TO CHRISTOPH SCHEURL

This letter shows Luther’s modesty, Scheurl espoused Luther’s cause, though later he became estranged from it, when practicing law in Nurnberg.

January 17, 1517.

I have received your letter, my excellent Christoph, which was most agreeable, and yet displeasing to me. Why knit your brows over this? What could please me more than to hear you praise our Staupitz, or rather the Lord Jesus, who dwells in our Vicar-General, so highly? Nothing could rejoice me more than to hear Christ’s voice resounding through him, and bearing fruit. But, on the other hand, what could be more disagreeable than that you should strive for my friendship by loading me with praise? I will not be your friend, for my friendship can be no credit to you, if the proverb be true, “Friends must have all things in common.” Now, if what I have became yours, you would only be richer in sin, folly, and ignominy. For these are my possessions which you dignify by very fine names. Still, I know you mean to say, “It is not you, but Christ I admire in you” — to which I reply, “How can Christ who is pure righteousness dwell alongside sin?” And is not this the greatest pride when a man imagines himself to be the temple of Christ? Only an apostle dare boast of this. I wish you joy in the friendship of our Vicar-General, but do not drag yourself down through my friendship. No doubt our honoured father praises me everywhere, to my great grief and peril, saying it is Christ he lauds in me, and people try to make me believe this. Truly a hard demand! The more of such eulogists one has, and

the closer they cleave to us, the more hurtful they are. “A man’s foes shall be they of his own household,” etc. For God’s favour decreases as that of man increases. God will either be all or nothing. And the worst of it is, the more thou humblest thyself, and puttest praise and favour from thee, the more do these pursue thee to thy great injury. Oh, how much are hatred and blame to be preferred to praise! For hatred only injures us once, while love threatens us with double danger. I do not write

thus to thee, best of all friends, because I scorn your noble heart, but because I have so little confidence in my own. You act like a true Christian who lightly esteems no one except himself. For all are not Christians who esteem others for their learning, virtue, piety, and renown (for the heathen do this also), but it is they who love the poor, needy, and sinful, who are Christ-like. The psalmist calls those blessed who receive, not the learned, wise, and pious, but the poor and needy. And, lastly, Christ declares that what is done to the least of His little ones is done to Him, when He might have

said the opposite. But what is great in man’s eyes is often despicable in God’s sight. Now, if you would be my friend, do not cause me to be despised of God, by praising me both to myself and others. But if you cannot refrain from praising Christ in me, then mention His name, and not mine.

Why should Christ’s cause not have the stamp of His name upon it, or be branded with mine? You see how eloquent I am! So, be patient, my friend.

From our cloister in Wittenberg. MARTIN LUTHER, of the Augustinian Order. (Schutze.)

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