TO HANS LUTHER
Luther tells his father that he is now free from his monkish vows, and sends him his book on the Vow. November 21, 1521. To his dear father, Hans Luther, from Martin Luther, his son.
My reason for dedicating this book to you was not to honor your name before the world, thus disobeying St. Paul’s admonition, not to seek honor after the flesh, but to explain its contents.
It is almost sixteen years since I took the monk’s vows without your knowledge or consent. You feared the weakness of my flesh, for I was a young fellow (Blut ) of 22 (I use Augustine’s word) and full of fire, and you know the monkish life is fatal to many, and you were anxious to arrange a rich marriage for me. And for long this fear and anxiety made you deaf to those who begged you to be reconciled to me, and to give God your dearest and best. But at last you gave way, although you did not lay aside your care; for, I well remember telling you I was called through a terrible apparition from heaven, so
that, when face to face with death, I made the vow, and you exclaimed, “God grant it was not an apparition of the Evil One that startled you.” The words sank into my heart as if God had uttered them, but I hardened my heart against it, till you exclaimed, “Hast thou never heard that one should obey his parents?” In spite of this most powerful word I ever heard out of a human mouth, I persevered in my own righteousness, and despised you as being only a man. But were you then unaware that God’s command must be obeyed first of all? Had you been able, would you not then have exercised your paternal prerogative, and dragged me from beneath the cowl? Had I known, I would have suffered a thousand deaths rather than have acted as I did. For my vow was not worth such deception …. But God, whose mercy is boundless, has brought about great good through my errors and sins. Wouldst thou not rather have lost a hundred sons than not have beheld such marvelous blessing? Satan must always have foreseen this, for he has poured out the whole vials of
his fury upon me …. But God willed that I might learn the wisdom of the high schools and the sanctity of the cloisters for myself…. Dear father, do you ask me to renounce monkish orders? But — God has been before you, and has brought me out Himself . . . and has placed me, as thou seest, not in the miserable, blasphemous service of monachism, but in the true divine worship, for no one can doubt that I serve God’s Word. Parental authority must yield before this divine service; for, “whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me,” says Christ. Not that parental authority ceases with this; but where Christ’s authority clashes with that of parent’s, the latter must give way.
I send you this book, from which you will see how miraculously Christ has redeemed me from my monkish vows, and endowed me with such freedom, that although I am the servant of all men, I am subject to Him alone. For He is my sole Bishop, Abbot, Prior, Lord, Father, Master! I know no other. I trust He has deprived you of your son, so that, through me, He may help the sons of many others, and prevent you rejoicing alone. I know you will do no more in this matter. Although the Pope should assassinate me, and cast me into hell, he cannot raise me up again to slay me once more. For should he condemn me, and burn me, my heart and will shall still stand out against his absolution. I hope
the great day is approaching when the kingdom of wickedness will be cast down and destroyed. Would to God we were considered worthy to be burned by the Pope, that our blood might cry out for vengeance, and thereby hasten his end. But, if not worthy to testify with our blood, let us cry to Him alone, and plead for mercy, so that through our life and voice we may bear witness that Jesus alone is our Lord and God — blessed to all eternity. Amen. In Whom may you be blessed, dear father — and the mother — thy Margaret, along with our whole connection — all of whom I greet in Christ Jesus. From the wilderness. MARTIN LUTHER .