TO THE WITTENBERGERS

A fragment. Probably written after Luther had been in Wittenberg. He disapproves of their way of reforming abuses.

Perhaps December 1521.

I cannot always be with you. Every one must die for himself, and look forward to the pangs of departure alone, for no one can counsel or help. I shall not be with you, nor you with me. Whoever is then able to overcome sin, hell, and the devil is blessed — whoever cannot do so is accursed. But no one is able to do so unless during life he has learned to appropriate and practice the consolations and maxims of the gospel against sin. The soul only takes with it what it has received in the world, and nothing more. No one can resist the devil until he has come to a knowledge of Christ, and knows that it was specially for him Christ died, because God desired his salvation. In that case that soul must become blessed, although all the devils were dead against it. We were all born sinners, and ruined through Adam’s fall, so that we can do nothing but sin, being in bondage, and “are by nature the

children of wrath, even as others.” These innovations have been accompanied by attacks on the mass, pictures, and the sacrament, and other lawless proceedings, which destroy faith and love, thereby wounding the tenderest feelings of many pious people, which is surely the devil’s work. Doubtless it would be a very good thing were such changes made, were it generally desired, and no one objected. But this will never be the case. We cannot all be so learned as Carlstadt, therefore we must give in to the weak, else those who are strong will run into all excesses, and the weak who cannot keep up with you will perish. God has been very gracious to you in Wittenberg, giving you the pure Word, so you should have patience with those who never heard it, or where is your love? We have many brothers and sisters in Leipsic, Meissen, and elsewhere, and these we must take to heaven with us. Although Herzog George, etc., are very angry with us at present, still we must bear with them, and hope for the best. They may become better than we. You have gone about the business in a way of which I cannot approve, using your fists, and if this happen again I shall not take your part. You began without me,

so carry it on without me. What you have done is wrong, no matter how many Carlstadts approve of it. You have injured the consciences of many who have taken the sacrament, and attacked it, tearing down pictures, and eating eggs and meat. You are to blame for this, and yet you consider yourselves Christians, and better than others. Believe me, I know the devil well, and he is at the root of all this, and has led you to attack the sacrament, etc., so that he might injure God’s Word, and meantime faith and love are forgotten. Now we shall examine the nature of the things which have been done in

my absence. There are things which God has commanded, and these must be kept, for no man, be he pope or bishop, has power to alter them. Other things God has left free to us, such as eating,

drinking, marrying, etc. God has not forbidden these. Popes and bishops have tried to deprive us of this freedom, by setting up priests and monks, to whom marriage is forbidden, appointing fast days, and suppressing true fasting, thereby leading many to the devil, of whom St. Paul says, “In the latter times some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits and doctrines of devils …. forbidding to marry, and commanding to abstain from meats,” etc. For no magistracy nor any man has power to change the Word of God, therefore anything popes or bishops may ordain is of no account whatever. Still, one must not insist upon these free things being carried out to the letter. When the Pope says, “Thou shalt not eat meat or eggs on Fridays,” then it is a sin to do so; but if it be anything vital, you must resist, saying, “How shall I eat, for you have forbidden what God permits?” Deal thus with the obstinate, but be kind to the weak, feeding those who are young in the

faith with milk, even as a new-born babe is fed on milk to begin with, afterwards getting soup, bread, and cheese. And it is the same with weak Christians. Leave your neighbour alone till he too becomes

strong, and thy equal. When St. Paul was with the Jews he suited himself to them, and when with the

Gentiles he lived as a Gentile. In these open questions act according to the circumstances.

If a sick person cannot eat fish, then he gets meat. If Rome permits this for money, I may do it when necessary without payment. It is the same with marriages and such like. But the kingdom of heaven does not consist in eating and drinking. St. Paul says, “If meat make my brother to offend, I will eat no flesh while the world standeth, lest I make my brother to offend.” So, no one must go against God’s Word — whether he be Pope, Bishop, Emperor, or Prince. Listen to this simile. The sun has

great brilliancy and heat. Its brilliancy neither Emperor nor King can avert, so the Word of God can no one hinder; but one can escape from the hot rays of the sun into the shade, and this is what love does when it yields to its neighbour. I would do even as much for my enemies (in the hope of their conver- sion) and for the weak, and would think nothing of wearing this cowl if it would do them any good. MARTIN LUTHER .

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