Category Archives: Martin Luther

My Reformation Sunday Presentation Delivered Two Years Ago

A couple of years ago, my then-new pastor, Dr. Bill Weaver, responding to my over-abundant gushing about all things Reformed and Reformational, carved out 10 minutes for me to say a few words about the Reformation on Reformation Sunday, October 31, 2004. Being self-conscious about my public speaking weaknesses, I managed to get permission to give a Power-Point presentation on it instead of a customary speech. I have transcribed my slightly longer than ten minutes of commentary on the life of Martin Luther which accompanied the following slides. In a few days, I’ll post the remaining slides I didn’t have time to cover during the presentation.

Hope you enjoy the presentation . . .

Around the world, today is recognized as Reformation Sunday. It’s the anniversary of Martin Luther’s posting of the Ninety-Five Theses on the door of the Castle Church in Wittenberg, Germany. It was the year 1517, which makes that 487 years ago today (489 as of the year 2006–chk).

A little bit about his life . . .

Luther was born on November 10th, 1483, in Eiselben, Germany. He was the son of a successful miner–they were an affluent family–and at the age of eighteen, he was sent to study at the University of Erfurt, where he took a Bachelor’s Degree in Philosophy, and at his father’s instruction, who was convinced he would be able to advance the family’s fortunes, advised him to study law, which he began to do, and he gained a Master’s Degree in law. Here are some snapshots of the presumably restored house Martin Luther was born in; and an archway at the University of Erfurt.
And then, as the providence of God would have it, there was a change of plans. Martin Luther, walking in a field one day, was nearly struck by lightning, and out of fear, he cried out rashly to, “St. Anne! Save me! I’ll become a monk!” he promises. And immediately he enters an Augustinian monestary, in the library of which, he discovers a Latin Bible. In Foxe’s Book of Martyr’s he tells us that he studied it “very greedily,” and began to develop a pronounced conviction of sin.
This is one of the things that astounds me the most about his life and his testimony: he was so aware–and people have attributed to his legal skills–looking in the Word of God, discovering God’s Law, and how thoroughly it applies to us and convicts us of our sins in a manner that many of us would never be aware.
Here’s the monastery that he lived in.
Here’s an engraving someone made of Luther poring over the Scriptures.
And because he was so troubled by his sins, he would spend hours, literally, in the confessional, wearing out his confessor, confessing the most minute sins–things that you and I would overlook and dismiss–to the extent that his confessor, in fact, instructed him not to return to confession until he had committed a sin worth confessing.
But Luther labored on, and when he was withheld from the confessional, he would find his brothers and confess his sins to them. Until one day, an abbot visited the monestary. Johann Von Staupitz is a man that Luther would never forget. Staupitz advised Luther to look to the Word of God, and look to the blood of Christ; for there he would find remission for his sins. This eased Luther’s anxiety tremendously.
But here’s the day we must also remember fondly. In this tower at Luther’s monestary, meditating heavily on Romans one, verse seventeen–a verse which has come to be known as “Luther’s Verse.” It reads, “For in the gospel a righteousness from God is revealed.” Or, in the Latin Scriptures which Luther was reading, it used the word “justice”–and he was struck by this phrase, “the justice of God,” or “the righteousness of God,” the terms “righteousness” and “justice” are synonymous. I heard a man explain it this way, “Righteousness is private justice, and justice is public righteousness.” So the righteousness of God is revealed. Luther meditated on this phrase; he prayed about it, asking God to reveal to him the meaning of this, for he was already thoroughly aware that unless a man attains to the absolutely perfect righteousness that God demands, he would not see heaven. The anxiety was so great that he confesses that he, indeed, began to hate God for the righteous requirements of his Law.
Until, he says, he looked at the passage in its context: “the righteousness of God is revealed, a righteousness that is by faith from first to last, just as it is written, “the righteous will live by faith.” When Luther stopped meditating on the phrase itself, and looked at it in its context, he understood, “Oh, it’s in the gospel that the righteousness of God is revealed. And that it is a righteousness that is given to us by faith, as it says here, “a righteousness that is by faith from first to last,” and that, “the righteous live by faith,” and not by their works.
And he testifies,

“All at once I felt that I had been born again, and entered into Paradise itself through open gates. Immediately, I saw the whole of Scripture in a different light.”

And he goes on to say that the phrase, “the righteousness of God,” he began to love it with just as much love as he ever hated it before.

This was the beginning of the end of the status quo in Roman Catholic Europe.
Pope Leo’s predecessor began building St. Peter’s Basillica in Rome. By the time Pope Leo took the reins the treasuries in Rome were exhausted. Well, they needed to start a “building fund,” so to speak. “What can we do?” Well, the church takes in money from the sale of indulgences, which were papal declarations for the forgiveness of sins if a man would pay a large sum of money. These indulgences were expensive, rare, and they were reserved for extreme circumstances. But Pope Leo decided, “We’re going to be innovative!” I look at it as, he adopted the “Wal-Mart” model of business: he cut the price–made it available to all–for much more minor offenses. Pope Leo abused the sale of indulgences to raise money for St. Peter’s. This is the way Martin Luther looked at it. Being the good Roman Catholic that he still was, he had no objection to the sale of indulgences, per se, but when Pope Leo dispatched indulgence preachers throughout Europe to preach indulgences in the excessive manner that they did. For instance, John Tetzel was dispatched to Wittenberg, and he made such outrageous claims, not only could these indulgences remit your sins, but they could do so even if you’ve gone so far as to violate the Mother of God herself, he said. But the line that really became famous, was a little couplet he wrote, that explained to the people that, “As soon as the coin in the coffer rings, asoul from purgatory springs!” You could purchase years off of your dead relatives’ experience in purgatory if you would merely pay a nominal fee. And here’s an illustration of John Tetzel, his arm resting on his coffer, encouraging the people to put their money in it.
Well, Martin Luther decided that’s just a step too far. We need to have a discussion about this! Martin Luther never intended to turn the Roman Catholic Church on its head. He never intended to change the world. He wanted to have a debate. He wrote in Latin, what we call the Ninety-Five Theses, but it’s actually entitled, A Disputation on the Power and Efficacy of Indulgences. I thought I would share just a select few to give us an idea of what these were like–just bullet statements, really, sentences numbered, kind of like verses in the Bible, I guess. These two in the middle, theses numbers twenty-seven and twenty-eight, are my favorites, because I believe they are vintage Luther. He was a master of hyperbole. He knew how to speak in a controversial manner, and he knew how to cut to the quick effectively, and get straight to the point. He writes,

“There is no divine authority for preaching that the soul flies out of the purgatory immediately the money clings in the bottom of the chest. It is certainly possible, however, that when money clinks in the bottom of the chest, avarice and greed increase, but when the Church offers intercession, all depends in the will of God.”

Then, toward the end, Luther points out what would be the consequences of suppressing debate on serious matters of conscience such as this one raises. He wrote,

“To suppress them by force alone, and not to refute them by giving reasons, is to expose the church and the pope to the ridicule of their enemies, and to make Christian people unhappy.”

Do you like it when others refuse to answer the serious questions that you have? Martin Luther reminds his colleagues that this is true.

Martin Luther wrote for three or four years after that–that was the event–the posting of the Ninety-Five Theses, 487 (489!) years ago today. Like I said, he had no intention of turning the Church on its head. However, an unknown citizen, I’m told, translated Martin Luther’s Latin theses into German, had them printed, and distributed them throughout Germany, and so the word got out, and there became a great public outcry, and Luther’s fame spread. So Luther began to write. He wrote three books that are considered at this “Diet of Worms,” which is actually a council held in the city of Worms (pronounced, “Vorms”), Germany. Here’s the cathedral in Worms in which Luther was tried, and a portrait of him giving his answer. Luther was questioned on the contents of the three books he’d written, and he was challenged to recant. Now, everyone knows the name Martin Luther today because of another man. A beloved American, by the name of Martin Luther King. And we know Dr. King had his seminal speech, “I Have A Dream.” If Martin Luther King has his “I Have A Dream,” surely, this statement made by Martin Luther, is his most famous. When he was commanded to recant of his positions, he, first of all requested twenty-four hours to think it over. And then, the following day, Luther meekly rose, and made this statement:

“Unless I am convinced by the testimony of the Holy Scriptures, or by evident reason–for I can believe neither popes nor councils alone, as it is clear that they have erred repeatedly, and contradicted themselves. I consider myself convicted by the testimony of Holy Scripture, which is my basis. My conscience is held captive to the Word of God. Thus I cannot, and will not, recant. Because, acting against one’s conscience is neither safe, nor sound. Here I stand. I can do no other. God help me. Amen.”

Thus concludes the biographical portion.


Homes and Haunts of Martin Luther (2)

Martin Luther’s Great Work
and Last Home
Wittenberg contains two churches connected with the history of the great Saxon Reformer–the Stadt Kirche and the Schloss Kirche.
The Stadt Kirche stands in the middle of the town; and its double tower, surmounted by two smaller ones, resembling a couple of pepper-boxes, is welcomed by every one travelling in the neighbourhood as a conspicuous landmark; and to a visitor threading the thoroughfares of what has been called our Protestant Mecca, it becomes a sign pointing out the spot where the prophet of the Reformation fulfilled some of his most memorable ministries. The edifice is large and massive, of the Gothic type, externally very plain, and without any striking architectural pretensions. The interior, commodious indeed, and in Luther’s time adapted to Protestant worship, as it still remains, affords to the tourist little of interest beyond its associations, and certain pictures belonging to it, attributed to Cranach, which we have noticed already in this series of papers.
Luther had no pastoral charge in Wittenberg, his regular official duties being confined to the University. But he was an orator by nature, and a Christian preacher by force of conviction; and therefore he was drawn to the pulpit as a sphere of effective spiritual activity. Not a mere rhetorician was Dr. Martin, but a deep, earnest, religious thinker, feeling in his heart of hearts the thoughts which rushed through his capacious mind. It was natural to him to utter in unstudied words the sentiments which moved his soul, even as the bird on the branches pours out its melodies by an instinctive, irresistible impulse. He could not be silent: he could not but speak the things he felt. Nor did his constitution and habits fit him so much for the daily and commonplace details of ministerial work in a parish or a congregation, as for the special and eminently exceptional mission of a Reformer of ancient abuses, and a Revivalist amid more than ordinary formalism and spiritual death. Providence raised him up to overthrow accumulated superstitions; to rouse the slumbering population of Germany with appeals which were echoes of a voice from heaven; to rouse the dead in trespasses and sins to a life of faith in the Divine Redeemer; and to build up a reformed Church, which proved a blessed power in the land of its location, and a glory and joy for renovated Christendom to the ends of the earth. Luther was great as a university professor; great as an ecclesiastical administrator; great as a translator, commentator, and author; but, perhaps greatest of all, at least for contemporary effects, as a preacher of God’s holy Word.
As an occasional preacher his labours covered a wide and varied field, and many an old German church may be pointed out as having echoed with the sound of his voice; but some of the most remarkable memories of his oratory clust5er round the pulpit of the Stadt Kirche–not the pulpit which stands there now, but one which occupied its place. Bugenhagen was pastor of this church in Luther’s time; and in the years 1528 and 1529, when the pastor was performing missionary work in Brunswick and Hamburg, Luther preached, Sunday after Sunday, in his room. In 1530 and 1532, when Bugenhagen was similarly employed at Lubeck, Luther discharged homiletic duties three days a week–on Wednesdays, Saturdays, and Sundays. Again, between 1537 and 1540, when Bugenhagen was at work in Denmark, Luther acted as his locus tenens at Wittenberg. The sermons preached at this period, we are informed by Dr. Sears, were not committed to paper by the preacher himself, but were written down by reporters; and these in part, after the lapse of three centuries, have been committed to the press. We may add, that what are called his “Domestic Postils” were preached at home to his own household, when he was so ill as to be unable to go to church–a circumstance which invests them with touching interest. We think of them in connection withe the old room at the Augustine monestary; and can imagine the preacher enfeebled by infirmity, yet with eyes fyull of the light and fervour of a God’moved soul, with a voice rising out of husky tones into clear, sonorous utterances, and with an animated manner which reminded his hearers of earlier days, pouring out the gospel of justification into the ears and hearts of his listening auditory–that auditory composed of wife, children and servants, of neighbours and friends–includingperhaps, Philip Melanchthon and Justus Jonas. The scene reminds us of another–like it in spirit and manner–when the hly Adolphe Monod, in Paris, just before his death, supported by pillows, had, gathered round the foot of his bed, a little domestic congregation, to which he addressed his sweet, loving, inspired Adieus. Further, we may remark that Luther’s “Church Postils” were prepared by him at the Wartburg for the use of the clergy, somewhat after the manner of the Homilies of the English Church; so that from him on his castle height, amidst the woods of Thuringia, there sounded out the Word of the Lord, which floated from town to town, from village to village, from church to church, making glad the heart of many a man, woman, and child.
The Stadt Kirche is especially associated with a remarkable period in Luther’s life. Whilst he was at the Wartburg, sad disturbances broke out at Wittenberg. Carlstadt–a frioend of Luther, but without the strong sense and the wise prudence of Luther–rushed into violent excesses during the Reformer’s absence. For, after stimulating the people by fanatical discourses, he entered, at the head of a mob, into All Saints’ Church at Wittenberg, and there began hewing down statues and pictures, with an iconoclastic fury perhaps rarely equalled, and never exceeded. Carlstadt incited to this destructive havoc, by repeating the second commandment. As in other instances of popular riot, the magistrates were panic-struck, and the work of demolition went on in one church after another. Claus Storch, in the dress of a “lanz-knecht” or free-lance trooper, and another man attired in a long civic robe, were conspicuous leaders of the rabble; and when the news of these terrible proceedings reached Luther in his retreat, he was at last induced to return to Wittenberg to appease the storm.
“Satan, during my absence,” he writes to the Elector, “has penetrated into my fold, and committed ravages there which my presence alone can repair. A letter would answer no purpose. I must make use of my own eyes and my own mouthe to see and speak.
“My conscience will permit me to make no longer delay; and rather than act against that I would incur the anger of your Electoral Grace and of the whole world. The Wittenbergers are my sheep, whom God has intrusted to my care. They are my children in the Lord. For them I am ready to suffer martyrdom. I go, therefore, to accomplish by God’s grace that which Christ demands of them who own Him.”
Luther, at the Warburg, had allowed his beard to grow, and had laid aside his staff for a riding whip. His moastic dress he exchanged for a steel cuirass, and a plumed casque, and the spurred boots of a man-at-arms. Thus accoutred, he travelled homewards; and in a cloud of dust, amidst a crowd of varlets, made his entry into Wittenberg, as represented in one of Cranach’s pictures.
On the Sunday after his arrival, march 8, 1522, he appeared in the pulpit–in his ecclesiastical, not his military attire, we presume–and commenced a course of eight sermons on Charity, Christian Freedom (in use and abuses), Image-worship, Fasting, the Holy Communion and Confession.
“Dear friends,” he said (to adopt the translation by Miss Winkworth), “the kingdom of God standeth not in speech or words, but in power and in deed. For God will not have mere hearers and repeaters of the Word, but followers and doers of it, who exercise themselves in that faith which worketh by love. For faith without love is nothing worth; yea, it is not faith, but only the semblance thereof. Just as a countenance seen in a mirror is not a real countenance, but only a semblance thereof.” No clearer testimony could be borne to the necessity of personal holiness; and, therefore, whatever rash things Luther might at times utter with the view of glorifying Diving grace, he cannot be fairly charged with adopting Antinomian principles. He proceeded to urge prudence and caution upon his hearers in carrying out the work of Reformation, assuring them that with violence and uproar they would never do God’s work. Not without effect did he appeal to the leaders of the outbreak. One of them exclaimed, on hearing him, “It is as though I heard the voice of an angel, not of a man.” Never, perhaps, was Virgil’s description more signally verified, if we may take a liberty with the last line:

“As when in tumults the ignoble

Mad are their motions, and their tongues are

And stones and brands in rattling volleys

And all the rustic arms that fury can

If then some grave and pious man

They hush their noise, and lend a listening

He soothes with sober words their angry

And turns their evil passions into

We have said that there was an irresistable impulse moving Martin Luther to preach; and so, no doubt, there was. Yet at times to preach was a burden. It was a necessity from which he shrank. One can understand this. The old Hebrew prophets felt it. So did St. Paul. The confession of it occurs in the writings and sayings of many a great preacher. Tauler, an object of admiration and a model of study for Luther, though a man of extraordinary eloquence, and making a mark in the history of mediaeval preaching broader than that of any other divine, imposed on himself a season of silence, because of mental depression, and a mistaken consciousness of incompetency for the lofty work to which he was called. It is the self-sufficient pedant, or the ignorant fanatic, who rushes into the pulpit without warrant or preparation. The true God-called preacher will often tremble at the sight of the sacred desk where he is to deliver his message, crying out, with apostolic humility, “Who is sufficient for these things?”
Accordingly, we find Luther saying, “Oh, how I trembled when I was ascending the pulpit for the first time! I would fain have excused myself, but they made me preach.” “Here, under this very pear-tree”–a pear-tree, we suppose, in the monastery garden–“I have, over and over again, argued with Dr. Staupitz as to whether it was my vocation to preach. he said it was. I had fifteen reasons against it, and fifteen more when they were done. ‘Doctor,’ I used to say, ‘you want to kill me. I shall not live three months if you compel me to go on.’ “
Fear in the pulpit, at the presence of certain men in the congregation, is no uncommon thing, and Luther felt it at Wittenberg. “I don’t at all like Philip to be present when I preach or lecture; but I make the best I can of it. I put the cross before me, and say to myself, Philip, Jonas, Pomer, and the rest of them have nothing to do with the question in hand; and I try to persuade myself that I am a competent to fill the pulpit as they.” Sometimes Luther, though a master of logic, was unmethodical in his mode of handling a subject; and became diffuse and unconnected, to the discomfort of the learned who listened to his effusions. Jonas Justus sometimes could not follow his friend’s ramblings, and told him so; when Luther replied, he could not always follow himself, regretting that he did not make his sermons shorter, and confessing that he thought he was sometimes too wordy.
No man better knew himself, and few but will recognise the portrait which he thus draws of his own ministry, though they may not appreciate the force of the comaprison which he makes of another preacher with himself. Addressing Brentius, on of the Reformers, in the year 1530, he observes: “I, whose style is impracticable, harsh, rough, pour forth a deluge, a chaos of words. My manner is turbulent, impetuous, fierce, as that of a gladiator contending with a thousand monsters who assail him in uninterrupted succession. If I might compare small things with great, I should say that I had given me somewhat of the quadruple spirit of Elias the prophet, who was rapid as the wind, whose word burnt like a lamp, who overthrew mountains and burst asunder rocks. You, on the contrary, breathe forth the gentle murmur of the light, refreshing breeze. One thing, however, consoles me, namely, that the Divine Father of the human race has need, for the instruction of that immense family, of both the one servant and the other–of the rugged, for the conquering of the rugged; the harsh, for the conquering of the harsh. To clear the air, and to render the earth more fertile, it is not enought that the rain should water and penetrate its surface: there needs also the thunder and the lightning.”
The vigour of his imagination, the power of his feelings, his strong, masculine sense, his affluence of his speech, and his nationality of character, which touched and won the German heart, do not, however, fully account for the effect of his ministry. he experienced the influence of the truth he proclaimed. Saved by the gospel, he preached it as the means by which others were to be saved. And, with the spirit and style of the Holy Scriptures, his mind and heart were so saturated, that his sermons were often translations and expansions of what he had read in his Bible before ascending the pulpit. he had, as he said, “shaken every tree in this forest, and never without gathering some fruit.”
All the men of the age, friends and foes, pronounced him the prince of preachers. “It was the preaching of Luther that endeared him to Frederick the Wise, even when he saw his own superstitions unsparingly exposed. It was his preaching that made him as absolute a ruler over the people at Wittenberg as Chrysostom was at Antioch and Constantinople, or Calvin at Geneva”–or, we may add, Knox at Edinburgh. “It was his preaching tat so often stilled the tumult in the many towns and cities he visited during the first five years after his return from the Wartburg.”
Near the Stadt Kirche, and close to the Rathhaus, is a Gothic canopy, of cast-iron, covering a bronze statue of the Reformer, executed by Schadow, and erected in the year 1822. On one side is written, in German, “If it be the work of God, it will endure; if of man, it will perish:” and on the other side, “A strong tower is our God.” This structure, embodying the sentiment of veneration for Luther cultivated throughout Germany, as well as in the town of Wittenberg, occupies the site of a modern chapel, which was not removed until the walls became too decayed to stand any longer. This chapel contained a pulpit made of planks, about a yard high, claiming an equal antiquity with the rude edifice in which it was placed. Here, according to tradition, the Reformer sometimes preached; and therefore here another point of interest occurs to attract the notice and excite the recollections of intelligent pilgrims to his home and haunts.
But we must hasten on to the Scholls Kirche, or Castle Church, at the end of the town, opposite to the Elster Gate and the Augustinian Monastery. It is much smaller than the church we have just left; but, on approaching it, the doors arrest our attention from the circumstance of their being connected with one of the boldest acts of Luther’s life.
To be continued.

The Reformation Polka

by Robert Gebel
[Sung to the tune of “Supercalifragilistic-expialidocious”]
When I was just ein junger Mann I studied canon law;
While Erfurt was a challenge, it was just to please my Pa.
Then came the storm, the lightning struck, I called upon Saint Anne,
I shaved my head, I took my vows, an Augustinian!

Papal bulls, indulgences, and transubstantiation
Speak your mind against them and face excommunication!
Nail your theses to the door, let’s start a Reformation!
Papal bulls, indulgences, and transubstantiation!
When Tetzel came near Wittenberg, St. Peter’s profits soared,
I wrote a little notice for the All Saints’ Bull’tin board:
“You cannot purchase merits, for we’re justified by grace!
Here’s 95 more reasons, Brother Tetzel, in your face!”

Papal bulls, indulgences, and transubstantiation
Speak your mind against them and face excommunication!
Nail your theses to the door, let’s start a Reformation!
Papal bulls, indulgences, and transubstantiation!
They loved my tracts, adored my wit, all were exempleror;
The Pope, however, hauled me up before the Emperor.
“Are these your books? Do you recant?” King Charles did demand,
“I will not change my Diet, Sir, God help me here I stand!”

Papal bulls, indulgences, and transubstantiation –
Speak your mind against them and face excommunication!
Nail your theses to the door, let’s start a Reformation!
Papal bulls, indulgences, and transubstantiation!
Duke Frederick took the Wise approach, responding to my words,
By knighting “George” as hostage in the Kingdom of the Birds.
Use Brother Martin’s model if the languages you seek,
Stay locked inside a castle with your Hebrew and your Greek!
Papal bulls, indulgences, and transubstantiation –
Speak your mind against them and face excommunication!
Nail your theses to the door, let’s start a Reformation!
Papal bulls, indulgences, and transubstantiation!
Let’s raise our steins and Concord Books while gathered in this place,
And spread the word that ‘catholic’ is spelled with lower case;
The Word remains unfettered when the Spirit gets his chance,
So come on, Katy, drop your lute, and join us in our dance!
Papal bulls, indulgences, and transubstantiation –
Speak your mind against them and face excommunication!
Nail your theses to the door, let’s start a Reformation!
Papal bulls, indulgences, and transubstantiation!

The Homes and Haunts of Martin Luther (1)

First, let me tell you about this cool, old book of mine. It’s called “The Sunday At Home Family Magazine for Sabbath Reading.” This book was published in London by the Religious Tract Society, presumably in 1875. I say “presumably,” because the volume I have is a collection of the issues of “The Sunday At Home” from 1874. There are many wonderful treasures in this book, one of which is a series of articles entitled, “The Homes and Haunts of Martin Luther.” The picture to the right is published on page nine, accompanying the following article. This seems to be the perfect time to share these articles with my readers.
From Issue “No. 1027.–January 3, 1874” page 8, the following is published:
Many readers of the “Sunday at Home” must remember the striking picture with the above title, exhibited at the Royal Academy three years ago. The artist was the great historical painter E. M. Ward, R.A. It occurred to some who had seen the picture that it ought to be secured for the new Bible House in Victoria Street, and there preserved as a memorial of one of the greatest events in the history of the Bible and of the Christian Church. The matter was brought before the Committee of the British and Foreign Bible Society, who is inn their official capacity very rightly concluded that the purchase would not be a justifiable use of the funds intrusted to them. At the same time they showed their interest in the proposal by individually heading a subscription list, to which the names of the Earl of Shaftesbury, President, and Mr. Joseph Hoare, Treasurer of the Society, the Archbishop of Canterbury, the Hon. Arthur Kinnaird, and many other eminent persons were attached. Mr. Ward, greatly to his honor, on learning the intention of placing the painting in the Bible Society’s House, volunteered to give to the Bible Society a donation of two hundred pounds out of the thousand pounds, the cost of the picture. We hope that the matter may be speedily arranged.
The picture commemorates an event which proved a turning-point in the history of Christendom, and so of the world. Luther had entered the monastery of the Hermits of St. Augustine at Erfurt. He was in deep trouble of mind. Finding in the monastery a Bible fastened by a chain, he was perpetually returning to this chained Bible. He would sometimes pass a whole day there in reading and in meditation.
It was only a short time before that he had first seen a complete copy of the Bible. No more graphic narrative of the incident has been given than that by Dr. Merle d’Aubigne, in his “History of the Reformation.”
“One day–he had then been two years at Erfurt, and was twenty years old–Luther opens many books in the library one after another, to learn their writers’ names. One volume that he comes to attracts his attention. He has never until this hour seen its like. He reads the title–it is a Bible! a rare book, unknown in those times. His interest is greatly excited: he is filled with astonishment at finding other matters than those fragments of the gospels and epistles that the Church has selected to be read to the people during public worship every Sunday throughout the year. Until this day he had imagined that they composed the whole Word of God. And now he sees so many pages, so many chapters, so many books of which he had had no idea! His heart beats as he holds the divinely inspired volume in his hand. With eagerness and with indescribable emotion he turns over these leaves from God. The first page on which he fixes his attention narrates the story of Hannah and of the young Samuel. He reads–and his soul can hardly contain the joy it feels. This child, whom his parents lend to the Lord as long as he liveth; the song of Hannah, in which she declares that Jehovah ‘raiseth up the poor out of the dust, and lifteth the beggar from the dunghill, to set them among princes;’ this child, who grew up in the temple in the presence of the Lord; those sacrificers, the sons of Eli, who are wicked men, who live in debauchery, and ‘make the Lord’s people to transgress;’–all this history, all this revelation that he has just discovered, excites feelings till then unknown. He returns home with a full heart. ‘Oh! that God would give me such a book for myself,’ thought he. Luther was as yet ignorant both of Greek and Hebrew. It is scarcely probable that he had studied these languages during the first two or three years of his residence at the university. The Bible that had filled him with such transports was in Latin. He soon returned to the library to pore over his treasure. He read it again and again, and then, in his astonishment and joy, he returned to read it once more. The first glimmerings of a new truth were beginning to dawn upon his mind.
“Thus had God led him to the discovery of his Word–of that book of which he was one day to give his fellow-countrymen that admirable translation in which Germany has for three centuries perused the oracles of God. Perhaps for the first time this precious volume has now been taken down from the place it occupied in the library of Erfurt. This book, deposited upon the unknown shelves of a gloomy hall, is about to become the book of life to a whole nation. In that Bible the Reformation lay hid.”
“Dr. Usinger, an Augustinian monk, who was my preceptor at Erfurt,” Luther told a friend, “used to say to me, when he saw me reading the Bible with such devotion, ‘Ah, Brother Martin, what is there in the Bible? It is better to read the ancient doctors, who have sucked the honey out of the truth. The Bible is the cause of all troubles.'” Brother Martin stuck to the Bible; and he listened to it as the Word of God, from that day through all his life. Thus, in one of his letters, long afterwards, referring to the struggle that had taken place in his soul, he describes the difficulty he had about the expression, “the righteousness of God:” “I thirsted greatly to know the meaning of it, until, through God’s grace, I observed how the words are connected together in the following way: ‘The righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith.’ Observing this connection, I saw that the apostle’s meaning was this: That by the gospel is made known that righteousness which avails with God; in which God, out of grace and mere mercy, makes us righteous through faith. Upon this I felt as if I was wholly born anew, and had found an open door into Paradise itself. The precious Holy Scriptures now at once appeared quite another thing to me. I ran quickly through the whole Bible and collected all that it says on this subject. Thus, as I had before hated this expression–the righteousness of God–so now I began highly and dearly to esteem it, as my beloved and most comfortable word of Scripture, and that passage became to me the very gate of heaven.”

The True Treasures of the Church (from the 95 Theses)

56. The true treasures of the church, out of which the pope distributes indulgences, are not sufficiently discussed or known among the people of Christ.
57. That indulgences are not temporal treasures is certainly clear, for many indulgence sellers do not distribute them freely but only gather them.
“For we are not, like so many, peddlers of God’s word, but as men of sincerity, as commissioned by God, in the sight of God we speak in Christ.” 2 Corinthians 2:17
“. . . and constant friction among people who are depraved in mind and deprived of the truth, imagining that godliness is a means of gain.” 1 Timothy 6:5

58. Nor are they the merits of Christ and the saints, for, even without the pope, the latter always work grace for the inner man, and the cross, death, and hell for the outer man.

Now, there’s a lot being said in this thesis which I don’t quite know how to relate, but I definitely detect the old Roman Catholic “Christ and . . . ” syndrome at play here! He is saying, “The merits of Christ And the saints are not the true treasures of the church. . . ?” That’s right, because only the merit of Christ Alone is the true treasure of the church!

59. St. Lawrence said that the poor of the church were the treasures of the church, but he spoke according to the usage of the word in his own time.
Ambrose’s legend of St. Lawrence seems to portray a proper humility and communal spirit evidenced of the first church in Acts 2:44-45 “And all who believed were together and had all things in common. 45 And they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need. ” I surmise it was something of this sort of spirit which Luther commends in this thesis.

60. Without want of consideration we say that the keys of the church, given by the merits of Christ, are that treasure.
Peter Confesses Jesus As the Christ (Matthew 16:13-19)
13 Now when Jesus came into the district of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?” 14 And they said, “Some say John the Baptist, others say Elijah, and others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” 15 He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” 16 Simon Peter replied, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” 17 And Jesus answered him, “Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven. 18 And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock
[2] I will build my church, and the gates of hell [3] shall not prevail against it. 19 I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed [4] in heaven.”
Those who share Peter’s confession above, Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the living God, receive the affirmation of the church that they are indeed subjects of the kingdom of heaven.

61. For it is clear that the pope’s power is of itself sufficient for the remission of penalties and cases reserved by himself.
62. The true treasure of the church is the most holy gospel of the glory and grace of God.
The Righteousness of God Through Faith (Romans 3:21-26)
21 But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it— 22 the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction: 23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, 25 whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God’s righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins. 26 It was to show his righteousness at the present time, so that he might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.
63. But this treasure is naturally most odious, for it makes the first to be last (Mt. 20:16).
2 Corinthians 2:15 For we are the aroma of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing, 16 to one a fragrance from death to death, to the other a fragrance from life to life.
1 Corinthians 1:18 For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. 19 For it is written,
“I will destroy the wisdom of the wise,and the discernment of the discerning I will thwart.”
20 Where is the one who is wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? 21 For since, in the wisdom of God, the world did not know God through wisdom, it pleased God through the folly of what we preach to save those who believe.
64. On the other hand, the treasure of indulgences is naturally most acceptable, for it makes the last to be first.
65. Therefore the treasures of the gospel are nets with which one formerly fished for men of wealth.
Mark 1:16 Passing alongside the Sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and Andrew the brother of Simon casting a net into the sea, for they were fishermen. 17 And Jesus said to them, “Follow me, and I will make you become fishers of men.” 18 And immediately they left their nets and followed him. 19 And going on a little farther, he saw James the son of Zebedee and John his brother, who were in their boat mending the nets. 20 And immediately he called them, and they left their father Zebedee in the boat with the hired servants and followed him.
2 Corinthians 8:9 For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you by his poverty might become rich.
66. The treasures of indulgences are nets with which one now fishes for the wealth of men.

A Study in Deformation: Or, How Luther’s Reformation was a High-Water Mark in Church History

October 10, in the year of our Lord . . .
1560 – Birth of Jacob Arminius, the Dutch theologian from whose writings and doctrines Protestants opposed to Calvinism have since been called “Arminians.”
1821Charles Finney, 29, claimed to have received “a mighty baptism of the Holy Ghost,” and was converted to a Christian faith. Finney soon abandoned his pursuit of law and embarked on a 50-year career in evangelism and higher education. Wanna read something really scary???
I read that Luther once remarked, “We’re all natural born Pelagians.” Errors such as those taught by the figures above, for whom today is an anniversary of one sort or other, tend to move toward the kinds of thinking which Pelagius pioneered in the fourth century. The following list of eras in church history (the years are my estimates) is offered to demonstrate how Luther’s Reformation was a high-water mark in Church history.

AD30-500 The Age of Formation (Apostolic/Post-Apostolic Period)
AD501-1517 The Age of Deformation (Dark Ages/Medieval Period)
AD 1517-1700? The Age of Reformation (Renaissance/Reformation)
AD 1701-1900 Return to Deformation (Enlightenment/Rationalism/Revivalism)
AD 1901-1950? More Deformation (Modernism/Rise of Extremist Fundamentalism)
AD 1951-Present Still More Deformation (Decline of Extremist Fundamentalism, Post-Modernism/New Age/Inter-Faith Ecumenism)
Notwithstanding all of the above, in keeping with the ways of God, a remnant of Reformed truth is found in each era; pray that Reformation and God-sent (not man-generated) Revival will ascend again to more widespread influence for the glory of God and the good of his people!

Summary of Roman Catholic Justification

So, just what was it about Roman Catholic teaching that moved an Augustinian monk to take on the establishment on October 31, 1517? What was it that caused the Pope to add to Luther this threat to excommuncate him (photo at right)? Their addiction to adding unbiblical things to biblical doctrines of grace, faith and the work of Christ. Here’s an excerpt from R. C. Sproul’s book, What is Reformed Theology, which summarizes Rome’s doctrine of justification, its extension to the issue of indulgences, and Luther’s objections thereto (pages 63-66).

How then are we made righteous? The Roman Catholic doctrine of justification is complex. Let us summarize this view. Justification begins with baptism, the “instrumental cause” of justification. By this sacrament the grace of Christ’s righteousness is infused into the soul. The baptized person is cleansed of original sin and is now in a state of grace. The person must cooperate with and assent to the infused grace in order to become righteous. The grace justification is not permanaent. It may be lost through the commission of mortal sin.
Rome distinguishes between mortal and venial sin. Venial sin is real sin but is less serious. Mortal sin is called mortal because it kills the justifying grace in the soul. Mortal sin destroys grace but not faith. A person can retain true faith and still not be justified.
When a person commits mortal sin and loses the grace of justification received in baptism, he or she can be restored to a state of justification by the sacrament of penance. This sacrament is described by Rome as “the second plank of justification for those who have made shipwreck of their souls.” The sinner confesses his sin to a priest, makes an act of contrition, receives priestly absolution, and then performs “works of satisfaction” to be restored to a state of grace.
These works of satisfaction lay behind much of the controversy in the sixteenth century. The works of satisfaction procure for the penitent congruous merit (meritum de congruo). Congruous merit is not condign merit (meritum de condigno), merit so worthy that a just God is obligated to reward it. Congruous merit is rooted in grace and is not so virtuous as to impose an obligation on God. It is instead “congruous” or “fitting” for God to reward this kind of merit.
Martin Luther strongly rejected the concept of congruous merit:
These arguments of the Scholastics about the merit of congruence and of worthiness (de merito congrui et condigni) are nothing but vain fig,ments and dreamy speculations of idle folk about worthless stuff. Yet they form the foundation of the papacy, and on them it rests to this very day. For this is what every monk imagines: by observing the sacred rules of my order I can earn the grace of congruence, but by the works I do after I have received this grace I can accumulate a merit so great that it will not only be enough to bring me to eternal life but enough to sell and give it to others ( Luther, What Luther Says, 2:921).
Luther’s vehemence on this point must be understood against the backdrop of the Reformation struggle. It is fair to say that the whole firestorm was ignited by an aspect of the sacrament of penance. The indulgence controversy that provoked Luthers’ famous Ninety-five Theses focused on the concept of works of satisfaction, a concept integral to penance. One work of satisfaction a penitent may perform is the giving of alms. To be sure, alms must be given in a proper spirit to be effective.

In the sixteenth century Rome embarked on a huge building project involving St. Peter’s Basilica. The pope made special indulgences available to those who gave alms to support this work. The pope has the “power of the keys,” which includes the power to grant indulgences for people who are in purgatory because they lack sufficient merit to enter heaven. The pope can draw on the treasury of merit and apply it to the needs of those in purgatory. This treasury includes merit amassed there by the saints. The saints acquired not only sufficient merit to gain entrance into heaven, but also a surplus for others who had not. This excess or surplus merit is achieved by performing works of supererogation, works that are above and beyond the call of duty, such as martyrdom.
Johann Tetzel scandalized Luther by his crass method (unauthorized by Rome) of peddling indulgences. Tetzel marketed indulgences with the ditty, “Every time a coin in the coffer rings, a soul from purgatory springs.” He gave peasants the impression that one could purchase salvation for departed friends and relatives simply by giving alms, with or without the spirit of penitence. At this point in his life Luther himself was keenly interested in these indulgences. he expressed remorse that his parents were still alive, preventing him from insuring their entrance into heaven by securing indulgences for them. Instead he gave alms in behalf of his grandparents.

When Luther raised questions about Tetzel’s methods, he began to reevaluate the entire system of indulgences, including the sacrament 0f penance itself. He attacked the whole system, paying special attention to the concept of performing works of merit of any kind, whether congruous or condign. He insisted that the only merit that can avail for the sinner’s justification is the merit of Christ.
Rome agreed that the merit of Christ is necessary for salvation. Likewise Rome insisted on the necessity of grace and faith for justification. Often the difference between the Roman view of justification and the Protestant view is misstated. Some say Rome believes in justification by merit and Protestants believe in justification by grace. Rome believes in justification by works, while Protestants believe in justification by faith. Rome believes in justification by the church, while Protestants believe in justification by Christ. To state the differences this way is to radically distort the issue and to be guilty of gross slander against Rome.
The Roman Catholic church believes that grace, faith, and Chrsit are all necessary for the sinner’s justification. They are necessary conditions, but not sufficient conditions. While grace is necessary for justification, it is not enough. Merit (at least congruous merit) must be added to grace.
Rome declares that faith is necessary for justification. Faith is called the foundation (fundamentum) and the (root) of justification. Works must be added to faith, however, for justification to occur.
Likewise the righteousness of Chrsit is necessary for justification. This righteousness must be infused into the soul sacramentally. The sinner must cooperate with and assent to this infused righteousness, so that real righteousness becomes inherent in the person before he can be justified.
Missing from the Roman Catholic formula for justification is the crucial word alone. It is not an exaggeration to say that the eye of the Reformation tornado was this one little word. The Reformers insisted that justification is by grce alone (sola gratia), by faith alone (sola fide), and through Christ alone (soli Christo).

More Luther on Repentance

I was really impressed with some of the evangelical truth that is contained in some of Martin Luther’s 95 Theses. Consider the first four theses, in which Luther introduces the doctrine of repentance. If he were alive today, I think I could guess which side of the Lordship debate Luther would come down on, couldn’t you?

1. When our Lord and Master Jesus Christ said, “Repent” (Mt 4:17), he willed the entire life of believers to be one of repentance.

2. This word cannot be understood as referring to the sacrament of penance, that is, confession and satisfaction, as administered by the clergy.

3. Yet it does not mean solely inner repentance; such inner repentance is worthless unless it produces various outward mortification of the flesh.

4. The penalty of sin remains as long as the hatred of self (that is, true inner repentance), namely till our entrance into the kingdom of heaven.

Now, let us consider how he elaborates on repentance in the Smalcald Articles:

Article III: Repentance
This office [of the Law] the New Testament retains and urges, as St. Paul, Rom. 1, 18 does, saying: The wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men.Again, 3, 19: All the world is guilty before God. No man is righteous before Him. And Christ says, John 16, 8: The Holy Ghost will reprove the world of sin.This, then, is the thunderbolt of God by which He strikes in a heap [hurls to the ground] both manifest sinners and false saints [hypocrites], and suffers no one to be in the right [declares no one righteous], but drives them all together to terror and despair.This is the hammer, as Jeremiah says, 23, 29: Is not My Word like a hammer that breaketh the rock in pieces?

This is not activa contritio or manufactured repentance, but passiva contritio [torture of conscience], true sorrow of heart, suffering and sensation of death.This, then, is what it means to begin true repentance; and here man must hear such a sentence as this: You are all of no account, whether you be manifest sinners or saints [in your own opinion]; you all must become different and do otherwise than you now are and are doing [no matter what sort of people you are], whether you are as great, wise, powerful, and holy as you may. Here no one is [righteous, holy], godly, etc.

But to this office the New Testament immediately adds the consolatory promise of grace through the Gospel, which must be believed, as Christ declares, Mark 1,15: Repent and believe the Gospel, i.e., become different and do otherwise, and believe My promise. And John, preceding Him, is called a preacher of repentance, however, for the remission of sins, i.e., John was to accuse all, and convict them of being sinners, that they might know what they were before God, and might acknowledge that they were lost men, and might thus be prepared for the Lord, to receive grace, and to expect and accept from Him the remission of sins.

Thus also Christ Himself says, Luke 24, 47: Repentance and remission of sins must be preached in My name among all nations. But whenever the Law alone, without the Gospel being added exercises this its office there is [nothing else than] death and hell, and man must despair, like Saul and Judas; as St. Paul, Rom. 7, 10, says: Through sin the Law killeth. On the other hand, the Gospel brings consolation and remission not only in one way, but through the word and Sacraments, and the like, as we shall hear afterward in order that [thus] there is with the Lord plenteous redemption, as Ps. 130, 7 says against the dreadful captivity of sin.

However, we must now contrast the false repentance of the sophists with true repentance, in order that both may be the better understood.

Of the False Repentance of the Papists.
It was impossible that they should teach correctly concerning repentance, since they did not [rightly] know the real sins [the real sin]. For, as has been shown above, they do not believe aright concerning original sin, but say that the natural powers of man have remained [entirely] unimpaired and incorrupt; that reason can teach aright, and the will can in accordance therewith do aright [perform those things which are taught], that God certainly bestows His grace when a man does as much as is in him, according to his free will.
Read more . . .

Babylonian Captivity of the Church

A Prelude of Martin Luther
On the Babylonian Captivity of the Church


Martin Luther, Augustinian, to his friend, Hermann Tulich, greeting.

(Tulich was born at Steinheim, near Paderborn, in Westphalia; graduated from Wittenberg (A.B., 1511); was a proofreader in Melchior Lotter’s printinghouse at Leipzig. He returned to Wittenberg in 1519 and received the doctorate in 1520; became professor of poetry at the university; rector of the same, 1525. He was a staunch supporter of Luther; rector of the school at Luneberg from 1532 until his death in 1540.)

Whether I wish it or not, I am compelled to become more learned every day, with so many and such able masters eagerly driving me on and making me work. Some two years ago I wrote on indulgences, but in such a way that I now deeply regret having published that little book (probably the Explanations of the Ninety-five Theses (1518)). At that time I still clung with a mighty superstition to the tyranny of Rome, and so I held that indulgences should not be altogether rejected, seeing that they were approved by the common consent of so many. No wonder, for at the time I was still engaged singlehanded in this Sisyphean task. Afterwards, thanks to Sylvester (Sylvester Prierias–more properly called Mazzolini–from Prierio in Piedmont, 1456-1532, was a prior of the Dominicans. He became Grand Inquisitor and Censor of Books in 1515. he and others of the order (e.g., Tetzel and Hochstraten) had written against Luther), and aided by those friars who so strenuously defended indulgences, I saw that they were nothing but impostures of the Roman flatterers, by which thy rob men of their money and their faith in God. Would that I could prevail upon the booksellers and persuade all who have read them to burn the whole of my booklets on indulgences, and instead of all that I have written on this subject adopt this proposition: INDULGENCES ARE WICKED DEVICES OF THE FLATTERIES OF ROME. Posted by Picasa

"Disputation of Doctor Martin Luther on the Power and Efficacy of Indulgences" (1517)

Posted by Picasa What better way to begin to remember the life and ministry of Martin Luther, than to read the document which the Lord used so effectively to turn the world upside down and recover the article on which the church stands and falls, the doctrine of justification by faith alone!

1. When our Lord and Master Jesus Christ said, “Repent” (Mt 4:17), he willed the entire life of believers to be one of repentance.

2. This word cannot be understood as referring to the sacrament of penance, that is, confession and satisfaction, as administered by the clergy.

3. Yet it does not mean solely inner repentance; such inner repentance is worthless unless it produces various outward mortification of the flesh.

4. The penalty of sin remains as long as the hatred of self (that is, true inner repentance), namely till our entrance into the kingdom of heaven.

5. The pope neither desires nor is able to remit any penalties except those imposed by his own authority or that of the canons.

6. The pope cannot remit any guilt, except by declaring and showing that it has been remitted by God; or, to be sure, by remitting guilt in cases reserved to his judgment. If his right to grant remission in these cases were disregarded, the guilt would certainly remain unforgiven.

7. God remits guilt to no one unless at the same time he humbles him in all things and makes him submissive to the vicar, the priest.

8. The penitential canons are imposed only on the living, and, according to the canons themselves, nothing should be imposed on the dying.

9. Therefore the Holy Spirit through the pope is kind to us insofar as the pope in his decrees always makes exception of the article of death and of necessity.

10. Those priests act ignorantly and wickedly who, in the case of the dying, reserve canonical penalties for purgatory.

11. Those tares of changing the canonical penalty to the penalty of purgatory were evidently sown while the bishops slept (Mt 13:25).

12. In former times canonical penalties were imposed, not after, but before absolution, as tests of true contrition.

13. The dying are freed by death from all penalties, are already dead as far as the canon laws are concerned, and have a right to be released from them.

14. Imperfect piety or love on the part of the dying person necessarily brings with it great fear; and the smaller the love, the greater the fear.

15. This fear or horror is sufficient in itself, to say nothing of other things, to constitute the penalty of purgatory, since it is very near to the horror of despair.

16. Hell, purgatory, and heaven seem to differ the same as despair, fear, and assurance of salvation.

17. It seems as though for the souls in purgatory fear should necessarily decrease and love increase.

18. Furthermore, it does not seem proved, either by reason or by Scripture, that souls in purgatory are outside the state of merit, that is, unable to grow in love.

19. Nor does it seem proved that souls in purgatory, at least not all of them, are certain and assured of their own salvation, even if we ourselves may be entirely certain of it.

20. Therefore the pope, when he uses the words “plenary remission of all penalties,” does not actually mean “all penalties,” but only those imposed by himself.

21. Thus those indulgence preachers are in error who say that a man is absolved from every penalty and saved by papal indulgences.

22. As a matter of fact, the pope remits to souls in purgatory no penalty which, according to canon law, they should have paid in this life.

23. If remission of all penalties whatsoever could be granted to anyone at all, certainly it would be granted only to the most perfect, that is, to very few.

24. For this reason most people are necessarily deceived by that indiscriminate and high-sounding promise of release from penalty.

25. That power which the pope has in general over purgatory corresponds to the power which any bishop or curate has in a particular way in his own diocese and parish.

26. The pope does very well when he grants remission to souls in purgatory, not by the power of the keys, which he does not have, but by way of intercession for them.

27. They preach only human doctrines who say that as soon as the money clinks into the money chest, the soul flies out of purgatory.

28. It is certain that when money clinks in the money chest, greed and avarice can be increased; but when the church intercedes, the result is in the hands of God alone.

29. Who knows whether all souls in purgatory wish to be redeemed, since we have exceptions in St. Severinus and St. Paschal, as related in a legend.

30. No one is sure of the integrity of his own contrition, much less of having received plenary remission.

31. The man who actually buys indulgences is as rare as he who is really penitent; indeed, he is exceedingly rare.

32. Those who believe that they can be certain of their salvation because they have indulgence letters will be eternally damned, together with their teachers.

33. Men must especially be on guard against those who say that the pope’s pardons are that inestimable gift of God by which man is reconciled to him.

34. For the graces of indulgences are concerned only with the penalties of sacramental satisfaction established by man.

35. They who teach that contrition is not necessary on the part of those who intend to buy souls out of purgatory or to buy confessional privileges preach unchristian doctrine.

36. Any truly repentant Christian has a right to full remission of penalty and guilt, even without indulgence letters.

37. Any true Christian, whether living or dead, participates in all the blessings of Christ and the church; and this is granted him by God, even without indulgence letters.

38. Nevertheless, papal remission and blessing are by no means to be disregarded, for they are, as I have said (Thesis 6), the proclamation of the divine remission.

39. It is very difficult, even for the most learned theologians, at one and the same time to commend to the people the bounty of indulgences and the need of true contrition.

40. A Christian who is truly contrite seeks and loves to pay penalties for his sins; the bounty of indulgences, however, relaxes penalties and causes men to hate them — at least it furnishes occasion for hating them.

41. Papal indulgences must be preached with caution, lest people erroneously think that they are preferable to other good works of love.

42. Christians are to be taught that the pope does not intend that the buying of indulgences should in any way be compared with works of mercy.

43. Christians are to be taught that he who gives to the poor or lends to the needy does a better deed than he who buys indulgences.

44. Because love grows by works of love, man thereby becomes better. Man does not, however, become better by means of indulgences but is merely freed from penalties.

45. Christians are to be taught that he who sees a needy man and passes him by, yet gives his money for indulgences, does not buy papal indulgences but God’s wrath.

46. Christians are to be taught that, unless they have more than they need, they must reserve enough for their family needs and by no means squander it on indulgences.

47. Christians are to be taught that they buying of indulgences is a matter of free choice, not commanded.

48 Christians are to be taught that the pope, in granting indulgences, needs and thus desires their devout prayer more than their money.

49. Christians are to be taught that papal indulgences are useful only if they do not put their trust in them, but very harmful if they lose their fear of God because of them.

50. Christians are to be taught that if the pope knew the exactions of the indulgence preachers, he would rather that the basilica of St. Peter were burned to ashes than built up with the skin, flesh, and bones of his sheep.

51. Christians are to be taught that the pope would and should wish to give of his own money, even though he had to sell the basilica of St. Peter, to many of those from whom certain hawkers of indulgences cajole money.

52. It is vain to trust in salvation by indulgence letters, even though the indulgence commissary, or even the pope, were to offer his soul as security.

53. They are the enemies of Christ and the pope who forbid altogether the preaching of the Word of God in some churches in order that indulgences may be preached in others.

54. Injury is done to the Word of God when, in the same sermon, an equal or larger amount of time is devoted to indulgences than to the Word.

55. It is certainly the pope’s sentiment that if indulgences, which are a very insignificant thing, are celebrated with one bell, one procession, and one ceremony, then the gospel, which is the very greatest thing, should be preached with a hundred bells, a hundred processions, a hundred ceremonies.

56. The true treasures of the church, out of which the pope distributes indulgences, are not sufficiently discussed or known among the people of Christ.

57. That indulgences are not temporal treasures is certainly clear, for many indulgence sellers do not distribute them freely but only gather them.

58. Nor are they the merits of Christ and the saints, for, even without the pope, the latter always work grace for the inner man, and the cross, death, and hell for the outer man.

59. St. Lawrence said that the poor of the church were the treasures of the church, but he spoke according to the usage of the word in his own time.

60. Without want of consideration we say that the keys of the church, given by the merits of Christ, are that treasure.

61. For it is clear that the pope’s power is of itself sufficient for the remission of penalties and cases reserved by himself.

62. The true treasure of the church is the most holy gospel of the glory and grace of God.

63. But this treasure is naturally most odious, for it makes the first to be last (Mt. 20:16).

64. On the other hand, the treasure of indulgences is naturally most acceptable, for it makes the last to be first.

65. Therefore the treasures of the gospel are nets with which one formerly fished for men of wealth.

66. The treasures of indulgences are nets with which one now fishes for the wealth of men.

67. The indulgences which the demagogues acclaim as the greatest graces are actually understood to be such only insofar as they promote gain.

68. They are nevertheless in truth the most insignificant graces when compared with the grace of God and the piety of the cross.

69. Bishops and curates are bound to admit the commissaries of papal indulgences with all reverence.

70. But they are much more bound to strain their eyes and ears lest these men preach their own dreams instead of what the pope has commissioned.

71. Let him who speaks against the truth concerning papal indulgences be anathema and accursed.

72. But let him who guards against the lust and license of the indulgence preachers be blessed.

73. Just as the pope justly thunders against those who by any means whatever contrive harm to the sale of indulgences.

74. Much more does he intend to thunder against those who use indulgences as a pretext to contrive harm to holy love and truth.

75. To consider papal indulgences so great that they could absolve a man even if he had done the impossible and had violated the mother of God is madness.

76. We say on the contrary that papal indulgences cannot remove the very least of venial sins as far as guilt is concerned.

77. To say that even St. Peter if he were now pope, could not grant greater graces is blasphemy against St. Peter and the pope.

78. We say on the contrary that even the present pope, or any pope whatsoever, has greater graces at his disposal, that is, the gospel, spiritual powers, gifts of healing, etc., as it is written, 1 Co 12[:28].

79. To say that the cross emblazoned with the papal coat of arms, and set up by the indulgence preachers is equal in worth to the cross of Christ is blasphemy.

80. The bishops, curates, and theologians who permit such talk to be spread among the people will have to answer for this.

81. This unbridled preaching of indulgences makes it difficult even for learned men to rescue the reverence which is due the pope from slander or from the shrewd questions of the laity.

82. Such as: “Why does not the pope empty purgatory for the sake of holy love and the dire need of the souls that are there if he redeems an infinite number of souls for the sake of miserable money with which to build a church? The former reason would be most just; the latter is most trivial.

83. Again, “Why are funeral and anniversary masses for the dead continued and why does he not return or permit the withdrawal of the endowments founded for them, since it is wrong to pray for the redeemed?”

84. Again, “What is this new piety of God and the pope that for a consideration of money they permit a man who is impious and their enemy to buy out of purgatory the pious soul of a friend of God and do not rather, because of the need of that pious and beloved soul, free it for pure love’s sake?”

85. Again, “Why are the penitential canons, long since abrogated and dead in actual fact and through disuse, now satisfied by the granting of indulgences as though they were still alive and in force?”

86. Again, “Why does not the pope, whose wealth is today greater than the wealth of the richest Crassus, build this one basilica of St. Peter with his own money rather than with the money of poor believers?”

87. Again, “What does the pope remit or grant to those who by perfect contrition already have a right to full remission and blessings?”

88. Again, “What greater blessing could come to the church than if the pope were to bestow these remissions and blessings on every believer a hundred times a day, as he now does but once?”

89. “Since the pope seeks the salvation of souls rather than money by his indulgences, why does he suspend the indulgences and pardons previously granted when they have equal efficacy?”

90. To repress these very sharp arguments of the laity by force alone, and not to resolve them by giving reasons, is to expose the church and the pope to the ridicule of their enemies and to make Christians unhappy.

91. If, therefore, indulgences were preached according to the spirit and intention of the pope, all these doubts would be readily resolved. Indeed, they would not exist.

92. Away, then, with all those prophets who say to the people of Christ, “Peace, peace,” and there is no peace! (Jer 6:14)

93. Blessed be all those prophets who say to the people of Christ, “Cross, cross,” and there is no cross!

94. Christians should be exhorted to be diligent in following Christ, their Head, through penalties, death and hell.

95. And thus be confident of entering into heaven through many tribulations rather than through the false security of peace (Acts 14:22).

Reformation Sunday, 2004 — Part One

October 31,2004, I had a rare privilege to give a Power Point presentation at Shady Grove Baptist Church on the life of Martin Luther and a short summary of the “Pillars of the Reformation,” the five “solas” which encircle Luther in the portrait to the right designed by David Jacks, owner of Theological Pursuits Bookstore, in Fort Worth, Texas. My thanks go to him for both this portrait and the burning bush logo I feature on this weblog (

In the previous post you should see an icon which reads “Play This Audio Post.” This is the first few minutes of my 14 minute, 45 second long presentation. Unfortunately, I exceeded the limit of the post, so you’ll have to endure something of a cliffhanger until I regroup and record the rest of the presentation in a future post very soon, tomorrow, God willing. Posted by Picasa

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