TO ALBRECHT OF MAYENCE

On this day Luther nailed the ninety-five theses on the door of the Schloss Kirche in Wittenberg, being the first time he opposed the Church authorities.

October 31, 1517.

To the Right Reverend Father in Christ, Lord Albrecht, Archbishop of Magdeburg and Mayence, Mark- grave of Brandenburg, his esteemed lord and shepherd in Christ. The grace of God be with him.

May your Electoral Highness graciously permit me, the least and most unworthy of men, to address you. The Lord Jesus is my witness that I have long hesitated, on account of my unworthiness, to carry out what I now boldly do, moved thereto by a sense of the duty I owe you, right reverend father. May your Grace look graciously on me, dust and ashes, and respond to my longing for your ecclesiastical approval. With your Electoral Highness’s consent, the Papal Indulgence for the rebuilding of St.

Peter’s in Rome is being carried through the land. I do not complain so much of the loud cry of the preacher of Indulgences, which I have not heard, but regret the false meaning, which the simple folk attach to it, the poor souls believing that when they have purchased such letters they have secured their salvation, also, that the moment the money tingles in the box souls are delivered from purgatory, and that all sins will be forgiven through a letter of Indulgence, even that of reviling the blessed Mother of God, were any one blasphemous enough to do so. And, lastly, that through these Indulgences the man is freed from all penalties! Ah, dear God! Thus are those souls which have been

committed to your care, dear father, being led in the paths of death, and for them you will be required to render an account. For the merits of no bishop can secure the salvation of the souls entrusted to

him which is not always assured through the grace of God, the apostle admonishing us “to work out our own salvation with fear and trembling,” and, that the way which leads to life is so narrow, that the Lord, through the prophets Amos and Zechariah, likens those who attain to eternal life to brands plucked from the burning, and above all, the Lord points to the difficulty of redemption. Therefore, I could be silent no longer. How then can you, through false promises of Indulgences, which do not promote the salvation or sanctification of their souls, lead the people into carnal security, by declaring them free from the painful consequences of their wrong-doing with which the Church was wont to punish their sins? For deeds of piety and love are infinitely better than Indulgences, and yet the bishops do not preach these so earnestly, although it is their principal duty to proclaim the love of Christ to their people. Christ has nowhere commanded Indulgences to be preached, but the Gospel.

So to what danger does a bishop expose himself, who instead of having the Gospel proclaimed among the people, dooms it to silence, while the cry of Indulgences resounds through the land? Will Christ

not say to them, “Ye strained at a gnat, and swallowed a camel”? In addition, reverend father, it has gone abroad under your name, but doubtless without your knowledge, that this Indulgence is the priceless gift of God, whereby the man may be reconciled to God, and escape the fires of purgatory, and that those who purchase the Indulgences have no need of repentance. What else can I do, right reverend father, than beg your Serene Highness carefully to look into this matter, and do away with this little book of instructions, and command those preachers to adopt another style of preaching, else another may arise and refute them, by writing another book in answer to the previous one, to the confusion of your Serene Highness, the very idea of which alarms me greatly. I hope that your Serene Highness may graciously deign to accept the faithful service which your insignificant servant, with

true devotion, would render you. The Lord keep you to all eternity. Amen. Wittenberg, the night before All Saints’ Day 1517. If agreeable to your Grace, perhaps you would glance at my enclosed theses, that you may see the opinion on the Indulgences is a very varied one, while those who proclaim them fancy they cannot be disputed.

Your unworthy son, MARTIN LUTHER, Augustinian, set apart as Doctor of Sacred Theology. (De

Wette.)

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