TO GEORGE SPALATIN
Luther sends letters from the Low Countries about good works. April 14, 1522.
Grace and peace in the Lord! I herewith send you what Jacob, the Prior of Antwerp, who was delivered by a miracle, and is now with us, brought me from the Netherlands. I have received the New Testament up to St. John’s last sermon, with other things. I fancy Amsdorf has answered your
inquiries as to good works; for one single passage lights up the whole. An evil tree cannot bring forth good fruit. For as the fruit can never make a tree good, so works can never make a man pious. On the contrary, according to the tree, so is necessarily the fruit; thus it is after the man is pious that good works follow, not that they make him good, but they prove that he is good. So what the Bible says concerning good works must be thus understood, that the man does not become good thereby, but that they testify he is good. Therefore, at the last day Christ will cite good works in proof that those who practised them were pious. Farewell, and pray for me. There is nothing new here except the Chancellor of Baden’s booklet against me, because I exposed him for twisting my meaning to the Bishop of Trier, as you are aware.
MARTIN LUTHER . WITTENBERG. (Walch, 5:15, Appendix 89.)