J. Calvin: Institutio christianae religionis - Instruction in the Christian Religion - Book IV.




John Calvin: The true and the false predestination.   -  Discourse 100


Institutio christianae religionis IV. by John Calvin

Translated and edited after the last edition (1559) by Otto Weber and first published in 1955 by
Neukirchener Verlag, Neukirchen-Vluyn, 6th edition of the one-volume edition 1997.



Commissioned by the Reformed Federation in Germany / JOHANNES A LASCO LIBRARY Emden and prepared for the edition on the Internet by Matthias Freudenberg on the basis of a scan text acquisition by the Institute for Reformation Research of the University of Apeldoorn.

Lessons of the Christian religion

The Doctrine of Calvin - Book I: Of the Knowledge of God the Creator

The Doctrine of Calvin - Book II: Of the Knowledge of God as the Savior in Jesus Christ

The Doctrine of Calvin - Book III: In what way we become partakers of the grace of Christ, what fruits accrue to us from it, and what effects result from it.

The Doctrine of Calvin - Book IV: Of the Outward Means or Aids by Which God Invites and Maintains Us in Communion with Christ.


Editorial notes

The original three-volume edition of Otto Weber’s translation was published in the years 1936-1938. For the present Internet edition, the notes Weber made in the margins of the text seemed dispensable. Likewise, the few annotations, most of which do not offer factual explanations, have not been included. The old spelling has been retained. Obvious typographical errors, inaccuracies in the citation of biblical passages and other literature, and unusual forms of presentation in the typesetting have been corrected.

Edition plan

Book I July 2006
Book II August 2006
Book III December 2006
Book IV March 2007




Forth book

Of the outward means or aids by which God invites us to and sustains us in communion with Christ




Table of contents



First Chapter

Of the true Church, with which we must keep unity because she is the mother of all the pious


Second Chapter

Comparison of the false church with the true one


Third Chapter

Of the teachers and servants of the church, their election and their official duty


Fourth Chapter

Of the State of the Ancient Church, and of the Manner of Government which was in Practice before the Papacy


Fifth Chapter

The Old Form of Church Government Has Been Completely Ruined by the Tyranny of the Papacy


Chapter Six

Of the Supremacy of the Roman See


Chapter Seven

Of the Beginning and Growth of the Roman Papacy, Until It Has Risen to Its Present Highness, By Which the Freedom of the Church Has Been Suppressed, and at the Same Time All Right Measure Has Been Overthrown.


Chapter Eight

Of the Power of the Church in Relation to the Doctrines of the Faith, and with What Unbridled Arbitrariness It Has Been Used in the Papacy to Falsify All Purity of Doctrine.


Chapter Nine

Of the Councils and their Authority


Tenth Chapter

Of the Legislative Power of the Church, in Which the Pope, Together with His Own, Has Subjected Souls to Cruel Tyranny and Torture

Chapter Eleven

Of the jurisdiction of the church and its abuses, as seen in the papacy


Twelfth Chapter

Of the discipline of the church, as chiefly exercised in penalties and in excommunication


Thirteenth Chapter

Of the vows, by the imprudent utterance of which every man hath miserably laid himself in snares


Fourteenth Chapter

Of the Sacraments


Fifteenth Chapter

Of Baptism


Sixteenth Chapter

Infant baptism is most consistent with Christ’s foundation and with the nature of the sign


Seventeenth Chapter

Of the Lord’s Holy Supper - and what it brings us


Eighteenth Chapter

Of the Papal Mass, a desecration of the sanctuary, by which Christ’s Supper has been not only profaned, but nullified


Nineteenth Chapter

Of the five sacraments falsely so called; here it is explained that the five other sacraments, hitherto generally thought to be such, are not sacraments, also it is shown what kind they bear


Twentieth Chapter

Of the civil regiment



First chapter


Of the true church, with which we must keep unity, because she is the mother of all the pious.

IV,1,1 In the previous book it was explained that through faith in the gospel Christ becomes our own and we become partakers of the salvation and eternal blessedness acquired from him. But we are coarse-minded and sluggish, and also of vain understanding, and therefore we need external aids, so that faith may be generated and increased in us through them, and may have its progress to the goal. Therefore, God has also added these external means to help our weakness; and so that the preaching of the gospel may have its effect, he has given this treasure to the church in trust. He has appointed "shepherds" and "teachers" (Eph 4:11) to instruct His own by their mouth. For this purpose, he has also equipped them with authority. In short, he did not omit anything that could be useful for holy unity in the faith and for right order, above all he used the sacraments, which, as we realize through experience, are most useful means to maintain and strengthen the faith. For we are still enclosed in the bondage of our flesh and have not yet reached the level of the angels; therefore God has adapted Himself to our capacity and, in His marvelous providence, has prescribed for us a way in which we are to draw near to Him, even though we are at a great distance from Him. The order of instruction therefore requires that we now enter into a treatment of the church and its regiment, its orders and its authority, likewise also of the sacraments, and finally also into one of the civil order. At the same time, it is necessary here that we call the pious reader away from the corruptions with which Satan in the papacy has distorted everything that God had intended for our salvation. But I will begin with the Church: in her bosom, according to God’s will, His children are to be gathered, not only that they may be nourished by her toil and service while they are babes and children, but also that they may be governed by her motherly care until they have grown up and at last penetrate to the goal of faith. For what "God hath joined together, let not man put asunder" (Mark 10:9): he therefore that hath God for a father must have the church for a mother; and this (was true) not only under the law, but (it is true) also after the coming of Christ; so testifies Paul, who teaches us that we are the children of the new, heavenly Jerusalem (Gal 4:26).

IV,1,2 When we confess in the Articles of Faith that we "believe the church," this refers not only to the visible church of which we are now speaking, but also to all the elect of God, among whose number are also included those who have already died. That is why the word "believe" is used here, because often there is no difference between the children of God and the unholy, between his own flock and the wild beasts. Some now insert the little word "in" (an) into the creed ("I believe in a … church"!); but there is no apparent reason for this. I admit, however, that this procedure is quite common and does not lack the assistance of the early church. For also the Nicene Creed adds this preposition in the version as it is handed down to us by church history. But at the same time it can be seen from the writings of the ancients that in ancient times it was common without contradiction to say: "I believe a … Church", but not: "I believe in a … Church." For Augustine and the old writer whose booklet "On the Interpretation of the Creed" goes around under the name of Cyprian - he may now be who he likes! -, not only speak in this way; nay, they also expressly remark that it would be an improper way of speaking to add that preposition, also they affirm their opinion with a reasoned cause. For when we say, "I believe in God," we give such testimony because our heart leans on him as the true one, and because our confidence relies on him. But this would not apply to the church in the same way, nor to the "forgiveness of sins" and the "resurrection of the flesh." So, although I do not want to quarrel about the words, I would rather follow the peculiarity of the speech, which is better suited to express the matter, instead of hashing for formulas by which the matter would be obscured without reason. But the purpose (of our discussions) is that we may know: even if the devil leaves no means untried to destroy Christ’s grace, even if the enemies of God chase after the same goal in a furious onslaught, it cannot be extinguished, even if Christ’s blood cannot be made unfruitful, no, it always brings forth some fruit! In this sense we must direct our attention to God’s hidden election and inward calling; for He alone knows who His own are, and, as Paul says, He keeps them shut up under a seal (Eph 1:13; 2Tim 2:19); added to this is the fact that they bear His marks by which they are to be distinguished from the rejected. But since the small, despised group is hidden among an immeasurable multitude and the few grains of wheat are covered by a heap of chaff, the knowledge of His church must be left to God alone, the foundation of which is His hidden election. But it is not enough for us to comprehend such a multitude of the elect merely with our minds and hearts, but we must think of the unity of the church in such a way that we are truly convinced that we ourselves are inserted into it. For if we are not joined together with all the other members in one unity under our Head, Christ, we have no hope of the future inheritance. That is why the church is called "catholic" or "universal"; for one could not find two or three "churches" without Christ being torn to pieces thereby - and surely that cannot happen! No, all God’s elect are united in Christ in such a way that, as they are attached to the one head, they also grow together, as it were, into one body, and they live together in such unity as the members of the same body; they have truly become one, as those who live together in one faith, one hope, one love, in the same spirit of God, and who are called not only to the same inheritance of eternal life, but also to share in the one God and the one Christ. Even if such a sad wasteland as confronts us on all sides seems to testify with a loud voice that there is nothing left of the church, we should still know that Christ’s death bears its fruit and that God miraculously preserves his church, as it were, in dark secrecy. It is as it was once said to Elijah: "I have left me seven thousand men who have not bowed the knee to Baal" (1Ki 18:19; not Luther text).

IV,1,3 However, this article of the Creed also refers in a certain sense to the external church, so that each one of us may keep himself in brotherly unity with all God’s children, grant the church the authority it deserves, and behave like a sheep of the flock. To this end is then also added: "the communion of saints". This title of the statement is, of course, omitted throughout by the ancients; but it is nevertheless not to be neglected, because it expresses very well the peculiarity of the church. It means, after all, as much as if it were said: the saints are gathered together according to the order for communion with Christ, that they communicate to one another all the benefits which God grants them. This does not abolish the diversity of the gifts of grace, for we know that the gifts of the Holy Spirit are distributed in many ways. Nor does it overthrow the civil order, according to which each individual may have his own special property in his possession; for it is necessary, in order to maintain peace among men, that each one of them should have his own special right of ownership over his property. No, the fellowship is preserved here, as Luke describes it to us: "But the multitude of the faithful were of one heart and one soul" (Acts 4:32), and as Paul has in mind when he admonishes the Ephesians that they should be "one body and one spirit", just as they were called to one hope (Eph 4:4). For if they are truly carried by the conviction that God is for them all the common Father and Christ the common Head, then it cannot be otherwise than that they too, united with one another in brotherly love, communicate their possessions to one another. Now, however, it is very important for us to know what fruit will come to us from this. For when we "believe the church," it is in such a way that we are firmly convinced that we are its members. In this way, our salvation rests on secure and firm foundations, so that even if the whole edifice of the world were to totter, it cannot itself collapse and fall apart. First of all: it has its existence together with God’s election, and therefore it can experience a change or collapse together with God’s eternal providence alone! Secondly, our salvation is, so to speak, connected with the solidity of Christ, and he will no more tolerate that his faithful be torn away from him than he will admit that his members be cut up or torn apart. In addition, we are sure that the truth will always be with us as long as we are kept in the bosom of the church. And finally: we feel it that such promises are now valid for us as these: "On Mount Zion there will be salvation" (Joel 3:5; Ob. 17), or also: "Forever God will dwell in the midst of Jerusalem, so that it will never, ever waver!" (Ps 46:6; not Luther text). Participation in the Church does so much to keep us in communion with God. Also, already in the word "fellowship" there is a great deal of consolation: for it is certain that all that the Lord grants to his and our members is also granted to us, and so our hope is confirmed by all the goods they possess! In order to uphold the unity of the Church in this way, it is not necessary, as I said before, that we see the Church with our eyes or touch it with our hands. No, the church exists rather in faith, and thus we are reminded that, even if it is beyond our comprehension, we must embrace it with our thoughts no less than if it were openly visible. Nor is our faith of less value because it grasps the church in its unfamiliarity. For we are not instructed here to distinguish the rejected from the elect - that is God’s business alone and not ours! -but we are to hold clearly and certainly in our hearts that all who have passed out of the kindness of God the Father into fellowship with Christ by the working of the Holy Spirit are now set apart as God’s own and His own, and that if we are among their number we are partakers of such grace.

IV,1,4 But we have now the intention to speak of the visible church, and there we want to learn already from the fact that she is called by the honorary name "mother", how useful, yes, how necessary it is for us to know her. For there is no other way for us to enter into life than that she receives us in her womb, gives birth to us, nourishes us at her breast, and finally takes us under her protection and guidance until we have put away mortal flesh and will be like the angels (Mt 22:30). For neither does our weakness endure that we should be dismissed from the school before we have been disciples throughout the whole course of our lives. Moreover, outside the bosom of the Church there is no forgiveness of sins to be hoped for and no salvation; so Isaiah (Isa 37:32) and Joel (Joel 3:5) testify to us, and Ezekiel agrees with them by declaring that those whom God excludes from heavenly life shall not be on the list of His people (Eze 13:9). Likewise, on the other hand, it is also said of those who convert to the service of true piety that they inscribe their names among the citizens of Jerusalem (Isa 56:5; Ps 87:6). For this reason it is also said in another psalm: "Lord, remember me according to the grace you have promised your people; seek me home in your salvation, that I may see the welfare of your elect, that I may rejoice in the joy of your people and boast in your inheritance" (Ps 106:4 s.; mostly not Luther text). With these words God’s fatherly favor and the special testimony of spiritual life is restricted to God’s flock, so that separation from the church is always corrupt.

IV,1,5 But let us proceed in the discussion of what actually belongs to this piece of teaching. Paul writes that Christ, "that He might fulfill all things," "appointed some to be apostles, and some prophets, and some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, that the saints might be prepared, until we all come to the same faith, and to the same knowledge of the Son of God, and become a perfect man, according to the measure of the perfect age of Christ" (Eph 4:10-13). We see there how God, who could bring His own to perfection in a single moment, nevertheless wills that they grow to manhood through the education of the Church alone. We see further how here the manner of such education is expressed; for the "shepherds" are charged with the preaching of the heavenly doctrine. And we see how all, without exception, are committed to the same order, that they submit themselves submissively and docilely to the direction of those teachers who are appointed for this purpose. By this marker Isaiah had long before made the kingdom of Christ knowable: "My spirit which is with thee, and my words which I have put in thy mouth, shall not depart from thy mouth, nor from the mouth of thy seed and of thy child…" (Isa 59:21). It follows that all those who spurn this spiritual food of the soul, which is offered to them by God through the hand of the Church, are worthy of perishing from hunger and want. Certainly, God gives us faith in the heart - but through the instrument of his gospel, as Paul also reminds us that faith "comes from hearing" (Rom 10:17). Likewise, the power to save is with God, but according to the testimony of the same Paul, he brings it forth in the preaching of the gospel and unfolds it in it. From this intention he also decreed in ancient times that holy assemblies should be held at the sanctuary, so that the doctrine proclaimed by the mouth of the priest might receive the unanimity of faith. And when the temple is called God’s "rest" (Ps 132:14), when the sanctuary is called His dwelling-place (Isa 57:15), when it is said of God that He "sitteth above the cherubim" (Ps 80:2), all these splendid exaltations of praise have no other purpose than to give value, love, respect, and dignity to the ministry of heavenly teaching; for in this the sight of a mortal, despised man might otherwise do no small entry! So that we recognize that from such "earthen vessels" (2Cor 4:7) an incalculable treasure is brought to us, God Himself comes forth, and since He is the founder of this order, He also wants to be recognized as present in its establishment. Therefore he forbids his own to indulge in divination, in the interpretation of signs, in magical arts, in inquiring into the dead and other superstitions (Lev 19:31); but he then adds that he will give them one thing that shall be enough for all, namely that they shall never be entirely without prophets (Deut 18:9-15). But as he did not refer the people of the Old Covenant to angels, but raised up for them teachers from the earth, who were to exercise the office of angels in truth, so also today he wants to instruct us through men. And just as he was once not content with the law alone, but also added the priests as its interpreters, from whose mouths the people should investigate the true meaning of the law, so also today he not only wants us to read the Scriptures diligently, but he also sets teachers over us, through whose ministry we are to receive help. From this we derive a twofold benefit: on the one hand, he thus puts our obedience to the test in a masterly examination, since we do not hear his servants speak differently than if we were to hear him ourselves; on the other hand, however, he also comes to the aid of our weakness: he would rather address us in a human way through interpreters in order to lure us to him than to drive us away from him with his thunder. And truly, how beneficial this confidential way of instruction is for us, all the pious learn from the terror with which God’s majesty deservedly throws them to the ground. But he who thinks that the authority of teachers is nullified by the contemptuousness of men who are called to instruct, shows his ingratitude; for among all the many excellent gifts with which God has adorned the human race, this privilege is quite unique, that he condescends to consecrate for himself the mouths and tongues of men, that in them his voice may resound! Therefore, let us not be put off from obediently accepting, for our part, the teaching of salvation as it is presented to us at his command and through his mouth; for although God’s power is not bound to such external means, he has bound us to this orderly mode of instruction, and if the swarming spirits refuse to abide by it, they entangle themselves in many pernicious snares. Many are driven by arrogance, pomposity or ambition to think that if they read and meditate on the Scriptures for themselves alone, they can make enough progress, and that in this way they disregard the public meetings and consider the sermon superfluous. But since such people dissolve and tear the holy bond of unity, as much as there is in them, none escapes the just punishment for such ungodly seclusion, but they all enter into the magic circle of corrupting errors and ghastly delusions. So that the pure simplicity of faith may prevail among us, we should not find any difficulty in using this exercise of piety; for God shows us by its institution that it is necessary, and he recommends it to us so emphatically! Certainly, even among the most insolent dogs, no one has ever been found who has claimed that one must close one’s ears to God, but at all times the prophets and the pious teachers have had to wage a hard battle against the godless, whose stubbornness is never able to bend under this yoke, that they should be instructed by the mouth and the service of men. But this means just as much as if God’s face, which shines toward us in such teaching, were blotted out. For if the faithful were once commanded to seek God’s face in the sanctuary (Ps 105:4), and if this instruction is so often repeated in the Law (Ps 27:8; 100:2, etc.), it was for no other reason than because for them the instruction in the Law and the prophetic exhortations represented the living image of God; so Paul also assures that in his preaching the "clarity of God shines forth in the face of Jesus Christ" (2Cor 4:6). All the more we must abhor the apostates who are bent on dividing the churches - just as if they drove the sheep out of the hurdles and chased them into the jaws of the wolves! We, on the other hand, must hold fast to what we have just quoted from St. Paul: the church is not edified otherwise than by outward preaching, and the saints are held together by no other bond than when they unanimously learn and advance in keeping the order of the church which God has prescribed. It was chiefly for this purpose, as I have said, that the believers under the law were once instructed to come together to the sanctuary; for when Moses speaks of God’s dwelling-place, he at the same time calls it the place of the name (of God), where God had instituted "the remembrance of his name" (Ex 20:24). Thus he openly states that this place has no use without the instruction in piety. Nor is there any doubt that the very same cause led David to lament in infinite bitterness of spirit that he was prevented from entering God’s tabernacle by the tyrannical raging of the enemy (Ps 84:2f.). To many this seems to be an almost childish complaint, because it would be a very small loss to have to do without the forecourt of the temple, and because one would not lose much pleasure by it, if only other pleasures were available to one. Nevertheless, David complains, because he is tormented and martyred with fear and sadness by this one sorrow, yes, almost consumes himself. And this happens because among the faithful nothing is more highly regarded than this means by which God leads His own step by step upward. It should also be noted that God showed Himself to the holy fathers in the mirror of His teaching in such a way that the knowledge they gained should be something spiritual. Therefore, the temple is not only called his "face", but also - to eliminate any superstition - his "footstool" (Ps 99,5; 132,7; 1. Chron. 28,2). Now that blissful striving together for the unity of faith happens when they all, from the highest to the lowest, reach out to the Head. Everything that the Gentiles built for God in other temples was only a desecration of his worship. In this, however, the Jews also, though not quite so grossly, have to a certain extent fallen into desecration. Stephen reproaches them for this, using the words of Isaiah: "God does not dwell in temples made with hands!" (Acts 7:48; not quite Luther text; Isa 66:1 s.). For God alone sanctifies temples for lawful use by his Word. And if we in our presumption do something against his command, then at once further fancies attach themselves to the evil beginning, by which then the evil spreads further without measure and aim. Nevertheless, it was imprudent that Xerxes, on the advice of his magicians, burned and destroyed all the temples of Greece, because he thought it was absurd that the gods, to whom everything should be freely open, should be enclosed between walls and tiles. As if it were not in God’s power to descend to us, as it were, so that he might be near us, and yet not to change the place and not to bind us to earthly means, but rather to lead us up, as it were, in a chariot to his heavenly glory, which in its immensity fills everything and surpasses even the heavens in majesty.

IV,1,6 Now in our time a great controversy has arisen about the power of the ministry of preaching. Some praise its dignity effusively, others maintain that it is wrong to entrust to a mortal man what belongs to the Holy Spirit alone; but this is what happens when we consider that ministers (of the Word) and teachers penetrate the minds and hearts of men in order to remedy the blindness of the mind and the hardness of the heart. So we must give a right description of this disagreement. What is put forward on both sides can easily be settled, if one (1) directs one’s attention sharply to the passages in which God, the author of the sermon, unites his spirit with it and promises fruit from it, but if one on the other hand (2) also pays attention to those passages in which he separates himself from the external means and ascribes the beginning as well as the whole course of faith to himself alone. (1) The office of the second Elijah consisted, according to the testimony of Malachi, in that he should enlighten the mind, "the heart of the fathers to the children" and convert the unbelievers to the understanding of the righteous (Mal 3,23f. = 4,5f.). Christ pronounces that He sends the apostles to "bring forth fruit" from their labor (John 15:16), and what that fruit is Peter indicates in brief words by saying we are "born again … from incorruptible seed" (1Pet 1:23). Therefore Paul boasts that he "begat" the Corinthians "through the gospel" (1Cor 4:15) and that they are the "seal" of his apostleship (1Cor 9:2), yes, that he does not merely lead an office of the letter and as such would have hit the ears only with the sound of his voice, but that the working power of the spirit is given to him so that his instruction is not without benefit (2Cor 3:6). In this sense he also testifies elsewhere that his gospel was not merely in words but in power (1Cor 2:4). He also declares that the Galatians received the Holy Spirit "through the preaching of faith" (Gal 3,2). And finally, in many places he not only makes himself a "co-worker" of God, but he also assigns to himself the official task of communicating salvation (1Cor 3:9). (2) Paul undoubtedly never said all this with the intention of attributing to himself even the slightest thing apart from God; he himself briefly explains this in another place: "Our labor has not been in vain in the Lord" (1Thess 3:5; very imprecise) "according to the working of Him who works powerfully in me! (Col 1:29). Likewise he says elsewhere: "He who was strong with Peter among the Jews, he also was strong with me among the Gentiles" (Gal 2,8). But how purely nothing he leaves for the servants (of the word) alone is clear from other passages. Thus he says: "So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but God who gives the flourishing" (1Cor 3:7). Or likewise, "I have labored much more than they all; not I, but the grace of God which is with me" (1Cor 15:10). Also, we must undoubtedly keep those sayings in which God ascribes to Himself the enlightenment of the mind and the renewal of the heart, reminding us that it is sacrilege for man to arrogate to himself any share in these two acts of God. However, it is true that if everyone is docile to the servants whom God places over him, he will see from the fruit that comes to him that it was not in vain that God was pleased with this kind of instruction, nor is it in vain that this yoke of humility is imposed on believers..

IV,1,7 Now what judgment we are to have of the visible Church, which is accessible to our knowledge, is already clear, I think, from what we have said above. For we said that the Holy Scriptures speak of the Church in two ways. (1) When it speaks of the church, it sometimes understands by it that church which is in truth the church before God, that church into which only those are received who are children of God by the grace of adoption into sonship, and who are true members of Christ by sanctification of the Spirit. And then the church includes not only the saints who dwell on earth, but all the elect who have been since the world began. (2) Often, however, Scripture uses the term "church" to refer to the entire multitude of people scattered throughout the world, who confess that they worship one God and Christ, are initiated into faith in him through baptism, testify to their unity in true doctrine and love through participation in the Lord’s Supper, are unanimous in the word of the Lord, and maintain the office instituted by Christ for its preaching. Among this crowd, however, there are many hypocrites who have nothing of Christ but the name and the appearance, as well as many who are greedy, avaricious, envious, many blasphemers, and people of impure conduct, who are put up with for a while, either because they cannot be convicted with lawful judgment, or because there is not always the strictness of discipline that there should be. Therefore, just as it is necessary for us to believe in that invisible church which can be perceived only by God’s eyes, it is also incumbent upon us to uphold and maintain fellowship with that church which, in the sight of men, is called the church.

IV,1,8 For this reason the Lord has made this church perceptible to us, insofar as it was necessary for us to recognize it, by means of certain marks and, as it were, by signs (symbola). It is indeed a special privilege that God Himself has reserved for Himself to recognize who His own are; we have already mentioned this above from Paul (2Tim 2:19). There is also undoubtedly a provision against the presumption of men being carried so far, and this by the fact that God makes us aware every day by the events themselves of how far his hidden judgments go beyond our comprehension. For on the one hand, people who seemed to be completely lost and because of whom one could no longer have any hope, are called back to the right path by His goodness, and on the other hand, people often fall who seemed to stand firm more than others! Therefore, as Augustin says, according to God’s hidden predestination, "there are many sheep outside and many wolves inside" (Homilies on the Gospel of John 45,). For the people who neither know him nor himself, he knows them and has provided them with his sign. And from the number of those who publicly bear his mark, his eyes alone behold those who are holy without hypocrisy and who - which is, after all, the main point of our salvation! - will persevere to the end. But because, on the other hand, he foresaw that it would be somewhat useful for us to know which people we should consider as his children, he adapted himself in this piece to our capacity. And since the certainty of faith was not necessary for this, he put in its place, as it were, the judgment of love; according to which we are to recognize as members of the Church those people who, by the confession of faith, by the example of their lives, and by participation in the sacraments, confess with us the same God and Christ. But since he knew that the knowledge of the body (the Church) itself is of greater necessity for our salvation, he also put it to our hearts by all the more certain marks.

IV,1,9 From this now arises the visible form of the church, and it emerges so that it is visible to our eyes. For wherever we perceive that God’s Word is preached and heard loudly and the sacraments are administered according to Christ’s institution, there can be no doubt whatsoever that we have a church of God before us. For the promise of the Lord cannot be deceived: "Where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them" (Mt 18:20). But in order to grasp clearly the essential content of this fact, we must proceed, as it were, in stages, in the following manner. The general church (Ecclesia universalis) is the multitude gathered from all nations; it is separated and scattered by spatial distances, but it is nevertheless unanimous in the one truth of divine doctrine, and it is united by the bond of the same religious practice. Under it then are gathered the individual churches (singulae Ecclesiae), scattered over towns and villages according to the exigencies of human need, and in such a way that each one rightfully holds the name and authority of the church. And finally: the individual people who are counted to such churches on the basis of the confession of piety, even if they are in reality outside the church, nevertheless belong to it in a certain sense, until they are excluded by public judgment. However, it is a little different whether one has to judge individuals or churches. For it may happen that we must treat people whom we do not consider worthy of fellowship with the pious as brethren and regard them as believers, for the sake of the common harmony of the church, by virtue of which they are endured and tolerated in the body of Christ. Such men we do not, in our own judgment, acknowledge to be members of the church; but we leave them the place they occupy in the people of God until it is taken from them in lawful decision. On the other hand, we have to judge differently about the multitude (the congregation) itself: if it has and holds in honor the ministry of the Word, and in addition the administration of the sacraments, it undoubtedly deserves to be considered and regarded as a church, because those goods which it possesses (ministry of the Word and administration of the sacraments) are certainly not without fruit. Thus we preserve the unity of the general church, which diabolical spirits have always sought to split up, and we do not deprive even the legitimate assemblies, which are scattered according to local possibilities, of their authority.

IV,1,10 We called the preaching of the word and the practice of the sacraments as symbols by which the church is recognized. For these two cannot exist without bearing fruit and prospering through God’s blessing. I am not saying that wherever the word is preached, fruit immediately comes forth; no, I am saying that it is not received anywhere and has no firm seat anywhere without also bringing its effectiveness to light. Be that as it may, where the preaching of the Gospel is heard with reverence and the sacraments are not neglected, the appearance of the church becomes unmistakably and undoubtedly visible for this time, whose authority no one is permitted to despise, whose exhortations to disregard, whose counsels to oppose or whose chastisements to mock with impunity, much less to fall away from it or to break up its unity. For the Lord attaches such value to the communion of his Church that he considers everyone a defector and a traitor to religion who has stiff-neckedly alienated himself from any Christian community, provided it upholds only the true service of the Word and the Sacraments. The authority of his church he so lays to our hearts that he considers his own authority diminished when that is violated! For it is of no small importance that the church is called "a pillar and foundation of the truth" and the "house of God" (1Tim 3:15). With these words Paul wants to show: so that God’s truth does not perish in the world, the church acts as its faithful guardian; for through its service and work God has preserved the pure preaching of His word and has wanted to show Himself to us as a householder, feeding us with spiritual food and presenting to us everything that serves our salvation. Nor is it a common praise that the church is said to be chosen and set apart by Christ to be a bride "without spot or wrinkle" (Eph 5:27), and that she is called His "body" and His "fullness" (Eph 1:23)! From this it follows that to separate from the church is to deny God and Christ. All the more must we beware of such sacrilegious separation; for if, as much as is in us, we seek to bring about the downfall of God’s truth, then we are worthy that he should bring down upon us the whole force of his wrath as a weatherbeam to shatter us. Nor is it possible to conceive of a more gruesome evil than when one, in sacrilegious faithlessness, violates the marriage covenant that the only begotten Son of God has condescended to make with us!

IV,1,11 Therefore we should diligently impress those marks upon our hearts, hold them fast, and esteem them according to the Lord’s judgment. For Satan takes more pains over nothing than to abolish and do away with one or both of these two marks, sometimes in order to destroy the true and pure purpose of the church after the abolition and destruction of those marks, sometimes also in order to put their contempt in our hearts and thus to tear us away from the church in obvious apostasy. His machinations have succeeded in making the pure preaching of the Gospel disappear for many centuries. And now, with the same wickedness, he is doing everything he can to shake up the ministry which Christ has ordained in His Church in such a way that with its abolition the edification of the Church also perishes. What a dangerous, yes, what a ruinous temptation it is, if it even occurs to us to separate ourselves from a congregation, in which the marks and characteristics are visible, with which, according to the Lord’s judgment, his church is sufficiently described: We see how much care we must take on both sides. For in order that we may not be deceived under the title of church, we must measure every assembly that claims the name "church" by that standard of scrutiny, as by the Lydian Stone. If in word and sacrament it has the order which the Lord has laid on our hearts, it will not deceive us, and we should unconcernedly pay it the honor due to churches. If, on the other hand, it presents itself without word and sacraments, we should be on our guard against such seductions with the same timidity as we are to guard against presumption and arrogance on the other side.

IV,1,12 The pure service of the word and the pure practice in the celebration of the sacraments, we say, is a suitable pledge and pledge, so that we can safely address a community in which both are to be found as a church. Now this is so far valid that such a church, as long as it remains so, is never to be rejected, even if it is otherwise covered over and over with many infirmities. Yes, even in the administration of the doctrine and the sacraments all kinds of errors could arise, which nevertheless should not alienate us from communion with her. For not all pieces of the true doctrine are of the same shape. Some of them are so necessary to know that they must stand unshakably and undoubtedly firm with all, as it were as the actual doctrinal pieces of religion. These include, for example, the following statements: There is one God, Christ is God and the Son of God, our salvation consists in God’s mercy, and other statements of the same kind. Then there are other doctrines about which there are differences of opinion among the churches, but which do not break the unity in faith. For which churches are likely to be divided among themselves for the sake of one point, that one, without contentiousness and without stubbornly insisting on its assertion, is of the opinion that the souls, when they leave the body, immediately go to heaven, while the other, on the other hand, dares not say anything definite about the place, but nevertheless clearly holds that these souls live unto the Lord? In the apostle we hear the words: "As many then as are perfect among us, let us be so minded. And if you hold anything else, let God reveal it to you" (Phil 3:15). Does he not thereby sufficiently show that doctrinal disagreement about such not so necessary things among Christians should not be a cause for dissension? In the first place, it is true, we are to be of the same mind in all things; but, after all, there is no one who is not shrouded in some mist of ignorance, and therefore we must either allow no church to exist at all, or treat with indulgence ignorance in such things as cannot be known either without injury to the essentials of religion and without loss of blessedness. But I do not want to make myself the patron saint of errors here, not even of the very least, so that I would think that one should flatter them and look through their fingers and thereby nourish them. What I maintain is only this: we should not lightly separate ourselves from the Church for the sake of some petty differences of opinion, if in it only that doctrine is preserved healthy and unabridged on which the integrity of piety rests, and if in it the practice of the sacraments, as instituted by the Lord, is preserved. Meanwhile, if we strive to eradicate what we cannot consider right, we do so out of our official duty. Paul’s word also refers to this: "If anything better is revealed to one who is seated, let the first be silent" (1Cor 14:30; not Luther text). From this it follows that every individual member of the church is charged with the effort for general edification, according to the measure of the grace granted to him. Only this is to be done in a proper manner and according to order; that is, we are not to leave the fellowship of the church or, if we remain in it, not to disturb the peace and the properly established discipline.

IV,1,13 But still much further must our forbearance go in bearing with the imperfections of life (of our brethren). For at this point it is very easy to slip and fall, and here Satan lies in wait for us with more than ordinary deceit. For there have always been people who were seized by the false delusion of perfect holiness, imagining that they had already become spirits in the air, as it were, and then, out of such a mindset, despised fellowship with all people in whom, according to their impression, something human still remained. The "Cathars" and the Donatists, who joined their madness, were of this kind in former times. Of this kind today are some of the Anabaptists who want to give the impression that they are more advanced than others. Then there are others who sin more out of thoughtless zeal for righteousness than out of that nonsensical hopefulness. For when they perceive that in those to whom the gospel is preached the fruit of life does not correspond to its teaching, they immediately come to the conclusion that there is no church. This is, of course, a very justified offense, to which we offer more than enough cause even in our sad times. Nor is it possible to excuse our cursed laziness, which the Lord will not let go unpunished - he is already beginning to chastise it with harsh scourges! So woe to us who are guilty of wounding weak consciences on our account by such unrestrained licentiousness of our vices! But on the other hand, those people of whom we have spoken sin in that they know not how to set a measure to their vexation. For where the Lord demands clemency, they leave it aside and surrender themselves entirely to immoderate severity. They think that where there is no perfect purity and sincerity of life, there is no church, and therefore, out of hatred for vice and in the opinion that they are separating themselves from a band of the ungodly, they are actually separating themselves from the legitimate church! They point out that the church of Christ is holy. But at the same time they should realize that it is mixed of good and evil, and for this they should hear from the mouth of Christ that parable in which the church is compared to a net with which fish of all kinds are caught together, but which are not read out until they are spread out on the shore (Mt 13:47f.). Let them hear that the church is like a field sown with good seed, but yet polluted with lolch through the deceitfulness of the enemy, from which it cannot be cleansed until the harvest has gone to the threshing floor (Mt 13:24-30). And they shall finally hear that the church is a threshing floor on which the wheat lies gathered in such a way that it is hidden among the chaff until it is finally taken to the barn, cleaned with a sword and sieve (Mt 3:12). When the Lord makes it known that the church will have to struggle with that evil of being burdened by being mixed with the ungodly until the day of judgment, then they will seek in vain a church that would not be tainted with any blemish!

IV,1,14 Nevertheless, they exclaim that it is something intolerable that the plague of vice is spreading everywhere. Yes, but I have to hold the opinion of the apostle against them, and what do they want to say? Among the Corinthians, it was not just a few who had fallen into error, but the corruption had taken hold of almost the entire body. Nor was there just one kind of sin, but many. Nor were their offenses light, but there were abominable vices among them! The corruption did not only affect their way of life, but also their doctrine. What then did the apostle do, that is, what did the instrument of the heavenly Spirit do, with whose testimony the church stands and falls? Does he seek to separate himself from them? Does he expel them from the kingdom of Christ? Does he hurl against them the most terrible weather-beam of cursing? No, not only does he do none of these things, but he acknowledges and preaches that they are one church of Christ and one communion of saints! (1Cor 1:2). But if there remains a church among the Corinthians, among whom discord, sectarianism and jealousy are rampant (1Cor 1:11; 3:3), among whom quarrels and strife are rampant along with covetousness, among whom an outrage is publicly approved that would be considered abominable even among the Gentiles (1Cor 5:1), among whom the name of Paul, whom they should have honored like a father, is brazenly torn down (1Cor 9:1 ss.), among whom even some mock the resurrection of the dead, with whose collapse the whole gospel falls apart (1Cor 15:12), among whom God’s gifts of grace are made serviceable to ambition and not to love, among whom many things are done in an unseemly and disorderly manner - I say, if there remains the church, and that because the service of the word and the sacraments is not rejected among them, who will then dare to deny the name "church" to those who cannot even be accused of the tenth part of such misdeeds? I only want to know what these people who rage against today’s churches with such obstinacy would have done with the Galatians, who almost abandoned the gospel and with whom the same apostle still found churches (Gal 1:2)!

IV,1,15 They also make the objection that Paul sharply rebukes the Corinthians because they tolerated a man of shameful conduct in their fellowship (1Cor 5:2). They also point out that he makes a general statement in which he declares it unacceptable to even eat bread together with a person of objectionable lifestyle (1Cor 5:11). Then they exclaim: If one may not even eat ordinary bread with such a person, how then shall it be lawful to partake of the bread of the Lord with him? I certainly admit that it is a great shame when pigs and dogs have their place among the children of God, and even more so when the most holy body of Christ is sacrilegiously given to them. But if the churches are rightly constituted, they will not tolerate such evildoers in their bosom, nor will they indiscriminately admit both worthy and unworthy to the holy banquet. But the shepherds are not always so diligent in keeping watch, they are sometimes more lenient than they should be, they are also sometimes hindered, so that they are not able to enforce the severity they would like to exercise, and so it happens that even the manifestly wicked are not always removed from the communion of the saints. That this is a defect, I admit, and I do not wish to mitigate it, since Paul so sharply rebukes it in the Corinthians. But even if the church neglects its official duty in this respect, this does not immediately give every individual the right to judge for himself that he may now separate himself. I do not deny that a pious man has the duty to avoid all private intercourse with such shameful people and not to enter into any voluntary association with them. But it is two different things, whether one flees the contact with the wicked - or whether one spurns the communion with the church out of hatred against them! But if they think that it is a sacrilege to partake of the Lord’s bread with the wicked, they are much sharper in this than Paul himself. He admonished us to partake of this meal in a holy and pure manner, but in doing so he does not demand that one examine the other or that each individual examine the whole church, but that each individual examine himself! (1Cor 11:28). If it were a sacrilege to go to the Lord’s Table with someone unworthy, Paul would surely instruct us to look around to see if there was not someone among the crowd whose uncleanness we could defile ourselves with. But in fact he requires of each one exclusively the examination of himself, and thus he shows that it does us no harm at all if some unworthy ones intrude upon us. Also what he adds afterwards goes in the same direction: "Whoever eats unworthily … eats and drinks himself to judgment" (1Cor 11:29). He says: "himself", but not: "others"! And rightly so; for it must not be at the discretion of the individual who is to be admitted (to the Lord’s Supper) and who is to be rejected. The judgment of this lies rather with the whole church, and it cannot be made without lawful order, as I shall explain more extensively hereafter. It would therefore be inequitable if any individual were to be stained by the unworthiness of another, to whom, after all, he cannot nor may not deny access.

IV,1,16 But although this impugnation arises from time to time even among pious people out of a thoughtless zeal for righteousness, we shall find that such too great obstinacy arises more from arrogance, pomposity, and false delusion of holiness than from true holiness and genuine striving after it. The people who are the ringleaders of the apostasy of the church and who lead others in it, usually have only one reason for their actions: they want to show that they are better than the others by despising them. It is therefore very right and wise when Augustine says: "The pious order and the kind of ecclesiastical discipline should look above all to ’unity in the spirit through the bond of peace’ which the apostle commands us to ’keep’ by bearing with one another; where it is not kept, the ’healing’ punishment is not only superfluous, but also pernicious, and thus it is convicted that it is no longer a medicine at all. On the other hand, there are wicked children who are not guided by hatred of the injustice of others, but by zeal for their own quarrels, and who now make every effort either to draw weak people, whom they have beguiled with the vain fame of their name, completely to themselves, or at any rate to split them o ss. In doing so, they are swollen with arrogance, furious with stubbornness, insidious in their blasphemies, restless in their turmoil. But so that it cannot be proved that they lack the light of truth, they hide themselves in the shadow of a ruthless severity. And what, according to the instruction of the Holy Scriptures, should be done in a quite mild manner, preserving the sincerity of love and maintaining the unity of peace, in order to mend fraternal infirmities, they seize upon in order to commit the sacrilege of church schism and to have an opportunity to cut it off!" (Against the Letter of Parmenian III,1,1). But to pious and peaceful men Augustin gives the advice: what they are able to punish, they should punish in mercy, but what they are not able to punish, they should bear patiently and sigh and complain about it in love, until the Lord either mends it and sets it right, or else uproots the lolch in the harvest and scatters the chaff to the winds (Against the Letter of Parmenian, III,2,15). With such weapons all the pious should strive to equip themselves, lest, while they seem to be busy and zealous defenders of righteousness, they actually separate themselves from the kingdom of heaven, which is the only kingdom of righteousness! For God has willed that in this outward togetherness the fellowship of His Church should be maintained; whoever, therefore, out of hatred for the ungodly, breaks the mark of this togetherness, treads a path by which he may very easily fall out of the fellowship of the saints. Such people should consider that in the great crowd there are some who are truly holy and innocent in the eyes of the Lord, and yet they escape their sight. Let them consider that even among those who appear ill, there are many who are by no means pleased or flattered by their infirmities, but, encouraged again and again by the earnest fear of the Lord, strive for greater purity. Let them consider that one must not pass judgment on a person on the basis of a single act, because even the most holy sometimes do a very serious case. They should consider that the service of the Word and the communal participation in the holy sacraments has more power to gather the Church than that all this power could be destroyed by the fault of some ungodly. And finally, they should realize that in judging the Church, God’s judgment is of greater weight than man’s!

IV,1,17 Then, as I said, they further raise the objection that the church is not called "holy" without reason. Now we have to consider what kind of holiness she is distinguished by. This is necessary so that, if we do not want to admit a church that is not perfect in every respect, we do not end up with none left! It is certainly true what Paul says: Christ gave himself for the church "that he might sanctify it, and cleanse it by the washing of water in the word, that he might present it to himself a bride glorious, not having spot or wrinkle …" (Eph 5:25-27; not quite Luther text). Nevertheless, the other is even more true, that the Lord is working day by day to smooth her wrinkles and wash away her spots. From this it follows that her holiness is not yet perfect. The holiness of the church, then, as will be explained in more detail elsewhere, is of such a nature that the church progresses day by day but is not yet perfect, that it makes progress day by day but has not yet reached the goal of holiness. So when the prophets prophesy that Jerusalem "shall be holy, and no stranger shall walk through her any more" (Joel 4:17), that the temple shall be holy, and that the unclean shall have no entrance into it (Isa 35:8), we must not understand this as if there were no stain left on the members of the church, no, because they strive with all their zeal for holiness and perfect purity, therefore out of God’s kindness that purity is imputed to them which they have not yet fully attained. And although among men there are often merely rare signs of such holiness, we must nevertheless hold to the fact that since the creation of the world there has never been a time when the Lord did not have his church, and that even to the end of this world there will be no time when he would not have it. For although from the very beginning the whole human race was corrupted and defiled by the sin of Adam, the Lord nevertheless sanctifies for Himself from this defiled mass some "vessels unto glory" (Rom 9:21) at all times, so that there will be no age that will not experience His mercy. He also testified to this with sure promises. For example: "I have made a covenant with my chosen one; I have sworn to David, my servant: I will confirm your seed forever and build your throne for ever" (Ps 89:4f.). Or likewise: "The Lord has chosen Zion and has pleasure in dwelling there. ’This is my rest forever …’" (Ps 132:13 f.). Or finally: "Thus says the Lord, who gives the sun for light by day, and the moon and the stars for light by night …: When such ordinances pass away before me, … so shall also the seed of Israel cease …" (Jer 31:35 f.).

IV,1,18 Christ himself, the apostles and almost all prophets have given us an example of this. Terrible are those descriptions in which Isaiah, Jeremiah, Joel, Habakkuk and others lament the infirmities of the church at Jerusalem. The people, the authorities and the priests are so corrupt that Isaiah has no qualms about equating Jerusalem with Sodom and Gomorrah (Isa 1:10). The worship of God has fallen partly into contempt, partly defiled, and as for the conduct of life, theft, robbery, faithlessness, murder, and such misdeeds are found again and again. Nevertheless, the prophets did not build themselves new churches because of this, nor did they build themselves new altars where they might have held separate sacrifices; no, men might be as they pleased, yet they considered that the Lord had given his word to be kept with them, and that he had established the ceremonies by which he was worshipped there, and therefore, in the midst of the assembly of the wicked, they stretched up clean hands to him! If they had thought that they could have been defiled by this, they would certainly have died a hundred times rather than have allowed themselves to be defiled. What prevented them from separating themselves was nothing else than the desire to maintain unity. If, then, the holy prophets had an inner shrinking from alienating themselves from the church for the sake of so many and so great evils, not only of one or two men, but almost of the whole people, we presume too much if we dare to fall away from the fellowship of a church in which the conduct of life of all does not satisfy our judgment or even the Christian confession!

IV,1,19 What was the situation in the time of Christ and the apostles? The piety of the Pharisees was unholy, and an unrestrained licentiousness of lifestyle prevailed. But all this did not prevent Christ and the apostles from performing the same holy acts with the people and from meeting together with the others in the same temple for public worship. How could this happen? Exclusively from the fact that they knew that those who participated in the same holy acts with a pure conscience were in no way defiled by the company of the wicked. But if one can be moved but little by the prophets and apostles, he may at least be reassured by Christ’s authority. It is therefore good what Cyprian says: "Although there are tares and unclean vessels in the church, yet there is no reason why we should separate ourselves from the church; we must only labor to be a right grain of wheat, we must apply labor to it and make every effort that we may be a golden or silver vessel! But to break the vessels of clay is the business of the Lord alone, to whom also is given a rod of iron (Ps 2:9; Acts 2:27). Neither shall any man lay claim to that which is the Son’s alone; neither shall any man think that he is able to sweep out the threshing-floor, and sweep away the chaff, and weed out all the tares according to human judgment. This is a hopeless stubbornness and a sacrilegious presumption, which takes such evil raging for itself …" (Letter 54). So both of these things should remain unshakable: (first:) whoever, of his own free will, leaves the external communion of the Church, where God’s Word is preached and the sacraments are administered, has no excuse; and then further: ’the infirmities of few or many offer us no hindrance to confess our faith lawfully in such church by the ceremonies instituted by God; for a pious conscience is not injured by the unworthiness of another, whether he be a pastor of the church or an officious man, and the sacraments are no less pure and salutary to a holy and righteous man, if at the same time they are also touched by unclean persons.

IV,1,20 But the obstinacy and pomposity of such people goes further. For they do not recognize any church unless it is pure even from the slightest stain; nay, they go off against the righteous teachers because the latter exhort the faithful to go on, teaching them to groan all their lives under the burden of their infirmities and to take their refuge in forgiveness! They claim that in this way believers are led away from perfection. Now I admit that one should not be remiss or cold in endeavoring to press for perfection, much less desist from it; but I maintain that it is a devilish fancy to fill hearts with confidence in such perfection while we are still in the course. Therefore, in the Creed, the forgiveness of sins is quite sensibly connected to the doctrine of the Church. For no one attains such forgiveness but only the citizens and members of the church, as it is written in the prophet (Isa 33:14-24). Therefore, the building of the heavenly Jerusalem must precede, in which then also that forbearance of God shall have its place, so that the unrighteousness of all who have gone to it will be wiped out. When I say that the Church must be built first, it is not because there could ever be a Church without forgiveness of sins, but because the Lord has promised His mercy to the communion of saints alone. The first access to the church and to God’s kingdom is therefore for us the forgiveness of sins, without which there can be no covenant or connection with God for us. For he speaks through the prophet: "And I will make you a covenant at the same time with the beasts of the field, and with the fowls of the air, and with the creeping things of the earth; and I will break bow and sword and war from off the earth, and will give men rest without fear. I will betroth myself to you forever; I will, I say, trust with you in righteousness and in judgment, in mercy and in grace" (Hos 2:20 s.; not quite Luther text). There we see how the Lord wants to reconcile us to himself through his mercy. This is also how he expresses it in another place; there he predicts that he will gather again the people whom he has scattered in his wrath, and then it says: "I will cleanse them from all iniquity, so that they have sinned against me" (Jer 33:8). Therefore we are received into the fellowship of the Church by the sign of washing away; by this we are to be taught that no entrance is open to us into God’s house fellowship unless first by His goodness our stains are wiped away.

IV,1,21 But it is not as if the Lord merely received us into the church once through the forgiveness of our sins and added us to it, but He also sustains and preserves us in it through the forgiveness of sins. What purpose would it serve if we were to receive forgiveness that would be of no use to us? But every single one of the pious is a witness to himself that the mercy of the Lord would be ineffective and deceptive if it were to happen to a person only once. For there is no one who does not know himself guilty of many weaknesses throughout his life, which are in need of God’s mercy. And it is certainly not in vain that God promises such mercy especially to his household, nor is it in vain that he commands that the same message of reconciliation should be brought to them day by day; if, therefore, in view of the fact that all our lives we carry about with us the remnants of sin, we were not sustained by the Lord’s constant grace, which he makes effective for the forgiveness of our sins, we would scarcely be able to remain in the church for a moment. But the Lord has called His own to eternal salvation, and therefore they should consider that forgiveness is always ready for their sins. Therefore, let it be unalterably established that for us, who are received and incorporated into the body of the Church, forgiveness of sins has been and is being effected day by day through God’s kindness, through the intercession of Christ’s merit on our behalf, and through the sanctification of the Spirit.

IV,1,22 To make this good come to us, the keys have been given to the Church. For when Christ commissioned the apostles and gave them the authority to forgive sins (Mt 16:19; 18:18; John 20:23), He did not merely want them to "redeem" such people from their sins who converted from ungodliness to faith in Christ, but much more that they continued to practice this ministry among the believers. This is what Paul teaches when he writes that the message of reconciliation is given to the ministers of the church in preservation, so that they may continually exhort the people in Christ’s name to be reconciled to God (2Cor 5:18,20). So then, in the communion of saints, through the ministry of the church itself, our sins are continually forgiven, when the elders or bishops to whom this office is entrusted strengthen pious consciences by the promises of the gospel in the hope of pardon and forgiveness, publicly or specially, as the need may require. For there are very many who, for the sake of their weakness, need special comfort. And Paul reports that he not only testified to the faith in Christ in public preaching, but also back and forth in the homes, instructing each one individually in the doctrine of salvation (Acts 20:20 s.). So we need to pay attention to three things here. First, the children of God, however great their holiness, are nevertheless in such a state, as long as they dwell in the mortal body, that they cannot stand before God without forgiveness of sins. Secondly, this benefit (of forgiveness) is so peculiar to the Church that we cannot enjoy it otherwise than by remaining in her communion. Thirdly, this benefit is distributed to us by the ministers and pastors of the Church, through the preaching of the Gospel or the administration of the sacraments, and it is in this piece that the key power which the Lord has conferred on the community of believers is most evident. Let each one of us, then, consider that it is his duty not to seek forgiveness of sins elsewhere than where the Lord has placed it. Public reconciliation, which belongs to discipline, will be spoken of in the appropriate place..

IV,1,23 But since those swarming spirits of whom I have spoken are endeavoring to snatch from the church this one anchor of salvation, consciences must be strengthened still more vigorously against such a corrupting delusion. With such doctrines the Novatians of old made the churches restless, but also our time has people who are not very dissimilar to the Novatians, namely some of the Anabaptists, who have fallen for the same delusions. They imagine that the people of God are reborn in baptism to a pure and angelic life that is not stained by any filth of the flesh. So if someone still transgresses after baptism, they leave him nothing but God’s inexorable judgment. In short, they give no hope of forgiveness to a sinner who has fallen again after receiving grace, because they know no other forgiveness of sins than that by virtue of which we are born again in the beginning (of our life as Christians). Of course, there is no lie that is more clearly refuted by the Scriptures, but such people still find people who let themselves be deceived by them, just as Novatus also had many followers in former times; and therefore we want to explain shortly how much their madness leads to their own and other people’s ruin. First of all, when the saints, at the Lord’s command, repeat every day the petition, "Forgive us our debts," they are, of course, confessing themselves sinners. Nor do they ask in vain; for the Lord has nowhere commanded to ask anything but what he himself would grant. Yes, he testifies that the whole prayer will be heard by the Father, but he has sealed this forgiveness with a special promise. What more do we want? The Lord demands from the believers the confession of their sins all their life long, and that continuously, and he also promises them forgiveness! What presumption is it to declare that they are free from sin, or, if they have erred, to exclude them altogether from grace! Who is this, then, whom we are to forgive "seventy times seven times" according to his will? Are they not our brothers? (Mt 18:21 s.). But for what purpose did he give us this instruction? But only so that we would imitate his goodness! So he forgives not once or twice, but as often as they, thrown to the ground by the knowledge of their iniquities, groan to him.

IV,1,24 And then - we want to start almost at the earliest origins of the Church -: the Archfathers were circumcised, they were received into the fellowship of the covenant, they were undoubtedly instructed in righteousness and uprightness by the diligence of their father - and there they made a conspiracy to put their brother to death (Gen 37:18)! This was an outrage that must have seemed abominable even to the most heinous robbers. Finally, they were appeased by the exhortations of Judas and sold their brother (Gen 37:28); but even this was still intolerable cruelty. Simeon and Levi raged in foul revenge, condemned also by their father’s judgment, against the people of Shechem (Gen 34:25, 30). Reuben defiled his father’s bed in wicked lust (Gen 35:22). Judah surrenders to adultery and commits fornication with his own daughter-in-law against the law of nature (Gen 38:16). Nevertheless, these men are not eradicated from the chosen people, no, on the contrary, they are elevated to its heads! How did David continue to behave? He was appointed the patron of righteousness, and yet, with what a horrible outrage he paved the way for his blind greed by shedding innocent blood (2Sam 11:4, 15)! Yet he was already born again, and he had been distinguished among the born again by glorious praises of the Lord - and yet he committed an outrage that is considered terrible even among the Gentiles. Nevertheless, he obtained pardon (2 Sam 12:13). And - we do not want to dwell on the individual examples - all the many promises to the Israelites, which we encounter in the law and the prophets, are just as many proofs that the Lord proves to be forgiving towards the misdeeds of his people. For according to the promise of Moses, what shall happen when the people who have fallen into apostasy return to the Lord? "God will turn your prison and have mercy on you, and will gather you again from all the nations where you were scattered. Though you were cast out to the end of the heavens, yet I will gather you from there…" (Deut 30,3 s.; not quite Luther text).

IV,1,25 But I do not want to start an enumeration, which could never be brought to an end. For the (books of the) prophets are full of such promises, which shall nevertheless offer mercy to the people covered with infinite evil deeds over and over. Which outrage should be more severe than the sedition? For it is called a divorce between God and the church. But it too is overcome by God’s goodness! He speaks through the mouth of Jeremiah: "What man, when his wife has given her body to adulterers, will take it upon himself to be reconciled to her? But all the ways of your adulteries are defiled, O Judah; the land is full of your filthy love-dealing! … Yet you may return to me, and I will receive you. Return again, you apostate; I will not turn my face away from you; for I am holy, and I am not angry forever" (Jer 3:1 s.12; not Luther text). And truly, he who testifies that he "has no pleasure in the death of the wicked," but rather, "that he may turn … and live" (Eze 18,23.32), he cannot be of any other mind! Therefore, when Solomon dedicated the temple, he also designated it for the use of answering the prayers offered for the forgiveness of sins. "If thy children shall sin against thee," saith he, "(for there is no man that sinneth not) and thou art angry, and givest them away before their enemies…, and they smite into their hearts, and are converted, and plead with thee in the land of their prison, saying: We have sinned and done evil…, and pray unto thee toward their land which thou gavest unto their fathers, and toward this holy temple…, then wilt thou hear their prayer and supplication in heaven…. and be merciful to your people who have sinned against you, and to all their transgressions, so that they have transgressed against you …" (1 Kings 8:46-50; not quite Luther text). Not for nothing did the Lord command daily sacrifices for sins in the Law (Num 28:3 ss.); for if the Lord had not foreseen that His people would have to struggle with perpetual infirmities of sin, He would never have ordained such remedies for them.

IV,1,26 Isa it because of the coming of Christ, in whom the fullness of grace has been revealed, that believers have been deprived of this benefit, that they may not now dare to plead for forgiveness of their iniquities, that if they have offended the Lord they may no longer obtain any mercy? If one asserted that the forbearance of God, which works itself out in the forgiveness of sins, and which was always ready for the saints in the Old Covenant, was now taken away, it would mean nothing else than if he said that Christ came to the ruin of his own and not for their salvation. No, the Scriptures expressly and loudly declare that only in Christ did the "kindness and lightness" of the Lord fully appear, that only in Him did the riches of His mercy pour out and the reconciliation between God and men come to fruition (Tit 3:4; 2Tim 1:9; 2Cor 5:18-21), and if we believe it, let us not doubt that now the kindness of our heavenly Father only flows to us all the more abundantly instead of being cut off and shortened. Peter had heard that whoever did not confess Christ’s name before men should be denied before the angels of God (Mt 10:33; Mar 8:38), but he denied the Lord three times in one night and even cursed himself (Mt 26:74). Nevertheless he was not excluded from forgiveness (Lk 22:32; Joh 21:15ff). The people who lived disorderly among the Thessalonians were punished in such a way that they were actually invited to repent (2Thess 3,6.14f.). Yes, even Simon the sorcerer was not put to despair, but was rather commanded to be of good hope, with Peter advising him to take his refuge in prayer (Acts 8:22).

IV,1,27 Furthermore, what shall we say to the fact that at times whole churches were seized with the most grievous sins, from which Paul nevertheless kindly turned them out instead of cursing them? The apostasy of the Galatians was no trifling iniquity (Gal 1:6; 3:1; 4:9), and the Corinthians were the less to be excused in comparison with them, because more and no lighter infamies had prevailed among them; yet neither were excluded from the Lord’s mercy! No, precisely those who had sinned more than others through impurity, fornication and unchastity are expressly called to repentance (2Cor 12:21). For there remains and there will remain forever inviolable the covenant of the Lord, which he solemnly made with Christ, the true Solomon, and with his members, saying, "But if his children forsake my law, and walk not in my statutes, if they profane my ordinances, and keep not my commandments, I will punish their sin with the rod, and their iniquity with plagues; but my mercy will I not turn from him …" (Ps 89:31-34). Finally, we are reminded precisely by the division of the Creed that a perpetual forgiveness of iniquity is to have its place in the Church of Christ; for after the Church is, as it were, firmly circumscribed, the forgiveness of sins is still attached!

IV,1,28 There are then other people who are a little more reasonable (than those mentioned so far): they see that the doctrine of Novatus (Novatian) is refuted with such clarity of Scripture, and now they do not declare any iniquity to be unforgivable, but (merely) the willful transgression which someone has knowingly and intentionally committed. When they speak in this way, they do not consider any sin worthy of forgiveness, unless one has strayed somewhere through ignorance. Now the Lord instructed in the Law that certain sacrifices should be offered to atone for the willful sins of believers and others to obtain forgiveness for those committed in ignorance (Lev 4). What an impertinence it is, then, to concede no atonement at all to sin committed willfully! I maintain: nothing is more evident than that the one sacrifice of Christ has power to forgive sins willingly committed by the saints; for the Lord has testified to it by the fleshly sacrifices as by seals! Further: who then will excuse David, who was surely so thoroughly educated in the law, with ignorance? Did David not know what a great sacrilege adultery and murder was, when he punished it day after day in others? Did fratricide appear to the patriarchs as something lawful? Were the Corinthians so badly advanced that they thought immorality, impurity, adultery, hatred and discord were pleasing to God? And did Peter, who had been so diligently instructed, not know what it meant to deny his Master on oath? Therefore, let us not block the way of God’s mercy, which reveals itself so kindly, with our malice!

IV,1,29 However, it is not unknown to me that the ancient writers (of the Church) understood by the sins forgiven daily to the faithful the lighter offenses that creep up on the faithful out of the weakness of the flesh. It is also not hidden from me that they were of the opinion that solemn penance, which was demanded at that time for more serious misdeeds, could be repeated just as little as baptism. Now this opinion of theirs is not to be understood as if they had wanted to plunge such people into despair who had fallen into sin again after their first repentance, or as if (on the other hand) they had wanted to diminish those (lighter) offenses as if they were now of little importance before God. They knew, in fact, that the saints often stumble because of unbelief, that sometimes superfluous oaths escape them, that they sometimes fly into a rage, yes, that they even let themselves be carried away to openly abusive words, and that they also have to deal with many other evil things which the Lord strongly detests; but they nevertheless used this designation (namely: lighter offenses) in order to distinguish such offenses from the publicly known outrages which came to the knowledge of the church under great offence. However, the fact that they forgave so severely those who had committed something worthy of ecclesiastical punishment was not because they thought that such people would hardly find forgiveness with the Lord; no, they wanted to deter others with this severity, so that they would not wantonly let themselves be carried away by such vices, for whose sake they would be excluded from the fellowship of the church. Of course, the Word of the Lord, which must serve as our only guide here, prescribes a greater moderation. For it teaches, as we have explained in more detail above, that the severity of discipline may only be stretched so far that the one who is primarily to be helped "does not sink into too much sadness" (2Cor 2:7).

Second chapter


Comparison of the false church with the true one

IV,2,1 I have now explained the high value that the service of the Word and the sacraments should have for us and how far reverence for it should go: it should be the constant mark for us to distinguish the (true from the false) church, because everywhere where this service appears intact and unabridged, such a church is not hindered by any infirmities or diseases of the way of life from bearing the name "church". Furthermore, this service itself is not corrupted by minor errors to such an extent that it could not be considered legitimate. I have then further shown that the errors to which such pardon is due are of such a nature that by them the most essential doctrine of religion is not violated, and the principal parts of the worship of God, about which there must be unanimity among all the faithful, are not suppressed; so far as the sacraments are concerned, as I have shown, those pardonable errors are such that they do not abolish or shake the lawful institution of the author of these sacraments. On the other hand, as soon as falsehood has broken into the bulwark of religion, the main sum of the necessary doctrine has been reversed, and the practice of the sacraments has collapsed, then the downfall of the church will certainly result, just as it has happened to the life of a man when his throat has been pierced or his heart mortally wounded. This can be clearly proven from the words of Paul, who teaches that the Church is founded on the teaching of the apostles and prophets, "Jesus Christ being the cornerstone" (Eph 2:20). If, then, the foundation of the Church is the teaching of the prophets and apostles, in which believers are commanded to base their salvation on Christ alone, - how can the edifice continue to stand if this foundation is taken away? The church must therefore necessarily collapse where this main sum of the worship of God, which alone can sustain it, falls away. And then: if the true church "is a pillar and foundation of the truth" (1Tim 3:15), then there is certainly no church where lies and falsehood have gained dominion.

IV,2,2 This is exactly how things are under the papacy, and from this we can see what is left of the church there. Instead of the service of the Word, there is a perverse regiment forged out of lies, which partly extinguishes and partly suffocates the pure light. In the place of the Holy Communion, the most abominable desecration of the sanctuary has crept in. The worship of God is distorted by a manifold and intolerable amount of superstition. The doctrine without which Christianity cannot exist has been entirely buried and set aside. The public assemblies (worship services) are schools of idolatry and impiety. Therefore, there is no danger that we will be torn away from the Church of Christ if we separate ourselves from the corrupting participation in so much infamy. The fellowship of the church is not designed to be a bond by which we are entangled in idolatry, impiety, ignorance of God, and other evils, but rather to be a bond that keeps us in the fear of God and in obedience to the truth. The papists may now magnificently praise their church to us, so that the impression is created that there is no other in the world; they may then also, as if they had already proved their case, declare all to be "schismatics" who dare to evade obedience to the church they are painting there, and all to be "heretics" who dare to murmur against the teachings of this church. They may do so - but on what grounds do they prove that they have the true church? They cite from ancient history books what once was in Italy, in France, in Spain, they claim that they derive their origin from those holy men who once founded and established the churches with sound doctrine and confirmed this doctrine itself and the edification of the church with their blood. They further assert that the Church, consecrated by such spiritual gifts and by the blood of the martyrs, was preserved by the perpetual succession of bishops, lest it perish. They recall the high value that Irenaeus, Tertullian, Origen, Augustine, and others placed on this succession of bishops. Now what a frivolous talk this is, nay, what a mockery it is altogether, I will without difficulty make clear to those who will consider it a little with me. I would indeed ask the papists themselves to pay serious attention to this, if I had the confidence that I could do anything with them by teaching. But since they have thrown away all regard for the truth and are now only interested in pursuing their own cause by every possible means, I will say only a few things with the help of which well-meaning men who are seriously concerned about the truth can free themselves from their deceptions. First of all, I would like to know from the papists why they do not mention Africa and Egypt and the whole of Asia. The reason, of course, is that in all these regions the "holy" succession of bishops has ceased, which they praise as the blessing by which they have maintained their churches! So they retreat to the fact that they have the true church because this church has never lacked bishops since its origin, since they have followed one another in uninterrupted succession. But what should happen if I now refer them to Greece? I would like to know from them again why they claim that the Church has perished among the Greeks, although among them the succession of bishops, which according to them is the only guardian and protector of the Church, has never been interrupted. They make the Greeks schismatics. With what right? "They have just seceded from the apostolic see and have thereby lost their prerogative!" Why do not rather those deserve to forfeit their privilege who fall away from Christ Himself? It follows, then, that the pretext of succession (of bishops) is vain, unless the later ones preserve and persevere in the truth of Christ, which they received into their hands from their fathers, intact and uncorrupted.

IV,2,3 Therefore the Romans today have no other excuse than the Jews apparently used in former times, when they were accused by the prophets of the Lord of blindness, impiety and idolatry. Then they magnificently invoked the temple, the ceremonies, and the priesthood; for these, in their opinion, were the things by which they were able to measure the church with powerfully effective proof. This is exactly what the Romans do today: instead of the Church, they merely present us with certain external larvae, which are often far removed from the Church and without which the Church can very well exist. If we want to refute them, this can therefore be done only with the proof with which Jeremiah fought against that foolish confidence of the Jews: they should not boast with lying words and say: "Here is the Lord’s temple, here is the Lord’s temple, here is the Lord’s temple!" (Jer 7:4). For the Lord only ever recognizes for His own that where His word is heard and reverently heeded. Thus, although the glory of God had its seat among the cherubim in the Holy of Holies (Eze 10:4), and although God had promised the people that He would have His permanent place there, as soon as the priests corrupted His worship with evil superstitions, He moved elsewhere, leaving that place without any sanctity. If that temple, which seemed to be consecrated as the perpetual abode of God, could be abandoned by God and become unholy, there is no reason for these people to deceive us that God is so bound to persons and places and tied to outward customs that he must remain with such people who, after all, have only the title and outward appearance of the church. This is also the argument Paul makes in the letter to the Romans from the ninth to the twelfth chapter. For it threw the weak consciences into violent confusion that the Jews, although they seemed to be God’s people, not only despised the teaching of the gospel, but even persecuted it. Having therefore unfolded the doctrine (as a whole), he removes this difficulty, and denies that those Jews, who are the enemies of the truth, are the church, and that even if nothing came from them which might otherwise be required for the outward form of the church. But he denies this because they did not accept Christ. He expresses this even more clearly in the letter to the Galatians: there he compares Ishmael with Isaac and explains that many have a place in the church, to whom the inheritance does not belong, because they are not born of the free mother (Gal 4,22 ss.). From there he comes to the comparison between a twofold Jerusalem; for as the law was given on Mount Sinai, but the gospel went out from Jerusalem, so there are also many who are born and educated as servants and yet boast unconcernedly that they are children of God and of the church, yes, who look down arrogantly on the true children of God, although they themselves are degenerates. Now, on the other hand, when we hear that it was once proclaimed from heaven: "Cast out this maid with her son" (Gen 21:10), we too want to base ourselves on this inviolable decree and from there bravely despise the foolish claims of the papists. For if they haughtily insist on the external confession - even Ishmael was circumcised! If they bring into the field the great age (of their church) - Ishmael was the firstborn, and yet he was rejected, as we see! If we ask the reason for this, Paul shows it to us: only those are counted among the children who are born of the pure and lawful seed of doctrine (Rom 9:6-9). Accordingly, God declares that he is not bound to the godless priests because he made a covenant with their progenitor Levi, according to which he was to be his messenger and interpreter; indeed, he turns their false boast, with which they used to revolt against the prophets, against themselves, namely this boast that the dignity of the priesthood should always be held in special esteem (Mal 2,1-9). He himself readily admits this to them, and this is precisely the point on the basis of which he argues with them. For he himself says that he is willing to keep his covenant. But since they do not comply with this covenant on their part, they deserve to be rejected. There one sees what the succession (in the priesthood) has for a meaning, if with it also the succession and the same kind is not connected: namely only that, that the successors, as soon as they are convinced of it that they have left their origin, are deprived of all honor! Otherwise, even that criminal mob (in Christ’s time) would have been worthy of the name "church," because Caiaphas was the successor of many pious priests, indeed, because from Aaron to him there was an unbroken succession! But even in earthly realms it would not be tolerated if someone wanted to call the tyranny of Caligula, Nero, Heliogabal or similar men the right state of public authority, because these men would have followed people like Brutus, Scipio and Camillus. But especially in church government nothing is more frivolous than to leave aside the doctrine and to refer the succession to the persons alone. But those holy teachers, who are erroneously brought to our attention, had nothing less in mind than to prove, as it were on the basis of a hereditary right, that everywhere there were churches where one bishop always followed the other. It was rather this: there could be no dispute about the fact that since the beginning (of the church) until that time no change had occurred in the doctrine, and therefore they made an assertion which should suffice to nullify all newly arising errors, namely: those errors disputed against the doctrine which had just been maintained constantly and in unanimous agreement since the times of the apostles. There is therefore no reason why our adversaries should continue to make a deceptive semblance of the name "Church". Certainly, we venerate this name with due reverence. But when one comes to the determination (of this term), they not only "run out of water", as it is said (Cicero), but they get stuck in their mud, because they namely put a disgusting whore in the place of the holy bride of Christ. In order that we may not be deceived by this confusion, let us be helped, among other admonitions, by one of Augustine; speaking of the Church, he says: "It is she who is ever and anon darkened by the multitude of vexations and, as it were, shrouded in mist, who ever and anon appears calm and free in peaceful times, but ever and anon is covered and disturbed by the waves of tribulations and temptations." He then gives examples of how often the firmest pillars of the Church lived bravely in exile for their faith, or even led a hidden existence throughout the world (Letter 93).

IV,2,4 In this way the Romans torment us today, and they frighten the inexperienced with the name "church", although they themselves are the mortal enemies of Christ. Certainly, therefore, they turn temple and priesthood and other larvae of this kind forward; but this vain splendor, which blinds the eyes of simple people, should in no way induce us to agree that there is a church where the Word of God does not make its appearance. For this is the permanent mark by which our Lord designates his own: "He who is of the truth," he says, "hears my voice" (John 18:37). Likewise he says: "I am the good shepherd, and know those who are mine, and am known to those who are mine" (John 10:14), "my sheep hear my voice, and I know them; and they follow me" (John 10:27). Shortly before he had said: the sheep follow their shepherd, "because they know his voice. But they do not follow a stranger, but flee from him, because they do not know the voice of the stranger" (John 10:4f.). Why, then, do we fall into foolishness in judging the church without reason, when Christ has provided her with a mark that is completely removed from all doubt? Wherever this mark is to be seen, it cannot deceive, but indicates with certainty that there is church; but where it is missing, nothing remains that could give a real indication of the church. For the church is not founded on the judgments of men, not on the priesthood, but on the teaching of the apostles and prophets, as Paul reminds us (Eph 2:20). Yes, rather, Jerusalem must be distinguished from Babel, Christ’s Church from Satan’s conspiratorial rot, by the distinguishing mark by which Christ distinguished them: "He that is of God," saith he, "heareth the words of God: therefore hear ye not; for ye are not of God" (John 8:47). To summarize: The church is the kingdom of Christ; but Christ reigns by his word alone; now should it still be dark to any man that these are lying words, if we are led to believe that Christ’s kingdom can exist without his scepter, that is, without his holy word?

IV,2,5 They accuse us of schism and heresy because we preach a different doctrine (from theirs), because we do not obey their laws, and because we hold special meetings among ourselves for prayer, baptism, the celebration of Holy Communion, and other holy acts. This is certainly a very serious charge, but it does not require a long and arduous defense. Heretics and schismatics are the names given to those who cause a schism and thereby tear apart the communion of the Church. Now this communion of the Church is held together by two bonds: by unanimity in sound doctrine and by brotherly love. Therefore, Augustine draws the following distinction between heretics and schismatics: heretics corrupt the integrity of the faith with false doctrines, whereas schismatics, sometimes even while maintaining the same faith, break the bonds of communion (Questions on the Gospel of Matthew 11:2). But it must also be remembered that this bond in love depends on unity in faith in such a way that the latter must be its beginning, its goal, in short, its only guide. Therefore, as often as ecclesial unity is praised to us, let us remember that it is required of us that our minds be united in Christ, and at the same time that our wills be united in mutual goodwill in Christ. This is how Paul does it: he exhorts us to church unity and sets as its foundation that there is one God, one faith and one baptism (Eph 4,5). Yes, wherever he teaches us to have the same judgment and the same will, he immediately adds: "In Christ" or "after the manner of Christ" (Phil 2,2.5; Rom 15,5). Thus he shows that what happens outside the word of our Lord (in ecclesiastical fellowship) is a mob of the ungodly and not a united fellowship (conspiratio) of believers.

IV,2,6 Cyprian agrees with this judgment of Paul: he finds the source of all ecclesiastical harmony in the fact that Christ is the one bishop. Then he adds: "The church, which by fruitful growth continues to expand into a multiplicity, is nevertheless one church, just as the rays of the sun are many, but the light is one, or as on a tree there are many branches, but the trunk is only one, founded on one firm root. And if from a single source many streams flow, then the impression of a scattered multiplicity may well arise from the abundance of the overflowing water, but unity remains in the source. Take away a ray of the sun from its body, and the unity of the sun cannot be divided. Break a branch from the tree, so the cut off branch will not be able to green. Separate a brook from its source, then it must dry up in its being cut o ss. Thus also the Church, flowing with the light of the Lord, spreads over the whole world, but it is a light that pours out everywhere" (On the Unity of the Catholic Church 5). Nothing more fitting could have been said to express that inseparable bond that all the members of Christ have among themselves. We see how he constantly calls us back to the Head Himself. That is why he also declares that all heresies and church divisions come from not going back to the origin of the truth, from not seeking the Head and from not keeping the teaching of the heavenly Master. So let them come here and cry out that we, who have separated ourselves from their church, are heretics, when this separation has had only one cause, namely that they are not able to bear the pure confession of the truth in any way. But I will pass over in silence the fact that they drove us out with curses and imprecations! Nevertheless, this is more than enough for our acquittal, unless they also want to condemn the apostles for schism, with whom we have the same cause. Christ, I say, foretold his apostles that they would be thrown out of the synagogues for his name’s sake (John 16:2). Now the synagogues of which he speaks were considered legitimate churches at that time. Since, then, it is certain that we have been thrown out, and since we are prepared to show that this has happened for the sake of the name of Christ, it is undoubtedly necessary to make an investigation of the matter in dispute before determining anything about us in one direction or another. But this I will gladly remit to them, if they so desire; it is fully sufficient for me that we have had to turn away from them in order to turn to Christ!

IV,2,7 ABut what we have to think of all the churches which that tyranny of the Roman idol has seized upon, will come to light even more clearly if we compare them with the ancient church in Israel, as it is outlined to us in the prophets. Among the Judaeans and Israelites, the true church was at that time when they persisted in the laws of the covenant, namely, by God’s beneficence they had in possession the things in which the church consists. The doctrine of truth they had in the law, the service of this doctrine was with the priests and prophets. By the mark of circumcision they received the first access to the worship of God; by other sacraments they were exercised to strengthen their faith. There is no doubt that the praises with which the Lord honored the Church applied to their community. But after they had forsaken the law of the Lord, and thereupon degenerated into idolatry and superstition, that privilege was partly lost to them. For who would dare to snatch the title of "church" from those from whom God has given the preaching of his word and the observance of his sacraments in preservation? On the other hand, who would dare to call a congregation a church, without any exception, where God’s Word is trampled underfoot publicly and with impunity, a congregation where His ministry, which is after all the mainstay and very soul of the church, is subject to destruction?

IV,2,8 Why then, someone might say, was there no bit of church left among the Judeans since they had fallen away to idolatry? The answer is easy. First of all, I maintain that there were certain stages in the apostasy itself. For we will not be able to say that the apostasy of Judah and Israel was the same at the time when they both first departed from the pure worship of God. When Jeroboam made the calves against God’s clear prohibition and consecrated an unauthorized place for their worship, he fully corrupted the worship of God. The Judeans first tainted themselves with ungodly and superstitious customs, before they evilly changed the set condition also in the outward form of the worship of God. Certainly, under Rehoboam, they had already generally introduced all kinds of perverse ceremonies; but nevertheless, the teaching of the Law and the priesthood, along with the worship customs as God had established them, remained in Jerusalem, and therefore the pious (still) found there a tolerable state of the church. With the Israelites, until the reign of Ahab, the conditions were by no means restored to their better state; indeed, in Ahab’s time they sank into a worse condition. The kings who followed afterwards, until the downfall of the kingship, were partly similar to Ahab, partly, if they wanted to be a little better, they followed the example of Jeroboam; but all without exception were godless and idolaters. In Judea, many changes took place, as some of the kings perverted the worship of God with false and devised superstitious customs, while others rebuilt the broken religion - until the priests themselves defiled the temple of God with unholy and abominable customs.

IV,2,9 Now let the Papists, if they can, deny that the state of God-worship - however much they may mitigate its vices - is as degenerate and corrupt among them as it was in the kingdom of Israel under Jeroboam. But the idolatry that exists among them is grosser, and also in doctrine they are not purer by a single drop, if they are not even more impure in this than the Israelites once were. God, yes, in general everyone who is gifted with some judgment, will be a witness to this, and the facts themselves also make it clear how purely nothing I am exaggerating here. Now, if they wish to compel us to commune with their church, they require two things of us: first, we are to participate in all their prayers, sacred acts, and ceremonies; secondly, we are to transfer to their church all that Christ has conferred upon his church in the way of honor, power, and judicial authority. (1) As to the first, I admit that all the prophets who were at Jerusalem neither sacrificed for themselves alone nor held assemblies set apart from others for prayer, although conditions there were then altogether degenerate. For they had God’s commandment, in virtue of which they were commanded to assemble at Solomon’s temple, and they had also the Levitical priests; these had been ordained by the Lord to preside at the sacred acts (Ex 29:9), and, unworthy as they might be of that honor, had not yet been deposed, and therefore the prophets knew of them that they did not yet rightly occupy that place. And then, what is the main thing in the whole question: they were not forced to any superstitious worship of God, indeed, they did not accept anything that had not been established by God. But what similar thing is found among these people, I mean: among the Papists? For we can hardly have any assembly in common with them in which we did not stain ourselves with open idolatry. Undoubtedly, the most important bond of their community is the mass, which we detest as the most terrible desecration of the sanctuary. Whether we do so justly or without reason, we shall see elsewhere. For now it is enough if I show that our cause in this piece is different from that of the prophets, who, though they took part in the sacred acts of the ungodly, were nevertheless not compelled to watch or practice ceremonies other than those ordained by God. Now, if we wish to have an example similar in all respects, let us take it from the kingdom of Israel. Because of Jeroboam’s institution, circumcision remained, sacrifices were made, the law was kept holy, and the God received from the fathers was invoked; but because of the self-invented and forbidden cult customs, everything that happened in Israel was disapproved of and condemned by God (1Ki 12:31). But now let them name me a single prophet or even a single pious man who once worshipped or offered a sacrifice in Bethel! For they knew that they could not do so without defiling themselves with some kind of desecration of the sanctuary. It follows that the fellowship of the church does not count so much among the pious that, if it degenerates into unholy and defiled customs, one must join it immediately.

IV,2,10 (2) But as far as the second demand of the papists is concerned, we oppose it even more vehemently. For if we regard the church in such a way that we can respectfully accept its judgment, acknowledge its authority, obey its exhortations, be moved by its chastenings, and reverently maintain communion with it in all things, we cannot admit to the papists that they are the church without necessarily at the same time subjecting ourselves to the obligation of submission and obedience. We would gladly grant them what the prophets granted to the Judeans and Israelites of their time, when things were in the same or even better condition there. But we notice how they always loudly declare that (in their people) the assemblies were something unholy (Isa 1:14) and that one must not agree with them any more than one must deny God. And truly, if these were churches, it follows that these men were set apart from the church of God, that is, in Israel Elijah, Micah and others, but in Judah Isaiah, Jeremiah, Hosea and others of this kind, these men who were hated and cursed worse by the prophets, the priests and the people of their time than any uncircumcised. If these were churches, then the church is not "a pillar of truth" (1Tim 3:15), but a stronghold of lies, not a tent of the living God, but a dwelling place of idols! So the prophets considered it necessary to separate themselves from the agreement with the assemblies of such people; for this was nothing else than a nefarious conspiracy against God. For the same reason, he will be in grave error who recognizes the present assemblies, defiled with idolatry, superstition and godless doctrine, as churches in whose full fellowship a Christian man ought to remain, even to the extent of living in harmony with their teaching. For if they are churches, they also hold the key power; but the keys have an indissoluble connection with the word, which after all is set down in these assemblies. Furthermore, if they are churches, then Christ’s promise is valid for them: "What you will bind …" (Mt 16,19; 18,18; John 20:23). In fact, however, they expel from their fellowship all who profess to be servants of Christ without hypocrisy. Consequently, either the promise of Christ is without content, or else they are not churches, at least in this respect! Finally, instead of the ministry of the Word, they have schools of ungodliness and a pool of errors of all kinds. From this it follows: either they are not churches in the sense of our evidence - or else there will be no mark left to distinguish the legitimate assemblies of the faithful from the meetings of the Turks.

IV,2,11 Nevertheless - as once among the Jews individual special privileges of the church were left, so also today we do not deny to the Papists what the Lord wanted to remain among them as traces of the church from the disruption. God had once made his covenant with the Jews, and this covenant maintained its existence more by gaining the upper hand against their godlessness, based on its own firmness, than by being preserved by them. The Lord’s covenant therefore remained with them for the sake of the certainty and permanence of divine goodness; their faithlessness could not extinguish His faithfulness, nor could circumcision be so defiled by their unclean hands that it would not at the same time have been a true sign and sacrament of that covenant of God. That is why the Lord also called the children born to them His children (Eze 16,20 s.), and yet they could only have something to do with Him through His special blessing! So he gave his covenant also (to the people) in France, Italy, Germany, Spain and England in preservation; So that this covenant of his, after these regions had come under the oppression of the tyranny of the Antichrist, nevertheless remained inviolable, God first of all preserved baptism there, which is the testimony of his covenant and which, sanctified with his own mouth, retains its power in spite of all human ungodliness; secondly, he caused it by his providence that other remnants also remained, so that the church did not completely perish. Often buildings are torn down in such a way that foundations and ruins remain. In the same way, God did not tolerate that his church was overthrown from the foundation or razed to the ground by the Antichrist. Admittedly, as punishment for the ingratitude of the people who had despised his word, he allowed a terrible destruction and disruption to happen. But he still wanted that even from the desolation there remained a half-demolished building.

IV,2,12 Although we do not want to concede the name "church" to the papists, we do not deny that there are churches among them, but we argue with them only about the true and rightful organization of the church, which is found on the one hand in the fellowship of the sacraments, which are the signs of the confession, and on the other hand especially in the fellowship of doctrine. Daniel (Dan 9,27) and Paul (2. Thess. 2,4) predicted that the Antichrist would sit in God’s temple; as the leader and champion of this sacrilegious and abominable empire among us we consider the pope at Rome. The fact that the seat of the Antichrist is assigned to God’s temple indicates that his kingdom will be of such a kind that it will not abolish the name of Christ or the church. From this, then, it is clear that we are in no way denying that churches will remain even under his tyranny. But these are churches which he has desecrated with his sacrilegious godlessness, which he has oppressed with his cruel rule, which he has corrupted and almost killed with evil, pernicious doctrines and poisonous potions, In short, these are churches in which everything is so confused that they look more like Babylon than the holy city of God. In short, I say that here are churches, inasmuch as the Lord miraculously preserves in them the remnants of his people, however miserably scattered and dispersed they may be; churches are here inasmuch as some marks of the church still remain, and especially those whose efficacy neither the devil’s craftiness nor the wickedness of men is able to destroy. But because in these assemblies, on the other hand, the marks have been erased, to which one must look above all in this discussion, I maintain that both the individual assemblies and the whole body lack the rightful form of the church.

Third chapter


Of the teachers and servants of the church, their election and their official duty.

IV,3,1 Now we must speak of the order in which the church is to be governed according to the will of the Lord. To be sure, he alone is to rule and reign in the church; he alone is also to hold the leadership and the highest place in it, and to exercise and rule this sovereign power by his word alone. But he does not dwell among us in visible presence (Mt 26,11) in order to verbally reveal his will to us in his own person, and therefore he uses the service and, as it were, the representative activity of men, as I have already explained. He does this, of course, not in order to transfer his right and honor to them, but only in order to do his work through their mouths themselves, just as a craftsman uses a tool to do his work. I am now compelled to repeat again what I have already stated above. God could indeed do this work of his purely of himself, without any other aid or tool, and could also do it through the angels; but there are a whole number of reasons why he prefers to do it through men. (1) For first of all he shows how dear and valuable we are to him, and that in such a way that he takes out of men those who are to do the messenger service for him in the world, to be the heralds of his hidden will, yes, who in short are to represent his person. Thus he also proves by experience that it is not without consequence when he calls us ever and anon his "temples" (1Cor 3,16 s.; 6,19; 2Cor 6,16), since he speaks to men out of the mouth of men, as out of his sanctuary (compare Augustin, Of Christian Instruction IV,27,59). (2) And further, it is a very good and most profitable exercise in humility when he accustoms us to obey his word, whether it be preached by men who are like us, nay, who at times are inferior to us even in dignity. If he himself spoke from heaven, then it would be no wonder if his holy proclamations were received without delay by all ears and hearts in reverence. For who would not fear his present power? Who would not be thrown to the ground at the first sight of such mighty majesty? Who would not be upset by such immense splendor? But where any little man who has come out of the dust speaks in God’s name, we prove our piety and reverence to God Himself with a special testimony when we show ourselves docile to His servant, although He is not higher than us in any respect. For this reason he also hides the treasure of his heavenly wisdom in fragile earthen vessels (2Cor 4:7): he wants to receive all the more certain proof of how highly we esteem him. (3) And then: for the maintenance of mutual love nothing was more suitable than to bind men together by the bond of one being appointed shepherd to instruct the others together, but the others, being commanded to be disciples, receiving from one mouth the common instruction. For if each were self-sufficient, and none needed the service of another, then, in the pride of our human nature, each would despise the others, and in turn would be despised by the others. The Lord, then, bound his Church together with the bond which he had previously seen would have the greatest strength to maintain unity, namely, by giving the doctrine of salvation and eternal life to men to keep, in order to communicate it to others through their hands. This is what Paul had in mind when he wrote to the Ephesians: "One body and one Spirit, just as you were called to one hope of your calling; one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all of us. But to each one of us grace has been given according to the measure of the gift of Christ" (Eph 4:4-7; not quite Luther text). "Therefore it is said, ’He ascended up on high, and led captivity captive, and gave gifts to men’ … He that descended is the same that ascended above all heavens, that he might fill all things. And he hath appointed some apostles, and some prophets, and some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, that the saints should be prepared for the work of the ministry, edifying the body of Christ, until we all come to the same faith, and to the same knowledge of the Son of God, and become a perfect man, according to the measure of a perfect age … that we should no longer be children, being moved and swayed by every wind of doctrine … But let us be righteous in love, growing in all things in him who is the head, Christ, from whom the whole body is knit together, one member hanging on to another through all the joints, one helping the other, according to the work of each member in its measure, making the whole body grow for its own edification, and all this in love" (Eph 4:8, 10-16; almost entirely Luther text).

IV,3,2 With these words the apostle first shows that the ministry of men, which God uses for the government of His church, is the most important bond by which the believers are held together in one body. Then, further, he also sets forth that the church cannot be preserved unharmed in any other way than by being sustained by these means which the Lord, according to His good pleasure, has established for its preservation. He says: "Christ ascended on high, that he might fill all things" (Eph 4,10; not Luther text). But this "filling up" is done in such a way that he dispenses and distributes his gifts to the church through the ministers to whom he has entrusted this official duty and granted the grace to carry out this ministry, and thus in a sense proves himself to be present by bringing the power of his Holy Spirit to bear in this appointment of his, so that it may not be vain or fruitless. Thus "the saints are made ready," thus "the body of Christ is edified" (Eph 4:12), thus "we grow in all things in him who is the head" (verse 15), thus we also join together among ourselves (verse 16), and we are all brought to the unity of Christ, namely, when the prophetic office is in force among us, when we accept the "apostles" and do not despise the teaching that comes to us through such ministry. Anyone, then, who desires to abolish this order, which is the subject of our discussion, and this kind of regiment, or who diminishes it as if it were less necessary, is really endeavoring to disperse, or rather to bring about the disintegration or ruin of the Church. For neither the light and heat of the sun, nor even food and drink, are as necessary to the nourishment and preservation of the present life as the ministry of apostles and pastors is to the preservation of the church on earth.

IV,3,3 Therefore I have reminded above that God has often praised us the dignity of this office with all possible praises, so that it stands with us in highest honor and esteem, as it were as the most precious of all things. He instructs the prophet to exclaim that the "feet" are "lovely" and that the coming of "the messengers who proclaim peace" is blessed (Isa 52,7), he calls the apostles "the light of the world" and "the salt of the earth" (Mt 5,13f.), and thus he testifies that he bestows a unique blessing on the people by raising up teachers for them. He could not have adorned this office more brilliantly than by saying: "He who hears you hears me, and he who despises you despises me" (Lk 10:16). But the most glorious passage of all is found in Paul’s Second Epistle to the Corinthians, where he treats this question, as it were, as a theme. There he claims that there is nothing more excellent and glorious in the church than the ministry of the gospel, because it is the ministry of the spirit (2Cor 3:8), of "righteousness" (2Cor 3:9) and of eternal life (2Cor 4:6). These words and similar ones have the purpose that the way of governing and maintaining the church through the servants, which the Lord has established for all time, does not fall into contempt among us and finally disappears through disdain. How necessary this office is, the Lord has shown us not only with words, but also with examples. When He wanted to shine the light of His truth more abundantly on Cornelius, He sent an angel from heaven to direct him to Peter (Acts 10:3-6). When he wanted to call Paul to his knowledge and to insert him into the church, he addressed him with his own voice, but he sent him to a man, so that he could receive from him the teaching of salvation and the sanctification of baptism (Acts 9:6)! Surely it is not without reason that the angel, who is God’s messenger, himself refrains from making known God’s will, but gives (to Cornelius) the instruction to call a man to make it known; it is not without reason that Christ, the some teacher of the faithful, entrusts Paul to the teaching office of a man - Paul, whom He had decided to "rapture" into the third heaven and to dignify with the revelation of unspeakable things (2Cor 12:2-4)! If it is so - who will now dare to despise or pass over as superfluous that ministry which God has willed to testify with such evidence?

IV,3,4 As those who preside over the church government after the institution of Christ, Paul lists first the "apostles", then the "prophets", thirdly the "evangelists", fourthly the "shepherds" and finally the "teachers" (Eph 4,11). Among these, only the last two have a regular office in the church; the other three were raised up by the Lord at the beginning of his kingdom, and he raises them up from time to time as the needs of the times require. What the official task of the apostles is, is clear from the instruction: "Go … and preach the gospel to every creature" (Mark 16:15). They are not assigned specific areas, but they are assigned the whole earth to bring it to obedience to Christ: they are to spread the gospel to all nations where they are able to do so, and to establish Christ’s kingdom everywhere. Thus Paul also testifies; he wants to confirm his apostleship, and for this purpose he reminds us that he did not acquire Christ any single city, but made the gospel known far and wide, also that he "did not build on a foreign foundation", but rather planted churches "where the name of the Lord was not known" (Rom 15,19. 20). The apostles were therefore sent out to lead the world back from its apostasy to true obedience to God and to establish God’s kingdom everywhere through the preaching of the gospel or, if one prefers, to lay its foundations as the first master builders of the church in the whole world (1Cor 3:10). "Prophets" is what the apostle (Eph 4,11) calls not any heralds of God’s will, but those who distinguished themselves by a special revelation. Such people either do not exist today, or they are less visible. By "evangelists" I mean those who were inferior to the apostles in dignity, but who, after their official duties, came very close to them and even worked in their place. Luke, Timothy, Titus and others like them were of this kind, and perhaps also the seventy disciples whom Christ appointed second to the apostles (Lk 10:1). According to this interpretation, which seems to me to correspond to both the words and the opinion of Paul, these three ministries in the church were not established in such a way that they were to be permanent, but they were to exist only for the time when it was necessary to establish churches where there had been none before, or to bring churches over from Moses to Christ. However, I do not deny that God sometimes raised up apostles or at least evangelists in their place, as has happened in our time. For it took such men to bring the church back from the apostasy of the Antichrist. Nevertheless, I call the ministry itself "extraordinary" because it has no place in properly established churches. Then follow the "shepherds" and "teachers" without whom the church cannot be at any time. The difference between them, in my opinion, is that the "teachers" have no leadership in the exercise of discipline, nor in the administration of the sacraments, nor in exhortations and encouragements, but in the interpretation of Scripture alone, so that sound and healthy doctrine may be maintained among the faithful. The office of "shepherds," on the other hand, comprehends all this in itself.

IV,3,5 Now we are clear as to which offices have existed in the church government with temporal validity, and which are fitted to continue perpetually; if we now connect the evangelists with the apostles, we are left with two offices each of the same kind, which in a sense correspond with each other. For the same similarity which our (present) teachers have with the former prophets, exists also between the shepherds (pastors) and the apostles. The office of the prophets was more excellent (than that of our teachers), and that because of the special gift of revelation that had been given to the prophets. But the office of the teachers has almost the same nature and quite the same purpose. Likewise, those twelve whom the Lord chose to make the new preaching of the gospel known to the world also had a higher place in rank and would than the rest (Lk 6:13; Gal 1:1). However, due to the meaning and the linguistic root of the word, all the servants of the Church can be properly called "apostles"; for they are all sent out by the Lord and are His messengers. But because much depended on the certain knowledge of the mission of those who were to bring forward such a new and unheard-of thing, it was necessary that those twelve, to whose number Paul was later added, should be distinguished above all others by a special title. Admittedly, Paul himself gives this name in one place (Rom 16:7) to Andronicus and Junias, of whom he says that they were "famous" among the apostles, but when he wants to speak in the proper sense, he refers this name ("apostle") to the original rank alone. This is also the general usage of Scripture (Mt 10:1). Nevertheless (i.e. despite the untransferable specialness of the apostles) the shepherds (pastors) have the same official task as the apostles - only that each one of them leads a certain church assigned to him. How the official task of the pastors is now constituted, we want to hear more clearly.

IV,3,6 When the Lord sent out the apostles, He instructed them, as I have already explained, to preach the gospel and to baptize those who believed for the forgiveness of sins (Mt 28,19). But before that he had instructed them to distribute the holy marks of his body and blood according to his example (Lk 22,19). Behold, we now have before us a holy, inviolable and permanent law imposed on those who follow the apostles in their place, a law by virtue of which they receive the commission to preach the gospel and administer the sacraments. From this it follows for us that those who neglect these two duties wrongly claim to be the bearers of the office of apostles. But what about the shepherds (pastors)? Paul does not only speak of himself, but of all of them, when he says: "For this everyone holds us: for Christ’s servants and stewards over God’s mysteries" (1Cor 4:1). Likewise in another place: "Let a bishop hold to the reliable word, which is according to doctrine, that he may be mighty to exhort by sound doctrine, and to punish the gainsayers" (Tit 1:9; first half not Luther text). From these and similar passages, which we encounter again and again, it can be seen that the official task of pastors also consists primarily in these two things: to preach the gospel and to administer the sacraments. The instruction does not only take place in public sermons, but it also extends to personal exhortations. Thus Paul draws on the Ephesians as witnesses to the fact that he withheld nothing from them that was useful to them, but that he preached it to them, taught them publicly and back and forth in individual homes, and testified to "both Jews and Greeks" about "repentance … And faith in … Christ" (Acts 20:20 s.). Likewise, shortly thereafter, he calls them to witness that he has not "ceased" to "admonish every one" of them "with tears" (Acts 20:31). However, it is not part of our present task to go through the individual gifts of a good "shepherd," but only to show what kind of activity those who call themselves "shepherds" actually declare themselves ready for, namely, to exercise their office as overseers in the church in such a way that they do not hold an idle dignity, but instruct the people in true piety with the teaching of Christ, administer the holy sacraments, and preserve and exercise right discipline. For to all those who are set as watchmen in the church, the Lord announces that if anyone perishes in his ignorance through their negligence, he will require his blood from their own hands (Eze 3:17f.). What Paul says about himself also refers to all of them: "Woe to me if I do not preach the gospel, when I am commanded to preach it!" (1Cor 9:16 s.; verse 17 not Luther text). In short, what the apostles did to the whole world, let each individual shepherd (pastor) do to his flock to which he is assigned!

IV,3,7 If we assign to the individual shepherds (pastors) their particular churches, we do not deny in the meantime that he who is bound to one church can also give assistance to other churches, be it that some confusion occurs which requires his presence, or be it that one asks for his advice in some dark question. But for the preservation of the peace of the church, it is necessary that each one should be clearly told what he has to do: not all should rush about together restlessly, running to and fro uncertainly without a vocation, nor should all flock together in one place on the off chance, nor should those who are more concerned about their welfare than about the edification of the church abandon the churches after their pleasure! Therefore, as far as possible, the division must be generally adhered to, that each one should be content with his borders and not break into another’s territory. This is also not a sin of man, but God Himself has arranged it this way. For we read that Paul and Barnabas appointed elders in the individual churches of Lystra, Antioch and Iconium (Acts 14:22f.), and Paul himself instructs Titus to "fill the cities back and forth with elders" (Titus 1:5). So he also mentions elsewhere the bishops of the Philippians (Phil 1:1) and again in another place Archippus, the bishop of the Colossians (Col 4:17). We also find a glorious speech of his in Luke, which he addressed to the elders of the church at Ephesus (Acts 20:18 ss.). So whoever has taken the leadership of an individual church and the care for it into his own hands should know that he is bound by this law of divine calling. This does not mean that he would be, as it were, "bound to the sheol"-as the jurists say-that is, that he would have to be a serf, or that he would be virtually chained and could not move a foot from the spot if the public benefit should (also) require it-as long as the (latter) is done only according to rule and order. No, he who is called to a certain place must not himself think about his departure, nor should he seek his release from service in such a way as he thinks it convenient for himself. And then: if it is of use to one to be transferred to another place, yet he must not undertake it by personal resolution, but must await the (arrangement by) public authority.

IV,3,8 8 That I have called the men who are to lead the churches "bishops," "elders," "pastors," and "ministers" without distinction, I have done so because of the language of Scripture, which mixes these expressions together; for it grants the title "bishop" to all who exercise the ministry of the Word. For example, Paul has just instructed Titus to appoint elders in the cities (Titus 1:5) and then continues: "For a bishop must be blameless…" (Titus 1:7). (Titus 1:7). So he also greets several bishops in one church in another place (Phil 1:1). And in the Acts of the Apostles it is reported that he called the "elders" of Ephesus together (Acts 20:17), whom he himself calls "bishops" in his speech (Acts 20:28)! But here it is to be noted that so far we have listed only those official duties which consist in the service of the Word; Paul did not mention others in the fourth chapter of the Epistle to the Ephesians, which we quoted. In the letter to the Romans (Rom 12,7f.) and in the first letter to the Corinthians (1Cor 12,28), on the other hand, he lists others, e.g. power teachings (in miracles), the gift to make well, interpretation, leadership and the care for the poor. Among these, I pass over those that have been merely of temporal importance; for there is no need for us to dwell on them. But there are two which remain perpetual, namely the direction and the care of the poor. The "governors" (1Cor 12:28) were, in my opinion, elders who were chosen from the people to oversee the way of life and to exercise discipline together with the bishops. For when Paul says: "If anyone governs, let him be careful" (Rom 12,8), it cannot be interpreted differently (than in the above sense). From the beginning, each individual church had its own council of elders (senatus), which was staffed with pious, serious and holy men; this council also had the judicial power to correct vices (i.e. "moral discipline"), which we will discuss later. But that the order of this kind did not belong to only one century, experience itself shows. Consequently, this office of leadership is also necessary for all times.

IV,3,9 The care for the poor was given to the "deacons". However, in the Epistle to the Romans two kinds of deacons appear; Paul says there: "If anyone gives, let him give simply … If someone practices mercy, he does it with pleasure" (Rom 12,8). Since Paul is undoubtedly speaking here of the public offices of the church, there must have been two distinct ranks. If my judgment does not deceive me, in the first member he refers to deacons who administered the alms. In the second member he refers to deacons who were dedicated to the care of the poor and sick; of this kind were the widows he mentions in the letter to Timothy (1Tim 5:10). For women could hold no other public office than when they devoted themselves to the service of the poor. If we now make this our own - and we certainly should! there will be two kinds of deacons (also in our country): one who serve the Church by administering the affairs of the poor, the other by caring for the poor themselves. Now, although the term "deaconry" has a very broad meaning, yet the Scriptures designate as "deacons" in a special way such people as the church appoints as overseers in the distribution of the alms and the care of the poor, appointing them, as it were, as stewards of the public poor. The origin, induction and official duties of these deacons are described by Luke in the Acts of the Apostles (Acts 6:3). When "a murmur arose among the Greeks" because their widows were "overlooked" in the ministry to the poor, the apostles apologized that they could not do justice to the double office of preaching the word and ministering at table, and they asked the crowd to choose seven righteous men to whom they could entrust this ministry (Acts 6:1 ss.). There we see what kind of deacons the apostolic church had and what kind we should also have after their example.

IV,3,10 Although in the holy assembly everything should be done "honorably and orderly" (1Cor 14,40), this must be more carefully observed in nothing than in the appointment of the (church) leadership; for nowhere is there greater danger if something comes about disorderly. Now, therefore, lest disorderly and rebellious men should intrude without cause to teach or govern-which would otherwise be done-it is expressly forbidden that any man should usurp a public office in the church without a calling. Therefore, if someone wants to be considered a true servant of the Church, he must first be legally called (rite vocatus), but furthermore he must also correspond to his calling, that is: he must take up and carry out the tasks assigned to him. This can often be observed in Paul: when he wants to prove his apostleship, he almost always cites his calling in addition to his faithfulness in the exercise of his office. If such an eminent servant of Christ dares to arrogate to himself the authority of being heard in the church only because he is appointed to it by the Lord’s commission, and if he now faithfully carries out what he is charged to do, what shamelessness it is for any mortal, who lacks both or either of these, to demand such an honor for himself! But since we have already briefly spoken above about the necessity of taking upon oneself the (charged) office, we will now only make a discussion about the calling.

IV,3,11 The treatment of the calling has now to deal with four questions; we must know (1.) what kind of people are to be appointed ministers (of the church), (2.) in what way this must be done, (3.) who is to perform the appointment, and (4.) according to what custom and with what ceremony the initiation is to take place. I am speaking here of the external and solemn vocation, which has to do with the public order of the church; that hidden vocation, on the other hand, of which every minister is conscious before God, but of which he has not the church to witness, I pass over. This hidden vocation is the good testimony of our hearts that we accept the office offered to us neither out of ambition, nor out of covetousness, nor out of any other desire, but out of sincere fear of God and out of zeal for the edification of the Church. This, as I said, is necessary for each one of us if we want our service to be pleasing to God. In the sight of the Church, however, even those who have approached their office with a bad conscience are legitimately called, as long as their wickedness has not been openly revealed. It is also customary to say of unofficial people that they are called to the ministry, namely, when it is seen that they are suitable and capable of holding this office, and this because education, when combined with piety and the other gifts of a good shepherd (pastor), is a certain preparation for the ministry. For those whom the Lord has appointed to so great a task, He first equips with the weapons necessary to fulfill it, so that they do not come empty and unprepared. Therefore, in the (first) letter to the Corinthians, when Paul wanted to speak of the official duties themselves, he also first enumerated the gifts with which those who exercise such official duties must be equipped (1Cor 12:7-11). But since this is already the first of the four main pieces I have set up above, let us now go on to talk about them.

IV,3,12 What kind of people should be chosen as bishops is thoroughly explained by Paul in two places (Tit 1:7 f.; 1Tim 3:1-7). The main thing is this: only those should be chosen who are of sound doctrine and holy living, and in whom no infirmity is recognizable that could rob them of authority and bring disgrace to the office. The situation is similar with deacons and elders (1Tim 3:8-13). One must always see to it that they are not incapable or unsuited to carry the burden that is placed upon them, that is, that they are equipped with the abilities that will be necessary to fill their office. So too, when Christ sent out the apostles, He equipped them with the weapons and tools they could not do without (Lk 21:15; 24:49; Mark 16:15-18; Acts 1:8). And after Paul has drawn the picture of a good and true bishop, he admonishes Timothy not to choose anyone as bishop who does not correspond to this picture, and not to stain himself with it (1Tim 5:22). The second question was in which way the servants of the church should be appointed. Now I do not refer this to the procedure of election, but to the godly seriousness that is to be maintained. This is the reason for the fasting and praying that Luke reports the believers practiced when they appointed elders (Acts 14:23). For they saw thatthey were doing a work of the utmost seriousness, and therefore they dared to undertake anything only with the deepest reverence and care, but above all they practiced fervent prayer to implore the spirit of counsel and discernment from God.

IV,3,13 The third question in the division established above was by whom the ministers of the church should be chosen. Now for this no certain rule can be gathered from the appointment of the apostles; for this had a character essentially different from the ordinary appointment of the rest. For it was, after all, an extraordinary office, and therefore its bearers had to be called and appointed by the mouth of the Lord Himself, so that this office might be made visible by a particularly glorious mark. The apostles were therefore not equipped with any human election, but only with the commission of God and Christ, when they started their work. Therefore, when the apostles wanted to appoint another apostle in the place of Judas, they did not dare to appoint a single apostle, but put two apostles in their midst, so that the Lord would announce by lot which of them should take his place according to his will (Acts 1:23-26). In this sense it must also be understood that Paul declares that he was appointed as an apostle "not by men, nor through men", but by Christ and by God the Father (Gal 1,1.12). The first namely: "not of men" - this Paul had in common with all pious ministers of the word. For no one has ever been able to exercise this ministry properly without being called to it by God. The second, on the other hand, was unique and special to the apostle. So when he boasts of this, he not only claims to possess what a true and rightful shepherd (of the church) must have, but he also exhibits the marks of his apostleship. For indeed there were those among the Galatians who endeavored to diminish his authority, and therefore declared him to be an ordinary disciple, whom the original apostles had added. Now, in order to preserve unabridged the dignity due to his preaching, against which, according to his knowledge, those reproaches were directed, he thought it necessary to show that he was in no way inferior to the other apostles in any respect. Therefore he asserts that he was not chosen, like an ordinary bishop, by the judgment of men, but by the mouth and the clear revelatory word of the Lord Himself.

IV,3,14 But that it is quite according to the order of a lawful calling when bishops are appointed by men, no reasonable man will deny; for there are many testimonies of Scripture in this matter. This is not contradicted by the testimony of Paul, according to which he was sent "not by men, nor through men" (Gal 1:1); for he does not speak in this passage of the ordinary election of the servants (of the church), but ascribes to himself that which was especially due to the apostles. Admittedly: although the Lord appointed Paul by himself by virtue of a special prerogative, he also held it so with him that he at the same time made use of the order of ecclesiastical calling. For Luke reports: "While the apostles were fasting and praying, the Holy Spirit said, ’Set apart for me Paul and Barnabas for the work to which I have called them’" (Acts 13:2; inaccurate). What was the purpose of this selection and laying on of hands, after the Holy Spirit had already testified to his election? But only for the preservation of the ecclesiastical order, by virtue of which the ministers (of the church) are determined by men! God could not have confirmed such an order by a clearer proof than by letting Paul, of whom he had already said that he had appointed him as an apostle to the Gentiles, nevertheless also be chosen by the church. The same can be seen in the election of Matthias (Acts 1:23). For since the office of an apostle was of such high importance that they did not dare to include a single one in this rank according to their judgment, they placed two in the midst, on one of whom the lot was to fall. This was done so that in this way the election received a noticeable testimony from heaven, but at the same time the order of the church was not by any means ignored.

IV,3,15 Now the question is whether the minister is to be elected by the whole church or merely by his fellow ministers and by the elders who have to exercise discipline, or whether he can also be appointed by virtue of the authority of an individual. Some actually transfer this right to a single person and draw on Paul’s word to Titus: "For this reason I left you in Crete, that you should … …to occupy the cities to and fro with elders…" (Titus 1:5). Or likewise the word to Timothy: "Do not lay hands on anyone too soon" (1Tim 5:22). But those people are mistaken if they think that Timothy had a governmental authority in Ephesus or Titus in Crete, so that both of them would have determined everything according to their discretion. For their leadership had only the purpose that they preceded the people with good and salutary advice, but not that they alone, to the exclusion of all others, carried out what they pleased. Now, in order not to give the impression that I am making things up for myself here, I will make my explanation clear with a similar example. Luke reports about Paul and Barnabas: "And they appointed them elders in the churches back and forth" (Acts 14:23); but at the same time he also describes the manner or the procedure, namely by saying that this was done by a vote (cf. Urtext, Acts 14:23). Namely, he says, "With stretching out their hands they elected…. elders for each church" (literally; omitted is: "to them"). It was thus: Paul and Barnabas themselves elected two men, but the whole multitude, as the Greeks were accustomed to do at elections, testified with uplifted hands which (of the two) they wanted. The Roman historians express themselves not rarely in such a way, the consul, who held a people’s assembly, "elected" new officials, and they use this expression only for the one reason that he received just the delivered votes and led the people with the election action. Now it is certainly not credible that Paul would have granted Timothy and Titus more than he himself took in rights. But we see that he was in the habit of electing the bishops on the basis of the people’s vote. The above-mentioned passages are therefore to be understood in such a way that they do not detract from the general right and freedom of the Church. It is therefore very apt when Cyprian asserts that it is to be derived from God’s authority that the priest be chosen in the presence of the people before all eyes and confirmed as worthy and suitable by public judgment and testimony (Letter 67). We also see that the Levitical priests were ordained by the Lord in such a way that they were presented to the people before their ordination (Lev S:4-6; Num 20:2s. 27). Nor was the enrollment of Matthias in the ministerial fellowship of the apostles, and likewise the election of the seven deacons, done otherwise than in the presence and with the approval of the people (Acts ),15 ss.; b,2-7). "These examples," says Cyprian, "show that the ordination of a priest is to be done only with the participation of the people present, so that the ordination may be right and lawful, because it has undergone a trial before the testimony of all" (Letter 67). It follows, then, that according to God’s word lawful is the calling of a minister where, on the basis of the unanimous opinion and approval of the people, those are elected who have appeared to be suitable. However, other pastors should be in charge of the election, so that the crowd does not sin by recklessness, evil machinations or even by sedition.

IV,3,16 Now there remains the procedure at ordination, to which we gave the last place in the (discussion of) calling. It is now certain that the apostles, when they ordained someone to an office, used no other ceremony than the laying on of hands. This (worship) custom, in my opinion, came from the custom of the Hebrews: when they wanted something blessed or consecrated, they presented it to God, as it were, by laying on of hands. Thus Jacob laid his hands on the heads of Ephraim and Manasseh when he wanted to bless them (Gen 48:14). Our Lord also followed this custom when he prayed over the infants (Mt 19,15). In my opinion, it had the same meaning when the Jews laid hands on their sacrifices based on the precept of the law. So the apostles indicated by the laying on of hands that they offered the one whom they instructed in his office to God for sacrifice. Of course, they also laid their hands on those who received visible gifts of the Holy Spirit (Acts 19:6). Be that as it may, this was in any case the common custom when they appointed someone to an ecclesiastical office. In this way they sanctified the pastors and teachers, but also the deacons (to their office). Now, there is no clear commandment concerning the laying on of hands, but we see that it was in continual use with the apostles, and the fact that they held this custom so thoroughly should be as much as a commandment to us. It is also certainly of use that by such a sign, on the one hand, the dignity of the office is put to the heart of the people, and on the other hand, the one who is to be ordained is reminded that he is now no longer his own master, but given to serve God and the church. Moreover, it will not be an empty sign either, if only it is restored to its pure, original meaning. For since the Spirit of God has established nothing in vain in the church, we will also experience from this ceremony, which has nevertheless proceeded from him, that it does not remain without use, provided only that it is not turned into a superstitious abuse. Finally, we must know that it was not the whole crowd that laid hands on their servants, but only the shepherds (of the church). However, it is uncertain whether the laying on of hands was always done by several or not. It is certain, however, that it was done in the case of the deacons, Paul and Barnabas, and a few others (Acts 6:6; 13:3). On the other hand, Paul mentions elsewhere that he laid hands on Timothy, but not several others. He says, "For such a cause I remind thee, that thou stir up the gift of God which is in thee by the laying on of my hands" (2Tim 1:6). For what we read in the other epistle of the laying on of the hands of the "presbytery" (1Tim 4,14), I do not understand it as if Paul is talking about the fellowship of the elders (i.e. our "presbytery"), but I understand it as if this expression means the ordination itself (as a process) (translation of the passage: "by the laying on of hands, which belongs to the office of an elder"); so it is as if Paul said: Take care that the grace, which you received by the laying on of hands, when I ordained you as an elder, is not without effect.

Fourth chapter


Of the State of the Early Church and of the Manner of Government in Practice before the Papacy

IV,4,1 So far our discussion has been about the order of church government as handed down to us from God’s pure Word, and about the offices of service as instituted by Christ. Now, in order that all this may become more clearly and familiarly visible to us, and may also better settle in our hearts, it will be of use to consider more closely in these matters the figure of the early Church, which will, as it were, set before us a picture of the divine institution. To be sure, the bishops of those times let go forth many church statutes in which they seem to have expressed more than was done in the Scriptures. But they nevertheless arranged their whole manner of government with such care according to that single guide of the Word of God that it is easy to see how they had almost nothing in this respect that was foreign to God’s Word. But even if there might still be something to be desired in their institutions, they have nevertheless made a sincere effort to preserve God’s institution, and they have not strayed much from it; therefore, it will be very beneficial here to briefly go over what kind of order this was, then, that they have so scrupulously observed. Now, as we have stated above that we are commanded in Scripture to have three kinds of ministers (of the church), so also the early church divided all that it possessed of ministers into three orders. Namely, from the order of presbyters ("priests") were chosen partly (1.) the pastors and teachers; the remaining part had (2.) the leadership in the supervision of the way of life and in the exercise of discipline; (3.) to the deacons was entrusted the care of the poor and the distribution of alms. The terms "lector" and "acolyte," however, did not refer to specific official duties. Rather, the people who were called "clerics" were accustomed to the service of the church from their youth through certain exercises, so that they would better recognize what they were destined to do and so that in due time they could approach their official duties all the more thoroughly prepared. I will soon explain this in more detail. Accordingly, Jerome, after asserting the existence of five orders in the Church, enumerates the following: Bishops, Presbyters ("priests"), Deacons, Faithful, and Catechumens; to the rest of the "clergy" and the monks he assigns no place of their own (On Isaiah 19:13)

IV,4,2 So all those to whom the teaching office was entrusted were called presbyters ("priests"). These now chose one from their number in each city, to whom they especially gave the title "bishop". This was done so that no discord would arise from the equality (in rank), as usually happens. But the bishop did not have such a primacy of honor and dignity that he would have exercised dominion over his fellow bishops. Rather, in the assembly of presbyters, he held an office corresponding to the duties of the leader (consul) in the council (senatus): as is well known, he should report on the business, ask the opinion of the others, precede them with advice, exhortation and encouragement, lead the whole negotiation with his authority and finally carry out what is decided in the common council. Also, the ancients themselves admit that this arrangement was introduced by human agreement according to the requirements of the time. Thus Jerome, in his interpretation of the Epistle to Titus, says: "There is no difference between presbyter and bishop; and before discord arose in religion at the instigation of the devil, so that it was said among the people, ’I am Pauline,’ or, ’I am Cephian’ (1Cor 1:12), the churches were governed by common consultation of the presbyters" (On chap. 1). "Later, in order to root out all the germs of disunity, all concern was transferred to one. As, then, the presbyters know that, according to the custom of the church, they are subject to him who is in charge, so also the bishops must know that their preeminence over the presbyters, and their obligation to govern the church with them, arise more from custom than from the truth of the Lord’s arrangement." (Ibid.). Elsewhere, however, he nevertheless states that this arrangement was already ancestral; for he says that in Alexandria, from the evangelist Mark onward until Heracles and Dionysius, the presbyters always chose one from among themselves and gave him a higher rank, and this one they called "bishop" (Letter 146, to Euangelus and Euagrius, respectively). Thus, each individual city had a college of presbyters who were "shepherds" and "teachers." For they all exercised on the people the office of teaching, exhortation, and discipline that Paul enjoins on bishops (Tit 1:9), and, so that they might leave seed, they also took pains to educate the younger ones who had devoted themselves to holy warfare. Each individual city was now assigned a certain territory, which took from it its presbyters and was, as it were, counted among the body of that church. The individual colleges were, as has been said, subordinated to a single bishop for the preservation of order and peace; this bishop had, indeed, precedence over the others in dignity, but still in such a way that he was subject to the assembly of the brethren. If the territory under his bishopric was too large for him to fulfill all the professional duties of a bishop everywhere, presbyters were appointed over this territory in certain places, who were to represent the bishop in less important business. These were called "country bishops" (Chorepiscopi), because they represented the bishop for that area.

IV,4,3 As for the official duty of which we now speak, the bishop as well as the presbyters had to be responsible for the distribution of the word and the sacraments. For only in Alexandria, as Socrates tells us in the ninth book of the "Historia tripartita", was there a regulation that the presbyter was not allowed to preach to the people; there Arius had brought the church into confusion. Nevertheless, Jerome does not hide that he dislikes this measure (Letter 52). In any case, it would have been considered something monstrous if someone had pretended to be a bishop without also proving himself to be a true bishop by deed. Thus, in those times there was such a strictness that all servants of the Church were required to fulfill their official duties as the Lord demanded of them. Nor am I reporting here the custom of a single age alone; for not even at the time of (Pope) Gregory (I), when the Church had already almost decayed or at any rate had substantially degenerated from its former purity, would it have been tolerable for a bishop to abstain from preaching. He himself says in one place: "A priest dies if no sound is heard from him; for he provokes the wrath of the hidden judge against himself if he goes along without the sound of preaching" (Letter 24). And elsewhere he says: "When Paul testifies that he is ’pure from all blood’ (Acts 20:26), in this word we are convicted, we are bound and declared guilty, who are called priests, who, in addition to the evils we have for ourselves, inflict the death of others; for we murder as many men as we see day by day lukewarm and silent wandering to death" (Homilies on Ezekiel, XI:10). "Silent" he calls himself and others because they would be less zealous at work than it should be. If he does not spare even those who only half-fulfilled their official duty, what would he have done if someone omitted it altogether? For a long time, then, it was held in the Church that the first duty of the bishop was to nourish the people with the word of God and to edify the Church publicly and in particular with sound doctrine.

IV,4,4 But that each province had an archbishop among its bishops, that likewise at the Synod of Nicaea patriarchs were appointed who were to be superior to the archbishops in rank and dignity, this served to maintain discipline. However, in this discussion one cannot ignore the fact that this regulation was very rarely applied. Those ranks were established mainly for the following reason: if in any church something occurred which could not well be put in order by a few, it should be possible to bring it before the provincial synod; if the extent or difficulty of the matter required even further negotiation, the patriarchs were consulted in communion with the synods, from which then only an appeal to a general council was possible. The mode of government thus regulated has been called by some a "hierarchy": this, in my opinion, is an inappropriate name, at any rate unaccustomed to Scripture. For the Holy Spirit has wished to prevent anyone, when it comes to the government of the Church, from dreaming up a supremacy or a dominion. But if we leave out the name and look at the matter alone, we will find that the bishops of the early church did not want to conceive of a form of church government that would have been different from the one that God prescribed in His Word.

IV,4,5 Also the deacons were not different from the apostles. They took the daily offerings of the faithful and the annual income of the church in order to put them to proper use, that is, to distribute them partly for the entertainment of the servants and partly for the maintenance of the poor. This was done, however, at the discretion of the bishop, to whom they also gave an account of their administration every year. The ecclesiastical legal statutes everywhere declare the bishop to be the distributor of all the goods of the church. But this is not to be understood as if he himself had taken care of it. It is rather expressed in this way, because it was his task to prescribe to the deacon who should be included in the public maintenance by the church, further: to whom what was left should be given, and how much each one should receive of it, - and because he had the supervision whether the deacon faithfully carried out what his official duty required. For in the legal statutes (canones) attributed to the apostles we read: "We command that the bishop have the property of the church in his power. For if the souls of men are entrusted to him, which are more precious (than property), it is even more proper that he take care of the funds. Therefore, by his authority, everything should be distributed to the poor through the presbyters and deacons, so that it may be administered with fear and all diligence" (Canones Apostolici 40). And at the Council of Antioch (341) it was decided that the bishops who administered the property of the Church without the knowledge of the presbyters and deacons were to be rejected within its limits (ch. 25). But a lengthy discussion of this point is unnecessary, since it appears with certainty from a great many of Gregory’s letters that even at that time, when ecclesiastical orders were otherwise already abundantly corrupted, the thoroughly observed custom continued that the deacons, under the direction of the bishop, were the stewards for the poor. The subdeacons were probably originally attached to the deacons so that the latter should have their help in ministering to the poor. But this distinction gradually became blurred. Archdeacons, however, began to be appointed when the extent of the property required a new and more thorough type of administration. However, Jerome mentions that this had already happened in his time (Letter 146 to Euangelus or Euagrius). With the archdeacons now lay the supreme administration of the revenues, the property, the house furnishings and the daily offerings. Therefore, Gregory announced to the archdeacon of Salona that he himself would be held responsible if any of the goods of the church were lost through negligence or through someone’s fraud (Letter I,10). But the fact that they were entrusted with the reading of the Gospel before the people and the exhortation to prayer, and that they were also called upon to offer the cup at the celebration of Holy Communion, was done in order to adorn their office, so that they would observe it with all the greater reverence: they were reminded precisely by such marks that their activity did not represent any kind of worldly administration, but a spiritual task of office sanctified to God.

IV,4,6 From this we can also judge what use was made of the ecclesiastical goods and how they were distributed. Again and again, in the decisions of the synods, as well as in the ancient writers, one will find (advocating the principle) that all that the Church had in possession of land or money was the property of the poor. Therefore, in those documents, the bishops and deacons are sung the song that they should remember that they do not administer their own property, but that which is destined for the needs of the poor, and if they now let it disappear in infidelity or squander it, they would incur a blood debt, from which they are then admonished to distribute this property with great trembling and utmost reverence, as it were before the face of God, without regard to the person, to those to whom it belongs. This is also the origin of the serious affirmations of Chrysostom, Ambrose, Augustine and other bishops of their kind, with which they assure their integrity before the people. But since it is right and proper and also decreed by the law of the Lord that those who consecrate their service to the church should also be maintained from the public funds of the church, and since at that time there were also some presbyters who had consecrated their property to God and had thus voluntarily become poor, the distribution was done in such a way that the servants did not lack sustenance, but at the same time the poor were not neglected. Nevertheless, care was taken that the servants themselves, who were supposed to be a model of frugality for others, did not have so much that they could abuse their income for opulence and pleasure; rather, they were to receive only so much that they could satisfy their needs. "For the clergy who can subsist on their parental wealth," says Jerome, "when they accept what is due to the poor, they commit a desecration of the sanctuary, and by such abuse eat and drink judgment to themselves" (From the Decretum Gratiani II,1,2,6).

IV,4,7 Originally the administration (of the church property) was free and voluntary, since the bishops and deacons were faithful by themselves and since for them the integrity of their conscience and the innocence of their life stood in the place of the laws. Afterwards, however, when the covetousness and evil deeds of certain people became a bad example, legal statutes were established in order to put an end to such vices. These divided the income of the church into four parts, one part was allocated to the clergy, the second to the poor, the third was used to maintain the sacred buildings and other structures in good condition, and the fourth was earmarked for the non-local as well as the local poor. Admittedly, other legal statutes assign this last part to the bishop; but this does not bring about any change with respect to the division set forth. For the intention is not that this property should belong to the bishop himself, so that he could devour it himself or squander it as he sees fit, but that it should serve to enable him to fulfill the (duty of) hospitality that Paul demands of a bishop (1Tim 3:2). This is also the interpretation of Gelasius and Gregory; for in answer to the question why a bishop may claim something for himself, Gelasius gives no other reason than that: he must be put in a position to give something to the prisoners and strangers (Decretum Gratiani II,16,3,2). Gregory speaks even more clearly; he says: "The apostolic see has the custom to instruct the appointed bishop that all incoming funds should be divided into four parts; namely, the first part should go to the bishop and his household, so that he can be hospitable and provide shelter, the second part should be for the clergy, the third for the poor, and the fourth for the repair of the churches" (Decretum Gratiani II,12,2,30). Thus, the bishop was not allowed to take anything for his own use except what was sufficient for moderate and simple food and clothing. If someone began to waste, whether by opulence or by pomp and splendor, he was immediately rebuked by his peers, and if he disobeyed, he was declared to have lost his position of honor.

IV,4,8 But what they continued to spend on the decoration of the sanctuaries was very little in the beginning. When the church became a little richer, they kept the moderate simplicity in this respect. However, all the money they spent on this remained unabatedly for the poor when a greater need arose. Cyril, for example, did the same: when the area of Jerusalem was struck by a famine and the lack could not be remedied in any other way, he sold the vessels and vestments and used the proceeds to feed the poor (Historia tripartita V,37). Similarly, when a large crowd of Persians almost died of hunger, the bishop Akatius of Amida did the same: he called the clergy together, made an excellent address to them: "Our God has no need of bowls or cups, for he neither eats nor drinks" - and then he had the vessels melted down to provide food and ransom for the poor (Historia tripartita XI,16). Also, Jerome, in a chastisement against the excessive splendor of church buildings, mentions with honor Bishop Exuperius of Tolosa, who carried the Lord’s body in a woven basket and the Lord’s blood in a jar, but did not let a single poor person go hungry (Letter 125). What I just said about Acatius, Ambrose reports about himself; when the Arians accused him of having broken the sacred vessels for the ransom of prisoners, he excused himself with the following excellent words: "He who sent the apostles without gold, he also gathered the church without gold. The Church does have gold, but not to store it, but to distribute it and to come to the aid of people in their needs. What is the point of keeping what is of no use to anyone? Do we not know how much gold and silver the Assyrians took from the temple of the Lord? If other help is lacking, is it not better for the priest to melt it down for the sustenance of the poor than for an enemy who desecrates the sanctuary to take it away? Will not the Lord say, ’Why did you allow so many poor to die of hunger, when you had gold from which you could have provided food?’ Why have so many captives been led away and not ransomed? Why were so many killed by the enemy? It would have been better if you had received the vessels of living men than those of metal!’ To these questions you will not be able to give an answer; for what were you going to say? Are you going to answer: ’I was afraid that the temple of God would lack ornaments’? He would answer you: ’The sacraments do not demand gold, and what is not bought with gold is not made pleasing by gold. The ornament of the sacraments is the ransom of the captives!’" (Of the Official Duties of Servants II,28,137f.) In short, we see that it was very correct for the same Ambrose to say elsewhere that all that the Church then possessed was for the support of the poor, or likewise to declare that a bishop possessed nothing that did not belong to the poor (Letter 18,16; 20).

IV,4,9 Those which we have enumerated were the offices of the early Church. For the others mentioned by the ecclesiastical writers were exercises and preparations rather than definite offices. For those holy men wished to leave a little garden for the church, and for this purpose they took into their loyalty and care, and also into their discipline, young men who, with the consent and approval of their parents, had devoted themselves to the spiritual service of war, and these they now trained from a tender age in such a way that they did not once approach their ministry untrained and as novices. All now who enjoyed such initial instruction were called "clergy" with a general designation. I wish, of course, that they had been given another, more appropriate name. For this designation arose from error or, in any case, from wrong thinking; Peter, in fact, calls the whole church the "clergy," that is, the "inheritance" of the Lord (1 Pet. 5:3; basic text). The institution itself, on the other hand, was holy and extremely beneficial, since it consisted in the fact that those who wanted to consecrate themselves and their service to the church were educated under the care of the bishop in such a way that only those entered the service of the church who were well educated, had absorbed the holy teachings since early youth, had acquired a certain attitude of seriousness and a holy way of life on the basis of quite strict discipline, knew no worldly worries and were accustomed to spiritual worries and efforts. Now, just as prospective men of war are trained for true, serious combat by means of practice battles, so there were certain initial grounds in which those young men were exercised at the time of their clerical life, before they were promoted to the actual offices. Thus, at first, these men were charged with the care of opening and closing the church buildings and were called "doorkeepers" (ostialii). Afterwards they were called "acolytes": they were to assist the bishop with domestic services and to accompany him constantly, first of all for the sake of honor, but secondly also to prevent any suspicion. They were also given the opportunity to read from the pulpit (as "lectors"). This was done so that they would gradually become known to the people and acquire a good reputation, and also so that they would learn to bear the sight of all the people and to speak in the presence of all: they were not to become embarrassed when they became presbyters and stepped forward to exercise their teaching ministry. In this way they were promoted from step to step, proving their diligence in every single exercise, until (finally) they became "subdeacons". I only want to show that we are dealing here more with beginner exercises of neophytes than with the exercise of ministries that would be counted among the true offices of the Church.

IV,4,10 I have explained above that in the calling of ministers the first and second questions are about which people to choose as ministers and what reverent seriousness to apply. In this respect, the early church followed Paul’s rule and the example of the apostles. For it was customary to meet for the election of shepherds (pastors) with the highest reverence and with zealous invocation of the name of God. Moreover, they had a fixed form of examination, according to which they inquired about the lifestyle and doctrine of those who were to be chosen, according to that standard of Paul. Only here they sinned quite a lot by being unduly strict, namely by wanting to demand more from a bishop than Paul does (1Tim 3:2-7); above all, they demanded celibacy as time went on. But in the remaining points they kept it according to Paul’s description. As for the question we mentioned in the third place, namely: who should appoint the servants, the ancients did not always keep the same order. In ancient times, not even among the "clergy" was anyone admitted without the consent of the whole people. Thus Cyprian apologizes emphatically for having appointed a certain Aurelius as a lector without consulting the church; for this was against custom, though not without reason. But his preface to this reads, "In the appointment of clerics, dear brethren, we are wont to consult you beforehand, and in common deliberation to consider the conduct of life and the merits of the individual" (Letter 38). But because there was no great danger in those lesser exercises - since these people were accepted for a long-lasting trial and not for an important official task - they ceased to ask for the consent of the people for this.

IV,4,11 Later on, even in the case of the other ranks, with the exception of the episcopate, the people consistently left the judgment and the selection to the bishop and the presbyters: they were thus to decide which people would be fit and worthy for it. It was different when the case arose that new presbyters were appointed for the parishes; for then the multitude in the place concerned had to expressly consent. Nor is it surprising that in this respect the people attached less importance to upholding their right. For no man was made a subdeacon who had not proved himself as a cleric, and that under the rigor of discipline then existing, by a long-continued probation. If he had proved himself at that rank, he was made a deacon, and from there he attained to the honor of the presbyterate, if he had proved himself faithful. Thus, no one was promoted who had not actually undergone his trial for many years under the eyes of the people. Also, many legal statutes existed for the punishment of their offenses, so that the church did not need to be burdened with bad presbyters or deacons, if it did not neglect the available aids. However, even in the case of presbyters, the consent of the citizens was always required; this is also attested (in the Decretum Gratiani) Distinction 67, and in Canon 1, attributed to Anaclet. Finally, all the investitures happened at fixed times of the year, so that no one could sneak in secretly without the consent of the faithful, or be promoted with even too much ease without witnesses. In the election of bishops, the people’s freedom was preserved for a long time: thus no one was to be imposed who was not agreeable to all. At the Council of Antioch (341) it was therefore forbidden to impose anyone against the will of the people. This is also emphatically confirmed by Leo I. Hence the following statements: "Let him be chosen whom the clergy and the people, or (at least) the majority, desire" (Letter 14:5). Likewise, "He who shall once preside over all shall also be chosen by all. For if someone is appointed to preside who is still unknown and untested, this necessarily means that he will be forced upon the people" (Letter 10:6). Or likewise: "Let him be chosen who has been chosen by the clergy and desired by the people, and let him then be consecrated by the bishops of the province with the knowledge and will of the Metropolitan" (Letter 167). The holy fathers were so careful that this freedom of the people should not be abridged in any way that the general synod assembled at Constantinople did not wish to carry out its intention of installing Nectarius (as patriarch of Constantinople) without the consent of the whole clergy and people, as it testified in its letter to the Roman synod. Therefore, if a bishop appointed a successor for himself, it was valid only if the whole people decided it. In Augustine we find not only an example of this, but also a fixed form of procedure, namely in the appointment of Eraclius (Letter 110). Theodoret reports that Athanasius had appointed Peter as his successor, but he immediately adds that the priesthood had accepted this and that the authorities, including the most distinguished and the entire people, had approved it by their declaration of consent (Church History IV,20).

IV,4,12 However, I admit, there was also a very well-founded reason for the decision of the Council of Laodicea, which forbade to leave the election to the masses (ch. 13). For it hardly ever happens that so many minds rightly arrange a matter in unanimous opinion, and throughout it remains true what has been said: "The multitude is indefinite and divides itself into conflicting aspirations" (Virgil). But against this danger a very effective means was used. First of all, the clergy voted alone. Then they presented the chosen one to the authorities or to the council and to the nobles. They discussed the matter, and if the choice seemed right to them, they confirmed it; if it did not seem right to them, they chose another man who suited them better. Then the matter was submitted to the crowd, which was not bound to the decisions made before, but could make less of an uproar. Or the first step was taken with the crowd, but this was done only in order to find out whom they most desired; then, after hearing the wishes of the people, the clerics finally carried out the election. Thus, the clergy were not allowed to appoint whomever they wished, nor were they bound, on the other hand, to comply with foolish wishes of the people. Leo (I) establishes this order in one place. He says, "One must await the wishes of the citizens, the testimonies of the people, the decision of the officials, and the election of the clergy" (Letter 10:4). Similarly, he says, "One should abide by the testimony of the officials, the consent of the clergy, and the consent of the council and the people"; "there is no reason to proceed otherwise" (Letter 10:6; 167). Even that decision of the Synod of Laodicea has only the purpose that the clergy and the nobles should not be carried away by the imprudent multitude, but on the contrary, when it is necessary, hold down the foolish desires of the great mass with their wisdom and earnestness.

IV,4,13 This kind of election was still in force in Gregory’s time, and it probably continued long after. There are very many letters in Gregory that give clear testimony to this. In fact, whenever it is a question of appointing a new bishop somewhere, Gregory used to write to the clergy, to the council and to the people, sometimes also to the prince, depending on how the government of the city in question was set up. And if, for example, because of the disorderly state of the church, he asks a neighboring bishop to supervise the election, he always demands a solemn decision, which must be confirmed by the signatures of all (involved). This, too, can be read in several letters. Thus a certain Constantinus had been appointed bishop of Milan; but now, because of the invasions of foreign armies, many Milanese had fled to Genoa: so even in this case Gregory considered the election lawful only if these fugitives were also called together and declared their consent (Letter III,30). Indeed, not even five hundred years have passed since Pope Nicholas (II) established the procedure for the election of the Roman bishop (1059), that first the cardinal bishops should go ahead, then they should take the rest of the clergy to them, and finally the election should be put into effect by the consent of the people. At the end, he then also lists the above-mentioned decree of Leo (I) and gives the instruction that this should continue to be in force. Even if the wickedness of the wicked has spread to such an extent that the clergy are forced to leave the city in order to conduct a pure election, Nicholas still gives the command that some people from the people should always be present (Decretum Gratiani I,23,1). The consent of the emperor was, as far as can be seen, required only in two churches, namely in Rome and Constantinople, because these were the two residences of the empire. However, Ambrose was sent to Milan with a warrant from the Emperor Valentinian to preside over the election of a new bishop; but this was something extraordinary, and it was done because of the serious factions into which the citizens had flared against each other. In Rome, however, in ancient times the authority of the emperor in the appointment of the bishop was of such importance that Gregory declares that he was appointed to the leadership of that church by his command, when in fact he had been requested by the people in solemn proceedings (Letter I,5). The custom was as follows: when the nobles, the clergy and the people had appointed someone, the former immediately reported to the emperor, so that he either confirmed the election by his confirmation or made it null and void by his rejection. This custom is not contradicted by the decrees collected by Gratian; in them nothing is said other than that it must in no way be endured that the king, suspending the canonical election, should appoint a bishop at his pleasure; furthermore, it is decreed that the metropolitans must not consecrate a bishop who had been appointed under violent exercise of power. For it is different whether the Church is deprived of its right, so that everything is left to the discretion of one man - or whether the king or the emperor is given the honor of confirming the lawful election with his authority.

IV,4,14 Now we must go on to consider the (fourth) question, according to what custom the ministers of the early Church were ordained into office after their election. The Latin called this process "ordination" or "blessing" (consecration), the Greek "cheirotonia" or sometimes also "cheirothesia" ("raising of hands" or sometimes also "laying on of hands"); admittedly "raising of hands" (cheirotonia) means in the actual sense that election procedure, in which the casting of votes is made recognizable by raising of the hands. Now there is a decision of the Council of Nicaea, according to which the metropolitan was to meet with all the bishops of the province in order to ordain the one who had been elected. If, however, because of the great distance or because of illness or some other emergency, some were prevented from attending, at least three were to meet, and those who were absent were to give their consent in writing. When this law fell into disuse, it was subsequently renewed by many synods. The order that all, or at least those who had no excuse, had to be present, had the purpose that a stricter examination of the doctrine and the way of life of the one who was to be ordained was made. For without such examination the ordination was not performed. It is also clear from the words of Cyprian that these bishops were not summoned only after the election, but that in ancient times they were usually present also at the election itself, and this had the purpose that they acted, as it were, as leaders, so that no confusion arose among the crowd. Cyprian, in fact, first declares that the people have the authority to elect worthy priests and to reject unworthy ones; but then, shortly after, he adds: "Therefore, as it is done in our country and in almost all the provinces, it must be diligently observed and maintained, on the basis of divine and apostolic tradition, that for the proper execution of the ordinations the bishops of the province in question all meet in the congregation for which the superior is ordained, and that the bishop is elected in the presence of the people" (Letter 67). But since the meeting of the bishops often took too long and there was a danger that some people would abuse this delay as an opportunity to canvass for votes, it was decided that it would be sufficient if the bishops came after the election was completed and blessed the elected one after a lawful examination.

IV,4,15 Although this was done everywhere without exception, a different custom gradually grew up, namely that the elected went to the capital to seek ordination. Now this happened more out of ambition and perversion of the old order than for any good reason. Not long after, when the authority of the Roman See had already increased, a worse custom broke out, namely, that the bishops of almost all Italy sought their blessing (ordination) from Rome. This can be seen from the letters of Gregory. Only a few cities, which could not be pushed back so easily, kept their old right. Thus, Gregory mentions the example of Milan (Letters III,30). Possibly only the capitals (i.e. the seats of the metropolitans) retained their prerogative. For the blessing (ordination) of the archbishop, all the bishops of the province used to meet precisely in the capital. By the way, the custom of ordination was the laying on of hands. As far as I can read, no other ceremonies were used, except for the fact that the bishops wore certain ornamental vestments during the solemn assembly in order to be distinguished from the other presbyters. The presbyters and deacons were also ordained by the laying on of hands alone. But each bishop ordained his presbyters together with the college of (other) presbyters. Although all (i.e. bishop and presbyters) did the same, the ordination was called "by the bishop", because the bishop preceded and the act took place under his guidance. Therefore, the ancients often said that the presbyter differed from the bishop only in that he did not have the authority to ordain.

Fifth chapter


The old form of church government has been completely destroyed by the tyranny of the papacy.

IV,5,1 Now it is necessary to examine the order of church government as it is held today by the Roman See and all its satellites, and also the whole picture of that hierarchy which they are always talking about, and to compare it with the order of the original, old church described above. From this comparison it should then become clear what kind of church it is that is held by those people who arrogantly insist on this title alone in order to weigh us down or rather to crush us with it. It is best if we start with the calling, so that we can see which people are called to the ecclesiastical office, what kind of people they are and how the calling is done. Then we will also look at the faithfulness with which they fulfill their office. But we want to give the first place to the bishops - oh, if it could bring them honor to be first in this discussion! But the cause itself will not bear my touching this subject even lightly, without the greatest dishonor to them. And yet I shall keep in mind what kind of writing I am engaged in here, and I shall not let my expositions, which are to serve the simple instruction, go beyond their limits. Nevertheless, one of those who have not yet completely lost all shame should give me an answer as to what kind of bishops are chosen everywhere nowadays. It is true that it has become too difficult to examine doctrine. If doctrine is taken into consideration in any way, then some legal scholar is chosen who knows better how to conduct a dispute in court than to preach in church. It is certain that in the last hundred years, among a hundred bishops, hardly one has been chosen who knew anything about the sacred doctrine. I spare the preceding centuries not because they were much better, but because I want to speak here only of the church of the present. If an evaluation of the way of life is to occur, we will find that there were only a few or almost none who would not have declared the old legal statutes unworthy. He who was not a drunkard was a fornicator; he who was also pure from this vice was a gambler or a hunter or otherwise without discipline in some part of his life. The faults, in fact, which, on the basis of the ancient legal statutes, exclude a man from the episcopate, are lighter (than those just mentioned). But by far the most absurd thing is that boys of barely ten years of age have been made bishops with the approval of the pope. One has just reached such a degree of shamelessness and callousness that one does not even shrink from that extreme and downright monstrous outrage, which is completely repugnant even to natural sensibilities. From this it is clear what kind of "God-fearing" elections these were, in which such a careless carelessness was involved.

IV,5,2 Furthermore, in the election all the right of the people, of which we spoke, has been abrogated. Wishes, grants, signatures and all things of that nature have disappeared. All power has passed exclusively to the canons. These confer the episcopate on whom they will; the one they appoint they then indeed immediately bring before the face of the people - but not for examination, but for worship! (Leo I), however, declares that such a procedure is not permissible under any circumstances; he expressly says that (the bishop is) violently imposed on the people! Cyprian testifies that it follows from divine law that the election may only take place with the consent of the people, and thus he shows that the opposite custom is in contradiction with the word of God. So many synodal resolutions strictly forbid any other procedure, and if something so forbidden is done, they command that it be invalid. If this is true, there is not a single election left in the whole papacy today that would be constitutional according to divine or ecclesiastical law. But how, even if there were no other evil, will they be able to excuse the fact that they have deprived the Church of its right in such a form? They say: Among the people and the authorities, in the election of bishops, hatred and zeal carried more weight than right and sound judgment, and so the corruption of the times required that instead the decision in this matter should be entrusted to a few. - Let us admit that this really would have been the utmost remedy against such an evil under such miserable circumstances. But in the meantime it has come to light that the medicine is more harmful than the disease itself - why is this new evil not counteracted? - Yes, they answer, but the canons themselves are prescribed exactly which rules they have to follow in their choice. - But do we maintain that in ancient times the people might not have known that they were bound by most sacred laws, when they saw that a rule was set for them from the word of God when they met to elect a bishop? For that one word of God, in which he describes the true image of a bishop, must surely have deservedly more weight than uncounted thousands of ecclesiastical legal statutes. But nevertheless, the people were corrupted by evil sentiments, so that they had no regard for right and equity! It is the same today: although very good laws are written, they remain buried in the books. In the meantime, it has been generally accepted by custom, and approved as if it were for a just cause, that drunkards, fornicators, and dice-players are everywhere promoted to such honor (that is, to that of the episcopate), nay, I say too little, that the episcopal sees are rewards for adultery and procuring. For if they are given (merely) to hunters and fowlers, then one must (already) think that the thing has turned out excellently! To excuse such unworthiness in any way is too impudent. The people had, I said, in ancient times a very good guideline (to choose from); for the word of God prescribed to them that a bishop should be "blameless", "doctrinal", "not quarrelsome", etc. (1Tim 3:1-7). Why was the task of electing bishops taken away from the people and given to the canons? Because (so they say) in the midst of the turmoil and the factions of the people the word of God was no longer heard. And why is this task not taken away from the canons today, who not only violate all laws, but also throw away all shame, and in their licentiousness, their greed for money and honor, mix and confuse the divine and the human?

IV,5,3 But it is a lie when they say that this (new) procedure has been applied as a remedy. We do read that in ancient times the cities were often in turmoil over the election of bishops, but still no one dared to think that this right should be taken away from the citizens. For one had other ways either to oppose such errors or, if they had already been committed, to provide a remedy. But I will say how the matter stands. When the people began to become more lax in the execution of the election and, as if it were less their duty, entrusted this care to the presbyters, they abused the opportunity to seize a tyrannical power, which they subsequently strengthened by establishing new legal statutes. But ordination (among the papists) is nothing but a pure mockery. The simulacrum of an examination which they display is so empty and lacking in content that it even lacks any illusionary color. If, therefore, in some places the princes have obtained from the Roman popes, by treaty, the right to nominate bishops themselves, no new harm has thereby been done to the Church, because the election has thus been taken away only from the canons, who had robbed or at any rate stolen it without any right. If in such a way the bishops are sent out by the (princely) court to take possession of the churches, then this is certainly a very bad example, and pious princes would have the duty to refrain from such a corrupt custom. For it is every time an ungodly robbery of the church to impose on any people a bishop whom they have not desired or at least confirmed with free expression of opinion. But, in fact, that disorderly habit, which has existed for a long time in the churches, has given the princes the opportunity to usurp the appointment of bishops. For they preferred that this benefit should come from them rather than from those who had no right to it and abused it no less evil.

IV,5,4 So this is the glorious vocation for which the bishops boast that they are the successors of the apostles! But now they continue to claim that the right to appoint presbyters belongs to them alone. But they corrupt the old institution in the worst way, because with their ordination they do not appoint presbyters to lead and shepherd the people, but rather priests who are to sacrifice. Likewise: when they ordain deacons, they do not attend to their true and proper official duty, but ordain them only to certain ceremonies at the chalice and bowl. At the Synod of Chalcedon (451), however, it was decided that no "absolute" ordinations should take place, that is, none in which the ordained person was not at the same time assigned a place in which to exercise his office (cf. Decretum Gratiani I,70,1). This decision is of the greatest use in two respects. First, it serves to ensure that the churches are not burdened with superfluous expenses and that money is not spent on idle people that should be distributed to the poor. Secondly, it serves to make those who are ordained remember that they are not promoted to an honor, but are charged with an office, to the performance of which they commit themselves by solemn testimony. The Roman masters, on the other hand, who think that in religion one should provide for nothing but one’s belly, declare that by the "title" (in the sense of the above decision) is to be understood an income sufficient for subsistence, whether it be derived from parental patrimony or from a priestly office. So when they ordain a deacon or a presbyter, they do not worry about where they are to exercise their office, but confer their rank on them, if they are only rich enough to support themselves. But what man will wish to suppose that the "title" required by the decision of the Council means an annual income for subsistence? Now, the more recent legal statutes, in order to curb their even too great concession (in ordination), have condemned the bishops to the maintenance of those whom they have ordained without a suitable "title". But then, a precautionary measure was devised to avoid the punishment with their help. The one who is ordained, after naming some "title", promises to be satisfied with it. This agreement deprives him of the right to sue for maintenance. I will not mention the thousands of frauds that occur in this process. Thus, some people invent vain "titles" of priestly positions, from which they cannot collect five heller a year. Others receive a benefice on the basis of a secret agreement, and they promise to return it immediately, but sometimes do not return it. Then there are other "secrets" of this kind.

IV,5,5 But even if these grosser abuses should be remedied - does it not then still remain an absurdity to appoint a presbyter to whom one does not assign a place (to exercise his ministry)? For the papists, in fact, do not ordain anyone to any other service than sacrificing alone. The lawful ordination of a presbyter, on the other hand, occurs when he is called to govern a church, that of a deacon when he is called to administer alms. True, they surround what they do with much ostentation, so that under such pretense it enjoys veneration among plain people. But what value can such larvae have among reasonable people, when there is nothing solid and true behind them? For they use ceremonies, which they either fetch from Judaism or concoct out of themselves - and from which one had better refrain! But of the true test (in the doctrine) - for with that shadow which they maintain, I do not dwell - of the consent of the people and of other necessary things there is no mention. A "shadow" I call those ridiculous gestures, which are made after to imitate the old time inappropriately and without content. The bishops have their vicars who make an inquiry about doctrine before ordination. But what questions do they ask? They inquire whether the aspirants can also read their Masses, whether they can decline any common noun occurring in the reading, or conjugate any tense word, or whether they know the meaning of a single expression - for it is not necessary that they should know how to render the sense of even a single verse! Nevertheless, even those who fail in these infantile beginnings are not immediately excluded from the priesthood if they contribute only some recommendation of money or favor. From the same flour is then baked the next: when those who are to be ordained are placed before the altar, then one asks three times with words that no one understands whether they are also worthy of this honor; then there is one who never got to see them, but who, so that nothing is lacking in the set form, has come over this role in the game - and who answers: "You are worthy"! What other accusation can be brought against these venerable fathers than this, that they play their game in such open sacrilege, laughing at God and men without shame? But because they have already been in the "possession" of this thing for a long time, they think that this is now allowed to them. But if someone dares to open his mouth against such obvious and terrible vices, he is immediately dragged by them before court, as if he had committed a crime worthy of death - like the man who had once brought the holy secrets of Ceres into the public! Would they do that if they thought there was a God?

IV,5,6 Now what about the distribution of benefices, which was once connected with ordination, but is now completely separated from it? How much better do the papists conduct themselves in this? Now here exists with them a manifold manner. For the bishops are not the only ones who confer priestly positions, and even in the case of such positions, of which they are called "collators" (occupants), they do not always have full right, but others (often) have the right of appointment (praesentatio), but the bishops themselves retain to their honor the title of occupant. In addition, there are the conferring of benefices on the school bench, the "resignations", whether "simple" or also those that take place on the basis of an exchange, plus the letters of recommendation, the "preventions" (rights of anticipation) and whatnot. But the participants all behave in such a way that none of them can reproach the other! Thus I maintain: in the papacy today, among a hundred benefices, hardly one is granted without simony, if we understand simony as the ancients defined it. I do not say that they all buy their benefices with hard cash - but let them show me even one out of twenty who would not come to the priesthood by any hidden recommendation! Some attain their promotion by blood relationship or affinity, others by the reputation of their parents, still others acquire favor by willingness to serve. In short, the benefices are not given for the purpose of providing for the churches, but rather to provide for the people who receive them. That is why they are called "benefices" - a name which sufficiently indicates that they are not valued differently from the donations of princes, with which the latter acquire the favor of their men of war or also reward their efforts. I am ignoring the fact that such "rewards" are also given to barbers, cooks, muleteers and other people of the same ilk. Moreover, nowadays the courts echo with almost no disputes more than with those that revolve around benefices - one could almost say that benefices are nothing but a prey thrown to the hounds for hunting! Isa it not intolerable to hear people called "shepherds" who have broken into the possession of a church as if it were an enemy territory, who have won this possession as spoils of victory by quarreling in court, or bought it with money, or acquired it with dirty services, who, as boys barely able to stammer, have grown into such possession as if it were an inherited possession from their uncles or relatives, or sometimes even - if they are bastards - from their fathers??

IV,5,7 Would the licentiousness of the people, however depraved and lawless they may have been, ever have gone so far? But it is an even greater monstrosity that a single man - I say nothing of what kind, but in any case one who is not able to govern himself - is placed at the head of five or six churches to "govern" them. One can see nowadays at the courts of princes young men who are three times abbots, twice bishops and once archbishops. Throughout, however, they are canons, burdened with five, six, seven benefices, about which they are quite concerned only insofar as they take care to receive income from them. I do not want to make the objection that God’s word objects to this everywhere - because this has ceased to have even the slightest significance with these people a long time ago. I also do not want to make the objection that at many councils the most severe decrees have been issued against this insolence - for they also despise it bravely, as often as it suits them. But I say this: that a single robber should seize many churches at the same time, and that a man should be called a "shepherd" who, even if he wants to, cannot be with his flock - these are both monstrous infamies, utterly repugnant to God, to nature, and to church government. And yet, in one’s shamelessness, one conceals such repugnant abominations behind the name of the church in order to escape any reproach. Yes, "if it please God," in these uselessnesses there exists that most holy succession (of bishops) whose merit, as they boast, has brought it about that the Church has not perished.

IV,5,8 Now let us observe with what fidelity they exercise their office; for this is the second characteristic by which a legitimate pastor is to be judged. Among the priests appointed by the papists, some are monks, others are so-called secular priests. At the same time, the first bunch was unknown to the early church. Also, the holding of such a position (namely the priesthood) in the Church is in such contrast with the monastic profession that people who were once admitted to the clergy from the monasteries ceased to be monks. Yes, even Gregory (I), in whose times the Church already had a great deal of impurity about it, nevertheless did not tolerate that such confusion occurred. He wants people who have become abbots to renounce their status as clerics, because no one can be a monk and a cleric at the same time, since one is an obstacle to the other (Letter IV,11). If I now ask why one whom the ecclesiastical legal statutes declare unfit can rightly fulfill his office - what answer will they give me, I would like to know? They will, of course, quote to me those untimely ordinances of Innocent and Boniface, according to which monks are admitted to the dignity and authority of the priesthood and yet at the same time remain in their monasteries. But what is the matter that some unlearned ass, as soon as he has seized the Roman chair, throws the whole old order over with a single word? But about that later. For now, let it suffice to say that in the purer church it was considered a great absurdity for a monk to exercise the priesthood. For Jerome declares that as long as he lives among the monks, he does not perform the official duty of a priest; no, he considers himself one of the people, governed by the priests. But if we let them get away with this, the question remains what kind of official duty they actually fulfill. Some of the mendicant monks preach. All the other monks sing and mumble masses in their corners. As if it were according to the will of Christ, or as if the nature of this office tolerated that they should be made presbyters ("priests") for this purpose! After all, Scripture openly and clearly testifies that a presbyter has the task of governing his own church (Acts 20:28). Isa it not then an ungodly profanation to take the holy foundation of God in another direction, nay, to transform it fully? For when the monks are ordained, they are expressly forbidden to do what God has imposed as a duty on all presbyters ("priests"). The little song is sung to them: A monk shall be content with his monastery, and shall not presume to administer the sacraments, or to do anything else which is the business of the public ministry. Now let them deny it, if they can, that it is an open mockery of God to appoint one as presbyter for the purpose of abstaining from his true and pure official duty, and if one who has the name cannot have the (pertinent) thing!

IV,5,9 Now I come to the worldly priests. These are partly benefactors, as they say; that is, they have priesthoods to live on. On the other hand, they hire out their daily services for reading mass and singing, and they live off the wages they earn. The benefices include in part pastoral care, such as bishoprics and parishes; in part they are a salary for pampered people who earn their bread by singing, such as praebends, canonships, personates, dignities (certain canonships), chaplaincies, and the like. However, where things above and below are already fully overturned, abbatial and priory positions are also given not only to secular priests, but also - by "privilege," that is, according to general, customary usage - to boys. Now, as for the wage priests, who day by day seek their sustenance - what should they do differently from what they really do? What should they do otherwise than allow themselves to be abused for filthy lucre in a manner unworthy of a free man and which is shameful? Especially in the quantity in which nowadays the world is overflowing with them! Because they do not dare to beg in public, or because they think that they achieve too little in this way, they run around like hungry dogs and squeeze something from the people who do not want it, by their impudent leering and barking, in order to fill their meager bodies. If I tried to explain in words what shame it brings to the church that the honor and the office of a presbyter have degenerated so far, I would not find an end. The readers, therefore, have no reason to expect from me a speech corresponding to such shameful unworthiness. I will only say briefly: according to the precept of the Word of God (1Cor 4:1) and also according to the requirements of the old church statutes, the presbyter has the official duty of feeding the church and administering Christ’s spiritual kingdom; but if it is so, then it is true of all such Mass priests who find their work and wages merely in dealing in Masses, that they not only neglect their official duty, but have no lawful office at all to exercise. For they have no opportunity for instruction at all, nor do they have a congregation to govern. In short, there is nothing left for them but the altar to "sacrifice" Christ on - but, as we shall see elsewhere, this does not mean offering sacrifices to God, but to the devils!

IV,5,10 I do not touch here the infirmities added from the outside, but exclusively the inward damage, which adheres to their arrangement of things from the root. I want to add a word that will sound bad in their ears, but because it is true, it must be spoken: All canons, deans, chaplains, provosts, and all those people who live on idle priestly offices are to be put (with the above-mentioned Mass priests) in the same line! For what service can they render to the Church? They have put off the preaching of the word, the care for the ecclesiastical discipline and the administration of the sacraments as too uncomfortable burdens! What, then, is left to them on the basis of which they could boast that they are true presbyters? Of course, the singing and the splendor of the ceremonies. But what has this to do with the matter? If they plead habit, practice, and the compelling influence of long time, I refer, on the other hand, to Christ’s provision (of the office), in which he has described to us the true presbyters, and has thus shown what those must have who wish to be regarded as such. Now if they are not able to bear such a hard law as to submit to the rule of Christ, let them at least allow this matter to be settled on the authority of the original church. But they will by no means be better off if their condition is judged according to the old church statutes. The people who (nowadays) have degenerated into canons should actually be presbyters, as were once those who together with the bishop directed the church and were, as it were, in the pastoral office his officemates. Those so-called "dignitaries in the chapters" (dignitates capitulares) have nothing at all to do with the true government of the Church, much less the chaplaincies and the other dregs of such titles. For what, therefore, shall we hold them all together? In any case, the Word of Christ, as well as the custom of the early Church, excludes them from the honor of the presbyterate. Nevertheless, they claim to be presbyters. But the mask must be torn from their faces; then we shall find that their whole profession has purely nothing to do with, and is far removed from, that office of presbyters which the apostles describe to us and which was required in the original Church. All such ranks, then, by whatever titles they may be distinguished, are new fiefs, which are in any case founded neither on God’s foundation, nor on the order of the early Church, and therefore they must have no place in the order of the spiritual regiment which the Church has received as sanctified by the mouth of the Lord Himself. Or - if you prefer me to speak more crudely and coarsely - since the chaplains, canons, deans, provosts, and such like lazy bellies do not touch even with the smallest finger any bit of that official duty which is necessarily required of presbyters, it is not to be endured that they should falsely arrogate to themselves such honor and thereby profane Christ’s holy foundation.

IV,5,11 Now there are left the bishops and the presbyters. Oh, if only they would make an effort to stick to their official duty! For we would gladly admit to them that they have a pious and glorious office - if only they would exercise it! But when they abandon the churches entrusted to them, shift the care of them to others, and still want to be taken for "shepherds," they act just as if the office of a shepherd consisted in doing nothing. If a usurer, who would never have set foot outside the city, were to pass himself off as a farmer or a vine dresser, or if a war servant, who lived continuously on the battlefield or in the camp, but never got to see a court or books, were to sell himself for a jurist - who would want to endure such nonsensical uselessness? But these people do something much more absurd, in that they want to appear and be called rightful shepherds of the church, and yet they do not want to be (once). For how few there are among them, who even in appearance lead the government of their church! Most of them consume all their lives the income of churches which they never even visit for the purpose of overseeing. Others go there once a year themselves or send their steward so that nothing of the rent is lost. When this corruption first arose, those who wanted to enjoy this kind of idleness still made themselves free by (special) privileges; but now it is a rare example if someone lives in his church. For they see in the churches nothing but country houses, the management of which they entrust to their vicars like stewards or tenants. But this is also contrary even to the natural feeling that one is the shepherd of a flock who has never seen a sheep from it.

IV,5,12 Already in the time of Gregory (I) there were evidently certain germs of the evil that the rulers of the churches began to be quite negligent in instruction; for in one place he makes a serious complaint about this. "The world," he says, "is full of priests, and yet one seldom finds a laborer in the harvest; for we do indeed assume the priestly office, but the work which belongs to this office we do not direct" (Homilies on the Gospels I,17,3). Likewise, "Because they do not have the lifeblood of love, they want to be considered lords; but that they are fathers they do not recognize at all; the place of lowliness they transform into the pride of lordship" (Ibid.). Or likewise, "But we, shepherds, what do we do when we receive the reward but are not workmen? … We have fallen into things that are none of our business. We take on one thing, but we do another. We leave the ministry of preaching, and I see that to our punishment we are called bishops, we who alone have the title of honor, but not of virtue" (Ibid.). If Gregory uses such harsh words against people who were merely less zealous and diligent in their office - what would he say, I ask, if he saw that among the bishops almost none, or at any rate only rarely one, among the rest hardly one in a hundred ever mounts a pulpit? For one has become so out of one’s senses that it is generally considered a thing beneath the dignity of a bishop for one to preach a sermon to the people. In the time of Bernard (of Clairvaux) things had already fallen into much worse decay (than in Gregory’s time); but we see also with what bitter reproaches he goes off against the whole state; and yet it is to be supposed that it was not a little better in order then than it is now.

IV,5,13 If someone considers and examines the whole form of the church regime as it exists today under the papacy, he will find that there is no den of robbers in which the robbers raged more arbitrarily without law and measure. In any case, everything there is so dissimilar, even alien, to the institution of Christ, they have so fallen away from the old institutions and customs of the church, they live in such contradiction to nature and reason that no greater dishonor can be done to Christ than by using his name as a pretext for defending such disorderly regiment. We are - they say - the pillars of the Church, the chiefs in religion, we are the representatives of Christ, the heads of the faithful; for apostolic authority has come to us through the succession (of bishops). They are always boasting about such uselessness - as if they were speaking to blocks! But every time they insist on it, I ask them again what they have in common with the apostles. For it is not a question here of a hereditary dignity that could be conferred on one in his sleep, but of the office of preaching, which they so much avoid. And similarly, when we declare that their regiment is the tyranny of the Antichrist, they always object that it is that venerable "hierarchy" so often praised by great and holy men. As if the holy fathers, when they praised the ecclesiastical hierarchy or the spiritual regiment, as it was handed down to them by the apostles, would have thought in a dream of this deformed and desolate chaos, where the bishops are either mostly uneducated donkeys, who do not even know the first and most known basic elements of the faith, or even children just fresh from the wet nurse, where, if there are some who are a little more learned - which is seldom the case - they consider the episcopate to be nothing but a title of pomp and pageantry, where the rulers of the churches think as little of feeding their flocks as the cobbler thinks of tilling the soil, and where everything is so confused in a more than Babylonian confusion that no intact trace of the institution of the fathers appears.

IV,5,14 How does it look now, when we speak about the way of life? Where is the "light of the world" that Christ demands, where is the "salt of the earth" (Mt 5,14.13)? Where is that holiness which could serve as a constant rule of life? No class among men is more notorious today for its debauchery, its effeminacy, its pleasures, in short, every kind of lust; from no class come more skillful and experienced masters of all kinds of falsehood, deceit, treachery and disloyalty; nowhere is there so much impulsiveness and audacity to do harm! I am still silent of the pomposity and the arrogance, the rapacity and the wildness. I am silent about the unrestrained arbitrariness in all aspects of life. The world is so tired of putting up with such things that I need not fear to appear as if I were exaggerating something too much. I say only one thing, which they themselves will not be able to deny: if one were to pass judgment on their way of life on the basis of the old church statutes, there would be almost not one bishop among the bishops, not one among the heads of the parishes among a hundred, who would not have to be banished or at least deprived of his office. It seems as if I were saying something unbelievable, so much has the old discipline, which required a stricter examination of the conduct of the clergy, fallen into disuse; but the circumstances are indeed like that! Now let those who do war service under the banner and direction of the Roman See go quietly and boast of the priesthood which is with them. In any case, the one they have is obviously not from Christ, nor from his apostles, nor from the fathers, nor from the early church.

IV,5,15 Now the deacons are to come forward, in addition to that highly sacred distribution of the ecclesiastical goods which they practice: However, they by no means employ their deacons for this purpose any longer; for they charge them with nothing but that they perform altar service, read and sing the Gospel, and do who knows what other antics. No mention of alms, no mention of caring for the poor, no mention of the whole ministry they once held! I am speaking here of the actual institution (of the office of deacon); for if we look at what they perform, they have in fact no office, but it is only a step to the dignity of presbyter. In one single item, those who act as deacons at Mass display an empty semblance of the old institution: namely, they receive the offerings before the consecration. The ancient custom was for the faithful to kiss each other and offer their alms at the altar before the communal enjoyment of Holy Communion; thus, first by that sign (the kiss) and then by doing good themselves, they indicated their love. The deacon, who was the administrator for the poor, received what was given in order to distribute it. Nowadays, however, the poor do not benefit from those alms any more than if they were (all) thrown into the sea. So with such lying "diaconate" one mocks the Church. In any case, the papists have nothing in it that would have any resemblance to the apostolic endowment or even to what the ancients observed. But the distribution of the goods itself they have taken elsewhere and arranged in such a way that nothing more irregular can be imagined. In fact, just as robbers, after twisting men’s necks, distribute the booty among themselves, so do they: after the light of God’s word has been extinguished and the church strangled, as it were, they have come to think that everything consecrated to sacred use is given up to robbery and plunder. Therefore, they distributed it, and then everyone grabbed as much as he could.

IV,5,16 Here all those ancient principles we have set forth are not only confused, but obliterated and nullified. The best part (from the church goods) was distributed plunderingly among themselves by the bishops and the city presbyters (city priests), who, having become rich through this booty, were transformed into canons. The fact that the distribution was nevertheless carried out in turmoil is evident from the fact that to this day they are at odds with each other over the (mutual) boundaries. Be that as it may, this agreement ensured that not a single penny of all the church’s goods went to the poor, to whom at least half of them belonged. For the church statutes expressly assign them the fourth part (of the church property), and another fourth they assign to the bishops for the purpose of spending it on hospitality and other duties of charity. I am silent as to what the clergy should do with their portion and to what use they should put it; for I have already sufficiently shown that even the remainder, which is appropriated for churches, buildings, and other expenses, must be at the disposal of the poor in time of need. I only ask: if these papists had even a single spark of godliness in their hearts - would they be able to bear the consciousness that everything they turn to for food and clothing comes from theft, even from temple robbery? But since these people are not moved by God’s judgment, they should at least consider that they are human beings, endowed with sensibility and reason, whom they want to make believe that they have such glorious and well-ordered estates in their church, as they boast. Let them answer me briefly whether diakonia is really the arbitrary freedom to steal and rob. If they deny this, then they must of necessity admit that they no longer have any diakonia; for with them the whole administration of the church goods has obviously become a desecration of the sanctuary!

IV,5,17 But here they apply a very fine cover: namely, they say that through this display of splendor the dignity of the church is maintained in a very proper way. They also have in their sect certain people who are so impudent that they dare to openly boast that those prophecies with which the old prophets describe the glory of Christ’s kingdom would only be fulfilled by such royal splendor being visible in the priesthood. God, they say, promised his church: "Kings will come and worship before you and bring you gifts" (Ps 72:10 s.; not Luther text), he promised: "Arise, arise, Zion! Put on your strength, adorn yourself gloriously, Jerusalem! … They shall all come from Sheba, bringing gold and incense, and shall declare the praises of the Lord. All the flocks in Kedar shall be gathered to you …" (Isa 52:1; 60:6f.)! These prophecies, they think, were not made in vain after all! If I now wanted to refute this impudence in detail, I would have to fear that I might appear silly. Therefore I have no desire to lose words without reason. But I do ask: if now some Jew would abuse such testimonies, what explanation would they give him? They would, of course, rebuke his obtuseness, because he would relate what is said spiritually about Christ’s spiritual kingdom to the flesh and the world. For we know that under the image of earthly things the prophets have marked out for us God’s heavenly glory, which is to shine in the church. For of those blessings which the words of the prophets express, the Church has never had less abundance than under the apostles, and yet all men admit that at that time the power of Christ’s kingdom was in its highest bloom! Now what is the meaning of those statements of the prophets? But this: everything that is ever precious, exalted and glorious must be subjected to the Lord. But what is expressly read of the kings, namely that they will submit their power to Christ, throw their crowns at his feet and consecrate their riches to the church - when shall this, one will say (with me), have been more truly and completely fulfilled than when Theodosius threw off the purple, left the imperial signs of power behind him and submitted to solemn penance before God and the church like any man of the people? When should it have been more completely fulfilled than when he himself and other pious princes of his ilk turned their zeal and concern to the preservation of pure doctrine in the church and to the support and protection of right-minded teachers? How purely the priests of that time did not indulge in superfluous possessions is sufficiently shown by a single word of the Synod of Aquileia, which Ambrose presided over: "In the servants of the Lord poverty is glorious. Certainly, at that time the bishops possessed some wealth, with the help of which they could have given the Church a visible splendor, if they had thought that such things were the true adornment of the Church. But since they knew that nothing is more repugnant to the official duty of the pastors than to display splendor and to be arrogant by the pleasures of the table, the splendor of the vestments, the grandeur of the servants, and the magnificence of the palaces, they took pains and paid homage to humility and modesty, yes, to poverty itself, which Christ sanctified among his servants.

IV,5,18 But so as not to be too prolix, let us again summarize in a brief sum how far the distribution or (rather) waste of church goods practiced today is from true diakonia, as the Word of God lays it to our hearts and as the early church also preserved it. What is spent on the adornment of the church buildings is, I maintain, misapplied, unless the measure is kept which the nature of the sanctuaries prescribes, and which also the apostles and other holy fathers have set before us by instruction as by their own example. But what do you get to see of it in the churches today? Everything that - I do not say: according to that original simplicity, but - at all according to any decent mediocrity, that is contemptuously pushed aside. In general, only that which tastes of opulence and of the corruption of time is approved of. In the meantime, one is so far from taking proper care of the living temples that one would rather let many thousands of poor people perish from hunger than break even the smallest cup or the smallest jug to remedy their lack. In order not to say anything too harsh on my part, I only wish the pious reader would consider the following: if the above-mentioned Bishop Exuperius of Toulouse, if Acatius, if Ambrosius or any of their kind should rise from the dead today - what should he say? These men would probably not approve of the fact that, in the case of such need of the poor, the goods were given to another purpose, as if they were superfluous (to their actual purpose)! I will still remain silent about the fact that the kinds of use to which they are made to serve would be harmful in many respects, but in no way beneficial, even if there were no poor. But I leave aside the people. These goods, after all, are sanctified to Christ, and therefore they must be distributed according to his judgment. In vain, however, the papists will pretend that they have spent that part on Christ, which they have squandered without his command. However - to tell the truth - by this expenditure (namely for the church buildings) not very much is lost from the ordinary income of the church. For the bishoprics, however rich, the abbeys, however fat, the parish foundations, however numerous, however splendid, are not enough to satisfy the voracity of the priests. On the contrary, they want to spare themselves, and therefore, through superstition, they make the people spend the resources that should really go to the poor on the construction of church buildings, the erection of statues, the purchase of vessels, and the acquisition of costly vestments. In this way, the daily alms are devoured by this abyss.

IV,5,19 Now what shall I say of the income they receive from lands and possessions but what I have already set forth and what is also before all eyes? We see with what fidelity the people called bishops and abbots administer the greater part of it. What madness is it to seek ecclesiastical order here? Isa it fitting that those whose lives should be a unique example of frugality, modesty, abstinence, and humility should rival the prosperity of princes in the number of their servants, in the splendor of their houses, and in the splendor of their vestments and banquets? God’s eternal and inviolable command forbids them to seek filthy lucre and requires them to be satisfied with simple food (Titus 1:7); but how much is this then contrary to their official duty, that they not only lay hands on villages and castles, but also throw themselves upon the most extensive principalities and finally seize whole kingdoms? If they despise the word of God, what will they answer (at least) to those decrees of the synods in which it is stated that the bishop should not have his little house far from the church, that his table and household goods should be simple? What will they say to that statement of the Synod of Aquileia, in which it is said that poverty is glorious in the priests of the Lord? For the instruction which Jerome once gave to Nepotian, that the poor and the stranger should have access to his table, and with them Christ as a guest at table, they will probably reject as too severe! But what he immediately adds, they will be ashamed to deny, namely: the glory of a bishop is to care for the property of the poor, but a disgrace for all priests if they sought their own riches. This, however, they cannot accept without condemning themselves all to disgrace. But it is not necessary to persecute them more severely here, because I had no other intention than to prove that among them the rightful status of deacons has long since disappeared. I wanted to show this so that they would not continue to haughtily boast of this title at the price of their church. And I believe that I have accomplished this sufficiently..

Chapter Six


Of the Supremacy of the Roman See

IV,6,1 So far we have treated those ranks in the church which already existed in the government of the early church, but which have subsequently been corrupted with time and then more and more falsified, and today in the papal church have only retained their name, but in reality represent nothing but masks. The purpose of this discussion was that the pious reader, on the basis of the comparison, should gain a judgment of what kind of church the Romans actually have, for the sake of which they accuse us of schism, because we have divorced ourselves from it. But we have not touched the head and the top of the whole hierarchy, namely the supreme power (the "primacy") of the Roman See, from which they strive to prove that the Catholic Church is with them alone. For this supremacy has taken its origin neither from the institution of Christ nor from the custom of the early Church - in contrast to the offices mentioned above, which, as we have shown, have proceeded from the old time, admittedly in such a way that they have been completely degenerated by the corruption of the times, indeed, they have taken on a completely new form. And yet the Romans try to persuade the world that the noblest and almost the only bond of ecclesiastical unity is given when we adhere to the Roman See and remain in obedience to it. The support, I say, on which they build above all, when they deny us the church and want to appropriate it to themselves, consists in the assertion that they possess the very head on which the unity of the church depends and without which it would necessarily have to crack and break. They mean it in this way: the Church would be, so to speak, an incomplete, mutilated body if it were not subject to the Roman See, as its head, so to speak. Therefore, when they discuss their "hierarchy," they always take as their starting point the principle: the bishop of Rome is, as it were, the governor of Christ, who is the head of the Church; as such, he has the leadership of the entire Church in Christ’s stead, and the Church is only properly constituted when the Roman (episcopal) See has supreme authority over all others. Therefore we must also examine how this stands, so that we do not pass over anything that belongs to the right regiment of the Church….

IV,6,2 The question posed, then, is whether it is necessary for the true form of what they call the "hierarchy" or ecclesiastical government that one (bishop’s) See should take precedence among the others in dignity and power, so that it would thus be the head of the whole body. However, we subject the church to very unreasonable laws if we impose such a necessity on it without the Word of God. If, therefore, our opponents wish to prove what they demand, they must first show that this order was instituted by Christ. For this purpose they cite the high priest from the law, and also the supreme court which God had instituted in Jerusalem. But this is easily answered, and in many ways, unless the adversaries are satisfied with a single answer. First of all: there is no compelling reason to extend to the whole world what was of use in one nation. Yes, it will be something essentially different whether it is about a single people or about the whole world! The Jews were surrounded by idolaters, and in order that they should not be divided by a multiplicity of religions, God set up the seat of his worship in the midst of the land, and there he appointed a single ruler to whom they should all look, so that they might be better preserved in unity. But now the true religion is spread over the whole world, and who does not see that it would be completely absurd to hand over the government of the East and the West to one man? That would be just as if someone were to assert that the whole world must be governed by a single bailiff, and that precisely because a single territory would not have several bailiffs! But there is a second reason why that fact (mentioned above) must not be taken as an example. Everybody knows that the high priest was an example of Christ. But now "the priesthood is changed", therefore "the law must also be changed" (Hebr 7,12). But to whom has the priesthood been transferred? But certainly not to the pope, as he brazenly dares to boast when he refers this statement to himself, but to Christ, who exercises the office without any governor or successor and accordingly does not leave the honor to anyone else. For this (high) priestly office consists not only in teaching, but in the propitiation of God, which Christ accomplished by his death, and in that intercession which he now exercises with the Father.

IV,6,3 EIt is therefore not acceptable for them to bind us to that example which, as we see, was temporal, as if it were a perpetual law. They have only one fact from the New Testament to support their opinion: namely, that only one apostle was told, "You are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church" (Mt 16:18), and also, "Peter, do you love me? Feed my sheep" (John 21:15-17; not quite Luther text). But if such proofs are to be solid, the papists must first of all show that the one who is given the instruction to feed Christ’s flock is thereby entrusted with the power over all churches; furthermore, they must prove that "binding" and "loosing" mean nothing else than to hold the leadership of the whole world. Just as Peter received that commission from the Lord, he in turn exhorts all other presbyters to shepherd the church (1Pet 5:2). From this we can draw the conclusion that either nothing at all was given to Peter by that word of the Lord which he would have had in advance of others, or else Peter shared the right he had received with the others in equal measure. But we have, so that we do not argue in vain, in another place from the mouth of Christ a clear interpretation (which shows us) what "binding" and "loosing" means; namely, it means to "keep" and "remit" sins (John 20:23). But how such "binding" and "loosing" is done is shown to us over and over again in the whole Scripture; especially clearly, however, Paul gives us to understand it by explaining that the ministers of the gospel have the commission to reconcile men with God, and at the same time they have the authority to exercise punishment against those who spurn such benefits (2Cor 5:18; 10:6).

IV,6,4 How unworthily the papists twist those passages that mention "binding" and "loosing", I have already touched upon in another place, and it will have to be developed in more detail soon. Now it is only necessary that we see what they get out of that famous answer of Christ to Peter. Christ promised Peter "the keys of the kingdom of heaven", he promised him that what he would bind on earth would also be bound in heaven (Mt 16,19). Now, if there were unanimity among us about the expression "key" and about the way of "binding", any dispute would immediately cease. For even the pope would gladly let go of the task assigned to the apostles; for it is full of labor and toil, and would drive out his good life without bringing him any profit. Since the heavens are opened to us through the teaching of the gospel, it is aptly called the "key. But then men are "bound" and "loosed" in no other way than by the fact that some are reconciled to God in faith, while others are only more deeply entangled by their unbelief. If the pope could only do this, then in my opinion there would be no one who would envy him this or who would want to start a quarrel with him because of it. In fact, however, this succession, which is laborious and by no means profitable, is not at all to the liking of the pope, and therefore the starting point of the dispute (between him and us) arises precisely from the question of what Christ promised Peter. I draw from the facts themselves the conclusion that with this promise exclusively the dignity of the apostolic office is designated, which cannot be separated from the burden of this office. For if one accepts that determination (of the terms "binding" and "loosing") which I have set up above - and which can only be rejected out of impudence - then nothing is given to Peter here which was not also common to his ministers; for otherwise not only would injustice be done to the persons, but the majesty of the doctrine itself would come to a limp. The papists now object to this. But I pray you, what good will it do them to strike at this rock? For they will not be able to change the fact that the apostles, just as they were all charged with the preaching of the same gospel, were also equipped together with the authority to bind and loose. The papists say, "When Christ promised Peter that he would give him the keys, yet he appointed him head of the whole church." But what he promised to one apostle, he gave to all the others at the same time (Mt 18:18; John 20:23)! If then all have been granted the right that was promised to one, what is the priority of this one? "His special position," they say, "consisted in the fact that he received this right both jointly (with the others) and for himself especially, while it was given to the others only jointly." But what are they going to do if I now reply with Cyprian and Augustine that Christ did this not in order to prefer one man to the others, but in order in this way to uphold the unity of the Church? Cyprian says that in the person of one man the Lord gave to all the keys to show the unity of all, because the others were the same as Peter, endowed with the same share of honor and power; but Christ began with one to show that his Church was one (On the Unity of the Catholic Church 4). But Augustine declares, "If there were not in Peter the mystery of the Church, the Lord would not say to him, ’To you I will give the keys’; for if this is said to Peter (alone), then the Church does not have the keys; but if the Church has the keys, then Peter, when he received the keys, signified the whole Church" (Homilies on the Gospel of John 50:12). And elsewhere he says: "Yet all were asked (of Christ), but Peter alone answered, ’You are Christ …’; then it was said to him, ’I will give you the keys …’ - as if he alone had received the power to bind and to loose; but because he had given that answer for the others alone, and accordingly also received this commission together with the others, and as it were as one who represented unity itself in his own person, therefore he alone is called for all, because indeed there is unity between all" (Homilies on the Gospel of John 11:5).

IV,6,5 Yes, they say, but it is written somewhere that the word: "You are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church" (Mt 16,18), was (ever) said to another! As if Christ here said something different about Peter than Paul and also Peter himself said about all Christians! Paul, in fact, declares Christ to be the chief cornerstone on which all are to be built, who are to grow up into a temple holy to the Lord (Eph 2:20-22). But Peter commands us to be "living stones" so that as such, founded on that "chosen and precious" stone, we may be united to our God and to one another by this bond and knit together (1Pet 2:5 ss.). Yes, they say, but Peter still stands before all because he holds the name (rock, stone) in a special way. Certainly, I gladly grant Peter the honor of having his place among the first in the building of the church, or - if they also demand it - of being the first among all believers. But I will not allow them to infer from this that he has a supremacy over the others. What kind of conclusion is it to say: he surpassed the others in ardor of zeal, in instruction and greatness of spirit - therefore he also has power over them? As if one could not (then also) conclude with better appearances: Andrew is ahead of Peter in rank because he preceded him in time (in discipleship) and led him to Christ (John 1:40, 42)! But I’ll leave that aside. Peter may certainly have first place. But surely there is a great difference between rank honor and - power. We see how the apostles consistently gave Peter the task of leading the word in the assembly and, as it were, leading the way with reports, exhortations and encouragements. Of a (special) authority against it (which Peter would have had) we nowhere read a word.

IV,6,6 But we are not yet occupied with this discussion. For the moment I would like to state only this: if our opponents want to establish Peter’s dominion over the entire church from his name alone (which is associated with "rock"), then this is too superficial a demonstration. For those old sillinesses with which they tried to fool the people at the beginning are not worth refuting, indeed, not worth mentioning. They said that the church was founded on Peter, because it is said: "On this rock…". But this is what some of the (church) fathers said, they will say! Certainly, but here the whole Scripture raises an objection, and under these circumstances, what is the point of putting forward the authority of these church fathers against God? Yes, why do we argue about the meaning of these words, as if they were obscure or ambiguous, when nothing clearer and more certain could have been said? Peter had confessed in his name and in the name of the brethren that Christ is the Son of God (Mt 16,16). On this rock Christ builds His church, because, as Paul says, He is the one foundation, apart from which no other can be laid (1Cor 3:11). Again, I do not reject the authority of the Fathers because I lack testimonies from their side to confirm my assertion, if I had a desire to draw on them; no, as I have already stated, I do not want to be uselessly troublesome to the readers by arguing about such a clear matter, especially since this matter has already been treated and unfolded with sufficient thoroughness by our men long ago.

IV,6,7 And yet, indeed, no one can settle this question better than the Scriptures themselves, if we bring together all the passages in which they teach what office and what power Peter possessed among the apostles, how he behaved, and how he was also received by them. If you go through all the existing reports, you will find nothing else than that he was one of the number of the Twelve, equal to the others, their comrade, but not their lord. He does indeed bring forward in their council what is ever to be done, and he admonishes them what must be done; but at the same time he listens to the others, and he not only gives them the opportunity to express their opinion, but leaves the decision to them; where they have determined something, he follows and obeys (Acts 15:5 ss.). When he writes to the shepherds, he does not give his instructions on the basis of a command, as if he were above them, but he treats them as his fellow ministers and admonishes them amicably, as it is customary among equals (1Pet 5,1ff). He was accused because he had gone to Gentiles; this happened without him deserving such reproach, but nevertheless he answered and purified himself (Acts 11:3 ss.). The officemates instructed him to go to Samaria with John - and he did not refuse (Acts 8:14). By sending him out, the apostles make it clear that they do not consider him their superior at all; by obeying himself and taking on the mission assigned to him, he admits that he is in fellowship with them but does not exercise lordship over them. Even if all these accounts were not present, the letter to the Galatians alone could easily remove any doubt from our minds. There, for almost two chapters, Paul asserts nothing other than that he is equal to Peter in terms of the dignity of apostleship. From there he recalls that he came to Peter, not to show his subjection, but only to have all witness their agreement in doctrine. He goes on to report that even Peter himself did not ask anything of the sort of him, but gave him "the right hand" (as a sign) of fellowship, so that they might work together in the Lord’s vineyard. He declares that no less grace was given to him among the Gentiles than to Peter among the Jews (Gal 1:18; 2:8). Finally, he tells how Peter, when he had not acted completely faithfully, was rebuked by Him and also rendered obedience to this rebuke (Gal 2:11-14). All this makes it evident that either there was equality between Paul and Peter, or at any rate that Peter had no more power toward the others than they had toward him. But this Paul treats, as I said before, with full intention: no one should prefer Peter or John to him in the apostleship, because these were just his officemates, but not his masters.

IV,6,8 But I will admit to them once with reference to Peter what they would like to have; I will therefore acknowledge that he really was the chief among the apostles and had a precedence in dignity over the rest. Even if I do this, there is no cause to make a general rule out of a singular example, and to refer to eternal times what has happened once: for that is an entirely different matter. Among the apostles (I will admit this once) one was supreme, because they were just few in number. Now if one man was set over twelve men, does it follow that one man must also be set over a hundred thousand men? That the twelve had had a man under them, who should govern them all, that would not be surprising. For nature brings it about, and the nature of men requires it, that in every circle, even when all are equal in power, yet one acts, as it were, as a leader, to whom the others are to look. There is no council without a mayor, no court without a chairman or an examiner, no college without a head, no cooperative without a master. So there would be nothing absurd in admitting that the apostles had given Peter such supreme authority (over their circle). But what is valid among a few cannot be applied to the whole world, for the government of which one man alone is not sufficient. But, they say, this is no less true in nature in general as well as in the individual parts, that a supreme head is above all. And for this assertion they take, if it pleases God, the proof from the cranes and bees, which also always choose one head and not several. However, I allow the examples brought forward by them. But do the bees flock from the whole world to choose a single king (!)? No, the individual kings are content with their own beehives! Likewise also among the cranes each individual swarm has its own king. What (therefore) can the papists gain from these examples other than that each individual church must have its particular bishop assigned to it? Then they refer us to examples from civil life, they draw on the word from Homer: "Much rule does not do good" (Iliad II,204), in addition also to what one gets to read in the same sense for the recommendation of the monarchy in secular writers. The reply is easy to give: when Homer’s Ulysses or other people praise the monarchy, it does not happen in the sense as if one man should rule the whole world with his command, but they want to show that an empire cannot hold two kings and that, as someone once said, power is not able to bear a comrade (Lukan, Pharsalia I,92f.).

IV,6,9 But let us allow it once as they want it, let us admit once that it would be good and useful if the whole world would be under (one) monarchy - it would, however, be highly absurd; but let it be once! Even then, however, I will not admit that the same would be valid for the leadership of the church. For the Church has Christ as her only Head, under whose rule we are all bound together, according to the order and form of government which he himself has prescribed. The papists, therefore, do very great injustice to Christ when they demand that one man should govern the whole Church, and when they use the pretext that the Church cannot do without just such a Head. For Christ is the Head, "from whom the whole body is knit together, one member hanging on to another through all the joints, one helping the other according to the work of each member in its measure, and making the whole body grow …" (Eph 4:15f.). Do we see how the apostle assigns to all men, without any exception, their place in the body, but reserves the honor and the name of the head to Christ alone? Do you see how he assigns to all the individual members a certain measure, a fixed and limited task, so that the perfection of grace as well as the supreme power of government may rest with Christ alone? Nor am I unaware of the evasion sought by the papists when this is reproached to them; for they say: Christ is called the one Head in the proper sense, because he alone rules by virtue of his own authority and in his own name; but this does not prevent the existence under him of a second, "servant Head" - so they express themselves! - who leads his representation on earth. But they will get nowhere with this subterfuge if they have not first shown that Christ has ordained this office. The apostle teaches that the whole "handing out" is scattered among the members, but the power flows from that one heavenly head (Eph 4:16). Or if they want to hear something clearer: since the Scriptures testify that Christ is the head, and since they ascribe this honor to him alone, it may be transferred to another only if Christ himself has made him his governor. This, however, is not only nowhere to be read, but can be abundantly refuted on the basis of many passages (Eph 1:22; 4:15; 5:23; Col 1:18; 2:10).

IV,6,10 Paul paints a vivid picture of the church before our eyes a few times. However, we do not read anything about the one (human) head. No, we can rather draw the conclusion from his description that this "one head" has nothing to do with Christ’s institution. Christ has withdrawn his visible presence from us through his ascension; nevertheless he "ascended … that he might fill all things" (Eph 4,10). So the church has him present even now and will have him present always. Now, in wanting to describe the way in which Christ shows himself, Paul refers us to the offices of which Christ makes use. "In us all," he says, "is the Lord, according to the measure of grace which he has bestowed on each member. For this reason he has appointed some to be apostles, others shepherds, others evangelists, others teachers …" (Eph 4:7, 11, inaccurate). Why doesn’t Paul say that Christ appointed one man over all to lead His substitution? Because the passage (which, after all, talks about unity all the time) required that in the highest degree, and it should not have been omitted under any circumstances if it were true. He says, "Christ is with us." Why? Through the ministry of the people whom Christ has appointed to govern the Church! Why does he not rather say: through the "ministering Head" to whom he has given his substitution? He expressly speaks of unity: but that is unity in God and in faith in Christ. To men he ascribes nothing but a common service, and to each his particular "measure" (verse 16). He had spoken of the "one body", the "one Spirit", of the one "hope of calling", he had said: "one God, one faith, one baptism" (Eph 4,4-6, inaccurate) - why does he not also add in this praise of unity that there is also a supreme bishop who should keep the church in unity? Nothing more fitting could have been said - provided only that reality was so! Let us consider this passage carefully: there is no doubt that Paul wanted to portray here the holy, spiritual regiment of the church, which the later have called "hierarchy". On the other hand, he not only did not establish a monarchy among the servants (of the Church), but he showed that there is none. There is also no doubt that he wanted to express the kind of bond in which the faithful are related to Christ, their Head. Now, not only does he not mention a "servant head," but he ascribes to each individual member a special "work" (verse 16), according to the measure of grace allotted to each. Nor is there any occasion for them to philosophize shrewdly about the comparison of the heavenly with the earthly "hierarchy"; for it is not without danger to wish to be wise beyond measure in regard to the heavenly, and in the establishment of the earthly one is not to follow any other model than that which the Lord Himself has circumscribed in His word.

IV,6,11 But I will also let them get away with this other thing, which they will never be able to assert with reasonable people, namely that in the person of Peter a supreme power was established for the church, and that in such a way that it would always be maintained by continuous succession. But from what do they then want to prove that the seat (of this supreme power) was established in Rome, so that anyone who was bishop of this city would also have dominion over the whole world? By what right do they tie this dignity to a place, when it was given without mention of a place? Peter, they say, lived and died in Rome! But how is it with Christ himself? Did he not, while he lived, hold the episcopate in Jerusalem, and did he not, by dying, fulfill the priesthood? The chief of the shepherds, the highest bishop, the head of the church was not able to acquire honor to the place (of his ministry) - and Peter, who is by far inferior to him, was able to do it? Are these not more than childish silliness? Christ - so they say - gave the honor of the supreme power to Peter, but Peter had his seat in Rome, so he set up the seat of this supreme power there. In this way the Israelites should have established the seat of the supreme power in the wilderness, where Moses as the highest teacher and chief of the prophets had performed his office and died (Deut 34,5)!

IV,6,12 But let us see how splendidly the papists carry out their proof. Peter, they say, had the leading position among the apostles, therefore the church in which he had his seat must have this privilege. But where did Peter first have his seat? In Antioch, they say. So the church at Antioch rightly claims supremacy for itself! They admit that it was once the first. But then, they claim, Peter departed from there, and he transferred the honor he brought with him to Rome. There is preserved, under the name of Pope Marcellus, a letter to the presbyters of Antioch, in which he expresses himself as follows: "The seat of Peter was at first with you; afterwards, by the Lord’s direction, it was transferred to here. Thus the church at Antioch, which was once the first, has given place to the Roman see" (Decretum Gratiani II,24,1,15). But by what word of revelation did the good man know that the Lord had so commanded? For if this matter is to be rightfully decided, the papists must answer whether this prerogative is, according to their will, personal, factual, or else partly personal, partly factual (mixtum). For one of these three it must be necessary. If they say that it is a personal prerogative, it has nothing to do with the place. But if they say that it is material, then once it is given to the place, it cannot be taken away because of the death or removal of the person. It remains, then, for them to claim that it is partly personal and partly factual; in this case, however, the consideration must not simply turn to the place, unless the person is related to it at the same time. They may choose what they like - in any case, I will counter immediately and prove with ease that Rome arrogates to itself the supremacy without any reason.

IV,6,13 But let it be so for once! Let us admit that the supremacy had been transferred from Antioch to Rome, as they are saying. But why then did Antioch not keep the second place? For if Rome takes the first place because Peter had his seat there to the end of his life, to whom should the second be given rather than to the city where he had had his first seat? How then did it come about that Alexandria gained precedence over Antioch? How does it rhyme that the church of a (common) disciple (Mark) precedes the seat of Peter? If each church has an honor according to the dignity of its founder, what shall we say of the other churches? Paul names three men who were considered pillars, namely James, Peter and John (Gal 2:9). Now, if the Roman episcopate is given first place in honor of Peter, do not the episcopates of Ephesus and Jerusalem, where John and James worked, deserve second and third? But in fact, among the patriarchates, Jerusalem used to have the last place, and Ephesus could not even establish itself in the farthest corner! Other churches were also passed over: all those that Paul had founded, as well as those in which other apostles had worked as overseers. But the seat of Mark (Alexandria), who was only one of the disciples, has come to honor. The papists must now either admit that this order was improper, or else they must admit to us that it is not at all a continuing rule that each individual church should be accorded the rank of honor which its founder possessed.

IV,6,14 However, I do not see how far what they report about Peter’s official stay in the church at Rome has to be believed. In any case, what Eusebius says, that Peter led the church there for twenty-five years, can easily be refuted. For as is certain from the first and second chapters of the Epistle to the Galatians, Peter was still in Jerusalem about twenty years after Christ’s death (Gal 1:18; 2:1 ss.); then he came to Antioch (Gal 2:11), and how long he was there is uncertain. Gregory counts seven years, but Eusebius twenty-five. But it will be found that the period between Christ’s death and the end of the reign of Nero, under which Peter is reported to have been put to death, is merely thirty-seven years. The Passion of the Lord, in fact, falls in the reign of Tiberius, and in its eighteenth year. If we now subtract (from the thirty-seven years mentioned) twenty years that Peter spent in Jerusalem according to Paul’s testimony, then seventeen at the most remain. These must now be distributed over that twofold activity as bishop (in Antioch and in Rome). If Peter stayed in Antioch for a long time, he could not have stayed in Rome, except for a very short time. This very fact can be shown even more clearly. Paul wrote the letter to the Romans from a journey when he moved to Jerusalem (Rom 15,25); there he was captured and then later led to Rome. So it is likely that this letter was written four years before he arrived in Rome. In this letter there is still no mention of Peter, and such a mention could not have been omitted if Peter had led this church (at that time). Yes, even at the end of the letter, where Paul lists a long list of pious people, whom he commands to greet, a list in which he summarizes all people known to him (Rom 16,3-16), he is still completely silent about Peter. With people of reasonably sound judgment, no long and astute proof is needed here either; for the facts themselves and the entire contents of the letter testify loudly that Paul should not have passed over Peter if the latter had been in Rome..

IV,6,15 Then Paul was brought captive to Rome (Acts 28,16). Luke reports that he was received by the brethren (Acts 28:15f.). Not a word from Peter! Paul writes from Rome to many churches. In some letters he writes greetings in the name of some men. But he does not indicate with a single word that Peter was in Rome at that time. Who, I would like to know, would think that Paul could have kept silent if Peter had been there? Yes, in the letter to the Philippians he first says that he has no one to do the Lord’s work as faithfully as Timothy, and then he complains, "They all seek their own …" (Phil 2:19-21). And in a letter to the same Timothy the complaint is even more severe: "In my first responsibility no one stood by me, but they all forsook me" (2Tim 4:16). Now where was Peter at that time? For if he is said to have been in Rome, what bad stain does Paul burn upon him, as if he had shamefully forsaken the gospel? For he speaks of believers, because he adds: "God will not impute it to them" (2Tim 4:16; not Luther text). So how long did Peter hold this bishop’s seat and at what time? Yes, they say, it is the firm conviction of the writers that he ruled this church until his death! But among the writers themselves there is no unanimity about who should have been his successor: some call Linus, others Clemens. They also tell many absurd tales about a dispute that took place between Peter and Simon the sorcerer. Augustine, in a discussion of superstitious beliefs, does not hide the fact that in Rome, due to an ill-considered opinion, the custom arose of not fasting on the day when Peter won the palm of victory over Simon the Sorcerer (Letter 36). In short, the events of that time are so entangled by the multiplicity of opinions that where we find something written, we must not immediately believe everything unthinkingly. And yet, because of this unanimity of writers, I do not deny that Peter died in Rome; but that he was bishop there, especially for a long time, I cannot be convinced. Nor do I care much about it, because Paul testifies that Peter’s apostleship refers in a special way to the Jews, but his to us (Gentiles). So that the covenant fellowship that they (Peter and Paul Gal 2,9) made with each other remains in force among us, yes, so that the order of the Holy Spirit is considered constant among us, it is fitting that we look more to the apostleship of Paul than to that of Peter. For the Holy Spirit distributed the tasks among them in such a way that he appointed Peter for the Jews, but Paul for us. Therefore let the Romans seek their supremacy elsewhere than in the word of God; for there it can by no means be found founded.

IV,6,16 Now let us come to the early church, so that it may also become clear that our adversaries boast no less unfoundedly and falsely with their approval than with the testimony of the Word of God. The Romans now boast of their fundamental article, according to which the unity of the church can be maintained only if there is a supreme head on earth, to whom all the members are then to obey; for this very reason, they further assert, the Lord gave the supreme power to Peter, and afterwards also, by virtue of the right of succession, to the Roman See, that it might remain with him to the end. And now they assert that this has always been the case from the beginning! But since they distort many testimonies, I will say first of all that I do not deny that the ancients everywhere attach great dignity to the Roman Church and speak of it with reverence. I think that this is mainly for three reasons. (1) That opinion, which came to be held in who knows what way, that this church was founded and established by the ministry of Peter, had the power to give it favor and prestige in the highest degree. For this reason, the Church of Rome was called the "apostolic see" in the West in honor of it. (2) Secondly, Rome was the capital of the empire, and for this reason it could be assumed that there were men there who were more distinguished by learning, intellect, experience and skill in many matters than anywhere else. Therefore, this fact was deservedly taken into account, so that it would not appear that the high rank of the city and also other, much more glorious gifts of God were held in low esteem. (3) To this was added the third. While the churches of the East and Greece, including the African church, were in turmoil with many disputes among themselves, the church at Rome had been more peaceful and less agitated. Thus it happened that pious and holy bishops who had been driven from their sees took refuge in Rome, as if it were, as it were, a sanctuary or a haven. For the people of the West are less sharp and quick-witted than the Asiatics and Africans, and accordingly they seek less innovation. Thus it contributed very considerably to the strengthening of the reputation of the church at Rome that it was not so restless in those unclear times as the others, and that it held more tenaciously than all the others to the doctrine once delivered. We shall soon discuss this more fully. For these three causes, I say, the Church in Rome enjoyed unusual honor and was praised in many glorious testimonies of the ancients.

IV,6,17 But if, on the basis of these facts, our opponents want to give the church at Rome supremacy and supreme power over the other churches, then, as I have already said, they are acting completely wrongly. In order to make this clearer, I will first briefly show what the ancients thought about the unity on which the papists place such emphasis. Jerome, in a letter to Nepotian, first enumerates many examples of such unity, and then he finally comes to speak of the ecclesiastical hierarchy. There he says: "Every single bishop of a church, also every archipresbyter, every archdeacon and in general every ecclesiastical rank relies on its regents" (The letter is addressed to Rusticus, letter 125). Here a presbyter of the church at Rome is speaking; he praises the unity in the ecclesiastical rank - but why does he not mention that all churches are connected with each other by the one head as by a bond? There was nothing that could have better served the cause he was discussing! Nor can it be said that this bypassing (of the alleged human head of the church) was done out of forgetfulness; for Jerome would have liked nothing better (than this) - if the cause had suffered it! He saw, then, without any doubt, that the true type of unity is that which Cyprian so aptly describes when he says: "It is an episcopate of which each individual (bishop) fully holds a piece, and it is a church which spreads out with increasing fruitfulness in its multiplicity to greater breadth. The rays of the sun are many, and yet the light is one; the tree has many branches, but a single trunk founded on a firm root; from a single source flow many streams, and even if the abundance of the overflowing water gives the impression of a scattered multiplicity, the unity remains in the origin. In the same way, the Church, flooded with the light of the Lord, spreads her rays over the whole world, and yet it is one light that pours out everywhere, and the unity of her body is not divided; she stretches out her branches over the whole world, she pours out overflowing streams, and yet it is one head and one fountain…" (Of the Unity of the Catholic Church 5). And then it goes on to say, "The bride of Christ cannot be deceived into adultery: she knows the one house, and she guards the sanctity of the one chamber in chaste shame" (Of the Unity of the Catholic Church 6). There one sees how he alone declares Christ’s episcopate to be universally effective because it encompasses the whole Church under it, and how he states that every individual who holds an episcopate under this headship has a piece of it fully. Where does the supremacy of the Roman See remain, if with Christ alone his episcopate remains unabridged and each individual fully holds a part of it? The purpose of these remarks is that the reader may realize in passing that the main principle of the unity of the earthly head in the hierarchy, which the Romans regard as established and undoubted, was quite unknown to the ancients.

Chapter Seven


From the beginning and the growth of the Roman papacy until it rose to its present sovereignty, by which the freedom of the Church has been suppressed and at the same time all right measure has been overthrown.

IV,7,1 As for the age of the supremacy of the Roman See, we have nothing older for its confirmation than that decision of the Council of Nicaea (325), by virtue of which the bishop of Rome is given the first place among the patriarchs, and at the same time is instructed to take care of the churches situated in the neighborhood of the city. Now, when the Council divides between him and the other patriarchs in such a way that it assigns to each his territory, it truly does not make him the head over all, but makes him one of the most distinguished. Vitus and Vincentius were present at the council in the name of Julius, who ruled the church in Rome at that time; they were assigned the fourth place. I would like to know whether the delegates of Julius would have been relegated to the fourth place if he himself had been recognized as the head of the church at that time! Would Athanasius then have presided over the council, since it is precisely in this that the form of the hierarchical order is supposed to shine forth most brightly? At the Synod of Ephesus (431), Coelestinus, who was then Roman bishop, evidently used a hidden artifice to ensure the dignity of his chair. For, although he sent his people there, he charged Cyril of Alexandria, who was also to preside in any case, with his "representation". What was the purpose of such a commission other than that in some way his name should be attached to the first place? For his delegates were seated in a subordinate place, they were asked for their opinion like others, and they signed according to their own rank; but meanwhile the patriarch of Alexandria attached the name of the Roman bishop to his own! What shall I say of the second council at Ephesus (449)? There the envoys of Leo (I) were present, but nevertheless the Patriarch Dioskur of Alexandria presided, as it were, by his own right. The papists, of course, will object that this council condemned the holy man Flavian, but acquitted Eutyches and approved his impiety, and therefore it was not orthodox. Yes, but when the synod met, and when the bishops divided the seats among themselves, the delegates of the Church of Rome sat among the others, no differently than in a holy and lawful council! Nevertheless, the Roman envoys did not dispute for the first place, but left it to someone else, and this they would never have done if they had believed that this place rightfully belonged to them. For the bishops of Rome have never been ashamed to unleash the greatest quarrels for the sake of their honor, and for this reason alone to often trouble and confuse the Church with many and dangerous battles. No, Leo just saw that it would be too impertinent a request if he claimed the first place for his emissaries, and therefore he refrained from it.

IV,7,2 Then followed the Council of Chalcedon (451). At this the emissaries of the Church at Rome took the first place with the consent of the emperor. But Leo himself admits that this was an extraordinary prerogative; for when he asks it of the Emperor Marcian and the Empress Pulcheria, he does not claim that it belongs to him, but he only needs the pretext that the bishops of the East, who had presided at the Council of Ephesus (449), had made a mess of everything at that time and had misused their power. Since, therefore, a serious-minded leader was needed, and since it was not likely that those who had once been so frivolous and rebellious would be fit for the task, Leo asked that he be given the task of leadership because of the faultiness and lack of fitness of the others. If he asks this by virtue of a special prerogative and outside the order, it is in any case not based on a general law. If he now uses the excuse that a new chairman is needed because the previous ones behaved badly, it is clear that this was not done before, nor must it be done in the long run, but is done exclusively in view of the present danger. The Roman bishop, then, has the first place at the Council of Chalcedon, not because it belongs to his See, but because the Synod lacks a serious and skilful leader, in that those to whom the presidency is due exclude themselves from it by their licentiousness and arbitrariness. What I say was actually confirmed by a successor of Leo (I). For when he sent his delegates to the fifth synod of Constantinople (553), which was held a long time later, he did not dispute for the first place, but allowed with ease that the patriarch Mennas of Constantinople presided. Likewise, we also see that at the Council of Carthage (418), in which Augustine participated, it was not the envoys of the Roman See who presided, but the local Archbishop Aurelius, and this despite the fact that the dispute was precisely over the authority of the Roman chief priest. Yes, there has even been held in Italy itself a general council in which the bishop of Rome did not participate, namely the Council of Aquileia (381). It was presided over by Ambrose, who was then held in very high esteem by the emperor. The Roman bishop was not even mentioned there. Thus, due to the dignity of Ambrose, the episcopal see of Milan stood in higher splendor than that of Rome.

IV,7,3 WAs for the title of "supreme power" and the other arrogant terms of which the pope nowadays boasts, it is not difficult to judge when and in what way they arose. Cyprian often mentions the (bishop) Cornelius (of Rome); but he uses for his designation no other names than "brother," " co-bishop," or "officemate." But when he writes to Stephen, the successor of Cornelius, he not only treats him as equal to himself and others, but also proceeds quite sharply against him, accusing him sometimes of presumption, sometimes of ignorance (Letter 72:3 and 75:3). From the time after Cyprian we know what the whole African church thought about this. For a council at Carthage (397) forbade anyone to be called "chief of the priests" or "first bishop," and allowed only the designation "bishop of the first see." If someone looks through older documents, he will find that at that time the bishop of Rome was satisfied with the common title "brother". In any case, as long as the true and pure form of the Church lasted, all those hopeful names with which the Roman See afterwards began to be boisterous were wholly unheard of; what was "the supreme bishop" and the "one head of the Church on earth" was not known. If the bishop of Rome had dared to presume such a thing, there were at least courageous men to reject his folly immediately. Jerome was a presbyter of the church at Rome, and he was therefore not stingy in boasting of the dignity of his church as far as the cause and the circumstances of the time permitted. Nevertheless, we see how he also puts this church of his in order. "If you ask about prestige," he says, "the circle of the earth is greater than a city. What dost thou hold up to me the custom of a single city? Wherefore dost thou plead a small number, from which pride has proceeded, against the laws of the church? Wherever a bishop has been, whether at Rome or at Eugubium, at Constantinople or at Rhegium - he has the same merit and the same priesthood! The power of riches or even the lowliness of poverty does not make a bishop higher or lower" (Letter 146, to Euangelus and Euagrius respectively).

IV,7,4 About the title "universal bishop" (universalis episcopus) a dispute arose only in the time of Gregory (I). The reason for this was the ambition of John of Constantinople. For the latter wanted to make himself the universal bishop, which no one else had ever attempted before. In this dispute Gregory does not give as a reason that the right which John desired for himself would thereby be snatched from him; no, he raises a courageous objection and declares that this is an unholy, even sacrilegious designation, indeed, it is a harbinger of the Antichrist. "Indeed, the whole Church falls from her position," he says, "when he who lets himself be called general bishop falls" (Letter V,37). And in another place he says: "It is a very sad thing to bear patiently that our brother and fellow bishop should be called bishop alone, in contempt of all. But what else is revealed in this arrogance of his but that the pages of the Antichrist are already near? For he imitates him who despised the communion of angels and tried to ascend to the summit of autocracy" (Letter V,39). Elsewhere, he writes to Eulogius of Alexandria and Anastasius of Antioch: "None of my predecessors has ever wanted to use this unholy term, for it is so: if one is called ’general patriarch’, the name ’patriarch’ is thereby denied to the others. But let it be far from a Christian sense that anyone should presume to do anything by which he might in the least detract from the honor of his brethren" (Letter V,41). (Or elsewhere:) "To consent to this wicked name is nothing else than to ruin the faith" (Letter V,45). "It is something else," he says, "what we are to do to preserve the unity of the faith - and something else what we are to undertake to curb arrogance. But I say freely that anyone who calls himself a ’general priest’ or desires to be so called is in his arrogance a forerunner of Antichrist, because he sets himself above others by his haughty behavior" (Letter VII:30). Likewise, again to Anastasius of Alexandria, he writes: "I have said that he cannot be at peace with us unless he abandons the arrogance of that superstitious and haughty appellation which the first apostate invented. Also, to say nothing of the injustice done to your honor, if one is called ’general bishop’, the whole church collapses as soon as this ’general bishop’ falls" (Letter VII,24). He then also writes that this honor was offered to Leo at the Council of Chalcedon. But this has no semblance of truth. For one reads nothing of the sort in the proceedings of that synod. Also, Leo himself in many letters fights the decision made there in honor of the See of Constantinople, and he undoubtedly would not have omitted this piece of evidence, which would have been the most convincing of all, if it had been true that he had been offered such dignity and had rejected it. Moreover, Leo was more than fond of honor, and he would not have liked to omit something that would have been praise enough for him. Gregory was therefore in error when he thought that this title had been given to the Roman See by the Synod of Chalcedon (Letter V,37; V,41). I will not mention that it is ridiculous for him to testify that this title came from the Holy Synod, while at the same time he says of it that it is criminal, unholy, nefarious, arrogant and sacrilegious, even conceived by the devil and brought to the public by a herald of the Antichrist (Letter IX,156). And yet he adds that his predecessor Leo rejected this title, lest, by giving something to one for himself alone, all priests should be deprived of the honor due to them (Letter V,37). Elsewhere it is said: "No one has ever wanted to be addressed with such a designation, no one has taken this imprudent name to himself, lest he should appropriate to himself in biblical rank the glory of a unique special position and thereby give the impression that he had deprived all his brethren of this glory" (Letter V,44).

IV,7,5 II now come to the jurisdictional power which the Roman bishop claims to have over all the churches without contradiction. I know what great disputes have taken place about this in ancient times; for there has never been a time when the Roman See has not sought dominion over the other churches. Nor will it be out of place at this point to examine the way in which it gradually rose to a certain power at that time. I am not yet speaking of the present unlimited dominion which he acquired not so very long ago; for we shall postpone that until the place appointed for it. Here, however, it is necessary that I show in a few words how and in what manner he once rose to assume some right over other churches. When the churches of the East under the emperors Constantius and Constans, the sons of Constantine the Great, were divided and confused by the Arian disputes, and Athanasius, who was the most distinguished defender of the Orthodox faith there, was driven from his episcopal see, Athanasius saw himself forced by such need to come to Rome, in order to both dampen the rage of his enemies to some extent and to strengthen the pious who were in the struggle, by virtue of the authority of the Roman see. He was received with honor by the then Bishop Julius and managed to get the churches of the West to take up the defense of his cause. Since the faithful were in great need of foreign help, and since they saw that the Church of Rome was a very good protection for them, they gladly gave it as much authority as they could. But all this was nothing else than that the communion with the church of Rome was highly esteemed and on the other hand it was considered shameful to be banned by it. Later on, even the wicked and ungodly added much to this authority: namely, in order to escape the lawful courts, they went to Rome as to a free place. So when any presbyter was condemned by his bishop or any bishop by his provincial synod, they immediately appealed to Rome. And the bishops of Rome accepted these appeals more eagerly than was fair, and that because it seemed to be a kind of extraordinary power to interfere with things far and wide in this way. For example, when Eutyches had been condemned by Flavian of Constantinople, he complained to Leo that he had been wronged. The latter did not hesitate for a moment and took over the protection of this evil cause as rashly as suddenly; he went off against Flavian violently, as if he had condemned an innocent person without investigating the case - and with this his eagerness for honor he brought it about that the impiety of Eutyches was strengthened for a time! In Africa this evidently happened often; for as soon as any babbler was defeated in the ordinary tribunal, he went to Rome at once, and charged his own with many invectives; but the Roman see was always ready to lay itself in the mean! This insolence forced the bishops of Africa to decree that no one beyond the sea (in Rome) was allowed to appeal under penalty of excommunication.

IV,7,6 However this may have been - we want to examine what right or what power the Roman See possessed at that time. The power of the church now consists in four main parts: it includes (1) the ordination of bishops, (3) the calling of councils, (4) the hearing of appeals or "jurisdiction," and (2) the admonitions in the sense of church discipline or the "censures." (1) All ancient synods command that bishops should be ordained by the competent bishop of the capital (the metropolitan); a summons of the bishop, from Rome they nowhere order, except in its own patriarchate. Gradually, however, the custom arose that all the bishops of Italy came to Rome to seek their ordination, with the exception of the metropolitans, who did not allow themselves to be forced into this servitude. Rather, if a metropolitan was to be ordained, the bishop of Rome sent one of his presbyters there, who was merely to be present, but not to preside. An example of this we have before us in Gregory (I) in the ordination of Constantius of Milan, after the death of Laurentius (Letter III,29). I do not believe, however, that this procedure was very ancient. Rather, it was like this: in the beginning, they sent emissaries back and forth, in honor and goodwill: these were to be witnesses of the ordination, to manifest mutual communion; later, what was voluntary began to be regarded as necessary. Be that as it may, it is in any case certain that the bishop of Rome once possessed the power of ordination solely in the territory of his patriarchate, that is, in the churches adjacent to the city, as the statute of the Council of Nicaea says. The ordination was connected with the sending of the synodal final letter. In this, too, the bishop of Rome had no higher position than the others. The patriarchs, immediately after their ordination, used to vouch their faith in a solemn letter, in order to testify thereby that they agreed with the (decisions of the) holy and orthodox synods. Thus, having given an account of their faith, they mutually pronounced their recognition. Now if the bishop of Rome had received this confession from the others, but had not himself made it, he would have been recognized as superior. But in fact he had to make it as well as he required it from the others, he had therefore to be subject to the common law, and this was certainly a sign of communion, but not of dominion. An example of this is found in Gregory’s letter to Anastasius (Letter I,25), in another to Cyriacus of Constantinople (VII,5), and elsewhere in a letter to all the patriarchs at the same time II,,24).

IV,7,7 (2) Then follow the admonitions or "censures". These the bishops of Rome have once practiced against others, but just as well had to endure on their part. Thus Irenaeus sharply rebuked (bishop) Victor (of Rome) for rashly confusing the church with dangerous division for the sake of a completely insignificant matter. And Victor raised no objection, but obeyed! At that time it was common among the holy bishops that they exercised the brotherly right with admonition and punishment towards the bishop of Rome, if he once sinned. The latter, in turn, admonished the others of their official duty, if the matter required it; and if there was a mistake, he reprimanded him. Thus Cyprian asks Stephen (of Rome) to admonish the bishops of Gaul; but he does not borrow the reason for this from his greater authority, but from the general right that the priests have among themselves. I would like to know: would Cyprian, if Stephen had had the right of leadership over Gaul at that time, not have had to say: "Chastise them, for they are your people"? But in fact he speaks quite differently: "This brotherly fellowship," he says, "with which we are bound together, requires that we admonish one another" (Letter 68). And we also see with what bitter words this otherwise so mild-minded man starts against Stephen himself, where he thinks that the latter is even getting too cocky (Letter 74). Thus, even in this piece it does not appear that the bishop of Rome had any jurisdiction over those who did not belong to his territory.

IV,7,8 (3) As for the convocation of synods, each metropolitan had the official duty of assembling the provincial synod at fixed times. In this the bishop of Rome had no right. But only the emperor was able to call a general council. If any of the bishops had attempted to do so, not only would those outside his domain have refused to obey his call, but there would have been an immediate uproar. Therefore, the emperor sent a message to all equally to be present. It is true that (the church historian) Socrates reports that (the bishop) Julius (of Rome) had complained to the bishops of the East because they had not summoned him to the synod of Antioch, although it was forbidden by the church statutes to decide anything without the knowledge of the bishop of Rome (Historia tripartita IV,9). But who does not see that here one must think of such decisions binding the whole Church? Now it is not at all surprising, when so much honor is done to the age and importance of the city, as well as to the dignity of its episcopal see, that a general resolution on the worship of God is not passed in the absence of the bishop of Rome, provided that he does not decline to be present. But what has this to do with ruling over the whole Church? For we do not deny that the bishop of Rome was one of the most distinguished; but we do not want to assume what the Romans claim today, namely, that he had a dominion over all.

IV,7,9 (4) Now there remains the fourth kind of (ecclesiastical regimental) power, which consists in the appeals (in ecclesiastical trials). It is certain that with him to whose judgment-seat one appeals the supreme rule lies; many have now, and often, appealed to the bishop of Rome, even he himself has tried to draw the investigation of cases to himself; but he has always been laughed at when he overstepped his bounds. I do not want to say anything about the East or Greece, no, it is certain that even the bishops of Gaul bravely resisted when it seemed that he wanted to usurp a dominion over them. In Africa this matter has been disputed for a long time. In fact, when at the Council of Mileve, in which Augustine took part, the people who made an appeal "beyond the sea" were banned, the bishop of Rome tried to have this decision reversed. He sent emissaries to show that this privilege had been given to him at the Council of Nicaea. These delegates presented records of the Council of Nicaea, which they had taken from the archives of their church. The Africans resisted, saying that the bishop of Rome should not be believed in their own cause, and that they would therefore send messengers to Constantinople and to other cities in Greece, where they would have less suspicious copies (of these council acts). Thereby it was clearly found out that nothing of the kind was written in it, as the Romans had put forward! Thus that decision, which had denied the bishop of Rome the supreme right of investigation, remained in force. In this matter the shameful insolence of the bishop of Rome himself came to light. For he had fraudulently interpolated the (decisions of the) Synod of Sardica (347) for those of Nicaea, and was now shamefully caught in open fraud. But even greater and more shameless was the uselessness of those who added to the records of the Council a forged letter in which I know not what bishop of Carthage condemns the insolence of his predecessor Aurelius for daring to evade obedience to the apostolic see, submits himself and his church, and humbly begs pardon! These, then, are the glorious documents of ancient times, on which the majesty of the Roman See is founded; (they come about) by lying so childishly, under the pretext of quite ancient origin, that even the blind can gropingly notice it! "Aurelius," says this "Bishop of Carthage," "made wanton by diabolical presumption and contumacy, has revolted against Christ and St. Peter, and therefore he must be condemned with the anathema." What then did Augustine do? What then did the many fathers who participated in the Council of Mileve do? But what is the use of refuting with many words this foolish writing, which not even the Romans themselves can look at without great shame, if they still have some sense of honor? In the same way (as the above-mentioned impostors) Gratian does it, whether out of malice or out of ignorance, I do not know: he first reports of that decision, according to which all who appeal "beyond the sea" shall be forfeited from the ecclesiastical communion - and then he adds the exception: "Unless they appeal to the Roman See" (Decretum Gratiani II,2,6,35)! What are we to do with such wild animals, who are so devoid of common sense that they exclude from a law precisely the one thing for which, as everyone knows, this law was established? For if the Council condemns the vocations "beyond the sea", its prohibition is directed only against the fact that someone appeals to Rome. And here the good interpreter excludes Rome from the general law!

IV,7,10 But - we want to bring this question to an end -: how the jurisdiction of the bishop of Rome was once, a story will openly bring to light. The bishop Caecilian of Carthage had been accused by Donatus of Casae Nigrae. The accused had been condemned without interrogation and trials. For he knew that the bishops had conspired against him, and therefore would not appear (before their court). Thereupon the matter came to the Emperor Constantine. The latter wanted the matter to be settled by an ecclesiastical judgment, and therefore he entrusted the investigation to Bishop Melciades of Rome, to whom he assigned as fellow officers some bishops from Italy, Gaul and Spain (Augustine, Letters 43 and 88 and Small Report of a Meeting with the Donatists,12). Now, if it was part of the ordinary judicial power of the Roman See to investigate appeals in ecclesiastical legal cases - why did the bishop of Rome tolerate other bishops being placed at his side after the decision of the emperor, indeed, why did he assume the judgment more by order of the emperor than by virtue of his official duty? But let us hear what happened afterwards. Caecilian was victorious in the trial, and Donatus of Casae Nigrae failed with his slanderous accusation. He appealed. Then Constantine entrusted the judgment of the appeal to the bishop of Arles, and the latter took the chair of judgement in order to pass, after the bishop of Rome, the sentence which seemed to him to be correct! Now, if the Roman See has the supreme (judicial) power, so that an appeal cannot further occur - why then does Melciades tolerate such a conspicuous dishonor to be inflicted upon him that he is preferred to the bishop of Arles? And who is the emperor who does this? But Constantine, of whom the Romans boast that he turned not only all his zeal, but almost all the power of his empire, to increasing the dignity of their see! So we can already see how far then the bishop of Rome was in every respect from that supreme dominion which, according to his assurance, is given to him by Christ over all the churches, and which he mendaciously claims to have held at all times with the consent of the whole world.

IV,7,11 II know well how many letters, how many rescripts and edicts there are in which the popes ascribe everything conceivable to the Roman See and confidently claim it for him. But all who have the least sense or the least knowledge know this too, that most of these documents are so tasteless that one can easily find out at the first taste what kind of workshop they come from. For which reasonable and sober person will think that the famous interpretation really comes from Anaclet, which is found under the name of Anaclet in Gratian, namely that interpretation which says that "Cephas" means "head"; (Decretum Gratiani I,22,2). Very many foolish things of this kind, which Gratian has packed together without judgment, the Romans abuse against us today in defense of their chair, and such stupid stuff, with which they once fooled inexperienced people in the darkness, they still want to bring to the man in such bright light! But I do not want to spend much effort on the refutation of such things, which clearly refute themselves because of their too great tastelessness. I admit that there are also genuine letters of earlier popes in which they extol the importance of their chair with grandiose praises; of this kind are some letters of Leo (I). For, educated and eloquent as this man was, he was also beyond measure fond of glory and dominion; but the question is, whether at that time, while he was thus exalting himself, the churches gave credence to his testimony. It is evident, however, that many were annoyed by his ambition and also resisted his covetousness. In one place he charges the bishop of Thessalonica with his representation of Greece and other neighboring territories (Letter 14:1), in another with the bishop of Arles or anyone else for Gaul (Letter 10:9). Likewise, he appoints Bishop Hormisdas of Hispalis as his governor for Spain (Letter 15:17). But everywhere he makes the restriction that he gives such orders according to the order that the traditional prerogatives of the metropolitan remain unabridged and unrestricted. Leo himself declares that one of these prerogatives is that in case of any doubt about a matter, the metropolitan must be consulted first. These governorships were therefore carried out under the condition that no bishop should be hindered in his ordinary jurisdiction, no metropolitan in the hearing of appeals, and no provincial synod in the order of the churches. But what did this mean other than to abstain from all jurisdiction and to intervene only in so far as the law and the nature of ecclesiastical communion require, in order to settle disputes?

IV,7,12 By the time of Gregory, this old state of affairs had already changed considerably. For the empire was shaken and torn, Gaul and Spain had suffered many defeats one after the other and lay on the ground, Illyria was devastated, Italy was plagued and Africa was almost ruined by continuous hardships. In order to preserve at least the purity of the faith, or at least not to destroy it completely, all bishops from all sides joined more closely to the bishop of Rome. Thus it came about that not only the dignity but also the power of this see grew enormously. However, I am not so much concerned about the way in which this came about. In any case, it is certain that this power was greater then than in the preceding centuries. And yet there was still much lacking in the fact that it would have been that unbound rule, so that one could have ruled over the others according to his arbitrariness. But the Roman See enjoyed such reverence that it was able to restrain and push back with its authority the wicked and recalcitrant who could not be held to their duty by their peers. In any case, Gregory repeatedly testifies with emphasis that he preserves the rights of others no less faithfully than he himself demands his rights from them (Letter III,29). "From no one," he says, "incited by ambition, do I deprive what is his right, but I strive to honor my brothers in every way" (Letter II,52). In his writings there is no word in which he extolled the importance of his supremacy with more arrogance than the following: "I know not what bishop would not be subject to the apostolic see if found guilty." Nevertheless, immediately afterwards he adds, "Where there is no guilt that required it (otherwise), all are equal to one another after the manner of humility" (Letter IX,27). Thus, he ascribes to himself the right to punish those who have erred; but if all do their duty, he makes himself equal with the others. Moreover, although he attributed this right to himself, and those who wanted it agreed to it, others who did not like it were allowed to object with impunity, and it is known that some did. Moreover, in this passage he speaks of the chief bishop of Byzantium: he had been condemned by the provincial synod and had rejected the whole sentence. This recalcitrance of the man had been reported to the emperor by his peers. The emperor had the will that Gregory should make a decision in this matter. We see, then, that he does nothing to violate ordinary jurisprudence, and that even the very things he does to be helpful to others he does exclusively at the Emperor’s behest.

IV,7,13 DThe whole power of the bishop of Rome, then, consisted in opposing unruly and untamed minds where some extraordinary means was required, and this was done to help the other bishops, not to hinder them. Therefore, Gregory does not take more liberties with the others than he admits elsewhere with himself, confessing that he is ready to be punished by all, to be corrected by all (Letter II,50). In another place he gives the bishop of Aquileia the order to come to Rome to answer for a religious dispute that had arisen between him and others; but he does not give this order on the basis of his own authority, but because the emperor had instructed him to do so. Nor does he announce that he alone will be judge, but he promises to assemble the synod by which the whole matter is to be judged (Letter I,16). Thus there still existed such a moderation that the power of the Roman See had its definite limits beyond which it could not go, and that the bishop of Rome himself did not stand above the others to a greater degree than he was at the same time subject to them. But although it was so, it is clear how much this state of affairs displeased Gregory; for he sometimes complains that he had been brought back to the world under the appearance of the episcopate, he complains that he was more involved in earthly cares than he had ever been in the lay state, that he was crushed in his honorary rank by a tangle of worldly business (Letter I,5). In another place he says: "I am weighed down by such burdens of business that my heart can no longer rise to higher things. Many things shake me like waves, and after that (former) leisure of rest I am so tormented by the storms of a confused life that I can justly say, ’I have come into the depths of the sea, and the storm has made me sink’" (Jonah 2:4; not an exact quote; Letter I:7; I:25). From this we can infer what he might have said if he had lived in our times. Though he did not fully fulfill the office of shepherd, he did perform it. He abstained from leading a civil rule, and he confessed that he was subject to the emperor together with the others. He did not interfere in the care of other churches, unless necessity forced him to do so. And yet he has the impression of being in a maze, because he cannot simply be completely free for the exercise of his official duty as bishop

IV,7,14 At this time the bishop of Constantinople was fighting with that of Rome for supremacy, as has already been pointed out. For after the residence of the Empire had been established in Constantinople, the majesty of the Empire seemed to demand that the Church there should also hold the second place of honor after that of Rome. And certainly in the beginning nothing had been more important for the transfer of a supreme power to Rome than the fact that the head of the empire was located there at that time. In Gratian there is a letter under the name of Pope Lucius, in which he declares that the cities in which metropolitans and chief bishops were to be in charge were to be determined exclusively according to the kind of civil government that had existed there before (Decretum Gratiani I,80,1). There is also another similar letter under the name of Pope Clement, in which he says that in the cities that once had the chief priests, patriarchs were also appointed (Decretum Gratiani I,80,2). Although this is now without actual content, it is nevertheless taken from the true facts. For it is certain that, in order to allow as few changes as possible, the territories were distributed on the basis of the then existing state of affairs, and that the chief bishops and metropolitans were given their seats in those cities which had precedence over the others in honor and power. Therefore, at the Council of Turin (401), it was decided that the cities which were first in civil government in each province should also be the first episcopal sees; but if it happened that the honor of civil government was transferred from one city to another, the right of (ecclesiastical) capital should also pass to it (chap. 1). But when Bishop Innocent of Rome saw how the ancient dignity of the city had declined since the seat of the empire had been transferred to Constantinople, he feared for his see and issued a contrary law: in this he declared that it was not necessary that with each change of the imperial capitals the ecclesiastical ones should also be changed. But the authority of the Synod is deservedly preferable to the opinion of one man. Besides, Innocent himself must be suspect to us (for he speaks) in his own cause. But however that may be: he shows, in spite of everything, by his precautionary measure, that it had been so arranged from the beginning, that the (ecclesiastical) capitals were set up according to the external order of the empire

IV,7,15 On the basis of this ancient custom, it was established at the first synod of Constantinople (381) that the bishop of that city should succeed the bishop of Rome in honorary prerogatives, because Constantinople was the new Rome (Socrates, Ecclesiastical History V,8, Historia tripartita IX,13, Decretum Gratiani I,22,3). A long time later, however, when a similar decision was taken at Chalcedon, Leo strongly objected. And not only did he allow himself to consider as nothing what six hundred bishops or more had decided, but he also attacked them with fierce reproaches for having taken from other episcopal sees the honor they had dared to bestow on the church at Constantinople. I would like to know: what else could provoke this man to shake the world over such an insignificant matter than pure honor? He declared that what the Synod of Nicaea had once established must remain inviolate. As if the Christian faith would be put at risk if one church were preferred to another! Or as if the patriarchates had been established at Nicaea for any other purpose than for the sake of external order! But we know that the external order ever undergoes, indeed requires, manifold changes with changing times. It was, therefore, a futile pretext when Leo declared that the honor given by virtue of the authority of the Council of Nicaea to the episcopate of Alexandria should not be transferred to that of Constantinople. For common sense tells us that this decision was of such a nature that it could be revoked according to the needs of the time. How is it that no one from the bishops of the East raised an objection, although the case concerned them the most? In any case, Proterius was present, who had been made patriarch of Alexandria in place of Dioscorus, and other patriarchs were also present, whose honor had been diminished (by such a decision). These would have had the duty to object, but not Leo, who remained in his place without any diminution! But while these all remain silent, even agree, the bishop of Rome alone opposes. He foresaw what happened not long afterward, namely that Constantinople would not be satisfied with the second place and would fight with Rome for the supremacy. Nevertheless, Leo, with his objection, did not manage to prevent the Council’s decision from coming into force. Therefore, his successors, realizing that they were powerless, peacefully refrained from that obstinacy; they tolerated that the bishop of Constantinople was considered the second patriarch.

IV,7,16 A short time later, however, John, who ruled the church at Constantinople in the time of Gregory (I), went so far as to call himself patriarch for the whole church (universalis patriarchus). Against this Gregory, in order not to omit the defense of his See in so excellent a cause, steadfastly resisted. And certainly the arrogance as well as the nonsense of John, who wanted to make the boundaries of his bishopric equal to the boundaries of the Empire, was also intolerable. Nevertheless, Gregory does not himself lay claim to what he denies to the other, but he detests this name ("universal patriarch") as sacrilegious, godless and nefarious - by whomsoever it may ultimately be used. Yes, he even drives off at one point against Bishop Eulogius of Alexandria, who had honored him with such a title. "You see," he says, "in the preface to the letter which you addressed to me, despite my prohibition, you had a word written which signifies a hopeful designation: namely, you called me "Pope of the universal Church" (Papa universalis). This, I ask, may Your Holiness not do in the future; for you are deprived of what is given to another beyond what is justified. I do not consider as honor that of which I see that the honor of my brothers is thereby diminished. For my honor is the honor of the whole Church and the undiminished legal status of my brothers. But if Your Holiness calls me the ’Pope of the universal Church’, she thereby declares that what I am, according to her confession, for the entirety, she is not for her part" (Letter VIII,29). Gregory’s cause was good and honorable, but John, who was helped by the favor of the Emperor Mauritius, could not be dissuaded from his purpose. Even his successor Cyriacus never softened in the matter.

IV,7,17 Then Phocas took Mauritius’ place after his murder. He was more friendly to the Romans - I don’t know for what reason, indeed: because he had been crowned in Rome without dispute. This Phocas then at last conceded to Boniface the Third what Gregory had by no means demanded, namely, that Rome should be the head of all the churches. In this way the dispute was settled. Nevertheless, even this show of favor by the emperor would not have been of so much use to the Roman See if other things had not been added. For Greece and all Asia were torn from communion with it shortly afterward. And France paid its respects to the pope in such a way that it obeyed only as far as it suited him. In fact, it was brought into servitude (under Rome) only when Pipin usurped the royal power. For the Roman bishop Zacharias had aided and abetted him in disloyalty and brigandage, so that after the expulsion of the rightful king he seized the kingdom as if it were given up for plunder. For this Zacharias received the reward that the Roman See should have jurisdiction over the French churches. As robbers are wont to divide the common booty among themselves, so also these good people made a settlement among themselves: the earthly, civil dominion should fall to Pipin after robbing the true king, but Zacharias should become the head of all bishops and have the spiritual power! This was unstable in the beginning, as new things tend to be; but then it was strengthened by the authority of Charles - and for almost the same reason. For Charles was also indebted to the Roman pope, because he had attained the imperial dignity through his efforts. Although it can be assumed that the churches everywhere had already been greatly disfigured before that time, it is certain that it was only then that the old form of the church in France and Germany was completely forgotten. In the archives of the supreme court in Paris there are still brief records from those times which, where ecclesiastical matters are concerned, mention treaties which Pipin or also Charles concluded with the Roman pope. From these it is concluded that at that time the change of the old state of affairs took place.

IV,7,18 From this time on, when the conditions everywhere were daily worsening, the tyranny of the Roman See then also gradually came to strength and to greater extent, partly through the ignorance and partly through the laxity of the bishops. For while one man took all liberties with himself, and continued without measure to exalt himself more and more against right and equity, the bishops did not exert themselves with due zeal to keep his arbitrary power in check, and though they might not have been without the will to do so, yet they would have lacked proper instruction and experience, so that they were by no means fit to take up so important a matter. Thus we see of what kind and of what abomination, in the time of Bernard (of Clairvaux), was the profanation of all that was holy and the destruction of the entire ecclesiastical order at Rome. He complains that from all over the world greedy, avaricious people, people who practiced simony, desecration of the temple, fornication, incest, and other monsters of this kind flocked to Rome in order to gain or retain ecclesiastical honors there through apostolic authority; fraud, deception, and acts of violence, he complains, had become rampant (Von der Betrachtung an Papst Eugen III,I,4f.). He declares that the way of administering justice, which was common at that time, was abominable and it was unseemly not only for the Church but also for the (secular) court (Ibid. I,10,13). He exclaims that the Church is full of ambitious people, and that there is no one more abhorrent to the commission of outrages than robbers in their den when they distribute the booty taken from travelers (Ibid.). "Few," he says, "look at the mouth of the lawgiver; but all look at his hands. But this is not done without reason. For all papal business is done precisely through the hands" (Ibid. IV,2,4). "What does this mean" (he writes to the Pope), "that the people who say to you, ’Splendid, splendid!’ - are bought by plunder taken from the churches? The livelihood of the poor is strewn in the alleys of the rich. The silver shines in the dirt. One hurries from all sides - but not the poorer, but the stronger takes it up or also the one who just runs the fastest ahead! But this fixing or better: this deadly decomposition (mos iste, vel potius mors ista) does not come from you - oh, would it end with you! In the midst of all this you walk along as a ’shepherd’, surrounded with many and precious ornaments. If I may dare to say it - this is rather a pasture for devils than for sheep. So then Peter also did, so also Paul mocked?" (Ibid. IV,2,5. "Your court is accustomed to receive more good people into itself - than to make people good. For the wicked do not become better in it, but the good become worse!" (Ibid IV,4,11). No pious person will be able to read the abuses in the appeal proceedings, which he then reports, without great disgust (Ibid. III,2,6 ss.). Finally he speaks of that unbridled covetousness of the Roman See in the usurpation of the judicial power, concluding: "I pronounce the murmurings and the common complaint of the churches. They cry aloud that they are being mutilated and deprived of their limbs. And there are none left at all or only a few who do not feel this blow painfully or do not fear it (at least). Do you ask what kind of blow? That the abbots are deprived of their bishops (with regard to judicial power and other rights) and the bishops of the archbishops …! It would be a miracle if this could be excused. By acting in this way, you prove that you have full power - but not full justice. You do it because you can; but whether you may, that is the question. You are set to preserve each one’s honor and rank, but not to begrudge them" (Ibid. III,4,14). I wanted to report these few things out of many, so that the readers on the one hand see what a serious case the church had done at that time, and also on the other hand realize how much this distress has put all pious people into mourning and groaning.

IV,7,19 Now if we were to grant to the bishop of Rome today also the excellent position and the great power in jurisdiction that this See possessed in the middle ages (of development), such as in the times of Leo or Gregory - what good would that do to the present papacy? I do not speak yet of the earthly rule, also not of the civil power; about that we will still make our considerations later at suitable place. No, what does the spiritual government itself, which they praise, have in common with the conditions of those times? For the pope is described in no other way than this: he is the supreme head of the church on earth and the general bishop of the whole world. But when the popes themselves speak of their authority, they declare with great arrogance that they have the authority to command, and that the others have to obey; in this way all their orders are to be regarded as if they were confirmed, as it were, by the divine voice of Peter. The provincial synods - it is further said - since they take place without the presence of the pope, have no force. The popes further declare that they can ordain clerics for any church and call those who are ordained elsewhere to their chair. Countless statements of this kind can be found in the compilation of Gratian; I do not enumerate them in order not to be too burdensome for the reader. The main content, however, boils down to this: with the bishop of Rome alone lies the supreme decision on all ecclesiastical matters, whether it is a matter of judging and establishing doctrines, enacting laws, regulating discipline, or exercising jurisdiction. It would also be tedious and superfluous to enumerate the prerogatives they take for themselves with what they call "reservations" (rights reserved to the Pope). But the most intolerable of all is this: they leave no court on earth that could restrain or curb their arbitrariness when they abuse such immense power. "No one," they say, "shall be permitted to oppose the judgment of this See, for the sake of the supreme power of the Church at Rome" (Decretum Gratiani II,17,4,30). Or likewise: "This judge (the pope) shall not be judged by the emperor, nor by kings, nor by any clergy, nor by the people" (Decretum Gratiani II,9,3,13). It is already more than imperious enough when a single person sets himself up as judge over all, but is not willing to submit to the judgment of another. But what shall we say when he exercises his tyranny against the people of God, when he scatters and devastates Christ’s kingdom, when he brings the whole church into confusion, when he turns the pastoral office into robbery? Yes, even in the event that the pope were the most wicked of all men, he denies that he is compelled to give account! For it is sayings of popes when it is said: "The affairs of other men God has willed to be settled by men, but the bishop of this see God has reserved to his own judgment without judicial inquiry (by men)" (Decretum Gratiani II,9,3,14). Or likewise, "The deeds of our subjects are judged by us, but ours by God alone" (Decretum Gratiani II,9,3,15).

IV,7,20 Now, in order to give more weight to such decrees, the names of old bishops (of Rome) have been falsely slipped in, as if things had already been regulated this way from the beginning. And yet it is more than certain that everything that is attributed to the bishop of Rome more than, according to our report, the old councils gave him, is new and only recently concocted. Yes, they have gone so far in their impudence as to issue a letter under the name of Patriarch Anastasius of Constantinople, in which he testifies that it was established by the ancient rules that nothing should be done even in the most distant provinces that had not previously been reported to the Roman See (Decretum Gratiani II,9,3,12). Apart from the fact that this is certainly a complete lie, I would like to ask: who would find it credible that such a praise of the Roman See would have come from someone who was its adversary and jealously fought with it for honor and dignity? But these antichrists had to be carried away to such nonsense and blindness that their uselessness is obvious to all people of sound mind who only want to open their eyes. The decrees collected by Gregory IX, as well as the "Clementines" and the "Extravagantes Martini", show even more clearly and with fuller cheeks this terrible unruliness and this tyranny, which is almost appropriate to barbarian kings, everywhere. But these are the words of revelation by which the Romans want their papacy to be judged! From these have arisen the glorious principles, which today in the papacy everywhere have the validity of revelatory words, such as: the pope cannot err, the pope is superior to the councils, the pope is the general bishop of all churches and the supreme head of the church on earth. I am silent about even more absurd inconsistencies that foolish canon lawyers spout in their schools - and yet the Roman theologians not only agree with these, but they witness their applause in order to flatter their idol!

IV,7,21 I will not deal with them according to the harshest law. Against such great arrogance, some other might set a saying of Cyprian, which the latter applied to the bishops whose council he presided: "No one among us calls himself a ’bishop of bishops,’ or forces his fellow-officers with tyrannical pressure into the necessity of obeying him." He (that "other") could also interject what was decided some time afterward in Carthage: no one should call himself Supreme of Priests or First Bishop. He could collect from the history books many testimonies, from the (acts of the) synods ecclesiastical statutes, and from the books of the ancients many statements in which the bishop of Rome is forced to order. But I refrain from doing so, so as not to give the impression that I am too harsh on them. But let the best protectors of the Roman See answer me how they would dare to defend the title of "general bishop" (bishop of the universal Church), when they see that this title is so often condemned by Gregory (I) with a solemn curse. If the testimony of Gregory is to be in force, by making their bishop the "general bishop" they declare at the same time that he is the Antichrist! Also the name "head" (of the church) was by no means more common. For Gregory says in one place thus: "Peter was the most distinguished member of the body (of Christ); John, Andrew, and James were the heads of particular churches. But all under the one head are members of the church; yea, the saints before the time of the law, the saints under the law, the saints in grace - they all make the body of the Lord complete, and are placed in the ranks of the members, and none of them ever willed to be called ’general’" (Letter V,44). But that the bishop of Rome arrogates to himself the power to command is not at all in accordance with a statement that Gregory makes elsewhere. When the bishop Eulogius of Alexandria declared that he had received a "command" from Gregory, the latter replied in the following manner: "This word ’command’, I beg you, do not let me hear; for I know who I am and who you are: according to your position you are my brothers, according to your conduct you are my fathers; I have therefore not commanded, but I have endeavored to show what has seemed useful to me" (Letter VIII,29). The fact that the pope extends his jurisdiction so boundlessly does a grave and terrible injustice not only to the other bishops, but also to each individual church, because he tears the churches apart and mutilates them in such a way that he builds his chair out of their fragments. That he further evades all judgment and wants to rule in a tyrannical manner in such a way that he regards the arbitrariness, which he himself alone exercises, as law, is in any case too unworthy and too different from the ecclesiastical way of acting for one to be able to bear it in any way. For it stands in gaping contradiction not only to the sentiment of piety, but also to that of humanity.

IV,7,22 But in order not to be compelled to go through and examine the particulars, I turn again to those who nowadays wish to be considered the best and most faithful advocates of the Roman See, and ask them if they are not ashamed to defend the present state of the papacy; for it is certain that it is a hundred times more depraved than it was in the times of Gregory or Bernard, and yet even that state at that time displeased these holy men so much. Gregory complains again and again that he is dragged to and fro by foreign business, that he was led back to the world under the pretense of the episcopal office, and that he now has to serve so many earthly concerns in his office that he cannot remember ever having been subjected to so many in his former lay state, he was so crushed by the tangle of worldly affairs that his heart could not rise to the heavenly ones, the many waves of legal cases shattered him, and the impetuous storms of life brought him into contestation, so that he could justly say: "I have come into the depths of the sea …" (Letter I:5; 1:7; 1:25; 1:24). Certainly, in the midst of such earthly business, he could instruct the people in sermons, yes, especially admonish them; certainly, he could still punish those with whom it had to be done, order the church, give counsel to the ministers and admonish them of their duty; moreover, he also had some time left for writing - and yet he laments his distress, because he had sunk into the deepest depth of the sea. If the administrative work at that time was a "sea," what will it have to be said of the present papacy? For what else do they have in common? Here there is no preaching, no concern for discipline, no zeal for the churches, no spiritual ministry-in short, here is nothing but the world. And yet this maze is praised as if nothing more orderly and well-ordered could be found! But what lamentations Bernhard pours out, what sighs he lets be heard, looking at the infirmities of his time! What would he do if he looked at our age, which is "iron" or at best even worse than iron? What an impertinence it is to stubbornly defend as something holy and divine what all the saints have at all times unanimously rejected, and not only this, but even to misuse their testimony in defense of a papacy that was undoubtedly completely unknown to them! However, I admit with regard to the time of Bernard that at that time the corruption of all things was so great that this time was not very different from ours. But such people who want to take any pretext from that middle time, namely that of Leo, Gregory and similar men, lack all shame. For these people do exactly the same as if someone wanted to praise the old state of the Roman Empire in order to confirm the sole rule of the (Roman) emperors, that is: borrowed the praise of freedom to adorn tyranny.

IV,7,23 In conclusion, even if all this may be granted to the Romans, a whole new controversy arises for them if we deny that there is a church in Rome where such benefits could have their place, and if we further deny that there is (there) a bishop who possesses such dignitary prerogatives. Let us suppose that all those (previous) assertions are true - we have, however, already beaten them out of hand! Let us suppose, then, that Peter was really appointed head of the whole Church by Christ’s word, that he had given the honor conferred upon him to the Roman See, that this was established by the authority of the early Church and confirmed by long practice, that the supreme power had always been unanimously conceded by all to the bishop of Rome, that he had been judge of all legal matters as well as of all men, and even that he had not been subject to the judgment of any man. Yes, the Romans can have still more, if they want - I answer in any case with the one word that all this has no value if there is no church and no bishop in Rome. They must admit to me that something which is not a church cannot be the mother of the churches, and that one who is not a bishop cannot be the head of the bishops. Do they now want to have the "apostolic" chair at Rome? Then they must show me (there also) the true, rightful apostleship! Do they want to have the highest bishop there? Then they must also show me a bishop! But how now? Where will they show us any recognizable figure of the church? According to the name they do that, of course, and they always lead the church in the mouth. But now the church is certainly recognized by its certain marks, and "bishopric" is the name of an office. I do not speak here of the people, but of the church regiment itself, which is to be seen constantly in the church. Now, where at Rome is the office after the manner required by Christ’s foundation? Let us remember what was said above about the official duty of presbyters and bishops. If we measure the office of cardinals by this standard, we must admit that they are nothing less than presbyters. And what the bishop himself is supposed to have somehow episcopal about him, I should like to know. The first main part of the bishop’s office is to instruct the people with God’s word, the second, which immediately follows this, is to administer the sacraments, and the third is to exhort and encourage, and also to punish those who transgress, and to keep the people in holy discipline. What of all this does the bishop of Rome do? Yes, what does he at least pretend to do? Tell me, then, in what sense one wants a man to be considered a bishop who does not touch any part of his official duty even with the smallest finger, even if only in pretense.

IV,7,24 It is not the same with a bishop as with a king; for even if he does not exercise what actually belongs to a king, he nevertheless retains the honor and the title. In judging a bishop, on the other hand, one looks to Christ’s commission, which must always remain in force in the Church. So let the Romans untie this knot for me. I declare that their bishop is not the supreme of the bishops precisely because he is not a bishop! They must now necessarily first prove that the latter assertion is false, if they want to prevail with respect to the former. But what will they say, when their bishop has not only nothing of what constitutes the peculiarity of a bishop, but rather nothing but qualities contrary to it? But, O God, where shall I begin? With the doctrine or with the way of life? What should I say or - what should I conceal? And where should I stop? I say this: if the world today is so full of so many perverse and godless doctrines, if it is filled with so many superstitions, if it is blinded by so many errors and sunk in so much idolatry, there is nowhere anything of all this that has not taken its origin from Rome or at least received its approval. And when the popes act with such fury against the reemerging doctrine of the gospel, when they exert all their powers to suppress it, when they incite all kings and princes to cruel rage, it is for no other reason than because they see that their whole rule will collapse and break down once the gospel of Christ has gained currency. Leo (X) has been cruel, Clement (VII) bloodthirsty, and Paul (III) grim. But it was not so much their nature that drove them to deny the truth as the fact that this was the only way to maintain their power. Since, therefore, they can only persist when Christ is struck down, they toil in this cause no differently than when they fought for house and hearth and for their own lives! How then, shall there be for us the "apostolic chair" where we see nothing but terrible apostasy? Shall this be the "governor of Christ" who persecutes the Gospel in dogged attacks and thus openly reveals that he is the Antichrist? Shall this be the "successor of Peter" who rages with fire and sword to tear down everything Peter built up? Shall he be "the head of the church, who tears and cuts off the church from Christ, its united head, and then cuts it up and tears it apart in itself? Rome may have been the mother of all churches in ancient times, but it has ceased to be what it was since it began to be the seat of the Antichrist.

IV,7,25 Some have the impression that we are doing too much blasphemy and even too much malice when we call the Pope of Rome the Antichrist. But those who think so do not realize that they are accusing Paul of immoderateness, whom we join with such language, indeed, whose own words we repeat. Now, so that no one will accuse us of referring to the bishop of Rome in a mistaken way Paul’s words, which in themselves have a different meaning, I will briefly show that these words cannot be understood in any other way than that they refer to the papacy. Paul writes that the Antichrist will take his seat in the temple of God (2Thess 2,4). Also in another place the Holy Spirit draws us a picture of the Antichrist, namely in the person of Antiochus, and there he shows that his rule will consist in grandiloquence and blasphemies (Dan 7,25). From this we draw the conclusion that this kingdom of Antichrist is a tyranny that is directed more against souls than against bodies, a tyranny that rises up against Christ’s spiritual kingdom. Furthermore, it is clear that this kingdom is of such a kind that it does not abolish the name of Christ or the church, but rather misuses Christ as a pretext and hides under the name "church" as if behind a mask. Admittedly, all heresies and sects that have existed since the beginning belong to the kingdom of Antichrist. However, when Paul predicts that an apostasy will come (2Thess 2:3), he indicates with this description that the seat of abomination will be set up when a general apostasy has taken hold of the church, even if many members of the church persist in the true unity of faith. But when Paul then adds that already in his time the Antichrist secretly begins to work the work of wickedness, which he will then carry out publicly (2Thess 2,7), we learn from this that this misery should neither be raised by a single man nor should it come to an end in a single man. When he then further describes the Antichrist with the characteristic that he will snatch away God’s honor and usurp it for himself (2Thess 2:4), this is the most important sign we must follow if we want to look for the Antichrist, especially where such arrogance progresses to the public dispersion of the church. Now it is certain that the pope at Rome has unashamedly transferred to himself that which was proper to God alone and to Christ in the highest degree, and therefore there can be no doubt that he is the supreme and leader of this godless and abominable empire.

IV,7,26 Now the Romans may go and hold the old time against us. As if, in the face of such a reversal of all things, the honor of a (episcopal) see could remain where there is no episcopal see at all! Eusebius reports that God, in order to make room for his vengeance, transferred the church that was in Jerusalem to Pella (Church History III,5,3). What happened once, according to what we hear here, could also happen more often. Therefore it is ridiculous and inconsistent to tie the honor of the supreme power to a place in such a way that one who in reality is the most determined enemy of Christ, the most distinguished opponent of the gospel, the greatest devastator and destroyer of the Church, and the cruelest slayer and executioner of all the saints, is nevertheless regarded as the "governor of Christ," the "successor of Peter," and the "first ruler of the Church," solely because he occupies a seat which was once the first of all! I am still silent about what a great difference there is between the office of the Pope and a properly established order of the Church. And this I do, although this one fact is excellent to remove any doubt about this question. For no man in his right mind will enclose the episcopate in lead and bulls, much less in such a mastery of all frauds and overreaching - for these are the things by which the "spiritual regiment" of the pope may be recognized. It is therefore very appropriate when someone once said that the Roman church, of which one boasts, had already been transformed into a court for a long time, and that this alone is now to be seen in Rome. Now I am not accusing here the infirmities of men, but I am proving that the papacy itself is utterly repugnant to the ecclesiastical nature.

IV,7,27 If we now want to speak about men, we know well enough what kind of "governors of Christ" we will find there: Julius (II.) and Leo (X.) and Clemens (VII.) and Paul (III.) will be the "pillars of the Christian faith" and the "supreme teachers of religion" - people who know nothing else about Christ than what they have learned in the school of (scoffer) Lucian! But for what purpose do I enumerate here three or four popes? As if it would be doubtful what kind of religion the popes together with the whole college of cardinals have already confessed for a long time and confess even nowadays! Because the first main piece of the hidden theology, which leads the regiment among them, is this: There is no God. And the second one is: Everything that is written and taught about Christ is a lie and a fraud. And the third: The doctrine of the future life and of the last resurrection - these are all fables! Not everyone thinks like that, and only a few speak out like that, I admit. But nevertheless this has long begun to be the common religion of the popes, and although it is fully known to all who have known Rome, yet the Roman theologians do not cease to boast that by a privilege given by Christ provision has been made against the pope’s being able to err - for to Peter it was said, "I … have prayed for you that your faith may not fail" (Lk 22:32). I would like to know: what will they achieve with this shameless mockery other than that the whole world sees how they have reached such the highest peak of nefariousness that they neither fear God nor shy away from men?

IV,7,28 But let us suppose that the ungodliness of the aforementioned popes remained hidden, because they did not make it public either in sermons or in writings, but merely spoke it at the table, in the closet, or at least between their walls. If, however, they want that privilege which they claim to have its validity, they must (in any case) strike out John XXII from the number of popes who openly asserted that souls are mortal and perish together with the bodies until the day of the resurrection. But in order to see that at that time the whole (papal) See, together with its most noble supports, completely collapsed, (let the following fact be pointed out): none of the cardinals opposed such a great folly, but the school of Paris made the King of France force the man to recant! The king forbade the (ecclesiastical) communion with him, if he did not repent soon; and he also had this announced by a herald according to custom. Under this coercion, the pope then renounced his error. John Gerson, who lived at that time, is a witness to this. This example has the effect that I no longer have to argue with our opponents about their statement that the Roman See and its popes could not fall in faith because it was said to Peter: "I have prayed for you that your faith may not cease …" (Lk 22,32). Certainly, that John XXII strayed from the right faith in such an abominable way of apostasy to offer an excellent proof to the descendants that not all those who follow Peter in the episcopate are also Peterites! However, this assertion is too childish in itself to need an answer. For if they want to refer everything that has been said about Peter to his successors, then it also follows that all popes are satans - for the Lord also said to Peter: "Get thee, Satan, off me! You are annoying me" (Mt 16,23). For it will be as easy for us to turn the latter against them as it may be for them to hold the former against us!!

IV,7,29 But I have no desire to carry on my argument with silliness - so I will return to that from which I had digressed. If Christ, the Holy Spirit and the church are tied to one place in such a way that anyone who is in charge there, even if he is the devil, is still considered Christ’s governor and the head of the church, because Peter’s seat was once there, I maintain, this is not only ungodly and a blasphemy of Christ, but also too absurd and contrary to common sense. For a long time now, the Roman popes have been either completely without religion or even the worst enemies of religion. Therefore, they are no more "Christ’s governors" for the sake of the chair they occupy than an idol is to be considered God when it is set up in God’s temple (2 Thess. 2:4). But if one wants to judge their way of life, then the popes themselves may give the answer, what it should be at all, by which they could be recognized as bishops. First of all, that they live in Rome as they do, and that they not only look through their fingers and remain silent, but also approve of it, as it were, with silent consent, is quite unworthy of a bishop; for a bishop has the duty, after all, to keep the boisterousness of the people in check by the severity of discipline. But I do not want to be so ruthless against them that I burden them with other people’s misdeeds. But that they themselves, together with their household, together with almost the whole college of cardinals, together with the whole bunch of their clergy, are so devoted to all wickedness, immorality and impurity, to every kind of vice and turpitude, that they are more like monsters than men - in this they certainly show that they are nothing less than bishops. Nevertheless, they need not now fear that I will continue to expose their shame. For it disgusts me to deal with such stinking mud, moreover I have to consider shameful ears - and then I also have the impression as if I had already shown more than enough what I wanted to show. For it was this: even if Rome may once have been the head of the churches, today it is not worthy to be counted among their smallest toes.

IV,7,30 WAs for the cardinals they call themselves, I do not know what actually happened that they rose so suddenly to such importance. In Gregory’s time, this title belonged to the bishops alone. For every time he mentions cardinals, he does not attribute them to the Church at Rome, but to any others, so that, in short, a "cardinal priest" is nothing other than a bishop (Letter I,15; I,77; I,79; II,12; II,37; III,13). I do not find the title in the writers of the earlier period. I see, however, that the cardinals were then subordinate to the bishops, whereas today they are essentially superior to them. A word of Augustine is well known: "Although, according to the honorific name which has become common in the Church, the episcopate stands higher than that of the presbyter, yet (the bishop) Augustine is in many things inferior to (the presbyter) Jerome" (Letter 82). Here he undoubtedly makes no distinction between a presbyter of the Church at Rome and other presbyters, but ranks them all equally below bishops. This was so largely observed that at the Council of Carthage, when two emissaries of the Roman See were present, one a bishop, the other a presbyter, the latter was relegated to the lowest place. But not to go through things too old: there is a council held at Rome under Gregory; there now the presbyters have their seat in the lowest place, and they also sign for themselves, but the deacons have no place at all in the signing (Gregory, Letter V,57a). And there is no doubt that at that time they (today’s cardinals) had no other official duty than to assist and follow the bishop in the administration of doctrine and sacraments. Nowadays, however, their lot has changed in such a way that they have become relatives of kings and emperors. It is also beyond doubt that they have gradually grown together with their head, until they have risen to the present summit of dignity. But I have wished to touch upon this also in a few words, as it were in passing, in order that the reader may better see that the Roman See, as it is now constituted, differs very essentially from that ancient one, which it always uses as a pretext to protect and defend itself. But the cardinals may have been what they will in former times, yet they hold no true and lawful office in the Church, and therefore merely a pretense and a vain mask. Yes, because everything they have is completely contrary to the ecclesiastical office, it has necessarily happened to them what Gregory so often writes: "Weeping I say it and sighing I make it known: since the priesthood has disintegrated inwardly, it will not be able to endure outwardly either" (Letter V,58; V,62; VI,7; V,63). Yes, rather it had to be fulfilled in them what Malachi says of such people: "You have gone astray and vexed many in the law and have broken the covenant of Levi, says the Lord. Therefore I also have made you to be despised and worthless before all the people …" (Mal 2:8f.). Now I leave it to all pious people to think about the nature of the highest peak of the Roman hierarchy, to which the papists in godless impudence unabashedly subject even the word of God, which should have been worthy of worship and holy for heaven and earth, for angels and men

Chapter Eight


Of the power of the church with respect to the doctrines of faith, and with what unbridled arbitrariness this has been used in the papacy for the falsification of all purity of doctrine.

IV,8,1 Now follows the third main part: of the authority of the church. This appears partly in the individual bishops, partly in the councils, both in the provincial councils and in the general ones. Here I am speaking exclusively of the spiritual authority proper to the Church. This consists now in teaching, in jurisdiction, or in legislation. The doctrinal piece has two parts: it deals with the authority to establish doctrines and with the interpretation of doctrines. Now, before we begin to discuss each part in particular, we would urge the devout reader to remember to relate all that is taught about the authority of the church to the end for which it is given according to Paul’s testimony; but this end is edification and not pulling down (2Cor 10:8; 13:10), and those who rightfully exercise this authority do not think that they are anything more than ministers of Christ and at the same time ministers of the people (i.e., the church) in Christ. Now the edification of the church happens in only one way, namely, when the ministers themselves take care to maintain for Christ the authority due to him; but this can remain unabridged only when he is left what he has received from the Father, namely, that he is the only teacher of his church. For it is not of anyone else, but of Him alone that it is written, "Him shall you hear" (Mt 17:5). Thus the ecclesiastical authority is to receive its adornment without pettiness, but nevertheless it is to be enclosed within certain limits, so that it is not dragged hither and thither according to the caprice of men. To this end it will be most helpful if we direct our attention to the way in which it is described by the prophets and apostles. For if we simply leave it to men to take to themselves the power that pleases them, then everyone will immediately see how easy it is to fall into a tyranny that must remain far removed from the church of Christ.

IV,8,2 Therefore we must here consider that all that the Holy Spirit in Scripture confers on the priests, or even on the prophets, or on the apostles, or on the successors of the apostles, in terms of authority and dignity, is fully and properly attached not to the men themselves, but to the office over which they preside, or, to speak more plainly, to the word whose ministry is entrusted to them. For if we go through them all in order, we shall not find that they were invested with any authority to teach or to do any saying but in the name of the Lord alone, and on the ground of his word. For when they are called to their office, every time at the same time the obligation is laid upon them not to bring forward anything of themselves, but to speak out of the mouth of the Lord. Nor does he let them appear in public to be heard by the people until he has instructed them what to speak - so that they speak nothing but his word. Moses was the chief of all prophets, and he had to be heard before others; but he was also given certain orders beforehand, so that he could not proclaim anything but what came from the Lord (Ex 3,4 ss.). Therefore, when the people accepted his teaching, they were told that they believed in God and in his servant Moses (Ex 14,31). The authority of the priests was also secured with severe threats of punishment so that it would not fall into contempt (Deut 17, 9-13). At the same time, however, the Lord indicates the condition under which they were to be heard, namely, by saying that He had made His covenant with Levi so that "the law of truth … was in his mouth" (Mal 2,4.6). And shortly after he adds: "The priest’s lips shall keep the teaching, that the law may be sought out of his mouth; for he is a messenger of the Lord of hosts" (Mal 2,7; not quite Luther text). If the priest wants to be heard, he must prove himself to be a messenger of God, that is, he must faithfully pass on the instructions he has received from his employer. And where it is spoken of that the priests are to be heard, there it is expressly stated that they are to do their saying "according to the law" of God (Deut ,7,10.11).

IV,8,3 WHow the authority of the prophets was in general, is well described in Ezekiel: "Son of man, saith the Lord, I have set thee a watchman over the house of Israel; thou shalt hear the word out of my mouth, and shalt give them tidings from me" (Eze 3,17; not throughout Luther text). When he receives the instruction to hear (the word) "out of the mouth of the Lord" - is he not thereby forbidden to think up something on his own? And when it is then said that he should "give message from the Lord" - what does this mean other than to speak in such a way that he dares to boast confidently that it is not his, but the Lord’s word which he brings forward? The same is written in other words in Jeremiah: "A prophet who has dreams, let him tell dreams; but he who has my word, let him preach my word, which is true" (Jer 23:28; end not Luther text). With this he undoubtedly gives a law to all prophets. And this law is of the kind that he does not tolerate that one teaches more than he is commanded. And everything that did not come from him alone, he calls straw" (Jer 23,28b). That is why none of the prophets opened their mouths unless the Lord spoke the words. That is why we so often encounter in them such phrases as "the word of the Lord", "the burden of the Lord", "Thus says the Lord" or "The mouth of the Lord has spoken it". And rightly so: for Isaiah exclaimed that he had stained lips (Isa 6:5), and Jeremiah confessed that he could not speak because he was still a boy (Jer 1:6). If they had spoken their own word, what else could have come out of one man’s defiled mouth and another man’s simple mouth but impurity and foolishness? But they had holy and pure lips when they began to be the instruments of the Holy Spirit. As soon as the prophets are bound by the sacred obligation to give nothing of themselves but what they have received, then they are distinguished with glorious authority and with shining titles. For when the Lord testifies that he has set them "over nations and kingdoms" to "pluck up, break in pieces, destroy … and build and plant" (Jer 1:10), He immediately adds the cause: all this happens because He "put His words in their mouth" (Jer 1:9).

IV,8,4 And if one now turns his gaze to the apostles, they are indeed praised with many and glorious designations: it is said of them that they are "the light of the world" and "the salt of the earth" (Mt 5:13,14), that they are to be heard in Christ’s stead (Lk 10:16), that all things which they bound or loosed on earth are also to be bound and loosed in heaven (John 20:23; Mt 18:18). But (already) by their name (apostles, emissaries) they show how much is granted to them in their office: namely, if they are "apostles", they are not to prate what they like, but rather to faithfully present the orders of Him by whom they are "sent"! Christ’s words are clear enough when he defined their mission: he told them to go and teach all nations what he had commanded them (Mt 28,19f.). Yes, so that no one would be permitted to evade this law, he took it upon himself and imposed it upon himself. "My teaching", he says, "is not mine, but the Father’s who sent me" (John 7,16; end is addition). Yet he has always been the Father’s one true Counselor, and the Father has appointed him Lord and Master over all - nevertheless, because he exercises the office of teaching instruction, he gives instruction by his own example to all the servants as to which rule they should follow in their teaching. The authority of the Church, then, is not unlimited, but is subject to the word of the Lord and, as it were, included in it.

IV,8,5 Now although the principle has been in force in the church from the beginning, and must still be today, that the servants of God should teach nothing that they have not learned from Himself, yet they have practiced such learning in different ways according to the diversity of the times. But the way it is done today is very different from that of former times. First of all, the word of Christ is true that no one has seen the Father except the Son and the one to whom the Son has revealed Him (Mt 11:27). But if this is true, then all those who wanted to attain the knowledge of God must undoubtedly always have been guided by that eternal wisdom. For how else could they have grasped or spoken the secrets of God inwardly but under the instruction of Him to whom alone the secrets of the Father are open? Thus, from time immemorial, holy men have known God in no other way than by looking at him in the Son as in a mirror. When I say this, I understand it as follows: God has never revealed himself to men in any other way than through the Son, that is, through his one wisdom, his one light and his one truth. From this fountain source Adam, Noah, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and others drew everything they possessed in terms of heavenly teaching. From the same source, all the prophets have also drawn what heavenly words of revelation they have given. However, this wisdom has not always been revealed in one and the same way. With the archfathers it used secret revelations, at the same time however for their confirmation signs of such kind applied that it could be subject for those men absolutely no more doubt that it was God, who spoke there. What the archfathers had received, they then handed down from hand to hand to their descendants; for God had entrusted it to them with the determination that they should reproduce it in this way. But the sons and grandsons knew by God’s inward inspiration (Deo intus dictante) that what they heard was from heaven and not from earth.

IV,8,6 But when it pleased God to establish a more clearly visible form of the church, he willed that his word should be written down and sealed, so that the priests might take from it what they should present to the people, and so that every teaching that should be presented might be tested according to this guide. Thus, when the priests are instructed after the public promulgation of the law that they should teach "out of the mouth" of the Lord (Mal 2:7), the meaning is this: they were not to teach anything that was outside the type of instruction that God had decreed in the law or that was foreign to it. Fully, they were not allowed to add to or do anything from it (Deut 4:2; 13:1). Then followed the prophets. Through them, God revealed new words to be added to the Law, but they were not so new that they were not derived from the Law and directed to it. As far as doctrine is concerned, the prophets were merely interpreters of the law, and they added nothing to it except prophecies about things to come. With the exception of these prophecies, they brought nothing forward but the pure interpretation of the law. But it was the Lord’s pleasure that the teaching should come to light more clearly and widely, so that the weak consciences might be all the better satisfied, and therefore he commanded that the prophecies also be put down in writing and be considered part of his word. At the same time the history books came, which are also works of prophets, but compiled under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. I count the Psalms to the prophets, because what we ascribe to them is also common to them. This whole scriptural structure, formed by the Law, the Prophets, the Psalms and the History, was for the people of the Old Covenant the word of God, according to which the priests and teachers were to direct their instruction until the coming of Christ, and they were not allowed to deviate from it, "neither to the right nor to the left" (Deut 5:29); because their whole office was enclosed by the limitation that they should speak out of God’s mouth to the people. This is clear from the important passage in Malachi, where he instructs them to remember the law and to be careful about it - until the preaching of the gospel (Mal 3,22 = 4,4)! Because in this way he keeps them from all strange teachings and does not allow them to deviate the slightest bit from the way that Moses had faithfully shown them. And this is also the reason why David proclaims the glory of the law so splendidly and lists so many praises of it: the Jews should desire nothing outside of the law, because all perfection lay in it!

IV,8,7 ABut when at last God’s wisdom was revealed in the flesh, it set forth to us with an open mouth all that can and should be understood by the human mind concerning the heavenly Father. Therefore, since Christ, the Sun of Righteousness, has risen brilliantly, we now have the full radiance of divine truth, just as clarity tends to be at noon, even if the light was somewhat dimmed before. For the apostle truly did not want to proclaim anything ordinary when he wrote: "After God had spoken in time past sometimes and variously to the fathers by the prophets, in these last days he has begun to speak to us by his beloved Son …" (Hebr 1:1 s.; end inaccurate). Here he gives to understand, yes, he declares openly, that from now on God will no longer, as before, speak soon through one, soon again through the other, also no longer add one prophecy to the other, one revelation to the other, but rather has completed in the Son every instruction in such a way that this has to be considered the last and eternal testimony of him. For this reason, the entire time of the New Covenant, from the time Christ appeared to us with the preaching of His Gospel until the day of judgment, is referred to with such expressions as "the last hour" (1Jn 2:18), "the last times" (1Tim 4:1; 1Pe 1:20) or "the last days" (Ac 2:17; 2Tim 3:1; 2Pe 3:3). This is done so that we may be content with the perfection of Christ’s teaching and learn not to invent a new one beyond it, nor to accept a new one that others may have invented. Therefore, the Father has not without cause ordained for us the Son with a unique privilege as teacher, commanding that he, not any of men, should be heard. It is true that there are only a few words with which he has put the teaching mastery of the Son on our hearts, saying, "Him you shall hear" (Mt 17:5). But in these few words there is more weight and power than is commonly believed; for it is as if he led us away from all the teachings of men, placed us before this One alone, and commanded us to desire from him alone all the teaching of salvation, to cling to him alone, to abide in him alone, in short - as the words read - to listen to his voice alone! And truly, what else should we expect and desire from a man, when the word of life has made itself known to us in a familiar and present way? Yes, the mouth of all men must be closed, after he has spoken, in whom, according to the will of the heavenly Father, "are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge" (Col 2,3), and has spoken in such a way as befits the wisdom of God, which does not err in any part, and the Messiah, from whom one hoped for the revelation of all things (John 4,25), that is, in such a way that he left nothing more to be said to others after himself.

IV,8,8 Therefore it should be considered as an unshakable principle: for God’s word, which is to be given place in the church, nothing else may be held than what is first written in law and prophets and then in the apostolic writings, and there is also no other way to teach lawfully in the church than according to the regulation and guideline of this word. From this we also conclude that nothing else was granted to the apostles than what the prophets had possessed before: namely, they were to interpret the traditional Scriptures and prove that what was taught therein had found its fulfillment in Christ; however, they were to do this from the Lord alone, that is, by Christ’s Spirit giving them instruction and, as it were, putting the words into their mouths. For this was the law by which Christ Himself determined their mission, commanding them to go and teach - not what they had accidentally devised for themselves, but what He had instructed them to do (Mt 28:19f.). Nor could anything have been spoken more clearly than what He says in another place: "You shall not be called Rabbi; for one is your Master, Christ" (Mt 23,8). So that this would stick even deeper in their hearts, he repeated it twice more in the same place (Mt 23,9f.). And because in their ignorance they were not able to grasp what they had heard and learned from the mouth of the master, he promised them the "spirit of truth" by which they should be led to the true understanding of all things (John 14,26; 16,13). For one must pay thorough attention to the limitation that lies in the fact that Christ assigned to the Holy Spirit the task of instilling in the disciples what he had previously taught them with his mouth.

IV,8,9 Therefore Peter, who was well instructed by his Master as to the extent of his authority, leaves nothing for himself or others but to teach the doctrine given to them by God. "If anyone speaks," he says, "he speaks it as the word of God" (1 Pet. 4:11) - that is, not with doubts, as people with a guilty conscience are wont to hesitate, but rather with high confidence, as befits a servant of God who has been given firm orders. But what does this mean other than to keep away all inventions of the human mind, from whatever head they may have finally sprung, so that God’s pure Word may be taught and learned in the church of the faithful? What else does it mean than to remove the opinions or rather the inventions of all men, whatever their rank, so that God’s counsels alone remain in force? These are those spiritual "weapons" that are "mighty in the sight of God" to "destroy strongholds," those weapons with which God’s faithful servants "destroy … the attempts and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God," and with which they "bring all reason into captivity unto the obedience of Christ" (2Cor 10:4f.). Behold, this is that mighty power with which the shepherds of the church, whatever name they may bear, must be equipped, namely, that on the basis of the word of God they may confidently dare all things, compel all power and glory, all wisdom and majesty of this world to yield to his majesty, and render obedience, that further, relying on his power, they may command all men, to command all men, from the highest to the least, to build Christ’s house and overthrow Satan’s, to feed the sheep and overpower the wolves, to instruct and admonish the learned, but to punish, rebuke and subdue the unruly and stiff-necked, and thus to bind and loose them, and finally also to send forth weather-beams and thunderbolts when necessary, but all with the word of God! However, as I said before, there is the difference between the apostles and their successors, that those were sure and certified scribes (amanuenses) of the Holy Spirit and their writings therefore have to be considered as revelatory words of God, whereas these have no other task than to teach what has been handed down and sealed in the Holy Scriptures. So we find that the faithful servants (of the Church) are no longer at liberty to forge a new creed, but must simply stick to the teaching to which God has subjected all without exception. When I say this, I do not want to show only what is permitted to individual people, but also what is permitted to the entire Church. As far as individual men are concerned, Paul was certainly ordained by the Lord to be an apostle to the Corinthians, and yet he declares that he is not lord over their faith (2Cor 1:24). Who would now dare to arrogate to himself a lordly right that was not Paul’s according to his testimony? If Paul had acknowledged that arbitrary freedom in teaching, according to which a shepherd (pastor) could demand by right that firm faith be attributed to him in whatever he presented, he certainly would not have given the same Corinthians the order that if two or three prophets spoke, the others should judge (their words), and that if something was revealed to one who sat there, the first one had to be silent (1Cor 14:29). For to no one has he granted such sparing, that he would not have subjected his authority to the judgment of the word of God! Yes, someone might say, but the whole church is different. I answer that Paul also counters this doubt in another place by saying that faith comes from hearing, but hearing comes from the word of God (Rom 10:17). For if faith hangs on the word of God alone, if it looks to it alone and rests on it, what room is there for the word of the whole world? Here no one can doubt who has rightly recognized what faith is, for it must be based on such a firm foundation that it can withstand Satan and all the wiles of hell and the whole world unconquerably and undauntedly. But we will find this solid ground solely in God’s Word. In addition, there is a general reason that must be considered here: when God takes away man’s ability to present a new dogma, it is because He alone is our master in spiritual instruction, just as He alone is the truthful one (Rom 3:4) who cannot lie or deceive. This cause has its validity no less for the whole church than for each individual among the believers.

IV,8,10 But if we compare the authority of the church now described with that of which the spiritual tyrants, who called themselves "bishops" and "rulers in religion," have boasted among the people of God for some centuries, then these two will by no means agree better with each other than Christ and Belial. I have no intention here of disputing how and in what outrageous manner they exercised their tyranny; no, I only want to give their doctrine, which they defend first in their writings, but then also nowadays with fire and sword. They first take it for granted that a general council is the true representation (i.e., representation) of the Church. Once they have accepted this principle, they then at the same time state, as beyond all doubt, that such councils are directly governed by the Holy Spirit and therefore cannot err. But since they themselves govern the councils, and even put them in their power, they actually lay claim to that which, according to their assertion, belongs to the councils. So they want our faith to stand and fall according to their discretion, so that therefore everything they have established in one direction or another shall be firmly and finally decided for our hearts: so if they have approved something, the same shall also be approved by us without any hesitation, and if they have condemned something, it shall also be considered as condemned for us. Meanwhile, they forge creeds according to their arbitrariness and in contempt of the word of God, and then raise the demand that they should be believed on the basis of the above cause. For, they claim, only he is a Christian who accepts with certainty all their propositions of faith, the affirming as well as the denying ones, and if not with "developed", then at least with "undeveloped" faith - for it is up to the church to make new articles of faith.

IV,8,11 Let us now first hear with what grounds of proof they affirm that such authority is given to the Church; then let us see how much they can be helped by what they adduce concerning the Church. The Church, they say, possesses glorious promises that she will never be forsaken by Christ her Bridegroom, but will be guided by His Spirit "into all truth" (cf. John 16:13). But now, of the promises which they are wont to invoke, many are given as much to each individual believer as to the whole Church. For when the Lord said, "Behold, I am with you … until the end of the world" (Mt 28,20), or likewise: "I will ask the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter …, the Spirit of truth" (John 14,16f.), he addressed these words to the twelve apostles, but he gave this promise not only to the twelve, but also to each one of them in particular, yes, in the same way also to other disciples, whom he had already accepted or who were to be added later. If, then, the Romans interpret such promises, which are so full of glorious consolation, as if they were given to no one among Christian men (by themselves), but to the whole church in general, what do they do but deprive all Christians of the confidence which should have come from these promises for their encouragement? Now I do not deny here that the whole community of believers, which is after all endowed with a manifold diversity of gifts, has received as a gift a much richer and more complete treasure of heavenly wisdom than each individual alone; nor am I of opinion that that promise is given to all believers together in the sense that they are all equally endowed with that spirit of understanding and instruction; no, I say this only because the adversaries of Christ must not be allowed to pervert the Scriptures in defense of an evil cause in a sense foreign to it. But I leave this aside, and simply confess, as indeed it is, that the Lord is ever present to his own, and governs them with his Spirit. Now this, I further confess, is not a spirit of error, ignorance, falsehood, or darkness, but a spirit of certain revelation, a spirit of wisdom, truth, and light, from whom believers learn without deceit the things that are given them (1Cor 2:12), that is, "which is the hope of their calling, and which is the riches of his glorious inheritance with his saints" (Eph 1:18). But since believers receive in this flesh only the "firstfruits" and a certain taste of this Spirit - even those who are endowed before others with more excellent gifts of grace - there is nothing better left for them than to keep themselves, well aware of their weakness, carefully within the limits of the Word of God, so that, if they stray too far according to their own mind, they may not soon go astray from the right path, provided they are still unaided by that Spirit by whose instruction alone truth and falsehood are distinguished. For all confess with Paul that they have not yet reached the final goal (Phil 3,12). And therefore they strive more for daily progress than to boast of perfection!

IV,8,12 Our opponents, however, will raise the objection that what is granted piecemeal to each individual among the saints belongs entirely and completely to the church itself. Although this has some semblance of truth, I maintain that it is not true. It is true that God has distributed the gifts of his Spirit to each individual member "according to measure" (Eph 4:7) in such a way that, insofar as the gifts themselves are given for the general benefit, the whole body is deprived of nothing necessary. But the riches of the church are always of such a kind that much is still lacking for that highest perfection which our adversaries praise. And yet the church is not lacking in any way, so that it does not always have as much as is necessary, for the Lord knows what its needs are. But in order to keep her in humility and pious modesty, he does not give her more than is useful to her, as he knows. I know what kind of objection they usually make here: they say that the church is "cleansed by the bath of water in the word" of life, so that it "does not have a spot or a wrinkle" (Eph 5:26f.), and that is why it is called "a pillar and a foundation of the truth" in another place (1Tim 3:15). But in the former place it is set forth more what Christ works day by day in His church than what He has already accomplished. For if he sanctifies, purifies, smoothes, and cleanses all his own from day to day of their stains, it is at any rate certain that they are still covered with all kinds of spots and wrinkles, and that many things are still lacking in their sanctification. But how foolish and implausible it is then to consider the church already holy and undefiled through and through and in every respect, when all its members are still stained and to some extent unclean! It is true, then, that the Church is sanctified by Christ; but here only the beginning of this sanctification appears, its end, on the contrary, and its perfect fulfillment will be present when Christ, the Holy One of the saints, will truly and perfectly fill her with His holiness. It is also true that their stains and wrinkles are blotted out, but yet in such a way that they will still be blotted out day by day until Christ, by His coming, completely takes away all that is left. For if we do not accept this, we must necessarily maintain with the Pelagians that the righteousness of believers is already perfect in this life, or we must come to believe with the Cathars and Donatists that we cannot endure any weakness in the church. The other passage (1Tim 3:15), as we have seen elsewhere (cf. ch. 2, section 1), has a completely different meaning than they want to give it. Paul had previously instructed Timothy and taught him the proper office of a bishop, and now (1Tim 3:14f.) he says that he did this for the purpose that Timothy now knew how he should "walk" in the church. And so that Timothy will now work for it with all the greater reverence and zeal, Paul adds that the church itself is "a pillar and foundation of the truth." Now what are these words supposed to mean but that in the church the truth of God is preserved, namely through the ministry of preaching? Thus he also teaches elsewhere that Christ gave apostles, shepherds and teachers, so that we should no longer be driven about by any "wind of doctrine" or be fooled by men, but rather, enlightened by the true knowledge of the Son of God, should all hasten together to the unity of the faith (Eph 4:1-11). That the truth is not extinguished in the world, but is preserved intact, is due to the fact that it has as its faithful guardian the church, through whose work and service it is sustained. But if this guardianship is situated in the prophetic and apostolic office, then it follows that it depends entirely upon the word of the Lord being faithfully preserved and retaining its purity.

IV,8,13 Now, in order that the readers may better understand the pivotal point around which this question primarily revolves, I will set forth in a few words what our adversaries demand and in what we oppose them. When they assert that the Church cannot err, this amounts to the following, and they interpret it as follows: since the Church is guided by the Spirit of God, she can certainly go her way without the Word; wherever she may go, she can think or speak nothing but the truth; if, therefore, she establishes anything outside the Word of God or beyond it, it is to be regarded as nothing but an infallible revelatory saying of God. Now if we grant them that first proposition, namely, that the church cannot err in such things as are necessary to salvation, our opinion is that this is true because she bids farewell to all her own wisdom and allows herself to be instructed by the Holy Spirit through the word of God. The difference, then, is this: our opponents place the authority of the Church outside the Word of God, whereas we want it to be bound to the Word, and we do not tolerate its being separated from it. What should be surprising about it, if the bride and disciple of Christ is subordinated to her bridegroom and master, in order to constantly and diligently hang on his mouth? For in a well-established house the wife obeys the commandment of her husband, and in a well-ordered school the rule is that in it alone the instruction of the master is heard. Therefore, the church is not to be wise out of itself, not to think anything out of itself, but it is to set a limit to its wisdom where he has put an end to his speaking. In this way she will also meet all the little findings of her own reason with mistrust, but in the things in which she relies on God’s word, she will not let any lack of trust or any hesitation make her waver, but she will rely on it with great certainty and firm constancy. Thus she will also trust in the greatness of the promises she possesses, and she will find in them cause to keep her faith glorious, so that she will not doubt in the least that the Holy Spirit, the best guide on the right path, will always be at her side. But she will at the same time keep in mind what benefits God wants us to receive from His Spirit. "The Spirit," says the Lord, "whom I will send from the Father, he shall guide you into all truth" (John 16:7, 13; beginning imprecise). But how will he do this? "For he will remind you," he says, "of all that I have said to you" (John 14:26). He thus makes it known to us that we should expect nothing more from his Spirit than that he should enlighten our minds so that we may grasp the truth of his teaching. It is therefore very well said when Chrysostom says: "Many boast of the Holy Spirit, but those who speak their own things refer to him falsely. Just as Christ, according to his testimony, did not speak out of himself, because he spoke precisely out of the law and the prophets, so we are not to believe when someone wants to impose something on us outside the gospel by invoking the Spirit. For as Christ is the fulfillment of the law and the prophets, so the Spirit is the fulfillment of the gospel" (Pseudo-Chrysostom, Homily on the Holy Spirit,10; cf. John 12:49 s.; 14:10; Rom 10:4). So far Chrysostom. Now we can easily see how wrongly our opponents act, who boast of the Holy Spirit only for the purpose of praising such doctrines under his name, which are foreign to the word of God and stand apart from it, while the Holy Spirit himself wants to be an inseparable bond with the word of God and Christ testifies to this about him when he promises him to his church. Yes, this is how it is. The moderate sobriety that the Lord once prescribed for his church, he also wants to be preserved from time to time. But he has forbidden it to add to his word or to take anything away from it. This is God’s and the Holy Spirit’s inviolable decree - and our opponents try to overturn it by pretending that the church is governed by the Holy Spirit without the Word.

IV,8,14 Here they again raise a grumbling objection: the church had to add some things to the writings of the apostles or the apostles themselves were forced to complete orally what they had handed down (in written form) less clearly; for Christ had said to them: "I have yet many things to say unto you; but ye cannot bear them now" (Jn. 16,12). 16,12); but these are the doctrines that have come to be accepted without the Holy Scriptures, only through use and habituation. But what an impertinence this is! I admit that when the disciples heard this word, they were still ignorant and almost unlearned. But were they still so clumsy at the time when they wrote down their teachings that they had to complete orally what they had left out of ignorance in their writings? But if they were already guided by the spirit of truth when they issued their writings, what was there in the way of their not having a perfect knowledge of the doctrine of the gospel compiled in those writings and then left sealed? But well, let us grant them what they desire - let them show only those things which had to be revealed without being written down! If they now dare to undertake this, then I will meet them with the words of Augustine, who says: "Where the Lord has been silent - who of us will say: this or that is it? Or if he dares to say that - from where will he prove it?" (Homilies on the Gospel of John 96:2). But what am I arguing here about a superfluous thing? For surely even a child knows that in the apostolic writings, which those people want to be mutilated and halved, so to speak, we are confronted with the fruit of that revelation which the Lord promised His disciples at that time (John 16:12).

IV,8,15 Why, they say - has not Christ withdrawn everything that the church teaches and decides from any discussion by giving the instruction that one who dared to contradict (her) should be considered a "Gentile and publican" (Mt 18,17)? First of all: in this passage there is no mention of doctrine, but only the (ecclesiastical) exercise of discipline receives the safeguard of its authority for the purpose of punishing offenses, and this is done so that those who have been admonished or rebuked may not resist its judgment. But let us leave this aside - it is quite astonishing that these chatterers have so little shame that they are not afraid to use even this passage for their exaggeration. After all, what can they prove with it but that one should not despise the unanimous conviction of the church, the church which, after all, is united solely on the truth of the Word of God? One must hear the church, they say. Who denies that? For the church makes no pronouncement but from the Word of the Lord alone! If our adversaries ask for anything more, they must know that these words of Christ do not help them. Nor must I seem contentious, because I insist with such vehemence that the church is not permitted to establish any new doctrine, that is, to teach and deliver as a word of revelation more than what the Lord has revealed in his Word. For men of understanding well see what a great danger arises when once so much right has been conceded to men. They see also what a great window is opened to the ridicule and gibes of the ungodly, when we assert that what men have thought to be right among Christians is to be taken for a word of revelation. Moreover, it must be noted that Christ, speaking according to the custom of His time, (in the above passage, Mt 18:17) attaches this name ("church" or "congregation") to the (then, local) synod, so that His disciples would learn to honor the sacred meetings of the church thereafter. Thus (if the adversaries were correct in their relation of this passage to doctrine) it would come to pass that every city and village would have equal freedom to establish doctrinal statutes!

IV,8,16 The examples that our opponents use do not help them. Thus they say that infant baptism did not arise so much from an open instruction of Scripture as from a decision of the church. But it would be a most miserable refuge if we were compelled to resort to the mere authority of the Church in defense of infant baptism; but it will become sufficiently clear elsewhere that it is far otherwise (cf. chap. 16). The same is true of their objection that what was said in the Synod of Nicaea, namely, that the Son is of the same nature as the Father, is nowhere found in Scripture. In this way, they are making a serious insult against the Fathers, as if they had condemned Arius without reason, because he did not want to swear by their words, while he had confessed the whole doctrine decided in the prophetic and apostolic writings. I admit that this expression ("of the same nature as the Father") is not found in Scripture. But yet it is so often spoken in Scripture that there is one God, and again Christ is so often called true and eternal God, one with the Father; now when the Fathers of Nicaea declare Christ to be of one essence with the Father, what do they do but simply interpret the original sense of Scripture? And to this Theodoret reports that Constantine delivered the following preface in their assembly: "In discussions of divine things one has the teaching of the Holy Spirit as a binding precept; the evangelical and apostolic books together with the words of revelation of the prophets show us perfectly clearly the sense of the Godhead. Therefore, let us put away discord and take from the words of the Spirit the clarification of our questions" (Theodoret Church History I,7). There was no one then to oppose these holy exhortations. No one made the objection that the church could inflict something out of its own, that the Holy Spirit had not revealed everything to the apostles, or at least had not allowed everything to come to their followers, or anything else like that. If what our opponents want is true, then, first of all, Constantine acted wrongly in depriving the Church of its power; secondly, since none of the bishops rose up at that time to defend the power of the Church against it, this silence was a sign of disloyalty, and so the bishops were traitors to ecclesiastical law! But since Theodoret reports that they gladly accepted what the emperor said, it is certain that this new dogma was completely unknown at that time.

Chapter Nine


About the Councils and their Authority

IV,9,1 Even if I now concede everything to the Romans concerning the church, they would not have achieved much for their purpose even with that. For everything that is said about the church, they immediately transfer to the councils, which, according to their opinion, represent (repraesentare) the churches. Yes, that they fight so persistently about the authority of the church, they do this out of no other intention than to give everything and anything they have gained in the process to the Roman pope and his swarm of satellites for their own. But before I begin to discuss this question, I must briefly state two things by way of introduction. (1) If I am going to be quite harsh here, it is not because I hold the old councils in lower esteem than they deserve. For I venerate them from the bottom of my heart, and I wish that they receive from all men the honor due to them. But there is a measure here, namely this, that nothing may be taken from Christ. Christ’s right, however, is that in all councils he has the leadership and in such dignity he has no man for a comrade. But he has, I maintain, the leadership only when he rules the whole assembly with his word and his spirit. (2) And then, that I grant the councils less rights than our adversaries demand, I do not do this for the reason that I am afraid of the councils, as if they granted support to the cause of our adversaries, but were opposed to ours. For just as we are more than sufficiently equipped with the word of the Lord for the full proof of our doctrine and for the overthrow of the whole papacy, so that it is not particularly important to seek anything beyond it, so nevertheless, if the cause requires it, the old councils largely give us material at hand which is sufficient for both.

IV,9,2 Now let us talk about the matter itself. If we want to know from Scripture what authority the councils possess, there is no more glorious promise than that which we find in the word of Christ: "Where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them" (Mt 18:20). Admittedly, this refers as much to any particular (i.e., local) assembly as to a general council. But the knot of the question does not lie in this, but rather in the added condition, according to which Christ will be in the midst of the council only when it is gathered in His name. Therefore, even if our adversaries refer a thousand times to their episcopal councils, they will make little headway, and they will only manage to make us believe what they claim, namely that these councils are governed by the Holy Spirit, when they have proved to us that they are also assembled in Christ’s name. For it can be just as well that godless and wicked bishops gather together against Christ as that good and righteous ones gather in his name. Many decisions that have come out of such councils serve as clear proof of this. But we will see this later. Now I give the answer in only one word, that Christ promises something only to those who gather in his name. So let us determine what this means. I deny that those who gather in Christ’s name reject God’s commandment in which he forbids adding anything to his word or doing anything of it (Deut 4:2; Acts 22:18f.), who then establish one thing or another according to their own discretion, who are not satisfied with the revelatory words of Scripture, that is, with the one guide of perfect wisdom, and invent something new out of their own head. Since Christ did not promise to be present at all possible councils, but rather added a special mark to distinguish the true and legitimate councils from the others, it behooves us in any case not to neglect this distinction. The covenant that God made with the Levitical priests in the past was that they should give their instruction out of His mouth (Mal 2:7). This is what He always required of the prophets, and we see that this law was also imposed on the apostles. Those who violate this covenant, God does not dignify with the honor of the priesthood nor with any authority. Let the adversaries untie this knot for me, if they want to subjugate my faith to human opinions that stand outside the Word of God!

IV,9,3 If our opponents are of the opinion that the truth could not remain in the church if it did not have its firm hold among the shepherds, and the church itself could not exist if it did not come to light in general councils, then this has by far not always been true, if otherwise the prophets have left us truthful testimonies about their times. At the time of Isaiah there was still a church in Jerusalem, which God had not yet abandoned. Nevertheless, he speaks about the shepherds as follows: "All their watchmen are blind, they all know nothing; dumb dogs they are that cannot bark, are lazy, love to lie down and sleep … They, the shepherds, know nor understand anything; each one looks to his own way …" (Isa 56:10 s.; not quite Luther text). In the same way Hosea says: "The watchman of Israel with God, he is the rope of a fowler and an abomination in the house of God" (Hos 9:8; not Luther text). Here the prophet ironically compares the "watchmen" with God, thereby teaching that their pretense of being priests is vain. Even into the time of Jeremiah the church lasted. Let us hear what he says of the shepherds: "Both prophets and priests all deal in lies" (Jer 6:13). Likewise, "The prophets prophesy lies in my name; I did not send them or command them" (Jer 14:14; not quite Luther text). And so that we do not lose ourselves too much in the enumeration of his words, read nevertheless what he wrote in the whole twenty-third and fortieth chapter. At the same time Ezekiel, from the other side, by no means went off more mildly against the same people. "The prophets," he says, "that are in it, have roared, … as a roaring lion when it ravages …. Their priests transgress my law sacrilegiously and desecrate my sanctuary; they keep no distinction among the holy and the unholy …" (Eze 22:25f.). To this is added the further, which he lets follow in the same sense. Similar complaints we meet again and again with the prophets, so that there is nothing more frequent.

IV,9,4 But - someone might say - this may have been true among the Jews, but our time is free from such a great evil. Yes, God would that it were so! But the Holy Spirit has announced that it shall be otherwise. For the words of Peter are clear; "as there were false prophets among the ancient people," he says, "so shall there be false teachers among you, bringing in corrupt sects besides" (2Pet 2:1). Do you see how, according to his preaching, the danger is not from ordinary people, but from those who will boast of the title of teachers and shepherds? Furthermore, do you see how often Christ and His apostles predicted that the highest dangers threatened the Church on the part of her shepherds (Mt 24:11, 24)? Yes, Paul openly shows that the Antichrist will have his seat nowhere else but in the temple of God (2Thess 2:4)! Thereby he shows that the horrible misery of which he speaks in this passage will not come from anywhere else than from those who will have their seat as shepherds in the church. And in another place he proves that the beginning of this great evil is already near (in his time). For in his address to the bishops of Ephesus he says: "This I know, that after my departure there shall come among you abominable wolves, which shall not spare the flock. Even from among yourselves will arise men who will speak perverse doctrines to draw the disciples to themselves" (Acts 20:29f.). How much corruption could the long series of years bring among the shepherds, if they could already degenerate in such a small period of time! And not to fill many pages with enumerations - we are reminded by examples from almost all centuries that the truth is not always nourished in the bosom of the shepherds and that the intact existence of the church does not depend on the state of the shepherds either. They should be the defenders and guardians of the ecclesiastical peace and salvation, which they are destined to preserve, but to do what one should do and to do what one should not do are two different things!

IV,9,5 However, let no one understand these words of ours as if I wanted to undermine the authority of the pastors without exception, without consideration and without any distinction. I only want to point out that a distinction must be made between them, so that we do not immediately consider those who are called shepherds as such! When the pope and the whole flock of bishops shake off God’s word and overturn and pervert everything at their will, they act for no other reason than because they are called shepherds; meanwhile, however, they still try to convince us that they cannot lose the light of truth, that the Spirit of God dwells among them unceasingly, and that the Church endures in them and dies with them! As if the Lord had no more courts to proceed against the world today with the same kind of punishment with which He once avenged the ingratitude of the ancient people, namely to strike the shepherds with blindness and dumbness (Zech 11:17)! Nor do these people, in their terrible folly, understand that they are singing the same little song that was once sung by those who made war with the word of God. For when Jeremiah’s enemies took arms against the truth, they did so with the words, "Come, let us counsel against Jeremiah; for the law cannot fail the priest, nor counsel the wise man, nor the word the prophet" (Jer 18:18; not Luther text).

IV,9,6 From here an answer can easily be given to the other point concerning the general councils. That the Jews under the prophets had a true church cannot be denied. But what kind of church would have appeared if a general council had been assembled from the priests at that time? We hear what God announces not to one or two of them, but to the whole state. Thus: "The priests will be dismayed and the prophets terrified" (Jer 4:9). Or likewise, "There shall be no more law with the priests, nor counsel with the ancients" (Eze 7:26). Or finally: "Therefore your face shall become night and your divination darkness. The sun shall go down upon the prophets, and the day shall be dark upon them" (Micah 3:6). Now, what kind of spirit would have been in charge of their assembly if they had all gathered in one place at that time? We have an excellent example of this in that council that Ahab (1Ki 22) called together. There were four hundred prophets present. But because they had come together with no other purpose than to flatter the godless king, Satan was sent by the Lord to put a spirit of falsehood in all their mouths (1Ki 22:22). Then the truth was condemned with the voices of all, and Micah was condemned as a heretic, beaten and thrown into prison. The same happened to Jeremiah, as well as to other prophets..

IV,9,7 But one example more memorable than the others may be enough instead of all the others. What should be left to be desired in the council that the chief priests and Pharisees called together in Jerusalem against Christ (John 11:47) - at least as far as the outward appearance is concerned? For if there had been no church in Jerusalem at that time, Christ would never, ever have taken part in the sacrifices and other ceremonies. There was a solemn convocation, the high priest was in charge, the entire priesthood was seated - and yet Christ was condemned there and his teaching was taken out of the way! This fact is proof that the Church was by no means included in this Council. But, someone might object, there is no danger that something like that will happen to us! Who has proved this to us? After all, if one is too careless in such an important matter, one is guilty of negligence. Yes, the Holy Spirit prophesies through the mouth of Paul in explicit words that an apostasy will come (2Thess 2:3), and such an apostasy cannot come unless the shepherds forsake God first. If this is the case, why are we blind to our own destruction with will? Under no circumstances, then, is it to be admitted that the church rests on the assembly of shepherds; for the Lord has nowhere promised that these will always be good, but has announced that they will at times be evil. But where he calls our attention to a danger, he does it to make us more cautious.

IV,9,8 Why then, it will be said, do the councils have no authority in their decisions? Of course they do! For I am not here concerned that all councils should be condemned, all their negotiating results overturned and, as they say, invalidated with the stroke of a pen. But, they will say, you set very narrow limits to them all, so that now everyone is free to accept or reject what the councils have decided. Not at all! But whenever the decision of any council is brought up, I would like you first to consider thoroughly at what time it was held, for what reason and with what intention it was held, and what kind of people were present. Then, I would like the subject matter to be examined according to the standard of Scripture, and this should be done in such a way that the decision of the Council has its weight and is considered as a provisional judgment (plaeiudicium), but does not prevent the examination of which I spoke. If only everyone would follow the procedure that Augustine outlines in the third book (of his writing) against Maximinus! He wants to silence this heretic, who argues about the decisions of the synods, and therefore he says: "Neither may I hold the synod of Nicaea against you, nor may you hold the synod of Ariminum (359) against me, in order to make a prejudice. I am not bound by the authority of the latter, you not by that of the former. No, it should be a matter against a matter, a matter against a matter, a reason against a reason, and this on the basis of the statements of Scripture, which are endowed with authority, and which therefore do not belong to the individual alone, but are common to both of us" (Against Maximinus, Book II,14,3). If it were done in this way, it would come about that the councils would receive the majesty due to them, but Scripture would in the meantime stand in a higher place and have precedence, so that there would be nothing that would not be subjected to its guidance. Thus we gladly accept the ancient synods, such as those at Nicaea, at Constantinople, the first synod at Ephesus, the synod of Chalcedon, and the like, which were held for the refutation of errors; we venerate them as sacred so far as the doctrines of faith are concerned; for they contain nothing but a pure and original interpretation of Scripture, which the holy fathers applied in spiritual wisdom to overcome the enemies of religion who had then risen up. In some later synods, too, we see true zeal of piety shining forth, along with unmistakable signs of understanding, learning, and wisdom. But as things generally tend to get worse and fall into decay, so it can be seen from the later councils how much the Church has generally departed from the purity of that golden age. I have no doubt that even in these more corrupt times the councils had their better bishops. But with these councils has happened precisely that of which in the Roman senate resolutions the senators themselves complain that it is not done right. For since the votes were counted and not weighed, the better part was necessarily more often outvoted by the greater. In any case, these councils have put forward many ungodly opinions. It is not necessary to collect examples here either, for that would lead much too far, and others have also done it so thoroughly that not much more can be added.

IV,9,9 What more shall I enumerate how councils have been at odds with councils? There is also no reason for anyone to grumble that one or the other of these councils, which are in conflict with each other, is not legitimate. For from where are we to gain an opinion about this? But from this, if I am not mistaken, that we come to the judgment on the basis of Scripture that the decisions of the council in question are not lawful. For that is the only sure law for such a distinction. It is now about nine hundred years ago that the Synod of Constantinople (754), convened under the Emperor Leo, decided that the images set up in the church buildings should be overturned and broken. Shortly after, the Council of Nicaea (787), convened by Irene in defiance of that first Council, decided that the images should be restored. Now which of the two shall we recognize as legitimate? In general, the latter has prevailed, which gave a place to the images in the church buildings. Augustine, on the other hand, declares that this cannot be done without the most immediate danger of idolatry! And Epiphanius, who lived in still earlier times, speaks still more sharply: for he teaches that it is sacrilegious and an abomination that images should be looked at in the church by Christians. If these men who spoke in this way were alive today, would they recognize the Council? If the historians report the truth and if one believes the recorded results of the negotiations, then not only the images themselves but also their veneration were recognized at this synod. But it is obvious that such a decision comes from Satan! But what shall we say to the fact that these men, by their perversion and tearing up of the whole Scripture, openly reveal that they are making fun of it? But this very thing I have made more than sufficiently clear above (cf. Book I, chap. 11). Be that as it may, we will only be able to distinguish between the contradictory and differently teaching synods, of which there have been many, if we check them all with that scale of men and angels of which I have spoken, namely with the word of the Lord. Thus we accept the Synod of Chalcedon and reject the second Synod of Ephesus, because in that one the impiety of Eutyche was confirmed, which that other one (the Synod of Chalcedon) condemned. The judgment on this matter was made by the holy men exclusively on the basis of the Scriptures, and we follow them in our judgment in such a way that God’s word, which shone before them, now also shines before us. Now let the Romans go and claim, according to their custom, that the Holy Spirit is attached and bound to their councils!

IV,9,10 However, even in the case of those old, purer councils, many things remain to be rightly criticized, either because the otherwise learned and understanding men who were present at that time did not foresee many other things as a result of their many-sided occupation with current affairs, or because they were occupied with more difficult matters, because, in their preoccupation with graver and more serious matters, they left aside some matters of subordinate importance, or simply because, as men, they could be deceived by ignorance, or even because, out of all too great inner movement, they now and then allowed themselves to be carried away into rash action. The latter seems to be the most serious of all, and there is an excellent example of it at the Synod of Nicaea (325), whose dignity, as it deserved, was unanimously recognized with the highest reverence. There the most important article of our faith was in danger, there Arius, the enemy, was present, armed for battle, and one had to become hand in hand with him; but in such a situation it depended in the highest degree on the unity of those who had come in readiness to fight the error of Arius; but though it stood thus, yet these carelessly forgot these great dangers, nay, they virtually abandoned all seriousness, all modesty, and all humanity, they put out of their minds the struggle which they had immediately to wage-just as if they had come here with the firm intention of pleasing Arius! They put it out of their minds and began to quarrel over internal disputes and to turn the pen they should have used against Arius against themselves; Shameful accusations were heard, letters of accusation flew, and the quarrels would probably have found no end before these men had struck each other down by wounds, if the Emperor Constantine had not put himself in the way, declaring that the investigation of their way of life was a matter beyond his competence, and chastising such unruliness more with words of praise than with censure. In how many respects, in all probability, did the other councils that followed slip! This does not need a long proof, because if someone reads through the records, he will notice many weaknesses - not to use a worse word!

IV,9,11 Even the Roman bishop Leo (I) has no hesitation in accusing the Synod of Chalcedon of honor and unadvised levity, although he admits that it was orthodox in the tenets of the faith. While he does not deny that it was lawful, he openly asserts that it could have erred. Perhaps I seem foolish to someone for taking pains to point out such errors, when our adversaries admit that councils can err in such matters that are not necessary for salvation. But this effort is not superfluous. For our adversaries are forced to make this concession in words; but since they nevertheless impose upon us the decision of all councils in any matter and without any distinction as the revelatory word of the Holy Spirit, they demand just more than they took upon themselves in the beginning. But what do they claim with this way of acting other than that the councils cannot err or that, even if they err, it is still forbidden to see the truth or not to agree with the errors? I have nothing else in mind than that one can conclude from such errors: the Holy Spirit has indeed governed the otherwise pious and holy synods, but in such a way that he allowed something human to happen to them from time to time, so that we do not put our trust too much in men. This view is much better than that of Gregory of Nazianzus, who said that he had never seen a council turn out well (Letter 130). For if someone claims that they all without exception went out badly, he does not leave them much authority. It is no longer necessary to mention the provincial councils in particular, for from the general ones it is easy to judge how much authority they may have to establish articles of faith and to adopt any kind of doctrine that seems good to them.

IV,9,12 But when our Romans get the impression that in the defense of their cause all supports that could consist in reasonable proofs are slipping away, they retreat to an extreme, pitiful evasion: they declare even if they were quite stupid in mind and counsel, quite useless in heart and will, yet the word of the Lord remains, which commands us to obey the superiors (Hebr 13,17). But is it so? What is to happen, then, if I assert that people who are of such a nature are not superiors at all? For they must not arrogate to themselves more than Joshua possessed, who after all was a prophet of the Lord and an excellent shepherd to boot. But let us hear with what words he is introduced into his office by the Lord! "Let not the book of this law," saith the Lord, "depart from thy mouth, but consider it day and night. Do not depart from it to the right hand or to the left. Then you will rightly direct your way and understand it" (Jos 1:8, 7; end not Luther text). "Spiritual superiors," then, are to be for us those who depart from the law of the Lord neither one way nor the other. But if we are to accept the teaching of all arbitrary shepherds without hesitation - what purpose has it served that we are so often and so emphatically admonished by the Lord’s voice not to listen to the speech of false prophets? "Hearken not," He says through Jeremiah, "to the words of the prophets that prophesy unto you; for they teach you deceit, and not of the mouth of the Lord" (Jer 23:16; not Luther text). Or likewise, "Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves" (Mt 7:15). Should we indiscriminately accept the teaching of all shepherds, it would also be in vain that John admonishes us to test the spirits "whether they are of God" (1Jn 4:1). Not even the angels are exempted from this test, let alone Satan with his lies. But what does it mean when we are told: "If one blind man leads another, they will both fall into the pit" (Mt 15,14)? Doesn’t this word tell us sufficiently that much depends on the kind of shepherds we listen to, and that we should not listen to all of them unthinkingly? Therefore they have no cause to frighten us with their titles, to draw us into fellow-fellowship in their blindness; for we see on the other hand that the Lord takes special care to put fear into us that we may be led by a strange error, under whatever assumed name it may be concealed! For if Christ’s answer (Mt 15,14) is true, then any blind leaders, whether they are called rulers or chiefs or popes, can accomplish nothing but to plunge their fellow men into the same abyss with them. Therefore, no names of councils, shepherds or bishops - which can just as well be used falsely as in truth - should prevent us from letting ourselves be warned by the evidence that words as well as facts offer us, and from examining all the spirits of all men according to the guidance of the divine word, in order to determine whether they are of God.

IV,9,13 Since we have now proved that the Church is not given authority to establish a new doctrine, let us now speak of the authority which the Romans ascribe to it in interpreting the Scriptures. We certainly readily admit that if a controversy arises about any doctrine, there is no better and more reliable remedy for it than for a synod of true bishops to meet, that at it the disputed doctrine may be thoroughly discussed. For (1) such a decision, to which the pastors of the churches, after invoking the Spirit of Christ, all unanimously join together, will have much more weight than if someone were to draw up a decision for himself alone at home and present it to the people, or even if a few unofficial people were to put one together. Furthermore, (2) if the bishops are gathered in one place, they can more easily consider together what is to be taught and in what form, so that diversity does not create a nuisance. And (3) thirdly, this is the procedure Paul prescribes for judging doctrines. For by assigning the judgment to the individual churches (1Cor 14:29), he makes clear which order of procedure is to occur in more serious cases: namely, the churches are to take the judgment into their own hands together. And the feeling of piety itself shows us the way: if someone confuses the church by an unusual dogma, and if the circumstances come to the point that there is a danger of a somewhat serious dispute, then the churches should first meet together, then they should examine the question presented, and finally, after holding a proper discussion, they should present the decision taken from Scripture, so that this may cause uncertainty among the people (i.e. in the congregation). Finally, after a proper discussion, they should present the decision taken from the Scriptures, so that it will remove the uncertainty among the people (i.e. in the congregation) and shut the mouths of useless, partisan people, so that they will not dare to go further. Thus, after the appearance of Arius, the Synod of Nicaea was convened, which, with its authority, destroyed the sacrilegious plots of this godless man, restored peace in the churches which he had thrown into turmoil, and asserted Christ’s eternal divinity against his blasphemous dogma. Afterwards, when Eunomius and Macedonius stirred up new turmoil, the same remedy was applied and their folly was countered by the Synod of Constantinople. At the Council of Ephesus the impiety of Nestorius was beaten to the ground. In short, this has been the customary way of maintaining unity in the Church from the beginning, as often as Satan began to set something in motion. But we must remember that not in all centuries and in all places are found such men as Athanasius, Basil, Cyril, and other defenders of the true doctrine which the Lord then awakened. Yes, let us remember what happened at the second synod of Ephesus: there the heresy of Eutyches prevailed, Flavian, a man of holy memory, was sent into exile with a number of pious men, and many more outrages of this kind were decided upon! This was precisely because Dioscur, a partisan and quite evil-minded man, was in charge there, and not the Spirit of the Lord! But, one will object, there was not the church. I admit that. In fact, I basically state that the truth does not perish in the church, even if it is suppressed by a council, but it is miraculously preserved by the Lord, so that it breaks forth again in its own time and retains the victory. On the other hand, I deny that the interpretation of Scripture adopted by the vote of a council is the true and certain one.

IV,9,14 If, on the other hand, the Romans teach that the authority to interpret Scripture rests with the councils, and that without the possibility of appeal, they have something else in mind (than what has just been stated). For they misuse this assertion as a cover to call everything that has been decided in the councils an interpretation of Scripture. Now one does not find a single syllable in Scripture about purgatory, about the intercession of the saints, about auricular confession, and the like. But since all this has been established by the authority of the Church, i.e., to speak more correctly, by opinion and practice, each of these doctrines is to be regarded as an interpretation of Scripture! And not only this, nay, if a council has made a decision against the contradiction of Scripture, let it bear the name of an "interpretation"! Christ commands that all drink from the cup which he offers in the Lord’s Supper (Mt 26,26) - the Council of Constance, on the other hand, forbade to give it to the people, but wanted only the priest to drink from it! What in this way stands in exact contrast to the institution of Christ, that is to be taken for its interpretation according to the will of the Romans. St. Paul calls the prohibition of the marriage state a "siding" of evil spirits (1Tim 4:1 s.), and elsewhere the Holy Spirit makes it known that the marriage state is holy and honorable among all classes (Hebr 13:4). But that the Romans subsequently forbade the priests to marry, they want to be taken for the true and original interpretation of Scripture, although nothing can be conceived that would be stranger to Scripture. If anyone dares to murmur against it, he will be judged a heretic; for there is no appeal against the determination of the church, and it is sinful to doubt (and wonder) whether the interpretation given by it is true. What is the use of sharp words against such impudence? It is said to have already won, if one has proved it! The Romans also speak in their doctrine of an authority (of the church) to confirm the Scriptures; but I leave that aside with full consideration. For if in this way the revelatory words of God are subjected to the scrutiny of men, so that they would therefore have their validity because they pleased men, this is a blasphemy not worth mentioning; also I have already touched on this point above (cf. Book I, Chapter 7). I would like to ask the Romans only one question: if the authority of Scripture is based on the approval of the Church - from which council do they want to cite a decision in this regard? I think they have none! Why then did Arius allow himself to be overcome at Nicaea by testimonies adduced from the Gospel of John? Because according to the teaching of the Romans he was free to contradict, because no recognition (of this gospel) by a general council had preceded. They refer to an ancient list called the canon, and they say that this arose from a decision of the Church. But I ask again: in which council was this canon established? They have to fall silent on that. However, I would also like to know what kind of canon they think it was. For I notice that this was very little established among the ancients. If what Jerome says is to be valid, then the Books of the Maccabees, the Book of Tobias, Jesus Sirach and the like must be relegated to the Apocrypha - but the Romans do not dare to do this in any way!

Tenth chapter


Of the legislative power of the church, in which the pope together with his own has subjected the souls to a cruel tyranny and torment.

IV,10,1 Now follows the second part (of the ecclesiastical power, cf. ch. 8, section 1 at the beginning), which, according to the will of the papists, is to consist in legislation. Now this is a source from which innumerable human traditions have sprung - loud ropes to strangle the poor souls with! For the papists, just like the scribes and Pharisees, have not shied away from putting burdens on other people’s shoulders that they themselves would not have wanted to touch with their finger (Mt 23,4). I have already stated elsewhere what a cruel torment their provisions on auricular confession are. In other laws such violence does not appear; but even those which seem the most tolerable of all exert a tyrannical pressure on consciences. I shall not mention that they distort the worship of God and deprive God Himself, who is the only lawgiver, of His right. We must now discuss this authority (and the question is) whether the Church has the right to bind consciences with its laws. In this discussion the civil (political) order is not touched, but it is exclusively a question of God being rightly worshipped according to the guide prescribed by Him, and of our spiritual freedom, which relates to God, being preserved unabridged. It has now become customary to understand by the term "human traditions" all those provisions which, in relation to the worship of God, have emanated from men outside His Word. Against these we have to fight, but not against the holy and useful ordinances of the Church, which serve to maintain discipline, respectability, or peace. Our struggle, however, has the aim of breaking that unmeasured and barbarous dominion over souls which people who want to be taken for shepherds of the church, but who are in fact the most merciless torturers, arrogate to themselves. For they claim of the laws they make that they are "spiritual" and have reference to souls, also declaring that they are necessary for eternal life. In this way, however, the kingdom of Christ is violated, as I briefly said above, and the freedom that he himself has given to the consciences of the faithful is completely suppressed and destroyed. I am silent here about the ungodliness with which they advocate the observance of their laws as an unbreakable requirement, namely, by teaching that one should seek forgiveness of sins, righteousness and salvation in it, and by putting the whole sum of religion and piety into it. I assert this one thing: one must not impose any constraint on the consciences in such matters in which they are made free by Christ - after all, as we have pointed out above, they can only rest with God when they have been made partakers of such freedom! If they want to keep the grace they once obtained in Christ, they must also acknowledge Him as the one King who is their liberator, namely Christ, and be governed by the one law of freedom; no bondage may hold them any longer, and no fetters may bind them any longer!!

IV,10,2 Now these solons (lawgivers) act as if their ordinances were "laws of liberty", as if they were a "gentle yoke", a "light burden" - but who should not see that these are all lies? They themselves, of course, do not feel the heaviness of their laws; for they have thrown God’s fear from them and now carelessly and boldly despise both their own and the divine laws. But men who are to some extent touched by the concern for salvation, by no means come to the opinion that they are free as long as they are held by these cords. We see, however, with how much caution Paul walked in this piece, so that he did not even dare in a single matter to "throw a rope around the necks of others" (1Cor 7:35). And not without cause; for he surely foresaw what a grievous wound would be inflicted on consciences if such things were to be forcibly imposed upon them in which the Lord had left them liberty. On the other hand, one can hardly enumerate the ordinances which the Romans have affirmed with the utmost seriousness by threatening eternal death, and which they demand with extreme severity as necessary for salvation. And among them very many are extremely difficult, but all together, if you put them in a heap, impossible to keep - so great is the mass! How, then, is it to happen that people on whom so great and heavy a burden rests are not entangled in the worst fear and terror and wear themselves out by it? I intend here, then, to oppose statutes of this kind, which have been made to bind souls inwardly before God and to cause them holy dread, as if one were giving precepts about things that are necessary for salvation.

IV,10,3 Now this question causes many people great difficulty because they do not distinguish sharply enough between the "external" sphere of law - as it is called - and that of conscience. Moreover, the embarrassment is increased by the fact that, according to Paul’s commandment, we should obey the authorities not only out of fear of punishment, but also "for the sake of conscience" (Rom 13:1,5). From this it follows (so it is thought) that our conscience is also bound to the civil laws. If it were so, all that we have said in the previous chapter) and what we shall still carry out of the spiritual regiment would collapse. In order to untie this knot, it is first useful to determine what conscience actually is. We take the description of this concept from the (linguistic) root of the word. After all, people attain a knowledge of things through understanding and insight; thus one says: they know this and that, and from this the word science is then also derived. But now they also have a sense of divine judgment, which is always with them like a witness, does not let them hide their sin, but draws them as guilty before God’s judgment seat. This feeling is called conscience (conscientia = co-knowledge!). It is therefore something that stands in the middle between God and man; for it does not allow man to suppress within himself what he nevertheless knows, but it oppresses him until he confesses himself guilty. - This is what Paul means by his teaching that the conscience bears witness at the same time as man, namely when thoughts accuse or excuse each other before God’s court (Rom 2:15f.). The mere knowledge could remain closed (and therefore ineffective, hidden) in man. Therefore, this feeling, which puts man before God’s judgment, is, as it were, a guard given to him, so that nothing remains buried in darkness. Hence the old saying: conscience is like a thousand witnesses. For the same reason, Peter equates the testimony of a good conscience before God with the tranquility of our hearts when we fearlessly stand before God in the assurance of Christ’s grace (1Pet 3:21). Also, when the author of the Letter to the Hebrews says that people "no longer have a conscience of sins" (Hebr 10:2), he means that we are freed and absolved so that sin no longer oppresses us.

IV,10,4 So as our works relate to men, so conscience relates to God. A good conscience, then, is nothing other than the inner purity of the heart. In this sense Paul writes: "The main sum of the law is love … of good conscience and of unfeigned faith" (1Tim 1:5). In the same chapter he shows a little later how much conscience is different from mere knowledge: he speaks (1Tim 1:19) of some "who have been shipwrecked in the faith" and declares that they have "thrust conscience from them". With these words he makes it clear that conscience is a living urge to serve God and a pure striving for a pious and holy life. Sometimes the conscience is also referred to people; for example, when Paul testifies in Luke that he took pains "to have an inviolate conscience in all things, both toward God and toward men" (Acts 24:16). But this is said because the fruits of the good conscience also flow and penetrate to the people. In the proper sense, however, conscience looks to God alone, as I said before. Thus, we also say that a law "binds" the conscience when it straightforwardly obliges man, without looking at people and without considering them. For example: God has not only commanded us to keep our hearts chaste and pure from all lust, but He has also forbidden all shameful words and all outward opulence. My conscience is bound to keep this commandment - even if not a single person lived in the world. Therefore, he who is unchaste in his conduct sins not only in that he sets a bad example to the brethren, but he also has a guilty conscience before God. But it is different with what is in itself a "middle thing". We have to abstain from it, if an offence arises from it - but with a free conscience! In this sense Paul speaks of the flesh that was consecrated to idols; he says: "But if anyone gives you cause for concern, do not touch the flesh, and that for the sake of conscience. But I say of the conscience not of thyself, but of another" (1Cor 10:28 s.; verse 28 summarily). The believer would therefore sin if he ate such meat in spite of previous warning. But even if, according to God’s command, he must practice such abstinence out of consideration for his brother, he does not therefore cease to preserve the freedom of his conscience. So we see how such a law binds the outward work, yet leaves the conscience free.

IV,10,5 Now let us return to human laws. If they are given for the purpose of instilling holy awe in us, as if their observance were necessary in and of itself, then we maintain that something is imposed on the consciences that is not proper. For our conscience is not concerned with men, but with God alone. The common distinction between the earthly sphere of law and that of conscience also belongs to this. When the whole world was shrouded in the thickest darkness of ignorance, there remained the small ray of light that one recognized that the conscience of men is higher than all human judgments. Of course, what was conceded in one word, was in fact overturned afterwards, but God willed that even then there should be some testimony of Christian freedom to free consciences from the tyranny of men. But still that difficulty is not solved, which arises from the words of Paul (Rom 13,1.5). For if we are to obey the authorities not merely for fear of punishment, but "for conscience’ sake," it would seem to follow that the laws of the authorities also rule over the conscience. But if this is true, the same must be said of ecclesiastical laws. I answer that here we must first distinguish between the general and the particular. For although the individual laws do not touch the conscience, we are bound by God’s general commandment, which the authority of the authorities commands us to do as something important. Paul’s discussion revolves around this very pivotal point: since the authorities are ordered by God, we should show them honor (Rom 13:1). However, he does not at all teach that the laws they give refer to the inner government of the soul; for he everywhere exalts both the worship of God and the spiritual rule to righteous living above any statutes of men. There is also a second thing worth mentioning here, which, however, depends on the above: although human laws, whether given by the authorities or by the Church, are necessary to be kept-I am speaking of the good and righteous laws-they do not bind the conscience in and of themselves, and this because all and every necessity of keeping them is directed to a general end, but does not lie in the things commanded. Far from this group, however, are such laws as prescribe a new form of worship of God, and set up a compulsion with reference to things which are free.

IV,10,6 But just of this kind are the laws which are nowadays called church statutes in the papacy and which are imposed on the people as true and necessary worship. And as innumerable as they are, so innumerable fetters are they to catch and entrap the souls in them. Now, we have admittedly touched upon some of this already in the interpretation of the Law (Book II, chapters 7 and 8); but as that passage was the more appropriate place for a proper treatment, I will now endeavor to summarize the whole essential content in as good order as possible. And since we have already just spoken of the tyranny which the false bishops arrogate to themselves to teach arbitrarily what suits them, so far as it seemed sufficient, I shall leave that whole part aside, and deal here only with the authority to legislate which they claim to have. When, therefore, our false bishops trouble the consciences with new laws, they do so under the pretext that they have just been appointed by the Lord as spiritual legislators, and that because they are commanded to govern the church. Therefore, they claim that everything they command or prescribe must be obeyed by the Christian people, but whoever violates it is guilty of a double disobedience, because he rebels against God and the church. Admittedly, if they were true bishops, I would grant them some authority in this matter - not as much as they demand for themselves, but as much as is necessary to regulate the order of the church properly. Now, however, since they are nothing less than what they want to be taken for, they cannot take the least without thereby going beyond the measure. But since we have already seen this also elsewhere, let us admit to them for the present that all the authority which true bishops possess is rightfully theirs. Nevertheless, I deny that they would therefore be imposed upon the faithful as legislators who could of themselves prescribe a rule for life or forcibly bind the people entrusted to them to their statutes. When I say this, my opinion is that it is in no way their right to impose on the Church as a command something they have devised of themselves without God’s Word, and as if it were something necessary (for salvation). Since this right was unknown to the apostles and was so often denied to the servants of the church by the mouth of the Lord, I wonder why they dared to usurp it without the example of the apostles and against God’s obvious prohibition, and why they still dare to defend it today.

IV,10,7 What belonged to the perfect rule for a right life, the Lord summarized fully in his law, and that in such a way that he left nothing for men to add to that main sum. And he did this, first, for the purpose that he might be regarded by us as the sole master and governor of our lives, because all righteousness of conduct consists in all our works being directed according to his will as according to a guideline. Secondly, he did it to testify to us that he requires nothing more urgently from us than obedience. In this sense, James says: "He who judges his brother is not a doer of the law, but a judge. There is one lawgiver, who can beatify and condemn" (Jam 4,11 s.; verse 11 not quite Luthertext). There we hear that God reserves it to himself alone as something peculiar to him to govern us by the command and the laws of his word. The same had been said before by Isaiah, although a bit darker: "The Lord is our king, the Lord is our lawgiver, the Lord is our judge, who helps us" (Isa 33,22; not quite Luthertext). Undoubtedly, it is shown in both passages that he who has the right over the soul has the decision over life and death. Yes, James expresses this clearly. But this right cannot be taken away by any human being. So God must be recognized as the only King of souls, with whom alone lies the power to make blessed or to cause to perish, or, as those words of Isaiah read, as King, Judge, Lawgiver and Savior. Therefore, Peter, reminding the shepherds of their duty, urges them to feed the flock in such a way that they do not exercise dominion over the "clergy" - a term by which he designates the inheritance of God, that is, the people of the faithful (1Pet 5:2f.). If we consider this rightly, that it is inadmissible to transfer to a human being something that God alone appropriates to Himself, then we will also understand that this cuts off all authority that those people claim who want to set themselves up to command something in the church without God’s Word.

IV,10,8 The whole matter, then, depends on the principle: if God is the one lawgiver, it is not for man to usurp this honor. But if this is so, then one must at the same time keep in mind the two causes established above, why God alone appropriates this right. The first reason is that his will should be for us the perfect guide to all righteousness and holiness, and thus in its knowledge should lie the perfect knowledge of right living. And the second cause: He alone, where one asks for the way to worship him duly and righteously, shall have the command over our souls, so that we shall therefore render obedience to him and hang on his will. Having these two causes in view, we shall easily gain a judgment as to what orders of men are contrary to the word of the Lord. Now of this kind are all those which are pretended to belong to the true worship of God, and to the observance of which the consciences are compelled, as if they must be necessarily observed. Let us remember, then, that on this scale all human laws must be weighed, if we are to have a sure rule that will never let us stray. In his letter to the Colossians, Paul uses the first cause in his argument against the false apostles, who tried to oppress the churches with new burdens (Col 2, S). The second he uses more in the Epistle to the Galatians, and in a similar cause. So in Colossians he states the following: an instruction about the true worship of God we are not to desire from men, because the Lord has faithfully and fully instructed us about how He is to be worshiped. To prove this, Paul declares in the first chapter (of the letter) that in the gospel all wisdom is written, by virtue of which the man of God is made perfect in Christ (Col 1:28). In the beginning of the second chapter he says that in Christ "are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge" (Col 2,3). From there he concludes that the believers should be careful not to be led away from the flock of Christ by vain worldly wisdom "according to the statutes of men" (Col 2,8). And at the end of this chapter he condemns with even greater frankness all "self-chosen spirituality", that is, all imaginary worship that men devise for themselves or adopt from others, as well as all regulations about the worship of God that they dare to establish on their own (Col 2:16-23). Thus it follows for us: ungodly are all statutes of which one pretends that the service of God lies in their observation. The passages in Galatians where Paul insists that no rope should be tied around the conscience, which should be governed by God alone, are clear enough; they are mainly found in the fifth chapter of the letter (Gal 5,1-12). It may therefore suffice to have mentioned them.

IV,10,9 But because the whole matter will become better clear by examples, it is well, before we go further, to apply this teaching to our times. The so-called "ecclesiastical" statutes, with which the pope and his followers weigh down the church, are, according to our assertion, corrupt and ungodly; our opponents, on the other hand, declare that they are holy and salvific. Now, these statutes generally fall into two groups: namely, one concerns ceremonies and worship customs, the other relates more to (ecclesiastical) discipline. Isa there, then, a just cause which must move us to oppose both? Truly a more just cause than we might well wish! First of all, do not the authors of these statutes themselves declare in no uncertain terms that in them lies resolved, as it were, the very essence of the worship of God? What purpose should their ceremonies serve other than that God should be worshipped through them? And this is not done solely out of the "error of the inexperienced multitude," but with the consent of those who hold the magisterium! I do not deal here with the gross abominations with which they have undertaken to destroy all piety - but they would not pretend that it was such a gruesome crime to have transgressed against any little law, however slight, if they did not subordinate the worship of God to their fancies! Paul taught that it is not acceptable to subject the lawful way of worshipping God to the whims of men. But what sin is there in this, if today we really cannot bear what he declared to be unacceptable? Especially when these people command that one should worship God according to the "elements" (Luther: "statutes") of this world, while Paul testifies that this is contrary to Christ (Col 2,20)! On the other hand, it is well known with what sharp constraint they bind the consciences to keep everything they command. If we object here, we have common cause with Paul, who does not tolerate in any way that believing consciences are brought under the bondage of men (Gal 5,1).

IV,10,10 In addition to this, there is the very worst: once one has begun to let religion be determined by such vain fantasies, then the other terrible distortion, which Christ accused the Pharisees of, immediately results from this falsity, namely that God’s commandment loses its validity for the sake of the statutes of men (Mt 15,3). I will not argue against our present lawgivers in my own words - they shall truly have won if in any way they manage to clear themselves of this charge of Christ! But how should they be able to excuse themselves? With them it is considered an infinitely greater sin if one omits the auricular confession at the end of the year than if he has led the most shameful way of life throughout the year! They consider it incomparably more sacrilegious to have let the tongue come into contact with a small taste of meat on Friday than to have defiled the whole body with fornication all day long! They consider it much worse to have laid hands on an honest piece of work on a day consecrated to who knows what insignificant saint, than to have kept all the limbs busy all the time with the vilest knavery! If a priest is bound by a lawful marriage, they consider it much, much more "sinful" than if he entangles himself in a thousandfold adulteries! If one does not perform a promised pilgrimage, they say, that is infinitely worse than if one breaks the given word in all promises! If one has not wasted money on the wasteful and equally superfluous as well as useless splendor of the church buildings, this is considered an incomparably greater "sin" than if one has abandoned the poor in their very worst need. It is said to be much, much more sacrilegious to have passed by an idol without paying homage than to have treated any kind of people shamefully! It is said to be infinitely worse, if one has not muttered lengthy words without sense and reason at certain hours, than if one has never uttered a right prayer in his heart! If this does not mean invalidating God’s commandments for the sake of one’s own "essays" (Mt 15:3) - what then? Whereas they merely order people to observe God’s commandments coolly and only to fulfill their duty - but nevertheless insist on strict obedience to their own statutes with zeal and anxious insistence, as if they contained all the power of piety. Where they punish the transgression of the divine law only with minor penalties, but avenge even the slightest violation of one of their own decrees with no lighter punishment than imprisonment, banishment, fire and sword! Whoever despises God, they are not so severe and implacable against him; but whoever despises them, they pursue to the utmost with irreconcilable hatred. And all whose simple-mindedness they hold captive, they instruct in such a way that they would regard it with more equanimity if God’s entire law were overturned, than if one jot of the commandments - as they say: - of the "church" were violated. First of all, it is a serious offense to despise, condemn, and reject one another for the sake of very small things and, if we stop at God’s judgment, for the sake of things that have been left free. As if this were not bad enough, one now attaches more weight to those "worthless elements of this world", as Paul calls them in Galatians (Gal 4,9; Luther: "statutes"), than to the heavenly revelatory words of God. And so it comes to this: whoever is almost acquitted in adultery is condemned over food and drink, whoever is condemned over whoredom is denied a wife! This is how far one gets with that "obedience" which is oblivious to duty and which deviates from God the more he turns to man..

IV,10,11 There are two other, not insignificant, defects which we disapprove of in these statutes. First, that they prescribe to a great extent useless, and at times foolish, modes of conduct; and secondly, that by their immense quantity the pious consciences are oppressed, and now fallen back into a certain kind of Judaism, are so attached to shadows that they cannot come to Christ. (1.) That I call these statutes "foolish" and "useless" will, I know, not be apparent to the prudence of the flesh, which rather finds such pleasure in them that one is of the opinion that the church would be completely disfigured if they were abolished. But this is what Paul writes: they "have an appearance of wisdom through self-chosen spirituality and humility" and through the fact that they seem to be able to tame the flesh through their hardness (Col 2:23). Truly a very salutary admonition that must never leave our minds! So Paul says that human statutes deceive under the appearance of wisdom. Where then do they get this veneer? Yes, precisely because they are invented by men! Human reason recognizes in them its own work, and what it has recognized in this way, it accepts more readily than anything that would correspond less to its vanity, even if it is the very best. And then these statutes also seem to be suitable exercises for humility, because they keep the mind of the people pressed to the ground under their yoke - and that is then the second thing that gives them recommendation! Finally, it appears that their purpose is to keep the lusts of the flesh in check and to subjugate the flesh by the harshness of abstinence (which they demand), and therefore they seem to be intelligently devised. But what does Paul say to all this? Does he tear off the masks of the statutes, so that simple people are not deceived by such false pretenses? No, he is convinced that his explanation that these statutes were invented by men (Col 2,22) is sufficient to reject them, and therefore he passes over all this as if he did not consider it anything, without refutation. Yes, because he knew that in the church all devised worship is condemned and is all the more suspect to the faithful the more it pleases human reason, because he knew that that false image of outward humility has so little to do with true humility that they are easily distinguished from each other, And since he knew that this education (brought about by the "statutes") is not to be esteemed higher than a bodily exercise, he had the will that exactly that, for the sake of which the human statutes are praised among simple-minded people, should serve as a refutation of them for the faithful.

IV,10,12 So nowadays not only the unlearned people are miraculously captivated by the show of ceremonies, but also everybody else, however much he may be puffed up by worldly wisdom. But hypocrites and foolish women are of the opinion that nothing more delicious and better can be devised. Whoever, on the other hand, investigates more deeply and considers more truthfully, according to the rules of piety, what value ceremonies in such number and form actually have, will understand that they are, first, mere buffoonery, because they have no use whatsoever, and second, jugglery, because they deceive the eyes of the spectators with vain pomp. I am talking about such ceremonies, under which, according to the opinion of the Roman teachers, great secrets are hidden, but which, according to our experience, are nothing but mockery and ridicule. It is no wonder that the authors of these ceremonies have fallen into the trap of fooling themselves as well as others with worthless silliness; for they have partly taken an example from the fantasies of the pagans, partly they have imitated, like apes without reflection, the old customs of the Mosaic law, which had as little to do with us as animal sacrifices and other such things. Truly, even if there were no other evidence, no one in his right mind would expect anything good from such a badly mixed mixture. Also, the facts themselves make it clear to one that very many ceremonies have no other use than to baffle the people instead of instructing them. Thus the hypocrites also attach great weight to these newer legal statutes, which, after all, pervert ecclesiastical discipline more than they preserve it; but if anyone examines them more closely in the light, he will find that they are nothing but a shadowy, fleeting mirage of discipline!

IV,10,13 (2.) And then, to go into the second, who does not see that the statutes, by being heaped one upon another, have become so rampant that they can no longer be borne in any way by the Christian church? From here it has come about that in the ceremonies who knows what kind of Judaism appears and some rules of conduct bring a terrible torment for pious minds. Augustine lamented that (already) in his time, leaving aside the commandments of God, everything was filled with so much stiff-neckedness that one who had touched the earth with his bare foot in the course of his baptismal week was punished more severely than one who had drowned his mind with drunkenness. He complained that the Church, which according to the will of God’s mercy should be free, was oppressed in such a way that the situation of the Jews would have been more bearable (Letter 55, to Januarius). With what lamentations would this holy man, if he lived in our times, weep for the bondage that exists today? For the number of statutes is ten times greater today, and every single point is demanded a hundred times more strictly than it was then. This is how it tends to go: once these twisted lawmakers have won the reign, they do not stop with their domains and prohibitions until they have brought it to the utmost obstinacy. Paul announced this perfectly when he said: "If then you have died to the world, why do you allow yourselves to be caught by statutes as if you were still alive? ? You shall not … eat this, you shall not taste this, you shall not touch this" (Col 2,20 s.; not quite Luther text). For the word haptesthai means both "to eat" (as Calvin translates) and "to attack" (as Luther translates), and so it is used here without doubt in the first meaning, so that no superfluous repetition occurs (the last word is "to touch"!) Here, then, he describes very finely the procedure of the false apostles. They make the beginning with the superstition, by forbidding not only to "eat", but also to try a little. If they have reached this, they forbid immediately also the "cost". After this is also granted to them, they claim that it is not permissible to "touch" the food even with the finger.

IV,10,14 With good reason we reproach today at the statutes of men this tyranny, by which it has come to the fact that the poor consciences are terribly tormented by innumerable commandments and by their exaggerated enforcement. The legal statutes that relate to church discipline have already been mentioned elsewhere. What shall I say of the ceremonies by which it has been accomplished that Christ has been half-buried, and that we have now reverted to the Jewish images? "Christ our Lord," says Augustine, "has woven the communion of the New People by sacraments which are very few in number, quite glorious in meaning, and very easy to observe" (Letter 54, to Januarius). How far the multiplicity and variety of customs in which we see the Church entangled today is from this simplicity cannot be sufficiently stated. I am well aware of the artifice with which some shrewd people gloss over this perversity. They claim that there are many people among us who are just as ignorant as the people of Israel were at that time; that this child rearing was established for the sake of such people, and that the stronger ones, who could well do without it, should not neglect it, because they see that it is useful for the weaker brothers! I reply: we know very well what is owed to the weakness of the brethren, but we maintain, on the other hand, that the weak are not served in the way that they are buried under great heaps of ceremonies. It is not for nothing that God established the difference between us and the people of the Old Covenant, that he wished to educate the latter in a childlike manner under signs and images, but us more simply, without so great an outward preparation. As a child, Paul says, is governed and kept by the disciplinarian according to his age, so were the Jews kept under the law (Gal 4:1-3). We, on the other hand, are similar to adults who, freed from guardianship and foreign care, no longer need the infantile beginnings. The Lord certainly foresaw the kind of people who would live in His Church and the way in which they would have to be governed. Nevertheless, he made a distinction between us and the Jews in the manner just explained. So it is a foolish thing to do if we want to take care of the inexperienced by reestablishing Judaism, which, after all, Christ has dismissed. This dissimilarity that exists between the old and the new people (of God) was also pointed out by Christ in his own words, when he said to the Samaritan woman that the time had come when the "true worshippers" would worship God "in spirit and in truth" (John 4:23). This had certainly happened at all times; but the new "worshippers" differ from the old in this, that the spiritual worship of God under Moses was shaded with many ceremonies and, as it were, wrapped up in them, whereas these have now been done away with and God is worshipped more simply. He, therefore, who blurs this dissimilarity, overthrows the order which Christ instituted and affirmed. Shall we then, it will be asked, give the more ignorant people no ceremonies whatever, to aid their inexperience? I do not assert this; for I am of opinion that such a kind of assistance is of general benefit to them. I am only struggling here to see that this is done in a way that puts Christ in bright light, but does not obscure Him. We have been given a few ceremonies by God, which are very easy to perform, and that is to point us to the present Christ. The Jews, on the other hand, were given more: they were supposed to be images of the not present (Christ)! That I say of Christ that he was "not present" with the Jews, this does not refer to his power, but to the way in which he presented himself. So that now moderation is kept, it is necessary that in the number of the ceremonies that narrow limitation, in their practice that easy executability and in their meaning that dignity is preserved, which consists at the same time in the clarity. That this has not actually happened - what is the use of saying it? It is obvious to everyone!

IV,10,15 I pass over here with what pernicious opinions the senses of men are filled, (when they are taught, for example) that the ceremonies are sacrifices by which a right service is offered to God, by virtue of which sins are expiated and man attains righteousness and salvation. Certainly our opponents will deny that good things could be corrupted by such errors added from without; one could, they will say, fall into sin no less even with the works commanded by God in this piece. Nevertheless, it is even more outrageous that one should give so much honor to works that one has devised at random according to human discretion, that one believes one can earn eternal life with them. For the works commanded by God receive a reward because the Lawgiver Himself is pleased with them in view of the obedience (revealed in them). So they do not receive their value from their own worthiness or merit, but rather from the fact that God holds our obedience to Him in such high esteem. I am speaking here of the perfection of works commanded by God, not of those performed by man. Indeed, even the works of the law that we do have something pleasing about them solely out of God’s undeserved kindness, and this is because the obedience that lies in them is weak and piecemeal. But since we are not here to discuss the meaning of works without Christ, let us leave this question aside. On the other hand, I repeat what belongs to the discussion in question here: all that the works possess in recommending effect, they have with regard to obedience, which God alone takes into consideration. He testifies to this through the prophet when he says: "I have given no instructions concerning burnt offerings and other sacrifices, but I alone have commanded you to obey my voice" (Jer 7:22f.(Jer 7:22 s.; summarily), but of the works of His own devising He says elsewhere: "You offer money, but not for bread" (Isa 55:2; inaccurately), or likewise: "In vain do they honor Me according to the commandments of men" (Isa 29:13; Mt 15:9; inaccurately). So our adversaries will not be able to gloss over in any way that they tolerate how the poor people seek righteousness in such outward buffoonery in order to hold it up to God and to stand with it before the heavenly judgment seat. Besides, is it not a mistake worthy of ridicule and scorn that people should be presented with incomprehensible ceremonies like a show-stage performance or a magic incantation? For it is certain that all ceremonies are corrupt and harmful if they do not lead people to Christ. But the ceremonies that are in use under the papacy are separated from the doctrine, so that they keep people with signs that are devoid of any meaning. And finally: the belly is an inventive master of art, and it is obvious that many ceremonies have been invented by greedy priests, they are supposed to be nets with which one wants to catch money! These ceremonies may have their origin wherever they want, but in any case they are all so given over to the vile acquisition of money that it is necessary to abolish a good part of them, if we want to see to it that no unholy, sacred desecration of the sanctuary is practiced in the church.

IV,10,16 It may seem that I am not presenting a permanently valid doctrine of human statutes here, because these remarks are completely tailored to our time. In fact, however, nothing has been said that will not be of use for all times. For whenever the superstition arises that men want to worship God with their own fancies, all the laws that are enacted for this purpose immediately degenerate into such gross abuses. For when God threatens to strike those who worship him according to the teachings of men with blindness and dullness (Isa 29,13f.), he does not announce this curse to one or another time, but to all centuries. This blindness has the consequence that people, who have put aside so many warnings of God and get caught in these pernicious ropes of their own free will, do not shy away from any contradiction anymore. If we now want to know, leaving aside all (present) circumstances, which are the human statutes at all times, which must be rejected by the church and rejected by all pious people, then the above already established, safe and clear definition should serve for this: Such human statutes are all the laws which men have enacted without God’s Word for the purpose either of prescribing a way of worshipping God or of binding consciences by holy timidity, as if the regulations given related to things necessary for salvation. If then to either of these, or to both, other errors are added, namely, that these statutes by their multitude obscure the clearness of the gospel, that they build up nothing, but are rather useless and playful occupations than true exercises of piety, that they serve covetousness and filthy lucre, that they are far too difficult to keep in mind, that they are tainted with evil superstitions - so if such errors are added, they will help us to notice all the more easily how much falsehood there is in these statutes.

IV,10,17 I can hear what our opponents say in their defense: they say that their statutes do not originate from themselves, but from God. They say that the church is governed by the Holy Spirit so that it cannot err, and that its authority rests with it. Once they have asserted this, they immediately draw the conclusion that their statutes are revelations of the Holy Spirit, which can only be disregarded out of impiety and contempt for God. And so that they do not give the impression as if they undertake something without weighty guarantors, they want that one believes them that a substantial part of their statutes went out from the apostles. They claim that it is already sufficiently demonstrated by a single example how the apostles acted in other cases, namely by that event at that time when they, assembled in a council, sent the message to all Gentiles by decision of this council that they should "abstain from sacrifice to idols and from blood and from things strangled…" (Acts 15:20). (Acts 15:20: 29). We have already explained elsewhere how unjustifiably they claim the title "church" in order to boast about it. But as far as the matter now under discussion is concerned, if we tear away all masks and false colors and truly pay attention to that which must be our first concern and which also concerns us most of all, namely, if we pay attention to what kind of church Christ wants us to have, so that we may act and behave according to His rules, we will easily come to the firm conviction that this is not the church which, disregarding all limits of the Word of God, sets up new laws in wantonness and arbitrariness! The church was once given the law: "All things whatsoever I command thee, that shalt thou keep, and do according unto it. Thou shalt neither add to it nor subtract from it" (Deut 13:1; actually all in the plural) - and does this law not remain forever? In another place it says: "Add nothing to the word of the Lord and do nothing from it, lest He punish you and you be found lying" (Prov 30:6; beginning imprecise). Since our opponents cannot deny that this word of the church has been spoken, what else do they claim but the unruliness of the church when they boast that after such prohibitions it has not dared to add anything to God’s teaching out of its own. But far be it from us to say yes to their lies, with which they do such dishonor to the church; no, we should recognize that the name "church" is falsely put forward as often as one (defending) strives for this arbitrariness of human presumption, which cannot keep within the commandments of God, but boldly leaps off and rushes to its own inventions. There is nothing veiled, nothing dark, nothing ambiguous about the words (above) in which the entire Church is forbidden to add to or do anything with God’s Word when it comes to the worship of the Lord and His salutary directives. Yes, one will say, but this is only said of the law, and yet this is followed by the words of the prophets and the whole dispensation of the gospel! I freely admit that, and I will add in a moment: The words of the prophets and the gospel are rather the fulfillment of the law than an addition to it or a shortening of it. But if the Lord, although the ministry of Moses lay, as it were, in darkness under very many covers, nevertheless does not tolerate that anything be added to it or taken away from it until he sends forth clearer instruction through his servants, the prophets, and finally through his beloved Son - why then shall we not consider that we are still much more strictly forbidden to add anything to the law, the prophets, the psalms and the gospel? The Lord, who has long since declared that he is so offended by nothing as when he is worshipped after the manner of men, has not been unfaithful to himself. Hence also those glorious words in the prophets, which should ring in our ears forever. Thus: "I did not tell your fathers the day I brought them out of the land of Egypt, nor did I command them burnt offerings and other sacrifices; but this I commanded them, saying, Obey my word, and I will be your God, and ye shall be my people; and walk in all the ways that I command you …" (Jer 7:22f.). Or likewise, "I have always testified to your fathers, saying, ’Obey my voice’" (Jer 11:7; not quite Luther text). In addition there are other words of the same kind; but glorious above others is this: "Do you think that the Lord delights in burnt offerings and sacrifices, and not rather in obeying his voice? Behold, obedience is better than sacrifice, and heedfulness than the fat of rams. For disobedience is a sorcerous sin, and to resist is idolatry…" (1Sam 15,22 s.; not quite Luther text). So, if one defends any human fiefdoms in this piece with the authority of the "church", it can be immediately proven that they are wrongly attributed to the church, because they cannot be absolved from the sin of ungodliness.

IV,10,18 For this reason we approach this tyranny of human statutes, which is haughtily imposed upon us under the name of the "church," without bias. For it is not as our adversaries unreasonably lie in order to make us hateful: we do not mock the church, but we pay her the praise of obedience - and she knows no greater praise! Rather, our adversaries do bitter injustice to the church; for they portray her as rebellious against her Lord, acting as if she had gone further than she was permitted by the Lord’s word. I will remain silent about what a conspicuous impudence, combined with an equal baseness, it is when one continually makes a great cry about the "power of the church", but in the meantime remains silent about what the church is commanded to do by the Lord and what obedience it owes to the Lord’s instruction. If, however, we have the will to live in harmony with the church, as is right, then this rather belongs to it, that we look at and remember what is prescribed to us and to the church by the Lord, so that we obey him in harmony! For there is no doubt that we will live in harmony with the church in the best possible way if we show obedience to the Lord in all things. But if our opponents now trace back to the apostles the origin of the statutes by which the church has hitherto been oppressed, this is vain deceit. For the whole teaching of the apostles is based on the fact that the consciences should not be weighed down with new articles, and that the worship of God should not be defiled by our little sin. Moreover, if we must give some credence to the history books and ancient documents, what our adversaries attribute to them was not only unknown to the apostles, but unheard of. The papists should also not talk that many teachings of the apostles were accepted through practice and habit, while they were not handed down in writing; these were those that they were not yet able to understand when Christ was still alive, but learned after his ascension through the revelation of the Holy Spirit, of the interpretation of the passage used here (John 16:12f.) we have already spoken elsewhere (chap. 8, sections 8 and 13). For the matter now under discussion, this is sufficient:Our adversaries really make fools of themselves by making Jewish or pagan customs out of those tremendous mysteries which are said to have been unknown to the apostles for such a long time - although some of them were known to the Jews and others to the Gentiles long before, partly also foolish gestures and senseless ceremonies, which silly priests, who have no idea of tooting and blowing, are quite capable of practicing according to all the rules of the art, yes, which even children and fools imitate so skillfully that one could get the impression that there were no more suitable masters at all for such sacred acts! Even if there were no history books, sensible people would nevertheless come to the conclusion from the facts themselves that such a great heap of ceremonies and customs did not break into the church all at once, but crept in little by little. For after the holier bishops, who were closest in time to the apostles, had already established some institutions of order and discipline, they were followed, one after the other, by people who were not prudent enough, and who were also too forward and passionate, and the later they appeared, the more foolishly they competed with their predecessors, so as not to be inferior to them in the elaboration of innovations. And because there was a danger that their little flotillas would be lost in a short time, while they were striving to gain fame from their descendants - so they were much sharper in the demand to observe their little flotillas. This perverse emulation has brought us a good part of those customs which the papists want to sell us as apostolic. The history books also testify to this.

IV,10,19 But if we were to compile a register of all the ceremonies, we would be going too far. In order to avoid this, we will content ourselves with a single example. In the service of Holy Communion there was great simplicity among the apostles. Their next successors, at the price of the dignity of the mystery (sacrament), added some things that would not be disapproved. But after that, those foolish imitators were added, who gradually patched together the various pieces and gave us the priest’s vestments that we see at mass, as well as the present-day altar decorations, the nowadays common gestures and the whole bunch of useless things. However, our opponents will object that in ancient times there was a conviction that everything that happened in full unanimity in the entire Church came from the apostles themselves. For this they use Augustin as a witness. I will nowhere else bring forward the refutation but from the very words of Augustine. "What is kept in the whole world," he says, "can be recognized as having been established by the apostles themselves or by the general councils, whose authority is very salutary in the Church: so, for example, that the passion, resurrection, and ascension of the Lord, as well as the coming of the Holy Spirit, are celebrated with annually recurring feasts; to this is added what else has occurred in this way, when it is kept by the whole Church, as far as it also spreads" (Letter 54, to Januarius). Who should not notice, since Augustine enumerates so few examples, that he desired to trace the customs then in use, and only those simple, few in number, and plain, in which the order of the Church is usefully composed, to warrant men who deserved faith and reverence? But how far is this from what the Roman masters want to enforce, namely, that there should be no minor ceremony among them that would not have to be considered apostolic!

IV,10,20 In order not to make it too long, I will bring forward only one example. If someone asks the Romans where they got their "holy water", they immediately answer: from the apostles. As if the history books did not attribute this little bundle to I do not know what bishop of Rome, who, if he had consulted the apostles, would certainly never and never have defiled baptism with such a strange and inappropriate mark. However, it is also not likely to me that this act of consecration (with the water) already originated in so old time, as it is represented in the history books. For Augustine says that in his time some churches avoided the solemn custom of washing the feet, which took place according to Christ’s model, so that it would not appear to be part of baptism (Letter 55, to Januarius); but with this he indirectly shows that at that time there was no washing whatsoever that would have had any resemblance to baptism. Be that as it may, I will in any case under no circumstances admit that it came from apostolic spirit that one recalls baptism by means of a daily recurring sign and thereby repeats it so to speak. I am not concerned about the fact that the same Augustin himself ascribes some other things to the apostles in another place. For he has nothing but conjectures, and therefore no judgment may be passed on their basis in so important a matter. Finally, even if we admit that the usages he mentions derive from the time of the apostles, there is still a great difference between instituting some exercise for piety, which the faithful may perform with a free conscience, but also, if the exercise bears them no blessing, refrain from, and establishing a law which is intended to ensnare consciences in bondage. But let the one from whom these customs originated be who he will, we now see that they have fallen into such grave abuse, and therefore there is nothing to prevent us from abolishing them without disgracing their originator; for they have never and never received such a recommendation that they should continue to exist untouched!

IV,10,21 Nor does it help our adversaries much that they cite the example of the apostles as a pretext to whitewash their tyranny. The apostles and elders of the first church, they say, issued a decree outside of Christ’s instruction with binding effect, by virtue of which they commanded all the Gentiles to abstain from idolatrous sacrifice, asphyxiation and blood (Acts 15:20). If they were allowed to do this, why should not their followers have the right to do the same, as often as circumstances require? Alas, if otherwise they would always follow them in other things, and then likewise in this matter! For I maintain that the apostles did not establish or decide anything new at all in this case, and I can easily prove it with strong reasons. For Peter declares in this council that one tempts God when one puts a yoke on the neck of the disciples (Acts 15:10); so if he afterwards gives his consent to the fact that a yoke is put on them after all, he himself throws his opinion overboard. But in fact such a yoke would be put on them if the apostles decided on their own authority that the Gentiles should be forbidden to touch things sacrificed to idols, blood and strangled things! Now there still remains the concern that they nevertheless seem to pronounce a prohibition. But this will be easily remedied if one pays closer attention to the meaning of this decision; for the first and most important part of this decision is that the Gentiles must be given their freedom, must not be confused and must not be troubled because of the customs of the law (Acts 15:19, 24, 28). Until then, the decision is brilliantly on our side. The exception that immediately follows (Acts 15:20, 29) is not a new law given by the apostles, but a divine and eternal commandment of God, namely that we should not violate love, and it does not take away from that freedom, but only points out to the Gentiles how they should adapt themselves to the brethren, so that they do not misuse their freedom to cause offense to the brethren. So this is the second main point of this decision: the Gentiles should use their freedom without harming anyone and without causing offense to the brethren. Yes, one will say, but they are giving a very definite rule! Certainly, as far as it was useful for that time, they teach and make clear with what things the Gentiles could cause such offense among their brethren, and this is done in order that they may beware of these things; on the other hand, it is not as if they added something new out of their own to the eternal law of God, which forbids us to give offense to the brethren.

IV,10,22 It is as if faithful shepherds, who preside over a church that is not yet properly ordered, give instructions to all their own not to eat meat publicly on Fridays, not to work publicly on feast days, and the like, until the weak ones with whom they live have grown up. For these things, if superstition be set aside, are in and of themselves "mean things"; but as soon as an offence is added to the brethren, they cannot be practiced without sinning. The times are such, however, that the faithful may not bring this sight before the eyes of their weak brethren without thereby wounding their consciences most grievously. Who will now - unless he be a blasphemer - want to claim that a new law is being made here, while such men (who pronounce such prohibitions) undoubtedly only want to prevent offences which are expressly enough forbidden by the Lord? Nothing more can be said of the apostles; for if they removed the occasion for offence, they had nothing else in mind than to emphasize the divine law which commands us to avoid offence. It is as if they had said: "It is God’s commandment that you do not injure the weak brother; but you cannot eat what is sacrificed to idols, the choked food and the blood, without offending the weak brothers; we therefore command you in the word of the Lord that you do not eat under such offence. Paul is the best witness to the fact that this was the intention of the apostles, for he undoubtedly writes solely on the basis of the decision of that council: "But of the sacrifice made to idols we know … that an idol is nothing … But some still make a conscience over the idol and eat it for sacrifices to idols; thus their conscience, because it is so weak, is defiled … See … see to it that … your liberty be not an offence to the weak". (1Cor 8:1, 4, 7, 9; almost entirely Luther text). Whoever has rightly considered this will not be able to be fooled further, as the people do who refer to the apostles in order to gloss over their tyranny, as if they had started to break the freedom of the church with their decision. But in order that our opponents may not avoid confirming this solution with their own concession, let them answer me by what right they dared to abolish that very resolution! They did so because there was no longer any danger of the annoyances and divisions which the apostles had wanted to counteract, and because they knew that a law must be judged according to its intention. Since, therefore, this law was enacted with love in mind, only so much is commanded in it as love requires. Now, if they admit that there is no other transgression of this law than the violation of love, why do they not at the same time acknowledge that it is precisely not a self-conceived addition to God’s law, but rather a clean and simple application of it to the times and customs for which it was intended?

IV,10,23 But the papists claim that we have to obey such (ecclesiastical) laws, even if they are a hundred times inequitable and unjust for us, nevertheless without exception. They say that it is not a question here of our giving our consent to errors, but only that we, as subjects, should carry out the harsh commands of our superiors, since it is not our business to evade them. But here, too, the Lord comes to our aid in the best possible way with the truth of His Word and rescues us from such bondage into freedom, which He purchased for us with His holy blood (1Cor 7:23), the benefits of which He seals for us more than once in His Word. For it is not - as our adversaries pretend in their malice - merely a matter of our having to bear some heavy oppression in our bodies; no, it is a matter of our consciences being deprived of their freedom, that is, of the benefit of the blood of Christ, and being tormented in a servile manner! But I will leave that aside, as if it were of little consequence. But how much does it matter, according to our opinion, that the Lord is deprived of his kingdom, which he claims for himself with such severity? In fact, however, the kingdom is robbed from him as often as he is worshipped according to the laws of human ministries; for he alone wants to be regarded as the lawgiver for the worship that is paid to him. Now, lest anyone should think that this is an insignificant matter, let us hear what high value the Lord attaches to it. "Therefore," he says, "that this people fear me according to the commandments of men and the doctrines of men, behold, I will cause them to be dismayed with a mighty and astonishing wonder; for their wise men shall be deprived of wisdom, and from their elders their understanding shall depart" (Isa 29:13 s.; not Luther text). In another place it says: "In vain do they serve me, teaching such doctrines as are nothing but the commandments of men" (Mt 15,9). And indeed, the cause of all the calamity, that the children of Israel defiled themselves with manifold idolatry, is attributed to this unclean mixture, which arose from their transgressing God’s commandments and forging together new services of God. Hence also the sacred history reports that the newly arrived inhabitants, brought by the king of Babylon to populate Samaria, were torn and eaten by wild beasts, and that because they had not known the rights and statutes of "the God in the land." Even if they had not provided anything in the ceremonies, the contentless pomp would not have been pleasing to God; but in the meantime he did not refrain from punishing the desecration of his worship, because the people brought up things of their own devising that had nothing to do with his word. Therefore it is said afterwards that they, frightened by this punishment, adopted the customs prescribed in the law; but because they did not yet worship God purely, it is repeated twice that they worshipped God and yet again did not (1Ki 17:24f.32f.41). From this we see that the reverence shown to Him consists in part in our following His commandments in worshiping Him, and not mixing in our own inventions. Therefore, even the godly kings are more often praised because they acted according to all the commandments and did not deviate to the right or to the left (2Ki 22:1 s.; 1Ki 15:11; 22:43; 2Ki 12:3; 14:3; 15:3; 15:34; 18:3). I go further: even if in a worship of God devised by man no manifest ungodliness is revealed, it is nevertheless severely condemned by the Holy Spirit because one has departed from God’s command. The altar of Ahaz, the model of which was brought from Samaria, could give the impression of increasing the ornamentation of the temple; for Ahaz intended to offer sacrifices to God alone on it, and he could do so more splendidly here than on the first altar of old; nevertheless, we see that the Holy Spirit curses this presumption, and for no other reason than because the little feet of men are impure corruptions in the worship of God (2Ki 16:18). Kings 16:10-18). And the more clearly the will of God is revealed to us, the less the impudence to try anything here can be excused. Therefore, the guilt of Manasseh is deservedly made more severe by the fact that he had erected a new altar in Jerusalem, while God had said of the city: "I will set my name at Jerusalem" (2Ki 21:3f.). For now his act meant a deliberate defamation of God’s authority.

IV,10,24 Many wonder why the Lord so sharply threatens to do amazing things to the people who worship Him according to the commandments of men (Isa 29,13f.), and why He proclaims that it is in vain to serve Him according to the statutes of men (Mt 15,9). But if these people would direct their attention to what it means to hang on God’s mouth alone in matters of religion, that is, of heavenly wisdom, they would see at the same time that there is no slight cause why the Lord so abhors such perverse "services" rendered to Him according to the arbitrariness of human reason. For although men who obey such laws for the worship of God have a certain semblance of humility in this obedience of theirs, yet they are by no means humble before God, since they are prescribing to him the same laws which they themselves keep. But this is the reason why Paul wants us to be so diligent not to be deceived by the traditions of men (Col 2:4) and by that "self-chosen spirituality", as he calls it, that is, by the self-willed worship of God elaborated apart from God’s instruction by men. So it is indeed: both our own and all men’s wisdom must become foolishness to us, so that we let him alone be wise! But those who try to make themselves agreeable to him by means of pious exercises devised according to human convenience, and impose on him, as it were against his will, the perverse obedience which is (in fact) rendered to men, do not in any way stop this way. So it happened in former times for many centuries and also still in our times, and so it happens also today in those places, where one respects the command of the creature higher than that of the creator, in those places, where the religion - if such still deserves to be called religion in spite of everything - is polluted with more manifold and foolish superstitions than ever any paganism. For what should the mind of man be able to produce but nothing but carnal, foolish things, which are truly the image of their authors?

IV,10,25 The protectors of such superstitious customs also refer to the fact that Samuel sacrificed at Ramah and that this, although against the law, was pleasing to God (1Sam 7,17). The solution is easy: it is not a question of a second altar, which he would have erected in contrast to the only legitimate one, but, since no place for the ark of the covenant had yet been decreed, he designated the city in which he lived as the most suitable one for the sacrifices. In any case, the holy prophet did not have in mind to introduce any innovation with regard to the sacred acts, when God so strictly forbade adding or subtracting anything. Now, as for the example of Manoah, I maintain that it was something extraordinary and unique (Judges 13:19). Manoah offered a sacrifice to God as an inconsiderate man, and this did not happen without God’s approval, because he did not undertake it out of a rash impulse of his heart, but on a heavenly impulse. But how much God detests what mortals devise out of themselves to worship Him, we have another conspicuous proof of, who is not inferior to Manoah, namely Gideon, whose ephod became a ruin not only for him and his family, but for the whole nation (Judges 8:27). In short, any alien filth with which men desire to worship God is nothing but a defilement of true holiness.

IV,10,26 Why, our adversaries ask, did Christ want those unbearable burdens that the scribes and Pharisees put on the people to be carried (Mt 23,3)? Yes (I answer), why then did the same Christ demand in another place that one should beware of the leaven of the Pharisees (Mt 16,6)? And according to the explanation of the evangelist Matthew, he understood by "leaven" everything that the Pharisees added to the purity of God’s word (Mt 16,12). What do we want more clearly than that he commands us to avoid all their teaching and to beware of it? Therefore, it is absolutely certain that the Lord did not want the consciences of His own to be tormented with the Pharisees’ own doctrines in the other passage (Mt 23,3). Also the words themselves, if one does not do violence to them, do not result in anything like that. For the Lord had in mind to strike out against the customs of the Pharisees with bitter severity; but in so doing he simply taught his hearers from the outset that, although they saw nothing in the way of life of the Pharisees that they should have followed, they should not refrain from doing what they taught with the word when they sat "in Moses’ chair," that is, when they sat to interpret the law. So he wanted nothing else than to prevent from the outset that the people would be led to despise the teaching itself by the bad example of those who taught it. But because some people cannot be moved in the least by reasons, but always ask for authority, I will still follow words of Augustine, in which fully the same thing is said. "The Lord’s flock," he says, "has for its overseers partly children (of God), partly hirelings. The overseers who are children are the true shepherds; but hear that the hirelings are also necessary, for many in the church preach Christ while chasing after earthly advantages; now through them the voice of Christ comes to be heard, and the sheep do not follow the hireling, but the shepherd-through the hireling! Hear now how the hirelings are marked by the Lord Himself. ’In Moses’ chair,’ he says, ’sit the scribes and Pharisees; what they say, do; but what they do, do not.’ What did he say other than: listen to the voice of the shepherd through the hirelings? For when they sit on the ’chair,’ they teach God’s law; so God teaches through them. But if they want to teach their own things, do not listen to them or do them" (Homilies on the Gospel of John 46:5f.). Thus Augustine.

IV,10,27 Now there are many inexperienced people who, when they hear that by human statutes the consciences of men are ungodly bound and God is worshipped in vain, cross out with the same process all the laws by which the order of the church is regulated. It is therefore appropriate that we also counter their error here. It is certainly very easy to slip and be mistaken here, for it is not immediately apparent what a great difference there is between those human statutes and the proper ecclesiastical orders. But I will explain the whole matter so clearly in a few words that no one will be deceived by the similarity. First of all we must know this: if we see that in every community of men a certain public authority is necessary, which should be able to promote the common peace and maintain harmony, and if we see that in all actions a certain custom always prevails, which is not to be spurned for public respectability and also downright conducive to humanity, then it must be held so in a special way in the churches, which on the one hand are best preserved with a well-regulated order of all things, but on the other hand cannot exist at all without harmony. Therefore, if we want the well-being of the church to be well taken care of, it must be emphasized with the greatest zeal that it is done according to Paul’s instruction: "Let all things be done honorably and properly" (1Cor 14:40). But since the manners of men are so various, their minds so many-sided, and their judgments and conceits so contradictory, no public authority is strong enough unless it is regulated by certain laws, nor can any custom of any kind be maintained without a fixed form. The laws, therefore, which serve this purpose, we so little wish to condemn, that we rather maintain that with their abolition the churches are stripped of their muscles and wholly disfigured and disrupted. For what St. Paul demands, namely that "all things be done honorably and orderly," cannot be held fast if order and honorableness do not endure by adding rules which then act like bands. Only with such rules one must always make the condition: they must not be considered necessary for salvation and accordingly bind the conscience with holy awe, likewise they must not be related to the worship of God, and therefore piety must not be based on them.

IV,10,28 We have, then, a very good and highly reliable mark which shows the difference between those ungodly statutes by which, as already stated, religion is obscured and consciences are brought down, and the lawful rules of life of the church; (this we gain) when we consider that the latter are always intended to serve one of the two following purposes, or both at the same time; first, that in the holy assembly of the pious everything should proceed honorably and with due dignity, and secondly, that the community of men itself should be kept in order, as it were, by bonds of humanity and moderation. For as soon as it is understood that a law is given for the sake of public respectability, the superstition into which such people fall, who measure the worship of God according to human finesse, is already removed. And again, where it is recognized that the law is meant to serve the common good, that false delusion of obligation and necessity has become obsolete, which frightened the consciences immensely, because they thought that such statutes were necessary for salvation. For nothing is sought here but that love among us may be fostered by common service. However, it is appropriate that we describe more clearly what is meant by the "respectability" that Paul commands us to have, and also by the "order" (1Cor 14:40). Now "respectability" serves the following purpose: on the one hand, in that pious customs are brought into use to give reverence to holy things, we are to be cheered up to piety by such aids; on the other hand, modesty and earnestness, which must be seen in all honorable pursuits, are thereby also to come to the highest light. In "order," the first is this, that those who are to govern may know the rule and law for good government, but the people who are governed may become accustomed to obedience to God and right discipline. The second is that peace and tranquility are provided by a well-ordered state of the church.

IV,10,29 "Respectability," then, we shall not call that which has nothing in it but vain gratification; an example of this we see, for instance, in that show-like pomp which the papists display in their sacred actions, in which nothing appears but the useless mask of daintiness and a pomp which bears no fruit. Nay, "respectability" for us is to be that which serves reverence for the sacred mysteries in such a way as to constitute a suitable exercise for piety, or at least that which contributes to an adornment suitable to the action in question, and not without fruit, but in order to remind the faithful with how much modesty, holy diffidence, and reverence they ought to treat sacred things. But now, to be exercises of piety, the ceremonies must lead us straight to Christ. And likewise, by "order" we shall not mean that paltry ostentation which has nothing but vain splendor, but rather such regulation as removes all confusion, barbarity, and unruliness, all strife and contention. For the first group (i.e., for institutions that serve "respectability") there are examples in Paul; for example, that unholy banquets should not be mixed with the Lord’s holy supper, and that women should appear in public only veiled (1Cor 11:21, 5). Very many other examples of this we have in daily use; these include bending the knees and uncovering the head when praying, not administering the Lord’s sacraments untidily but with a certain dignity, observing a certain respectability when burying the deceased - and whatever else may be added. To the second group (i.e. to the statutes that serve the "order") belongs that for the public prayers, sermons and holy acts certain hours are fixed, that during the sermons there is silence, that certain places are available, that songs are sung, that for the celebration of the Lord’s Supper certain days are fixed beforehand; here it also belongs that Paul forbids the teaching of women in the church (1Cor 14:34), and similar things more. Above all, however, here is to be mentioned that which maintains discipline, such as ecclesiastical instruction, church discipline, banishment, fasting, and what else could be enumerated in this way. Thus all the ecclesiastical statutes, which we accept as holy and wholesome, can be summarized in two main parts: namely, the one refers to customs and ceremonies, the other to discipline and peace.

IV,10,30 But there is a danger here that, on the one hand, the false bishops will take from our remarks a pretext to excuse their impious, tyrannical laws, and on the other hand, there will be some people who are even too fearful, and who, warned by the former abuses, will now not give room to a single law, even if it were holy. In view of this danger, it is appropriate to testify here that I approve only those human statutes which are founded on God’s authority, taken from Scripture, and therefore fully divine. As an example, I will take genuflection, which does take place when solemn prayers are held. The question now is whether this is a human tradition that everyone may reject or refrain from. I maintain: it is human, but in such a way that it is at the same time divine. From God it comes, insofar as it is a piece of that "respectability" for which, as the apostle commands us, we are to care and which we are to observe (1Cor 14:40). From men it comes, inasmuch as it points out in particular what had been more hinted at (by the apostle) in general than set forth. From this one example it may be judged how we are to judge of this whole group: (1.) Since the Lord faithfully summed up in his holy words of revelation, and also clearly interpreted, all the main sum of true righteousness, and all the pieces of the worship of his divine being, besides in general all that was necessary for salvation, he alone is to be heard as master in these things. (2.) Since, however, he did not wish to prescribe in detail what we should observe in the outward exercise of discipline and in the ceremonies - he foresaw that this would depend on the circumstances of the time, and was not of the opinion that one and the same form would be suitable for all times - we must have recourse here to the general rules which he gave us, so that everything which the need of the church will ever make necessary in the way of regulations for "order" and "respectability" may be directed according to them. (3.) Finally, he did not prescribe anything explicit, because these things are not necessary for salvation, and because they must be applied in different ways for the edification of the church, according to the customs of the individual people and of the individual time; therefore it will be in place, according as the usefulness of the church requires, both to modify or discard institutions in use, and to create new ones. I admit, of course, that one must not rashly, nor repeatedly, nor for trifling causes, resort to innovation. But what brings harm or what edifies, love will judge best; if we let it be our master, all will be well.

IV,10,31 Now it is the duty of the Christian people, though with a free conscience and without all superstition, yet with a pious and obedient inclination, to hold in contempt what has been established according to this guideline, not to treat it with contempt and not to pass it over with casual disregard. So little can it be said that it may openly injure them out of pomposity or rebelliousness! But why, it will be asked, can there be any question of freedom of conscience in the face of such reverence and respect? Yes, indeed! It will exist splendidly if we consider that we are not dealing here with unchangeable, eternal determinations to which we would be bound, but with external exercises of human weakness, which we do not all need, but which we all perform, because we owe it to one another to cultivate love among ourselves. This can be seen in the examples given above, why, for example, does religion consist in the woman’s headscarf, so that it would be a sin if she went out with her head bare? Isa the commandment of the silence of the woman (in the congregation) so sacred that it cannot be violated without committing the worst iniquity? Isa there a secret in genuflecting (praying) or burying dead bodies, so that one cannot refrain from it without sinning? Not at all! For if a woman, in order to help her neighbor, has to hurry so much that she cannot cover her head, she does not commit a sin if she hurries with her head unveiled. There are also occasions when it is not less proper for her to speak than it is for her to remain silent. Nothing forbids that one, who is prevented by illness from bending the knees, prays standing. And finally, it is better to bury a deceased person early than to wait until he decays unburied, if there is no burial garment or if there are no people to escort him. Nevertheless, with these things it stands in such a way that the custom of the country, the existing mechanisms and finally the human feeling and the rule of the modesty already give us in the sense what is to be done or to be avoided. If someone has done something wrong through imprudence or forgetfulness, no crime has been committed, but if it has been done out of contempt (of the order), the unruliness (which is evident in it) is to be disapproved. Likewise, it does not matter what the days and hours (for worship) are, how the places (in the church) are arranged, and what psalms are to be sung on the individual days. On the other hand, that (in general) there are certain days and fixed hours, that there is a space to accommodate everyone, that is necessary if one somehow takes into consideration the preservation of peace. For to what great disputes would the confusion in these things form the germ, if everyone were allowed to change according to his taste what should serve the common well-being! For if things are placed in the middle, as it were, and left to the discretion of the individual, it will never, ever happen that all will like the same thing. If anyone now objects and wants to be wiser here than is proper, then let him see for himself in what way he makes his obstinacy pleasing to the Lord! But let Paul’s word be enough for us, we do not have the habit to argue, and neither do the churches of God (1Cor 11:16).

IV,10,32 But we must now strive with the utmost zeal to see that no error creeps in to poison and darken this pure use (of the church statutes). This will be achieved, however, if all existing statutes display an obvious usefulness, if they are admitted only very sparingly, and above all, if the instruction of a faithful shepherd is added to them and closes off access to all erroneous opinions from the outset. But this insight will have the effect that everyone will retain his freedom in all these matters, and that nevertheless everyone will voluntarily impose a certain constraint on his freedom, insofar as that "respectability" of which we spoke, or also the consideration of love, requires it. Furthermore, this insight will have the consequence that in observing these things we act without all superstition, and that we do not demand them from others too stubbornly, that we do not consider a service better for the sake of the fullness of the ceremonies, and that one church does not disparage another because of the difference in the external order. And finally, such knowledge will ensure that we do not establish an eternal law for ourselves here, but refer the whole practice of such customs and also their purpose to the edification of the church and, in the event that it requires it, bear it without offense that not only one or the other is changed, but also all customs that were previously in practice with us are discarded. For the fact that the circumstances of the time can bring it about that some customs, which otherwise were not ungodly or unseemly, must be abolished because the circumstances demand it, - our time is an effective proof of this. For in the great blindness and ignorance of the past, the churches used to cling to ceremonies in such perverse delusion and obstinate zeal that they could hardly be sufficiently cleansed of monstrous superstition without abolishing many ceremonies which had perhaps not been instituted in ancient times without reason, and which in and of themselves showed no impiety.

Chapter eleven


Of the jurisdiction of the church and its abuse, as seen in the papacy.

IV,11,1 Now there remains the third piece of ecclesiastical power, and that which is the most important in a well-ordered state of the Church: it lies, as we have already said, in jurisdiction. Now the entire ecclesiastical jurisdiction relates to moral discipline, of which we shall soon have to speak. Just as no city or village can exist without authorities and public government, so also the Church of God, as I have already explained, but am now compelled to repeat again, needs, as it were, its spiritual government, which, however, is completely distinct from the civil one and in no way hinders or weakens it, but rather provides it with essential help and encouragement. This ecclesiastical jurisdiction will therefore be, in its essential content, nothing other than an order set up to preserve the spiritual regiment. To this end, judicial authorities have been established in the Church from the beginning to exercise moral discipline, to take punitive action against vice, and to administer the office of the keys. This state (i.e. the elders) is what Paul has in mind in the (first) letter to the Corinthians when he speaks of "rulers" (1Cor 12:28). And he means the same in the Epistle to the Romans when he says: "If someone governs, let him be careful" (Rom 12,8). For he is not addressing the authorities there - Christian authorities did not exist at that time - but those who were assigned to the "shepherds" for the purpose of the spiritual regiment of the church. Also in the (first) letter to Timothy he speaks of two kinds of elders, those "who labor in the word" and others who do not practice the preaching of the word, but nevertheless "preside well" (1Tim 5:17). Now undoubtedly by this second group he means the men who were appointed to oversee the customs and the entire use of the keys. For this authority of which we speak here is fully attached to the "keys" which Christ delivered to His Church, as recorded in Matthew in the eighteenth chapter. There the Lord commands those who have despised personal admonitions to be seriously admonished in the name of the whole church, and teaches that such people are to be expelled from the fellowship of believers if they persist in their stubbornness (Mt 18:15-18). Now such admonitions and punishments cannot proceed without prior investigation of the case, and therefore a judicial procedure and a certain order are required. Therefore, if we do not wish to invalidate the promise of the keys, and to eliminate banns, solemn admonitions, and the like, we must concede to the Church a certain jurisdiction. The readers must note that in that passage (Mt 18) it is not a question of the general teaching authority (of the church), as is the case in Mt 16 (verse 19) and John 20 (verse 23), but that here the right of the synedrium is transferred to the flock of Christ for the future. Up to that day the Jews had their own way of government; this Christ now sets up in his church, as far as the pure institution (as such) is concerned. And this happens with a serious threat of punishment. For so it was necessary, because otherwise the judgment of the unsightly, despised church might have been thrown to the winds by imprudent and puffed-up people. Now, lest it trouble the reader that Christ, in the same words, intimates two things which are quite different from each other, it will be of use to untie this knot. There are two passages that speak of binding and loosing. One is in the 16th chapter of Matthew: Christ first gives the promise that He would give Peter "the keys of the kingdom of heaven," and then He immediately adds that what Peter had bound or loosed on earth should also be so in heaven (Mt 16,19). With these words the Lord does not indicate anything different than with the others that are found in John (John 20:23): He is about to send out the disciples to preach and after he has "blown" on them he says to them: "Whose sins you remit, they shall be remitted to them, and whose sins you retain, they shall be retained in heaven" (John 20:23; not Luther text). Now I want to put forward an interpretation that is not sophistical, not forced and not twisted, but rather clear, unambiguous and easily accessible. This commission (to the disciples) to remit and retain sins, as well as that promise to Peter concerning binding and loosing (Mt 16,19) cannot be referred to anything else than the ministry of the word: by entrusting this ministry to the apostles, the Lord equipped them at the same time with this ministry to bind and loose. For what else is the main sum of the gospel, but that all of us who are slaves of sin and death are absolved and made free through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, but that those who do not accept and recognize Christ as the Deliverer and Redeemer are condemned and delivered to eternal bonds? When the Lord gave this message to his apostles to carry to all nations, he honored it to affirm that it was his message and had proceeded from him, with this glorious testimony, to the extraordinary strengthening of the apostles themselves as well as of all to whom it should reach. It was of importance that the apostles should have a sure and constant assurance for their preaching; for they were not only to go forth to infinite labors, sorrows, inconveniences and dangers, but also finally to seal this preaching with their blood! So that they knew, I think, that this message was not vain and without content, but full of force and power, it mattered that in such great affliction, such great difficulties of circumstances, and such great dangers, they had the conviction that they were doing God’s cause; it mattered, It mattered that, in the midst of the opposition of the whole world, they recognized that God was on their side; it mattered that they understood that Christ, whom they had not seen present with them on earth, was in heaven to confirm the truth of the doctrine which he had delivered to them! On the other hand, it must also have been most certainly testified to their hearers that that teaching of the gospel was not the word of the apostles, but God’s own word, that it had not originated on earth, but had come down from heaven. For such things as the forgiveness of sins, the promise of eternal life, and the message of salvation cannot, after all, be in the power of man. So Christ testified that in the preaching of the gospel nothing was proper to the apostles but the ministry, but that it was he who spoke and promised all things through their mouths as through an instrument. Therefore, he testified, the forgiveness of sins they proclaimed was God’s true promise, the condemnation they threatened was God’s certain judgment. This testimony, however, is given for all time, and it remains firm, in order to give to all the certainty and security that the word of the Gospel, by whichever man it may finally be proclaimed, is God’s own supreme sentence, proclaimed before the highest judgment seat, recorded in the book of life, and valid in heaven, firm and unchangeable. We see, then, that the key power in those passages is simply the preaching of the gospel, and that, when we turn our attention to men, it is not both a power and a ministry. For in the proper sense Christ did not give this authority to men, but to his word, which he made men the servants of.

IV,11,2 There is then, as I said, a second passage which deals with the authority to bind and loose. This is found in Matthew 18 (Mt 18,17f.); there Christ says: "If a brother does not hear the church, keep him as a Gentile and a tax collector. Verily I say unto you, whatsoever ye shall bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever ye shall loose shall be loosed" (Mt 18:17 s.; not always Luther text). This passage is not similar to the former in every respect, but is to be understood in a somewhat different sense. Of course, I do not consider the two passages so different that they do not have much in common. They have this in common: they are both general statements, the authority to bind and loose is of the same kind in both cases - it happens through the word of God -, the commission is the same and the promise is the same. On the other hand, the two passages differ in that the first deals in a special way with the preaching that the ministers of the Word practice, while the second refers to the banishment that is granted to the Church. The church now "binds" the one whom she puts under ban - not that she plunges him into eternal ruin and despair, but that she condemns his life and his conduct and, if he does not convert, reminds him already now of his damnation. It "redeems" him whom it receives back into its fellowship; for in so doing it makes him, as it were, a fellow member of the unity it has in Christ Jesus. So that no one may stiff-neckedly despise the judgment of the church, or think lightly of it, that he is condemned by the sentence of the faithful, the Lord testifies that such judgment of the faithful is nothing but the pronouncement of his own sentence, and that what the faithful have accomplished from earth is regarded as valid in heaven. For the faithful have the word of God to condemn the perverse; they have the word to accept back into grace those who repent. But they cannot err, nor can they contradict God’s judgment; for they judge solely on the basis of God’s law, and this is not an uncertain or earthly opinion, but God’s holy will and heavenly word of revelation! From these two passages, which I think I have interpreted briefly and also comprehensibly and truthfully, those swarm spirits (the papists) now try, without distinction, depending on how their swindle drives them, to justify sometimes confession, sometimes excommunication, sometimes jurisdiction, sometimes the right to legislate, sometimes indulgences. They also cite the first place to prove the supremacy of the Roman See. Thus they know how to make their "keys" fit all locks and doors, as they please, so that one would like to say that they have practiced the locksmith’s trade all their lives!

IV,11,3 Some people now imagine that all this was merely temporary, because at that time the authorities were still strangers to the confession of our religion. Whoever thinks this is mistaken, because he does not consider what a great difference and what a considerable dissimilarity there is between the ecclesiastical and the civil power. For the Church does not possess the right of the sword to punish and chastise with it, it has no power of command to exercise compulsion, it has no dungeon, nor any other punishments such as are usually inflicted by the authorities. Moreover, the Church does not mean that the transgressor should be punished against his will, but that he should show his penitence by voluntarily accepting chastisement. These are, therefore, two quite different things; for neither does the church presume to do anything that is proper to the authorities, nor can the authorities do what the church does. An example will make this easier to understand. Let us suppose that someone has gotten drunk. In a city with proper order, in this case he would be punished with imprisonment. Or let us assume that he has committed fornication. Then he will be punished similarly or even more severely. Thus the laws, the authorities and the external court are satisfied. Now it can happen that the person concerned does not show any sign of repentance, but rather grumbles and grumbles against it. Should the church leave it at that? But such people cannot be admitted to the Lord’s Supper without disgracing Christ and His holy foundation. Reason also requires that one who has caused offense to the church by evil example should remedy the annoyance he has caused by solemnly affirming his repentance. The reason given by those who are of the opposite opinion is too insignificant. They say: Christ gave this task to the church because there was no authority to carry it out. But it does happen frequently that the authorities are somewhat negligent, and perhaps even sometimes that they themselves have to be punished, as happened to the Emperor Theodosius. Moreover, the same could almost be said of the entire ministry of the Word. Now, then, let the shepherds for once, according to the opinion of those people, cease to punish the manifest vices, that they cease to reprove, accuse, and rebuke! For there are Christian authorities who are to punish such things with the laws and with the sword! In any case, I still say that just as the authorities must cleanse the church of offenses with punishment and coercion, so the minister of the Word must in turn assist the authorities so that not so many people sin. Thus, the two ministries must be connected so that one is helpful to the other and not a hindrance.

IV,11,4 And truly, if someone considers Christ’s words (Mt 18) more carefully, he will easily recognize that in them a permanent and lasting order in the church is described, but not a merely temporal one. For it is not appropriate that we report those who do not want to obey our (personal) admonitions to the authorities - and yet it would have to happen this way if the authorities had taken the place of the church in the meantime! Christ gives the promise: "Verily, verily, I say unto you, what ye shall bind on earth …"; shall we now say that this refers only to a single year or to a few? Moreover, Christ established nothing new in this place, but followed the custom which had always been held in abeyance in the ancient church of His people, and thus indicated that the church could not do without the spiritual jurisdiction which had existed from the beginning. And this has also been confirmed by the unanimous judgment of all times. For when the emperors and the authorities began to profess Christ, spiritual jurisdiction was not immediately abolished, but only arranged in such a way that it did not interfere with civil jurisdiction and was not confused with it. And rightly so; for an authority, if it is pious, will not want to evade the common obedience of the children of God, the most important part of which is to submit to the church when it judges according to God’s word - let alone that it should abolish such judgment! "For what is there more honorable," says Ambrose, "than that the emperor should be called a son of the Church? For a good emperor stands within the Church and not above the Church" (Homily against Auxentius 36). Those people, then, who, in order to honor the authorities, rob the church of such authority, not only falsify Christ’s word through incorrect interpretation, but at the same time pronounce a very severe condemnation sentence on all holy bishops, of whom there have been so many since the time of the apostles, because they would (then) have usurped the honor and office of the authorities under a false pretext.

IV,11,5 But on the other hand, it is also appropriate that we observe in what way ecclesiastical jurisdiction was exercised in ancient times and what great abuses then crept in. This is useful so that we can learn what must be abolished and what must be reintroduced from the old times if, after the kingdom of Antichrist has been overthrown, we want to reestablish the true kingdom of Christ. First and foremost, ecclesiastical jurisdiction has as its goal the prevention of offenses and the removal of any offenses that may have arisen. In exercising it, two things in particular must be observed: first, this spiritual power must be fully and completely divorced from the right of the sword (which belongs to the authorities), and second, its exercise must not be at the discretion of an individual, but only by a lawful assembly. Both have been so handled in the purer church (1Cor 5:4f.). (1.) For the holy bishops did not exercise their power by beating, or by imprisonment, or by other civil punishments, but they applied, as was proper, the word of the Lord alone. For the most severe punishment that the church can apply, as it were the very worst ray of weather, is the ban, which is applied only in distress. This, however, does not require force or the laying on of hands, but is content with the force of the Word of God. In short, the jurisprudence of the ancient Church was nothing else than, so to speak, a declaration (practica) made with the deed of what Paul teaches about the spiritual power of shepherds. "To us," he says, "is given a power to destroy with it fortifications, to abase all height that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, to subdue all knowledge, and to bring it into captivity under the obedience of Christ; but we are ready to avenge all disobedience" (2Cor 10:4-6; not everywhere Luther text, partly inaccurate). But as this is done by the preaching of the doctrine of Christ, so on the other hand those who profess to be household members of the faith must also be judged precisely on the basis of what is taught, lest the doctrine become a mockery. But this cannot be done unless with the office is connected at the same time the right to call up those who must be personally admonished or more severely rebuked, and also the right to keep away from communion in the Holy Supper those who could not be admitted without desecration of this great mystery (sacrament). Thus, while Paul elsewhere declares that it is not our business to "judge those outside" (1Cor 5:12), he subjects the children of the church to the exercise of discipline by which their vices are to be punished, thus implying that at that time (in the church) there was a jurisdiction from which none among the believers were removed.

IV,11,6 (2.) Such authority, however, as we have already noted, was not vested in any individual, so that he could have done as he pleased, but in the assembly of elders, which was to the church what the council is to the city. When Cyprian mentions by what men this power was exercised in his time, he is wont to attach to the bishop the whole "clergy" (Epistle 16:2; 17:2). However, elsewhere he also shows how, although the "clergy" was in charge, it was done in such a way that, in the meantime, the "people" were not excluded from the investigation; for he writes: "Since the beginning of my activity as bishop, I have resolved to do nothing without the advice of the clergy and the consent of the people" (Letter 14:4). But the general and customary way was that the jurisdiction of the Church was exercised by the council of the "presbyters" (elders). Among these, as has been said, there were two groups; namely, some were appointed to teach, while others were merely overseers of morals. Gradually this institution departed from its original nature, so that already in the time of Ambrose only the "clerics" participated in the ecclesiastical courts. Ambrose himself deplores this with the words: "The old synagogue and afterwards the church had elders, without whose advice nothing was done; this has now fallen into disuse through I do not know what carelessness today - perhaps the laxity or rather the arrogance of the teachers should be to blame for this, in that they alone want to make the impression as if they were something" (Pseudo-Ambrose, on the First Epistle to Timothy, 5,1). There we see how much this holy man is angry about the fact that something of the better state of the church has fallen into decay, while for the people of his time an at least tolerable order still existed. What would he say, then, if he looked at today’s shapeless ruins, which show almost no trace of the old building? What kind of lamentation would he make? First of all, the bishop has arrogated to himself, against right and justice alone, what was given to the church. That is exactly as if a consul expelled the senate and seized the rule alone! Although the bishop now has precedence over the others in terms of honor, on the other hand, the entire official community has more authority than a single person. It was therefore a shameful act that a single man transferred the common authority (of the church) to himself and then opened the door to tyrannical despotism, deprived the church of its right, and suppressed and abolished the assembly ordained by Christ’s Spirit.

IV,11,7 But - as one evil always arises from another - the bishops then again disdainfully pushed the matter away from themselves and transferred it to others, as if it were not worthy of their care. As a result, "officiants" have been appointed to carry out this office. I am not talking about what kind of people they are, but I am only saying that they do not differ from the secular judges in anything. And yet they still call this "spiritual" jurisdiction, although there exclusively for the sake of earthly things is litigated! Where do these people get the impudence, even if there were no other irregularities, to dare to call such a court, where (as everywhere else) one settles one’s legal disputes, the "court of the church"? But, they reply, there are also exhortations, and there is also the ban! Yes, truly, this is how one makes fun of God. So if some poor man owes money, he is summoned. If he appears, they condemn him. If the condemned man does not pay, he is "admonished"! And after one has "admonished" him twice, one goes still another step and puts him into the "ban". But if he does not appear, then he is "admonished" to present himself to the court; if he fails to do so, then he is "admonished" (again) and then immediately put into the "ban"! I now ask: what has this to do at all with the institution of Christ or with the original custom or with ecclesiastical conduct? But, one replies again, in these "church courts" sin is also punished! Yes, truly, fornication, unboundedness, drunkenness and such disgraceful deeds are not only tolerated by these people, but, as it were, even encouraged and strengthened by tacit approval, not only among the people, but also among the "clergy" themselves! Among many (such malefactors) they summon a few, either in order not to give the impression as if they were even too casual in overlooking, or, however, in order to pull the money out of the people’s pockets. I am still silent about the exploitation, the robbery, the theft and the desecration of sanctuaries that result from it. I am silent about the kind of people who are mostly chosen for this office. It is enough that when the Romans boast of their "spiritual jurisdiction," it is easy to show that there is nothing more contrary to the procedure established by Christ, and that their cause has no more resemblance to the original custom than darkness has to light.

IV,11,8 Although we have not said all that could have been adduced here, and although what we have set forth has been touched upon in but few words, yet I am of good confidence that I have won the controversy so far that now no one has any reason to be in any doubt that the "spiritual authority" to which the pope, together with his whole kingdom, haughtily refers, is a tyranny which is impiety against the word of God and injustice against the people of God. By the name of "spiritual power" I now understand both the presumption of the papists in forging together new doctrines, with which they have diverted the poor people from the fair purity of the Word of God, and the unjust statutes in which they have entangled them, and the jurisdiction, wrongly called "ecclesiastical," which they exercise through their "suffragans" and "officiants." For if we let Christ rule among us, it cannot be otherwise than that all such rule is immediately thrown to the ground and collapses. But the right of the sword, which they also ascribe to themselves, does not belong in the discussion here, because it is not exercised on the consciences. But in this piece, too, it is appropriate to take care that they remain the same at all times, namely, that they are nothing less than what they want to be taken for: Pastors of the Church. Nor do I raise my accusations against particular vices of (individual) men, but against the common nefariousness of the whole estate, nay, against the pestilence of that estate itself; for the latter thinks itself abridged in its rights, if it has not gained prestige by wealth and hopeful titles. If we inquire of Christ’s authority in this matter, there is no doubt that he wished to keep the ministers of his word from civil rule and earthly command, saying, "The kings of the nations rule over them … It shall not be so among you …" (Mt 20:25 s.; Lk 22:25f.). For with this he not only gives to understand that the office of a shepherd is different from the office of a prince, but that these are things which are too much separated from each other to meet in one man. For the fact that Moses held both offices at the same time came about, first, by a rare miracle, and second, it was something temporary (and applied only until) conditions were better ordered. But when the Lord prescribes a certain form, the civil government is left to Moses, on the other hand he is commanded to cede the priesthood to his brother (Aaron) (Ex 18,13-26). And rightly so; for it is beyond nature that a single man should do justice to these two burdens. This is how it has been diligently kept in the church at all times. Also, as long as there remained a form of the church corresponding to the truth, not a single one among the bishops appeared who would have sought to arrogate to himself the right of the sword, so that in the time of Ambrose it was a common saying that the emperors had more desire for the priesthood than the priests for the imperial rule (Ambrose, letter 20,23). For it was deeply engraved in the hearts of all people what he expresses afterwards, to the emperor belonged the palaces, to the priest the churches (Letter 20,19).

IV,11,9 But once the procedure had been devised by virtue of which the bishops retained the title, the dignity and the riches of their office, but without the burden and toil connected with it, then, in order not to let them go completely idle, the right of the sword was given to them, or rather: they arrogated it to themselves. With what pretext will they now actually defend this insolence? Was it then the business of the bishops to occupy themselves with the investigation of legal cases and the administration of cities and provinces, and to devote themselves to the widest extent to business that has nothing to do with them? And this, when they have so much work and occupation in their own office that, if they were to devote themselves to it fully and without interruption and were not distracted by any diversions, they would hardly be able to satisfy it! Nevertheless, with their characteristic stubbornness, they have no hesitation in boastfully claiming that in this way the honor of Christ’s kingdom will flourish, and that in the meantime they will not be distracted too much from the tasks of their profession. Now, as to the first assertion, if this is the due adornment of the sacred office, that they have risen to such a height as to be fearsome even to the most exalted monarchs, then they have indeed reason to be right with Christ, who (if it be so) has seriously injured their honor in this respect. For he does say: "The kings of the nations rule over them … Let it not be so among you …" (Mt 20:25 s.; Lk 22,25 s.; not Luther text). But what could have been said more contemptible than these words, at least according to their opinion? And yet he did not impose a harsher law on his servants than he himself first made for himself and took upon himself. "Who hath set me," saith he, "to be a judge or an arbitrator of inheritance over you?" (Lk 12:14). We see that he simply rejects the office of judgement from himself, and he would not have done so if it were something consistent with his office. Are not servants now to be forced under the barrier to which their master has submitted? And as for the second assertion, I would have them prove it as much by deed as it is easy to say it over and over again. But since it did not seem right to the apostles "to refrain from the word of God and to serve at table" (Acts 6:2), these bishops are convicted by the very fact that they do not want to be taught, that it is not the business of the same man to make a good bishop and a good prince. For if the apostles, who, with the abundance of gifts with which they were endowed, were able to satisfy far more and far heavier cares than any men born after them, nevertheless confessed that they could not at the same time attend to the ministry of the word and the ministry of the table without collapsing under the burden, how then should those men, who, after all, are quite insignificant little men in comparison with the apostles, be able to perform a hundred times more than they? But to try to do so would have been a sign of most impudent and even too presumptuous self-confidence. And yet we see that it has happened - with what result is obvious! For nothing else could come of it than that these bishops left their own official task and went into a foreign field.

IV,11,10 There is also no doubt that from small beginnings they gradually made such tremendous progress. For they could not climb up to such a height at the first step. No, soon they raised themselves secretly by craftiness and hidden arts, so that no one foresaw what was to happen until the time came, - soon they extorted from the princes some increase of their power by pressure and threats on favorable occasions - soon also, when they saw that the princes were willingly inclined to give something away, they abused their foolish and unadvised good-will. In ancient times, when a difference of opinion arose, the pious, in order to avoid the necessity of court proceedings, entrusted the decision to the bishop, because they had no doubt as to his sincerity. The bishops of old were often involved in such decisions, and, as Augustine testifies in one passage, they disliked it very much, but they went through the trouble against their will, so that the parties would not go before the court with its quarrels. The bishops of the Papists, however, made a proper jurisdiction out of these decisions based on voluntariness, which were in complete contrast to the noise of the court. When some time later cities and countries were oppressed by manifold needs, they placed themselves under the care of the bishops in order to be covered under their protection - but the papist bishops, with admirable skill, turned protectors into masters! That they gained an essential part of their power by violent sedition cannot be denied. The princes, however, who of their own free will conferred jurisdiction on the bishops, were driven to it by various motives. But though their indulgence may have had a semblance of piety about it, they have not done the best service to the welfare of the church by this misplaced liberality; for they have thereby corrupted the ancient and truthful order of the church, nay, to speak the truth, they have abolished it altogether. The bishops, however, who have abused such kindness of princes for their own advantage, have by this one example testified sufficiently that they are not bishops at all. For if they had had even a shred of the apostolic spirit, they would have answered with the words of Paul: "The weapons of our knighthood are not carnal, but spiritual" (2Cor 10:4; conclusion very inaccurate). But by letting themselves be carried away by blind greed, they have corrupted both themselves and their descendants, as well as the Church.

IV,11,11 Finally, the bishop of Rome, not satisfied with middle-sized dominions, laid hands first on kingdoms and finally even on the empire. And in order to keep the possession gained by pure robbery with some semblance (of right), he soon boasts to have held it according to "divine right", soon he uses the "Constantinian donation", soon also other legal reasons as a pretext. First I answer with Bernhard: "It may be that he justifies his claims with some other right, but he does not do it with apostolic right. For Peter could not give away what he did not possess, but he gave to his successors what he had, namely the care of the churches" (Bernard of Clairvaux, Booklet of Reflection to Pope Eugene the Third, II,6,10). "But since the Lord and Master says that he was not set to judge between two people (Lk 12,14), the servant and disciple must not think that it is unworthy of him if he does not judge all people" (Ibid. I,6,7). Bernard, however, is speaking (here) of civil legal matters; for he immediately continues, "Your authority relates to sins and not to possessions; for it is for sins and not for possessions that you have received the keys of the kingdom of heaven. Now which dignity seems greater to you, to forgive sins or to distribute goods? There is no comparison at all! These subordinate and earthly things have their judges, namely the kings and princes of the earth. For what purpose then do you break into foreign territory …?" (Ibid). Likewise he says: "You - he addresses Pope Eugene - have now become a superior. What for? Not for ruling, I mean. Let us all remember, however highly we may think of ourselves, that a service is imposed upon us, but not a dominion given. Learn it that you need a (vineyard) hoe, but not a scepter, to do the work of a prophet" (Ibid. II,6,9). Or likewise, "It is clear that dominion is denied to apostles. Now, then, go thou and dare to arrogate to thyself, as a ruler, the apostleship, or as the bearer of an apostolic office, dominion!" (Ibid., II,6,10 s.). And right after that: "The apostolic way is like this: Dominion is forbidden, servanthood is commanded" (Ibid. II,6,11). The man said this in such a way that it is obvious to everyone that he speaks the truth himself, yes, the matter is clear even without any words - but nevertheless the Roman pope at the Council of Arles (1234) did not hesitate to decide that the supreme power of both swords (the "temporal" and the "spiritual") was due to him according to "divine right"!

IV,11,12 Now, as for the Donation of Constantine, all who are even moderately versed in the history of those times need no instruction as to what an implausible, indeed downright ridiculous thing it is. But to leave history aside, Gregory (I) alone is a suitable and highly credible witness to this. For every time he speaks of the emperor, he calls him his "most gracious lord" and himself his "unworthy servant" (Letter I,5; IV,20; III,61). Likewise, in another place he says: "But let our Lord (the Emperor!) not be so quick to be angry with the priests for the sake of his earthly power; nay, for the sake of him whose servants they are (for Christ’s sake!), let him rule over them with sublime deliberation in such a way as to show them at the same time due reverence" (Letter V,36). We see how, with reference to general obedience (to be rendered by all), he wants to be regarded as one of the people. For in this place he is not pursuing the cause of anyone else, but his own. In another place he says: "I have confidence in Almighty God that he will grant long life to pious gentlemen, that he may guide us under your hand according to his mercy" (Letter V,39). I have quoted these remarks not because I intend to discuss thoroughly the question concerning the Donation of Constantine, but only so that readers may realize in passing how childishly the Romans lie when they endeavor to lay claim to earthly dominion for their pope. All the more shameless was the shamelessness of Augustine Steuchus, who dared to sell his labor and his tongue to the Roman pope in so hopeless a matter. Valla, which was also not difficult for a learned and perceptive man, had thoroughly refuted that fable (namely, the "Donation of Constantine"). However, as a man too little versed in ecclesiastical matters, he had not said everything that could have served the cause. So Steuchus got into the act and threw out disgusting antics to obscure the clear light. And truly, he led his master’s cause no less insignificantly than if some buffoon were pretending to do the same, and thus (in fact) acceded to Valla. But the cause is worthy that the pope buys such protectors for wages, and these hired tongue-thrashers are also worthy that they deceive the hope of profit - as it happened to Eugubinus!

IV,11,13 If someone asks, by the way, about the time since this self-imagined (secular) rule (of the popes) arose, it is to be said: it was not yet five hundred years ago, when the popes still remained in obedience to the princes and when no pope was elected without the consent of the emperor. An opportunity to change this order was offered to Gregory the Seventh by Emperor Henry, the fourth of his name, a reckless and imprudent man, without prudence, of great audacity and of disorderly living. Since he offered the bishoprics of all Germany for sale at his court and also exposed them to robbery, Hildebrand, who had been annoyed by him, used an applauding pretext to take revenge. But because he seemed to be pursuing a good and pious cause, he found support in the favor of many people. Moreover, Henry was hated by most of the princes because of his arrogant way of governing. Finally, Hildebrand, who called himself (as pope) Gregory VII, as an impure and good-for-nothing man, let the wickedness of his heart come out openly, and this was the cause of his being abandoned by many who had made common cause with him. Nevertheless, he managed to give his successors the opportunity, with impunity, not only to throw off the yoke, but also to make the emperors dependent on him. In addition, since then many emperors resembled Henry more than Julius Caesar. It was not difficult to subdue these emperors, because they sat at home and carelessly and casually let all things go, while it was highly necessary to hold down the greed of the popes with vigor and by lawful means. We see, then, with what color that famous "Donation of Constantine" is painted, of which the pope pretends that by it the Western (Western Roman) Empire was handed over to him.

IV,11,14 In the meantime, the popes have not ceased to break into foreign dominions, sometimes by fraud, sometimes by disloyalty, sometimes by force of arms; They also brought the city of Rome itself, which was still free at that time, under their control about one hundred and thirty years ago, until they finally attained the power which they hold today, and for the maintenance and enlargement of which, for two hundred years - for they began this before they stole the rule over the city of Rome for themselves - they made such a mess of the Christian world that they almost ruined it over it. When once under Gregory (I.) the guardians of ecclesiastical property laid their hands on goods which, in their opinion, belonged to the church, and, according to the custom of official administration of property, stamped an inscription on them as a sign of their claim to ownership, Gregory summoned a council of bishops, drove off with a sharp rebuke against this secular procedure, and asked, They asked whether they did not consider a cleric who had undertaken to seize a property by stamping an inscription on his own initiative to be banished, and likewise a bishop who had given the order for such an event or had not punished it if it had gone against his order. On this question all bishops declared: such a man is banished! (Gregory I, Letter V,57a). If, in the case of a cleric, it is an outrage worthy of the curse of banishment to claim ownership of a piece of land by stamping an inscription on it - how many curses of banishment can be sufficient to punish such measures as those taken by the popes, who for all these two hundred years have sought nothing but war and bloodshed, the destruction of armies, the plundering and destruction of cities, the subjugation of peoples and the devastation of kingdoms, and all this only in order to be able to lay their hands on foreign sovereignty? In any case, it is as clear as can be that they seek nothing less than the glory of Christ. For if they voluntarily renounced everything they possessed in the way of temporal power, the honor of God, sound doctrine and the salvation of the church would be in no danger whatsoever. But they are blindly and abruptly carried away by the lust for power alone, because they think that nothing can be well, if they do not exercise the rule with harshness, as the prophet says (Eze 34,4), and with violence.

IV,11,15 Connected with jurisdiction is also the "immunity" that the Roman clerics arrogate to themselves (i.e., their freedom from fiscal and other obligations and, by extension, their "right" to largely escape civil and even criminal jurisdiction). Indeed, they believe that it is a matter unworthy of them if they should answer to the civil magistrate in matters concerning their persons, and believe that the freedom as well as the dignity of the Church lies in their being exempt from the general courts and laws. The bishops of old, however, who were otherwise very strict in upholding the law of the Church, did not see in this submission (to civil jurisdiction) any violation of their person or even of their rank. Also, the pious emperors, without anyone objecting, have always demanded clerics before their bench as often as it was necessary. For Constantine, in his epistle to the people of Nicomedia, says: "If any of the bishops have rashly made sedition, by the executive power of the servant of God, that is, by my executive power, his presumption will be put in its place" (In Theodoret, Ecclesiastical History I,20). And Valentinianus says: "Good bishops do not contradict the power of the emperor, but sincerely they keep God’s, the great king’s, commandments and they obey our laws" (In Theodoret, Church History IV,8). This conviction was held by all at that time, without anyone objecting. It is true that ecclesiastical matters were brought before the episcopal court. So, for example, if a cleric was not guilty of anything against the laws and was only accused according to the ecclesiastical laws, he was not summoned to the general court, but had the bishop as his judge in this matter. Likewise, if a question of faith was under consideration, or otherwise a matter that had to do with the Church in the proper sense, the investigation was entrusted to the Church. It is in this sense that one must understand what Ambrose writes to Valentinianus: "Your father of illustrious memory has not only pronounced in words, but has also laid down in laws, that in matters of faith he shall judge who by his office is authorized to do so, and by right is able to do so" (Letter 21:2). Likewise, he writes, "If we turn our attention to Scripture or to ancient examples, who will deny that in matters of faith, I say, in matters of faith, bishops are to judge Christian emperors, and not emperors bishops?" (Letter 21:4). Or again, "I would have come before your judgment seat, my emperor, if the bishops and the people had let me go. But they said that a matter of faith must be tried in the church before an assembled people" (Letter 21:17). It is true that he maintains that a spiritual matter, that is, a religious matter, must not be brought before the civil court, where secular disputes come to trial. In this matter his steadfastness deservedly finds universal praise. And yet he goes so far in his good cause as to declare that he will yield if it should come to force and coercion. "Voluntarily," he says, "I will not leave the office entrusted to me; but if I am forced, I know not how to resist; for our weapons are prayers and tears" (Sermon against Auxentius 1.2). Let us note the unique moderation and wisdom of this man, combined with loftiness and confidence! Justina, the emperor’s mother, because she had not been able to draw him over to the side of the Arians, endeavored to expel him from the leadership of the Church. And this would have happened if he had come to the palace in response to the summons to answer. Thus, then, he denied that the emperor was fit to judicially investigate so great a controversy. This was required both by the necessity given at that time and by the permanent nature of the matter. For he came to the conclusion that he should rather die than that with his consent such an example should pass on to his descendants (and thus perhaps be applied to them as well). And nevertheless he does not intend to resist in case violence is used. For he denies that it belongs to the episcopal manner to defend the faith and the right of the church by force of arms. For the rest, in other cases he declares himself ready to do whatever the Emperor commands. "If he demands taxes," he says, "we do not refuse them; the properties of the church pay the tax. If he demands lands, he has the power to lay claim to them, and none of us will object" (Ibid. 33). Gregory also speaks in the same way; he says: "I know very well the disposition of our most gracious Lord: he is not in the habit of interfering in priestly disputes, so as not to be troubled in any respect with our sins" (Letter IV,20). He does not exclude the emperor from judging priests in general, but only declares that there are certain cases which he must leave to the ecclesiastical court.

IV,11,16 Yes, with this exception (cf. conclusion of the previous section), holy men sought nothing else than to take precautions against less godly princes obstructing the Church in the exercise of her office in tyrannical violence and arbitrariness. For they did not disapprove of the princes occasionally using their authority in ecclesiastical matters, if this was done only to preserve the order of the church and not to disturb it, and to strengthen discipline and not to dissolve it. For the church does not have the power to exercise compulsion, nor may it desire it-I am speaking of civil compulsion-and therefore it is the duty of pious kings and princes to preserve religion by laws, ordinances, and judgments. For this reason, it happened that when the emperor Mauritius ordered some bishops to take in neighboring bishops who had been expelled by foreign nations, Gregory reaffirmed this order and exhorted the bishops to obey him (Letter I,43). And when Gregory himself was asked by the same emperor to be on friendly terms again with the bishop John of Constantinople, he gave an account of why he should not be blamed, but he made no claim to "freedom" from the secular court, but rather he promised to comply as far as it was possible for his conscience, and at the same time he declared that Mauritius, by ordering the priests to do so, had done what was proper for a God-fearing prince (Letter V,37; V,39; V,45).

Chapter Twelve


On the discipline of the church, as it is practiced primarily in the penalties and in the ban.

IV,12,1 Church discipline, the treatment of which we have postponed until this point, must be discussed in a few words, so that we may at last pass on to the other pieces of teaching. It is now based for the most part on the power of the keys and on spiritual jurisdiction. In order that this may now be more easily understood, let us divide the Church essentially into two estates: "clergy" and "people" (congregation). By "clergy" I understand, according to the common designation, those who exercise a public office in the church. We will now first deal with the general discipline to which all must be subjected. Then we want to talk about the clergy, who have their own discipline in addition to the general discipline. But there are people to whom even the name is repugnant because of their hatred of discipline. They should now know the following: If no community, indeed no house, in which even so few household members live together, can be kept in the right state without discipline, then such discipline is even more necessary in the church, whose condition must be as orderly as possible. As the saving doctrine of Christ is the soul of the church, so discipline in the church takes the place of sinews: it causes the members of the body, each in its place, to live united to one another. Anyone, therefore, who desires that discipline should be abolished, or who hinders its restoration, is undoubtedly seeking the complete dissolution of the Church, whether he does so intentionally or through lack of deliberation. For what is to happen if everyone is allowed to do as he pleases? But this is exactly what must happen if the preaching of the doctrine is not accompanied by personal individual exhortations, rebukes and other aids of this kind, which support the instruction and do not let it remain ineffective. Thus discipline is, as it were, a rein with which to restrain and restrain all those who defiantly rise up against the teaching of Christ, or also like a spur to urge on those who are not at all willing, but sometimes also, as it were, a fatherly rod with which those who have more seriously transgressed are to be chastised in mildness and in harmony with the gentleness of the Spirit of Christ. Since we see a terrible devastation already beginning to break out in the church, which is due to the fact that no care and consideration is given to keeping the people in check, the need itself already tells us loud and clear that a remedy is needed. But the only remedy is that which Christ ordained and which has always been in use among the pious.

IV,12,2 The first basis of discipline is that personal admonitions take place, that is, that he who of his own accord does not do his duty, or who acts insolently, or whose way of life leaves something to be desired in terms of respectability, or who has committed something reprehensible, has himself admonished, and that each one turns his zeal to giving his brother such admonition when the matter requires it. Above all, the pastors and elders are to watch over this; for their task is not only to preach to the people, but also to distribute exhortation and encouragement back and forth in the individual homes, if one has not progressed far enough somewhere through the general instruction that has taken place. This is what Paul teaches when he reports that he taught individually and personally (privately) as well as in the houses, and when he affirms that he is "pure from all blood" because he "has not ceased … day and night, admonishing one and all with tears" (Acts 20:20, 26, 31). For doctrine gains power and authority when the minister of the church not only sets forth to all at once what they owe to Christ, but also has the right and orderly means to demand it of those whom he has noticed to be lacking in obedience to doctrine or to be quite slothful. If anyone stiff-neckedly rejects such admonitions, or testifies by further progress in his vices that he despises them, he must, according to Christ’s instruction, first be admonished a second time with the aid of witnesses, and then be summoned before the court of the church, that is, the assembly of the elders; there he must be given a more serious admonition, pronounced as it were under public authority, that if he has reverence for the church he should submit and obey. If he does not submit, but persists in his wickedness, he will be expelled from the community of believers according to Christ’s instruction (Mt 18,15-17)

IV,12,3 At this point (Mt 18) Christ speaks exclusively of the hidden sins. It is therefore necessary to distinguish two groups here: the sins are partly of a personal ("private") nature, partly they have become public or notorious before all the world. As far as the former are concerned, Christ says to every public person: "Punish him between you and him alone" (Mt 18,15). But concerning the sins that have become publicly known, Paul instructs Timothy: "Punish them before all, that others also may fear" (1Tim 5:20). For Christ had previously said, "If … your brother sins against you …" (Mt 18,15). These two words: "in you" cannot be understood in any other way, if one does not want to be argumentative, than in the sense: "that you know it, but in such a way that no more people have knowledge of it". But the rule that Paul gives to Timothy, namely that he should also publicly rebuke those who sin publicly, he himself followed towards Peter. For since he had erred to such an extent that a public offense had resulted, he did not admonish him individually for himself, but brought him before the face of the church (Gal 2:14). The right order of procedure, then, we will keep in mind when we proceed in the punishment of "hidden" sins according to those steps laid down by Christ, but in the case of "manifest" ones we will proceed at once to the solemn rebuke by the Church, provided the offence is public.

IV,12,4 Another distinction must now be made: some of the sins are misdemeanors, while others are crimes or outrages. For the punishment of the latter, not only admonition or sharp rebuke is to be applied, but also a sharper remedy; Paul points this out to us, who not only chastises the incestuous Corinthian with words, but also punishes him with banishment as soon as he has learned of his crime (1Cor 5:3 ss.). So now we begin to see better why the spiritual jurisdiction of the Church, which acts punitively against sins on the basis of the Word of God, is the best means of health, the best foundation of order, and the best bond of unity. Therefore, when the Church removes from its fellowship flagrant adulterers, fornicators, thieves, robbers, leaders, perjurers, false witnesses, and other such people, and likewise the unruly who have been admonished even for lesser sins, but who have mocked God and His judgment, it does not presume anything improper, but exercises the jurisdiction which the Lord has conferred upon it. Furthermore, so that no one despises such a judgment of the church or thinks lightly of it, that he is condemned by a sentence of the faithful, the Lord has testified that this very judgment is nothing other than the proclamation of his own judgment, and that what the faithful have executed on earth shall be valid in heaven. For they have the word of the Lord to condemn with it the perverse, they have the word to accept again the repentant to grace (Mt 16:19; 18:18; John 20:23). Whoever hopes that the churches can long endure without this bond of discipline is mistaken in his opinion-unless, perhaps, we could with impunity dispense with the aid which the Lord has provided as necessary for us! And indeed, how necessary it is for us, we will see even better when we consider its manifold benefits.

IV,12,5 Now there is a threefold purpose which the church pursues with such punishments and with the ban. First, Christians are not to be counted among God’s contemptible people who lead a shameful and vicious way of life - as if God’s holy church were a conspiratorial mob of good-for-nothing and nefarious people (Eph 5:25f.). For the church is the body of Christ (Col 1:24), and therefore it cannot be defiled with such stinking, rotten members without the head also being defiled. So that there is nothing in the church by which the brand of disgrace is put on his holy name, such people must be excluded from his house fellowship, from whose nefariousness an evil reputation for the Christian name would have to result. Here we must also take into account the Lord’s Supper, so that it is not desecrated by indiscriminate distribution. For it is very true that if one to whom the distribution of the Lord’s Supper is entrusted has, with knowledge and will, admitted an unworthy person whom he might justly have rejected, he is just as guilty of profaning the sacred as if he had thrown the Lord’s body to the dogs. Chrysostom therefore proceeds with sharp rebuke against the priests who, fearing the power of the great, dare not exclude anyone from the Lord’s Supper. "The blood," he says, "will be required at your hands (Eze 3:18; 33:8). If ye fear man, he will laugh at you. But if you fear God, you will also be awe-inspiring to men. Let us not be afraid of scepter, purple and diadem; for here our authority is greater! I, for one, would rather give my body to death and have my blood shed than be made a partaker of such defilement" (Homilies on the Gospel of Matthew 82:6). Therefore, in order that no dishonor be done to this most holy mystery (sacrament), it is highly necessary to exercise selection in its distribution; but this can only be done by the jurisdiction of the Church. Secondly, the exercise of discipline by the church has the purpose of ensuring that the good are not corrupted, as tends to happen, by continued association with the bad. For with our tendency to turn aside from the path, nothing happens more easily than that we are led away from the right direction of life by bad examples. The apostle had this benefit of church discipline in mind when he instructed the Corinthians to expel the incestuous man from their fellowship. "A little leaven," it says, "leaveneth the whole lump" (1Cor 5:6). And the danger he saw threatening here was so great that he forbade them any intercourse with the sinner. "If anyone lets himself be called a brother," he says, "and is a fornicator or a miser or an idolater or a drunkard or a blasphemer, you shall not eat with him either" (1Cor 5:11; order not quite exact). Third, the purpose of church discipline is that sinners themselves may be put to shame and thus begin to feel remorse for their nefariousness. Thus it also benefits those concerned that their wickedness is chastised; (it happens, after all) so that they are awakened by feeling the rod, whereas through indulgence they would only have become more recalcitrant. This is what the apostle indicates when he expresses himself as follows: "But if anyone … is not obedient to our word, denounce him … and have nothing to do with him, that he may be ashamed" (2Th 3:14). He means the same thing in another place, when he writes that he gave the Corinthians to Satan, so that the spirit would be blessed in the day of the Lord…" (1Cor 5:5). That means, at least according to my interpretation: he gave him over to a temporal damnation, so that he would be eternally blessed. But when he says that he hands him over "to Satan", it is because outside the church is the devil, as in the church is Christ (Augustin). For the view of some people who wish to refer this phrase to a certain chastisement of the flesh strikes me as highly uncertain.

IV,12,6 Having stated this threefold purpose of church discipline, it remains for us to observe in what manner the church exercises this part of discipline, which consists in the administration of justice. First, let us note the distinction established above, according to which sins are partly public and partly private or somewhat hidden. "Public" are those sins which not only have one or another as witnesses, but to which fingers are pointed before all the world and to the annoyance of the whole Church. I do not call "hidden" those sins which would be unknown to people at all, as are the sins of hypocrites - for these are withdrawn from the judgment of the Church - but a middle group: they are those which are not entirely without witnesses, but yet are not public either. The former kind of sins does not require the (observance of the) steps that Christ lists (Mt 18:15-17), but the Church, where such occurs, must fulfill its official duty by summoning the sinner and punishing him according to the measure of his transgression. In the case of the second type of sin, according to Christ’s rule, the matter is brought before the church only when unruliness is added to the transgression. Once an investigation has been made, the second distinction must be observed: that between crimes and misdemeanors. For in the case of lesser offenses, one should not use such great severity, but a chastisement with words is sufficient, and that a mild and fatherly chastisement, which should not harden or upset the sinner, but lead him back to himself, so that he rejoices rather than grieves over the chastisement he has received. On the other hand, shameful deeds are to be punished with a harsher remedy, for it is not enough if the one who has seriously offended the church by an evil deed that serves as a bad example is merely rebuked with words, no, he must be deprived of communion in Holy Communion for a while until he has provided credible proof of his repentance. For Paul does not merely rebuke the Corinthian with words, but excludes him from the church and rebukes the Corinthians for tolerating him for so long (1Cor 5:1-7). This procedure was kept by the old, better church when the lawful (type of) church government was still in effect. For if someone had committed an evil deed from which an offense had arisen, he was commanded, first, to abstain from partaking of Holy Communion, and second, both to humble himself before God and to testify his repentance before the church. There were solemn customs that were imposed on the fallen as a sign of their repentance. As soon as the sinner had performed them in such a way as to give satisfaction to the Church, he was readmitted to grace by the laying on of hands. This readmission is often referred to by Cyprian as "peace" (Letter 57). Cyprian also gives us a brief description of such a ceremony. He reports, "They (sinners) do penance for a due time; then they come to confession (of sin) and receive the right of communion (in the Lord’s Supper) by the laying on of hands of the bishop and clergy" (Letter 16:2; 17:2). However, as Cyprian reports elsewhere, the bishop with the clergy exercised leadership in this act of reconciliation in such a way that the consent of the people (i.e., the congregation) was required at the same time.

IV,12,7 No one was exempted from this discipline, so that together with people from the people also princes joined in to take it upon themselves. And rightly so; for it was certain that this was the discipline of Christ, to whom all the scepters and crowns of kings must reasonably be subordinated. Theodosius offers us an example. When Ambrose had deprived him of the right of communion (in Holy Communion) on account of a bloodbath committed in Thessalonica, he threw to the ground all the tokens of his royal dignity which he had on him, wept publicly in the church for his sin into which he had fallen through the faithlessness of others, and begged pardon with sighs and tears (Ambrose, Epistle 51:13; speech at the funeral of Theodosius 28.34). (Thus it was true:) For great kings must not count it to their shame when they humbly prostrate themselves before Christ, the King of kings, and it must not displease them to be judged by the Church. For since they hear almost nothing but flattery at their court, they have more than need to be rebuked by the Lord through the mouth of the priests. Yes, they should rather wish that the priests do not spare them - so that the Lord may spare them! (Ibid. 11:6). At this point I pass over the question by whom such jurisdiction is to be exercised; for this has already been spoken of elsewhere (cf. ch. 11, sect. 6). I only add that when it is a question of putting a man under ban, the proper procedure is that which Paul shows us, namely, that the elders do not exercise the ban alone, but with the foreknowledge and approval of the church, and in such a way that the multitude of the people do not govern the action, but have it under their eyes as witnesses and guards, so that a few do not do something arbitrarily. But the whole course of the action, besides the invocation of God’s name, should have that measured seriousness about it in which the presence of Christ is felt, so that there may be no doubt that He Himself is in charge at His judgment..

IV,12,8 But we must not pass over the fact that such severity befits the Church, which is combined with a spirit of mildness. For, as St. Paul commands, we must always diligently guard against the one against whom punishment is inflicted "sinking into too great sorrow" (2Cor 2:7). For if this were to happen, the remedy would turn into destruction. But the rule for a moderate use of discipline can be better deduced from its purpose. The purpose of excommunication is to lead the sinner to repentance and to remove evil examples, so that Christ’s name is not brought into disrepute and others are not incited to imitate him. Keeping this in mind, we will easily be able to decide how far the severity should go and where it should stop. As soon, then, as the sinner gives the Church a sign of his penitence, and by this sign, so far as it stands with him, removes the offence, he must under no circumstances be urged further; for if he is urged, the severity already goes beyond measure. In this play, in no way can the immoderate severity of the ancients be excused, which was not at all in harmony with the Lord’s instruction and was extraordinarily dangerous. For if they imposed on the sinner a public penance and abstinence from Holy Communion soon for seven years, soon for four years, soon for three years, soon for the whole life - what could follow from this but either a terrible hypocrisy or the worst despair? Likewise: that no one who had fallen into sin the second time was admitted to "second penance," but that he was expelled from the Church to the end of his life, was neither useful nor sensible. Therefore, anyone who considers the matter with sound judgment will come to the conclusion that the ancients lacked wisdom here. But here I deprecate the general custom more than I accuse all who have applied it. For it is certain that some disliked it; but they tolerated it because they could not improve it. In any case, Cyprian declares that he has not been so severe of his own accord. "Our patience, goodwill, and humanity," he says, "are open to all who come. I wish them all to come back to the church. I well wish that all our disputants would be united within the camp of Christ and the dwelling place of God the Father. I forgive everything, I overlook many things. Out of the zeal and desire to unite the brotherhood, I also do not investigate the transgressions committed against God with completely harsh judgment. By my more than permissible forgiveness of misdeeds I almost fail myself; with ready and complete love I meet all those who return in penitence and confess their sin by humble and simple satisfaction" (Letter 59, to Cornelius). Chrysostom is already a bit harsher, but he still says, "If God is so kind, why does his priest want to appear so harsh?" Moreover, we know what kindness Augustine exercised toward the Donatists, so that he did not shrink from readmitting to the episcopate such as returned from schism, immediately after their conversion. But since the opposite custom had prevailed, they were forced to refrain from their own judgment in order to join it.

IV,12,9 But as such meekness is required in the whole body of the church, that it punish the fallen with mildness and not to the utmost severity, but rather, according to Paul’s instruction, affirms its love toward them (2Cor 2,8), so also each individual must join in this meekness and kindness for himself alone. It is not for us, then, to eliminate from the number of the elect those who are excluded from the church, or to despair of them as if they were already lost. We are well entitled to the judgment that they are now cut off from the Church and consequently from Christ - but only for so long as they persist in their secession! Even if they then appear to be more obstinate than lenient, we still want to entrust them to the judgment of the Lord, hoping for better things from them in the future than we see at present, and therefore not refraining from praying to God for them. And to sum it up in one word, we do not want to condemn to death the person who is alone in God’s hand and power, but only judge from the law of the Lord what kind of works each one is doing. If we follow this rule, we stop at the divine judgment instead of putting forward our own. We should not presume more freedom in judging if we do not want to set limits to God’s power and impose a law on His mercy. For as often as it pleases him, there the worst are changed into the best, there strangers are inserted into the church and outsiders are received into it. And this the Lord does in order thus to mock the opinion of men and to curb their forwardness. For if the latter is not put in its place, it dares to arrogate to itself the right to judge beyond what is due.

IV,12,10 For when Christ promises that what His own have bound on earth shall be bound in heaven (Mt )S,16), he thereby limits the authority to "bind" to the punitive judgment of the church, and by virtue of this punitive judgment, those who are bound are not cast into eternal ruin and damnation, but they hear that their way of life and their morals are condemned, and thus their own eternal damnation is brought to their attention in case they do not repent. For this is the difference between cursing (anathema) and banishment, that cursing excludes all forgiveness and curses and condemns man to eternal ruin, while banishment is directed rather against his way of life in a revenging and punishing manner. And although the ban also punishes man, it does so in such a way that it calls him back to salvation by the warning reminder of his future damnation. Where this is achieved, reconciliation and readmission to the community are already ready. Cursing, however, is used very rarely or not at all. Therefore, although the ecclesiastical discipline does not permit us to have more familiar contact or closer intercourse with those who have been cursed, we must nevertheless strive with all possible means to bring about their conversion to a better way of life and their return to the fellowship and unity of the church. So also the apostle teaches. "Do not regard such people as enemies," he says, "but admonish them as brethren" (2Thess 3:15; inaccurate). If we do not exercise this gentleness individually as well as collectively, there is danger that we will soon slide from discipline into torment!

IV,12,11 In particular, what Augustin emphasizes in his argument with the Donatists also belongs to the moderate handling of discipline: if unofficial people see that the assembly of elders does not punish sins particularly emphatically, they must not therefore immediately separate themselves from the church, or if the shepherds themselves are not able, according to the desire of their heart, to sweep out everything that needs punitive correction, they must not therefore throw their office from them or throw the whole church into turmoil by unusual severity. For it is very true when he writes: "He who corrects by rebuke what he can, and excludes what he is not able to correct, while preserving the bond of peace, and finally reproves in equity what he cannot exclude while preserving the bond of peace, and endures with steadfastness - he is free and free from the curse" (Against the Letter of Parmenian II,1,3). The reason for this he gives elsewhere: every godly way and form of church discipline should always direct its attention to the "unity in the spirit through the bond of peace" (Eph 4,3), which the apostle has given us to "keep" through mutual "understanding" (Eph 4,2f.); if this bond is not "kept," the medicine of punishment begins to be not only superfluous but also pernicious, and therefore ceases to be a medicine (Ibid. III:1, 1). He who diligently considers this," he says, "does not neglect the severity of discipline above the preservation of unity, but neither does he break the bond of fellowship by excessive punishment" (Ibid. III:2, 15). He admits that not only the shepherds must insist that no sin remain in the Church, but also that each individual (that is, even the one who is not a shepherd) must strive for it with all his strength. Nor does he conceal the fact that one who fails to admonish, rebuke, and punish the wicked is guilty before the Lord, even if he is not favorably disposed toward them and does not sin with them; for - he does not conceal this - if such a man now holds an office by virtue of which he could also keep them from communion in the sacrament, and does not do so, he sins not from another’s fault but from his own. He only wishes that this be done with the same caution that the Lord requires, so that the grain is not damaged at the same time as the lych is plucked (Ibid. III,1,2; Mt 13,29). From there, using a word of Cyprian, he concludes, "Man, then, should punish in mercy what he is able, but what he is not able to punish he should bear patiently, sighing and lamenting over it with love" (Ibid. III,2,15; Cyprian, Letter 59,16).

IV,12,12 Augustine now has in mind with his words the stubbornness of the Donatists. These noticed sins in the churches which the bishops rebuked with words but did not punish with excommunication, because they did not believe they could do anything in this way; and therefore they went off savagely against the bishops as traitors to discipline and separated themselves from the flock of Christ in godless division. The Anabaptists do the same today: they do not recognize any congregation as Christ’s unless an angelic perfection is visible in it in every respect, and now, under the pretext of their zeal, they destroy all edification. Such people, says Augustin, "are not led by hatred of the injustices of others, but by zeal for their own quarrels, and now do everything in their power either to draw weak people, whom they have beguiled with the fame of their name, completely to themselves, or at any rate to split them o ss. Swollen with arrogance, furious with obstinacy, insidious in their blasphemies and restless in their turmoil, they do not want it to be proved that they lack the light of truth, and therefore they hide in the shadow of a ruthless severity; and what, according to the instruction of the Holy Scriptures, should be done in a quite lenient manner, preserving the sincerity of love and maintaining the unity of peace, in order to punish the fraternal infirmities, they usurp in order to commit the sacrilege of the schism of the Church and to have an opportunity to depart. Thus Satan "disguises himself as an angel of light" (2Cor 11:14), namely, by taking a supposedly just severity as an occasion to instigate a cruel rage, with no other intention than to destroy and break the bond of peace and unity; for when this bond is firm among Christians, all his powers lose their power to do harm, all the snares of his insidious pursuits melt away, and all his plans of destruction fall away" (Against the Letter of Parmenian III,1,1. 3).

IV,12,13 In this, Augustine recommends of all this one thing: when the multitude is afflicted by a sin as by a contagious disease, the stern mercy of a vigorous discipline is needed. "For counsels of separation," he says, "are vain, pernicious, and sacrilegious; for they become impious and hopeless, and have the effect of confusing the weak good, rather than of improving the stout-hearted wicked" (Ibid. III,2,14). And what he prescribes to others in this passage, he himself faithfully followed. For in a letter to Bishop Aurelius of Carthage he deplores the fact that in Africa ostentation is rampant with impunity, although it is so strongly condemned in Scripture, and advises that a council of bishops be convened and a remedy created against it (Letter 22,1,4). Then he continues: "Such things, in my opinion, are not remedied with harshness, not with sharpness, not in an imperious way, but more by instruction than by directive, more by exhortation than by threat. For this is how one must deal with the great multitude of those who transgress. Strictness, on the other hand, must be exercised against sin less" (Ibid. 1:5). Nevertheless, as he himself explains later, he does not think that the bishops should keep silent or look through their fingers because they are not able to punish public outrages more severely (Against the Letter of Parmenian, III,2,15). No, he wants such moderation in the manner of punishment that, as far as possible, health is created for the body instead of corruption (Ibid.). And therefore he finally comes to the following conclusion: "On the one hand, therefore, we must not neglect the apostle’s instruction to separate the wicked in any respect, if this can be done without the danger of violating the peace; for only in this way did he want it to happen. But on the other hand, we must also take care that by bearing with one another we strive to ’keep unity in the Spirit through the bond of peace’" (Ibid. III:2,16; 1Cor 5:3-7; Eph 4.2.3).

IV,12,14 The remaining part of discipline, which does not actually come under the key authority, is that the pastors are to exhort the people (the church), according to the need of the time, to fasting, solemn prayers, or other exercises of humility, repentance, and faith, the time, manner, and form of which are not prescribed in the word of God, but are left to the judgment of the church. The practice of even this piece of church discipline is beneficial, and it has accordingly been in constant use in the early church since the time of the apostles. However, not even the apostles made the first beginning with it, but they took the model for it from the law and the prophets. For as we read there, every time a more serious case occurred, the people were called together, and then public prayers and fasts were appointed. The apostles, therefore, joined in a custom which was not new to the people of God, and which they foresaw would have a beneficial effect. Similar is the case with the other exercises by which the people can be encouraged to do their duty or maintained in duty and obedience. Examples of these occur to us again and again in the sacred histories, and it is not necessary to enumerate them. To sum up, we must state that every time a dispute arises over matters of religion which must be decided by a synod or an ecclesiastical court, when it is a question of electing a minister, in short, when a difficult or momentous matter is at hand, or, conversely, when the wrathful judgments of the Lord, such as pestilence, war, or famine, make their appearance, it is a holy and for all times salvific order that the pastors exhort the people to public fasts and extraordinary prayers. If someone does not accept the examples that can be brought forward from the Old Testament, because in his opinion they were less suitable for the Christian church, it is in any case certain that the apostles also acted in this way. Admittedly, in my opinion, it would be difficult to find anyone who would raise any objections because of the prayers. Let us say a few things about fasting, then, because there are many people who do not understand its usefulness and therefore think that it is not so necessary, and there are others who completely reject it as something superfluous, and finally, if one does not understand the practice of fasting correctly, one easily falls into superstition.

IV,12,15 Now a holy and lawful fast has a threefold purpose. For we apply it (1.) to tame and subdue the flesh, so that it will not let itself go unbound, or (2.) to be better prepared for prayers and holy meditations, or finally (3.) to give a sign of our humiliation before God, when we wish to confess our guilt before Him. The first purpose is not very common in public fasting, because not all people are of the same physical condition and strength; this purpose, therefore, is more appropriate to the personal fasting of the individual. The second purpose is found in public as well as in private fasting; for the whole Church needs such preparation for prayer as much as each individual among the faithful alone. Of the third purpose the same is true. For it will sometimes happen that God will strike a certain people with war, pestilence, or some distress. Under such common chastisement, the whole people should acknowledge themselves as guilty and also confess their guilt. But if the hand of the Lord strikes a single person, he alone or with his household shall do the same. Now such acknowledgment and confession of guilt is based primarily on the inner stirring of the heart. But where the heart has the right feeling, this can hardly happen without it also breaking out into an outward affirmation, especially when it serves the general edification that all together pay God the praise of righteousness through public confession of their sin and each encourages the other by his example.

IV,12,16 Therefore fasting, because it is a sign of humiliation, is more frequently used in public life than among individuals-though, as has been said, it is in use in both cases. Therefore, as far as discipline is concerned, which is what we are talking about here, as often as it is necessary to pray to God about an important matter, it will probably be advisable to schedule a fast along with the prayer. This is what happened when the Antiochians laid their hands on Paul and Barnabas: in order to make the ministry of these men, which was of such great importance, all the more dear to God’s heart, they combined fasting with their prayer (Acts 13:3). Likewise, afterward, when these two men appointed servants back and forth for the churches, they were in the habit of praying while fasting (Acts 14:23). By this kind of fasting they pursued no other purpose than to become more zealous and free to pray. For we undoubtedly experience that when the belly is full, the spirit is not so turned upward to God that it could be driven to prayer and persevere in it by serious, hot feelings. This is also how it is to be understood when Luke reports about Hannah that she "served the Lord with fasting and praying" (Lk 2,37). For he does not make fasting a part of the divine service, but only gives to understand that the holy woman had practiced herself in this way to constant zeal in prayer. The fasting of Nehemiah was also of this kind, when he asked God with tense zeal for the deliverance of his people (Neh 1:4). For this reason, Paul says that believers would do well to abstain from conjugal intercourse for a time in order to "have leisure for fasting and prayer" (1Cor 7:5); here he connects fasting as an aid to prayer, thus pointing out that it has meaning in and of itself only to the extent that it serves this purpose. Moreover, in this passage (verse 3) he instructs the spouses to render each other "the owing friendship" (i.e.: what is said in verse 5 is an exception!), and from this it is clear that he is not speaking (verse 5) of daily prayers, but of those which require especially serious attention.

IV,12,17 On the other hand, if pestilence or famine or war begin to rage, or if any other destruction seems to threaten a country or a people, even in such a case it is the official duty of the shepherds to exhort the Church to fast, in order humbly to ask the Lord to avert his wrath. For when he allows a danger to arise, he announces that he is preparing and, as it were, arming himself for punishment. Just as in former times the accused used to prostrate themselves humbly before their judge with long hanging beard, with unshorn hair and in mourning garments, in order to obtain mercy from him, so it is both for the honor of God and the general edification and also useful and salutary for ourselves that we ask him in a pitiful attitude for averting his severity when we appear before his judgment seat as defendants. And that this had been customary among the people of Israel may easily be gathered from the words of Joel; for when he commands that trumpets should be blown, that the congregation should be called together, that a fast should be proclaimed, and so forth (Joel 2:15f.), he speaks as of things which had come into reception by common practice. Shortly before, he had said that the people’s shameful deeds should now be investigated; he had also announced that the day of judgment was already at hand, and he had called the guilty to account (Joel 2:1). And then he calls aloud that the people should hasten to sackcloth and ashes, to weeping and fasting, that is: they should also prostrate themselves before the Lord with outward signs (Joel 2:12). Now, ashes and sackcloth might have been more appropriate for those times; but the calling together of the people, weeping and fasting, and what else is of this kind, undoubtedly belongs in the same way to our time, and indeed every time the situation of our circumstances requires it. For it is a holy exercise for the humiliation of men as well as for the confession of such humility - and why should we use it less than the ancients in the same need? We read, after all, that not only the Israelite church, which was fashioned and established according to God’s Word, fasted as a sign of mourning (1Sam 7:6; 31:13; 2Sam 1:12), but also that the inhabitants of Nineveh did the same, who, after all, possessed no other instruction than the preaching of Jonah alone (Jonah 3:5). What reason is there, then, that we should not do the same? But, it might be objected, surely this is an outward ceremony which, with the others, has found its end in Christ! No, fasting, as it has always been, is still today for the faithful a very good aid and a blessed reminder to cheer themselves up, so that they do not irritate God more and more in their too great carelessness and laxity when they are chastised by his scourges. For this reason, when Christ excuses His apostles for their omission of fasting, He does not say that fasting is abolished, but that He ordains it for times of distress and associates it with mourning; "the time will come," He says, "that the bridegroom will be taken away from them" (Mt 9:15; Lk 5:34f.).

IV,12,18 But that there may be no error in the name, let us determine what fasting means. For by fasting we do not simply mean abstinence from food and drink, but something else. Certainly, the life of the pious should be governed by simplicity and plainness in such a way that, as far as possible, it displays a certain kind of fasting in its entire course. But there is also another kind of fasting, a temporary one, in which we take something away from our usual way of life, either for a day or for a certain period of time, and in which we impose on ourselves an abstinence from food and drink that is more severe and rigorous than the usual one. Now this fasting consists in three pieces: in the time, in the kind of food and in the restriction (regarding the quantity). By "time" I mean that we perform the actions for the sake of which the fast is prescribed, soberly. For example, if someone fasts for the sake of public prayer, he should do so without having eaten. The "manner" consists in leaving aside all delicacies and, content with ordinary, simple food, not irritating our palate with delicious food. The (frugal) consideration of the "measure" means that we eat more sparingly and lighter than we are accustomed to, and let our food serve only the necessities, but not at the same time the pleasure..

IV,12,19 But we must always be on guard first of all against any superstition creeping in, as happened before our time to the great detriment of the church. For it would be much better if no fasting at all were practiced, than if it were diligently practiced, but in the meantime corrupted with false and harmful ideas, into which the world easily slips, if the shepherds do not act against it with the greatest fidelity and caution. First, they have the duty to always insist on what Joel teaches: "Rend your hearts and not your garments" (Joel 2:13). That is, they must point out to the people that God does not attach much value to fasting in and of itself unless there is an inward, stirring of the heart, a true displeasure with sin and with oneself true humiliation and true sorrow as it comes from the fear of God. Yes, they must point out that fasting is of no use for any other reason than because it is added as a subordinate aid to those inward feelings. For God detests nothing more than when men hold up to him signs and an outward appearance instead of the innocence of the heart, and thereby try to deceive him. That is why Isaiah starts with extreme sharpness against the hypocrisy that the Jews thought that God had already been satisfied as soon as they had merely fasted, as much as they nourished ungodliness and impure thoughts in their hearts. "Should this be a fast," he says, "which the Lord has chosen …?" (Isa 58:5; inaccurate). Such hypocritical fasting, then, is not only a useless and superfluous effort, but the most terrible abomination. There is a second evil, which is related to the first one, and we must be very careful that fasting is not considered a meritorious work or a manifestation of worship. For it is, after all, in and of itself an intermediate thing, and has no meaning but for the sake of the ends to which it is to be applied, and therefore it is the most pernicious superstition when it is mixed up with the works which God has commanded and which are necessary in and of themselves, not only in view of something else. Of this kind was once the superstition of the Manichaeans, and in refuting it Augustin sets forth clearly enough that fasting must be judged solely from the above-mentioned purposes, and that it is approved by God only when it relates to these (Of the Uses of the Manichaeans II,13; Against the Manichaean Faustus XXX,5). The third error, though not so impious, is nevertheless dangerous. It consists in considering fasting as one of the most important duties, and then demanding it even too insistently and strictly, and exalting it with immoderate praises in such a way that people think they have done something quite outstanding if they have fasted. In this piece, I dare not completely excuse (and claim) the ancients for not having scattered certain seeds of superstition and given an opportunity to the tyranny that has subsequently arisen. Of course, we sometimes come across healthy and reasonable statements about fasting, but later on we find from time to time immoderate praises about it, elevating it among the noblest virtues.

IV,12,20 And then the superstitious keeping of the forty-day fast (i.e. a fast during the Passion period, forty days before Easter) has prevailed everywhere, because, on the one hand, the people were of the opinion that they were thereby rendering God a particularly outstanding obedience, and because, on the other hand, it was recommended by the shepherds as a holy following of Christ. And it is obvious that Christ did not fast with the intention of setting an example to others, but in order to prove by deed that this gospel was not a human doctrine, but had come from heaven (Mt 4:2), by beginning the preaching of the gospel with it (i.e. with a forty-day fast). It is also a wonder that such gross fancifulness could creep in among people of keen judgment, although it is refuted with so many and such clear reasons. For Christ does not fast more frequently - and yet this should have been done if he had wished to make a law for such an annually recurring fast - but only once, when he prepares to preach the Gospel. Nor does he fast in a human way, which he would have had to do if he had wanted to call on people to imitate him, but rather he makes visible a work with which he draws all people away to admiration, instead of inciting them to strive for imitation. And finally, this fasting is not different from the one Moses practiced when he received the law from the hand of the Lord (Ex 24:18; 34:28). For since that miracle in the person of Moses was given to confirm the authority of the law, it could not be omitted in the case of Christ, lest the impression be created that the gospel was behind the law. From that time on, however, it never occurred to anyone to introduce such a form of fasting (as he practiced) among the people of Israel under the pretext of imitating Moses. Also, among the holy prophets and fathers, not a single one joined this fasting of Moses, although they had enough inclination and zeal for all pious exercises. For what is reported about Elijah, namely that he spent forty days without food and drink (1Ki 19:8), served no other purpose than that the people should recognize that he was raised to be the protector of the law, from which all of Israel had generally deviated. So it was just a perverse, superstitious imitation that this fast was adorned with the title and the covering color of the following of Christ. However, at that time there was an extraordinary difference in the way of the ("forty days") fasting, as Cassiodorus reports in the ninth book of his (church) history (Historia tripartita IX,38) on the basis of Socrates. For the Romans, he says, had only three (fast) weeks, but in these they fasted continuously with the exception of Sunday and Saturday. The Illyrians and Greeks had six weeks, others again seven, but then the fast was interrupted by intervening periods. Not less great was the diversity in the distinction of food: some fed (during the fasting period) exclusively on bread and water, others added vegetables, still others did not disdain even fish and poultry, still others made no distinction at all in the food. This diversity is also mentioned by Augustine in his second (actually in the first) letter to Januarius (Letter 54).

IV,12,21 Then worse times came, and the misplaced zeal of the people was joined, on the one hand, by the ignorance and lack of education of the bishops, and, on the other, by their imperiousness and tyrannical harshness. They enacted ungodly laws that bound the consciences with pernicious fetters. Thus, the eating of meat was forbidden, as if it stained man. One sacrilegious opinion has been strung together with another until one has fallen into an abyss of all errors. And now, in order not to leave any wickedness undone, one has begun to make fun of God under the completely silly pretext of abstinence. For one seeks the glory of fasting in the choicest delicacies, no delicacies are then enough, never is the abundance, the variety and the taste of the food greater (than in Lent of all times). With such precious expenditure one means then to serve God rightly! I will not mention that people who want to be considered as the holy of holies never overload themselves more shamefully (than during "fasting"). In short, these people consider it the highest service of God to abstain from meat (during Lent) - and then, with its exception, to have an abundance of delicacies of all kinds! And vice versa it is considered to them as the worst godlessness, which can hardly be expiated with death, if someone enjoys even a small piece of bacon or old meat with his black bread. Jerome tells us that already in his time there were some people who made fun of God by such foolishness: These were people who did not want to use oil for their food, but for this very reason had the most precious food brought to them from all sides, yes, who abstained from drinking water in order to do violence to nature, but made sure that they got tasty, delicious drinks, which they then drank not from a cup, but from a shell (Letter 52,12; to Nepotian). This abuse prevailed at that time only with a few people, nowadays it is common with all rich people: they fast for the sole purpose of feasting all the more deliciously and brilliantly! But I do not want to waste many words on this subject, which is not exactly loaded with uncertainty. I only assert this: neither in fasting nor in the other parts of discipline do the papists possess anything righteous, sincere, or rightly formed and ordered, so that they have any cause for arrogant self-glory, as if there were anything left in them that deserved praise.

IV,12,22 Now follows the second part of the discipline, which refers in a special way to the "clergy". This part is contained in the "canones" (rules) that the ancient bishops imposed on themselves and their state (i.e. the clergy). For example: a cleric may not devote himself to hunting, nor to the game of dice, he may not participate in carousals, no cleric may engage in money transactions and merchandising, no one may be present at boisterous dances, and the like. To these rules were added penalties by which the authority of the "Canons" was secured, so that no one violated them with impunity. To this end, each individual bishop was now entrusted with the governance of his clergy: he was to govern the clergy under his authority according to these "Canones" and to keep them in their official duty. For this purpose, annual supervisory visits (inspectiones, visitations) and synods were also instituted: if anyone was negligent in his duty, he was to be admonished, and if anyone had transgressed, he was to be punished according to the measure of his offense. The bishops themselves also had their provincial synods year after year, in ancient times even two annually, and at these synods they were judged if they had done anything against their duty. For if a bishop was too harsh or too violent against his clergy, he had the right to appeal to that synod, even if only one complained. The most severe punishment was that the one who had transgressed was deprived of his office and excluded from the Lord’s Supper for a time. These synods were a permanent order, and therefore it was never customary to let one go without fixing the time and place of the next. To convene a general council was in fact a matter for the emperor alone, as all the old notices testify. As long as this strictness remained in force, the clergy demanded no more from the people by word than they did by their own example and work. Yes, they were much harsher against themselves than against the common man. And indeed it is fitting that the people should be governed with milder and, so to speak, looser discipline, while the clergy, on the other hand, exercise harsher punishments among themselves and see through their own fingers much less than they see through the fingers of others. How all this has come about, I need not tell you; for nowadays one can think of nothing more licentious and naughty than the clergy, and it has fallen into such a state of unrestraint that the whole earth is crying out about it. But in order that one does not get the impression that the whole old nature is buried with them, they deceive, I admit, the eyes of simple-minded people with silhouettes, which, however, have as little to do with the old customs as the imitation that the apes do with what people do with understanding and prudence. There is a memorable passage in Xenophon where he teaches that the Persians, though they had shamefully departed from the institutions of their ancestors, and had fallen from the hard way of life into softness and pleasures, yet zealously preserved the former customs to cover that disgrace. Whereas in the time of Cyrus, abstinence and moderation were so widespread that it was not necessary, and was considered a disgrace, to blow one’s nose, among the later ones the sacred shyness which forbade blowing one’s nose was preserved, but meanwhile it was considered permissible to swallow the stinking saliva which they had received from their gluttony and to keep it inside them until it rotted. They also considered it unseemly to bring jugs to the table, but they considered it tolerable to overload themselves with wine to such an extent that they had to be carried away drunk. The rule was that one was allowed to eat once (a day), and these good followers had not abolished that either - only in such a way that they now let their carousals go on from noon until midnight! To make a day’s march sober, that was considered with them as a permanent custom - but, in order to avoid fatigue, so they took the liberty and the custom from usual practice, not to extend the march over two hours! (Xenophon, Cyropaedia, VIII, 8). Now, if the Papists take their degenerate rules as a pretext to prove that they were related to the holy Fathers, this example will every time bring their ridiculous imitation sufficiently to light, so that no painter would be able to express it more vividly.

IV,12,23 In one thing the papists are more than harsh and implacable, namely, in not permitting priests to marry. What an unpunished freedom for fornication spreads among them I need not say. Trusting in their stinking "celibacy," they have also become numb to all infamies. This prohibition, however, clearly shows how pernicious all human statutes are; for it has not only deprived the Church of righteous and useful shepherds, but has brought about a ghastly filthy flood of outrages and plunged many souls into the maw of despair. In any case, the prohibition of priestly marriage was done out of ungodly tyranny, not only contrary to the word of God, but also against all equity. First, men were in no way permitted to forbid what the Lord had left free. And then: it is so clear that there is no need of a long proof that God has made provision in his word against any breach of this liberty. I pass over the fact that Paul in several places expresses the will that a bishop be "a wife’s husband" (1Tim 3:2; Tit 1:6). But what could have been said more emphatically than when he announces, on the prompting of the Holy Spirit, that "in the last times" ungodly men would appear "commanding not to be married," and when he calls these men not only "seducers" but "devils" (1Tim 4:1, 3)? So it is a prophecy, it is a holy word of revelation of the Holy Spirit, with which he wanted to arm the church from the beginning against such dangers, that the prohibition of marriage is a doctrine of devils! The papists, however, think they have escaped neatly by twisting this saying and referring it to Montanus, the successors of Tatian, the Encratites and other heretics of the early Church. Only these, they say, condemned the married state; we, on the other hand, do not condemn it at all, but only keep the "ecclesiastical state" away from it, because we think that it does not properly belong to it. As if this prophecy, even if it were fulfilled in those heretics, would not also apply to these people! And as if this childish sophistry, that they declare that they do not make any prohibition at all, because they do not make it for all, were even worth listening to! For that is exactly as if a tyrant wanted to claim of one of his laws that it was not at all unreasonable, because in its unreasonableness it oppressed only a part of the citizenry!

IV,12,24 They now object that there must be some characteristic that distinguishes the priest from the people. As if the Lord had not also foreseen with what kind of adornment the priests should distinguish themselves! In this way they accuse the apostle of confusing the ecclesiastical state and violating the ecclesiastical honor by daring to mention, in the outline in which he has drawn for us the perfect image of a bishop, among the other gifts which he requires in a bishop, the marital state. I know how the papists interpret these passages (1Tim 3:2; Tit 1:6), namely, that a man who has had a second wife should not be elected bishop. I also admit that this interpretation is not new. But that it is wrong is already clear from the context. For Paul immediately gives a regulation of what kind the wives of bishops and deacons should be (1Tim 3:11). Among the virtues of a bishop, Paul also mentions marriage - the papists declare it an intolerable vice in the ecclesiastical state! And moreover, speaking with God’s favor, they are not satisfied with such general disparagement of marriage, but also call it an "impurity" and "defilement" in their legal statutes (Thus Siricius, Letter 1, to Himerius; Decretum Gratiani I, 82,3f.)! Now everyone may consider with himself, from what kind of workshop this comes! Christ dignifies the married state with such honor that it is, according to His will, an image of His holy union with the Church. What could have been said more gloriously to praise the dignity of the married state? With what impudence, then, will one call "impure" and "defiled" a state in which a likeness of the spiritual grace of Christ shines forth?

IV,12,25 Now, although their (marriage) prohibition is so clearly contrary to God’s Word, yet they find something in Scripture to defend it. The Levitical priests, they say, had to abstain from their wives as often as the turn of service came to them, in order to perform the holy acts pure and undefiled. Now, since our sacred acts are much nobler and, moreover, take place every day, it would be very improper if they were performed by married women. As if the gospel ministry had the same position as the Levitical priesthood once had! For the Levitical priests were, as it were, an image and were to signify Christ, who as the mediator between God and men (1Tim 2:5) was once to reconcile the Father with us through His perfect purity. But since, as sinful men, they could not in every respect bring the image of His holiness to representation, they were commanded, in order to imitate it at least with some outline, to purify themselves beyond the morals of men when they entered the sanctuary; for then they represented in the proper sense an image of Christ, because they appeared, as it were as bringers of peace, for the reconciliation of the people with God in the "tabernacle," which was a likeness of the heavenly judgment seat. Church shepherds do not have this position today, and therefore it is in vain to compare them with those priests. That is why the apostle, without making an exception, declares that marriage is something "honest" with all, but the fornicator and adulterer awaits God’s judgment (Hebr 13:4). And the apostles themselves proved by their example that the sanctity of no office, no matter how excellent, is harmed by marriage. For, as Paul testifies, they not only kept their wives, but also carried them about with them (1Cor 9:5).

IV,12,26 Furthermore, it was also an astonishing shamelessness that they passed off that (outward) propriety of a chaste life as something necessary - to the highest revilement of the early church, which abounded in glorious knowledge of God, yet excelled even more in holiness. For if they do not care about the apostles - they sometimes despise them - I would like to know what they want to do with all the fathers of the early church, who undoubtedly not only tolerated but even approved of marriage in the status of bishops. They must have promoted a "vulgar desecration" of the sacred acts, because the mysteries of the Lord did not receive the "right" veneration from them! It is true that at the Synod of Nicaea it was discussed to prescribe celibacy - as there is never a lack of superstitious people who always invent something new in order to gain admiration. But what was decided at Nicaea? Well, they followed the opinion of Paphnutius, who declared that chastity is to have intercourse with one’s wife (Historia tripartita II,14). So the holy matrimony remained with them, and this did not bring them any disgrace, nor was it believed that by this their office would be tainted with any stain.

IV,12,27 Afterwards times have come when a too superstitious admiration of celibacy has increased more and more. This is also the reason for the ever new and unmeasured praise of virginity, which went so far that one was generally convinced that there was no other virtue that could be compared to it. And although the married state was not condemned as impurity, its dignity was so degraded and its sanctity so obscured that one who did not abstain from marriage did not seem to strive for perfection with a sufficiently valiant will. Hence came those ecclesiastical statutes in which it was first forbidden that those who had attained the rank of priest should enter into marriage, and then also decreed that only those who were celibate or who, together with their wives, renounced conjugal intercourse should be admitted to the priesthood. This, I confess, was also received with great applause in ancient times, because it seemed to give reverence to the priestly state. But if our adversaries reproach me with the ancient times, I reply, first, that both under the apostles and for some centuries after them there was freedom for bishops to be married; of this freedom, I further reply, the apostles themselves, and also other pastors of first-rate authority who later took their place, made use without difficulty. But the example of the older church, I further say, must deservedly be more valid with us than that we should regard as unauthorized or indecent for us what was then accepted with praise and in use. Secondly, I reply to our adversaries: that time which, out of an inordinate esteem for virginity, began to treat the married state quite unreasonably, did not impose the law of celibacy on priests as if it were something necessary in and of itself, but did so because it placed the celibate above the married. Finally, I say that celibacy was not imposed in such a way as to compel by force or violence those who were unable to practice continence. For although fornication was punished with the strictest laws, the only provision made for those who entered into marriage was that they should resign their office.

IV,12,28 Therefore, as often as the defenders of this new tyranny seek to use the old time as a pretext to protect their celibacy, they must be countered with the demand that they should restore the old chastity among their priests and remove the adulterers and fornicators, nor should they allow the people with whom they do not want to admit an honorable and chaste use of conjugal intercourse to plunge with impunity into all kinds of immorality. They must be told to restore that lost discipline by which all debauchery is controlled, and they must free the church from that so shameful disgracefulness by which it has now long been disfigured. When they have conceded this, they must again be admonished not to pass off as necessary a thing which in and of itself is free and depends on the benefit of the church. Now I do not say this because I am of the opinion that one should give room under any condition at all to those church statutes which put the yoke of celibacy on the neck of the ecclesiastical state, but I say it so that more reasonable people may realize with what insolence our enemies discredit the holy marriage state among the priests, and that by using the name of the early church as a pretext! Now, as for the Fathers of the Church, even they, speaking on the basis of their own judgment, have not disparaged the respectability of the married state with such malice, with the exception of Jerome. We will content ourselves with a single word of Chrysostom; for he was, after all, the most distinguished admirer of virginity, and it is not to be supposed, therefore, that he was more extravagant than others in praising the marriage state. He now says: "The first stage of chastity is pure virginity, the second a faithful marriage. Chaste conjugal love, then, is a second form of virginity" (Homily on the Discovery of the Cross).

Thirteenth chapter


Of the vows, by the rash utterance of which every man has miserably laid himself in snares.

IV,13,1 It is indeed a lamentable thing that the church, to which freedom has been purchased at the inestimable price of the blood of Christ, is so oppressed by cruel tyranny and lies almost buried under an enormous heap of human statutes. In the meantime, however, the personal folly of each individual shows that God has not let Satan and his servants loose so far without the most just cause. For it was not enough that one (in general), disregarding the Lordship of Christ, endured all and any burdens imposed on one by false teachers, no, each individual has also procured his own burdens on top of that and thus, by digging a pit for himself, has only allowed himself to sink even deeper. This has happened by making up vows around the bet, so that from these a greater and harder obligation is added to the fetters embracing all together. Since we have now shown that, through the presumption of those who have exercised rule in the Church under the name of "shepherds," the worship of God has been corrupted, by putting poor souls in fetters with their unreasonable laws, it will not be out of place to add here a similar kind of abuse, so that it may become evident that the world, in the wickedness of its nature, has always pushed away from itself, with all the resistance at its disposal, the means by which it should have been led to God. In order that it may now become more evident that a very serious harm has resulted from the vows, the reader must hold fast to the principles already laid down above. First of all, we have explained that everything that may be required (in instructions) for a pious and holy organization of life is summarized in the law. Secondly, we have taught that the Lord, in order to keep us the better from devising new "works" for ourselves, has concluded all praise of righteousness in simple obedience to his will. But if this is true, then the judgment is immediately given that all imaginary worship, which we make up for ourselves in order to gain merit with God, is not at all pleasing to Him, however much we may enjoy it. And indeed, the Lord not only clearly rejects this "worship" in many places, but it is seriously an abomination to Him. Now from this arises, with reference to vows made outside the express word of God, the question as to the status to be attached to them, whether a Christian man can lawfully make them, and how far he is bound to them. For what is called a "promise" among men is called a vow in the sight of God. We promise people what we think will be pleasant for them or what we are obliged to do for them. It is therefore proper that we pay much greater attention to vows, because they are addressed to God Himself, with whom we have to deal in the utmost seriousness. Here, superstition has spread in a strange way at all times, so that people, without judgment and without distinction, immediately vowed to God everything that came into their mind or even into their mouth. Hence those silly vows, yes, those monstrous absurdities among the pagans, with which they mocked their gods in a very impudent way. And would to God that the Christians had not also imitated this presumption of the pagans! This was not at all proper, but we see that for several centuries nothing was more widespread than this mischievousness, that the people, in general contempt of the law, were fully inflamed with mad zeal to pledge everything that pleased them in dreams. I do not want to exaggerate ugly, nor do I want to enumerate in detail how gravely and in how many ways one has sinned here, but I have only thought it right to say this in passing, so that it may come out more clearly that we are by no means making an inquiry into a superfluous matter when we now take up the vows.

IV,13,2 Now, if we do not wish to go astray in our judgment as to which vows are lawful and which are perverse, we must consider three questions. (1.) Who is the one to whom we make such vows? (2.) Who are we who make a vow? (3.) In what spirit do we make a vow? The first question wants to point out to us that we are dealing with God, who is so pleased with our obedience that He declares all "self-chosen spirituality," however delicious and glamorous it may be in the eyes of men, to be accursed (Col 2:23). If all self-willed worship that we devise for ourselves without God’s command is an abomination in his sight, it follows that no other worship can be pleasing to him than that which his word approves. Therefore, let us not take so much arbitrary liberty as to dare to vow to God something that has no testimony as to how it will be judged by him. For if Paul’s word, "What … does not come from faith, it is sin" (Rom 14:23), applies to all and any works, then it has a special meaning when we direct our thoughts straight to God Himself. Yes, if we fall and go astray even in the smallest things - Paul speaks in that passage of the discernment of food - where the certainty of faith does not shine before us, how much modesty must we exercise when we approach a matter of the utmost importance? For it is fitting that nothing should be more serious to us than the duties of religion. In our vows, therefore, we must first of all be careful that we never set ourselves to vow anything without our conscience being first assured that it will not take an imprudent step. But it will be safe from the danger of imprudence if it lets God be the one who goes before it and tells it, as it were from His word, what is good or what is useless to do.

IV,13,3 The second point that we have to consider here, after what we have said above, is that we should (1.) measure our powers, (2.) keep our profession in view, and (3.) not leave aside the grace-gift of freedom that God has granted us. For he who vows something that is not within his ability or that is contrary to his profession is forward, and he who despises God’s kindness that sets him up as Lord over all things is ungrateful. When I speak in this way, I do not mean that there was anything so placed in our hands that, relying on our own strength, we were able to vow it to God. For it was most truthful when, at the Council of Orange (529), it was decided that we could not lawfully vow anything to God except what we had received from His hand, because everything we offered to Him was His pure gift (chap. 11). But since the one is given to us out of God’s kindness and the other is denied to us out of His fairness, each one should consider the measure of the grace granted to him according to Paul’s instruction (Rom 12:3; 1Cor 12:11). (1.) So I have nothing else in mind here than that one should adjust his vows to the measure that God has marked out for him through his gift, so that he does not dare to do more than he has granted and thereby run into ruin by presuming too much. I will illustrate this with an example. Luke mentions assassins who made a vow not to eat any food until they had killed Paul (Acts 23:12). Even if this had not been a sacrilegious advice, the presumption of these men would not have been bearable in any way, because they put life and death of a human being under their own control. Likewise, Jephthah was punished for his folly when he made a rash vow (Judges 11:30 s.). Among this group of vows, celibacy stands supreme in mad presumption. For the priests, monks and nuns forget their weakness and dare to believe that they are able to keep celibacy. But what word of revelation has taught them to spend their whole life in constant chastity, as they vow such chastity until the end of their lives? They hear God’s voice over the general condition of mankind, which says: "It is not good that man should be alone" (Gen 2:18)! They realize, and would to God they did not also realize, that the sin that remains in us is not without very sharp thorns. Where do they get the confidence to throw away that general vocation (which points us to marriage) for their whole life? And this, when the gift of continence is mostly granted only for a certain time, according to the occasion! They should not expect that God will stand by them as a helper in such stubbornness, no, they should rather remember the word: "You shall not tempt the Lord your God" (Deut 6:16; Luther text correct: singular). But that is tempting God, when one opposes the nature he has given us and when one despises his present gifts as if they had nothing to do with us. The papists, however, not only do this, but they dare to call marriage a defilement, although God has not found it contrary to his majesty to institute it, although he has declared it honorable among all (Hebr 13:4), although Christ our Lord has sanctified it with his presence and condescended to honor it with his first miracle (John 2:2, 6-11). And that dishonorable name for marriage the papists need only to elevate with whimsical eulogies any celibacy. As if they themselves did not provide clear proof with their way of life that celibacy and virginity are two different things! Nevertheless, they call their life "angelic" with the highest impudence. With this they certainly do terrible injustice to the angels by comparing fornicators, adulterers and something much worse and meaner with them. Now here, in fact, there is absolutely no need for proof, since they are clearly convicted by the matter itself. For we see it openly before us, with what kind of terrible punishments the Lord punishes everywhere such presumption and such contempt of his gifts stemming from too great self-confidence. Out of a sense of shame, I will pass over the more hidden things with care, for even what is known about them goes too far. (2.) Undoubtedly, we must not vow anything that could prevent us from serving our profession. This would be the case, for example, if a householder were to vow to leave his wife and child and take upon himself other burdens, or if one who is qualified to hold a magisterial office, and is also chosen to do so, were to vow to remain unofficial.(3.) We then also spoke of not despising our freedom. What this means is somewhat difficult if it is not developed in more detail. Let the following brief remarks be heard on this subject. Since God has made us masters over all things and has made them subject to us in such a way that we should use them all for our benefit, we have no reason to expect that it will be a service pleasing to God if we make ourselves servants of external things that are supposed to serve us as aids. I say this because some people seek to gain the praise of humility by entangling themselves in the strict observance of many statutes, from which we are supposed to be free and exempt according to God’s will, which is not without reason. Therefore, if we want to avoid this danger, we must always keep in mind that we must not deviate in any way from the order that the Lord has established in the Christian church.

IV,13,4 Now I come to what I mentioned above in the third place: it depends very much in which spirit one makes a vow, if otherwise one wishes it to be pleasing to God. For the Lord looks at the heart and not at the outward appearance, and therefore it happens that the same thing, with a changed intention of our heart, is sometimes pleasing and pleasant, and sometimes also violently displeasing to Him. If one makes a vow not to drink wine, pretending that there is some holiness in it, he is a superstitious man; but if in such a vow he has another purpose in view which is not wrong, no one can disapprove of it. Now, as far as I am able to judge, there are four purposes to which our vows may legitimately be directed; two of them I refer to the past for better instruction, the other two to the future. First, the vows with which we testify our gratitude to God for the benefits we have received refer to the past, and secondly, those with which we punish ourselves for the misdeeds we have committed, in order to absolve God’s wrath. The vows of the first kind we shall call, if we will, exercises of gratitude (vows of thanksgiving), those of the second kind exercises of repentance (vows of penance). We have an example of the first group in the tithe that Jacob vowed if the Lord would bring him back safely from exile to his homeland (Gen 28:20, 22). Another example is offered to us by the peace offerings of the Old Covenant, as pious kings and generals about to wage a just war vowed to offer them if they obtained victory, or at any rate, as they vowed to offer them under the pressure of a greater adversity if the Lord would set them free. It is in this sense that we must understand all the passages in the Psalms that deal with vows (Ps 22:26; 56:13; 116:14, 18). Such vows can also be in practice with us today, as often as the Lord has saved us from a defeat or from a serious illness or from some other danger. For then it is not inconsistent with the duty of a pious man to consecrate a vow offering to God as a solemn sign of his gratitude, so as not to appear ungrateful to his kindness. To show of what kind the vows of the second group are, a single well-known example will suffice. If a person has fallen into infamy through his gluttony, there is no obstacle to his denying himself all delicacies for a time as a punishment for his intemperance, and then doing so by the application of a vow, in order thereby to bind himself with a firmer bond. In this way, however, I do not establish a permanent law for those who have transgressed in such a way, but I only show what those may do who have come to the conviction that such a vow is of benefit to them. So I regard such a vow as permissible, but in such a way that I let it remain free in the meantime.

IV,13,5 The vows referring to the future have partly (1.), as I have said, the purpose of making us more cautious, partly (2.) they are also intended to serve us, as it were, as an incentive to cheer us up to our duty. (1.) If a man sees that he is so inclined to a certain vice that he is not able to keep himself in check in an otherwise not bad thing, but immediately falls into something evil, he does nothing absurd if by a vow he deprives himself of the use of that thing for a time. If, for instance, a man recognizes that this or that bodily ornament is dangerous to him, and if he then, tempted by greed, desires it, what better can he do than to put on a bridle, that is, to impose upon himself the obligation to renounce it, and thereby free himself from all misgivings? (2.) Or likewise: if any one is forgetful or indolent to the performance of the necessary duties of piety, why should he not make a vow, and thereby refresh his memory and cast out his sloth? In these two kinds of vows, I admit, a kind of child education appears; but precisely because they are supports for weakness, they are not applied without benefit by the inexperienced and imperfect. We shall say, then, that vows which serve one among these purposes, especially in outward things, are lawful, if only they are based on God’s approval, are suited to our profession, and are limited according to the ability which God’s grace bestowed upon us.

IV,13,6 Now it is also not difficult to gather from the above what we are to think of vows in general. One vow is common to all believers: that is spoken at baptism, and it is affirmed and, as it were, unbreakably vouched for by us when we learn the catechism (thereupon confessing our faith) and receive the Lord’s Supper. For the sacraments are, as it were, prescriptions in which the Lord gives us his mercy and from it eternal life, and we in turn promise him obedience. The formula, or at any rate the main content, of this vow is as follows: we renounce Satan and make ourselves servants to God, to obey His holy commandments, but not to follow the evil desires of our flesh. Since this vow has a testimony from Scripture, indeed, is required of all God’s children, there can be no doubt that it is holy and salvific. Nor is it opposed to the fact that no one in this life performs the perfect obedience to the law that God requires of us. For this vow is included in the covenant of grace, which also includes the forgiveness of sins and the sanctification of the spirit, and therefore the promise we make in it is connected with the plea for forgiveness and the desire for help. In judging the particular vows, it is necessary to keep in mind the three rules mentioned above; from this it will be possible to decide with certainty of what kind each vow is. Nevertheless, let it not be thought that I wish to recommend the vows, which I claim to be sacred, in such a way that I wish them to be done every day. For although I dare not give a prescription as to the number or time of vows, yet, if one follows my advice, such vows will be made only with moderate restraint and temporal limitation. For if one goes over and over again to make numerous vows, then by such continued repetition the whole religion will become common, and one will very easily fall into superstition. If one binds oneself by a continuous vow, then one will either (merely) perform it with much trouble and annoyance or also, tired by the long duration, dare to break it from time to time.

IV,13,7 Now it is not hidden what a great superstition the world has been struggling with in this piece for some hundred years. One made a vow to drink no more wine, as if abstaining from wine constituted a worship that would be pleasing to God in and of itself. Another vowed to fast for certain days or to abstain from meat, vainly deluding himself that in these things, more than in others, lay a unique service of God. Some vows were also made, which were even more childish - even if it was not children who made them! For it was considered great wisdom to undertake pilgrimages to holy places upon a vow, and sometimes to make the journey on foot or with a half-naked body, in order to acquire all the more merit with fatigue. If we examine such and similar vows, about which the world for a time was inflamed with incredible zeal, according to the rules laid down above, they will not only be found senseless and ludicrous, but also filled with manifest impiety. For however the flesh may judge, nothing is more an abomination in the sight of God than self-conceived worship. To this must be added those pernicious and accursed delusions that the hypocrites, once they have accomplished such buffoonery, now believe that they have acquired an unusual righteousness, see the essential existence of godliness in the observance of such outward things, and despise all other men who seem to take less pains about such things.

IV,13,8 To enumerate the individual forms (of such false vows) would be irrelevant. But since the monastic vows enjoy a higher esteem, because it seems that they are approved by the public judgment of the church, I must still briefly discuss them. First of all, so that no one defends monasticism as it is today under the pretext of ancient origins, I must point out that in former times a substantially different way of life prevailed in the monasteries. Such people went to the monasteries who wanted to practice the highest austerity and patience. For just such discipline as, according to our reports, existed among the Lacedaemonians under the laws of Lycurgus, also prevailed among the monks, indeed, a much stricter one. They slept on the ground, drank only water, ate bread, herbs and roots, their chief delicacies consisted of oil and peas. They renounced all more delicious foods and all finer maintenance of the body. This description might seem exaggerated if it were not reported by witnesses who saw and experienced it, namely Gregory of Nazianzus, Basil and Chrysostom. What I have just reported, however, were only the beginners’ exercises with which the monks prepared themselves for more important tasks. For the monastic communities were at that time, as it were, planting places of the ecclesiastical state (i.e. the "clergy"). A sufficiently clear proof of this are, on the one hand, the men mentioned above (Gregory, Basil, Chrysostom) - for they were all educated in monasteries and then from there called to the episcopate - and, on the other hand, numerous other important and outstanding men of their time. And Augustine testifies that it was also customary in his time for the monasteries to supply the Church with their clerics; for he addresses the monks of the island of Capraria as follows: "But to you, brethren, we exhort in the Lord, that you remain faithful to your purpose and persevere in it to the end; and if one day your Mother, the Church, shall desire your service, do not assume it in domineering arrogance, nor spurn it in flattering convenience, but render obedience to God with a meek heart. Neither put your leisure above the needs of the Church; for if there had been no good people to minister to her in her birth pangs, neither would you have had the opportunity to come into the world" (Letter 48; to Eudoxius). Indeed, he is speaking here of the ministry through which believers are spiritually reborn. Likewise, he writes to Aurelius: "When people leave the monastery and are then chosen for the military service of the clerical office, they themselves are given the opportunity to fall, and the most outrageous injustice is done to the state of the clergy. For we are accustomed to accept into the clergy only the best-tried and most capable from among those who remain in the monastery. Otherwise, it would have to be as the saying goes: ’A bad piper is a good musician in the chapel’, and we would have to mockingly say: ’A bad monk is a good cleric’. It would be too deplorable if we were to let the monks rise to such a pernicious arrogance and consider the clergy worthy of such harsh vituperation. For sometimes even a good monk hardly makes a good cleric, namely, if he possesses sufficient continence but lacks the necessary learning" (Letter 60; to Aurelius). From these passages it is clear that pious men used to prepare themselves for the leadership of the Church under monastic discipline, in order to then take on such an important office with better aptitude and better education. It is not that all of them reached this goal or even wanted to reach it - for the monks were for the most part scientifically uneducated people - but those were chosen who were suitable for it.

IV,13,9 There are, however, two passages in particular in which Augustin describes the form of the old monastic life. This happens once in his book "On the Morals of the Catholic Church", in which he counters the invective of the Manichaeans with the sanctity of the monastic profession, and then in another book, to which he has given the title "On the Work of the Monks", and in which he takes sharp action against some degenerate monks who began to corrupt this institution. I will therefore reproduce here the essential content of the reports he offers us, and I will do so in such a way that I also use his own words, as far as it is concerned. He says: "Disregarding the temptations of this world, the monks join together in a common life of the highest chastity and holiness, they now lead their existence together, live in prayers, readings and doctrinal discussions, are not puffed up by any arrogance, are not rebellious by any stubbornness and are not vicious by any envy. No one has any possessions of his own, no one is a burden to anyone. With their hands they work out what serves to maintain their bodies, and yet what cannot keep their spirits away from God. They place their work under the direction of those whom they call ’deans’. These ’deans’ order everything with great care and give account to a man whom they call ’father’. Now these ’fathers’ are not only of the highest holiness in their customs, but also of excellent knowledge of the divine doctrine and excellent in all things; they care for the others whom they call ’sons’ without any haughtiness, by their great authority in the field and by their great willingness in obeying. Towards the end of the day - and this is a time when they have not yet taken anything to eat! - They come together, each one from his dwelling, to listen to the words of those ’fathers’, and three thousand or at least a thousand people gather at each ’father’ - Augustin speaks mainly of Egypt and the East. Afterwards they strengthen the body, as far as it is necessary for well-being and health, and thereby each individual keeps his covetousness in check, in order not to let himself go even with the sparse and extremely simple food, which is available. Thus, not only do they abstain from meat and wine in order to be sufficiently able to restrain their desires, but they also abstain from such things which serve all the more to excite the stomach and the palate to violent covetousness, the more they appear to some to be pure. For under this name ("pure") one is accustomed to ridiculously and shamefully defend the most shameful craving for exquisite food, because it has nothing to do with the consumption of meat. What is available over and above the necessary subsistence - and there is a great deal left over in the work of their hands and in their restriction in eating - is distributed to the needy with a care even greater than that with which it was acquired by those who undertake this distribution. For it does not matter to them decisively that they have an abundance of such things, but they take every pains to see that what they have an abundance of does not remain with them" (Of the Customs of the Catholic Church 31:67). Then, mentioning the austerity of the monks, of which he himself had seen examples in Milan and other places, he says: "Meanwhile, no one is urged to hard exercises which he is not able to endure, no one has anything imposed on him of which he refuses, nor is anyone condemned by others because he professes not to be able to do likewise; for they consider how much charity is commended to us, keeping in mind that to the pure all things are pure… (Titus 1:15). They use all their diligence vigilantly not to reject certain kinds of food as if they were tainted, but to restrain greed and maintain brotherly love. They remember the word: ’The food to the belly and the belly to the food…’ (1Cor 6:13). However, many strong ones practice abstinence for the sake of the weak. Many have no cause to do such things; (but they do it) because it pleases them to sustain themselves with quite simple and quite cheap food. Thus it happens that the same people who practice abstinence in full health accept the food in question without hesitation in case of illness, if their state of health requires it. Many do not drink wine; but they do not mean to defile themselves with it; for they see to it with the greatest kindness that wine is given to the weak and to those who cannot maintain the health of their bodies without it; also they fraternally admonish some people who foolishly refuse wine, that they should not become weaker rather than holier through vain superstition. Thus they put all their efforts into practicing piety, knowing that the exercise of the body is only for a short time. Above all, however, love is preserved; the livelihood is made subservient to love, the speech to love, the clothing to love, and the facial expression to love. To one love one comes together, and to one love one conspires; to violate it, that is considered a sacrilege, as if one desecrated God Himself; whoever opposes it, he is expelled and shunned; whoever breaks it, he is not allowed to stay with them a single day more" (Ibid. 33:70-73). With these words, that holy man seems to me to have portrayed, as in a picture, the former state of monastic life, and therefore it has not chagrined me to insert them here, in spite of their considerable verbosity; for I have noticed that, in spite of my striving for brief summary, I would be even more prolix if I were to compile these communications from various writers..

IV,13,10 Now I intend here not to go through this whole circle of questions, but only to show in passing what kind of monks the ancient church possessed, and also what the monastic profession looked like at that time, so that understanding readers can, on the basis of the comparison, form a judgment about how impudently people act who refer to the ancient times in support of the present monasticism. In the description that Augustine gives us of holy and legitimate monasticism, he has the will that all sharp demands of such things remain away, which are freely left to us by the word of the Lord. Now there is nothing that would be demanded with greater severity nowadays. For it is considered an inexcusable sacrilege if anyone deviates in the least from the rule in the color or appearance of the garment, in the manner of the food, or in other worthless and insignificant ceremonies. Augustine emphasizes emphatically that the monks do not have the right to live an idle life from other people’s goods. He declares that such a case did not occur in his time in any well-ordered monastery (On the Work of Monks 23:27). Our monks of today, on the other hand, see the most important piece of their holiness in idleness! For if idleness is taken away from them, where will remain that "contemplative life" (contemplativa vita) by means of which, as they boast, they surpass all other men and come closer to the angels? Finally, Augustine calls for monasticism to be nothing other than an exercise and a support for the (fulfillment of the) obligations of piety that are placed on the hearts of all Christian people. He declares charity to be the supreme, indeed the only rule of the monastic life, and how can we suppose that he would praise a rotteria in which a few people unite with each other and thus separate themselves from the whole body of the Church? No, on the contrary, he wants the monks to be the example for the rest of the Christians in order to preserve the unity of the Church! In both respects our present monasticism is of such a different nature that one can hardly find anything more different, not to say more contradictory. For our monks are not satisfied with that piety which Christ’s disciples are commanded to strive for in constant striving alone, and they devise I know not what new one in order to be more perfect in striving for it than all the others.

IV,13,11 If they deny this, I would like to know from them why they consider their state alone worthy to be called "perfect" and why they deny this title of honor to all other callings of God. I am not unfamiliar with the sophistical answer that monasticism is not called so because it resolves perfection in itself, but because it is the best state of all to attain perfection. When the monks want to boast to the people, when they want to entrap ignorant young people, defend their privileges and raise their dignity to the dishonor of other people, then they boast that they are in the state of perfection! Then, when they are so close to it that they can no longer maintain this vain presumption, they take refuge in the trench of protection (i.e. in the auxiliary assertion) that they have not yet attained perfection, but live in the state in which they aspire to it more than other people. In the meantime, however, the people continue to admire the monastic life as if it were the only one that was angel-like, perfect and purified of all infirmities! Under this pretext they do the most profit-seeking trade - and that restriction (of their claims) remains meanwhile buried in a few books! Who does not notice that this is an intolerable mockery? But let us deal with them as if they did not ascribe more to their profession than they do when they call it the state for the attainment of perfection. For if they give it this name, they distinguish it thereby undoubtedly as with a special mark from every other way of life. And who will tolerate that this great honor should be attached to an institution which is nowhere approved of in a single syllable, and that all the callings of God should be deemed unworthy of the same honor, which, after all, are not only commanded by his holy mouth, but are also distinguished with the most glorious praises? And then, I would like to ask, what terrible injustice is done to God, if one prefers I do not know what kind of fictitious way of life to all those which are commanded by Him and praised by His testimony?

IV,13,12 Now, they may say what I have just put forward, namely, that they are not satisfied with the rule prescribed by God, that is blasphemy. But even if I remain silent, they accuse themselves more than enough. For they openly teach that they take upon themselves a greater burden than Christ imposed upon His own, because they vowed to keep the "evangelical counsels," namely that we should love our enemies, not seek retribution, not swear, and so on (Mt 5:33 ss.) - and Christians are not all bound by these "evangelical counsels"! What kind of "old times" do they want to show us as a pretext? For such a thing never occurred to any of the ancients; they all declare, as if from one mouth, that Christ did not speak a single word that we do not have to obey! And that those words in particular, which according to the chatter of these valiant interpreters are supposed to be mere counsels of Christ, are in fact instructions, is taught by the ancients everywhere without any hesitation. But since I have already shown above that this is a most pernicious error, it may be enough here to have briefly indicated that monasticism, as it is today, is founded on an opinion which must deservedly be an abomination to all pious people, namely, that they imagine that there is any more perfect rule of life than that general one which God has prescribed for the whole Church. Anything built upon this foundation cannot but be abominable..

IV,13,13 But they bring up another proof of their perfection, thinking that it is now quite strong. For the Lord answered the young man who asked him about perfect righteousness: "If you want to be perfect, go and sell everything you have and give it to the poor" (Mt 19,21). Whether they do this themselves, I do not want to discuss yet - let us admit it to them for the moment! So they claim to have become perfect by leaving all their possessions. If this is the main sum of perfection, what does it mean that Paul teaches that if someone "gives all his possessions to the poor" "and does not have love," he is nothing (1Cor 13:3)? What kind of perfection is this, which, if love is not present, becomes nothing together with the person? Here they must now necessarily answer that this is indeed the highest, but not the only work of perfection. But even here the apostle objects, declaring without hesitation love to be the "bond of perfection" - even without such renunciation of earthly goods (Col 3:14)! Now, if it is certain that there is no opposition between the Master and his disciple, and if the latter openly denies that man’s perfection consists in renouncing all his goods, and on the other hand asserts that it endures without such renunciation, we must see in what sense Christ’s word is to be understood: "If thou wilt be perfect, sell all that thou hast…." (Mt 19,21). The meaning will become quite clear if we consider - which must always be taken into account in all speeches of Christ - to whom these words are addressed. The young man asks with which works he could enter eternal life (Lk 10:25; actually Matth 19,16). Because Christ is asked about the works, he refers him to the law. And rightly so; for the law, when considered in and of itself, is the way to eternal life, and it is only incapable of procuring salvation for us because we are wicked. With this answer, Christ made it clear that he taught no other way of living than that once given in the law of the Lord. Thus he gave testimony to the divine law that it represented the teaching of perfect righteousness, and at the same time countered the blasphemies: it should not appear that he was inciting the people to apostasy from the law by any new rule of life. Now the young man, who was not of evil mind, but puffed up with vain self-confidence, answered that he had kept all the commandments of the law from his youth (Mt 19,20). It is more than certain that he was still separated by an immeasurable distance from the goal he already boasted of having achieved. If his boast had been true, he would have lacked nothing to reach the highest perfection. For it has been proved above that the law concludes perfect righteousness in itself, and the same is clear from the fact that its observance is called the way to eternal blessedness. In order to teach him how little he had come far in righteousness, the fulfillment of which he all too boldly claimed in his answer, it was necessary to elaborate on the affliction that was attached to him personally. Now he was a very rich man, and therefore he had set his heart on riches. Therefore, because he did not feel this hidden wound, Christ pricked him. "Go," he said to him, "and sell all that you have." Now if he had kept the law as well as he thought, when he heard this word, he would not have gone away sorrowful (Mt 19:22)! For he who loves God with all his heart not only regards everything that is contrary to love of God as filth, but detests it as something corruptible. Therefore, when Christ commands this rich miser to forsake all that he has, it is exactly the same as if he instructed an honor-seeking man to renounce all honors, a pleasure-seeking man to renounce all pleasures, and an unchaste man to renounce all the instruments of his lust. Thus consciences, which cannot be touched by any sense of general admonition, must be brought to the particular sense of their own sin. It is in vain, therefore, for the papists to make a general interpretation of this special case, as if Christ had seen the perfection of a man in the renunciation of possessions, whereas he intended nothing else by this saying than to lead the youth, who had pleasure in himself beyond measure, to the sensation of his wound, that he might perceive that he was still distant by a great distance from that perfect obedience to the law which he otherwise unjustly ascribed to himself. I admit that this passage has been misunderstood by some among the (church) fathers and that from it has grown that preference for voluntary poverty in which only those people were considered blessed who had renounced all earthly goods and vowed themselves naked to Christ. But I am confident that all good-willed and non-contentious readers will be satisfied with this explanation of mine, so that they will be in no doubt about the intention of Christ..

IV,13,14 However, the Fathers thought of nothing less than to affirm such a "perfection" as they subsequently forged together clothed clods to establish a twofold Christianity in this way. For at that time that doctrine of profanation of the sanctuary had not yet arisen, which compares the monastic vow with baptism, and even openly asserts that it is a kind of second baptism. Who would doubt that the (Church) Fathers wholeheartedly abhorred such blasphemy? But as for the last peculiarity of the ancient monks reported by Augustine, namely, that they were fully oriented toward love, why is it necessary to show in words that this has nothing whatsoever to do with the new form of the monastic profession? The facts themselves show that all those who go to monasteries separate themselves from the Church. Why, then, do they not separate themselves from the legitimate community of the faithful, by assuming a special (ecclesiastical) office and a separate distribution of the sacraments? If this does not mean tearing apart the communion of the Church - what does? And further - to continue and once conclude the comparison begun above - what similarity do they have in this piece with the ancient monks? These lived separately from the others, but still they did not have a special church, they shared the sacraments with the others, they attended the public meetings and were part of the people (i.e. the congregation). But the monks of today have erected for themselves their own separate altar - and what have they done but break the bond of unity? For they have excluded themselves from the whole body of the Church and have despised the orderly ministry by which, according to the will of the Lord, peace and love are to be maintained among His own. I maintain, then, that as many monasteries there are today, so many are the routs of apostates (schismatics) who have disturbed the ecclesiastical order and cut themselves off from the lawful communion of the faithful. And in order not to hide their secession, they have adopted many party names. Nor have they been ashamed to boast of what Paul, so much abhorred that he could not express it sharply enough (1Cor 1:12 s.; 3:4). Otherwise we would have to be of the opinion that Christ was "divided" by the Corinthians, because one teacher arrogantly placed himself above the other, but now it could happen without any insult to Christ that we get to hear how some are called Benedictines, others Franciscans, still others Dominicans instead of Christians, and that in such a way that they themselves, while they seek to be distinguished from the great multitude of Christians, arrogantly usurp such titles as a confession of religion!

IV,13,15 These differences between the ancient monks and those of our time, as I have listed them up to this point, do not lie in customs, but in the profession itself. The reader may therefore bear in mind that I have spoken of monasticism rather than of monks, and have thereby referred to such vices as do not adhere to the way of life of a few, but cannot be separated from the prevailing order of life itself. But what is the use of stating in detail what a great contrast there is in morals? That is certain, that there is no group of people worse sullied by all the shamefulness of vice. Nowhere do factions, hatreds, redness and ambition weigh more heavily than among the monks. Certainly, in a few monasteries one still lives chastely - if one wants to understand something by chastity, whereby one pushes back the greed so far that it does not become publicly notorious. But you will hardly find a monastery among ten which would not rather be a whorehouse than a sanctuary of chastity! And what about simplicity in living? In any case, the pigs in the pen are not fattened differently! But so that they don’t complain that they are too roughly handled by me, I don’t want to go on. However, everyone, who knows the conditions himself, will admit to me that from the few, which I have touched, nothing is spoken in the (exaggerated) accusatory tone. Although, according to Augustine’s testimony, the monks (of his time) were distinguished by such great chastity, he nevertheless complains that among them there were numerous vagrants who, with wicked tricks and frauds, took the money out of the pockets of the more simple-minded people, They sold the bones of the deceased as relics of martyrs, and by many other outrages they disgraced their profession (On the Work of the Monks 28:36). And as on the one hand he declares that he has seen no better men than those who have made progress in the monasteries, so on the other hand he laments having seen no worse than those who have gone astray in the monasteries (Letter 78). What would he say if he saw today almost all monasteries overflowing with so many and such hopeless vices, yes, almost bursting? I say nothing but what is well known to all people! Nevertheless, this rebuke does not apply to all monks without any exception. For just as the rule and discipline for a holy way of life was never so well established in the monasteries that there were not also some drones in it who were quite unlike the others, so I maintain that the monks today have not departed so much from the holy way of the old time that they do not also have some good ones in their flock. But these good ones are few in number, they are scattered and remain hidden among that vast multitude of wicked and good-for-nothings, and they are not only despised but also insolently reviled, sometimes even cruelly treated by the others, who - as a proverb of the people of Miletus says - are of the opinion that no good one should have a place among them!

IV,13,16 With this comparison between the ancient and the modern monasticism I hope to have achieved what I wanted, namely, that it becomes evident that our present-day cowl-bearers wrongly take the example of the original church as a pretext for the defense of their profession; for they are no less different from those ancient monks than monkeys are from men. However, I do not want to conceal the fact that even in that original form of monasticism which Augustine praises so highly, there are some things which I do not like very much. I admit that they were not superstitious in the external exercises of their quite strict discipline, but I still maintain that they were not without immoderate artificiality and false imitation. It was nice to renounce all wealth and then to be free of all earthly cares, but before God the care for a pious household regiment is more important, where a holy householder, free from all avarice, all ambition and all desires of the flesh, has taken it upon himself to serve God in a certain profession! It is beautiful to philosophize in solitude, far from the intercourse with men, but it is not a sign of Christian meekness to withdraw, as it were, out of general hatred of men, into the desert and solitude, and thus at the same time to abandon those duties which the Lord has charged us with in the first place. Even if we were to admit that otherwise there would have been no grievance in the monastic profession, it was in any case no small evil that he introduced a useless and dangerous example into the Church.

IV,13,17 Now, then, let us see what these vows are by which monks are initiated into this "glorious" state nowadays. First, since they have in mind to establish a new and self-conceived worship in order to earn merit with God, I conclude from the above that everything they vow is an abomination before God. And then, because they do not look at all to God’s calling and approval, but rather devise a way of life according to their own liking, I maintain that this is a rash and therefore unacceptable venture, since their conscience has no basis on which it can support itself before God, and since everything that does not come from faith is sin (Rom 14:23). And since, moreover, they commit themselves at the same time to numerous perverse and ungodly "services of worship," such as the monasticism of today conceives in itself, I maintain that they are consecrated not to God but to the devil. The prophets were allowed to say that the children of Israel had sacrificed their sons to the devils and not to God (Deut 32:17; Ps 106:37), for the sole reason that they had corrupted the true worship of God with their unholy ceremonies - why should we now not be allowed to say the same of the monks who, at the same time as they put on the habit, entangle themselves in a thousand godless, superstitious customs? And what do the vows look like? They promise God perpetual virginity - as if they had previously contracted with Him to release them from the necessity of marriage! Nor do they have any reason to object that they make this vow solely in reliance on God’s grace. For he himself declares that this grace is not given to all (Mt 19,11 s.), and therefore it is not for us to trust in this special gift of grace. Those who possess it should make use of it, and if they once feel that they are troubled by their flesh, they should take refuge in the help of Him in whose strength alone they can resist. If they do not advance, they should not despise the medicine that is offered to them. In any case, those who are not granted the ability to abstain are called to marriage by an undoubted word of God (1Cor 7:9). I do not call abstinence that by which alone the body is kept pure from fornication, but that in which the mind preserves untainted chastity. For according to Paul’s instruction, we are to beware not only of outward chastity, but also of the burning of our hearts. Yes, they say, but from time immemorial it has been held that those who wished to consecrate themselves completely to the Lord bound themselves to a vow of abstinence. I admit, however, that this custom has been in force from time immemorial, but I cannot admit that that time was so free from all infirmities that everything that was done at that time could be considered a rule. Also, (only) gradually that inexorable rigor crept in, that once the vow was made there was no possibility of withdrawal. This is evident from the words of Cyprian: "When virgins have consecrated themselves to Christ out of faith, let them remain chaste and chastened, without all talk. In this way, they should bravely and steadfastly await the reward of their virginity. But if they will not or cannot persevere in this, it is better that they should be free than that they should fall into the fire with their iniquities" (Letter 4:2). With what kind of reproaches would they torment a man today who wanted to mitigate the vow of abstinence with such equity? Today, then, they have departed far from that ancient custom, not only not wanting to show any mitigation or leniency if someone is found unfit to keep his vow, but even declaring, without any shame, that it is a worse sin for him to take a wife to cure the unbridledness of his flesh than for him to defile body and soul with fornication!

IV,13,18 But they still do not let up and try to prove that such a vow was also common among the apostles, because Paul claims that widows who entered marriage again after they were accepted into the public ministry (of the church) had "broken the first faith" (1. Tim.5,12). I do not deny that the widows, who put themselves and their service at the disposal of the church, once took upon themselves the law of permanent celibacy, not because they saw in it any service to God, as they later began to do, but because they were only able to fulfill their official task when they were their own masters and free from the marital yoke. But if they now looked for a new marriage after their vow of fidelity, - what was that but that they threw God’s calling from them? It is therefore no wonder that Paul says that with such desire they "became lustful against Christ" (1Tim 5:11). Later, however, he adds for greater emphasis that they did not keep the promise they had made to the church in such a way that they also violated and invalidated their first promise of faithfulness, which they had made at baptism, that promise of faithfulness to which it also belongs that everyone behaves according to his calling. Otherwise, one would rather want to understand it in such a way that they, as it were, after losing all sense of shame, would have thrown off all striving for an honorable way of life, would have given themselves over to all and every unboundedness and frivolity, and would have shown by their unrestrained and disorderly way of life nothing less than the kind of Christian women. I like this interpretation very much. So we give the following answer (to that objection): The widows who were then received into the public ministry (of the church) made it their determination to remain permanently celibate; now, if they afterwards freed themselves, it came to pass, as we easily understand, what Paul says, namely, that they threw off all shame and became more wanton than befits Christian women; so then they not only sinned by breaking the word which they had given to the church, but indeed they departed from the common law which applies to all pious women. But I deny, first, that they would have vowed celibacy for any other reason than simply because marriage was quite incompatible with the task they were undertaking, nor do I deny that they would have committed themselves to celibacy in any other way than simply insofar as the necessity of their profession entailed it. Secondly, I do not admit that they were so bound that even then it would not have been better for them to enter into marriage than to be martyred by the thorns of the flesh or to fall into any immorality. Thirdly, I contend that Paul in his precept fixes an age which is generally beyond danger (namely, sixty years 1Tim 5:9), especially where he commands that only those be chosen who have been satisfied with a single marriage and have previously given proof of their abstinence. But we reject the vow of celibacy only because it is mistakenly thought to be a service of God, and because it is rashly taken by those who have not been endowed with the faculty of continence.

IV,13,19 But where did one get the right to refer the Pauline passage to the nuns? For the ministering widows (diaconissae) were not chosen so that they might flatter God with songs and misunderstood babbling and live the rest of the time of leisure, but so that they might perform the public service of the Church to the poor and devote themselves to the duties of charity with all zeal, care and diligence. They did not vow celibacy in order to do God any service by renouncing marriage, but only in order to be freer to exercise their ministry. And finally, they did not vow celibacy in the early days of their virginity, nor in the midst of the flowering of their years, only to learn too late from experience what an abyss they had entered; no, when they seemed to have overcome all danger, then they took their vow, which was as free from danger as it was holy. But - not to press the first two points sharply - I maintain that it is sacrilege to admit women to the vow of continence before they are sixty years old, since Paul alone admits those who are sixty years old, but commands those who are younger to be free and bear children (1Tim 5:9, 14). Therefore, the lowering of the age of admission, first by twelve, then by twenty, and finally by thirty years, cannot be excused in any way, and it is even less tolerable that poor maidens, before they can know themselves by their age or have any experience of themselves, are not only seduced by fraud, but forced by force and threats to enter into these accursed ropes. I will not get into the rejection of the other two vows (poverty, obedience). I will only say this: apart from the fact that, as things stand today, they are involved in no small amount of superstition, they seem to be made for those who make them to make a mockery of God and man. But lest it appear that we are trying to flush out each bit too maliciously, let us content ourselves with the general refutation given above..

IV,13,20 What kind of vows are lawful and pleasing to God has, in my opinion, now been sufficiently explained. Now there are sometimes ignorant and fearful consciences which, even where a vow displeases them or they reject it, nevertheless have misgivings about its obligatory nature and torment themselves terribly, because on the one hand they shrink from breaking the word given to God, and on the other hand they fear that by keeping the vow they will sin even more. These must therefore be helped here, so that they can tear themselves out of this difficulty. But in order to remove all doubts at once, I say this: before God all illicit and illegitimate vows are null and void, and so they must also be null and void for us. For if, in human contracts, we are bound only by such promises as our contracting party wishes us to be bound by, it is absurd that we should be compelled to perform what God by no means requires of us, especially when our works are only right if they please God and have the testimony of our conscience that they do. For it firmly remains: "What … is not of faith, it is sin" (Rom 14:23). By this Paul means: a work which we attack with misgivings is therefore sinful, because faith is the root of all good works, the faith in which we have the assurance that these works are pleasing to God. If, then, a Christian man may not undertake anything without this certainty, why should he not, if he has imprudently undertaken something out of ignorance, afterwards refrain from it when he has become free from his error? But since vows made imprudently are of this kind, not only are they not binding at all, but they must be broken! What shall we say, however, when we remember that they are not only considered nothing before God, but are also an abomination, as I have proved above? It is superfluous to speak further about an unnecessary matter. To reassure pious consciences and free them from all misgivings, this one ground of proof seems to me to be fully sufficient: all works which do not flow from a pure source and are directed toward a lawful end are rejected by God, and so rejected that he forbids us no less to continue in them than to begin them. For from this follows the conclusion: vows that are born of error and superstition have no meaning at all with God, and must accordingly be set aside by us.

IV,13,21 Whoever holds this answer, moreover, will also be able to defend such people against the vituperations of good-for-nothing people who leave monasticism and enter into a respectable way of life. They are fiercely accused of having broken their word and of being perjurers, because they have broken what is generally considered to be the indissoluble bond by which they were bound to God and to the Church. I maintain, on the other hand, that there was no "bond" at all, since God (in this case) declares null and void what man puts into effect. And then: if we ourselves admit that they were under obligation when they were held in bonds by the ignorance of God and error, I maintain that now, having been enlightened by the knowledge of the truth, they are at the same time free through Christ’s grace. For if the cross of Christ has such power as to set us free from the curse of the divine law, by which we were held in bondage (Gal 3:13), how much more will it tear us out of such strange fetters, which after all are nothing but snares of the devil! There is no doubt, then, that Christ frees all those to whom he shines through the light of his gospel from all the snares in which they have entangled themselves out of superstition. Admittedly, if they have not been able to keep celibacy, they do not lack another means of defense. For an unfulfillable vow means the certain ruin of the soul, and yet God wants it to be preserved and not lost. From this it follows that one should not persist in such a vow at all. But how unfulfillable the vow of abstinence is for those who are not equipped with the special gift (Mt 19,11 s.), I have explained above, and experience testifies to it, even if I remain silent; for it is very well known how much immorality almost all monasteries are overflowing with. And if some monasteries seem to be more respectable and demure than others, they are not chaste because they suppress and hold down the evil of unchastity within! God punishes with terrible punishments the presumption of men when they do not think of their weakness and, against the resistance of nature, strive for something that is denied to them, and when, disregarding the remedies that the Lord had given them, they are confident that they can overcome the infirmity of their unchastity by defiance and obstinacy. For what else can we call it than defiance when someone is made aware of the fact that he needs marriage and that it is given to him by the Lord as a remedy, and then nevertheless not only despises it, but still commits himself by an oath to despise it?

Chapter Fourteen


About the sacraments

IV,14,1 With the preaching of the gospel is related another aid to our faith: it lies in the sacraments. It is now highly necessary for us that clear and definite instruction be given on this, from which we can then learn for what purpose the sacraments are instituted and in what way they are used today. First of all, it is appropriate to pay attention to what a sacrament is. It seems to me that it is a simple and proper definition to say that a sacrament is an outward sign (symbolum) by which the Lord seals to our conscience the promises of his kindness toward us, in order to offer support to the weakness of our faith, and by which, in turn, we testify our piety toward him both before his face and the face of angels, and before men. An even shorter definition can be given: sacrament means a testimony of divine grace against us, confirmed by an external sign, and at the same time a testimony of our piety towards God. Whichever of these two definitions one chooses, both are not different from Augustine’s, when he declares that sacrament is a visible sign of a holy thing, or also: it is the visible form of the invisible grace. However, our definitions bring the matter itself better and more precisely to the statement. For since in such brevity (as Augustine uses) lies a certain darkness, which then gives many less knowledgeable people the occasion for reverie, I have wanted to give a more complete explanation in many words, so that no ambiguity remains.

IV,14,2 For what reason the ancients applied the word "sacrament" in the sense given here is readily apparent. For the ancient translator (of the Bible into Latin), wherever he wanted to render the Greek word "mysterion" (mystery), especially where divine things were concerned, used the translation "sacrament" (sacramentum). This happens for example in the letter to the Ephesians when it says: "… to make known to us the mystery (sacramentum) of His will" (Eph 1:9; not Luther text). Or likewise: "As you have heard of the ministry of God’s grace which was given to me in you, that this mystery (sacramentum) was made known to me by revelation …" (Eph 3:2f.). Similarly, in Colossians: "The mystery (sacramentum), which was hidden from the world and from the ages, is now revealed to His saints, to whom God willed to make known the glorious riches of this mystery (sacramentum) …" (Col 1:26f.). Likewise in the (first) letter to Timothy, where it is said: "The mystery of God (sacramentum) is exceedingly great: God is revealed in the flesh …" (1Tim 3:16). Now the translator did not want to use the (related) word "arcanum" (hidden thing), so as not to give the impression of saying something that fell short of the greatness of things, and therefore he put for "hiddenness", and specifically for the hiddenness of a holy thing, the word "sacrament". In this meaning the word occurs again and again in the ecclesiastical writers. It is also sufficiently known that what the Latins call "sacrament" is called "mystery" by the Greeks, and this similarity of meaning of the two words puts an end to all dispute. From here it came that the word "sacra-ment" was transferred to such signs; which offered a sublime representation of high and spiritual things. This is also noted by Augustine in one place. He says: "It would go too far if we were to discuss the variety of signs which, when they refer to divine things, are called sacraments" (Letter 136,1,7; to Marcellinus).

IV,14,3 From the definition thus established, we now see further that a sacrament is never without a preceding promise, but that it is rather added to the promise, as it were, as an appendage. This happens for the purpose that it affirms and seals the promise itself and makes it better witnessed to us, yes, as it were valid. For God foresees that it is necessary, first, for our ignorance and sloth, and secondly, for our weakness. But in this, God - to speak in the proper sense - has no need both to confirm his holy word, and rather to strengthen us in our faith in his word. For God’s truth is firm and sure enough by itself, and it can receive no better affirmation from elsewhere than from itself. But since our faith is small and weak, it must be supported from all sides and made firm in every way; otherwise it will soon be shaken, waver and falter, and even collapse. And here the merciful Lord in His immeasurable goodness adapts Himself to our capacity. But since we are earthly beings and as such, always crawling on the ground and clinging to the flesh, are not able to think anything spiritual and not even to comprehend it, he does it in such a way that he finds no difficulty in leading us to himself even with such earthly elements and holding up a mirror of spiritual goods to us in the flesh itself. If we were in the flesh, as Chrysostom says, the Lord would also present these goods to us naked and in the flesh. But now, since we have a soul that is immersed in the body, he gives us the spiritual through the visible (Sermon 60 to the People). This is not because such gifts, which are given to us in the sacraments, are in the nature of things; no, they are precisely designated by God to have this meaning.

IV,14,4 Now this is the sense of the common way of speaking, that the sacrament consists of the word and the outward sign. When we speak of the "word", we must not understand by it a word that, whispered without meaning and without faith, would have the power to sanctify the "element" by its sound alone - as if we were dealing here with a magic incantation -; no, we must rather think here of the word that is preached and thereby lets us recognize what meaning the visible sign has. What happened under the tyranny of the pope was not without an outrageous desecration of the mysteries (sacraments): it was thought to be enough if the priest murmured the consecration formula under the stupefaction of the people, who did not understand anything about the matter. Indeed, under the pope it was deliberately ensured that the people would not receive any instruction from this act, namely by speaking everything in Latin in front of people without scientific education. After that, superstition went so far that it was thought that the consecration was only done properly if it was done with a hoarse murmur that only a few people heard. Augustine, on the other hand, teaches much differently about the word spoken at the sacrament (verbum sacramentalis). He says: "If the word comes to the element, it becomes a sacrament. For from where does this mighty power of water, that it touches the body and washes the heart clean, come other than from the action of the word? And not because it is spoken, but because it is believed! For even with the word itself, the fading sound is something different from the lasting power. ’This is the word of faith which we preach,’ says the apostle (Rom 10:8). Therefore, in the Acts of the Apostles it says: ’And purified their hearts by faith …’ (Acts 15:9). And the apostle Peter says: ’So also baptism makes us blessed, which is not the putting away of filthiness of the flesh, but the responsibility of a good conscience’ (1 Pet. 3:21; not Luther text; Calvin himself translates instead of ’responsibility’ in Sect. 24: the testimony …). It is the word of faith that we preach, by which, without any doubt, baptism is also consecrated, so that it is able to purify" (Homilies on the Gospel of John 80:3). Here we see how Augustine demands preaching so that faith may grow from it. Nor is there any need for us to struggle to prove this; for it is clear enough what Christ did, what he commanded us to do, what the apostles followed, and what the purer Church has held fast. Yes, it is well known that since the beginning of the world, as often as God gave any sign to the holy fathers, there was inseparably connected with it also the Word, without which our senses would be thrown into confusion by mere (that is, unveiled) looking at it. Therefore, when we hear the word spoken at the sacrament (verbum sacramentalis) mentioned, let us understand by it the promise which, preached by the minister (at the word) with a clear voice, takes the people by the hand and leads them to where the sign is directed and where it directs us.

IV,14,5 One must also not listen to the people who try to fight against this with an either-or, which is more perceptive than valid. They say: Either we know that God’s word, as it precedes the sacrament, is God’s true will, or we do not know it. If we know it, we learn nothing new from the sacrament that then follows. But if we do not know it, the sacrament will not teach it to us either, because its power lies entirely in the word. To this I will briefly reply. The seals that are attached to official documents and other public writings are nothing in and of themselves, because they would be attached to them in vain if nothing were written on the parchment; and yet it is so that they confirm and seal what is written when they are attached to such writings. Nor can those people claim that this parable has only recently been brought up by us; for Paul himself used it, calling circumcision a "seal" (Rom 4:11). In this passage he asserts with full intention that the circumcision of Abraham was not for the purpose of acquiring righteousness, but rather represented a seal of the covenant in which Abraham believed, so that he was justified in that faith. And I would like to know what reason there should be for anyone to take great offense at our teaching that the promise is sealed by the sacraments - when it is clear from the promises themselves that one receives its confirmation through the other! For the clearer a promise is, the more suitable it is to offer support to faith. The sacraments, however, carry the clearest promises to us and have the special advantage over words that they paint these promises as if in a picture and thus make them vividly present to us. There is, of course, a difference between the sacraments and the seals attached to the documents, in that one says that Both consist of the carnal elements of this world, and therefore the sacraments cannot suffice or be able to seal the promises of God, which are spiritual and eternal, in the same way as the affixing of seals is used to confirm princely decrees which refer to impermanent and transitory things, but we should not be misled by this objection. For when the sacraments come before the eyes of a believer, he does not dwell on that carnal image, but ascends in pious contemplation, on the steps of analogy (between the spiritual meaning and the visible sign) set forth above, to the sublime mysteries which lie hidden in the sacraments.

IV,14,6 Since the Lord calls His promises covenants (Gen 6,18; 9,9; 17,2) and the sacraments signs of these covenants, a parable can be drawn from the covenants of men. For what effect would the slaughter of a sow have if it were not preceded by words, or even if it were not preceded by words? Very often sows are slaughtered without a deeper or more sublime mystery. What effect should the handshake (in and of itself) have, when one not infrequently becomes "hand in hand" with another in a hostile sense? But where words have preceded, the conditions of the covenant are undoubtedly confirmed by such signs, although they have already been drawn up, established and decided by words. The sacraments, then, are exercises which more certainly vouch for the word of God, and because we are carnal, they are presented among carnal things, so as to educate us according to the perceptive faculty of our indolent nature, and to guide us by the hand, as teachers are wont to do with children. In this sense, Augustine calls the sacrament a "visible word" (Homilies on the Gospel of John 80:3; Against the Manichaean Faustus 19:16), because it makes God’s promises present to us as if depicted in a picture, and presents them to us in painted and pictorial expression. There are also other parables that serve to define the sacraments more clearly. This is what happens, for example, when we call them pillars of our faith. For just as a building is erected and rests on its foundation, but is supported more securely by the underpinning of pillars, so faith rests on the word of God as on its foundation, but when the sacraments are added, these act on top of that as pillars on which it rests more firmly. We have a similar parable when we refer to the sacraments as "mirrors" in which the riches of God’s grace, which he grants us, can be viewed. For in the sacraments, as has already been shown, he reveals himself to us as far as it is given to our shortsightedness to recognize him, and in them he testifies to his benevolence and love toward us more clearly than is done in words.

IV,14,7 It is also not a sufficiently adequate argument when the above-mentioned theologians claim that the sacraments are not testimonies of God’s grace, not because they are also offered to the ungodly. In fact, the godless do not feel that God is more merciful to them because of the sacraments, but rather they incur a more serious condemnation. For, according to the same proof, the gospel would not be a testimony of God’s grace either, because it is heard and despised by many. Yes, even Christ himself would not be a testimony of God’s grace, for he was seen and known by a great many people, among whom there were very few who accepted him. Something similar can be observed in the documents. For that seal which is to authenticate the author is ridiculed and scoffed at by very many of the great multitude, although they know that it went out from the prince to seal his will; others attach no importance to it at all, as if it were a matter which did not concern them; others there are who curse it! Sacraments and seals are therefore subject to the same conditions, and when we see this, the parable we have used above must be more and more obvious to us. It is certain, then, that the Lord offers us his mercy and a pledge of his grace both through his word and through the sacraments. Both, however, are grasped only by those who accept the Word and the sacraments with certain faith, just as Christ was offered and set before all by the Father for salvation, but was not recognized and accepted by all. In order to show this, Augustine said in one place: "The efficacy of the Word is manifested in the sacrament, not because the Word is spoken, but because it is believed" (Homilies on the Gospel of John 80:3). Hence it is that when Paul speaks to believers, he speaks of the sacraments in such a way as to include communion with Christ in them. So he does, for example, when he says, "For how many of your … have been baptized, they have put on Christ" (Gal 3:27). Or likewise when he writes: "One body and one Spirit are we all who are baptized into Christ" (1Cor 12:12 s.; not Luther text). If, on the other hand, he speaks of the wrong use of the sacraments, he does not give them any other value than meaningless and empty images. In this way he indicates that however much the godless and hypocrites in their perversity may suppress, obscure, or hinder the effect of the sacraments, there is nothing to prevent these sacraments, where and as often as it pleases God, from bearing true witness to communion with Christ, and that the Spirit of God also offers precisely what the sacraments promise. We conclude, then, that it is true when the sacraments are described as testimonies of God’s grace and, as it were, as seals of the kindness that God bears toward us in his heart, as seals that seal such kindness of God to us and thereby support, sustain, strengthen, and increase our faith. But the reasons that some people bring against this proposition are completely insignificant and powerless. They say that if our faith is good, it cannot become better, for it is faith only if it rests unshaken, firmly and irrevocably on God’s mercy. Whoever speaks in this way would have done better to pray with the apostles that the Lord would increase his faith (Lk 17:5), than to carelessly claim such a perfection of faith as no one of the children of men has ever attained and no one will attain in this life. Let them tell me what kind of faith they think that man had who said, "I believe, Lord, help my unbelief" (Mark 9:24). For although this man’s faith was still in its infancy, it was good and could be made better by removing unbelief. But for the refutation of these people there is no stronger proof than their own conscience; for if they confess that they are sinners - and they cannot deny this, whether they want to or not - they must inevitably attribute this very fact to the imperfection of their faith!

IV,14,8 Yes, they say, but Philip gave the answer to the "eunuch" that he could be baptized if he believed with all his heart (Acts 8,37)! What place should the confirmation (of faith) by baptism have here, since faith fills the whole heart? I would like to ask them, if they do not notice that a large part of their heart is still empty of faith, and if they do not recognize that faith is growing day by day. There was once a man who boasted that he would become an old man through his learning. So if we Christians would become old men without progressing in the meantime, we would be threefold miserable people, when our faith has to progress through all ages until it grows to an existence as a "perfect man" (Eph 4,13). So when it says in that passage (Acts 8:37): "believe with all your heart" it does not mean: believe completely in Christ, but only: accept Him with all your heart and with a sincere mind; it does not mean that you are satiated by Him, but that you hunger, thirst and long for Him with fervent zeal. Scripture has the habit of saying that something is done "with all my heart" when it wants to indicate that it is done sincerely and with a right will. In this sense it is said, "I seek you with all my heart" (Ps 119:10), or, "I thank the Lord with all my heart" (Ps 111:1; 138:1), or similar. In the same way, Scripture, when it rebukes deceivers or liars, reproaches such people with having a double (Luther: discordant) heart (Ps 12:3). But the above-mentioned people continue to say that if faith is increased by the sacraments, then the Holy Spirit is given in vain, for it is His power and work to begin, maintain and complete faith! I admit to them that faith is the real and complete work of the Holy Spirit: if we are enlightened by Him, we recognize God and the treasures of His goodness, but without His light our mind is so blind that it sees nothing of spiritual things, and so dull that it cannot even receive a smell of them. However, instead of the one benefit of God that those theologians preach, let us consider their three. For, first, the Lord teaches and instructs us by his Word; secondly, he strengthens us by the sacraments; and finally, he enlightens our minds by the light of his Holy Spirit, and through him opens to the Word and sacraments the entrance to our hearts; for otherwise they would merely sound at our ears or be placed before our eyes, but would in no way touch the interior.

IV,14,9 So, when I speak of a strengthening and increase of faith through the sacraments, I would like the reader’s attention to be drawn to the following - as I hope to have already stated in very clear terms: If I attribute this service to the sacraments, it is not as if I were of the opinion that they have a permanent, I do not know what kind of hidden power by which they are able to promote and strengthen the faith from within themselves; no, this service is based on the fact that the sacraments are instituted by the Lord to serve for the consolidation and increase of the faith. Moreover, they perform their function properly only when they are joined by that inward teacher, the Holy Spirit, by whose power alone the hearts are penetrated and the sensibilities moved, and the sacraments have access to our souls. If the Holy Spirit is not present, the sacraments can give no more to our hearts than if the radiance of the sun shines to blind eyes or a voice sounds to deaf ears. Between the Spirit and the sacraments, then, I divide in such a way that with the Spirit lies the power to work, but to the sacraments is left exclusively the service, and that service which without the action of the Spirit remains empty and insubstantial, but is filled with great power when the Spirit is at work within and reveals his power. Now it is clear in what way, according to the view presented here, a devout heart is strengthened in faith by the sacraments: this happens precisely in the way that the eyes also see by the brilliance of the sun and the ears hear at the sound of a voice. But the eyes would not be touched in any way by any light if they did not possess an inherent power of sight which now grasps the light of its own accord, and the ears would be struck in vain by any sound if they were not born and prepared to hear. That which produces in our eyes the sight that enables us to perceive the light, and that which produces in our ears the hearing that enables us to hear a voice, is in our hearts the work of the Holy Spirit, which is effective in starting, sustaining, maintaining and strengthening faith. If this is true - and it should be established for us once and for all - then the following double fact also results from it: on the one hand, the sacraments do not accomplish the least without the power of the Holy Spirit, and on the other hand, there is nothing to contradict the fact that they make faith stronger and greater in our hearts, which have already been instructed by that teacher (i.e. the Holy Spirit). There is only one difference: the ability to hear and see is given to our ears and eyes by nature, while Christ, on the other hand, produces such effects in our hearts by special grace, beyond the measure of nature.

IV,14,10 With this, at the same time, some objections are refuted, such as many people hold in fear. Thus it is said that if we maintain that creatures can serve for the growth and confirmation of faith, this does dishonor to the Spirit of God, for He alone must be acknowledged as the giver of such growth and confirmation. (This objection is settled.) For if we speak in this way, we do not in any way take away from the Holy Spirit the praise that he strengthens and makes our faith grow; no, we rather maintain that this very work of increasing and strengthening our faith is nothing else than that he prepares our hearts with the inner illumination he has wrought, so that they receive that strengthening which is given to us by the sacraments. What has been too obscure in what has been said so far will become completely clear in the following parable that I will now give. If you undertake to persuade a man by words to do something, then you will consider all the reasons by which he might be drawn to your view and virtually compelled to be obedient to your advice. But all effort will be in vain if he is not of a perceptive, keen judgment, so as to be able to consider the weight to be attached to your reasons; all effort will be in vain if he is not teachable in his nature and ready to listen to instruction - and if, finally, he does not have that opinion of your reliability and prudence which could form for him, as it were, a provisional judgment which would lead him to give his assent to everything. For there are many hard-headed people whom you will never be able to guide with any reasons; and where your reliability is suspected, where your authority is despised, there will be little that can be done even with teachable people. On the other hand, where the above conditions are all present, they will certainly have the effect that the man to whom you give your advice will rely on it, while in the other case he would have ridiculed it. This is precisely the work that the Holy Spirit does for us: so that the word does not ring in vain in our ears and the sacraments do not appear before our eyes in vain, he points out that it is God who speaks to us in them, he softens the rebelliousness of our hearts and prepares them for the obedience that is due to the word of the Lord. In short, he carries those outward words and sacraments from the ears into the soul. The Word as well as the sacraments, then, confirm our faith by setting before us the good will of the heavenly Father toward us, through the knowledge of which the whole firmness of our faith is sustained and its power increases. The Spirit, on the other hand, affirms our faith by engraving such affirmation (effected by word and sacraments) in our hearts, thus making it effective. However, the Father of lights cannot be forbidden to illuminate our hearts through the sacraments, just as he illuminates our physical eyes with the rays of the sun.

IV,14,11 That this quality (to strengthen and increase our faith) is inherent in the external word, the Lord demonstrated by calling it "seed" (Mt 13,3-23; Lk 8,5-15). For if a seed has fallen into a desolate and neglected piece of land, it cannot but die; but if it has been thrown into a properly cultivated and cared-for seed field, it will bring forth its fruit with the best profit. Likewise, if the word of God falls on some hard neck, it remains without fruit, as if it had been thrown on the sand, as it were; but if it meets a soul that has been taken under the plow by the hand of the Spirit from heaven, it will bear the richest fruit. If the seed and the word are the same, and the grain is born of the seed, grows and comes to maturity, why should we not also say that faith receives its origin, growth and perfection from the word? Paul sets both apart excellently in various places. He wants to remind the Corinthians how effectively God used his ministry (1Cor 2:4), and for this purpose he boasts of having the "ministry of the Spirit" (2Cor 3:6), as if the power of the Holy Spirit was connected to his preaching by an indissoluble bond to enlighten and move the heart. In another place, however, he wants to draw attention to what power the word preached by man has of itself, and for this purpose he compares the servants (i.e. the preachers) to tillers of the soil, who apply their labor and diligence to cultivate the land, but then have nothing further to do. What good would plowing and sowing and watering be if what is sown were not made fruitful by heavenly beneficence? From here Paul comes to the conclusion that both he who plants and he who waters are nothing, but everything must be attributed to God, who alone gives prosperity (1Cor 3:6-9). So the apostles in their preaching make manifest the power of the Spirit insofar as God uses the instruments He has ordained for the unfolding of His spiritual grace. And yet we must hold that difference, that we consider what man is able to do of himself, and what is proper to God.

IV,14,12 Now as to the sacraments, they are in such measure affirmations of our faith that sometimes when the Lord wants to take away confidence in the things He has promised in the sacraments, He takes away the sacraments themselves. When he takes away the gift of immortality from Adam and expels him from it, he says: "… lest he … break from the fruit of life and live forever" (Gen 3,22). What do we hear here? Was this "fruit" able to give Adam back the immortality he had already lost? No, not at all! But it is as if God had said: so that Adam does not nourish a vain confidence in himself, if he still possesses the mark of my promise, let it be taken away from him what could give him some hope of immortality. Paul also speaks in this sense; he admonishes the Ephesians to remember that they had been strangers to the promises, "apart from the citizenship of Israel," without God, without Christ (Eph 2:12), and in doing so he also says that they had not been partakers of the description (Eph 2:11). Thus, by instituting the one term for a relative (metonymice), he gives to understand that, not having received the pledge of the promise, they were also excluded from the promise itself. Now the above theologians, as stated (cf. beginning of section 10), make yet another objection. They think that our view transfers the glory of God to creatures: these are granted so much power, and thus the glory of God is entered in the same measure. To this it is easy to reply: we do not put any power into creatures at all: only this we say: God uses means and instruments of which he himself foreknows that they are useful; everything is to be serviceable to his glory, since he himself is Lord and Controller of all. Just as he sustains our bodies through bread and other foods, as he makes the world bright through the sun, as he warms it through fire, - and as neither the bread nor the sun nor the fire are anything, but only in so far as he distributes his blessings to us through the mediation of these instruments, so he also nourishes our faith spiritually through the sacraments, whose only office it is to set his promises visibly before us, even to be their pledges for us. And as it is our duty not to attach any confidence to the other creatures, which by God’s beneficence are destined for our use, and through whose ministry he bestows upon us the gifts of his goodness, and not to admire and praise them as causes of our welfare, so our confidence must not attach itself to the sacraments, and God’s glory must not be transferred to them, but our faith and confession must leave all this aside and ascend to the Giver himself, who has given us the sacraments as well as all things!

IV,14,13 Finally, there are some people who (in support of the view rejected here) bring forward a proof based on the word "sacrament." But this proof is not valid. This word, they say, has many meanings in the recognized (Roman) writers; but among them there is only one that fits the signs: that is, that in which "sacrament" means a solemn oath, such as the soldier makes to the commander when he enters military service. For just as the newly entering soldiers bind their allegiance to the commander with this oath of war and make the confession that they now want to be soldiers, so we confess Christ as our field commander with our signs and testify that we do military service under his signs. Those theologians also add parables here to make the matter clearer. Just as the toga, they say, distinguished the Romans from the Greeks, who wore their Greek cloak, and just as in Rome the classes were distinguished from one another by the signs peculiar to them, the member of a senatorial family from the knight by the purple and the sickle-shaped decoration on his shoes, the knight again from the man of the common people by the ring - so also we bear our marks, which are to distinguish us from the people of the world. Now it is more than clear from our above explanation that the ancients (i.e. the Fathers of the Church), who attached the name "sacraments" to the signs, did not at all take into consideration the sense in which the (non-ecclesiastical) Latin writers used this word, but that they attached this new meaning to the word, as it seemed convenient to them, in order to use it simply to refer to the sacred signs. If we want to let our acumen penetrate more deeply, it can perhaps be seen in this way: if the Fathers of the Church turned the term "sacrament" in such a way that it got the meaning mentioned, they proceeded in exactly the same way as with the word "faith" (fides), so that it got the sense in which it is used today; for "faith" actually means the "truth" (= truthfulness) in the fulfillment of promises; nevertheless, the ancients understood by faith the certainty or the sure conviction which one had of the truth itself. In the same way it has happened with the word "sacrament": although it actually means the oath with which the soldier pledges himself to his commander, one has made of it an oath of the commander, by virtue of which he receives the soldiers into his host. For through the sacraments the Lord promises to be our God and we should be his people. But we leave aside such sophistical inquiries, since I believe I have proved with sufficiently clear reasons that the ancients had nothing else in view by their use of "sacrament" than to express that the sacraments are signs of holy and spiritual things. The parables of the external signs of status which those people put forward we allow to stand, but we do not tolerate their making what is subordinate in the sacraments the first or only thing about them. But the first thing about the sacraments is that they serve our faith before God, and the subordinate thing is that they testify to our confession before men. It is in the latter sense that the parables are valid. Meanwhile, however, that first is to remain; for the sacraments, as we saw, would otherwise become meaningless if they were not aids to our faith and appendages to doctrine, which are to be serviceable to the same use and purpose (as the latter).

IV,14,14 Conversely, we must be made aware of the following: as the last mentioned people weaken the power of the sacraments and completely abolish their use, so there are others on the opposite side who attribute to the sacraments I don’t know what kind of hidden powers, of which one nowhere gets to read that they were put into them by God. By this error, simple-minded and inexperienced people are dangerously deceived, because on the one hand they are taught to look for God’s gifts where they are not to be found at all, and on the other hand they are gradually withdrawn from God, so that they accept nothing but vanity instead of His truth. In fact, the schools of the scholastics were unanimous in their teaching that the sacraments of the "new law," i.e., the sacraments that are practiced by the Christian church today, provide us with justification and grant us grace, provided we do not commit a "mortal sin" and thereby prevent their effect. It is impossible to express in words how deadly and pernicious this opinion is, all the more so because it has been established in a significant part of the world for many centuries, to the great detriment of the Church. In any case, it is decidedly diabolical; for by promising righteousness without faith, it plunges souls headlong into ruin, and since it further derives the cause of righteousness from the sacraments, it entangles the poor souls of men, who are already more than enough directed to earth in and of themselves, in the superstition that they rely on the sight of a bodily thing rather than on God Himself. Would to God that we did not know both these things so precisely from experience! In any case, there can be so little talk about it that it would need a detailed proof! What then is a sacrament received without faith but the utterly certain ruin of the church? For nothing can be expected from the sacrament apart from the promise, and the promise threatens unbelievers with wrath no less than it offers grace to believers. Therefore, whoever thinks that he will receive more through the sacraments than what is offered to him in the Word of God and what he then takes with true faith is deceiving himself. From this then follows a second thing: confidence in salvation does not depend on participation in the sacrament, as if justification lay therein; for we know that justification rests in Christ alone, and is communicated to us no less by the preaching of the gospel than by the sealing which the sacraments confer upon us, and that it can fully exist even without such sealing. In this respect it is true what Augustine also writes: "The invisible sanctification can be without the visible sign, and on the other hand the visible sign can be without the true sanctification" (Questions on the Heptateuch III, 84). "For men," as Augustine also says elsewhere, "sometimes draw Christ so far as to receive the sacraments, and sometimes so far as to sanctify their lives. Now the former may be common to good and evil; but the latter is proper (alone) to the good and pious" (Of Baptism Against the Donatists V,24,34).

IV,14,15 Hence also comes - if it be rightly understood - the distinction frequently noted by the same Augustine between the sacrament and the thing signified by the sacrament (res sacramenti). For this not only gives to understand that image and truth are enclosed together by the sacrament, but also that they are not so much related that they cannot be separated, and that even in the relatedness itself the thing must always be distinguished from the sign, lest we transfer to the one what is proper to the other. He speaks of separation (of sign and thing) when he writes that the sacraments effect what they depict in the elect alone. Likewise, he speaks of the separation when he says about the Jews: "Although the sacraments were common to all, grace was not common to all - and yet it is the power of the sacraments! Likewise, the bath of regeneration (Tit 3:5) is common to all today; but grace itself, by virtue of which the members of Christ are reborn with their head, is not common to all alone" (on Ps 77:2). Again, in another place he writes about the Lord’s Supper: "Today we also receive a visible food; but the sacrament is something different from the power of the sacrament. How is it that many receive the sacrament from the altar, and yet die, yea, that they die by receiving the sacrament? For even the morsel that the Lord gave to Judas became poison to him, not because Judas had received something evil, but because, being evil, he received the good evil" (Homilies on the Gospel of John 26:11). A little later he writes: "The sacrament which this thing means, namely, the unity in the body and blood of Christ, is prepared in some places every day, in some places also at certain intervals, on the table of the Lord, and from the table some receive it to life, others to destruction. But the thing itself, of which it is the sacrament (and sign), is unto life to all them that partake of it, and to none it is unto destruction" (Homilies on the Gospel of John 26:15). A little earlier he had said, "He who has eaten of it shall not die - but this is he who belongs to the power of the sacrament, not to the visible sacrament, who eats it internally, not externally, who eats it with the heart, and not he who crushes it with the teeth" (Homilies on the Gospel of John 26:12). Here we hear everywhere: the sacrament is so cut off from its truth by the unworthiness of the one who receives it, that nothing remains but an empty and useless image. So that one does not have a sign that is stripped of its truth, but rather the thing together with the sign, one must take hold in faith of the word that is included in it. Therefore, to the extent that one advances in communion with Christ through the sacraments, one will benefit from them.

IV,14,16 If these explanations are still too unclear for the sake of their brevity, I will elaborate them in more words. I maintain: Christ is the matter or, if one prefers, the substance of all sacraments; for they have all their substance in him, and apart from him they promise nothing. The less is the error of Peter Lombardus to be borne, who expressly declares the sacraments to be the cause of righteousness and blessedness, of which they are (yet in fact) parts (Sentences IV,1,5). Therefore, we should reasonably abandon all the causes that the mind of man invents, and let ourselves stick to this single one (namely, to Christ). So, as far as the service of the sacraments helps us, that on the one hand the true knowledge of Christ is preserved, strengthened and increased in us, and on the other hand we possess Him more completely and enjoy His riches, so far their effect is on us. But this happens when we accept in true faith what is offered to us in the sacraments. Do the ungodly, it will be asked, manage by their ingratitude to make God’s order lose its validity and become null and void? I answer that what I have said is not to be understood as if the power or the truth of the sacrament depended on the condition or even on the discretion of the one who receives it. For what God has established remains firm and retains its nature, however much men may change. But offering and accepting are two different things, and therefore there is nothing to prevent the mark, sanctified by the word of the Lord, from being in fact what it ought to be in name, and from retaining its force - while yet no benefit whatever accrues from it to a good-for-nothing and godless man. But this question Augustin resolves impeccably in a few words; he says: "If you receive it carnally, it does not cease to be spiritual-but to you it is not spiritual." But as he sets forth in the passages given above that the sacrament is a thing of no consequence if separated from its truth (cf. Homilies on the Gospel of John 26:11 s.15; previous section), so elsewhere he calls attention to the fact that even in the connection of sign and thing a distinction is necessary, lest we become too firmly attached to the outward sign. "As it is a sign of servile weakness," he says, "to attach to the letter and take signs for things, so it is also a sign of evil circumlocution to interpret signs uselessly" (Of Christian Instruction III:9). He mentions two errors to be avoided; one is that we take the signs as if they were given in vain, and then in our wickedness diminish or belittle their hidden meanings, causing them to bear us no fruit; the other error we commit when we do not raise our senses on high above the visible sign, thus transferring to the sign the praise for the goods that are granted to us solely by Christ, through the Holy Spirit who makes us partakers of Christ Himself. Now this work (of the Holy Spirit) is done with the aid of the outward signs; but if these, while inviting us to Christ, are turned in another direction, all their usefulness is ignominiously abolished.

IV,14,17 Therefore it must stand firm that the sacraments have no other task than the word of God. This task is to present and set before us Christ, and in Him all the treasures of heavenly grace. But the sacraments grant and benefit us nothing if they are not received in faith. I will give an example: if wine or water or any other liquid is poured out abundantly, it will all flow away and be lost if the mouth of the vessel is not open, and the vessel itself will be poured over and over, but will remain empty and hollow. Moreover, we must be careful not to fall into another error similar to the one just mentioned: namely, we might be tempted to do so by the somewhat too grandiose statements written by the ancients to glorify the dignity of the sacraments. This error would consist in thinking that there is some hidden power attached or attached to the sacraments, by virtue of which they could bestow upon us of themselves the graces of the Holy Spirit, as wine is bestowed in a milk jug. In fact, however, they have been given only this one office by God, to testify and confirm God’s kindness toward us, and they cannot be of any further use to us than only when the Holy Spirit joins in, opening our minds and hearts and making them receptive to such testimony. Then also the manifold and various gifts of God shine radiantly. For the sacraments, as I indicated above, are to us from God what messengers of joyful events are to men, or pledges in the confirmation of covenants; for they do not of themselves grant us any grace, but they make known to us what has been given to us out of God’s bounty, pointing to it and, since they are pledges and marks, confirming it in us. It is the Holy Spirit, whom the sacraments do not bestow indiscriminately on all, but whom the Lord bestows on His own in particular, who brings God’s gifts of grace with Him, who makes room for the sacraments in us, and who causes them to bear fruit. Of course, we do not deny that God himself assists his foundation with the most effective power of his Spirit, so that the distribution of the sacraments decreed by him is not unfruitful and vain. But we do maintain that the inward grace of the Spirit, which is indeed distinct from the outward ministry, must accordingly be observed and considered in its own right. God, therefore, grants in truth all that he promises and represents figuratively in the signs, and the signs do not remain without effect, so that it may be proved that their giver is true and faithful. The only question here is whether God works out of his own or, as we say, out of his inherent power - or whether he leaves his substitution to the external signs. But we now maintain that, whatever tools he may use, he nevertheless does not in any way refrain from his all-founding activity. When the sacraments are taught in this way, their dignity is glorified, their use is clearly indicated, their benefits are abundantly glorified, and at the same time the best measure is observed in all this, so that nothing is attributed to them that does not rightly belong to them, and on the other hand nothing is denied to them that belongs to them. In this way, that fantasy is also dismissed in which the cause of justification and the power of the Holy Spirit are enclosed in the elements as in vessels or chariots - and at the same time, that most noble power of the sacraments, which other people have left aside, is explicitly stated. Here we must also remark that what the minister (at the Word) pictures and witnesses in his outward action is wrought by God Himself within, lest what He reserves for Himself alone should be transferred to a mortal man. Augustine also draws attention to this in an understandable way; he says: "How can it come about that Moses sanctifies - and also God? Moses does not do it in God’s stead. No, he acts with visible sacraments through his ministry, but God in invisible grace through the Holy Spirit, and therein also lies the whole fruit of the visible sacraments. For what good are they without such sanctification by invisible grace?" (Questions on the Heptateuch III,84).

IV,14,18 The term "sacrament," in the sense in which we have thus far set it forth, embraces in general all the signs which God has ever enjoined upon men to make them certain and sure of the truth of his promises. Now sometimes these signs have consisted in natural things according to his will, sometimes he has brought them to light in miracles. Examples of the first kind include the following events. God gave to Adam and Eve the "tree of life" as a pledge of immortality, so that they might hope for such immortality unconcernedly as long as they ate of the fruit of that tree (Gen 2:9; 3:22). For Noah and his descendants, he set up the rainbow as a memorial sign that he would not again devastate the earth with a flood (Gen 9:13). These signs were sacraments for Adam and Noah. Not that the tree would have granted them immortality, which it was not able to give itself, or that the rainbow, which is only a reflection of the sunshine on the clouds opposite, would have been able to hold back the masses of water. No, they were sacraments, because both bore a sign engraved in them by God’s Word, so that they would be proofs and seals of God’s covenants. Also, before, the tree was a tree and the bow was a bow; but when they were marked by God’s Word, they were given a new form, so that they now began to be something they had not been before. Lest anyone think that this is said in vain, the bow is still today, for us, a witness to the covenant that the Lord made with Noah, and as often as we look at it, we read in it God’s promise that the earth shall never perish by a flood. So if some pseudo-philosopher wants to ridicule the simplicity of our faith and to this end makes the assertion that such a multiplicity of colors would arise naturally from the reflection of rays and an opposite cloud, we will well let this stand - but we now laugh on our part at his obtuseness, which does not recognize God as the Lord and Controller of nature, who uses all elements at his discretion for the service of his glory. If he had impressed such marks of thought upon the sun, the stars, the earth, and the stones, they would all be sacraments to us. For why is not raw and minted silver of the same value, although it is (in both cases) the same metal? Precisely because the raw silver has nothing but its nature, whereas the silver, struck with the official stamp, becomes a coin and receives a new valuation. And then shouldn’t God be able to mark his creatures with his word, so that they become sacraments, whereas before they were mere elements? Examples of the second group of signs were when God showed Abraham a glow of fire at a smoking furnace (Gen 15:17), when, in order to promise victory to Gideon, he moistened the hide with dew while the earth remained dry, and again covered the earth with dew while the hide remained untouched (Judg. 6:37f.), and when he made the shadow of the sundial go ten strokes backward to make the promise to Hezekiah that he would be healed (2Ki 20:9-11; Isa 38:7). Since these events happened to give help and strengthening to the weakness of the faith of these people, they were also sacraments.

IV,14,19 However, it is the task of the discussion here to deal in a special way with those sacraments which, according to the will of the Lord, are to be in regular use in His Church, in order to call His servants and servants to one faith and to the confession of that one faith. "For" - to use Augustine’s words - "men cannot grow together into any religion, true or false, unless they are bound together by a common participation in visible signs" (Against Faustus the Manichee XIX,11). Since our glorious Father, then, provided for this necessity, he established certain exercises of piety for his servants from the beginning. These Satan then transferred to godless and superstitious worship, and thus distorted and corrupted in many ways. Here come the acts by which the heathen were initiated into their sacred things, and also the other degenerate customs, which, though filled with error and superstition, were at the same time themselves a sign that men, in professing a religion, could not dispense with such signs. But because these customs were not based on the Word of God, nor did they have any relation to the truth, which must be the aim of all signs, they are not worthy of being mentioned when we think of the sacred signs which were established by God and did not deviate from their foundation, that is, from the fact that they should be aids to true piety. Now these do not consist in simple signs, as the rainbow and the tree (of life) were, but in ceremonies; or, if you prefer, the signs given here are ceremonies. And just as, according to our exposition above, they are from the Lord testimonies of grace and salvation, so again from us they are marks of our confession, by which we publicly swear by God’s name, and bind our allegiance to Him in our turn. It is therefore fitting when Chrysostom calls these signs in one place (contractual) promises in which, on the one hand, God allies us to Himself and, on the other, we commit ourselves to the purity and holiness of our lives. For here a mutual contractual obligation is actually established between God and us. Just as the Lord promises here that he will wipe out and redeem all the guilt and punishment we have incurred through our transgressions, and just as he reconciles us to himself in his only begotten Son, so on the other hand, through this confession, we commit ourselves to strive for piety and innocence. It can therefore be said with good reason that the sacraments are such ceremonies by which God wishes to exercise His people, first, in nourishing, awakening, and confirming the faith within, and second, in confessing His religion before men as well.

IV,14,20 These sacraments also varied according to the different circumstances of the time, according to the order in which it pleased the Lord to make Himself known to men, sometimes in one way and sometimes in another. Thus circumcision was enjoined upon Abraham and his posterity (Gen 17:10), and to it were later added purifications, sacrifices and other observances based on the Mosaic Law (Lev 11-15; Lev 1-10). These were the sacraments of the Jews until the coming of Christ. By the coming of Christ they were abolished, and now two sacraments were instituted which are in practice with the Christian church today, namely baptism and the Lord’s Supper (Mt 29:19; 26:26-28). Now I speak here of the sacraments which are instituted to be practiced by the whole church. For although I do not dislike the fact that the laying on of hands, with which the ministers of the church are initiated into their office, is also called a sacrament, I do not count it among the ordinary sacraments. But what meaning is to be given to the other "sacraments" which are generally enumerated as such, we shall soon see. However, those ancient sacraments also referred to the same point of reference that ours serve today: they were supposed to lead to Christ and to guide us by the hand to him, or better: they were supposed to make him present in images and to make him known, so that he would be recognized. For we have already shown that the sacraments are, as it were, seals with which the promises of God are sealed, and it is also absolutely certain that no promise of God has ever been made to man except in Christ (2Cor 1:20); therefore, if the sacraments are to tell us of any promise of God, they must necessarily show us Christ! Here is to be mentioned that heavenly archetype of the tabernacle and of the worship prescribed in the law, which was held before Moses on the mountain (Ex 25:9, 40; 26:30). There is only one difference between the sacraments of the Old Covenant and those of the New Covenant, that those foreshadowed the promised Christ when He was still expected, whereas these testify to Christ as the One already granted and revealed to us.

IV,14,21 When these things are explained piece by piece and in their details, they will become much clearer. Circumcision was a marker for the Jews to call their attention to the fact that everything that comes from the seed of man, that is, the whole nature of man, is corrupt and in need of circumcision; moreover, it was a proof and a reminder by which they were to strengthen themselves in the promise made to Abraham, the promise of the blessed Seed in whom "all the nations of the earth shall be blessed" (Gen 22,16), and from which they could expect their blessing also for themselves. This salvific seed, as we are taught by Paul, was Christ (Gal 3,16), in whom alone they hoped to regain what they had lost in Adam. Circumcision was therefore for them what it had been for Abraham according to Paul’s teaching, namely a "seal of the righteousness of faith" (Rom 4:11), that is, a seal by which they were to be more certainly confirmed that their faith, with which they expected that seed, was counted to them by God for righteousness. But we shall pursue the comparison between circumcision and baptism elsewhere at a better opportunity. Washings and cleansings showed the people of the Old Covenant their uncleanness, impurity and defilement with which they were defiled in their nature; but they also promised them another bath by which all their filth would be wiped away and washed away (Hebr 9:10: 14). Now this new bath was Christ, and by His blood washed clean (1 John 1:7; Acts 1:5) we bear His purity before God’s face, that it might cover all our defilement. The sacrifices convicted the ancients of their unrighteousness and at the same time taught them that some satisfaction was necessary by virtue of which God’s judgment would be satisfied. They thus learned that a supreme priest would come, a mediator between God and men, who would make satisfaction to God by the shedding of his blood and by the offering of a sacrifice sufficient for the forgiveness of sins. This supreme priest was Christ (Hebr 4:14; 5:5; 9:11): he shed his own blood, he himself was the sacrifice; for he proved obedient to the Father unto death (Phil 2:8) and by this obedience put away the disobedience of man that had provoked God’s wrath (Rom 5:19).

IV,14,22 As for our (present) sacraments, they present Christ to us all the more clearly, since He has also been revealed to men more closely since He was presented by the Father in truth as He was promised. For baptism testifies that we are cleansed and washed away, and Holy Communion that we are redeemed. In the water the washing away is pictured, in the blood the satisfaction. Both are found in Christ, who, as John says, came "with water and blood" (1Jn 5:6), that is, who came to cleanse and redeem. The Spirit of God is also a witness to this. Yes, there are three that witness it together, the water, the blood and the spirit (1. John 5,7f.). In the water and in the blood we have the testimony of our cleansing and our redemption, but the Spirit as the supreme witness gives us the certainty of faith in such testimony. This sublime mystery is gloriously set before us (in that event) at the cross of Christ, when water and blood flowed from His holy side (John 19:34), which for this reason Augustine also rightly called the fountain of our sacraments (Homilies on the Gospel of John 120:2; on Ps 40:10; on Ps 126:7; on Ps 138:2; Homily 5:3). Of these our sacraments, however, we must speak in a little more detail. That here also the grace of the Spirit is more abundantly manifested (than in the old sacraments) is, comparing time with time, not subject to doubt. For this belongs to the glory of the kingdom of Christ, as we learn from many passages, especially from the seventh chapter of the Gospel of John (John 7,38f.). In this sense we must also understand Paul’s word that under the law there were "shadows", but in Christ there was a "body" (Col 2,17). In this passage, he does not intend to remove the effect of the testimonies of grace with which God wanted to prove Himself true to the fathers in the past, just as He does to us today in baptism and Holy Communion, but he wants to praise by way of comparison what has been given to us, so that no one will be surprised that through Christ’s coming the ceremonies of the law have been abolished.

IV,14,23 The scholastic doctrine, however, according to which there is such a great difference between the sacraments of the "old" and those of the "new law", as if the latter had merely indicated the grace of God, while the latter offered it as present, is to be rejected completely. For when Paul teaches that the fathers ate the same spiritual food with us, and when he explains that this food is Christ (1Cor 10:5), he speaks of the sacrament of the old covenant just as powerfully as of those of today. Who would dare to declare that sign to be without content, which after all offered the Jews true fellowship with Christ? Also, the state of Paul’s discussion in this passage clearly argues for us. For Paul wants to prevent that someone, trusting in an unsubstantial knowledge of Christ, in the empty name of Christianity and in the outward signs, dares to despise God’s judgment. To this end, he brings forward the evidence of divine severity that can be seen in the Jews: we are to know that the same punishments that they had to endure also threaten us if we indulge in the same vices. In order for the comparison to fit, however, he had to show that there is no dissimilarity between us and the Jews with respect to the goods of which, according to his instruction, we should not falsely boast. Therefore, first of all, he declares that they are equal to us in the sacraments, and does not leave us one bit of privilege that could encourage us to hope that we would remain unpunished (in case of such contempt of God’s judgment). Nor may we ascribe more to our baptism than Paul elsewhere ascribed to circumcision, calling it a "seal of the righteousness of faith" (Rom 4:11). Everything that is offered to us today in the sacraments, therefore, was received by the Jews in theirs in the past, namely Christ with his spiritual riches. The power that our sacraments have, they also felt in theirs, namely that they served them as a seal of divine benevolence towards them, for the hope of eternal bliss. If the scholastics had been skillful interpreters of the Epistle to the Hebrews, they would not have fallen into delusions of this kind; but in fact they now read in this Epistle that sins had not been atoned for by the ceremonies of the law, indeed that the old shadows had no significance for righteousness (Hebr 10:1), and then they left aside the comparison, which is under discussion there, only the one sentence, that the law did not bring any benefit to its servants by itself - and thereby gained the opinion, that it was simply a matter of images, which would have been empty of truth. The intention of the apostle, on the other hand, is to deny any value to the ceremonial law until one comes to Christ, on whom alone rests all its efficacy.

IV,14,24 But the scholastics hold against us the words that can be read in Paul about the circumcision of the letter, namely that it has no value before God, brings no benefit and is vain (Rom 2,25; 1Cor 7,19; Gal 6,15). Such statements seem to push circumcision deep below our baptism. I answer: no, not at all. For the same could rightly have been said of baptism. Yes, it is indeed said of it, and first of all by Paul himself, in that he sets forth that God does not care at all about the outward washing away by which we receive our admission into religion, unless our hearts are cleansed inwardly and also remain in such purity to the utmost (1Cor 10:5). Secondly, it is also expressed by Peter, who testifies that the truth of baptism does not lie in the outward washing away, but in the testimony of a good conscience (1 Pet. 3:21). But - one objects - Paul seems to fully despise the hand circumcision in another place, comparing it (to its disadvantage) with the circumcision of Christ (Col 2,11). I answer that also in this passage no entry is made to the dignity of circumcision. Paul argues here against such people who demanded circumcision as necessary, while it had already been abolished. Therefore he admonishes the believers to let go of the old shadows and to stand firm on the truth. Those teachers, he says, urge that your bodies be circumcised. But you are spiritually circumcised, according to soul and body. So you have the revelation of the thing - and this is far more important than the shadow! Now someone could have objected that even though they had the thing, the image was not to be despised; for even among the fathers there had been that putting away of the old man of which the image spoke, and yet for them the outward circumcision had not been superfluous. Paul avoids this objection by adding that the Colossians were buried with Christ through baptism (Col 2,12). Thus he indicates that baptism is for Christians today what circumcision was for the ancients, and that therefore circumcision cannot be imposed on Christians without doing injustice to baptism.

IV,14,25 Far more difficult to solve, however, is the question that is posed to us by the following passage, which I have already mentioned; there it is said that all Jewish ceremonies were "shadows of that which was to come", while the "body itself" was "in Christ" (Col 2,17). By far the most difficult to clarify, however, is what is discussed in many chapters of the letter to the Hebrews: there we read that the blood of the animals did not touch the consciences (Hebr 9,12f.), the law had "the shadow of the goods to come" but not the image of the things themselves (Hebr 10:1; 8:5), the servants of the law had not attained any perfection from the ceremonies instituted by Moses (Hebr 7:19; 9:9; 10:1), and the like. Now here I repeat what I have already indicated: Paul does not declare the ceremonies to be shadowy because they had nothing definite, but because their fulfillment was, as it were, in abeyance until the revelation of Christ. Furthermore, I maintain that this passage (Col 2,17) is not to be understood in view of the effective power of the ceremonies, but rather in view of the kind of indication that lies in them. For before Christ was revealed in the flesh, all the signs indicated him, as it were, as absent in shadow, although he inwardly made known to the faithful the presence of his power, even of himself. Above all, however, one must pay attention to the fact that Paul does not speak unrelatedly in all these passages, but in the course of an argument; for he had to fight with false apostles, who were of the opinion that piety lies solely in the ceremonies, without any consideration of Christ; for the refutation of such people it was therefore enough if he merely pursued the question of what value the ceremonies had in and of themselves. The author of the letter to the Hebrews followed the same point of view. Let us bear in mind, then, that the discussion here is not about the ceremonies insofar as they are understood in their true, original meaning, but rather insofar as they are perverted in the sense of a false and wrong interpretation; it is not a question here of the rightful use of the ceremonies, but of the abuse that superstition makes of them. What, then, is to be wondered at if the ceremonies lose all force when they are thus separated from Christ? For all and any signs become void when the thing to which they point is taken away. When Christ once had to deal with people who thought that the manna was nothing but food for the body, he adapted his words to their rough opinion and said that he gave a better food through his service, which nourished the souls to the hope of immortality (John 6,27). If we wish to have a clearer solution, the matter, according to its essential content, boils down to the following: first, that whole effort of ceremonies which existed in the Mosaic law is an insubstantial and void thing if it is not directed to Christ. Secondly, these ceremonies were directed toward Christ in such a way that they found their fulfillment only at that time when he was revealed in the flesh. And finally, they had to be necessarily abolished with the coming of Christ, just as the shadow fades when the light of the sun shines. However, I defer a still more detailed discussion of this point until the place where I intend to compare baptism with circumcision. Therefore, I will content myself here with a brief mention.

IV,14,26 Perhaps these poor clever ones were also deceived by the immoderate praises about the sacraments, which one gets to read in the ancients with reference to our (today’s) signs. Thus we find in Augustin the sentence that the sacraments of the "old law" had only promised the Savior, while ours granted salvation (to Ps 73,2). Since the scholastics did not notice that these and similar figures of speech were exaggerated, they also gave their exaggerated doctrines, but in a completely different sense than the writings of the ancients had. For Augustin, in the above-mentioned passage, had nothing else in mind than what he also writes elsewhere, namely, that the sacraments of the Mosaic law had proclaimed Christ beforehand, whereas ours proclaimed him (as present) (Questions on the Heptateuch IV,33). In the same sense, in his writing against Faustus, it is said that the old sacraments were promises of things that were only to be fulfilled, whereas ours are indications of things that had already found their fulfillment (Against the Manichaean Faustus XIX,14). He wants to say, as it were: the old sacraments represented Christ figuratively, when he was still expected, the present ones, however, show him as the present one, since he is already given to us. But he is now speaking of the kind of indication which lies in the sacraments, as he points out elsewhere when he says: "The law and the prophets had sacraments which announced a future thing beforehand, but the sacraments of our time testify that what those still proclaimed as future has come" (Against the Epistles of Petilian II,37,87). But what he thought about the matter and the effect (which was peculiar to the ancient sacraments) he sets apart in several places; for example, when he says that the sacraments of the Jews were different in their signs, but the same in the matter indicated by them, they were different according to their visible appearance, but the same according to their spiritual power (Homilies on the Gospel of John 26:12). Likewise he says: "With different signs nevertheless the same faith remains. For the diversity of signs is the same as the diversity of words. The words change their sound in the change of the times, and in general words are nothing else than signs. The fathers drank the same spiritual drink (as we do), but not the same bodily one. So you see how with the same faith the signs are changed. With them the rock (from which they drank 1Cor 10) was Christ, for us what is offered to us on the altar is Christ. They drank as a great sacrament the water that flowed from the rock, and what we drink is known to believers. If one considers the visible appearance, it is something else, but if one directs one’s attention to the meaning which is thereby brought to the understanding, they drank the same spiritual drink as we do" (Homilies on the Gospel of John 45:9). Elsewhere it is said, "In the mysteries (sacraments) their meat and their drink was the same as ours; but the sameness is in the meaning and not in the appearance; for it is the same Christ who was pictured to them in the rock and is revealed to us in the flesh" (on Ps 77:2). However, we admit that even in this piece there is some dissimilarity between the ancient and the present sacraments. Both testify that God’s fatherly kindness, which comes to us in Christ, and the gifts of the Holy Spirit are presented to us; but our present sacraments do so more luminously and clearly. In both Christ is presented; but this is done more abundantly and completely in our sacraments, precisely according to that distinction of the Old from the New Testament of which we have already spoken above. This is what Augustine - whom we cite more frequently as the best and most reliable witness of all ancient times - has in mind when he teaches that after the revelation of Christ sacraments were instituted which, though fewer in number (than the earlier ones), were more sublime in their meaning and more excellent in their power (Against Faustus XIX,13; Of Christian Instruction III,9,13; Letter 54,1 to Januarius). It is appropriate that the reader is also briefly reminded that everything that the clever ones have conjured up about the work once done (opus operatum) is not only false, but also contradicts the nature of the sacraments. God instituted the sacraments so that the faithful, empty of all goods and poor, would bring nothing but their beggary. It follows, then, that in receiving the sacraments they accomplish nothing by which they can earn praise, and that in this action - which, as far as they are concerned, is of the kind that they do not act but receive - no work whatsoever can be attributed to them.

Fifteenth chapter


Of Baptism


IV,15,1 Baptism is a sign of initiation, by which we are received into the fellowship of the Church, to be incorporated into Christ, and thus to be numbered among the children of God. But it is now given to us by God - as is the case with all sacraments according to our explanation above - for the purpose of serving, first, our faith before Him and, second, our confession before men. We shall deal with the manner of each of these two effects in turn. Baptism performs a threefold service to our faith, which we must also treat in turn piece by piece. The first is that it is set before us by the Lord to be a sign and proof of our purification, or - to better explain what I mean - a signed document, as it were, by which he wants to confirm to us that all our sins are so done away with, blotted out, and blotted out that they will never again come before his face, that they will no longer be remembered or counted. For he wills that all who believe shall be baptized for the remission of sins. Therefore, those who thought that baptism was nothing more than a sign or mark by which we profess our religion before men, just as soldiers wear the insignia of their commander to show that they are his soldiers, did not take into account the first thing about baptism. But this first thing is that we are to receive baptism under the promise: "He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved" (Mark 16:16).

IV,15,2 In this sense it is to be understood when Paul writes that the church was sanctified by Christ, her spouse, and "cleansed by the water bath in the word" of life (Eph 5,26). And likewise when it says in another place, "According to his mercy he made us blessed by the bath of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit" (Tit 3:5). In the same sense we read in Peter that baptism makes us blessed (1Pet 3:21). For Paul did not mean to imply by his words that our washing and our blessedness come about through the water or that the water carries the power to cleanse us, to create rebirth or to give renewal. Likewise, Peter does not want to express that in this sacrament the cause of blessedness is taken, but he only wants to show that in it we attain the knowledge and certainty of such goods; this is also clearly enough shown by the given wording. For Paul calls the word of life and baptism in close connection with each other, as if he wanted to say: through the gospel the message of our washing and cleansing is brought to us, and through baptism such testimony is sealed. Peter goes on to say that baptism is not the removal of the stains of the flesh, but a good conscience before God (1Pet 3:21), which comes from faith. Indeed, baptism promises us no other cleansing than that which takes place through the sprinkling of the blood of Christ; for this blood is figuratively represented by the water, which in a similar way has the property of cleansing and washing away. Who, then, would claim that we are cleansed by water, when this very fact certainly testifies that Christ’s blood is the true and only cleansing bath? Therefore it is not possible to seek a clearer reason for refuting the fancies of such people, who refer everything to the power of water, than from the very meaning of baptism itself; for baptism draws our senses away from that visible element (the very water) which is brought before our eyes, as from all other means, in order to bind them to Christ alone.

IV,15,3 But we must not believe that baptism is applied only to the past, so that for new sins into which we fall after baptism we must seek other, new means of atonement in who knows what other sacraments, as if the power of baptism had been extinguished. Because of this error, some people in ancient times wanted to be initiated through baptism only when their lives were in extreme danger, even when they were in the last stages, so that they could obtain forgiveness for their entire lives in this way. In their writings, the old bishops very often speak out against this misplaced caution. No matter at what time we receive baptism, we must always remember that it washes away and purifies us for our whole life. So whenever we have fallen into sin, we should recall our baptism and arm our hearts with it, so that they may always be sure and certain of the forgiveness of sins. For although it may seem that baptism, once performed, has now passed away, it has not been done away with by subsequent sins. For in it the purity of Christ has been presented to us, and this remains in force at all times and is not covered by any stains, but covers all our impurities and wipes them away. Nevertheless, we must not derive from this any arbitrary freedom to sin in the future, as we are in no way instructed to such presumption from this consideration. No, this teaching is told only to those who, having sinned, groan weary and depressed under their sins: they are to have a reason for raising themselves up and comforting themselves, lest they throw themselves into confusion and despair. Thus Paul says that Christ was made a propitiation for us, a forgiveness for our previous iniquities (Rom 3:25). In saying this, he does not deny that in Christ we receive a lasting and constant forgiveness of sins unto death; but he indicates that Christ is given by the Father only to poor sinners who are wounded under the branding iron of conscience and now long for the physician. To such people God’s mercy is offered. But whoever wants to justify an unrestrained freedom to sin from such exemption from punishment, does nothing else but provoke God’s wrath and judgment against himself.

IV,15,4I know, of course, that another view has generally prevailed: according to it, we obtain forgiveness after baptism through the benefit of repentance and the power of the keys, whereas it is granted to us in the first rebirth through baptism alone. But the people who invent this are on an erroneous path in that they do not consider how the key power of which they speak is so dependent on baptism that it cannot be separated from it in any way. The sinner receives forgiveness through the ministry of the Church, that is, not without the preaching of the Gospel. But what is the content of this? That we are cleansed from our sins by the blood of Christ! But what is the sign and testimony of this cleansing bath other than baptism? We see, then, that this (ecclesiastical) absolution (in the "key power") is related to baptism. The error of which I speak here has now given rise to the devised sacrament of penance, of which I have already briefly explained some things and will treat the rest in the place provided for it. Now there is nothing surprising in the fact that men, who in the coarseness of their nature are immoderately attached to external things, have also in this piece made the mistake of not being satisfied with the pure institution of God and have therefore come up with new means which they had devised for themselves. As if baptism itself did not constitute the "sacrament of repentance"! Now, if repentance is recommended to us for the whole of life, the power of baptism must also be extended to the same limits. Therefore, there is no doubt that all the pious, in the whole course of their lives, as often as they are tormented by the consciousness of their sin, should dare to recall their baptism, in order to strengthen themselves in the confidence of that certain, lasting washing away which we have in the blood of Christ.

IV,15,5 Baptism grants us a second fruit, because it shows us our mortification (mortificatio) in Christ and the new life (nova vita) in Him. For we are, Paul says, "baptized into his death," "buried with him in death," so that we may now "walk in newness of life" (Rom 6:3f.). With these words the apostle does not merely exhort us to follow Christ, as if he were saying that through baptism we are encouraged to die to our desires after the example of Christ’s death and to rise to righteousness after the example of his resurrection. No, he goes deeper into the matter by pointing out that Christ made us partakers of his death through baptism so that we might be incorporated into such death (Rom 6:5). And as the branch draws its substance and nourishment from the root into which it is implanted, so also those who accept baptism with the faith that comes with it experience in truth the power of Christ’s death in the mortification of their flesh and at the same time the power of His resurrection in their being made alive by the Spirit (Rom 6:8). From there Paul also takes the occasion for an exhortation: if we are Christians, we must also "have died to sin" and "live to righteousness" (Rom 6,11). He uses the same proof elsewhere when he writes that we are "circumcised" and have taken off the old man after we are "buried with Christ through baptism" (Col 2:11 s.). In this sense, he also called baptism a "bath of rebirth and renewal" in the passage already cited above (Tit 3:5). Thus, in baptism we are first promised the gracious forgiveness of sins and the imputation of righteousness, and then the grace of the Holy Spirit, which transforms us into new life.

IV,15,6 Finally, our faith also receives from baptism the benefit that it testifies to us with certainty that we are not only incorporated into Christ’s death and life, but are also united with Christ in such a way that we become partakers of all His goods. For he consecrated and sanctified baptism in his own body (Mt 3,13-17), so that he would share in it with us and it would be the firmest bond of union and fellowship that he deigned to enter into with us. Therefore, Paul proves from the fact that we "put on Christ" in baptism, the sentence that we are God’s children (Gal 3,26f.). Thus we see that the fulfillment of baptism is in Christ: for this reason we also call him in the proper sense the one on whom baptism hangs (proprium fidei obiectum). It is therefore not surprising that the apostles, according to our reports, baptized in His name (Acts 8:16; 19:5), although they had been instructed to baptize in the "name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit" (Mt 28:19). For all the gifts of God that are presented to us in baptism can be found in Christ alone. But it cannot be otherwise than that he who baptizes into Christ should at the same time call upon the name of the Father and of the Holy Spirit. For we receive cleansing through the blood of Christ because the merciful Father, in his incomparable kindness, wanted to accept us for grace, and for this purpose he placed this mediator between himself and us, so that he might obtain favor with him. But we receive the new birth from Christ’s death and resurrection only when we, sanctified by the Spirit, are filled with a new, spiritual nature. Therefore, the cause of our purification as well as of our rebirth is in the Father, its cause in Christ and its effect in the Holy Spirit, and we look at them in distinction. This is how John first baptized, then also the apostles baptized with the "baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins" (Mt 3,6.11; Lk 3,3.16; John 3,23; 4,1; Acts 2,38.41). By "repentance" they understood such rebirth and by "forgiveness of sins" that washing away (in the above sense).

IV,15,7 By these explanations it becomes also completely certain that the office of John (namely the baptist) was absolutely the same, as it was assigned to the apostles afterwards. For the different hands by which the baptism is administered do not make the baptism itself different; nay, the remaining the same in doctrine shows that the same baptism also exists. John and the apostles were unanimous in one doctrine, both baptizing them for repentance, both for remission of sins, both baptizing them in the name of Christ, from whom came repentance and remission of sins. John said of Him, "Behold, this is the Lamb of God, which bareth the sin of the world" (John 1:29), thus declaring Him to be the sacrifice that is acceptable to the Father, the bringer of righteousness and the giver of salvation. What could the apostles have added to this confession? Therefore, no one should be misled by the fact that the ancients took pains to distinguish John’s baptism from that of the apostles. For the men of the early church must not be held in such esteem by us that the certainty of Scripture is thereby shaken. Who will listen more to Chrysostom, who declares that John’s baptism did not include the forgiveness of sins (Homilies on the Gospel of Matthew 10:1), than to Luke, who on the contrary claims that John preached the "baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins" (Lk 3:3)? Equally unacceptable is Augustine’s pointed opinion that in John’s baptism sins were forgiven in hope, whereas in Christ’s baptism there was actual forgiveness (Of Baptism Against the Donatists V,10,12). For the evangelist clearly testifies that John promised forgiveness of sins in his baptism, and how should it be necessary under such circumstances to weaken these statements, when there is no compulsion to do so? But if anyone wants to know from the word of God what the difference was between these two baptisms, he will find none other than that John baptized into Him who was to come, but the apostles baptized into Him who had already revealed Himself (Lk 3:16; Acts 19:4).

IV,15,8 The fact that after the resurrection of Christ the gifts of the Holy Spirit were poured out more abundantly has nothing to do with the fact that one could claim a difference between the two baptisms. For the baptism administered by the apostles while Christ was still on earth has been called his baptism, and yet no greater abundance of the Spirit was given with it than with John’s baptism. Yea, even after the ascension, the Samaritans, though they had nevertheless been baptized in the name of Jesus, were not gifted with the Spirit beyond the ordinary measure which had also been given to the earlier believers-until Peter and John were sent to them to lay hands on them (Acts 3:14, 17). In my opinion, only one fact led the men of the early church to claim that John’s baptism was only a preparation for the baptism of the apostles: namely, they read that Paul baptized people who had already received John’s baptism once for the second time (Acts 19:3, 5). But what kind of error they got into, will be clearly explained elsewhere at the appropriate place. What does it mean when John said that he baptized with water, but that Christ would come to baptize with the Holy Spirit and with fire (Mt 3,11)? This question can be solved in a few words. John did not intend to distinguish one baptism from the other, but he compared his person with Christ’s person and explained how he did his ministry with water, while Christ was the giver of the Holy Spirit, who would bring such power to light with a visible miracle on the day when he would send the Holy Spirit to the apostles with fiery tongues (Acts 2:3). Now, what could the apostles claim beyond this (i.e. beyond John’s ministry)? What can those who perform baptisms today claim? For they are merely ministers of an outward sign, whereas Christ is the giver of inward grace. This is the teaching of the same theologians of the early church, especially Augustine, who in his fight against the Donatists based himself mainly on the sentence that the baptizer may be whoever he wants, but Christ alone has the leadership in baptism (Against the Letter of Parmenian II,11,23).

IV,15,9 What we have said of the mortification (of the flesh) as well as of the washing away was shadowily implied in the people of Israel, and Paul says for this reason that the people were baptized "with the cloud and with the sea" (1Cor 10:2). The mortification was figuratively represented when the Lord, in delivering the people from the hand and cruel bondage of Pharaoh, made a way for them through the Red Sea and drowned Pharaoh himself, together with the enemies, the Egyptians, who stalked the people in the rear and threatened them above the neck (Ex 14:21, 26-28). For in the same way the Lord also promises us in baptism, and shows it to us by the sign given by him, that we are brought out of the captivity of Egypt, that is, out of the bondage of sin, by his power, and are delivered, and that our Pharaoh, that is, the devil, is drowned, though even so he does not cease from tormenting and wearying us. But as that Egyptian Pharaoh was not sunk in the depths of the sea, but lay stretched out on the shore and still terrified the Israelites with his terrible sight, but still was not able to do any harm - so also our Pharaoh still threatens, he shows his weapons, he makes himself known to us, but he cannot defeat us! In the "cloud" (Num 9,15; Ex 13,21) lay a sign of purification. For just as the Lord covered those Israelites with a cloud hovering over them and thereby granted them cooling, so that they would not tire and sink in the merciless heat of the sun, so too we recognize in baptism that we experience cover and protection through Christ’s blood, so that God’s severity, which in truth is an unbearable flame, no longer weighs upon us. Admittedly, this mystery was still dark at that time and was recognized by only a few; but since there is no other way to attain blessedness than it lies in these two gifts of grace (mortification and washing away), God did not want to withhold from the ancient fathers, whom He had adopted as heirs, the marks that exemplified these two gifts.

IV,15,10 Now it also becomes clear how wrong is the doctrine held by some people in older times, and still held by others until now, that through baptism we are absolved and made free from original sin and from the corruption that spread from Adam to all his posterity, and brought back to that righteousness, that purity of our nature, which Adam would have retained if he had remained in the innocence in which he was created at the beginning. For these kinds of teachers have never, ever grasped what original sin is, what original righteousness is, and what the gift of grace of baptism is. Now we have already established in an earlier discussion that original sin is the wickedness and corruption of our nature, which first makes us guilty of God’s wrath and then (secondly) also produces in us the works which Scripture calls "works of the flesh" (Gal 5:19). So here we must consider these two things separately. First, because we are so corrupt and perverse in all aspects of our nature, we are deservedly counted condemned and convicted before God for the sake of such corruption alone; for nothing is pleasing to Him but righteousness, innocence, and purity. And so even the little children carry their damnation in themselves from their mother’s womb: they have not yet brought the fruits of their unrighteousness to light, but the seed is already decided within them. Yes, their whole nature is, as it were, a seed of sin, and therefore it cannot happen that it would not be hateful and abominable to God. Through baptism, believers receive the assurance that this condemnation has been lifted and removed from them; for through this sign, as already said, the Lord gives us the promise that a complete and full remission has taken place, both of the guilt that should have been imputed to us and of the punishment that we should have taken upon ourselves for the sake of such guilt. At the same time, believers grasp righteousness - but such a righteousness as God’s people can attain in this life, namely, a righteousness that comes about through imputation alone, because namely the Lord in His mercy allows His own to be counted as righteous and innocent.

IV,15,11 Secondly, it should be noted that such perversity never remains inactive in us, but continually produces new fruit, namely those works of the flesh which we have described above (compare Book II, Chapter 1, Section 8). It is no different here than in the case of a burning furnace, which continually blows out flames and sparks from itself, or in the case of a spring, which gushes forth water from itself without end. For covetousness never fully disappears or is extinguished in men until they are freed by death from the body of death, and thus completely strip themselves. Baptism does indeed give us the promise that our Pharaoh (compare section 9) is drowned, it promises us the mortification of sin, but not in such a way that sin now no longer exists or no longer troubles us, but only in such a way that it no longer overcomes us. For as long as we live locked up in the prison of our body, the remnants of sin will dwell in us, but if we hold fast in faith to the promise that God gave us in baptism, they will not rule and reign. But let no man deceive himself, let no man please himself in his wickedness, when he hears that sin dwelleth in us always. For this is not said so that such, who are also more than sufficiently inclined to sin anyway, may sleep carelessly over their sins; no, it is said only so that people who are tickled and stung by their flesh may not grow weary and despair. Such people should rather consider that they have made a great progress when they experience that their covetousness becomes a little less day by day - until they have reached the goal they are aiming at, namely, the final passing away of their flesh, which is completed in the passing away of this mortal life. In the meantime, they should not cease to fight bravely, to strive for progress and to incite themselves to complete victory. For this too must sharpen their efforts all the more, so that they see how, after they have labored hard for a long time, there is still so much work left for them. Thus we must consider that we are baptized for the mortification of our flesh, which begins with us at baptism, which we continue day by day, but which will receive its completion when we pass from this life to the Lord.

IV,15,12 We are not saying anything else here than what the apostle Paul states with the utmost clarity in the seventh chapter of the letter to the Romans. He had, after all, first spoken of gracious righteousness. Now there were some godless people who came to the conclusion that one could lead one’s life according to one’s own will, because we did not achieve God’s pleasure through the merits of our works. In contrast, Paul continues and explains that all who are clothed with the righteousness of Christ receive their rebirth through the Spirit and have a pledge of such rebirth in baptism (Rom 6:3 ss.). He then exhorts the believers not to allow sin to have dominion in their members (Rom 6,12). And since he knew that there would always be some weakness in the believers, he added the comfort that they were not under the law so that they would not be discouraged (Rom 6:14). Now, however, it could again seem as if the Christians could become overconfident, precisely because they were not under the yoke of the law. Therefore, Paul goes on to explain the nature of this abolition of the law (Rom 7:1-6), and at the same time, what use the law finds among us (Rom 7:1-13) - a question that he had already postponed twice. The main content of these explanations is now this: we are made free from the strictness of the law in order to stand in firm life relationship with Christ. The office of the law is to convict us of our perversity, so that we can confess our powerlessness and our misery. But because this perversity of nature does not easily appear in an unholy man who lets his desires run wild without the fear of God, Paul takes a born-again man as an example, that is, himself. So he says that he has to struggle on and on with the remnants of his flesh, and that he is held in bondage by miserable servitude, so that he is not able to consecrate himself completely to obedience to the divine law. Thus he is compelled to cry out with groans, "I wretched man, who will deliver me from this body that is subject to death?" (Rom 7:24; not quite Luther text). Now if the children of God are imprisoned in a dungeon as long as they live, they must necessarily be in great fear over the contemplation of their perilous condition, unless this fear is counteracted. To this end, therefore, Paul adds the consolation, "There is therefore nothing condemnable in those who are in Christ Jesus" (Rom 8:1). Thus he teaches that those whom the Lord once accepted by grace, incorporated into fellowship with his Christ, and received into the fellowship of the church by baptism, if they persevere in faith in Christ, may indeed be touched by sin, and may even carry sin about within themselves, but are nevertheless free from guilt and condemnation. If this is a simple and proper interpretation (of Paul’s words), there is no reason for anyone to think that we are presenting an uncommon doctrine here.

IV,15,13 But baptism serves our confession before men in the following way. It is a sign by which we publicly confess that we want to be counted among the people of God, by which we testify that we are united with all Christian people in the worship of the one God and in one religion in harmony, and by which we finally give expression to our faith before the public, so that not only our hearts breathe the praise of God, but also our tongues and all the members of our bodies echo it with all the signs they can give. For in such a way, as is fitting, all that we have is put to the service of the glory of God, by which all must be filled, and at the same time the rest of mankind are spurred on to the same zeal by our example. This is what Paul had in mind when he asked the Corinthians if they had not been baptized in Christ’s name (1Cor 1:13). For with this he indicates that they had pledged themselves to Him precisely because they had been baptized in Christ’s name, that they had sworn to His name and bound their allegiance to Him before men, so that they were now unable to confess anyone else but Christ alone - provided they did not want to deny the confession they had made in baptism.

IV,15,14 Now that we have shown what our Lord intended by the institution of baptism, we can also easily gain a judgment as to the manner in which we should use or receive it. For inasmuch as it is given to establish, maintain, and strengthen our faith, we must take it, as it were, as if from the hand of its giver, and reasonably have the assurance and conviction that it is he who speaks to us by the sign that he is, who cleanses and washes us away, and blots out the memory of our iniquities; that it is he who makes us partakers of his death, who takes away Satan’s kingdom, who weakens the powers of our covetousness, yea, who grows together with us into one, so that, as such as have put on him, we are counted children of God. These gifts, I maintain, he presents to our souls inwardly as truly and as surely as we see our bodies outwardly washed, submerged, and washed around. For there is a correspondence or similitude here, and these form the surest rule in the sacraments: we are to receive in bodily things the spiritual, as if they were set before us; for it pleased the Lord to present them under such images. Now this is not based on the fact that such gifts of grace would be tied to the sacrament or included in it, so that they would be granted to us through the power of the sacrament; no, it only happens because the Lord testifies to his will under these signs, namely precisely this, that he wants to grant us all this. He does not only give us a feast for the eyes by letting us see only the outward image, but he leads us to the thing itself and brings to fulfillment what he depicts in an effective way.

IV,15,15 A proof for these remarks may be the centurion Cornelius. He had already been made a partaker of the forgiveness of sins, had already received the visible gifts of the Holy Spirit as a gift; then he received baptism (Acts 10:48); but he did not seek to obtain a more abundant forgiveness from baptism, but this pledge was to serve him for a more certain exercise in faith, yes, for an increase of his confidence. Perhaps, however, someone might have made the objection: But why then did Ananias tell Paul to wash away his sins by baptism (Acts 22:16)? What should have been the meaning of this, if by the power of baptism itself there is no washing away of sins? I answer this as follows: When the Lord presents us with something, so far as it touches the sense of our faith, it means that we receive it, obtain it, and obtain it for ourselves, and that no matter whether such gift constitutes a first-time testimony or whether it more strongly and more certainly affirms a testimony already given. Ananias, then, had only this one thing in mind: that thou, Paul, mayest be assured that thy sins are forgiven thee, be baptized; for the Lord promises in baptism the forgiveness of sins: which receive, and then be at ease. However, I do not intend to diminish the power of baptism, as if the sign were not accompanied by truth and substance, as long as God works through the external means. However, from this sacrament, as from all others, we receive only as much as we receive in faith. If faith is lacking, the sacrament becomes a proof of our ingratitude, which puts us on trial before God as accused, because we have behaved unbelievingly towards the promise given in the sacrament. But inasmuch as baptism is a mark of our confession, we are thereby to bear witness that our confidence is in God’s mercy and our purity in the forgiveness of sins which has come to us through Jesus Christ, and that we enter the Church of God to live in one accord with all believers in a unity of faith and love. This last is what Paul had in mind when he said that we were all baptized in one Spirit to be one body (1Cor 12:13).

IV,15,16 We have now established above that the sacrament is not to be judged by the hand of the one who administers it, but, as it were, by God’s own hand, because it came forth from God without any doubt. But if this is true, it may be inferred that nothing is added to or taken away from the sacrament by the worthiness of him who administers it. And as it is of no consequence to men, when a letter is sent out, who the messenger is or what his character is, if only the handwriting and the sign (of the sender) are sufficiently known, so it must be sufficient for us also to recognize the handwriting and the sign of our Lord in the case of the sacraments, by whatever messenger they may finally be delivered to us. Thus we have an apt refutation of the error of the Donatists, who measured the power and value of the sacrament according to the worthiness of the minister (of the Church). Nowadays, our Anabaptists are of the same kind, who, because we received baptism in the papal kingdom from the ungodly and idolaters, deny that we were baptized legitimately, and therefore demand rebaptism with wild vehemence. Against the silliness of these people we are now armed with a sufficiently sound ground of proof when we consider that by baptism we are not initiated into the name of any man, but into the name of "the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost" (Mt 23:19), and that therefore baptism is not the business of any man, but of God, by whomsoever it may be finally administered. However little the people who baptized us may have known about God and all godliness, however much they may have despised it, they did not baptize us to have fellowship with them in their ignorance and desecration of the sanctuary, but they baptized us to faith in Jesus Christ; for they did not call upon their own name, but God’s, nor did they baptize us in any other name. But if this baptism was God’s baptism, it also undoubtedly carried with it the promise of the forgiveness of sins, the mortification of the flesh, spiritual vitalization, and participation in Christ. In the same way, it did not harm the Jews that they had been circumcised by impure and apostate priests, nor did the sign therefore become invalid, so that it would have been necessary to repeat it, no, it was enough if one returned to the pure, original way. The Anabaptists object that baptism must be celebrated in the assembly of the pious; but this objection does not have the effect of extinguishing the whole force of a cause which has in part fallen into corruption. For when we teach what ought duly to be done, that baptism may be pure and void of all defilement, we do not abolish God’s institution, however much it may corrupt idolaters. For although circumcision was once defaced by many superstitious customs, it did not therefore cease to be a mark of grace, and when Josiah and Hezekiah gathered out of all Israel those who had fallen away from God, they still did not call these people to a second circumcision.

IV,15,17 Now the Anabaptists ask us what kind of faith followed baptism from our side for a number of years. With this question they want to assert their opinion that our baptism was just without validity, since it is only sanctified in us when word and promise are accepted in faith. To this question we give the answer: We were, however, blind and unbelieving, and for a long time we did not hold on to the promise that was given to us in the course of time. But the promise itself was from God and therefore has always remained unshaken, firm and true. For although all men are lying and faithless, God does not cease to be true (Rom 3,3f.), although they are all lost, Christ remains the salvation! We admit, then, that baptism did not profit us in the least at that time; for the promise made to us in it, without which it is nothing, lay neglected. But now, when we begin to repent by God’s grace, now we accuse our blindness and hardness of heart of having been ungrateful for so long to so great a goodness of God. However, we believe that the promise itself is not nullified; rather, we consider that God promises forgiveness of sins through baptism, and on the basis of this promise He will undoubtedly grant it to all who believe. This promise was offered to us in baptism; so let us grasp it in faith! For a long time it was buried for us because of our unbelief - so let us now grasp it by faith! Therefore, when the Lord calls the Jewish people to repentance, he does not give them any instructions about a repetition of circumcision - although they had been circumcised by ungodly and sacrilegious hands, as we have said, and had lived for a long time in the ensnarement of the same ungodliness - no, he only urges the conversion of the heart. For as much as the covenant had been violated by this people, the mark of such covenant remained firm and inviolable at all times due to the appointment of the Lord. Repentant conversion was therefore the only condition for the people’s readmission to the covenant that God had once made with them in circumcision - in the circumcision that they had, however, received at the hands of covenant-breaking priests and had in turn, as much as they were able, stained anew and brought to an end in its effect..

IV,15,18 But now the Anabaptists hope to launch a fiery projectile against us by pointing out that Paul had rebaptized people who had already received the baptism of John (Acts 19,3.5). But according to our concession, John’s baptism was completely the same as ours today: just as those people (Acts 19), who were previously instructed wrongly, were rebaptized into the right faith after their instruction, so also that baptism (received by us under the papacy), which remained without the true doctrine, is (in and of itself) to be regarded as nothing, and we must be baptized anew, namely into the true religion, in which we are now instructed for the first time. (So much for the opposing opinion.) Now some have the opinion that there was a false successor of John who initiated these people (of whom Acts 19 speaks) with the first baptism into a vain superstition. A presumption in this direction they seem to take from the fact that the disciples of John mentioned confess that they were without any knowledge of the Holy Spirit, while John would never have sent out disciples of such ignorance of himself. Now it is not probable that there should have been Jews (at all) who - even if they had not received any baptism - would have been without any knowledge of the Holy Spirit, when this is made known in so many testimonies of the Scriptures. So when these disciples of John answer that they do not know "whether there is a Holy Spirit" (Acts 19:2), this is to be understood as if they had said that they had not yet heard whether the gifts of the Spirit, about which they were questioned by Paul, would be given to the disciples of Christ. But I now admit on my part that the baptism which these people had received was the true baptism of John and (thus) one and the same as the baptism of Christ. On the other hand, I deny that they were baptized anew. Now what do the words mean: "Then they were baptized in the name … Jesus" (Acts 19:5)? Some explain this passage as if these disciples had only been instructed by Paul in the true doctrine. However, I would like to understand it more simply in such a way that they received the baptism of the Holy Spirit, i.e. the visible gifts of the Spirit, as a gift through the laying on of hands. It is not new that these gifts are called "baptism". Thus it is reported that on the day of Pentecost the apostles remembered the words of the Lord about the baptism with fire and the Holy Spirit (Acts 1:5). And Peter mentions that the same words (of Christ) came to his mind when he saw the gifts of grace that were poured out on Cornelius, his house and his relatives (Acts 11:16). To the interpretation of our passage given here (Acts 19) it is also not contradictory that it says afterwards: "And when Paul laid his hands on them, the Holy Spirit came upon them" (Acts 19:6). For Luke does not here narrate two different events, but he follows the form of narration common among the Hebrews: these first place the essential content of the matter at the head, and then set forth the matter in greater detail. Everyone can observe this (in our place) by the context of the words themselves. Luke says: "When they heard this, they were baptized in the name … Jesus. And when Paul laid his hands on them, the Holy Spirit came upon them" (Acts 19:5f.). The second statement describes how the baptism (mentioned in general in the first clause) took place (in detail). If the ignorance (of these disciples) caused the earlier baptism to be deficient, so that it had to be corrected by a second baptism, then the apostles would have had to be baptized again first of all, who had hardly received a small piece of the pure doctrine all the three years after their baptism. And how many streams would be sufficient for us to repeat so many baptisms, so much ignorance being punished in us day after day by the Lord’s mercy?

IV,15,19 Power, dignity, benefit and purpose of this mystery (sacrament) must, if I am not mistaken, now be sufficiently clarified. Now, as to the outward mark (i.e., the outward design of baptism), - oh, if only Christ’s original institution had retained its validity to the extent that it had been able to keep the forwardness of men in check! (As if it were a contemptible thing to be baptized with water according to Christ’s instruction, a blessing or better an enchantment of the water was invented, which led to the fact that the truthful consecration of the water was stained. Then one let follow still the wax candle and the anointing oil, and one was of the opinion, only the blowing (of the baptized one by the priest) opened the entrance to the baptism. I am well aware of how ancient this mixture of strange additions is; but it is nevertheless right and proper that I, together with all pious people, reject with disgust everything that men have dared to add to Christ’s institution. When Satan saw how, through the foolish credulity of the world, his deceptions were accepted without difficulty almost in the early days of the gospel, he went further and brought up still greater ridicule and scorn: hence it comes that in unbridled arbitrariness the spitting and other buffoonery was introduced for the open reviling of baptism. From such experiences we should learn that there is nothing holier, nothing better, and nothing less dangerous than to be satisfied by the authority of Christ alone. Therefore, it would be better to leave aside all showy pomp, which blinds the eyes of the simple and dulls their senses, and observe the following procedure: Whenever someone is to be baptized, he is made present to the assembly of the faithful and presented to God, with the whole church watching the proceedings as a witness and praying over the one being baptized; then the confession of faith is said, in which the neophyte is to be instructed, the promises are communicated which apply to baptism; then the neophyte is baptized in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit (Mt 28:19), and finally he is dismissed with prayer and thanksgiving. In this procedure nothing would be omitted that belongs to the matter, and that one ceremony, which proceeded from God, the author of the sacrament, would shine most clearly without being covered by any foreign dirt. Moreover, it makes no difference whether the baptized person is completely immersed, whether this is done once or three times, or whether water is merely poured over him and sprinkled on him. Rather, this must be left to the discretion of the churches according to the diversity of the countries. However, the word "baptize" itself means as much as "immerse," and it is certain that the early church kept the custom of immersion.

IV,15,20 Further, it is pertinent to know that it is a wrong procedure for unofficial people to presume the administration of baptism. For the administration of baptism, like the distribution of Holy Communion, is a part of the ecclesiastical office. Also, Christ did not give the commission to baptize to women or to any random people, but he assigned this task to those whom he had appointed as apostles. And when he commanded his disciples to administer Holy Communion as he himself had done before their eyes, he undoubtedly intended that they should follow his example in their actions, since he exercised the office of a proper administrator of this sacrament. For many centuries, indeed, already since the time of the origin of the church, the practice has prevailed that, in case of danger to life, also people from the people ("laymen") practiced baptism, provided that no minister of the word was present early enough. But I do not see with what valid reason one could defend this. Even the ancients themselves, who either held or tolerated this custom, were not clear whether it was rightly done this way. For Augustine expresses this doubt when he says: "If a layman has already given baptism under the pressure of necessity, I do not know whether it would be piously done if someone claimed that such a baptism should be repeated. For if such a thing is done without any compelling necessity, it is the usurpation of another’s office; if, on the other hand, necessity presses, it is either no offense at all or yet a venial one" (Against the Letter of Parmenian II,13,29). As far as women are concerned, it was decided at the Council of Carthage, without any exception, that they should not take the liberty of baptizing under any circumstances. But, it will be replied, there is a danger that the sick person, if he dies without baptism, will lose the gift of rebirth! No, not at all. When God makes the promise that He will be our God and the God of our seed after us (Gen 17:7), He announces to us that He will adopt our children as His own even before they are born. In that word their salvation is decided. And no one will dare to show such contempt for God that he would deny that God’s promise is strong enough in itself to produce its effect! Only a few people realize how much damage has been done by that ill-conceived doctrine, according to which baptism is necessary for salvation, and that is why very little attention is paid to it. For once the view has prevailed that all are lost who were not granted to be baptized with water, our situation is worse than that of the ancient people; it is then almost as if the grace of God had narrower limits with us than under the law; For under such circumstances one must think that Christ did not come to fulfill the promises, but to destroy them, because then the promise in and of itself, which at that time had sufficient power to procure salvation for a child before the expiration of the eighth day (on which the circumcision was to take place), would have no validity today without the aid of the sign.

IV,15,21 What kind of custom prevailed before Augustine’s lifetime is first of all evident from Tertullian, who reports that a woman was not allowed to speak in the church, nor to teach, baptize and sacrifice, lest she claim for herself the task of an office belonging to the man, let alone to the priest (De velandis virginibus 9). A fully valid witness to the same fact is Epiphanius, who in one place reproaches Marcion for giving women the liberty to baptize (Against the Heretic Marcion Panarion 42,4). I also know very well the answer of those who hold the opposite view; namely, they say that there is, after all, a great difference between the ordinary practice and an extraordinary means that is applied in the urge of extreme necessity. Epiphanius, however, declares that it is a mockery to give women liberty to baptize, and he makes no exception: from this, then, it is clear enough that this mischief is condemned by him, so that it cannot be glossed over under any pretext (ibid. 42:4). Also in the third book (of his writing), where he holds the doctrine that even the holy mother of Christ did not have such permission, he adds no qualification (ibid. 79,3).

IV,15,22 It is inappropriate to use the example of Zipporah here (Ex 4,25). Since the angel of God calmed down after Zipporah had taken a stone and circumcised her son with it, one wrongly draws from this the conclusion: therefore her action had found the approval of God. If this were correct, one would also have to claim that the worship which the pagans brought from Assyria had established was pleasing to God. However, it can be proved with other valid reasons that it is imprudent to present the action of that foolish woman as something to be imitated. It would be sufficient to refute this view if I said: this action of the woman was something unique and therefore must not be used as an example, especially since one nowhere gets to read that in ancient times the priests received in a special way the order for circumcision, and circumcision and baptism are therefore (in this respect) different. Christ’s words are clear and distinct: "Go ye … and teach all nations and baptize them …" (Mt 28,19). For he has appointed the same men as heralds of the gospel and ministers of baptism; but now, according to the testimony of the apostle, no one in the church may arrogate to himself an honor, unless he be "called … like Aaron" (Hebr 5,4); whoever baptizes without being rightfully called, is taking hold of a foreign office (cf. 1 Petr. 4,15). Paul says it loud and clear that even in very minor things like food and drink everything is "sin" that we attack with a troubled conscience (Rom 14,23). If, then, baptism is administered by women, this is a much more serious sin, because in this way the rule taught by Christ is manifestly violated; for we know that it is forbidden for us to tear apart what God has joined together. But all this I leave aside; I only wish the reader to direct his attention to the fact that Zipporah had nothing less in mind than to render service to God. She saw her son in danger, and now she got into anger and murmuring, and, not without indignation, hurled his foreskin to the ground; but in doing so she so insulted her husband that she was at the same time angry against God Himself. In short, it is obvious that her whole behavior grew out of inner chastity; for she was outraged against God and her husband because she felt compelled to shed the blood of her son. Moreover, even if she had behaved righteously in all other things, it would still have been inexcusable presumption for her to circumcise her son in the presence of her husband, and yet this husband of hers was not just any unworthy man, but Moses, God’s most noble prophet, who was so great that no one greater than he ever arose in Israel. Therefore, Zipporah had no more right to do what she did than women (even according to the opinion of the opponents) have today (to baptize) under the eyes of a bishop. But this discussion is immediately clarified by the principle: if it happens to children that they have to leave the present life before it was given to them to be immersed in water (i.e. baptized), they are not thereby excluded from the kingdom of heaven. On the contrary, we have already seen that we do God’s covenant no small dishonor if we do not rely on it (and pretend, for instance) as if it were powerless in and of itself. For its effect is dependent neither on baptism nor on any additions. The sacrament then comes after it like a seal; but not as if it first gave validity to God’s promise, which in and of itself would be powerless, but it is exclusively to confirm it to us. From this it follows that the children of the faithful are not baptized for the purpose of becoming children of God, whereas before they had been strangers outside the church; no, they are received into the church with a solemn sign, because by virtue of the gift of grace of the promise they already belonged to the body of Christ. If, therefore, in the omission of the sign there is neither sloth, nor contempt, nor negligence, we are safe from all danger. It is much holier, then, if we show such reverence to the ordinance of God that we do not seek sacraments elsewhere than where the Lord has set them down. And if we cannot obtain such sacraments from the Church, God’s grace is not so bound to the sacraments that we cannot (even without them) obtain them in faith from the Word of God!

Chapter Sixteen


Infant baptism is in perfect harmony with Christ’s foundation and with the nature of the sign.

IV,16,1 Now, in our time, certain morbid spirits have stirred up serious turmoil in the church because of infant baptism, and they have not yet ceased to make a fuss. In view of this fact, I cannot help but include an appendix here in order to put the rage of these people in check. If this appendix seems too far-reaching to anyone, I would ask him to consider how the purity of doctrine in such an exceptionally important matter and the peace of the church must be of such value to us that one must accept without reluctance anything that may contribute to its achievement. Moreover, I shall endeavor to arrange this discussion in such a way that it will serve not a little to explain more clearly the mystery of baptism. The ground of proof with which the above-mentioned people oppose infant baptism is, on the face of it, really worthy of applause: namely, they declare that infant baptism is not founded on any institution of God, but was merely brought about by the presumption and perverse presumption of men, and then came to be accepted in foolish levity without deliberation. (This ground of proof seems good.) For if a sacrament does not rest on the sure foundation of the Word of God, it hangs by a thread. But what shall we say, if, on a right consideration of the matter, it shall clearly appear that such dishonor is falsely and unreasonably inflicted upon the holy ordinance of God? So let us first examine the origin of infant baptism. And if it should then turn out that it was devised solely by the imprudence of men, let us abandon it and measure the true practice of baptism exclusively by the word of God. But if it turns out that infant baptism does not exist at all without the certain authority of God, we must be careful not to show contempt even for its author by undermining the holy institutions of God.

IV,16,2 First of all, it is a sufficiently well-known proposition, accepted by all the pious, that the right contemplation of the signs does not rest merely on the outward ceremonies, but depends above all on the promise, and on the spiritual mysteries, for the presentation of which the Lord orders the very ceremonies. Whoever, therefore, wishes to ascertain thoroughly what value baptism has, what purpose it serves, in short, what it is in general, must not let his knowledge stop at the "element" or at the bodily sight, but must rather direct it upward to the promises of God which are offered to us in it, and to the deeper mysteries which are made present to us in it. He who knows these has grasped the well-founded truth of baptism and, so to speak, its whole substance, and from there he will then also be instructed as to the meaning and benefit of external sprinkling. And on the other hand: whoever disdainfully leaves aside those decisive things and keeps his mind fully attached to the external ceremony, he will neither understand the power nor the actual essence of baptism, indeed, he will not even comprehend what the water (in this) means and what use it has. This sentence is proved by too many and too clear testimonies of the Scriptures, so that it would be necessary to go into it further for the time being. It remains for us, then, to inquire, on the basis of the promises given in baptism, what the power and essence of baptism is. Scripture shows that in baptism, first, we are pointed to the cleansing from sins that we obtain through Christ’s blood. Secondly, according to the testimony of Scripture, in baptism we are pointed to the mortification of the flesh, which consists in partaking of the death of Christ, through which believers are born again to a new life, and thus also (thirdly) to fellowship with Christ. To this main sum can be related everything that is taught in Scripture about baptism; apart from the fact that baptism is also a sign of the testimony of religion before men.

IV,16,3 Now for the people of God, before the institution of baptism, circumcision stood in its place, and we shall therefore examine what difference there is between these two signs, and in what common characteristics they agree. From this it will then also become clear what leads over from the one to the other. When the Lord gives Abraham the order to practice circumcision, he says in advance that he wants to be God to him and his seed (Gen 17:7, 10). Thereby he adds how the fullness and the fully sufficient wealth of all things is with him (Gen 17,1.6.8), so that Abraham thinks that his hand will be for him the fountain source of all good. In these words is contained the promise of eternal life. Thus Christ interprets them and takes from them the proof to show the immortality and resurrection of the believers. For God, he says, "is not a God of the dead, but of the living" (Mt 22:32; Lk 20:38). Paul expresses himself in the same sense: he wants to show the Ephesians from what kind of destruction the Lord had delivered them, and for this purpose he draws the conclusion from the fact that they had no access to the covenant of circumcision, that they were "without Christ", "without God", "without hope" and "strangers to the testaments of promise" (Eph 2,12) - because all this was included in this covenant! Now the first access to God, the first step to immortal life consists in the forgiveness of sins. Therefore, it follows that the promise of our purification given in baptism corresponds to this one (given in circumcision). Afterwards, the Lord lays upon Abraham the obligation to "walk before Him" in sincerity and innocence of heart (Gen 17:1) - this is related to mortification and regeneration (as represented in baptism). And lest anyone be in doubt that circumcision is a sign of mortification, Moses elsewhere gives a still clearer exposition, namely by exhorting the Israelite people to circumcise the foreskin of their hearts to the Lord (Deut 10:16), for the reason that they had been chosen "out of all the peoples" of the earth to be God’s people (Deut 10:15). As God, when He took the descendants of Abraham as His people, gave the command to circumcise them (Gen 17), so Moses announced that the people had to be circumcised in their hearts, and thus he explained the truth (i.e. the true essence) of the fleshly circumcision (Deut 30:6). And so that no one would labor by his own strength for such circumcision of the heart, Moses teaches that it is a work of God’s grace. All this is so often inculcated by the prophets that it is not necessary to list here the many testimonies which one readily encounters again and again. We find, then, that the same spiritual promise was made to the fathers in circumcision as is made to us in baptism; for circumcision gave them a figurative representation of the forgiveness of sins and the mortification of the flesh. And further, as, according to our exposition above, the foundation of baptism is Christ, in whom these two gifts (forgiveness of sins and mortification of the flesh) are found, so he is undoubtedly the foundation of circumcision. For he is promised to Abraham, and in him the blessing upon all nations. But for the sealing of this grace the sign of circumcision is added.

IV,16,4 Now it is easy to see what is similar in these two signs and what distinguishes them from each other. The promise, in which, according to our presentation, the power of the signs consists, is the same in both: it is precisely the promise of God’s fatherly grace, the forgiveness of sins and eternal life. Secondly, the thing illustrated in the image (res figurata) is also one and the same, namely regeneration. The foundation on which the fulfillment of these things rests is the same in both. Therefore, in the inner mystery, on the basis of which the whole power and peculiarity of the sacraments must be judged, there is no difference at all. The difference that remains lies in the outward ceremony, which is the least of these, for the most important is based on the promise and the thing exemplified in the image. Therefore, it can be stated that everything that fits to circumcision refers at the same time to baptism, apart from the difference in the outward ceremony. To this connection and comparison we are led by the hand by the rule of the apostle, in which we are commanded to direct all interpretation of Scripture according to the proportion of faith (analogia fidei) (Rom 12:3, 6). And indeed, the truth in this piece comes before us in such a way that we can almost touch it. Just as the first step for the Jews into the church was circumcision, because it served them as a kind of sign by which they were assured that they were accepted into God’s people and household, and by which they in turn promised to follow God, so we too are consecrated to God through baptism in order to be counted among his people and to bind ourselves to him by oath. From this it follows indisputably that baptism has taken the place of circumcision in order to fulfill the same office in us.

IV,16,5 We now want to pursue the question whether it is right for baptism to be administered also to children. If someone wants to stay only with the element of water and with the external exercise, but does not turn his mind to the spiritual mystery, must we not say that he is behaving too foolishly, or even that he has delusions? But if we take this spiritual mystery into account, we will undoubtedly find that baptism is rightly administered to infants because it is theirs. For in ancient times the Lord did not make the children worthy of circumcision without making them partakers of all the things that were then signified by circumcision. Otherwise, if he had deceived his people with deceptive signs, then he would have done his mockery with them in loud juggleries - and that is already abominable to hear! For he expressly declares that the circumcision of a child should act like a seal to seal the promise of the covenant. But if the covenant remains firm and unshaken, it belongs no less to the children of Christians today than it did to the children of the Jews under the Old Testament. And now, if they are partakers of the thing illustrated in the sign, why should the sign be withheld from them? If they attain the truth, why should they be denied the image? However, in the sacrament the outward sign is so connected with the word that it cannot be torn away from it. But if (nevertheless) a distinction is to be made, I ask: which of the two do we want to esteem more highly? It is indeed like this: since we see that the sign serves the word, we will say that it is inferior to it, and we will assign it the lower place. If, then, the word (in) baptism is intended for infants - why should the sign, that is, the appendage to the word, be withheld from them? If there were no other reasons besides this one, it would be sufficient to refute all those who would have objected. But one makes the objection that for the circumcision a fixed day existed (for the baptism, however, not). But this is obviously an evasion. We admit that we are no longer bound to certain days as the Jews were, but if the Lord, while not prescribing a day, nevertheless declares that it pleases Him that the children be received into His covenant in solemn custom - what more do we ask?

IV,16,6 However, the Scriptures open to us a still more certain knowledge of the truth. For it is evident to the highest degree that the covenant which the Lord once made with Abraham is no less valid for Christians today than it once was for the Jewish people, and that therefore also that word refers no less to Christians than it did to the Jews at that time (cf. Gen 17:10). Otherwise we would already have to be of the opinion that Christ by his coming had diminished or shortened the grace of the Father - and such an opinion would not be free of abominable blasphemy! Thus the children of the Jews, because they were made heirs of the covenant and were distinguished from the children of the ungodly, were called "holy seed" (Ezra 9:2), and for the very same reason the children of Christians are now considered holy, even if only one of the parents from whom they are descended is a believer, and according to the testimony of the apostle they are distinguished from the impure seed of the idolaters (1Cor 7:14). Now the Lord, immediately after he made the covenant with Abraham, gave the commandment to seal this covenant to the children in an outward sign (Gen 17:12); what reason, then, can Christians give why they should not testify and seal this covenant to their children today also? Let no one raise the objection that according to the Lord’s ordinance no other sign was intended for the confirmation of his covenant than circumcision, and that this had been abolished a long time ago. For here it is easy to counter: God has appointed circumcision for the time of the Old Testament for the confirmation of his covenant; after this has now been abolished, the same reason for such confirmation remains, which we have in common with the Jews. Therefore, we must continue to be careful about what is common to the Jews and to us, and what they possess separately from us. The covenant is common, and the reason for its affirmation is also common. Only the manner of such confirmation is different: for them it was circumcision, which was replaced by baptism for us. Otherwise, if the testimony by virtue of which the Jews were assured of the salvation of their seed had been torn away from us, Christ’s coming would have had the effect that God’s grace would have been testified to us in a darker and weaker way than it was before for the Jews. This, however, cannot be said without the worst reproach of Christ, for through him the boundless goodness of the Father has been poured out upon the earth and made known to men more clearly and kindly than ever before. We must therefore necessarily admit that such goodness of God must truly not be kept more narrowly hidden today, nor glorified with a lesser testimony than was once done under the dark shadows of the law.

IV,16,7 Now Jesus, the Lord, wanted to give a proof by which the world should understand that His coming did not serve to limit the mercy of the Father, but rather to extend it; and for this purpose He took the little children, who were brought to Him, kindly in His arms and rebuked the disciples, who tried to keep them away from the entrance to Him, because they thereby led away from Him the very ones to whom the kingdom of heaven belonged, through whom alone the entrance to heaven is open (Mt 19,13-15). But, someone might say, what similarity does this embrace that Christ practices have with baptism? For it is not said that Jesus baptized these children, but we only hear that he received them, embraced them and blessed them. So if we want to follow his example, we want to stand by the children with prayers, but not baptize them. We, on the other hand, want to consider Christ’s behavior a little more carefully than that kind of people. For we must not lightly pass over the fact that Christ adds to the commandment to bring him the little children the cause: "For such is the kingdom of heaven" (Mt 19,14). Then he testifies to his will by taking the children in his arms and offering them to the Father with his prayer and blessing. If it is right to bring children to Christ, why not also to admit them to baptism, which is the sign of our union and communion with Christ? If "such is the kingdom of heaven," why deny them the sign which, as it were, opens to them access to the Church, so that, having been received therein, they may be counted among the heirs of the kingdom of heaven? How unjust we are when we reject those whom Christ invites to Himself, when we deprive (of these gifts) those whom He adorns with His gifts, when we exclude those whom He Himself freely admits to Himself: And if we are to enter into a discussion of how different baptism is from what Christ did in this place, we must ask, how much higher, then, is baptism, in which we testify (merely) that the children are included in God’s covenant, to us than the receiving and embracing, the laying on of hands, and the (blessing) prayer, by which Christ declares in his own person that they belong to him and are sanctified by him? Our adversaries, however, put forward another excuse with which they try to evade the point made here, but in doing so they only show their own ignorance. They draw from Christ’s word: "Let the little children come to me" the subtle conclusion that these children were already a little older, because they were already in the days to "come" to him. But these children are called by the evangelists "brephe kai paidia", and with such expressions the Greeks mean children who still hang on the mother’s breast. So "coming" is simply put for "approaching"! There one sees, however, what kind of deceptions such people are forced to take as a pretext, who have hardened themselves against the truth! Furthermore, they claim that the kingdom of heaven is not granted to children (in the sense of infancy), but to those (people, also adults) who are similar to them, because it is called "such", not "their". But this objection is not more valid than the previous one. For if this is accepted, what is to become of Christ’s reasoning, with which he wants to show that children are not alien to him in age? He commands that children should come to him, and therefore nothing is clearer than that he means a real infancy! So that this command does not seem absurd, he adds: "For such is the kingdom of heaven. Among these (according to the state of things) must be necessarily decided also the children (in the sense of infancy); but if it is so stated, then it is also perfectly clear that the expression "such" denotes the children themselves and such as are like them.

IV,16,8 Now there is no one who would not agree that infant baptism was by no means "forged together from man"-it rests, after all, on such a strong approval of Scripture! Neither is it a sufficiently beautiful gossip what those put forward who raise the objection that it is nowhere (reported) that even a single child was baptized by the hand of the apostles. Now this is not expressly reported by the evangelists; but on the other hand, as often as the baptism of a family is mentioned, the children are not excluded. Who wants to draw the conclusion that the children were not baptized - provided that he is not delusional? If such reasons were valid, then women would also have to be excluded from the Lord’s Supper, because nowhere do we read that they were admitted to it in the time of the apostles (Acts 16:15,32). We are content here with the rule of faith, because if we consider the meaning of the institution of the Lord’s Supper, then we will also easily gain a judgment as to which people are to be given a share in its practice. We observe the same in the case of baptism. For as soon as we pay attention to the purpose for which it is instituted, it is obvious to us that it is not less appropriate for children than for people of a higher age. It cannot, therefore, be taken away from infants without thereby openly violating the will of the giver, that is, the will of God. But when the Anabaptists spread the claim among the simple-minded people that after Christ’s resurrection a long series of years had passed during which infant baptism had been unknown, this is a quite pitiful lie. For there is no (ecclesiastical) writer, no matter how old he may be, who did not trace back with certainty the origin of infant baptism to the time of the apostles..

IV,16,9 So that no one will despise infant baptism as useless and idle, it remains for us to show what fruits accrue from this practice both to the faithful who bring their children before the church for baptism and to the children themselves who are baptized with the sanctified water. If, however, it occurs to anyone to ridicule infant baptism on this pretext (namely, that it brings no benefit), he is also ridiculing the commandment of circumcision given by the Lord. For what could such people possibly bring forward to fight against infant baptism that would not fall back on the commandment of circumcision? In this way, the Lord punishes the presumption of those who immediately condemn what they do not understand with the sensibility of their flesh. However, God equips us with other weapons to counter the folly of these people. This holy institution, through which our faith, as we experience it, is helped in the most glorious consolation, does not deserve to be called superfluous. For the sign of God given to a young boy affirms, like an impressed seal, the promise made to the pious father or mother, and declares it agreed that the Lord will be not only the God of the father or mother, but also the God of their seed, and will meet not only them with His goodness and grace, but also their descendants to the thousandth generation. Since God’s immeasurable kindness comes to light here, it gives such people first of all the richest occasion to praise his glory and pervades their pious hearts with unusual joy, by which they are at the same time all the more strongly stimulated to love such a pious father again, because they perceive how he also cares for their offspring for their sake. I also do not care if someone objects here that the promise (alone) must also suffice to confirm the salvation of our children. For it has pleased God (now once) differently: he has recognized our weakness and has wanted to be lenient to it in this matter just in the same measure in which he has recognized it. Therefore, whoever accepts the promise that God’s mercy should extend to his children, should consider that it is his duty to carry such children before the church for the drawing with the mark of this mercy, and thereupon to encourage himself to be all the more confident, because he sees with his own eyes how the Lord’s covenant is impressed on the bodies of his own children. On the other hand, the children also receive many benefits from their baptism, because they are thereby incorporated into the body of the Church and are thus much more emphatically commanded to the other members (of this body). And when they have grown up, they are not a little spurred by their baptism to earnestly strive for the worship of God, who has adopted them as children by the solemn sign of their adoption, before they were able to recognize him as a father because of their age. And finally, we must be terrified by the curse word, according to which God wants to act as a retaliator, if someone contemptuously rejects to mark his son with the sign of the covenant, because by such contempt of the sign the offered grace is rejected and, as it were, abjured (Gen 17,14).

IV,16,10 Now we want to discuss the reasons of proof with which certain raging animals incessantly run against this holy institution of God. First of all, since they realize how the similarity of baptism and circumcision puts them in a tight spot, they take pains to separate these two signs from each other by a great contrast, so that it may appear that one has nothing in common with the other. They claim that (first) different things are meant here, (second) the covenant is completely different, and (third) the expression "children" is not used in the same sense. a) But when they try to prove the first claim, they argue that circumcision was a sign of mortification, but not of baptism. This we admit to them with the greatest readiness. For it gives us the best support. Nor do we use any other proposition for our proof than that baptism and circumcision are signs of mortification. On the basis of this we establish that baptism has taken the place of circumcision, in order that it may illustrate to us the same thing which circumcision held up as a sign to the Jews of old. b) And when it is necessary to defend the diversity of the covenant - in what barbarous audacity do they then tear up and corrupt the Scriptures! This is not done in a single place, but in such a way that they leave nothing whole and intact! The Jews describe them as so carnal that they are more like cattle than men. They declare that the covenant made with the Jews does not go beyond the temporal life, and that the promises made to them refer only to present and bodily goods. If this doctrine prevailed, what else would be left but that the Jewish people had been satiated for a time by God’s beneficence - not unlike fattening a herd of sows in the robe - and then finally perishing in eternal ruin? For when we cite circumcision and the promises associated with it, they immediately reply that circumcision was a subliterate sign (literale signum), and that its promises were carnal.

IV,16,11 Indeed, if circumcision was a sign standing under the letter, then one must judge of baptism in exactly the same way. For the apostle, in the second chapter of the letter to the Colossians, does not declare the one sign to be more spiritual than the other (Col 2:11). For he says that in Christ we are "circumcised with the circumcision without hands," "by putting off the sinful body" which dwelt "in our flesh"; and this circumcision he calls the "circumcision of Christ." Then he adds to explain this phrase, we are "buried with Christ through baptism" (Col 2:12). Now what else does Paul want to say with these words than that the fulfillment and the truth of baptism is at the same time the truth and the fulfillment of circumcision, because they both illustrate one and the same thing figuratively? For surely he endeavors to prove that baptism is to Christians the same thing that circumcision was formerly to the Jews. But since we have already clearly shown that the promises of both signs and also the mysteries represented in them are consistent with each other, let us not dwell on this for the time being. I only want to admonish the faithful, even without saying anything, to consider whether a sign, which has nothing but spiritual and heavenly aspects, can be considered earthly and a matter of letters. But in order that they do not bring their misty vapor to the attention of simple people, let us invalidate in passing the assertion with which they seek to cover this impudent lie. It is more than certain that the most noble promises in which the covenant God made with the Israelites under the Old Testament was written were spiritual and referred to eternal life. It is equally certain that these promises were also received spiritually by the fathers, as they should have been, so that they might draw from them confidence in eternal life, for which they longed with all the stirrings of their hearts. However, we do not deny that God also showed his benevolence to them with earthly and carnal benefits, and we also claim that through these benefits the hope in the spiritual promises was confirmed. This is what happened when He promised eternal bliss to His servant Abraham: He wanted to present him with a tangible proof of His grace and therefore added the further promise according to which Abraham should possess the land of Canaan (Gen 15:1, 18). All the earthly promises made to the Jewish people must therefore be understood in the sense that the spiritual promise as the main thing always has the first place and the others are related to it. But since I have dealt with these things in more detail in the exposition of the difference between the Old and New Testaments, I content myself here with a rather brief mention.

IV,16,12 c) With regard to the term "children" they find (between circumcision and baptism) the difference that under the Old Testament those appear as children of Abraham who derived their (natural) origin from his seed, whereas today this term means those who follow his faith. Therefore, they further assert, that fleshly filiality, received into the fellowship of the covenant by circumcision, figuratively exemplified the spiritual children of the New Testament, born again of God’s Word unto immortal life. In these words, of course, we see a small grain of truth, but these superficial spirits are very guilty of grabbing hold of what first comes to their hand and stubbornly sticking to the one word, while one should actually go further and compare many things with each other. From there it cannot be otherwise than that they immediately come to erroneous ideas; for they do not proceed from any thing to a thorough knowledge. We admit, however, that the carnal seed of Abraham held for a time the place of the spiritual seed, which is implanted in him by faith. For we are called his children, even though there is no natural relationship between him and us (Gal 4:28; Rom 4:12). But if they now hold - and this view they make perfectly clear - that the carnal seed of Abraham was never promised the spiritual blessing of God, then they are far in error in this. Therefore, we must orient ourselves to a better point of direction, to which we are led by the perfectly sure guidance of Scripture. So the Lord promises Abraham a future seed in whom "all the nations of the earth shall be blessed," and at the same time He gives him the promise that He will be his and his seed’s God (Gen 12:3; 17:6). All who now accept Christ as the giver of such blessings in faith are heirs of this promise and are therefore called "children of Abraham."

IV,16,13 However, after the resurrection of Christ, the boundaries of God’s kingdom have begun to expand far and wide to all peoples indiscriminately, so that, according to Christ’s word, believers will be gathered from all sides to sit at table "with Abraham and Isaac and Jacob" in heavenly glory (Mt 8,11). But God had nevertheless embraced the Jews with such great mercy many hundreds of years before. And since He had chosen this one people, bypassing all others, to have His mercy decided in them for a time, He also declared them to be His "own" and the people He had purchased (Ex 19:5). To testify to such beneficence, the people were given circumcision, which was a mark to instruct the Jews that God was the guardian of their salvation. Through such knowledge their hearts were raised to the hope of eternal life. For what can he lack whom God has once taken into his keeping? Therefore, in order to prove that the Gentiles are Abraham’s children together with the Jews, the apostle also uses the following expression: "Abraham was justified by faith while he was still uncircumcised. But the sign of circumcision he then received as a seal of the righteousness of faith … so that he might become a father to all who believe and are not circumcised, … and would also become a father of the circumcision, and that not of those who only boast of circumcision, but also walk in the footsteps of faith, which was in our father Abraham when he was not yet circumcised" (Rom 4:10-12; occasionally not Luther text). Do we not see there how both are made equal in dignity? For a time, as far as God had ordained, Abraham was a father of circumcision. When then, as the apostle writes in another place (Eph 2,14), the fence was broken down that separated the Gentiles from the Jews, and thus also the access to the kingdom of God was opened to the Gentiles, then Abraham also became their father, and that without the sign of circumcision, because they have baptism instead of circumcision. But when Paul expressly declares that Abraham is not the father of those who are merely of the circumcision (Rom 4:12), this is said to dampen the arrogance of certain people who left aside the concern for piety and merely boasted of the ceremonies. It is done in the same way as one might counter the vanity of those today who seek nothing but water in baptism.

IV,16,14 But against this another passage from the apostle, namely Romans 9,7, will be cited: there he teaches that those who are according to the flesh (Abraham’s offspring) are not Abraham’s children (Rom 9,7f.), but only those who are "children of promise" are counted among his seed. For it seems as if he wants to give to understand here that the fleshly relationship with Abraham, which we nevertheless put on a certain level, is nothing. However, we must be more attentive to what kind of case the apostle is dealing with in this passage. For he wants to show the Jews how God’s goodness is not at all bound to the seed of Abraham, nay, how purely nothing creates the fleshly kinship with him of itself, and in proof of this he refers to Ishmael and Esau; for these, although they were true descendants of Abraham according to the flesh, were nevertheless rejected as if they were strangers, while the blessing rested on Isaac and Jacob. From this follows what Paul then afterwards asserts: salvation depends on God’s mercy, with which He meets whom He wills (Rom 10:15f.), and the Jews have no reason why they should please or boast themselves by reference to the covenant, unless they keep the law of the covenant, that is, obey the word. And again: Having taken away the vain confidence of the Jews in their descent, he now perceived, nevertheless, on the other hand, that the covenant which God had once entered into with the posterity of Abraham could in no wise be invalidated, and therefore he sets forth in the eleventh chapter that the carnal kinship of Abraham cannot be deprived of its dignity; for their sake, he teaches, the Jews are the first and born heirs of the gospel, unless they are rejected as unworthy because of their ingratitude, in such a way, of course, that the heavenly blessing has not fully departed from their people. For this reason he calls them, as stubborn and unruly as they were, nevertheless "holy" (Rom 11:16) - he gives so much honor to the holy generation that God would have honored with his holy covenant -, but he considers us in relation to them as children of Abraham who were born after or not yet born, and that through adoption into the childship, not on the basis of natural descent, like when a rice is cut down from its tree and is grafted onto a foreign trunk (Rom 11:17). So that the Jews would not be deprived of their privilege, the gospel had to be preached to them first. For they are, as it were, the firstborn in God’s household. Therefore this dignity had to be given to them, until they rejected the offered honor and brought it with their ingratitude to the point that it now passed over to the Gentiles. But no matter how stubbornly they persist in waging war with the gospel, we must not despise them, if we consider that for the sake of the promise God’s blessing still remains among them, as the apostle testifies that this blessing will never completely depart from them, "for God’s gifts and calling cannot repent of Him" (Rom 11:29).

IV,16,15 There we see the value of the promise made to the posterity of Abraham, and on what scales it must be weighed. Therefore, we do not doubt that in the distinction between the heirs of the kingdom and the bastards and strangers, God’s election alone freely rules; at the same time, however, we recognize that it pleased Him to embrace the seed of Abraham in a special way with His mercy, and to seal this mercy, so that it might be considered better attested, by circumcision. Now it is quite the same with the Christian church. For as Paul says above that the Jews were sanctified by their parents, so he teaches elsewhere that the children of Christians receive the same sanctification from their parents (1Cor 7:14). From this it follows that they are deservedly set apart from others who are themselves accused of being unclean. Who can now doubt that it is completely wrong when the Anabaptists now continue with the assertion that the children who were circumcised at that time merely illustrated the spiritual filiation that arises from the rebirth through the Word of God? The apostle does not philosophize so subtly when he writes that Christ was a "minister of circumcision" in order to fulfill the promises made to the fathers (Rom 15:8); for this is just as if he were to say: since the covenant made with Abraham refers to his seed, Christ came to salvation for the Jewish people in order to fulfill and redeem the word once given by the Father. Do we see now how, according to Paul’s judgment, even after Christ’s resurrection, the promise of the covenant had to be fulfilled, not only allegorically (allegorice), but according to the wording, in the fleshly seed of Abraham? It also belongs here that Peter tells the Jews in Acts 2:39 that they and their seed are entitled to the benefits of the gospel by virtue of covenant law, and that in the following chapter he calls them "children of the covenant," that is, his heirs (Acts 3:25). The other passage from the apostle already mentioned above does not deviate significantly from this either, where he holds and asserts that circumcision, which is impressed on the children, is a sign of the fellowship they have with Christ (Eph 2:11 s.). And truly, if we listen to the chatter of the Anabaptists, what is to become of that promise with which the Lord in the second principal (commandment) of his law gives his servants the promise that he will "do mercy" to their seed even to the thousandth member? Are we supposed to take recourse to allegories here? But that would be a too farcical evasion. Or shall we say that this is abolished? But with that the law would fall into dissolution - and Christ rather wanted to affirm it, as long as it is for our good and for our life! It should therefore not be subject to dispute that God is so kind and bountiful toward His own that for their sake He also wants the children they have begotten to be counted among His people.

IV,16,16 The distinctions that the Anabaptists try to make between baptism and circumcision are not only ridiculous and devoid of all semblance of justification, but also contradictory among themselves. For they first assert that baptism refers to the first day of spiritual conflict, while circumcision refers to the eighth, after mortification has already been completed. But immediately they forget this sentence, turn the little song around and call circumcision a figurative representation of the mortification of the flesh, baptism, on the other hand, the burial of the flesh, to which only those could come who had already died. What delusions of insane people could possibly burst apart in such levity? For according to the first sentence, baptism must take precedence over circumcision; according to the second, it is relegated to a subordinate place. However, the example is not new that the spirits of men, as soon as they worship everything they have dreamed up as the most certain word of God, whirl up and down in such a way. So we claim that the first mentioned difference is a pure reverie. If one wanted to take the eighth day (on which the circumcision should take place) as an occasion for allegorical interpretations, it should not be done in this way. It would be much better, if the number eight, according to the ancient process, were to refer to the resurrection that took place on the eighth day (after the beginning of the time of suffering), because we know that the newness of life is based on it, or to the whole course of the present life, in which the mortification must go on and on until it has come to its end and thus also the mortification of the flesh has become perfect. However, it can also be seen that God wanted to take into account the tenderness of the age by postponing the circumcision to the eighth day, because the wounding (resulting from it) must be quite dangerous for the just born, which still had a reddish skin from the mother. How much more force might the second claim of the Anabaptists have, that we, already dead, would be buried by baptism? For Scripture expressly objects to this and says that we are buried with the determination to die and thereupon seek such mortification (Rom 6:4)! Equally clever is the excuse: if baptism should be made equal to circumcision, then girls should not be baptized. For it is completely agreed that by the sign of circumcision the sanctification of the seed of Israel was testified; but if it is so, then it follows also without doubt that this sign was given for the sanctification of male as well as female descendants. But only the bodies of the babes were given this sign, because it was possible with them by nature; but nevertheless in such a way that the girls were, as it were, comrades and sharers in this sign through the boys. Let us therefore leave such sillinesses of the Anabaptists far from us, and hold fast to the similarity of baptism and circumcision; for we see that this comes about quite excellently in the inward mystery, in the promises (connected with them), in the exercise and in the effect.

IV,16,17 The Anabaptists also think they have a very valid reason for keeping children away from baptism, by pointing out that children, because of their age, are not yet able to grasp the mystery presented in baptism. For this mystery (they say) is, after all, the spiritual rebirth, which cannot fall within the first childhood. Therefore they draw the conclusion that the children, before they have grown to the age suitable for a second birth, must be regarded as nothing else than children of Adam. But against all these assertions God’s truth raises an objection everywhere. For if these children must be left among Adam’s children, they are left in death; for in Adam we can do nothing but die. In contrast, Christ commands that one should bring the children to Him (Mt 19,14). And why this? Because he is the life! So, in order to make them alive, he makes them partakers of him - while the Anabaptists meanwhile turn them far away from him and consign them to death. If they make the excuse that these children would not be lost if they were regarded as Adam’s children, their error is more than sufficiently refuted by the testimony of Scripture. For it says that in Adam all die (1Cor 15:22), and from this it follows that there is no hope of life left but in Christ alone. So, in order for us to become heirs of life, we must have fellowship with Him. And since, on the other hand, it is written elsewhere that by nature we are all subject to the wrath of God (Eph 2:3) and are conceived in sins (Ps 51:7), with which condemnation is continually connected, we must therefore move out of our nature before access to the kingdom of God is open to us. And how could a clearer statement be found than that "flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God" (1Cor 15:50)? So everything that is ours must be put away - and this will not happen without being born again -; then (only) will we behold this possession of the kingdom! And finally: if Christ speaks truthfully when he proclaims that he is the life (Jn. 11:25; 14:6), we must necessarily be incorporated into him, so that we may be delivered from the bondage of death. But, they say, how can children be born again who are not yet endowed with any knowledge of good and evil? We answer that even if the work of God is not accessible to our understanding, it is not non-existent. Furthermore, it is perfectly clear that the children who are to be saved - and undoubtedly some will be saved from this age - will first be born again of the Lord. For if they bring with them inherent corruption from their mother’s womb, they must be cleansed of it before they are admitted into God’s kingdom; for nothing stained or defiled enters there (Acts 21:27). If they are born as sinners, as David as well as Paul claim (Eph 2,3; Ps 51:7), they either remain displeasing and detestable to God - or they have to be justified. And what do we look for further, since the judge himself openly declares that access to life is open to none but the born again (John 3,3)? In order to silence the contumacious people like the Anabaptists, He gave proof of what He is able to do with the others in John the Baptist, whom He sanctified in his mother’s womb (Lk 1:15). The Anabaptists will not achieve anything with the excuse they use here: they say that this happened (only) once, and that it does not immediately follow that the Lord always treats children in this way. Because we do not lead our proof in this way either! We only want to show that it is unreasonable and malicious if they force God’s power into such narrow limits in which it cannot be enclosed. A second evasion they make has just as much weight. They claim that according to the customary usage of Scripture, the phrase "from the womb" means as much as "from early youth. But it can be clearly perceived that the angel, when he announced this message to Zacharias (Lk 1:15), had something else in mind, namely that the child, not yet born, should be filled with the Holy Spirit. We do not want to try to impose a law on God, that he could not sanctify those he wants in the same way as he sanctified the child John, because nothing has been taken away from his power since then.

IV,16,18 Certainly Christ was sanctified for this purpose from his earliest youth, that he sanctified his elect in himself from any age without distinction. For as, for the destruction of the guilt of disobedience committed in our flesh, he put on that very flesh itself, to render perfect obedience for our sake and in our stead, so also was he "conceived by the Holy Ghost," that, being fully imbued with his holiness in the flesh which he assumed, he might cause it to overflow upon us also. If we have in Christ (from his earliest infancy) the most perfect model of all the gifts of grace with which God bestows on his children, he can serve as proof to us in this very piece that infancy is not so much in contradiction to sanctification. Be that as it may, we find it indisputable that none of the elect (i.e. not even a child!) is called away from the present life who is not first sanctified and born again by the Spirit of God. If, on the other hand, the Anabaptists raise the objection that the Holy Spirit knows of no other rebirth in Scripture than that which is "of incorruptible seed," that is, through the Word of God (1 Pet. 1:23), then this is an erroneous interpretation of the passage from Peter, for Peter includes only those believers who had been instructed through the preaching of the gospel. We freely admit that for such believers the word of the Lord is the only seed of their spiritual regeneration; but we deny that it could be inferred from this that children could not be born again by God’s power; for this power he can wield so easily and so effortlessly as to be incomprehensible and admirable to us. Furthermore, it would also not be safe enough to deny the Lord the ability to make Himself known and thereby recognizable to the children in any way.

IV,16,19 But, they say, faith comes from hearing (Rom 10:17), and children have not yet gained any experience of this; nor can they be able to know God, because Moses teaches that they lack the knowledge of good and evil (Deut 1:39). But the Anabaptists do not notice that the apostle, when he declares hearing (the sermon) to be the beginning of faith, is merely describing the ordinary order and mode of distribution which the Lord is wont to observe in calling his own, but does not set him any permanent rule, so that he could not adopt any other procedure. He has undoubtedly used such a different way in the calling of many people, whom he has endowed with the true knowledge of himself in an inward way through the enlightenment mediated by the Holy Spirit, without any interposition of preaching. But if the Anabaptists are of the opinion that it is quite absurd to attribute any knowledge of God to the children, to whom Moses (already) denies the understanding of good and evil, I would like them to answer the question of what danger there is in saying that they now receive a little piece of grace, the full riches of which they are to enjoy soon after. For the fullness of life consists in the perfect knowledge of God; but if some of the children, whom death takes away from this life in their earliest youth, pass over into eternal life, they are thus undoubtedly admitted to the beholding of the face of God in his perfect presence. So, if the Lord will illuminate such children with the full radiance of his light, why should he not also, if it pleases him, illuminate them for the present time with a little sparkle of such light, especially since he will not strip them of their ignorance until he takes them out of the bondage of the flesh? I do not say this because I would carelessly claim that the children are endowed with the same faith that we experience in ourselves, or that they have a knowledge similar to faith at all - I would rather leave that up in the air - but only to put the foolish presumption of such people in check a little, who, depending on how their cheeks are puffed up, blithely deny or claim everything imaginable.

IV,16,20 But to give their view in this piece an even stronger emphasis, they add the assertion that baptism is after all the sacrament of repentance and faith; but for this reason, since neither repentance nor faith fall into the tenderest childhood, one must beware that this meaning of the sacrament would become vain and insubstantial by admitting children to communion at baptism. But these bullets are now directed more against God than against us. For it is perfectly clear from many testimonies of Scripture that circumcision also has been a sign of repentance. Moreover, it is called by Paul the "seal of the righteousness of faith" (Rom 4:11). So God Himself must be called to account for why He commanded that circumcision be impressed on the bodies of children. Since baptism and circumcision are the same, they cannot give anything to circumcision without also giving it to baptism. If here they again look for their usual excuse, that at that time the spiritual children were figuratively illustrated by the infantile age, then the way is already barred to them. We therefore maintain that since God bestowed circumcision, which was a sacrament of repentance and faith, upon children, it cannot seem absurd that they should now also partake of baptism, unless one wanted to openly vent one’s anger against God’s institution. However, as in all acts of God, so also in this one enough wisdom and justice shines to dampen the resistance of the wicked. For although the children, at the moment they were circumcised, did not yet understand with their minds the meaning of that sign, nevertheless, in truth, they were circumcised for the mortification of their corrupt and defiled nature, in order that later, when they had grown up, they might direct their consideration to such mortification. In short, this objection can be easily overcome by the consideration: the children are baptized for their future repentance and their future faith; both have not yet taken shape in them, but through the hidden work of the Spirit the seed for both is nevertheless decided in them. Through this answer, everything that they take from the meaning of baptism and turn against us is overturned at once. This also includes the praise with which Paul honors baptism by calling it "the bath of rebirth and renewal" (Titus 3:5). From this they draw the conclusion that baptism should not be granted to anyone unless he is capable of these things. But we can then object on the other side that circumcision, which denotes rebirth, should not have been granted to anyone other than the born-again. And in this way God’s appointment would then be condemned by us. Therefore, as I have already touched upon several times, all the grounds of evidence that are capable of causing circumcision to waver have no power even to combat baptism. Nor can they escape when they say: what is based with certainty on God’s authority, that is firm and unshakable for us, even if no justification for it were discernible, but this reverence is due neither to infant baptism nor to other similar things, because they are not commanded to us by an express word of God. For they then remain perpetually caught in the either-or: God’s command to circumcise the children was either lawful and not subject to any evasions - or it was reprehensible; but if there was nothing inconsistent or absurd in this command, then there will also be nothing absurd in the practice of infant baptism.

IV,16,21 The stain of absurdity, which they now try to put on us in this passage, we wipe off as follows. When men whom the Lord has chosen, after receiving the sign of rebirth, depart from this present life again before they have grown up, he renews them with the incomprehensible power of his Spirit in a way which he himself alone foresees will lead to the goal. If they grow up to an age in which they can be instructed about the truth of baptism, they will be all the more fired up to zeal for this renewal, since they now learn that they have been given the sign of such renewal from their earliest youth, so that they can strive for it throughout their lives. This is the reason why Paul teaches in two places that we are buried with Christ through baptism (Rom 6,4; Col 2,12). For he does not mean here that he who is to be initiated by baptism must have been buried with Christ beforehand, but he simply sets forth the doctrine underlying baptism to those who have already been baptized. Therefore, not even delusional people will be able to defend on the basis of this passage the opinion that this doctrine precedes baptism. In this way Moses and the prophets made the people aware of the importance of circumcision, with which the hearers were already marked as children (Deut 10:16; Jer 4:4)! It has the same meaning when Paul writes to the Galatians that when they were baptized they "put on Christ" (Gal 3:27). What for? They were supposed to live Christ henceforth, because they had not lived Him before! And although with older people the reception of the sign is supposed to follow the comprehension of the mystery, it must soon be explained that it has a different meaning with the children. There is no other way to understand the passage in Peter in which the Anabaptists think they find an essential protection; Peter says of baptism that it is not a washing away of the defilements of the body, but the testimony of a good conscience before God through the resurrection of Christ (1Pet 3:21). On the basis of this passage they claim that nothing is left to infant baptism but that it is a vain thing, a smoke of mist, and that because this very truth (of which Peter speaks) is far from it. But here they sin again by the erroneous opinion which consists in demanding that the thing must always precede the sign in the temporal order. For the truth of circumcision also consisted in the same "testimony of a good conscience." Now if this truth had inevitably had to precede (in time), then the children would never and never have been circumcised at God’s command. But by showing that the testimony of a good conscience is inherent in the truth of circumcision, and by giving at the same time, nevertheless, the instruction to circumcise the little children, the Lord Himself sufficiently intimates that in this respect circumcision is given for the time to come. Therefore, in infant baptism we must not look for more in present effect than that it affirms and proves valid the covenant which the Lord has made with infants. The other significance of this sacrament will then follow later, at the time which God Himself has provided.

IV,16,22 I suppose that there is no one now who does not clearly perceive that all such reasons of proof are nothing but perversions of Scripture. The rest, which are of the same kind, we will pass over in haste. The Anabaptists object that baptism is given for the remission of sins. If this is conceded, it will abundantly support our opinion. For since we are born sinners, we already need forgiveness and pardon from our mother’s womb. And since, furthermore, God does not cut off the hope of mercy from this age, but rather makes it certain, why then should we tear away from him the sign, which after all stands far lower than the thing itself? Therefore we turn the projectile, which they endeavored to hurl against us, against themselves and say: the children receive the forgiveness of sins as a gift, therefore the sign (of such forgiveness) must not be robbed from them either. At the same time, they also bring up a word from the letter to the Ephesians, according to which the church is cleansed by the Lord "through the water bath in the word" of life (Eph 5:26). Now no word could have been adduced which would have been more suitable for refuting their error. For from it arises for us a convenient proof: if Christ wills that the washing away by which he purifies his church should be witnessed in baptism, it does not seem fair that that washing away should lack this witness in the infants, who after all are rightly reckoned on the side of the church, since they are called heirs of the kingdom of heaven. For Paul includes the whole church when he says that it was cleansed by this water bath. We draw a completely similar conclusion when Paul says in another place that we are incorporated into the body of Christ through baptism (1Cor 12:13); for from this we learn that the children, whom he nevertheless counts among his members, must be baptized so that they are not torn away from his body. There you can see how mightily they run against the ramparts of our faith with so many tools of war!

IV,16,23 Now they come to speak of the practice and custom of the apostolic times, in which no one was found who had been admitted to baptism without first having confessed his faith and repentance. For when Peter was asked by those who were minded to repent, "What shall we do now?" he advised them, first, to repent, and second, to be baptized "for the remission of sins" (Acts 2:37f.). Likewise, when the eunuch asked to be baptized, Philip replied, "If you believe with all your heart, it may be so" (Acts 8:37). From this, the Anabaptists hope to obtain for themselves (the concession) that it is not at all right to baptize someone without preceding faith and repentance. Yes, indeed, if we accept this reasoning, the first passage (Acts 2), where we do not hear any mention of faith, will prove that repentance alone is enough, and the second (Acts 8), where repentance is not found at all, will prove that faith alone is enough! In my opinion, you will now claim that these two passages support each other and must therefore be connected with each other. For my part, too, I say that here one must compare other passages that have some significance in untying this knot. For there are many statements in Scripture whose understanding depends on the circumstances. We have just such an example before us in the passages presently under consideration; for the people to whom Peter and Philip say the words adduced are of an age fitted to seek repentance and to take faith. We emphatically deny that such people may receive baptism unless their conversion and faith have been perceived, to be sure, only so far as they can be explored by the judgment of men. But it is more than clear enough that the children must be counted to another group. For if in ancient times anyone joined Israel in order to have fellowship with it in religion, he had to be instructed in the covenant of the Lord and taught the law before he received the sign of circumcision, because he was an alien according to his origin, that is, a stranger to the people of Israel with whom the covenant had been made, which circumcision confirmed.

IV,16,24 In the same way the Lord, when he receives Abraham, does not begin with the circumcision by concealing from him in the meantime what he has in mind with this sign; no, he first announces to him what kind of covenant he intends to make with him (Gen 15,1), and then, after Abraham has believed the promise, he also makes him partaker of the sacrament (Gen 17,11). Why is it that the sacrament follows faith in Abraham, but precedes all knowledge in his son Isaac? Precisely because it was right and proper that one who was not received into the community of the covenant until adulthood, with which he had had nothing to do until then, should first become thoroughly acquainted with its conditions, whereas it was not the same with the child who came from him; for by virtue of the right of inheritance, according to the given form of the promise, he was already included in the covenant from his mother’s womb. Or, to state the matter more clearly and briefly: if the children of the faithful are partakers of the covenant without the aid of their understanding, there is no reason why they could be kept away from the sign, for instance on the grounds that they could not yet swear to the conditions of the covenant. Here is undoubtedly the reason why God repeatedly declares that the children descended from the Israelites were generated and born to Him (Eze 16:20; 23:37). For without doubt He treats the children of those to whom He promised to be the father of their seed as His children (cf. Gen 17:7). But whoever is unbelieving and descended from godless parents is considered a stranger to the community of the covenant until he is united with God through faith. Therefore, it is not surprising if he does not give him a share in the sign, because its meaning would be deceptive and vain. In this sense Paul also writes that the Gentiles, as long as they were immersed in their idolatry, were outside the testament (i.e. the covenant) (Eph 2,12). The whole matter can be brought to clear resolution, if I am not mistaken, in the following summary: people who accept faith in Christ only in adulthood, since until then they stood as strangers outside the covenant, may be marked with baptism only if faith and repentance intervene, which alone can open for them access to the fellowship of the covenant; but children descended from Christians are, after all, received by God into the inheritance of the covenant immediately at birth, and are accordingly to be admitted to baptism. The report of the evangelist that John baptized those who confessed their sins (Mt 3,6) is to be referred to this - an example that, in our opinion, must be kept in mind even today. For if a Turk showed himself willing to be baptized, he should not be baptized by us unthinkingly, for if he had not made a confession that would satisfy the church.

IV,16,25 Furthermore, the Anabaptists bring forward the words of Christ, which are reproduced in the third chapter of John’s Gospel and in which, according to their opinion, actual rebirth is required for baptism: "Unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God" (John 3,5). Behold, they say, how baptism by the mouth of the Lord is called regeneration! With what pretext do we now want to gloss over the fact that we initiate such people, who, as is known more than enough, are not in the least capable of rebirth, with baptism, which cannot exist without such rebirth? (So we should ask about their opinion.) First of all, they are on the wrong track in that they think that baptism is mentioned in this passage, and that because they hear the word "water". Christ had first explained to Nicodemus the corruption of nature and taught him that a rebirth was necessary; but since Nicodemus dreamed of a bodily rebirth, Christ indicates at this point the way in which God gives us such a rebirth, namely "of water and the Spirit". It is as if he said: it is through the Spirit who purifies and sprinkles the souls of believers, thus fulfilling the role of water. "Water and the Spirit," then, I understand simply as "the Spirit who is the water." This way of speaking is also not new; for it fully agrees with that found in the third chapter of Matthew’s Gospel: "who … coming after me … will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire" (Mt 3,11). "Baptize with the Holy Ghost and with fire," now means: to grant the Holy Ghost, who in regeneration has the office and nature of fire; likewise after this, "to be born again of water and the Spirit," means nothing else than to receive that power of the Spirit which accomplishes in the soul what water accomplishes in the body. I know that others interpret this passage differently; but I have no doubt that this is its plain meaning here; for Christ, after all, has no other purpose than to teach that all who seek the kingdom of heaven must strip off their own kind. If, however, according to the habit of the Anabaptists, I were to seek dirty excuses, I could easily reproach them again - even if I granted them what they desire - that baptism (according to this passage) precedes faith and repentance, because, after all, in Christ’s words it precedes the Spirit! Now this is undoubtedly referring to the spiritual gifts, and if these therefore follow baptism, I have obtained what I want. But let us leave aside such evasions, and hold fast the plain interpretation which I have put forward, namely, that no man can enter into the kingdom of God until he is renewed by the living water, that is, by the Holy Ghost.

IV,16,26 That the fantasy of the Anabaptists must be rejected is also obvious on the basis of the fact that they consign to eternal death all those who are not baptized. Let us therefore assume, according to their wish, that baptism is given exclusively to adults. If there is a child who has been properly instructed in the basic truths of piety, and if it happens to such a child that it is taken away by a sudden death shortly before the day set for baptism, against all expectations of people - what should then become of this child according to their opinion? The promise of the Lord is clear: Everyone who believes in the Son will not see death nor come into judgment, but "has passed from death to life" (John 5:24; very vague). And you don’t get to hear anywhere that he would have condemned one not yet baptized. I do not want this to be taken by me in the sense of implying that one could despise baptism with impunity - for I maintain that by despising baptism the covenant of God would be profaned; so far am I from presuming to excuse such despising. It is only enough for me to prove (by these explanations) that baptism is not so necessary that one should think that a man who was deprived of the possibility of obtaining it must therefore have been lost. If, on the other hand, we accept the fantasy of the Anabaptists, we must condemn without exception all those whom some misfortune has kept away from baptism, no matter how much faith they may have been endowed with, with which Christ Himself is possessed! On top of that, they make all children guilty of eternal death by denying them baptism, which, according to their own confession, should be necessary for salvation. Now they may see how well they agree with Christ’s words, in which the kingdom of heaven is granted to this very age (Mt 19,14). And even if we concede to them everything imaginable that is connected with the understanding of this passage, they will get nothing out of it if they have not first overturned the proposition of the regeneration of children that we have already established.

IV,16,27 But the most solid bulwark they boast of possessing is the institution of baptism itself, which they take from the last chapter of the Gospel of Matthew: there Christ sends out the apostles to all nations and then gives them the command, first, to instruct them and then, second, to baptize them (Mt 28,19). Then they also connect with this the word from the last chapter of the Gospel of Mark: "Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved" (Mark 16:16). What more do we look for, they say, when the words of the Lord clearly and openly say that one should first teach and then baptize, and when they assign baptism the second place, the place after faith? The Lord Jesus also gave proof of this order in His own person, when He did not want to be baptized until He was thirty years old (Mt 3,13; Lk 3,21-23). Good God, in how many ways do they entangle themselves here and display their ignorance! For they are already more than childish in that they derive the first institution of baptism from the passages cited, while Christ has given the apostles the commission to administer it since the beginning of his preaching. There is, therefore, no reason for their assertion that the law and the rule of baptism must be taken from these two passages, as if they contained the first institution of this sacrament. But even if we let them get away with this fallacy, - what force then has this argument? However, if I wanted to look for excuses, then not only a nook opened to me, but a completely wide field to escape! You are so stubborn about the order of the words, and because it says: "Go … Preach … and baptize" (Mark 16,15; inaccurate) and likewise: "Whoever believes and is baptized …" (Mar 16,16), they draw the conclusion that one must first preach and then baptize and believe before he desires baptism. But if this is how they do it, why should we not also, for our part, make the counter-assertion that one must baptize before one "teaches" the "keeping" of the things that Christ commanded? For the passage likewise reads, "Baptize them, teaching them to keep all that I have commanded you" (Mt 28:19; more precisely). We made the same remark (here: "baptize" is before "teach") about the saying of Christ mentioned a little further above, which dealt with the rebirth out of water and the Spirit (John 3:5; cf. section 25). For if we take the passage as the Anabaptists require, it follows without doubt that baptism comes before spiritual rebirth, for it is mentioned first. For Christ does not teach that we must be born again "of spirit and water", but "of water and spirit".

IV,16,28 One gets the impression that this "insurmountable" ground of proof, on which the Anabaptists place so much confidence, has already been shaken to some extent! But since truth finds sufficient protection in simplicity, I do not want to wriggle out of the matter with such superficial quibbles. So you shall have a well-founded answer! In this passage, Christ first of all gives the command to preach the gospel, and to this he attaches the office of practicing baptism as an appendage. Furthermore, baptism is mentioned only insofar as its administration belongs to the office of instruction. For Christ sends the apostles to make known the gospel to all the peoples of the earth, that they may gather into his kingdom from all quarters men who were previously lost, through the teaching of salvation. But now what kind of people are these, and of what kind are they? It is certain that here he speaks exclusively of those who are able to accept the teaching. He then instructs that such people should receive baptism after they have been instructed, and he adds the promise: "Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved" (Mark 16:16). Now, is there a single syllable about the children in the whole speech? What, then, is the form of argumentation with which our adversaries attack us here? "People in adulthood are to be instructed first so that they may believe, and only then are they to receive baptism. So it is sacrilege to give even children a share in baptism!" But though they burst at this, they will prove nothing else from this passage than that the gospel must first be preached to such as are capable of hearing before they are baptized; for it is only of them that it is spoken here. From this, if they can get it done, let them build the barrier dam to keep the children away from baptism!

IV,16,29 But in order that their deceptions may be perceptible even to the blind in the groping, I will still bring them into the light with a quite clear parable. The apostle says: "If any man will not work, neither shall he eat" (2Thess 3:10); now, if someone were to take this word as a pretext to prove that one must take away the food of the children (who do not work), would he not be worthy to be despised by all people? And why now? Because he wants to forcibly apply to everyone without distinction a word that refers to a certain kind of people and to a certain age. The Anabaptists do not behave any more skillfully in the matter under discussion here. For what, as everyone can see, refers exclusively to adulthood, they apply to children, so that this age, too, is subjected to a rule that was established only for older people. As for the example of Christ, it contributes nothing to the support of their cause. He was not baptized, they say, until He was thirty years old (Mt 3:13; Lk 3:23). This is true, but the reason is obvious: he wanted to lay the foundation of baptism with his sermon, or better: he wanted to strengthen the foundation that had been laid by John shortly before. So he wanted to establish baptism with his teaching, and in order to give his establishment greater authority, he sanctified it in his own body at the most opportune time imaginable, namely when he began his sermon. In short, the Anabaptists can prove nothing else from this fact than that baptism took its origin and beginning in the preaching of the gospel. Now, if they want to make a fixed rule out of the thirtieth year of life, why do they not keep it, but admit everyone to baptism when, in their judgment, he has progressed far enough? Yes, even Servet, one of their masters, did stubbornly insist on the thirty years - but he had nevertheless already begun to pretend to be a prophet at the age of twenty-one! This is just like tolerating a man who arrogates to himself the teaching office in the church before he is a member of the church itself!

IV,16,30 Finally, the Anabaptists make the objection that there is no stronger reason for giving children a share in baptism than in the Lord’s Supper, which is not granted to them at all. As if the Scriptures did not indicate in all sorts of ways a far-reaching difference between the two sacraments! It was indeed done in this way in the early church (that children were also given the Lord’s Supper), as is clear from Cyprian and Augustine; but this custom has deservedly been abandoned again. For if we consider the nature and peculiarity of baptism, it is in any case in a sense the entrance or, as it were, the initiation into the Church, by which we are numbered among God’s people; it is the sign of our spiritual rebirth, by which we are born anew as children of God. The Lord’s Supper, on the other hand, is intended for the elderly, who have passed through tender childhood and can already bear solid food. This difference is shown exceedingly clearly in Scripture. For there, as far as baptism is concerned, the Lord does not allow any selection with regard to age. The Lord’s Supper, however, is not offered in such a way that all may partake of it equally, but only those may partake of it who are able to "discern" the body and blood of the Lord, to "examine" their own conscience, to "proclaim the death of the Lord" and to rightly consider his power. Do we want anything clearer than what the apostle teaches when he gives the admonition, "But let a man examine and search himself, and so let him eat of this bread and drink of this cup" (1Cor 11:28; small addition)? So a (self-)examination must precede, and this is expected in vain in children. Likewise the apostle says: "Whoever eats unworthily … eats and drinks himself to judgment, because he does not distinguish the body of the Lord" (1Cor 11:29). If only those who know how to duly distinguish the holiness of the body of Christ can worthily partake of the Lord’s Supper, why should we then offer our tender children poison instead of the life-giving food? What should the Lord’s instruction mean to us: "Do these things in remembrance of me" (Lk 22:19; 1Cor 11:25)? And what shall we say to the other instruction that the apostle derives from it: "As often as you eat of this bread … you shall proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes" (1Cor 11:26)? I would like to know: what kind of "remembrance" do we want to demand from the children - with reference to a thing that they have never and never grasped with their senses? What kind of "proclamation" of the Cross of Christ should we demand from them, whose power and benefits they do not yet comprehend with their intellect? In baptism nothing of the kind is prescribed, and therefore there is a very essential difference between these two signs. The same difference we notice under the Old Testament between the two similar signs (circumcision and Passover). Circumcision, which, as is well known, corresponded to our baptism, was intended for infants. The Passover, on the other hand, which has now been replaced by the Lord’s Supper, did not admit all and any table companions without distinction, but was lawfully eaten only by those who, according to their age, were able to ask its meaning (Ex 12:26). Would the Anabaptists, if they had even a modicum of common sense left, be blind to a thing so plain and so immediately obvious?

IV,16,31 Although it displeases me to inconvenience the readers with such a mass of verbiage, it will nevertheless be appropriate to briefly invalidate the seeming grounds of proof which Servet, not the least among the Anabaptists, indeed a great ornament of that crowd, has seen fit to put forward when he prepared for battle.

(1) He protects the assertion that Christ’s marks are perfect and that they require people who are perfect or capable of perfection. But there the answer is already ready: the perfection of baptism extends to death, and it is therefore wrong to limit it to a single point in time. I also add: it is foolish to look for perfection in a man on the first day (at his baptism), to which baptism invites us throughout our lives in an uninterrupted succession of stages.

(2) Servet now interjects that the marks of Christ were instituted in his memory, so that everyone might remember that he was buried with Christ. I reply to this: what he has devised out of his head needs no refutation. Yes, what he refers to baptism is peculiar to the Lord’s Supper, as Paul’s words show: "Let a man examine himself…" (1Cor 11:28). With regard to baptism, the same is nowhere found. From this we see that baptism is rightfully given to those who, according to the measure of their age, are not capable of such (self-)examination.

(3) Third, he cites the passage: "He who does not believe the Son abides in death, and the wrath of God abides on him" (John 3:36; middle inaccurate). From this he concludes: therefore also the children, who were not able to believe, remained in their damnation. To this I give the reply: Christ does not speak here of the general guilt, in which all descendants of Adam are arrested, but he only threatens the despisers of the gospel, who reject the grace offered to them with arrogance and stiff-neckedness. But this has nothing to do with the children. At the same time I oppose his assertion with an opposite reasoning: everyone whom Christ blesses, he may be whoever he wants to be, he is taken away from the curse on Adam and from the wrath of God. Since it is therefore known that the children are blessed by Him (Mt 19:15; Mar 10:16), it follows that they are redeemed from death. Falsely, Servet then cites a passage that is nowhere to be read (in Scripture): "He that is born of the Spirit heareth the voice of the Spirit." Even if we admitted that this was written, he could not prove anything from it except that believers are fashioned to obedience in proportion as the Spirit is at work in them. But it is wrong to apply a word that refers to a certain number of people equally to all.

(4) Fourthly, he makes the objection: because what is natural (precedes what is spiritual) (1Cor 15:46), so one must wait for a time ripe for baptism, which after all is spiritual in nature. Now I freely admit that all the offspring of Adam are born of the flesh and carry their damnation with them from their mother’s womb; but I still deny that this meant a hindrance, wherefore God could not immediately apply a remedy against it. For Servet will not be able to prove that God had prescribed a certain number of years with which the new spiritual life could begin. In any case, Paul is a witness that the children born of believers may be lost in nature, but are holy through supernatural grace (1Cor 7:14).

(5) He then brings up an allegory: David, when he approached Mount Zion, had neither the blind nor the lame with him, but valiant soldiers (2Sam 5:6). But what does Servet mean when I contrast this with the parable in which God invites the blind and the lame to the heavenly banquet (Lk 14:21)? How will he wriggle out of this knot? I also ask: didn’t the lame and the maimed fight with David before? But it is superfluous to stop longer at this train of thought; because the readers will already find out on the basis of the Holy History that it is forged together out of pure deceit.

(6) Then follows another allegory: the apostles were "fishers of men", but not fishers of little children (Mt 4,19). But I now ask what then the word of Christ is supposed to mean, according to which fish of "every kind" are caught in the net of the gospel (Mt 13:47). But because I have no desire to play with allegories, I answer: if the apostles were charged with the office of teaching instruction, this did not prevent them from baptizing children. However, I would also like to know why Servet, when the evangelist speaks of "men" - an expression that includes the human race without exception - wants to deny that the children are men.

(7) Regarding the seventh, Servet claims that since spiritual things belong to spiritual men (1Cor 2:13f.), infants who are not spiritual are unfit for baptism. But it is clear at first how wrongly he twists the passage in Paul. It is a matter of doctrine, and since the Corinthians now more than cheaply pleased themselves in their vain perspicacity, Paul drew to light (and showed) their slothfulness, that they still needed to be instructed in the first rudiments of heavenly doctrine. Who now wants to draw from this the conclusion that baptism must be denied to children, whom God, although they are born of the flesh, graciously accepts as children and thereby consecrates
for Himself?

(8) He further states that if the children were new men, they would have to be nourished with spiritual food (which is not yet possible for them). But here the answer is easily given, the children are received into Christ’s fold by baptism, and the mark of their reception into the filiation is sufficient for them until they are grown up and thus able to bear solid food; one must therefore wait for the time of trial which God expressly requires at Holy Communion.

(9) Then he makes the objection that Christ calls to the Holy Supper all who belong to His own. But it is sufficiently clear that he admits only those who are already prepared to celebrate the memorial of his death. From this it is evident that the children whom he has worthy to be taken in his arms, though until they have grown up they stand on a separate and proper stage, yet they are not strangers. And if Servet then replies that it is surely monstrous that a man, after he has been born (spiritually new), should not eat (spiritually, i.e. in the Lord’s Supper), I answer: souls are fed otherwise than by the outward enjoyment of the Lord’s Supper, and Christ is therefore nevertheless the food for the children, even if they abstain from the mark (of such food, i.e. the Lord’s Supper). With the baptism it is differently ordered, by it alone the entrance gate is opened to them to the church.

(10) Again, Servet interjects that a good steward gives food to his household "in due season" (Mt 24,45). Now I readily admit this; but by what right does he want to fix for us the time for baptism, in order to prove that it is not given to the children "in due season"? Moreover, he cites Christ’s instruction to His apostles to hasten to the harvest when the fields were white (John 4:35). But Christ has only one thing in mind here: the apostles should see that the fruit of their labor lay before them, and therefore prepare to teach all the more eagerly. Who wants to conclude from this that only the time of harvest is the right time for baptism?

(11) His eleventh reason for proof is that in the first church "Christians" and "disciples" were the same (Acts 11:26). But we have already seen that he thus foolishly concludes from one part to the whole. "Disciples" are called men of proper age, who had already been instructed and had entered into the succession of Christ, just as the Jews under the law had to be disciples of Moses; but from this no one will be justified in concluding that the children were outsiders, when God has testified that they are his household.

(12) Moreover, he also states that all Christians are brothers, and the children did not belong to the brothers for us as long as we kept them away from the Lord’s Supper. I return to the principle that only those who are members of Christ are heirs of the kingdom of heaven; furthermore, it was a true sign of adoption into sonship that Christ took the children in his arms (Mt 19 and parallels), and through this adoption into sonship the children are embraced together with the adults; finally, even the temporary abstention from the Lord’s Supper does not stand in the way of the fact that they belong to the body of the church. Even Schacher, who was converted on the cross, did not cease to be a brother of the pious, although he never came to the Lord’s Supper.

(13) Then Servet adds that no one becomes our brother except through the spirit of adoption, which is obtained only by hearing the faith. I answer: he falls into the same false conclusion again and again, because he incorrectly applies words that apply to adults alone to children. Paul teaches in this passage (Rom 10:17; Gal 3:5) how God usually takes the path in calling that he leads his elect to faith by raising up faithful teachers for them, through whose service and work he reaches out to them. But who would presume to impose a law upon him thereupon, that he should not inculcate the children in Christ in some other, hidden way?

(14) Furthermore, he appeals to the fact that Cornelius was baptized after receiving the Holy Spirit (Acts 10:44-48). But how wrong it is that he wants to prove a general rule from this one example comes out in the case of the eunuch and in the case of the Samaritans (Acts 8:27-38; 8:12), in whom God caused the reverse order to occur, that baptism preceded the gifts of the Spirit.

(15) His fifteenth reason for proof is more than inconsistent: he says that through regeneration we become gods; but gods are those to whom God’s word has been done (John 10:34f.), and this cannot be said of underage children. That he imputes divine nature to the believers is one of his delusions, the refutation of which does not belong here; but to twist the Ps passage (Ps 82,6) in a sense so foreign to it, that is hopeless impudence. Christ declares that the kings and authorities are called "gods" by the prophet because they bear an office imposed upon them by God. But this adroit interpreter relates a word which is about the special commission to govern, and which is addressed to certain persons, to the teaching of the gospel, in order to turn the children away from the church.

(16) On the other hand, he makes the objection: the children could not be considered new men because they were not born through the Word. I repeat again what I have already said several times: the "incorruptible seed" for our rebirth (1Pet 1:23) is the teaching, as long as we are able to receive it; but where we are not yet able to receive teaching because of our age, God has his step-by-step sequence in hand to bring us to rebirth.

(17) After that he returns to his allegories and says that under the law sheep and goats would not have been offered for sacrifice immediately after they had come out of the womb, if I would now feel like drawing figurative illustrations here (also on my part), I could easily make the counter-assertion: "all kinds of first-born" were, immediately when they "broke the mother", sanctified to God (Ex 13,2), and furthermore a lamb of one year was to be slaughtered (already) (Ex 12,5). From this it follows then that one must by no means wait for the male power, but that rather also the just born and still even tender offspring are chosen by God for sacrifices.

(18) Moreover, Servet claims that only those could come to Christ who had first been prepared by John. As if John’s ministry had not been temporal (and thus temporary)! But, to leave that aside: in the case of the children whom Christ took into his arms and blessed (Mt 19 and parallels), that preparation was in any case not present. Therefore, let us let him run with his false principle!

(19) Finally, he takes (the scriptures with reference to) the (Hermes) Trismegistos and the Sibyls as protective helpers for the fact that the holy ablutions were only for adults. There you can see what a reverent opinion he has of the baptism of Christ, judging it according to the unholy customs of the pagans, so that it would not be administered differently than it pleased (Hermes) Trismegistos! But for us, in the higher place is the authority of God, to whom it pleased to sanctify infants and to initiate them with the sacred mark, the power of which they did not yet understand because of their age, nor do we think it right to borrow from the atonement customs of the pagans anything that should alter in our baptism God’s eternal and inviolable law, as he established it with reference to circumcision.

(20) And at the end he makes the consideration: if infants were allowed to be baptized without understanding anything about it, baptism might be administered even by children at play for imitation or for jest. But about this he might argue with God, at whose command circumcision was given to children before they had received understanding, was it therefore a playfulness or a thing subject to childish silliness, so that children might have overturned the holy institution of God? But it is not to be wondered at that such rejected spirits, as if driven by madness, bring forward even the grossest absurdities in defense of their errors; for by such giddy frenzy God takes just vengeance upon them for their pomposity and contumacy. In any case, I hope I have made it clear with what frail supports Servet assisted his brethren, the Anabaptists.

IV,16,32 I suppose that it is now no longer doubtful to any sensible person how rashly the church of Christ is brought into confusion by such people as excite strife and contention over infant baptism. But it is now appropriate to pay attention to what Satan actually sets in motion with such great deviousness: he wants to snatch from our hands precisely the unique fruit of confidence and spiritual joy that can be gained from infant baptism, and also to damage the glory of divine goodness to the same extent. For how sweet it is for pious hearts to gain assurance, not only by the word, but also by what they may see with their eyes, of how they obtain so much grace from their heavenly Father that he also still provides for their posterity! For here it is true to observe how he takes on the role of a very caring father of the house towards us, who even after our death does not abandon the care for us, but looks after our children and gives them his care. Should we not rejoice and give thanks with all our heart after David’s example, so that His name may be sanctified by such a proof of His goodness (Ps 48:11)? Therefore, it is without doubt Satan’s doing when he runs with so much force against infant baptism: this very testimony of God’s grace is to be done out of the means, and thus also the promise, which is held before our eyes by it, is finally to disappear little by little! From this then shall arise not only an ungodly ingratitude against God’s mercy, but also a certain slothfulness to educate the children to godliness. For if we consider that our children are treated and acknowledged by him as children from the moment of their birth, this is an incentive that not a little encourages us to educate them in the earnest fear of God and in keeping the law, so let us not maliciously obscure God’s beneficence, let us offer him our children, to whom he assigns a place among his friends and household, that is, among the members of the church!

Chapter Seventeen


Of the Holy Supper of the Lord - and what it brings us

IV,17,1 God once took us into his household, not only to regard us as his servants, but as his children. But having done this, he also wants to fulfill the office of a very good father who takes care of his children, and for this purpose he takes it upon himself to give us food throughout the course of our lives. Yes, he has not been satisfied with this, but has given us a pledge with which he has wanted to assure us of such continual kindness. For this purpose, through the hand of His only begotten Son, He gave His children the second sacrament, namely the spiritual meal, in which Christ testifies that He is the life-giving bread through which our souls are fed to true, blessed immortality (John 6:51). Now it is of urgent necessity to know this great mystery, and in view of its importance it requires a thorough exposition. Moreover, Satan has wanted to deprive the Church of this immeasurable treasure and, with this intention, has first raised fog and then darkness before it in order to obscure its light; he has also stirred up quarrels and fights in order thus to dissuade the senses of simple-minded people from the enjoyment of such holy food, and he has also tried the same ruse in our time. I must therefore first summarize the essential content of the matter with regard to the comprehension of the uninformed, but then also untie those knots in which Satan has tried to entangle the world. First: the signs (in this sacrament) are bread and wine: they represent to us the invisible food which we receive from Christ’s flesh and blood. For as God in baptism gives us regeneration, incorporates us into the fellowship of his children, and by receiving us into filiation makes us his own, so, as has been said, he fulfills the office of a caring householder in granting us food continually, so as to preserve and keep us thereby in the life to which he has begotten us by his word. And then: the one food of our soul is Christ, and therefore the heavenly Father invites us to him, so that, being made partakers of him, we may receive refreshment and thereby continually gather new strength until we have attained to heavenly immortality. But this mystery of Christ’s hidden union with the pious is incomprehensible by its nature; therefore he makes known a representation or image of such mystery in visible signs, which are best adapted to our small measure, yes, he gives us, as it were, pins and marks and thus makes it a certainty for us, as if we saw it with our eyes. For it is a familiar parable that penetrates even to the most ignorant mind: our souls are fed with Christ just as bread and wine sustain bodily life. Thus it is already clear to us what purpose this hidden blessing (mystica benedictio) serves: it is to provide us with the certainty that the body of the Lord was once sacrificed for us in such a way that we now enjoy it as food and, through such enjoyment, experience the efficacy of this one sacrifice for us, - and that his blood was once poured out for us in such a way that it becomes a drink for us forever. So the words of the promise are added: "Take, … this is my body, which is given for you" (Lk 22:19; not Luther-text; 1Cor 11:24; Mt 26:26; Mar 14:22). So we are told to "take" and "eat" the body that was once offered for our salvation, so that we may see that we are made partakers of this body and come to the firm assurance that the power of His life-giving death will be at work in us. Therefore He also calls the cup the "covenant" (Luther text: "the new testament") in His blood (Lk 22:20; 1Cor 11:25). For every time he gives us that holy blood to drink, it is in such a way that he renews the covenant that he once confirmed with his blood, or better continues it, as far as it serves to strengthen our faith.

IV,17,2 Rich fruit of confidence and sweetness can now be received by the pious souls from this sacrament, because they have the testimony that we have grown together with Christ into one body, so that everything that is his may also be called our own. From this it follows that we may dare to be confident that eternal life belongs to us because he himself is his heir, that the kingdom of heaven, into which he has already entered, can no more be snatched from us than from him, and that, on the other hand, we cannot be condemned by our sins because he has already absolved us of the guilt they establish, having willed that they should be imputed to him as if they were his own. This is the miraculous exchange that he entered into with us in his immense goodness: He became the Son of Man with us and made us sons of God together with Himself; He descended to earth and thereby opened the way for us to ascend to heaven; He assumed our mortal nature and thereby made us partakers of His immortality; He made our weakness His own and thereby strengthened us with His power; He took upon Himself our poverty and thereby added His riches to us; the burden of our unrighteousness, which oppressed us, He took upon Himself and thereby clothed us with His righteousness.

IV,17,3 All these things are so fully witnessed to us in this sacrament that we are to believe with certainty that they are truly presented to us, not unlike Christ himself being present, coming before our eyes and being touched by our hands. For this word cannot lie to us nor deceive us, "Receive, eat, drink; this is my body given for you, this is my blood shed for the remission of sins." He commands, "Take ye", indicating that it (He) is ours. He commands, "Eat," and by this he shows that it (he) becomes substance with us. He preaches of his body that it is given for us, and of his blood that it is shed for us - thus he teaches that both are not both his, but rather our own; for he did not accept and put both on for his own benefit, but for our salvation. But it must be diligently observed that the effect of this sacrament rests chiefly, indeed almost wholly, on the words. "Which is given for you … which is shed for you." For otherwise, namely, if the body and blood of the Lord had not even been given for our redemption and salvation, it would not avail us much that they are now distributed. They are therefore made present to us under bread and wine, so that we may learn that they not only belong to us, but are also intended for us as food for spiritual life. This is what we drew attention to above: from the bodily things presented to us in the sacrament, we are led over, as it were, by means of a relationship of correspondence (analogia) to the spiritual ones. So, when the bread is given to us as a sign of the Body of Christ, we must immediately take the parable to heart: as such bread nourishes, sustains and preserves the life of our body, so the Body of Christ is the only food to nourish our soul and make it alive. Seeing that wine is set before us as a sign of Christ’s blood, we should consider what benefit wine brings to our bodies, and then consider that the same benefit comes to us spiritually through Christ’s blood; but this effect is precisely that we are nourished, refreshed, strengthened, and made glad by it. If we sufficiently consider what the offering of this holy body and the shedding of this blood has brought us, we will clearly perceive that, according to this relationship of correspondence, these qualities of the bread and the wine, in their effect on us, are best suited to Christ’s body and blood when they are given to us.

IV,17,4 The most important task of this sacrament is therefore not to offer us Christ’s body badly and without deeper consideration, but it consists rather in giving us that promise in which He testifies that His flesh is in truth a food, His blood in truth a drink (John 6:55), by which we are fed to eternal life, that promise in which He declares that He is "the bread of life" (John 6:48), and that whoever eats of this bread will not die for eternity (John 6:51) - I say: to seal and confirm to us that promise, and to lead us, so that this may happen, to Christ’s cross, where it has been redeemed in truth and fulfilled in full. For only as the Crucified can Christ rightfully and salvifically be our food, grasping the efficacy of his death with living sensibility. For when He called Himself "the bread of life" (John 6:48), He did not take this self-designation from the sacrament, as some misinterpret it. No, he called himself so because he was given to us by the Father as the bread of life and also proved himself as such by becoming partaker of our human mortality and thereby making us fellow members of his divine immortality, by offering Himself as a sacrifice, thereby taking upon Himself our condemnation in order to imbue us with His blessing, by swallowing up and annihilating death with His death, and by raising up in His resurrection this our perishable flesh, which He had put on, to glory and imperishability.

IV,17,5 But now all this must also be adapted to us and thereby come to us; this happens on the one hand through the Gospel, but on the other hand even more clearly through Holy Communion, in which He offers Himself with all His goods and we receive Him in faith. The sacrament, then, does not have the effect that Christ first begins to be the bread of life with him; no, it calls to our remembrance that he has become the bread of life, which is to give us food continually, it grants us a tasting and tasting of this bread, and in doing this it causes us to experience the power of that bread. For it gives us the promise that everything Christ did or suffered was done to make us alive. And further, it assures us that this making alive, by virtue of which we are to be nourished, sustained, and preserved in such life without end, is eternal. For just as Christ would not have been the bread of life for us if he had not been born and died for us and if he had not risen for us, so, on the other hand, he would not be now at all if the power and fruit of his birth, death and resurrection were not an eternal and immortal thing. Christ expressed all this aptly when he said: "The bread that I will give is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world" (John 6:51). With these words he undoubtedly gave to understand that his body would therefore become bread for us for the spiritual life of the soul, because it was to be given in death for our salvation, and would be given to us to eat when he made us partakers of it in faith. So he gave his body once to become bread, when he gave it to the cross for the redemption of the world, and he gives it (on the other hand also) day by day by offering it to us, as he was crucified, in the word of the gospel, that we may become partakers of it, he gives it where he seals such offering in the holy mystery (sacrament) of the Lord’s Supper, and he gives it by bringing to fulfillment inwardly what he illustrates outwardly in the sign. Now we must beware of two errors here: on the one hand, we must not lay too much stress on diminishing the signs in their value, and thereby give the impression of tearing them away from the mysteries illustrated in them, to which they are, after all, in a sense attached; and on the other hand, we must not be immoderately anxious to elevate them, and thereby give ourselves the appearance of obscuring to some extent in the meantime also the mysteries themselves. There is no one, unless he be wholly without religion, who does not admit that Christ is the bread of life with which believers are fed to eternal blessedness. On the other hand, there is not the same unanimity among all as to the way in which one partakes of it. There are some who declare in one word that to eat Christ’s flesh and drink his blood is nothing other than to believe in Christ himself. But it seems to me that Christ, in that glorious sermon in which he commands us to eat his flesh, wished to teach something more powerful and sublime, namely, this very thing, that we are made alive by truly partaking of him; and this he also made known by the words "eating" and "drinking," to the end that no one should think that we obtain the life which we receive from him by simple knowledge. For as it is not by looking but by eating the bread that the body is nourished, so the soul must become partaker of Christ in truth and through and through, in order to be strengthened with His power for spiritual life. Meanwhile, we admit that this food is no other than that of faith, just as no other can be conceived. However, the difference between my words and those of the above-mentioned people is that for them "eating" simply means "believing," whereas I maintain that we "eat" Christ’s flesh in faith, because in faith he becomes ours, and this eating is a fruit and effect of faith. Or, if you want it clearer: according to them, eating is faith, whereas according to me, it results from faith. This is a slight difference according to the words, but not an insignificant one in the matter. For the apostle certainly teaches that "Christ dwells in our hearts through faith" (Eph 3:17); but nevertheless no one will interpret this as if such dwelling of Christ in us were (simply) faith, but there is general agreement in the view that here a glorious effect of faith is shown, because believers through faith obtain the gift that they now have Christ as the one who abides in them. In this sense, when the Lord called Himself the Bread of Life (John 6:48), He did not only want to teach that salvation for us is based on faith in His death and resurrection, no, He also wanted to teach how, through true participation in Him, His life passes into us and becomes our own, just as bread, when taken for food, gives strength to the body.

IV,17,6 The representatives of the above view now call Augustin as a warrant. But when he writes that we eat by believing (Homilies on the Gospel of John 26:1), he does so in no other sense than to show that such eating is a matter of faith and not of the mouth. For my part, I do not deny this; but I add at the same time that in faith we do not grasp Christ as one who appears to us from afar, but as the one who unites himself to us so that he may be our head and we his members. Nevertheless, it is not that I simply disapprove of that way of speaking; I only deny that it is a complete interpretation if one wants to determine by it what it means to eat Christ’s flesh. By the way, I see that Augustine used this way of speaking more often. For example, when he says in the third book of his work "On Christian Instruction": "When it is said: ’Will you not eat the flesh of the Son of Man…’ (John 6:53), this is an image in which we receive the instruction to share in the suffering of the Lord and to keep sweetly and profitably in remembrance that His flesh was crucified and wounded for us" (Of Christian Instruction III:16,24). Likewise it happens when he declares that the three thousand people who were converted by Peter’s preaching (Acts 2:41) drank in faith the blood of Christ that they had shed in their raging (Homilies on the Gospel of John 31:9; 40:2). On the other hand, in very many other passages he gloriously extols the benefit of faith, that through it our souls are no less refreshed in communion with the flesh of Christ than our bodies are with the bread they eat. And this is the same thing that Chrysostom writes in one place: Christ makes us his body not only by faith but by deed (Sermon 60). He does not understand this as if such good could be obtained in any other way than by faith; no, he only wants to exclude the possibility that someone, when he hears faith mentioned, understands it as a naked imagination. But those people who are of the opinion that the Lord’s Supper is merely a sign of external confession, I now pass over; for I believe I have sufficiently refuted their error when I spoke of the sacraments in general. Let the reader note only this: when the cup is called a "covenant" ("New Testament") in Christ’s "blood," it expresses a promise strong enough to confirm faith. From this it follows that we do not use Holy Communion properly unless we look to God and accept what He presents to us.

IV,17,7 Furthermore, I am not satisfied with those who acknowledge that we have some fellowship with Christ, but then, when they want to show this fellowship, let us partake only of His Spirit, making no mention whatsoever of the flesh and blood. As if it was all said in vain when it is said that His flesh is truly food, His blood is truly drink (John 6,55), and only he has life who eats this flesh and drinks this blood (John 6,53)! If, therefore, it is certain that the full communion with Christ goes beyond the description of these people, which is much too narrow, I will set out to indicate in a few words how far it goes and extends, and only then will I deal with the opposite error, which consists in stretching that description too far. For I will have to have a longer argument with such teachers who push things too far: in their ignorance they devise an absurd way of such eating and drinking, and thereby it comes about that they rob Christ of his flesh and turn him into a ghost. But all this is only possible if it is possible to grasp this great mystery with any words - but I see that I do not even understand it sufficiently with my heart, and I gladly admit this, so that no one will measure its sublimity according to the small measure of my childish stammering. Yes, I rather urge the readers not to keep the sensation of their understanding in this too narrow limit, but to strive that they rise higher than they are able to under my guidance. For it is the same with me: whenever this matter is discussed, I think, after I have tried to say everything, that I have said very little compared to the dignity of the matter. And although the mind achieves more with its reflection than the tongue with its expression, it too is overcome and overrun by the greatness of the matter. Therefore, at last, nothing remains but that I break out into the admiration of this mystery, which neither my mind can fully consider nor my tongue be able to expound. Nevertheless, I will set forth the main substance of my opinion, as best I may; for I have no doubt that it is true, and am therefore confident that it will not be rejected by pious hearts.

IV,17,8 Above all else, we are taught from Scripture that Christ has been the life-giving Word of the Father since the beginning (John 1:1), the fountain and source of life, from whom all things have ever received life. Therefore John calls Him "the word of life" (1Jn 1:1 s.), and soon he writes that "in Him was life" (John 1:4): with this he indicates that Christ also permeated all creatures and gave them the power to breathe and live. John then adds that life was only revealed to us when the Son of God took on our flesh and allowed Himself to be seen by our eyes and touched by our hands (1Jn 1:2; John 1:14). For, to be sure, he also previously caused his power to overflow upon the creatures; but man was, after all, alienated from God through sin, he had lost his share in life, and now saw death threatening him on every side; so that he might regain the hope of immortality, he had to be received into communion with this Word. For what confidence would you draw from it, if you heard that God’s word, from which you would be as far away as possible, contains the fullness of life, but in yourself and all around you nothing met you and nothing came before your eyes but death? But since this fountain of life has begun to dwell in our flesh, it is no longer hidden from us, but is near us and offers itself to us so that we can partake of it! Yes, he also allows the flesh in which he dwells to be life-giving for us, that we may be fed to immortality by partaking of him. "I am," he says, "the bread of life, come from heaven … And the bread that I will give is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world" (John 6:51; cf. John 6:48). With these words he teaches that he is not only the life inasmuch as he is God’s eternal Word who descended from heaven to us, but that by his descent he poured into the flesh that power which he assumed so that from him we might have a share in life. From this it follows that His flesh is in truth food and His blood is in truth drink (John 6:55) and that believers are nourished to eternal life through such food. So there is a glorious comfort for the pious in the fact that they now find life in their own flesh. For not only do they have easy access to it, but it lies freely before them and comes to meet them. They only need to open the bosom of their heart to receive it as present, then they will receive it!

IV,17,9 However, Christ’s flesh does not of itself have so much power to make us alive; for it was subject to mortality in its former state, and now that it is endowed with immortality, it does not live of itself. But it is nevertheless rightly called "vivifying" because it is imbued with the fullness of life in order to let it pass over to us. In this sense I interpret with Cyril the word of Christ: "As the Father hath life in himself, even so hath he given to the Son to have life in himself" (John 5:26). For in this passage Christ refers in the proper sense to His gifts, and not to those which He possessed with the Father from the beginning, but to those with which He was adorned in the very flesh in which He appeared. He thus shows that the fullness of life also dwells in his human nature: everyone who partakes of his flesh and blood should at the same time partake of life. In which way this happens, I would like to explain with a well-known example. From a well the water is sometimes drunk, sometimes drawn, sometimes diverted through channels for the irrigation of arable land; nevertheless, it is not due to the well itself that it allows its water to overflow for so many uses, but to the source, which in its continual flow again and again offers and gives it new streams. In exactly the same way, Christ’s flesh is like a rich, inexhaustible fountain that allows the life that flows over to it from the Godhead (the "divine nature") to overflow to us. Now who does not realize that communion in Christ’s flesh and blood is indispensable for all who aspire to heavenly life? Numerous statements of the apostle also refer to this. For example, the statement that the church is the "body" of Christ and His "fullness," but that He Himself is "the head" (Eph 1:22f.), "from whom the whole body is joined together, and one member clings to another through all the joints … so that the body may grow" (Eph 4:16). Or the other, that our "bodies are members of Christ" (1Cor 6:15). We understand that this cannot happen in any other way than by Him being wholly, spiritually and corporally united to us. But this indissolubly close fellowship, in which we are joined to Christ’s flesh, the apostle glorified with still more delicious praise, saying, "We are members of his body, of his flesh and of his bones" (Eph 5:30). And finally, to testify that this thing is greater than all conceivable words, he concludes his discourse with the exclamation, "The mystery is great" (Eph 5:32). It would, therefore, testify to extreme folly not to acknowledge a communion of believers with the flesh and blood of the Lord, when the apostle declares that it is so great that he would rather admire it than set it forth.

IV,17,10 To sum up, our souls are not nourished with the flesh and blood of Christ in any other way than as bread and wine sustain and promote bodily life. For the correspondence that exists with the sign (in its relation to the thing) would not fit if souls did not find their nourishment in Christ. And this cannot happen unless Christ grows into one with us in truth and refreshes us by the eating of his flesh and the drinking of his blood. It may seem incredible, however, that Christ’s flesh can penetrate to us at so great a distance to become food for us; but let us consider how far the hidden power of the Holy Spirit reaches beyond all our senses, and how foolish it would be to try to measure its immensity by our measure. Therefore, what our intellect does not comprehend, faith should comprehend: what is spatially separated is united in truth by the Holy Spirit. This holy participation in his flesh and blood, in which Christ lets his life flow over us, as if it were pressing into our marrow and bones, - this he also testifies to and seals in the Lord’s Supper, not by holding up a vain and empty sign, but by bringing to light the active power of his Spirit, so that with it what he promises can be fulfilled. And it is doubtless that he presents and sets before the eyes of all who sit down to that spiritual banquet the thing which is therein illustrated as in a sign, although it is received with fruit by the faithful alone who accept such great kindness in true faith and with hearty gratitude. In this sense, the apostle said that "the bread which we break" is "the communion of the body of Christ," and "the cup which we bless" with word and prayer is "the communion of the blood of Christ" (1Cor 10:16). Nor is there any reason for anyone to object that this is a figurative way of speaking, in which the name of the thing illustrated in the sign is transferred to the sign itself. I admit, however, that the breaking of the bread is a sign and not the thing itself. But if we note this, we may yet rightly conclude from the fact that the sign is presented to us that the thing is also granted to us. For if one does not want to call God mendacious, he will never, ever dare to make the claim that a vain mark is held out to us by him. If, then, by the breaking of the bread, the Lord illustrates in truth the partaking of his body, it must not be doubted at all that he also grants and offers this to us in truth. And all believers must observe the rule that whenever they see the signs which the Lord has set up, they should certainly believe and be convinced that the truth of the thing represented in the sign is also present in it. Why does the Lord give you the sign of his body other than to assure you of your true participation in him? Now if it is true that the visible sign is presented to us to seal the gift of the invisible thing, then when we have received the mark of Christ’s body, we should have the firm confidence that no less will the body itself be given to us.

IV,17,11 So I maintain - and this is how it has always been accepted in the church, just as all who are of the right opinion teach it today - that the holy mystery (sacrament) of the Lord’s Supper consists of two things: of bodily signs, which are set before us and illustrate invisible things to us according to the capacity of our weakness, and of spiritual truth, which is both pictured and presented by the signs themselves. Now, if I want to show in an easy way of what kind this truth is, I use to set up three things: the meaning (significatio), the underlying cause (materia) that depends on it, and the force or effect that results from both. The "meaning" lies in the promises that are, as it were, wrapped up in the sign. By the underlying cause or "substance" I refer to Christ with His death and resurrection. But by the effect I mean redemption, righteousness, sanctification, eternal life and all the other benefits that Christ creates for us. And further: all this, however, refers to faith; but nevertheless I give no room to blasphemy, as if by saying that Christ is apprehended in faith I meant that he is apprehended merely by the intellect or imagination. For when the promises offer Him, it is not in order that we may be caught up in looking at Him or in a mere knowledge, but that we may enjoy a true participation in Him. And I really do not see why anyone would want to have the confidence of having redemption and righteousness in Christ’s cross, and life in his death, without first of all placing his trust in true fellowship with Christ himself. For all these goods would not come to us if Christ did not first make Himself our own. I maintain, then, that in the mystery (sacrament) of the Lord’s Supper, by the marks of bread and wine, Christ is presented to us in truth, and with it his body and blood, in which he has fulfilled all obedience to purchase righteousness for us. And this takes place so that, first, we may grow together with Him into one body, and second, having become partakers of His substance, we may also experience His power by partaking of all His goods.

IV,17,12 Now I pass on to the exaggerated conflations which superstition has brought up. For here Satan has played his game with astonishing guile to draw men’s minds away from heaven and fill them with the twisted error as if Christ were bound to the element of bread. First of all, we must not dream up the presence of Christ in the sacrament in any way as the art masters of the Roman court dreamed it up, as if Christ’s body were placed in spatial presence so that we might feel it with our hands, crush it with our teeth, and swallow it with our mouths. For this is the content of the formula of recantation that Pope Nicholas (II.) dictated to Berengar (of Tours) so that it served as a witness of his penitence; and this was done with such outrageous words that the author of the marginal notes (to the Decretum Gratiani) exclaims that there is a danger that the readers, if they are not careful on their guard, will take from it a worse heresy than that of Berengar (Decretum Gratiani III,2,42; gloss to the Decretum Gratiani on the same passage). And Petrus Lombardus, while taking great pains to gloss over this absurdity, nevertheless leans more toward a dissenting view. For now, on the one hand, we are firmly convinced that the body of Christ is limited after the permanent manner of the human body, and is enclosed by heaven (cf. Acts 3:21), into which it is once received until it comes again to pass judgment; and therefore, on the other hand, we consider it quite unlawful to draw it down again under these perishable elements, or to imagine that it is everywhere present. But this is not necessary in order that we may enjoy a share in him: for the Lord grants us through his Spirit the benefit of becoming one with him in body, mind and soul. The bond of this union, then, is the Spirit of Christ: he is the link by which we are joined to him, and he is, as it were, a channel through which all that Christ himself is and has is conducted to us (Chrysostom in a sermon on the Holy Spirit). Indeed, if we see how the sun shines upon the earth with its rays, and, as it were, in order to beget, nourish, and quicken its offspring, causes its substance to pass upon them-why should the rays of Christ’s Spirit be of less capacity to bring to us communion with his flesh and blood? Hence it comes to pass that the Scriptures, where they speak of our partaking of Christ, trace all its power to the Holy Spirit. Instead of many passages, it may suffice to mention one. Paul, in the eighth chapter of his letter to the Romans, says that Christ dwells in us only through his Spirit (Rom 8,9); but he does not abolish the fellowship with the flesh and blood of Christ that is mentioned here, but he teaches that it is through the Spirit alone that we possess the whole Christ and have him as the one who abides in us.

IV,17,13 More modestly express themselves such school theologians, who are caught in the abhorrence of such barbaric godlessness. But even they do not do anything else than playing their game with subtle juggleries. They admit that Christ is not contained in the sacrament in the spatial sense or in a bodily way; but then they devise a train of thought which they can neither comprehend themselves nor make others comprehend, and which then nevertheless amounts to seeking Christ in the form (species) of the bread, as they call it. Why now? They claim that the substance of the bread is transformed into Christ - do they not thereby bind him to the white color, which now, according to them, alone remains (of the bread)? But, they say, he is contained in the sacrament in such a way that he nevertheless remains in heaven at the same time, and we claim no other presence than that of the sensual substance. But whatever words they may now take as a pretext for giving a beautiful appearance to their cause, the aim with all of them is this, that something which before was bread now becomes Christ through the consecration (consecratio), so that Christ now continues to be hidden under this color of bread. Nor are they ashamed to express this opinion explicitly. For the Lombard literally declares that the body of Christ, which is visible in and of itself, lies hidden under the form of the bread after the consecration and is covered by it (Sentences IV,10,2). Thus the image of that bread is nothing else than a larva, which is to withdraw the sight of the flesh from our eyes. But it does not require much conjecture for us to find out what kind of deceitful suggestions they wanted to prepare with these words, because the facts themselves speak clearly. For it is evident what a great superstition not only the great multitude of people, but also the leading men, have been in for many centuries, and indeed are still in today among the papist churches. For they have had little concern for the true faith, through which alone we come to communion with Christ and are united to Christ, but in the meantime they think they have Christ sufficiently present, if only they possess his carnal presence, which they have contrived for themselves outside the Word. Therefore we see how in this shrewd sophistry essentially so much has come out that bread is thought to be God!

IV,17,14 From this then has sprung that imaginary "transubstantiation" (transformation of substance), for which they nowadays argue more vehemently than for all other main points of their faith. The first builders of the spatial presence (of Christ in the sacrament) could not get out of the question why Christ’s body could be mixed with the substance of the bread without numerous contradictions appearing immediately. It was therefore necessary to resort to the self-invented information that (during the Lord’s Supper) there was a transformation ("transubstantiation") of the bread into the body (of Christ) - not that the bread became the body in the actual sense, but in such a way that Christ destroyed the form of the bread in order to hide Himself under the image of it. But it is astonishing that they should have fallen into such ignorance, nay, stupor, as to have put forward this monstrosity against the contradiction not only of Scripture, but also of the unanimous conviction of the early Church. I admit, however, that some of the ancient church teachers sometimes used the expression "transformation," not because they intended to abolish the substance in the external signs, but because they wanted to teach how the bread consecrated for the mystery (sacrament) was far different from the ordinary and already represented something else. But they all clearly declare that the Holy Communion consists of two parts, an earthly and a heavenly one, and by the earthly one they undoubtedly mean bread and wine. Whatever the Romans may say, however, it is obvious that they lack the support of the early church, which they often dare to oppose to the clear words of God, when they affirm this doctrine. Nor was this doctrine devised very long ago; it is in any case unknown not only to those better times when a purer doctrine of religion was still in force, but also to those times when this purity was already to some extent sullied. Among the ancient church teachers there is not one who does not admit in explicit words that the sacred marks of the Lord’s Supper are bread and wine, although, as has been said, they sometimes distinguish them by various (ornamental) epithets in order to extol the dignity of the sacrament. For when they say that in the consecration a hidden transformation takes place, so that now there is something other than bread and wine, they do not mean, as I have already said, that these elements are nullified, but rather that they must now be regarded differently from ordinary food, which is intended only to nourish the body, and this because in them the spiritual food and drink of the soul are offered to us. We do not deny this either. But when a transformation occurs, they say, one must necessarily arise from the other. If by this they mean that it becomes something that it was not before, then I say yes. But if they want to refer it to their phantasmagoria, then they should give me an answer as to what kind of transformation occurs in their opinion at baptism. For even in this case the Fathers of the Church state a miraculous transformation, claiming that the perishable element becomes the spiritual bath of the soul, although no one denies that the water remains water. But, they say, at baptism we find nothing of the kind of the word at the Lord’s Supper, "This is my body." As if it were a question here of those words which have a sufficiently clear sense, and not rather of the expression "transformation," which must have no greater meaning in the Lord’s Supper than in baptism. So let them get away with such syllabic haste, by which they bring to light nothing but their ignorance! Also the meaning (of the sign) would not fit, if the truth, which is illustrated in bread and wine, would not find a living expression in the external sign. Christ wanted to testify with an external sign that his flesh is food; if he now presented us only a vain spectre of bread, but not real bread - where would then remain that relationship of correspondence or that similarity, which should lead us from the visible thing to the invisible one? For in order that everything might fit together, under such circumstances the meaning would extend no further than that we were fed by the "form" of Christ’s flesh! It is the same with baptism: if it were only an image of water, deceiving our eyes, then baptism would not be a certain pledge of our cleansing, indeed, it would give us cause to waver because of such deceptive appearances. The essence of the sacrament is thus nullified, unless the earthly sign corresponds in kind to the sign-like illustration of the heavenly thing. And therefore, the truth of this mystery is lost if the true bread does not visualize the true body of Christ. I repeat it again: the Lord’s Supper is nothing else than the visible testimony of the promise found in the sixth chapter of John’s Gospel, namely, that Christ is the bread of life which came down from heaven (John 6:46, 51); therefore, if this spiritual bread is to be illustrated, visible bread must necessarily intervene, if we do not want to lose all the fruit which God grants in this piece for the support of our weakness. Paul says that all of us who are partakers of one bread are one bread and one body (1Cor 10:17); now in what way could he come to this conclusion if we were left with only a specter of bread and not rather the natural reality?

IV,17,15 Now they would never have been so miserably led on by the juggleries of Satan, if they had not already (before) been enchanted by that error, that the body of Christ is enclosed in the bread and is then conveyed into the body with the bodily mouth. The reason for this gross conceit was that the consecration meant as much to them as a magic incantation. But they were unaware of the principle that bread is a sacrament only for those to whom the word is addressed, just as the water of baptism does not change in itself, but as soon as the promise is joined to it, it begins to be something for us that it was not before. I will take a similar sacrament as an example; then the matter will become clearer. The water that flowed out of the rock in the wilderness (Ex 17:6) was for the fathers the identifying mark and sign of the same thing that the wine in the Lord’s Supper illustrates for us. For Paul teaches that they "drank the same spiritual drink" (1Cor 10:4). But this water was also drunk together with the people, their beasts of burden and their cattle. From this it is easy to see that the earthly elements, when applied to spiritual use, do not undergo any other transformation than with respect to the people, inasmuch as these elements are for them seals of the promises. And furthermore, if it is God’s intention, as I have said several times, to lift us up to Himself by appropriate means, then the people who call us to Christ, but to Him who is supposed to lie invisibly hidden under the bread, ungodly nullify this with their stubbornness. It cannot happen (so they thought) that the spirit of man frees itself from the immense spatial distance and penetrates beyond the heavens to Christ. And what nature failed them, they then tried to improve with an even more harmful medicine, so that we remain on earth and (yet) do not miss the nearness of the heavenly Christ. One can see: this is the necessity that forced them to let the body of Christ change in its substance! At the time of Bernard, a rather hard way of speaking had already been established, but transubstantiation was not yet recognized. And in all the centuries before, the parable was on everybody’s lips, that in this sacrament the spiritual thing was connected with bread and wine. As for the words (bread and wine) (which, after all, speak against such transubstantiation), they give, indeed, according to their opinion, sagacious answers; but they do not thereby bring forward anything that fits the matter under trial here. Thus they say: the staff of Moses, which was changed into a serpent, gets the name "serpent", but it nevertheless keeps the former name and is called "staff" (Ex 4,3; 7,10). Thus, according to their opinion, it is to be acknowledged to the same extent if the bread, although it passes into a new substance, is still called in an inauthentic sense, but still not without sense, what it is before the eyes and in appearance (namely, precisely as bread). But what resemblance or kinship do they find between that miracle, which after all is known, and their contrived imposture, to which not a single eye on earth is witness? (The thing was rather in such a way:) The magicians drove with juggleries their game, in order to teach the Egyptians the conviction, they feien equipped with divine strength, in order to transform the creatures beyond the order of the nature. Then Moses stood up and destroyed all their deceptions and showed that the insurmountable power of God was on his side, because his staff alone swallowed all the rest (Ex 7,12). But because this transformation was visible to the eyes, it has, as said, nothing to do with our matter here, also the staff returned to its form in a visible way a short time later (Ex 7,15). In addition, one does not know whether this temporary transformation was also a transformation of the substance. It must also be noted that Moses (by retaining the name "staff") alludes to the staffs of the magicians; for the prophet did not wish to call these staffs "serpents," lest he should seem to imply a transformation which was not one; for these jesters had done nothing but cast darkness into the eyes of the spectators. Now what similarity is there between this process and the words about the Lord’s Supper? I mention, for example, "The bread that we break …" (1Cor 10:16), or "As often as you eat of this bread …" (1Cor 11:26), or "They had fellowship in the breaking of bread …" (Acts 2:42; inaccurate) - or similar words. Surely it is certain that by the conjuration of the magicians merely the eyes were deceived. As for Moses, the matter is not so clear: it was just as easy for God to make a serpent out of a staff and a serpent out of a staff by his hand, as to put fleshly bodies on the angels and take them off again. If it were the same or similar with this sacrament, then the solution of these people would have some appearance for itself. (But this is not the case.) It must therefore remain certain: in the Lord’s Supper we are only given the promise in truth and in accordance with the facts, that Christ’s flesh will truly become our food, if the real substance of the outward sign corresponds to this promise. But one error always arises from another, and so one passage in Jeremiah has been so absurdly twisted in order to prove transubstantiation that I am annoyed to report it. The prophet complains that they have put wood in his bread (Jer 11:19; according to the Latin translation, the Vulgate), and thus he indicates that his bread has become full of bitterness because of the raging of his enemies. This is just as David, using the same image, complains that they have spoiled his food with gall and his drink with vinegar (Ps 69:22). Our opponents, however, give the passage (in Jeremiah) an allegorical interpretation in such a way that here it would be said that Christ’s body was pinned to the wood of the cross (and then, according to this passage, placed in the bread). But, they probably retort, some of the ancients also thought this way! As if it were not better to credit them with their ignorance and cover their shame than to add another impertinence, so that the ancients are now forced to clash hostilely with the original meaning of the prophet’s word.

IV,17,16 There are others who see that one cannot destroy the correspondence of sign and signified thing without thereby collapsing the truth of the sacrament, and who therefore admit that the bread in the Lord’s Supper is in truth the substance of an earthly and perishable element, and undergoes no transformation in itself, but (and this is the decisive point) has the body of Christ "under" (enclosed in) it. Now it could be that they interpreted their opinion in this way: when the bread is presented in the sacrament, the presentation of the body of Christ is directly connected with it, because the sign has inseparably with it the truth represented in it. If it were so, I would raise no substantial dispute. In fact, however, they think of the body itself as being spatially present in the bread and thereby impute to it an omnipresence that is in contradiction with its nature; they also add the little words "under the bread" and thus want to show that the body lies hidden under the bread. Since this is the way it is, it is necessary to pull such deviousness a little out of its nooks and crannies. Now I do not have in mind here to treat this whole matter as an actual subject, but I only want to lay the foundations for the argument that will soon follow in the place intended for it. So they want the body of Christ to be invisible and immeasurable (i.e., inconceivable), so that it may be hidden under the bread; for they believe that they cannot have fellowship with it in any other way than when it descends into the bread. But they do not understand the way of such descent, by which he lifts us up to himself. They use all kinds of illusory colors as a pretext; but when they have said everything, it becomes sufficiently evident that they insist on a spatial presence of Christ. Where does this come from? They cannot imagine any other participation in His flesh and blood than that which consists in spatial connection and contact or in some gross enclosure (of the body of Christ in the bread).

IV,17,17 In order to stubbornly defend such an error, which they once thoughtlessly raised, some of them have no hesitation in asserting that Christ’s flesh never had any other dimensions than so far and wide heaven and earth extend. But that he was born as a child from the womb of his mother, that he grew, was stretched out on the cross, and was closed in the tomb, this, according to them, happened by virtue of a kind of dispensational order, so that he fulfilled the task of being born, dying, and taking upon himself other human duties. That he was seen in the usual bodily form after his resurrection, taken up into heaven and finally appeared to Stephen and Paul after his ascension (Acts 1:3, 9; 7:55; 9:3), this goes back, they further claim, to the same dispensational order, so that it would be accessible to the sight of men that he was appointed as king in heaven. What does this mean but to pull Marcion out of hell? For no one can doubt that Christ’s body, if it was in such a state, was a simulacrum or an illusory body! Some also draw out of the matter a little more sophistically: they say that this body, which is given in the sacrament, is a glorified and immortal body, and therefore there is no contradiction in it, if it is contained in many places, without any place (without any spatial bondage) and without any form, under the sacrament. But I ask: In what form did Christ give his body to the disciples on the day before he was to suffer? Are not the words that he gave them that very mortal body which was to be given away shortly afterwards? But, they say, He had already given His glory to three disciples on the mountain (of transfiguration) to see (Mt 17,2)! This is indeed true; but with this transfigured glory he wanted to grant them a taste of immortality for one hour. However, they will not find a twofold body, but just the one Christ bore, adorned with new glory! But when he distributed his body in the first supper, the hour was already approaching in which he would lie there "beaten" and humbled by God, without adornment and afflicted with leprosy (Isa 53:4). So little can it be said that in this meal he would have wanted to bring to light the glory of the resurrection. Moreover, what a large window is opened for Marcion, if Christ’s body was seen as mortal and lowly in one place, but immortal and glorious in another! If the opinion of these people is to be valid, this happens day after day in the same way, because they have to admit that the body of Christ, which is visible in itself, is invisibly hidden under the sign of the bread. And yet the people who utter such monstrosities are so purely unashamed of their disgrace that they themselves berate us with wild invectives because we do not subscribe to their opinion.

IV,17,18 Well then, if one wants to bind the body and blood of the Lord to the bread and wine, one must necessarily tear them apart. For as the bread is served separately from the cup, so also the body, which is served with the bread, must necessarily be separated from the blood, which is included in the cup. If they claim that the body of Christ is in the bread and his blood in the cup, and if furthermore bread and wine are separated from each other by a spatial distance, then they cannot escape the conclusion with any evasion that then also the body of Christ must be separated from his blood. Here, however, they usually make a pretext: by virtue of the "mutual being together" (concomitantia), as they invent it, the blood is in the body and the body in turn in the blood. But this is indeed too frivolous a thing, since the signs in which body and blood are enclosed are distinguished in this way. If, on the other hand, we are led up to heaven with our eyes and hearts to seek Christ there in the glory of his kingdom, then it will happen that, just as the marks invite us to him in his wholeness, we will in the same way also be fed by his body under the mark of the bread and be specially watered by his blood under the mark of the wine, in order finally to enjoy him ourselves in his entirety. For although he has taken away his flesh from us and has gone to heaven with his body, he now sits at the right hand of the Father, that is, he reigns in the power, majesty and glory of the Father. This kingdom of his is not limited by any spatial expanse, is not enclosed by any dimensions; No, Christ lets his power work wherever it pleases him, in heaven and on earth, he makes himself known in power and strength as the present one, he always looks to the side of his own, breathes his life into them, lives in them, supports them, strengthens them, animates them and keeps them intact, not differently than if he were present with his body, he finally feeds them with his own body, whose fellowship he lets pass over to them through the power of his spirit. In this sense, the body and blood of Christ are offered to us in the sacrament.

IV,17,19 We must, on the other hand, establish such a presence of Christ in the Lord’s Supper as does not bind Him to the element of bread, nor enclose Him in the bread, nor in any way spatially confine Him (on earth) - for it is obvious that all this detracts from His heavenly glory. Furthermore, we must not imagine Christ’s presence in the Lord’s Supper as taking away his greatness, or as making him be in many places at once, or as imputing to him an immeasurable vastness scattered over heaven and earth - for this is clearly contrary to the genuineness of his human nature. There are therefore two restrictive requirements here, which we never, ever want to be taken away from us. On the one hand, no entry must be made to the heavenly glory of Christ, as happens when he is brought again among the perishable elements of this world or when he is bound to any earthly creatures. On the other hand, nothing must be imputed to his body that does not correspond to human nature: this happens when one claims that he is unlimited, or when one lets him be in many places at the same time. For the rest, after these absurdities have been removed, I willingly accept everything that can serve to express the true and essential participation in the body and blood of the Lord, which are offered to the faithful under the sacred signs of the Lord’s Supper. And this is to be done in such a way that it is not understood as if the believers grasped Christ’s body and blood merely in their imagination or with the comprehension of their intellect, but rather in such a way that they actually enjoy them as food for eternal life. That this (my) opinion is so abhorrent to the world and that its defense is made impossible from the outset by the unreasonable judgments of many people, is due only to the fact that Satan has beguiled the senses of such people with terrible sorcery. In any case, what we teach is in perfect harmony with the Scriptures in all respects; it contains nothing absurd, nothing dark, and nothing ambiguous; it is not contrary to true piety and well-founded edification; and, finally, it does not contain anything irritating or arousing; it is just that for several centuries, when the ignorance and lack of education of the clever led the way in the church, such clear light and such obvious truth were miserably suppressed. But since Satan, even today, endeavors to besmirch this truth with all kinds of vituperation and reproach through restless spirits, and since he is bent on nothing else with greater effort, it is appropriate to protect and defend it more vigorously.

IV,17,20 Now, before proceeding further, we must treat the endowment itself as Christ accomplished it; especially since the favorite accusation of our adversaries is that we are departing from the words of Christ. Now, in order to free ourselves from the false calumny with which they charge us, we will most skillfully begin by interpreting the (endowment) words. According to the account of three evangelists and that of Paul, Christ took the bread, broke it after a thanksgiving, gave it to his disciples, and said, "Take and eat, this is my body which is given - or: broken - for you." Of the cup, Matthew and Mark report the words, "This cup is the blood of the New Testament, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins" (version somewhat inaccurate according to Mt 26:28). Paul and Luke, on the other hand, report, "This cup is the New Testament in my blood …" (Version according to 1Cor 11:25; to the whole: Mt 26,26-28; Mar 14:22-24; Lk 22:17, 19 s.; 1Cor 11:24f.). The defenders of transubstantiation are now of the opinion that by the little word "that" the "form" of the bread is indicated; for (according to their view) the "consecration" (consecration) is accomplished by the whole context of the words, and there is no "substance" present to which reference could be made. But if they allow themselves to be held by the pious reverence for the words, because Christ testified that what he gave into the hands of his disciples was his body, - in any case their fantasy, according to which what was bread before is now supposed to be (Christ’s) body, has not the least to do with the actual meaning of these words. What Christ takes in his hand and presents to his apostles is, he declares, his body. But he had taken bread in his hand - and who does not understand, therefore, that it was also bread which he showed them, and that therefore there is nothing more absurd than when one transfers what is said of the bread to the "form"? Others understand the little word "is" as if it were put for "to be transformed" (thus implying the process of transubstantiation), and thus take their recourse to an even more forced and forcibly twisted interpretation. They have, therefore, no reason to use the pretext that they are moved by the reverence of the words. For in no nation and in no language has anything ever been heard of the little word "is" being used in this sense, that is, in the sense of "being changed into something else." Now, as for those who leave the bread in the Lord’s Supper (that is, do not speak of a "figure" or the like) and then claim that it is the body of Christ, there is great diversity among them. Some express themselves quite modestly; they lay sharp emphasis on the letter: "This is my body", but afterwards they let go of their sharpness and say that these words mean as much as that Christ’s body is "with the bread, in the bread and under the bread". Of the matter they assert we have already given some brief intimations, and it must soon be spoken of in more detail. Now the discussion is concerned solely with the words by which, according to their assertion, they are compelled not to admit the view that the bread is therefore called "body" because it is the sign of the body. But if they now avoid every figurative mode of speech (tropus), why do they leap from the simple reference of Christ to their modes of speech so essentially different? Because it is something essentially different, whether one says that the bread is the body, or: the body is "with" the bread! But they have just seen how it is impossible to maintain the statement: "the bread is the body" in its simple literal sense, and therefore they have tried to escape with such forms of speech as if by crooked detours. Others, however, are bolder, and they assert without hesitation that the bread is the body in its proper sense - and in this way they prove that they really obey the letter! If one opposes them, then the bread is Christ and God, then they will deny this, because it is not expressly found in the words of Christ. But they will achieve nothing with their denial, for there is general agreement that in the Lord’s Supper the whole Christ is offered to us! But it is an intolerable blasphemy to declare without a picture of a frail and perishable element that it is Christ. I mention two statements, one: "Christ is the Son of God", and the other: "the bread is the body of Christ" - and now I ask them if they mean the same thing. If they concede that they are, however, different - and to this concession they can be forced against their will - let them answer me the question whence such difference comes. They will, I think, adduce no other cause than that the very bread is called "body" in the manner of the sacrament. From this then it follows that Christ’s words are not subject to the general rule, and must not be judged by grammar. And then: Luke and Paul call the cup "the (New) Testament in blood …" (Lk 22:20; 1Cor 11:25); now I ask all these people, who insist so hard and strictly on the letter, whether Luke and Paul do not express with these words the same as in the first statement link, where it says: "This is my body." At any rate, there was the same holy reverence in the one part of the sacrament as in the second, and since brevity does not give a clear sense, the longer speech makes the sense stand out clearly. Every time, therefore, when they assert, on the basis of one word, that the bread is the body of Christ, I put forward, on the basis of a greater number of words, the well-fitting interpretation that the bread is "the testament in his body." Why then can one seek a more faithful and certain interpreter than Luke and Paul? Now I have no intention of in any way weakening the communion with the body of Christ which I have confessed; my intention is only to repel the foolish obstinacy with which they argue so hostilely about words. With Paul and Luke as warrantors, I understand it to mean that the bread is the body of Christ, and that because it is the covenant in his body. If they contend against it, they have not to contend with me, but with the Spirit of God. And even if they complain vehemently that they are prevented by reverence for the words of Christ from daring to understand what is openly said, this is not a sufficiently just excuse to reject all the reasons we put forward against it. However, as I have already pointed out, we must know what it means when it is said that in the body and blood of Christ is the testament (the covenant); for the covenant, which was confirmed by the sacrifice of his death, would be of no use to us if that hidden fellowship were not added, by virtue of which we grow into one with Christ.

IV,17,21 It remains, then, for us to admit that, for the sake of the resemblance which the things illustrated in the sign (res signatae) have to their signs, the very name of the thing has also been attached to the sign; and this has been done in a figurative manner (figurate), but not without a most appropriate relation of correspondence (analogia). I leave symbolic interpretations and similes aside, so that nobody claims that I seek evasions or go beyond the matter that is presently under discussion. I maintain that it is a question here of a transferring way of speaking (metonymicus sermo), which is used again and again in the Scriptures, where it concerns the mysteries (sacraments). For when it is said that circumcision was the "covenant" (Gen 17:13), the lamb was the "passing over" (Passover; Ex 12:11), the sacrifices under the law were atonements (Lev 17:11; Hebr 9:22), and finally the rock from which water flowed forth in the wilderness was Christ (Ex 17:6; 1Cor 10:4), this can only be understood if one assumes that it is said in a figurative sense. But not only is the name transferred from the superior to the inferior, but on the contrary, the name of the visible sign is also attached to the thing illustrated in the sign; thus, when it is said that God appeared to Moses in the thorn bush (Ex 3:2), or when the ark of the covenant is called "God" or "God’s face" (Ps 84:8; 42:3), or when the dove is called the Holy Spirit (Mt 3:16). For the sign is different in its nature from the thing represented in the sign, because the latter is spiritual and heavenly, whereas the sign is corporeal and visible; but it not only represents the thing for the representation of which it is sanctified like a naked and empty sign, but it also offers it in truth - and why then should the name of this thing not rightly belong to it? If, after all, the signs devised by men, which are rather pictures of absent things than signs of present ones, and in addition very frequently falsely indicate such things, are nevertheless sometimes adorned with the name of these things, the signs instituted by God borrow with much stronger justification the names of things, Whose certain and absolutely unmistakable meaning they always carry about them, and whose truth they have with them in firm connection; the resemblance and affinity of the one to the other is thus so great that they easily pass into each other reciprocally. Therefore, let our adversaries desist from heaping foolish gibes against us by calling us "tropists" (followers of figurative interpretation) when we interpret the mode of speech applied to the sacraments according to the common (linguistic) usage of Scripture. For as the sacraments agree with each other in many things, so also in this transferring manner of speaking (metonymia) there is something common between them. Thus, as the apostle teaches that the rock from which a spiritual drink gushed forth to the Israelites was Christ (1Cor 10:4), and that because it was to be a visible mark under which that spiritual drink was received in truth, but not conspicuously - so also today the bread is called the body of Christ, because it is a mark in which the Lord offers us the true enjoyment of his body. Nor did Augustine judge otherwise, nor speak - lest anyone despise this view as a new-thought thing! "If the sacraments," he says, "did not have some resemblance to the things of which they are sacraments (signs), they would not be sacraments. By virtue of this resemblance they receive, above all, the names of the things themselves. Therefore, as in a certain sense the sacrament of the body of Christ is the body of Christ, and the sacrament of the blood of Christ is the blood of Christ, so the sacrament of faith is faith" (Letter 98; to Bonifacius). There are many other similar passages in his writings, but it would be superfluous to enumerate them, since that one is sufficient; only I must call the reader’s attention to the fact that the holy man advocates the same doctrine in his letter to Evodius (Letter 169,2.9). A frivolous evasion, however, is the assertion that if Augustine teaches that the transference of the mysteries (sacraments) is common and usual, he did not mention the Lord’s Supper. If one wanted to accept this opinion, then one could not conclude from the general to the particular, and the conclusion would be invalid: all animals have the ability to move, therefore also ox and horse have the ability to move! However, a longer argument is made superfluous by words of the same holy man elsewhere: namely, he claims against the Manichaean Adimantus that when Christ had distributed the sign of his body, he would have called it his body without hesitation (Against Adimantus 12,3). And again in another place, namely in the explanation of the third Psalm, he says: "Wonderful is the longsuffering of Christ, that he called Judas to the supper, in which he commanded and gave the image (figura) of his body and blood to the disciples" (to Ps 3:1).

IV,17,22 If, nevertheless, a stubborn person, blind to everything else, insists only on this one little word: "This is …", as if by this word the Lord’s Supper were divorced from all other mysteries (sacraments), it is easy to answer him. It is said that the word ("is") pointing to the substance is so sharply emphasized that it does not admit of any figurative explanation. If we concede this to the representatives of this view, we can also read this word expressing the substance in the words of Paul, namely, where he calls the bread "the fellowship of the body of Christ" (1Cor 10:16). But the "fellowship" is something other than the body itself. Yes, almost everywhere where the sacraments are spoken of, we encounter the same word of activity. "This will be for you the covenant with me", it says (Gen 17,13; not Luther text). Or: "This lamb will be the Passover for you" (Ex 12,11; not Luther text). And, not to mention more passages: if Paul says that the rock has been Christ - why do those people find the substance-expressing little word ("has been") less emphasized in this passage than in the words of Christ? They should also answer me, what then the substance-expressing activity word in the words of John means: "The Holy Spirit was not yet (there), because Jesus was not yet transfigured" (John 7,39). if they cling to their rule here, the eternal essence of the Holy Spirit must be nullified, as if the Spirit had taken its beginning only with the ascension of Christ! And finally, let them answer me what is the meaning of Paul’s word, according to which baptism is "the bath of regeneration and renewal" (Tit 3:5), while it is certain that for many it is without benefit! There is nothing more powerful to refute this than Paul’s word that the church is Christ (1Cor 12:12). He cites the parable of the human body and then continues: "So also Christ", and there he does not mean the only begotten Son of God in Himself, but in His members. With these remarks I hope to have already reached the point that with men of sound senses and pure natures the blasphemies of our enemies are stinking, when they scatter the assertion that we refuse to believe the words of Christ - while we nevertheless accept them no less obediently than they do themselves and consider them with greater reverence. Yes, their comfortable security is proof that they do not care much about what Christ willed - if it only provides them with a shield for their stubbornness! And likewise, our thorough investigation must bear witness to how high Christ’s authority is to us. They spitefully claim that human sensibilities stand in our way, so that we do not believe what Christ has spoken with his holy mouth; but how insolent it is that they inflict this disgrace on us, I have already made clear to a great extent, and it will come out still more clearly hereafter. Nothing, then, prevents us from believing Christ in his words and, as soon as he has given one thing or another to be understood, from relying on them. It is only a question of whether it is sacrilege to search for the original meaning (of his words).

IV,17,23 In order to appear as well-educated men, these excellent teachers forbid to deviate even in the least from the letter. With me, however, it is like this: the scripture calls God a "man of war" (Ex 15:3); because I now see that this, if it is not meant figuratively, is too harsh an expression, I do not doubt that it is a comparison taken from men. And indeed, when the "anthropomorphites" used to afflict the orthodox fathers, the pretext under which they did so was none other than this: they used such words as: "The eyes of the Lord see" (Deut 11:12; 1Ki 8:29; Job 7:8), or: "It has come up before his ears" (2Sam 22:7; 2Sam 22:7; 2Sam 22:8). Sam. 22:7; 2Ki 19:28 etc.), or: "His hand is stretched out" (Isa 5:25; 23:11; Jer 1:9; 6:12 etc.), or: "The earth is His footstool" (Isa 66,1; Mt 5,35; Acts 7,49), and these words they then wildly snatched and shouted that they were robbing God of the body that the Scriptures attached to Him. If this law is allowed to stand, a monstrous barbarity will darken the whole light of faith! For what monstrosities of absurdity will the enthusiasts be allowed to prove (from the Scriptures), if they are permitted to cite every single letter in confirmation of their opinions! Our opponents make the objection that it is not probable that Christ, when after all he prepared for the apostles a singular consolation in adversities, spoke allegorically or indistinctly. But this is speaking in our favor! For if it had not occurred to the apostles that the bread was called Christ’s body in a figurative sense, because it was the very sign of that body, they would no doubt have been thrown into confusion by so monstrous a thing. As John reports, at almost the same moment they were also caught up in the least difficulty. They argue with each other about why Christ would go to the Father, they raise the question why he should go out of the world, they do not understand anything about the words that are said to them concerning the heavenly Father before they have seen him (John 14:5.8; 16:17). How then should the same disciples, behaving in this way, have been able with ease to believe something that all reason rejects, namely that Christ was sitting at the table before their eyes and yet at the same time was decided invisibly under the bread? But now they eat the bread without hesitation, and thus testify to their unanimous understanding; from this it is clear, therefore, that they understood the words of Christ in the same sense as we do; it just occurred to them, which must not seem impossible in the case of the mysteries (sacraments), that the name of the thing illustrated in the sign should be attached to the sign! The consolation was therefore certain and clear for the disciples, as it is for us, and not wrapped in any mystery. And if some people do not want to have anything to do with our interpretation, there is no other reason for it than that the devil’s enchantment has blinded them, so that they imagine the dark shadows of riddles, when the interpretation of the rounded image is on the way. Moreover, if they are so keen on the words, Christ would have to have said something different about the bread by itself than about the cup. He calls the bread his body, the wine he calls his blood; this would then be either a confused talk or a dichotomy, which separated the body from the blood! Yes, it would (then) be just as truthful if it were said of the cup, "This is my body," as if that had been said of the bread itself, and again it could have been said that the bread was the blood! If they reply that one must pay attention to the purpose and use to which the marks are put, I admit that; but in the meantime they can by no means wriggle out of the fact that their error entails the absurd assertion that the bread is the blood of Christ and the wine His body! Now I do not know what it means that they admit that the bread and the body are different things, but then claim that one is said of the other (i.e. the bread is the body …) in the proper sense and without image. This is exactly as if someone said that a garment is different from man and yet is said to be man in the proper sense. Meanwhile, they claim that one accuses Christ of lying if one inquires into the interpretation of his words - just as if for them victory consisted in obstinacy and in scolding reproaches! Now the readers will easily be able to judge what an unjust dishonor these syllabic hashers do to us, by teaching simple people the opinion that we withdraw faith from the words of Christ, while these words, as we have proved, are nonsensically twisted and confused by them, but faithfully and correctly interpreted by us.

IV,17,24 But the stain of this lying assertion cannot be completely eradicated unless the other accusation is refuted: namely, they claim that we are so attached to human reason that we attribute nothing more to the power of God than the order of nature would bear and common sense would admit. In the face of such unjust vituperation, I refer to the doctrine itself; it shows clearly enough that I do not measure this mystery according to human reason or subject it to the laws of nature. I would like to know: have we learned from the naturalists that Christ nourishes our souls from heaven with his flesh just as our bodies are nourished with bread and wine? Where then does this power come from the flesh, that it gives life to souls? Everyone will say that this does not come about naturally! Nor will it appeal to human reason that Christ’s flesh comes to us to serve us for nourishment. In short, whoever has tasted of our teaching will be carried away to the admiration of the hidden power of God. But those excellent zealots for this power of God make a miracle for themselves, with the removal of which God and his power are destroyed. With this I would like to exhort the readers once more to consider thoroughly what our doctrine means: whether it depends on common sense - or whether it leaves the world beneath it on the wings of faith and penetrates into heaven! We say that Christ descends to us both in the outward sign and in His Spirit, to make our souls alive in truth with the substance of His flesh and blood. Whoever does not feel that in these few words numerous miracles are decided, is more than insensible. For nothing is more contrary to nature than that souls should borrow spiritual, heavenly life from a flesh which took its origin from the earth and has been subject to death; nothing is more incredible than that things so far apart and separated as heaven and earth, at such great distance, should not only be united, but made one, so that souls receive nourishment from the flesh of Christ! Foolish men, then, should refrain from making us odious with stinking vituperation, as if we were somehow petty in limiting God’s immense power. For it is so, that they either err foolishly at all - or lie brazenly. For the question here is not what God was able to do, but what he wanted to do. But we claim that exactly that happened, what was pleasing to him. But it pleased him that Christ should "become like his brethren in all things," "yet without sin" (Hebr 2:17; 4:15). Of what kind then is our flesh? Isa it not that it has its definite measurement, is spatially enclosed, is touched and seen? But you ask: And why should God not manage that the same flesh fills numerous different places at the same time, that it is not enclosed by any space and has neither measure nor shape? You foolish man, why do you demand from God’s power that it should work so that this flesh is at the same time flesh and yet also not flesh? That is just as if you insist that it should bring it about that the light is light and darkness at the same time! No, she wants the light to be light, the darkness to be darkness and the flesh to be flesh! She will, of course, if she wills, change darkness into light and light into darkness; but if you demand that light and darkness be without distinction, what are you doing but perverting the order of God’s wisdom? So the flesh must be flesh and the spirit must be spirit, each according to the law and with the purpose as it was created by God. But the destiny of the flesh is that it should have one, and that it should have a definite space, that it should have its measurement and its form. Under this destiny Christ assumed the flesh, and, as Augustine testifies, while he gave it incorruption and glory, he did not take away its nature and truth (Letter 187,3,10; to Dardanus).

IV,17,25 On the other hand, they claim to have the word in which God’s will is made manifest. Yes, of course, if they are allowed to remove from the church the gift of interpretation that gives light to the word! I admit that they have the word - but as the Anthropomorphites had it in former times, when they made themselves a corporeal God, or as Marcion and the Manichaeans had it, when they thought of Christ’s body as a heavenly or an illusory body. For these people also cited scriptural testimonies; for example, "The first Adam is of the earth and earthy, the second Adam is of heaven and heavenly" (1Cor 15:47; inaccurate). Or likewise, "Christ emptied Himself and took on the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of a man" (Phil 2:7; inaccurate). But these coarse eaters think that there is no power of God, if the whole order of nature is not turned upside down by the monstrosity they have made up in their brains - and that means rather to "set limits to God" (as they reproach me!), if we try to find out what he is able to do by our own fancies. For from what word have they taken it that the body of Christ is visible in heaven, but on earth it is invisibly hidden under innumerable pieces of bread? They will say that the necessity of Christ’s body being distributed in the Lord’s Supper requires this. It is just so: because it pleased them to deduce from the words of Christ the carnal eating (of his body), they have now been carried away by their own preconceived judgment, and have thought it necessary to devise this sophistry, to which the whole Scripture objects. But the assertion that we somehow diminish God’s power is so perverse that His praise is glorified in a special way by our teaching. But because they constantly suspect us of robbing God of His glory by rejecting what is difficult to believe according to common sense, even if Christ had promised it with His own mouth - I again give the answer, as above, that we do not consult common sense in the mysteries of faith, but accept the teaching that comes from heaven in peaceful scholarship and in the spirit of "meekness" that James commands us (Jam 1:21). However, I do not conceal that where they go perniciously astray, we exercise a beneficial moderation. When they hear the words of Christ, "This is my body," they imagine a miracle that is very far from what he meant. But as soon as evil absurdities arise from this fantasy, they sink into the abyss of God’s omnipotence, because they have already entangled themselves in ropes in their hasty haste, in order to extinguish the light of truth in this way. Hence then comes this puffed-up obstinacy (that they say): We do not want to know in what way Christ is hidden under the bread, but are content with his own word: "This is my body." But we strive, as with all Scripture, to gain the sound understanding of this passage with as much obedience as diligence, and we do not snatch up in perverse impetuosity, without reflection and without selection, whatever first suggests itself to our senses, but let diligent consideration enter in, and accept the sense which the Spirit of God gives us; in Him we put our trust - and then we look down from on high on all that opposes itself in earthly wisdom. Yes, we hold our mind captive so that it does not contradict a single word, and we humble it so that it does not dare to rebel against it. From this has arisen the interpretation of the words of Christ, of which all who are only somewhat experienced in it know well that it is common to the sacraments on account of the constant usages of Scripture. But we do not think that it is forbidden for us to inquire, after the example of the Blessed Virgin, in a matter that is difficult to understand, "How is this to be done?" (Lk 1:34).

IV,17,26 In order to strengthen the faith of the pious, however, nothing will be of greater importance than if they learn that the doctrine we have established is taken from the pure Word of God and is based on its authority. I will therefore also make this clear, as briefly as I am able. That the body of Christ is finite after His resurrection and will be enclosed by heaven until the Last Day is taught - not by Aristotle, but by the Holy Spirit (cf. Acts 3:21)! It is also well known to me that our adversaries carelessly avoid the passages that are cited in this regard. In the passages where Christ says that he will leave the world and go away (John 14,12.28), they claim that this going away is nothing else than a change of his mortal state. But under such circumstances Christ would not have put the Holy Spirit in his place to fill, as they say, the lack of his absence; for then he does not take his place at all; then Christ does not descend again from the heavenly glory to assume the state of mortal life. Undoubtedly the coming of the Holy Spirit and the ascension of Christ are opposed to each other, and therefore it cannot happen that Christ dwells with us in the same way according to the flesh as he sends us his Spirit. In addition, He expressly says that He will "not always" be with His disciples in the world (Mt 26,11; John 12,8). Our opponents also believe to invalidate this word by pretending that Christ said that he would not always be poor and miserable and subject to the hardships of this frail life. But the context of the passage manifestly objects to this; for it is not a question here of poverty and want, or of the wretched condition of Christ’s earthly life, but of worship and honor. The disciples did not like the anointing, because they thought it was a superfluous, useless, and almost wasteful expenditure, and therefore they would have preferred that this money, which they thought was badly wasted, had been used for the poor. Christ answered that he would not always be with them to receive such honorable service (Mt 26,8-11). Augustine did not interpret it differently; he expresses himself completely unambiguously in the following way: "When Christ said, ’You do not have me with you always,’ he was speaking of the presence of his body. For according to his majesty, according to his providence, and according to his ineffable, invisible grace, what he said is fulfilled: ’Behold, I am with you always, even to the end of the world’ (Mt 28:20). But after the flesh that received the word, after that he was born of the virgin, after that he was seized by the Jews, that he was pinned to the wood, that he was taken down from the cross, that he was wrapped in linen, laid in the tomb, and made manifest in the resurrection -it is said of him, ’Me you do not have with you always.’ Why? Because just after the presence of his body, he walked with his disciples for forty days and then went to heaven, and they accompanied him with their looks, but not with their following. He is not here; for He sits there ’at the right hand of the Father’ (Mark 16:19). And yet He is here; for the presence of His majesty has not departed (Hebr 1:3). In another way, according to the presence of his majesty, we have Christ always; but according to the presence of his flesh it is rightly said, ’But me ye have not always.’ For the Church, according to the presence of his flesh, had him for a few days; now she has him with her in faith, but with eyes she does not see him" (Homilies on the Gospel of John 50:13). There Augustine explains - to briefly note this as well - that Christ is present with us in a threefold way: in his majesty, providence and inexpressible grace; by this grace I understand that miraculous communion with his body and blood, provided we only understand that this happens through the power of the Holy Spirit, but not through that imaginary closing of his body under the element. Our Lord testified that He has flesh and bones that can be touched and seen (John 20:27). Nor does "depart" and "ascend" mean to give the appearance of performing and departing, but in truth to do what the words say. Shall we then, someone will say, ascribe a certain realm of heaven to Christ? No, I answer with Augustine, that this is a most rash and superfluous question, if we only believe that he is in heaven (Of Faith and Symbol 6:13).

IV,17,27 Why then-does not the expression "ascension," so often repeated, mean a moving from one place to another? Our adversaries deny this, because under the "height," according to them, is merely implied the majesty of Christ’s lordship. But what does the way in which Christ ascended mean? Does he not ascend before the eyes of his disciples? Do not the evangelists clearly report that he was taken up into the heavens (Acts 1:9; Mark 16:19; Luke 24:51)? Those sophistiastics, on the other hand, claim that he was withdrawn from view by a cloud so that the faithful would learn that he would henceforth no longer be visible in the world. As if, in order to awaken in us the belief in his invisible presence, he would not rather have had to disappear in a single moment, or as if the cloud would not then have had to seize him before he moved a foot! But in fact he is lifted up into the air, and teaches us by the cloud that passes under him that he is no longer to be looked for on earth: from this we conclude with certainty that his dwelling-place is now in heaven; so also Paul declares, and he commands us to expect him from there (Phil 3:20). For this reason the angels point out to his disciples that they are looking in vain for heaven; for Jesus, who is taken up into heaven, will come just as they have seen him ascend. Here, too, the opponents of the sound doctrine find their way out by what they consider to be a clever evasion: namely, they say that he will then come visibly, whereas, however, he never departed from earth, but remained invisibly with his own. As if the angels at this point imposed a double presence of Christ and did not simply make the disciples eyewitnesses of his ascension, so that no doubt would remain! It is as if they said: "Before your eyes he has been taken up into heaven and has appropriated for himself the heavenly kingdom; now this remains, that you wait patiently until he comes again as the judge of the world; for if he has now entered heaven, this has not happened so that he might have possession of it alone, but so that he might unite you and all the pious to himself!

IV,17,28 But since the defenders of this false doctrine are not afraid to embellish it with approving testimonies of the ancient church teachers and especially of Augustine, I will explain in a few words how wrong this undertaking is. Since the testimonies of the ancients have been compiled by learned and pious men, I do not want to discuss a settled matter again - whoever wants to, may take it from their works! Not even from Augustine will I collect everything that contributes to this matter, but I will content myself with showing in a few words that he is indisputably fully on our side. Our opponents, of course, in order to wring him out of our hands, pretend that in his books one repeatedly encounters the phrase that in the Lord’s Supper the flesh and blood of Christ is distributed, namely the sacrifice that was once offered on the cross. But this is a weak pretext, because at the same time he calls the Lord’s Supper a meal of thanksgiving (eucharistia) and the sacrament of the body (of Christ). For the rest, it is not necessary to inquire by a long detour in what sense he uses the expressions "flesh" and "blood"; for he interprets himself by saying that the sacraments receive their name on the ground of likeness to the things they signify, and therefore in a certain way the sacrament of the body is the body (Epistle 98:9; to Bonifacius). In harmony with this is another sufficiently well-known passage: "When the Lord gave the sign (of his Body), he had no hesitation in saying, ’This is my Body’" (Against Adimantus 12). Furthermore, our opponents object that Augustine writes expressly that the body of Christ falls to the earth and enters into the mouth,-this is done (I reply) precisely in the same sense in which he asserts that it is consumed; for he connects the two with each other. Nor is it opposed to this that he says that after the consummation of the mystery (sacrament) the bread is consumed (Of the Trinity III,10,19); for shortly before he had said, "Since this is known to men, because it is consummated by men, it can receive honor as something holy, but not as something miraculous" (ibid. 10,20). There is no other meaning to another word, which our adversaries too carelessly draw to themselves, namely, that Christ carried himself in his hands, as it were, when he presented the bread of the sacrament to his disciples (on Ps 33; 1:10). For Augustine, after all, makes an addition which implies a comparison ("in a manner of speaking"), and thus sufficiently indicates that Christ was not in truth and reality (non vere nec realiter) shut up under the bread (cf. also ibid. 2:2). This is not to be wondered at; for elsewhere he openly asserts that bodies, when the spatial distance from them is taken away, no longer exist anywhere, and because they are nowhere, they are precisely no longer there at all (Letter 187; to Dardanus). The prevarication that it is not about the Lord’s Supper, in which God lets a special power be effective, is without content. For the question had been raised about the flesh of Christ, and there the holy man gave his answer with full deliberation, saying: "Christ has given immortality to his flesh, but has not taken away his nature. It must not be thought that he was scattered everywhere according to this form; for we must be careful not to raise up the divinity of man (Christ) in such a way as to take away from him the truth of his body. And it is not a right conclusion to think that what is in God is everywhere like God" (ibid. 3:10). The reason for this is soon given by Augustine: "For this one person is God and man, and the one Christ is both: everywhere he is God, and in heaven he is man" (ibid.). Now, if there had been something in the Lord’s Supper contrary to the doctrine he had treated, what negligence would it have been not to (expressly) exclude this sacrament, when it is so serious and important a matter! And yet, if anyone reads carefully what follows shortly after, he will find that the Lord’s Supper is also included in the general doctrine: Christ, who is the only begotten Son of God and also the Son of man, is present everywhere in so far as he is God; in the temple of God, that is, in the church, he is present as God dwelling therein, and on the other hand he is present in a certain place in heaven for the sake of the existence of his true body (ibid. 2-6). We see how, in order to unite Christ with the Church, he does not bring forth his body from heaven; and surely he would have done so if Christ’s body were in truth food for us only when it was enclosed under the bread. Elsewhere he sets forth the manner in which believers now possess Christ, and there he says, "Thou hast him by the sign of the cross, by the sacrament of baptism, and by the meat and drink of the altar" (Homilies on the Gospel of John 50:12). I do not want to discuss how far he is right to include a superstitious custom (the "sign of the cross") among the signs of Christ’s presence; but if someone compares the presence of the flesh (of Christ) with the sign of the cross, he shows sufficiently that he does not imagine Christ in two bodies, so that he would have his seat visibly in heaven and at the same time would lie hidden under the bread. If this needs explanation, it should be pointed out that immediately afterwards it is said that according to the presence of His majesty we always have Christ, but according to the presence of His flesh it is rightly said: "You do not always have Me" (Mt 26,11; ibid., 13). Our opponents, on the other hand, claim that at the same time it is added: "According to His ineffable and invisible grace, what was said of Him is fulfilled: ’I am with you always, even to the end of the age’ (Mt 28,20)" (ibid.). But this gives them no advantage at all; for it is confined exclusively to majesty, which is always contrasted with the body, also the flesh is expressly distinguished from grace and power. In the same way one gets to read the same juxtaposition in Augustine elsewhere, when it is said that Christ left his disciples after his bodily presence to be with them in spiritual presence; there it is clear that the nature of the flesh is distinguished from the power of the Spirit, which unites us to Christ, whereas otherwise we would be far from him for the sake of spatial distance. The same mode of speaking is more frequently employed by Augustine; thus, when he says, "According to the rule of faith, and according to sound doctrine, he will once come in the same manner in bodily presence to th