TO WENZEL, NURNBERG Concerning monastic vows. December 20, 1521.
Grace and peace! Most excellent Wenzel, I am delighted that my answer to the Catherinas pleased you, for I value the verdict of an upright man. But remember, whoever starts with good premises cannot repudiate the conclusions to which they lead, and the results you now see in this cloister.
For if it be contrary to the gospel that one sin in the use of meats, etc., what would become of vows, cloisters, kingdoms, etc.? Whose obedience would you compel? Whom would you recall, after quitting the cloister? Whom would you accuse as a disturber of the peace, when you are bound over to teach that such freedom or license is no sin? You perhaps ask my advice in this matter, and I tell you that you do not require my counsel. For I know you will undertake nothing, nor permit anything that is in opposition to the gospel, although all the cloisters should be destroyed. I am indeed deeply displeased at the stormy upheaval of which I have heard. For they should agree to let them leave in peace, but perhaps this may be the punishment of unrighteous vows, wickedly cast aside, so that what was
bound together through an evil unanimity might be abruptly severed. But to recall them does not seem to me expedient, even although they have not acted wisely. And I do not believe you can forbid it. But if there are some still who wish to leave the cloister, it would be best not to retain this chapter (capital), and following the example of Cyrus, give those who wish to leave their freedom through a public edict, without expelling any, or forcing any to remain. But meanwhile you will continue to share the government of this Babel with Jeremiah. For I should like the dress and usages of the order to be retained. I see no other way, for I do not wish to represent a lawless body, or to be a ringleader of unrighteousness. If you read my pamphlet on the Vow you will find my opinions. I was in Wittenberg, but did not dare enter the cloister. You must help us, for the times and God’s cause demand this. I must admit that unheard-of things are happening, but it is against our will. This is clear as the sun to me. In addition, you have Philip Melanchthon, and others, whom you can easily ask for counsel. For
we would like if you retained the capital (chapter) at Wittenberg. Where our dearest Father Staupitz is I do not know. But I hear he is at the Court of the Salzburg god. I compassionate the excellent man; still you may give him my love. For, from my writings, he must already have seen who I am and what I am doing. I am busy at the Church postils and the German translation of the Bible.
Farewell. From the wilderness. MARTIN LUTHER . (Schutze, 5:1.)
Pope Leo X. died. The German Hadrian succeeded. Luther returned to Wittenberg, March 7, and preached against image-breaking, etc.