Ever wonder how I got involved looking up obscure Luther quotes? Here's the tale of one of the early Luther quotes I went scavenging for. This quote from Luther, said to prove he believed in Mary's immaculate conception, was (and is still) on numerous Roman Catholic sites:
"It is a sweet and pious belief that the infusion of Mary's soul was effected without original sin; so that in the very infusion of her soul she was also purified from original sin and adorned with God's gifts, receiving a pure soul infused by God; thus from the first moment she began to live she was free from all sin."
This quote was on web pages like this and this. It's supposed to serve as proof that "the Marian teachings and preachings of the Reformers have been 'covered up' by their most zealous followers - with damaging theological and practical consequences." I became curious about such assertions, and began taking a closer look at this issue. The result was this paper: Martin Luther's Theology of Mary. It turns out this quote was covered up, but not by Luther's followers, but probably by Luther himself.
The Roman Catholic Runaround
The first time I came across this quote it was simply documented as "Sermon: 'On the Day of the Conception of the Mother of God,' 1527." There wasn't even a hint of a reference to a primary source. I searched quite a bit for an accurate source, especially an English translation. I eventually gave up, arriving at the conviction that the sermon was almost impossible to track down, especially in English. There simply wasn't anything on-line at the time that mentioned a primary source, or any sort of English translation. This was previous to the advent of Google Books. All I had were a few sparse Internet references and a few college libraries.
At one point a Roman Catholic apologist offered me these helpful hints on how to find this quote:
It is also untrue that no documentation on the Internet (besides my own) has been offered, and that the quote "is almost impossible to track down" and "not included in the English edition of Luther’s Works," as Mr. Swan laments. Au contraire! In fact, at least two other web pages give the documentation from the English version of Luther's Works: Luther's Works, ed. Jaroslav Pelikan, volume 4, 694. I found this in a paper, "The Protestant Reformers on Mary". To locate it was an amazingly simple task. I went to Google, the best Internet search engine (http://www.google.com/) and typed in the keywords "Luther Mariology." My own article... came up first. My topical index web page on Mary came up second. The article above was the fifth web page listed. I also found an abridged version of the same citation, with the same exact documentation, on the page, "Martin Luther and Mary,"... on the website of another fellow Catholic apologist (Martin Luther and Mary) -- both acquaintances of mine. This was discovered on Google by simply typing in "Luther Mary." It came up seventh in the resulting listing. What Mr. Swan considers "almost impossible," then; and what he failed to discover by his agonizing, assiduous labor of "looking through dozens of books on Luther, and at least three different sets of his sermons," I accomplished in 5-10 minutes. Maybe he is new to the Internet, though (I have seven years' experience). We all have to learn our way around the Worldwide Web. In any event, I wish to heartily thank Mr. Swan for offering me (due to his fallacious charges and erroneous proclamations) this opportunity to greatly strengthen my argument, as he also did in our last exchange. But for his factually-challenged protests, I wouldn't have done this research today. I'm not one to pass up a golden opportunity like this.
Well, here's the moral of this part of the story: finding something on Google from a Roman Catholic apologetics website doesn't always make something real. "Luther's Works, ed. Jaroslav Pelikan, volume 4, 694" is a bogus reference. Volume 4 of LW does not have a page 694. Luther’s Works volume 4 is entitled "Lectures on Genesis 21-25.” Why would a volume dedicated to Luther's Genesis lectures include "Sermon: "On the Day of the Conception of the Mother of God," since in fact selections from Luther's sermons appear in volumes 51 and 52? I was familiar with this bogus reference, even before this Romanist exhortation. Something fishy was going on with Rome's Internet defenders.
The Hartmann Grisar Trail
As part of my inquiries into Luther's Mariology, I found this book in the stacks (by a Roman Catholic historian) at Westminster Theological Seminary: Hartmann Grisar, Martin Luther: His Life and Work (Maryland: The Newman Press, 1950). On page 211, Grisar states: "As late as 1527 [Luther] even acknowledged the doctrine of the immaculate conception of Mary, in conformity with theological traditions of the Augustinian Order [Op. cit., IV, 238 and 500 sqq]". The reference isn't to Luther's writings, but rather to volume IV of Grisar's extended treatment of Luther. I couldn't find any library copies of this book, so I bought one. In that book, Grisar states on page 238,
The supreme distinction which the Church acknowledges in Mary viz. her immaculate conception and exemption from original sin from the first moment of her soul's existence Luther himself accepted at first and adhered to for a consider able time, following in this the tradition of his Order.(1)
(1) He admitted this belief handed down in the Catholic Schools, though not proclaimed a dogma till much later, in the sermon he preached in 1527 "on the day of the Conception of Mary the Mother of God": "It is a sweet and pious belief that the infusion of Mary's soul was effected without original sin; so that in the very infusion of her soul she was also purified from original sin and adorned with God's gifts, receiving a pure soul infused by God; thus from the first moment she began to live she was free from all sin" ( "Werke," Erl. ed., 15 2, p. 58). The sermon was taken down in notes and published with Luther's approval. The same statements concerning the Immaculate Conception still remain in a printed edition published in 1529, but in the later editions which appeared during Luther's lifetime they disappear. (Cp. N. Paulus, "Lit. Beil. der Koln. Volksztng.," 1904, No. 41.) In a work of 1521 he says : Mary not only kept God's commandments perfectly but also "received so much grace that she was quite filled with it, as we believe" ("Rationis Latomiance confutatio, "Werke," Weim. ed., 8. p. 56 ; "Opp. lat. var.," 7, p. 416). As Luther's intellectual and ethical development progressed we cannot naturally expect the sublime picture of the pure Mother of God, the type of virginity, of the spirit of sacrifice and of sanctity to furnish any great attraction for him, and as a matter of fact such statements as the above are no longer met with in his later works."
On pages 500-501 Grisar states:
In the same year , on the Feast of our Lady's Conception, he speaks of her name, which he says is derived from "stilla maris," and extols her as the one pure drop in the ocean of the "massa perditionis." To his admission here that her conception was immaculate he was still true in 1527, as has already been shown; after 1529, however, the passage containing this admission was expunged when the sermon in question was reprinted. In his home-postils he says of her conception: "Mary the Mother was surely born of sinful parents, and in sin, as we were" ; any explanation of the universal belief to the contrary and of his own previous statements he does not attempt. (3)
(3) "Werke," Erl. ed., 6 2, p.433
There it was- the very Luther quote word for word being used in Romanist apologetic web pages. The resemblance was so similar, I could only conclude that someone had taken the quote from this book (which turned out to indeed be the case). What was left out on Romanist websites? Grisar's admission that the quote was removed from the sermon during Luther's lifetime, and the comment, "As Luther's intellectual and ethical development progressed we cannot naturally expect the sublime picture of the pure Mother of God, the type of virginity, of the spirit of sacrifice and of sanctity to furnish any great attraction for him, and as a matter of fact such statements as the above are no longer met with in his later works." Someone ignored the clear context of Grisar, swiped a quote, and posted what I think can only be characterized as propaganda.
Grisar does though cite a primary source: "Werke," Erl. ed., 15 2, p. 58. "Erl" refers to the Erlangen edition of Luther's works. Some of these volumes are now on-line, but most of the scans are poor. Here is Erl 15. The sermon begins on page 43, and ends on page 55 (This is a different edition than that used by Grisar, making the page number he cited different). An asterisk at the bottom of page 54 indicates a deletion of the end paragraphs: "From here on until the end, is only found in the edition of the year 1527."
Luther's Edited Sermon from 1527
For proof the sermon was later edited, Grisar cites Roman Catholic scholar "N. Paulus". "Lit. Beil. der Koln. Volksztng.," 1904, No. 41" refers to "Literarische Beilage der Köln", a scholarly journal. It appears Grisar's conclusions about the editing of this sermon rest on the work of another Roman Catholic scholar.
Lutheran scholar Eric Gritsch makes a more recent reference to the fact that the sermon was edited. After quoting a portion of the sermon in question, he footnotes the text stating: "In another version of the same sermon from 1528 Luther declared that Scripture did not say anything about the conception of Mary. Accordingly, various ideas can be advanced, as long as none of them becomes an article of faith. For an analysis of the two versions, see Dufel, 169-170" [H. George Anderson, J. Francis Stafford, Joseph A. Burgess (editors) The One Mediator, The Saints, and Mary, Lutherans and Catholics in Dialogue VII (Minneapolis: Augsburg Fortress, 1992), p. 381]. Gritsch bases his findings on Hans Dufel's, Luthers Stellung zur Marienverehrung (Kirche und Konfession Veroffentlichungen des konfessionskundlichen Instituts des Evangelischen Bundes 13; Gottingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 1968). Like Paulus, Dufel's work is quite old.
In What Luther Says Volume 3, Ewald Plass also confirms the deletion of the sections on the immaculate conception. He quotes an earlier section of the sermon and mentions, "In this sermon Luther still holds to the immaculate conception of Mary. In later editions of the discourse the paragraphs which contain this error were omitted. See SL 11, 1952, 1559f" [What Luther Says, Vol.3 p. 1297]. Plass at least points to an actual edition of Luther's works in which the deletion is noted.
What would prompt Luther to edit his sermon? It appears Luther had trouble with the version put out by a friend. Martin Brecht mentions the original 1527 festival postil was largely directed by Stephan Roth (Rodt). When Roth didn't have a sermon from Luther for a particular festival, he used other texts including sermons from Melanchthon. Brecht states also, "Luther approved the undertaking, albeit with a certain reticence, principally because preaching the gospel on saints' days could supplant the legends of the saints. It seemed he did not know that Roth had taken great liberties with the texts." This would explain the title for the Weimar volume in which the sermon is found: "Roths Festpostille 1527." J.N. Lenker also provides helpful background material,
Luther being engaged from 1527 by other labors Rodt of Zwickau edited the Summer Postil and the Postil for the Chief Festivals, which were printed at Wittenberg in 1527, along with Bugenhagen’s Summaries translated from the Latin. Here the Epistles are omitted. In 1528 he also prepared a new edition of the Winter Postil, further revised by Luther. These three books, prepared by Rodt, were reissued at Wittenberg in 1527, 1528, 1529, 1530, 1531, 1532, 1533 and 1535; the Winter Postil nine times, the Summer Postil eight times, the Festival Postil four times. In his editorial work Rodt omitted some and added other material; now and then he united two sermons into one and divided one into two sermons. For this Friedrich Francke no doubt criticised him too severely. True, later Luther was not fully satisfied with Rodt’s work, but he was not pleased with his own and hence he continually corrected it. According to Luther’s opinion Rodt corrected too little. Creuziger was appointed by Luther to prepare a new edition of the Postil with many marked changes [source].
Joel Baseley also notes:
In 1527 Roth edited the Summer Postils and published the sermons for the Saints Days. Between 1527 and 1533 the Festival Sermons were published four times. In compiling the Festival Sermons, Roth in some cases used previously published sermons, sometimes combined two sermons into one and other times split a single sermon in two. Additionally, as he mentions in his 'forward,' he freely took from Bugenhagen's Latin Summaries of the Gospels. Some sermons are translations of postscripts from other sermons. A few of the citations are lifted from works of Melancthon. For instance, the sermon on Saints,Philip and James is a translation of Melancthon's Notes on the Gospel ofJohn and lacking a sermon by Luther on St Michael's, he uses a section from Melancthon's Loci under the title "Two kinds of Offense". Where no sermon is available, only Bugenhagen's summaries appear.
A number of scholars have recorded Luther's disappointment with Roth and liberties taken with the Festival Sermons, but it appears uncertain whether this is purely because of the editorial liberties which Roth took or if there were personal reasons for rancor, our both. Lenker states in his introduction that "For this Friedrich Francke no doubt criticized him (Roth) too severely. True, later Luther was not fully satisfied with Roth's work, but he was not pleased with his own and hence he continually corrected it. According to Luther's opinion Roth corrected too little. Creuziger was appointed by Luther to prepare a new edition of the postils with many marked changes" [Joel Baseley, Festival Sermons of Martin Luther (Michigan: Mark V Publications, 2005) Introductory Comments ("Some notes on the text")].
Finally, the editors of Luther's Works state,
Originally, Luther may have held something similar to the Thomist position, put forward in the Festival Postil (1527), sermon on the conception of Mary, WA 17/2:287-288, though the material in question seems to be solely the responsibility of its editor, Stephan Roth (d.1546), and was removed from the 1528 and subsequent editions: see StL 11:959-961; Baseley 1:50-51. In his later preaching, Luther affirmed that Mary had been both conceived and born in sin and connected her purification from sin with the work of the Holy Spirit at the time of Christ's conception: see e.g., Luther's sermons for Christmas Eve 1539, WA 47:860, and 1540 WA 49:173; Dufel, Luther's Stellung zur Marienverehrung, pp. 163-174, 196-97; Kreitzer, Reforming Mary, pp. 110-11 [LW 59:434-435].
The earlier sermon compiled by Roth can be found in WA 17 2, Fastenpostille 1525; Roths Festpostille 1527 (Festival Postil), titled Am tage der Empfengknus Marie der mutter Gottes Luk. 11 (pp. 280-289). The specific quote and context can be found on pages 287 - 288. There's also an extant Latin volume of Luther's sermons (alternate link) in which the sermon can be found starting on page 360. A Latin version can also be found here in WA 4: 690-694.
The sermon was on Luke 11:27-28, the possible date was December 6, 1527.
Joel Baseley recently put out an English translation in his translation of the Festival Sermons of Martin Luther (Michigan: Mark V Publications, 2005) pp. 42-51. He leaves out Luther's deleted ending. Baseley utilized a 1584 volume of the Kirchenpostille published in Wittenberg.
The sermon can be found translated from German into English on-line in part here. Another partial English translation (from the Latin) is found in a pro-Roman Catholic work, William Ullathorne, The Immaculate Conception of the Mother of God (Benziger Bros., 1904). The English translations I'm using were done by Brigitte , Matthew Carver, Ewald Plass, and Joel Baseley.
The version of the sermon in WA 17(2) opens with this summary: "Christ does not look at the honor, glory and praise of the flesh, also not that of his mother, the most holy virgin Mary. Therefore those, who to proclaim nothing than the praise of Mary, should be preaching God's Word (instead)." Baseley's translation reads, "Christ does not regard the honor, the praise and the glory of the flesh even for His mother, the most holy blessed virgin. Therefore, according to this example of Christ, all shall preach the word of God, above which nothing deserves to be babbled, even if it concerns dear Mary" (p.42)."
Today we celebrate the feast of how the Virgin Mary was conceived without original sin,a feast that has created a great deal of apathy, quarrelling and discord among the monks, without any benefit or good, since there is not one letter about it in the Gospel or anywhere else in Scripture. And in this we should see how the devil has blinded and seduced us to the point of being most interested in what was not commanded of us nor needful for us to know, while what was commanded of us we leave alone. It has ever been thus, and ever will be as long as the world stands. Therefore no one should let it bother him, for world will be world no matter what anyone does about it [Carver translation, p. 1].
The sermon itself is primarily about original sin, not the immaculate conception of Mary. In the opening Luther states, "Now on this feast day no one taught about original sin. Wish to God, they had hit upon that. We have to speak about this." The emphasis of the sermon isn't about Mary. In fact he looks at various "Marian" texts and shows how Christ always takes the focus off her in favor of the hearing of the word:
This is how He answers the woman in this passage who gave Him such praise before the people, saying, “Blessed is the body that bore You, and the breasts that nursed You.” “Yea, blessed are they that hear God’s Word and keep it.” It is as if the Lord would say, I will not accept the praise of the flesh, nor is it for this reason that My Mother is blessed. Your praise is wrong. You do not understand the things of God. You seek the profit and pleasure of the flesh [Carver translation, p.2-3].
In this way we see that God’s Word always wars against human affects and thoughts of the flesh and can never agree with them. We have something similar in Matthew 12:46–50: “When the Lord gave a long sermon to His disciples and to the people, His mother and His brothers stood outside and wanted to speak with Him. Then someone said to the Lord, ‘Behold, Your Mother and Your brothers are standing outside and want to speak with You.’ the Lord addressed the one who had asked who his mother and brothers were, indicated His disciples, and said, ‘Behold, these are My mother and My brothers. For whoever does the will of My Father in heaven is My brother, sister, and mother.’ He says this even more clearly here where He says, “Blessed are they that hear God’s Word and keep it” [Carver translation, p.2].
Luther then develops various points about original sin:
For just as [Adam] had flesh poisoned with sin, so all his children descended from him have just such flesh, inclined to every evil, and the sin that was in those parents has also been passed on to all their children. In the same way that a father with leprosy, by a mother with leprosy, begets sons and daughters with leprosy, of like flesh with the parents, so are we all begotten in and with sin from our sinful parents [Carver translation, p. 3].
He including the fact that "old Adam" is still active (Romans 7). This old nature must be fought by the creed and prayer. All people bear original sin, none excluded except for Christ. Luther states,
As soon as they had eaten of the forbidden tree and sinned, their concreated righteousness (erbliche Gerechtigkeit) fell away and perished. Then evil lusts began to arise and grow in them, and they became inclined to pride, unchasteness, wantonness of the flesh, and to all sins, as we now are. For as Adam and Eve were after the transgression, so all their descendants are. For just as Adam had a flesh poisoned with sin, so also all his descendants, born of him, have flesh inclined to all evil. And the sin that was in the parents is also born in (angeboren) all their descendants. . . . Therefore so many sins with which man is burdened, such as murder, adultery, theft, and countless other vices, flow from this first, inborn sin, that it should really be called originale peccatum (original sin) also because it is the source and beginning of all the other sins. For all sins come out of the evil inclination of our heart, as Christ says in Matt. 15:19: "Out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies." And at another place He says: "Out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh" (Matt. 12:34). From all this it is now clear and plain that original sin is nothing but the utter maliciousness and the inclination to evil which all human beings feel in themselves.10 (W 17 II, 283—E 15, 51— SL ll,1954f) [What Luther Says, 1297].
How is one freed from original sin? Luther explains:
Accordingly, God ordained that no one would be saved unless he was without sin. And for this reason God gave commandments in which He forbade sin, desiring that we in turn should be godly and righteous as Adam was before his sin. But since we could not do this, He gave Christ, His only begotten Son, into death for us so that by His blood He might deliver and free us from this original sin, and from all the sins that issue from original sin. Thus Christ teaches us to believe in Him and call upon Him for grace, through which this sin is cleansed [Carver translation, p. 3].
For if we are baptized and believe, we receive grace, which fights against the evil inclination in us and drives and stamps out original sin. Then there arise in us good and honorable motivations to humility, chastity, kindness, and every virtue, and then good works are also done with an eager heart. All this is effected by grace, which we received in Baptism through faith in [Carver translation, p. 3].
Towards the end of the sermon, Luther branches out into speculative theology asking and answering two questions. First: "If original sin is taken away in Baptism, why do you say that it remains and that it always has to be contended with?" He provides Augustine's answer:
Augustine answers this by saying that original sin is forgiven in Baptism not in such a way that it no longer exists, but that God will no longer take account of it. Just as the Samaritan in Luke 10:34–35 did not instantly cure the wounded man when he poured oil and wine into his wounds, but took him to the inn and had him taken care of by the innkeeper until he should come again. In the same way, every sin is taken away by Baptism, yet only in the sense that God does not take account of them. thus they are not gone, but they must keep being healed, even as they have begun to be healed. Yet when we die we will all be perfectly healed. So whenever you feel that you are being incited to impatience, arrogance, unchastity, and other sins, know then that you are feeling the deadly arrows of original sin which the devil fi$red at Adam’s flesh, from which yours also is descended. then promptly take thought how to resist these arrows, and pray to the Lord Jesus that this sin would not take the upper hand and overcome you, but rather be overcome by His grace [Carver translation, p.4].
The second question to be answered: "How can parents bear children in original sin when they are baptized and the original sin has been forgiven them?" Again using Augustine, Luther responds:
This Augustine answers with a beatiful parable: In the same way that a grain without ears, husks, or chaff, being sown in the soil, does not by itself yield grains without husks, stalks, and ears, which is as plain as day, so baptized parents do not beget children without original sin, even though the parents are baptized and through Baptism freed from original sin. He also gives the example of an olive tree. When its fruit is planted, it does not grow into a good olive tree but a wild one. So it is here, too. Even when the parents are delivered from original sin by Baptism, they still bear children with original sin. And this is the reason: the flesh of man can never reach perfect purity in this life, such that it is free of desire and sinful lust. For this reason these parents can neither conceive nor bear children without such desire and lust [Carver translation, p. 5].
Luther's answers by noting all children are conceived by parents engaged in lust and desire. God though tolerates this sin in order for the human race to continue. This idea has the following ramification: "This is also the reason why Christ wished to be born of a virgin by the Holy Spirit, without a husband, namely, so that He would not be stained with original sin, which, as we have heard, automatically attends a human’s birth from a husband and wife." In other words, Mary conceived Christ without desire and sin, because Mary didn't have sexual intercourse.
Finally the topic of Mary's birth and sin is adressed (The entire sermon has little to say about Mary until the last six paragraphs). Luther documents the prevailing attitude about Mary:
Now, since the Virgin Mary, too, was born in a natural way from a father and mother, many... have wished to say that she was conceived in original sin also. Yet they all unanimously hold that she was sanctified in the womb of her mother, and that her parents conceived [her] without desire and lust [Carver translation, p. 7-8].
Then he discusses those who've come up with a solution to original sin and Mary. Note the speculative nature of his comments:
But a few have wished to claim a middle-ground, saying that the man’s conception has two parts: the first deriving from the natural mingling of man and wife, the second occurring when the body is fashioned in the mother’s womb and the soul infused by God, its Maker. The first conception we will not discuss here. Nor does it matter much whether the Virgin Mary was conceived after the manner common to all men; so that, as far as this manner is concerned, only Christ is excepted, who is the only one conceived in this manner without the addition of a husband. For it was necessary for Christ to be conceived as God and Man, perfect in every member; and therefore it was in this case mandatory that it should be the most spiritual and most holy conception of all [Carver translation, p. 6].
Then he outlines this speculative view:
But in the conception of the Virgin Mary, whose body was formed according to the usual manner of other infants in the time leading up to the infusion of the soul, it was not mandatory for it to have been this kind of conception. For she could have been kept from original sin up to the point of the soul. But what God did in the second conception with Mary is not indicated for us in Scripture. Therefore nothing sure enough to believe can be preached here. But there is no tax on thinking. Everyone may think what he wants, as long as he makes no article of faith about it [Carver translation, p. 6].
The last comment, "Everyone may think what he wants, as long as he makes no article of faith about it" is missing from WA 17 (2) but included in Erl. 15. Brigitte translated it as "But what God actually did in the other conception with Mary, is not shown to us in scripture; therefore, we have nothing firmly to believe or preach. However, anyone's thoughts are free; may each one think what he wants; but in such a manner that he not make an article of faith out of it." This appears to be Luther's re-edited ending of the sermon.
The Deleted Section
Here's the extended section including that which was later deleted by Luther found in a pro-Roman Catholic work, William Ullathorne, The Immaculate Conception of the Mother of God (Benziger Bros., 1904). Ullathorne made his translation from a Latin version of the sermon. I have included a sentence from the German text not included by Ullathorne in red. It appears this is the sentence alluded to by Grtisch("In another version of the same sermon from 1528 Luther declared that Scripture did not say anything about the conception of Mary. Accordingly, various ideas can be advanced, as long as none of them becomes an article of faith").
The deleted section of the sermon is noted by **.
But as the Virgin Mary was herself born of a father and mother in the natural way, many have been disposed to assert that she was also born in original sin, though all with one mouth affirm that she was sanctified in the maternal womb, and conceived without concupiscence. But some have been disposed to take a middle way, and have said that man's conception is two-fold;—that the one is from the parents,—but that the other takes place when the little body is prepared, and the soul infused by God, its Creator. Of' the first conception we shall say nothing. Nor does it much concern us, so that the Virgin Mary be conceived in such manner after the common way, that Christ may still be excepted, as alone conceived in the way peculiar to Himself, that is, without man. For it must so have been, that Christ, God and man, would be conceived in all His members perfect; wherefore it was necessary that His should be the most spiritual and most holy of all conceptions.
But in the conception of the Virgin Mary, whose body was formed with progress of time, and after the manner of other children, until the infusion of the soul there was no need of such conception, for it could be preserved from original sin until the soul was to be infused. [But what God actually did in the other conception with Mary, is not shown to us in scripture; therefore, we have nothing firmly to believe or preach. However, anyone's thoughts are free; may each one think what he wants; but in such a manner that he not make an article of faith out of it.]
**And the other conception, that is to say, the infusion of the soul, is piously believed to have been accomplished without original sin. So that, in that very infusing of the soul, the body was simultaneously purified from original sin, and endowed with divine gifts to receive that holy soul which was infused into it from God. And thus in the first moment it began to live, it was exempt from all sin. For before it could begin to live, perhaps it may be said that there was neither absence nor presence of sin, for that only belongs to the soul and to the living man.
Thus the Virgin Mary holds as it were, a middle position between Christ and other men. For if indeed Christ, when he was conceived, was both living, and at that very moment was full of grace; whilst other men are without grace, both in their first and in their second conception; so the Virgin Mary was, according to the first conception, without grace, yet, according to the second conception, she was full of grace. Nor was this without reason. For she was the midway between all nativities, being born of a father and mother, but bringing forth without a father, and being made the mother of a Son who was partly of the flesh, and partly of the Spirit. For Christ was conceived -partly of her flesh and partly of the Holy Ghost. Moreover, Christ is the father of many children, without a carnal father, and without a carnal mother. But as the Virgin Mary is properly the midway between the carnal and the spiritual nativity, the end of the carnal but the beginning of the spiritual, so she justly holds the midway in her conception. For as the rest of mankind are, both in soul and in body, conceived in sin, whilst Christ is conceived without sin, as well in body as in soul, so the Virgin Mary was conceived, according to the body, indeed, without grace, but according to the soul, full of grace. This is signified by those words which the angel Gabriel said to her, 'Blessed art thou amongst women.' For it could not be said to her, Messed art thou, if at any time she had been obnoxious to the curse. Again, it was just and meet that that person should be preserved from original sin, from whom Christ received the flesh 'by which he overcame all sins. And that, indeed, is properly called blessed which is endowed with divine grace, that is, which is free -from sin. Concerning this subject, others have written far more things, and have alleged beautiful reasons, but it would lead us to too great lengths if we repeated them in this place.
A careful analysis of the deleted section in question shows the position Luther appears to be advocating has some similarities to the 1854 dogma of the immaculate conception and some differences. As has been noted on this blog, Luther appears to have moved away from this position. It is obvious that Luther does not hold to the 1854 dogma of the Immaculate Conception in 1527. The Pope is very specific:
“We declare, pronounce, and define that the doctrine which holds that the most Blessed Virgin Mary, in the first instant of her conception, by a singular grace and privilege, granted by Almighty God, in view of the merits of Jesus Christ, the Savior of the human race, was preserved free from all stain of original sin, is a doctrine revealed by God and therefore to be believed firmly and constantly by all the faithful.”
Luther (contrarily) puts forth that sinlessness was in the second instance of her conception:
“for her first conception was without grace, but the second was full of grace . . . Just as men are conceived in sin both with regard to body and soul, and Christ is free of sin -- body and soul -- so Mary the Virgin is conceived according to the body without grace, but according to the soul she is full of grace”
Eric Gritsch agrees and explains:
In 1527 Luther dealt with the Immaculate Conception of Mary, advocating a middle position favored by a majority of theologians. Following Augustine, Luther told his congregation that Mary had been conceived in sin but had been purified by the infusion of her soul after conception. Her purification was complete due to a special intervention of the Holy Spirit, who preserved her from the taint of original sin in anticipation of the birth of Christ. Thus the Virgin Mary remains in the middle between Christ and humankind. For in the very moment when he was conceived and lived, he was full of grace. All other human beings are without grace, both in the first and second conception. But the Virgin Mary, though without grace in the first conception, was full of grace in the second. That is quite proper. For she was a medium between all generations: she was bom from a father and mother, but gave birth without a father and mother, partly spiritually and partly bodily, because Christ was conceived of her flesh as well as of the Holy Spirit. But Christ himself is a father of many children, without a carnal father and mother. Just as the Virgin Mary remains in the middle between physical and spiritual birth, finishing the physical and beginning the spiritual, so she rightly remains in the middle concerning conception. Whereas other human beings are conceived in sin, in soul as well as in body, and Christ was conceived without sin in soul as well as in body, the Virgin Mary was conceived in body without grace but in soul full of grace [Lutherans and Catholics in Dialogue VII, 238].
In this sermon, Luther puts forth two views. In the first view, Luther makes the point that all seem to be agreed that Mary was sanctified in the womb, even though many think she was born in sin:
"But as the Virgin Mary was herself born of a father and mother in the natural way, many have been disposed to assert that she was also born in original sin, though all with one mouth affirm that she was sanctified in the maternal womb, and conceived without concupiscence.”
Secondly, Luther puts forth another opinion:
“But some have been disposed to take a middle way, and have said that man's conception is twofold: that the one is from the parents, but that the other takes place when the little body is prepared, and the soul infused by God, its Creator.”
What follows is a detailed explanation of this “other” opinion. Luther never really specifically affirms which of the views he holds to, but that he expanded on this second view leads to a probability this was his view in 1527. Without a complete context, it’s hard to have definite certainty. Luther even concludes without an affirmation: “Concerning this subject, others have written far more things, and have alleged beautiful reasons, but it would lead us to too great lengths if we repeated them in this place."
As noted above, the actual end of the sermon appears to be, "But what God actually did in the other conception with Mary, is not shown to us in scripture; therefore, we have nothing firmly to believe or preach. However, anyone's thoughts are free; may each one think what he wants; but in such a manner that he not make an article of faith out of it."
Luther went on in his writings to hold a much different position about Mary. Julius Köstlin noted this many years ago, that Mary, like all believers, becomes free from sin by faith:
In regard to Mary, the mother of the Saviour, Luther had, when speaking of her in the Sermon in the Church Postils already referred to, not rejected the opinion that, in order to be prepared for her high calling, she had been conceived without original sin, or without lust on the part of her parents, or had, at least, been sanctified in her mother's womb. He even himself supposes that her soul was, at all events, at its " infusion " into the embryonic body, purified from original sin. The sermon passed, in this form, into the edition of the Postils published in 1527. Luther afterwards, however, taught, in regard to Mary, simply that she was herself born in sin from sinful parents, just as we are; and that she also became blessed and free from sin by faith. Erl. Ed., xv, 53 sqq.; vi, 199, 189. [source; c.f. p. 211 for "free from sin by faith"]
Here are a few examples of the way this quote is used and documented.
In answering a question about Mary's perpetual virginity from a fictional Protestant, Madrid cites a number of Luther quotes in his book, Answer Me This! (Huntington: Our Sunday Visitor, 2003)pp. 142-143. He states, "So I'd respectfully ask our fundamentalist and Evangelical friends who read these statements by Luther and Calvin, et al., to think carefully about them and consider how far modern-day Protestantism has drifted from its 16th-century moorings." He cites "It is a sweet and pious belief that the infusion of Mary's soul was effected without original sin; so that in the very infusion of her soul she was also purified from original sin and adorned with God's gifts, receiving a pure soul infused by God; thus from the first moment she began to live she was free from all sin" on page 143, without any documentation.
Mary: A Catholic Evangelical Debate
Dwight Longenecker cites the quote as "It is a sweet and pious belief that the infusion of Mary's soul was effected without original sin; so that in the very infusion of her soul she was also purified from original sin and adorned with God's gifts... [T]hus from the first moment she began to live she was free from all sin" on page 103. He documents the quote partially as "Martin Luther, Sermon on the Day of the Conception of Mary the Mother of God; Grisar, Hartmann, Luther (London: Kegan Paul, Trench, Trubner and Co., 1917), vol. 4, p. 238." He then references that the quote was taken from Biblical Evidence for Catholicism, p. 149.
A Faraway Ancient CountryIn this self-published Lulu book, a Roman Catholic convert using "the fruition of four years of research, 80 sources, 190 Biblical passages" states, "Martin Luther also endorsed the immaculate conception during his "Sermon on the Day of the Conception of the Mother of God," in 1527. He said, 'It is a sweet and pious belief that the infusion of Mary's soul was effected without original sin; so that in the very infusion of her soul she was also purified from original sin and adorned with God's gifts, receiving a pure soul infused by God; thus from the first moment she began to live she was free from all sin'" (p.148).
A Biblical Defense of Catholicism
"Most remarkably, Luther even accepted the Immaculate Conception: 'It is a sweet and pious belief that the infusion of Mary's soul was effected without original sin; so that in the very infusion of her soul she was also purified from original sin and adorned with God's gifts, receiving a pure soul infused by God; thus from the first moment she began to live she was free from all sin' " [Sermon: "On the Day of the Conception of Mary the Mother of God" (Dec. 8?, 1527). From Grisar, Hartmann, Luther, tr. E.M. Lamond, ed. Luigi Cappadelta, 6 volumes, London: Kegan Paul, Trench, Trubner & Co., 1917, vol. 4, 238 (emphasis added). See also e.g., House sermon for Christmas, 1533] (2001, pp.202-203).
Martin Luther had the belief of Mary's Immaculate Conception, Luther's words follow: "It is a sweet and pious belief that the infusion of Mary's soul was effected without original sin; so that in the very infusion of her soul she was also purified from original sin and adorned with God's gifts, receiving a pure soul infused by God; thus from the first moment she began to live she was free from all sin" (Sermon: "On the Day of the Conception of the Mother of God," 1527).[source]
Interfaith Mary Page
Luther believed in Mary’s perpetual virginity and in her Immaculate Conception. Only the latter he didn’t think should be a dogma that people are obliged to believe. "It is a sweet and pious belief that the infusion of Mary’s soul was effected without original sin; so that in the very infusion of her soul she was also purified from original sin and adorned with God’s gifts, receiving a pure soul, infused by God; thus from the first moment she began to live she was free from all sin." (Sermon, "On the Day of the Conception of the Mother of God", 1527)[source].
Like Augustine, Martin Luther also affirmed that the Blessed Virgin Mary was preserved from original sin "from the very moment she began to live": "But the other conception, namely the infusion of the soul, it is piously and suitably believed, was without any sin, so that while the soul was being infused, she would at the same time be cleansed from original sin and adorned with the gifts of God to receive the holy soul thus infused. And thus, in the very moment in which she began to live, she was without all sin." (Martin Luther, Weimar edition of Martin Luther's Works, trans. and ed. J. Pelikan. Concordia: St. Louis, Volume 4, 694) [source]
Here are some surprising words. It seems that Martin Luther, that once Augustinian priest turned Revolutionary, upheld belief in the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception (even before it was declared a dogmatic doctrine in 1854 by Pope Pius IX). The doctrine of the Immaculate Conception holds that Mary was preserved from original sin at her conception and from all sin during her life - that she was conceived, lived, and died without any taint of sin.The eminent Lutheran scholar Arthur Carl Piepkorn (1907-73) has also confirmed that Luther believed in the Immaculate Conception even as a Protestant. Here is Martin Luther in his own words: "It is a sweet and pious belief that the infusion of Mary’s soul was effected without original sin; so that in the very infusion of her soul she was also purified from original sin and adorned with God’s gifts, receiving a pure soul infused by God; thus from the first moment she began to live she was free from all sin"
- Martin Luther's Sermon "On the Day of the Conception of the Mother of God," 1527. [source]
American Catholic Truth Society
Yet again the Immaculate Conception was a doctrine Luther defended to his death (as confirmed by Lutheran scholars like Arthur Piepkorn). Like Augustine, Luther saw an unbreakable link between Mary's divine maternity, perpetual virginity and Immaculate Conception. Although his formulation of the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception was not clear-cut, he held that her soul was devoid of sin from the beginning: "But the other conception, namely the infusion of the soul, it is piously and suitably believed, was without any sin, so that while the soul was being infused, she would at the same time be cleansed from original sin and adorned with the gifts of God to receive the holy soul thus infused. And thus, in the very moment in which she began to live, she was without all sin..."Martin Luther, Weimar edition of Martin Luther's Works,
English translation edited by J. Pelikan [Concordia: St.Louis], Volume 4, 694. [source]
Luther and the Immaculate Conception. Some of our Protestant contemporaries may feel surprised when they learn that Martin Luther taught and defended the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary. In 1527 Luther published, at Wittenberg, a book of sermons entitled " Explanation of the Gospels for the Principal Feasts of the Whole Year." In order not to have the text tampered with he himself took care of the editing. The collection contains a sermon preached by the Reformer on the "Day of the Conception of the Mother of God." But this is not all; there are passages in the sermon which not merely state the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception, but defend it too with some of the arguments used to-day by our Catholic theologians. " We celebrate to-day," he says, " the Feast of the Virgin Mary, how she was conceived without original sin. . . We believe justly and happily that it (Mary's conception) occurred without original sin. . . At the first moment, when she began to live, she was sinless and adorned with God's grace, full of grace; and this is not unbecoming. . . This is implied in the words spoken to her by the angel: Blessed art thou among women. For she could not have been addressed " Blessed art thou " if she had lain under the malediction; again, it was right and befitting that she should be preserved without sin from whom Christ was to take the flesh that was to overcome all sins. For that is properly blessed what is adorned with grace, i.e., what is without sin. Many others have written much about this and have pointed out beautiful reasons which are too lengthy to be enumerated here." These sentiments were penned by Luther ten years after his apostacy from the church, at the time of his most active campaign against her. [source]
Mary in the Documents of the Church [Paul F. Palmer (Maryland: Newman Press, 1952)]As late as the year 1527, seven years after his excommunication, Luther expressed the following sentiments in a sermon to commemorate the feast of the Immaculate Conception: "We could not say to her: `Blessed art thou,' if she had at any time been subject to malediction. Again it is only right and proper that the person from whom Christ was to take flesh which would vanquish all sin should herself be preserved free from sin. For `blessed' in its proper sense means that which is gifted with divine grace, namely, that which is without sin" ("Kirchenpostille," in Luther's Sammtliche Werke, Erlangen ed. 1828, 15, 55). The editor of this edition notes on p. 54 that after 1527 this section of Luther's sermon was expunged from later editions until restored by himself" (p. 76)
This is an error. Page 54 of Erl 15 does not say Luther restored this section of the sermon.