to the gracious and worthy H. E., my most kind Lord and dear Friend, my hearty good wishes.
Gracious and worthy Sir and Friend. I have received, together with your letter, Emser’s pamphlet addressed “To the Wittenberg Bull,” and although many advise me not to reply to one who is a notorious liar and blasphemer, yet I could not forbear to point out his lies to him, lest the sow’s belly wax too big. For he is such a numskull that he dares to believe that he has right on his side and has won his case, though he produces only lies and nothing at all that amounts to anything. It did not seem right to me to remain silent when the whole aim of his lies is to bring my doctrine into bad repute. These considerations I have thought it well not to withhold from you. God have you in His keeping.
First, he wants to show what kind of bird I am. This he really needs to do. For though I am not a saint, yet God has so far protected my life that no one can truthfully reproach me, and during these two years so many lies and liars have come to grief through me, that Emser’s showing will demand much skill and labor. I have this advantage over him, that I need not show what kind of bird he is; everyone knows him by his song and his feathers. And his books bear out his reputation. It is indeed a blessing when liars and knaves call me names.
He has printed it twice, in Latin and in German, and otherwise blabbed it here and there, that I have said: “I did not begin this game in the name of God, and that it shall not end in God’s name.” What would he do if he really knew something about me? How fervently would the Christian love, of which he boasts, go out to me, when he is so active in spreading this poisonous, shameless lie of his own creation, which he intends to be a deadly thrust that shall discredit all my books and teachings at once and consign them to the devil. You have made a mistake and the blade has cut your fingers! Miserable wretch, how dare you testify and swear by the holy name of God that what you do against me is not dictated by hatred, envy, and lying, while your heart and conscience know the contrary to be true.
Keep quiet and let me spread out your feathers a little, so that you yourself may see what others know — the kind of bird you are.
It happened at Leipzig, in the chancellery of the castle — I have a keen and lively memory of the occasion — that the discussion concerning the arrangements for the disputation proceeded, according to Eckian f408 practice, to place all the advantage on his side. We saw that our opponents sought glory rather than truth, although until then I had hoped that they had begun the matter in God’s name, even as I had done. Then I uttered the plaintive words that came from a sorrowful heart: “This thing is not begun in God’s name, nor will the end be in God’s name.” And the result has proved it; every one now sees that my prophecy is fulfilled. The kind of fruit the disputation has borne is all too evident.
I can prove my words not only by those of our party who were present, but by the testimony of Emser’s own conscience, who also stood by with eyes burning with hatred and great malice.
Therefore I despised this bare-faced lie and never wanted to answer it. I thought this holy priest of God and man of Christian love would come to his senses and himself be ashamed of such an open, crass lie, and fear that, even though I and our party kept silence, the table, the stove, and the vaulted arches of the chancellery would cry out: “Emser, do not kill yourself with lying. That lie is too much for a rimester and poetaster.” I do not willingly answer those whom I know to be convinced in their own conscience and yet keep on belching forth lies.
And more than this, the holy priest of God knows as well as anybody that Eck started the disputation; how then could those words refer to anything I had started? For this I can boast and prove, that in this whole matter I have never started a controversy, for I have always against my will been torn and driven away from useful, helpful occupations, so that many good people have felt sorry that I must waste so much precious time in answering my lying and malicious assailants, who deliberately invited me to a match in order to win honors, and when they failed, wanted to drive out their guest by throwing filth at him. But since they have invited me, I shall stay if it please God, against their will, or be sent home with honors. They shall suffer and pay well for the malice which they showed against me at the instigation of the evil one. I hope to God that the game shall not be spoiled for me in this wise, and that in less than ten years Emser, Eck, and the pope with all his retinue of liars and seducers shall know whether they or I have begun in God’s name, even if they burn my books, and me in the bargain! f409 My words referred not to myself, but to Eck, Emser, and the Leipzig theologians; but in order to prove his Christian love this holy priest of God twists them in the same way as the Jews interpreted the word of Christ concerning Caesar, the paying of the tribute, and the rebuilding of the temple. He writes that I said I did not begin in God’s name, and affirms and swears that he is not animated by hatred and envy; even the holy name of God must serve him for his poisonous lies and be dragged into the dust. Do you begin to recognize your own feathers, my fine bird? Who will believe that so much as one word of yours is true, when you not only lie so wantonly, despite my diligence in begging you not do to it, but when you recklessly undertake to poison innocent hearts by your unchristian affirming and swearing and in the name of the living God spread your deadly lies among so many Christians. How you would rage and fume if you had caught me as effectively even in one little letter as I have caught you in this lie.
It is a piece of the same cloth when you write that I said: “The devil may care!” because the poor, simple common folk were offended by my teaching. My Emser, he who would cow me, must not come at me with lies. During these three years many lies have been circulated about me, as you know, and all have come to shame. I am not in the least afraid that you will gain any glory in this, even if your lies should be believed for a while.
God be praised and blessed that you, Eck, the pope, and the whole Behemoth take offense at my teaching. But the letters of many Godfearing people have borne witness that my teaching has brought comfort, profit, and improvement to simple, sorrowful, and captive consciences, and they have heartily thanked me, though I am unworthy, and have praised God that they lived long enough to hear such a word. Christ says: “The disciple is not above his master. If they have called the master of the house Beelzebub, how much more shall they call them of his household.” ( Matthew 10:24,25) “As they have kept my saying, they will keep yours also.” ( John 15:20) The Ecks, the points, the Emsers, the goats, the wolves, the serpents, and all such irrational, wild animals were offended at Him, but the sheep heard His voice. Thus too, my Annases, Caiaphases, Herods, Judases, Pharisees, scribes, and all the pious, noble, delicate folk must be offended because of me—good luck to them! Christ says: “Let them alone, they be blind leaders of the blind.” ( Matthew 15:14) Nor would it have been a mortal sin, even if some one had really said what you lyingly attribute to me, assassin that you are, that the devil may care, if villains like you and your sort are offended — but I do not say it.
Therefore, my dear liar, I did not say, as you accuse me, that I regard the taking offense by the common people of so little account, that I consigned it to the devil. That is an invention of yours, in order to accuse me of being, as you say, a proud and haughty man. My great and joyful courage hurts you to your very heart. But in spite of you and Eck, the pope and your whole crew, yea, in spite of the devil too, I am, and please God, will remain in a constant, fearless, proud state of mind, defying and despising you all as fools and blind men and malignant liars. I would, indeed, that your hate-filled eyes could see my joyful spirit day by day, although the mere hearing about it causes you grief enough. All your envy, pain, rage, and whatever evil thing you may do shall help you not one whit. You call me proud because I will not humble myself before such furious, bloodthirsty tyrants and do not accept your lies and your poison. In the same way, even Christ and John were accused by the Jews of having a devil. ( John 8:48; Matthew 11:18) But if I knew that my teaching brought injury to one simple-minded man— which cannot be, since it is the Gospel itself—I would rather suffer ten deaths than allow such teaching to spread or go unrecanted. He is a villain indeed, worse even than Emser himself, who would not sympathize with the common people when they take offense. Again, he is unchristian who would sympathize with the tyrants and Pharisees when they take offense. I will not waste any words arguing whether I am a haughty man or not, since that does not concern my teaching, but my person. ! have said repeatedly:
Assail my person if you will, and in any way you will; I do not claim to be an angel. But I will allow no one to assail my teaching with impunity, since I know that it is not mine, but God’s. For on this depends my neighbor’s salvation and my own, to God’s praise and honor. Now I think one would sooner believe my fellow Wittenbergers, who see my daily life and have constant dealings with me, rather than the lying outsider, Emser. This I know well, that I am in daily receipt of warnings, not only from my neighbors but in letters from many countries, not to meet men so freely, and they chide me for my ready accessibility, even at the peril of my life.
No one has ever accused me of a proud spirit except Emser, whom I should really believe, because according to the proverb one’s enemies tell the truth. But he has made himself so notorious as a liar that everybody discounts him. Moreover, the responsibility which rests upon me alone certainly would be quite enough to humble any proud spirit, even if I were haughty by nature. Many regard it as incredible under these circumstances that I should still live. I have so much work that six years ago three of me would have had more than they could do, and yet, by God’s grace, I am now hale and hearty, full of joy and courage; I have even, at times, a little leisure. All of which is, without doubt, the doing of my Lord Jesus Christ through the prayers of pious people, without any merit of mine, to spite and vex all the enemies of the Divine word, that, if God so wills it, they shall become like unto their fathers, the Jews, of whom it is written: “They have provoked me to anger with a strange god; I will provoke them to anger with a strange nation.” ( Deuteronomy 32:21) Again, you also write that I have forbidden obedience to the pope and the secular authorities, yet, hardened liar that you are, my many books do not make you blush, in which I clearly teach the opposite, even in the book De Captivitate Babylonica, which is said to be the very worst. Thus you lie about my presence, my absence, my books—from every angle you are a liar. I burned the pope’s books on account of this teaching, that he deprives the temporal authorities of the obedience which is their due, and now you say, I also teach the same. This is what I said: The pope and the bishops have no right to burden Christians with their laws; nevertheless their illegal power is to be suffered and borne by those under them, in so far as it can be done without sin and danger to the soul. This I have written not in one place only, but in many.
And, my dear liar, you cannot so glibly deny the authorship of the book of Thomas Rhadinus Your drivel and snivel is not easily hidden, and the ability displayed, which you rightly claim for yourself, is the very image of your addleheaded stupidity in philosophy and theology, as shall presently be made plain to you. If there were any ability in the book, I would not ascribe it to you. And who will believe that it is your intention to attack the abuses of the clergy? Why were you silent about the abominable abuse of the indulgences and all the Roman knavery, and why are you still silent?
Besides, you do not attack any of-my books except those wherein I attack not the estates, but the vices. How can you revel in such lying? You confess the vices and shortcomings of the estates and hold the pap in your mouth at the same time; but you desire to be acclaimed a pious man and the foes of vice.
But I notice that since the rising water almost swamps the boat, and vice and the vicious are going down together, you pretend to save the estate, but your real intention is to increase wickedness and vice, as was done by the Council of Constance. However, we shall doubtless receive instruction about these things in your precious, superior little book, f419 which begins with lies and doubtless will end with lies. I could point out many more such lies, which I have passed over until now. Do not hack at the high limbs or the chips will fall into your eyes. I therefore pray you again, my Emser, for God’s sake, moderate your lying and make amends for this lie, so that you may not go too far in tempting God. I know you cannot harm me, and I would rather see you repent than perish. That I may withhold no duty which a Christian owes his enemy, and I notice that you stake your soul upon your cause, like an angry bee sacrificing its life with its sting, I will offer you now what I have offered once before to an enemy—leave to choose either anger or mirth; and I will give you both exhortation and encouragement, that when your last hour comes—for we are uncertain of any moment—you need not be frightened or driven to despair when my image rises up in your memory, and I assure you now that what you have done to me shall not then rise up to your hurt. I desire to do my part for the salvation of your soul. If, through the influence of the bitter foe, you should spurn this offer now and laugh at it and make the sign of the cross against it, as I fear you will do, nevertheless remember it when the time comes and the need arises, and do not despair. And I want all my enemies to know this, who have not had personal experience of the anguish and terror of death. I know whereof I speak, and the time will come when they will know it too; God grant that it may not be their destruction. Do not delude yourself with the idea that I shall recant so much as one iota of my teaching, even if it should please God that you become my cousin or my sister or my brother-in-law, that you turn sheep or remain goat. It is not a matter of recanting, but of nothing less than staking life and limb, my Emser. For that God grant me His grace. Amen.
In order that you yourself may see how crassly you lie, and that your writing against me is not prompted by love of truth, but by sheer, rabid hatred, I will say further: If I should be so possessed—from which may God preserve me—as really to say that I had not begun this work in God’s name, why should you fight about it? Especially since you proclaim so loudly, that you wish to oppose my teaching only, without any rancor at all? Are there not many who teach for the sake of gain and money and honor and yet teach the truth? Have you not read in Matthew 7:22 that on the last day some will say to Christ: “Lord, have we not prophesied in Thy name and done many wonderful works?” to whom He will nevertheless say: “Depart from Me, ye workers of iniquity,” by which He proves that they did not do these things in His name, as they boast. Look out, lest you be a comrade of theirs, since you affirm and boast so strongly that you began this in God’s name.
Again, Balaam uttered the noblest prophecies, not for God’s sake but for goods’ sake. ( Numbers 34:1 f.) Christ says, Matthew 23:1, that men should hear the scribes that sit in Moses’ seat even though they were evil, of whom you will doubtless admit that they did not teach in God’s name, but for the sake of honor and profit. Is it not true that you and all the popish dissemblers and liars defend this principle and unite in saying that greedy, lecherous, honor-seeking prelates and teachers are not to be despised; in short, one should not look upon the life, but on the teaching?
Now, it is impossible that they teach and govern in God’s name, because, as St. Paul says of them, they all seek their own. ( Philippians 2:21) If you want to root out all those who do not teach and govern in God’s name, how many of the clergy would be left, and what would become of you? I hope that you do not want your teaching to be judged by your own sanctity, for what could it be but sheer knavery?
St. Paul in Ephesians 1 glories in the fact and rejoices that the Gospel was preached by some from envy and self-seeking, yea even by the enemies of the Gospel who preached it merely to destroy the Gospel. ( Philippians 1:15) But you, holier and more excellent than St. Paul, would suppress my teaching if you could prove one evil thing against me, by which you show how thoroughly blind you are to the hatred and malice in your heart. And since you despair of making a case and cannot harm my teaching, you turn your snout and teeth on my life. And your scrutiny is so close that you are even on the watch for every word of mine, since you cannot find fault with my works. You pretend to attack my teaching, you really attack my life. I imagine you must have strayed into the carnival and become the poet mentioned by Horace, who set out to make a cask and it became a jug.
It is like the preacher who announced that he would preach on love and then preached about a goose. It is true, you have not the ears of an ass, as you say yourself; look to it lest you have the brain and heart of an ass, when you do such awkward and senseless things.
If I had wanted to attack your life, do you not think I could have found the material? I could prove from your second book, the Assertio, that you have acknowledged your hatred of me and that you wrote your first book of praise to the Bohemians out of hatred to me—the very thing you deny so often in the same book. Thus you continually contradict yourself and never write anything but lies. But I did not want and do not now want to have anything to do with your life or with anybody else’s life. I am not concerned with the life but with doctrines. Evil life does no great harm, except to itself, but evil teaching is the greatest evil in the world, for it leads hosts of souls to hell. It does not concern me whether you are good or evil, but I will attack your poisonous and lying teaching that contradicts God’s Word, and, with God’s help, I will oppose it vigorously.
Furthermore, that your great wisdom and superior holiness may be astounded and cross itself at the sight of such a poor sinner and great fool, I will go on and say that I do not boast ever to have begun anything in God’s name, as you boast with such solemn affirmations. What do you think of that, Emser? Now let your pen splutter, ring all the bells and cry aloud, that what is in me is all the devil’s work, just as you would so gladly have done, out of great love, in this death-thrust of yours. Dear Emser, my heart’s trust is, that I have begun it in His name, but I am not so bold as to pass judgment myself and to say brazenly it is surely not otherwise. I would not like to rely upon this confidence when God judges, but I creep to His grace and I hope that He will accept it as having been begun in His name, and if any impure motives have crept in, since I am a sinful man of ordinary flesh and blood, He will graciously forgive it and not deal severely with me in His judgment.
St. Paul has made me so timid when he says in 1 Corinthians 4:4, “I know nothing against myself, yet am I not hereby justified. I judge not mine own self, but he that judgeth me is the Lord.” And David: “Enter not into judgment with thy servant, for in thy sight shall no man living be justified.” (Psalms 143:2) But a bold and intrepid hero like you, high above St. Paul and all saints, who has neither flesh nor blood but is all spirit and God, calmly makes appeal to God’s final judgment, saying that he does everything in God’s name, without rancor, and defies the terrible judgment of God. Come, let some one snap his fingers to beat time for him and pull his beard. It would be in keeping, when you walk the streets of Leipzig that all the bells should be rung and roses strewn in the path of the new saint.
And after your writing has overwhelmed me, I beg you also to attack God’s terrible judgment on the last day and to write against it as an unjust tribunal unless it allows that your doings have been in God’s name; and call upon God to enter into judgment with you, just as you do now. For alone of all men you have already pronounced judgment upon yourself and awarded yourself the crown. You alone are found justified.
O Emser, whither are you drifting? Do you not see that hatred has so maddened you that you do not understand what you say or do? I have read no more terrible, more abominable word than this, my ears tremble when you take God’s final judgment upon yourself. If I had no other reason to believe that you lie and dissemble in everything you put forth, your atrocious appeal to the final judgment would be more than enough for me.
For it cannot come out of an upright, true heart, or else all the Scriptures must be wrong. High oaths are signs of deep lies. You thought to gain men’s confidence with lies; that was the very blunder by which you lost their confidence. Who will believe you in anything after you have thus, with false heart and lying words, called upon God’s judgment? And if you do not lie, your own blindness steps in and destroys whatever confidence men had in you. How could you produce anything good about the Holy Scriptures, when you are so stupid and blind as to understand neither your own heart, nor your own words, nor God’s judgment; your talk is like that of a drunken maniac.
My advice to you is, remain a rimester and stick to writing your doggerel; lies and lapses in them will do no harm. The Word of God and the Scriptures are too high for you, your attempts to reach them are such miserable failures. I will cite one more instance of that by way of giving a foretaste of your book. You begin it by lamenting that the spread of my teaching has left no house in which there is not argument and dissension concerning me. My Emser, pray, who has asked you to give such glowing testimony against yourself? How could my teaching be more strongly supported than by this confession of its worst enemy? God is leading you like Caiaphas, that just when you mean to say the very worst thing, your hatred produces the very best testimony for me. ( John 11:49 ff.) My hope that I have begun in God’s name and that I teach the Word of God aright has no stronger witness and sign than this, that its rapid spread throughout the world without my doing or seeking it, and in spite of untold opposition and persecution by the powerful and learned, has brought about dissension. If that were not the case, I would have despaired and given up long ago. That the real nature of the Divine Word is to produce just such a movement and disturbance is affirmed By Psalm 147: “God’s word runneth swiftly”; and by Christ: “I will give you a mouth and wisdom which all your adversaries shall not be able to gainsay and resist”; and in Matthew: “Think not that I am come to send peace on earth. I came not to send peace, but a sword and dissension. For I am come to set a son at variance against his father, and the daughter against the mother, and a man’s foes shall be they of his own household.” (Psalms 147:15; Luke 21:15; Matthew 10:34 ff.)
If the enemy himself confesses that my teaching produces such effects in the world, what better thing could I wish to hear? Is He not a wondrous God Who turns Balaam’s malediction into benediction and makes my enemies’ threats my comfort and their defiance my strength? See how cleverly you have hit upon the nature and work of the Divine Word, my precious expounder of Holy Writ! You argue that it shall go on in peace, produce no conflict, cause no offense. But Christ says it cannot and will not be thus. If your first sheet brings such arrant foolishness in the beginning, what will the twenty that follow bring? Nothing, methinks, but fools’ play and blasphemy. You want to write a book and do not know how to begin; you undertake to expound God’s Word and do not understand its nature, its purpose, or its work. Think you not, my dear Goat, your butting has been very clever? I hope you will butt me like that every time.
This is exactly why I firmly believe that the greater number of the popes’ and all the sophist theologians’ books are the devil’s teachings: They have been received by the world peacefully without opposition, have been accorded all honor and held in higher esteem and fear than the holy Gospel.
If they had come from God, they would have pleased the smaller number, brought discord into homes and made some men martyrs. But you, a holy priest of God and a Christian lover, pretend to write peaceful doctrine which shall not give offense, and you appeal to the final judgment that you do so without rancor and in the name of God. My good friend, you make St. Simeon a liar when he says in Luke 2:34 “Christ is set for the fall and rising again of many, and for a sign which shall be spoken against.” All the strife and the wars of the Old Testament prefigured the preaching of the Gospel which must produce strife, dissension, disputes, disturbance.
Such was the condition of Christendom when it was at its best, in the times of the apostles and martyrs.
That is a blessed dissension, disturbance, and commotion which is produced by the Word of God; it is the beginning of true faith and of war against false faith; it is the coming again of the days of suffering and persecution and the right condition of Christendom. But Emser thinks this must be prevented by all means, and therefore other and peaceful things ought to be preached. The Antichrist at Rome has long desired the same thing, and alas! achieved it, but St. Paul calls it operationem erroris, a working of error and believing a lie. ( 2 Thessalonians 2:11) For the sake of such preaching John Hus and Jerome of Prague were burned at the stake in Constance, for their teaching too was a blow in the face for the goats and wolves and caused an uproar. Emser’s idols, pope and cardinal, consulted how they could effectually oppose such teachings, especially concerning both kinds in the Sacrament, when the Florentine Cardinal f432 burst out: “0 let the beasts eat and drink what they will, but they want to reform us and teach us what to do; here is where we must oppose them.”
And in accordance with his advice the game was played.
A similar occurrence took place at Augsburg, where my cardinal of St.
Sixtus pretended, if only I would recant the indulgence affair, there would be no further trouble; we could easily find a “distinction” and a way out. This is their way of seeking God’s honor and the truth. Therefore, even if Emser drags out Aristotle and holds the fate of Hus and Jerome before me, I would rather share Hus’s shame than Aristotle’s honor. I will gladly leave to him the liar and knave Aristotle, whether he go to the hogsty or the ass-stable to find him, that I may retain Hus, who by God’s grace is now awakened from the dead and torments his murderers, the pope and the popish set, more than when he was alive. And if the pope and all the papal liars should burst with malice, nevertheless they must hear what John Hus flaunts in their faces: Ye Christ murderers may spill innocent blood, but you can never silence it. Abel, who was no match for Cain in life, only began to give him real suffering when he was dead. ( Genesis 4:10 ff.) I hope it will be my lot, too, that, like Samson, I may bring greater disaster upon them with my death than in my life. ( Judges 16:30) Christ’s death also accomplished more than His life, even as He says in John 12:24 “Except a corn of wheat fall into the ground and die, it abideth alone: but if it die, it bringeth forth much fruit.”
It does not vex me when he speaks of a prophecy concerning a monk who should pervert the world. For I hold St. Paul and Peter to be strong enough against all false prophets and both of them announced the perversion of the pope and his followers. And where I have the clear Scriptures, I pay attention to no prophet even though he came down from heaven, for St. Paul has said in Galatians 1 that we should not believe an angel from heaven if his teaching were different from that of the Gospel. ( Galatians 1:8) But that the pope and his fellow-tyrants have taught differently is as clear as day. Hus proved it, so did I and many others, and I will bring still better proof, so help me God.
And now, my Emser, that you have of your own accord taken hold of this matter and pushed yourself into something which does not concern you, I shall see that you do not escape. You have given a new stimulus to my pen; you shall remain to the end of the game and your name will be mentioned in many other books. Nor will it help to complain. But if you will recant and give up dissembling, you will soon cause me to be silent. If you will not do that, then do what you can. May God help His truth. Neither to me nor to you, but to God alone be honor and praise. Amen.