this copy of my book to the John in the region of the birds, viz. to my host, as I wished him to have it before more came.
For I am really angry at the Lotter business, and am not yet on speaking terms with him.
You will see what our Wenzel writes.
I ardently desire that the Prince would only attend to his own affairs, and leave me to manage Satan and his hosts. As I have already written, the heaven will not fall although I fall. If His Grace does not believe this, I do, and am sure of it.
But why make so many words? Who does not see that through this present work of God He has turned their threats into ridicule? He who has done this will do so to the end. The whole business is conducted at my risk, and will continue to be so conducted. Farewell, and pray for me. Greet our friends. I am just starting for Leipsic, because I have been so often entreated to come.
Luther recommends a poor man.
October 4, 1522.
Grace and peace! I found your letter when I returned, dear Spalatin, but the dog had bitten a piece out of it upon the table, so that I could not make out the words about the Lord’s inheritance.
But the other part about the Lord’s kingdom and righteousness runs thus: “The kingdom of God is the Church of Christ, which must be ruled through the Word of God.” “The kingdom of God is righteousness and peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost.” “The kingdom of God is within you.” The righteousness of God is faith. For in the Greek one reads clearly, “The kingdom of God and his righteousness.” So let us seek first the kingdom of God, so that the knowledge of Christ may be spread abroad, and all worldly things will be added thereto, for the laborer is worthy of his hire.
I would like you to help this man according to your ability, for he seems poor and needy. Johannes Pomeranus is to be married shortly, and we beg you to speak a good word for him, that he may be supplied with game for the occasion, not only on his own account, for certainly he is worthy of it, but because of us, his guests, as to whom you are able to judge whether we deserve it or not. So try to procure some, so that others may see that we are held in some estimation at Court, and may inspire them with hope for the future.
Something definite will soon be announced as to his lectures. For you know yourself that he is a stranger and poor, for which reason he should receive more, and will certainly repay it in the future. Of that I am certain.
Luther announces that he preached publicly in Weimar and Erfurt, and will publish an exposition of Hosea
November 3, 1522.
I have no notes of what I preached in Weimar and Erfurt, and do not require to write them, for you know all already, because I have taught nothing but faith and love there – except that I was asked in Weimar to make public what I had once preached about the kingdom of God and worldly authorities. It has been printed and dedicated to Prince John.
The passage Hosea “I will betroth thee unto me in righteousness,” etc., contains simply this – that we shall one day become the brides of the gracious, merciful, forgiving, and justifying God – not through works, but by the gospel.
As to Lengmann and Pomeranus, we shall do what we can.
In the translation of the Old Testament I have reached the third book of Moses (Leviticus). For it is incredible how I have been hindered by letterwriting, business matters, company, and many other things. Now I shall shut myself up at home, and hurry, so as to have Moses in the press by January. For we shall publish it separately, and afterwards the historic books, and lastly the prophets. For the size and the price of the books compel us to issue them piecemeal. Pray for me.
Pope Hadrian died. Reformation progresses. The first martyrs, Heinrich Voes and Johann Esch, burned at Brussels. Birth year of the German hymn.
Herzog George asked Luther if he really wrote to von Kronberg. Luther admitted he did.
January 3, 1523.
Cease fuming against God and His Christ, on account of what I have done, most ungracious Prince!
I have received your ungracious document, along with my letter to you Kronberg, and have paid particular attention to the part of which you complain, as injuring your soul, honor, and good name. As you wish to know the meaning I attach to my words, I answer, that it is all one to me how your ungracious Highness may take them.
For, however I may act or speak against your ungracious Grace, whether secretly or openly, I consider I am entitled to do so, and mean to maintain the right.
For were you really in earnest, and did not tell so many lies as to injuring your soul, honor, and good name, you would not slander and persecute the truth so shamefully as you do. And this is not the first time that you have maligned me, so that I have more cause to complain of you. But I am silent as to all this, for Christ commands me to be kind to my enemies, and hitherto you have had my poor prayers and service, and if that be treating you with contempt then I can do no more, nor shall I be frightened by any water bubble. But if my Lord Jesus will, He can enlighten the heart of your most ungracious Highness, and turn you into a gracious and kind Prince towards me.
Luther promises to come to his wedding.
April 8, 1523.
Grace and peace! I, Philip, the Provost, Dr. Hieronymus, Pommer, our Prior, and Jacob, and also James, will certainly come to your wedding, if the Lord will. Carlstadt is from home, but Hieronymus, Trappe, and Meister Lukas will also come. Whether the wives of the Provost and Hieronymus may accompany them is uncertain. I heard yesterday that nine nuns have left cloister Nimpschau, their prison, among whom are the two Sessatzers, and the Staupitz. May you prosper with your bride.
Hausmann, like Bugenhagen, had the gift of Church organization, and insisted on the inseparable connection between doctrine and life. He died when preaching his first sermon in Freiberg in 1538. Deeply mourned by Luther.
May 24, 1523.
Grace and peace! This man returns to you, and brings as much as I could spare, but insisted upon having a letter to you. Do then as Christ teaches.
As to the rest I am well in body, but outwardly so occupied with business, that my soul is well-nigh quenched for want of time to attend to it.
Pray that I may not be swallowed up by fleshly concerns. Greet all our companions in the faith, and may you prosper in the Lord.
Luther comforts the three Freiberg young ladies who had been banished from Court for reading his books.
June 18, 1523.
To the honored and virtuous Hanna von Draschwitz, Milia von Olsnitz, and Ursula von Feilitzin, my special friends in Christ. Grace and peace!
Honored ladies. Herr Nicolas vou Amsdorf has told me of your disgrace because of my books, and begged me to write you a letter of consolation.
But although I do not like writing to people I do not know, and you do not need comfort from me, still I could not refuse his request. First, I beg you, as a friend, to let your hearts rest in peace, and not wish evil to those who have brought this upon you, but “being reviled bless,” as St. Paul says. And Christ says, “Bless them that curse you,” etc., so do the same, seeing you are illumined by the grace of God, and they are blinded and are injuring their own souls by running against God, not seeing how they are destroying themselves, when they fancy they are injuring you. Only wait and let Christ manage matters. He will abundantly requite your reproach, and raise you even higher than you desire, if you commit your cause entirely to Him. And even if your conscience tell you that you are in fault, you must not despair on that account. For it is a precious sign that God has so soon led you to repentance. And reflect that if even you wished to injure them, you could accomplish nothing. For it is a sacred matter for which you suffer, which God will permit no one but Himself to revenge. “He that toucheth you, toucheth the apple of his eye,” He says. I fancy that miserable blinded creature, Dr. Wolf Stehlin, is master there, but he will become entangled in a way he does not dream of in other matters. So act thus, my dear sisters, and the peace of God shall be with you. Amen! And take my letter in good part.
Luther’s first poetical effusion was in honor of the two martyrs Heinrich Voes and Johann Esch, Augustine monks.
Praise to the Father of mercies for permitting us anew to see His marvellous light, which has been hidden from us because of our sins. But the time has again come for the voice of the turtle to be heard in our land, and the flowers to appear on the earth. What a joy it is, dear ones, that you should yield us this great delight! For to you it has been given, not only to confess Christ, but to be the first to endure shame, imprisonment, and reproach for His name’s sake, and now you have proved the strength of your faith by sealing your testimony with your blood. And also that Christ’s two precious gems, Heinrich and Johann in Brussels, should have held their lives of so little account as to yield them up to His honor.
Oh, how shamefully were these two souls slain, but how gloriously shall they reappear with Christ, and judge them by whom they have been unrighteously slaughtered. What pleasure the angels had in these two souls ! How eagerly the fire freed them from this sinful life to open the door into everlasting glory! God be praised to all eternity that we have lived to see holy martyrs.
We up here have not yet been esteemed worthy to become such a precious offering to Christ, although many of us have not been without persecution, and are still enduring it.
Therefore, well beloved, let us be joyful in Christ, and render thanks for this great miracle which He has begun to work among us. Pray for us, and for one another, that we may reach out a helping hand to each other, and let all cleave with one mind to Christ our Head, who will strengthen you with His grace, and perfect you to the honor of His holy name, to whom be praise from all of us, to all eternity. Amen.
A peculiarly beautiful letter.
September 1, 1523.
Grace and peace in Christ! Most gracious sir. Vincent Wernsdorfer has persuaded me, a stranger, to write expressing my Christian sympathy with you in your trial. Therefore I trust your Excellency will graciously appreciate the motives which prompt me. He tells me how, since the departure of your dear consort to God, you have constantly occupied yourself with good works, particularly masses, vigils, etc., for the repose of her soul, thereby showing your love and loyalty to one who, through her life, certainly merited it; and he begged me to write you – a request I could not refuse, as it was meant for your Excellency’s good.
You must recall Job’s words, “The Lord gave, and the Lord hath taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord!” Thus must you sing to your loving God, who first bestowed such a faithful wife upon you, and has now removed her. She was His before He gave her, and she is still His, even as we all are – now that He has taken her.
Therefore, although this is a great grief, that He has recalled His own, still the heart can find sweeter consolation in His most perfect will than in all His gifts – so to fulfill His will is something higher than to possess the best and noblest wife. Although one cannot feel this to be so, still faith does perceive it.
Therefore may God give you grace to be joyful, and acquiesce in the rich exchange you have made, having now, instead of a tender loving wife, the will of a tender loving God – and God Himself in addition.
Oh how blessed would we be if we could go on, making such exchanges with God! And we could do this if we understood how. For God meets us daily, but we are not ready to welcome Him. And I would beg of you, gracious sir, to cease from masses, vigils, and daily prayers for her soul. It is sufficient if your Excellency pray once or twice for her, for we are told that if we believe we shall receive what we pray for. Otherwise, if we always ask for one thing, it is a sign we do not believe God, and thus anger Him more through unbelieving prayer.
But I particularly beg you would leave off the vigils and masses for the soul, for it is most displeasing to God, there being neither reality nor faith in them, but a mere mummery.
Oh, people must pray otherwise if they wish anything from God. God ridicules such vigils – primarily, because God did not institute the mass for the dead, but as a sacrament for the living, and it is a dreadful thing for man to presume, without God’s permission, to turn a sacrament for the living into a sacrifice for the dead. Beware of becoming a partner in this terrible error, which the priests and monks have instituted for the sake of their bellies.
For a Christian must do nothing that God has not commanded, and there is no command as to such masses and vigils, but it is solely their own invention, which brings in money, without helping either living or dead.
Your Excellency can inform yourself as to all these things by applying to the before – mentioned Wernsdorfer, who has a deep interest in you, impelling me to write you… May Christ illuminate and strengthen you in Christian faith and love towards your neighbors.
Your Excellency’s obedient
Luther asks if Francis Lambert would be likely to find a living in Strassburg.
December 4, 1523.
Grace and peace! Although this letter may be useless, my beloved Gerbel, I must write, as I heard you were in Strassburg at present. We have a Frenchman with us just now, Francis Lambert, who was a preacher among the apostolic Minorites, as they call them, and he has taken a wife here, and thinks he would be better off nearer France, and will not be advised, being so full of his own affairs.
I believe there are many with you not too prosperous, who feel more inclined to come here, than we have people wishing to go to you. But if I am to have any peace I must do him this favor.
Therefore pray say if there is any prospect of him earning sufficient to live upon. He is already pretty well versed in the Bible, although not up to our Barnabas and Paul. He hopes later to put my writings into French in order to make money on French soil.
Our Prince often presents him with silver money, and this year he has fleeced him of forty ducats.
If you do not reply, neither of us shall have any peace. So you can see what I suffer from such people who, through me, become a burden to my good friends.
May you live prosperously with your wife.
Luther expresses dislike of the famous or infamous Thomas Munzer.
December 26, 1523.
I begged the official of Alt-Stadt to beware of Munzer’s spirit of prophecy.
What has happened meantime I do not know, but I cannot endure such a spirit, whoever the man may be. He lauds my doctrine, and yet tries to tear it to bits. Then he talks and prays in such an insipid manner, using such unscriptural expressions, that any one would fancy he was mad or drunken.
He insists upon an interview with me, and boasts beyond measure. I therefore begged the official to arrange a meeting with him, to discuss his teaching. I do not know if he will manage it. We are not of such a spirit that he need fear having his teaching put to the test.
Farewell, and pray for me.
Luther approves of Hesse’s Latin paraphrasing of Ecclesiastes. This, the real birth-year of Church hymnary, mostly founded on the Psalms.
Grace and peace! Accept my greeting, thou preacher of Ecclesiastes, but see that you and he preach the same thing. For I too will hear his voice in you, and certainly read it. So send us your Commentary upon this book. It is desirable that it should be translated into the mother tongue; therefore I take the opportunity of admonishing you to this, in advance, that when the spirit moves you to the work you may let me know at once. I saw the man you sent me. It is no new thing, that many should wish to make the gospel a source of profit. In was so in St. Paul’s days, and how much more in ours! Freedom is regarded as a cloak for evil. But there is One who will speedily judge them. Farewell, and pray for me.
First German Hymn-Book appeared. Peasants’ War. Luther more distressed by this, and the disturbances caused in Wittenberg by the fanatics, than by Charles V. declaring that the Edict of Worms should be enforced.
The Augustinian monk, Thorn, suffered a martyr’s death in the Netherlands.
January 19, 1524.
Grace and peace! Christ, who is with you, my dear brother, bears witness within me that you need no comfort from me. For He suffers, and is glorified; He is captive and reigns; He suffers violence, and yet triumphs both in and with you, having made you just and holy, through the knowledge of Himself, which is hidden from the world, but which He has so richly bestowed upon you.
Thereby you are not only strengthened inwardly by His Spirit in your affliction, but by the example of the two brothers, Heinrich and Johann.
Both you and they have been a great comfort to me, and a sweet savor to all Christendom, and a glorious ornament to the gospel of Christ. Who knows why the Lord did not permit you to perish with them? Perhaps He spared you that He might do some mighty work through you. This encourages me much, that the faithful Savior has not only permitted me to come to the knowledge of His truth, but has allowed me to see His grace flourishing so gloriously in you three.
I might deem this a misfortune, for it was I who first brought this teaching – for confessing which these two were burned, and you now sit in captivity – to the light of day. I fear I shall not be counted worthy to suffer such tribulation as you three for Christ’s sake. Nevertheless, I shall comfort myself thus – that your bonds are my bonds, your prison my prison, and your fire my fire. In addition, I shall preach, and openly confess, before the godless world, princes and angels, the Word for which these two were burned and you sit in captivity, and because of which I both suffer and rejoice with you. But the Lord Jesus, who has begun the good work in you, will perform it until the day of His glorious appearing. But pray for me, as I do for you, and remember you do not suffer alone, but He who says, “I will be with him in trouble; he shall call upon me, and I will answer him: I will set him on high, because he hath known my name,” suffers with you. Only wait upon Him who has said, “In the world ye shall have tribulation, but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.” Do not dispute with Satan, but turn your eyes to the Lord. Be firmly rooted upon the pure faith, and never doubt that we shall be justified and sanctified through the precious blood of Christ, the spotless Lamb of God. Our works can as little make the man righteous, as they can be mistaken for Christ’s blood – neither can they condemn us or lay sin to our charge.
God be praised, in our Elector’s land we have peace.
The Duke of Bavaria and the Bishop of Trier cause many to be slain, and banish some. There are other bishops and princes who are not bloodhounds, although they worry their people through threats, and do them much injury. So Christ is again despised of the people, whose member you now are, through the holy calling of our Father in heaven, and may He perfect this call in you, to His honor and glory. Amen.
All our people greet you, especially Jacob Praepositus, and the brethren from Antwerp, etc. They commend themselves to your prayers.
A marriage case. Luther complains of the unruly Carlstadt.
January 30, 1524.
Grace and peace! Most excellent Herr Chancellor. M. Wolfgang has told me of the sad separation case.
The man accuses his wife of wicked desertion, declaring he can prove he is blameless. But he has not done so as yet, so one must act according to Matthew 18, as the man has hitherto been too modest to prove his wife’s guilt in her presence, or bring forward the testimony of the whole town that she left her husband without cause. For it is not right to condemn her unheard, or without having convicted her of guilt.
It seems AEgidius of Erfurt only heard part of the matter, and then gave his opinion, which is even more contrary to the gospel than to law. In the next place, best of men, pray submit the following to your Prince at my request. Carlstadt has set up a printing-press at Jena in order to print what he pleases, desiring to indulge his weakness for teaching where he is not wanted, and maintaining a persistent silence where he has a call to act.
Although this cannot do much injury to our ministerium, still it is apt to bring dishonor upon our Prince and University, as both have promised that nothing should be published without censorship by proper parties.
Seeing the Prince and we have kept the bargain, Carlstadt and his adherents cannot be allowed in the Prince’s land to emancipate themselves from all authority. Would the Prince, therefore, order him to send any work to any censor he pleases, or suppress his undertaking, so that we may not come into bad odor through breaking our promise?
Farewell in the Lord, and give my respects to the Prince.
The first evangelical hymn-book appeared this spring in Wittenberg, containing eight hymns – four by Luther. “Aus tiefer Noth schrei ich zu Dir” (Psalm 130) was in this collection.
February 23, 1524.
Grace and peace! I write, dear Spalatin, only because I wished to write you. For you are sitting at Nurnberg as still as if you were in Rome, so that we do not know whether you may not all be sound asleep, somewhere. I got a letter from you long ago, but now all is so quiet that we do not know whether to expect a Pope or a Diet.
But by Easter we expect that the princes will be so stirred up by their priests and father confessors that as a worthy way of celebrating the sacrament of the Lord Jesus they will begin a fresh persecution of the gospel.
I am waiting to hear if you have put some of the Psalms into metre as I suggested. Everything goes well here.
The translation of Job gives us immense trouble on account of its exalted language, which seems to suffer even more, under our attempts to translate it, than Job did under the consolations of his friends, and seems to prefer to lie among the ashes.
Evidently the author never wished it to be translated. Meanwhile this hinders the printing of the third part of the Bible. Do write and let us know what is going on in the world.
May all go well with you, and pray for me.
Luther wishes Melanchthon to be set apart to expound the Holy Scriptures.
March 23, 1524.
Grace and peace in Christ! Most Serene High-born Prince, etc. Doubtless your Grace knows that by the grace of God we have many promising youths among us, from distant lands, all thirsting for the Word of God, while enduring many hardships, some living merely on bread and water.
Now I have been urging M. Philip to lecture on the Holy Scriptures, because he is so much better qualified to do so than I. For although I would gladly do it, it would necessitate my giving up the translation of the Bible into German. But whenever we plead with him to do so – the whole University desiring it – he defends himself thus, that he was appointed and is paid by your Grace to teach Greek, and must do so. Therefore I am requested by all to beg your Electoral Grace, for the sake of the dear young people, and for the furtherance of God’s Word, to see if it be not possible to have his salary directed for the exposition of the Holy Scriptures, as there are many young people qualified to teach Greek; and it is not seemly that his time should be taken up with elementary teaching, while higher work, which might produce much fruit, and could not be repaid with money, be left undone. Would we had more who were thus fitted to lecture, for, alas, there are enough who think themselves able, and occupy the place of others, because they happen to be there.
But the time will come, as was formerly the case, when such work, no matter how unwillingly, must be left undone for the want of the right people to do it.
Hence we must now train people while we can, and do our utmost for our successors, and if it be your Grace’s good pleasure, I beg you to bind over the said Philip to lecture on the Bible, even if he require a larger salary to do so. I commend your Electoral Grace to the tender mercies of God.
Your Grace’s obedient servant,
Luther turns lovingly to Erasmus, and forgives him for his want of courage in espousing his cause.
Grace and peace from our Lord Jesus Christ! I have remained silent long enough, dear Herr Erasmus, waiting till you, as the greater and elder, should break the silence, but having waited so long in vain, charity impels me to take up my pen.
I do not reproach you for having kept aloof from us, knowing you did not wish to complicate the cause you were maintaining against my enemies the Papists. And I even have not taken it greatly amiss, that in order to conciliate the favor of some, or instigate the fury of others, you have issued pamphlets in which you attack us with a bitterness we did not expect from you. For we perceive that you have not been endued by God with such steadfastness and courage that you can confidently go forward with us to combat this monstrosity – hence we do not expect what is beyond your ability to render. But we have borne your weakness patiently, and highly appreciated your gifts.
For the whole world must confess that it is through you there has been such a revival in letters, through which people have got access to the Bible in its purity, and that you possess great and glorious talents, for which we must ever be grateful. Hence I have never wished you to mingle in our affairs, to the detriment of your gifts; for although your common sense and eloquence might accomplish much, still, if you do not heartily enter into it, it is better that you should only serve God with the talent committed to you. But I fear our enemies might persuade you to condemn our doctrine, and then we would have to contradict you to the face. We have hitherto prevented some entering into conflict with you through their writings, therefore I wished that Hutten’s challenge had not appeared, and still less your Schwamm, which, without doubt, you have learned for yourself.
How easy it is to talk of modesty, and blame Luther for want of it; and, on the other hand, how difficult, nay, impossible it is to act accordingly, except through a special gift of the Spirit. If I, who am easily moved to wrath, have often in the heat of the moment written too bitingly (beizend ), I have only done it to stubborn people. And I can testify that my tenderness towards the godless, no matter how unjust and stupid they may be, has not only the testimony of my own conscience, but has been experienced by many. Up till now I have held my pen in check, in spite of your conduct towards me, and have also written to friends, that I would restrain myself till you attacked me openly.
For although you were not of us, and rejected some of the principal points pertaining to everlasting blessedness, or hypocritically refused to give your opinion on the matter, still I shall not accuse you of obstinacy. What am I to do? The business is a bad one on both sides. If I be mediator, I would ask these people to give up assailing you, and permit you, at your advanced age, to fall asleep in peace in the Lord. They would do this if they considered your weakness and the magnitude of the question at stake, which is far above your head.
But you, too, dear Erasmus, must remember their weakness, and not practice your powers of sarcasm on them, and where you cannot or dare not espouse our opinions, then leave them alone, patiently awaiting the success of your cause. I say all this, excellent Herr Erasmus, to prove my earnest wish that the Lord may give you a mind worthy of your great name, and if He delay doing this, I beg of you only to be a spectator of our tragedy, and not unite with our opponents, nor write against me, seeing I shall not publish anything against you. As to those who complain of suffering because of Luther, remember they are men, even as you and I, upon whom we should have compassion, bearing one another’s burdens.
There has been more than enough backbiting, so we must see that we are not devoured one of another.
This would be a most pitiable spectacle, as on neither side is any one really at heart an enemy of the gospel of Christ. Take my child-like simplicity in good part, and may you prosper in the Lord. Amen.
Luther expresses satisfaction at the decision of the Council at Basle against the Bishop’s vicar.
Grace and peace! I have nothing to write, dear brother, except to greet you, and commend myself to your prayers.
Joachim, our trusted friend, will tell you everything.
I do not know whether Philip will come to us with the accused, whom I should like to see.
I have written Erasmus, expressing a desire for peace and unity, so that this melancholy spectacle may come to an end, and you will do your best to achieve this.
We have had enough of disputing, and both of us have lost our tempers, so it is high time that Christ should come to the rescue, and compel Satan to make way for the Holy Ghost.
The decision of the Council and magistrates of Basle against the Bishop’s vicar has delighted me beyond measure. And pray for me.
Farewell in the Lord.
Luther now begins to interest himself in education.
April 25, 1524.
Grace and peace! You must not imagine, best of men, that I have not the highest opinion of you; for, I know, through the glorious power of the gospel, that we have been raised above everything else I beseech you to lay to heart the instruction of the young; for the gospel is threatened with untold evils through neglecting this duty. It is one of the most important duties. Greet Schalb and Schultetus in my name. I would have written them, but it is incredible how I am overwhelmed with all sorts of work, scarcely being able to overtake my correspondence, not to mention other things. The globe seems to rest on my head, so that I wish either to die or be borne away from the world, in order not to be quite annihilated. Greet your wife and child, and smile sweetly upon them in my name.
Bear with your weak health, as is seemly, seeing you are in God’s hand.
Pray for poor me, and farewell. St. Mark’s Day, without celebrations or procession.
Luther rejoices that the gospel is dominant in Strassburg.
May 6, 1524.
Grace and peace in the Lord! Although I have nothing to say, dear Gerbel, I could not let the messenger leave without sending love to the brethren in the Lord, and commending myself to your prayers.
For I hear that the Word of God prevails with you. With us, the more hindrances that are put in its way the more it spreads. It has now reached Magdeburg and Bremen, and will soon be in Brunswick, I hope, as Prince Henry, who was once its bitter enemy, is now a changed man. Satan has founded another sect among us, who are neither acknowledged by the Papists nor by our own people. They boast that they are animated by celestial spirits, and are independent of the witness of the Spirit within them.
From this we may perceive that our word is the Word of God, for it suffers not only from violence, but from fresh heresies. May God grant you and your loved ones health.
Greet all in the Lord.
Luther denies that Bucer and he are not friendly, etc. Capito was Praepositus in St. Thomas’s Church, Strassburg.
May 25, 1524.
Grace and peace in the Lord! If you and Bucer did not so persistently declare that some people said your actions were condemned by us, and that we differed entirely in opinion from you, I would attribute this to your weakness and jealousy on account of our silence; for the letter which the brothers brought three days ago declared the same thing.
But seeing Christ reigns in you, you have nothing to fear, although our opinions might differ from yours, or that we should despise those you hold.
Still, it is almost unbearable for me to hear that our differences have been the topic of conversation, especially when such perfect unanimity of spirit reigns among us. This is specially trying to me, for I gladly conceal and overlook, as much as I can, any difference of opinion among ourselves; hence how much less dare I put up with these suspicions which are thrown upon our Christianity and spiritual peace? Therefore, if I were not so much occupied, I would, through the public press, expose such lies, and prove that in the things pertaining to Christ we are at one.
I am delighted to hear of the marriages of the priests, monks, and nuns among you; and that the former are now husbands in defiance of Satan, and am pleased when they get livings. What more shall I say? Am sorry I have heard nothing further of you. Go on and prosper, for all bear witness to your wonderful teaching; the people being struck down under it amid the enemies of the King.
I think, hitherto, too much consideration has been allowed for the weak; so, as they are daily becoming more hardened, one must speak plainly to them.
For some day I shall cast aside the cowl, which I have hitherto worn, to strengthen the weak, and turn the Pope into ridicule. They are blind leaders of the blind.
I believe the report of our dissensions has arisen out of my letters to you translated into German. It is enough to terrify me from writing when they are immediately borne away to the printers against my will; for among close friends one writes more confidentially than it would be advisable to spread abroad.
But then you were a different man, and a courtier, while now you are Christ’s freeman, and a servant of the gospel, and belonging to me, and I to you. Greet M. Bucer from me in Christ, with his dear wife and children, and all the recently made husbands, especially Hedio. Our Church greets you.
Grace be with you.
P.S. – Please apologize to Bucer and the others for not answering their letters. I shall write when I have time.
Luther praises him for having quitted the monkish life.
June 20, 1524.
Grace and peace in Christ! I beg you, dearest OEcolampadius, not to ascribe my not writing to you to ingratitude or sloth; for I have not heard from you since you quitted your order, and fancied that since Christ had strengthened your heart through the power of the Spirit, you had overcome your superstitious conscience, and were now too great to write me, or need a letter from me. Truly, I highly approve of the praiseworthy step you have taken, and Philip never ceases speaking of you, and rejoices that you keep him in remembrance.
May the Lord strengthen you in your great undertaking – the exposition of Isaiah – although I know Erasmus takes no pleasure therein. But do not let his displeasure disturb you. He has performed the task to which he was called – he has reinstated the ancient languages, thus defrauding godless learning of their crowds of admirers. Perhaps, like Moses, he will die in the land of Moab, for he is powerless to guide men to those higher studies which lead to divine blessedness. I rejoiced when he ceased expounding the Scriptures; for he was not equal to the task. He has done enough in exposing the evils of the Church, but cannot remedy them, or point the way to the promised land. Take my prolixity in good part.
I know you do not need my consolation, for Christ will not forsake you.
Pray for me, for I am so occupied with outward things that my health is in as great danger of being injured as my spirit. The monks and nuns who have left their cloisters rob me of many hours, for I am expected to find homes for them all, etc. Farewell, dear OEcolampadius. The grace of Christ be with you! Greet all who are of one mind with us.
A young patrician, who studied at Wittenberg.
October 12, 1524.
Grace and peace in the Lord! I must ask your services, dear Hieronymus, on behalf of this poor young man, Gregorius Keser. He wishes to settle, and asked me to introduce him to some one in Nurnberg. Although I could not give him much hope, for I know every place is full, still I bade him God-speed, in God’s name, who feeds the ravens. Moreover, if you intend marrying Katherine vou Bora, make haste before she is given to some one else, for C. Glatz, pastor in Orlamunde, is ready waiting. She has not yet got over her love for you. I wish that you two were married.
Luther dissuades Spalatin from leaving the Court, and resigning his post, unless he wishes to marry.
November 30, 1524.
Grace and peace! As you ask my advice as to leaving Court, dear Spalatin, I would say: You have perhaps cause to do so, but unless you have some other reason for giving up your post, the wrongdoing of others does not justify your doing it, if it be not the idea of marriage, which is driving you away; and I can think of nothing else, especially as you are so at home at Court, and so useful to many princes; and if some one else got your situation, how much he would have to learn! And even if your wish were accomplished, it would be long before the Prince could have the same confidence in any other, you having been so long with him.
Therefore remain, leaving only to marry. I fancy you are substituting another reason for the true one, but I see no object in this, for it must become public when it takes place. You can thank Argula von Staupitz for what she writes about marrying. I cannot wonder at people gossiping about me when they do it about others. But tell her from me that I am in the hands of the Lord, as His creature, whose heart He can turn whither He will.
But according to my present frame of mind I have no intention of marrying, not that I am insensible to the emotions of the flesh, being neither wood nor stone, but because I have no desire to, and daily expect to die a heretic’s death. However, I shall not limit the power of the Lord working in me, nor depend on the stability of my own heart. But I hope He will soon take me away. Farewell, and pray for me.
Luther congratulates this excellent lady on her marriage to the famous preacher, Matthew Zell, in Strassburg.
December 17, 1524.
To the virtuous Katherine Schutzin, my dear sister in Christ, Strassburg.
Grace and peace!
My dear friend. I wish you joy in having so richly received the grace of God, so that you not only behold His kingdom (which is hidden from so many), but that He has given you such a husband, from whom you can learn all that is good. I wish you grace and strength to enjoy this good gift with gratitude till that day comes when we shall all meet and rejoice together, if God will. Pray for me, and greet your lord Herr Matthew Zell from me. I commit you to God.
Luther sends specimen of new edition of the New Testament, and begs for an income for Bugenhagen.
Grace and peace! Here you have the whole of the New Testament for yourself and the Elector, except the preface to the Romans, which will be ready tomorrow. I also send a copy to the young Prince (John Frederick), which you may praise to your heart’s content.
Lukas Cranach and Christian counsel this. I fancy Wolfgang Stein has already sent one for the old Prince (Johann).
And I hope you will undertake to persuade the Elector to bestow one of the bursaries, or stipends, on Johann Pomeranus, which was so badly bestowed upon the sophist; for, next to Philip, he is the first theological lecturer in the town, indeed, in the whole world. I am most anxious to keep him here, for it is said – and it is true – they wish to have him in Erfurt, and who knows how long I may be allowed to remain! More of this again.
Farewell, and pray for me.
In this year Frederick the Wise died in the bosom of the Roman Catholic Church. John the Steadfast was a warm friend to Luther. Luther finishes lecturing on Deuteronomy. Luther married in June. Peasant revolt.
Luther sent Brismann to Konigsberg to promote the Reformation in Prussia, which he did.
January 11, 1525.
Grace and peace in the Lord! It is the letter-carrier’s fault, my Brismann, that you have not heard from me, and I almost lost this chance also.
Carlstadt, who is quite given over to the devil, rages against me, having issued various writings full of poison. He, with his followers, denies that the body and blood of Christ are present in the Sacrament. I am ready to confute him, although through artifice, as he has led many astray in different places.
I shall answer Erasmus as soon as I have leisure.
That Amand has forsaken our party does not grieve me; perhaps I am rather glad, as he seems to be animated with Carlstadt’s spirit. Our Henry von Zutphen, the Bremen evangelist, was hanged and burned with cruel fanaticism in Dietmarschen. These prophets’ turbulent doings prevent me getting on with my Deuteronomy.
All else pursues its everyday course. We have received the highly esteemed Peter Weller with joy.
Thomas Munzer is meandering about, uncertain where to settle. He made a dangerous disturbance in Muhlhausen. The prophets are increasing steadily, a trial for true believers. The Papists rejoice over our differences, but God will expose Carlstadt in His own time. For it seems as if Carlstadt despaired of becoming a partaker of Christ’s kingdom, and has cast himself away, in order to plunge many others into destruction, and with a great following hurry on to hell, which he has been actually heard to declare.
Pray for me, and remember me with the highest esteem to Herr Bishop. I am much occupied, and over and above am a prisoner through a burning abscess on the thigh.
Perhaps you do not yet know that Anna Graswitzinn vou Sausselitz, with three others, Barbara Beckenberg, Catherine Taubenheim, and Margaretha Zirstorf, have escaped from their prison. The first of these remained here, and married Hans Scheidewind.
She desires me to send you her compliments. Herzog George himself undertook to visit the cloister, and seeing the abominable excesses, at once banished the brothers, fathers, bridegrooms, or rather relations of those noble ladies, from the place. Farewell.
Luther congratulates him on his marriage.
January 17, 1525
Grace and peace! I have delayed wishing you happiness on your marriage, esteemed sir, and am sure you believed I had cause for this, and I had. I have been ill, and had books to publish, letters to write, friends to help, etc., and, in addition, the things most nearly concerning the house and Church – not to speak of the worries caused by Satan and my enemies.
But I have remembered you in my prayers, and rejoiced over your happiness, and trust you may receive much blessing in this estate ordained of God, and therefore see clearly that it has been instituted by Him who will maintain it to His own glory.
For where were the kingdoms and rulers of the world when Adam and the patriarchs lived simply as married men? For how many kingdoms have come and gone since then, and marriage continues over all?
Therefore, thank God for bestowing this privilege upon you, and conducting you out of the stormy billows into the haven, and from the world into Paradise. In such a relation there may be trouble in the flesh at times, as St. Paul says, but there is consolation of the spirit, and, as Solomon says, he will receive joy from the Lord.
And why are the powers that be so averse to marriage? Is it not because they dread the troubles which may ensue? The world is cowardly enough to avoid it for that reason, but by and by they will most surely experience that evil in themselves which they always considered peculiar to matrimony.
May Christ give us a better spirit, and enable us to overcome tribulation, disregarding drawbacks, because of the many benefits it brings with it.
Many so love a little glory or worldly advantage that they are insensible to the countless evils of celibacy.
They resemble the soldier who is so prodigal of his life, yet prizes a golden gulden more than his temporal and spiritual welfare.
So let us enjoy present blessings, that when misfortune comes we may consider it a blessing in disguise.
My pen runs away with me when I extol God’s works.
May the Lord bless you, and ever remember me in prayer.
Give my kindest regards to your Frederika, but in Latin; the rest she will understand for herself. Written in great haste at supper, so forgive me if I have eaten too much, or been too prolix…
This letter acted like the dew of the morning on his friend.
May 3, 1525.
Grace and peace in Christ, who has said, “In the world ye shall have tribulation; but in me ye shall have peace. Be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.”
I write this to you, dear Frederick, as one stranger to another, because I would gladly share with you all the consolation I enjoy in Christ.
So, seeing that Christ has overcome the world, then all which is done, except by Him, is mere outward show; and the victory is His alone, and His will be the glory, when the world with all its pomp has passed away. No one who believes in Christ can really doubt this.
I pray Him to counsel you with His Spirit, and strengthen you and yours by His Almighty power. Persevere, dear Frederick, in the Lord. Greet and admonish my Basil in the Lord.
So early as 1518 the new teaching was proclaimed in Dantzic, and Johannes Knade, preacher in the Marien Church, married that year. Luther wrote of the “wonderous” things Christ had done in Dantzic” in 1521.
May 5, 1525
Grace and peace through Christ our Savior! Honored dear sirs and friends.
In accordance with your request I have done my best to send you an able preacher. But it was not to be that you were to have Johann Pomeranus, for whom you asked, and whom I would have gladly sent to you. But our congregation here would not part with him, wishing to retain such as he to train others who may do good service in other towns.
So I send M. Michael Hanlein, an excellent and learned man, whose equal I do not know, and hope that you will cherish him, and like him the better the longer you know him. I commend him to your tender care and wisdom, seeing that he leaves us to go into a strange land.
And I hope you will attend to his bodily comforts in a Christian manner, as Christ and St. Paul so often inculcate, “They which minister about holy things live of the things of the temple,” and “They which preach the gospel should live of the gospel.”
I beseech you also, my dear sirs and friends, do and suffer everything in order to preserve peace among yourselves, and to prevent fanatics getting in among you, who, alas, have done much mischief among us in North Germany, as your Excellencies may perhaps have heard.
If there be anything to alter or destroy, such as pictures, or whatever it may be, see that it take place through an order from the Council, and do not let the mob attack them, which has happened elsewhere, and which has led to the magistracy being held in contempt, whom God commands to be feared and honored.
But in particular, see that you are not taught to bear rule according to the law of Moses, and still less according to the gospel, which is a spiritual law, and must be kept entirely apart from a worldly government, and proclaimed through the mouths of the preachers.
And no one must be coerced in spiritual matters, each exercising his own free will as to what he shall believe; for, it is not the sword which must bear rule here, but the spirit of God. I have discussed all these matters with your pastor, Herr Michael, who will instruct you, and whom you must obey. I commend you to God, who will strengthen and prosper you, to His praise and honor.
Letter of consolation on the death of his uncle, Frederick the Wise.
May 15, 1525.
Grace and peace in Christ! I must try to console your Grace when the Almighty has so tried us; for we have not only lost peace in the land, but also our head, of whom we stand greatly in need at present. God is wonderful in His working, sending at once misfortune, and then removing it, so that we may strengthen ourselves in Him, singing with Christ in the Psalter, “I am desolate and afflicted.” But we must remain steadfast. It is impossible the old Adam should not suffer through all this, being too weak to bear the trial, but the inner man finds comfort in God’s words that He is nigh unto those that are of a broken heart. There can be no other consolation than God’s Word, which bids us trust and call upon Him in all our affliction: “Call upon me in the day of trouble, and I will deliver thee,” etc.; and again, “I will be with him in trouble; I will deliver and honor him,” and such like sweet loving words, of which the Psalms are full.
And, indeed, our Prince’s death has nothing mournful in it in itself, for it seems as if God had taken him away, like King Josiah, from the evil in the world, because he ruled in a peaceable, quiet way, deserving his name “Friedrich” (peace).
And one rejoices when such peace-loving souls are not forced to live on amid such confusion, which would grieve us more than to see his last days passed amid war.
Still it is a great affliction, and we hope God will abundantly compensate us for the great loss. Amen.
I have tried to prove my devotion in this letter, although I believe your Grace is too firmly rooted in Christ to need any encouragement from me, and I pray as time passes there may be even less need of it.
I herewith commend myself to your Grace.
The first German Prince who died in the Evangelical faith.
May 15, 1525
Grace and peace in Christ! Serene Prince. If able to write at all I have good cause to do so, seeing the Almighty’ has taken our gracious lord, your Grace’s brother, from us in such trying times, leaving us to mourn his loss, which falls heaviest upon you, so that with the Psalmist you may exclaim, “Innumerable” evils have compassed me about: they are more than the hairs of my head; therefore my heart faileth me.”
But God is faithful, and does not let His wrath rest on those who trust in Him, but inspires them with courage, enabling them again to exclaim with the Psalmist, “The Lord hath chastened me sore: but he hath not given me over unto death”; and once more, “Many are the afflictions of the righteous: but the Lord delivereth him out of them all.” And Christ Himself says: “In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.”
This is the school in which God chastens His people, and teaches them to trust Him, so that their confidence may not always hover on the tongue, but in the heart.
Your Electoral Grace is most surely in this school also, and doubtless God has removed the head in order that He Himself may take His place, and teach you to derive strength and consolation solely from His goodness and power, which is far above all human love and consolation. I have hurriedly written all this to comfort you. May you graciously receive it, and delight yourself more and more in the Psalter and the Holy Scriptures, which are full of all sorts of consolation. I herewith commit you to God.
Your Electoral Grace’s obedient,
Luther’s brother-in-law, a lawyer in Mansfield. The peasant insurrection endangered the Reformation more than anything else had ever done. About the Elector’s death.
May 15, 1525.
To the learned John Ruhel, my good, kind brother-in-law. God’s grace and peace! I thank you, dear sir, for your last news, which I was glad to hear, especially about Munzer. I should like to hear how he was taken prisoner, and how he behaved, for it is well to know how such haughty spirits act.
That the poor creature should be so treated is pitiable. But what can we do? and it is God’s will that fear should be instilled into the people. If this were not done, then Satan would do even more mischief. The one misfortune is preferable to the other. It is the judgment of God. He who takes the sword shall perish by the sword. So it is a consolation that this spirit should be made manifest, to let the peasants see how badly they have acted, and perhaps they may cease plotting and improve. Do not take all this so to heart, for it may be for the good of many souls, who, through fear, may desist.
My gracious lord, the Elector, died between five and six on the day I left you, just as they were desolating Osterhausen. He passed quietly away, retaining his senses to the last, having partaken of the sacrament in both forms, but without extreme unction. His funeral was a most imposing sight, although we performed no masses or vigils over him. Some stones were found in his lungs, and three elsewhere, which was strange So he really died of stone. He did not know much about the insurrection; but wrote to his brother, Prince John, that he must use every means to pacify the people before he resorted to arms.
His was a Christ-like and blessed death.
The signs of his death were a rainbow which Philip and I saw one night last winter over the Lochau, and a child was born here in Wittenberg without a head.
I herewith commit you to God, and greet your vine (Hansreben ) with her fruit (Trauben ). Also comfort Christofel Meinhardt, and beg him to suffer the will of God, which can only promote our highest welfare, although we are not yet aware of it. Now is the time to keep quiet and let God act, and soon we shall see peace.
Luther’s marriage had really taken place on 13th June. He now invites Spalatin to the wedding feast.
June 16, 1525
Grace and peace! Do not forget, dear Spalatin, that my marriage will be on Wednesday, and the great banquet at mid-day. Therefore see that the game does not arrive too late, but let us have it in time, by tomorrow evening, if possible.
For I wish the whole entertainment to be over in one day. I write this to you, for L. Koppe did not gather from my letter that you were not in the same position. Farewell.
It was Koppe who rescued the nine nuns from the cloister near Grimma, among whom was Katherine von Bora.
June 17, 1525.
Grace and peace in Christ! I wish you to read this very depressing letter, honored sir, to see if you know of no one who could help in this matter, for it is too much to expect one in your high position to do so. If you know of none, then return the letter, so that I may seek help elsewhere, for I am quite unhappy about the two children.
Most worthy Father Prior, you know what has happened to me, viz. that the nun that with God’s help you carried off from the nunnery two years ago is nevertheless returning to the cloister, not this time, however, to take the veil, but as the honored wife of Dr. Luther, who, up till now, has lived alone in the old empty monastery of St. Augustine at Wittenberg. So pray come to my home-coming, which is on the Tuesday after St. John’s festival, but without any wedding present.
Invitation to feast and request for game which the Elector sent through Spalatin.
June 21, 1525.
To the excellent Johann Doltzig. My gracious lord and good friend!
Doubtless the outcry has reached your ears that I have actually ventured to enter the married state.
Although my change of condition seems very strange to myself, being as yet scarcely able to believe it, still the fact is attested by so many honored witnesses that I must believe it to be true, and in order to put the seal of certainty upon it, I am giving a collation next Tuesday, and expect my father and mother and other good friends (Link of Altenburg, Amsdorf of Magdeburg, Ruhel from Thuringen, Muller from Mansfeld, Koppe from Torgau, Spalatin, etc. etc.). Therefore I beg of you, in a friendly manner, if it be not burdensome to you, to see that we are supplied with game, and to be present yourself, to help to imprint with joy the seal upon the transaction, and all that appertaineth thereto. I herewith commit you to God. Amen.
This letter was written by request of the fugitive King Christian of Denmark.
September 1, 1525.
Grace and peace in Christ our Lord! Most Serene King. Although I might well fear to write your Majesty, having deeply offended you through my little book hurriedly written at the instigation of people unfriendly to your Royal Highness, still I am impelled to do so by your natural goodness of heart, which I hear daily praised, and also knowing that your Majesty, being aware he is mortal, will not keep an undying enmity, and over and above, I am informed by trustworthy people that the little book against me, so far beneath the dignity of the King of England, issued under your Majesty’s name, was not really written by you, as those crafty sophists dare affirm. They surely do not know the danger of thus dishonoring your royal name, and bringing into notice that monstrosity, hated of both God and man, the Cardinal of Eborack, the destroyer of your Majesty’s kingdom.
And through shame I can scarcely raise my eyes towards you for having been swayed by such wicked people against so mighty a potentate, compared to whom I am a very worm.
Further, contemptible as I am, still I am prompted to write, because your Majesty was well disposed to the gospel to begin with, which news was a very evangelium to my heart, that is, tidings of great joy.
Therefore, I throw myself at your Majesty’s feet with my writings, entreating forgiveness for the sake of Christ’s sufferings, and to be told how I have offended you, even as Christ commanded us to forgive one another. And in the next place, if your Majesty be agreeable, I shall issue another book to the honor of your name in contradiction of the last.
For, although I am a mere nobody compared to your Majesty, still I feel it would be no injury to the gospel, nor to the glory of God, were I to write on gospel subjects to His Royal Grace of England.
God grant that He may perfect in you the good work He has begun, so that you may obey the gospel with all your heart, and shut your ears to those poisonous tongues and soft-spoken hypocrites who decry Luther as a heretic. But rather say, “What ill can Luther teach when he only maintains that we attain to everlasting blessedness through faith in the Son of God, who suffered, died, and rose again for us, as the Gospels and apostles’ writings testify ?” For this is the corner – stone of my doctrine, after which I teach brotherly love and obedience to the powers that be, and crucifixion of the flesh, as Christ taught. So what is wrong in such doctrines? One must wait and listen, and then judge. Why should I be condemned without being refuted? I would also punish the tyranny of the bishops, who twist the articles of our Christian faith, meantime striving after dividends, pomp, sensuality – nay, even kingdoms, principalities, etc., – so that no one can wonder that even the common man sees and condemns it. Let them repent, that they may not be hated and punished.
Your Majesty must see for yourself how many Princes in Germany, as well as town councils, and highly intellectual people, are unwilling, God be praised, to permit the gospel doctrines which I have brought to light to be condemned. Would to God that Christ may class you among this number.
Is it any wonder that the Emperor and some Princes rage against me? ( Psalm 2:2).
Is it not almost a miracle when a king or prince loves the gospel? Oh, how I long to be able to rejoice over such a miracle in your Majesty! Would that God, before whom I write this, would endue my words with power, so that the King of England may, ere long, become a devoted disciple of the Lord Christ and a confessor of the gospel, and also Luther’s most gracious lord.
Amen. If it please your Majesty, I await a favorable answer.
Your Majesty’s obedient,
Luther begs the Elector to espouse the cause of the University.
September 15, 1525
To my most gracious lord, etc. Grace and peace in Christ! Although I with others have entire confidence in your Electoral Grace’s gracious promise regarding our University, yet we cannot but see how its fulfillment is being hindered through many needful things, especially the Diet, therefore I would humbly beg you to send either Doltzig or some one else, or give directions in writing that matters here should be inquired into – for many classes have gone down, while others are unpaid – the teachers having gone away, so that it will soon be impossible to keep those going that remain. For the treasury is empty, hence longer delay will be fatal. I felt I could not keep your Grace in ignorance of all this. I believe the University intends writing your Grace itself. I commit you to God.
Your Grace’s obedient,
September 26, 1525.
Grace and peace! What is all this, dear sirs, that one should openly rob and steal what belongs to the other, thus ruining one another? Have you now become street robbers and thieves? Or do you really imagine that God will bless and cause you to prosper through such knavery? I have gone on with the postils up till Easter, when they were secretly abstracted from the printing-press by the compositor, who maintains himself by the sweat of our brow, and who himself conveyed my writings to your most estimable town, where they were hurriedly printed and sold before the whole was finished, to the great detriment of all concerned. But I would even have put up with all this injury, had they not treated my books as they did – printing them so hurriedly and falsely – that when they reach my hands I scarcely know them to be mine. Some bits are left out, here they are displaced, there falsified, and other parts not corrected. And they have learned the art of writing Wittenberg on the top of some which have never seen Wittenberg. This is downright knavery. So let every one beware of the postils for the six Sabbaths, and let them sink into oblivion, for I do not acknowledge them as mine. Therefore take warning, my dear printers, who thus steal and rob. Other towns on the Rhine – Strassburg, etc., do not do this; and even if they did, it would not harm us so; for their publications do not reach us in the same way as yours do, being so much nearer. For you know what St. Paul says to the Thessalonians: “That no man go beyond and defraud his brother in any matter, because that the Lord is the avenger of all such.” One day you will experience this. Should not a Christian out of brotherly love wait for a month or two before he copies his work? We have put up with this till it has become unbearable, and has prevented us going on with the printing of the prophets, as we do not wish to see them spoiled, so greed and envy are delaying the spread of the Divine Word, and the fault lies at your door. Indulge your greed as much as you will, till we Germans are called brutes, but pray do not do so in the name of God. The judgment will most surely descend. May better times soon come. Amen.
Luther asks Beier’s intercession for a daughter.
October 8, 1525.
Grace and peace in Christ ! Among the other maidens who lately escaped from the cloister, and who are staying with me, is a certain Gertrude von Mylen, whose mother or grandmother lives beside you in Guben, to whom she writes by this messenger. Now it is your duty to admonish her to receive her daughter or grand-daughter, or if she refuse to do so, I shall see to her trousseau, which might perhaps afterwards offend her. Farewell, and pray for me.
Four young noblemen, who blamed Luther for their sister’s escape from their convent, were lying in wait to murder him.
November 11, 1525
Dear Spalatin – Gladly would I be present at your wedding to rejoice with you, but a hindrance has come in the way, which I cannot overcome, viz. the tears of my wife, who believes you would be deeply grieved were my life imperilled. She has a presentiment that my life is in danger, having dreamed last night that murderers were looking out for me on the way. I think this not unlikely, since I hear that the rescue of the Freiberg nuns has roused the wrath of the nobles in Herzog George’s lands.
Although well aware that, wherever I may be, I am under the Almighty’s protection, without whom not a hair of my head can be injured, still I am full of pity for my dear Kathie, who would be half-dead with anxiety before I returned. So do not grieve that I cannot be with you on the occasion of your wedding. May God’s grace and blessing rest on you.
Luther, at the Elector’s request, gives his opinion as to how the Church livings should be visited and maintained.
November 30, 1525.
God’s grace and peace in Christ! Most Serene Highborn Prince. Your Electoral Grace has replied to my letter as to a general visitation of the Church livings. Now, I never meant that all the funds for their support should come out of your Grace’s treasury; but being asked for my opinion, I humbly venture to suggest that you should order all the churches in your dominions to be visited; and where the people desire Evangelical preachers, and the funds are unable to maintain them, let them receive so much yearly, either from the town council or elsewhere.
For when the people desire pastors, it is your Grace’s duty to see they reward them; for “the workman is worthy of his hire,” as the Gospels say.
This visitation might be arranged by your Grace dividing your domains into five parts, and sending two visitors either from the nobility or the officials to each part, to examine those livings, and find out what is necessary for the pastors; and then arrange that so much of the yearly taxation be set aside to augment their incomes. But if this were too much trouble and expense to your Grace, then you could summon the citizens of certain towns and discuss the matter. Only do what seems best in your eyes.
Also, one must consider the old pastors, and where these are pious men, and not disinclined to the gospel, they may be allowed to read the Gospels, along with the postils, themselves to the people (when they are not qualified to preach), thus ministering instruction to their flocks, so that they may be obliged to maintain them; for it would be wrong to eject those who have been long in office, who are friendly to the gospel, without compensation. I have taken the liberty of pointing out those things at you Electoral Grace’s request. I commit you to God. Amen.
Your Electoral Grace’s humble servant,
At the Diet of Speyer the Evangelical Princes ranged themselves for the first time as adherents of the new doctrines, and it was agreed that “in religious matters each State shall live, govern, and behave itself as it shall answer to God and His Imperial Majesty.” Spalatin and Agricola preached regularly before the Elector in his own house at Speyer.
Concerning Gertrude von Mylen.
January 9, 1526.
Grace and peace in Christ! I am delighted and approve highly of your intention to marry Gertrude von Mylen, if God gives her to you. You have my best wishes for your success. I prefer her in many ways to her companions. Therefore I comply with your request to write her mother.
May the Lord give His blessing. Amen.
About Melanchthon’s salary.
February 9, 1526.
Grace and peace in Christ! Serene High-born Prince, Most Gracious Lord.
In the re-organization of the University your Grace ordered that Melanchthon should have 200 gulden a year as salary. Now the man (Mensch ) objects to accept so much when he cannot undertake with a clear conscience to expound the Scriptures daily. It is useless my speaking to him, for he declares your Grace expects him to lecture regularly. Therefore I humbly beg you to let him know that you will be satisfied if he help with the theological lectures and disputations as before, even should it be only once a week. For even should your Grace present him with this salary for a year or two, he is well worthy of it. For he expounded the Scriptures with great success for about two years without any salary, and perhaps to his injury.
I am most anxious to have the Bible spread abroad here, for it is being eagerly inquired after from all directions. I herewith commend you to God.
Teacher in Eisleben, died as Court preacher in Berlin 1556. Oecolampadius and Zwingli refuted. Queen of Denmark’s death.
February 18, 1526.
Grace and peace! Although I have really nothing to write about, still I wish to greet you and your wife, dear Agricola; for you must now know what you asked about in your letter, viz. fresh heresies. May God convert them!
For the most learned men in Swabia have written against OEcolampadius and Zwingli, and the book has been printed here. I fear they will not be pleased now with what they were so proud of before. The one heresy has given rise to five different sects, all of whom believe the same thing; but for different reasons, they will soon disappear.
Queen Elizabeth – the consort of the King of Denmark – has passed away, as King Christian himself has written. But she departed joyful in the faith, after receiving the Holy Communion in a truly Christian fashion, inspite of the efforts to make her return to the Papal faith. But Christ evidently wished to have a queen in heaven for once.
Pray remember the royal children’s tutor (Hofmeister) in your prayers, and greet your Elsie and all belonging to you. My Kathie also respectfully greets you all, and always holds you in esteem.
Wishing you the best of health.
In June of this year an Evangelical alliance was signed in Torgau, the Elector John and his heir being present.
March or April 1526.
Grace and peace! As Oswald your vice-burgher-master is always travelling back and forward to you, dear Frederick, I wished to send you my love.
For I am full of joy when I hear of your well-being, and that the Word of God is taking effect among you. Thank God we are well, but I commend myself to your prayers that Christ may not suffer us to be overcome of temptation.
You will perceive how Satan is at present raging among the Catholic priests, and we hear the godless bishops are conspiring together, and Philip writes that in Jena they are threatening me with war. Therefore, exhort the people to be steadfast in the faith, and pray earnestly to God to overcome the Wicked One, so that peace may be maintained.
From what I hear I see plainly that it is necessary to be constantly in prayer, for Satan is up to some mischief. Therefore, pray call the people’s attention to this very weighty matter to convince them that they are in the greatest danger; being suspended between unsheathed swords and the fury of Satan.
May you be sustained through the grace and power of God. Amen.
May 11, 1526.
To my brother in the Lord, John Grickel, in Eisleben. Grace and peace! I send you this crystal goblet mounted with tin before it gets another owner, for my Kathie has a great fancy for it. I am pleased with your estimate of Erasmus, and still more with that of the head of your educational establishment. Thus, even in those trying times one hears something cheering.
Your Wenall, the schoolmaster, will soon start from Halle to you. I have written him enclosing your letter. Invite him to your house, for you know he merits this.
Tell your Elizabeth, if she does not already know it, that Dr. Drache is now married, and that Syrus has come here with similar intentions. May you keep well, and pray for me.
Petition for retired pastor.
May 14, 1526.
Grace and peace! Serene High-born Prince, Most Gracious Lord. The bearer of this letter, Herr Bigand, gave up the living of Waltershausen to the Council, as the result of an arrangement with your Grace that he should receive thirty florins yearly from the church funds. Now, it seems he does not get this money; probably because the Council cannot get it out of the living. But your Grace will learn the true reason. Meantime, the poor old man must run to and fro for his maintenance. So, as he is my schoolmaster, it is my duty to render him all honor, therefore I humbly plead that you will not permit him to lie out of the money, but will graciously help him to get it, to prevent him going abegging in his old age. I herewith commit you to God. Amen.
Your Grace’s obedient servant,
About a teacher. Luther busy with Habbakuk.
June 2, 1526.
Grace and peace in the Lord! The maiden, Hanna, who was here has returned to her people, so the school is vacant. Perhaps she did not feel equal to the duties, so left. But at present we know of no one so well educated and fit for the post.
Philip would have brought the Prophet Habbakuk with him, but it will not be ready for eight days. There is nothing new at present except that our town is being fortified, although we know of no enemy. My wife, Jonas, and the rector (Cruciger) greet you, as well as the others. My Kathie is devoted to your memory on account of the handsome glass you sent her.
Farewell, dearest Nicolas.
Luther announces the birth of his son.
June 8, 1526.
Grace and peace! I herewith send you the Psalter, dear Herr Doctor and Brother-in-law, and shall proceed with the Psalms with all my might.
Will you say to M. Eisleben (Agricola) from me that my dear Kathie presented me with a Hans Luther yesterday at two o’clock, and then he will not marvel that I send this message, for at this time of day he will know what it is to have sons. Greet your dear wife from me, and Eisleben’s Elsie. I herewith commit you to God. Amen. I must stop, for the sick Kathie is calling for me.
The Diet of Speyer closed 27th August, where the foundations of the German Evangelical Church were laid.
September 20, 1526.
Grace and peace! I write you, my excellent Johannes, merely to say I have nothing special to write about, as Philip, a living epistle, is with you. I was glad he went to let the people see of how much importance such things are, and that we are looking after these in earnest. God grant that your olive branches may thrive. Greet Elsie and your superiors, as well as inferiors, also your Anna and Philip.
Do let us have some more of those berries, for my Kathie likes them greatly, also Frau Eber. Give my respects to Count Albrecht if you have the opportunity. Greet Dr. Johann Ruhel and his wife, Conrad the scribe, and Johann Durer.
I now thank the last for the fur coat! I have just received it. It is far too expensive. I shall write him.
Farewell to all in the Lord. Amen.
About his literary work.
October 14, 1526.
Grace and peace! I have nothing new, dear Nicolas, to send you, for the little book about war is not through the press yet. I intend beginning Zechariah after Habbakuk and Jonah are finished.
Ecclesiastes gives us an immense deal of trouble, just as if he did not wish to be read, and yet was compelled to submit. It has been much too long in obscurity. You are right in saying the world is going to ruin.
But I hope the day of the coming of the Great God is approaching, for we hear only of fires, murders, and fury over all. May all go well with you, and pray for me.
Sister of Charles V. Her husband fell fighting against the Turks in August. Luther dedicated Psalms 37,62, 94, and 109 to her.
November 1, 1526.
To Her Serene Highness Frau Maria, born Queen of Spain, Queen of Hungary and Bohemia. My most gracious lady! Grace and comfort from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ! Most gracious queen. I determined, at the instigation of some pious people, to dedicate those four Psalms to your Majesty as an exhortation, joyfully, to maintain and further God’s Holy Word in Hungary; for I received the good news that your Royal Highness was inclined towards the gospel, but that godless bishops, who have all the power in Hungary, tried to hinder it spreading and turn you away from it. Also, that they have shed innocent blood, and set themselves in array against the truth of God.
But seeing, alas, that the matter has taken another turn through the providence of God, and the Turk has caused so much misery by slaying that noble young monarch King Ludwig, your Majesty’s beloved husband, I now regard things otherwise. Had the bishops allowed the gospel to spread, all the world would have declared that these evils came upon Hungary because of the Lutheran heresy, and what a scandal that would have been! We shall see whom they will now blame, for God has mercifully prevented such an accusation being made. St. Paul writes that the Holy Scriptures were written for our learning, that we, through patience and comfort of the Spirit, might have hope, so I have published these Psalms to comfort your Royal Highness (with such comfort as God pleases to give) in this great and sudden affliction with which the Almighty God has seen fit to visit you, not in anger, as we have every right to hope, but as a chastisement so that your Royal Highness may learn to trust only in the true Father which is in heaven, and to be comforted by the one Bridegroom, Jesus Christ, who is also our Brother, nay, our very flesh and blood, and to find your delights with your true companions the dear angels whoever surround and care for us.
For although it was a bitter trial for your Royal Highness to be left so early a widow, and robbed of your dear husband, still there is much consolation to be found in the Scriptures, particularly in the Psalms; and the Father and the Son will show you abundantly where everlasting life lies hidden.
And truly, to whomsoever it is given to see and feel the Father’s love towards us in the Scriptures can easily endure all the misery which may be in the world, while whoever does not really feel this can never be truly joyful, although he may be revelling in all its pleasures and delights.
No such affliction can overtake any one so great as what God endured in seeing His beloved Son rewarded for all the miracles and good deeds He did to sinful man by being maligned, scorned, and at last subjected to the most shameful death on the cross.
Each thinks his own cross the heaviest, and takes it more to heart than the cross of Christ, even although He had endured ten crosses. This may be because we are not so patient as God is, therefore a much smaller cross is infinitely more painful to us than Christ’s cross.
But the Father of all mercies and the God of all consolation will comfort your Royal Highness in His Son Jesus Christ, and through the Holy Ghost, so that you may soon forget your present misery or be able to bear it bravely. Amen. At Wittenberg at the first winter moon.
Your Majesty’s obedient servant,
The church visitation.
November 22, 1526.
Grace and peace! Most Serene High-born Prince. For long I have asked nothing of your Grace, so the requests have accumulated, therefore your Grace must have patience with those I proffer. The complaints of the clergy everywhere have reached a climax. The farmer will give nothing, and there is so much ingratitude among the people for the Word of God that there is no doubt He will send a plague among us. And if I could reconcile it with my conscience, I would prevent them getting a pastor at all, and let them live like swine, as they are doing.
There is neither fear of God nor discipline because of the Papal ban, and every one does as he likes.
But as we are commanded, especially those in authority, to look after the poor children, and train them in the nurture and admonition of the Lord, it is necessary to have teachers and preachers.
If old people do not wish these they can always go to the devil. But when the youth are neglected it is the fault of the authorities, and the land will be filled with lawless people, who not only disobey God’s commands, but bring us all into dire distress.
But now that the Papal rule is at an end in your Serene Highness’s land, and all the cloisters have reverted to you as the head, then these bring obligations with them – the setting of them in order – duties which devolve on you, and which no one else should take up.
Having discussed all this with your Grace’s Chancellor and Herr Nicolas, we think it will be necessary that you, being appointed of God for such a purpose, arrange for four persons to visit all the country – two who understand business matters, land and interest (Zinzen ), and two who understand teaching and preaching – so that they, by your Serene Highness’s command, may establish and see to the maintenance of schools and Church livings. Where any town or village is able, then your Grace can compel them to maintain churches, manses, and schools.
If they are not willing to do so for the sake of their future well-being, then your Electoral Highness, as guardian of the youth and all who require it, is quite justified in compelling them to do it, even as the law obliges people to make bridges, roads, etc., for the public benefit.
Now, the most necessary of all is to educate those who come after us and are to bear rule.
Should this press too heavily on the people, then there are the cloister possessions, which were founded mainly for this purpose, and still can be appropriated for the common weal. For, your Electoral Highness can well imagine the outcry which would through time arise were the schools and benefices to be permitted to run waste while the nobility were appropriating the riches of the cloisters, which, it is said, some are already doing.
So, as your Electoral Grace is deriving no advantage from such goods, and as they were instituted to maintain the public service of God, they should, first of all, be applied to this purpose.
Then with what remains your Grace could supply the needs of the land and the poor.
And another point. Dr. Carlstadt has begged me to write to your Highness to ask if he might be allowed to live in Kemberg; for, he cannot exist any longer in the villages, on account of the wickedness of the peasants, as you can read in his pamphlets, and also learn from Hans von Grafendorf, and yet he shrinks from writing to you himself.
Although almost one of ourselves, he has not complained openly as yet. I beg, if it seem good to your Electoral Highness, to ask the Provost of Kemberg to look after him. Although I know your Grace has already done enough to create much talk on the subject, yet I would earnestly entreat you to permit this also. God will requite it all the more richly. He will see to his soul and body, and we should do good to His people. The grace of God be with us. Amen.
Cordatus now entered into the circle of Luther’s most intimate friends.
November 28, 1526.
Grace and peace! You write me truly wondrous things of your Liegnitz friends – of the power of the spirit and of the flesh in that place, where the one part of the people seem to love intellectual pursuits, while the others live after the flesh.
The greatest evil here is lukewarmness, indifference, against which we must constantly strive. Who knows if God has not turned it upside down with you, so that when the gospel has been warmly received at first it cools down through time, while here, on the contrary, and at variance with all precedent, it is embraced coldly to begin with, and then slowly gathers strength, till at last it bursts forth in flame.
God grant this people may resemble that son who at the beginning refused to go into the vineyard, and afterwards repented and went. He will be preferred to him who at first promised to go and afterwards did not.
So go on your way unweariedly, and the Lord will be with you, and do not be afraid of those highly enlightened spirits (in their own eyes). Nothing is more foolish in God’s sight than such self – deception. May the Lord Christ ever be with you. Write as often as you can. Your letters will always be welcome, partly because they testify to the uprightness of your heart, which is so much needed by your people as well as ours, and partly because they contain so much information calculated to satisfy our curiosity. I herewith commit you to God.
This was the year of the first church visitation in Electoral Saxony. Plague in Wittenberg. Sack of Rome
January 1, 1527
Grace and peace! Kathie, my wife and commander, ordered me to thank you for the cloth you sent, but such a costly gift is not seemly for poor people like us. It is just as it should be, that Elizabeth should enter your Elizabeth’s service. God grant that she may be truly obedient. We are all well, and amusing ourselves by beautifying Wittenberg, so that it may have a uniform appearance, while we are becoming lamentably indifferent to the Word of God. I am at present preparing to attack the fanatics abroad.
Pray to God for me that He may crush Satan. Otherwise there is nothing new here. May you and yours prosper. All here greet you.
The Elector accedes to church visitation.
January 10, 1527.
Grace and peace in Christ, dear Nicolas! I have no news, except that the Elector wishes the church visitation begun at once. And after the churches are put on a good footing we can settle the question of excommunication (Bann ). It would be impossible to do that now, when all is in confusion.
Zechariah is in the press, and the book is daily growing under my hand.
I am also attacking the Sacramentarians.
Pray Christ to guide my pen so as to refute Satan successfully. I am greatly rejoiced over your testimony that you are untainted by such rubbish. But I never doubted you. I am grieved that that estimable man OEcolampadius has fallen into the mire through such childish nonsensical ideas. Satan urges him on. May God save him! Urbanus Rhegius also inclines the same way, or has fallen in. May God preserve His own!
You will have heard that the Emperor has been successful in Italy. The Pope is beset on all hands, so that he may be demolished, for his hour has come, although persecution is rife, and many are being burned. My Kathie greets you respectfully.
February 1, 1527.
Grace and peace! You ask me, my worthy Eberhard, to send you eight gulden; but where am I to get them? You know the state of my finances, and this year alone I have contracted 100 gulden of debt through my wretched management. I have pledged in one quarter three goblets for gulden. The Lord who thus punishes my folly will again draw me out of the net. In addition, Lukas (Cranach) and Christian will take no more such pledges from me, for they know they will either receive nothing or I be ruined. At length I pressed a fourth goblet upon them for 12 gulden, which they lent me, upon my word of mouth, to give to the fat Hermann. How could I let myself be so drained, and plunge my small belongings in such debt?
Now, it would not be giving my own, but other people’s money as alms.
So no one can say I am mean or greedy seeing I have been so lavish to others.
Now I shall arrange thus. I shall talk it over with them, and perhaps satisfy them, and if I can lay hands on more money I would not hesitate to advance it. And, lastly, I would like to visit you myself, and talk over matters with you, and see your glebe. Why not let your empty house? It would have brought in a bit of money. Farewell.
The visitation of the churches and schools began in February. Melanchthon Schurf, and two nobles were sent to the Wittenberg district.
May 2, 1527.
To the honorable and virtuous maiden, Elsie von Kanitz. My dearest friend in Christ!
Grace and peace in Christ! I have written your dear aunt, Hanna von Plausig, to let you come to me for a time, as I could employ you in teaching young girls, and thus set an example which others might follow.
You would live in my house and eat at my table, so you would be safe and free from all care; therefore pray come.
I hear the Evil One is tormenting you with evil thoughts. Oh, dear young lady, do not let that trouble you, for those who suffer from the devil here will not be troubled with him above; so this is a good sign. Christ also had to endure the same, and many holy prophets and apostles, as the Psalms plainly show. Therefore take comfort, and gladly suffer the Father’s rod. He will deliver you in His own time. When you come I shall discuss the subject fully with you.
I commit you to God.
Who was imprisoned and finally burned for his religion.
May 20, 1527.
To the esteemed dear brother in Christ, the faithful servant and prisoner of Christ, Leonhardt Kaiser.
Grace and peace! That your old man should be a prisoner, dear Herr Leonhardt, is the will of Christ your Savior, who gave Himself up for you and your sins into the hands of the godless, so that He might redeem you with His blood, and make you His brother and co-heir of eternal life.
We are in deep sorrow on your account, and pray earnestly that you may be set free, not so much for your sake as for the benefit of many and the honor of God, if it be His will.
But if it be the will of Heaven that you should not be free, still you are free in spirit. Only see that you are strong, and constantly overcome the weakness of the flesh, patiently bearing with it in the strength of Christ, who is with you in your cell, and will stand by you in all your affliction, as He has promised: “I will be with him in trouble.”
Hence you must confidently call upon Him in prayer, sustaining yourself with Psalms of consolation amid Satan’s fury, so that you may be strengthened of the Lord, and not succumb too readily to the teeth of Behemoth ( Job 40:15). For you know he cannot injure you if you cry to Christ, whose presence and power are over all.
As St. Paul says, “if God be for us, who can be against us?” and He will help all who are tempted. Therefore, my beloved brother, be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might, so that you may recognize, endure, love, and praise out of a full heart the fatherly will of God, whether free or not.
To enable you to do this, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ will work in you, according to the riches of His glory, who is the Father of all mercies and the God of all consolation. Amen. I herewith commit you to God; also pray for us.
In July, Melanchthon, Myconius, and Menius of Erfurt, with three lawyers, began church visitation in Thuringia.
July 13, 1527
To the esteemed Nicolas Hausmann of Zwickau.
Grace and peace! The church visitation has begun in earnest. Eight days ago Herr Hieronymus and Magister Philip set off. May the Lord guide them. Amen.
Rome has been devastated in the most merciless manner. Christ has so overruled it that the Emperor, who, because of the Pope, persecuted Luther, should now be obliged to overthrow the Pope on Luther’s account. So all things have been made subservient to the welfare of God’s people against the adversary. I have no other news.
My Kathie and my Hans greet you. Farewell in the Lord. I have had a terrible attack of giddiness, so that I can neither read nor write.
In this visitation the Elector legally established the office of superintendent, to keep an eye on the efficiency of the clergy.
August 15, 1527.
I am glad to hear you are again well, and thank God for this. Pray that I may be kept in health, if it be the will of God our Savior.
The Prince sent me the report of the visitation to see if it was worth printing. It is all right, if they only stick to what is arranged. The plague is certainly here, but it is not bad. However, the people are so terrified that they are running away in every direction.
I have never seen Satan so successful. The more he can frighten them the happier he is; and that he has scattered our University is a great joy to him.
But only eighteen have died. In the fishers’ quarter no one has died of it, but all are buried there. Today we have buried – ‘s wife, who died yesterday, almost in my arms. This is the first death in the middle of the town. The other eighteen are round about the Ester Gate. Among them was Barbara, your Eberhardt’s daughter, who was marriageable, and John Kronenberg’s daughter. Hans Luft has recovered, and many others get better if they take medicine. But many are so excited they will do nothing, and die defiantly. Justus Jonas has lost his son Johannes. He, with his household, has gone to his fatherland, but I remain here, as the people are in desperation. So Pommer and I are here alone with the chaplain, but Christ is with us, who will overcome the old murderous serpent, who brought sin into the world, even although he may bruise our heel. Pray for us, and may God protect you.
August 19, 1527.
The visitation will not be allowed to drop, dear Nicolas, so let us be of good cheer. We hope the plague may soon be over. It plagues us in manifold ways, especially me, weakening my faith and loading me with care. The pest has been three times in the house. The little son has been eight days ill, and is only kept alive by liquids; but now he is recovering.
For many months I have suffered from faithlessness. Pray that our faith may not fail. My Kathie sends money for linen. I do not wish to trouble you. Pommer, who comforts me in my solitude, as the plague took the chaplain’s wife away, greets you warmly. Kathie also commends herself to your prayers.
Farewell, beloved brother.
Luther rejoices over his friend’s recovery.
September 2, 1527.
Accept my greeting, for I have really nothing to write. But I would thank my Lord Jesus, my excellent Hausmann, that He has restored you to us.
Praised be His name to all eternity for doing this! Amen.
I hope that the visitors will, after a short rest, go on with their work.
Meantime comfort yourself in patience. At the same time pray for us, so that the Lord may remove the epidemic and gather again the scattered ones, that His Word may be spread abroad more and more. God grant this.
I commit you to Him.
Luther expresses joy over his friends’ intercession for him, on account of the absence of his helpers in Jena.
September 2, 1527.
To my honored brother in Christ, Gerhardt Xantis. Grace and peace! The other day I wrote to Montanus, and not to you. Now I write to you, and not to Montanus, for I perceive you are one heart and soul in the Lord.
Therefore show him this letter, and thank him on my behalf for being so constantly remembered in prayer. All of us, and especially myself, stand much in need of such intercession, and I rejoice that such pious men feel so deeply interested in me.
The Commentary upon Zechariah, which was half finished, has been delayed because of my health. The Prophets, which we had begun to translate into German, have again been obliged to hang their harps, through the dispersion of our colleagues by the plague.
Let our Jacob know this, that he may pray more earnestly for us, that Christ, our Physician, may allay the fear, not so much of the frequent deaths, as of a most infectious disease, so that our people may again return and our work be resumed. It is Satan himself who has spread these evil reports and fears to impede the gospel, but Christ will, in answer to your prayers, tread him under our feet. God grant this.
Our wives are full of joy, and thank you for your present, and good heart.
Melanchthon unites in thanking you with me.
The High School has been removed to Jena. Pommer and his wife greet you warmly, and also mine.
And I greet you warmly, and promise, with God’s help, to do what you prescribe. And yet one more greeting from my son.
I herewith commit you to God.
Halle long shut to the Reformation, because of Herzog George, although in 1527 their Evangelical preacher, George Winkler, was murdered by order of the Archbishop of Mayence.
To the dear friends of Christ in Halle. Grace and peace in Christ our Savior! Amen.
Dear sirs and friends – I have long intended writing you a letter of admonition and consolation under the trials with which Satan has visited you, through the murder of that good man, Magister George, thus robbing you of a faithful pastor, who declared to you the Word of life. But one thing after another has prevented me, especially my weak health, and although not yet well I can delay no longer.
But although unable to derive any comfort from such an untoward event, still it would be wrong to allow such a perfidious murder to be passed over in silence, and let such blood rot in the earth instead of bearing witness to God’s Holy Word.
Therefore I shall help it to cry to Heaven, in order that so much as in us lies, such a murder may never be forgotten till God the merciful Father and righteous Judge hears the cry, as He heard that of righteous Abel’s blood, and executes justice upon the murderer.
And God grant that Magister George’s blood may be a divine seed, which although sown in the earth by the hands of Satan and his members, may bring forth seed an hundredfold, so that instead of the murdered George a hundred other faithful preachers may arise, who will injure Satan a thousand times more than the one man has done; and because he would neither suffer nor listen to the one he will be obliged to suffer and listen to many others, even as happened to the Pope through Huss’s blood, whom he would not permit to exist quietly in a corner, but must now hear its cries over the whole world, till it has reached Rome itself, and there seems no prospect of its being silenced. Amen.
About Leonhardt Kaiser’s death.
October 22, 1527.
Grace and peace! I have received the history of Leonhardt Kaiser, but meantime his cousin has sent me all his writings in his own hand. I shall have them printed at once.
Pray earnestly that Christ may not forsake me, for I am driven almost mad by the assaults of Satan’s angels.
Miserable creature that I am! How unlike Leonhardt! I preach the gospel with many words, but he is a powerful doer of the Word. Oh that I were counted worthy to be endued, not with the double but with the half of his spirit, so that I might be able to overcome Satan and quit this life. God be praised that amid so much evil He has granted us poor miserable creatures a glorious glimpse of His loving-kindness as a token that He has not forsaken us.
Pray for me, my brother Michael, and may Christ grant that we too may be followers of Leonhardt. He is not called a king, but a kaiser, for he has overcome him whose power is so great that no one on earth can be compared to him.
In addition, he is not only a priest, but a true bishop, nay pope, who has offered up his body as a sacrifice well pleasing to the Holy God. Also, he is rightly named Leonhardt, that is, lion-heart, for he has proved himself to be a strong and fearless lion. All that this name signified was foreseen when he received it. He is the first of his race who has so consecrated the name.
Give your dear wife my thanks, and my little prattling Hans must send his respects to you. I and my Kathie hope that she may live happily with her child in Christ.
Pommer greets you warmly.
Farewell in Christ.
A letter full of complaints.
November 1, 1527.
Grace and peace! Dear Amsdorf. – It seems to be God’s will that I who up till now was wont to comfort you all, now need it greatly myself.
Meantime my sole petition is that you will help me to pray that Christ may perfect His gracious will in me; so that I may be well pleasing in His sight, and never be ungrateful to Him, after having up till now zealously preached His gospel and honored His name, although often having grieved Him with my sins. Satan begs that a Job may be delivered into his hands, but Christ bids him spare his life. And to me He says, “I am thy salvation,” which makes me sure that He will not forever be wroth over my sins. I should like to answer the Sacramentarians, but if I do not get stronger I cannot.
My house has been turned into a hospital. Augustine’s Hanna had the plague inwardly, but is now better. Margaret Mochim alarmed us with a sore and other bad symptoms. I am also very anxious about my Kathie at present. My Hans has been three days ill, and eats nothing. Some say it is the teeth, and both seem in danger.
The wife of George, the chaplain, is also ill of the plague, and her condition is perilous. May Jesus be gracious to her. So there are rightings without and fears within.
Truly, the Lord is trying us sorely. Our one consolation is, and with this we can defy Satan, that we have God’s Word, through which believing souls can be saved, although He consumes the bodies. We send greeting to the brethren and yourself, and beg you to pray for us that we may patiently endure God’s chastening hand, and withstand Satan’s power and cunning, both in life and death. Wittenberg, All Saints’ Day. In tenth year of the overthrow of the Indulgence, to whose memory we are drinking a toast, and to both our healths.
A sad letter. Jonas in Nordhausen during the plague.
November 10, 1527.
Grace and peace in God our Savior! Thanks, dear Jonas, that you pray for us, and sometimes write.
I hope you got yesterday’s letter. I have not read Erasmus’s writings nor those of the Sacramentarians, except something by Zwingli. They only do right in trampling a miserable creature like me under foot, thereby following Judas’s example, and making me utter my complaints to my Lord Jesus of being persecuted on all sides, and having to bear God’s indignation for having sinned against Him. The Pope, Emperor, Bishops, and the whole world attack me; and as if this were not enough, my very brethren plague me, nay, even my sins, death, and the devil with his angels, rage without measure.
So then what would become of me were Christ to forsake me because of whom all these are my enemies? But He will not desert me, poor miserable sinner, for I esteem myself the least of all men.
Would that Erasmus and the Sacramentarians experienced for one quarter of an hour the sorrows of my heart, then I would declare they were truly converted. But now my enemies are mighty, and heap anguish on him whom the Lord chastens.
But enough of this, so that I may not seem impatient under God’s rod, who chastens and heals, kills and makes alive again.
Let His holy and perfect will be praised now and forever! Were we of the world it would love its own. I am also very anxious about my wife. The Lord has done great things for me, so I must suffer great things. May Christ be my rock and my strength. Amen.
My Hans can send no greeting in his sickness, but begs for your prayers. For twelve days he has lived only on fluids. He now begins to eat a little. The child would gladly play as he used to do, but is not able.
Margaret Mochim’s abscess was opened yesterday, and she is now a little better. I do not wish Rome to be burned; that would be a marvellous sign.
Would to God that we could meet again in our homes, and work at Ecclesiastes, so that it may be issued before we die. I commend myself to your prayers. We Wittenberg people are hated of all, and they are terrified on account of the pest. As the Psalm says, “We are a byword among the heathen, a shaking of the head among the people,” but we hope a joy and crown of the angels and saints.
Luther thanks him for comfort received.
November 17, 1527.
Grace and peace in Christ! May our Lord Christ one day, dear Nicolas, comfort you with the comfort you have given me. But I, poor sinner, thank my Lord that up till now He has not permitted Satan to do as he pleased with me, although he has tried with all his might and cunning to do so.
Pray that Christ may overcome him and his onslaught upon me. I do not believe that it is one devil that is attacking me, but that the very prince of devils has risen against me, so great is his power of assailing me with Scripture, so that my own knowledge of the Bible does not suffice for my protection if I were not strengthened by words of Scripture out of the mouths of my friends.
This is why I ask so earnestly for your prayers; and if ever you are in the same position, the sport of the devil, you will understand my request. May Christ be with you. Amen.
Luther longs for his friend’s return.
November 29, 1527.
Grace and peace! That you are so earnest in your prayers for me, dear Jonas, is a very great boon to me, poor tortured creature. I also pray much for you that Christ may take pity on you, for I hear you suffer from stone.
I would counsel you to return to us, for Christ be praised, the plague has abated, and our townspeople are beginning to marry and live in security.
Your quarters since – ‘s death are now quite purified up to the Pfarr church and the market. May the Lord guide you to what is well pleasing to Him and good for yourself. Amen.
Greet your Kathie and Justelchen. Augustine’s wife is better. If only Margaretta Mochim would recover, but now we have hope. She has been some weeks ill, and can scarcely hear or speak.
P.S. – Your house, which is now clean, I have lent to the other chaplain’s wife and family, for she was so distressed over the death of her friend, the chaplain’s wife, that it was the only way to comfort her, but the two husbands sleep here in the manse. I hope you will excuse us making so free with your belongings, but I promised that if the plague attack any of them they shall at once be brought back here. Meanwhile may Christ give you a house in Nordhausen, as we in our dire need had to take yours.
Our Brunoni’s little son will not live over the day, for death has marked the orphan for his own.
Farewell in Christ.
Walther was three weeks in Luther’s house helping to arrange the Church music, the Reformer himself composing the melodies for the German hymns, to Walther’s amazement. Luther said Virgil had taught him this.
December 21, 1527
Grace and peace! From this letter you will see, my Walther, that I answered your last, as I wished to offer you help and counsel. The messenger should have fetched this letter early in the morning, as you write, but how can I know where they spend the night, or run after them?
It is their custom, when they have given the letters to my servants, to disappear, as if carried away by the wind, and they do not reappear.
Therefore I write once more, as you request. I herewith commit you to God. Amen.
Luther expects the return of the University from Jena.
December 29, 1527.
Grace and peace! I marvel much, my Jonas, that you have not yet returned, seeing the plague is gone.
You might at least have paid us one visit in our affliction – of course, at our expense.
The people who had fled are now returning in shoals – indeed, the whole of the citizens.
Tomorrow the Town Council will also be here, and we expect the University shortly, as Magister Philip writes. God has manifested His love towards us in a marvellous manner, letting us perceive that our earnest prayers are acceptable in His sight, although we ourselves are sinners.
Margaretta Mochim is restored from the jaws of death, for we had given up hope, as she could neither hear nor understand. Otherwise we are all well.
My Kathie, with the little baby Elizabeth, is well, and sends you greetings, but is longing to see you all here again in good health.
I am well in body, also in mind, so long as my Lord Christ upholds me, and the slender thread by which He keeps hold of me, and I of Him, is not snapt asunder.
But Satan has tried to drag me down with powerful cart ropes and ships’ cords into the abyss, but the weak Christ has overcome as yet, through your prayers, and struggles bravely for the victory!
Go on and cause the weak Christ within me to become strong through your prayers, that He in His weakness may defy the might and insolence of the devil. Revenge me on him, and turn his pride into shame, which I have exposed through the discovery of his arts and cunning.
We are all one in Christ. May you prosper much in Him! Greet all your people, and return speedily.
The second visitation of the churches began in October – Spalatin, Melanchthon, Luther, Jonas, Myconius, taking part. The following year the Elector ordered Luther to remain at home, as Wittenberg lost one hundred students through his and Melanchthon’s absence.
January 1, 1528.
Grace and peace! I received your last letter of consolation with much joy, my Gerhardt. Many thanks. May Christ comfort you for this. No doubt this temptation, which has afflicted me from my youth up, is very great, but I could not have believed that it should so have gained the upper hand.
Nevertheless, up till now Christ has always conquered. I commend myself to your prayers and those of the brethren. I have helped others, but cannot help myself.
Praise to my Christ, who, amid poverty, murmuring against God,: and even in death, will gather us together into His kingdom.
Meantime we know, that firmly as we may trust His Word and work, these will not justify us. We are ever faithless, although we may boast of having led a Christian life in this world, in spite of its accompanying trials. But one thing is certain, Christ is our life and righteousness, and it is hidden in God. (How difficult, how alien to the flesh, is it to comprehend this.) I am glad I now understand St. Peter’s allusions to being partakers of Christ’s sufferings, which are the portion of our brethren in this world; but as life draws to a close they become more bitter. Greet Montanus and all the brothers.
The little book on the Visitation.
March 2, 1528.
Grace and peace! The book on the Visitation is not finished, for the printers ran short of paper, but it will soon be ready. I am delighted to hear your good opinion of Herr Paul, Abbot of Sagan, and that he sent you such an honest answer. May we with one heart and mouth praise the Father to all eternity. Amen!
There is nothing new here, except the terrible threats of the priests, who hope much from the Regensburg Diet. Pray earnestly with your people for the Princes of Germany, that God may endue them with grace, so that they need not always require to come together at such great expense, and in vain, but may desire peace and righteousness, as is seemly.
We have had so many diets lately, and see no results, because God has forsaken us; while the devil hinders all that is good. Farewell, and greet Paul your evangelist in the Lord, with all the brethren.
Luther invites his friend to Wittenberg, as he thinks he cannot be happy in King Ferdinand’s land.
March 6, 1528.
Grace and peace in the Lord! Dearest Cordatus – I have known for long that you had left Austria, and were living on the estate of Gluck in Silesia, waiting to be recalled by that noble lady in the Riesengebirge, who promised to send for you, but I fancy will not do so.
If you are not comfortable there, do not hesitate to hasten to me, or wherever you would like to go. If it should ever occur to the lady to recall you, she can find you as easily with us as anywhere else, and I thought you could have more congenial society here than among people so unlike yourself. For my part, I have no hesitation in begging you to set aside the lady’s promises and begin work in the Lord’s vineyard. So come with your wife and sister till Christ arranges something else.
The Papists, triumphant through Ferdinand’s mandate, are waxing bold, and probably will not grant the gospel’s servants any authority in these lands; and why should you buoy yourself with vain hopes? It is now three months since the plague left Wittenberg, God be praised! I hope you have read my treatise against the Anabaptists. I flatter myself that I have rescued some from their errors. The rest you will hear from our Rorar, Christ’s faithful servant.
The grace of God be with you!
Luther invites him to Wittenberg.
March 7, 1528.
Grace and peace! When Satan rages, my Leonhardt, he is only acting in accordance with his office and name. For, as the Scriptures say, nothing else is to be expected from him. But be steadfast, and struggle and pray against him in spirit and in deed.
There is One who is mighty, and He dwells within us. To God be honor and glory. If you be driven away, a refuge is waiting for you here, and all that the Lord has given us is at your service. For many (Exultanten ) who have to flee from Ferdinand’s kingdom settle among us, who at least resemble Christ in His poverty. I commend myself to your prayers and those of your friends.
Farewell in the Lord.
Luther announces his arrival in Borna.
March 18, 1528.
Grace and peace! I have this moment arrived in Borna, dear Spalatin, almost frozen, and starving of hunger. What a dreadful journey we have had, but we have done it in two days, having crawled rather than traveled, for we were determined to sup with you tonight. I write this in order that you may excuse us to the Prince.
For, the letter demanding our presence only arrived the other night, and we hurried as much as we could, but the roads, wind, and cold hindered us.
So, if God will, we shall breakfast with you tomorrow. Pommer and Jonas are my travelling companions, as they did not wish me to go alone. May you prosper in the Lord!
Luther sends books, and tells of the Electress of Brandenburg’s flight.
March 28, 1528.
Grace and peace! I have given Johann Hoffmann copies to distribute among you, against the Sacramentarians. God grant that they bring, forth much fruit, for I have resolved to stop writing against them, for they do not understand logic, so it is impossible to bring them to reason or convince them that they have been refuted.
The Electress has, with the help of her brother the King of Denmark, fled from Berlin Schloss to our Prince here, her uncle; for it is said the Elector intended walling her up on account of her having partaken of the sacrament in both kinds. Pray for our Prince. The pious and good-hearted man is much plagued, and deserves the help of our prayers. May you prosper with wife and child!
Consolation to one doubting his election to eternal life.
July 20, 1528.
Dear sir and friend – I wish you above all the grace and mercy of God through his Son Jesus, our sole Savior. Some days ago, my brother, Caspar Cruciger, doctor of the Holy Scriptures, informed me that you were afflicted with strange thoughts as to God’s omniscience, and had become quite perplexed, so that it was feared you might take your own life (which may God Almighty prevent).
You find difficulty in believing that the Almighty knew from all eternity who should be saved, whether they were already dead, alive, or as yet unborn. Now, all must admit this, for He knows all things, and nothing is hidden from Him who counts the stars in the heavens, the leaves of the trees, nay, even the hairs of men’s heads, from all which you seem to fancy you may do what you will, good or evil, for if God has ordained whether you shall be saved or not (which is true)your thoughts are more taken up with damnation than salvation, and you sink into despair and become a prey to despondency. So I, as my Lord Christ’s servant, send this letter of consolation to let you know God’s thoughts towards you, whether you be destined to blessedness or perdition.
Although the Almighty knows everything, and no one can go against the decrees of His will, still it is His earnest desire, nay command, decreed from all eternity, that all men should be partakers of everlasting joy, as is clearly seen from Ezekiel 28:23 – “Have I any pleasure at all that the wicked should die? saith the Lord; and not that he should return from his ways, and live?”
Seeing He desires the salvation of sinners, who swarm beneath heaven’s lofty vault, why will you with your foolish thoughts prompted by Satan separate yourself from them, thereby cutting yourself off from the grace of God? “For as the heaven is high above the earth, so great is His mercy toward them that fear Him,” and cry for help. For He is rich toward all who call upon Him. But it is only strong filth which can drive away such despairing thoughts as in Romans “Even the righteousness of God, which is by faith of Jesus Christ, unto all and upon all them that believe.” Mark these words: unto all , and upon all. If not among that number, at least you can reckon yourself among the sinners, which is a greater reason that you should pray and be certain of the answer should God delay coming speedily to your help; for He will never forsake those who call upon Him, nor fail to drive away your despairing doubts which are the fiery darts of the devil and his emissaries. Why wander in false ways when so good and straight a path is before you, and the Father cries, “This is my beloved Son!” Listen to His counsel! And even although in your despair you were so hardened as not to hear God’s voice, you cannot overlook that of the Son, who stands across the path which all must tread, crying in trumpet-like tones, “Come unto me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” He not only uses the word “come,” but “all.” No one is excluded, no matter how wicked he be. So, seeing all may come, do you run with them, leap and spring, and do not remain among those lost crowds.
Further, He says “to me !” who knows every foot of the way, and will not let thy foot slide. Why wander aimlessly about? But who are to come? The weary and heavy laden! And what kind of company would that be? I do not know Messrs. Weary and Heavy Laden. They ought to have high-sounding names, such as burgher-master, and such like – these master minds, who love to grovel in God’s Word with their human reason, like the sow in a turnip field ! Not at all. It is he who is weary and heavy laden, borne down with sad thoughts direct from the Evil One, who is called, – the man who does not know to what hand to turn, and is ready to sink into despair. So that is why He says “heavy laden,” as if He had known our burdens, and wished to help us to bear them, nay, even relieve us of them entirely.
And consider that God Almighty created and elected us, not to damnation, but to everlasting life, even as the angels in the first sermon proclaimed to the shepherds on the field: “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men!” And it was inner, not bodily peace they meant. It was not from those who injured them, but from the world, the flesh, and the devil, they were to be delivered. Hence one can see from the Scriptures how great is God’s mercy, and these and such like thoughts can enable him to form an opinion as to God’s foreseeing, and then there is no occasion for a man to torture himself, nor would it avail even were he to worry his flesh from his bones.
What business is it of yours that God causes the dear sun to shine over good and bad, over arid and green? God has ordained that the sun should endue the moisture of the ground with its vital powers, thus causing the roots and branches of the trees to fructify and yield fruit. And if a dried-up tree should nevertheless remain impervious to the rays of the sun, still the tree is not so much at fault as the soil which is marshy. For “good ground, good corn,” as the proverb says. Thus, where the preaching is good and full of consolation, there are sure to be tender consciences and joyful hearts. Therefore as you cannot hinder the natural sun, which is a tiny spark compared to the starry firmament, – the smallest star being larger than the whole world, – from spreading her rays abroad, still less can you limit God’s grace, being fathomless, having neither beginning nor end.
Dear one, do not reckon so close with God. Fancy if the Son of God had asked the high priests and Levites at the crucifixion if He should receive the malefactor into Heaven, what would they have said? Doubtless the answer would have been: “If thieves and murderers desire to enter Heaven we do not object,” and might have added, “If he belong to Paradise we should not have hung him upon a gallows, and it is as likely he will enter Heaven as that you are God.”
Thus speaks a scornful world and man’s reason.
How well Christ answered His disciples who asked, as John lay asleep on His bosom, “What shall this man do ?” “If I will that he tarry till I come, what is that to thee?” as if to warn him not to fall. “Let every one sweep before his own door, and then we shall be saved!” This would prevent much heart-burning as to what God in the eternal counsel of His will has decreed concerning those who should be saved or lost. He who will not accept a certainty for an uncertainty will at length come away emptyhanded, besides being the object of ridicule. He who will not be counselled in time and despises God’s Word will fall a prey to a raging devil as sure as God is God. If things went with us according to our thoughts, prompted by the flesh and the devil, we should all be given over to death, therefore we have the word of promise: “Blessed is he that waiteth, and cometh to the thousand three hundred and five and thirty days. But go thou thy way till the end be; for thou shalt rest, and stand in thy lot at the end of the days.”
If we persevere to the end we may console ourselves that devilish thoughts shall be expelled, and we may raise our hearts in faith to God, and be certain that we have received forgiveness of sins, and shall be, nay, are justified, according to Christ’s promise, by faith of Jesus Christ, as St. Paul testifies in Galatians
That is when we are cast down, and every path seems shut up to us, we shall once more stand erect in faith, resting on God’s promises of Christ, or in Christ. Amen.
Invitation to Mary Mochim’s marriage.
July 31, 1528.
Grace and peace! We have betrothed Mary Mochim to Herr ,Georgio, and the marriage takes place on St. Lawrence Day. As we think this is a good opportunity for you to visit us, we plead with you to come, when, if God will, we shall have a joyous wedding feast. As to the rest – pray to Christ for us in whom your soul flourishes. Amen.
Luther thanks him in his boy’s name for toys.
August 5, 1528.
Grace and peace! My Hanschen thanks you, dear Nicolas, for the beautiful toys, which he is very proud of.
I purpose writing about the Turkish war. My little daughter Elizabeth has been taken away from me, leaving me almost in womanly sorrow, so deeply am I grieved. I never dreamt that a father’s heart could have been so soft towards his children.
Pray to God for me, and may you prosper in Him!
P.S. – As to the Freybergerin, the escaped nun, being carried away, I have my own thoughts, so let it rest.
Request to appoint M. Stiefel as pastor in Lochau.
September 3, 1528.
To the Most Serene High-born Prince, Elector John. Grace and peace!
Most gracious lord! M. Franciscus, the pastor in Lochau, has fallen asleep in God, and the people have asked – to be appointed. But I have referred them to your Grace, as I have nothing to do with that.
Now, I am most anxious to retain Michael Stiefel in the land, for he is pious and well acquainted with the Scriptures, and a good preacher. So, if it please your Highness, we all think he should meantime be settled in Lochau, till perhaps another turn up, for the good man is quite unhappy in case he is a burden to me (he is here just now, but I can scarcely prevent him leaving). I am most anxious to have pious learned people about us, for we lose so many such.
Were he to become pastor in Lochau we would try to get him to help the poor widow with her two children, she being left in great poverty, perhaps by marrying her, but if not – God’s will be done. I relate all this to your Electoral Highness and beg a favorable answer. But it occurs to me that you know M. Stiefel, who traveled with us to Weimar; you presented him with five gulden. May Christ ever be with you! Amen.
Your Grace’s obedient
Melanchthon in Thuringia on the visitation.
October 25, 1528.
Grace and peace! Philip is absent on the visitation, so we are deprived of his counsel in seeking a schoolmaster.
But I shall consult Milich and George Major to see if one can be sent at once, although I am told that Veit was with you before, whom meantime you could have again. Within eight days we shall tell you what we have arranged.
I am just starting for Lochau to marry M. Stiefel to the widow of the Bishop of Lochau, and to introduce him to his new charge. One thing always seems to come upon the top of another. I could not keep the man (Mensch ) with me, for he was far too modest, fancying he was a burden to me, so preferred living anyhow elsewhere, thus compelling me at length to let him go. He herewith sends you by me some letters inviting you to his marriage. I fear they are a little late, but dispose of them as quickly as possible. Farewell to your Hans Albert and the other branches of your vine.
Luther comforts him over calumnies caused by his marriage.
October 29, 1528.
You must not vex yourself over the outcry your marriage has caused, but rather rejoice; for it is a condition which has God’s approval, and is lauded by the angels, and held in honor of all saints. In addition it has this seal, that it is distinguished by the cross being vilified by devils and false brethren, to which every word and work of God are subjected.
Therefore regard the priestly utterances as so many precious stones which blacken you in the world’s eyes, but make you all-glorious in the eyes of a pure God, and comfort yourself that the world is not esteemed worthy to perceive the glory of such a work of God as you are permitted to see. Let the world with its princes indulge in their foolish, presumptuous judgments and blasphemies. The wicked must be rooted out, so as not to see the glory of God. I have no doubt the priests are hurrying you into Bethaven, but be that as it may, you have received the office of the visitation, and have a gracious Lord who will not suffer you to want the necessaries of life. May the Lord Jesus strengthen you by His Spirit ! Amen.
Petition for longer leave for Bugenhagen.
November 11, 1528.
Grace and peace! Honored and learned Herr Doctor! A messenger has just arrived from the Town Council of Hamburg to ask permission from my gracious lord that Herr Johann Pommer may be allowed to remain longer there, as the enclosed documents testify. Although I had written to the good man not to worry as to overstaying his leave, if God’s work required it (for our lord has no desire to hinder the Word of God, if Bugenhagen’s presence can further it), but the good man had no peace till our gracious lord himself assured him of it. Therefore, pray procure a writing from my lord, asking him to return as soon as he can, without imperilling God’s work through his haste, but empowering him to defer his return if necessary. Your Excellency will know how to manage it, and send it by this messenger. I commit you to God.
Your Excellency’s obedient
Luther rejoices in his friend’s happiness.
Grace and peace! I am delighted, dear Michael, that you are so pleased with your wife and her children, and that she loves you. May God maintain this unity! Will you say to the overseer that it is impossible for me to come to his marriage, as I have not a free hour that day. I expected we would have been in Schweritz then, and could sacrifice half a day in his honor, but the business connected with the church visitation has increased so enormously that all our plans have been upset. So please apologize for me.
Greet your Eve with the olive branches committed to your care. The evening I got your letter.
Luther sends letters to his friend, who is on the visitation.
November 30, 1528.
Grace and peace! I send you, as well as Lukas Cranach, letters which have lain long here.
The Chancellor will tell you the rest. Say to Lukas that gloves and a black cap were sent with the other things from Augsburg. If any of the letters tell you for whom they are, let them write. For we have received all our things, but did not wish to open any of the letters.
Today I am again a prey to the tempter. Do pray in such times of sifting for me as I do for you, that my faith may not fail. We have paid all due honor to the Chancellor. Your family and ourselves are all well. My Kathie greets you respectfully, and longs for your return. May Christ be with you! Amen.
I trust all our folks who are with you may keep well.
Consolation on the death of her husband.
December 5, 1528.
Grace and peace in Christ Jesus! Honored and virtuous lady ! Having heard from your son of the great trial with which you have been visited, viz. the death of your husband, I am moved out of Christian love to write this letter of consolation to you.
First, you must take comfort that in the hard conflict which beset your lord (Herr), the Lord Jesus at length gained the victory, and that your husband at last passed away full of trust and confidence in the Lord, which I was delighted to hear.
For even thus did Christ Himself struggle in the garden and rise again from the dead.
It is even possible that your husband inflicted an injury upon himself, for the devil has power over the members of the body, and may have forcibly guided his hand against his will. For if he had done it willingly, it is unlikely he would have come again to himself and turned to Christ with such ample confession of sin. How often does the devil break arm, neck, back, and all the limbs? He can gain the mastery over all the members, therefore be satisfied in God, and rank yourself among those of whom Christ says, “Blessed are they that mourn: for they shall be comforted!”
All the saints must sing Psalm 44.: “For thy sake we are killed all the day long; we are counted as sheep for the slaughter.” There must be suffering and misfortune if we are to partake of the consolation.
Therefore thank God for His great mercy in not suffering your husband to linger in conflict and despair, as is the case with so many, but he was by God’s grace delivered and at length restored to the Christian faith, and numbered among those of whom it is said: “Blessed are they who die in the Lord.” And “He that believeth on me, though he were dead, yet shall he live.”
May God the Father comfort and strengthen you with such words in Christ Jesus! Amen.
In this year the Diet at Speyer was held, also the Conference at Marburg, between the German and Swiss divines, on the question of the Lord’s Supper. Luther’s Larger and Shorter Catechisms appeared simultaneously.
February 12, 1529.
That you are pleased with my little book against Herzog George is a great pleasure to me. For all are down upon me, forgetting how he has treated me, and act towards him as if he were innocent. I shall not show them your letter, or they would class you with me. Henceforth I shall not answer the tyrant, as he asks me to let him alone in future. Much is being said here about Ferdinand’s tyranny and extortion. Pray that God may strengthen me that I may not be left in Satan’s hand. The Lord Jesus maintain and bless you! Amen.
February 15, 1529.
I am delighted that the church visitation has come to such a happy end among you. May other church matters soon be arranged. We sing the Litany both in Latin and German here. Perhaps a printed form may soon be issued. Then the days of humiliation, the ban, and the other liturgical arrangements connected with our congregations will follow. This is enough to begin with.
I have been suffering from giddiness, not to mention what I endure from Satan’s emissaries. Pray that God may strengthen me. I shall never again answer Herzog George.
My sermon against the Turks would have been printed long ago had not the first printed sheets been lost through the servant’s carelessness. My Kathie greets you, also Jonas and Philip. We fear Pommer will not return before Ascension. Christ be with you! Amen.
Luther complains of temptations.
March 3, 1529.
Grace and peace! The Catechism is not ready, but it will soon be, my Hausmann, also the sermon against the Turks. But in spite of my soul being well, I am always ill, so dreadfully does Satan plague me by preventing me studying, for I must have society to hinder him attacking me in my solitude. Pray for me. Now that your Paul has been dismissed as Spalatin wrote, you must be thinking of a successor. If you have none in view, I think Cordatus would be the most suitable. He is an excellent and learned man, and a staunch confessor of his faith. Farewell, and pray for the impending Diet.
Luther sends a letter inviting him to Holstein.
March 21, 1529.
Grace and peace! From this letter you will see what the Herzog wishes regarding you. But as I do not think it would be Christian-like to tear you away from Magdeburg so soon, it would be better to serve him otherwise.
Show this document to Stein and Klotz in the Council, and let them see you may accept, which may bring them to reason, and cause them to do something for the schools. Do let them think you are in earnest. And if they plead with you to remain do not be too easily persuaded to do so. For I am still doubtful whether your departure would grieve them. You will know that Langefeld has been called away, and that Marcus Scharrte in Hesse is dead.
At Diet of Speyer the Elector and Princes protested against the Edict against the Lutherans, hence the word Protestant.
March 29, 1529.
Grace and peace! I am pleased that you proved Stein thus, and have found neither him nor others wanting. Now that I have a pretext I shall write, and earnestly exhort them to promote learning. Go on as you are doing, and help the good work as much as you can. The bridegroom Bruno has asked me to invite you to his wedding on Thursday. The bride (Gersa von Krosse) will come to my house on Tuesday, or rather to my wife’s. So arm yourself, not with sword of steel, but with gold and silver, for you shall not escape without a present. No news from Speyer, but you hear everything. Farewell in Christ. Pray for me.
Cordatus, Hausmann’s assistant, brought this letter.
March 31, 1529.
Herewith, behold the sharer in your ministerial cares and helper in your work, Herr Licentiate Cordatus, an estimable man. I hope he will help you, and do much good in your parish. Although ignorant people may not be satisfied at first they will appreciate his worth afterwards. May Christ comfort you in all your tribulations! It is a miracle that we are not swallowed up of the devil in our impotence. Those who have eyes to see must behold in us one of God’s greatest works, that we insignificant creatures have been enabled to withstand so many powerful enemies and remain steadfast. Outwardly we are much harassed, and inwardly Satan takes up his abode among the children of God. But it is only a reigning Christ who can triumph over us weak ones, and will at length give us a glorious deliverance on the great day. God grant it. Christ will teach and confirm it out of Cordatus’s mouth. Farewell, and pray for me.
A marriage case.
May 4, 1529.
This is what I should recommend. Do not believe this faithless bridegroom.
I agree with you to send him back, either to prove that he has never promised (which he is trying to do), or to take the bride, or remain unmarried. I have told him this. But if matters be as you say, then he must not marry for a punishment, unless he marries her.
We know nothing definite as to the Reichstag. We daily expect Philip Melanchthon. I can scarcely lecture because of my cough. Yesterday and today I expounded Isaiah, but was very hoarse. Pray for us.
Thanks for a gift, etc.
May 6, 1529.
Grace in Christ! The watch, dear Wenzel, has arrived all right. But it is either weary with its journey or not accustomed to its new owner, for it has stopped. However, with time, it appears inclined to run. I thank you warmly for it, but, being a poor man, can make no return. For the books which came out lately you must already have, and they are of such a nature that they cannot be called gifts. They are only old things brought out afresh.
God has given me a little daughter Magdalena, and the mother is very well.
The Diet is at an end, and almost without result, except that the persecutors of Christ, the tyrants of souls, could not vent their fury on us as they desired, and we could expect no more from God.
There is talk of a Council, but it will be fruitless. There is a Venetian here just now, and he says that in the last French war against the Pope there were eight hundred Turks, of whom three hundred were uninjured, and being tired of the war returned home. I thought you did not know these dreadful things, as you took no notice of them. Soon will come, when the cry will be heard, “Behold, the Bridegroom cometh; go ye out to meet Him.” Pray for me. Greet our friends.
Luther begs the Elector to recall Bugenhagen from Hamburg.
May 12, 1529.
Grace and peace! Serene High-born Prince. Herr John Pommer has written from Hamburg that he has arranged to return, but the people are holding him so fast that he cannot get away, and he says they intend writing your Grace to let him remain always. I have written him to resist such action, and hope they will not thus requite our goodness in lending him to them.
So he now writes, begging that your Electoral Grace would write demanding his presence in Wittenberg, to prove his hurrying home is not his own wish. Therefore we humbly request your Grace would furnish us with such a document to forward, with those from the University, ordering his return, for the classes have lain long enough waste, especially as, God be praised, students are daily arriving, principally from Saxony, so Bugenhagen cannot be longer spared. Your Grace will know how to act in the matter.
May 25, 1529.
I commend to you this Scotchman, my Wenzel, who has been banished from his fatherland because of the gospel. He begged me to write you, hoping he might get some assistance. He seems of good family, and well grounded in scholastic theology.
Could he speak German we could find plenty for him to do, and, despite our poverty, have kept him with us, but he has reasons for wishing to try his fortune elsewhere.
In Philip’s absence, and during my illness, I translated the book of Wisdom (Proverbs), which Philip had taken in hand. It is in the press. That which Leo Judais of Zurich has translated is miserable in the extreme. Farewell, and pray for me.
About Erasmus of Rotterdam.
May 28, 1529.
Grace and peace! I am well aware, my Jacob, of all you tell me of Erasmus, who rages against us.
I gathered as much from his writings, for in them he displays the soreness of the wound he has received. But I despise him, and do not consider the creature worthy of any other reply, and should I write shall only refer to Erasmus in the third person, and doing this more to condemn his opinions than to refute them, for he is a thoughtless “Indifferentist,” who ridicules all religion in his Lucian fashion, and is only in earnest when he wishes to gratify his revenge. We are all well here, thanks to your prayers. Thanks for the present – a proof of your good feeling. I shall send you my latest works. Farewell in Christ, and continue praying for me.
Luther agrees to a Conference with OEcolampadius and Zwingli.
June 23, 1529.
Grace and peace! Serene Prince, Most Gracious Lord! I have received your Grace’s invitation to Marburg to the disputation with OEcolampadius and the other Swiss divines, to see if we cannot see eye to eye regarding the sacrament. Although I have little hope of this, still your Grace’s anxiety for unity and peace is most laudable, and I am willing to cooperate in such vain and for us perhaps dangerous efforts, for the other party must not have the glory of outstripping me (if God will) in the desire for unity. I beseech you to learn if they feel inclined to yield their opinions, to prevent the evil becoming worse. It seems as if they were trying, through your Grace’s zeal, afterwards to boast that they had moved great princes to interfere to prove that they wished peace while we were its enemies.
God grant I am no prophet, but if they were really in earnest they do not need such mighty princes to represent them; for, God be praised, we are not such worthless characters.
They might have written us long ago, saying how they wished peace, or could still do so, for I cannot yield to them, being convinced our cause is right and theirs wrong. Therefore pray consider whether this Marburg conference will do good or harm; for if they do not yield we shall part without fruit, and our meeting, as well as your Grace’s outlay and trouble, have been in vain. And then they will boast, and load us with reproach, as is their wont, so things would be worse than ever. Regarding your Grace’s fears that bloodshed would ensue from such discord, you know that whatever happens we are innocent, and God will bring our innocence to the light of day. If this spirit of union should result in bloodshed, such action is in accordance with its nature, as was seen in Franz von Sickingen, Carlstadt, and Munzer; and there, too, we were blameless. I write all this to prove how ready I am to serve you. May Christ tread Satan under our feet!
Your Grace’s obedient
Luther says the gospel messenger must suffer persecution.
July 14, 1529.
Grace and peace! Be strong in Christ, my Cordatus, in order to put up with those ungrateful people in Zwickau. Do not think of changing your post.
This is a more testing temptation than any you have had. The world is the enemy of God and His Word. It is therefore a miracle if among God’s enemies any are friendly to His children. The world loves its own, so we may know that we are not of this world when she hates and despises us.
Hence you have merely to put up with an incarnate devil, who, through the flesh, his sluggish tool, harasses and enervates you, but cannot, much as he wishes, injure you. But resist him with all your might. Therefore you act in a brotherly way in comforting me so lovingly and wishing me all good.
Continue so to do and pray, as I do for you, that we may be set free, and till that day comes, bring forth fruit in patience. God grant this! Greet your beloved other half in the Lord.
Luther hears that Amsdoff is not satisfied with his post.
August 1, 1529.
Grace and peace! Although you have not complained to me, my Amsdorf, I hear how little you have benefited from the promotion you have received from the Prince. But be steadfast. The Lord will make an end of the trouble. The Court is the devil’s seat. If things do not improve I shall support you by word and deed, so that you may leave Zwickau, and shake its dust from off your feet – you and Cordatus also.
I shall consider Paul’s affairs; meantime put up with all, showing yourselves men among those troublesome people. You did not leave Cellarius’s notes on Isaiah here. I searched everywhere, and found nothing.
Perhaps he will pass your way and visit you. Pray to Christ for me, a poor sinner. Kathie sends friendly greeting.
Grace and peace in Christ! Dear Jonas – Last Sabbath God the Lord took away from our Philip one of his children, called George; so you can imagine how much we have to do in trying to comfort this tenderhearted and emotional man. He is grieving too much over the loss, not being used to such trials. Pray that the Lord may comfort him, and then, in your best rhetoric, write him a letter of consolation. You know how important it is for us that he should be spared in health. We are all sick and sad in his sickness and sadness. I can think of nothing but him, except the most intimate concerns of my daily life. But the God of the humble and afflicted will not allow him to be vanquished, although he is still very weak.
I shall write of other things when the grief is a little assuaged.
Farewell in the Lord, and greet your fellow-bishops respectfully in the Lord.
Luther sends thanks for present of garments.
August 17, 1529.
Grace and peace in Christ! Most Serene High-born Prince, Most Gracious Lord! I have delayed long in returning thanks for the garments your Grace has so kindly sent me.
But I humbly beg you not to believe people who try to make your Electoral Grace think I am in want. I have, alas, more than I can reconcile it with my conscience, especially from your Electoral Highness, to accept. And as a preacher it is not seemly for me to have superfluity. Therefore I sometimes tremble because of your Grace’s generosity towards me, incase I may be found in this life among those to whom Christ says, “Woe to you rich: for you have your reward here.”
But to use common language, I have no desire to be burdensome to your Grace, for you have so much to give away that I know you have little over, and the purse may be rent asunder if so many demands be made upon it.
It was superfluous sending the leather-colored cloth, but I feel much indebted to your Grace for it, and I shall wear the black coat in honor of your munificence, although too costly for me; and were it not your Grace’s gift I would never appear in such a garment. Therefore, I beseech your Grace to wait till I myself complain and beg, so that your kindness may not make me shy of asking favors for others who are much more worthy of your bounty.
For your Grace loads me with too many benefits. Christ will graciously reimburse you for all this. I pray for this with my whole heart. Amen.
Your Grace’s humble servant,
Luther praises his exposition of Amos, etc.
August 29, 1529.
Grace and peace in Christ! I perused your Amos, my esteemed and learned Brentius. Far be it from me to suggest any alterations, for I cannot set up as a master in the divine writings.
I only wish to be a learner in that school. The friend to whom you entrusted its publication intentionally delayed it, fearing attacks from the printers. But it shall be printed, if he’ll listen to me.
Concerning the Hesse Conference, of which you write, and to which you are summoned, you are right. Nothing good is likely to ensue from such a hole-and-corner coming together of the Churches of God. Therefore I beg of you not to appear, and, if you have not promised to go, remain away. At first we absolutely refused, but as this young Hessian Alexander so worried our Princes, we had to promise, but persisted it would result in no good, and only make matters worse. But he stuck to his point, so we yielded; if he would also invite some talented Papists, who could bear witness against these boasters and remarkable saints who are to be there! Although I long to see you, I shall rather forgo the pleasure than enjoy it to the detriment of the cause. May Christ build you up to His own glory! Amen. Pray for me a sinner.
In September Zwingli, with the Greek professor in Zurich, started for Marburg, Bucer, Hedio, OEcolampadius, etc., joining them in Strassburg. On September 30, Luther, Melanchthon, Jonas, Cruciger and Myconius, Osiander, Brenz, etc., also came.
October 4, 1529.
Grace and peace in Christ! Dear Kathie – Our friendly conference at Marburg is almost ended, and we have agreed upon nearly all points, except that our opponents maintain that only the bread and wine are present in the sacrament, although admitting Christ’s spiritual presence in the elements. Today the Landgrave is making every effort to unite us, or at least to make us consider each other brethren and members of Christ’s body. He is doing his best to accomplish this. But although we object to be brethren, we wish to live at peace and on good terms. I fancy we shall set out tomorrow or next day, and go to your gracious lord in Vogtland, whither His Electoral Grace has summoned us.
Say to Herr Pommer that Zwingli’s argument was the best: “Corpus non potest esse sine 1oco, ergo Christi corpus non est in pane”; that of OEcolampadius was: “Sacramentum est signum corporis Christi.”
I consider God has blinded them, that they cannot achieve anything good. I have much to do, and the messenger waits. Good-night to all, and pray for us. We are all well and lively, and living like princes. Kiss Lenchen and Hanschen for me.
Your obedient servant,
P.S. – They are all quite excited over the sweating sickness. Fifty were seized yesterday, of whom two have died.
October 28, 1529.
Grace in Christ! I commend Magister Wolfgang to your love, my Lange, so that if possible you may help him to a situation. He is a good man, and well up in the sciences, and thoroughly grounded in our faith, so is well fitted to be pastor, secretary, or teacher. You know how the Turks destroyed Vienna, and then fled in their despair from Germany, which we regarded as a miracle of God.
Only we dear Germans slumber on. Farewell in Christ, and give your little son, as well as his mother, many kisses as a greeting.
Luther wishes to hear of John Hilten in Eisenach.
November 7, 1529.
Grace and peace! Your letters, my Frederick, were most welcome, being full of brotherly love, and also a proof of your kindness in finding out what I wished.
I expect your promised letter shortly. You will already know all about the Turks. God fought for us, driving them away through a marvellous fright.
We must beg God to be our wall, and send His angels to help us. We cannot sufficiently laud your faith, in praying against the Turks and the gates of hell, with your congregation. God hear you in our day of trouble; even as the angel could not destroy Sodom because of one Lot, so may it be with us on account of the many pious people here. Amen. There is nothing new here. Philip is from home, or he would have written. He and Amsdorf are honoring the marriage of Herr Trutleben in Freyberg with their presence. Many greetings from my Kathie, the head of the house.
Greet your wife, who may be your lord as well, and our hostess, and Basilius, and your justiciary, and may you prosper greatly in Christ!
About the Turkish war, etc.
November 10, 1529.
Grace and peace! Be strong in the Lord, my dear Nicolas, and do not be afraid of the Turks. Christ lives, and the Prophet Daniel (which Philip and Jonas are at present publishing), so we hope he will not be able to subdue Germany, although he is punishing us for our neglect of the gospel. For it is really a miracle that the Turk has vanished from his camp, leading people to believe that the day of judgment is at hand, when Gog the Turk and Magog the Pope, the political and the spiritual opponents of Christ, will both be overthrown. I wish you much happiness on being ridiculed as a pietist, and that you are deemed worthy of Satan’s hatred, who can only injure you by stirring up poisonous tongues against you. Laugh at his impotence, for you cannot wound him more than by being invulnerable to his sting. I wish the bride Christina joy, and when looking for a wife I trust you will be as fortunate; but if you have no desire, and can do without one, you will be far happier, and I shall wish you joy all the same. Not that I would malign matrimony – that God-appointed institution – but because you are free from manifold troubles and household cares; to this I wish you joy. May Christ teach you and keep you well, and cause you to pray for me! Farewell in Him.
Request to have Emser’s New Testament suppressed. Rostock became Evangelical in 1527 through the earnest preaching of Sluter, the Rostock reformer, who was poisoned in 1532.
November 23, 1529.
To the Serene High-born Prince, the Elector John of Saxony. Grace and peace in Christ! Some prominent citizens of Lubeck have written informing us that some Lollards have caused Emser’s New Testament to be printed in Rostock, in Saxon, through which they fear much mischief may be done, and have begged me to request your Grace to petition the Herzog of Mecklenburg-Schwerin, for God’s honor and the good of souls, to forbid its publication.
For although I have nothing against the Emser Testament, whose contents the rascals have wickedly stolen from me (for it is precisely my text, with a few harmless alterations), yet since he has reissued it, so scandalously mangled with his annotations, and accompanied by a glossary which prevents it bearing any fruit, but rather does harm, I beseech your Electoral Grace graciously to present this petition to the highly esteemed Herzog Heinrich, and let us have the answer by the messenger who brings this, for as much as in us lies we must defend ourselves against the devil. May Christ our Lord be with your Grace to all eternity! Amen.
Your Electoral Highness’s obedient
Luther promises a gospel sermon.
December 2, 1529.
Dear Sister – I see from your letter to me how earnestly your heavily laden conscience longs for an Evangelical sermon of consolation, and, if possible, in your own church in Rossla.
I am delighted to hear this, and have made up my mind, in God, to come to you on the approaching Christmas Eve, and to preach, with God’s help, the first gospel sermon at Rossla and upper Rossla as a memorial. Greet your husband and the little Margaretta, to whom I shall bring something with me. I commit you to God.
December 29, 1529.
To the much honored in Christ, Herr Friedrich, superintendent in St. OEgidius, Nurnberg, my superior in the Lord.
Grace and peace in Christ! I have nothing, and yet a very great deal to write to you, my honored friend in Christ. Concerning myself I have nothing, except to commend myself to your sacred prayers, but in regard to the bridegroom, your fellow-citizen, that most excellent young man, Conrad Mauser, I have a great deal. Doubtless your large heart will know that were I to write a letter at all commensurate with the greatness of this burning love which has been kindled in the bridegroom’s heart, perhaps the whole world could not contain it. But I am only joking in order to gain your sympathy for Mauser’s marriage. For he desires through you to gain his parents’ consent to his happy union.
This will certainly be accomplished if you can make the father see that his son has really chosen a pretty and, what is even better, a capable and virtuous maiden, and I would add Christian, if the value of the term had not sunk in the estimation of the people through its indiscriminate use, although it is not so with us.
And the bride’s father is not nearly so badly off as the most of the burghers are here, but is a member of the Town Council and well-to-do – in short, a most honorable man, who looks well to the ways of his household, and has a most industrious wife, who is universally loved because of her amiability.
You will have the goodness to bring all this to the knowledge of Mauser’s father when you have the opportunity, so that he may not grieve his son, but cause him to rejoice through his consent, without which he will not marry.
It is much to be desired that the father, to show his approval, should appear at the wedding. And we are most anxious to have your presence also, but we fear to present an impossible request to you. May the kindness of your heart prompt you to do what is right in your eyes, and may you prosper in Christ! Amen.
Diet of Augsburg held. The Elector started for Augsburg, April 3, with a brilliant retinue. Luther was left at Coburg. Charles V. made his grand entry into Augsburg, June 15. The Augsburg Confession read on June 25, and the Roman Catholic Confutation of the same was presented August 3.
Melanchthon prepared the “Apology” of the Augsburg Confession, a noble and learned document, which the Emperor refused to receive till many alterations were made upon it.
February 16, 1530.
To my dear father, Hans Luther, burgher of Mansfeld. Grace and peace!
My brother Jacob has written saying how ill you are. I am very anxious about you, as things seem so black everywhere just now. For although God has hitherto blessed you with good health, still your advanced age fills me with concern. I would have come to you had I not been dissuaded from tempting God by running into temptation, for you know how interested both lords and all are in my welfare. It would be a great joy to us if my mother and you would come here. My Kathie and all ask this with tears; and we would nurse you tenderly. I have sent Cyriac to see if you are able.
For I should like to be near you, and, in obedience to the Fifth Commandment, cherish you with child-like kindness to show my gratitude to God and you. Meantime I pray God to keep you through His Spirit, so that you may discern the teaching of His Son, who has called you out of the blackness of error to preserve you to Christ’s joyous appearing. For He has set this seal to your faith, that He has brought much shame, contempt, and enmity upon you for my sake.
For, these are the true signs of our likeness to Christ, for as St. Paul says, “If we suffer, we shall also reign with Him.” So remember in your weakness that we have an Advocate with the Father who died to take away our sins, and now sits with the angels, waiting for us, so that when our hour comes to leave the world we need not fear being lost, His power over death and sin being so complete. He who cannot lie has said, “Ask, and ye shall receive.” And the Psalms are full of such precious promises, especially the 91st., which is so suited for sick people. I write thus because of your illness, and as we do not know the hour…so that I may be a partaker of your faith, conflict, and consolation, and gratitude to God for His Holy Word, which He has so abundantly bestowed on us at this time. If it be His Divine Will not to transplant you at once to that better life, but let you remain a little longer with us for the help of others, then He will give you grace to accept your lot in an obedient spirit.
For this life is truly a vale of tears, where the longer one remains the more wickedness and misery one sees; and this never ceases till the hour of our departure sounds and we fall asleep in Jesus, till He comes and gives us a joyful awaking. Amen! I herewith commit you to Him who loves you better than you do yourself, having paid the penalty of your sins with His blood, so that you need have no anxiety. Leave Him to see to everything.
He will do all well, and has already done so in a far higher degree than we can imagine.
May this dear Savior be with you, and we shall shortly meet again with Christ, as the departure from this world is a much smaller thing with God than if I said farewell to you in Mansfeld to come here, or if you bade adieu to me in Wittenberg to return to Mansfield. It is only a case of one short hour’s sleep, and then all will be changed.
I hope your pastors render you faithful service in such matters, so that my chatter may not be needed, but I could not refrain from apologizing for my bodily absence, which is a great trial to me. My Kathie, Hanschen, Lenchen, Muhme Lene, all salute you and pray for you. Give my love to my dear mother and all the relations.
Your dear son,
Luther speaks of his Biblical work, etc.
February 25, 1530.
Grace and peace in Christ! Your last letter, dear Hausmann, was a great pleasure to me because of that noble simplicity of spirit which characterises all you write, as well as being an expression of your hearty goodwill towards myself. Please draw out once more a list of what your church requires. For it must always be before me, as I cannot burden my memory with it, so that when I have leisure and the opportunity I might fulfill your desires. My mind being so occupied with my daily concerns, it is forgotten, and time passes without your wishes being attended to.
We are busy with the publication of Daniel, as a consolation in those latter days. We have also undertaken Jeremiah and the rest of the prophets.
We shall offer the New Testament for sale at the approaching Fair (Messe ) in Frankfort, and in such a way as to create fresh alarm among the Papists.
For we have written a long preface to the Apocalypse, and furnished it with notes. Continue to pray for us.
My Kathie sends friendly greetings.
March 5, 1530.
Grace and peace in the Lord! I am delighted with your zeal as to the true teaching of the sacrament, and read your treatise. Perhaps your ideas on…are a little sharp, but what of that when nothing will convince them?
When I have time I shall write on the 6th chapter of John; and is it strange if I sometimes write vehemently?
Were you in my place, perhaps you would be more violent. Every man is differently constituted, hence the impressions which outward things make on him vary. There has been no discussion among you, so you only see things from afar, but “opportunity makes the man,” as the proverb says.
That our Marburg Conference should have offended many is no wonder, for the other party would not let themselves be instructed.
The Zwinglians have been convicted of so many errors, even according to their own showing, that it is provoking one article should have prevented them agreeing with us. But can we force the vanquished to a confession?
For Christ, in spite of having often convicted the Pharisees and Sadducees of sin, could never get them to confess their faults. Your best plan is not to listen to such people, who always look for offenses, while they studiously avoid having an open eye for what is good, and from which they might profit. I dislike coming in contact with such people, who always find something to calumniate.
I commit you to God; pray for me.
P.S. – I have written to the Prince of Liegnitz, but have little hope of arranging anything through letters.
This letter accompanied Amsdorfs defense of Luther against Erasmus.
March 12, 1530.
Grace and peace! I return your notes on Erasmus, as you request. I was struck by your remark that Erasmus had long ago declared before Luther that faith without good works justified a man, but that he said later, this was how he understood the Mosaic law. If Erasmus really said this I know not, but I know you were always very sure of what you asserted, that you might not play into the hands of our enemies. Now be brave, for Agramus is writing in defense of Erasmus. But likely it may end as Eck’s defense of the Pope did. If the fools kept silence it would be better for Erasmus, but God sends him such champions in His wrath. If spared I shall comb their locks for them in a way they will feel. I have still weapons in my armory which they have not. May you prosper in the Lord Jesus, who lives not only during Erasmus’s life, but to all eternity! Amen.
Regarding the coming Diet.
March 14, 1530.
All hail! The Elector has written to you, Pomeranus, Philip, and me, to leave everything and arrange by next Sunday all that is needful for the Imperial Diet.
For the Emperor Charles will, according to his proclamation, be at Augsburg himself to try to come to an amicable settlement. Therefore today and tomorrow we three shall work as hard as we can in your absence (on the visitation).
Nevertheless enough will remain for you to do to justify you in leaving your college work and joining us tomorrow. For we must hurry. God grant that all may redound to His glory! Amen.
The theologians tried to prevent the Elector going to Augsburg, but he said, “I too shall confess my Lord Christ along with you.”
April 2, 1530.
Leonhardt has brought me the book you have written. I shall discuss it with my friends, for I admit that were Christ’s history and deeds to be reproduced before the children in a dramatic form it might interest the young and win their love. I accompany the Prince to Coburg with Philip and Jonas till we know the course of events at Augsburg.
Meantime, you with your congregation must pray earnestly for this Diet, also for me.
April 18, 1530.
Grace and peace! Cordatus will have told you that we are still in Coburg, and do not know when we may go further. For we heard yesterday that the Emperor keeps Easter at Mantua, and that the Papists are trying to prevent the Reichstag, fearing what might be decreed against them there. And the Pope is angry at the Emperor, who wishes to hear both sides, interfering in spiritual matters.
His Holiness intended him only to be his executioner against the heretics, and restore his authority. For the Papists’ sole wish is that we should be condemned and they reinstalled in their former position; and thus they shall perish! The Prince has ordered me to remain at Coburg, while the others go to the Diet. Florence has neither been taken nor reconciled to the Pope, a grief to His Holiness; for those inside declared for the Emperor therefore those outside would not proceed against them, but raised the blockade.
You see what our prayers can achieve.
The Turk promises peace next year, but threatens to return to Germany, and even bring Tartars with him.
But God’s Word and our prayers shall fight against them. Farewell, and pray for me.
April 22, 1530.
So far we are sitting quietly in Coburg, knowing nothing certain about the Reichstag or the Emperor’s arrival.
You will perhaps have more reliable news than we have. Although my good friends may follow the Elector to Augsburg, he is determined that I shall remain. You will meet Philip, Jonas, Elsieben, and Spalatin there, and learn from them if the Diet still goes on.
April 22, 1530.
Grace and peace in Christi We have at last reached our Sinai, my dear Herr Philip, but out of this Sinai we shall make a Zion and build three tabernacles: one to the Psalter, one to the Prophets, and one to AEsop. But time is needed for this. This is a most agreeable spot, most suitable for study, only I miss you greatly.
I get quite excited when I think of the Turks and Mahomed, and of the diabolic fury which they vent on our bodies and souls. But at such times I shall pray fervently till He who dwells in Heaven shall hear my petition. I see you are much distressed at the sight of those cowled monks who seem quite at home. But it is our fate to be spectators of the fierce onslaughts of these two realms and remain steadfast; and this onslaught is a sign and harbinger of our redemption. I pray that you may have refreshing sleep, and keep your soul free from care and from the fiery darts of the Evil One.
Amen. I write this to while away my idle time, as my box with papers, etc., has not arrived. I have not seen the castle steward yet.
Meanwhile I want for nothing necessary to a solitary being. The great building which projects from the castle has been placed entirely at my disposal, and the keys of all the rooms have been put into my hands. There are over thirty men in the castle, among whom are twelve watchmen and two warders for the towers. But why write all this? only I have nothing else to write. Greet Dr. Caspar Cruciger and Magister Spalatin from me. I shall greet Eisleben and Adler through Dr. Jonas. From the region of the birds.
Luther writes about the birds which enliven his solitude, although Veit Dietrich and his nephew were with him.
April 22, 1530.
Grace and peace! At last we are sitting here up amongst the clouds, in the kingdom of the birds, whose harsh tones, all screaming together, produce a very Babel, the daws or ravens having taken up their quarters before our eyes, forming a forest in front of us.
I can assure you there was a shrieking. It goes on from four in the morning far into the night, so that I believe there is no other place where so many birds gather as here.
And not one is silent for a moment, old and young, mothers with daughters, singing a song of praise.
Perhaps they sing thus sweetly to lull us to sleep, which God grant we may enjoy tonight. The daw is to my mind a most useful bird. I fancy they signify a whole army of sophists, etc., who have assembled from the ends of the earth so that I may profit by their wisdom, enjoy their delicious song, and rejoice in their useful services in both the secular and spiritual realm. At present the nightingale is not to be heard, although its forerunner and imitator, the cuckoo, is raising its exquisite voice.
I am scarce of news, but rather send a jocular letter than none, especially as the daws fill heaven and earth with their melody. The Lord be with you!
Let us pray for each other, for we need it urgently. Greet all friends.
Farewell. from the kingdom of the daws.
April 28, 1530.
Grace and peace, my dear Kathie, sirs, and friends!
I have received all your letters telling me how you get along. I must now inform you that I, Magister Veit, and Cyriac are not to be at the Diet, although we have one here. For there is a thicket just under our window like a small forest, where the daws and crows hold their diet, and such a running to and fro, and screaming night and day, that I often wonder they are not hoarse.
As yet I have not seen their emperor, but the courtiers are always prancing about dressed simply in black, with grey eyes, and all sing the same melody. They pay no heed to castle or hall; for their salon is vaulted by the beautiful canopy of heaven, while their feet rest on the broad fields with their green carpet and trees, the wails of their house reaching to the ends of the earth. They are independent of horses and carriages, for they have leathered wheels by which they escape the sportsmen’s bullets. I fancy they have come together to have a mighty onslaught on corn, barley, wheat, etc.
Many a knight will win his laurels here.
So here we sit, watching the gay life of song led by princes, etc., preparatory to a vigorous attack on the grain.
I always fancy it is the Sophists and Papists I see before me, so that I may hear their lovely voices and their sermons, and see for myself what a useful kind of people these are who consume all the fruits of the earth, and then strut about in their grand clothing to while away the time.
Today we heard the first nightingale. The weather has been splendid. I commit you to God; see well to the house. From the Diet of malt Turks.
Luther writes about his work.
May 8, 1530.
Grace and peace! You accuse me, dear Wenzel, of silence, even of indifference, and blame me, although you have had four living epistles from me, besides the letter about John Ernest. So I have good cause for putting you in the wrong, for volumes would not answer my four epistles.
Otherwise I have complete repose and enjoy every luxury here, and have begun translating the remaining Prophets, having finished Jeremiah.
Perhaps I shall issue some Psalms with an exposition so as not to be idle.
I also propose translating AEsop’s Fables for the German children. So I now see how to fill up the time, although I should prefer being with you.
But I am pleased with what God wills. Certainly, I would have been more useful at home, through teaching and counsel, but I dared not withstand the call.
There is nothing new at Wittenberg except that Dr. Pommer writes that the Lubeck and Luneberg people are embracing the gospel, and that the preaching there is most earnest and faithful. God be praised!
I fear God may pour out the phials of His wrath on North Germany, as I hear of nothing but murders and contempt of God and His Word. Pray for me, as I do for you. For the Turk is not arming himself for nothing.
From the diet of the daws, which is being held here.
Luther complains of headache, probably from overwork.
May 12, 1530.
Grace and peace! Dear Herr Philip – On May 8 I began to answer your letter from Nurnberg, but was prevented finishing it.
I have sent my admonition to the clergy to Wittenberg.
Besides, I have translated the two chapters in Ezekiel, concerning Gog, with a preface. I then began translating the Prophets, intending to have them finished by Ascension, along with AEsop, and would have managed it, so smoothly did the work proceed, when, alas suddenly the outward man collapsed, unable to sustain the fervor of the inner renewed man.
I felt a loud buzzing and roaring, like thunder, in my head, and had I not stopped at once I would have fainted, and was useless for two days.
The machine will do no more, my head having dwindled into a short chapter, which by degrees will shrink into a tiny paragraph, and then into a single sentence.
This is why I sit in idleness, but the noise in my head is subsiding through medicine. This accounts for the delay. The day your Nurnberg letter came I had a Satanic embassy with me, and, to make matters worse, I was quite alone, neither Veit nor Cyriac being here, so Satan remained so far master of the Held, compelling me to seek society.
I impatiently await the time when I shall behold the almost sublime majesty of this spirit.
So much for our own little concerns, while weighty events are taking place.
You say that Eck along with – are beginning a conflict. What are they about in the Reichstag? The coarse asses palaver about important affairs in our churches. We hope their downfall shall be hastened thereby.
Magister Joachim has sent me dried figs and raisins, and writes me in Greek! When better I shall reply in Turkish, to let him have something to read which he cannot understand. Why should he write to me in Greek?
Shall write more again in case of tasking my head now. Let us pray for each other.
I must write to the Electoral Prince about the Landgrave, as you advise, and also to the Elector. The Lord be with you.
Take care of your health, and do not injure your head, as I have done. I shall request our friends to try to prevent you overstepping the limitations which your health demands; spare yourself, so that you may not be a selfmurderer, and then declare that God willed it so.
One can serve God in repose, and there is no better way of serving Him.
This is why He insists on the Sabbath being strictly kept. Now do not throw this counsel to the winds.
It is God’s Word I write you.
Concerning Evangelical preaching in Augsburg. It was here the Elector won the name of “Steadfast” through refusing to allow Evangelical preaching to be suppressed.
May 15, 1530.
Most Serene High-born Prince! I have read Philip’s Apology, with which I am delighted, and do not think it can be improved, or require any alteration; and it would be unseemly for me to try to do so, for I could not word it so softly and sweetly.
May Christ our Lord grant that it may bring forth much fruit, as we hope and pray. Amen.
As to the question whether, if His Imperial Majesty forbids the Evangelical preaching, you should submit, my opinion is still the same. The Emperor is our lord, the town and all being his, so that as no one should disobey you in your own town of Torgau, neither should it be done in Augsburg. No doubt it would be well if he were humbly asked not to forbid the preaching without hearing it, but to send some one to hear how they preach before condemning it. Certainly His Majesty should not forbid the pure preaching of the Word, as nothing seditious is being proclaimed. If this do not avail, then might must stand for right. We have done our best, and are blameless.
I have humbly tried to answer the question. May the Lord mercifully support you through His Holy Spirit! Your Electoral Grace’s obedient
Luther begs him to tell Justus Jonas of his child’s death.
May 15, 1530.
Grace and peace! I ordered this letter to be given to you, for I knew of no other way of letting Justus Jonas hear of his son’s death.
Communicate it to him very gently. His wife and famulus certainly prepared him for it. My people wrote that they stood over his death-bed, and he died of the same illness which so lately deprived him of his first Fritz.
The child was always sickly. I shall delay writing in case of increasing his sorrow. I am tormented on all sides, but we shall not let our courage sink.
This is our hour of sorrow, but, like the woman who rejoiced when her son was born, we too shall look forward to a joyful time. So let us bid adieu to our foolish lamenting; for our cause, prayers, and hopes rest with Him who is faithful to His promises. Speak comfortably to the man who, in the world’s eyes, is bowed down with sorrow, causing it to rejoice in our affliction. The Lord be with you!
The Elector would not permit the preaching to be stopped.
May 20, 1530.
Grace and peace! Most Serene Prince! I have delayed answering your most gracious letter from Augsburg, with all its news and admonitions not to let the time hang on my hands. It is most kind of you troubling about me, and here we are most anxious about your Serene Highness, and pray constantly for you. I do not find the days long. We live like lords, and this last week seems hardly three days.
But your Grace is at present in a most tiresome spot. Your Highness is certainly enduring all this trouble, expense, danger, and ennui solely for God’s sake, as no one can find any fault with you except on account of the pure Word of God, for all know you to be a blameless, pious, and quiet Prince. And it proves that God loves you dearly, seeing He considers you worthy to suffer so much enmity for conscience’ sake. For God’s friendship is more precious than that of the whole world put together.
Besides, the merciful God is displaying His loving-kindness in making His Word so fruitful in your Grace’s land.
For there is a greater number of excellent pastors and preachers therein than in any other land, who teach the truth, thus helping to preserve peace.
The young people, too, are so well instructed in Scripture and Catechism that I feel quite touched when I see young boys and girls praying and talking more of God and Christ than they ever could do in all the cloisters and schools of bygone days.
Truly your Grace’s land is a beautiful land for such young people, and God has, so to speak, erected this paradise in your Grace’s lap as a special token of His favor, placing them under your protection that you may be their gardener. For God, whose bread all your subjects eat, wishes you to care for them, even as if God Himself were your Electoral Highness’s daily guest.
One sees the injury young people receive at the hands of godless princes, who, out of this paradise of God, make idle, sinful servants of the devil.
For with all their wealth God does not think them worthy to spread His work, or even give a cup of cold water – nay, they had nothing better to give the Savior on the cross than vinegar and gall to drink.
In conclusion, your Electoral Grace has ever had the earliest prayers of all Christians in your lands especially, and we know our prayers will be heard, because what we ask is good.
Oh that the young people may join, and with their innocent petitions commend you, as their dear father, to the merciful God! Your Grace will graciously accept this letter, for God knows I speak the truth and do not dissemble. I am sorry that Satan is grieving your heart. He is a doleful, disagreeable spirit, who cannot bear to see any one happy, especially in God, so how much l